Have The Philadelphia Flyers Become Stanley Cup Favorites?

By Randy Holt

Heading into their series with the Pittsburgh Penguins, many had the Philadelphia Flyers as a team that just wouldn’t be able to match up with their Atlantic Division rivals.

There’s little doubt that they’d be able to keep up for a good chunk of a seven-game series, but there was no way they’d be able to take four out of seven games from a Pittsburgh squad that looked nearly unbeatable down the stretch. Right? Wrong.

The Flyers haven’t gone as far as “shocking” the hockey world with their 3-0 series lead, not because no one expected them to win the series, but because this was a series that was going no less than six or seven games. Now the Flyers have a chance to end it with the minimum.

In the process, they’ve managed to embarrass the Penguins, not only on the scoreboard, but they’ve brought out Pittsburgh’s true colors as well, with several folks finding their way to the locker room early on Sunday, more coming from the Pens’ side of things.

Before these playoffs started, the Penguins were a very sexy Stanley Cup pick, with many viewing them as the favorite in the Eastern Conference. That has obvious changed now, but have the Flyers taken over as the clear favorite with what they’ve  managed to do in these three games?

There’s no doubt that the Flyers have as much offensive talent as anyone in the National Hockey League. Claude Giroux is one of the best players in the game, Danny Briere has elevated his game in the postseason, and Scott Hartnell has become a top line presence, with several other guys chipping in, including Jaromir Jagr and Wayne Simmonds, among plenty of others.

Their special teams have also been unbelievable. The power play is an absurd 6-for-10 in the series, while the penalty kill, led by Giroux and Maxime Talbot, have netted a trio of shorthanded goals in the series.

The defense and goaltending are concerning, though. Ilya Bryzgalov hasn’t been very good, even though he’s been nowhere near as pitiful as Marc-Andre Fleury has been between the pipes.

Though with the offense netting the goals at the rate that they are right now, there isn’t much need for strong defensive play, you do wonder what will happen if the Flyers find themselves locked in a low scoring affair, which is bound to happen at some point down the road in these Stanley Cup Playoffs.

As of right now, even with their winless record against the New York Rangers during the regular season, I’d have to put the Flyers above everyone else in the East. They’re playing incredibly well on both offense and on special teams, with the big names, the role players, and the youngsters all chipping in. They’ve melted the Cup-favorite Penguins, and will go for their first chance at sweeping them out of the postseason on Wednesday.

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