Flyers-Penguins 2012

Arron Asham receives a four-game suspension

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It took a curious amount of time, but the NHL rolled out suspensions for two controversial figures in the penalty-filled Game 3 between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins. While star sniper James Neal will sit out Game 4, tough winger Arron Asham will miss the rest of the first round – no matter what. The league handed Asham a four-game suspension for a cross-check on Flyers youngster Brayden Schenn.

Here is the explanation video:

So, how do you feel? Is that punishment too light, just right or too harsh? Do tell.

Crosby, Penguins get off to quick start in Game 1

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Did the Philadelphia Flyers sleepwalk their way into Wednesday night or were the Pittsburgh Penguins just that excited to get Game 1 started? Feel free to have that chicken-and-the-egg argument in the comments, but the bottom like is that the Penguins had “the extra jump” through the first 20 minutes of the contest.

(That was particularly true in the first 10 minutes, which seems to be the traditional period of time that road teams worry about in the postseason.)

First, Sidney Crosby scored the first goal of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs by backhanding a loose puck over Ilya Bryzgalov. Shortly after that, the Penguins burned the Flyers in transition as Jordan Staal made a great play to Tyler Kennedy, who buried a 2-0 goal.

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It wasn’t all early damage, though, as Pascal Dupuis now has a points streak of 17 regular season and one playoff game thanks to a 3-0 tally with just 37 seconds left in the opening frame.

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette wisely opted to call a timeout, which seemed to stop the bleeding – for the most part. Philly had a storybook opportunity later on as Jaromir Jagr found himself on a semi-breakaway, but either he didn’t get enough of the shot or Marc-Andre Fleury did enough to stop what could have been a big counter-punch.

It’s hard not to wonder if Ilya Bryzgalov might get the hook already, as the quote machine in leg pads has suffered the type of tough playoff start that seemed to become a sad signature in Phoenix. (Let’s be honest; it wasn’t always his fault with the Coyotes and it hasn’t been all on him tonight, but many will frame it that way.)

As PHT’s Ryan Dadoun points out, the Flyers are still dangerous when coming from behind. They were 20-22-4 in regular season games when they allowed the game’s first goal, which is good for second overall in the NHL.

Unfortunately for Philly, they’re facing the Penguins -who happen to be the first place team in that category.

Series at a glance: Pittsburgh-Philadelphia playoff preview

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Schedule

All times are Eastern.

* – if necessary

Wednesday April 11 in Pittsburgh @ 7:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Network, TSN)
Friday April 13 in Pittsburgh @ 7:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Network, TSN)
Sunday April 15 in Philadelphia @ 3 p.m. (NBC, TSN)
Wednesday April 18 in Philadelphia @ 7:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Network, TSN)
*Friday April 20 in Pittsburgh @ 7:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Network, TSN)
*Sunday April 22 in Philadelphia @ TBD (TBD)
*Tuesday April 24 in Pittsburgh @ TBD (TBD)

Three (actually, four) storylines to follow

1. The health question. Oddly enough, after a season full of injury woes for the Penguins (Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, Jordan Staal, and others), it’s Philly that’s banged up the worst. Ilya Bryzgalov has a sore foot. Danny Briere’s out indefinitely. Nicklas Grossman has a lower-body injury. JVR is on the shelf. Ditto for Andrej Meszaros. And of course we all know Chris Pronger is out with a concussion.

2. Deja vu in net? Speaking of Bryzgalov, are the Flyers really that committed to the possibly injured philosopher of the universe? Or will they have another humongous goaltending yo-yo nightmare on their hands? This might not be an easy tiger to wrestle with. (Sorry, re-watched 24/7 recently.)

3. Comfy Consol. The Penguins seem to have a case of “new building syndrome” when it comes to hosting the Flyers. It’s a modern sporting phenomenon, where a team gets a shiny new arena that’s inviting to all, including its opponents. (Just ask Scott Hartnell where he’d rather play.) Philly’s lost exactly one game in six at Consol Energy Center during its first two seasons, and that was Saturday’s meaningless contest.

4. Jagr’s revenge? – OK, cheating by adding a “bonus” storyline here, but one has to mention Jaromir Jagr taking on his former team in the playoffs after breaking a few hearts this summer. Sure, he played against Pittsburgh in his last run in the league with the New York Rangers, yet the (ultimately failed) courting process should make this another fun story to follow.

Records

Pittsburgh: 51-25-6, 108 points (2nd in Atlantic; 4th in Eastern Conference) | Philadelphia: 47-26-9, 103 points (3rd in Atlantic; 5th in Eastern Conference)

Leading scorers

Pittsburgh: Evgeni Malkin (50G-59A-109PTS) | Philadelphia: Claude Giroux (28G-65A-93PTS)

Starting goalies

Pittsburgh: Marc-Andre Fleury (42-17-4, 2.36 GAA) | Philadelphia: Ilya Bryzgalov (33-16-7, 2.48 GAA)

Head-to-head

Philadelphia won series 4-2
Dec. 8: At Philadelphia 3, Pittsburgh 2
Dec. 29: Philadelphia 4, at Pittsburgh 2
Feb. 18: Pittsburgh 6, at Philadelphia 4
March 18: At Philadelphia 3, Pittsburgh 2, OT
April 1: Philadelphia 6, at Pittsburgh 4
April 7: At Pittsburgh 4, Philadelphia 2

Last 10 games

Pittsburgh: 6-4-0 | Philadelphia: 5-4-1

Playoff history

Philadelphia leads 3-2
1989: Philadelphia 4-3 (Patrick Division finals)
1997: Philadelphia 4-1 (Eastern Conference quarterfinals)
2000: Philadelphia 4-0 (Eastern Conference semifinals)
2008: Pittsburgh 4-1 (Eastern Conference finals)
2009: Pittsburgh 4-2 (Eastern Conference quarterfinals)

2011 playoffs

Pittsburgh: Lost to Tampa 4-3 (Eastern Conference quarterfinals) | Philadelphia: Def. Buffalo 4-3 (Eastern Conference quarterfinals); lost to Boston 4-0 (Eastern Conference semifinals)

Stanley Cups

Pittsburgh: 3 (1991, 1992, 2009) | Philadelphia: 2 (1974, 1975)

Injuries

Pittsburgh: James Neal (lower-body), Matt Niskanen (upper-body), Steve Sullivan (lower-body) and Ben Lovejoy (knee).

Philadelphia: Danny Briere (back), Nicklas Grossmann (lower-body), James van Riemsdyk (foot), Tom Sestito (groin), Andrej Meszaros (lower-body), Chris Pronger (concussion) and Blair Betts (knee).