A lot of the hype surrounding this series has boiled down to the Penguins trying to solve the suddenly hot Martin Biron. While Biron will arguably play the largest role in determining the Flyers' chances, the amount of praise that has been lumped upon him seems to be a bit overstated, or at least hypocritical. Here are Biron's stats in the regular season compared to the playoffs.
Biron, purely by the numbers, was actually better in the regular season, and has only faced an additional shot per game this postseason. This doesn't factor in the quality of the shots or key saves, most notably in Game 7 of the Caps series. Still, either give the guy credit for a good season or lay off the Conn Smythe talk for at least this series.
Also, I'm having trouble understanding how Fleury is still unproven or untested, but Biron gets off the hook. Fleury has put up a 1.76 GAA and .938 SV% while facing an average of 28 shots a game. Facing four shots less per game can have an impact on your goals allowed, but not THAT much of an impact. If anything, Fleury has appeared to finally turn the corner while Biron is more of a flash in the pan, the next Johan Hedberg. Nothing against the moose, but he only got us to the conference finals too.
So if the Flyers defense is allowing around the same amount of shots and Biron is maybe playing only slightly better than he did in the regular season, then why are the Flyers' surging? It's all in the offense. Here are basic statistics for each team.
The Flyers are averaging an extra 0.6 G/GM in the playoffs. The Penguins are hitting at 0.5 G/GM higher now then in the regular season. While they are similar bumps in scoring, the Penguins had already shown an increase in their offensive output with the arrival of Hossa and Dupuis, averaging 3.21 G/GM from the trade deadline to the end of the season, only 0.23 behind their current pace. The Flyers were relatively consistent with their scoring throughout the year, indicating they may be playing above what they are actually able to produce consistently.
Defensively, the Penguins are lowering the ice curtain with a GAA of 1.89, which is 0.6 GA/GM lower than their regular season mark. Again, though, after the trade deadline the Penguins improved to a 2.36 GAA. While there are signs that this improved defense is here to stay due to the new personnel, assuming that the Penguins can maintain this gaudy mark is probably wishful thinking.
This series boils down to two units playing better than they probably actually are, going head to head, with one likely tumbling back to Earth. I'd have to give the edge to the Penguins, simply because they had displayed signs in the regular season that their defense had improved, and the new players add credibility to that argument. The Flyers, on the other hand, have played the second worst defensive team in the playoffs and a young and shaky goaltender who couldn't catch a cold in winter.
Either way you look at it, Biron is going to have to play better than he's already played and the Flyers have to crack a surprisingly stout Penguins defense. The chances of both happening are slim. Pens in 5.
Stats: NHL.com, hockey-reference