I'm not exactly sure where I missed this, but apparently all the expert hockey journalists have been writing how the Devils won't be pushovers this second round. Who thought they'd be pushovers? I certainly did not.
New Jersey finished just one point behind our Flyers in the standings. They're a very good team, able to defend the best of offensive attacks (which has been blatantly proven) and capitalize on the mistakes their opposition makes (which is what we witnessed Tuesday night).
Perhaps everyone believed the Flyers to take the Devils easily because Jersey went the distance in an Overtime Game 7 with the Florida Panthers.
But one thing has always been clear about Playoff hockey; "Just get into the post-season, anything can happen."
Look back to the regular 2011-12 schedule. Check out our record versus the Winnipeg Jets (1 - 2 - 1). The Jets are not a bad team, even though they failed to contend in the Top 8 by season's end. They're just one of those Clubs who had our number.
I'll agree that this season's Florida Panthers are the biggest joke of a Division winner who's ever grasped the Top 3 of the Eastern Conference Standings, but just because New Jersey had difficulty putting them away in a Best of 7 Series does not mean our Philadelphia Flyers were going to easily line the Devils up against the wall and turn them into windchimes like we're some kind of firing squad.
Puck Daddy posts an article titled, "Devils Won't Be a Pushover to Flyers Round 2" after our loss two evenings ago, as if a majority of fans needed reminding that, yea, New Jersey's a pretty good band of icy soldiers. They're incredible on defense and penalty-killing, and even encompass five skaters with 20+ goals through the 82-game season.
Not to mention they have a Future Hall of Famer as their backstop, Marty Brodeur.
Look, I hate the Devils. You hate the Devils. All of South Jersey hates North Jersey's sports teams so much that I know some inhabitants who believe the polar halves need to be divided into two separate States. But does all of this distaste for a sports team really mean they'd be a pushover in the Playoffs?
I hope you answered no.
"We got a lot of guys in this room who want to win, and hate to lose," Claude Giroux says.
And you know what? That's the truth. If there's anything our boys know how to do, it's how to bounce back from a loss or two. Case in point -- Giroux's tempo-setting knock on Sid The Kid in Game 6 of the First Round.
In the video above, Peter Laviolette describes how these are the types of experiences all NHLers go through in the Playoffs. If they weren't, then the Flyers would have carried their momentum from Game 1 through Game 2, but that is simply not the hand you're dealt.
In the post-season it's one shift, one period, one game, one series at a time. And who better to put that into perspective than longtime Leaguer, Martin Brodeur?
''You can't get overwhelmed by one win,'' the 39-year-old Brodeur said after the Devils held a team meeting. ''People always look at that. That's (why) the mood swings are important. You have to be leveled off about them. You feel so good about yourself that sometimes you slack off a bit. We can't get caught up. We played well, but we expect the Flyers to come a lot harder tomorrow and do what they do.''
Love him or hate him, the message Marty is sending is on the nose.
Brodeur mentions how a team may "slack off a bit" when they're feeling good. In this case, call it an absence of exigency by the Flyers, which is what I believe we saw Tuesday night.
''It is all about the will and desperation,'' Briere said. ''We have to get that back. So far in this series, we have only had it for about three periods. There is no sense in me telling you how good we are. You guys have seen us all year. You know if we are good or not. One thing I can tell you is that we need to have more desperation if we want to get back to winning games.''
Our Bullies came off a Game 6 Series win versus the favored Pittsburgh Penguins, and we did so in epic style. Then we open up our SemiFinals series against New Jersey with a dramatic Overtime victory.
Naturally (you could say) the Flyers were feeling pretty good about themselves.
Did that factor into them taking shifts off in Game 2? Who knows? I'd love to tell you that that absolutely cannot be the case. But one thing is fact; The Flyers must come out tonight on a head of steam. They must set the tempo early, which they are clearly able to do. Then again, that doesn't mean you come out so aggressively that you're creating potential mistakes for New Jersey to capitalize on.
That's how the Devils beat their more offensively dominant opponents.
There must be a medium that Philadelphia skates on. One that allows them chances and more shots on Brodeur, yet still establish and maintaining an effective transitional game so we're not seeing heavily back-loaded conversions like in period-3, Tuesday night.
Something I've noticed about the Devils is their strategy's ability to evolve defensively as regulation ages forward. You figure that's the objective of every team, but Jersey's easily the best team in the East in this instance. Almost like a predator stalking its pray, the Devils study their adversary, allowing them a palmful of opportunities in hopes to coax weaknesses or imperfections from their game and then Jersey uses it against them.
Remember the scene in the movie Gladiator when Commodus seeked advice from Falco on how to eliminate Maximus' power over Rome's people? Falco uses a metaphor that I believe pertains to the SemiFinal atmosphere at hand --
"I have been told of a certain sea snake which has a very unusual method of attracting its prey. It will lie at the bottom of the ocean as if wounded. Then its enemies will approach, and yet it will lie quite still. And then its enemies will take little bites of it, and yet it remains still."
Just an FYI, the Devils' website has Kovalchuk listed as day-to-day, however Jersey's beat writer Tom Gulitti tweeted that Ilya's on the ice for morning skate --
Let's get this Series back tonight, boys. Get it back in their barn.
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