The news of Kimmo Timonen being out of the Flyers’ lineup indefinitely with a blood clot in his left foot was a shock to many.
After all, Timonen is regarded as Philadelphia’s top defenseman. He was often matched against Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and Montreal’s Alex Kovalev in the playoffs. However, he is the Flyers’ top-scoring defenseman as well as he racked up 44 points (8+36) in 80 games during the regular season.
So, the Penguins were stunned to hear the news of Timonen’s injury when it broke late Thursday night.
“It makes it tough on them, but it’s playoff hockey so we’re not going to feel sorry for them,” Penguins winger Pascal Dupuis said. “He’s one of their top defensemen, if not their best defenseman. It’s good for us.”
Nevertheless, Timonen’s absence didn’t force Penguins coach Michel Therrien to completely scrap his game plan for the Eastern Conference Finals.
“Well, obviously, this is a huge loss for them. With all the respect for the other defensemen, he is their best defenseman and their shutdown guy, and was playing really well,” he said. “But in the meantime for us, our philosophy hasn’t changed. It’s not about them, it’s about us. How are we going to play, how are we going to handle ourselves on the ice? And we know how they play, and we’re well prepared. We’re excited about Game 1. But in the meantime, you know, we’re not focusing on who is going to be there and who is not going to be there.”
The loss of Timonen has a ripple effect throughout the Flyers. It will affect the way the Flyers are able to break the puck out of their zone and attack on the power play as well as how they match up defensively.
Still, the Penguins know they have to stick with what got them to this point.
“I mean, we're not going to change anything. I think we come with a lot of pressure on the forecheck typically, and that's not going to change because he’s out,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “So I think we kind of go about the same things. Obviously, that’s a loss for them. But at the same time, we’re a prime example when guys go down other guys can step up. So I don't think we’re looking too much into it.”
Penguins winger Jarkko Ruutu agrees. He saw for himself how the Penguins dealt with adversity and injuries throughout the season and maintained a high level of play.
“It doesn’t change anything for us. He’s a great player and they are going to miss him, but at the same time we have to understand that we had the same situation when we were missing Sid and Flower and we still played well even though we lost those guys for a lot of games in a row,” he said. “You can’t start thinking about who they are missing or anything like that. They have another guy in the lineup who is going to be experienced and a good player.”
While the Flyers’ personnel may change in certain situations, Crosby believes the Flyers will not alter their approach dramatically.
“I don’t think they’re going to change too much. I mean, as far as systems go, everything’s going to be the same. But they’ll probably change the power plays; he’s a big part of their power play quarterbacking it,” he said. “Usually Timonen and [Mike] Richards were together back there. So I’m sure there will be some adjustments there. And for us that will mean a little more adjusting to because we don’t know who is going to fill in that spot so we’ll have to adjust as well.
“Both teams are kind of in the same situation,” he continued. “It’s one of those things that you can’t get caught thinking about it because you don’t want to assume anything. An easy assumption would be maybe their power play is not going to be where it needs to be because he’s out. But that could make us pay. That means that we’re overconfident, and I don't think we can afford to do that.
“To be honest, we’ve worked too hard to let other situations affect the way we play. We’d be hurting ourselves by doing that. As I said, we’re a prime example. When guys were out, we had a lot of guys step up and we surprised a lot of people. I’m sure a lot of guys in that room are trying to do the same thing”