As your Flyers community leader of course, I felt compelled to bring everyone my opinion on this Keystone matchup part II. But, as usual I always like to go above and beyond for everyone who reads my article.
In this first-round matchup preview between The Flyers and Penguins, me and co-CL Alan Bass will give you the comparisons of forwards, defense, and goaltending, then finishing with our series prediction.
Let's drop the puck, shall we:
Alan Bass: Considering the Flyers do not have a bona fide number one line, this one at first glance would seem to go to the Penguins. However, at second glance, by watching some games between these two teams, it is apparent that the Flyers have much more depth than the Penguins do.
Philadelphia is the only team in the NHL to have six 25-goal scorers on their roster this season. The Penguins, however, have the (soon-to-be) Art Ross Trophy winner and a former league MVP on their roster in Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby.
The aforementioned players, though, are the only two players on the roster with over 53 points.
Conclusion: Slight Edge, Philadelphia
Me: Being the fact that the Flyers do not have a consistent number one line, there en lies the problem that presents itself to the Pens. The Flyers have too much depth for Pittsburgh to control, their defense just isnt capable to contain Philadelphia's top three lines.
As you stated the best fact of all, the Flyers have what no other NHL team has; six players with over 25 goals. That's unheard of, yet, spectacular.
The Flyers have the second highest goal-scorer in the NHL in Jeff Carter, one of the best two-way players in the game in captain Mike Richards, and lets not forget a healthy Danny Briere and the fast approaching superstar in playmaker Claude Giroux.
The Pens have, yes, soon-to-be league MVP Evgeni Malkin, and captain Sidney Crosby who some will say didn't play his best hockey this season. Outside of them two studs, the Pens don't have anyone over 53 points or even 25 goals.
Conclusion: EDGE, Flyers
Alan Bass: With two dominant players (I’ll explain this in a minute) in Braydon Coburn and Kimmo Timonen, the Flyers are ready for another playoff run. Last season, that defensive pairing helped to contain Alexander Ovechkin in the first round and Alex Kovalev in the second round.
When they were both injured in the third round against Pittsburgh, though, the Flyers ultimately were unable to defend against the tough Penguins’ attack.
Pittsburgh, on the other hand, has a healthy Sergei Goncharand a fast, smart young defenseman in Kris Letang.
Supporting players such as Rob Scuderi, one of the league’s most underrated defensive defensemen, Hal Gill, and more, help to keep this team competitive when the puck is in their own end.
Me:The one good thing about the Flyers is that they have depth at this position. With Ryan Parent, who can be an x-factor if healthy, day-to-day right now, the Flyers called up Luca Sbisa who is already seasoned in a Flyers uniform having 39 games under his belt.
The Flyers have two shut-down back-liners in the underrated Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn. This is same defense that did indeed shutdown Alex Ovechkin and the Caps and the No. 1 seed Montreal Canadians in the first and second rounds of last years playoffs. So, this defense is healthy and ready for anything that gets thrown their way.
The Penguins have their top defensemen back and healthy in Sergei Gonchar, which can spell trouble for the Flyers, if, they commit to their penalty struggles.
Kris Letang was the highest scoring defensemen on Pittsburgh with 33 points and 10th on the team in points. I do give Alan credit, the Pens have their own underrated defenseman Rob Scuderi and add in there Hal Gill, could be worry-some.
Conclusion: Medium Edge, Flyers.
Alan Bass: Considering both goaltenders, Marc-Andre Fleury and Martin Biron dominated other teams in the playoffs last season, and both played extremely inconsistently this year, it is tough to say which team has the advantage here.
Fleury did have 35 wins this season, most likely the quietest 35 wins he has ever had (no publicity was gained because of Brodeur’s record, Kipprusoff’s chase of Brodeur’s record, etc).
Biron had a better save percentage this season, but Fleury had a better goals against average, both by slight margins.
However, if you are going to go by the goalie who has the best chance to backstop their team to victory, I will use last year’s Stanley Cup final game five as my backup for this; Fleury is more of a game changer.
Conclusion: Slight edge, Pittsburgh.
Me: Ok, when I look at this, this becomes the biggest challenge to me. This depends on what Marty Biron we are going to see. The one who single-handed took the Philadelphia Flyers to the Eastern conference finals last season or the one who struggled to put together back-to-back victories during the the first half of this year.
Well, at this point im going to have to beg, not ask, that we see Biron of last postseason. Biron finished the season as one of the hottest goalies in the league with a 14-9-1 record in his last 24 starts, which credits coach John Stevens for finally making the decision to go with Biron for the long haul.
Lastly, lets not forget Biron is an unrestricted free-agent after the season.
On the other side we have Marc Andre-Fleury, just look at his last 29 starts. Fleury put together a 19-6-4 with two shutouts in that span, dominant.
You can actually say he was the main reason the Pens made that great run to jump up the standings to take the fourth seed. Fleury, who is already big-game tested, stud approved, is poised to prove his playoff run of last season wasn't a flash in the pan.
Conclusion: Edge, Penguins
Final Predictions- Winner- How many Games.
Alan Bass: X-Factor: No Stanley Cup runner up has made it past the first round since before the lockout. After the run they had last season and the run they were forced to make in the regular season this year, I have a hard time believing that the Penguins will have enough juice left to play the physical grind of the NHL playoffs again. Philadelphia, though, is well rested, and ready to go.
Prediction: Philadelphia in six.
Me: Well, Alan basically stole my thunder on this one, the stats never lie. But, I think the Flyers are just flat-out a much better club.
The Flyers have threats everywhere you look, and that will be just draining for the Penguins, who at this point have to feeling the effects of playing for their lives the last month and half to get here.
I truly believe that this Flyers team is better than they were last season entering the playoffs. With mostly everyone healthy including Briere, the addition of Claude Giroux and Simon Gagne, this team is as ready as ever to make a significant run at the cup.
I said at the beginning of the year the x-factor for this club if they made the postseason was going to be Simon Gagne, he's as important as any man on this Flyers roster, I think his performance will speak volumes for the orange and black.
Prediction: Flyers in six games!
As you can clearly see, we both agree that the Flyers should take this series in six games. Now, I don't whether to take that as a jinx, or maybe you'll take this as something that can actually come through and be accurate.
I sure hope so on the second part.