Well now....I've been thinking about this series and reading up on what all the "experts" have been saying and I've made up my mind. I'm pretty sure having the experts vote is the kiss of death anyway...so let them predict away (they are after all, the ones who said Habs in 5).
The way I see it, the Pens have really coasted through the playoffs. They haven't been challenged so far so it's hard to tell what they've got going when they're under pressure. I was disappointed with the Rangers series because I know that the Rangers are better than that but I think they just ran out of gas.
The Flyers seem to have learned their lesson from round number one. They know now that they can't let another team take the momentum and they seem intent on playing hard in both directions.
Looking at last round Fleury played really well for the Pens. He was very focused but I don't think that the Rangers put enough pressure on him. The Flyers have alot of depth in their lineup and any line can score. I am excited to see how Fleury responds to real pressure.
On the other end, Biron has been fantastic. Much better than anyone (probably even he) expected. In the last game the Flyers played against Pittsburgh, he shut them out which is an impressive feat even with Crosby out of the lineup. (Sidenote: i don't want to hear that the pens "let us win" so they wouldn't have to play us first round. It's not true and if it were it just makes them look pathetic.)
There is no doubt in my mind and Pittsburgh will come out playing hard at home. They have ALOT of talent on their team and it will be a heavy load for our defense (and forwards).
Things to watch for:
...face offs...the Flyers have struggled with this throughout the playoffs (with the exception of Jim Dowd). Pittsburgh on the other hand has beena strong faceoff team all season. I expect Briere to step up, as well as Richards and Carter. Perhaps they could learn a thing or two from old man Dowd.
...Defense in an offensive series...the Pittsburgh defense looked very good during this last series and their PK was excellent. The Flyers could be in trouble if their powerplay success is dashed again. On the other end the Flyers forwards have been doing a fantastic job to help out the defense by getting back in time and playing one on one with their man. (Shoutout to Upshall for almost always ebing the first one back in the zone...nice speed). Both teams will need to be on their A-game defensively though or this series will turn into a end to end goal ping pong game.
...The Penguins Power Play...deadly as usual, yes. Any PP w/ the likes of Malkin, Crosby and Hossa on the ice at the same time should be. The only real issue with the PP that i've seen is sloppiness around the points. Last time the Flyers played them they had at least 5 shorthanded breakaways just from poke checking and reading the plays at the point. Pittsburgh can't afford to have Richards, Carter, or Umberger (on his hot streak/and with his history against the pens) racing down to Fleury on the breakaway.
...Penalty Time...I think Ive voiced my opinion pretty clearly in the past about what I think of the Pens "penalty-drawing" tactics but let me just say that the Flyers need to try not to take as many penalties as they have recently.
Finally...I will be in Barcelona from the 9th-16th so I will be missing the first 4 games of the series!!! I'm very upset. Does anyone know a way I can watch some of the game or catch up from Europe? Thanks for your help all. Go Flyers!