The Pittsburgh Penguins will beat the Philadelphia Flyers in 5 games if (and this is a big, big if) they can do the following: 1.) Stay out of the penalty box 2.) Convert on the power play 3.) Get on Bryzgalov early. I realize I’ve lost my credibility in your eyes already, but hear me out on this one. I’m not saying I expect them to win in 5, of course, but I think it’s definitely something that could happen if all three of the above take place. And stranger things have happened…
Take the Flyers’ 19.7%-effective power play (and Hartnell’s 16 PP tallies) out of the equation and you’re a giant leap ahead. Ensure that your own 19.7%-effective power play converts on its handful of chances, that’s a series-changer.
Finally, remind Bryzgalov that he’s been average (at best) in the playoffs by planting a seed of doubt and reminding him he should fear 71, 87, 18, 14, 9, and 11 just as much as brown bears trolling the forest for fresh meat and drunken campers.
That being said, I don’t expect that it will play out quite as nicely as that. Realistically, I see this being a 6- or even 7-game tilt, and I side with my Penguins. I have a deep pit in my stomach when I think about this matchup because I don’t think any other team in the NHL matches up as nicely against us as they do. In fact, I think that the winner of this series is probably going to be your contender out of the East and probably the Stanley Cup champion (sit down, Vancouver).
Last year I wanted to play Tampa and we went out with a whimper. Granted, our roster was a hot mess of injuries that landed Mark Letestu on the top line, so it’s not even a really fair comparison, but I tend to think that the Penguins step up to the plate when up against the best. We’ve taken out the Flyers very, very recently in the playoffs, and I expect the tone of this series to be quite similar. It’s going to be high-quality hockey from both sides, but I have to like a team whose core won the Cup a handful of years ago. And despite some kind of meh goaltending from Fleury in the closing week and a half (he was brilliant prior to that), he steps it up when it matters. Always. He’s due for one bad game per series, but he has a history of bouncing back from those in dramatic fashion.
I hate that one of these two teams won’t see the second round. I loathe the Flyers more than pretty much any other team in the league, but it will be a damn shame to see such a strong, talented team go home so early if they (hopefully) don’t survive against the Penguins. But, um, know what? Too fucking bad.
I want to roll over the Flyers so I can point at laugh at Bryzgalov’s giant contract, giggle at Jagr choosing them over the Penguins (even if I really don’t care that much and think he did what was best for him), and chortle as I remember that we’ve ended the Flyers’ Cup dreams yet again.
I’m wearing Penguins socks, my Paul Martin shirt (he’s going to score a key goal during the Cup run, just you wait), and I have a lawn sign taped in my front window above three statues of Mary. I’m ready for the best time of year to begin.
Oh, and what about those other series? Here’s my take:
1. New York vs. 8. Ottawa
Ottawa could beat New York. They might get close. But I think Lundqvist shuts the door and the Rangers advance in 6.
2. Boston vs. 7. Washington
You know, I don’t think this will be the cake walk a lot of people think it should be for the Bruins if the Capitals just say, “Fuck it,” and fly. They should still move on in 6.
3. Florida vs. 6. New Jersey
Devils in 5. Sorry, I love you, Florida, and Fleischmann kind of makes me wet, but let’s be real.
1. Vancouver vs. 8. Los Angeles
Kings in 7. Shut up, I’m serious.
2. St. Louis vs. 7. San Jose
I actually struggle with this one. Blues in 7.
3. Phoenix vs. 6. Chicago
Mike Smith and Radim Vrbata send the Blackhawks packing and remind them why a good goalie is, you know, kind of a big deal.
4. Nashville vs. 5. Detroit
I can’t be the only one who thinks the Red Wings aren’t exactly done yet. Red Wings in 7.
No matter who you’re cheering for, Follow Adam on Twitter: @adamkno