Penguins – Flyers to Meet in Round 1

The Pittsburgh Penguins accomplished their primary goal over the final two games of the regular season in claiming home-ice in round 1 with a 5-4 OT win vs the Columbus Blue Jackets and then following up the win vs CBJ with a 4-0 victory over the Ottawa Senators in the season finale.

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Now the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers meet in round 1.

As vulnerable as the Penguins have looked defensively and at the goaltender position since Matt Murray returned from a concussion, the Penguins having home-ice in round 1 is a major hurdle the Flyers will have to overcome.

Pittsburgh is just the 4th team to win 30 or more home games in consecutive seasons and they’re just a different team on home-ice.

Pittsburgh and Philadelphia meet for the first time since the 2012 playoffs, a series that Penguin fans will always remember where a star studded Penguins’ team melted down mentally and had some of the worst goaltending/d-zone play you’d ever see.

This group isn’t going to fall into that trap with Mike Sullivan behind the bench, but If you like high-end talent, this will be a series that will bring it out in a big way.

Philadelphia’s best shot and pretty much only shot to dethrone the Stanley Cup Champs will be their high-end talent outperforming Pittsburgh’s by a wide margin.

Claude Giroux (102 pts), Jakub Voracek (85 pts), Sean Couturier (76 pts) all had great seasons with Giroux, the NHL’s second leading scorer a top Hart Trophy Candidate.

All three have to be major difference makers in the series for the Flyers.

Wayne Simmonds is always a handful for the Penguins to handle and the way Pittsburgh has been defending lately, Philadelphia is surely going to put the Penguins on their heels in stretches.

One thing the Flyers could have going for them is there’s no pressure on them and nothing to lose. Expectations were not high this season, especially after losing 10 straight at one point.

By contrast, if the Penguins first round opponent was Columbus again, things would have been different where expectations were high for Columbus this season and Pittsburgh has a significant mental edge over the Blue Jackets who just can’t close out games vs Pittsburgh.

— There shouldn’t be a ton of stock in the Penguins going 4-0 vs the Flyers, two were overtime wins, but the biggest takeaway relating to the upcoming series to take out of those four meetings is Philadelphia has no answer to stop the Penguins.

And it’s hard to see that changing this series. Philadelphia just doesn’t have the goaltending or depth on D to matchup well enough with the Penguins, especially if Derick Brassard is healthy and playing to give Pittsburgh that skill dimension as the third line center.

Then there’s the Sidney Crosby factor who is playing his best hockey of the season at the right time and owns the Flyers with 38 career goals. Crosby also averages 1.44 points per game on the road against the Flyers in his career.

— Pittsburgh is very vulnerable on the penalty kill right now and Philadelphia has the fire power to exploit the Penguins PK, but about that Penguins power play………..

Pittsburgh set a franchise record with a 26.2 power play percentage and there’s not a better team in hockey than changing momentum with a power play goal then the Penguins can.

The Flyers ranked 29th in Penalty Killing at 75.8%.

For every strength the Flyers have, the Penguins counter that by two.

— At the end of the day, whether this is a competitive series at all and Philadelphia gives Pittsburgh a scare will likely come down more to which Matt Murray shows up than the type of goaltending the Flyers get.

Pittsburgh is going to put the puck in the net, no matter what.

If Murray turns the switch and is in playoff form where he has a .928 career save percentage, this series isn’t going past five games. If the Matt Murray from the last couple weeks is the type of goaltending the Penguins get, we’re likely going to be in for a lot of 4-3, 5-4 games.



“Personnel has changed, but rivalries are always rivalries” — Mike Sullivan