April 09, 2018

2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs: What you need to know for Flyers' first round series vs. Penguins

Flyers NHL
040918_Flyers-Penguins_usat Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

Claude Giroux and the Philadelphia Flyers will face familiar foe Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the NHL's Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The last two Philly teams to enter their respective postseasons – the Eagles and the Villanova Wildcats – both emerged victorious, and now it will be up to the Flyers to keep that streak alive. 

The Stanley Cup playoffs kick off on Wednesday night, so the Orange and Black will get a couple-day head start on the Sixers, who will play their final regular season game that same night. The Flyers (98 points) finished third in the Metropolitan Division and will take on the reigning champion Penguins (100 points), who finished one spot ahead of Philly. 

Unsurprisingly, the Flyers find themselves as underdogs heading into their opening series against Pittsburgh.

And, just like the Eagles did during their epic postseason run, the Flyers seem to be embracing that underdog role as they look to silence not just those who doubt their chances against the Pens, but also those who counted them out back in December during a 10-game winless streak that nearly derailed their season. 

Just take a look at the hype video they released on Monday...

If this series turns out to be anything like the last time these two teams met in the postseason (2012), you're not going to want to miss it. There were 56 goals scored in that six-game series, which the Flyers won 4-2. And while almost all of the players involved in that one have since moved on, both of these teams have quite a bit of offensive firepower. 

Five of the NHL's top 15 point scorers will share the ice in this one. Combine that with goaltenders that have ranked in the bottom half of the league in save percentage, and it should be entertaining to say the least.

Oh, and did we mention these two teams – and fanbases – hate each other? Because they do.
 

NHL EASTERN CONFERENCE | FIRST ROUND SERIES

(M3) FLYERS vs. (M2) PENGUINS

Here's a look at the schedule for the entire series, as well as some odds and predictions:

• SCHEDULE •

GAMEDATE/TIMELOCATIONTV
1Wed., April 11 
7:00 p.m.
PPG Paints Arena
Pittsburgh
NBCSN
2Fri., April 13
7:00 p.m.
PPG Paints Arena
Pittsburgh
NBCSN
3Sun., April 15
3:00 p.m.
Wells Fargo Center
Philadelphia
NBC
4Wed., April 18
7:00 p.m.
Wells Fargo Center
Philadelphia
NBCSN
*5Fri., April 20
TBD
PPG Paints Arena
Pittsburgh
TBD
*6Sun., April 22
TBD
Wells Fargo Center
Philadelphia
TBD
*7Tues., April 24
TBD
PPG Paints Arena
Pittsburgh
TBD

*If necessary

• ODDS •

The Flyers are winless against the Penguins this year, losing all four games by a combined score of 20-11. And while they've given up at least five goals in each contest, the Flyers were able to grab a pair of points from Pittsburgh this season with their two overtime losses, including in their most recent matchup in late March. 

Unfortunately, those don't matter in the playoffs. 

According to Bovada, the Flyers (+190) are the third biggest underdog of the first round, behind only the Devils (+265) and the Avalanche (+350). Both of those teams are playing their conference's respective top-overall seeds. The Penguins, meanwhile, are pretty heavy favorites at -230 (meaning you have to bet $230 dollars to win $100.)

As for the opening game of the series in Pittsburgh, Bovada has the Penguins as -190 favorites, while the Flyers are at +165.

Perhaps that's why not many people are taking the Flyers to pull off the first-round upset. 

• PREDICTIONS •

At NHL.com, just one of their 14 writers has the Flyers advancing past the Penguins. Of the eight first-round series, only the Predators-Avalanche series has a more one-sided vote, with all 14 taking Nashville. 

Adam Gretz of ProHockeyTalk has Pittsburgh winning as well:

Penguins in six games. Both teams have similar strengths, similar weaknesses, and similar question marks. But the Penguins just seem to be a deeper team that is going to be difficult for the Flyers to match up with.  [nbcsports.com]

All three at SportingNews.com are picking against the Flyers, including Brandon Schlager, who has Pittsburgh in five games:

It was win some, lose some all season long for the streaky Flyers. Lose 10 here, win six there. It all balanced out, which is why they're in the playoffs (finishing on a 7-1-3 run), but that sort of inconsistency isn't going to fly this time of year, especially against the Penguins. Philadelphia can put of goals in bunches, but it can't match Pittsburgh's scoring depth (no team can) and will need to avoid getting into a track meet. Starting goalie Brian Elliott has played once since Feb. 10. If he gets hot, the Flyers will make it a series. Otherwise, look out.

Penguins in 5 games.  [sportingnews.com]

Over at USA Today, all four of their writers are picking the Penguins, including Kevin Allen, who is the only one predicting the series will go a full seven games:

Penguins in 7. Sidney Crosby and Co. have won 32 playoff games over the past two seasons. They understand how to survive in what should be the grittiest first-round series.  [usatoday.com]

Not even the usually Flyers-friendly crew over at Broad Street Hockey is picking the Orange and Black. At least that was the case with their instant reactions to Penguins matchup. We'll have to see if they change before Wednesday night... 


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