Sportsman of the Year
Work in Sports
Life of Reilly
SI for Kids
SI Customer Service
SI Media Kits
Get into College
Series at a Glance
Penguins-Flyers rivalry should spark statewide debate
Posted: Thursday April 27, 2000 01:14 AM
By Jamie MacDonald, CNNSI.com
Pennsylvania's leading products may be milk, poultry, eggs, a variety of fruits, sweet corn, potatoes, mushrooms, cheese, beans, hay, maple syrup, and even Christmas trees (our thanks to www.infoplease.com); but through early May, the state's most celebrated export will be playoff hockey.
Owing to the Eastern Conference semifinals matchup between Pittsburgh's Penguins and Philadelphia's Flyers, we'll hear a lot of references to the Keystone State over the next few weeks. Steeltown vs. the City of Brotherly love, Western Pennsylvania vs. Eastern Pennsylvania, Mayor Tom Murphy vs. Mayor John Sweet, pittsburgh.com vs. philadelphia.com, that kind of thing. Hockey fans from Altoona to Allentown to Ambridge will have to pick a side.
This is the Battle of Penn's Woodland.
Truth be told, though, these Penguins-Flyers meetings recently have been less battle and more beating for the Pens.
Here are some alarming particulars: Philadelphia went 4-0-1 in five regular-season games against Pittsburgh and prior to the series, the Flyers had won 16 consecutive home games against the Penguins (13 during the regular season and three more during the 1997 playoffs).
Welcome to the Battle of Pennsylvania.
Many specific questions were asked of the Flyers before the playoffs began, but generally speaking those questions all wondered the same thing: What is going on over there? Now the announcement of Roger Neilson's renewed contribution to the team and his obvious disappointment with it ("I don't think they want a cancer patient who is a friend of Eric Lindros behind the bench right now," he told a radio station), promises to raise still more questions.
And yet with another would-be distraction, Flyers players insist they are unaffected by any news they hear these days. They seem hardened, almost. Going into their series with the Sabres, we heard the same things. Maybe it's time to start believing them.
Pipe dreams |
Between 1996 and 1999, the Flyers used four goaltenders in the playoffs (Ron Hextall, Garth Snow, Sean Burke and John Vanbiesbrouck) and none were lock-solid choices. But this year they appeared to have settled on Brian Boucher (and even that wasn't a gimme until now). Poise has been Boucher's greatest asset in these playoffs and continued focus will be necessary against the Penguins. Pittsburgh is a much sharper shooting team than Buffalo -- not to mention more opportunistic -- and the Penguins have a much better power play. Not only will Boucher be tested more often, but he'll be tested by more snipers.
You can debate the topic of his being the best player in the world, but you'd be hard pressed to argue against him as the best player in the first round. Jaromir Jagr averaged two points per game (three goals, seven assists in five games) and he seemed to make nearly all the right plays with the puck. He's contributed more than points for the Penguins, who may not see the second round without his puck-control game in such its current form.
Certainly defenseman Chris Therien (who will most often face Jagr coming down the right wing) is a man under the microscope. But Ron Tugnutt may have a greater impact on this series. After the first round, Tugnutt's .950 save percentage was tops in the playoffs and his goals against average of 1.58 ranked third behind Martin Brodeur and Chris Osgood.
| Matthew Barnaby || ||Ex-Sabre has a goal, six assists and 32 PIMs in 10 playoff games against the Flyers -- and he he can't wait for the death threats to return|
| Jan Hrdina || ||Sat out the final two games of round one with a strained back, but has cleared himself to play in Game 1
| Jan Hrdina, according to Herb Brooks || ||Pens coach is practicing as if Hrdina will not be in the lineup|
| Simon Gagne || ||Rookie posts five points in five games (including Game 1 winner) vs. Buffalo
| Ulf Samuelsson || ||Cog in the Pens' Cup runs is expected to miss the series with torn ligaments in his right knee|
| Rene Corbet || ||One game (Game 5, round one) in five weeks, but he's feeling better
| Fans in Philadelphia || ||We saw the dousing of Lindy Ruff, but we're optimistic|
Whether he plays well or poorly, Brian Boucher will abandon his effort to grow a playoff beard, he'll listen to his wife, and he'll shave the thing.
Copyright © 2001|
An AOL Time Warner Company.
All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.