LOOK AHEAD TO HOME AND HOME SERIES
PENGUINS (44-17-4, 92 pts) @ FLYERS (33-25-7, 73 pts)
The Penguins and Flyers could be headed towards a first round playoff matchup for second time in three years.
As the rivals get set to meet today, how important is the upcoming home and home series between the Penguins and Flyers?
“These two games are really big for both teams,” Penguins forward Jussi Jokinen said.
For the Flyers it’s two huge games as the Flyers are tied with Detroit in points for the final wildcard spot and trail Columbus by one point for third place in the Metropolitan Division.
Philadelphia could finish anywhere from second in the Metropolitan Division to missing the playoffs all together. Every point is critical for them the rest of the way and they have a brutal 12 game stretch coming up, facing Pittsburgh (2), Chicago, Dallas, St. Louis, Los Angeles, New York Rangers, Toronto, Boston, St. Louis, Columbus, and Boston again.
Meanwhile, for the Penguins they are in a back and fourth battle with Boston Bruins for the conference lead. Boston won its seventh straight game Thursday night to move one point ahead of the Penguins and continue to look like the team to beat in the East. Pittsburgh has one game in hand on the Bruins. Boston has a conference best +65 goal differential. The Penguins are +47.
While four big points are up for grabs for the Flyers, these next two games might be just as important for the Penguins were these two teams meet in the first or second round.
One very big difference between the Capitals and Flyers is that the Flyers believe they can beat the Penguins and have proved it recently.
When you evaluate these two teams, Pittsburgh should have the ability to exploit the Flyers team defense and goaltending over a seven game series (lot of people thought same thing in 2012) but Philadelphia knows how to play the Penguins well and get the Penguins into bad habits and playing undisciplined hockey.
“They’re record after first eight games of the year has been very good,” Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma said. “They’re a team that can score, willing to score. Power play very dangerous. We don’t want to be a team necessarily that gets into a chance for chance situation or up and down against Flyers. We’d rather have this be a 3-1 game, 2-1 game, 1-1 game, versus opening up and going toe to toe with a chance game.”
The test for the Penguins will be whether they have it in themselves to stick to the coaches game plan of playing a tight defensive game. Philadelphia loves to get into a game of giving up chances to lead to more chances for themselves offensively. They play a risky game but Pittsburgh often falls into their trap.
This would be a first round matchup that could give the Penguins a real scare. A Flyers sweep this weekend would set the tone for a potential playoff series. On the other side, a dominating two games from Pittsburgh could suddenly put some doubts in the Flyers minds and hurt Philadelphia’s playoff chances all together.
— Jason Megna has been recalled and made the trip to Philadelphia. He won’t play today but Megna could get a look as the third line right winger Sunday with Bylsma pushing Marcel Goc to 4th line center, a spot I’m told the coaching staff prefers to have him at. The Penguins feel they are more balanced with Goc anchoring the 4th line.
— Lots of talk that the coaching staff has been disappointed with Joe Vitale’s play since returning to the lineup from injury.
— Claude Giroux has 8 goals and 20 point in his last 11 games (including playoffs) vs Pittsburgh.