Flyers set to begin a crucial series that could bury the Penguins

Feb 28, 2021; Buffalo, New York, USA; Philadelphia Flyers left wing James van Riemsdyk (25) celebrates his goal against the Buffalo Sabres with teammates during the second period at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 28, 2021; Buffalo, New York, USA; Philadelphia Flyers left wing James van Riemsdyk (25) celebrates his goal against the Buffalo Sabres with teammates during the second period at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Philadelphia Flyers have a big series coming up against the Pittsburgh Penguins. What would have originally been two games has become a th e-game series with the Penguins game that was originally slated for April 13th was moved to March 6th, which now can prime the Flyers to get some distance between them and the Penguins.

Entering Tuesday night’s game versus the Penguins, the Flyers are currently sitting in fourth place in the East division with 25 points.

Philadelphia is playing six games in eight days that started with the two games against Buffalo, three against the Pens this week, and one against the Washington Capitals on Sunday, the boys will have a lot of hockey to play in order to catch up game-wise. With that said, we have a crucial 8 points on the line in the next week.

The Penguins have 23 points and the Caps have 28. The Islanders and Bruins also have a single point on us. The Isles have four games coming against the two bottom feeders of the division in the Devils and Sabres.

The Bruins have two games against the Caps and 1 against the Devils on Sunday. That just makes these next four games even more crucial for the Flyers to at least take 6/8 points.

The Penguins are right on the Flyers’ tails for the fourth seed in the East Division. The Flyers beat the Pens twice this year in the first two games of the season. This will be the first time these two teams will meet at PPG Paints Arena this season. The first two games, which were played in the Wells Fargo Center, were no easy tasks for the Flyers even though the score says differently.

Since those two games, the Flyers have gone 9-4-3, with 5 of those loses coming from Boston. The Penguins have gone 11-6-1 and hired a new general manager which we are all familiar with, Ron Hextall. The Flyers have a tough task. The Penguins are coming off a tough loss to the Islanders where they were shutout.

The Flyers need to come out strong and establish the forecheck early on in this series starting Tuesday night. They need to keep the crowd out of the game and the Penguins on their feet. They are showing heavy signs of the team they were last year before the pause and that team is needed right now.

This will be the 336th-339th meetings between the two teams. Flyers all time are 180-114-30-11 against the Pens. The Flyers winning 3/4 of their next games would be huge but winning all three games against the Pens would increase our chances of burying the Pens behind us.

Especially with the Caps and Bruins playing two games. Bruins will then play the Devils Sunday. The Islanders have the Devils and Sabres for three games and then we have the Caps on Sunday. Gaining some breathing room and getting 6 points between us and the Penguins with games still in hand on them would be detrimental to the Pens playoff chances in a shortened season.

Keys to the Series versus Pittsburgh:

Keep the fans out of the game

Frustrate that top line of the Penguins

Continue to have that shoot first mentality

Put lots of rubber on DeSmith and Jarry

Force the Pens to take bad penalties (ranked 29th in the league)

Establish the forecheck early in each game

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Philadelphia:

The Goalie duo: Both Brian Elliott and Hart are coming off really nice shutout wins against Buffalo this weekend. If they can continue to produce and keep some rubber out of the net and the boys in front do their job, they are the best 1-2 combo in the East. Elliott is 5-1 this season and has been the hot hand as of late playing extremely well when his number has been called.. He has a 2.01 GAA and a .931 save percentage. Hart is 6-3-3 with a 3.35 GAA and .899 save percentage. Hart’s numbers are pretty inflated by the times they lost to the Bruins. If Carter can bounce back, he will win us a lot of games this year as he was doing early on this season.

Travis Konecny: I expect big things from TK in this series. He has been reactivated from the Covid List and is good to go. I want to see him shooting the puck more then passing and playing aggressively like he did last season. Its time he flips the script and starts to put pucks in the back of the net. Travis has 5 goals and 3 assists in 12 games this season.

Claude Giroux: He is still looking for that ever-elusive 2nd goal on the season. The captain has 1 goal and 13 assists in 16 games played. He has hit a lot of posts since his return from the Covid List but I believe the Captain is gonna be the most important player in this series for the Flyers if he can turn it on.

Pittsburgh:

Jake Guentzel: Of course you have to watch Guentzel. Playing alongside as the Robin to Crosby’s Batman, Jake has 7 goals and 10 assists in 20 games. In our first two meetings, Jake only had an assist. In his last 5 games, he has 2 goals and 3 assists, so I expect him to carry that hot stick right into PPG Paints Arena.

The Goalie duo: The Goalies have not been great this year, moving on from Matt Murray has clearly shown to be a hole right now. Even though they have not been great, they are winning games. DeSmith has a 2.73 GAA and .893 save percentage with a record of 4-2. Tristan Jarry has a 3.14 GAA with a .894 Save percentage with a record of 7-6-1. If these two can give solid performances in the net and the Pens offense can produce, it will be a tough series for the Flyers.