Today’s game against the rival Pittsburgh Penguins marks the 3rd meeting between these two teams this year. The series is tied 1-1 with each team grabbing a road win. This begins a challenging slate of opponents for the Flyers that includes games against the Blackhawks, Stars, Blues and Kings that will more than likely make or break their playoff chances.
Pittsburgh comes in having won 3 games in a row but with a roster that could be missing two key players. James Neal has already been ruled out of today’s game because of a concussion and Chris Kunitz is a game-time decision. Should the Penguins be short both of these players they will be expecting their two superstar forwards, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, to shoulder the offensive load. That kind of burden should be no problem for both of these players. After scouring Hockey-Reference.com I came across the career point totals for Sid and Malkin against the Flyers. Malkin has accumulated 58 points in 41 games which seems like a lot until you read Crosby’s point total against the Flyers in 45 games. 74. Hopefully with the Penguins so shorthanded this will allow the Flyers to mark Crosby and shut him down.
The Flyers enter the match-up having just lost 2 straight games to the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New Jersey Devils, both of whom are fighting for playoff position. The Flyers offense, while out shooting the Devils in their last game 31-26, didn’t muster many quality scoring chances. That is going to have to change if they hope to knock off the Penguins. While it’s always a given the Claude Giroux needs to have a strong game, the Flyers 2nd and 3rd lines will be called upon to help spread the scoring around. In addition, the match-up to keep an eye on in this game for me will be how much ice-time Sean Couturier and Sidney Crosby share today. Coots is far and away the best defensive forward on this team and if he is able to shadow Crosby effectively it could lead to a lot of frustration for the Pens offense and chances for the Flyers at even-strength and on the man advantage.
The starting goaltenders will Marc-Andre Fleury for the Pens and Steve Mason for the Flyers. Fleury enters the game with 34 wins in net which leads the NHL. He also sports a .918 SV% and 2.26 GAA. In his career however he has not fared very well in his meetings with the Flyers. The Flyers own the second highest GAA (2.74) against Fleury across teams he’s faced at least 20 times. Steve Mason has faced the Penguins only 5 times in his career but hasn’t fared very well in those contests. He carries a career GAA of 3.18 and a .908 SV% against the Penguins. Mason is obviously going to have to do better than that if the Flyers want to come away with the W this afternoon.
Story Line Stats Of The Day
Pittsburgh Penguins – .433 3rd best winning% when trailing after the first period in the NHL
Philadelphia Flyers – .727 winning% when leading after the 1st period which is good for 20th in the NHL
This is arguably the best rivalry going right now in hockey and should be a lot of fun to watch. Grab your popcorn everyone, the show begins at 1:00pm EST.
Stats provided by Hockey-Reference.com.