ECSF Game 5 Recap: Devils Bryz Past Flyers

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

(headline by @amazingjr87)

Three stars of the game:

3rd star: Martin Brodeur (27 saves)

2nd star: Adam Henrique (2 assists)

1st star: Ilya Kovalchuk (Goal, assist)

If you honestly believed that the Devils would have knocked off the Philadelphia Flyers in five games this series, raise your hand.  …  I don’t see any hands up, partially because I’m staring at a computer screen as I type this, but I don’t think many people saw this coming, at least because of how it happened.  Perhaps the Devils could have contained the Flyers’ run-and-gun offense and grinded out a 6 or 7 game series victory.  Some people predicted that this year’s edition of the New Jersey Devils would be a mere trivia question in the Flyers’ Stanley Cup DVD this summer.  Well, they play the games for a reason, and that’s a good thing for the surging Devils, because their sixth win in seven games and fourth straight overall clinched a second round series win over the Philadelphia Flyers, and let’s be honest: this was one fun series to be a Devils fan for.

It seemed that both teams wanted to stay away from the Curse of the First Goal, as teams had a record of 1-9 when scoring first in games involving the Flyers this postseason, dating back to Philly’s first round matchup with the Penguins.  That was either a fluke or it messed with the team who scored first psychologically, because it happened again on Tuesday night.  The game’s first goal occured after a pair of hits involving Anton Volchenkov.  The first significant hit occured when Brayden Schenn played the puck behind Martin Brodeur’s net.  Volchenkov came in and flattened the Flyers’ rookie forward.  It was a clean hit, but it drew attention from forward Zac Rinaldo, who was filling in for the suspended Claude Giroux.  Rinaldo had a chance to retaliate on Volchenkov, and he did just that, wiping out teammate Sean Couturier in the process.  Volchenkov was shaken up, but returned to the game.  After some of the most physical minutes of the series, the Flyers scored.  It was Daniel Briere who sent the puck through the crease to Schenn, and the always-clutch Max Talbot popped home a rebound.

The Devils, though, true to form, didn’t let Philly lead for very long.  On a play that 20,000 officials wearing orange Flyers fans thought was off-side (it really wasn’t.  Close – yes, off-side – not so much), Adam Henrique fed the puck across to Bryce Salvador entering the offensive zone, and Salvador’s wrist shot deflected off Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds and beat Ilya Bryzgalov under the crossbar.  The tie score lasted a little over three minutes before the most bizarre goal of the playoffs to date occured.  The Devils mis-connected on an outlet pass from the defensive zone to neutral zone, so Kimmo Timonen decided to pass the puck back to Bryzgalov so he could get it up the ice.  Let’s just say that Bryzgalov isn’t quite as good as Brodeur at puck-handling.  With David Clarkson bearing down on him (see what I did there?), Bryz decided to shoot the puck right at Clarkson.  The puck hit David’s ankle, then stick, then slid between Bryzgalov, as he was still standing up.  The crowd erupted in boo’s, and Clarkson soon realized that he had scored.  The score remained 2-1 after the first period, as Brodeur turned aside 10 Flyers shots in the period.

Although the Flyers applied most of the offensive pressure early in the second period, the best scoring chance came on a wrister by Ilya Kovalchuk from the right circle off the crossbar behind Bryzgalov.  The Flyers then went on their first power play following an Adam Larsson interference penalty.  As the Devils did for the most part all series long, they killed the penalty and frustrated the Flyers in doing so.  The Devils nearly made it 3-1 later in the period, but Patrik Elias’ shot got iron just as Kovalchuk’s did earlier in the period.  Things got a bit ugly for the Devils at that point.  First, Marek Zidlicky seemed to lose an edge and he fell near the boards trying to play a puck.  Wayne Simmonds decided he’d plow into Zidlicky from behind, causing an apparent injury to the Devils defenseman.  He returned briefly, but did not play in the third period.  Zac Rinaldo then missed a hit on Dainius Zubrus, so he stuck out his right knee and took Zubrus down.  Rinaldo was penalized for his actions, and Zubrus suffered nothing more than a Charlie Horse.

