By Jeff O’Connor & Dave Turner
New Jersey Devils (13-9-5) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (12-15-1) 7:00 pm Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Well, the New Jersey Devils are finally playing some strong hockey. The goaltending and defense have been solid why the passing and the forechecking has soared in effectiveness. Sounds an awful lot like the second half of last season…right?
They will take on the same Philly team they smacked in the mouth on Wednesday night, but you have to expect the Flyers too be substantially better. It would be nice to get some form of point(s) before a big-time litmus tests enters the building tomorrow night in the Montreal Canadiens.
We go over some thoughts/points for tonight’s contest.
1) Concern over STARTING the storm, not weathering it. Yes, I think the Flyers will come out strong but I think the Devils will too. By starting the storm, I mean taking a silly penalty. Want to win road hockey games? One key, if not as big as goaltending, is staying out of the box. Just like in football…if you turn the ball over on the road, forget it. Same thing applies here. Don’t take the first penalty and let their crowd get all riled up. Flyer fans are loud, but it’ll shut a lot of the crowd up if the Devils play smart and get that first goal.
2) Bryzgalov due for a good one vs. NJ? Ilya Bryzgalov has been really bad against the Devils over the last several games. So far in this regular season? 13 goals in three games. Ouch. He even allowed three goals or more in each game of their playoff series. Just by law of averages, isn’t he going to have a good performance sometime soon? I’d have to think so, but maybe he can just wait two more regular season matchups until next year? 🙂
3) Frustrate Simmonds AND Hartnell. While Wayne Simmonds gets ticked when he gets bumped or gets in a scuffle, Scott Hartnell is like a ticking time bomb. If there’s any physical contact against him, he essentially goes into a road rage. Tom Kostopolous cleaned his clock on Wednesday with a beautifully, clean check. Hartnell went right after him and was ready to throw down in fisticuffs. Get him angry, make him take dumb penalties. Slash his stick just the right amount, face wash him with that stinky hockey glove, or just rock his world in the middle of the ice again and watch the fireworks explode!
4) Expect a very chippy and physical game from the Flyers. I expect a fight within the first ten minutes of the game. There will be a lot of after the whistle activities as well. The biggest thing, as we alluded to earlier is to not take a stupid penalty. Let the Flyers be the ones who are going to get themselves in penalty trouble. The Devils power play has looked better over the last few games, so a few early chances on the man-advantage could definitely lead to a goal.
5) Make no mistake, this is a VERY big game. Bury the Flyers now, because if they have a chance, there is definitely enough talent on this team for them to rattle off something like eight of ten and get right back in the playoff picture. It would be to the Devils benefit to win and put the Flyers four games under .500. Who knows, another bad loss and they could implode. The last thing the Devils want is for the Flyers to win big today and get hot, which would put more pressure on the Devils in terms of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
Prediction: Flyers 4, Devils 2
The last time the Flyers were this desperate against the Devils, it was game five of the Eastern Conference Semi-finals last season. Though the Devils won that one, it’s a bit different in the regular season. Not to say that the Devils don’t want this game, because that’d be foolish to say, but at this point the Flyers are playing with a type of desperation that the Devils don’t have.
Because of that, I think they are going to come out and play a solid game. I expect the Flyers to find their way to the first goal, probably a rebound out in front. This game may even be tied going into the third period, but in the end I think Philadelphia will do just enough to get a late goal and pop in an empty-netter to win.
Oh…and if you want a good laugh and you hate the Flyers/any Philly team, watch this: (note: a lot of bad language)