The Pittsburgh Penguins eliminated the Philadelphia Flyers in six games and advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This was the third consecutive year they have advanced as they continue their quest for three straight Stanley Cups. Key storylines were identified before the series. This review looks at how those battles played out over six games.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs Philadelphia Flyers First Round Series Review
A battle of high-end talent
Philadelphia was going to have to win the high-end talent battle to win this series and they couldn’t match Pittsburgh’s. Sidney Crosby was sensational this series as he had six goals and 13 points. He was the best player in the series for either side and the Flyers had no match for him. Crosby passed Mario Lemieux for the most playoff points in Penguins history and he’s also now into the top 20 all-time in terms of playoff points in NHL history.
Evgeni Malkin had a good series as well, before he got hurt in game five. It is also obvious that Phil Kessel is a bit banged up. He was strong in Game 6 though, as he assisted on the go-ahead goal by Jake Guentzel.
For Philadelphia, Claude Giroux didn’t have a good series as he only had one goal and three points overall. Jakub Voracek also was quiet as he had just three assists. Sean Couturier was the Flyers best player as he had a hat trick and two assists in their game six loss and also had the game-winning goal in game five just to get it to game six. He did all of that while playing with a torn MCL he suffered in practice before game four. He was Philadelphia’s best player in the series.
Pittsburgh’s high-end talent won the day as Philadelphia’s just couldn’t keep up.
There was some outstanding defenseman in this series and Pittsburgh’s defensive core was able to do the better job. In three of the six games, they limited the Flyers to just one goal combined. Brian Dumoulin had perhaps his best series as a Penguin as he was sound defensively and also contributed offensively which is a rarity for me. There was one instance when the Flyers were buzzing in Game 4 when the Penguins couldn’t clear the zone. He took matters into his own hands and skated the puck out of the zone himself.
For Philadelphia, Ivan Provorov was their best defenseman as he played with a sprained shoulder. He played nearly half of each game in the series. Shayne Gostisbehere had just one goal in six games despite playing with Provorov for most of the series.
Philadelphia did not get the type of offence from their blue line in this series that they did during the regular season. Pittsburgh did, with goals from Dumoulin, Justin Schultz, and Kris Letang. Letang had seven points in the series.
Philadelphia didn’t get even close to good goaltending in this series and that is arguably the biggest reason why they lost this series. Three goaltenders dressed for the Flyers and they all had a below .860 save percentage. Here were their exact numbers:
flyers goalies' sv% in the first round:
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That’s just not going to cut it in any series. They allowed five or more goals in each of the four losses. Goaltending will be another hot topic for the Flyers this summer as Carter Hart is still a few years away from coming to Philadelphia.
For Pittsburgh, Matt Murray was excellent in three of the four wins but not-so-good in game six and game two. Even in game five he was mostly very good but was part of the reason for giving up the second goal short-handed. Overall, Murray had a .911 save percentage but he’s going to have to be better if the Penguins want to keep advancing. In Game 6, he was almost pulled after he gave up the third and fourth goals. Murray was able to rebound and only allowed one more goal.
Pittsburgh was able to get average goaltending this series and Philadelphia was not. This was the key factor in this series and has been in previous series between the clubs.
Pittsburgh’s Power Play was stopped at times
The Penguins had the league’s best power play during the regular season at 26.2% and Philadelphia faced a tough task of stopping them. Overall, Pittsburgh’s power play scored five times this series but couldn’t adjust in the final couple games to the Flyers being even more aggressive. They were always looking for the next play it seemed instead of just shooting the puck. Philadelphia was also taking away a lot of the shooting lanes which is something that not many teams did well against the Penguins power play.
Pittsburgh had to rely on their 5V5 play and it ended up working.
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