Referee Bill McCreary makes a call during a scrum between the Flyers and Penguins on April 6, 2008. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
If the Philadelphia Flyers plan to intimidate the Pittsburgh Penguins and set a physical tone for the Eastern Conference final in Game 1 tonight, they do so at their own peril.
That’s because even the best penalty-killing team in the league would have a tough time stopping the Penguins power play these days. If the Flyers create a conga line to the penalty box in an effort to make a point, the Penguins will demolish them.
Philadelphia advanced to the conference final in spite of their penalty killing, not because of it. They have pulled off the rare double of being the most shorthanded and one of the most god awful penalty-killing teams in the post-season. And the unpredictable way in which referees are calling things in this year’s playoffs, the Flyers would be well advised to be on their best behavior.
Heck, that might not even work for them.
And it won’t get any easier with suddenly all-world defenseman Kimmo Timonen out of the lineup with a blood clot. Timonen is valiantly holding out hope he can return in this year’s playoffs, but a guy on blood thinners isn’t going to be able to go anywhere near an environment where his co-workers are wearing sharp blades on their feet, carrying sticks and hitting each other.
If for no other reason than the Flyers have no interest in paying multi-millions of dollars to Timonen’s estate, don’t expect to see him in the lineup even if this series goes the distance and the Flyers advance to the Stanley Cup final.
Something like this happened to Dmitri Yushkevich a few years ago when he played for the Toronto Maple Leafs – all right, Yushkevich’s clot came as a result of cutting his leg while taking out the garbage – and while Yushkevich begged and pleaded to play, the Leafs, to their credit, would hear none of it.
The loss of Timonen should be the tipping-point in a series in which the Penguins were already favorites coming in. Through the first two rounds, Timonen led the Flyers with 25 minutes of ice time per game and was playing in all crucial situations. His ability and smarts would have gone a long way toward containing Evgeni Malkin, the most dangerous Penguins player in the playoffs.
Without Timonen’s skill and leadership on the blueline, the Flyers are even bigger underdogs than they were going into the series.
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