3:00 p.m., Wells Fargo Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
When the lockout got lifted a few weeks ago I really thought the season would get here quick. It didn't. It feels like months ago that we should have been watching hockey and, well, it should have been but boy will it be nice to flick on the TV and see some hockey on TV starting at 3 p.m. and going throughout the day.
The first game of the season shapes up as the end of the season did last year. Penguins and Flyers. This will be the eighth straight game between the two teams through the playoffs and the end of the regular season. There has been love love loss and there will be no second guessing when these teams get off the ice.
The Penguins are coming off a brutal drubbing to the Flyers in the playoffs where they were just flat embarrassed. The series ended with the Penguins winning two of six games but that doesn't do justice to what the Flyers did to them throughout the series. The Flyers, and their fans, have bragging rights right now and there would be no better way to calm that than with an opening night victory in their own barn.
While not much about the defense has changed the team should be much better for the wear as everyone is healthy. Granted the Penguins are going to need Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang, Marc Andre Fleury, and the rest of the defensive core to be better but the Penguins are returning two of the best players in the world in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Man, how great is that to say. Offense shouldn't be a problem and if the defense could tighten up a little bit then things could be much different in this game.
The Flyers are going to be missing Danny Briere but they still have a stacked lineup with newly minted captain Claude Giroux along with Scott Hartnell and Sean Couturier. The Flyers will most likely try the same game plan they did in the playoffs which was to just beat the hell out of the Penguins and break their will. The Flyers will dump the puck deep and hit the defense as they go back to retrieve it and they will punish the forwards through the neutral zone, especially Crosby, Malkin, and Neal. The Penguins are going to be ready for it because they have to be.
Gonna be a ton of fun to watch. Buckle up.
The Probables (via NBC):
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Eric Tangradi - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Matt Cooke - Brandon Sutter - Tyler Kennedy
Tanner Glass - Joe Vitale - Craig Adams
Matt Niskanen - Kris Letang
Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin
Simon Despres - Deryk Engelland
Marc Andre Fleury
Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Brayden Schenn
Max Talbot - Sean Couturier - Jakub Voracek
Wayne Simmonds - Scott Laughton - Matt Read
Ruslan Fedotenko - Eric Wellwood - Zac Rinaldo
Braydon Coburn - Nicklas Grossman
Kimmo Timonen - Luke Schenn
Andrej Meszaros - Kurtis Foster
Last time they met:
April 22, 2012 - Philadelphia 5, Pittsburgh 1 - Game 6 Eastern Conference First Round