The Philadelphia Flyers were skating on thin ice before tonight’s matchup with the New Jersey Devils. They sat five points behind the New York Rangers for the eighth spot in the east with just five games to go; including tonight’s contest.
The Devils came into the Wells Fargo Center equally as desperate, residing one point behind the Flyers in the standings at an even forty. On top of that, the Devils were in the midst of a ten game losing streak. New Jersey was in dire need of a victory and they could not have asked for a better opponent to face.
Philadelphia has struggled immensely against their cross-river rivals, posting a 1-3 record in this shortened NHL season. The defensive system the Devils play has been their Achilles heel all year; with little progress towards solving Peter DeBeor’s schematics. Tonight’s game was equally frustrating for the Flyers and the same broken record played all night long.
The fore check was nonexistent all night; Brodeur’s eagerness to play the puck, coupled with smart decision making by the Devil’s defensemen, made it very tough for the Flyers to cycle the puck in the offensive zone. The frustration mounted, evoking the Flyers to start forcing passes.
What happens when the Flyers force stretch passes from their side of the blue line? Turnovers happen. Turnovers have been public enemy number one for the orange and black this season and tonight virtually ended their season.
Erik Gustaffson tried to force a pass up the middle of the ice, which was intercepted by Stephen Gionta. Gionta found Ryan Carter in stride, who found himself one on one with goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. As a result, the puck found itself in the back of the net as Carter put a quick snap shot by Bryzgalov’s blocker side.
The Devil’s then did what they do best, protect a lead. The Flyers were able to generate twenty-three shots on Brodeur, but most were mediocre at best and secondary chances were kept to a bare minimum. Another poor turnover by a Flyer defensemen led to another Devil’s breakaway in the third period, which ended in the same result; Bryzgalov was beat through his five hole by a Matt D’Agostini wrist shot.
That was all New Jersey needed as they cruised to a 3-0 victory, snapping their losing streak. The heart was still there for the Flyers tonight. However, like so many times in his career, Brodeur stifled the Flyers offense; leaving them perplexed.