PSN Staff Predictions: Flyers-Penguins, Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

The Philadelphia Flyers are looking to advance to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2011-2012. Standing in their way is long-time division and cross-state rival, the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Ironically, the last playoff series the Flyers won was against the Penguins in the first round of the 2012 NHL playoffs. Philly Sports Network has given the three keys to success for the Flyers and now its time for predictions.

Jamey Baskow (@JameyBaskow)

It’s never easy to go into the first round of the playoffs to face a back-to-back cup winning juggernaut team like the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Flyers have to bring their “A” game every game, or they will face an early playoff exit.

The Flyers can beat the Penguins if Brian Elliott can come up huge in the series to steal a game or two for the orange and black. Fortunately, the Flyers team defense seems to be clicking on all cylinders here as of late. Just within the past two games they have limited teams to just 39 shots on net combined. The Flyers have to limit the amount of shots Elliott faces on a nightly basis throughout the series against the lethal Pens snipers.

This young Flyers team can take advantage of a so-so penalty killing Pens team. The Pens ended the year with the 17th best penalty killing unit, with a penalty killing rate of 80.0%. However, the Flyers once lethal power play finished the year in the middle of the pack at 15th in the NHL, with a power play percentage rate of 20.7%.

Lastly, for a Flyers upset it’s as easy as pie…yummy! Stay out of the gosh darn penalty box. The Pens are lethal on the power play, finishing the year as the league’s top power play unit with a percentage rate of 26.2%. Can’t get much simpler than that.

Prediction: Flyers in 6

Derrik Bobb (@PuckBobbPSN)

This is a tough one to tackle. The Flyers and Penguins always have great games and playoff series. The Penguins obviously dominated the regular season series, going 4-0 against the Flyers, but it was a lot closer than the record shows.

The Flyers lost by one goal twice this season to the Penguins. The other two times, they lost 5-2 and 5-1. There was much frustration about those close losses, especially the last one, due to some decisions being made and the players that coach Dave Hakstol paired up against Pittsburgh’s top line. Regardless, the Flyers couldn’t muster a single win against their neighbors to the west.

Now, getting to the series. The Penguins clearly have the edge after repeating as Stanley Cup Champions the previous two years, and fielding another top notch team this year. With the addition of Brassard at the deadline, the Penguins got even deeper down the middle, making them an absolute matchup nightmare.

The Flyers don’t have the speed or the depth to match up with the Penguins. The one thing that could give the Flyers the advantage is the fact that the Penguins defense is in turmoil entering the playoffs. If the Flyers can continue their level of play from the Rangers game to close out the season, they might be able to snatch a game or two from Pittsburgh.

Overall, the Penguins are just too deep, and they’ve all been here before. They have more skill, more experience, and overall, are a better team than the Flyers. One thing is for sure, this Flyers team won’t go down without a fight. There’s no arguing, the Flyers have more heart, and that counts for something come playoff time. The Pens are just too good up front, and their power play is absolutely lethal when on the ice. Don’t hold your breath on Philadelphia bringing in another championship this year via the ice.

Prediction: Pens in 6

Austin Mitchell (@ustinmitchell)

Claude Giroux is flying high and Philadelphia will fly with him. Philly’s longest tenured athlete, 2nd in points this year in the NHL and 1st in assists, will be the deciding factor in this 1st round series. The Penguins are worthy adversaries. Pittsburgh has brought the heat this year and their best players are performing at a level that the elite should be performing. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are producing at a pace at which most 30-somethings would be jealous.

As much as it hurts to accept, the Penguins are a more complete team right now and should win the series. Whether or not they will depends on the play of the Flyers top guys and the supporting cast. If Nolan Patrick, Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov play like the future NHL award winners they are, the Flyers can win this series in 4 or 5 games without a question.

I believe the Flyers start the series slow and heat up around the second half of game 3. Nolan Patrick leads the series in goals and Claude Giroux lays out Crosby AT LEAST once in the series. Call me hopeful. Call me a homer.

Prediction: Flyers in 7

Matt Martin (@TheRealMJMartin)

This series is a matchup of the Ghost of NHL Present (Penguins) vs. the Ghost of NHL Future (Flyers). Both the Flyers and Penguins enter this series on a high note. The Pens finished the regular season getting points in seven of their last nine games. The Flyers finished off the season by getting points in six of their final seven games. With only two points separating the teams in the standings, one would expect this to be a competitive series.

The Penguins won the season series 4-0-0 from the Flyers; however the series was much closer than the record indicates. Both games played in Pittsburgh were 5-4 OT decisions won by the home team. The second game in Philadelphia was a back and forth battle until a late goal in the second period proved too much to overcome for the Flyers.

The Flyers power play, which was a strength for most of the season, let them down in the season series against a mediocre Penguins penalty kill. The Flyers were only 2 for 16 on the power play against the Pens this season. A timely power play goal or two and this series looks completely different.

There are two glaring factors in this series: the Penguins road record and Flyers captain, Claude Giroux. The Penguins had the most home wins (30) in the Eastern Conference, second only to the Winnipeg Jets (32) in the NHL. For as great as the Pens are at home, they are amazingly mediocre on the road. Their road record is comparable to the non-playoff teams in the Eastern Conference. Claude Giroux has been an absolute nemesis to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs in his career. In 12 career playoff games against the Pens, Giroux has a ridiculous 9 goals, 11 assists and 20 points.

If the Flyers can manage to protect their home ice and Claude Giroux can continue to be a thorn in the side of the Penguins then the Flyers have a legitimate chance to win this series. Also let’s not forget that while, yes, the Penguins are the two-time defending champions that also means they have played a ton of hockey the last two seasons. It’s possible that all of that hockey eventually catches up to them and makes them vulnerable. Unfortunately, I don’t think the timing is quite right for the Flyers. The Penguins will ride their depth and experience advantage to a hard-fought series win. The Flyers show strong, but it won’t be quite enough.

Prediction: Pens in 6

 

Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Just a husband and father doing what he loves – bringing the Flyers to the masses! I’m just enjoying the ride and living the dream.

Give me a follow on Twitter @TheRealMJMartin

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