With the NHL on the verge of a plan to resume its season, all signs indicate a clash between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Months later, it looks like we’ll get what we had anticipated all along: the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins in one of the juiciest Stanley Cup Playoff series possible. There are still many details to suss out, such as accommodations and player testing, but it appears that the NHL is well on its way to a conclusion for the 2019-20 season.
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The question remains, at least for Flyers fans: will a playoff match with the hated Penguins create the kind of buzz that it would have under normal circumstances? If these games are happening at a neutral site with no fans (which they almost certainly will), doesn’t that greatly diminish the emotional appeal and ultimate thrill of victory if the Flyers prevail? Earlier this week, I explored the idea of how these playoffs feel like a lose/lose proposition for the Flyers, but honestly I don’t know how fans (myself included) will react once we finally get back to action. Maybe we’re all so hungry for hockey that we’ll jump back in with the same intensity that we would have had in April. There’s no way to know for sure. But a series with the Penguins would be the ultimate litmus test for that.
The NHL’s plan, however, doesn’t allow for Flyers/Penguins right out of the chute. It supposedly involves the top four teams in each conference receiving a first-round bye, with the Flyers the benefactor of one. The Penguins, at the #5 slot, would have to play a preliminary series against the #12-seed Montreal Canadiens, with the winner moving on to face the Flyers. I add “supposedly” to all this because I’m not going to buy in to any specific details until they’re formally agreed upon by the league and the players. But if this is the case, the Penguins shouldn’t have too much trouble with Montreal, unless Carey Price absolutely stands on his head to lead his team to the upset.
Barring that, we’ll have another Keystone Clash in…Round 2, I guess. And even though I believe that the Flyers are the better team, this would be tough. Pens sniper Jake Guentzel, who has been out for months with a shoulder injury and would have missed the typical playoff season, would presumably be back in action to give Pittsburgh yet another weapon for the Flyers to contend with. You also have to wonder just how the Flyers will look trying to suddenly win playoff hockey games against a team who just won their way into the series. The Flyers would likely get some “tune-up” games before the ones that counted, but talk about rust. These games could actually throw the seedings out of whack, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Nothing is definite, but if I were a betting man, I’d wager that we’ll see a Flyers/Penguins postseason matchup sometime this summer. It won’t be perfect, but it’s about as much we could hope for to reignite the spark that hockey fans in Philadelphia hockey fans have been missing for months.