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Flyers Gameday: 1/15/21 vs. PIT

January 14, 2021, 9:13 PM ET [355 Comments]
Bill Meltzer
Philadelphia Flyers Blogger •NHL.com • RSSArchiveCONTACT
GAME 2: FLYERS vs. PENGUINS

In an immediate rematch of opening-night opponents Alain Vigneault's Philadelphia Flyers (1-0-0) will take on Mike Sullivan's Pittsburgh Penguins (0-1-0) at the Wells Fargo Center on Friday night. Game time is 7:00 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on NBC Sports Philadelphia.

On Wednesday, the Flyers captured a 6-3 victory after scoring three unanswered goals in the third period. Six different Flyers' players scored one goal apiece in the opener, led by a four-point effort (1g. 3a) from second-year pro winger Joel Farabee. The Flyers got a pair of tallies from their second power play unit and even-strength goals at five-on-five from three different lines. Overall, Philadelphia received goals by James van Riemsdyk (PPG, 1st), Nolan Patrick (PPG, 1st), Farabee (1st), Michael Raffl (1st), Oskar Lindblom (1st) and Kevin Hayes (1st).'

Mark Jankowski (1st), Sidney Crosby (power play, 1st) and Brandon Tanev (1st) scored for the Penguins. The Flyers went 2-for-3 on the power play and 2-for-3 on the penalty kill.

Carter Hart was strong in goal, making his 31 saves on 34 shots to earn the win. Apart from a puck-management gaffe that resulted in Crosby's goal after the Penguins captain showed incredible hand-eye coordination to knock the puck down, Hart played very well.

Pittsburgh counterpart Tristan Jarry, who trained with Hart during the offseason, had a rough opener. Jarry was too far back in his net on Farabee's goal, and seemed to struggle reading plays at times. He was far from the only one to blame for stopping only 19 of 25 shots on the game -- the Penguins did not play well in front of him -- but it was certainly not the type of performance with which he'd have wanted to start the season.

Friday's game is the second of eight meetings between the teams. Subsequently, the teams will play in Pittsburgh on March 2 and 4, back in Pittsburgh again on April 13 and 15, and conclude the season series in Philadelphia on May 3 and 4.

Flyers Outlook

After Wednesday's game, Travis Konecny said of the team's opening night performance that the Flyers were opportunistic offensively and played well at times but have a lot more to give in terms of execution. At Thursday's practice, Vigneault concurred.

"After watching the game and talking with my staff, there is no doubt that I feel we can be better 5 on 5. We did finish on some of our opportunities, but we spent more time than we needed to in our zone. Mind you, I don’t want to take anything away from them. They are a real strong team with great one on one players and great players that can do a lot of things off the rush," Vigneault said.

"Our five on five play coming back into our end and making the right plays to come out, we need to be better. There is no doubt that I thought they played a real strong game 5-on-5 and we are going to need to be better tomorrow."

Eleven Flyers forwards recorded at least one point in the opener, while defenseman Erik Gustafsson recorded two assists. The last time nine or more Flyers forwards recorded a point in the first game of the season was the 1995-96 opener in Montreal; a 7-1 Philadelphia victory.

Hart will get the start in goal again on Friday. All five-on-five line combinations remained the same at practice, as did the power play units.

At some point this season, according to Vigneault, look for Lindblom to return to the second power play unit in addition to killing penalties. He played in all game situations a season ago. The Flyers' head coach indicated that, for now, he will play PK and be an important part of the even strength rotation but will not immediately go back to all-situations duties. With the postgame scoring change to credit Lindblom with the Flyers' fifth goal, he has now scored a goal in three straight regular season openers.

Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere (COVID-19 protocol) remained off the ice on Thursday. He has been out since last Saturday (Jan. 9).

Penguins Outlook

While admitting there were quite a few areas from the opening-night performance that need to be cleaned up to win the return game on Friday, Sullivan felt there were many positives as well.

"I thought we had periods of the game where we carried the play. The types of breakdowns that we had resulted in some high-quality scoring chances against. We’ve got to do a better job that we minimize some of those catastrophic-type scenarios. As I said, I thought there was a lot of good things in the game too. We generated some pretty high-quality chances ourselves. We didn’t convert on as many as we would have liked. I don’t think the score of the game is an indication of how it was played," Sullivan said.

Veteran defenseman Mike Matheson, who came over from Florida along with veteran checking forward Colton Sceviour in the Patric Hörnqvist trade, had an unvent debut for the Penguins. He was on the ice for three of Philadelphia's goals and in the penalty box for another. Sullivan defended his player after the game.

"He skates really well. I think that’s evident when you look at his mobility. His ability to get back to pucks and his gaps because he’s such a mobile guy. He’s trying to get used to the type of game that we play. We’re going to work with him here, through this beginning part of the season to try to help him simplify his game in certain areas of the rink. To Mike’s defense, he’s trying to learn some of the concepts and the way we’re trying to play here. I don’t think Mike got the benefit of any puck luck tonight as well. That certainly didn’t help him," Sullivan said.

For Pittsburgh, the most effective line in the opener was Mark Jankowski's line with Brandon Tanev and Jared McCann. The top six was not as good, collectively, and Evgeni Malkin had an exceptionally quiet first game by his standards.

The Penguins did not practice on Thursday but reportedly had a video day. Sullivan is not a coach who discusses his lineup for the next game -- Vigneault does it during the regular season, including the starting goalie for the next game but not the playoffs -- so the projected lines listed before are the same as from the opener.

UPDATE 1:30 PM

The Penguins featured some different line combinations at their morning skate on Friday. Forward lines were the same but there were defense pair adjustments. The changes are reflected in new projected lineups below. The second and third pairs were tweaked, with Chad Ruhwedel drawing and Cody Ceci coming out of the lineup.


Projected lineups (subject to change)

FLYERS

23 Oskar Lindblom - 14 Sean Couturier - 11 Travis Konecny
28 Claude Giroux - 13 Kevin Hayes - 86 Joel Farabee
25 James van Riemsdyk - 19 Nolan Patrick - 93 Jakub Voracek
12 Michael Raffl- 21 Scott Laughton- 62 Nicolas Aube-Kubel

9 Ivan Provorov - 61 Justin Braun
6 Travis Sanheim - 5 Phil Myers
8 Robert Hägg - 56 Erik Gustafsson

79 Carter Hart
[37 Brian Elliott]

PP1: Provorov, Giroux, Hayes, Couturier, TK
PP2: Farabee, JVR, Patrick, Voracek, Gustafsson

Scratches: 48 Morgan Frost (healthy), 53 Shayne Gostisbehere (undisclosed), 3 Mark Friedman (healthy).

PENGUINS

59 Jake Guentzel - 87 Sidney Crosby - 9 Evan Rodrigues
16 Jason Zucker - 71 Evgeni Malkin - 17 Bryan Rust
19 Jared McCann - 14 Mark Jankowski - 13 Brandon Tanev
18 Sam Lafferty - 53 Teddy Blueger - 7 Colton Sceviour​

8 Brian Dumoulin - 58 Kris Letang
28 Marcus Pettersson 6 John Marino
5 Mike Matheson - 2 Chad Ruhwedel

35 Tristan Jarry
[1 Casey DeSmith​]

PP1: Rust, Crosby, Guentzel, Malkin, Letang.
PP2: Pettersson, Zucker, McCann, Rodrigues, Marino​.

Scratches: 6 Cody Ceci (healthy), 42 Kasperi Kapanen (COVID-19 protocol), 50 Juuso Riikola (healthy).
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