Inside the Flyers: Flyers-Penguins: Get ready for the rematch

Posted: April 06, 2012

The last time we saw the Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins in the same arena, the coaches were climbing atop the benches screaming insults at one another, the players were playing tackle football on the ice, and winger Wayne Simmonds - a guy whose right eye was almost closed because a puck had hit him in the previous game - was throwing punches at Pittsburgh's enforcer.

Turns out that was just an appetizer.

Flyers vs. Penguins. Opening round. NBC is salivating.

"The place," center Claude Giroux said, "is going to be bumping."

The Penguins clinched the Eastern Conference's fourth seed with a 5-2 win over the New York Rangers on Thursday night, while the Flyers secured the fifth seed with a 2-1 comeback victory that eliminated the Buffalo Sabres.

That sets up the Pennsylvania Civil War.

"It's going to be easy to get ready for those games," Giroux said in an understatement after notching his 93d point of the season. "We've been pretty successful in their building, and I think it's important for us to be confident about that."

The Penguins will get the home-ice advantage, but, considering that the Flyers are 5-0 at the Consol Energy Center since it opened two years ago, that doesn't seem like such a big obstacle.

"We've got road-ice advantage," said smiling winger Jaromir Jagr, the former Penguin, before he literally knocked on wood in the Flyers dressing room. "You never know. The home-ice advantage is for Game 7, but maybe there's not going to be a Game 7."

Never mind that the Flyers are 4-1 against the Penguins this season. The Penguins are on a certified roll, and with Sidney Crosby healthy, it's not a stretch to call them the Stanley Cup favorites.

"It's a tough first round - no question about it. Many experts are saying the Pittsburgh Penguins are the best team in the league, and we have to face them in the first round," said Jagr, who fired five shots and was plus-1 in the win over Buffalo. "I think it's going to be great for everybody. For the fans, and even for our team. It's a huge challenge for us. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. I've always said that."

Winning four of five games against the Penguins this season "gives you a little bit of confidence that you can beat them," Jagr said. "On the other side, the playoffs are a totally different game. You start from 0-0. Let's face it, if we played the first round against the New York Rangers - and we lost all (six to them in the regular season) - I'd still think we'd have a chance to win it. Sometimes you're lucky all year against one team, but the playoffs is totally different."

This will be the sixth playoff between the Pennsylvania pals. The Flyers won the first three, the Penguins the last two. In the last meeting, Pittsburgh overcame a 3-0 deficit in Game 6 to win the series. The comeback started when the Penguins' Max Talbot famously (in Pittsburgh, anyhow) gave the Shhhhhh! sign to Flyers fans as he was heading to the penalty box after getting pounded in a fight with Dan Carcillo.

Talbot, of course, now plays for the Flyers. After Thursday's win, he was instructing goalie Ilya Bryzgalov not to say anything inflammatory about the Penguins.

Bryzgalov is more subdued and a shell of his colorful self these days. On the ice, though, he took a step toward regaining the mojo he displayed while being named the NHL's player of the month in March. Bryzgalov missed three games with a chip fracture in his right foot, returned, and was rusty in Tuesday's 5-3 loss to the Rangers.

On Thursday, he looked sharp - the most important development in Flyerdom.

"He made some really big saves to keep us in it," Giroux said. "I've been talking to him for the last few weeks, and he's pumped for the playoffs."

By the way, the Flyers will play the host Penguins in a meaningless regular-season finale on Saturday. Winger Scott Hartnell said his team will find meaning in the game.

"I'm sure they want to get the confidence that they can beat us in their building," Hartnell said, "and we want to keep doubt in their minds."

It's on.


Contact Sam Carchidi at scarchidi@phillynews.com or @BroadStBull on Twitter.

 

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