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Flyers-Penguins: Round 1, Game 2 Preview

The Philadelphia Flyers were taken behind the woodshed by the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 1, but they can still get a crucial road split with a rebound effort tonight in Game 2.

By Dan Heaning, Sports Talk Philly staff writer 

Well, that sucked. If you're the Philadelphia Flyers or a fan of the team, there is no other way to put it.

The effort in Game 1 belonged in a dumpster fire as the Pittsburgh Penguins rocked the Orange and Black 7-0. However, the crucial road split can still be had tonight as the two teams meet in Game 2 from the PPG Paints Arena at 7 p.m. 

Philadelphia played just about as bad a playoff game as a team could in Game 1.

There are certain things road teams must do to capture at least one tilt in the opening two of the series. One of those is to survive the first 10 minutes of the game. The Flyers were down 2-0 by that time. The crowd was never taken out of it and the Penguins gave their fans seven reasons to stick around for the whole 60 minutes.

The Flyers were a disaster in all three zones routinely turning the puck over, getting outworked and outskated by a team that had no intention of taking its foot off the gas pedal.

In order for the Orange and Black to come away with a split in Pittsburgh, they will have to find a way to slow down the Penguins as it quite clear that the Flyers cannot match their rivals' speed. The defense must do a better job of securing the front of the net, eliminate any and all errors in clearing the zone and exercise quality pinches to keep any offensive pressure going. In turn, the goaltending must improve. Philadelphia already has a monstrous hill to climb in attempting to defeat the back-to-back Stanley Cup champions without either netminder punching rebounds out directly into the slot or horrendous odd angle shots trickling in.

Furthermore, the hallmark of this Flyers squad, the offense, cannot be as stagnant and easy to separate from the puck as it was in Game 1. While players like Scott Laughton and Travis Sanheim had quality opportunities to get Philadelphia on the board, the Flyers as a team did not sustain enough attack time to pose much of a threat to their interstate rivals.

It's easy to use cliches and hyperbole come playoff time when one can make the argument that every game is a must win. That isn't exactly true, but tonight is a critical game for the Flyers. A win means a road split and home ice for the Orange and Black with the pressure suddenly shifting to the defending champions to get a road split themselves. A loss means the Flyers will have to win both games in Philadelphia just to tie the series and any loss at home would put the Flyers on the brink of elimination.

Team Leaders

Philadelphia Flyers GP G A P Pittsburgh Penguins GP G A P
Claude Giroux 1 0 0 0 Jake Guentzel 1 1 3 4
Jake Voracek 1 0 0 0 Sidney Crosby 1 3 0 3
Sean Couturier  1 0 0 0 Carl Hagelin 1 1 1 2
Shayne Gostisbehere 1 0 0 0 Brian Dumoulin 1 1 1 2
Wayne Simmonds 1 0 0 0 Evgeni Malkin 1 1 0 1

 

Player to Watch
14 Sean Couturier 87 Sidney Crosby
In Series: 0 G, 0 A, 0 P, -4 In Series: 3 G, 0 A, 3 P, +5
 
If Sean Couturier could be split into three people that would be a big help to the Flyers in this series. However, he's only one man and can only be aimed at one Pittsburgh superstar at a time. Whether he's tasked with stopping Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby, Couturier has the thankless task of trying to stop one of those elite talents and produce offense as Philadelphia's top line center all at the same time. With that said, Couturier is the last guy the team needs turning pucks over at the blueline and the Flyers can ill afford to have Couturier be anything but pristine in all three zones.
 
The player to watch in this series is Sidney Crosby until someone can even remotely contain the man. The Flyers didn't even come close to that in Game 1 as Crosby scored his third career hat trick in the opening contest of the series. Containing Crosby could be considered a fevered dream brought on by a madman's lullaby but if the Flyers are to survive this best-of-seven series, they'll have to find a way to keep Crosby from continuously scorching them.
 
