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2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs 1st Round, Game 5 Preview: New Jersey Devils vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Tonight, the Rock will once again be full and fully in support of the New Jersey Devils. Will the Devils get some hope with a win tonight?
Tonight, the Rock will once again be full and fully in support of the New Jersey Devils. Will the Devils get some hope with a win tonight?

The Time: 7 PM EDT/4 PM PDT

The Broadcast: TV: MSG+ (HD) & TSN (HD); Radio: 1130 AM Bloomberg

This is a must-win game for the New Jersey Devils.  If they lose, the playoffs are over for them.  If they win, hope remains alive.  This means do whatever it takes to get to the Rock, watch it on TV, listen to it on radio, use NHL GameCenter to watch it, or whatever means to support the Devils.  You know the saying, "Play like there's no tomorrow?"  Well, that's reality for this Devils team. 

I have some additional thoughts and quotes from others after the jump.  Check out Broad Street Hockey for Philadelphia Flyers coverage.

Tom Gulitti Pretty Much Summed Up All the Problems with the Devils' Performance So Far: Tom Gulitti was on fire on Thursday and this synopsis of the Devils' trouble is, well, a synopsis:  Read the whole thing, but here's a snippet:

They certainly won’t be able to do it [win] if they continue having trouble getting out of their zone at even strength. The Flyers have pressured the Devils on the forecheck and the Devils have not been to break out of their zone and through the neutral zone with clean passes. That was a big factor in the last two games during the times when they did skate 5-on-5 (there were 13 power plays in Game 3 and 16 and Game 4). The Devils defensemen have not been able to handle that pressure. 

It's All In the Head: I still think the root cause to all of the very real issues Gulitti raised with the team's problem is the team's mindset.  I'm very happy to see that some Devils, namely Ilya Kovalchuk, have remained positive about tonight's outlook. Here's what Rich Chere reported from the Devils' #17:

When I asked him today, Kovalchuk said he isn't thinking about the fact that this could be his last game in a Devils sweater.

"No. Because we're going to win tomorrow," he said.

Perhaps positive is an understatement.  Still, I firmly support positive thinking by the Devils for tonight's game.  A negative attitude or a defeated mindset will all but guarantee a win by the Philadelphia Flyers tonight.  I firmly believe that they were root problems in the Devils' losses in Game 3 and 4.

Also, on top of all that,  Lou has made his mark in letting his feelings known about the playoffs so far. Literally.  Just in case the players and coaching staff needed some additional motivation. (Thanks Steve for the tip.)

Flyers Without Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne: The news is serious, both Carter and Gagne suffered foot injuries that will require surgery and will be out tonight.  In fact, they'll be out for a while. Carter is out with a broken bone in his foot so he will be out for 3 weeks.  Gagne has a broken toe and will be shelved for 6 weeks.  The expected replacements are Ville Leino and David Laliberte.

2009 - Ville Leino 55 6 5 11 -8 10 1 0 2 0 77 7.8
2009 - David Laliberte 11 2 1 3 1 6 0 0 1 0 8 25.0

This is a bit loss for Philadelphia.  So Gagne only has 2 assists in this post season and Carter really only "awoke" with two goals in Game 4, but these are two of Philadelphia's top forwards. Gagne and Carter have averaged 18:11 and 18:10 of ice time per game, respectively. Only Honorless Captain Mike Richards has averaged more ice time among forwards.  Both play important roles on the power play, as Gagne and Carter have averaged 3:42 and 3:41 of PP time per game - fourth and fifth respectively among Flyers forwards.  Gagne's loss is especially big given that he's on the Flyers' second PK unit, averaging 2:51 of shorthanded ice time per game - behind Blair Betts, Ian Laperriere, and Richards. 

How the Flyers will fill in all of that missing ice time remains as the big, interesting question for them.  I would guess at larger roles for Claude Giroux and Danny Briere on even strength; maybe Scott Hartnell and James van Reimsdyk on the power play; and perhaps Giroux and Darroll Powe on the PK.  But those are just wild guesses on my part.  A more accurate guess can be had at Broad Street Hockey, and only Peter Laviolette and his coaching staff really know the answer anyway.

