The Penguins and Flyers are old adversaries.
Over the last couple of years, the battle had seemed to simmer down.
This season, the rivalry has been renewed.
When the Flyers took two players into their fold that have special places in the history of the Penguins’ Stanley Cup winning teams: Jaromir Jagr and Max Talbot – you could almost feel the hand of fate as it twisted the course of these teams…making a collision in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs seem like a foregone conclusion.
As the season wound down, it became apparent that the collision was going to take place a lot sooner than many on both sides of the rivalry would hope or want.
As we head into Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals we are reminded of the many years of failure in the rivalry that finally gave way to success in the late 2000’s. A success that saw the Penguins make their way to consecutive cup finals (both included series wins against the Flyers) and culminated in securing the team’s 3rd Stanley Cup in 2009.
Those last two series victories against the Flyers would serve the Penguins well to remember today. There’s an important lesson that was learned then - a lesson that took almost four decades to learn with respect to the Flyers - it goes something like this:
Lines will be drawn in a playoff series…make sure you cross the right one.
Despite a change in the cast of characters in Philly, one thing seems to remain consistent when it comes to playing the Penguins…at some point, the Flyers will resort to trying to ‘bully’ the Penguins.
Earlier this year, the Penguins failed to see the ‘DO NOT CROSS’ sign blinking in front of them. When Scott Hartnell and his numerous post whistle antics managed to derail a Penguins train that was cruising through Philly a few weeks back, it resulted in the Penguins taking numerous stupid penalties as they lost control of the game and eventually the scoreboard in overtime.
The moral of this story…when you cross the ‘bully’ line…you lose focus…and the game
Back in the 2008 and 2009 playoffs, the Flyers tried similar tactics but with much less success.
In those series, the Penguins understood what the Flyers were doing and eventually understood the importance of the ‘bully’ line. You need to walk right up to it…but not cross it
. As much as you might want to give Hartnell a haircut, or rearrange his front teeth, you have to leave that for another day.
Instead, you need to take one step to the right and cross over the ‘commitment’ line that has been drawn.
The ‘commitment’ line is present in every NHL playoff series.
As the shifts, periods and games wear on, the commitment line is redrawn, each time escalating above its prior spot with each team taking turns in crossing that line and redrawing it for their opponent.
The winner of the series is the team that crosses that line for the last time -- and when they redrawn it their opponent just isn’t capable of crossing it again.
If the Penguins can understand this one thing, something they learned the last two times these teams met in the playoffs, then they will have a good chance of advancing against the Flyers.
The Flyers will do their best to confuse the Penguins about which line is which – but if the Pens maintain their focus…cross the right line and redraw it…this series is theirs to take
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