Spying on the Saboteur: Philadelphia Flyers at Pittsburgh Penguins; Part Three

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The Philadelphia Flyers look to build on their current winning streak in game one of three versus Pittsburgh.

Tonight marks the first matchup in a set of three between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s the first time in club history that these franchises will play each other in Pittsburgh three times in a row. Earlier this season, the Flyers swept the Penguins in two games. Carter Hart earned the victory in both games, defeating Pittsburgh by an average of three goals. Tonight, Hart will have an opportunity to build on his momentum after securing his first shutout of 2020-2021.

Joel Farabee and Travis Konecny both had a four-point game versus the Penguins this season. Farabee has broken out in his sophomore season in Philadelphia. Konecny returns from COVID protocol tonight, joining the rest of his team in Pittsburgh. Players who have returned from COVID protocol have been hot during their first night back on the ice. Could Konecny add to his 2020-2021 stats versus the Penguins?

Pittsburgh Penguins – Forward Spotlight

Sidney Crosby will be out of the lineup due to COVID protocol. Pittsburgh’s top-six will need an added jump with Crosby out of the lineup. On the second line, Jared McCann could provide the required boost. In even-strength scenarios, especially in close games, McCann provides quality minutes. Last time out, in a loss to the New York Islanders, McCann was as sturdy as Evgeni Malkin.

The Penguins need McCann to take shots on goal. Playing a quality even-strength game doesn’t mean as much without points on the scoreboard. Both teams will have to play a disciplined game. If the Flyers can suppress shots on goal while managing a disciplined style, they’ll win on the road tonight. As of late, Philadelphia has been more disciplined than their opponent, which can cancel out personnel.

Pittsburgh Penguins – Defenseman Spotlight

Cody Ceci commands attention on Pittsburgh’s third pair. He had a commendable performance against the Islanders. Again, the Penguins penalty kill let down the team. Ceci has a role on the second penalty kill unit. The Flyers have been cold on the powerplay, but they could come to life tonight.

Philadelphia is in a rare scenario where both of their special teams rank better than their opponent. Over the last two games, the Flyers haven’t converted a powerplay. They’ve also held opponents off of the scoreboards. Tonight, the Flyers have a grand opportunity to continue their penalty kill success while reviving their powerplay.

Pittsburgh Penguins – Goaltender Spotlight

Tristian Jarry will take ownership of the crease tonight for Pittsburgh. He’s started more games than his head-to-head opponent, Carter Hart, in 2020-2021. Both goaltenders have similar save percentages (sub .900), but Jarry has the better goals-against average (3.14GA).

Both goaltenders are underperforming this season. Head-to-head, Hart has the advantage over Jarry. In two games, Hart is 2-0-0. Jarry was pulled in the two teams’ second meeting of 2020-2021, replaced by Casey DeSmith. Philadelphia may have the slight momentum advantage with Hart coming off a shutout performance, acting as the hotter hand in tonight’s matchup.

Flyers Phlight Deck

Konecny Returns

Equipped with new Dad strength, Konecny returns to the lineup tonight. Tonight, he will replace Nicolas Aube-Kubel on the fourth line to ease back into his role. Could Konecny return in the same fashion as Claude Giroux, Scott Laughton, Oskar Lindblom, and Jakub Voracek by contributing to the stat sheet? As a Flyers player returning from COVID protocol, it could be wise to make that bet.

Many are surprised that Konecny is replacing Aube-Kubel. Aube-Kubel has been a physical Philadelphia forward for a while now. Replacing him draws attention to the finer aspects of Konecny’s game. Alain Vigneault challenged Konecny to improve his two-hundred-foot game. Replacing a forechecking player like Aube-Kubel magnifies the importance of Konecny’s defensive edge.

An Extended Look at RW Patrick

Vigneault wants to keep Nolan Patrick at right-wing for a little longer. He’s filled in his role sharply with Kevin Hayes and Giroux. Arguably, Patrick has been more effective at right-wing than his natural center position. He’s earned an extended stay where he can contribute. If at all, Patrick showed Vigneault he has a flexible forward at his disposal.

Patrick remaining on the right-wing is the reason why Aube-Kubel is a healthy scratch tonight. Right-wings like Farabee and Voracek will not sit out. With the insertion of Konecny back into the lineup, Aube-Kubel has to bite the bullet.

Prediction

The Flyers were already the healthier team headed into tonight. Now that the Penguins are without Crosby, Philadelphia has a considerable advantage. As of late, the Flyers have played complete games on the way to victory. I foresee Philadelphia doing the same on the road in Pittsburgh. Tonight, the Flyers earn the win, 4-2.

Flyers 4, Penguins 2

Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre

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