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2012 NHL Playoffs: Penguins vs. Flyers Series Redefining Playoff Hockey

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 18:  Jakub Voracek #93 of the Philadelphia Flyers scores a powerplay goal at 15:52 of the first period agaisnt the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center on April 18, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The Penguins defeated the Flyers 10-3. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Mark JonesSenior Analyst IApril 19, 2012

Four games.

Forty-five goals.

Such has been the unbelievable series between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins to date—an absurd total high enough to set the all-time NHL playoff record for the most goals in a series' first four games.

Those two simple statistics, however, fail to even remotely describe how utterly surreal the "Battle of Pennsylvania" has proven to be.

In the 2,460 games of the 2011-2012 NHL regular season, the average game featured combined totals of 5.32 goals (0.78 in the first period) and 11.21 penalty minutes. Only one out of every 10 games contained a misconduct penalty and a mere one out of every 189 included eight or more goals scored by at least one team.

In just four games between the Penguins and Flyers, however, the two rivals have accumulated an average of 11.25 goals (5.00 in the first period) and 70.50 penalty minutes per game, as well as nine misconduct infractions and three eight-plus-goal explosions.

The plethora of absolutely inconceivable stats that this matchup has produced stretches far beyond those numbers, though.

Starting goaltenders Marc-Andre Fleury and Ilya Bryzgalov—who have each faced precisely 109 shots so far—have racked up some of the most embarrassing marks, with respective save percentages of .817 (20 goals allowed) and .844 (17 goals allowed) and GAAs of 5.43 and 4.95.

PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 13:  Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins reacts after giving up a goal in the third period against the Philadelphia Flyers in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Nevertheless, both backup netminders have been even worse. The Pens' Brent Johnson and the Flyers' Sergei Bobrovsky have allowed two goals on six shots (.667, 6.00) and five goals on 18 shots (.722, 8.11), respectively, in relief of their struggling superiors.

Offensively, quite a few experienced snipers have taken advantage of the wide-open play to put up some astonishing numbers.

Five forwards between the two foes have scored on over 35 percent of their shots, highlighted by a whopping 57.1 percentage (four scores on seven attempts) by Philadelphia veteran Danny Briere. By comparison, the league's regular-season shooting percentage leader, Calgary's Curtis Glencross, scored on just 23.6 percent of his shots.

Moreover, 31 of the 42 players who have dressed for at least one game of the series are registered in the points department.

Among the mix is Eric Tangradi, who played just 24 regular-season games for Pittsburgh and totaled a measly two points, as well as fellow Philadelphia defensemen Nicklas Grossman (11 points in 74 regular-season games) and Pavel Kubina (15 points in 69 regular-season games).

In regards to breaking records, this series has certainly made its mark in that department, too.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 18:  Steve Sullivan #26 of the Pittsburgh Penguins scores a powerplay goal at 10:55 of the second period against Sergei Bobrovsky #35 of the Philadelphia Flyers the Philadelphia Flyers  in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quart
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

In addition to the two opponents' aforementioned, record-breaking 45 goals in the first four games, their collective 20 goals in the opening frame breaks the former postseason best, too, as ESPN reports: 

"The 20 1st-period goals is an NHL record for most combined 1st-period goals through the first 4 games of a series.

The previous record was 17 by the Sabres and Canadiens in 1991 and the Blackhawks and Oilers in 1985. The last time an entire series had at least 20 1st-period goals was in the 1995 playoffs when it happened in the conference quarterfinals in 2 series: Flames vs Sharks (7 games) and Penguins vs Capitals (7 games). The NHL record for combined 1st-period goals in an entire series is 25 by the Blackhawks and Oilers in 1985."

Pittsburgh's jaw-dropping 10-goal outburst in Game 4 tied a variety of all-time bests in itself—most goals in one playoff game by a road team, by a team facing elimination and by the Penguins themselves.

Per a tweet by the Pens Radio Network, Game 4 also tied Penguins records for most road playoff goals in one period and most consecutive playoff goals.

With all of the chaos that this series has brought the hockey world already, it's simply mind-boggling to consider what could happen in the final three games (hopefully) of this series.

And it's hard not to wonder if a regular ol' 3-2 playoff game will ever feel exciting again.

 

Mark Jones is currently a Bleacher Report featured columnist for the Carolina Hurricanes and the NHL as a whole. In his three and a half years so far with the site, he has written more than 365 articles and received over 465,000 total reads.

Visit his profile to read more, or follow him on Twitter.

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