Every playoff matchup will receive a once-over prior to puck drop this week, including Bourne’s prediction, explanation and final thought on each. He does not hate your team. He does not love your team. He is just talking hockey.
Previously: # 1 New York Rangers vs. #8 Ottawa Senators
Season matchup: Philadelphia had the edge, 4-2-0
Who wins the series: The Penguins
How many games: The equivalent of 1,007 after it goes to many, many overtimes
Please do explain:
These two teams are a crazy type of close, but I’m giving Pittsburgh the nod for three main reasons: 1) home ice, 2) Crosby’s back – had he been around all year, the Pens might be 1st in the East, and 3) they have the faintest of statistical advantage in nearly every category over Philly.
Pittsburgh is 1st in the NHL in goals-per-game (3.33). Philly is 2nd (3.18).
Pittsburgh is 17th in goals-against-per-game (2.66). Philly is 20th (2.74).
They’re tied for 5th in the NHL in powerplay percentage at 19.7.
Pittsburgh has a 5-on-5 goals for/against ratio of 1.17 (5th). Philly’s is 1.13 (7th).
Pitt leads the NHL is shots-per-game, with 33.9. Philly is all the way back in 4th, with 32.2. Meanwhile Pitt gives up 27.4 shots per game (4th best), while Philly gives up 28.4 (7th best).
They’re all over each other statistically, with Pitt just constantly eeking them out. The only real statistical difference is that Pittsburgh kills off 87.8% of their penalties, good for 3rd in the League, while Philly only kills off 81.8%, earning themselves the 17th spot.
What I’m excited to find out:
Which Ilya Bryzgalov shows up to the party.
We’ve seen him play like a donkey at times this year, but we’ve also seen him go through stretches of pure brilliance. It’ll be interesting to see if the Flyers, who made big the off-season moves to plug their hole in net, get what they bargained for in the big moments of round one.
Playoffs are unpredictable, but I just don’t see any way Philly wins the series without it going the distance. I could see Pitt taking it in under seven, but if Philly wins, I think it’ll be in Pittsburgh in the series’ final game.