The Penguins are the two-time defending Stanley Cup champs and they shouldn't be afraid of any possible first-round match up. But I'm convinced that playing the Flyers would present the easiest road. Despite what the standings say, Philadelphia simply isn't in Pittsburgh's class. The Flyers have been buoyed by the "loser point." They've fallen in OT or the shootout 11 times on the season. They've won exactly as many games as they've lost.
The Flyers, once the hottest team in the sport, have cooled down of late. They're now mired in a 5 game winless streak.
What exactly do they do well? Philly is 13th in goals per game, 14th in goals against, 17th in powerplay percentage, and 29th on the penalty kill. Those aren't the statistics of a good hockey team. Those are statistics of a hockey team that's playing over its head.
The Penguins have also won each of the three matchups with the Flyers having scored 5 goals in each contest. They've outscored Philly on the season 15 to 7.
The Devils are a year early, but they've given the Penguins some trouble. Pittsburgh owns the Capitals, but Washington still has a lot of talent. Despite recent struggles, Philadelphia's hockey team should still make the playoffs. With any luck, they'll matchup with the Penguins in the first round.
--Evgeni Malkin is just three points off of the league leader in the scoring race. If Malkin were to catch Kucherov then he would win his third Art Ross Trophy. Winning the Art Ross would give Geno a good shot of winning the Hart Trophy as the league MVP.
--Malkin was unforgivably left off of the NHL's top 100 players of all time list. Winning the Hart Trophy would be a nice "f-you" to the national and international hockey media.
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