Can the Flyers take 3 of 4 from Pens?
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Q: With their new-found momentum, do you see the Flyers being able to take three of the four remaining games from the Penguins?
Zach Rop, Pittsburgh
MOLINARI: Is it possible? Absolutely. The Flyers have outstanding depth up front, excellent special teams and a goalie who is capable of performing at a high level, even though he doesn't do it consistently. Any team that has that much going for it is a legitimate threat to take a best-of-seven from any opponent.
Nonetheless, the Penguins still have a 2-1 advantage in the series going into Game 4 tonight and, even if the Flyers win again, the Penguins will be facing a best-of-three in which they hold the home-ice advantage. None of that assures them of a spot in the second round, of course, but it's not the most desperate situation in which a team could find itself.
The Penguins also have the ability to counter almost anything Philadelphia does, because they have an exceptional group of forwards themselves, a solid defense corps and a goalie with enough talent to single-handedly steal a game. And if their power play can capitalize on a reasonable percentage of its chances -- no sure thing, given the way the Penguins frequently struggle with the extra man and Philadelphia's strong penalty-killing -- it will be an effective deterrent to Philadelphia's penchant for taking physical liberties. Surrendering a power-play goal is a steep price to pay for sneaking in a late elbow or getting a stick into an opponent's face.
While many fans, understandably, seem to have their emotions ebb and flow based on the outcome of a particular game -- if their team wins a game, it's time to start charting the parade route and if it loses one -- it's critical for players and coaches not to get caught up in that, to plow ahead with a single-minded focus until one team or the other reaches four victories.
The thinking here continues to be that, ultimately, that team will be the Penguins in this series. The pick going in was that the Penguins would win it in six games. At this point, there's no compelling reason to reconsider it.
Q: Is it time to "rest" Petr Sykora and see if Miroslav Satan will give us some goals?
Michael Quel, Overland Park, Kan.
MOLINARI: The suspicion here is, and has been for a while, that Sykora is nursing an injury, probably to his shoulder or back, although neither he nor anyone who would have knowledge of his medical condition will confirm it.
Sykora's goal-scoring ability is his greatest asset, but he had just two during his final 17 regular-season games and doesn't have a point of any kind in the first three games against the Flyers, whenhe has managed just five shots on goal. Sykora has gotten 107 of his 300 career regular-season goals on the power play, but hasn't been getting that much ice time when the Penguins have a man-advantage; he's averaging just over 2 ?? minutes per game during the first round. Of course, he also hasn't done anything to merit more.
The only risk to replacing Sykora on a line with Evgeni Malkin and Ruslan Fedotenko is that the change could have an adverse impact on the overall effectiveness of the unit, which has performed pretty well to this point.
Satan seemed to benefit from the Penguins' coaching change in mid-February and certainly did nothing to hurt his reputation with the way he handled himself when demoted to Wilkes-Barre at the trade deadline, but it's hardly a sure thing that he could make a significant offensive contribution if plugged into Sykora's spot. It's not out of the question, of course, but taking Sykora off the Malkin line would come with a potential downside, which might be why Dan Bylsma -- who was unflinching in his defense of Sykora's play when asked about it over the weekend -- hasn't done something like that already.
First Published April 21, 2009 12:00 am