NHL on NBC: Devils try to contain explosive Flyers in series opener

9 Comments

The Philadelphia Flyers are good and rested after they beat the Pittsburgh Penguins on April 22 in six games. What was projected to be a heated series between bitter rivals loaded with star talent didn’t disappoint, but the Flyers managed to come out on top with some tremendous offensive showings.

Thanks to their efforts, by the time the puck drops in Game 1 of their second round series on Sunday (3:00 pm ET, NBC), Philadelphia will have already had a week off.

By contrast, the New Jersey Devils only barely managed to defeat the Florida Panthers. The Devils did not look particularly impressive in the first round and if they thought the Panthers were tough with the man advantage, just wait until they see what Philadelphia can do.

Still, New Jersey can’t be ruled out. Although they lack the Penguins’ firepower, they do have plenty of offensive weapons and a stronger defense than Pittsburgh had. What worked against the Penguins won’t necessarily be as effective against the Devils.

Martin Brodeur will be the big X-factor in this one. With the exception of Game 3, when he was pulled, Brodeur was terrific in the first round. He still has what it takes to compete in the playoffs, even as he approaches his 40th birthday. That said, Philadelphia should present him with a much tougher challenge than Florida could offer.

At the other end of the ice, Ilya Bryzgalov still has to prove that he can lead the Flyers in the playoffs. He did much better in the first round than his 3.89 GAA and .870 save percentage imply, but it’s still fair to say that he left something to be desired. If this turns into a more defensive series, then Philadelphia will have to lean heavily on Bryzgalov and he might not be up for the task.

Game 1 Notes:

— New Jersey outscored Florida 8-3 in the first periods of their first round series. However, the Devils netted just 10 goals after the first intermission compared to the Panthers’ 14.
— Philadelphia leads the league with a stunning 30 goals in just six games. New Jersey ranks third with 18 goals in seven contests.
— Four of the Devils’ seven playoff games have been decided by just one goal and New Jersey won three of those contests. Only two of the Flyers’ six contests were decided by a single goal and they had a 1-1 record in those games.
— No team accumulated more penalty minutes in the first round than the Philadelphia Flyers. They had a total of 165 PIM compared to the Devils’ 78.