Penguins-Flyers is a tough series to analyze, although I tried in this morning’s Trib (click HERE) and again with this piece.
The analysis suffers paralysis because the Flyers don’t have one single edge on the Penguins. Not one.
The Penguins have better centers, wings, defense and goaltending. More depth. Superior special teams. The Penguins’ penalty-kill isn’t great: 17th in the NHL with a success rate of 80.0 percent. But the Flyers’ PK ranks 29th at 75.8 percent. (The Pens’ power play sits 1st at 26.2 percent. Great matchup for Pittsburgh. But the refs might not call any penalties. It’s that time of year.)
The Flyers get ample scoring from their defense: 50 goals to the Penguins’ 38, including 17 by Ivan Provorov and 13 by Shayne Gostisbehere. But can those two take over games while defending the Penguins’ abundant firepower?
The Penguins have an experience advantage, having won the last two Stanley Cups. That seems to indicate a coaching advantage.
The Penguins’ most profound edge is the most obvious: The Pens have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the best 1-2 punch in hockey. That 1-2 punch trickles down to Phil Kessel, Kris Letang, Patric Hornqvist, Jake Guentzel, Derick Brassard, etc.
It’s difficult to easily dismiss the Flyers, because they finished with just two points less than the Penguins. (Disclaimer: The Flyers had 14 loser points and won five less games.)
But it would take an extreme set of circumstances for Philadelphia to pull the upset. Penguins in five.