Flyers

Flyers

Nobody said it would be easy, right?

From start to finish, the regular season sure wasn't for the Flyers.

It took 82 games to seal their playoff fate. The reward? A first-round date with the Penguins, who are looking to win a third consecutive Stanley Cup, a feat no NHL team has accomplished since the Islanders won four straight from 1980-83.

Not only do the Flyers hold the task of ruining history, but they'll also have to beat Pittsburgh four times after failing to do so once during the regular season, going 0-2-2 against the Penguins.

So can they reverse some forceful trends? Don't count them out, but here are five musts for the Flyers to win their first postseason series since 2011-12.

1. Avoid that box
Give Pittsburgh an extra man and it'll eat you alive.

The Penguins finished with the NHL's second-best power-play percentage (26.2) since 1990-91, behind only the 2012-13 Capitals (26.8).

They possess three of the league's top-four man-advantage producers in Phil Kessel, who leads all of hockey with 42 power-play points, while Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are tied for third with 38.

Meanwhile, the Flyers have the 29th-ranked penalty kill (75.8 percent) and allowed Pittsburgh to score 20 goals, the most they surrendered to any team this season, as the Penguins went 5 for 13 (38.5 percent) on the man advantage.

Players always talk about the intensity that goes with the first five or 10 minutes of a playoff game. The Flyers would be wise to stay composed and disciplined during that juncture, not to mention the course of each game.

 

2. Crosby, Malkin, oh my
Keep an eye on how the Flyers try to combat Crosby's top line and Malkin's second unit.

It would seem most sensible to size up Sean Couturier's group with Crosby's bunch, putting Oskar Lindblom, Nolan Patrick and Jakub Voracek against Malkin and company, creating a fascinating matchup. That's two rookies with 96 combined games of NHL experience facing an accomplished Malkin, the owner of 784 games and three Stanley Cup titles.

If you're the Flyers, one thing you don't want to do is overuse your fourth line. It's time to ride your best players, especially against Pittsburgh.

3. Total (playoff) G
The last time Claude Giroux was in the playoffs, he had just one point (an assist) over six games during the Flyers' first-round exit to the Capitals in 2016.

It was the lowest point total ever in his 11 career postseason series. Less than a month later, Giroux underwent right hip and bilateral lower abdominal surgeries.

Safe to say he's a different player right now (see story).

Can Giroux take his special season into the postseason? The captain is a game-changing facilitator, but the Flyers go to another level when he puts the puck in the net. Giroux did not score a goal in the four regular-season losses to the Penguins, but the Flyers went 21-5-4 this season when he lit the lamp.

4. 'Moose' sighting
The Flyers can't rely on outscoring the Penguins.

They couldn't win those types of games against Pittsburgh during the regular season.

So they need a steady and confident Brian Elliott to give them a chance (see story).

Elliott will head into the playoffs with just two games under his belt since Feb. 11. Goaltending could make or break the Flyers' chances.

5. Let the kids play
The Flyers' youth will see playoff hockey for the first time.

The Game 1 lineup will feature three rookies and two second-year players, all 22 years old or younger.

And that's a great thing (see story).

But jitters and inexperience can sometimes result in trying to do too much, which can lead to penalties or mistakes — a no-no against the Penguins.

The Flyers' kids, though, certainly don't lack pedigree or gumption.