NHL Playoffs 2012: Preview of Philadelphia Flyers vs. New Jersey Devils
Based on the regular season, it is reasonable to expect that the series will be closely contested. The teams split the games against each other 3-3. The Flyers finished just one point ahead of the Devils in the standings.
But as is often said, the playoffs are another season.
Let's look at how these two teams match up and see how the series might unfold.
Overall Team Offense: Advantage Flyers
The Flyers have the clear advantage on offense. They scored 264 goals during the regular season to the Devils 228.
The Flyers have much more depth on the offensive end. They have 12 players with 25 or more points, whereas the Devils have seven.
Travis Zajac is the Devils' hottest scorer, with six points in the first-round series.
The Flyers' Claude Giroux tallied 14 points against the Penguins and Danny Briere had eight. Jaromir Jagr and Jakub Voracek each had seven.
Power Play: Advantage Flyers
The Flyers scored on 66 of 335 power-play opportunities in the regular season, a 20 percent rate. The Devils scored on 46 of 267 opportunities, a 17 percent rate.
In the series against the Penguins, the Flyers converted on 12 of 23 power-play opportunities, for a strong 52 percent performance. Their power play is really clicking.
Power-Play Kill: Advantage Devils
During the regular season, the Devils killed off almost 90 percent of power plays to lead the NHL in this statistic. They scored 15 short-handed goals.
In comparison, the Flyers killed off 80 percent of power plays and scored six short-handed goals.
This is potentially where the series could be decided. If the Devils' strong penalty killing can neutralize the Flyers' strong power-play unit, this could tip the series in the Devils' favor.
Goalies: Advantage Devils
While their opponents in the first series and the style of play were quite different, Martin Brodeur certainly seems to be in a better groove than Ilya Bryzgalov is.
This year's regular season record of the two is pretty close, but there is a different story in recent playoff series.
Last year, Bryzgalov was lit up by the Red Wings as they defeated the Coyotes in four games. He had a 4.36 goals against average and only saved 88 percent of the shots on goal. In this year's first round against the Penguins, the story wasn't much better, a 3.89 goals against average and an 87 percent save percentage.
On the other hand, Brodeur had a 2.06 goals against average in the series with the Panthers and recorded a 92 percent save percentage. In the 2010 playoff series versus the Flyers, he saved 88 percent and had a 3.01 goals against average.
Despite his age, Brodeur is capable of carrying his team through a series. On the other hand, Bryzgalov can have really bad streaks.
The Devils would seem to have the advantage here.
Intangibles: Advantage Flyers
The Intangibles Favoring the Flyers
The Flyers have home-ice advantage.
The Flyers are rested while the Devils might still be dragging from a long series ending in two consecutive overtime games.
The Flyers should have both James van Riemsdyk and Nicklas Grossman in action. They each missed games during the series with the Penguins.
The Intangibles Favoring the Devils
The Devils must be super confident, having won their series by taking the last two games in overtime.
The Devils defense might really get into the heads of the Flyers offense, causing the Flyers to get careless and take too many bad chances.
Conclusion: Flyers in Six Games
On balance, the Flyers depth on offense should win the series unless Bryzgalov blows up again.
I knew that the Flyers could not clinch the series in Pittsburgh, so I picked them to win that series in six games at home.
This time I will again pick the Flyers to win in six games, clinching on the Devils home ice. I'm already trying to get a ticket to that game. Wish me luck. Maybe I'll see you there.
Let's go Flyers!