The New Jersey Devils beat the Philadelphia Flyers by a score of 3-1 on Tuesday night. With the victory, the Devils advance to their seventh conference finals and will face either the Washington Capitals or the New York Rangers.
The Flyers were without leading scorer Claude Giroux, who was suspended by the league for Game 5 due to what they called a head shot. How effective he would have been in this game is arguable, but Philadelphia no doubt had a better shot at winning if Giroux had been in the lineup. The Flyers looked out-of-sync offensively for most of this game.
The sixth-seeded Devils are not going to be shocked about their success. “I think this team is good enough to really have a run in the playoffs,” Devils winger Petr Sykora had said earlier.
Turns out he was right. Who says Martin Brodeur is too old? Apparently Marty didn't get that memo. He is playing like he wants another Stanley Cup and like he was in his prime. He is 8-3 so far in the playoffs with a .920 save percentage. In the deciding game, he stopped 27 shots.
Suddenly Ilya Kovalchuk is playing like he wants to earn every cent of his huge contract, something he hasn't done very much of since signing it. In 11 playoff games this season, Kovalchuk has 12 points.
He scored on a heat-seeking slap shot that picked the corner of the net right off the draw on a power play early in the third period. That goal put New Jersey up by two goals and was the back-breaker.
The Flyers never recovered.
The Devils are getting back to what got them to the playoffs in the first place: the penalty kill. During the regular season, the Devils led the NHL at almost a 90-percent clip.
They have such skilled players offensively, they are bound to take penalties, so killing them off is huge. Getting back to that success of late has helped them. Head coach Peter DeBoer said, "The fact that we have four lines and roll six defensemen really helps. It's a team game. We play that way, and guys really believe in what we're doing. But that's a good team we just beat over there, and we have a long way to go."
Captain Zach Parise has been held to just eight points so far, but a player of his caliber won't be held down for long. With the offense suddenly rolling, Parise will get more good looks at the goal and will undoubtedly score more goals.
The Devils will await the outcome of the Rangers vs. Capitals series and rest up for what will no doubt be a very physical conference finals.