Could the Penguins steal the Atlantic Division title from the Flyers?

2 Comments

It seems like a far-fetched goal considering the fact that they will try to do it without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but the next few days present a solid opportunity for the Pittsburgh Penguins to steal the Atlantic Division title from the Philadelphia Flyers.

First, let’s take a look at why not (beyond the fact that the team lacks Crosby and Malkin). The Flyers currently hold a four-point lead for the division title, as well as the top spot in the Eastern Conference. They also have one more win – 45 to Pittsburgh’s 44 – and an important game in hand.

That being said, Sunday and Tuesday could provide the Penguins with an outstanding opportunity to make Philadelphia’s lead uncomfortably small. The Penguins are about to host the fading Florida Panthers at home this afternoon, which is a great opportunity for a win. Meanwhile, the Flyers host a far hungrier and more dangerous opponent in the Boston Bruins tonight.

The best part comes on Tuesday, though, when Pittsburgh faces Philadelphia in what could be a big home game for the Penguins.

If the Penguins win both games while the Flyers lose to Boston and Pittsburgh in regulation, the two teams would be tied at 100 points and the only advantage Philadelphia would have is their single game in hand. At that point, the Penguins would have five games to earn one more point than the Flyers, who would have six games left.

Pittsburgh’s last five games after their big game against the Flyers:

The closing schedule might or might not be friendly to Pittsburgh. The negative side is that four of their final five games are on the road, but the plus is that four of those opponents (the Panthers, Devils, Thrashers and Islanders) might be in “tank mode.” The toughest game is against the struggling Tampa Bay Lightning in what might be a preview of a fourth vs. fifth seed match … if the Penguins can’t steal the Atlantic, that is.

Philadelphia’s final six after Tuesday:

The Flyers play three home games and three away games in their last six. You can break down those six games into three groups: tanking teams (Atlanta and maybe New Jersey), teams that should be tanking but aren’t totally committed (Ottawa and the Islanders) and teams fighting for playoff positioning (Buffalo and the Rangers).

In some ways, Philadelphia’s closing schedule is easier. In others, it might be a little bit tougher, since the Sabres and Rangers have plenty to play for while the Senators have been a tough out lately.

***

Overall, Philadelphia remains the odds-on favorite to retain their Atlantic Division lead. That being said, those plucky Penguins have a legitimate chance to usurp them, although they must rely on a few “ifs.” Today’s games plus Tuesday’s match will go a long way in either giving Pittsburgh a serious chance to win the division or confirm the fact that Philly will stay on top.

Naturally, we’ll let you know which side prevails.

The Wraparound: Islanders, Hurricanes set to battle in the series of the unlikely

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down each day’s matchups with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

Prior to the opening of Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, no teams had bigger odds of hoisting the trophy than a contingent of Metropolitan Division teams.

No one believed in the Columbus Blue Jackets against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Ditto for the Carolina Hurricanes at the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. And despite their second place finish in the division, not many were sold on the New York Islanders against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

All three of those teams were handed 30/1 tags. All three made it to Round 2. And at least one of those teams will progress to the Eastern Conference Final.

The Islanders (100/1 at the beginning of the season) will host the Hurricanes (who were 60/1 in October) in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Second Round series tonight (6:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN; Live stream), the first game in 10 days for the Isles, who move to Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the season after playing in Nassau Coliseum in Round 1.

“I don’t think anyone gave either of these teams a whole lot of credit, and they deserve a lot of credit,” Islanders forward Matt Martin said. “The way they battled the second half of the year to kind of get in [the playoffs], I think resiliency is a good word for them. I think it’s going to be a great series. They’ve got some speed, they’ve got some talent, they work really hard. We need to be ready and at our best.”

The Hurricanes enter the series with far less rest after a seven-game series with the Capitals wrapped up less than 48 hours ago. It had been 10 years since the Hurricanes even sniffed the playoffs and now have a chance to reach the conference final as they did back in 2009.

“I know they’re sitting there, probably licking their chops,” Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’amour said. “I think we all would be the way this series went, seven games, overtimes, the grind that this series was, injuries that were racked up, and they’re just sitting there for 10 days, or I don’t know how long. I know they’re a great team, and that’s why they had a pretty easy [first] round. They know how to win, and they do it right.”

No one fired more shots on goal per game during the regular season than the Hurricanes while no one allowed fewer goals per game than the Islanders. The Isles, particularly, kept true to their regular-season form, allowing just six goals in the series against the Pens, including just one goal in each of the final three games.

