Now this is a series.
The Penguins are looking to become the first team since the 1982-83 New York Islanders to win three consecutive Stanley Cups. Philadelphia, meanwhile, hasn’t won the Stanley Cup since 1974-75.
This matchup has the best chance to turn into a blood-and-thunder show, and despite the long odds, the Flyers may have something to say before this thing is over.
Pittsburgh (-240) vs. Philadelphia (+200)
Wednesday, April 11: Philadelphia @ Pittsburgh, 7 p.m. ET, NBCSN
Friday, April 13: Philadelphia @ Pittsburgh, 7 p.m. ET, NBCSN
Sunday, April 15: Pittsburgh @ Philadelphia, 3 p.m. ET, NBC
Wednesday, April 18: Pittsburgh @ Philadelphia, 7 p.m. ET, NBCSN
Friday, April 20: Philadelphia @ Pittsburgh, TBD
Sunday, April 22: Pittsburgh @ Philadelphia, TBD
Tuesday, April 24: Philadelphia @ Pittsburgh, TBD
Injuries: Pittsburgh’s Derick Brassard is the only real key injury concern for either team heading into Game 1, but it looks like he will be good to go.
The Numbers Do The Talkin’: Pittsburgh’s star-studded offense lived up to its billing again this season producing 2.55 expected goals for (xGF) per 60 minutes (5v5, adjusted for score + venue) — fourth-highest in the NHL. They also boast a 52.3 Corsi For % (a barometer for possession that measures the amount of shot attempts for vs. shot attempts allowed, also known as CF%) and have been trending up over the last two months. Offensively, things look very good under the hood for the Pens, especially when you consider their poor shooting luck this season. That poor puck luck has started to turn, and that is very bad news for teams that aren’t Pittsburgh.
Furthermore, Pittsburgh is very good on special teams, while the Flyers are decidedly not. The Penguins have the top power play in the NHL while the Flyers’ penalty kill ranks 29th this season. The gap might not be that wide, as Philadelphia’s underlying numbers on the PK aren’t horrible, but it’s still a considerable advantage for the Pens.
On defense the edge sits with Philadelphia. Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov are one of the league’s best partnerships in the back thanks to their ability to control play. Behind them, Radko Gudas and Brandon Manning are a decent enough second pair to make the argument that this defensive unit is better than Pittsburgh’s. — Michael Leboff
Goaltending: Neither Matt Murray nor Brian Elliott has covered himself in glory this season, so it’s fair to expect a lot of see-saw battles during this series. Elliott particularly struggled on the penalty kill, while Murray’s season was wonky due to injuries and a dip in form. If either of them morphs into a gamebreaker, it could be the difference. But it’s hard to give an edge to either team with the seasons these two netminders had. — Michael Leboff