After a long and gruelling 82-game schedule for the players and equally long wait for fans, the regular season is through and we’ll soon taste that sweet, springtime nectar that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
There’s plenty of drool-worthy matchups to sink your teeth into, but one in particular stands out above the rest. Despite a one sided season-series between Pennsylvania-based adversaries and contradicting paths to reach their place in the standings, the clash between the Penguins and Flyers is the succulent first-round matchup we deserve — and the one that shouldn’t be missed.
Stars, stars, and more stars. Malkin, Crosby, Kessel, Giroux, Voracek, Couturier. If you crave star power in the playoffs, which you should, than look no further than this series to satisfy your appetite. Featuring six of the more talented forwards on the planet — including five 85-plus-point guys — the series boasts two legitimate Hart Trophy candidates in Malkin and Giroux, and a combined 190 goals and whopping 542 points between each squad’s top three scorers.
Oh, and that Crosby guy is still pretty good.
Wild-card goaltending. Sure, Matt Murray may have earned two Stanley Cup rings in his first two NHL seasons (not bad), but his health has to be a massive concern. The Penguins No. 1 tender found himself on the IR several times this season for various ailments—which will be a massive factor come playoff time. Rotating backups Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith have held the fort well when called upon, but are complete wild card’s if either has to carry the load for any significant length of time. The Flyers, meanwhile, boast a couple of the most inconsistent netminders in the NHL in Brian Elliott and Petr Mrazek, who each have a very thin postseason track record. This should be fun.
Rivalry. Through a combination of geography, familiarity, and history, these two franchises absolutely despise each other as a whole, and so do their fans. Despite the numerous division realignments and shuffling throughout the last 40-ish years, the Pens-Flyers rivalry has remained one of the most fierce and longstanding in the NHL. As for their fans, well, they tend to go a little nutty when it comes to this rivalry, to say the least. The drunk, belligerent action in the stands when these two squads meet, especially in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, is the only thing more exciting than the action on the ice—and I’m here for it.
Playoff history. Over the past ten seasons, Philly and Pittsburgh have met three times in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and each series has brought the drama, excitement, and all-out craziness that represents what the first round of the NHL playoffs should be — an absolute circus. The Penguins took back-to-back meetings with the Flyers in 2008 and 2009, respectively, en route to two straight Stanley Cup Finals appearances. In the most recent matchup in 2012, the teams played an unforgettable six-game set which featured goals-galore in an eventual 4-2 series win for the Flyers.
With the uncertainty in goal on each side, a plethora of fire power and a true hatred for one another, this is one delicious showdown slated for Round 1.
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