Remember, besides Predators/Red Wings we have a host of other fantastic playoff series starting. We'll preview each one, provide the OTF predictions, and ask for your vote as well!
Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated series in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals sees the Battle of Pennsylvania rejoined. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers have engaged in some exciting series in years past, and just this month, the two sides get down & dirty in a home-and-home series at the end of the regular season.
Follow after the jump for a quick look from both sides, and predictions from the OTF crew...
They've been scary good lately, and especially now that Sidney Crosby is back leading the way, the Penguins have to be considered one of a handful of Stanley Cup favorites this spring. They've got skill, speed, and enough size & toughness to survive a long grind. While Crosby was out for most of the season, this guy stepped up and likely earned himself the Hart Trophy as league MVP:
#71 / Center / Pittsburgh Penguins
Jul 31, 1986
|2011 - Evgeni Malkin||75||50||59||109||+18||70||12||0||9||339||14.7|
Their history against Philadelphia runs long, but over the last 20 years ago it's Pittsburgh that has earned the bragging rights:
That 2009 Stanley Cup victory is the type of thing Penguins fans love to rub in the face of Flyers supporters as evidence of western Pennsylvania superiority in sports financially governed by a salary cap. Though the Flyers have historically been more successful, and hold a dominant 141-82-30 series advantage over the Penguins, they haven't won a Stanley Cup since going back-to-back in 1974 and 1975. The Penguins did the same in 1991 and 1992, but 2009 just put it over the top, "it" being the idea that the Flyers are jinxed and the Penguins are not. At least not in the 21st century.
But beyond the results, there are overt philosophical differences. The Broadstreet Bullies versus the high-flying Penguings. Physical supremacy versus offensive skill.
That's the legend and the feeling at heart at least, even if it doesn't match up with the reality of things.
The fact that the Flyers pushed their way to another 100-point season without the benefit of Chris Pronger's presence is pretty remarkable.
One fun story to watch here will be how former Penguins legend Jaromir Jagr fares as he returns to Pittsburgh in Flyers orange:
#68 / Right Wing / Philadelphia Flyers
Feb 15, 1972
|2011 - Jaromir Jagr||73||19||35||54||+5||30||8||0||2||170||11.2|
In true rivalry fashion, Broad Street Hockey is already laying out the case that the Penguins are a bunch of cheap shot artists, citing Pittsburgh as the runaway leader in knee-on-knee hits. Will the two sides let the bad blood spill over, or will they engage in a shootout contest? These are the two highest-scoring teams in the league, so expect some major offensive fireworks.
For more on this series including game times & TV coverage, check out the SB Nation Story Stream.
As for the OTF predictions...
You really couldn't ask for much more out of a playoff series could you? It's going to be The Universe vs. the two best players in the universe. I'm sure Pierre McGuire requested to not do any of the games in this series, right? Pittsburgh in 6.
Easily the most intriguing series after Detroit/Nashville, this one could get crazy in a hurry. Ultimately, Marc-Andre Fleury, Sidney Crosby, and Evgeni Malkin are better than Claude Giroux, Jaromir Jagr, and Ilya Bryzgalov. Pittsburgh in 7.
As well as the Penguins have been playing of late, especially now that The Kid is back in the lineup, it was hard not to call this one a sweep. Still, the Broad Street Bullies will never go down without a fight (quite possibly literally) -- I just don't think Bryzgalov's performance will be huMANgous big enough to stop the potent Pens offense. Pittsburgh in 5.
Tempers will flare on both sides in this heated rivalry, but the Penguins look like the best team in the league right now. Penguins in 5.