The two captains exchange some words.
The Pittsburgh Penguins will host the Philadelphia Flyers for the first time since opening day. There are plenty of reasons to tune into this game, which may as well be their first meeting of the season.
When the Penguins and Flyers last played, they were completely different teams. Between the lockout and brief training camp, neither team was playing its best hockey.
Now that each team has had a chance to find its groove, expect a completely different game.
However, that’s not to say they won’t produce the same thrilling game fans have come to expect from them. Wednesday’s game will be as intense as any other.
Here are five reasons to tune into the latest installment of the Penguins vs. Flyers rivalry.
James Neal celebrating one of his seven power-play goals this season.
In their first match of the season, the Penguins were able to oust the Flyers by scoring on two of their three power-play opportunities.
The Flyers have shown improvement since then, though. They’re neck-in-neck with the Penguins when it comes to killing off penalties—both teams have fought off about 83 percent of the man advantages they’ve given out.
The Penguins power-play unit will put that to test. Pittsburgh has scored a power-play goal in all but one game this season, making it among the NHL’s most dangerous on the man advantage.
Claude Giroux’s squad will have to keep an eye on James Neal, who, not surprisingly, has scored seven of his 11 goals this season on the power play.
They’ll also have to worry about Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang, among others.
The Penguins will have their hands full on the penalty kill, too.
Giroux and Matt Read are among the Flyers’ top scorers. Each man has netted two goals when playing a man up, making them a considerable threat.
Matt Read is the Flyers' leading goal-scorer.
With the likes of Giroux, Read, Jakub Voracek and Brayden Schenn, the Flyers are one of the NHL’s most offensively-talented teams.
That hasn’t quite translated this season, though. The team has struggled to find the back of net early in the season.
Giroux criticized his team after its 4-1 loss in Montreal on Feb. 16. The captain’s words seems to have bolstered his team—the Flyers surged to a 7-0 shutout victory over the New York Islanders two days later. If Giroux can continue to motivate his team to play 60 minutes of good hockey, the Penguins might not be able to slow it.
Then you have the Penguins.
Over the course of their current three-game win streak, they have scored eight even-strength goals and 11 in total. As potent as their top-six forwards are, they don’t rely too heavily on them.
Of those 11 goals, one came from blueliner Paul Martin and two more came from their fourth-line center Craig Adams.
The Flyers will be without Scott Hartnell vs. the Penguins.
The Flyers take the ice at a severe disadvantage in that they won’t have the services of Scott Hartnell, Andrej Mezaros and Jody Shelly.
On the other hand, the Penguins are without injuries.
Giroux has two goals and six points in his last four outings, but it’s no secret his offensive production is slacking without having Hartnell on his wing.
Injuries have been a bit of a problem in Pittsburgh, too, though. Kris Letang missed a few games recently because of a groin injury. However, he’s already returned to playing a borderline-superhuman amount of time each game.
The Flyers have struggled with injuries in the past—most notably former captain Chris Pronger’s concussion—and have managed to overcome. Watching the Flyers and how they plan to overcome injuries is a major reason to watch Wednesday’s clash with the Penguins.
Marc-Andre Fleury has been a highlight of the Penguins' performance thus far.
Marc-Andre Fleury and Ilya Bryzgalov are both cornerstones of their respective teams. That said, they both have reputations for being inconsistent at times.
Both netminders seem to be overcoming that, though. Fleury has only allowed more than two goals in one of his last 10 starts while Bryzgalov has done the same in three of his last 10.
Fleury has had the advantage of being backed up by Tomas Vokoun. This allows him to avoid fatigue by not taking on such a heavy workload.
In addition to each team playing tighter defense in front of their own netminder, Fleury and Bryzgalov have both been playing at the elite level that’s expected from them.
It should be interesting to see if either goalie crumbles under the offensive pressure put on by the opposing team. Goaltending collapse was one of the big stories throughout their 2012 playoff series, so it’s definitely something to watch for.
If it does happen, this game could end up being a very one-sided and high-scoring game.
The feud between captains is quickly becoming one of the best stories between the Pennsylvania rivals and is a highlight of the NHL as a whole.
Whenever Giroux and Crosby are on the ice, fans are on the edge of their seat. Both men play an intense game that is simply fun to watch.
Both men have a knack for scoring goals and making plays, but that defines but one aspect of their dynamic rivalry.
One key thing to watch will be how Crosby leads his team at the beginning of its homestand. It will be looking to secure a fourth consecutive win and a grip over the Eastern Conference.
On the other side of the ice, Giroux will be rallying his team in an effort to follow up itshuge win over the Islanders. Exactly how Giroux approaches leading his team in this game is a huge unknown—will he be able to light the lamp quickly or will he take a more physical approach to picking up momentum for his team?