(Photo credit: Keith Allison)
Heated rivals face off again
There are few things better than a true rivalry to enhance a playoff series, and the Battle of Pennsylvania is one of the best in the league. During their last playoff series, in the 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, the teams combined for 56 goals in 6 games, on top of 309 penalty minutes, and if the 2018 series is anywhere close to that, we’re all in for an exciting start to Spring.
But does the 2017-2018 season indicate that history will repeat itself?
Season Series: Pittsburgh 4-0-0; Philadelphia 0-2-2
- Pittsburgh: Evgeni Malkin (42-56-98), Phil Kessel (34-58-92), Sidney Crosby (29-60-89)
- Philadelphia: Claude Giroux (34-68-102), Jakub Voracek (20-65-85), Sean Couturier (31-45-76)
Players to Watch:
- Pittsburgh: A significant portion of Pittsburgh’s success depends on if we will see regular season or playoff goalie Matt Murray. In his first season without the guidance of Marc-Andre Fleury, Murray posted a modest .907 save percentage, including an end-of-season run of allowing four or more goals in three of his last six starts. His playoff history tells a different story, with .923 and .937 percentages and allowing more than three goals only three times in 11 games in his appearances last year.
- Philadelphia: Whoever the Flyers start in goal. The goalies will make or break this series for the Flyers, and all three of their rostered options have shown they have the potential to swing the series in either direction. However, G Brian Elliott is slated to start having played only two games since February 10th, and will need to find his form quickly if Philadelphia wants to avoid an early exit.
Outlook: The Penguins have their sights set on their third straight Stanley Cup championship, and they definitely have the offensive firepower to make it happen. That being said, this firepower isn’t always a guarantee, as the Penguins found themselves in the bottom third of the league only a few short months ago. Still, they enter the playoffs with a +22 goal differential, compared to the +8 of Philadelphia.
The Flyers were able to keep some games close during the regular season, but were still outscored 20-11 across the four contests. The biggest factor around the Flyers all season has been their consistency (see: Brian Elliott). If they can play as they did through the winter, going 26-9-3 from December through February, they could give Pittsburgh a tougher than anticipated first stage.
Pick: Pittsburgh in four
|1||Wednesday, April 11||Flyers at Penguins||7:00 p.m.||NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports|
|2||Friday, April 13||Flyers at Penguins||7:00 p.m.||NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports|
|3||Sunday, April 15||Penguins at Flyers||3:00 p.m.||NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports|
|4||Wednesday, April 18||Penguins at Flyers||7:00 p.m.||NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports|
|5||Friday, April 20||Flyers at Penguins||TBD||TBD|
|6||Sunday, April 22||Penguins at Flyers||TBD||TBD|
|7||Tuesday, April 24||Flyers at Penguins||TBD||TBD|