April 1, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik (44) passes the puck to teammate Sidney Crosby (87) against the Philadelphia Flyers during the first period at the CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
These are the key matchups to watch out for during the Penguins and Flyers' first-round series.
The Penguins and Flyers are two of the most talented teams in the NHL. For the Penguins to advance, they must win the key matchup battles against a team that is nearly (or maybe equally) as talented and deep as their own. The firepower and star-power on both teams makes this the most highly anticipated matchup of the first round.
More: Pens vs. Flyers preview
The goal for the Penguins will be to contain the dynamic center and playmaker Claude Giroux. Giroux finished the season third in the NHL with 93 points. While Giroux can certainly light the lamp, he is more of a setup man than finisher. That brings us to our first key matchup:
Jordan Staal vs. Claude Giroux: As dynamic and dangerous as Giroux can be on the offensive end, Staal is just as dynamic on both ends of the ice. The lanky center will most likely face off against Giroux when Bylsma has the line chance advantage. Staal, arguably the best third-line center in the game, will be asked to shut down Giroux and linemates Scott Hartnell and Jaromir Jagr. If Staal is successful in keeping the Giroux line in check, expect the Penguins to advance. If not, this series may turn into a nightmare for Pens fans.
Penguins Power Play vs. Flyers Penalty Kill: Last year, the Penguins' power play was abominable against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the playoffs. This year, the power play must be effective to beat the Flyers. In the final two meetings this season, the Flyers penalty kill placed a lot of high pressure on the Pens unit. According to some reports, the Pens adjusted at practice by moving Sidney Crosby to the wall and putting Evgeni Malkin on the left point. With Crosby on the wall, there is always the threat of him taking the puck to the line or to the net, forcing the Flyers' penalty killers down low, leaving them vulnerable. We'll see how it works and if the Pens can crack the Flyers. Expect to see lots of Max Talbot, too.
Flyers Goaltenders vs. the Puck: Come spring, the Broad Street Bullies always ratchet up the intensity. Too bad the same can't be said for their net-minders. The Flyers always have talent on offense and defense, yet it seems year after year the goalie lets them down. The Flyers spent an enormous amount of money on Ilya Bryzgalov ($51 million to be exact) this offseason. However, the Master of the Universe and all things strange still needs to prove he can win in the postseason. Also, the shine has come off of Sergei Bobrovsky's dominance at the Consol Energy Center after finally losing last week. The Flyers goalies have one simple task: stopping the puck. However, as we have seen, that easier said than done for those wearing orange.
So there you have it, some key match-ups to watch for while watching this series. It should be a fun one. If you have a Twitter account, follow me @The_Incline, and I'll pipe up during the games.
For more on the Penguins, check out PensBurgh.