When is a rivalry not a rivalry anymore? It’s not a rivalry when one team is constantly beating the crap out of you. In December, the Flyers fell to the Penguins 4-1. On Saturday, they fell 5-1. It was a mostly veteran, Stanley Cup experienced team on the ice for Pittsburgh and a bunch of young guys with very little NHL experience for Philadelphia and it showed on the ice.
Pittsburgh struck first with a goal by Rickard Rakell, his 22nd of the year. The Flyers would answer when, of all people, Kieffer Bellows scored his second goal of the season with an assist by Justin Braun. The first period tie would be broken at 6:49 into the second period when Sidney Crosby scored his 29th of the year.
It was the third period that the wheels fell off. Jason Zucker extended the Pens lead with just over five minutes to play. With Carter Hart pulled for an empty net, Jake Guentzel would score an easy goal. Finally, with less than a minute to play, and Hart back in net, Mikael Granlund slammed the door shut. Hart stopped 27 of the 31 shots he faced while Pittsburgh’s Casey DeSmith only let in one of the 32 shots he saw.
It’s hard to look at this team now and accurately judge how what they are. This team is without Travis Konency, Sean Couturier, Ryan Ellis, Cam Atkinson, Wade Allison, and Brendan Lemieux. Tyson Foerster and Elliot Desnoyers have just six pro games between them.
The “kids” may not have a lot of pro experience, but they will have to start growing up soon. They’ve been playing hockey all their lives and should know what to do. More and more, the reigns of this team will be turned over to them. If they can’t perform, many will probably see themselves shipped out.
As for the Penguins, they are trying to send a message to the top tier teams of the Eastern Conference that they will fight for a playoff spot and might not be “too old just yet”.