NHL Playoffs 2012: Keys to Devils Winning a Trip to the Eastern Final
The New Jersey Devils have come from nowhere to surprise the National Hockey League. Even though the team finished in sixth place in the Eastern Conference and was listed as the fourth best team in their own Atlantic Division, the Devils remain standing and waiting for their next opponent in the Eastern Final series.
So much for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, or the Boston Bruins winning the Stanley Cup this year. New Jersey Devils are the only team in the conversation with a chance at winning Lord Stanley's mug.
Let's check out the top 10 keys to winning the second-round series against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Key #1: Stay out of the Box
The New Jersey Devils saw what happened to the Pittsburgh Penguins when they were caught shorthanded against the special teams of the Philadelphia Flyers. Claude Giroux scorched the Penguins with 14 points in a 6 game span, while Daniel Briere also added to his career playoff point-a-game pace.
Despite the Devils' proficient penalty killing efficiency, the coaching staff and the players worked very hard to stay disciplined and take a few punishments without retaliating. That has slowed down Peter Laviolette's game plan, and the Flyers struggled to generate any momentum five-on-five.
Key #2: Brodeur Being Brodeur
Ilya Bryzgalov was left to congratulate his counterpart, 40-year-old goalie Martin Brodeur tonight in Game 5. Brodeur followed up his birthday 4-2 victory with a very solid performance clinching the series with a 3-1 win.
Brodeur outplayed, out-shined, and out-experienced Bryzgalov. The Canadian future Hall of Fame inductee took center stage and won back-to-back games at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. He showed the poise of a three-time Stanley Cup Champion, and gave his team confidence to win every game of the series.
On the other hand, the Russian goalie did not stand his ground when his team needed him the most. Bryzgalov finished the playoffs with a poor 0.885 save %, and really did not make the crucial saves the team needed from time to time.
Brodeur knows what he's doing, and he is on to the third round.
Key #3: Zach Attack
Zach Parise is giving people every reason to believe he is the best hockey player in the world. Not only does he possess the incredible skill and ability, his heart and determination is off the charts. All playoffs, the Devils captain has delivered his 120% effort, and his strong play with and without the puck took over games for New Jersey.
It is easy to shut down skill, but it is almost impossible to shut down a man on a mission with no quit, and full out energy each and every shift.
For fans wondering if Zach Parise will remain a New Jersey Devil this summer, there is no question in my mind he is staying as a long-time Devil. He plays his heart out for his team. Remarkable player.
Key #4: Warrior-Like Performances
In Game 5, or any other game, the New Jersey Devils played like a determined team to win the series. Here is why: warrior-like performances by numerous players on the team.
Fans can make a case for Ilya Kovalchuk playing through a herniated disc in his back, Dainius Zubrus playing through a hit to the head in Game 4 by Claude Giroux, or Game 5 when Anton Volchenkov coming back after being sandwiched by Rinaldo and Couturier, or staying in the game for Zidlicky and Zubrus on separate occasions during Game 5 shows a lion's heart. The Devils played exceptional hockey.
Key #5: Balanced Scoring
As per NHL.com statistics, the Devils have seven different goal scorers scoring seven game-winning goals for the Devils in these playoffs prior to tonight. David Clarkson scored tonight's game winner to lead his team with two game winners so far in the playoffs.
It is easy for a team to focus on shutting down one player, or one line that produces points and scoring chances. However, the coaches on the opposition have no answer for the Devils attack. With Ponikarovsky, Zajac, Kovalchuk on a line, Clarkson, Elias, Parise on another, Sykora, Henrique, Zubrus on the third line, all three lines have very dangerous weapons.