PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers will meet for the final time during the regular season tonight at CONSOL Energy Center.
While it’s no secret that these two teams are bitter rivals, there is a lot on the line tonight.
Currently, the Flyers lead the Atlantic Division by two points over the Penguins. While the Flyers have one game in hand, a win in regulation by the Penguins will trigger a frenzied stretch drive for both clubs.
However, regulation wins have been a rarity for the Penguins over the last two months. Since Feb. 1, only four of their 14 wins have come in regulation.
Despite outplaying the Flyers for the majority of their last meeting on March 24, the Penguins could not finish the job in regulation. While Pittsburgh won 2-1 in a shootout, the Flyers gained a critical point in the standings. Had the Penguins won in regulation, they would have had a chance to take the outright lead in the Atlantic Division tonight.
Another thing working against the Penguins is that Flyers hold the first tiebreaker should the teams finish with the same number of points.
Philadelphia has 42 wins in regulation and overtime, while Pittsburgh has 36. The best the Penguins could do is tie the Flyers in that category, but simple math shows the Pens would have to win out in regulation and the Flyers would have to either lose or win their remaining games in shootouts.
In other words, the only chance the Penguins have to claim the division title is to finish with more points than Philadelphia. It may seem obvious, but without the aide of the tiebreaker, the Pens cannot afford to let the Flyers earn a point tonight.
While the Flyers are only-5-1-4 in their last 10 games, they boast one of the most formidable offenses in the league. They’ve scored 235 goals in 75 games, which ranks them fourth overall in the NHL.
Six forward have 20 or more goals this season with Jeff Carter (34) leading the way. James Van Riemsdyk (19) and Ville Leino (17) are closing in on the 20-goal plateau as well.
Claude Girouz is having a breakout season and leads the team with 70 points (24 goals, 46 assists). He’s also a shorthanded threat and is tied with Mike Richards for the team lead in shorthanded goals with three.
Also enjoying a good campaign is rookie goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (27-11-6, 2.53 GAA, .917 save percentage), who is 2-1-1 against the Penguins this season.
His wins against the Penguins came at the CONSOL Energy Center in October during a pair of 3-2 decisions.
Also on the Flyers’ side, is their league-leading road record against division foes at 15-3-2.
For Pittsburgh, they’ve been finding ways to win hockey games despite losing Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to injury.
The Penguins have gone 8-2 in their last 10 games and set an NHL record with their fourth consecutive shootout win Sunday afternoon.
Defense has been the name of the game for the Pens lately. They’ve only allowed 180 goals this season, which ranks them seventh in NHL in that category.
One major improvement in the Penguins game has been their penalty kill. Heading into tonight’s game, the Pens are tied with Vancouver for the league-lead at 86.3 percent.
Another major reason for the Penguins’ sustained success this season has been the play of Marc-Andre Fleury.
Prior to Sunday’s game, Fleury (34-18-5, 2.28 GAA, .920 save percentage) was named as the team’s MVP.
Against the Flyers, he is 20-9 with a 2.64 GAA and .909 save percentage with two shutouts.
The puck is set to drop at 7 p.m. and can be seen on FSN Pittsburgh.