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Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia Series Preview

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins


THE FUNDAMENTALS
Pittsburgh Penguins (45-28-9-99) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (44-27-11-99)

Game 1: Penguins 4, Flyers 1
Game 2:
Penguins 3, Flyers 2 OT
Game 3:
Flyers 6, Penguins 3
Game 4:
Penguins 3, Flyers 1
Game 5:
Flyers 3, Penguins 0
Game 6:
Penguins 5, Flyers 3

Radio:
WXDX Radio, FM 105.9 (All games)
TV:
FSN Pittsburgh will air Games 1, 2, 4, 5 and 7. The games will be broadcast in HD, available on Armstrong 179, Atlantic Broadband 782, Citizen 737, Comcast 226/774, DISH 428 and DirecTV 659.
NBC will air Games 3 and 6.

Regular-Season Series:
Pittsburgh 4-2-0; Philadelphia 2-2-2
In Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh 2-1-0; Philadelphia 1-0-2
In Philadelphia: Pittsburgh 2-1-0; Philadelphia 1-2-0
Top Series Scorers: Pittsburgh, Sidney Crosby (4+5=9); Philadelphia, Jeff Carter (3+5=8)

Game-by-Game Results:

Oct. 14 at Pittsburgh: Penguins 3, Flyers 2 OT
Nov. 13 at Pittsburgh: Penguins 5, Flyers 4 SO
Dec. 13 at Philadelphia: Flyers 6, Penguins 3
Jan. 13 at Philadelphia: Penguins 4, Flyers 2
Feb. 21 at Philadelphia: Penguins 5, Flyers 4
March 22 at Pittsburgh: Flyers 3, Penguins 1
 
PENGUINS PROJECTED LINES FLYERS PROJECTED LINES
Forwards
Guerin-Crosby-Kunitz
Fedotenko-Malkin-Talbot
Cooke-Staal-Kennedy
Dupuis-Adams-Satan
(Godard, Sykora)

Defense
Orpik-Gonchar
Eaton-Letang
Gill-Scuderi
(Boucher)

Netminder
Fleury
Forwards
Gagne-Richards-Knuble
Hartnell-Carter-Lupul
Briere-Giroux-Powe
Carcillo-Ross-Asham
(Cote)

Defense
Timonen-Parent
Coburn-Carle
Alberts-Jones
(Sbisa)

Netminder
Biron
 
TALE OF THE TAPE

Pittsburgh   Philadelphia
45-28-9 Record 44-27-11
99
Points 99
25-13-3
Home
24-13-4
20-15-6 Road
20-14-7
264 Goals For
264
239 Goals Against
238
17.2% (20) Power Play (rank)
22.5% (6)
82.7% (8) Penalty Kill (rank)
83.0% (6)
Malkin, 113* Scoring Leader
84, Carter
Malkin, 35 Goal Leader
46, Carter
Malkin, 78* Assist Leader
50, Richards
Fleury, 35 Wins Leader 29, Biron

* Led NHL
 
LOWDOWN ON THE FLYERS
Philadelphia has been a streaky team during its second full season under head coach John Stevens. They had a shaky start to the year, losing their first six games (0-3-3). They responded with four straight wins, followed by three losses in a row. At that point, Philadelphia caught on fire, losing only once in regulation in its next 17 games (13-1-3) and appeared to be a top Stanley Cup contender. The Flyers played near .500 hockey the rest of the way but slumped at the tail end of the season. Philadelphia looked like a lock for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference entering March. Then the team went 11-10-2 in its final 23 games, including a 4-3 loss to the New York Rangers in the regular-season finale to lose home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.
 
FORWARDS
Philadelphia is loaded with young talent up front with Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Joffrey Lupul, Daniel Briere and Scott Hartnell. Add in veterans Mike Knuble and Simon Gagne, and the Flyers had six players score 20-plus goals, and four players score 30 or more.

