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Philadelphia Flyers v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images

Reasons why the Flyers will beat the Pens

Penguins can’t fly; people forget that

After we looked at the reasons why the Philadelphia Flyers will lose their upcoming series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, it’s time to look at why they will pull off the upset. When looking at the underlying numbers and special teams’ play, it doesn’t look too promising for the Orange and Black. However, there are some paths to success for the good guys in the series. Whether or not they capitalize on the advantages they’re provided is another question, but they will get their chances to take down the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions.

One of the big arguments as to why the Penguins will win this series is their elite power play should run circles around the Flyers’ penalty kill. The one way the Orange and Black could win this battle is if they could avoid it altogether, which they very well could for most of the series.

Philadelphia was shorthanded just 223 times this season, as only the Carolina Hurricanes (191) and the Columbus Blue Jackets (214) were the only teams in the league this season that were shorthanded fewer times. When they’re on top of their game, like they were when they only had to kill 12 penalties in a 10-game span back in February to early March, the Flyers are capable of staying out of the penalty box and forcing the game towards just even strength or power play time. Of their 82 games this season, the Flyers limited opponents to two power-play opportunities or less in 37 of those games. If they can limit the Penguins to two power-play chances or less in multiple games in this series, Philly can eliminate a big part of this series where they are at a severe disadvantage.

As for the Penguins, only ten teams were shorthanded more often than their 265 times this season. Unlike their power play, Pittsburgh’s penalty kill is pretty average, as they finished 17th in the league with an 80 percent kill rate. Although the Flyers only converted on two of the 16 power-play chances they had in the season series, they did have more man-advantage opportunities than the Penguins, who only had 13 in the four meetings. If the Flyers can manage to stay disciplined through the series like they have much of the season, and the Penguins continue to take penalties (and the Flyers convert on a higher percentage of the power plays provided), they can take away one of the Pens’ biggest weapons and tilt the ice in their favor in the process.

The group of Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, Nolan Patrick, Travis Sanheim, and Oskar Lindblom have never played in an NHL playoff game. These are, without a doubt, five of the best players currently on the Flyers’ roster.

Provorov can’t stop scoring goals and already looks comfortable playing top-pairing minutes at the age of 21. Konecny is already the team’s most dynamic player who has a knack for potting crucial goals. Patrick and Lindblom are part of an effective second line with Jakub Voracek that have caused problems for opponents all season long. Sanheim has managed to drastically improve Andrew MacDonald’s underlying numbers when seemingly nobody else can gain territorial advantage when paired with the veteran blue liner.

There is a difference between producing in the regular season and producing in the postseason. It’s easy to say that the young players will step up in the playoffs, but there’s plenty of proof to support that claim. Provorov scored in four of the team’s last six games with the club battling for a playoff spot. Konecny has a pair of overtime goals this season and had a goal-of-the-year candidate in one of the Flyers’ most pivotal games down the stretch (also, you tell me that guy isn’t ready to dominate a playoff game). Patrick had a pair of goals (and nearly a third one) to start the Flyers’ three-goal comeback in the third period of their game against the New York Islanders. Sanheim ripped home a shot in the Flyers’ last meeting with the Pens and had an absurd assist on Claude Giroux’s third goal of Saturday’s game against the New York Rangers.

A big factor in this series is how well the kids perform for the Flyers. If their recent play in critical games down the stretch is any indication, they’re ready to come through for their team on a bigger stage.

The Penguins come into this series looking to be the first team to threepeat since the New York Islanders won four straight to start off the 1980’s. They are the favorites by a considerable margin and a lot of people (maybe even themselves?) are looking past the Flyers. The Pens are also calm and collected...when things are going their way. When things don’t go their way, we’ve seen what happens in the past. In fact, to find evidence of the Pens’ losing their cool you don’t even need to look past March.

The Flyers, on the other hand, come in after squeaking into the postseason following a year where they missed the playoffs for a third time in five years. The issues with the team’s depth has been illustrated several times and not many people would take their top six over Pittsburgh’s top six. So what are they worried about?

Giroux, Sean Couturier, and Gostisbehere are all having career years and should be walking in to that rink tonight with the mentality that they can play their own game with nothing to lose. If they do that, they can easily get a lead early. These Pens get down 2-0 early in Game 1 of a series everybody chalked up as a cakewalk, maybe Evgeni Malkin or Kris Letang lose their cool and make this reminiscent of a 2012 game. Soon enough Pittsburgh is down in the series and are put into an unexpected Must-Win game in a series some expected them to sweep. Sure, there are some conclusions being jumped to here, but is this really that far out of the realm of possibility?

Look, it’s real easy for anybody to look at these teams and label it an easy win for the Penguins. Why even show up if you’re the Flyers, right? Everybody thinks Pittsburgh is into the next round already, so why put up a fight? Because that’s not how life works. You show up and fight, every single day. The odds are against the Flyers, but teams with worse odds have pulled it off before. We, as a city, just watched Nick Foles beat the greatest dynasty in NFL history. The Penguins are nothing. A win in Game 1 puts this whole series up for grabs. Grease those poles, the Flyers are ready to make noise in the NHL postseason.

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