While it's been noted that the Penguins offense is not as dynamic as that of the Flyers, they still scored 264 goals somehow. Most of those had something to do with Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, who had 216 points between the two of them this season.
Even worse for the Flyers is that these two flat out kill Philadelphia. Crosby has 46 points in 26 games against the orange and black. Malkin has 31 in 21 games. Unreal statistics. These guys love playing the Flyers.
And that's why it's more important than ever to shut them down. If you can successfully do that, you severely limit Pittsburgh's opportunities to match the Flyers attack. But of course, that's easier said then done. For starters, Malkin and Crosby play on separate lines, meaning you can't simply put the same shutdown defensive unit out each time they are on the ice. Secondly, they are just flat out good and no matter your plan to stop them, they could very well just beat you.
For all their similar talents, they are very different players. Crosby isn't all that similar to Alex Ovechkin when it comes to style, but there is one aspect that they both share. When you play either of them physically, they simply breed off of it. They are different in that Ovechkin gives it back to you just as hard while attacking you on the scoresheet as well, while Crosby just attacks you on the scoresheet. But the point is, if you play physical against Sidney Crosby, he's going to use it as motivation.
Malkin, on the other hand, takes abuse differently. It was proven last year in the Eastern Conference Finals that he can be taken off of his game if you dominate him with the physical play.
Last season, Braydon Coburn and Kimmo Timonen went down with injuries and were ineffective in the Penguins series. Now there are no making excuses, but we all know it could've been a much different series if those two were healthy. Instead, we had to rely on Jason Smith and Derian Hatcher to play a shutdown role. With the speed of the dynamic Pittsburgh duo, that was simply a lost cause.
But Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn can be the perfect medicine for what the flightless birds bring to the table. Coburn, for one, has developed a very solid physical presence on the ice this season. He hasn't been known to it before, but (especially in the second half of this season) he has been tenacious on the checking end of things.
It's brought an entirely new element to his game that has in return brought an entirely new element to the Flyers blueline. It makes Coburn the perfect shutdown guy to go against Malkin. He's fast, a great defender, and he can put the physical pressure on Malkin necessary to shake his game.
Timonen, on the other hand, is the perfect defender to go head to head with Crosby. Kimmo is, without a doubt in my eyes, the smartest player the Flyers have. Sid the Kid may very well be the smartest player on the Pens, so putting these two head-to-head is an intriguing matchup. Timonen is quick and a brilliantly strong defender. That's what you need against Crosby. Not to mention Kimmo has been playing against the other teams best players his entire Flyers career. He's more than suited for the challenge, and this is when he's going to earn his $8 million salary.
If you remember, for the majority of last year, Timonen and Coburn were on the top pairing together. That worked out fine when you wanted to limit the scoring of the other teams' top line, but with Crosby and Malkin playing seperate from one another, you need some balance in your defense.
The fact that Timonen and Coburn no longer make up one pairing could be a winning formula in the war against Sid and Geno.