The Pittsburgh Penguins (12-9-1) season is teetering as they face the Philadelphia Flyers (12-5-3) on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. As the East Division nears the halfway point, the Penguins are outside a playoff spot and the top four teams are beginning to pull away.
The Penguins squandered a three-goal lead on Thursday and lost 4-3 to the Flyers. The loss had consequences.
As PHN+ pointed out days ago, the three-game set against the Philadelphia Flyers could be a make-or-break moment for the Penguins season. A quick check of the standings confirms the scenario for the Penguins. If the Penguins win on Saturday, they pull within three points of Washington and the New York Islanders for a playoff spot (though New York plays Saturday, too). That’s the good news.
If they lose to Philadelphia, the Penguins will remain at least three points back, and trail Philadelphia by at least four points, and Philadelphia has two games in hand.
The Penguins have played two stinkers in the last three games, including Sunday’s shutout by the New York Islanders.
New York has points in six straight. Washington is a perennial power. So, too is Boston. If the Penguins win today, they stay in the thick of the division; lose and the uphill chase begins with only 33 games remaining.
The winning percentage necessary to make up more than four points in 33 games against good teams will be a HIGH, HIGH bar to reach.
Brian Dumoulin will return to the Penguins top pair. We detailed just how significant that is.
We expect Tristan Jarry and Carter Hart to face off again on Saturday. The Flyers gave Brian Elliott the spot start on Thursday, so Hart should be in the cage for Philadelphia. Hart has not been great, yet. He is 6-4-3 with an .893 save percentage and 3.49 GAA.
Jarry’s numbers slipped a bit in the Penguins loss on Thursday, down to an .899 save percentage and up to a 3.13 GAA>
What to Watch:
“The majority of games are won and lost at the net fronts, and you’ve got to do a good job at both ends of the rink in that regard,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said. “We’ve got to defend hard at our net, and we’ve got to try to get to the net front in the opponents end.”
Why does every quote scream for a crazy Viking at the net?
On Tuesday, the Penguins burned the Flyers forecheck like mom burns the biscuits every Thanksgiving, but on Thursday it all went wrong after the 3-0 lead. PHN asked Jake Guentzel and Marcus Petterson what happened. Both pointed to execution.
“I don’t think they changed a whole lot. Our execution changed. I think we counted eight to 10 scoring chances in the first game, where we started in our D-zone. We got the speed we wanted and created some tape-to-tape passes. That creates speed for us,” Pettersson said. “In the second game, we were a little slow. The passes weren’t really clean, on the tape. We weren’t predictable enough for each other, then we lose our speed.
That allows them to play aggressive.”
I loved Pettersson’s answer. I wish more players gave detailed responses like that. The game on Saturday will hinge on the above.
(BTW–if anyone else provides more hockey insight than PHN, we’d like to know, so we can add more!)
So, Saturday is Flyers forecheck vs. Penguins breakout.
Expected Pittsburgh Penguins Lines & Special Teams
|Jake Guentzel||Sidney Crosby||Bryan Rust|
|Jason Zucker||Evgeni Malkin||Kasperi Kapanen|
|Jared McCann||Jeff Carter||Freddy Gaudreau|
|Zach Aston-Reese||Teddy Blueger||Brandon Tanev|
|Brian Dumoulin||Kris Letang|
|Mike Matheson||Cody Ceci|
|Marcus Pettersson||John Marino|
Philadelphia Flyers Lines
|Claude Giroux||Sean Couturier||Jakub Voracek|
|Joel Farabee||Kevin Hayes||Travis Konecny|
|James Van Riemsdyk||Nolan Patrick||Nicolas Aube-Kubel|
|Oskar Lindblom||Scott Laughton||Wade Allison|
|Ivan Provorov||Justin Braun|
|Travis Sanheim||Philippe Myers|
|Shayne Gostisbehere||Robert Hagg|
|TEAM||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||23.7%, 4th NHL||77.4%, 27th NHL|
|New York Islanders||18.8%, 21st NHL||83.7%, 6th NHL|
Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes
*The Penguins are 4-5-1 when being outshot.
*P.O. Joseph and Drew O’Connor “re-assigned” to the WBS Penguins
*The Penguins have points in four of their last five home games against the Flyers (3-1-1) and are 8-3-1 over their last 12 home games vs. Philadelphia.
*This is the Penguins’ second set of back-to-back games. They’re scheduled to have nine sets of back-to-back games in 2020-21.
*On Thursday, (per NHLPR) Mark Friedman became the 10th player since 2009-10 to score his first career goal against the team that drafted him.
*The Penguins’ .800 winning percentage at home (8-2-0) is sixth-best in the NHL.
*Kris Letang has nine points in his last seven games, inlcuding five goals.
*Six of the Penguins last nine goals have come from blueliners, and 12 of the Penguins 65 goals (18.5%) this year have come from their defensemen. Only the Montreal Canadiens (14/71, 19.7%), Florida Panthers (14/71, 19.7%) and Dallas Stars (9/48, 18.8%) have a higher percentage
How to Watch
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: 105.9 The X