Needless to say, the Devils will need to strike hard at Philadelphia because this is the weakest they're going to get.  Chris Pronger remains the best player in this series and to represent how the Flyers have done so far, encompassing excellent defense, tireless work ethic, dangling on the "discipline" line (caught in Game 4), and physical play.  If the Devils offense still can't answer Pronger and Kimmo Timonen, then I really don't know what to tell you.

A Wild Guess at the Lineup:  You know, I can't help but think that if David Clarkson doesn't start doing something soon, he could find himself on the fourth line.  He hasn't provided much positive all series long, but plenty of negatives in terms of penalties.  Will he? I doubt it. 

The fourth line is a mish-mash but I don't think changing out Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond for, say, Jay Pandolfo - who doesn't kill penalties anymore - is necessarily going to be a big difference maker.   You may feel otherwise, but such is my guess at the lineup.

Zach Parise - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Ilya Kovalchuk - Travis Zajac - Jamie Langenbrunner
Brian Rolston - Dean McAmmond - Rod Pelley (3A)
Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond - Rob Niedermayer - David Clarkson (3B)

Paul Martin - Andy Greene
Colin White - Mike Mottau
Martin Skoula - Bryce Salvador

Martin Brodeur
Yann Danis

As usual, check with Chere and Gulitti during the day for any updates.

Shadows of 2008?:  Ultimately, this first round has turned out something like the 2008 first round series against the Rangers all over again.  Match-up against a hated rival who did extremely well against the Devils in the regular season. A head coach constantly changing lines. (I leave it to you to determine whether this was worse than Sutter's extreme commitment to line matching regardless of situation)  The Devils not only unable to figure out how the Rangers were approaching at them and not adjusting to their tactics.  Most of all, they played the entire series with some kind of mental block on the ice.  Not to name drop, but I remember conversing with Greg Wyshynski (yes, the Greg Wyshynski) in a bar after Blogs with Balls one last year and he just put it plainly: "The Devils just played that whole series with the 'yips.'  That's pretty bad considering the opponent."

That could be used to sum up this series should it truly end tonight.  I was at both games and I expect the reaction, should there be a loss, to be similar.  Upset that it happened, but no one at the Rock would truly be surprised.

What (I'm Pretty Sure) We Know: Of course, should the Devils finally figure it out and get a win, there's reason to believe to, well, believe.  I want to believe.  There will be 17,625  fans, myself included, screaming their hearts out for something to believe in.  We know what the players have said. We know how Lou feels about this series.  We know that the Flyers are now down two important forwards and they still have a largely untested goaltender in net named Brian BoucherAnd as per Jacques Lemaire, per Gulitti, the Devils have yet to play a fully complete game - Lemaire says all season, I disagree, but it's definitely a true statement for this series. 

We know what has gone wrong. But. We know what this team is capable of doing on the ice. We know that their backs up are against the walls. We know that a confident Ilya Kovalchuk is a very good player to have for the game. We know that Martin Brodeur is still the man. We know that the defense can hang with anyone in the league. We know that the Devils have done the improbable before - even against Philadelphia. We will still hope and pray for victory that will come through improvement.

At a minimum, I personally want the Devils to give the Flyers one hell of a fight (metaphorically, not literally). But I think I speak for all Devils fans that we don't care how it happens, we want a win. Just a win.  Should the Devils play their hearts out tonight, they should have the best chance to win Game 5 tonight.

Let's Go, Devils.

Thanks for reading. I'll be in my usual seat in Section 1, Row 16, Seat 5, bringing the noise in the hopes that I'll be able to sit there later this spring. Steve's working; so in comes ILWT user Space Weed to take care of the GameThread duties, so please behave for him.  The GameThread will be up at 5 PM EDT.  In advance of the thread, please leave your thoughts, feelings, and words of support in the comments.  Let us not choose Death, let us choose Glory.