The Pittsburgh Penguins (16-8-4) and Philadelphia Flyers (16-7-3) renew one of the best rivalries in the National Hockey League tonight. The Flyers host the Penguins for the first of six games between the teams this season.
I think it goes without saying tonight’s game will feel different than nearly any previous match up in the series.
We’ll see former Pittsburgh Penguins heroes Jaromir Jagr and Maxime Talbot dressed in orange and black taking on our black and gold for the first time ever.
Jagr won five Art Ross trophies and two Stanley Cups in Pittsburgh, but his accomplishments here have been lost among fans amid a controversial return to the NHL this summer.
His perception among Pens fans has changed drastically, and I expect absolutely no sympathy from fans when he returns to Pittsburgh on December 29.
Talbot scored twice in the Penguins’ dramatic 2-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings in Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final. While there are certainly fans who feel betrayed by Talbot’s decision to leave Pittsburgh for our cross-state rivals, I don’t have any hard feelings toward him, at least until he touches Sidney Crosby.
The Flyers are paying him about twice as much money as he’s worth over five seasons. He chased the paycheck. We shouldn’t be surprised, but we also shouldn’t be angry.
The Flyers’ lineup tonight will contain many more differences than the usual team the Penguins have seen. They dumped captain Mike Richards and leading goal scorer Jeff Carter in trades this offseason.
They also brought in a man they believed would stop their spinning carousel of a goaltending position, Ilya Bryzgalov. They inked Bryz to a deal through 2020 paying him $5.67 million per year, and have been rewarded with a .897 SV% and a 2.89 GAA in 19 games this season. Nice.
Tonight’s game will also seem different as we won’t be watching Sidney Crosby terrorize the Flyers and their fans as we are so used to. Crosby has 26 goals and 62 points in 36 career games against the Flyers, a staggering 1.72 points per game. Unfortunately, Crosby will sit out tonight as a precautionary measure after experiencing a slight headache after Monday’s game against Boston.
Fortunately, Evgeni Malkin‘s 17 goals and 43 points in 30 career games against the Flyers are pretty nice.
This game will really be a test for the Penguins. As much as we hate to admit it, the Flyers are one of the better teams in the East, even if they aren’t a true Stanley Cup contender. The Penguins will have to hang without Crosby, Kris Letang, Zbynek Michalek, Deryk Engelland and Richard Park.
Enforcer Steve MacIntyre will be activated off IR and dress for the Penguins.
Chris Pronger is still on the shelf for Philadelphia. Regardless of who’s out for which side, Pens vs. Flyers is worth watching.
Claude Giroux leads the NHL in points. Kid’s got talent, no denying that.
Marc-Andre Fleury gets the start for Pittsburgh while Bryzgalov lines up in the other net.
Game time is 7:00 PM and will be televised on Root Sports and NHL Network.
Let’s Go Pens.
Follow Troy on Twitter @TroyPfaff