Well, this game wasn’t all that unpredictable. Stingy Devils defense, very little scoring, and 3 highlight reel plays. Boucher outshined Brodeur, but it’s because he had to. NJ didn’t give the Flyers much, so it’s not like Marty really had the opportunity to look good. The Flyers know what the Devils bring to the table, but didn’t look too great in the first. They manage 4 shots, and knew that things had to change immediately for them to pull out the win. Luckily, they didn’t give up a goal, so 0-0 after 1 isn’t that bad, no matter how you look. So they came out in the second, a lot more aggressive, and it paid off. They carried the play a lot more, creating a lot more chances. Finally, on the powerplay, they took the lead. Richards sent a puck to the net, as Pronger pinched in from the point. Prongs took a swipe at the puck, and it manged to get under a scrambling Brodeur. It’s a start, but they needed more. And the next goal came in style. Laperierre entered the zone on the right, heard Richards yelling, and sent a blind, backhand, cross-ice pass to the captain. Richards caught it on his tape, looked up at Brodeur, and just ripped it past him. It’s 2-0, and the Jersey faithful begin to boooooooo. Interesting side note: the ESPN recap of the game mentions in it’s notes that the game was a sellout and most people were Devils fans. Since when is it noteworthy that a playoff game is sold out and attended mostly by fans of the home team?
Meanwhile, back in Philly, chants of Booooouche were heard throughout. He had two awesome saves after Kovalchuk got loose. First, there was a hard wrister from the slot, through a partial screen, that Boucher gloved. Later, Kovalchuk decided to prove his dominance over the rest of the mortals on the ice. He grabbed the puck, danced around, jumped over, and went through every defending Flyer, and ripped another scorcher only to be denied, yet again, by Boucher.
The third period was another display of NJ’s dominant defense, as they once again didn’t give the Flyers any room. They played with more desperation, and turned the pressure up. Still, the Flyers held tough. NJ made a game of it with less the 3 minutes remaining. Parise dished the puck to the point and went to the net. As he did so, he caught Boucher’s stick with his skate, and moved it completely out of the way. From the replay, it looks like incidental contact because he was looking at the puck and didn’t see where the goalie stick is. But then again, he could feel what he’s doing, so he’s not completely oblivious. It’s a tough call to make, but it’s a little bit questionable. Anyway, it did get Boucher a bit off balance, and a Zajac bouncer managed to squeeze under Boucher’s arm and in. A few more shots, a few more scrambles, but the Flyers held on and earned the victory.
- The Flyers penalty kill unit did an awesome job throughout the game. Their best sequence was when the killed of a double minor in the third period. And even though the PK unit is a strength, I still don’t want to see it on the ice very often.
- Kovalchuk didn’t score, but he had some incredible chances. He’s the only guy NJ has that can create his own chances, so the Flyers have to do a better job of matching up with him. I don’t want him controlling the puck with any open ice, or getting open for people to feed him one-timers.
- It doesn’t matter how good NJ plays defense, 14 shots just won’t cut it long term. The Devils played well enough to win this game. If every game has this same flow, they’ll win the series. You can’t expect Brodeur to give up 2-3 goals on a handful of shots in every game. And you certainly can’t expect the Devils to score 0-1 goals every single game while letting of 25+ shots. The defense has to tighten up, and the offense needs to find a way through. The trap is tough to beat, but the Flyers have the guys to do it.
- Game 2, on Friday, will be even harder to win. But the Flyers know they can do it. They have to play fearless, carry the play, and stay out of the box. They are the better team, and hey have to prove it.
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