Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (34-15-3, 71 points, 1st place in the Eastern Division, four games remaining) @ Philadelphia Flyers (22-22-7, 51 points, 6th place Eastern Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh, NBCSports Philadelphia in Philly, also available on ESPN+
Opponent Track: It’s not great — the Flyers salvaged a victory out of the jaws of defeat eight days ago when Claude Giroux scored twice in the last two minutes of a game against NJ to turn a 3-1 loss into an OT game that the Flyers would win in a shootout. But Philly would go onto lose the next three games against the Devils, all by 2+ goals, including a 4-1 loss the last game out on Saturday.
Pens path ahead: Just three more games in the season after tonight, with the Pens finishing up their road trip with the back-to-back with the Flyers again tomorrow. From there, the Pens return to Pittsburgh to finish the season with two against Buffalo on Thursday and Saturday to close the season out.
Season Series: The Pens are only 2-3-1 vs PHI this season. Philly won the opening game of the season Pittsburgh 6-3 on January 13th and then 5-2 on 1/15, in what seems like ages ago. The Pens won by a score of 5-2 on 3/2, and the Flyers went from a 3-0 hole to win on 4-3 on 3/4. Pittsburgh bounced back to win 4-3 on 3/4. But then Philly won 2-1 in a shootout on 4/15.
Recent History: Pittsburgh has points in 12 of its last 17 games against Philadelphia (9-5-3).
Hidden Stat: Jake Guentzel has 16 points (4G+12A) in 17 career regular season games against the Flyers. Including postseason games, Guentzel has 29 points (10G+19A) in 23 games vs. the Flyers.
SBN Team Counterpart: Check out Broad Street Hockey for the latest news to know about the Flyers.
Player Stats at a Glance
Saturday Game Lines
Claude Giroux - Sean Couturier - Jakub Voracek
Joel Farabee - Kevin Hayes - Travis Konecny
James van Riemsdyk - Nolan Patrick - Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Oskar Lindbolm - Scott Laughton - Wade Allison
Ivan Provorov / Justin Braun
Shayne Gotisbehere / Travis Sanheim
Robert Hagg / Phil Myers
Possible Starting goalie: Brian Elliott
Scratches: Carter Hart (injured), Sam Morin, Carson Twarynski, Jackson Cates, Tanner Laczynski
IR: Morgan Frost
Vigneault having big problems
In his second season in Philly, Alain Vigneault has seen the bottom drop out. As BSH has said, pretty much everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong and leaves in doubt what is going to happen in the future.
Through the early stages of the season, the Flyers’ record was little more than a mirage, and everybody knew it. From fans, to players, to management, it was no secret that the Flyers weren’t going to keep winning as many games as they were unless they shored up their defensive issues. The banked points gave them time to fix it, but a disastrous month of March following a COVID outbreak completely erased the safety blanket that they had built up.
To date, the defensive breakdowns have not been fixed, and any and all attempts to repair structure has failed. This season Vigneault has repeatedly scratched underperforming players, which is in no way a bad thing, so long as everybody is being held accountable; not just a select few. We’ve already talked about how selective accountability has become a frustrating part of the Vigneault experience. And with that in mind, it’s once again worth noting that nobody should be placing the blame solely on Vigneault. Everybody, from the front office to the players, should be held accountable for how this season has played out — he’s just the topic of this piece.
Easily the most concerning part of this season has been the young players’ regression. It’s not as if just two or three players have taken a step back, it’s all of them outside of Joel Farabee. Even he’s had some tough games over the team’s most recent stretch. Beyond that, there is the clear confidence issue at hand, with the team at times playing like they’re afraid to make a mistake. Of course, it’s not hard to get there when it feels like every mistake you make ends up the back of your net, but whether it’s actively hurting or not, whatever the coaches are doing certainly doesn’t appear to be helping.
And now for the Pens..
Possible game lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Jared McCann - Jeff Carter - Kasperi Kapanen
Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Jason Zucker
Colton Sceviour - Frederick Gaudreau - Sam Lafferty
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Mike Matheson? / Cody Ceci
Marcus Pettersson / John Marino
Possible starting goalie: Tristan Jarry
Scratches: Radim Zohorna, Chad Ruhwedel, Mark Friedman, Evan Rodrigues, Mark Jankowski
IR: Evgeni Malkin, Brandon Tanev
Taxi Squad: Juuso Riikola, Yannick Weber, Emil Larmi, Maxime Lagace
—Will tonight be the night for Evgeni Malkin to get back? Maybe they give him one more day since there’s another game tomorrow, but the big guy is going to be getting back in here soon..
—It’ll be worth watching what happens with Mike Matheson, and who would replace him if necessary. The Pens weren’t on the ice yesterday as they made their way from DC to Philly, so it remains to be seen or updated as to Matheson’s status and condition. Could it be Mark Friedman getting back in the lineup? That would be awkward for a 2 LHD - 4 RHD configuration, but the Pens have done that in the past. Friedman has only played two games for the Penguins this season, both games ironically against the team from whence he came, and also funny enough the team the Pens play the next two games.
—Tristan Jarry has gotten much better playing on the road as the season has gone on. After losing his first five decisions on the road this season (0-4-1), Jarry is 5-0-0 with a 1.99 GAA and a .931 save percentage with one shutout in his most recent five road contests.