For the first time in the 2018-19 season, the Philadelphia Flyers will play a home game vs. their interstate rivals in the Pittsburgh Penguins. In a strange and yet oh-so fitting and predictable season for this team, the Flyers have a chance to make up some ground on the Penguins who hold a six point advantage in the last wild card spot. In their only meeting so far this season, the Flyers beat the Penguins 4-2 in Pittsburgh on the strength of goals from four different Flyers.
This will be the two teams’ last meeting before the Stadium Series game later this month at Lincoln Financial Field. After earning the win on Saturday vs. Anaheim, who by the way are an atrocity right now, Carter Hart will get his second consecutive start and his first against Pittsburgh. Hart was dominant vs. Anaheim and will hope to look the same in quite possibly the biggest game of his career so far.
Pittsburgh has been on a cold streak of late, going 3-6-1 in their last 10 games and falling out of the top three in the Metro division. Although the thought of Pittsburgh missing the playoffs is there, it would be hard to imagine it for all that long. We’ve seen similar song and dances such as this from the Pens before, and it always ends the same way with their star power willing them to the playoffs. Hopefully this year is different, but the Flyers have a lot of work to do to knock their rivals out of postseason contention.
1. Can the offense keep chugging?
That first period outburst vs. Anaheim was something to behold from the Flyers. Sure, there may have been a tad bit of luck involved but hey, that’s hockey. Against an offensive juggernaut that the Penguins can be at times, the Flyers need to be ready to match that intensity. This is not a game where, if the Flyers get out to an early lead, they can afford to sit back and let the Pens come at them.
Scott Gordon must stay aggressive as he did at the end of the third period vs. Anaheim, and attempt to keep that level of intensity and attack level for most of the game. The Penguins clear weak spot on their team has been their defense, and the Flyers will look to exploit that tonight. Speaking of exploiting, the top six will have to take advantage of the anticipated absence of Evgeni Malkin from tonight’s contest, as the center will most likely be out with an upper body injury. If the top six can have a big game, it would go a long way in helping the Flyers pick up the huge win.
2. How will Hart handle the pressure?
It’s not like pressure will be new to Carter Hart in this game, as he’s been feeling it since he got here. He still is the projected savior of the goaltending dilemma in Philadelphia, and he’s handled the pressure that comes along with that well since his call-up. This game however will be something entirely different for the young netminder, because of the team he’s facing. It’s the first match-up between himself and Sidney Crosby, and possibly his biggest test yet as goaltender for the Philadelphia Flyers.
He’s handled pressure so well since his arrival, and it’s been an absolute treat to watch. He’s the most mentally sound goalie the Flyers have had in quite some time, and having that calming presence in net is something we just aren’t used to as Flyers fans. A win tonight would be huge not only in the standings, but for the overall mental state of the team. The two team’s playoff series last season seems like a distant memory, but you know it’s not for these players.
3. This may be what we call a ‘statement game’
The chances for the Flyers to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs are still ... well ... quite low. But, this team is still only six points out of a playoff spot and and will be four out with a regulation win tonight. Whether you are in on this team and believe they can make the playoffs, or feel the complete opposite, this is a statement game for this team. Not only for the players, but for Scott Gordon as well.
The chances of Gordon being brought back next season as head coach seem low, especially if a high profile name such as Joel Quenneville expresses interest. However, this could be one of those games that the Flyers brass points to when deciding on keeping Gordon, especially if they somehow make the playoffs. The term “must win game” often is overused, but for the Flyers, this very well might be an appropriate time to use it.
Flyers Projected Lineup
JVR — Giroux — Konecny
Lindblom — Couturier — Voracek
Laughton — Patrick — Simmonds
Raffl — Vorobyev — Varone
Provorov — Sanheim
MacDonald — Gostisbehere
Hagg — Gudas
Is this a must win game for the Flyers?
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