It’s Flyers vs. Penguins.
It’s Sidney Crosby vs. Claude Giroux.
And it’s in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
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Let’s face it. This is the matchup every Flyers fan was hoping for – at least in their heart.
OK, maybe not. Maybe fans didn’t want to draw the reigning two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, who also swept the four-game season series against the Flyers.
But if history is any indication, this series is gonna be good. This is gonna be fun.
Let’s take a look at the top 10 storylines:
Quest for a three-peat
No matter how you slice it, the Flyers are heavy underdogs against the Penguins, who are out to become the first NHL team to win three straight titles since the New York Islanders won four straight from 1980-83.
Each team’s starting goalie is still trying to find a groove since returning from an injury. The Flyers’ Brian Elliott, who was out for six weeks with a core muscle injury, was shaky in the two final regular season games he played. Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray has posted a pedestrian 4-4 mark and allowed 27 goals after missing almost a month with a concussion.
The MVP candidate needs to play like an MVP if the Flyers expect to upset the champs.
Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin
The former is still one of the best players in the league and has 93 points in 63 career games against the Flyers, while the latter is a legitimate MVP candidate this year.
Staying out of the penalty box is a no-brainer for the Flyers, who owned the third worst penalty kill in the NHL. Meanwhile, the Penguins finished with the best power-play percentage.
The Penguins allowed the most goals allowed for all playoff teams in 5-on-5 play. Meanwhile, the Flyers finished in the middle of the pack.
The third defensive pairing for both teams is a liability. Each coach will try to avoid leaving the weak units on the ice against their opponent’s top lines.
In the four meetings this season, the Flyers struggled to match the Penguins quickness, especially in transition. The Flyers must make sure their defensemen don’t get too caught out of position and forwards must be mindful of costly turnovers in the neutral zone.
Depending on lineups, seven first- or second-year players will be making their postseason debuts for the Flyers. It will be an invaluable experience for each one but the playoff inexperience could come back to haunt the Flyers.
At 30-9-2,the Penguins finished with the best home record in the Eastern Conference. The Flyers will need to win at least one game, and most likely two, at PPG Paints Arena.