Eddie Olczyk, Pierre McGuire think bad blood could surface in Flyers-Penguins playoff

Pierre-McGuire
NBC NHL analyst Pierre McGuire, who will call the Flyers-Penguins playoff matchup, expects “a lot of physical fireworks” from both teams.

“It’s Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. It’s a turf battle. Everybody knows that.”

Pierre McGuire has seen his fair share of Flyers-Penguins games over the years, most recently calling the rivals’ last game on March 25. And while McGuire doesn’t expect Flyers coach Dave Hakstol to mix it up with Penguins coach Mike Sullivan the way Peter Laviolette did with Dan Bylsma years ago, the longtime broadcaster expects some of the bad blood between the teams to bubble over onto the ice.

“I do expect a lot of physical fireworks from both teams,” McGuire said. “It could be a long one.”

McGuire, who will call every game of the heated rivalry during the first round of the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs, which start Wednesday night, has been impressed with the Flyers’ turnaround this season and thinks the young squad is trending up.

He said Hakstol and general manager Ron Hextall “have done an amazing job in Philadelphia in terms of amalgamating young players into the lineup. Where they were in the middle part of the year with the 10-game losing streak, and the way Hakstol kept it on the rails along with the leadership of that team is phenomenal.”

McGuire will be joined by play-by-play announcer John Forslund to call the Game 1 matchup that will air on NBC Sports Philadelphia at 7 p.m. Wednesday, kicking off 60-plus straight days of hockey coverage that will air on NBC, NBCSN, CNBC, USA Network, NHL Network and the Golf Channel.

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Here’s a complete listing of where and when to see the Flyers games, which will also be available for cable subscribers to stream on the NBC Sports App:

Wednesday, April 11
Flyers at Penguins
7 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia

Friday, April 13
Flyers at Penguins
7 p.m., NBCSN

Sunday, April 15
Penguins at Flyers
3 p.m., NBC

Wednesday, April 18
Penguins at Flyers
7 p.m., NBCSN

*Friday, April 20
Flyers at Penguins
Time and network TBD

*Sunday, April 22
Penguins at Flyers
Time and network TBD

*Tuesday, April 24
Flyers at Penguins
Time and network TBD

* if necessary

McGuire, who covered the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang after having undergone successful surgery to treat prostate cancer in January, will certainly be busy during the first week of the Stanley Cup playoffs. In addition to calling every Flyers-Penguins game, he’ll also partner with Mike “Doc” Emrick and Mike Milbury to call the Maple Leafs-Bruins matchup. But Sam Flood, the executive producer and president of production for NBC and NBCSN, isn’t going to take any chances with McGuire’s health.

“Pierre might think he’s doing every game, but we’re putting a minutes limit on him like a player,” Flood joked. “So in the first-round playoffs, it’s going to be a six-game-a-week limit.”

>> READ MORE: Flyers counting on Elliott to return quickly to form

Eddie Olczyk, NBC’s lead hockey analyst, will ease into the playoffs after battling colon cancer. Olczyk will work in the studio for the first few nights of the playoffs before making his return to the booth alongside McGuire in Philadelphia on Sunday to call Game 3 of the Penguins-Flyers series, which will air on NBC at 3 p.m.

Olczyk, who has both played against and coached against the Flyers as a member of the Penguins, also thinks there’s potential for the heated rivalry to bubble over the way it did the last time the teams met in the playoffs, 2012.

“I think it only takes one player, one comment from somebody where all bets are off and that gasoline tank will be ignited fairly quickly,” Olczyk said. “This is one series that… it won’t take much to get the blood boiling behind the bench. I’ll guarantee you that. It is an emotional series when it comes playoff time.”

As far as matchups, everyone around the league is familiar with the MVP-caliber season put up by team captain Claude Giroux. The Flyers moved Giroux to left wing this season and he was involved in 41 percent of the team’s goals. But Olczyk thinks fans should keep their eye on young forward Travis Konecny, someone who flies under the radar nationally but could leave a mark against the Penguins.

>> READ MORE: Patrick, Flyers kids ready for some playoff seasoning

“He’s that type of player that is infectious and not afraid to play in traffic,” Olczyk said of Konecny, who scored the winning goals in back-to-back overtime games against the Capitals and Red Wings earlier in the season. “He’s just an energizing type of player. He scores big goals.”

As far as under-the-radar players go, McGuire thinks Flyers left winger Michael Raffl has the ability to dominate physical play and could be a big presence along the boards and in the slot. He also thinks 21-year-old defenseman Ivan Provorov doesn’t get enough credit across the league, and has a chance to really make a difference against the Penguins.

>> READ MORE: Ivan Provorov sleepless from excitement, not the Penguins

“If you look at where he was last year to this year in terms of time on ice, he’s improved almost three minutes a game. He was a minus-7 last year. I think he’s a plus-19 this year to finish the year,” McGuire said. “That’s a gigantic swing in one year.”