With apologies to regular readers of this blog who aren't hockey fans (that would be all three of you) it's the very best time of the year. The best teams in the best sport in the world are about to contend for the single most difficult championship to win of any sport since gladiatorial combat implemented the concussion rule. All stats via ESPN.
(image from mario-lemieux.com)
Even Strength: Advantage Pens
Pens Goals per Game Avg. 3.33 (1st in league) Flyers Goals Against per Game 2.74 (20th)
Flyers GPG 3.17 (3rd) Pens GAA 2.66 (14th)
This shouldn't surprise anyone, with the possible exception of Flyers fans, a loathsome collection of syphilitic congenital idiots whose collective stupidity is equalled only by their nastiness (they once booed Santa). The Pens will deploy the greatest player in the world, this season's winner of the Art Ross Trophy and no fewer than 4 additional players with 20 or more goals this year.
(image from sidcrosby.blogspot.com)
The Flyers will counter with the formidable Claude Giroux, a Jaromir Jagr on the wrong side of his expiration date, and Scotty Hartnall, assuming Hartnall hasn't been jailed by the time the puck drops.
At even strength, we're a better offensive team than they are, and we're better defensively as well.
Special Teams: Advantage Pens
Pens Power Play 19.7% (tied with the Flyers for 5th) Flyers Penalty Kill 81.8% (17th)
Flyers Power Play 19.7% (5th) Pens Penalty Kill 87.7 (3rd)
The Pens advantage is even more pronounced on special teams. The Flyers have a very good Power Play; it's almost exactly as good as that of the Pens. Their Penalty Kill is merely mediocre, however. Ours is outstanding. In theory, this should allow us to play with a little more of an edge than Philly, but the truth is these two teams hate each others guts. Both teams will be chippy, but we have a better chance to make them pay for their transgressions than they do ours. If Brooks Orpik can keep Hartnall out of the crease, the Flyers become much less scary.
Goaltending: Advantage Pens
Fleury Save Percentage .913 (26th) Bryzgalov Save Percentage .909 (32nd)
The Pens advantage here is perhaps less clear cut than in any other category. While Fleury is capable of extended stretches of phenomenal play, he's also infamous for giving up the occasional soft, fat, inexcusable goal in the first 5 minutes of a playoff game. That won't be helpful, if he does it again this year.
(image from post-gazette.com)
The Flyers won the season series against the Pens, but as any hockey fan knows, the playoffs are a brand new season. I have a tough time imagining the Flyers doing anything other than giving us everything we can handle. But the statistics indicate the Penguins will win this series in 4 games.