Goalie Matchup
37 Brian Elliott 30 Matt Murray
0-1, 10.34 GAA, .737 SV% 1-0, 0.00 GAA, 1.000 SV%

Who didn't see this coming? Brian Elliott had two games to prepare for the playoffs and one of them was against the inept New York Rangers. So needless to say, Elliott had a rocky start to the series in Game 1. This is where head coach Dave Hakstol has to decide whether he dances with the goalie he relied upon through most of the season or the one who played down the stretch. Petr Mrazek didn't punch large rebounds out into the slot, but he didn't do anything to rip the starting spot away from Elliott either during his time in Game 2. Regardless, if the Flyers play as wretched in all three zones as they did in Game 1 it wouldn't matter if Dominik Hasek or Patrick Roy was in net for them so if the Flyers don't fix their game expect either Elliott or Mrazek or both to be torn to shreds again.

Matt Murray had the best seat in the house in Game 1. Murray saw 24 shots during the entire game and only a handful were actually remotely challenging. Murray had a rocky season on and off the ice, but he remains a wall in the playoffs as he hasn't allowed a goal in his past three playoff games. The Flyers will look to delay Murray's sixth playoff shutout of his young career until another time.

Flyers Projected Lineup

Injuries: Michal Neuvirth has a lower-body injury, but it is unclear if he will be available for Game 2.

Scratches: Dale Weise, Jordan Weal, Taylor Leier, Robert Hagg, Johnny Oduya

Left Wing Center Right Wing
28 Claude Giroux 14 Sean Couturier 12 Michael Raffl
54 Oskar Lindblom 19 Nolan Patrick 93 Jake Voracek
11 Travis Konecny  51 Valtteri Filppula 17 Wayne Simmonds
21 Scott Laughton 15 Jori Lehtera 24 Matt Read
Defense    
9 Ivan Provorov 53 Shayne Gostisbehere  
23 Brandon Manning 3 Radko Gudas  
6 Travis Sanheim 47 Andrew MacDonald  
Goalie    
37 Brian Elliott    

Lineup Notes

While there were certainly many calls for the Flyers to make some noticeable changes to the lineup after Game 1, the forward lines and defensive pairings remain exactly the same for Game 2.

Penguins Projected Lineup

Injuries: Carter Rowney has an upper-body injury and is out for an extended period of time.
 
Left Wing Center Right Wing
59 Jake Guentzel 87 Sidney Crosby 17 Bryan Rust
62 Carl Hagelin 71 Evgeni Malkin 72 Patric Hornqvist
43 Conor Sheary 19 Derick Brassard 81 Phil Kessel
34 Tom Kuhnhackl 15 Riley Sheahan 46 Zach Aston-Reese
Defense    
8 Brian Dumoulin 58 Kris Letang  
3 Olli Maatta 4 Justin Schultz  
22 Matt Hunwick 6 Jamie Oleksiak  
Goalie    
30 Matt Murray    

Game Notes (Regular-Season Totals)

  • Power Play: Flyers (15th, 4th on road), Penguins (1st, T-1st at home)
  • Penalty Kill: Flyers (29th, 24th on road), Penguins (17th, 21st at home) 
  • First-Round Series Recap
    • April 11, 2018 (Game 1) - Penguins 7, Flyers 0 (at PIT)
  • Flyers Leaders vs. Penguins
    • Claude Giroux - 44 GP, 14 G, 31 A, 45 P
    • Jake Voracek - 36 GP, 18 G, 17 A, 35 P
    • Wayne Simmonds - 32 GP, 13 G, 11 A, 24 P
    • Brian Elliott - 13 GP, 7-3-2, 2.88 GAA, .918 SV%
  • Penguins Leaders vs. Flyers
    • Sidney Crosby - 63 GP, 38 G, 55 A, 93 P
    • Evgeni Malkin - 53 GP, 26 G, 42 A, 68 P
    • Phil Kessel - 43 GP, 9 G, 19 A, 28 P
    • Matt Murray - 8 GP, 3-2-0, 3.00 GAA, .912 SV%

Where to Watch
TV: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic

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