Brian Bradley leads all Lightning scorers, and is Tampa Bay's best when facing the Flyers (11 goals and six assists in the all-time series between the clubs, including three goals and an assist in four games this season). The Lightning needs a big game from him. Philadelphia's Lightning-killers are John LeClair (11 goals and 7 assists in series, 4 goals and 1 assist this season) and Eric Lindros (8 goals and 11 assists in series, 2 goals and 2 assists this season). LeClair, reunited with Lindros and Mikael Renberg on the healthy again Legion of Doom line, got his 51st goal Thursday and is a primary reason Philadelphia has outscored Tampa Bay 279 to 234 this season. Recently acquired Dale Hawerchuk adds key veteran experience to the Philly offense. Edge: Philadelphia.
Eric Desjardins is Philadelphia's version of Roman Hamrlik, the defenseman whose offense comes before defense. The rest of Philly's D is indeed a defensive-minded bunch, led by steady veteran Kjell Samuelsson and second-season NHLer Chris Therien. The Flyers have allowed 228 goals this season, only 15 fewer than a Tampa Bay defense that was bolstered by the addition of Igor Ulanov and has now-healthy Bill Houlder back in the lineup. Edge: Philadelphia
Both have been among the best all season, and both are ranked in the league's top 10. Tampa Bay _ with Hamrlik running the show and Bradley, Brian Bellows and Alexander Selivanov leading the goal-scorers _ has slipped out of the top three in recent weeks but is steady at home. Philadelphia _ guided by Desjardins on the point and LeClair and Lindros up front _ is great at home but struggles on the road (ranked in the league's lower third). Edge: Tampa Bay
Both are ranked among the league's top-10 units. Tampa Bay _ led by feisty forwards Mikael Andersson, Shawn Burr, John Tucker, Aaron Gavey and Rob Zamuner _ has given up (before Friday) 33 power-play goals on the road but 35 at home. Philly has permitted 33 on the road compared to 28 at home. A toss up. Edge: Even.
Daren Puppa ranks among the league leaders in save percentage and shutouts, and is the primary reason Tampa Bay has made the stretch run so interesting. Philadelphia will counter with counter with Ron Hextall, who has 31 wins this season. Edge: Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay's Terry Crisp won two Stanley Cups as a player (with Philadelphia) and coached Calgary to one, but nothing means more to him this season than getting the Lightning into the playoffs. Ex-Washington coach Terry Murray always had his Capitals in the playoffs, and has won division titles two years running in Philadelphia. A toss up. Edge: Even.
Size and strength, and certainly playoff experience, are on the side of the Flyers. But Philly also has the pressure, because they are expected by many to reach the Stanley Cup Finals. Tampa Bay has nothing to lose, and plays tough under those conditions. Edge: Philadelphia.