Jeff Carter (Getty Images)
Carter has exploded out of his shell and developed into one of the best finishers in the National Hockey League. His 46 goals this season were the second most in the entire league. He was also the Flyers leading scorer with 84 points. Scott Hartnell chipped in a career-high 60 points this season (30G-30A) while fulfilling his dual role as agitator and scoring threat. Joffrey Lupul posted 50 points (25G-25A) in his second season with the Flyers.

Philadelphia signed 24-year-old Mike Richards to a 12-year contract and anointed him the team’s captain. He’s responded to the new leadership role by enjoying his best pro season. Richards set new career highs in goals (30), assists (50), points (80), power-play points (33) and shorthanded goals (7). Simon Gagne is playing at full speed and appeared to have no lingering affects from the concussion that cost him 57 games the previous season. He finished with 34 goals and 40 assists for 74 points. Knuble has chipped in with 27 goals this year, including four against the Penguins.

Daniel Briere, who has been sidelined throughout the year with various injuries, posted 11 goals and 25 points in 29 games. He really came on strong at the end of the season, tallying six goals and 10 assists for 16 points in his final 13 games. The Flyers management thinks highly of rookie Claude Giroux. The 20-year-old former first-round pick (22nd overall) in 2006 has 27 points (9+18) in 42 games this season. Veteran Arron Asham picked up 20 points on the campaign.
 
DEFENSEMEN
The Flyers early season struggles were due to the team’s inability to keep the puck out of their own net. In October and November, Philadelphia was surrendering around 3.36. The team addressed the issue with a few in-season trades. The moves paid off as the team’s goals-against average dropped to 2.90.

Kimmo Timonen is the veteran leader of the Flyers blue line. The 34-year-old posted one of his best seasons by leading the Philadelphia defensive corps with 43 points (3+40). His defensive partner, promising 21-year-old Ryan Parent, suffered a lower-body injury April 11 and his return is unknown.

Braydon Coburn is the 24-year-old cornerstone of the defensive unit. Coburn played remarkable in Philadelphia’s Eastern Conference Finals run, proving that he can be a shutdown-type of defenseman. Matt Carle is a young, offensively blessed defenseman. As a rookie, he posted 42 points (11G-31A) with San Jose.

Andrew Alberts is a big body (6-foot-5, 220 pounds) that adds a physical presence on the blue line. Randy Jones contributed a career-high 31 points last season for the Flyers. This year he’s been limited to only 47 games and eight points.

With Parent’s uncertain return, Philadelphia recalled 19-year-old Luca Sbisa. Sbisa was the Flyers first-round pick (19th overall) last June and appeared in 39 games for Philadelphia this season.
 
GOALTENDING
Martin Biron (Getty)
Martin Biron will hold the key to Philadelphia’s playoff success. Last year, he had his best season in six years, winning 30 games with a 2.59 goals-against average and .918 save percentage. He carried that great play into the postseason, the first playoff experience of his career, and helped the Flyers advance to the Eastern Conference Finals following upsets of higher seeded Washington and Montreal. Biron boasted a 29-19-5 record this season with a 2.76 goals-against average and .915 save percentage. With all the talented scores on Philadelphia, Biron doesn’t have to win the series by himself. But he certainly doesn’t want to be the reason the Flyers lose.

Antero Niittymaki is solid, if not spectacular, quality backup goaltender. Niittymaki performed admirably in his sparse starts with a 15-8-6 mark, 2.76 GAA and a .912 save percentage.
 
POINT OF INTEREST
 
The Philadelphia Flyers have the best shorthanded unit in the National Hockey League. They killed 83 percent of opponent's power plays, ranking sixth in the league, and also netted an NHL-best 16 shorthanded goals.

Mike Richards scored a league-leading seven shorthanded goals (tying a franchise record) and nine shorthanded points. He became the first player in NHL history to score three career goals while his team was two men down. Jeff 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. Simon Gagne tallied two shorthanded goals against Pittsburgh (Nov. 13).

Author: Sam Kasan


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