Flyers (42-26-14) at Penguins (47-29-6)
WHEN: 7 p.m. Wednesday
WHERE: PPG Paints Arena
BROADCAST & STREAMING: NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBCSports.com/live, 93.3 FM
KEY PLAYERS: The Flyers went 0-2-2 against the Penguins during the regular season, losing a pair of 5-4 OT decisions in Pittsburgh. The Flyers have won four of the six playoff series against their intrastate rivals, including an upset in the wild 2012 series, when the teams combined for 56 goals and a gazillion fights. The Penguins are trying to become just the fourth franchise in NHL history to win three straight Stanley Cups — and the first since the Islanders won four in a row from 1980-83.
Pittsburgh is led by Evgeni Malkin (98 points, 43 goals), Phil Kessel (92 points, 34 goals) and Flyers killer Sidney Crosby (89 points, 29 goals). Patric Hornqvist (29 goals), Jake Guentzel (22), Derick Brassard (21, including 18 with Ottawa) and Conor Sheary (18) are also dangerous. Matt Murray, slowed by a concussion earlier in the season, has not been the same goalie as last year. He finished with a 2.92 goals-against average and .907 save percentage this season.
MVP candidate Claude Giroux (102 points, 34 goals, 68 assists) put the Flyers on his back and carried them into the playoffs, scoring 19 goals in the last 29 games. He was the only player in the NHL to finish in the top three in assists (tied for first), points (second) and faceoff percentage (third). Oddly, none of NHL.com’s 17 selectors had him first in their unofficial MVP voting.
Jake Voracek (85 points, 20 goals), Sean Couturier (76 points, 31 goals), Travis Konecny (24 goals), Wayne Simmonds (24 goals), Shayne Gostisbeheere (65 points) and Ivan Provorov (17 goals, tied for No. 1 in the NHL among defensemen) are the Flyers’ other big weapons.
Brian Elliott, who has played just two games after missing almost two months following core-muscle surgery, will start for the Flyers. They hope he has knocked off the rust. Elliott had a 2.66 GAA and .909 save percentage.
Pittsburgh had the NHL’s best power play (26.2 percent), while the Flyers had the league third-worst penalty kill (75.8 percent).
THINGS TO KNOW: In their last 10 games, the Flyers were 6-1-3, while the Penguins were 6-3-1. … Pittsburgh was dominating at home (30-9-2), and the Flyers were a strong road team (20-13-8). … The Flyers averaged 3.0 goals and allowed 2.9; the Pens scored 3.3 per game and allowed 3.0. … The Flyers were among the league’s stellar five-on-five teams as they outscored opponents, 158-145, while the Penguins were one of the NHL’s worst five-on-five teams, getting outscored, 176-161. … The Penguins had the best power-play percentage in franchise history. … In the four games against the Flyers, Crosby had nine points and was plus-8, and Sheary had three goals. Giroux and Jordan Weal each had four points against the Pens. … In franchise history, the Pens are 32-34 in Game 1 and 24-16 in Game 1 at home. The Flyers are 2-4 in Game 1 in their previous six series vs. Pittsburgh. They are 32-38 lifetime in Game 1 of a seven-game series. Philadelphia is 23-9 in a series after winning Game 1, and 15-23 when losing the opener. … The Flyers, who finished two points behind the Pens in the regular season, are 12-3-3 at PPG Paints Arena since the arena opened in 2010-11. … Crosby has a staggering 93 points, including 38 goals, in 63 career games vs. the Flyers.
HEAD TO HEAD: The Flyers went 0-2-2 against the Penguins this season and allowed five goals in each game. Overall, the Flyers hold a 153-90-30-10 advantage in the all-time series.
COMING FLYERS GAMES:
Friday: 7 p.m. at Pittsburgh
Sunday: 3 p.m. at Wells Fargo Center.
Wednesday: 7 p.m. at Wells Fargo Center
Friday, April 20: time TBA at Pittsburgh (if necessary)
Sunday, April 22: time TBA at Wells Fargo Center (if necessary)
Tuesday, April 24: time TBA at Pittsburgh (if necessary)