Woooo the Philadelphia Flyers have made it. They have made the 2018 NHL Playoffs. Not many hockey analysts predicted that the orange and black would sniff the playoffs, but yet here they are.
One great word to describe this playoff series between the Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins is “Destiny.” These two teams were destined to play each other, the moment the New Jersey Devils and the Columbus Blue Jackets sat their players this past Saturday night in their season finales. If the Flyers follow these three keys to victory, then they could pull off an upset over the Penguins.
Stay Out Of The Box
What more can be said when the Flyers are facing the team with the best power play in the entire NHL? Stay out of the darn box or else the orange and black are doomed. The Penguins have a lethal power play with a 26.2% power play percentage. As a matter of fact the Penguins tallied 68 power play goals on the season. That’s an average of almost one per game.
The Flyers were near the bottom while on the penalty kill. They had the 29th best Penalty kill in the league, with a penalty kill percentage of 75.8%. That’s just not good enough to knock off one of the most lethal power play units in the league. Fortunately, this Flyers team has been pretty disciplined all year, but still. The orange and black must stay out of the box, as their penalty kill is just not very good.
Brian Elliott will be tasked with shutting down the likes of Hart Trophy candidate Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, and a playoff machine in Phil Kessel. This is a tall task at hand for “The Moose,” but he has been pretty steady all season long. Yes, Elliott is just returning from core muscle surgery that sidelined him for six weeks. However, he appeared to shake off the rust in a 17 save shut-out effort against the Blue Shirts on Saturday, while clinching a playoff spot in the process. Elliott has returned to form just in time for a playoff run.
Where would the Flyers be without Elliott’s success this season. On the ten game losing streak, Elliott managed to steal the Flyers five points when the team, well wasn’t very good. Elliott stood on his head on multiple occasions, and was a candidate for Flyers MVP at the halfway mark of the season. To be more blunt, this is one main reason the Flyers signed “The Moose,” in the off-season. To handle these type of playoff moments for this young Flyers team. For the season, Elliott managed a 23-11-7 record, 2.66 GAA, and a .909 Save Percentage. These numbers are pretty solid, given the average of the young Flyers Defense is 25.3 years old, with Andrew Macdonald being the oldest at 31 years of age.
The Team Defense of the orange and black seems to play well in front of Elliott. After a gut wrenching 4-3 victory last Thursday night against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Flyers Defense was the star of the game, as they limited the Hurricanes to just 22 shots on net. Moreover, as stated above the Defense of the orange and black limited the Rangers to just 17 shots on net on Saturday. This allowed Elliott to slowly ease his way back into form, while coming back from injury. The Defense must limit the amount of shots faced towards Elliott for the Flyers to have a shot.
The Claude Giroux Factor
It’s no secret that Giroux is the engine that runs the Flyers. As Giroux goes, so does the Flyers. He of course wanted to rebound from a down year, and prove to his critics that he is still a quality player for the 2017-18 season. Well, Giroux has done just that, as he has been nothing short of fantastic. For the season, Giroux has registered 32 goals, 70 assists, and is a boom bostic plus 28. It shows he is doing things right on the ice. Giroux is a team first guy, and that was evident with moving to the wing.
This 30-year-old standout in Giroux has proved to the entire league that he’s still a force to be reckoned with. Giroux is the heart and soul of this young Flyers team, and there’s no doubt he should be an MVP candidate of the NHL. Fortunately, the proud orange clad fans of Philly know Giroux should be, and the NHL should give him the respect he rightfully deserves. Giroux had this to say about the MVP chants that were heard during the game on Saturday against the Rangers, “Yeah it was hard to miss, they were great tonight. They gave us a boost and I think overall, we played a solid game, we played the way we wanted to and it’s great to be in the playoffs.”
For the Flyers to have a shot at upsetting the Penguins. Giroux has to be the catalyst to lead the Flyers to victory. He set the tone in-game 6 on 4-22-12, as Giroux laid out Sidney Crosby and scored a goal on the same shift. If Giroux has a big series against the Penguins. Mark my words the Flyers could find themselves in the second round of the grueling NHL playoffs.
The Penguins are beatable. This team is in the orange and black can upset the Pens with these keys to victory. The proud fans of Philadelphia love the under dog label, so here it goes. While taking a page out of the legend in Eagles Center Jason Kelce’s playbook, “An underdog is a hungry dog. G is done, Couts don’t have it, Voracek has lost it, Hakstol sucks, Konecny was done before he started, Laughton who’s that, Elliott is a has been, Neuvirth sucks, Lyon can’t do it, Ghost is a Ghost, Patrick’s a rookie that’s hurt, Gudas on my grilled cheese.” The whole team “sucks,” but yet here they’re fighting for their playoff lives against the Penguins. Philly it’s our time, not theirs.
Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports