PITTSBURGH — There is nothing routine or stale for the Pittsburgh Penguins as they begin their quest for their third straight Stanley Cup Wednesday night against the Philadelphia Flyers at PPG Paints Arena in a first-round playoff series opener.
“I still pinch myself almost every day that you get to be a part of something like this Jim Bunning Jersey ,” said Pittsburgh goaltender Matt Murray, who won each of the past two Stanley Cups while technically a rookie under NHL rules.
“It’s just so exciting. It’s like Christmas when you’re a kid almost. You know how much fun you had watching when you were a kid. I’ll bet you I’ll feel like that for years and years. It’s really cool that I get to be here. I’m just trying to cherish that.”
They’re also trying hard to win it all again, while not overlooking the journey.
“Certainly, the expectation within our room is that we have the ability to compete,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “We know that it’s hard, and we know that we’ve got to go out and earn it each and every day, each and every game. That’s where our mindset is. I don’t think any of us are trying to reflect on where this team stands.”
The Penguins finished second in the Metropolitan Division, just two points ahead of the Flyers, but seem to enter their first-round series as a bigger favorite than that margin would indicate, more than likely based on Pittsburgh’s recent postseason success.
Philadelphia isn’t arguing that point, but the team isn’t accepting anything as a foregone conclusion, either.
“We didn’t expect very many people to pick us to come out of this series, and that’s OK Authentic Vladimir Tarasenko Jersey ,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “There’s a quiet belief in our dressing room. … We’re the underdog. We’re pegged that. We know that. We’re playing against a hell of a hockey team that has a lot of experience at the playoff level. We’ve got to go out and earn it, and that’s what we’ll do.”
There are a couple more tangible reasons for Pittsburgh to be favored.
The Penguins, who have home-ice advantage in the series, were 30-9-2 at PPG Paints Arena during the regular season. They also have the most potent power play in the NHL going into the postseason, with a 26.2 percent success rate.
And then there were the head-to-head meetings. Pittsburgh swept the four games, scoring five goals in each, with star centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin combining for 14 points.
“I know we didn’t get the points that we wanted in the games against them, but I think out of the four games, in three of them we played really well and kind of let a few games get away,” Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov told the Philadelphia Daily News. “It doesn’t matter now. It’s a clean sheet now in the playoffs and all our focus is on getting the first win.”
Both teams have players who excelled during the regular season. Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux finished second in the league scoring race with 102 points. Pittsburgh’s Malkin was third with 98 points, while teammates Phil Kessel (92) and Crosby (89) ranked eighth and 10th.
The last time these teams met in the playoffs, in 2012, also in the first round Oren Burks Color Rush Jersey , Philadelphia not only upset Pittsburgh in six games but also got under the Penguins’ skins with a physical, agitating style that led to several Pittsburgh star players getting involved in fights and scrums.
The only Penguins remaining from that team are Crosby, Malkin and defenseman Kris Letang, but all three engaged in the uncharacteristic behavior in the 2012 series.
“We’re all over 30 years old now. We’re supposed to be mature,” Letang said. “I mean, it was. … whatever it was, it was in the moment. Emotional. We have a different team, different experience, different coaching staff. Everything is different, so we don’t even look at that.”
Philadelphia has five holdovers from that series — Giroux, Sean Couturier, Jakub Voracek, Matt Read and Wayne Simmonds.
Couturier said this time the Flyers’ motivation is to win in a more direct way.
“I don’t think we’ve played our best game or a full 60 minutes against Pittsburgh yet Taron Johnson Jersey Elite ,” he told the Daily News. “I like our chances if we play some good hockey and focus for 60 minutes, maybe even more.”
Atlanta Braves pitcher Mike Foltynewicz was beginning to emerge as a top-of-the-rotation type starter when he experienced some tightness in his right tricep.
After spending 10 days on the disabled list, he will try to regain that form in the series opener against the streaking Cincinnati Reds.
Foltynewicz (5-4, 2.16 ERA) will be opposed by Cincinnati’s Tyler Mahle (6-6, 3.89) in the first game of a three-game set at SunTrust Park.
It won’t be an easy assignment for Foltynewicz. The Reds have won seven straight — 10 of their last 11 — and are coming off a sweep of the Chicago Cubs. On Sunday, the Reds scored seven runs in the seventh inning and swept the Cubs in a four-game series for the first time since 1983.
Since Jim Riggleman became the team’s manager, Cincinnati is 29-30 and the Reds have won 24 of their last 42.
The Braves and Reds split a four-game series in April in Cincinnati.
Foltynewicz has only pitched five innings in the two starts after his complete-game shutout against the Washington Nationals on June 1. He threw five scoreless innings against the New York Mets before leaving with the arm issues on June 12.
The former first-round draft choice, who was acquired from the Houston Astros in 2015, has made 14 starts this season and allowed two or fewer earned runs in 13 of them. He has had four scoreless starts. He ranks fourth in the National League in ERA.
Foltynewicz received no decision in his April 23 start against the Reds. He left after 4 2/3 innings, having allowed two runs on three hits and four walks, with seven strikeouts. In four career starts against the Reds, he is 1-0 with a 2.31 ERA.
Mahle has been hot, going 3-0 with a 1.61 ERA over his last four starts. The Reds have won all four of his starts in June Rashaan Evans Titans Jersey , in which he has allowed four runs in 22 1/3 innings. He beat the Detroit Tigers in his most recent start, giving up two runs and fanning eight in six innings.
“Tyler did a great job,” Riggleman said after Mahle’s last start. “It seems like we’ve got six and eight innings from a lot of our starters. You’ve got a chance to win the ballgame. When you do that, you get a chance to use your bullpen the way it should be used and a lot of times good things are going to happen.”
Mahle started against the Braves on April 24 and gave up three runs in six innings with a career-high 11 strikeouts. Mahle took a no-hitter into the seventh before losing it on a leadoff homer by Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman. The Reds eventually lost that game in 12 innings.
The Braves’ bullpen took a jolt on Sunday when closer Arodys Vizcaino was placed on the 10-day disabled list with right shoulder soreness. Vizcaino, who had not pitched since June 17, had a cortisone shot earlier in the week and still wasn’t feeling well enough to pitch by the weekend.
“His shoulder is not responding like we wanted it to,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “It was one of those situations where if he wasn’t ready to pitch (Sunday), we had to back off it and get it right, because it wasn’t working.”
Atlanta activated right-hander Evan Phillips to take Vizcaino’s spot on the roster. Phillips had 50 strikeouts in 35 innings and a 2.33 ERA for Triple-A Gwinnett.