PITTSBURGH PENGUINS v. Philadelphia Flyers
Consol Energy Center, 7:30 PM (note, this a change from the originally scheduled 7:00 PM time), Root Sports, NBC Sports (local blackout).
Before we get down to business let’s all take a moment to laugh at the Flyers:
They traded away their captain and best goal scorer (the cornerstones of their franchise) for an overrated goalie in a vain attempt to overlook their defensive woes. Both players won the Stanley Cup last year.
They traded away an incredibly promising young goalie for a bag of chips. That young goalie is now playing at a near Vezina-level for the league’s most maligned franchise, leading them to the cusp of the playoffs for only the second time in franchise history.
They let Jaromir Jagr walk away despite the fact that he “INSISTS” that he never had more fun playing than he did in Philly.
- The Flyers traded James van Riemsdyk, who is just outside the top 10 in goal scoring this year, for a human pylon, Luke Schenn. That hasn’t exactly worked out the way the Flyers thought it would
They got embarrassed by the Nashville Predators when they tried to bring in Shea Weber on a pansy ass offer sheet.
They’re the first and only team in the NHL to max out the value of the salary cap and it only gets worse for the team next year where, before cap compliance buyouts, the Flyers will have $3 million to sign 5 players.
For as bad as the Flyers have been they’re only 5 points out of the last playoff slot (although they are only 3 points up on the worst record in the Eastern Conference). As such the Pens can’t lay off the throttle in this one. The Flyers should have no trouble finding the will to play this game and the Pens are quite familiar with what one big win can do for a team (see the Pens’ come from behind victory against the Flyers on March 7th, the third of their current 11 game streak, for evidence).
There was much talk that Evgeni Malkin and/or Kris Letang could be back in the lineup tonight for the Penguins but according to Rob Rossi, neither will go today. We said it in the Islanders pre-game too, this isn’t a game where we want guys who are still on the mend to play, the Flyers don’t have a lot to play for and they’re not above headhunting from time to time. The Pens will get Tyler Kennedy back tonight but that’s actually good because he’s scored in all three of these two teams’ prior matchups. Marc-Andre Fleury will be in the cage.
The Pens can move 4 points closer to locking up a playoff spot and push the Flyers 2 points further away tonight. The last time the Pens were going for a 12 game win streak it was ended by the Flyers, don’t let it happen tonight.
Somebody at The Hockey Writers thinks the Pens should try to bring back Max Talbot. Guess what, that isn’t going to happen. For our money “Talbo” was nothing more than a media spectacle, he could never back up his play on the ice, especially not from one season to the other.
Max Talbot was once one of Pittsburgh’s favorite sons.
Just a quick look at his most memorable moments can tell you why.
– A black-eyed, post-fight Talbot putting a finger to his lips to shush the Flyers crowd and inspire his team to a comeback win in the 2009 playoffs.
– Scoring two goals to lift the Penguins over the Red Wings in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
– Calling Alex Ovechkin an expletive on a Pittsburgh morning radio show.
– Not to mention the often imitated “Superstar” car commercial, featuring an impression of McLovin from the movie Superbad.
The first two are the ONLY things he ever did in a Penguins jersey, the last two confirm exactly what I’ve been saying all along. Presumably the only reason why the Flyers would trade Talbot is because he’s had a bad year this year, so why would the Penguins pay $1.75 million for three more years of a guy who has never played well in back to back seasons? Isn’t that why they let him leave in the first place? That is truly a worse idea than the Pens targeting Jaromir Jagr for the stretch run.
Finish this. Go Pens.
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS @ Philadelphia Flyers
Wells Fargo Center, 7:00PM, Root Sports, NHL Network (local blackout)
Today marks the 50% mark of this abbreviated season. At the macro level the season is going according to plan for the Penguins: first in the division and second in the conference.
Unfortunately if you’ve watched the Pens at all this year you know that the record is at least a little misleading: the Penalty Kill is well off pace from recent years, Tomas Vokoun has not made the expected impact in the net, and occasionally the whole team gets brain zapped in the defensive zone.
Still it could be worse, if you’re the Philadelphia Flyers you are not a playoff team, you’re in 9th place in the conference, your self-proclaimed best player in the world has barely been the third or fourth best player on the team, and your signature win twice saw the opponent come back from 2 goal deficits.
And that’s the thing about these two teams, they aren’t nearly as close to one another as they have been in recent years and that’s the key for the Pens to remember tonight. If they just play the game, they will win, if they try to match the Flyers physically they greatly hurt their chances. It really is that simple.
The Pens get Paul Martin back, and Simon Despres will step out of the lineup. Would have loved to see Despres get a shot with Mark Eaton, just like Kris Letang did in his first couple of years. You may have heard, but Beau Bennett is expected to play essentially the full game with Geno and Nealer. And before anyone has the opportunity to throw a hissy fit, MAF will be in the cage for the ‘Guins.
