Crosby Scores Hat Trick as Penguins Rout Flyers in Game 1

The NHL playoffs commence Wednesday and Staten Island's two professional players are expected to be suiting up for their respective teams when the puck drops.

The first round in the Eastern Conference this year already has two old-school rivalries with the Penguins and Flyers meeting in the playoffs for the first time since their epic 2012 showdown, and Boston facing Toronto for the first time since 2013.

These two teams have a deep history of hating each other. Pittsburgh has scored five goals in each game against Philadelphia this season.

The Flyers have several young players getting their first taste of playoff action.

The Colorado Avalanche went from the worst team in the National Hockey League by 21 points to a playoff team in one year.

If the Preds can successfully build on their regular season achievements, they will most definitely have a strong chance of claiming the title that so narrowly eluded them a year ago.

Crosby batted a shot out of mid-air and past Philadelphia goalie Brian Elliott in the second period for his first goal, tapped in one from the doorstep against Petr Mrazek 7:41 into the third and then deflected in another just over three minutes later as the Penguins dominated their cross-state rivals from the opening faceoff of Game 1. Look at the Penguins' and Flyers' rosters now and the likes of Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Voracek and Claude Giroux are far more likely to beat someone with a slick shot than their fists.

So what will it take to dethrone the almighty Pens?

These two teams are going to play a very physical series, as that is the style in the West. The Blues, by comparison, closed 10-7-2 and missed the playoffs with a season-ending loss to Colorado. With that being said, it is clear that Philadelphia will not be able to afford playing short-handed.

Asked about it, Crosby said: "I don't like them". The Penguins have the NHL's best power play at 26.2 percent, including the best on home ice at 26.8 percent, while the Flyers have the NHL's 4th best power play while on the road, operating at 23.3 percent.

The Flyers have been rotating goalies all season long, whether it's pulling one in favor of another or just due to injuries.

BC-HKN-Playoffs-West Preview, 1st Ld-Writethru, 968 Predators, Golden Knights reflect change of NHL West's guardAP Photo NY155, NY154Eds: Corrects spelling of Connor Hellebuyck and Jared Spurgeon in Wild-Jets item. Some of that can be pinned on the disastrous Antti Niemi experiment, but also on the injuries sustained by starter Matt Murray - who has yet to play an National Hockey League season that didn't end up in a Cup win.

"I know we didn't get the points that we wanted in the games against them, but I think out of the four games, in three of them we played really well and kind of let a few games get away", Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov told the Philadelphia Daily News. Neither goalie has been all that consistent this season.

Now the lab experiment continues in a playoff tournament that opens without chalk or a powerhouse in the logical extension of the league's unique philosophy of a low tide grounding all yachts. "I was awful, I made a lot of bad plays".

The teams finished with 158 combined penalty minutes that game. Future Vezina Trophy victor Pekka Rinne was elite this season, their defence was once again top in the league thanks to P.K. Subban and Roman Josi and their offence is just good enough to finish in the top half of the league. The Flyers are pretty middle-of-the-road in the big stats categories, though the power play hovered just outside the top 10.

Winnipeg is an offensive force and had a great regular season, which is why a lot of people are picking them to take this series decisively. Boston has David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, all of whom have had over 30 goals this year.

Obviously, the entire defensive core will need to play well versus this high-powered Penguins' offense.

The Avalanche did everything possible to get to this point, and they deserve to be here, but the journey won't go past the first round.

  • Zachary Reyes