(images stolen from HF)
OK LETS DO THIS.
Eleven months ago, the Penguins demolished the Flyers in five games in the Eastern Conference final, humiliating them 6-0 in Pittsburgh in the clincher on May 18. Now with a chance to grab home ice, the Flyers choked away 3 leads and eventually lost to the Rangers on Sunday. Now from having the 4th seed practically locked up since March, the Flyers lose home ice and must beat the Penguins at home. The Penguins have gone 18-3-4 in the past 25. Philadelphia: 12-11-2
Stats wise these two teams are about as even as you can get.
PIT: 99 points
PHI: 99 points
PIT Goals per game: 3.15
PHI Goals per game: 3.17
PIT goals against per game: 2.84
PHI goals against per game: 2.83
PIT PP%: 17.2%
PHI PP%: 22.5%
PIT PK%: 82.7%
PHI PK%: 83.0%
Let me go on record as saying I hate this matchup. Divisional rivalries are unpredictable. Let’s throw the bullshit stats out the window and dive right into the matchup.
Gagne-Richards-Knuble > Kunitz-Crosby-Guerin
Hartnell-Carter-Lupul > Fedotenko-Malkin-Sykora
Briere-Giroux-Asham > Cooke-Staal-Kennedy
Carcillo-Powe-Nodl < Dupuis-Talbot-Adams
The Penguins have Malkin and Crosby while the Flyers have deep crew of forwards with 6 scoring over 20 goals with 2 (Briere, Giroux) missing a number of games this season would have likely made that had they played the entire season. The Penguins are ran by the big 2. If Crosby or Malkin don't show up the Penguins are sunk. Over the past two weeks, the Penguins 3rd line has been their most consistent and dangerous. Something is severely off with Petr Sykora and thus the 2nd line hasn't done too much recently. Malkin is getting his points on the power play as usual but with little support 5 on 5. The new first line of the Penguins has yet to fully click. The potential is there but they still seem to missing that chemistry level that great lines have. The issue with this is that the Penguins need scoring from all their lines. Philly is too deep and has enough sound defenders to limit only one effective scoring line. Pens fans should breathe easier because neither did Marian Hossa last year with Crosby until Round 2. While you can't top Crosby and Malkin, the Flyers bring more consistent guns to the war.
Timmonen-Parent < Orpik-Gonchar
Coburn-Carle > Eaton-Letang
Jones-Alberts < Scuderi-Gill
All last year after getting owned, the Flyer nation cried and whined about injuries to Kimmo and Coburn. They are right to extent but in reality what would they have done? Allowed the Penguins to win in 6? Whatever.
Since Sergei Gonchar came back and Ryan "Chanel Purse" Whitney got traded, this is a different unit. Gone are Whitney's ghastly turnovers and replaced with some solid play by Mark Eaton. Kris Letang has taken over Whitney's offensive d man role and has somewhat blossomed under Bylsma. He is still prone to Whitney esque turnovers but he has created a ton since getting the green light to go. Orpik will likely be in the face of little Danny Briere all series and lead the Penguins in hits with 300 something good for 2nd most in the NHL. The Penguins utilize Rob Scuderi and Hal Gill in a shutdown role. Scuderi is great with his stick (uhhhhhhh that came wrong) but might be the worst puck mover in the league. Gill has been solid.
So with Flyers have Orr (Kimmo) and Bourque (Coburn) in the lineup, they should dominate right? I don't see it. The Flyers D has way more talent than the Penguins but for every great play they make, they make an equally horrendous one. Carle, Parent, Jones and Alberts all fall into that category. The skill is there but the decision making isn't. Either way, this is fairly even because Kimmo and Coburn cover up some of the mistakes. That being said, Parent has looked like a quality player for the first time since being traded for Peter Forsberg. Jones and Alberts have at least improved and Carle might be a top d-men in the league eventually. We'll see. I'll give the SLIGHT edge to the Flyers here.
Marty Biron is about as reliable as a cellphone on the subway. He is the unquestioned weakness of the team - prone to simply disintegrating his team’s opportunity to win a series. Biron, throughout his career, has shown some flashes but he can’t seem to put it all together. He silenced some critics last season in the playoffs but he also got shredded by the Penguins in the ECF. It's not that he’s been bad, but he just gives up some really bad goals at the wrong time. As a fan of the Flyers getting douched, I'm okay with that.
Fleury, while still maturing as a goaltender, has shown to be more consistent and is currently playing at a high level. Furthermore, he has shrugged off bad goals with a calm and cool swagger to his game. He still can’t handle the puck and really should not pass to much but the Penguins have the clear edge here despite Biron and Fleury having similar stats.
In a matter of days, Dan Bylsma accurately diagnosed the Penguins problems caused by Cowhard on Ice and swiftly uprooted the team to be far more aggressive and take advantage of the team’s skill level. The players have responded favorably to the coaching change and are playing their best hockey as we speak.
Stevens gets a bum deal from the Philly idiots and has led the Flyers to a 107-98-33 record in three seasons. He can get his players to play well consistently in every facet of the game. Still there are times when Stevens gets outcoached and fails to adjust. I specifically remember the Penguins/Flyers in January when the Penguins opened up in a trap and stifled the Flyers the entire game with little adjustments by Stevens.
Everyone is on the Penguins jock right now and this is quite disturbing in my book. Sure the last two months have been incredible for Penguin fans and now all the idiot homer Penguin fans think this team is infallible. Uh no. Deep down inside this is still a team that isn't quite a #4 seed. For the record, either is Philly. They look a bit worn out during the last half of the season and they will need a boost of energy.
Look Philly can win this. They just forgot to trade for a goaltender. Ron Hextall is not walking through that door anytime soon. Too bad.
Penguins in 6