Men, it’s time to stop shaving. The playoffs start tonight!
A general formula to follow when building a team is to have depth at center, and a good goalie. Those guys will make everyone else look good. Look around the league at the top teams over the past few years: Malkin/Crosby, Carter/Richards, Datsyuk/Zetterberg, Thornton/Marleau. That’s the first measure I look at when comparing two teams, and then we look at the other major factors: style of play, role players, standout wings, standout defensemen, etc.
So, let’s break this match-up down.
Haha, do I even need to try? NJ has the best goalie ever, while the Flyers are down to option three for the season. We’re all familiar with both of these guys. Boucher has been a journeyman, while Brodeur has racked up award after award over the past 10 years. How much does any of that matter? Zero! There are no Vezina Trophies standing in front of the net. There are no books with lists of records either. There are two guys, wearing big pads, trying to stop the puck. Brodeur is getting old, played a ton of games (as usual),but he still had an excellent season. Boucher has been up and down, didn’t play a lot, but has been pretty solid lately. NJ still has the edge, but it’s not that huge.
Zajac is a good player, but not even close to Carter, Richards, or Briere. Giroux’s offensive skill set is far superior too. Every other center the Devils have, is a defensive guy who chips in some goals once in a while. Their 4 Centers combined for 47 goals. The Flyers top 4 guys scored 106. The Flyers numbers are a bit skewed because some of those guys spent a lot of time at wing. I’m giving them credit at centers because that is their natural position. If you toss Giroux from the convo, and add in Betts and Laperierre, well they’re still better than everyone besides Zajac. In this series, the Flyers should push the play, and spend a decent amount of time attacking, and hopefully scoring.
The Devils were he best defensive team in the league, as usual. What else can you expect from a team that plays for Mr. Boring Trap Til I Die Jacques Lemaire? The Flyers were in the middle of the pack. NJlives and dies by being stingy on defense, and taking advantage of counter rushes and mistakes. They’ll sit back in the neutral zone and wait, and wait, and wait, and wait as much as they have to, until they get the puck. Their defensive unit is better than the Flyers in their own end, but Flyers have a huge advantage offensively. They have 4 guys that can push the puck (Pronger, Timonen, Carle, Coburn), while NJ only has one really good d-man (Martin).
Kovalchuk is head and shoulders above everyone else on both teams.The Flyers have the better depth at wing, but not by much. Also, offensively, wings are also the Devils strength. Parise is one level below Kovy, and Langenbrunner, Elias are very good players as well. The more I look at it, the more it seems that NJ has the edge there. Either way, it’s pretty close. Gagne needs to continue his stellar play, and Hartnell needs to wake the hell up. His poor regular season is in the past, and it’s time to look like the 30 goal scorer he was last season. This will be JVR’s first playoffs, so who knows what we can expect from him. Carcillo knows his role, and he’s done a great job as the season progressed of drawing penalties and not taking too many stupid ones. Very rarely do we see fighting in the playoffs, so that limits his effectiveness a bit, but with these teams, you never know.
On paper, the Flyers are far superior, more talented, and should easily win. The Devils win because of their system, and there’s a reason they won the division. So I think the entire series comes down to discipline. For the Flyers to be successful, they cannot give the puck up a lot in the neutral zone. They need to get on the attack, and keep the pressure up. The defense has to pick their spots, and not get caught jumping up too much. Flyers in 5.
The rest of the East:
Washington-Montreal: The Caps remain hot, Montreal stumbled into the playoffs. Should be a sweep, but Montrealis a tough place to play. It probably will go 5, but I’m saying Washington in 6.
Buffalo-Boston: A great goalie duel that hockey purists will love. The Sabres are winning with the same formula they had a few seasons ago, with good balance, youth, and team speed. The Bruins have been a bit of a disappointment after last season. I take Buffalo in 6.
Pittsburg-Ottawa: The defending champs are good, and the challenged for the division title for most of the season. However, they feasted on bad teams, and lost a lot to good ones. I think they are a paper tiger, unless of course Malkin wakes up. Ottawa has been extremely streaky all season, but also was in the running for their division. I like their overall depth more that Pitt, and i’ll take them in the upset. Ottawa in 6.
Thanks for reading!
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