(6) New Jersey Devils (0-0) at (5) Philadelphia Flyers (0-0), 3 p.m. (ET)
(Sports Network) – A pair of Atlantic Division rivals will face off in Game 1
of the Eastern Conference semifinals this afternoon, as the Philadelphia
Flyers host the New Jersey Devils in Game 1 at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Flyers and Devils are the fifth and sixth seeds, respectively, in the East
and the clubs finished just one point apart in the conference and division
standings. Philadelphia had 103 points in the regular season compared to 102
for the Devils.
Philadelphia entered this postseason as a considerable underdog to win its
first-round series, but Peter Laviolette’s club surprised many by ousting the
Pittsburgh Penguins from the Eastern Conference quarterfinals in six games.
The Flyers simply proved to be too much for Pittsburgh, a trendy pick to win
the Stanley Cup heading into the playoffs, scoring 30 goals during a wild
series that ended with Philadelphia’s 5-1 home victory in Game 6. With the win
over Pittsburgh, the Flyers advanced to the second round for the third
straight spring. Philadelphia last made it to the East finals in 2010.
Philadelphia’s best player all season was Claude Giroux and he was undoubtedly
the top skater in the conference quarterfinals against the Penguins. Giroux,
who finished third in the NHL with 93 points during the regular season, led
all scorers in the first round of the postseason, posting 14 points (6 goals,
8 assists) over the six games.
The Flyers’ strength as a team is clearly its offense and the scoring does not
begin and end with Giroux. Philadelphia had 11 players — all forwards — post
10 or more goals this season and four of them went over the 20-goal mark.
The balanced scoring attack continued in the first round of the playoffs, as
Philadelphia had eight skaters record two goals or more. After Giroux’s six
tallies, Danny Briere was next with five goals and Max Talbot and rookie Sean
Couturier each hit the net three times. The 34-year-old Briere is proven
producer in the playoffs, compiling 104 points (47G, 57A) in 103 career
Giroux centers the top line and is usually flanked on the wings by Scott
Hartnell and Jaromir Jagr. Hartnell posted a team-high and career-best 37
goals in the regular season and had two goals and three helpers in Round 1.
Jagr, the 40-year-old future Hall of Famer, registered one goal and six
assists against one of his former teams in the opening round. The Czech legend
leads all active NHLers with 188 points (78G, 110A) in 172 career postseason
However, while Philadelphia was very impressive at putting the puck into the
net against the Penguins, the Flyers struggled mightily on the defensive end.
Philadelphia surrendered 26 goals over the six games against Pittsburgh and
goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov deserves some blame for that fact.
Bryzgalov was signed away from Phoenix last summer, inking a nine-year, $51
million contract with the Flyers. The 31-year-old netminder had an up-and-down
first regular season in Philadelphia and Bryzgalov’s uneven play continued in
The Russian backstop surrendered 21 goals on 163 shots in Round 1, posting an
.871 save percentage and 3.89 goals-against average. The former Coyote and
Anaheim Duck is 16-15 with a 2.77 GAA and .909 save percentage in 33 career
playoff games. However, Bryzgalov was simply stellar against Jersey in four
games (three starts) this season, going 3-0 with a 0.29 GAA and .987 save
percentage. The Russian backstop recorded two of his six shutouts in 2011-12
against the Devils.
On the injury front, Philadelphia hopes to have defenseman Nicklas Grossmann
back for Game 1 of this series. Grossmann was forced to sit out the last two
games of the opening round with a concussion, but has returned to practice and
expects to play today. Injured defenseman Andrej Meszaros is also back skating
with the team, but it’s unclear if he’ll be able to play in Round 2. Meszaros
had back surgery last month and hasn’t played since March 1.
After missing out on the postseason in 2011, the Devils are back in the
playoffs for the 14th time in 15 seasons this spring. New Jersey is coming off
beating the Florida Panthers in seven games during the Eastern Conference
quarterfinals, giving the Devils their first trip to the second round since
2007. New Jersey ousted Tampa Bay in the first round five years ago, but then
lost to Ottawa in the second round.
The Devils will now take aim at their first trip to the Eastern Conference
finals since they won the last of the franchise’s three Stanley Cup titles in
Although New Jersey is seeded sixth in the East, head coach Pete DeBoer’s club
was favored against the third-seeded Panthers in the opening round. However,
the Devils needed to win Games 6 and 7, in overtime and double-overtime,
respectively, to make it into the conference semis.
All told, the Devils outscored Florida by an 18-17 margin in the series, but
the series could’ve been lopsided if New Jersey was able to kill penalties the
way it did in the regular season. DeBoer’s club was first in the NHL in
penalty killing this season, stopping the opposition from scoring on 89.6
percent of its power plays. However, the Devils surrendered a whopping nine
goals on 27 shorthanded situations in the seven games against Florida.
Like the Flyers, New Jersey boasts considerable scoring depth and the Devils
were the only team in the NHL to have three 30-goal scorers this season. Ilya
Kovalchuk led the way with 37 tallies, while Zach Parise and David Clarkson
had 31 and 30 goals, respectively. Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora also potted
20-plus goals with Elias scoring 26 times and Sykora notching 21 markers.
The Devils also continued the balanced scoring in the first round, as seven
players scored two or more goals against the Panthers. Travis Zajac and
Kovalchuk each had three goals, while Parise, Elias, Steve Bernier, Stephen
Gionta and Adam Henrique each had two tallies.
The Devils still have Martin Brodeur as their No. 1 goaltender and the future
Hall of Famer is coming off an up-and-down series that saw him finish with
solid overall numbers. Brodeur had a 2.05 GAA and .922 save percentage in the
series, but was pulled from Game 3.
Brodeur, who will turn 40 years of age on May 6, is 103-84 with a 2.01 GAA and
24 shutouts in 188 career playoff tilts. He was 1-3 in four games against the
Flyers this season, but he had a solid 2.26 GAA and .905 save percentage in
The Flyers and Devils have met four times previously in the Stanley Cup
playoffs and each team has claimed two series. New Jersey beat Philadelphia in
the 1995 and 2000 conference finals, but the Flyers have won the last two
series, having ousted the Devils in five games in the opening rounds of the
2004 and 2010 postseasons.
Philadelphia barely won the 2011-12 season series against the Devils, posting
a 3-2-1 record. The Flyers outscored New Jersey by a combined 18-15 margin
over the six battles between the Atlantic Division rivals.
Giroux was excellent against the Devils this season, posting four goals and
three assists over the six meetings. Kovalchuk was also spectacular against
the Flyers, torching Philadelphia for two goals and six assists in six games.
Philadelphia was 22-13-6 as the host this season and was 2-1 against the
Penguins at the Wells Fargo Center in Round 1. The Devils were 24-15-2 as the
guest in 2011-12 and was 2-2 at Florida in the conference quarterfinals.
Game 2 of this series is scheduled for Tuesday in Philly.
- Brewers closer Henderson lands on DL
- Hayes, Dream down Shock
- TFC’s winless run continues with loss to Revs
- Sun down Liberty in season-opener
- Di Vaio’s hat trick too much as Montreal holds off Union
- Portland doubles up on D.C. United
- Overbay HR sends Yanks past Rays in 11
- Moreno leads Bahamas event by 1
- Bruins send Rangers packing with Game 5 victory
- Syracuse, Duke to battle for men’s lacrosse title