By JAY BOEHMER
Staff Writer — email@example.com
With two of their top forwards out, going up against a desperate Devils team that had its back against the wall playing on home ice, and on the verge of clinching, there was a lot of pressure on the Flyers to perform. They needed the second layer of scoring to show up in a big way, and they certainly did.
Philadelphia came out on the attack, not waiting to see what Devils team showed up – the one that had rolled over and died the game before, or the one that played tough hockey all season to take the Atlantic Divison title. Whichever one came to play, the Flyers didn’t seem to care.
They took care of an early penalty by drawing one of their own to create a shortened power play chance. Claude Giroux made a pretty turnaround pass across the slot to Danny Briere, who tipped the puck past Marty Brodeur to jump out to an early lead.
A tight first period ended with the Flyers in control, and they carried that through to the second. Mike Richards came down the right wing and fired a blocked shot that bounced into the slot, setting up a trailing Giroux for a one time blast past Brodeur.
One goal wasn’t enough for Giroux, who came back out on the power play less than two minutes later and buried a rebound off the point shot after winning the face off back.
The Flyers entered the third period a mere twenty minutes away from carrying a three goal lead to a win in the game and the series to move on to the Conference Semifinals.
Collectively, the entire Philadelphia team buckled down, clogged up their zone, and kept the Devils from picking up any quality chances.
This tight defensive play, coupled with four third period penalties, gave the Devils plenty of time in the offensive end. The Flyers had to sacrifice their bodies, just as Simon Gagne did two nights earlier, to keep the shots from getting through to Boucher.
This comes at an obvious cost. Last night the penalty was paid by Ian Laperriere. Diving at the point, he blocked yet another shot with his face. Bleeding profusely from an area around his right cheekbone, he left the ice, never to return. This painful display of dedication to both his team and the sport of hockey is the kind of play that lifts his teammates to another level, as they make sure to leave everything on the ice.
That exhausting, painful style of play will take a toll on a team. The playoffs are long, and the Flyers, should they want to make a legitimate run, will have to adjust. They simply took far too many penalties in this series, and a team like the Washington Capitals would make them pay for it.
If they can play a more disciplined style, while at the same time carrying a hard, aggressive forecheck, they may well have the ability to shut down any team they face.
Boucher vs Brodeur: Matching up against one of the best goaltenders to ever play the game, Boucher had his work cut out for him. The key difference is reliability. Boucher made every save expected of him and then some. Brodeur, while he stopped several shots in amazing fashion, let in several “softies”. These are the kinds of goals that demoralize a team, making it all that much harder to stay motivated and continue to bring the level of effort necessary to win.
Ilya Kovalchuk: New Jersey gave up a pair of quality young players in Niclas Bergfors and Johnny Oduya for what is likely just a temporary rental player in Kovalchuk. Chances are that he won’t re-sign with the Devils at the end of the year, so they simply hoped he would carry their offense to a Cup right here and now.
Kovalchuk never got a chance to become a true part of this Devils team. It was always a one man show when he had the puck, often trying to dance through the entire Flyers line. He had 19 shots in five games (despite one game in which he was kept from getting a single shot on net), yet notched only a single goal outside of an empty net goal in the Devils’ lone win – and that single goal only came thanks to a 5-on-3 advantage.
Special Teams: The Flyers may have taken far too many penalties, but they managed to outplay the Devils throughout and kill them off as needed. Their power play was another bright spot, cashing in on 8 out of 30 for a more than respectable 26.7%. The PK team allowed only 4 goals on 32 New Jersey power plays, less than half as effective as the Flyers.
Pronger / Timonen: Against a team with two obvious scoring lines, and a steep drop off after that, the obvious cure is a pair of shut down D at your disposal. With the addition of Chris Pronger, who sucked up nearly thirty minutes a game in the series, the Flyers now had that depth.
These two, along with their partners Matt Carle and Braydon Coburn, kept the Devils’ top players from contributing outside of the power play. In the Flyers’ four wins, New Jersey was kept to a total of four goals, including Boucher’s series-clinching 28 save shutout.
Post game reports suggest that Ian Laperriere won’t be missing any games. His cut will require stitches, but he will have time to rest before the upcoming series. Laperriere has also decided to begin wearing a shield after the initial scare of this most recent shot, in which he thought he had lost sight in his right eye.