Look out below! While Pittsburgh Penguins fans may be sweating over the Penguins inconsistent play and roster issues, the Penguins problems pale in comparison to the free fall in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Flyers (8-9-6) are winless in seven and have just three wins in their last 15 games. What started as a promising season has quickly soured. Flyers coach Dave Hakstol is being compared to washed out Eagles coach Chip Kelly in the Philly media. Hakstol was an innovative and fresh college hockey coach (North Dakota) until Flyers GM Ron Hextall tapped him for the Broad Street Bullies job.
The drumbeat is building in eastern Pennsylvania for a coaching change. A bad loss by the Flyers could seal Hakstol’s fate.
The Penguins (12-10-2) are fresh off a resounding win over the NHL leading Tampa Bay Lightning, Saturday. Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry made a half dozen great saves, including stopping Steve Stamkos on a breakaway and NHL goals scoring leader Nikita Kucherov on a tight one-timer, for his first NHL win. Jarry also assisted on Bryan Rust’s shorthanded goal in the first period.
The Penguins are 7-1-2 on home ice this season. Matt Murray (11-7-1. 2.94 GAA. .906 Save %) will start in goal for the Penguins. Brian Elliott will man the pipes for the Flyers. Elliott is 6-5-5 with a 2.84 GAA and .905 save percentage.
Evgeni Malkin’s status is still unclear.
Forget it, He’s Rolling
Phil Kessel is rolling. He had the Penguins only even-strength goal, Saturday. He cleanly beat Lightning goalie Peter Budaj on a breakaway. Kessel had four points (2g, 2a), is the Penguins leading scorer (31 points), goal scorer (11 goals), and has been their most consistent player.
Kessel has scored in 19 of 25 games and has been held without a point in consecutive games only once this season. Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan, who met with Kessel in Toronto this summer, has noticed the improvements.
“His daily habits are so good right now, and I think it’s translating into the game situations,” said Sullivan.
Kessel will undoubtedly relish the end of the hot dog jokes.
Ian Cole Pinewood Derby
Penguins defenseman Ian Cole will be served pressbox nachos for the third consecutive game, despite yielding the least 5v5 scoring chances of any Penguins defenseman. Chad Ruhwedel has drawn in for Cole.
Mike Sullivan’s full answer when asked why Ian Cole has been a healthy scratch. Not much there. pic.twitter.com/zdpMVrYptL
— Sam Werner (@SWernerPG) November 27, 2017
Sullivan–with a lot more words–essentially said the coaching staff has addressed a couple areas of need for Cole. However, it seems odd that a stalwart like Cole has become a multi-game healthy scratch. Cole has been a stalwart of the Penguins blue line, though his contract is up at the end of the season.
Cole, in our opinion, has been better than a couple or few defensemen currently dressing. It is definitely a situation to watch, especially as the Penguins look for roster depth via the trade market.
The P-G’s Jason Mackey got a few words with Cole. A worthy read:
Ian Cole will be a healthy scratch again tonight. The strange situation has not been easy: https://t.co/tBQGrBWKHx
— Jason Mackey (@JMackeyPG) November 27, 2017
Groverisms! (More Coming Throughout the Pregame)
From Bob Grove @bgrove91
–The Penguins are on pace to have more 30+ goal scorers (3) and more 20+ goal scorers (6) than either of the last two seasons. Also pacing to have only SIX 15+ goal scorers, the least of the last few seasons.
–Matt has lost consecutive home starts for the first time in his career. He’s also lost three consecutive games overall for the first time.
–Kessel has 7 goals in the last 9 games and is on pace to finish with 36 goals and a career-high 102 points.
PHN’s John Perrotto is covering the game tonight! Follow John here!