Is Thursday just another game between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia?
On the surface, it’s easy to suggest that Thursday’s game involving the Penguins and Flyers is little more than a mostly meaningless, perhaps over-hyped October contest. Certainly, one team is clicking on all cylinders while the other seems to have a dead battery.
But one has to go no farther than the last time the teams met in Philadelphia to know that anything can happen in these games and often does.
When Pittsburgh traveled to Philly on March 7, it carried into the contest a 15-8 record. Not bad, but nothing more than a middling record in a league where playing .500 is playing poorly.
The Penguins allowed four first-period goals and trailed 4-1 after 20 minutes. At that time, goalie Tomas Vokoun gave an intermission speech in which he called out his team for playing “neurotic hockey.”
Pittsburgh rallied over the final 40 minutes and came out with a 5-4 victory.
The Penguins won 22 of their final 26 regular-season games. Vokoun’s speech was one of the season’s turning points.
On paper, Pittsburgh should have little problem Thursday night. It’s won five of six games, holds a plus-8 goal differential, and features a top-ranked power play, clicking at 35.3 percent.
Philadelphia, meanwhile, has lost six of seven, has a minus-10 goal differential, and its 6.9 power play rate is 28th in the NHL.
Funny things happen when these two teams meet, however.
Whether it’s neurotic hockey, run-and-gun hockey or the likes of Deryk Engelland lining up as a forward, hockey fans won’t want to miss Thursday’s tilt.