Philadelphia vs. Pittsburgh.
The battle of Pennsylvania takes centre stage starting Friday night, with the Flyers and Pens meeting in the friendly confines of the Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh. Due to the fact the Pens were accused of tanking their last regular season game to avoid playing Philly in a first round match-up, this series has the makings of quite the barn burner.
With the emergence of R.J. Umberger as a scoring threat, Philly’s forwards do in fact give the Pens’ forwards a run for their money. Umberger, Danny Briere, and Jeff Carter are three solid centres, and with help from Knuble, Prospal, and Lupul, the Flyers boast quite the offensive bunch that can also play the body. Unfortunately for Philly, the Pens’ forwards that consist of Crosby, Malkin, Hossa, Sykora, Staal, and Ryan “Ho”Malone (shout out to Ezzy Ginsburg), are arguably the best top six in the NHL. Although the Flyers' depth upfront may be stronger with role players such as Upshall, Hartnell and Downie, they can’t match-up with the Pens' skilled forwards.
Both teams are not the greatest defensively, and have quite a similar makeup overall. Gonchar gets the nod over Timonen due to his powerplay quarterbacking capabilities, and both Hatcher and Hal Gill are slow, terrible, and were washed up back when I upgraded to a Pentium 66 to play NHL 96 on my computer. Orpik and Jason Smith are solid stay at home d-men, with “Gator” getting the edge for his astute defensive play and toothless grin. Coburn beats out the Pens’ Ryan Whitney, and has become a great source of secondary scoring from the back end. Whitney has not lived up to his new contract and high expectations from last year, and has been relegated to the second powerplay group in favour of Malkin manning the point.
Edge: Toss-up; Penguins slightly better offensively, Flyers better defensively
This category is also quite close between the two keepers. Fleury has not been tested too extensively thus far in the playoffs, and will likely have to steal a game for the Pens in this round. Biron on the other hand has had two tremendous series thus far, and would be considered an early Conn Smythe candidate, if not for Umberger stepping it up (and the fact that he is a terrible goalie).
I've never been to Pittsburgh before, but I once took a bus down Broad Street for 20 minutes at 11:30pm after a Phillies game and was pleasantly surprised by the friendly nature of all the homeless individuals.
Famous Movies Filmed in each City:
Although “Sudden Death” was terrific and featured a cameo by Luc Robitaille, the “Rocky” collection wins hands down, with an honourable mention to “Invincible”. Note: "Groundhog Day" starring Bill Murray doesn’t count since it took place on the outskirts of Pittsburgh.
Signature Food Item:
Obviously Philadelphia wins for the Philly Cheese Steak and because I can’t name any signature food for Pittsburgh other than Heinz ketchup.
Prediction: Pens in six with Mario ordering two Philly Cheese Steaks during the second intermission of game 3.
Thanks to everyone for the feedback on this review. Although my main goal was intended to provide a little Wednesday morning amusement, my omission of Mike Richards from the Flyers’ forward lineup was inexcusable. I guess that’s what happens when you write a preview column at 12:30 am while watching an episode of “E-True Hollywood Story” about the cast of “Growing Pains”. Gotta love Dr. Jason Seaver. That was a major oversight on my behalf, but regardless, I still believe that
I maintain my stance on Hatcher being washed up. Sure, maybe he was solid for the Motor City Mechanics of the UHL during the lockout, but at this point of his career Teri Hatcher can do a better job skating backwards.
Further and more importantly, I stand by my position of the Philly Cheese Steak being the best the food item. I don’t need to visit