By Annie Shean (@JustPuckIt)
This afternoon will be the final meeting between the Penguins and the Flyers this season. The Flyers have had the upper-hand this season, and are poised to take a season sweep of the Pens. If this happens, it will be the first time since 1983-84 that this has occurred.
Both teams are coming off a Saturday loss; The Pens lost to the Jackets 5-3 and the Flyers lost to the Canes in the Shootout. Help could be on the way for the Penguins however, Evgeni Malkin is progressing with his undisclosed injury. He will be evaluated again this morning and could return to the lineup.
The Flyers though eliminated from the playoffs, have the third ranked powerplay in the NHL. The Penguins need to be aware of their skill and stay out of the box, which is a difficult task normally in these games. Another battle will be taking place this game as well, as Crosby and Voracek continue to fight for the NHL scoring title. Crosby just had his 300th Career goal against the Flyers last Wednesday, while Voracek is riding a five-game point streak.
Games against the Flyers have always been a long standing cross-state rivalry, with games full of emotion and usually some fisticuffs. With the Flyers eliminated from the playoffs, the team may not have much to fight for. In an article from Philly.com the writer Frank Seracalli states that the ‘thrill’ is gone from the keystone rivalry.
“With the Flyers’ 4-1 thumping of the Penguins Wednesday night, we were left simply to wonder what might have been, what might have played out had the game actually meant something. Pittsburgh was playing without Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang. Their playoff spot is assured, their opponent (the Islanders) likely already determined. The game was so much of a nonfactor that Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford shrugged and iced a lineup with just five defensemen (and 19 players) anyway.”
— Philly.com, Frank Seracalli
He brings up a valid point, is the rivalry still a rivalry if the game means nothing? The teams will never like each other, but one thing is for certain…that both sides will not be ‘going through the motions’ today. It may be seen as just another matchup, but for both sides there is a certain level of pride on the line.