April 11, 2018 by marlonpitter
Written by Marlon Pitter
It feels like just yesterday Penguins defenseman Kris Letang fought Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen — winning handily, I might add — and Sidney Crosby dropped the gloves against Claude Giroux, once dubbed the “best player in the world” for all of two weeks.
While the Penguins lost that game and playoff series to the Flyers in 2012, the Battle of Pennsylvania is soon to heat up like never before.
As the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin Wednesday, one of the fiercest rivalries in the National Hockey League will take shape between the Pittsburgh Penguins (47-29-6, 100 pts, M2) and the Philadelphia Flyers (42-26-14, 98 pts, M3).
While the Penguins swept the season series with the Flyers this year, all attention, it seems, is drawn back to the last time these clubs met in the playoffs: the 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
In one of the more bizarre series in recent playoff history, the teams combined for 56 goals in the six-game bout. More striking, however, were the fisticuffs and jarring between these long-standing, bitter rivals.
The 2012 series did not lack star power, as it featured the likes of Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Marc-Andre Fleury, James Neal, Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, James van Riemsdyk and Sean Couturier. But the penalties and suspensions were as abundant as the talent among the teams. Even star players dropped the gloves, if that tells you anything about the hatred between these squads.
Six years later, a total of eight players remain are still with their respective teams, and the ones still around are, well, six years older. Returning for the Penguins are Crosby, Malkin and Letang. Meanwhile, Giroux, Simmonds, Couturier, Jakub Voracek and Matt Read are still with the Flyers.
“We’re all over 30 years old now, we’re all supposed to be mature,” Letang told Penguins team reporter Michelle Crechiolo. “Whatever it was, it was in the moment, emotional. We have a different team, different experience, different coaching staff, so I don’t think we look at it anymore.”
Malkin has had an MVP-caliber season, Crosby is still a human highlight reel, and Phil Kessel has been a dominant scorer this season. This three-headed monster is one the Flyers won’t want to see on the power play.
On the other hand, Giroux finished second in points with 102 this year, and the Flyers have another couple of top-30 point scorers in Voracek (15th, 85 points) and Couturier (27th, 76 points). With goaltending that’s been shaky from the Penguins in Matt Murray’s health and Casey DeSmith’s consistency as a backup, this series can surely go either way.
The mindset now is for these teams to play between the whistles and not after them. No more do the Max Talbots, Aaron Ashams and Kimmo Timonens of the world run this series. It’ll truly depend on skill, strategy and who the better team is to decide this series, not who lands the most punches.
As the resident Penguins fan here at the Nosebleeds, while you’re catching up on 2013 Bruins-Leafs rerun, don’t forget to check out the other rivalry series in the East. You won’t be disappointed.
Pens in 6. #3elieve.