Our writers pick the Flyers-Penguins series.
For the Flyers, this isn't an ideal matchup, because they will have a difficult time with Pittsburgh's speed and transition game.
That's why few people give the Flyers much of a chance in their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against their hated rivals. They point out that the Penguins swept the four games in the regular season and scored five goals in each contest.
That said, the Flyers had the lead in three of the games and lost two of them in overtime. The series was closer than it looks, and the teams were separated by just two points in the regular season.
Put another way: If one of the Flyers' regulation losses against Pittsburgh had been a win, they would have finished above the Penguins in the Metropolitan Division standings.
So I think that the Flyers have a chance – especially since they have been a much better five-on-five team than Pittsburgh this season — and that it will be a long, entertaining series.
The difference could come down to special teams. The Penguins' power play is the best in the NHL and the Flyers' penalty kill is one of the worst. Pittsburgh also has the advantage in goaltending because the Flyers' Brian Elliott is somewhat of a question mark, having played just two games since missing almost two months following core-muscle surgery.
With a few bounces, the Flyers — who have an intriguing blend of blossoming young players and outstanding veterans — just might upset the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, but my pick is the Penguins in a hard-fought series that will go the distance.
Sam Carchidi's pick: Penguins in 7.
The standings say these teams are separated by two points and five victories, but we all know better than that. For the Flyers, a trip to the postseason was a big goal, magnifying the importance of every game they played from early December on, if not Opening Night.
The Penguins? They have won the last two Stanley Cups. Not all of them, mind you, but salary-cap constraints forced them to part with key role players such as Nick Bonino. But when the trade deadline came, they added Derick Brassard to an already deep forward group, and it is this group that will dictate the outcome of this series, as it did in Pittsburgh's four victories over the regular season.
There's just too much firepower there, starting with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
The wild card here is Brian Elliott. A seven-week absence and the likely lingering effects of core muscle surgery could negate this, but if he's not fighting the puck after only two games of seasoning, his savvy could save the Flyers from some of those fire drills in their own zone that marked the four games between the clubs this season, when the Pens totaled 20 goals.
It's a lot to hope for. But go ahead. Me? I see this one going five tough games, with the Flyers avoiding a sweep with a spirited effort in Game 4.
Sam Donnellon's pick: Penguins in 5.