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Pierre McGuire's Breakdown
Pittsburgh    Philadelphia 
This group is as talented as any team in the second round. The Penguins control the puck through the neutral zone as well as anybody except perhaps the Red Wings. It all starts with Jaromir Jagr and his ability to make his teammates better, but because the Flyers will almost certainly try and make Jagr's life miserable, winger Alexei Kovalev will have to come up large.   OFFENSE

The Edge:

Mark Recchi and the boys are coming off a convincing first-round win over Buffalo. The Flyers really controlled the play along the boards, and had a fantastic cycle-game going. The Flyers -- who create so many rebound chances because they shoot the puck so hard -- can cause problems if they are able to pounce on those rebounds. Philadelphia also has the speed and the size to attack to loose pucks.  

This may be the most underrated defensive corps remaining in the playoffs. The key matchup will be Darius Kasparaitis vs. Recchi. This personal war could tilt the series. Trade-deadline additions Bob Boughner and Janne Laukkanen have been surprisingly effective, and Hans Johnsson and Peter Popovic have been outstanding. Popovic, in particular, has been a shot-blocking demon, and at 6-foot-6, he can hold his own against the massive Philadelphia forwards.  DEFENSE

The Edge:

It's easy to say that Eric Desjardins makes their defense tick, but in round one Chris Therien and Dan McGillis really stepped up. Therien will probably need to be as good, if not better, this series. He's the left defenseman who will spend most of his time against Jagr. McGillis, who whacked Jagr with a tough hit from behind on March 26, will be a marked man. Young guns Andy Delmore and Mark Eaton can't be in such a rush to join the offense this series.  

Ron Tugnutt was good enough against Washington, but the Flyers possess more grit and more size. Tugnutt needs to limit his rebounds and control the ones he gives up. Puckhandling is not one of his strong suits, so it will be interesting to see how many times his defensemen are forced to absorb big hits on the forecheck because he won't be able to help them out. Both these guys have so much to prove there really isn't a favorite in goal.  IN GOAL

The Edge:

Ask any Flyers and he'll admit his team is more confident with in its goaltending now than it was before the playoffs began. Boucher will face more quality shots in this round, however. Stopping Jagr is always a concern, but Boucher must remember that the Penguins score into the top of the net as well as any team in the league. The rookie had better stay on his feet and rely on an active glove hand. 

Pittsburgh can be lethal. Center Martin Straka may find more offensive opportunities since there's more room for a smaller player like him to work. Jagr has now shown that his improved shot and release make him a weapon from anywhere -- it's one of the reasons why it is so tough to defend against Pittsburgh's power play. Don't be surprised if Philadelphia pressures the Penguins up-ice to test Laukkanen's ability to quarterback from his own end.  PP

The Edge:

Wow, did these guys ever light up Buffalo. Recchi and Desjardins are the keys from the point, but Recchi has to be careful this series. By using guys who will overplay Recchi, the Penguins could create shorthanded chances going the other way. Left wing John LeClair will be a factor if the Penguins can't clear him from the slot, or if Tugnutt can't control his rebounds. This is a real strength for the Flyers. 

The Penguins aren't considered among the better penalty-killing groups in the league, but that doesn't mean anything now. They are more involved now, and can really be effective if they are using their foot speed to cause turnovers. But the most important penalty killer is Tugnutt. If he makes the initial saves without giving up too many rebounds, he'll be fine. If there are too many loose pucks, life could be tough on the Penguins. Pittsburgh would be wise to try and stay away from the box altogether.  PK

The Edge:

Speed and tenacity up front make for solid penalty killing. Simon Gagne is a shorthanded wizard who continues to amaze, and Jody Hull does so much on the kill. The big key: Can Kent Manderville win the faceoff that starts each Penguins power play? If so, the Flyers can establish their attack mode. Philadelphia should look to close down the weak-side passing lanes because the Penguins can beat direct puck pressure with individual skills. 

Herb Brooks doesn't get nearly enough credit for keeping this team together. And assistant coach Ivan Hlinka understands his role (he's been a master motivator, especially for the Czech-born players). Assistant coaches Rick Kehoe and Ed Johnston have done a nice job coming up with tactics. It's really coaching by committee in Pittsburgh.  COACH

The Edge:

Craig Ramsay is proving that he can be a coach in the NHL. Credit him for convincing the Flyers to buy into his quick-shifts approach to the game. Having fresh legs on the ice at all times really wore the Sabres out. Ramsay has also been able to persuade his men to smother opponents in the neutral zone. Philadelphia's success on the power play can be traced to Wayne Cashman. 

Skill is the Penguins' intangible, and top-to-bottom they have a whole lot of it. Pittsburgh's late-season charge was due in large part to players like Matthew Barnaby, Ian Moran and Tyler Wright chipping in offensively and physically. Those guys need do more of the same this series while avoiding bad penalties.  INTANGIBLES

The Edge:

Compared with recent Flyers playoff teams, this group -- which includes speed players such as Gagne, Recchi and Daymond Langkow -- has way more speed and skill. The Flyers also know plenty about gritty playoff hockey, and Craig Berube, Keith Jones and Rick Tocchet will be asked to contribute the same way they did in round one. 

Clearly Jagr is the man, but he needs help. Center Josef Beranek will have to step up against his former teams; so will Kovalev. The number of rebounds and how they are dealt with by Tugnutt and his defensemen should also play a huge role in the outcome of this series.  X-FACTOR

The Edge:

Obviously the power play will be huge, but puck possession will be just as important to the Flyers. They'll want to keep it away from Jagr and his mates. Manderville and Keith Primeau have to be solid in face-off circle, and the Flyers must spend time controlling the puck in the Pittsburgh zone. 
McGuire's Prediction: Pittsburgh in 7
Pierre McGuire is a former NHL head coach and a regular contributor to Sports Illustrated and

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