The NHL Playoffs have arrived. The CS staff is pleased to present you with a preview , a couple of keys to the series, and Sean Keenan’s prediction of the winner and MVP of each series.
You look around the playoffs this season and discover a fantastic opening round matchup between two rival teams that don’t just play each other and let their fan-bases construct the rivalry, but two teams who have actual disdain for each other.
These teams come off great regular seasons in which they each put up 100+ points and did it in the toughest division since the lockout. 4 teams in the same division with 100+ is unheard of in hockey, but it happened twice this season. I’ll get to the other next but this is an incredible feat. Not only that, but Philly and Pitt met twice in the final 5 games splitting them, and having a huge brawl in the first which led to 180 penalty minutes and several league fines being handed out. One of my favorite scenes from this season was the two head coaches standing on the edge of the boards screaming at one another. Classic.
This matchup is one of evenly matched teams: excellent top line scoring talent (Giroux, Hartnell, Jagr) (Crosby, Malkin, Neal), good goaltending matchup (Bryzgalov) (Fleury) and pretty good coaches (Philly’s Laviolette and Pitts’ Blysma).
For me, the keys to the series are:
Discipline; if Philly can get Pitt to stoop to their level of goonery, the Pens have no shot. Look for a tightly contested first couple of games, with a ton of after whistle buffoonery.
Goaltending: Can Ilya Bryzgalov shake his playoff woes from Phoenix?
Health: Both the Pen’s Crosby, and the Flyer’s Giroux have had trouble with concussions this season. Can they make it through playoff hockey.
Prediction: Flyers in 7. I make this prediction for two reasons… 1. Damn is this going to be fun to watch, and 2. I really think the Flyers are going to get under the Pens skin.
MVP Hartnell. He gets to the dirty areas, scores and pisses off his opponents. If the Flyers win, it will be because they did all three of those.