This past weekend, like many hockey fans, I got my rivalry on. I’m not talking about Wednesday Night Rivalry on NBC. I’m talking the Battle of Pennsylvania, Keystone State rivals, Commonwealth Cold War Pittsburgh Penguins versus Philadelphia Flyers. Did you catch their back-to-back games? Two of the teams’ four meetings happened this past weekend and the rivalry raged on. What transpired could be just the momentum the Flyers need to make a playoff push. This match-up may have the potential of a first round meeting come playoff time. Can you say penalty minutes?
But maybe you need a refresher on the four game series that the 2013-2014 season brought between the two teams. Not to worry, I have you covered.
Game 1 – October 17th, 2013 Pittsburgh Penguins at Philadelphia Flyers – Wells Fargo Center
The Philadelphia Flyers went into game 1 of the match-up 1-6-0 to start the season. Their tough start was only worsened when their in-state rivals came to town. The Pittsburgh Penguins tallied two goals in the second period and answered the Flyers lone goal from Wayne Simmonds with two more in the third.
The Penguins hot streak rose to 4 games in a row, starting their season 6-1-0 after their meeting with the Flyers. This left a 10-point gap between the two Metropolitan Division rivals.
So what was working for the Penguins? Their captain. Sidney Crosby posted 1 goal and 1 assist to round out at 14 points in just 7 games to start the season. Jokinen, Kunitz, and Malkin all tallied goals as well, with Kunitz and Jokinen’s goals scored just 2 minutes and 30 seconds apart. The Penguins penalty kill unit successfully killed off two Flyers power plays in the first five minutes of the third period, destroying chances of the Flyers opening up the scoring late in the game. The Flyers only converted on 1 of 4 power plays. Fleury notably started his season off 6-0-0 with the 4-1 finish capping off his record nicely.
Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen left the game and did not return. Timonen was day-to-day with a lower body injury in the days following the game, but returned to the line-up for the Flyers next game against the New York Rangers on October 24th. The Flyers became 1-7-0 after their first match-up with the Penguins.
Flyers Captain Claude Giroux was quoted saying:
“We got a lot of time to look at tapes, look at what we’re doing wrong. If we play 60 minutes responsible and disciplined about our game, we’ll be fine. We’ll start winning games. It’s just a matter of time. We need to start believing it before we start playing. We go into games and confidence is down already. We’ve gotta start believing we’re a good team, and when we do, we’ll be dangerous.”
Enter game 2, played roughly a month later when the Flyers gained some momentum after a slow start to the season.
Game 2 – November 13th, 2013 Philadelphia Flyers at Pittsburgh Penguins – Consol Energy Center
The Philadelphia Flyers went into their second of four meetings with the Penguins at 7-10-1, which is remarkably better than their aforementioned 1-6-0 start. The Flyers also narrowed the point differential between the Keystone state rivals to just 7 points – a mere 4 game differential. Brayden Schenn was a key difference maker for the Flyers, scoring two goals in Philadelphia’s 2-1 win.
This rivalry found the teams in reverse positions. During their first match-up, the Penguins were streaking, but by mid-November Pittsburgh had been on a three game losing streak. The Penguins record dropped to 11-7-0, despite remaining in first place in their division.
The game started off with the Penguins gaining momentum as they appeared to strike first. Chris Kunitz found a rebound from a Sidney Crosby shot just 19 seconds into the game, but unfortunately for the Penguins, his goal was disallowed after video-review. It was ruled that there was a distinct kicking motion on the play. The video below shows the play in-depth and the review of the goal:
This controversial call was reviewed earlier this month during the general managers meeting. Per nhl.com:
“The GMs also are interested in seeing more kicked-in goals allowed as a way to increase scoring, but NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said Tuesday that proposal is a rules-interpretation issue and does not require approval from the Competition Committee. The managers would like to see any goal scored off a skate with the blade remaining on the ice considered legal.”
Perhaps future meetings between the two clubs will boast an even greater net presence.
The game’s goals came late in the first and second periods. Brayden Schenn scored at 16:02 of the first, a goal that went unanswered until Sidney Crosby scored a power play goal for the Penguins. Ten minutes after the Penguins goal, the Flyers went on their own power play in which Schenn would score his second of the game, the game-winning goal. The Flyers managed to fend off the Penguins during the lone Pittsburgh power play of the third period, leaving the game to end 2-1 in favor of Philadelphia. It is interesting to point out that the Penguins outshot their rivals 31-21 in the loss.
