Home > 2010 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Game Preview > ECQ Game Five: Devils Look To Start The Comeback

ECQ Game Five: Devils Look To Start The Comeback

The Matchup: The Philadelphia Flyers (3-1) face off against the New Jersey Devils (1-3). This is the fifth game in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals series. The Flyers currently lead the series, 3-1.

Series Scope: Ilya Kovalchuk scored the first goal Tuesday night to take a 1-0 lead after the first period. That would be all the Devils would get. The Flyers scored four unanswered goals – including two from Jeff Carter – and thoroughly whooped the Devils, 4-1. The Devils, admittedly, gave up in the third period. The Devils have only recovered from a 3-1 series deficit once, in 2000 against the Flyers. Devils coach Jacques Lemaire brings experience, as he’s the only coach to come back from a 3-1 series deficit twice in the same playoffs (2003 with the Minnesota Wild). But this won’t be an easy task, because the Devils have already been outscored, 12-9, and rank second in penalties (24) in the playoffs.

Tonight’s Matchup: This could be it for the Devils tonight. Facing a 3-1 deficit, the chances of coming back are somewhat bleak after watching the Devils’ performance this entire series. But the team hasn’t shared this view. In an interview with Kovalchuk, Devils beat reporter Rich Chere asked the left-winger if he’s worried about this game being his last as a Devil.

“No. Because we’re going to win tomorrow,” Kovalchuk said.

That quotes sums up everything the players have said over the past two days. They don’t feel like they’re out of the playoffs yet. While it might be smoke and mirrors, it’s this type of talk that gives me hope. Maybe, just maybe, the Devils can put together an inspired, complete performance and defeat the Flyers. But, in order to do that, the Devils need to play better than they’ve played in the entire series. Bergen Record reporter Tom Gulitti highlighted some of the problems the Devils need to change.

“They certainly won’t be able to do it if they continue having trouble getting out of their zone at even strength,” Gulitti said. “The Flyers have pressured the Devils on the forecheck and the Devils have not been to break out of their zone and through the neutral zone with clean passes. That was a big factor in the last two games during the times when they did skate 5-on-5 (there were 13 power plays in Game 3 and 16 and Game 4). The Devils defensemen have not been able to handle that pressure.”

And that’s just about the defense. Here’s what he had to say about the offense.

“The Devils will have to test (Brian) Boucher more,” he said. “He (Boucher) allowed only one goal in Games 1 and 4 and had to make maybe a handful of difficult saves in both of those games. The Flyers have been doing a good job of blocking shots and have roughed up Zach Parise pretty good, but the Devils have not been doing enough to get to the net annd get to rebounds and have allowed Boucher to become very comfortable.”

I think Gulitti lays out the plan very well. The defenseman need to make better, quicker decisions, and the forwards need to generate traffic and get tough shots on Boucher. If the Devils can do that, they will set themselves up for a big performance and, hopefully, will live to see another game in this series.

The Devils finally caught a break in game four, with injuries to Simon Gagne and Carter. Both will miss the rest of the series, with both undergoing surgeries for foot injuries (Gagne toe, Carter foot). While both haven’t played extremely well, they were two of the top forwards for the Flyers, each averaging over 18 minutes of ice time. Both played significant powerplay time, and Gagne even played on the second penalty-kill unit. While the Devils still have to defend against Mike Richards, Claude Giroux, etc., these two injuries weaken the Flyers. They might not be series-changing injuries, but they should play a role in tonight’s game.

Gametime is 7:00 p.m., and you can catch all the action on MSGPlus, Comcast SportsNet and WFAN. Check in with The Devils’ Den tonight for a live game blog of all the game five action!

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