The Flyers and Devils meet in the second round of the NHL playoffs both coming off pretty good first round series’. The Flyers-Penguins series was an emotion filled classic while the Devils series against the Panthers really picked up at the end and had some entertaining moments as well.
The Flyers will now set their sights on another hated division rival, the New Jersey Devils. The Flyers have had many epic battles with their rivals to the north over the years and the Flyers have won the last 2 series against them (2010, 2004). However, the teams are totally different now and it’s time to draw this one up again.
Many people, including Vegas, are thinking the Flyers are a big time favorite in this series, which may or may not be warranted. A favorite, yes. But these teams weren’t that far apart this year.
Here are some keys for the Flyers to make the critics happy and get this series win:
5.) Discipline and Emotion – The Flyers are coming off of a series where emotions were drained against their most hated rival the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Flyers also hate the Devils. The Flyers cannot have any selfish moments against a team like New Jersey because they won’t play the crazy wide open style the Penguins were willing to engage in during the first few games. They are an organization that has built a foundation around solid defense and goaltending. It’s round 2, and the time for poor discipline has passed.
4.) Team Defense – The Flyers pathetic team defensive efforts that we saw early in the Penguins series cannot happen against the Devils. This is not the Penguins and they are not as weak defensively. What the Devils do not have compared to the Penguins offense they make up for on the blue line. Erik Gustafsson may get the call on defense again possibly over Pavel Kubina (if Nick Grossmann is able to return) in Game 1 after his outstanding efforts at the end of the Flyers-Penguins series including logging 20+ minutes in Game 7 and scoring a goal. Kubina looked to be the odd man out at practice this week. Consistency will be key in this series. Breakdowns can’t happen against a team like New Jersey.
3.) Special Teams – If the Devils take penalties, the Flyers need to jump on every power play opportunity they get. The Devils power play has been uncharacteristically abysmal in round 1. They let in 9 power play goals in 7 games. The Flyers scored 12 power play goals in 6 games (52%). This is the same Devils PK that was shutdown in a big way during the regular season. Something isn’t right for them at the moment, and a couple of Flyers PP goals would deflate their PK even more.
2.) Coaching – The Two Pete’s – These teams each have a lot of talent so the coaches having the guys in the right places to be able to make plays will be of greater emphasis. If you follow recent history, the Flyers definitely win this category with their head coach Peter Laviolette who has pushed all the right buttons for them. Devils head coach Pete DeBoer has drawn the ire of the Devils faithful a bunch of times this season and isn’t quite up to Laviolette’s level. He’ll be put to the test in this series. Laviolette will need to continue to adjust to the Devils defensive plans against a potent Flyers offense.
1.) Goaltending – This is without a doubt the number one factor that will determine which way the series will go. The Flyers will need Ilya Bryzgalov to be very good, but probably not spectacular. Marty Brodeur had a very rough start to the series against Florida but seemed to really piece things together toward the end of the series. In Game 7, Brodeur was flat out outstanding. The Flyers will need to assume Brodeur is going to be Brodeur and get a lot of traffic in front and try to deflect pucks by.
I see this being a series win for the Flyers, and I think home ice makes the difference. I think many are underestimating the Devils so I’m picking this series to go to the distance. The season series was 3-3 and I have to like the way the Devils back end played the last couple of games. Also the Devils only finished with 1 point less than the Flyers. I think the games the Flyers lose in this series are going to be games where Bryz could have been a bit better and defensive breakdowns were a little too plentiful.
The Pick: Flyers in 7