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Flyers vs. Penguins preview: Sleep with one eye open tonight, bird

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Let’s get back on track, yeah?

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Philadelphia Flyers at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

What’s a Saturday without a divisional rivalry game, am I right? It’s been a week in the world of the Flyers, but like we’ve been saying, the games keep on happening, and we have one happening tonight. Oh boy.

The Flyers are facing off against the Penguins in Pittsburgh tonight, and it’s the first time these two will have seen each other since that ugly, ugly first round playoff series last spring. We’re not going to spend too much time rehashing that one. We don’t need to be getting too riled up. Not yet, at least.

In a way, it’s been a strange start to the season for the Penguins, who found themselves hanging out at last in the Metro for a bit, there (a place now occupied by the Flyers), but have since clawed their way up to third from last. Does that mean we should assume that they’re bad now and bank this as a super winnable game? Absolutely not. This one’s going to still be a challenge.

Like we said, after back to back losses against Toronto and Ottawa in the last week, the Flyers have hit a rough patch and found themselves sitting squarely at last place in the Metro. They’re doing some good work, but they also keep finding ways to shoot themselves in the foot. We know you’ve heard this one before. Is this a death spiral we’re staring down, here? We sure hope not. The Flyers have a chance to do some damage in this one, if things go right. Here are a couple of them:

1.Goaltending

The revolving door really never stops, does it? The Flyers have hit their fifth starting goalie of the season, and Anthony Stolarz is getting his second in a row tonight. His first start was fine enough—not perfect, but about par for the course, considering how little playing time he’s gotten so far this season. But now he’s gotten that first game out of the way, and some more practice time with the NHL squad, and they need him to be ready to take the next step in his play for this matchup. The Flyers are holding onto a -14 goal differential so far this season, and the Penguins have scored the third most goals in the division (with 81), so they’re going to have a big task ahead of them. And preventing these goals requires help from the defense, as well, but they’ll still need Stolarz to form a solid foundation for them. They’ll need a little bit more than they got on Tuesday.

2.Exploiting opposing goaltending, etc

But since we just talked about the Flyers’ weirdness and weakness in the goaltending department, we should also take a moment to note that the Penguins are actually finding themselves in the same boat. With Matt Murray still on IR, it looks like Casey DeSmith will be getting the start, so we’ll be getting one of the backups. But also the backup who’s off to a good start (a .924 save percentage in 15 games played). So what’s there to glean from all this? On paper, the Flyers may have a bit of an equalizer staring them down (the Penguins have also allowed the third most goals in the division so far this season). It’s a battle of the backup goalies once again, folks. Let’s hope it goes better for the Flyers this team, yeah?

3.Play the full 60 minutes

Remember on Tuesday, when the Flyers looked really sharp through most of the game, just really dominated the Senators through the bulk of their time on the ice, and then just handed over the game in the last ten minutes? Yeah, that was ugly. And it can’t happen again.

The good news in all that is we saw them really shining in their transition play (which they’ll need to activate against the Penguins) and showing that they can be dominant when they turn it on, but they still fell into the old trap of letting off the gas and getting burned for it. That stings, and we can just hope that some of that sting has carried over into tonight’s game—remember this feeling, guys, and do better.

Puck drops at 7:00, and you can check out the Flyers’ projected lineup below:

Forwards

Giroux - Couturier - Konecny

van Reimsdyk - Patrick - Simmonds

Raffl - Laughton - Voracek

Lindblom - Lehtera - Weise

Defensemen

Provorov - Gostisbehere

MacDonald - Hagg

Sanheim - Gudas

Goalies

Stolarz

(Neuvirth)