Spying on the Saboteur: Philadelphia Flyers vs Pittsburgh Penguins

The Philadelphia Flyers open their 2020-2021 season at home against the Pittsburgh Penguins. We preview the first game of the season.

Get excited! Tonight begins the 2020-2021 regular season. The Orange and Black grace their home ice against their interstate rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins, to kick start the regular season. No fans will be in attendance, but that won’t lower the temperature of hockey fever. For the first time since March 10th, 2020, the NHL returns to the Wells Fargo Center!

Braun gets a big opportunity in Flyers season opener

We last left off at the Wells Fargo Center following a shutout loss to the Boston Bruins. That game featured a return to the lineup for Shayne Gostisbehere, who did not play in the Orange versus White exhibition on Sunday. Ghost wasn’t listed as “unfit to play” when the Philadelphia Flyers announced their 2020-2021 roster, but he’ll miss tonight’s game at least.

This articulates Justin Braun to the first pair with Ivan Provorov. Both of those defensemen played in the two games against the Penguins in 2019-2020.

Looking back on 2020

Through two games against Pittsburgh, the Flyers recorded a 1-0-1 record. Brian Elliott started both games, securing a shutout victory the first time these teams met a season ago. Philadelphia outshot the Penguins, 60-39, in games versus each other in 2019-2020.

Tonight, Carter Hart will start against Pittsburgh for the first time (not including exhibition games) since March 17th, 2019, under Dave Hakstol. In that game, Hart recorded a 2-1 victory, stopping 41 of 42 shots on goal (97.6%.)

Know your enemy: The Penguins

The Penguins sit towards the top of preseason rankings after analysis of their top-six forwards. Their first line includes Jake Guentzel, Sidney Crosby, and Evan Rodrigues. Following them on the second line is Jason Zucker, Evgeni Malkin, and Bryan Rust.

In Pittsburgh’s sole victory over the Flyers in 2019-2020, Crosby had a four-point night (1G, 3A.) Next up was Malkin with three points (1G, 2A.) Rust was in on the action as well, tallying two points (1G, 1A.)

Defensively, Brian Dumoulin and Kris Letang combine as a top-ten pairing in the league. Letang, like Rust, mustered two points (1G, 1A) in the Penguins 4-3 overtime victory last season. Dumoulin had a solid defensive performance in that game, earning a plus-three rating.

Between the pipes

Tristan Jarry earned the starting role for Pittsburgh out of training camp. Philadelphia is a franchise that has given him fits last season, blasting three goals past him on twenty shots or fewer on each occasion.

The last time he allowed less than three goals against Philadelphia in a full game was March 7th, 2018. In his career against a Vigneault coached team, Jarry has allowed three or more goals in four of five games.

Keys to Victory

Pepper that goaltender! The Flyers have an absurd amount of forward depth and firing power to make Jarry “feel the shake.” Aside from pestering Jarry, Philadelphia’s defense needs to control the damage from players like Crosby, Malkin, Rust, and Letang. Braun has dished quality minutes against the Penguins recently. The mantra, especially early this season, is to get out to a hot start.

Flyers score Prediction

I have the Flyers winning this game, 4-2. In comparing the forwards, Philadelphia has more skill throughout all four of their lines. What will separate these two teams is how the defense performs. Braun has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders on opening night, but he’s strong enough against Pittsburgh.