The Line Between Physical Play and Penalty
In last night’s game, one of the major themes throughout was physical play. Both teams threw their bodies around, causing turnovers and making life tough around the boards. With both teams
playing physical, it was natural that there would be more penalty calls. But, in the end, the Devils were the undisciplined team. If their penalty kill didn’t come through for them, the Devils could have been heading to Philadelphia down 2-0 in the series. While the Devils want to match the Flyers intensity, they also need to be aware of the fine line between solid physical play and penalties.
The Devils physical play was a plus the entire night. After the Flyers dominated them throughout theregular season, the Devils came out on a mission to give the Flyers a taste of their own medicine. They did just that yesterday, racking up several hits in last night’s contest. Not only that, but their physical play led to turnovers and gave the Devils some of their best scoring chances of the night. This was one of the most encouraging signs of the series. They Devils wouldn’t allow themselves to be intimidated, and they proved that much last night.
One of those key players last night was Colin White. White, who tends to get lost in the shuffle during the regular season, had a great game last night. I can actually say that I noticed him in the game, which is something that rarely seems to happen. But White made a living nailing Flyers and, while he took some penalties, really made Flyers forwards think twice when they had the puck. He embodied the physical effort of the team last night. But while his play was great, he also took two minor penalties, penalties which need to be avoided against the Flyers.
While Ilya Kovalchuk came out ready to play, he embodies some of the dumber physical plays of the night last night. Kovalchuk took a minor in the first for elbowing, then went to the box again in the second period for an unnecessary slash on Mike Richards. Later in the second, he received a matching minor with Darroll Powe, a 10-minute a night guy, for roughing after the play. Colin White also got lucky, avoiding a major boarding penalty on a hit to Claude Giroux. While the Devils want to get out and play a physical game, they need to be smart. The penalties Kovalchuk took were dumb, and the boarding hit could have really changed the momentum. The Devils penalty kill, which went 2-for-7, made a difference tonight. But you can’t allow Philadelphia that many opportunities throughout this series.
Overall, the Devils need to approach game three with a smarter mentality. The team will still hit, and hit hard, but they need to avoid penalties. While the Devils didn’t pay for it last night, Philadelphia has a dangerous powerplay, already tallying three man-advantage goals during this series. While their physical play can neutralize the Flyers attack, the Devils need to be conscious of what can land them in the box. If they can tow that line a bit more tomorrow night, they should be able to frustrate the Flyers, maybe leading to a few more extra-man chances for the Devils.