For the first time since their epic 2012 series, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers will revive the Battle of Pennsylvania to kick off Round 1 in the East. Last time these two met, they combined for 56 goals through six games, peaking with a 10-3 win for Pittsburgh in Game 4 and an 8-5 victory for Philadelphia in Game 2. Though the rosters have seen plenty of turnover in the half-decade since, both clubs enter into the reunion with similar offensive prowess.
The series features four of the top 10 scorers in the league, with Claude Giroux (102 points), Evgeni Malkin (98), Phil Kessel (92) and Sidney Crosby (89) all entering healthy and ready to contribute. Add in some notable goaltending issues on both sides—the Flyers have seen unsteady performances from all of Brian Elliott, Michal Neuvirth and Petr Mrazek and the Penguins don’t have Matt Murray rolling like he was the past two years—and there’s a fair chance some more high-scoring games are coming.
Matching Pittsburgh’s depth will be crucial if the Flyers hope to hang with Pittsburgh in this one. While Philadelphia has seen some elite performances from their top names, they’ll have to be able to keep pace with their rival’s four-line game to avoid getting buried. The Penguins are still without trade deadline acquisition Derick Brassard—who hasn’t played since Mar. 27 while dealing with a lower-body injury—which makes things a bit easier, as the absence of the third-line pivot may convince head coach Mike Sullivan to move Kessel back to the second unit with Malkin.
But if the Penguins opt to keep Crosby, Malkin, and Kessel spread among the top nine, the Flyers’ third line of Valtteri Filppula, Wayne Simmonds, and Travis Konecny will have to step their game up. The two teams’ season series suggests that might be easier said than done, however, as Pittsburgh took all four meetings with Philadelphia in 2017-18, scoring five goals in each of those games.