March 19 – Day 156 – Battle of Pennsylvania

Anaheim heard that the Big Bad Bruins were coming to the Pond and didn’t really seem to be too impressed, beating them with a four-goal shutout.

Within 4:07 of play, Anaheim had a two goal lead.  Jamie McGinn scored the first and eventual game winner at the 2:51 mark, assisted by Corey Perry (his 23rd helper of the season) and Ryan Getzlaf.  1:16 later, Ryan Kesler’s wrister found the back of the net, assisted by Andrew Cogliano and Third Star Jakob Silfverberg.  However, after those two quick scores, neither team was able to find any other opportunities, giving the Ducks the 2-0 lead going into not only the first intermission, but also the second.

It must be a thing about odd-numbered periods for the Ducks, as only 58 seconds into the final frame Hampus Lindholm’s slap shot found the back of the net after an assist from Getzlaf (his 44th helper of the season).  The final goal of the night belongs to Rickard Rakell, as David Perron (his 24th helper of the season) and Lindholm assisted him to his slap shot with 5:32 remaining in regulation to ensure the the Bruins had no hope for a comeback.

First Star Frederik Andersen earns the shutout victory after saving all 38 shots faced, while Jonas Gustavsson takes the loss, saving 22 of 26 (84.6%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 70-40-16, favoring the home sides by 32 points over the roadies.

It’s a busy Saturday in the greatest hockey league in the world, with 11 games being played before the day ends.  The day opens with Pittsburgh visiting Philadelphia at 1 p.m. eastern, followed an hour later by Carolina at Minnesota.  The final matinee occurs at 4 p.m. eastern between the New York Rangers and San Jose.  The usual starting time of 7 p.m.  brings with it four puck drops (Buffalo at Toronto [CBC/City], Montréal at Ottawa [TVAS/SN], Detroit at Florida [NHLN] and New Jersey at Columbus), with the New York Islanders visiting Dallas an hour later.  Two more games drop the puck at 10 p.m. eastern (St. Louis at Vancouver [CBC/SN] and Tampa Bay at Arizona), and Boston at Los Angeles, this evening’s nightcap, goes underway 30 minutes later.

Almost half of today’s games are divisional rivalries (Pittsburgh at Philadelphia, Buffalo at Toronto, Montréal at Ottawa, Detroit at Florida and New Jersey at Columbus), and another set of four are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (New York at San Jose, Detroit at Florida, New York at Dallas and Boston at Los Angeles).

I know we’ve already watched them twice this week, but the Battle of Pennsylvania is beyond the most important game of the day, as it is not only a rivalry, but also another opportunity for the Flyers to get back into the playoffs.

Pittsburgh Penguins LogoPhiladelphia Flyers Logo

 

This will be Pittsburgh‘s 14th appearance in the Game of the Day series, and they own a 5-7-1 record in such games.  Their most recent appearance was Sunday, when the Pens visited Madison Square Garden and won 5-3.  Philly has been featured five times before today’s games, with their most recent being Wednesday’s 3-2 victory in Chicago to set their series record at 4-1-0.

The 38-24-8 Pittsburgh Penguins currently occupy fourth place in the Metropolitan Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference, good enough for the first wildcard spot.  To get to that position, they’ve played the seventh best defense, paired with the 11th best offense.  A more in-depth analysis of their game can be found within Sunday’s post.

Pittsburgh comes into today’s game riding a two game win streak, with their most recent being their 4-2 win over the Hurricanes on Thursday.  A win today paired with an Islanders loss propels the Pens into the third division spot, but a loss could leave them with only one point of wiggle room between them and the second wildcard.

The 34-23-12 Philadelphia Flyers are currently the fifth team in the Metropolitan Division and ninth in the Eastern Conference, making them the first team outside the playoffs.  To get to that position, they’ve played the 13th best defense, but its been paired with the 10th worst offense.

Even with Nick Schultz’ 142 blocks, the Flyers have allowed 2130 shots to reach 17-15-8 Steve Mason and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.9% for 185 goals against, the 13th fewest in the league.  The success has not continued to the penalty kill, as Philly has only neutralized 80.09% of their infractions for 46 power play goals against, the ninth worst rate in the NHL.

Led by Claude Giroux’ 196 shots, Philadelphia has fired the puck a whopping 2115 times, with 8.5% finding the back of the net for 181 goals (led by Wayne Simmonds’ 25 tallies), the 10th fewest in the league.  More effective has been the power play, where the Flyers are successful on 18.72% attempts for 44 extra man goals (led by Simmonds’ 11 power play tallies), the 15th best rate in the league.

Philadelphia is also riding a winning streak, although it is only two games, with their most recent being their 3-2 victory in Chicago on Wednesday.  A win tonight paired with a Detroit loss would propel the Flyers back into the second wildcard position.

These squads have met only once so far this season, with Pittsburgh hosting the Flyers to a 4-3 victory on January 21.

Some players to keep an eye on include Philadelphia‘s Michal Neuvirth (.925 save percentage [fifth best in the league] and 2.28 GAA [10th best in the league]) & Pittsburgh‘s Sidney Crosby (72 points [fifth in the league] and 31 goals [ninth in the league]), Marc-Andre Fleury (five shutouts [tied for second most in the league] and 30 wins [tied for sixth most in the league]), Chris Kunitz (+28 [fourth in the league]) and Olli Maatta (+24 [tied for seventh in the league]).

It is my opinion that Pittsburgh should win this game.  In addition to already earning a victory against the Flyers, they are simply the better team.

2 thoughts on “March 19 – Day 156 – Battle of Pennsylvania”