The Flyers have a bunch of injuries and Harry Zolniercyzk is suspended for being a douche. Since the last time these two teams met, however, the Flyers did acquire an old friend, Simon Gagne. Always would have liked to see him in a Penguins sweater. Oh well.
In unrelated news the NHLPA just announced that they have approved the most recent realignment proposition which will see Columbus and Detroit move east while the Jets move west. Assuming the Board of Governors do the same, the Pens’ “conference” now will look like this:
New York Rangers
New York Islanders
Get your popcorn ready, Pens will be going to war every night.
Just play hockey. Go Pens.
No doubt about it, the Pens are still falling for the same cheap antics that got them eliminated by the Flyers in last year’s playoffs. That is to say they’re trying to out-physical the Flyers (something they aren’t the best at) instead of out-play them (which they clearly did in the third period when they just started playing hockey). But to me there’s no doubt that the majority of the Penguins players did learn something, and perhaps the two biggest who didn’t, Geno and Neal, can’t be faulted because they made up for it on the scoresheet.
In some ways though the Pens really overcompensated. That was the problem for Brooks Orpik, who played his worst game since he wore a number 29 jersey, and Matt Niskanen both of whom allowed own goals by playing too aggressively, trying to play the puck and not the man.
Now mind you, some guys, read Deryk Engelland and Tanner Glass, did play over the top and it was bad news for both of them, but there were some guys who had a downright good game, so let’s take a look at them and how the team and coaching staff can learn from them.
Here’s the truth: Paul Martin had one of the best games he’s played all year, and he’s had a lot of good ones. Unlike his d-partner Brooksie, who ended up a minus 2, Paul-Mart was a net zero plus/minus, and almost silently netted three assists. He didn’t try to do too much. He just played the game and did what he’s done all year. He didn’t let the national audience or the rivalry get into his head.
Sidney Crosby: he’s often been leading the charge for extra aggression against the Flyers, but on Wednesday he played in control. He ended up a minus-3, but he logged huge minutes and did what he needed to do. He logged 27 minutes of ice time in all three facets of the game, at even strength, on the PP and on the PK. He probably played his most shorthanded time he’s ever played in a game, and generally speaking, the Pens PK played well, the killer was just the stupid penalties other guys took to get on the penalty kill. Also doesn’t hurt that Sid made a difference in the faceoff circle, 75%.
Brandon Sutter: his late goal to get the score even is the stuff of legends. No doubt Sutter is always going to have to own up to comparisons to Jordan Staal, he took a huge step towards that comparison on Wednesday. The biggest things that advanced statisticians stress about Staal’s game is his puck possession numbers. In less than 13 minutes of ice time on Wednesday Sutter finished a plus-2. Further, the 3 wingers who played with him–Beau Bennett, Tyler Kennedy, and Matt Cooke–were the only other plus rated players for the Pens.
So there you have it, we’re not going to pretend that the Pens didn’t beat themselves, we’re not going to pretend that composure wasn’t still a major issue for this supposedly veteran, well-coached team. But when you really look at it, the Pens look to be turning the corner when it comes to the Flyers, the best players played well, and more and more guys seem to be learning to turn the other cheek. Given that the Flyers are literally rubbish we can’t wait to get back at it again.
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS v. Philadelphia Flyers
Consol Energy Center, 7:30PM, NBC-SN
All day you could just feel the hate in the air. This is a really special game. The Pens are on home ice with a chance to do some serious damage to the Flyers’ playoff chances. Not only that but they have the opportunity to regain control of the whole Eastern Conference.
One thing we’re really bummed about is that Flyers-Pens have become too big. The league won’t let these games not get picked up by NBC. Now for us there’s no doubt that Pens-Flyers is the best rivalry in all professional sports, and as I say, you can feel the hate in the city today, but what would make these games even better is local color in the play by play, by no means do we like Paul Steigerwald, but we would much rather listen to him than Pierre Maguire talk about Claude Giroux’s first girlfriend.
With that said, the Flyers enter tonight’s game 7-9-2, coming off a 7-0 win over the Islanders. Despite that drubbing the Flyers still have a negative goal differential. Most of that has to do with the fact that their second line is Danny Briere and 2 fourth liners. They have no depth scoring. Speaking of Briere, he has some strong words on the way the Flyers have played. Totally forgot about Captain Ginger calling out his team after being captain for a couple hours.
Seth Rorabaugh predicts Vokoun to get the nod. Dejan wrote a piece exactly characterizing something I’ve wanted to write about for a week regarding the Pens’ goaltending situation. It’s expected that Despres will sit and Bortz will play, because games against the Flyers are occasionally violent.
Let the hate flow through you. Go Pens.
Pens 1-0-0 for the season. Not the prettiest win, but it’s two points. Recap by tomorrow.