As the first game of their playoff series looms, I’m going to break down the matchup between the Flyers and the Devils. In the first installment of this series, we’ll take a look at the forwards for both teams.
Injuries have cost the team several key players, mostly in net. But one of the biggest injuries came when Jeff Carter went down with injury. While he hoped to be back for the playoffs, it looks like the Flyers will be without him. Carter, who led the team in goals and finished second in points, was an absolute Devil killer this season. In five games, he recorded three goals, two of which were tying goals. He also netted six game-winning goals, and recorded 22 powerplay points. The Flyers still have explosive scorers in Mike Richards and Danny Briere. Simon Gagne has always hurt the Devils. But, after that, the performance falls off. Claude Giroux can score big goals, but he can also disappear for large stretches of time. The same can be said for rookie James van Riemsdyk.
Overall, the Flyers ranked eighth in goals and 11th in assists. Their specialty teams are explosive, ranking second in powerplay goals and third in powerplay assists. The Flyers forwards are a dangerous bunch, but if the Devils can shut down their top guy, they should be able to manage playing against them.
New Jersey Devils
The Devils scored 22 goals fewer than the Flyers this season, but it doesn’t mean the team’s scorers can’t do some damage. The acquisition of Ilya Kovalchuk seemed to pay off, as the Devils newest left-
winger contributed 10 goals and 27 assists. He instantly updated the powerplay, and those assists show he’s willing to make the sacrifices necessary to get the goal. Zach Parise, who finished with 38 goals and 88 points, is another talented forward. Whether chasing down a loose puck or putting home a one-timer, he hustles during every shift. And these aren’t the only two bright spots. Players like Travis Zajac (25 goals, a new career high), Jamie Langenbrunner, and Patrik Elias are always dangerous.
One of the keys to the offense will be secondary scoring. We all know the top two lines can produce. But who will come up clutch? Can David Clarkson continue to improve? Will Rob Niedermayer and Dean McAmmond contribute anything offensively? Can Brian Rolston find his goal scoring touch? In the playoffs, these “role” players are usually the ones that make an impact. I think the Devils have more depth and more role players who can score these key goals.
Here’s the stat line: the Devils ranked 19th in the league in goals and 17th in assists this past season. The powerplay, while not great, was better this season, tying for 21st in powerplay goals and 21st in powerplay assists. It’s not dangerous, but the Devils can do some damage with their special teams.
So, overall, who owns the advantage. I think the teams are almost dead even, but I give the Devils a slight nod. I think the ability to run out two great scoring lines gives them a big advantage in the series. However, the powerplay ability of the Flyers should not be forgotten. The Devils will need to be smart, because the Flyers have the potential to put their great powerplay to work. As I said, the teams draw almost even, but in the end, I believe the Devils are a tad bit stronger.
In anticipation of the first round series between the Philadelphia Flyers and the New Jersey Devils, I’ll take a look back at the previous playoff matchups between the two rivals. Yesterday, I took a look back at the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals, which the Devils won, 4-2. Today, I’ll recap the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals, where a big hit changed the series and propelled the Devils to their second Stanley Cup championship.
When the regular season ended, Philadelphia sat atop the Atlantic Division, with 105 points. The Devils finished only two points behind the Flyers, meaning the fourth seed in the conference. Six games before the season ended, Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello decided to fire coach Rob Ftorek, electing to go with Larry Robinson to coach the team in the postseason. Philadelphia defeated Buffalo and Pittsburgh to reach the finals, and the Devils swept Florida and defeated Toronto. The teams would face each other again for a chance to play for Lord Stanley’s Cup.
In the opening game, Martin Brodeur stopped 35 shots, turning in an outstanding performance. Bobby Holik and Petr Sykora scored within a minute of each other in the third period, extending the Devils lead to 4-1. The team would go on to win Game 1 in Philadelphia, mirroring their 1995 opening game performance.
In game two, the Devils jumped out to a 3-2 lead. The series began to look eerily similar to 1995, with the Flyers losing both home games to fall into a 2-0 hole. But Rich Tocchet and Daymond Langkow scored goals in the third period to put the Flyers ahead, 4-2. Brian Boucher looked strong in net, stopping 30 shots and sending the series to the Meadowlands tied, 1-1.
It seemed Tocchet and Langkow turned the series, because game three was all Philadelphia. The Flyers defeated the Devils, 4-2, to take a 2-1 series lead. Game four went the same way, with the Flyers taking advantage of their opportunities. Craig Berube, who hadn’t scored in 86 playoff games, tallied a goal as the Flyers went on to defeat the Devils, 3-1. With the win, they swept the Devils on New Jersey’s home ice and went home to Philadelphia with a decisive 3-1 edge.
Facing elimination, the Devils played well in Philadelphia. The Devils jumped out a lead in the first period on a Jason Arnott goal, and never looked back. Patrik Elias, Bobby Holik and Sykora all scored in a 4-1 defeat over Philadelphia. Down in the series, 3-2, the Devils once again had life. But the odds were still against them. At the time, no team in the expansion era had ever rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the conference finals. What was worse, Flyers star Eric Lindros, who had missed several games after two concussions, was cleared to return to action.
Game six began as a scoreless battle, with each team unable to light the lamp for the first 51 minutes of the game. The Devils drew first blood, with playoff hero Claude Lemieux providing the spark. Lemieux stripped Andy Delmore of the puck and worked the puck to Holik. Holik put a shot on net, and Lemieux put home the rebound for his 80th playoff goal. Even a Lindros goal couldn’t help the Flyers, as the Devils defeated their rivals, 3-1, and evened the series at three apiece and forcing a game seven.
