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ECQ Game Five: Devils Look To Start The Comeback

April 22, 2010 Leave a comment

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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ECQ Game Four: Devils Look To Even The Series

April 20, 2010 Leave a comment

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (1-1-1) face off against the Philadelphia Flyers (2-1-0). This is the fourth game in the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series. The Flyers lead, 2-1.

Series Scope: Daniel Carcillo scored the overtime winner in game three, knocking home a rebound from a Mike Richards’ shot for his first goal of the series. With the win, the Flyers extended their record to 3-0 over the Devils in overtime playoff games. Devils’ goalie Martin Brodeur dropped to 0-4 in his last four playoff starts in Philadelphia. The Flyers are 21-9 when winning game three of a series, and the Devils are 3-13 when dropping game three. The Flyers have also defeated the Devils’ in seven of nine meetings this season.

Tonight’s Matchup: The Devils can only go up from their awful performance in the third period and overtime of game three. The Devils were outshot, 12-3, and the only reason the Flyers didn’t blow them out of the water was because of the play of Brodeur. He turned in a vintage Brodeur performance, turning back several great Flyers’ scoring chances. Without him, the Devils would have left the ice with their tails between their legs.

With that being said, the Devils need to stick to what’s been working for them. They’ve scored the first goal in each of the past two games, so getting out of the gate quickly would be a plus. Also, the team needs to continue playing a solid, physical game. They did a solid job of cutting down on the penalties of game two, and they seem to have found the line between physical play and penalty. But there are several things the team can do better.

The Devils need to come out aggressive and slightly desperate. This game could determine the entire series, and the Devils should be playing for their playoff lives. They need to fight for every loose puck and convert on their opportunities. The Devils should be embarrassed of their play in the latter part of game three, and an aggressive, attacking style would go a long way to erasing that. The powerplay also needs to apply more pressure. Philadelphia will give the Devils chances, and not being able to put pressure on net has hurt the Devils so far. They don’t need to tally on every single chance, but they should make the penalty killers work. Finally, the team needs to put more pressure on Brian Boucher. In game two, the Devils made him move and make difficult saves, and they beat him for four goals. He’s a good goalie, but he’s no Brodeur. Making him move and pressuring him should yield some great results.

Coming into tonight’s game, Brodeur believes the Devils have reason to be confident. But, he agrees that the Devils need to come out aggressive.

“We have to feel pretty good,” Brodeur said to Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. “We go out there and compete and it’s not like we’re getting outplayed or anything. There’s just little things in our game that need to be better;. We need to be a little more intense. If you don’t feel it in a situation like that, we’ll never feel it. So, it’s going to say a lot about our team after this game.”

Game time is 7:30 p.m., and you can catch all the action on MSG Plus, Comcast Sportsnet or WFAN Radio. Join The Devils’ Den for a live game blog, beginning tonight at 7:15 p.m.!

Game One Preview: Devils Open At Home Against The Flyers

April 14, 2010 Leave a comment

The Matchup: The Philadelphia Flyers (0-0-0) face off against the New Jersey Devils (0-0-0). This is the first game of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals matchup.

Season Series: The Flyers won five of six from the Devils, marking the first time since 1989-99 that the Flyers won five games from their rivals. In the final matchup of the season, the Flyers defeated the Devils, 5-1, knocking out Martin Brodeur after the second period. Claude Giroux and Chris Pronger led Philadelphia in scoring in the season series, each totaling seven points. Patrik Elias led all Devils’ scorers with two goals and five assists. Brodeur, however, didn’t fare to well, going 1-4-1 with a 3.34 goals-against average.

Series Scope: This is the fourth meeting between the rivals in the postseason. The Devils won the first two matchups, the 1995 and 2000 Eastern Conference finals, en route to two Stanley Cup victories. The Flyers finally defeated the Devils in 2004, beating them in five games in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

Tonight’s Matchup: The biggest thing is to get off to a good start. The Flyers, who have been on a tear as of late, are going to come out and play physical. The Devils’ need to match their intensity hit for hit and shift for shift. If the Devils can do that, they’ll have a pretty solid base to build on.

Just meeting the energy of the Flyers won’t be enough. The Devils need to pressure the Flyers and Brian Boucher. He’s been solid his past few starts, but Boucher isn’t great. We’ve seen him make simple mistakes time and time again. If the Devils can get some early pressure on the defense, they should be able to force an early goal. If the Devils can get on the board first, it will give them an early edge in momentum, which never hurts.

While it’s only game one, it’s always nice to win the first game. Gametime is 7:30 p.m., and you can catch all the action on MSGPlus (in the New York area). Check back here with The Devils’ Den for a live game blog, beginning at 7:15 p.m.