Claude Giroux trying to show he's on the same level as Sidney Crosby. Sean Couturier trying to shut down the league's scoring champion, Evgeni Malkin. Ilya Bryzgalov trying to outplay the more accomplished Marc-Andre Fleury.

Starting Wednesday in Pittsburgh, those are some of the story lines in the intriguing best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal series between the Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Another one: How will the Flyers rookies assert themselves after an impressive regular season in which they played better than almost everyone expected?

Rookies played a major role in helping the Flyers finish 47-26-9 - you have to go back to 1985-86 for a season in which they had more wins - and those first-year players hope to make an impact in the playoffs.

During the season, the Flyers used a dozen rookies, who combined for 64 goals and 128 points. No other NHL team came close to matching those rookie numbers.

"They gained a lot of experience through the course of the year . . . and I think you can use those experiences when the playoffs do come around," coach Peter Laviolette said. "It doesn't guarantee you anything, [but] when situations come up in the playoffs, I don't think any of our young players will be shocked. They'll have done it, experienced it, and thrived in it."

The Flyers had three rookies who were double-figure goal scorers: Matt Read (24), Couturier (13), and Brayden Schenn (12). Read, 25, led NHL rookies in goals, game-winning goals (six), and shooting percentage (15.5) among those who played at least 40 games. He could become the Flyers' first rookie-of-the-year winner in their history.

"He's an older guy for a rookie, and that makes a difference," veteran winger Jaromir Jagr said. "It's not like he's an 18- or 19-year-old kid."

Couturier is. But at 19, he plays with poise beyond his years and centers a shutdown line, with Max Talbot and Jakub Voracek (or Zac Rinaldo), that will play a key role in the series. Schenn, 20, blossomed in the season's second half after being riddled with several different injuries in the first few months.

"You've got to [lift] your game in the playoffs, and I'm getting the opportunity and just trying to make the most of it," said Schenn, who had a goal and an assist but lost 11 of 13 faceoffs in Saturday's regular-season finale, a 4-2 loss in Pittsburgh. "They've got a lot of talent and a lot of skilled players, and we have to limit their chances as much as possible."

The Flyers won four of six against the Penguins in the regular season, outscoring Pittsburgh, 22-20. Jagr led both teams with four goals.

Goalie matchup. Fleury has a much better won-lost playoff record than Bryzgalov, though their other statistics are almost identical.

Bryzgalov, however, has outplayed Fleury in this season's series.

In 69 playoff games, Fleury - who helped the Penguins defeat the Flyers in the first round of the 2009 playoffs en route to winning the Stanley Cup - is 41-28 with a 2.52 goals-against average and .910 save percentage.

Bryzgalov has a 12-13 playoff record - he struggled as Detroit swept Phoenix last season - with a 2.55 GAA and .917 save percentage. He was the backup goalie who contributed to Anaheim's 2007 Cup.

This season, Bryzgalov was 2-0 (with a no-decision) with a 2.60 goals-against average and .913 save percentage against the Penguins. Fleury was 1-3-1 with a no-decision in six games against the Flyers; he had a 3.41 GAA and .872 save percentage.

A headline in Sunday's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Flyers lack ace in net like Fleury.

Breakaways. Both teams had strong finishes: The Penguins ended on an 18-4-1 run, while the Flyers were 13-5-2 in their last 20 games. . . . Pittsburgh led the league with 282 goals; the Flyers were third with 264. The Pens allowed 221 goals, 11 fewer than the Flyers.