The rivalry between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins can be one of the fiercest in the NHL.
It wasn’t given the chance to play out in the post-season, though. The Penguins went on their way to win the Stanley Cup, while the Flyers were ousted by the Washington Capitals in the opening round, closing out their season that included a second-half surge under first-year head coach Dave Hakstol just to qualify for the playoffs.
Seeing a rival win the Cup, well, that’s not a pleasant feeling for the Flyers, according to Wayne Simmonds.
“I think when you have a rival to the height that Pittsburgh is for Philadelphia, it stings a little bit,” Simmonds told TSN.ca.
“I think it just gives you that much more want to win the Stanley Cup when you see your cross-state rivals holding the Cup up. It’s a little disturbing, but good for them. They did a good job and they had a heck of team and they played really well going down the stretch.”
The Flyers took positive steps forward last season, again, especially in the second half, led by Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn and Simmonds up front, and with the rise of Shayne Gostisbehere on defense — not to mention strong play this season from Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth in goal.
The Flyers also have some strong defensive prospects in their system, most notably Ivan Provorov, who could challenge for a spot in the fall.
They also took a chance by selecting German Rubtsov in the first round of last month’s draft, as the Flyers look to build the depth of their forward prospects.
Those players could be future key pieces for the Flyers. But for next year, the goal is the Stanley Cup tournament.
“We 100 per cent plan on making the playoffs so that’s definitely where our heads are at,” Simmonds continued.
“We want to be a team where we can get into the playoffs and then make some noise, too. I think with the run we had the last half of the year, I think that’s more indicative of our team than the first half and you’ll continue to see growth from our team.”