Friday’s game, and the series in general pits one team that’s looking to remain on the high they experienced a couple nights ago against another than handily dispatched a team that had won two of the previous three Stanley Cups.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Game 1: Colorado Avalanche at San Jose Sharks, 10 p.m. ET. Speaking of teams no one gave much of a chance… The Avs come into this one having knocked off the Western Conference’s best Calgary Flames in five games while the San Jose Sharks overcame a 3-1 series deficit to win in dramatic (and controversial) fashion in Game 7 to advance. San Jose owned the Avs in the regular season, winning all three games they played. Not that any of that seems to matter this year. The Sharks have to contend with Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, something the Flames couldn’t do as the top-line duo combined for eight goals and 17 points in the series. This means Martin Jones will need to be in Game 5 to 7 mode and not Game 2 to 4 mode where he was pulled twice and allowed six in the game he was allowed to remain in. (NBCSN; Live stream)

PHT’s Round 2 previews
Round 2 schedule, TV info

Questions for the final eight teams
PHT Roundtable


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

PHT Morning Skate: Meaning of NHL regular season; Kadri regrets cross-check

Leave a comment

Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Format not to blame for wild Round 1 upsets. (Sportsnet)

• The cascade of issues that not having a Canadian team in the playoffs creates. (Angus Reid Institute)

• Perhaps your favorite team is out and you’re looking to cheat on them with a new team. Here’s a bandwagon guide. (CBC)

• The regular season means nothing. (FiveThirtyEight)

• Torn ACL likely to mean Zach Hyman will miss the beginning of next season. (NHL.com)

• Mike Modano getting himself into eSports. (TSN)

• A timeline of the recently-ended Calgary Flames season. (Calgary Sun)

• The tragic consequences of the NHL’s science denial. (The Atlantic)

• The seve…. eight deadly sins of Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. (Deadspin)

• The Washington Capitals’ Russian contingent heading to the World’s after their shocking playoff exit. (TSN)

Craig Smith is none too pleased with the Nashville Predators season ending in Round 1. (Tennessean)

• Game 7 controversy could have a ripple effect in the college game. (Jamestown Sun)

• Dubas not playing games after Maple Leafs tossed. (The Score)

Nazem Kadri regrets his silly cross-check. (TSN)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Sharks’ Pavelski unlikely for Game 1 after scary injury

Leave a comment

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski is unlikely to play Game 1 in the second round of the playoffs against Colorado after being knocked out and bloodied in the first-round clincher.

Coach Peter DeBoer said Thursday that Pavelski is officially day to day but is not expected to be cleared for Game 1 against the Avalanche on Friday night.

Pavelski got hurt Tuesday in a Game 7 victory over Vegas when he was cross-checked by Cody Eakin after a faceoff and fell awkwardly, with his helmet slamming on the ice. He was knocked out and bleeding on the ice before being helped to the locker room. The Sharks scored four goals on the ensuing power play and eventually won 5-4 in overtime.

Pavelski was at the practice facility Thursday but didn’t take part in practice. DeBoer says he is still feeling the effects of the injury.

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

The Playoff Buzzer: Coyle plays OT hero; Tarasenko puts on show

Getty Images
1 Comment
  • The Boston Bruins brushed off a 13-second disaster in the third period as Charlie Coyle scored the game-tying goal and then the game-winner in OT against the Blue Jackets
  • Blues picked up right where they left off in Round 1 thanks to Vladimir Tarasenko, Jordan Binnington and others. 

Boston 3, Blue Jackets 2 [OT] (BOS leads 1-0)

Everything looked breezy for Boston before Brandon Dubinsky and Pierre-Luc Dubois scored 13 seconds apart in the third period to turn the tide of the game. That was until the Charlie Coyle Show made its second-round debut. In the first episode, Coyle played hero, scoring the game-tying goal and then the winner in the ensuing overtime frame. The Bruins deserved it based on metrics and they ended up winning it on merit.

Blues 3, Stars 2 (STL leads 1-0)

The Blues needed Tarasenko to get going and they needed to rally around the same defensive structure that helped them see off the Winnipeg Jets. Job done in Game 1. Tarasenko had scored a brace. The Blues held the line and Binnington took care of the rest. The Blues were also able to penetrate a penalty kill that had gone 15-for-15 in Round 1, so there’s more joy to be had in Joyland for St. Louis.

Three stars

1. Charlie Coyle, Boston Bruins

Depth. It matters.

Coyle scored his fourth and fifth goals of the postseason, a game-tying goal late in the third period to force overtime and the game-winner off a slick feed from Marcus Johansson in the extra frame.

Boston was dangerous with their two top lines. If they’re getting continued scoring their bottom six, watch out everyone.

2. Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues

The Blues needed more from Tarasenko if they were going to taste success in their Round 2 series against the Dallas Stars.

Tarasenko had two power-play goals in Round 1 but didn’t get much-done five-on-five. Tarasenko scored once again on the power play in Game 1 against the Stars and then extended a third-period lead to 3-1 with his first five-on-five goal of the playoffs.

This is a good start.

3. Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues

This guy. On Jan. 6 he didn’t have a win in the NHL, now he has five playoff wins under his belt spread across two rounds.

Binnington couldn’t care less about his likely snub in the rookie of the year race. He’s got a much bigger trophy on his mind. Binnington made 27 saves in the game, including 16-of-17 in the third period as the Stars searched for a tying goal. Something about Binnington’s calmness…

Highlights of the night

OT winners are always better:

Don’t give this man this kind of space:

Factoids

Friday’s games

Game 1: Hurricanes at Islanders, 7 p.m. ET, NBCSN (Live stream)
Game 1: Avalanche at Sharks, 10 p.m. ET, NBCSN (Live stream)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck