What the Flyers can learn from the Devils to BEAT the Devils >

by Michael DeNicola

Friday, Feb. 15, 2013 -

Get ready to hate me. 

You ready?

The Philadelphia Flyers have a lot to learn from the New Jersey Devils. There, I said it. 

Let's begin with the obvious; our Flyers are hurting offensively. At least with offensive consistency. We've seen them try too hard  by passing excessively rather than sticking to basics. We've seen them struggle with possession in the defensive and neutral zones. Some games we look like Playoff contenders, while other games we play like a high school JV hockey team.  

Again, it's the consistency that is the issue. 

The New Jersey Devils are the hottest Club in the East, topping everyone in our Conference, and they're doing so at the surprise of everyone. They have no Zach Parise, who signed on-board in Minnesota over the offseason for boat loads of cash. Adam Henrique spent the beginning of the season on IR. Ilya Kovalchuk wasn't exactly putting on a goal-scoring clinic through the first few weeks of the schedule. Veteran goaltender Martin Brodeur just....won't....friggin'....retire. And their defense was suspect before the season began. 

Yet, here they are. Ranked first in points in the Eastern Conference, third overall in the League standings. How on earth are they doing it? 

For starters, a team leading 9-goals from right-wing David Clarkson helps. In the 2011-12 regular season, Clarkson netted a career high 30-goals which almost doubled his tenure's preceding total (17). The 28-year old forward plays with rugged obstinacy, and it's allowed him to set a scoring pace at 33-goals for this shortened season.

Aside from Clarkson running up the arena's energy bill, how is this Devils team continually winning night in, night out? Many credit New Jersey's bench boss Peter DeBeor and the system he's deep-seated in his team --

"Our team identity is being able to put pressure on in all three zones and really dictate the pace of the game. In generalities, that's what it is about. That's what our system is built around. When we are playing well, we're putting that pressure on. We are on top of other teams and we're hard to play against. It's just getting that consistently every night."

So, wait. Pressure? That's it? 

Pressure is an incredibly important aspect of hockey. As you can see, it wins games. New Jersey's forechecking and puck-cycling is exactly what defeated the Flyers in our last post-season series. This year the Devils are coming just as hard, if not harder, and they're a nightmare to teams who habitually turn the puck over.....like Philadelphia. 

When you grind a team into the dirt, wait for them to make a mistake and then capitalize on that mistake, you win hockey games. They may not be the sexiest wins, but they're two-points in the standings nonetheless. And right now, the Devils are unleashing wave after wave of pressuring shifts. The forechecking, the back-checking and the aggressive attacking they distribute through center ice forces their opponent to attempt to make plays prematurely.

Our Flyers have depth. Regardless of our existing injuries, we have the individual tools to form the same onslaught of force through all three zones. No more fancy shit. 


"You don't defend them, you ATTACK them. You take their game and you shove it right back in their face!" -- Herb Brooks, USA Hockey. 

That begins with administering pressure on the puck to open opportunity for your offensive. Luckily for us, lately, we've seen some scoring streaks from core groups of forwards. Tye McGinn, Matt Read, Brayden Schenn and Jakub Voracek have combined for 15-points in 5-games. 

Tonight the Flyers get back arguably their best defensive-offenseman in Sean Couturier, who's missed the last two outings due to the flu. He'll no doubt be a crucial piece to Philadelphia's pressuring attack, especially on the forecheck and shorthanded situations. 

The biggest key to a victory this evening is keeping the puck in the offensive zone by any means. Whether it's feathering the puck around the boards from the points, tic-tac-toe passing through scoring areas, forechecking New Jersey's possession, forcing Brodeur to swallow shots, or winning faceoffs, each will debilitate the Devils' ability to set a tone and build a consistent effort. 

You can't allow this New Jersey squad to get in a rhythm. Once they establish a progressive repetition, the Flyers will skate on their heels and we're already beaten. Hijack their space and force them to take risks. Skate a full 60-minutes, and never ever stop attacking. 

Never. Stop. Attacking.

And one final thing; clear Bryzgalov's porch. Keep it vacant of skaters like Clarkson who make a living on camping deep in the slot and potting rebounds. Man Bryzgalov's flanks, allowing him to play his best game as a stalwart brick-wall instead of forcing him to be more mobile than he's comfortable with. 

Steady the ship goes, gentlemen. Start playing with a chip on your shoulders, because teams aren't afraid of you. They're underestimating you. And worse, they take advantage of our weaknesses too easily. 

Tonight our boys take on the Devils in Newark, NJ, 7:00.

Let's get it.

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