NHL Playoffs: Important Storylines in Game 5 of the Flyers vs. Penguins Series

Brad EnnisContributor IIIApril 20, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 18:  The Pittsburgh Penguins celebrate their 10-3 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers 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.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Will the Offensive Explosion Continue?

The biggest story coming out of the Keystone State series has been the unbelievable amount of offense. Aided largely by the lack of defense and amateur level goaltending, these two teams have combined for an astonishing 45 goals in just 4 games.

The superstars have shined throughout this series on both sides. Evgeni Malkin finally tallied in Game 4. Sidney Crosby and James Neal have contributed key goals. Jordan Staal, Claude Giroux, and Sean Couturier have all registered hat-tricks.

The scoring in this series has come in bunches and doesn’t figure to let up as we head into Game 5. This brings us to the biggest catalyst of all the scoring, and the next storyline to keep an eye on this evening.


Parades to the “Sin Bin”

These two teams don’t like each other. That disdain led to an all-out melee in Game 3. Those antics yielded a whistle-happy officiating crew in Game 4.

Both the Flyers and Penguins were able to take advantage of their opportunities with the power play early on in Game 4. As the Flyers got behind, however, their frustrations led to more infractions.

The Penguins jumped on nearly every opportunity the Flyers handed them in Game 4 and littered the back of the net to the tune of 10 goals. You can bet that the high attention this series has garnered will force the hand of the officials once again. Tonight’s crew will not want to be responsible for another line brawl in this series and will be quick to penalize anyone that gets out of hand.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 18: Matt Cooke #24 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates a second period goal against the Philadelphia Flyers in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center on A
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images


Additions and Subtractions

The Penguins were without the services of Neal and Craig Adams in Game 4. Both players will return to the Pittsburgh lineup for Game 5, and that can only be positive for the Penguins.

The Flyers on the other hand are expected to be missing defenseman Nicklas Grossmann due to injury. Ilya Bryzgalov is a game-time decision after suffering a hip injury in Game 4.

One bright spot for the Flyers may come with the possible return of James van Riemsdyk from a broken foot. He has been out of the lineup since the March 1st injury. He has to be salivating with the thought of getting back on the ice.

His eagerness could bode well for the Flyers if he can channel last year’s playoff performance. His play in the 2011 postseason earned him a large contract extension. If he is more like the 2012 regular season version of himself, however, his impact will figure to be a non-factor.


The Penguins Have New Life

The Penguins had to fight their way off the ropes in Game 4 with their season on the line. They not only lived to see another game, they may very well have swung the momentum completely back in their favor.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 18: Jordan Staal #11 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates his hattrick goal at 16:03 of the second period against the Philadelphia Flyers along with Matt Cooke #24 in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

In a series where the only time either team truly held the upper hand was the Flyers following Game 3, it took just one period for the Penguins to steal that upper hand away. The second period in Game 4 has changed the entire feel of this series.

A five goal eruption that chased Philadelphia goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov from the game for the first time all series has rattled the Flyers to their core. Any confidence they had in their goaltending is gone. A shadow of doubt has cast over the club for the first time since the dying moments of the first period in Game 1.

The Penguins have to be feeling like they can throw anything at the net right now and it will go in, much like the Flyers felt through the first three games.

It will take a tremendous effort from the Flyers to pull out the series win tonight. Fortunately for them, their record has been stellar at the Consol Energy Center, at 7-1 all-time in the home of the Pens. They’ll need to channel their performances in those games to halt the Penguins comeback in Game 5.