Pens-Flyers Ready to Renew

Six Years After Philly Debacle, Pens More Mature, Focused

Josh Rowntree
April 10, 2018 - 2:35 pm

93.7 the Fan

In 2012, the Penguins and Flyers played a series that could loosely be described as ‘playoff hockey’ and could, more accurately, be described as a circus.

That Eastern Conference Quarterfinal featured 312 penalty minutes and 56 goals in the six games. In the end, the Flyers advanced and the Penguins were left with serious questions about the mental state and composure of numerous star players.

Six years later, one of the NHL’s most intense rivalries will again see the postseason, as Pittsburgh and Philadelphia meet Wednesday in the opening game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

To say that things have changed on the Western side of Pennsylvania is a gross understatement. The Penguins have become the NHL’s premier franchise, winning back-to-back Stanley Cups the previous two seasons. The Flyers have not won a playoff series since, missing the postseason three times in that stretch.

“We were young and we didn’t have that much experience and sometimes the emotion got the best of us,” said defenseman Kris Letang, who led the Penguins in the 2012 series with 21 penalty minutes, including a game misconduct in the third game.

Letang is one of three current Penguins that was with the team for that series. Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby also skated for Pittsburgh in the six games that featured numerous fights, unsportsmanlike conduct and roughing penalties.

“It was a wild series, so it’s a hard one to really gauge,” Crosby said. “I think both teams were pretty heavily involved, physically and emotionally. I think it’s a tough lesson. But you have to learn those sometimes. You have to find that balance and I think our experience since then will help us.”

Aside from the three longest tenured Penguins, it is an entirely new lineup from that series. Marc-Andre Fleury, scorched for 26 goals in those games, is now in Vegas. The general manager position has changed and, behind the bench, Mike Sullivan has replaced Dan Bylsma and brought with him his “just play” philosophy.

“In order to win in this game, you have to have a certain level of discipline and focus that’s essential to winning,” Sullivan said. “If you don’t, I think you run the risk of beating yourself.”

The Penguins have been exponentially more emotionally controlled under Sullivan. Maturity has helped. Winning has helped more. Just ask Letang.

“This time around, we know there’s a bigger prize at the end,’ he said.