NBCSN’s coverage of the 2020-21 NHL season continues with Tuesday’s matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers. Pre-game coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
The Flyers didn’t just beat the Sabres twice this past weekend. In each case, the Flyers shut out the struggling Sabres 3-0.
Beating up on a beaten-down team (without, then with Jack Eichel) only tells you so much, but the Flyers (11-4-3, 25 points in 18 games) have generally been on an upward trend heading into this week’s trio of games against their rival Penguins (11-8-1, 23 points in 20 GP). In their last 11 games, the Flyers have managed a promising 8-2-1 record.
And, sure, they can take some good things from those wins against the Sabres. It’s not against the rules.
“This weekend was huge for us, we played really well,” Carter Hart said after Sunday’s 3-0 win. “Outshot Buffalo both games, almost 80 shots in two games for us (77), so that’s a huge step in the right direction, getting more pucks on net. I thought we played really well both games and we just got to continue this Tuesday against [the] Pittsburgh [Penguins].”
[PRE-GAME COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]
Flyers could really strengthen chances, hurt Penguins this week
If things go the Flyers’ way, they might just build their bridge to the playoffs on the backs of some Penguins losses.
To start, the Flyers opened their season with two regulation wins (6-3, 5-2) against the Penguins. Take a look at the divisional standings, then consider how different the Flyers’ and Penguins’ outlooks might look after their three head-to-head games in Pittsburgh this week.
1. Capitals: 12-5-4, 28 points in 21 games played
2. Bruins: 12-5-2, 26 points in 19 GP
3. Islanders: 11-6-4, 26 points in 21 GP
4. Flyers: 11-4-3, 25 points in 18 GP
Penguins: 11-8-1, 23 points in 20 GP
From the Flyers’ perspective, they could push up or down in the battles for seeding. The irregular schedule makes it difficult to forecast which leading East Division teams have the best chances of finishing on top, and which might end up closer to the bubble.
But, as of right now, for the Penguins? Beating the Flyers this week — especially entirely or mostly during regulation — would provide the most compelling evidence that the Penguins can truly get on track.
Busy times ahead
For the Flyers, it’s of course not just about beating the Penguins. As Charlie O’Connor notes at The Athletic (sub. required), the Flyers won’t get two consecutive days off between games until April.
Via O’Connor, Sean Couturier notes that he believes the Flyers are well-equipped to handle a rigorous schedule.
“Well, I think if we can use all four lines, and roll the lines, it’s huge,” Couturier said on Sunday. “I think these last two games, everyone’s been playing some good hockey, (so) we can roll the lines and not be afraid of the matchups. That’s key in any good team. If you get that depth and you can roll the lines against anyone, I think it helps in the long run.”
After consecutive shutouts of the Sabres, three wins in a row overall, and a larger upward trend, it’s understandable that the Flyers head into this Penguins mini-series with confidence. A lot can change in a week, though, so we’ll see if either team can really create some distance by the weekend.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.