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A look at Penguins' 1st playoff foe: The hard-to-recognize Flyers

Jonathan Bombulie
| Sunday, April 8, 2018, 5:33 p.m.
Flyers center Claude Giroux (28) fights with Islanders left wing Andrew Ladd (16) and Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech (50) after the conclusion of their NHL hockey game in New York, Tuesday, April 3, 2018. The Islanders won 5-4.
Flyers center Claude Giroux (28) fights with Islanders left wing Andrew Ladd (16) and Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech (50) after the conclusion of their NHL hockey game in New York, Tuesday, April 3, 2018. The Islanders won 5-4.

A word of warning to Penguins fans preparing for the team's first-round playoff matchup with the hated Philadelphia Flyers that starts this week: don't get caught using outdated insults.

Your father might have been justified in calling the old Broad Street Bullies knuckle-dragging Neanderthals. Your older brother might have had a point when he called more recent players miscreants who scored more goals with their shin pads than their sticks.

These days, the labels simply no longer apply.

The Flyers recorded 19 fighting majors this season, the fewest in team history. By way of contrast, when they recorded a team-record 105 fights in 1985-86, the Flyers had two players — Dave Brown (25) and Rick Tocchet (23) — with more fights than the whole team had this year.

Know who the most penalized player on the ice will be when the series opens Wednesday night?

Evgeni Malkin, with 89 minutes in the box this season.

While it's no longer fair to call the Flyers ogres, it makes perfect sense to call them zombies. Here they are, still playing months after many declared them dead.

Starting in early November, the Flyers went on a 10-game losing streak. By the time it ended, they had won eight of their first 26 games and had a 9.4 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to

Showing remarkable resiliency, the Flyers went 7-1-3 down the stretch and clinched a playoff spot with a 5-0 win over the Rangers on Saturday afternoon.

"We lost 10, but we lost five in overtime or a shootout. We were right there. We kept pressing," captain Claude Giroux said. "It's actually crazy how you lose 10 in a row like that — not blaming you guys — but you've got the media kind of in your head, and no one's pointing fingers. Everyone's focusing on their job. It shows a lot in this group."

Here are three other things to know about this year's Flyers.

Resurgent star

When the Flyers forced the Penguins into a first-round playoff meltdown in 2012, a popular hot take said Sidney Crosby was passing the world's best player torch to Giroux. That opinion proved laughable in the years that followed, with Crosby winning two Conn Smythe trophies and Giroux bottoming out with 14 goals and 58 points in a full season last year.

Like his hard-to-kill teammates, however, Giroux staged a major career resurgence this season. He had 34 goals and became the first Flyers player to hit 100 points in a season since Eric Lindros in 1995-96. He had a hat trick in the playoff clincher Saturday.

"He was dialed in," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. "I think we've seen that the entire stretch run here."

Attack of the defensemen

The most striking feature about the Flyers, from an X-and-O perspective, is how active their defensemen are. Led by youngsters Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov, their blue line likes to get involved in the offense.

"Philly plays a really aggressive style," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "They pinch the walls pretty hard. They commit their defensemen in the offensive zone. If you can defend it, you can potentially take advantage of their aggressiveness, if you defend it and play hard. Having said that, they're good at it. They're a good team."

Goaltending horrors

One of the evergreen insults Penguins fans have thrown at the Flyers involves their goaltenders not being able to comfortably stop beach balls.

The Flyers largely have solved that problem this season, but there's a catch.

Brian Elliott, signed as a free agent in July, has been solid, going 23-11-7 with a .909 save percentage. The catch is that he missed most of February and March because of abdominal surgery and has played only two games since returning. He has looked sharp, though, stopping 36 of 39 shots.

"I tried to limit my movements and stay compact, little things I was doing before the injury," Elliott said. "Just trying to keep that mindframe going. Two games, it's not a lot, but I can build off that for sure."

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

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