So goes the game, so goes the series. The New Jersey Devils beat the Philadelphia Flyers 3-1 in a series where they were up 3-1 and they were getting all the little details right. Brodeur was playing like Brodeur, the team was disciplined and avoided penalties, they forechecked hard and they launched fast and furious offensive rushes at every chance they got. Philadelphia was sloppy, undisciplined and the only reason they were able to stay in the game as long as they did was due to some lucky off the post shots.
The writing was on the wall when Giroux got suspended for game 5. Already in game 4, Philadelphia lacked intensity and some of their key players like Jagr, Hartnell, Schenn and Couturier literally disappeared on the ice. Jagr often looked like he was out on a public skate, while Hartnell didn’t draw attention from opponents like he’s used to. Most of the chirping done by the Flyers in this series was to fallen players, like Zubrus, who was sprawled out on the ice on more than one occasion.
If there was any doubt who the heart and soul guy on the Flyers is, it’s gone. Claude Giroux was the only Flyer who seemed to be emotionally invested in this series against the Devils, while the rest of the team fell flat, even while delivering harsh hits. All the hits in the world couldn’t generate feeling on their bench and the third period looked almost as disinterested as the fans who left early to avoid a parking lot jam.
The Devils, on the other hand, were all business in this series. It was as if they had read the book on the Flyers, drawn up a singular game plan and followed it to the last buzzer. They applied deep pressure, stepping up their offensive game, capitalizing on every little mistake or turnover. The Flyers couldn’t match the speed of the Devils and when they got into the zone, they were too slow and disorganized to create traffic in front of Brodeur and get good chances. Brodeur was seeing everything from 100 feet. If it’s true when they say that pucks appear bigger when you have a chance to stop them without traffic, Brodeur was seeing beach balls.
It was a tough night for the Flyers and an even tougher night for Giroux, who was forced to watch the end of the season from the press box. He had a spectacular season worthy of a Hart nomination, which he didn’t get, and definitely worthy of a better fate, which he also didn’t get. What he did have was the class to come out and shake hands with the winning team and stand by his teammates to salute the fans one last time.
The New Jersey Devils have speed, good offense, world class goaltending and they play as a team. Their standout stars such as Parise and Kovalchuk have come through for goals, but great secondary scoring has been provided by Zubrus, Zidlicky, and Zajac (otherwise known as the ZZZs in previous post). They score by committee, they forecheck hard, take hard hits and stay out of the box.
A simple game strategy, a simple game style and one that will be hard to beat in the next round, where they will meet with either shot blocking machines in the New York Rangers or the surprisingly adaptable Washington Capitals. That series continues tomorrow night and is projected to go the distance to 7 games. That will give the ZZZs a chance to catch some zzz’s before the next face off.
About the Author
Written by Mika Oehling
Office worker and sports nerd. Cannot play a professional sport to save my life, but love to write. Prone to rants, raves, snarky humour and caustic commentary. My team's the Ottawa Senators. Author of Armchair Hockey, a work of humourous fiction released this year and available for sale online at Chapters and Amazon.