The post-season is once again upon us and that means it’s time to take a sneak peek at the first round matchups, starting with the faceoff between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers.
Game One of this series gets underway Wednesday.
This marks the first time these two teams have tangled since 2012. On that auspicious occasion, they combined for 56 through six games. Pittsburgh won Game Four by a final score of 10-3, to put things in perspective.
Does that mean we’re in line for another offensive showcase this time?
When you consider that the Flyers and Penguins have four of the top 10 scorers in the league, the potential for a goal-scoring bonanza is considerable. And Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, and Claude Giroux are all ready to rumble.
The Penguins closed out the regular season fourth overall in goals-per-game, while the Flyers were 12th. Pittsburgh has the best power play in the league at 26.1 percent, while Philadelphia is in the middle of the pack with 20.7 percent. And it’s not good news for Broad Street fans that the Flyers’ penalty kill frankly stinks, sitting at a dismal 29th overall 75.8 percent.
But Philly holds the edge in goals against per game, finishing with 2.878 compared to Pittsburgh’s 3.024. And they know how to win the draw, placing third overall with 53.3 percent.
The Penguins own the season series against the Flyers, but anything can and usually will happen in the playoffs.
The defending champions will be looking to threepeat, however, and that’ll give them something rather profound to fight for. There’s no categorizing that level of possible momentum as they try to accomplish something only the New York Islanders have done.
Philadelphia has its own pride on the line in the matchup and that could make them early spoilers, especially if they can stick and move and keep the Penguins off the power play. Unfortunately, the Flyers have struggled to maintain momentum and have had a streaky year. They once dropped 10 straight games before righting the ship and turning in seven wins in eight contests.
If this series hinges on goaltending, Philly could be in trouble. They’ve been dealt a rotten hand in goal this year, with injuries to Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth creating early problems. Petr Mrazek was a deadline hire for Ron Hextall, but his play has left a lot to be desired.
But Matt Murray hasn’t exactly lit it up for the Penguins in goal. He’s put in the worst of his three seasons this year and has allowed at least four goals in three of his last six starts.
Through it all, Pittsburgh is still heavily favoured by most and should be able to pull off the win. The Flyers are upstart underdogs and have the role down, but the Penguins are the defending champs and simply have too much firepower. Look for Crosby and Co. to win this one in five games.