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NHL Playoffs 2012, Flyers vs. Penguins: Comparing Line Matchups In Philadelphia And Pittsburgh

Danny Briere celebrates his line's only shot attempt of the night.
Danny Briere celebrates his line's only shot attempt of the night.

Now that two days have passed and the emotion has simmered down just a touch, let's return briefly to analyzing the game.

We previously looked at how the Flyers and Penguins matched lines in their regular season meetings, and we saw that in Game 1, the difference in the game was that with the help of Brayden Schenn's big game, Danny Briere's line held its own against Sidney Crosby.

After the jump, we'll look at what's happened since then.

The matchups have gone much like in the regular season. Couturier has spent a lot of time facing Malkin in all three games, as both coaches seem content with this matchup -- Malkin has been on the ice for at least 58% of Couturier's 5-on-5 ice time in each game.

The matchup game has been played out mostly with Briere, Claude Giroux, Crosby, and Jordan Staal. Pittsburgh seems to want Staal on Giroux and Crosby on Briere, but the matchups flip whenever the teams play in Philadelphia. This was true in the regular season, and the table below shows that it has continued in this series.

5-on-5 ice time vs Crosby vs Staal
Briere games 1-2 40% 29%
Briere game 3 10% 78%
Giroux games 1-2 22% 48%
Giroux game 3 38% 14%

As before, we can look at the results of those matchups. The table below shows the Flyers' shot differential with a given pair of players on the ice, adjusted for how many offensive zone starts they had. All of these are absurdly small sample sizes, but to help distinguish between the infinitesimal ones and the ones that are merely ridiculously tiny, I also list how many minutes of head-to-head play the pair of players had. So for example, the first box says that Giroux and Crosby have been on the ice together for 13.1 minutes of 5-on-5 play in this series and after adjusting for zone starts, the Flyers got 52% of the shots during that time.

vs Crosby vs Malkin vs Staal vs Vitale/Park
Giroux 13.1 / 52% 11.8 / 55% 20.1 / 51% 5.6 / 73%
Briere 13.8 / 38% 4.3 / 5% 15.1 / 11% 6.9 / 47%
Read 13.0 / 27% 10.2 / 39% 6.3 / 30% 3.8 / 72%
Couturier 11.4 / 60% 30.2 / 58% 6.2 / 69% 1.6 / 96%

There's a lot of hilarity in this table, so look it over.

Some of the hilarity comes from the fact that after a nice game 1, Briere's line has been outshot 24-5 at 5-on-5 in the last two games. That includes getting outshot 10-1 in game 3 -- and the one shot attempt for the Flyers with Briere on the ice was a goal. His PDO was 2000. Sweet.

This table also makes it obvious what a weakness the Penguins' fourth line is. They've been outshot 28-13 overall this series and have been most comically beaten by Couturier's line.

But the real takeaway message from this table is that the Flyers' two-way lines have been very effective in this series, while the offense-first lines have generally been pushed backwards. They have overcome this via the magic of shooting percentages -- the Flyers have three goals on ten shot attempts with Briere on the ice -- but that won't last forever. With Couturier playing as well as he has been, the Flyers' forward depth could carry them to a deep playoff run, but only if all four lines are pulling their weight.