The Philadelphia Flyers have to open the postseason against the Pittsburgh Penguins on the road on April 11. This shouldn't give Flyers fans like myself many high hopes, as a lack of home ice advantage should make this difficult matchup even harder. However, the stats for this season tell another story.
Philadelphia may not be hosting Pittsburgh in Games 1 and 2, yet the Penguins have often felt like the road team against the Flyers at home. In fact, their meaningless win over the Flyers on April 7 was the Penguins' first ever victory over Philadelphia in the Consol Energy Center. Hopefully this won't open the floodgates for more home success to come in this series.
The Flyers still have to be encouraged by their road success outside of Pittsburgh this season. As it turned out, their 25 victories outside of Philadelphia tied the Boston Bruins for most road wins in the NHL. Since the Flyers will likely have home ice disadvantage in every playoff round they are in, this statistic is very comforting.
Yet in contrast, the Penguins' 29 home wins is the most for any Eastern Conference playoff team, in spite of going 1-2 over the Flyers in Pittsburgh. Something will have to give - but if it stays even for now via a split of the first two games, the Flyers will take it.
Philadelphia clinched two playoff series wins on the road in 2010, and stayed alive in the first round last year with a Game 6 road victory at Buffalo. In addition, the Penguins have lost two Game 7's in a row at home - and most everyone expects this series to go the distance as well.
These trends all seem to favor the Flyers, even if the home ice and the presence of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin do not. While the Penguins are being touted as a top Stanley Cup favorite, unlike the Flyers, Pittsburgh can hardly win the Cup if it can't defend its own turf. It hasn't done so in the last two postseasons, and has almost never done it against Philadelphia since its new stadium opened.
Opening a playoff series on the road is not supposed to be a good thing - and it really shouldn't be good against a Penguins team that has enough advantages already. But if there was ever a situation where it could work out, the Flyers may just be in it - at least on paper.
Yet a Penguins win in Game 1 would go a long way to making these trends meaningless. However, a loss or an opening split might make having a Game 5 or Game 7 in Pittsburgh a little less comforting for them.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and a Flyers fan since the age of eight.
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