NHL Playoffs 2012: 8 Takeaways from the Devils' Series Win over the Flyers
Many hockey fans and experts alike viewed the Devils as heavy underdogs coming into the second-round series. After the Flyers dismantled the star-studded Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 1 and then took Game 1 against New Jersey in overtime, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that the Flyers would advance.
However, the Devils stormed back and won the next four games of the series, shocking Philadelphia with a system that frustrated them both offensively and defensively.
This series revealed a lot not only about the two teams involved, but also about the playoffs overall. Here are eight things we can take away from the Devils' series win over the Flyers.
The Devils' Coaching Staff Is One of the Best
Not only were the Flyers outplayed by the Devils, they were severely out-coached as well.
New Jersey's coaching tandem of head coach Peter DeBoer and assistants Adam Oates and Larry Robinson is one of the best in the NHL.
Oates handled the offense and power play effectively, while Robinson successfully led the Devils' defenseman—most notably rookie Adam Larsson.
DeBoer was the most impressive, however. After the Game 1 overtime loss, DeBoer was able to settle his players down and got them playing better than they have all year.
He consistently reiterated the importance of not letting Philadelphia's agitators get inside their heads and his players acted accordingly. Also, the constant forecheck that DeBoer implemented created countless headaches for the Flyers' defensive core.
Potent Strategy Can Win a Series
As mentioned before, the Devils utilized several strategies on their way to a series victory against the Flyers.
Throughout the five-game series, the Devils' forecheck was unrelenting. Philadelphia could not consistently break out of its zone and it led to several New Jersey goals.
Also, when leading in the third period of Games 4 and 5, New Jersey began to execute a quasi-trap system that was reminiscent of the same 1-3-1 neutral zone trap made famous by the Devils teams of the mid-1990s.
The scheme successfully slowed the pace of the game and sucked the life out of the desperate Flyers.
Marty Can Still Handle the Puck
Martin Brodeur's stickhandling prowess came to the forefront in the series with the Flyers.
No. 30 handled the puck a countless amount of times, and though he did make one or two mistakes, his efficient play with the biscuit consistently slowed the Flyers' forecheck and at times eliminated it completely.
The 40-year-old netminder has also tied the record for points by a goaltender in the playoffs with three assists.
Defense Outweighs Offense
Coming into their series with the Devils, Philadelphia was averaging over five goals per game this postseason.
This rapid offensive production dropped off mightily against New Jersey. The Devils defense was able to constantly disrupt Philadelphia's offensive flow and shut down the Flyers' big offensive guns such as Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell and Jaromir Jagr.
Philadelphia only managed 2.2 goals per game in the series.
Philadelphia's Goalie Problem Remains
It seems almost cliche at this point to criticize the play of Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, but it's something that cannot be ignored.
Sure, Bryzgalov had moments of brilliance throughout the series, he single-handedly kept the Flyers from being blown out of the arena in Game 4, but his play overall this postseason has been the definition of inconsistency.
At points, Bryz looks unbeatable, but sometimes he looks like one of the worst in the league. His unpredictable play forged with the incapability of the Flyers defense is a recipe for an early playoff exit.
This offseason, the Flyers will face many questions about their goaltending situation. Bryzgalov has nine years remaining on his $51 million deal, but is he the man for the future? Flyers fans have all summer to wonder.
NHL Must Review Disciplinary Process
Claude Giroux was suspended for Game 5 because of his vicious, illegal hit on New Jersey's Dainius Zubrus.
This hit warranted a suspension. Giroux stubbornly targeted Zubrus' head after becoming frustrated earlier in his shift. It was exactly the kind of hit the NHL must eliminate. Giroux was punished with a well-deserved one-game suspension.
However, the NHL must be more consistent when handing out disciplinary action. Yes, Giroux deserved to be suspended, but so did Shea Weber and Alex Ovechkin for their unnecessary plays.
This offseason, look for the NHL and Brendan Shanahan, head of disciplinary action, to review the process through which they hand out suspensions.
New Jersey's Offense Was Underestimated
Many experts and fans alike believed the Devils would not be able to match the offensive firepower of Philadelphia for an entire seven-game series.
In actuality, the result was quite the opposite. The Devils' offensive depth far out-measured that of the Flyers.
New Jersey received balanced and timely scoring throughout its five games against Philadelphia, averaging 3.6 goals per contest.
These are not your father's offensively slim Devils. Coach Peter DeBoer has players like Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and Travis Zajac firing on all cylinders and they do not look destined to be stopping anytime soon.
The Flyers Were Overrated
The Flyers' wild first-round victory over the Penguins, a series that was half-fighting/half-hockey, blinded many to several underlying problems that the Flyers had as a team.
First off, when Philadelphia was putting in five-to-eight goals per game ,the weakness of Bryzgalov's play was a moot point. It did not matter one bit. Fans should have realized that goaltending would be a problem later in the playoffs when the Flyers gave up 10 goals in Game 4 against Pittsburgh.
Secondly, Philadelphia's offense was simply not as high-powered as it seemed in Round 1. There was minimal defense played in the series with Pittsburgh and the speedy Flyers forwards were able to capitalize because of the frantic style of play.
However, when the Devils put forth a defensive system that was sturdy, the big guns for the Flyers became very frustrated. Jaromir Jagr became invisible and the Giroux line overall was neutralized to the point of obscurity at some points during the series.
Lastly, Philadelphia beat the Penguins in part because they got to them both physically and mentally. When the Devils did not retaliate to some chippy play put forth by the Flyers, audiences began to see the flaws that Philadelphia has as a team. They did not have the team unity to beat a squad like New Jersey.
It even seemed like Philadelphia believed they were better than the Devils, and this is what ultimately did them in.
All things considered, the Flyers are a talented young group that has a lot to learn when it comes to discipline and defense.
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