Pennsylvania Primacy: This will be the fifth playoff meeting of these Keystone State rivals and the second in as many springs. The Penguins knocked off the Flyers in five games in last year's Eastern Conference Finals. Philly prevailed in 1989, 1997 and 2000.
Forward March: There might be no better match-up of opposing front-line firepower in these playoffs. The Penguins, of course, are led by the dynamic duo of C Evgeni Malkin, who won the League scoring title with 113 points, and C Sidney Crosby, who finished third with 103 points. The Flyers boast a league-high six 25-goal scorers, led by C Jeff Carter, who broke out to score 46 goals this season.
Friendlier Confines: The Penguins once went 14 straight seasons (through 1987-88) without winning a game in Philadelphia. In another stretch of eight seasons (1994-95 through 2002-03) they won only one game. But in recent seasons, they've won as often as they've lost on Broad Street and went 2-1-0 there this season.
Les Gardiens: A couple of the many Quebec-trained goaltenders who last year made their first extended playoff runs in the NHL will duel in this series. Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury from Sorel, went 14-6 with a 1.97 goals-against average in backstopping the Pens to Game 6 of the 2008 Final. Philadelphia's Martin Biron from Lac St. Charles, had never appeared in an NHL playoff game before tending 17 games last spring for the Flyers at age 30 and going 9-8 with a 2.97 goals against average.
Coaching Philosophies: The Flyers were winless longer than any team in the NHL at 0-3-3 but were rewarded with a strong season from Coach John Stevens. The Penguins replaced the man who coached them to the '08 Final, Michel Therrien, with Dan Bylsma on Feb. 15 and powered to an 18-3-4 finish and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
NHL Playoff Appearance: 23rd (third consecutive)
Stanley Cups: 2 (1991, 1992)
Last Playoff Series Win: 2008 (Conference Final vs. Philadelphia)
All-Time Playoff Series Record: 23-21
All-Time Playoff Game Record: 124-109
Nov. 16: Acquired D Philippe Boucher from Dallas for D Darryl Sydor.
Jan. 17: Acquired G Mathieu Garon from Edmonton for G Dany Sabourin, C Ryan Stone and a 4th-round pick in the 2011 Entry Draft.
Feb. 26: Acquired LW Chris Kunitz and LW Eric Tangradi from Anaheim for D Ryan Whitney.
Mar. 4: Acquired RW Bill Guerin from NY Islanders for a conditional pick in the 2009 Entry Draft.
Mar. 4: Claimed RW Craig Adams on waivers from Chicago.
The Penguins qualified for the playoffs for the third straight season. Having appeared in the 2008 Stanley Cup Final, Pittsburgh attempts to become the first repeat finalist since New Jersey won the Stanley Cup in 2000 and lost in the 2001 Final to Colorado. The Pens went 18-3-4 after Dan Bylsma replaced Michel Therrien as head coach on Feb. 15, surging from 10th place in the Eastern Conference.
C Sidney Crosby scored his 100th NHL goal, recorded his 200th assist and his 300th point all in the same game, Oct. 18 vs. Toronto. The Penguins' 21-year-old captain also recorded a point in 16 consecutive games in which he played -- nine goals, 18 assists -- from Feb. 16 through Apr. 1. With two goals at Tampa Bay on Apr. 7, Crosby eclipsed the 30-goal and 100-point marks for the third time in four NHL seasons.
C Evgeni Malkin followed his brilliant 2007-08 season with another standout showing. His 113 points and 78 assists, both career-highs, led the NHL, making him the eighth player to win the Art Ross Trophy in the last eight seasons. Lethal on the power play (14 goals), Malkin also was the League's most productive even-strength player, amassing an NHL-high 70 even-strength points. He recorded his 300th career point in his 240th NHL game on Apr. 7 vs. Tampa Bay, tied a career-high with a five-point (2-3--5) game Mar. 17 vs. Atlanta and had four other four-point games.
Trades for LW Chris Kunitz and RW Bill Guerin in the week leading up to the Mar. 4 trade deadline bolstered the Penguins' depth up front. Kunitz, acquired from Anaheim Feb. 26, scored seven goals with 11 assists in 20 games as a Penguin. Guerin, acquired from the NY Islanders Mar. 4, had 12 points in 17 games after the trade.
D Sergei Gonchar, who had missed the first four months recovering from shoulder surgery, made his 2008-09 debut Feb. 14, immediately energizing the Pittsburgh power play. Clicking at just a 16.2 percent success rate without him, the Pens' PP scored on 19.3 percent of its chances (22 for 114) upon his return. Of Gonchar's 19 points, 13 came on the power play. Jumping right back into the role of the team's No. 1 defenseman, Gonchar led the Pens in average ice time (25:11).
When G Marc-Andre Fleury's game soared, so did the Pens' position in the standings. The 24-year-old who backstopped Pittsburgh to the 2008 Final, went 9-1-2 with a 1.87 goals against average and .938 save percentage in March. He started 19 straight games from Feb. 3 through Mar. 10, going 12-4-3. With 111 career victories, Fleury trails only Tom Barrasso (226) on the franchise goaltending wins list.
Oct. 4: The Penguins opened defense of their Eastern Conference championship with a 4-3 overtime victory over the Ottawa Senators at a sold-out Globe Arena in Stockholm. Penguins forward Tyler Kennedy scored with 25 seconds remaining in the extra period to win the first regular-season game ever played in Sweden. Kennedy also had opened the scoring at 0:40 of the first period.
Nov. 11: Facing the Detroit Red Wings for the first time since the 2008 Stanley Cup Final -- and former teammate Marian Hossa for the first time in a Red Wings uniform -- the Penguins posted a wild 7-6 comeback victory at Joe Louis Arena. Jordan Staal scored a hat trick in the third period and set up the overtime winner by Ruslan Fedotenko as the Penguins overcame deficits of 3-1, 5-2 and 6-4.
