Series outlook: A battle for Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh and Philadelphia square off in what will be a battle for Pennsylvania. This will be the first hump for the Penguins to overcome on their way to a potential three-peat. For the Flyers This is the Flyers first postseason appearance since the 2015-16 season, and they will be looking to get out of the first round for the first time since the 2011-12 season when they lost in the Conference Semifinals.
Pittsburgh Production From Everywhere
There is no denying that the Penguins have a star-powered lineup that is unmatched by any other team. Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, and Phil Kessel lead the way for a Penguins offense that has played very well in 2018.
Since January 1st the Penguins offense ranks first in goals per game with a 3.83 goals per game average. Evgeni Malkin leads the scoring charge for the Penguins while on this scoring tear in the new year. Malkin is second in the NHL in points in that time frame with 62 and has been in serious Hart Trophy considerations as of late.
Along with the immense production from Malkin, Crosby and Kessel have tallied in their share of points as well; each scored more than 50 since January 1st.
Penguins Power Play
The Penguins power play during the 2017-18 season was the best in the league at 26.2 percent. The Flyers are a team that does not commit a lot of penalties, but when they do they have trouble defending them. Pittsburgh will be looking to exploit this aspect of the Flyers game by using their size and speed to draw more penalties. The Penguins power play against the Flyers penalty kill unit will play a significant role in how this series plays out.
Flyers Defense To Offense
Philadelphia has a unique situation where their defense is as capable of scoring as their offense. The defensive scoring attack is led by Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere. Provorov led all defensemen in the NHL this season with 17 goals, and Gostisbehere tallied an impressive 65 points this season.
The defense of the Flyers could play a very deciding role in this series. Pittsburgh is a team that has shown weakness on the defensive side of the ice. The Pens were one of two teams in the NHL to score three or more goals per game while at the same time allowing three goals per game.
The Flyers defense will demand respect from the Penguins defensemen and in turn that will create space for scorers like Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. This is a winnable series for Philly as long as they play it from the defense out. Once they start forcing things on offense the star power from the Penguins offense will eat them alive.
Claude Giroux For Hart?
Claude Giroux was one of the many surprise candidates for the Hart that emerged this season. Giroux posted his career high for points with 102 and was a driving factor as to why the Flyers are in the postseason.
Claude has seen success against the Penguins this season and had four points in his four games against Pittsburgh this season. He has been especially good at home this season, and the Flyers will need that same dominance in the playoffs if they want to make a run at the Stanley Cup.
Giroux’s splits between home and away are very telling. At home, this season Giroux has 57 points in 41 games and a plus/minus rating of +30. When compared to his 45 points in 41 games and a plus/minus of -2 on the road it is clear that the production is not there on the road.
Philly does not have the luxury of dropping home games against Pittsburgh in this series. They also are going to have to find a way to steal at least one game on the road. Claude Giroux will be a deciding factor in how far this team goes.
In what will be a battle for Pennsylvania I expect the Penguins to walk out on top. Pittsburgh has been the hotter team as of late, and they are especially good on home ice. The Pens are 30-9-2 when playing at home this season.
If the Flyers are going to win this series, they are going to have to steal one game on the road and then exploit the Pens terrible road record. The Flyers have been about even in both so it could happen, but I believe the Penguins will win this series.
Penguins win the series 4-2.
Featured image by Kate Free
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