PHILADELPHIA -- The most important statistic -- the only one that matters -- says the Penguins have a 3-2 lead in their opening-round playoff series against Philadelphia.
That means that if they win Game 6 at 3:08 p.m. today at the Wachovia Center, all the other numbers generated in their games against the Flyers will be moot.
Kind of easy to overlook that core truth, though, given the way the Flyers have controlled so much of the past three games.
"The reality is, we're up, 3-2," Penguins right winger Bill Guerin said yesterday. "That's what we have to worry about. That's what we have to realize. Realize that we're in a very good position right now."
Whether they're in that spot on merit is another issue, especially based on their performance in Games 3, 4 and 5.
During that span, the Penguins have been outshot, 102-83, and outscored, 10-6. Their power play has scored on one of 16 opportunities, and their only leads have come during Game 4, when goalie Marc-Andre Fleury single-handedly made their 3-1 victory possible by turning aside 45 of 46 shots.
Had a few breaks and bounces not gone their way in Games 2 and 4, the Penguins could have spent the moments immediately after their 3-0 loss in Game 5 Thursday on the wrong side of a handshake line.
"If anyone had told us that in this series we'd have a 3-2 lead, anyone would have been happy," defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "Especially after the way we've played.
"I think we're pretty fortunate. I think everyone realizes we haven't played our best yet."
No one disputes that. The question is whether the Penguins can -- or will -- elevate their play in the game or two they have left against the Flyers.
Philadelphia will have some say in that, of course, but the Penguins are convinced that many of their shortcomings are self-imposed.
"They've played really well the last three games, and you have to acknowledge that," Orpik said. "But, at the same time, we've been far from our best.
"If we were playing our best and getting outplayed the way we did the last three games, it would be a different story. Then, it would be time to be concerned."
That doesn't mean there aren't a few things that should be troubling the Penguins.
Consider that just five of their forwards have scored goals in this series, and Max Talbot made it onto the list only because he scored into an empty net at the end of Game 4. The Flyers, conversely, have gotten at least one goal from no fewer than 10 forwards.
Having guys like Jordan Staal, Ruslan Fedotenko and Chris Kunitz figure out how to put a puck or two behind Philadelphia goalie Martin Biron clearly would benefit the Penguins, even though Guerin noted that teams don't get extra credit for having a diversified offense.
"We don't care where the goals come from," he said. "If one guy gets every goal, that's fine."
Of course, if one guy does all of the Penguins' scoring, there's a pretty good chance he won't produce as many goals as they'll need to lock up the series, be it in Game 6 today or a possible Game 7 Arena Monday night at Mellon Arena.
Still, despite the troubling numbers to come out of the past few games, there are a few stats working in the Penguins' favor.
They have not, for example, lost consecutive games in regulation since Dan Bylsma replaced Michel Therrien as coach in mid-February. What's more, history shows that less than nine percent of teams facing a 3-1 deficit in a best-of-seven have rallied to win the series, and that Philadelphia is 0-13 when put in that situation.
Interesting as those stats might be, there's no reason to think they'll have much, if any, impact on the rest of this series. Get to this stage of the season, and all that counts is finding a way to accumulate four victories.
Everything else is just so much numerical flotsam.
"At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how you win," Orpik said. "The bottom line in this league is just winning games."
Matchup: Penguins at Philadelphia Flyers, 3:08 p.m. today, Wachovia Center, Philadelphia.
Internet: Live game blog at Empty Netters
TV, radio: WPXI, WXDX-FM (105.9).
Series: Penguins lead, 3-2.
Probable goaltenders:Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Martin Biron for Flyers.
Penguins: Are 23-22 when they can clinch a series, 6-4 this decade. ... Through yesterday, led playoff teams with 55.3 percent faceoff efficiency. ... Are 0 for 9 on power play over past two games.
Flyers: Are 43-12 all time in playoff games vs. Penguins. ... Are 2-1 in series when they score first. ... Are 0 for 13 on power play over past two games.
Hidden stat: Flyers have scored 7 of their 13 goals in third period.
Dave Molinari can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . First Published April 25, 2009 4:00 AM