Feb. 4: The Penguins trailed the Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-0, entering the third period but turned the tables on their visitors with a rally that culminated with Evgeni Malkin's game-winning goal with 15.5 seconds remaining in overtime. "You always look back at seasons, and turning points, and hopefully this is one for us," captain Sidney Crosby said.
Feb. 21: Sidney Crosby scored his second goal of the game to break a tie with 2:15 left in regulation as Pittsburgh defeated Philadelphia, 5-4, ending the Penguins' five-game winless drought on the road. It marked the second consecutive game in which the Penguins had surrendered a two-goal lead in the third period but rebounded to win.
Apr. 7: The Penguins clinched a playoff berth for the third consecutive season with a 6-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Captain Sidney Crosby scored a pair of goals 1:04 apart in the second period to join teammate Evgeni Malkin as a 100-point scorer; this is the first time two Pittsburgh players have reached the century mark in the same season since Mario Lemieux (161) and Jaromir Jagr (149) in 1995-96.
NHL Playoff Appearance: 33rd (second consecutive)
Stanley Cups: 2 (1974, 1975)
Last Playoff Series Win: 2008 (Conference Semifinal vs. Montreal)
All-Time Playoff Series Record: 38-30
All-Time Playoff Game Record: 189-174
Oct. 13: Acquired D Andrew Alberts from Boston for LW Ned Lukacevic and a conditional pick in the 2009 Entry Draft.
Nov. 7: Acquired D Matt Carle and Tampa Bay's 3rd-round pick in the 2009 Entry Draft from Tampa Bay for D Steve Eminger, RW Steve Downie and Philadelphia's 4th-round pick in 2009.
Mar. 4: Acquired LW Dan Carcillo from Phoenix for LW Scottie Upshall and Philadelphia's 2nd-round pick in the 2011 Entry Draft.
The Flyers qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second straight season and 13th time in the last 14 seasons. Their second-place finish in the Atlantic Division marked the 12th time in the last 14 seasons they finished either first or second in the division. They amassed at least 95 points for the 11th time in that stretch.
C Jeff Carter smashed his previous career-highs for goals (46), assists (38) and points (84) in a breakout fourth season in the NHL. He became the first Flyer to eclipse 80 points in a season since Mark Recchi in 1999-2000. He is only the second Flyer to score 46 goals since 1998-99. His 12 game-winning goals led the League. Carter appeared in his first NHL All-Star Game Jan. 25 at Montreal, competing in the Bridgestone Fastest Skater. His five overtime points are a single-season franchise record and his three OT goals tied the club record set by D Joni Pitkanen in 2005-06.
The Flyers' superior special teams were spearheaded by C Mike Richards, who led the NHL with seven shorthanded goals (tying a franchise record) and nine shorthanded points. His 3-on-5 goal at NY Rangers on Feb. 15, made him the first player in NHL history to score three career goals while his team was two men down. Carter scored shorthanded goals in three consecutive games (Feb. 15-21), becoming the first player since Joe Sakic (Colorado, Oct. 15-24, 1998) to do so.
G Martin Biron went 12-2-4 from Nov. 11 through Jan. 10 – including a 40-save shutout at Buffalo Nov. 21. He stopped all 34 shots for his 25th career shutout, an NHL Milestone, vs. Los Angeles on Feb. 25.
Healthy again after missing 57 games in 2007-08, LW Simon Gagne eclipsed 30 goals for the fourth time in his career. Gagne's 12 power-play goals tied him with Jeff Carter for the team lead; he added four shorthanded goals.
With a goal vs. Toronto on April 3, bruising winger Scott Hartnell reached the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career. That gave the Flyers four 30-goal scorers – tied with Detroit for most in the League. His 30 assists and 60 points also were career-highs.
Oct. 24: The only team in the NHL without a victory at 0-3-3, the Flyers followed their 23-year-old captain's lead to a 6-3 triumph at New Jersey. Mike Richards assisted on four goals to spark the Flyers to the first of four straight victories that settled the beginning of their season. Richards had been named captain during the preseason, on Sept. 27 in an emotional pre-game ceremony before the final NHL game played in the Spectrum.
Nov. 22: Jeff Carter's goal in the final minute of regulation forced overtime. Carter then helped kill a penalty in OT, stole a puck and fed to Mike Richards for the game-winning goal as the Flyers beat Phoenix in the Wachovia Center to make it six straight games with a point (5-0-1) in the midst of a standings-scaling streak that would stretch to 7-0-2.
Dec. 11: In the middle of a 15-2-4 streak that would run from Nov. 11 through Dec. 23, the Flyers made franchise history. Trailing Carolina, 5-1, entering the third period in the Wachovia Center, Philadelphia rallied to tie on a Simon Gagne goal with 1:44 left in regulation and then prevailed in a shootout. It marked the only time in Flyers history that the club had rallied from four goals down to win a home game.
Dec. 20: The Flyers dominated the Washington Capitals, 7-1, in the first meeting of the clubs since their memorable seven-game series in the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Scott Hartnell recorded his second hat trick in five games, with all three goals coming in the third period. Jeff Carter added a pair, including the club's 13th shorthanded goal of the season, and goaltender Antero Niittymaki turned aside 47 of 48 shots.
Feb. 15: The Flyers showed a national television audience watching on NBC and the Madison Square Garden crowd just how lethal their shorthanded unit could be in a 5-2 victory over the Rangers. Mike Richards set an NHL record by scoring 3-on-5 for the third time in his career to catalyze a four-goal second-period explosion.