The Devils got out to a quick lead, 1-0, in game seven. Then, Scott Stevens gave every Devils fan something to remember:
It would have been easy for the Flyers to fold, especially after a crushing hit like that. But they continued to battle, and Tocchet tied the game at one with a goal in the second period. As had happened all postseason long, the Devils big players stepped up. In the third period, Alexander Mogilny took the puck and put a shot on net. Elias, who drove the net, beat Boucher on the rebound for the series-clinching goal, and the Devils would complete the comeback.
Here’s the Elias goal:
And here’s the celebration:
After completing the comeback, the Devils moved on and faced the Dallas Stars in the finals. The Devils prevailed in six games, winning their second Stanley Cup championships. Stevens, who many believe sparked the Devils championship run with his hit, was awarded the Conn Smythe award.
As the countdown to the 2010 playoff opener between the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils, I’ll take a look back at the past postseason meetings between the two teams. Today, I look back at the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals.
The Devils, fresh off their surprising defeat of the Pittsburgh Penguins, faced off against the Flyers. The Flyers were looking to get back to the Cup finals for the first time since 1987, and the Devils were searching for their first ever Stanley Cup berth. The Flyers held home-ice advantage throughout the series, setting the tone between these rivals.
In the first game of the series, the Devils jumped all over the Flyers, taking a 3-0 lead after the first two periods. Bill Guerin added his second goal of the game to stretch the lead to four. Craig McTavish broke Martin Brodeur’s shutout with 1:54 remaining in regulation, but that was all the noise the Flyers would make. New Jersey defeated Philadelphia, 4-1, to take a 1-0 lead in the series.
The team’s traded goals in game two, with Mikael Renberg putting the Flyers ahead, 2-1, at the 13:54 mark of the first period. It gave the Flyers their first lead of the series. Devils’ forward John MacLean scored with 12 seconds left in the first, tying the game at two. New Jersey scored three straight goals in the second period, and went on to defeat the Flyers, 5-2. The Devils eliminated the home-ice advantage, dominating the Flyers and heading back to the Meadowlands with a 2-0 series lead.
The Flyers came into game three a desperate team. The Devils jumped out to a 2-1 lead, but Rod Brind’Amour tied the game with 6:03 left in regulation. Flyers captain Eric Lindros played the role of hero, scoring at 4:19 of the extra session to win the game. It gave Philadelphia life, and the cut the Devils’ lead in half, 2-1.
Game three helped the Flyers confidence, as Ron Hextall turned in a terrific performance. The Flyers goalie stopped 32 shots, vastly outplayed Brodeur, who finished with 15 saves. The Flyers won the game, 4-2, to head back home tied in the series, 2-2. Heading back on the road, the Devils needed a strong performance to get themselves back into the series.
Game five began well for the Devils, with the team taking a lead, 2-1, after the first period. After a scoreless middle period, the Flyers’ Kevin Dineen’s second goal of the game tied the game 3:13 into the final period. Stephane Richer almost gave the Devils’ a lead, breaking in alone on Hextall with under four minutes to play. The Devils’ forward rang a shot off the crossbar, ending the threat. But the Devils weren’t done, and Claude Lemieux scored one of the memorable goals in Devils postseason history. With less than a minute remaining, Lemieux picked up the puck in his own zone, and carried it into the Flyers zone. After crossing the blue line, Lemieux fired a shot that beat Hextall glove side, silencing the Spectrum crowd and giving the Devils a lead, 3-2. The Devils would hang on and head home with a chance to clinch the series on home ice.
Here’s the goal that broke Philadelphia fans hearts:
The Devils returned home in the same situation as the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals – up in the series, 3-2, with a chance to clinch on home ice. While the Rangers went on to defeat the Devils in seven games, this series would end on a better note. Jim Montgomery scored 4:05 into the opening period to give the Flyers an early 1-0 lead. But the Devils, in large part to their trapping defense, would take control of the game. Richer tied the game with a powerplay goal at 10:25, and Brian Rolston scored with 1:45 left in the first period to give the Devils a 2-1 advantage. The second period would prove pivotal, as the Devils shut down the Flyers attack.
With the team holding on to a 2-1 lead, Bobby Holik would provide a big insurance goal. McTavish came into the Devils zone, putting a shot on net from the blue line. Shawn Chambers blocked the shot, and forwarded the puck to Holik. With four Flyers caught in the defensive zone, the Devils broke in with a 3-on-1. Holik held the puck, and Flyers’ defenseman Kevin Haller went to the ice to block the pass. Holik threaded a pass past the diving defenseman to Randy McKay, who deflected the puck past Hextall for the goal. The Devils extended the lead to 4-1 at 10:11 of the period. It was Lemieux once again, breaking in on Hextall all alone. He beat the Flyers goalie for his 11th goal of the postseason.
Renberg scored to cut the Devils lead, 4-2, but it wouldn’t be enough. The Devils defeated the Flyers, 4-2, to win the game and the series. Here was the Devils’ celebration:
They would move on to their first Stanley Cup and defeat the Detroit Red Wings, sweeping the series for their first ever Stanley Cup championship. Lemieux, who set career highs in playoff goals scored, won the Conn Smythe Trophy.