Playoff Preview: Philadelphia Flyers Vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

John BertolContributor IApril 13, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - JANUARY 13:  Kimmo Timonen #44 and Braydon Coburn #5 of the Philadelphia Flyers defend against Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins January 13, 2009 at Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

With the Penguins playing hot down the stretch and the Flyers stumbling to a finish; this playoff matchup appears to have the makings of an all-out war.

No fan can ask for a greater matchup, there is no certain winner in this one as both of these Atlantic Division teams line up well against each other. The continuing rivalry between these clubs adds a particularly interesting story line.

Philadelphia and Pittsburgh know each other very well due to their battles in division play; and their styles are very different. 

The Flyers continue to utilize their physical play, a trademark of the "orange and black" even though it has come with its fair share of penalty minutes.

The Flyers lead the league in penalty minutes, and their acquisition of Daniel Carcillo at the trade deadline displayed a commitment to their "rock'em sock'em" style of play. 

However, the Pens boast a exciting and talented power play unit, which has only been bolstered by the return of their power play quarterback, Sergei Gonchar.

Gonchar, who has recently returned from a shoulder injury, has played well for the Pens and looks to continue that trend into the playoffs. Gonchar has a prolific power play presence, as nearly 50 percent of his career goals have come on the man advantage.

This could be one of the major downfalls for a young Philadelphia club, which has had trouble staying out of the sin bin. If the Flyers allow the Penguins power play on the ice, it will hurt their chances at winning the series.

Having said that, the Penguins are a much different team than the one that met the Flyers in the Eastern Conference Finals last year.

The Penguins no longer have Marian Hossa, who left for greener pastures in Detroit; and Miroslav Satan did not even come close to the expectations the Penguins set for him.  The failure of their free agent acquisitions caused the Penguins to sign Billy Guerin.

Although Guerin was one of the league's best players, his play has slowed with his age and he comes nowhere near the play of Marian Hossa. He is a player to watch because he knows the game well, but don't expect him to wow you with deke moves and dangles.

The Flyers welcomed the return of Simon Gagne and he responded with a 30 goal season, a player the Flyers truly missed come playoff time last year. His skill and prowess is a welcomed addition to the Flyers playoff push this year.

The Flyers two areas of concern come in the crease and at the blue line.

The Flyers were forced to use a loop hole in the salary cap restrictions by signing two defensemen to "amateur tryouts" to bolster their blueliners, as they paid David Sloane and Jamie Fritsch whopping $98, one-game contracts.

However the salary cap will not be an issue in the playoffs, and the Flyers have the young Luca Sbisa in the AHL who could become a viable call-up with NHL experience.

Marty Biron has been shaky in his last few starts but make no mistake, he is the No. 1 goaltender on this team heading into the playoffs. 

If he reverts back to his playoff form last year, the Flyers will be a tough team to beat, not just in the conference but in the league.

The offensive skill on both teams are downright nasty. The Flyers have one of the most balanced offensive teams in the league, with six players at or over the 25 goal mark. 

The Penguins have two of the top players in the league in Crosby and Malkin, as well great offensive help off of the blue line.

It will come down to physical play and man advantages. If the Flyers can play a physical style and stay out of the box, look for them to wear down this Penguins team.

If Crosby makes a bid at an Oscar, through his timely theatrical appearances and draws penalties, the Penguins will make the Flyers pay for putting men in the box.

Keys To The Series:

-Flyers need to stay out of the box.

-Marty Biron needs to play well.

-Penguins prolific power play

-Penguins top scoring line vs. the Flyers top defensive pairing.

Players To Watch:

Penguins: Crosby, Malkin, Gonchar and Kunitz

Flyers: Richards, Carter, Gagne and Giroux


Bad blood and revenge for the Flyers comes in a seven-game playoff series win.


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