Three things to watch for in Penguins-Flyers Game 3
PHILADELPHIA – Given their losing record on the road this season, it’s reasonable to suggest the Penguins have a tough task ahead of them as their tied first-round series with the Flyers shifts to the Wells Fargo Center for the next two games.
It will only be tough, however, if the Flyers play well enough at home to take advantage of the situation.
The Flyers went 22-13-6 in Philadelphia this season, including two losses to the Penguins by a combined score of 10-3. Of the 16 teams that made the playoffs, only Los Angeles had a worse home record.
“I think we had a winning record at home, didn’t we? So we were OK,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “I’m not real worried about what the regular-season record was or games that are past. Only one that matters is (Sunday).”
Here are three things to watch in Game 3 Sunday afternoon.
1. BIG RIG WARNING
After joining the Penguins in a midseason trade, defenseman Jamie Oleksiak jumped right into the team’s biggest rivalry. He played some of his best hockey of the season in two games in Philadelphia, filling up the stat sheet with two goals, an assist, a plus-4 rating, 11 penalty minutes, four hits and four blocked shots.
“It’s just a result of how we play as a team,” Oleksiak said, explaining his success at the Wells Fargo Center. “Everybody’s up for that game, real excited for that game. You kind of feel in the locker room the focus and the intensity and everything. I think it brings everyone into it.”
Also keep an eye on the other five Penguins players who hit the scoresheet in both regular-season trips to Philadelphia this season: Riley Sheahan, Conor Sheary, Phil Kessel, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Hakstol will have the opportunity to use the personnel he prefers against Crosby’s line now that the series has shifted to Philadelphia. That’s good news for him, since whatever he was trying to do in Pittsburgh wasn’t working.
In the first two games of the series, when Crosby was on the ice at even strength, the Penguins had sizeable advantages in goals (5-0), shots (20-7), shot attempts (30-18), scoring chances (17-8) and high-danger scoring chances (8-2).
“I don’t think there’s been a ton of matching,” Crosby said. “Definitely coaches have in mind who they want out there in certain situations, but it’s not always necessarily based on who the other team is putting out there. As players, you just go out there when called upon and be ready to compete.”
3. BOUNCING BACK
If his postseason history is any indication, expect Matt Murray to have a bounce-back performance after a 15-save showing in Game 2.
Murray has started the game immediately following a Penguins playoff loss nine times in his career. He’s 8-1 with a .934 save percentage.