For a while there, it looked like the Devils would pull this one out.
For a while there, it looked like New Jersey had the horses to run with the Flyers. However, in the end, there were just too many offensive weapons for Pete DeBoer’s team to overcome. Too many scoring lines. Too much Claude Giroux.
And, of course, too much Danny Briere.
Something needs to change in Game 2.
It’s quite simple.
If the Devils are going to beat the Flyers in this series, they need to get more physical, smarter, and will have to play a slower game. New Jersey needs to be more defensive, looking for opportunities rather than going toe to toe with the Philadelphia offensive.
In short, they have to win the way they used to and not continue the footrace we saw today.
“I think the second half of the game, we didn’t dump the puck well enough to get our forecheck going,” said Devils captain Zach Parise. “We didn’t forecheck well enough the second half. When we did in the first part, that’s how we were having them in their zone, but the second part I think they were coming out a little too easy on us.”
In the first period, the Devils came out strong, forechecking the puck and putting the Flyers on the heels. They kept the play in front of them and ultimately outshot Philly, 15-6 and leading 1-0 on Parise’s wrister 3:13 into the match.
But that all changed in the second when the Flyers were able to turn the tables and open up the match.
“I think we couldn’t sustain what we did in the first period,” DeBoer said. “They took the game over in the second half. When you’re just hanging on that’s what happens.”
The footrace for the last 44:36 allowed Briere to score two – including the overtime game winner – Giroux and James Van Riemsdyk one. They did it with breakaways and the wide open game, which Philly demonstrated in Round 1.
Yet, the Devils need to slow it down. They need to force the Flyers to take every inch, even if it means going back to the trapping system of the glory days. Martin Brodeur will be 40 in a week. Although, he’s still a very good goalie, the lights out Marty of 10 years ago is long gone.
Rather, the defense led by Marek Zidlicky, Bryce Salvador, and Andy Greene need to continue to clog lanes and block shots. They have to backcheck the Flyers, forcing their high flying forward to earn every inch of the ice.
And the Devils need to be more disciplined. With six penalties on the day, they are giving Philly too many chances. One of those man-advantages was converted into Giroux’s goal in the second.
“Well, we had a little penalty trouble, even though they didn’t score on a couple of them, they got some momentum off of it,” Parise said. “Like I was saying earlier, we didn’t forecheck right in the second half of the game and they were coming out of the zone pretty easily, so we’ll have to fix that a little bit.”
There was only one point separating the Devils and Flyers in the regular season. Today’s game had to go to overtime, so the Devils are not outmatched here. Rather, they have a very solid chance of making the Eastern Conference Finals, for the first time since winning the Stanley Cup back in 2003.
But they have to play their game and not get into a Philadelphia foot race. They need to be smart, resourceful, and deliberate.
Then, the odd of continuing playing increase.
But play the Flyers way and the season will end in a week.