Pittsburgh Penguins (+110) at Philadelphia Flyers (-120, 5.5 o/u)
There will be a lot of scoreboard watching and cellphone checking during the Philadelphia Flyers’ (39-27-14, 92 pts) pregame skate today, as their playoff fate remains very much up in the air. While Boston and Detroit’s earlier games will dictate what Philly needs to do over their final two games, it’s clear that a regulation loss today will be of no help.
The Pittsburgh Penguins (48-25-8, 104 pts) are locked into second in the Metropolitan Division, but they would relish the opportunity to destroy their hated rivals chance at the postseason this afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center (3:00 PM Eastern).
At full strength, there probably isn’t a team in the NHL the Flyers would like to see less than the Penguins. Pittsburgh has won 14 of their last 15 heading into this one, and now rank third in the NHL in goals for, led by Sidney Crosby and his 85 points.
It wouldn’t be a shock to see no. 87 and a few other key Penguin pieces watch this game from the press box, though. With Evgeni Malkin already sidelined, Pittsburgh can’t risk anymore injuries ahead of their impending postseason run.
Philadelphia looked to be a scary first round opponent after going on a tear through the second half of February and March. But three straight losses, including a 4-3 OT decision to the Toronto Maple Leafs, have the Flyers limping to the finish line. Luckily, Michael Neuvirth has returned to the crease earlier than expected, and will provide an exhausted Steve Mason with a night off this weekend. Mason has started 11 straight, including a pair of back-to-backs last week.
It won’t matter who’s keeping the puck out of the Flyer net, though, if the team can’t find twine themselves. Philly is averaging just two goals a game over their last seven, and went 0 for 10 on the powerplay last week. Even standout rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere has been a -3 in the last five games.
The season series has belonged to the Penguins this year, as they’ve won the first three games by a combined 14-6 score. But before this season, Philadelphia had won eight straight in the battle of Pennsylvania.
With Pittsburgh focused on next week, and Philly potentially having a chance to clinch this afternoon, I’d put my money on the black and orange to get it done in a big way.
Pick: Flyers (-120).
(Photo credit: Pens Through My Lens (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)