What was working for the Flyers? Brayden Schenn. Schenn managed to tarnish the Penguins 18 consecutive power play killing streak. It was glorious. The Flyers had a lot of net presence and on their own end, Ray Emery did well in net. The Flyers also left Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin to extend his goal drought to 11 games – yes, his last goal was an empty-netter during the last meeting between the two teams. The Penguins disallowed goal certainly worked in Philadelphia’s favor, killing off any momentum that would have come from it.
Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma, not one for making excuses, said:
“We’re not doing enough around the net and in the net to get those goals that I think were there. We had opportunities, there were rebounds, there were situations, but we’re not able to get in their end and finish and find those rebounds and go there to get that second-chance opportunity.”
And now, onto this weekend. A recap any Flyers fan will likely enjoy and Penguins fans will wallow in. Sorry y’all.
Game 3 – March 15th, 2014 Pittsburgh Penguins at Philadelphia Flyers – Wells Fargo Center
With roughly a month left in the regular-season the Penguins and Flyers found themselves, yet again, in very different positions than they did earlier in the season. Pittsburgh has found itself bit by the injury bug with Bennett, Conner, Dupuis, Letang, Martin, Neal, and Kunitz all out of the line-up. Philadelphia had improved its record to 34-25-7 with just 16 games left in the regular-season. Their improved play showed as the Flyers scoreboard read 4-0, with Steve Mason earning his fourth shutout of the season.
Matt Read had a multi-point game, scoring two of the Flyers goals, one in the first and one in the second period (honestly, I was hoping for a hat-trick…). Vincent Lecavalier got one goal closer to reaching 400 career NHL goals as he tallied his 398th during the second period. The game was a turning point for the Flyers, whose shutout against the Penguins was their first since April 6th, 2008. It was also the Flyers first regulation home win against the Penguins since December 8th, 2011.
Despite Pittsburgh’s number-one rated penalty kill, the Flyers special teams were able to shut down the Penguins. The first goals of the game were scored on both the power play and penalty kill again, and despite the Penguins having a top-ranked power play they went 0-for-5 with a man-advantage.
The Flyers captain had more positive words to say about his team compared to their first meeting against the Penguins:
“I think we were looking for a game like that a long time ago. We showed that when everybody follows the game plan, everybody plays 60 minutes, it feels pretty good.”
And finally. The last match-up of the season was sure to be heated. Even NBC switched the game time so that it could be televised nationally.
Game 4 – March 16th, 2014 Philadelphia Flyers at Pittsburgh Penguins – Consol Energy Center
The fourth and final meeting of the Penguins and Flyers this season marked a milestone for Andrew MacDonald who played in his 300th career game. Despite it only being his 5th game as a Flyer since being traded to Philadelphia from the New York Islanders on March 4th, it certainly had the criteria to spark a rivalry for the new-comer.
Similar to Matt Read in their game 3 match-up, Wayne Simmonds managed to have a multi-point game tallying two power play goals and an assist to reach 50 points this season – his first 50 point season in the NHL. Simmonds’ two goals prompted Dan Bylsma to pull Fleury and send in Jeff Zatkoff after just 13:41 minutes of play. The Flyers had 35 shots on goal to the Penguins 23. They refused to give up their lead in the game only allowing the Penguins within one goal after a slapshot from Matt Niskanen in the second. Niskanen’s goal was answered by Matt Read’s second short-handed goal of the weekend (impressive). Jayson Megna again brought the Penguins within one goal in the second period, but the Penguins were shut-down in the third period, despite having a power play opportunity. Mason played well for the Flyers, especially in the last moments of the game when Crosby attempted to tie it with a wrist shot.
Steve Mason was quoted saying,
“I know the boys in this locker room love playing against them. Whether we’re in their head or not, we don’t really care. We get amped up to play against them. It’s a fun game to be a part of.”
And fun the Flyers did have.
Sunday’s 4-3 win over the Penguins make the Flyers the winning party, as they have now gone 3-1 in their regular-season meetings with their in-state rivals. As the Flyers battle for playoff positioning, it is becoming more likely that the two teams could match up in the 2013-2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Revisiting the 2011-2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs – Round 1
In case you forgot (OK, no one did) about the playoff series between the Penguins and Flyers, here’s a brief recap: We had 6 games, two overtimes, and game 3 had 38 penalties. Yes I said penalties, not penalty minutes. Yikes.
May the battle of Pennsylvania rage on. I’m hoping the two teams find each other in the playoffs, are you?