PITTSBURGH — When you’re looking for your first playoff series win in six years, you might as well start off playing the best.
And that’s what the Flyers will be doing when the Stanley Cup chase gets underway Wednesday night at PPG Paints Arena.
While a number of teams – including Tampa Bay, Boston, Toronto, Washington, Nashville, Winnipeg, Minnesota and Anaheim – finished with more points than the Penguins, none of them is coming off a pair of Stanley Cup championships.
So the Flyers have their work cut out for them.
Breaking down the series, the Penguins have a more potent power play (first in the NHL and 5 for 13, 38.5 percent against the Flyers during the regular season) and more five-on-five firepower.
The goaltending – the Flyers’ Brian Elliott vs. the Penguins’ Matt Murray – should be considered about even, although Murray does have Stanley Cup rings on his fingers.
It’s on defense where the Flyers might have an edge. Philadelphia’s D-men finished with the second most goals in the NHL.
It might come down to whether the Flyers can handle the speed of Crosby and Malkin. Giroux will have his moments but *Pittsburgh in six games.*
Elsewhere in the East:
Tampa Bay vs. New Jersey: The Lightning should have Steven Stamkos back and Nikita Kucherov has made himself a 100-point scorer. *Tampa Bay in six.*
Washington vs. Columbus: Once again, the Capitals have secured another Metro title but all for naught. In Sergei Bobrovsky we trust. *Columbus in seven.*
Boston vs. Toronto: Bruins have a huge advantage in goal with Tuukka Rask over Leafs’ Frederik Andersen. Marchand, Bergeron healthy for Boston can put the brakes on Toronto’s Matthews, Marner, Nylander. *Boston in six.*
Nashville vs. Colorado: The President’s Trophy Predators have a plus-56 goal differential and went 25-9-7 on road. Peter Laviolette going back to Stanley Cup finals again. *Nashville in four.*
Winnipeg vs. Minnesota: As good as the Wild have been, the Jets have Wheeler, Laine hitting on all cylinders. With a 32-7-2 home record and home-ice advantage, this will be tough for Minnesota. *Winnipeg in five.*
Las Vegas vs. Los Angeles: Kings coach John Stevens has one of the NHL’s top D in Doughty, a Stanley Cup goalie in Quick and a proven scorer in Carter. Our big upset in West. *Los Angeles in seven.*
Anaheim vs. San Jose: The Ducks finished with a flourish, going 8-1-1. But starting goalie John Gibson is listed as day to day injury and Ryan Miller is getting up there in years. *Anaheim in five.*