PITTSBURGH – To hear the Penguins explain it, their four-game, regular-season sweep of the Flyers means absolutely nothing as the teams prepare to face each other Wednesday night in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.
That's what they were saying, anyway, after Wednesday's morning skate at PPG Paints Arena.
"I think it just proves we can beat them, but obviously, the playoffs are a different atmosphere. It's a different game," said Pittsburgh left winger Conor Sheary, who quietly scored three of his 18 goals in the four games against the Flyers this season. "Just because we beat them in the regular season, nothing is going to be given to us. We have to come out and work hard tonight. We're going to go after Game 1 and hopefully get that."
Left winger Jake Guentzel agreed.
"Obviously it's a whole different game in the playoffs," he said. "You just take it game by game. They're a really good team."
Bryan Rust, who plays right wing on a line with Sidney Crosby and Guentzel, had similar sentiments.
"The playoffs," he said, "are a whole new animal. Anything can happen. I think we just have to take what we did in the regular season and just learn from it and hopefully use to our advantage."
Pittsburgh averaged five goals in the four wins against the Flyers, including a pair of 5-4 overtime victories in the Steel City.
"We beat them, but a few of them were tight games," Sheary said. "I think we had a couple overtimes. They're obviously a really good team, a deep team. They have a lot of really good forwards, and they can match our lines just as much as we can match theirs. Game 1 is not a feeling-out process, but kind of learning what they're going to try to do. But we're going to come out hard and try to win the game."
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan also downplayed his team's regular-season dominance over the Flyers, saying "the playoffs are a different story."
"We're respectful of this Philadelphia team; we know they're a good hockey team, and we know they earned where they're at," Sullivan said. "We're going to have to be at our best."
Sullivan said one of his concerns was handling the offensive ability of Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov, who form the Flyers' top defensive pairing.
"They're dynamic offensively, they're pretty mobile guys, and they have good instincts," he said. "They have a great ability to join the rush at the right time, and that presents that late threat. … They're certainly a pair we're going to have to be aware of on the ice, and we'll have to do a great job with our transition from offense to defense. Those first five strides, and trying to get on the right side of those guys to discourage their involvement, I think is really important for us."
Flyers captain Claude Giroux expects the first few minutes of Game 1 to be somewhat chaotic.
"The playoffs is always another level, especially early on, with guys running around to get the extra hit," he said. "It kind of settles down after that, when guys realize there's a hockey game to be won. For us, we have to focus on what we've been doing the last two, three months. We've done a lot of good things. We're building on how we want to play, and we're pretty excited about tonight."