Pens face Flyers in first round of playoffs

Pens face Flyers in first round of playoffs

Natalie Zgurich, Sports Editor

The Battle of Pennsylvania is headed to the playoffs once again in a highly anticipated first-round matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers.

In 2012, these two teams met in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. The series was filled with of lots of goals, fights, and overall excitement. The Flyers won that series in six games.

Since that series, the Flyers missed the playoffs three out of the following five seasons and have gone through a mini-rebuild. Meanwhile, the Penguins have made the playoffs each year since, currently riding back-to-back Stanley Cup championships.

As the Penguins look to add their third straight Cup, the Flyers are an interesting opponent and a threat.

The Flyers’ most potent threat comes from Claude Giroux, who had 102 points this year. The Flyers also have Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek as important offensive weapons.

Their offense, though, lacks depth. The rest of their offense is filled with older players who have not proven themselves. Their X factor will be rookie Nolan Patrick. This series will be a true test for the second overall pick from this past year’s NHL draft.

The Penguins easily have the advantage at offense, with multiple players coming off of career years. Phil Kessel put up the best season of his career with 92 points, including 34 goals. Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust also posted their best career numbers.

Outside Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kessel, the Pens have plenty of other strong forwards in their repertoire. Important depth players include Patric Hornqvist, Derick Brassard, and Riley Sheahan.

Although the Penguins have the better offense, the Flyers have a revitalized and youthful defense. Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Ivan Provorov, and Travis Sanheim are all under the age of 24. This series will be a daunting task in their young careers.

The Penguins defense has more experience, but might be surprisingly weaker than the Flyers’ D corps. The Penguins do have Kris Letang, who did not play at all in last year’s Stanley Cup championship due to a herniated disc in his neck. The Penguins also lost important defensemen from last year, including Ian Cole, Ron Hainsey, and Trevor Daley. They were replaced by Matt Hunwick and Jamie Oleksiak.

The Pens also have the upper hand in net with two-time Stanley Cup champ Matt Murray. The Flyers will either rely on Brian Elliott or Petr Mrazek. The Flyers have had goaltending problems since the beginning of the 21st century.

Another important factor in this exciting series will be the atmospheres at the arenas — the gold-out vs. the orange-out. In a rivalry like this, atmospheres play a huge role and the insane Flyers fans will be huge in the Flyers’ home games.

As the Penguins look to continue their ride on top, their most hated rival stands in their way. This series will come down to how the well the defense and goaltenders perform.

With what seems like an unstoppable offense for the Pens, Pittsburgh should take this series, but rivalries bring out the best in both teams. Even with the Pens winning this first-round matchup, this series will go the distance and take seven games.