Perhaps no series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs has produced more animosity between two teams than the one between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins has. There’s been numerous ugly hits with some resulting in player suspensions. Pittsburgh’s head coach has been fined $10,000 dollars for sending his players out with intent to injure. Again. There’s also been a huge surprise in this series that few would have expected; the Pittsburgh Penguins are sitting on the brink of being eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs by their most hated rivals. In Game 4 tonight at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, everything is on the line, and no love will be lost between two Pennsylvania teams that have played some of the most enjoyable hockey so far in the 2012 NHL playoffs. Face-off begins at 7:30 PM ET, in a game that is certain to be a top option for online sportsbook betting at one of the best online sportsbooks reviewed here.
Philadelphia has been able to have their way with the Pittsburgh defense, which has allowed an appalling 21 goals so far in the three games played in this series to date. With back-to-back victories where the Flyers have scored 8 goals apiece, including Game 2 which featured a pair of hat tricks, the Flyers are without a doubt feeling confident heading into Game 4 at home, with a victory pushing them through to the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Once more, Philadelphia will look to get under Pittsburgh’s skin, which seems to have been a key formula for success during the past 3 victories in this series, as the Penguins couldn’t control their anger and wound up seeing three players sent off with suspensions, numerous fighting penalties called, and another embarrassing loss at the hands of their bitter rivals. While goalie Ilya Bryzgalov hasn’t been great in net for the Flyers, allowing a 3.95 goals against average, the Flyers bend-but-don’t-break approach to defense has done its job, especially as the attacking lines for Philadelphia have been beyond outstanding. Sending Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh goaltender, to an 0-3 record with a 6.34 GAA and a .798 save percentage, the Flyers have utilized every member of their talented squad to intimidate, annoy, and eventually score on a Pittsburgh team that has looked nothing like the Pens group that finished with 108 points in the regular season. Without getting their heads back in order and shoring up their defense tonight, Pittsburgh will be on a short flight home where they’ll have to spend the rest of the offseason reliving the beating received at the hands of their enemies.
Pittsburgh, now without key players like Arron Asham (suspended for 4 games), James Neal (1 game) and Craig Adams (1 game), will have to look to its stars to pull them out of the rut, as Evgeni Malkin has yet to score in this series, and star player Sidney Crosby has never looked so frustrated on the ice. Despite scoring two goals and earning 3 assists, it’s clear that Philadelphia is in Crosby’s head, as he’s be vocal to the press about his dislike for every member of the Flyers’ squad, and has been frustrated to the point of taking cheap shots at Ilya Bryzgalov, and getting in tiffs with the rarely-scrappy Kimmo Timonen and goal scorer Claude Giroux. The Flyers are fine to let Crosby get angry and out of his element, as its been apparent that Pittsburgh simply forgets how to play hockey when overly concerned about payback or making big hits, but if the Pens wish to stay around in the NHL playoffs, they’re going to have to come back down to earth, play fundamental hockey again, and start focusing on better defensive play tonight. The Penguins were heavily favored coming into this series for a reason; they have two of the NHL’s top scorers, they have the NHL’s best scoring offense, and produce well on the power play and penalty kill. However, if they can’t get their defensive stars including Brooks Orpik and Kris Letang to step up as leaders and give some help to Marc-Andre Fleury tonight, Flyers fans will be celebrating the night away at home, with bragging rights over their in-state foes for another full season.
As the Flyers sit on the verge of advancing towards the Eastern Conference semifinals, they too will look to boost their defensive standing, which while getting let off the hook thanks to a potent and unstoppable offense, has left much to be desired as the Pens themselves have been able to score 12 goals of their own through 3 games thus far. The Flyers however will certainly have an advantage with a number of Pens players missing from the ice tonight, and have at least 3 potential threats to their star players out of action. Though the series has been one of the chippiest seen in recent NHL playoff memory, expectations should be high that hockey prevails and the fighting takes a bit more of a backseat tonight, at least as long as the game is still undecided. For Philadelphia then, Ilya Bryzgalov will be looking to get himself settled into place early, and avoid giving up the ice-breaker in scoring tonight. Bryzgalov has been up and down throughout the season, and if Philadelphia is to advance against a Pittsburgh team that scores in droves, he has to be the lynchpin of the Flyers defense tonight. Around him, Flyers defenseman including Braydon Coburn, Matt Carle, Nicklas Grossman and Kimmo Timonen need to do a better job of not allowing the Pens to stack up in front of net, and need to be better at breaking up passing lanes against a sure-handed Pittsburgh attack. With Pittsburgh coming full-force tonight with nothing left to play for if they lose, expectations should be high that the Flyers’ D will be the key factor in this game, and the unit that can either push Philadelphia into the next round, or leave everything up for grabs in the series if it shifts back to Pittsburgh once again.
Betting Lines for Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers, Game 4 at TopBet Sportsbook
Philadelphia takes home ice with the advantage on the betting lines at TopBet today, getting -125 odds to win will Pittsburgh is just a slight underdog with +105 odds to overcome and avoid the sweep.
Against the spread, the Flyers will need to cover -1.5 goals at -110 odds, while the Penguins will get a +1.5 goal cushion, albeit with high -250 odds. Philadelphia has beaten the spread in each of the 3 games played thus far in the series.
The over/under has been pushed up to 6.5 goals on the total goals line, with an average scoring total reaching 9.6 goals per game in this series. However, with the emphasis on defense much higher tonight, and Pittsburgh knowing full well that they must focus on hockey and not fighting their opponents, expect fewer penalty minutes doled out, and a much lower opportunity for ridiculous goal totals tonight.
It’s a do-or-die moment for Pittsburgh, who must win on the road in order to keep themselves in playoff contention. With such excitement brewing in an elimination game amidst a series that has already been one of the most entertaining hockey displays in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, make sure to catch all the online sports betting action at TopBet Sportsbook for this game, plant your stake in the outcome, and get ready for what should be yet another high-intensity match-up between two of the league’s most proficient scoring teams.