There was no scoring in the second period (shots were 11-7 Devils in the period), so heading into the third, the Devils were 20 minutes away from wrapping up the series.  The Devils tried to keep the pace slow in the third and not allow the Flyers any space to set up scoring chances.  It seemed that as soon as the Flyers attempted a shot, a Devil was ready to clear the puck or Brodeur came up with the save.  The final goal of the series came four seconds after James van Riemsdyk took a stupid penalty by grabbing Patrik Elias in the face and holding him.  Ilya Kovalchuk slapped one from the left point off the ensuing faceoff and suddenly it was 3-1.  Once the Devils scored the third goal, they focused on defending their end of the rink and shutting the Flyers down.  The Flyers made their push, because after all, their season was on the line, and while Brodeur was certainly good in the period, turning aside 10 more pucks, it was Bryzgalov who faced many of the high-quality scoring chances.  His best saves of the game both came on 2-on-1 rushes.  He stopped Stephen Gionta on one after Ryan Carter made a nice pass to him and then Bryzgalov stopped Zach Parise on another odd-man rush.

Time eventually ran out on the Flyers and their season, as the Devils were simply too much for them to handle.  They nearly added an empty net goal in the final minute, but they were off-side, so they had to settle for a 3-1 win and a 4-1 series win over the team formerly proclaimed as the best offensive team since Wayne Gretzky’s Oilers (not really, it just felt fun to say that).  The Devils have advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2003, and in case you aren’t already aware, that season ended quite well.  The Devils’ opponent remains to be seen, although it will either be the New York Rangers or Washington Capitals.  The Rangers lead the series against the Caps, 3-2, and will play Game 6 tonight.

If you’re looking for some stars of the playoffs so far for the Devils, here’s a few.  Ilya Kovalchuk has led the way offensively thus far, posting 5 goals and 7 assists in 11 games. He’s scored 18 points in 16 career playoff games with the Devils.  Travis Zajac has 5 goals of his own this postseason after an injury-plagued regular season that featured just two Zajac goals.  He’s also assisted on 5 goals in the playoffs.  Adam Henrique had just one point in the first six games against Florida, but he’s notched six in the last six games.  Henrique had two goals in the clinching Game 7 against Florida (including the biggest goal of his pro-career in double-overtime) and picked up two assists in the clincher Tuesday night in Philly.  Bryce Salvador has been having an awesome postseason so far.  He’s an impressive plus-8, which leads the team, but he’s also chipped in with two goals and four assists after no goals in 82 regular season games.  David Clarkson picked up two game-winning goals in the Flyers series, making him the only Devil with multiple game winners this playoff season.  Zajac, Henrique, Zach Parise, Dainius Zubrus, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Ryan Carter also have game-winning goals for the Devils this postseason.

Finally, there’s the 40-year old Martin Brodeur.  Game 5 against the Flyers was probably his strongest performance of the series, as he made 27 saves on 28 shots against.  Brodeur’s stat-line has been fantastic in these playoffs: 2.05 goals against average, .920 save percentage, 8 wins in 12 games and a shutout.  Someone might want to check his birth certificate.  He’s not really 40, is he?

The Devils are halfway home.  They’ve won two rounds, and they’re hoping for two more.  Their season resumes either this weekend or Monday, depending on scheduling with the Western Conference Finals and the eventual duration of the Capitals-Rangers series.

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Posted on May 9, 2012, in Game Recap, New Jersey Devils and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. As Devils fans, I think I speak for all of us when I say there is no better feeling than beating Philthy in the playoffs (Other than beating the rags!) As Devils fans, we always have to hear it from Philthy fans and rags fans, even though we have been the much better team the past 10 years! Cant argue winning 3 cups and 4 SC appearances! It just feels good to beat your rivals like this and be able to brag to Philthy fans for the next year! Now lets regroup, keep playing that aggressive attack and get ready for the Eastern Conference Finals!! Lets Go Devils!!!

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