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Coaches Room

Flyers paying big price for mistakes against Penguins in playoffs

Corsi says Philadelphia must cut down on turnovers, breakdowns, penalties to win series

by Jim Corsi / Special to NHL.com

The Coaches Room is a regular feature throughout the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs by one of four former NHL coaches and assistants who will turn their critical gaze to the game and explain it through the lens of a teacher. Jim Corsi, David Marcoux, Paul MacLean and Joe Mullen will take turns providing insight.

In this edition, Corsi, the former goaltending coach of the Buffalo Sabres and St. Louis Blues, writes about the eastern Conference First Round between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins and how attention to detail is making all the difference.

Smart puck control. Disciplined sticks. Traffic in front of the net.

To win in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a team needs all three of these elements going in its favor. The Philadelphia Flyers haven't had enough of any, a big reason why they trail the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 in the Eastern Conference First Round.

Game 4 is Wednesday at Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, NBCSP, ATTSN-PT,).

 

[RELATED: Complete Penguins vs. Flyers series coverage]

 

The Flyers need to take a close look at how they lost Games 1 and 3 -- and, to a degree, what they survived to win Game 2 -- to have a better idea of what they must do to win Game 4 and get even in the best-of-7 series.

Turnovers cost the Flyers in Games 1 and 3, and nearly did them in at times in Game 2 as well.

The Penguins scored three goals off turnovers in Game 1, when the Flyers looked like they were chasing the action as opposed to playing in the action. That creates turnovers and coverage breakdowns.

Video: Flyers, Penguins mic'd up for exciting Game 2 meeting

The same thing happened early in Game 3, after the Flyers had established the pace they wanted and started to generate more and better scoring chances than the Penguins.

The Flyers outshot the Penguins 11-4 in the first period, when I had them with a 7-3 advantage in scoring chances, but Pittsburgh had a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes because of a turnover that led to a breakdown in coverage.

Michael Raffl had the puck on the half-wall in the defensive zone, but his supporting forwards, Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux, were ahead of him and defensemen Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov were also breaking out with speed.

Long story short, Raffl had no low support. That's a problem, especially when the Penguins are playing on their toes, with a high F3 and a weakside defenseman freed up to come down the wall and pressure Raffl.

Raffl gets forechecked by that left-side defenseman, Brian Dumoulin, and the puck goes free. Sidney Crosby gets it, quickly passes it across to his supporting player, Patric Hornqvist, and off they go, with Crosby scoring on a wraparound.

All of a sudden it's like, 'What the heck just happened?' The Flyers have been out-chancing them and they're down 1-0.

Video: PIT@PHI, Gm3: Crosby opens scoring with wraparound

The second period, the Flyers give up eight chances, including five with the Penguins on the power play and a rush chance off the faceoff. The next thing you know, they're trying to pick up the pieces and the game is out of reach.

Turnovers nearly cost them in Game 2 as well. They had two on the opening shift and Giroux gifted Crosby a breakaway in the second period when the Flyers were leading 2-0. He scores there and that game, which ended 5-1 in the Flyers' favor, might take a different tone.

The Flyers are doubling down by giving Pittsburgh too many power-play opportunities.

The Penguins had eight in the first two games and connected once. They were 0-for-4 in Game 2, when the power play didn't create any energy. But they stayed on task, realized it's not about one game, it's about one series, and sure enough they scored three on seven chances in Game 3.

That's just way too many power plays to give the team with best power play in the League.

I had the Flyers owning a 9-7 advantage in even-strength scoring chances in Game 3, but the Penguins got 10 scoring chances on the power play and scored three times. That's game, set, match on most nights in the NHL.

Let's be sure to credit the Penguins here, because they are earning what they are getting and taking advantage of it. Good teams do that. Championship teams do it a lot.

The Penguins also know it's happening, so they will continue to try to come at the Flyers with speed to create space, turnovers and power-play opportunities in Game 4. The Flyers must flip it on the Penguins, and one way to do that is to create more opportunities in front of goaltender Matt Murray.

They're traffic-less for the most part in the series. In fact, if you look at the goal they scored in Game 3, the long shot from the blue line from defenseman Travis Sanheim, the one guy in front of Murray is his own defenseman, Dumoulin, and the puck goes right through his legs.

Video: PIT@PHI, Gm3: Sanheim nets first career playoff goal

It goes back to my long theory from the beginning of the season about accessibility to the net. If you find a way to get there, you can do a lot of damage.

The Penguins have done a good job of limiting the Flyers' access to the net by blocking shots. They have 41 in their two wins.

The Flyers can't be deterred. They will limit their turnovers if they take better care of the puck. They will limit their penalties with better control of their sticks. Do both, and they'll have the puck more, which should give them a chance to generate more traffic in front of Murray.

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