This was the matchup many of us (including John) did not want. Our reward for winning the Atlantic Division will only truly be realized if we make it to the 2nd Round where we don't have to play the Washington Capitals. This 1st Round matchup is NOT a reward. Many people, (John Buccigross for one) picked the Flyers to win the Stanley Cup at the beginning of this year. They've been a disappointment, but if they can gel now, after having their ups and downs, they'll be very dangerous as they've already proved to the Devils in the regular season. They're a good team on paper. So, those of us outside the locker room are left to debate: What is the formula for the Devils winning this series?
I said in a comment on a Fan Post that this series will come down to the PowerPlay and I stand by that. Philly takes a lot of penalties - they are 2nd in the entire NHL in penalty minutes (after Tampa) as they averaged 16.6 minutes per game during this regular season.
During the season series the Flyers took 9 more penalties than the Devils.
The Flyers had a 22% efficiency on the PP, the Devils had a 16%.
Devils PP – Games vs. Flyers
1 for 5
1 for 5
2 for 6
1 for 7
0 for 3
0 for 5
TOTAL 5 for 31 = 16%
Flyers PP – Games vs. Devils
0 for 3
1 for 2
1 for 2
1 for 4
0 for 4
1 for 3
TOTAL = 4 for 18 22%
The Devils on the other hand, were the 3rd least penalized team in the NHL this season, taking 10.5 penalties per game.
So it would see to be simple: Do well on the PowerPlay.
PowerPlays are supposed to lead to higher quality shots and you would think with higher quality shots on goal - that would favor Marty over Boucher. And if Boucher's facing higher quality shots against - I like our chances. The Devils already outshot the Flyers in the season series - 175 to 162 but still lost the series 1-4-1. So it's about getting those quality shots on the PowerPlay (and not shooting them wide Rolston).
Conversely, when the Flyers are on the Power Play, they're deadly - the 3rd best team in the NHL at 21.4 %. 68/317. The Devils are at 18.7% and are the 11th best team in the NHL on the PP. Philly's penalty kill is 11th with a 83% effectiveness and the Devils are at 13th with 82.8%.
During the last 5 games, during the stretch run, the Flyers were 2 for 16 on the PP at 12.5% and their opponents were 1 for 17 on the PP for 5.8%.
The Flyers prowess to penalties present problems and opportunities. Problems because I think their physical play, which leads to more penalties, has been troublesome for the Devils. They're more aggressive in the corners and I think the Devils dump the puck less on the breakouts, which hurts guys like Parise, Zajac and Zubrus who are good at digging and becoming productive on those. The more physical play can take them off their game - as that's "Broad Street Bully Hockey" not Devil hockey.
However, the opportunities have been there. Because when you make the other team pay for going too far with aggressive play, then they tend to adjust their style and take themselves off their game. The Flyers took penalties against the Devils and then killed most of them. Then the tempo changed and the Devils were playing Flyers' hockey. The home-and-home was a great example. Devils got up 2- 0 in both games, couldn't put Philly away and got caught playing the Flyers game in the 3rd periods.
New Jersey needs to make the Flyers adjust to the Devils' pace and that starts by scoring on the PowerPlay.
On a side note, the good from this matchup is that the Devils won't be caught lacking in intensity. If they needed to remember the demons of last year's playoff hurt - this Flyers' team might be the exact team to add anger and make them remember how much losing in the 1st round sucks.