And just like that, this series is over!
The Flyers, a team that few people gave a chance to come out of this round, let alone in convincing fashion, have done just that, defeating the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center last night by a score of 3-0, to eliminate the Devils from the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Flyers won the two teams’ Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Series by a count of four games to one. Overall, the Flyers finished an astounding 9-2-0 against New Jersey in the regular season and playoffs combined this year. Clearly, the “upset” by the Flyers in the first round was no fluke.
Game Five began with a different Flyers team that had taken the ice for Game Four. Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne – two of the Flyers’ top five forwards – are out for the playoffs in Carter’s case, and at least until the last couple games of the Conference SemiFinals for Gagne. Without two of their big guns, the Flyers called upon Ville Leino and David Laliberte to take their spots and take care of this series in New Jersey. In turn, two players in particular needed to come with even more desire than they had already shown, and needed to make their presence felt at The Rock immediately. Those two men were Danny Briere and Claude Giroux, and boy, did they ever answer the bell.
After a stupid penalty by Danny Carcillo gave the Devils a powerplay not even thirty seconds into the game, it was up to the Flyers to kill off the Devils’ first real opportunity of the game. Thanks to some incredible goaltending from Brian Boucher in the game yet again, the Flyers were able to dodge an early bullet, and just a minute or so later got their first power play of the game. It didn’t take long for the Orange and Black to come through and put an uneasy feeling in both the Devils and their fans. Three players that had to be big for the Flyers came up huge on the first power play, as Mike Richards found Claude Giroux at the top of the circles who then made a spinning pass directly into the slot to a wide-open Danny Briere who did a nifty job of kicking the puck to his stick and redirecting the shot past Martin Brodeur for the early Philadelphia lead.
The Flyers took a 1-0 lead into the locker room, and in watching the game, the feeling started to abound that the next goal could either suck all the life out of the Devils if it was scored by someone in a white jersey, or it could give “Jersey’s Team” some newfound life were it scored by a Devils player. New Jersey certainly had their chances yet again, thanks to an early powerplay that came off a David Laliberte hook, and a scramble in front in the early stages of the second period saw a Zach Parise shot beat Brian Boucher but, fortunately for the Flyers, find it’s way to the post and stay clear from danger. The game remained at a score of 1-0 until Mike Richards and Claude Giroux were able once again to create havoc in the Devils’ zone. Richards did a great job of drawing the Devils defensemen towards him, and attempted to get a shot in on Martin Brodeur, but his attempt was thwarted as it was blocked by a defender. To the Flyers fortunes, however, the puck slowly slid back into the slot area, where a charging Giroux put everything he had behind a blistering slapshot that went in and out of the net so fast that Brodeur never had a chance, and few people realized it was a goal in the first place. After a quick review, the score moved to 2-0 Philadelphia, and a lot of anxious energy on the part of the Devils started to settle in.
The predicament only got tougher for New Jersey when Dean McAmmond’s high stick drew blood on Arron Asham and resulted in a four-minute powerplay for the Flyers with just six and a half minutes to go in the second period. A Claude Giroux goal on the first half of the powerplay was the ultimate back-breaker for New Jersey, making the score 3-0 Flyers, and sending them on their way to the second round. The Devils were unable to mount any real type of attack in the third period, despite the Flyers continuing to make trips to the penalty box. Boucher held strong in goal and picked up his first shutout of these playoffs as the Flyers, somewhat convincingly, advanced to round number two.
Now, it’s time for the Flyers to heal up, and rest. They’ll be back on the ice this weekend most likely and Coach Peter Laviolette will be looking to stir up some chemistry amongst his new look lines, now that Simon Gagne and Jeff Carter are each out for extended periods of time. Some how, some way, this team has made it to the second round.
Amidst all the injuries, the questioning of leadership in the locker room, and even the amazing amount of inconsistency this team has shown all season, the Flyers have shown up when it matters most, and are now guaranteed at least four more games of hockey.