I am not sure how this happened? The Caps did get hot at the end of the season and they do have a great player to watch. But now all the pundits are picking them by a surprising margin to beat Philly. I even read the Hockey News where they gave the edge in defensemen to the Caps because of Green. Now he has had a nice year, but so did Coburn and Jones for the Flyers. Oh by the way the Flyers have the best defenseman on either team in Timmonen.
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Listen the Caps are a nice story, but let's all be honest. They are the weakest link in the Eastern Conference. They played, by far, the EASIEST schedule in the entire league and barely got into the playoffs. Their number 3 seed is a facade! They played 32 of 82 games (that is almost 40%) against Tampa Bay, Florida, Carolina and Atlanta. Everyone in the league cleaned up on those teams this year.
So now let's look at things objectively.
The Flyers are no longer a one line team. They are not even a two line team. They are now the most balanced scoring team in the league. All three centers Briere, Carter and Richards had 28 or more goals. Oh yeah they have Knuble, Hartnell and Lupul that all cracked the 20 goal mark too. That is balance. The Caps have Ovechkin at 65 then 26 and 21. That is a one line team folks. And as much fun as AO is to watch, one line teams get beat in the playoffs regularly. Balance is the key. Advantage PHILLY
The Flyers are deeper, more experienced and faster than Washington. They boast Timmonen, Coburn, Smith, Hatcher. I will go out on a limb and say the #7 and #8 Defensemen from Philly would play in the top 2 pairs on Washington (Kuukonen and Parent). Advantage PHILLY
Both teams have good powerplay units. But again the depth at forward gives the advantage. Simon Gagne who missed almost the entire season would be 4th on the Caps in powerplay goals. The main difference here is the 2nd unit. Washington is a hardworking group, but the Flyers put Carter, Lupul, etc on the ice. Advantage: PHILLY
With this being the first trip to the big dance, this is a push. Both coaches have had success at the AHL level. Advantage: PUSH
This is the closest of all categories for the simple reason. Neither Huet or Biron has ever won a playoff series. Huet is 2-4 and Biron is 0-0. Kolzig has, but unless Huet lays an egg, we won't see him. Advantage: WASHINGTON
Everyone is talking about the great turnaround of the Caps, but the Flyers are in an impressive turnaround of their own. They were the worst team in the league last season and improved by over 40 points this year. The Caps started the first month badly and rebounded, again versus the weakest schedule in the league. Both teams are hot as the playoffs start as well. Advantage: PUSH
So now the prediction. The Flyers will win this with their better balance. They also have more key players with playoff experience. Briere, Hatcher, Smith were big players on teams that have gone deep into the playoffs. Hockey is a team game and Flyers fans know that even the great Eric Lindros could not deliver playoff games by himself. He won scoring titles, MVP, etc. But in the playoffs the better team wins. Flyers in 6
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