Penguins Can Claim Potentially Important Tiebreaker by Beating Flyers

Matthew Jordan

Tuesday, March 6, 2018 5:56 PM UTC

Tuesday, Mar. 6, 2018 5:56 PM UTC

Were the playoffs to start today, the Penguins and Flyers would be first-round combatants. They meet in Philly on Wednesday with the Pens able to clinch the season series.

Pittsburgh Penguins (80 points) at Philadelphia Flyers (79 points)Free NHL Pick: Pens & OverBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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Just three games on Wednesday’s NHL schedule and really only Penguins-Flyers at 7 p.m. ET in Philadelphia is very interesting. Your other options are Flames-Sabres (Buffalo stinks) and Coyotes-Canucks (both stink).

It’s the third of four meetings this regular season between Pittsburgh and Philly, and the Penguins could take the series with a victory and thus own a potentially important tiebreaker. I guess I should also predict that Pittsburgh’s starting netminder leaves in the second period due to injury here because he has in the first two matchups.

On Nov. 27, the Pens won at home 5-4 in overtime even though Matt Murray left with 4:21 to go in the second period after Philadelphia's Jakub Voracek crashed into him during a breakaway. Sidney Crosby won it in overtime on a deflection and also had two assists. Jake Guentzel was the No. 1 star with two goals and an assist. Pittsburgh had a whopping 52 shots on Flyers goalie Brian Elliott – he’s currently out injured. Elliott couldn’t hold a 3-1 lead early in the third.

On Jan. 2 in Philadelphia, the Pens won 5-1 despite losing Tristan Jerry to a second-period injury. Murray replaced him and didn’t allow a goal. Pittsburgh scored four goals in the second period, and Elliott was yanked after the last of those for Michal Neuvirth, who is also currently hurt. Crosby had an assist and has 40 points (16 goals, 24 assists) in 29 career games at Philadelphia.

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Potential Playoff Preview

It’s quite possible these teams play each other in the first round of the playoffs – they would currently but haven’t squared off during extra hockey since the 2012 conference quarterfinals. Both are still very much in the division race as well with Washington. I doubt either the Pens or Flyers would slip lower than third in the Metropolitan and into a wild-card spot.

As I noted above, the Flyers are without their No. 1 goalie in Elliott and No. 2 in Neuvirth. They acquired Petr Mrazek from Detroit about a week before the Feb. 26 trade deadline and he has been so-so, going 3-2-1 in a Philly uniform with a 2.92 goals-against average and .895 save percentage. The Flyers enter on a three-game skid, getting outscored 15-8 with Mrazek starting each in net. Mrazek didn’t face the Penguins this season while with the Red Wings.

Philly does play again Thursday in Boston so it could be rookie Alex Lyon here or in that one. Lyon hasn’t seen action since Feb. 20. The Flyers also are without winger Wayne Simmonds due to an upper-body injury. Simmonds, who has 20 goals and 17 assists, is likely about a week from returning. Defensemen Johnny Oduya and Andrew McDonald are also banged up and questionable.

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Back-to-back OT wins for the back-to-back champs. 👏 pic.twitter.com/wHs28wyHpc

— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 6, 2018
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Pittsburgh’s No. 1 goalie Murray is out with a concussion. He is 23-13-2 this season with a 2.82 goals-against average and .909 save percentage. So, it presumably will be Jarry in net over rookie Casey DeSmith. Jarry made his third straight start Monday and beat visiting Calgary 4-3 in overtime. Justin Schultz scored the winner as the Pens improved to 10-1 at home in OT this season.

Phil Kessel had two assists, including one on the winning goal. Evgeni Malkin had a goal and two helpers. He has 82 points and is chasing Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov (85 points as of Tuesday) for the scoring title. Jarry turned aside 35 of 38 shots to improve to 12-5-2 with a 2.69 GAA and a .913 save percentage this season.

This feels like a good parlay game for a Wednesday NHL pick, on Pittsburgh and the ‘over.’ The Penguins have won seven of the past 10 meetings and put up five goals in each of this season. The ‘over’ is 5-1 in the past six meetings.

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