The Flyers and Devils square off this afternoon in Philadelphia to start their second round playoff series. Here’s a preview of today’s Game 1 action at the Wells Fargo Center:
No significant injuries for the Devils, but Nicklas Grossmann is expected back from his concussion that sidelined him for Games 5 and 6 against the Penguins. Tom Sestito (groin) and Andrej Meszaros (knee) are not back yet, although both are skating with the team in practice.
Projected Line Combinations (left to right):
Projected Defensive Pairings:
Ilya Bryzgalov and Martin Brodeur are the starters in net for the Flyers and Devils today, as expected.
3 Keys to the Game:
1) Special Teams
Both teams had excellent power play units and poor penalty kill units in the first round of the playoffs. Whoever wins the battle on special teams has a very good chance to win this game. Each team will try to stay out of the penalty box, but must kill the penalties that are presented to them. Both will try to keep up the torrid pace their PP units set in Round 1.
Ilya Bryzgalov was inconsistent against the Penguins, but finished the series out on a high note. Martin Brodeur was more consistent than Bryzgalov and he had a great performance in the 2OT win in Game 7, but still had some soft goals go in on him as well. The Flyers were able to survive Bryzgalov’s bad games in round 1, but the Devils relied on Brodeur to play very well in each of their 4 wins. It goes without saying that whoever wins the goaltending matchup has a is likely to win the game.
3) Defensive Matchups
The Devils split Ilya Kovalchuck, Zach Parise, and Adam Henrique into 3 separate lines in an effort to spread out their scoring more in this round. This means that Sean Couturier’s line will only be able to match up with one of these players, most likely Kovalchuck’s line. That means that the Flyers’ other lines need to step up their defensive game, which was lacking at times in the first round. Danny Briere’s line was particularly bad defensively in Round 1, and Peter Laviolette changed things up as a result. It will be interesting to see how the changes impact both the offensive and defensive play of the Flyers and Devils as a result. If the trio of Kovalchuck, Parise, and Henrique is kept to 3 points between them, the Flyers will probably win the game.
Flyers 4, Devils 2. The Flyers will convert twice on the power play and only give up one power play goal. Ilya Bryzgalov will outplay Martin Brodeur, and that will be the difference in the Flyers taking a 3-2 lead before an empty net goal at the end. Enjoy the game, and let’s go Flyers!