Flyers (43-29-14) at Penguins (50-30-6)
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday
WHERE: PPG Paints Arena
BROADCAST & STREAMING: NBCSP, NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live, 97.5 FM
KEY PLAYERS: If you’re a die-hard hockey fan, you live for the Stanley Cup playoffs, where every shift is magnified and unexpected heroes emerge. Well, not this time. Not in this boring, one-sided series that has had all the drama of a Brady Bunch rerun. Flyers fans are probably thinking, “I followed this team for 82 games for this?” In short, this series has been a dud. And, unless the Flyers start showing some urgency, there will be a handshake line at around 9:40 p.m. Friday.
Pittsburgh, which has a three-games-to-one lead, can wrap up the series with a win Friday. The Penguins have outscored the Flyers, 18-6, including a 17-1 margin in their victories.
The Flyers won’t know until some time Friday whether Sean Couturier, who missed Game 4 with a suspected right-knee injury, can play. At practice Thursday, the Flyers had a strange top line: Val Filppula centering Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek. That line, and the others, will be altered if Couturier is available.
The other lines at practice: Nolan Patrick, who was the Flyers’ best player in Wednesday’s 5-0 loss, centering Oskar Lindblom and Travis Konecny; Jori Lehtera centering Matt Read and Wayne Simmonds; and Scott Laughton centering Michael Raffl and Jordan Weal.
Shayne Gostisbehere, who is minus-7 in the series, will drop down to the second defensive pairing, alongside Robert Hagg, the rookie who returns to the lineup after being a healthy scratch the last 12 games. Travis Sanheim, who has a goal in the series, will be benched over Brandon Manning. Andrew MacDonald will move back to the top pairing and be reunited with Ivan Provorov, and Radko Gudas will remain with Manning.
En route to winning the Cup in the last two seasons, the Penguins were 8-5 when they had a chance to eliminate an opponent, including a 4-3 mark last season. Including the regular season, Pittsburgh is 7-1 in eight games against the Flyers in 2017-18. Sidney Crosby (five goals, nine points) and goalie Matt Murray (1.27 GAA, .948 save percentage) have led the Penguins in the playoff series. Giroux (minus-7), Simmonds, and Voracek are looking for their first goals in the series. In a roundabout way, Giroux guaranteed a Flyers win Friday.
Brian Elliott (4.75 GAA, .856) is expected to start for the Flyers, who have used three goalies in the series.
Hard-to-fathom series stat: Petr Mrazek has the best save percentage for the Flyers, .857.
THINGS TO KNOW: The Flyers are 9-8 when trailing in a series by three games to one. … Including the four games in the regular season against the Penguins, the Flyers have been outscored, 38-17. … Crosby has nine points in the Pens’ three playoff wins; he was pointless in their loss. Pittsburgh has a 12-3 domination in five-on-five play. … With a win, Pittsburgh would advance to the second round for the 11th time in the last 12 seasons. … The Flyers are 2 for 17 on the power play in the series, and the Pens are 5 for 19. … Murray recorded 25 playoff wins faster than any other goalie in NHL history, per the Elias Sports Bureau.
HEAD TO HEAD: The Flyers went 0-2-2 against the Penguins in the regular season and allowed five goals in each game. Overall, the Flyers hold a 153-90-30-10 regular-season advantage in the all-time series.
COMING FLYERS GAMES:
Sunday: Time TBA at Wells Fargo Center (if necessary)
Tuesday: Time TBA at Pittsburgh (if necessary)