PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 15: A Philadelphia Flyers fan holds up a sign as Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins prepares for action in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center on April 15, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Penguins 8-4. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
We all know what happened in 2010. We remember the feeling of dread when the Flyers fell down in an 0-3 hole, just as we remember the glimmer of hope when they were able to pull out Game 4 in overtime. And the growing hope with Game 5's win. And the utter confidence that came after winning Game 6.
We know how easily a team can build confidence and can get things rolling in the proper direction in a playoff series like this. It almost seems as if things came to a head on Sunday afternoon, and a Penguins win tonight would not be out of the question. From there? As they rally around getting James Neal back in the lineup for Game 5? Well, who the hell knows. Let's not get the chance to think about it. The Flyers can finish this thing off tonight, and let's hope they do it.
The odds are certainly in their favor. In addition to missing Neal, news broke this morning that Paul Martin will also be out of the lineup -- potentially as the result of his hit from Brayden Schenn. You know, the one where Arron Asham jumped him afterward? The Pens are calling it an "undisclosed injury." Who knows if it's related to the Schenn hit since Martin kept playing afterward, but nevertheless, it's a big blow to Pittsburgh's defense, which has played awful hockey all series long.
Also potentially out for the Pens: Defenseman Zbynek Michalek. He's reportedly a game-time decision. Losing both Michalek and Martin would likely mean Brian Strait (zero career NHL playoff games) and Simon Despres (zero career NHL playoff games) get into the lineup ... and, well. Just chew on that for a second. Edit: Forgot Matt Niskanen exists.
It's all lined up for the Flyers tonight. Pittsburgh is missing a lot of key players, their backs are against the wall, and the game is in quite the hostile environment for the flightless birds. Their lineup can certainly change, but here's what we're expecting:
Kunitz - Malkin - Kennedy
Cooke - Staal - Tangradi
Sullivan - Crosby - Dupuis
Asham Jeffrey - Adams Vitale - Park
Martin Orpik Michalek Despres - Engelland
Niskanen - Lovejoy
No clue on the defensive pairings there, but it's looking like those lines are accurate. It's smart for Dan Bylsma to keep Crosby and Malkin separate, simply because the Penguins are an easier team for the Flyers to defend against (in theory) with those two together. Put the shutdown line with Max Talbot and Sean Couturier against those two and you should be able to keep them contained, but by keeping them separate, line matching becomes tougher.
Speaking of lines, we're expecting the same lineup for the Flyers tonight:
Hartnell - Giroux - Jagr
Schenn - Briere - Simmonds
Voracek - Couturier - Talbot
Wellwood - Read - Rinaldo
Timonen - Carle
Grossmann - Coburn
Kubina - Lilja
Time to finish them. I don't want a week off without watching the Flyers ... but, well, I want a week off without watching the Flyers.