Superstar showdown: How do the Penguins' and Flyers' cores stack up?
Charles LeClaire / USA Today Sports

With a quick glance at the matchups set to make up the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, few pop off the page like the impending tilt between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers.

The Pennsylvanian rivals routinely combine for high-octane, entertaining games throughout the regular season, and the last time they met in the playoffs - Round 1 in 2012 - it was anarchy. Philly jumped out to a 3-0 series lead, winning Games 2 and 3 with eight goals apiece, only to allow 10 in Game 4 before advancing two games later.

Aside from the absurd rate in which both teams found the back of the net, three Penguins players received suspensions for extracurricular activities, then head coach Dan Bylsma was fined $10,000, and Claude Giroux was deemed ready to take over Sidney Crosby's spot as top player in the world. Ha.

Six years later, it would be foolish to expect the same sort of goonery, but don't be surprised if the Pens and Flyers engage in another constantly entertaining, offense-friendly battle.

It's no grand revelation, but the Penguins can put the puck in the net. Their arsenal of firepower has led to back-to-back Stanley Cups, and a tie for the third-most goals for this campaign (270). Evgeni Malkin led the charge with 98 points this season, besting teammates Phil Kessel (92) and Crosby (89), as they all finished in the league's top 10 in scoring. Throw a healthy Kris Letang in to the mix, and Pittsburgh is as dynamic as ever.

But, the Flyers are one of few teams that present a group of superstars potentially capable of matching the Pens' relentless output.

Philadelphia opted to try Giroux on the wing this season, and it paid immediate dividends, as the captain recorded a personal-best 102 points and should earn some consideration for the Hart. Sean Couturier (76 points), and Jakub Voracek (85) also had career years, while the top defensive pairing of Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere combined for 106 points.

Both teams have the weapons to consistently light the lamp, and considering Pittsburgh's depth and goaltending advantage, it will be paramount for Philadelphia's stars to find ways to create offense.

Outgunning Crosby & Co. is a tall task, but Philadelphia enters the postseason with one regulation loss in its last 10 games, with Giroux earning 19 points in those contests. That may instill some confidence in the Flyers' faithful, but the Penguins won all four regular-season games, pouring in five goals each time.

So all things considered, how does each group of All-Star-caliber players stack up?

Pittsburgh's biggest advantage is it can spread Crosby, Malkin, and Kessel on three different lines, and have them join forces for one hell of a power play. Philadelphia began the year with its big three together, but have since decided to spread the wealth, separating Voracek from Giroux and Couturier.

Here's a look at the difference in numbers on the top line with and without Voracek, who was third in the league with 65 assists this season.

Combo TOI CF% GF%
Giroux-Couturier-Voracek 371:37 56.71% 68.57%
Giroux-Couturier-No Voracek 714:49 54.28% 61.33%

(All stats at 5-on-5 courtesy: Natural Stat Trick)

Regardless of the right winger, Couturier and Giroux manage to control both shots and goals for at even strength very well, but up head to head with Crosby's line, posting those numbers would be nothing short of extraordinary.

Crosby, as usual, has gone through his fair share of wingers this season, but enters the playoffs on a line flanked by Bryan Rust and Jake Guentzel. Here's a look at the numbers they've put forth, as well as Malkin and his linemates.

Combo TOI CF% GF%
Rust-Crosby-Guentzel 268:52 58.63% 58.82%
Hagelin-Malkin-Hornqvist 294:22 57.41% 64.29%

Both units have limited minutes together, but have heavily dictated play. That Pittsburgh can roll out a unit so dominant even with Crosby on the bench, may leave the Flyers in serious trouble.

At even strength, the Penguins appear to hold the advantage, so what about the power play?

Unfortunately for the Flyers, things aren't looking much better. Philadelphia's top unit is undoubtedly dangerous, with Giroux, Voracek, and Gostisbehere landing seventh, ninth, and 10th, respectively, in regular-season power-play points. Who else is on that list, though? That would be Kessel, Crosby, and Malkin, who ranked first, third, and fourth.

To nobody's surprise, the Pens' power-play efficiency led the league at 26.2 percent. Ominously, the Flyers finished the season killing penalties at a woeful 75.8 percent clip, good for 29th in the NHL.

Based on the excitement of the rivalry and abundance of superstars on both sides, this Penguins-Flyers rematch should easily be one of the most entertaining series of the opening round, it just appears Philadelphia will have to battle the misfortune of pulling one of a handful of teams that can match or overpower its offensive abilities.

Still, these are the Stanley Cup Playoffs. An overtime hero can emerge from anywhere, and a goalie can single-handedly win or blow a series, so the door remains open. And based on the history of these teams, something bizarre is bound to occur. It may not be Jaromir Jagr in Flyers colors, or the teams combining for 45 goals in four games, but be ready to expect the unexpected.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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Superstar showdown: How do the Penguins' and Flyers' cores stack up?
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