We’ve talked about the toughest and easiest matchups for the Flyers. It’s time to take a look at the rest, starting with the rival Pittsburgh Penguins.
With the Philadelphia Flyers taking part in the round-robin series, their spot in the first round is secured. The same cannot be said for the eight teams taking part in the play-in round. And any of those eight teams could be the Flyers opponent in the first round.
Out of all of the matchups, the New York Rangers would be perfect based on the regular-season sweep of the team. The Islanders, on the other hand, would be a tougher team to face. They were a thorn in the Flyers side during every game they played this year.
And that is familiar territory for the team’s in-state rival. Games between the Flyers and Penguins always seem to provide some kind of entertainment value. And that’s especially true when the two match up in the postseason.
The two last met during the first round of the 2018 playoffs. The Penguins took that series four games to two. Before that, the teams hadn’t met since 2012 when the Flyers defeated the Pens in the Conference Quarterfinals.
There is a chance that the two could meet up this season as well. Whether that be in the first or second round. It’s tough to imagine a scenario where a first-round matchup would be possible. That would include the Flyers essentially losing out in the round-robin and remaining as the fourth seed. The Penguins come in as the fifth seed.
But if they do end up meeting up during the playoffs, there’s no telling what could happen. If we go by their first game of the year, it would not end well in Philadelphia.
October 29th: 7-1 Penguins
There’s not much to say about this one. It was complete dominance by Pittsburgh. The Flyers were never close in this one, scoring their only goal after the Penguins were already up 6-0 after two periods. Pittsburgh scored four first period goals, two within 33 seconds of each other.
Brian Elliott lasted two full periods before he was pulled in favor of Carter Hart. While Hart only let in one goal, the game was long over by then. It is hard to put any kind of positive spin on this game. Oskar Lindblom scored the only goal for the Flyers. That was his third goal in the past five games.
Sidney Crosby recorded his 100th point against Philadelphia during this game. He became the second Penguins player to have 100 points against multiple NHL games. He had a goal and two assists in the contest. A total of seven different Penguins scored during the win. This was the Flyers’ second loss in a row after winning three in a row before that.
The two teams wouldn’t meet again until the new year. That’s when Philadelphia would finally get their revenge.
January 21st: 3-0 Flyers
With Hart on the injured list for a few weeks, Elliott took over starting duties for the time being. This was one of his best performances during that stretch. The Flyers outplayed the Penguins in just about every facet of the game.
The Penguins had a total of 19 shots, just three in the final period. The Flyers were only up 2-0 at that point, so there was plenty of time for Pittsburgh to come back. But the defense managed to stay strong and allow them hardly any room. It was the Flyers’ fourth win in the last five games as they entered the All-Star break on a high note.
That was Elliott’s first shutout since November of 2018 and the first time shutting out the Penguins since March of 2017. The 19 shots on goal were the fewest the team had allowed since the Sabres had just 17 shots during a game this past December.
After a scoreless first period, it was Jakub Voracek who would break the ice in the second period. Justin Braun would put the icing on the cake with exactly a minute to go in the third period. He grabbed the empty netter to put the final nail in the coffin that night.
After over a week off, the two would meet again in what turned out to be a Flyers’ comeback that wouldn’t reach completion.
January 31st: 4-3 Penguins (OT)
With Hart still on the injured list, Elliott was once again in net for this one. And it was a game where the Flyers grabbed the first goal as the first period was winding down. Voracek grabbed the late power-play goal, giving the team the only lead they would end up having that night.
En route to a three-point night, Evgeni Malkin scored the first of three straight Pittsburgh goals in the second. Bryan Rust scored 2:21 after Malkin to give the Penguins the lead. Kris Letang would round things out by grabbing his 11th of the year to make it a 3-1 lead. This was starting to have the makings of the early season blowout.
But the Flyers fought back in this one. Tyler Pitlick, who registered two points that night, cut the deficit to one late in the second period. It was Scott Laughton who tied the game early into the third period. That score held up as the two went to overtime for the first time this season. It would not last very long, however.
The third point of his night, Crosby grabbed the OT winner just 55 seconds in. The shot seemed to surprise Elliott on the blocker side.
With the final game of the season series being postponed and later canceled, the Penguins would end up taking the season series victory with this game.
So we saw two different Flyers teams during the season when it came to taking on Pittsburgh. We saw a team that couldn’t find a way to stop the bleeding in an early-season blowout. And we saw a team that held superstars like Crosby and Malkin off the board.
And that would be the biggest key to a playoff victory. If you can hold those two players off the board, there is a good chance you can win the game. Though, the Penguins did manage to stay afloat during times where those two weren’t in the lineup.
If the Flyers and Penguins are to meet up in the postseason, it’s better to find a way to replicate their play from the shutout victory and not the blowout or overtime loss.