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Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Flyers Eliminated

Tuesday night marked the end of the Philadelphia Flyers season, losing 3-1 to the New Jersey Devils who won the best of 7 series 4-1. Not a lot of fans or analysts saw this coming, the Flyers were supposed to clobber the Devils and advance to the next round without any issues. But the Flyers were unable to manipulate the Devils, like they did with the Penguins, the Flyers were the ones taking bad penalties, and losing their cool.

Now Ilya Bryzgalov can't shoulder all the blame for the loss, he didn't play his best but his team wasn't very helpful on most nights. But after watching him this entire series (making routine saves look impossible) it is becoming more clear that the Flyers only survived their series against the Penguins because Marc-Andre Fleury was off his game. Had Fleury been on his game it could have been an entirely different first round match up! Anyways I bring this up to show that the Flyers aren't as dominate as people thought after the first round, those people include the Flyers themselves. The players got a little full of themselves and thought they could beat anyone, they didn't give their opponents the respect they deserved (like what happened out West with Nashville and Phoenix).

So breaking down the series we'll look at 3 reasons the Flyers lost and 3 reasons the Devils won.


1. Undisciplined hockey:

This is a big one you're not going to win playoff series' playing undisciplined hockey. Especially when your opponents refuse to stoup to your level, and take bad penalties. The Flyers just took too many bad penalties that put them behind the 8 ball. You have Brayden Schenn, Zach Rinoldo, Scott Harntell and Wayne Simmonds playing with no control and taking very stupid, costly penalties. Then you have the little moment of selfishness from Claude Giroux which earned him as suspension! Not only were these guys all over the place they weren't able to help their team out on the scoresheet; Schenn, Simmonds, Hartnell combined for just 2 goals, a far cry from their production in the first round. A lot of the penalties taken were at horrible times, the Flyers would score a goal and go up 1-0 then moments later they're down a man trying to kill off a 5 on 4 which made it impossible for them to get momentum!

2. Ilya Bryzgalov:
Not all the blame falls squarely on the shoulder of Bryzgalov but he definitely has to should some of the blame. He gave his team a chance to win night in and night out, but what he didn't do was come up with a big save when they needed it! He also let in far too many weak goals that deflated the Flyers team, I'm sure if truth be told the Flyers didn't have a ton of confidence in their 51 million dollar goalie near the end of the playoffs. Bryzgalov didn't play bad but at the same time he didn't play phenomenal and was out duelled by the legend himself Marty Brodeur.
Bryzgalov went 5-6 with a GAA 3.46 and a Save Percentage of .887 not the kind of numbers you need to endure playoff success. To be honest I was very surprised the Flyers left Bryz in a lot of the games as he just wasn't getting the job done, maybe pulling him could have sparked the rest of the team?
Forget Bears in the playoffs he looked like Bryzgalov was afraid of the pucks!
But often times when a teams goalie is struggling the defense isn't too stellar either. The Devils exposed the Flyers poor defencive system and were able to keep them hemmed in their own end with ofter 1 fore checker. The Flyers had a very weak "puck moving defence" the Devils caught onto that and were able to disrupt the breakout and force the forwards to play more in their defensive end!

3. Were too satisfied after the first round:
The way the Flyers and their fans reacted after round one you would have thought they had won the Stanley Cup, instead of just barely squeaking out a first round victory. The Flyers were so amped up and ready to win at all costs against the Penguins, then in round 2 they couldn't get amped up to play the Devils there was no emotion. They only emotion they showed was frustration something you do not want to expose to your opponents, they made it painfully obvious and once that happened the Devils had won the series. It was easy for the Flyers to get amped up against the Pens due to their intense rivalry, but they couldn't get anything out of the Devils. The Devils wouldn't engage in stuff after the whistle, and they played a clean game giving them nothing to get a spark from! 
"They didn't give us anything to be emotional about, they weren't in scrums and it seemed like they really didn't hit us. It wasn't there and that was their mindset and game plan" Scott Hartnell
1. Martin Brodeur:
If Ilya Bryzgalov is shouldering some of the blame than Brodeur has to be given tons of credit for out battling his opponent. He sure as heck did not look like a 40 year old goaltender contemplating retirement, he looked more like an elite 32 year old with 3 Stanley Cup rings and 16 years of prior playoff success. Brodeur is proving he can still get the job done when it matters most, with his win on Tuesday which eliminated the Flyers he became only the 4th goalie in history to win 8 playoff games at the age of 40! He has shown glimpses of his old self, his Hall of Fame legacy and if the Devils want to win the cup they will need Brodeur to be on the top of his game!
*Random Stat Brodeur becomes the first goalie to play a playoff game in his teens and start a playoff game in his 40's*

2. Everyone chipped in: 
The Flyers relied heavily on Briere and Giroux's production in the playoffs, if those two weren't scoring no-one else would be either. But the Devils were able to rely on multiple goal scorers, in the 5 games in the series they scored 18 goals and had 11 different goal scorers! They were even able to muster up a win without their star Ilya Kovalchuck. Their depth ultimately outplayed Philly's depth, while Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds were busy taking dumb penalties, Adam Henrique and David Clarkson were busy scoring goals! 

3. The forecheck:
Something all teams use some not as well as others, but the Devils brought their "A game" with their forecheck and gave the Flyers a lot of trouble getting out of their end! Besides game 1 the Devils due to their relentless forecheck outshot the Flyers in every game. They were faster to lose pucks, harder on the puck, got more scoring opportunities and capitalized on them. The Devils may be the dark horse of the Eastern Conference!

Well the Flyers are out and the Devils are on to the Eastern Conference Championships something not a lot of people saw coming. The Flyers will now have to sit at home and watch their former teammates Jeff Carter and Mike Richards in the Western Conference Championships who stand a solid chance of going to the Stanley Cup Finals. Ilya Bryzgalov also must watch his former team battle against the Kings in the Western Conference Finals (Phoenix Coyotes). 

The Devils will await their opponent either the Washington Capitals or the New York Rangers, these playoffs have been so unpredictable there is no use predicting the outcome of any series'. 

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