Eastern Conference Semifinals Game 2 Preview: Devils at Flyers

2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 2, New Jersey Devils vs Philadelphia Flyers

Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 2
Philadelphia Flyers lead New Jersey Devils, 1-0
7:30 PM E.T.
TV: NBCSN, CBC
Radio: WFAN 660 AM

This past Sunday, the Devils and Flyers renewed their Atlantic Division rivalry in their first game of the 2012 Conference Semifinals in Philadelphia.  The Flyers ultimately won a back-and-forth contest in overtime, making tonight’s Game 2 a must-win for the Devils as they look to even the best-of-seven series tonight.

No Kovy, no problem?

With 83 points, Ilya Kovalchuk was arguably the Devils’ best player in the regular season, and while he did record six points in eight playoff games to date, he struggled in Game 1 on Sunday, as he failed to record a shot on net and simply lacked the explosive speed we’re used to seeing from Kovalchuk.  He was treated for what has been an undisclosed lower-body injury yesterday, and he will be held out of the lineup tonight for Game 2.  That means it’s time for the team to rally around the adversity they face tonight and win one for Kovy.  They’ll have to tighten up defensively, knowing that their leading goal scorer from the regular season is out of the lineup.

With Kovalchuk out of the lineup, a new spot opens up, which means a new opportunity for rookie defenseman Adam Larsson, who will play his first ever NHL playoff game tonight.  Defenseman Peter Harrold moves up to forward, so Larsson will play alongside Anton Volchenkov tonight.  Larsson will provide the Devils with another capable puck-mover from the blue line and could help create offense, as well as playing a shutdown role with Volchenkov.

Focus on special teams:

Special teams was a huge factor in the Devils’ first round series against the Florida Panthers, as their power play was decent, but the penalty kill struggled badly.  The Devils produced a power play in Game 1, and also killed five of six minor penalties that they took, including one in overtime following the washout of Danny Briere’s kicked in goal.  While the Devils survived Game 1 taking all the penalties that they did, they would benefit from being more disciplined and not giving the Flyers power play chances and momentum of the game with the power plays.  Four of the six minors taken by the Devils in Game 1 were by defensemen (Salvador, Greene and two by Zidlicky), so that also affects the personnel out on the penalty kill.

Zach Parise and the forecheck:

The Devils got off to a strong start in Game 1, as they looked to be the more energetic team.  The Flyers used their rest to their advantage as the game progressed, and the Devils looked fatigued late in the game.  The one thing the Devils will look to do more of is sustaining their forecheck.  When they play at their best, they’re not allowing the Flyers easy breakout of their own zone and they can create offense off their forecheck.  Zach Parise’s game is at its best when the Devils’ forecheck is working properly, as proven by his first period goal in Game 1 and his setup of Travis Zajac’s goal on the power play in the second period.

Peter DeBoer also stated that he’d like the Devils to go to the front of the net more often.  The Devils might have been able to build on their 1-0 lead in the first period of Game 1 had they been able to screen Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov and create secondary scoring chances.  Bryzgalov’s confidence is already shaky.  Making him uncomfortable and unable to see shots coming his way could make life even more difficult for him.  On the flip side, the Devils also want to make life difficult for James van Riemsdyk, who spent much of his Sunday afternoon parked in front of Martin Brodeur.  The Devils will want to make the area in front of the crease a no parking zone for van Riemsdyk and Flyers forwards in Game 2.

Game 2 at-a-glance:

The Devils are coming off three consecutive overtime games, marking the first time that has occurred in franchise playoff history.  The Devils got worn out by the end of Game 1, and after a day off yesterday, they should be fresh and ready to go for Game 2.  They also get a youthful boost to the lineup in Adam Larsson.  Playing without Kovalchuk will be adversity they’ll have to fight through if they want to tie the series tonight.  The Devils should look to duplicate their start to Game 1 for tonight’s game and play a tighter defensive game overall to shut down the Flyers’ aggressive run-and-gun style.

Devils’ projected lineup:

Parise – Elias – Clarkson

Ponikarovsky – Zajac – Zubrus

Sykora – Henrique – Bernier

Carter – S. Gionta – Harrold

Greene – Fayne

Salvador – Zidlicky

Volchenkov – Larsson

Brodeur

Hedberg

Flyers’ projected lineup:

Hartnell – Giroux – Jagr

Schenn – Briere – Simmonds

Read – van Riemsdyk – Voracek

Talbot – Couturier – Wellwood

Timonen – Carle

Coburn – Grossmann

Lilja – Bourdon

Bryzgalov

Bobrovsky

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Posted on May 1, 2012, in Game Preview, New Jersey Devils and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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