Sunday the Philadelphia Flyers will continue their run to Stanley Cup when they take on another Atlantic Division rival, this time the New Jersey Devils. I am joined by Devils featured writer Steve Palumbo to help me break down the Battle of I-95. Let’s look at the Flyers 5 Keys to Success:
1. Ilya Bryzgalov: This is going to be the most important factor for the Flyers to have any success in this round. Bryz was terrible in the first round but showed up big in game six. This year he has been fantastic against the Devils with a record of 3-0, a 0.29 GAA, a .987 save percentage, and two shutouts. For him to have success he will need help from the second key to success.
2. Defense Wins Championships: If it wasn’t for the play of the offense, there is no way the Flyers advance to the second round. You cannot allow four-goals a game and expect to win a series, or have a game where you give up 10-goals. The one bright spot was game six when Philadelphia blocked 40-shots to close out the series. Philly needs that play to carry over.
3. Ain’t Nuttin But a G Thang: Claude Giroux put this team on his back last round and scored 14-points and currently is the playoff points leader. It really showed during the clincher when he set the tone with a big hit on Sidney Crosby and then scored a goal. After the goal Giroux said ‘Let’s Go’ and pounded the glass. Players will be looking towards G to set the tone for them.
4. Now You’re Playing with Power: A problem in the past has been a strength thus far for the Flyers. Philadelphia had an amazing power play percentage of 52.2%, which was easily the best of the first round. The Flyers were 12-of-23 with the man advantage. You can’t expect them to keep up those numbers, but even half of that will be more than enough.
5. I’m Gonna Break My Rusty Cage: One of the biggest questions out there is how much rust will the Flyers have? It will be seven-days between their last game and puck drop on Sunday. The rest could be a good thing, it leaves the Flyers fresher and able to heal some wounds. Philly need to come out and play with some jam, you can’t give away games in the playoffs.
1. Kill them with kindness – The Devils possessed a record setting penalty kill during the regular season but it’s been an entirely different story in the playoffs. Florida picked them apart to the tune of nine power play goals in the seven game series. On the other side the Flyers led the NHL in power play goals with 12 through round one. The Devils are a much more effective time at 5-on-5. They must keep their composure against Philadelphia and stay out of the penalty box.
2. Back to the drawing board – Had New Jersey been able to win face-offs with any kind of regularity they would have dispatched Florida much sooner. Coming into the series with Philly, Jersey is a league worst on the draw, winning just 45.5% of the face-offs taken. Outside of Travis Zajac, not a single Devils center has even looked remotely competent from the circle.
3. Last line of defense – Martin Brodeur will be 40-years-old by the time we drop the puck on game four of this series. He was sensational against the Panthers despite being pulled in the game three loss. He finished with a GAA of 2.06 and a save percentage of .920. His counterpart Ilya Bryzgalov was the exact opposite with a GAA of 3.89 and sub-par save percentage of .870. This is the one arae in which the Devils may hold a clear and distinct advantage in the series.
4. Oh Captain, My Captain – Zach Parise had a decent first round. He collected four points (2g 2a) and led the team in shots with 32. If Ilya Kovalchuk truly is banged up than Parise must step up and start burying some of these chances. I believe he has to be New Jersey’s best offensive weapon form here on out.
5. Regulators, mount up – Calder Trophy finalist Adam Henrique finally woke up in game 7 with two goals including the double-overtime winner. He has to build on that experience and have it carry over into the Flyers series. Philadelphia boasts a formidable posse of young guns themselves with Matt Read, Brayden Schenn and Sean Coutourier. Read led all rookies in goal scoring during the regular season with 24. Many Philly faithful believe Read should have been nominated for the top rookie honors instead of Henrique. The 22-year-old Devils center has a chance to step to the forefront and show the world that his nomination was no fluke.
My Prediction: This is going to be a fierce series just like last round. I think the Flyers will build on that game-six performance and this will be a much lower scoring series. I do believe the Philadelphia’s firepower will prove to be too much and the Flyers take the series in six-games.
Follow Johnny on Twitter @JohnnyMacNHL.
Follow Steve on Twitter @StevePalumboNHL.