PITTSBURGH PENGUINS VS PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
THE PAINT CAN. PITTSBURGH, PA
7:00 PM EST. NBCSN, CNBC
It’s Friday the 13th which means all throughout the country kids are telling stories about saying “bloody Mary” three times in the bathroom mirror, black cats are being cursed at, and the Philadelphia Flyers are trying to invest in some voodoo dolls to slow down Crosby and Malkin. If you’re reading this then you already know what happened in game 1 so I won’t mention the outcome of the Penguins absolutely rubbing the Flyers noses through dogshit after stealing their lunch money and banging their moms. The Pens were excellent in every zone of the ice which gave Dave Hakstol and the Flyers more than they could even begin to try to handle. The matchups became overwhelming and instead of trying to get different pairings against different lines Hakstol just kept doing the same thing. To make matters better he went out yesterday to state that he will most likely use the same lineup in this game, of course that could be a bluff since he does look like a “pull my finger” kind of guy.
I will offer a little word of caution though, despite the way the Penguins played in game one they are still only ahead in the series by one game. Last year in the playoffs three teams won by 7 or more (the Penguins one of them against Ottawa) and all three teams lost the next game. Heading into game one everyone was wondering if the Penguins could indeed flip the switch when the playoffs started, that was answered immediately. We’ve seen moments throughout the season when the Pens were able to turn it on when needed, now the question becomes is the flip permanently on or did scoring 7 on the Flyers get to their heads a little bit. Other than Crosby and Malkin the Pens are human, so it isn’t hard to see how they could possibly get a little cocky after opening their back-to-back title defense with a stomping. That is where Mike Sullivan comes in, this is when Mike Sullivan shows the difference between coaching the team and letting the game coach you.
Wednesday night was Sullivan’s 50th playoff game behind the Penguins bench and his 33rd win. Under Sullivan the Penguins are 8-2 in the first round (not counting game one of this series) with their only losses coming in game 2 of the 2016 Rangers series in Pittsburgh and game 4 of last years Columbus tilt at Columbus. In his 8 playoff series Sullivan has fallen to 1-1 in the series following a game 1 win only once, the aforementioned Rangers series. In the 4 series that Sullivan has coached his troops to a 2-0 lead they have all ended up 3-1 after four games and done in 6 games max.
TL;DR Wednesday night was great, Sullivan’s coaching history shows us that tonight could be huge for the Pens.
In the gameday for game 1 I mentioned that we should pay attention to the defensive matchups Hakstol and Co were going to attempt to use in the series. Now is not the time to talk about gun control but the Flyers might want to figure out a way to stop Crosby and Malkin. He opted for his top pairing to go against the top line in game 1 which resulted in not just the early goal by Rust but a completely dominating performance by the line that is basically a Russian Kielbasa on a Swedish bun. Hagelin and Hornqvist could not be stopped and if the Flyers were able to figure out where those two were it meant they had forgotten Evgeni Malkin. After that Sullivan wisely used the newly found confidence in Sheahan and the fourth line as well as some great play from the third line to complete the matchup headache that was anticipated prior to the game. The question now for Hakstol is does he put his top pairing against the second line and try using another pairing against Sid and Co? Yes Crosby had a hattrick, but it was already 4-0 at that point also. The Stanley Cup Playoffs are all about adapting and right now the Flyers either need to adapt or tap out.
On the Penguins front Maatta and Murray took maintenance days yesterday but I would bet Kessels remaining nut that they both play, Olli Maatta can have a maintenance day every day for the way he has rebounded this season while also being the most targeted defender on the team in terms of hits received. I would also be pretty shocked to see any lineup changes from Sullivan as tonight is all about executing again.
It’s tough to restrain your pensboner after that game one performance by the Penguins and I’m not here to tell you to zip it up, let that thing fly, poke an eye out, have at it. The Penguins set the bar in game 1 and Sullivan still had a video session to show the team how they can improve, tonight we will see if they do so. Something to keep in mind is that they are playing the Flyers and that means those players naturally have shit for brains. If the Pens go up by multiple goals in the third period look for the Filth special as they try to “send a message” or something, problem is they already sent that SOS to the world loud and clear last game. Good luck focusing on anything else you have to do tonight, because we all know that you’re going to be focused on this Friday night showdown where the Penguins have a chance to take a 2 game lead into Philadelphia this weekend. Lets fucking go.