I literally don’t know what to say about the Devils performance tonight. At first, I was enraged by the lack of aggression and the Devils’ lack of patience. But now, after taking a break from hockey, I’ve come to realize I’m just shocked that the team can look this bad right now. They’ve scored the first goal in each of the past three games, but after that they’ve failed to play a sixty-minute game. After Ilya Kovalchuk lit the lamp, the Flyers scored four unanswered goals to sweep the two home games. The Devils now head home with a 3-1 series deficit.
1. Kovalchuk’s 5-on-3 Powerplay Goal
The Devils wanted to come out in game four and be more aggressive in the Flyers’ zone. Two early penalty calls helped their cause, as the Devils received an early 5-on-3 powerplay opportunity. With both Braydon Coburn and Chris Pronger in the box, the Devils took advantage of their opportunity. Zach Parise sent a pass up the ice, springing the Devils on a 4-on-2. Kovalchuk moved into the zone, and used a fake shot to freeze Blair Betts. Kovalchuk cut to the right circle and fired a shot on net that beat Brian Boucher for Kovalchuk’s second goal of the series.
2. Jeff Carter’s Powerplay Goal
Down 1-0, the Flyers began to press the Devils’ defense and get quality scoring chances. But Martin Brodeur was sharp, and it looked like he might steal the game. But luck turned the Flyers’ way with an interference penalty to Rob Niedermayer at 8:51 of the second period. With Niedermayer in the box, Daniel Briere held the puck in the Devils zone. He passed the puck to Carter, who was coming out from behind the net. Carter skated the puck through the right circle, and released a shot that beat Brodeur for his first goal of the series.
3. Briere’s Four-On-Four Goal
After their first goal, the Flyers’ continued to pressure the Devils. That effort would pay off, as the Flyers’ would strike for their second goal of the period. With Matt Carle and Travis Zajac in the box, Briere came down the ice with Coburn on a 2-on-2. Coburn sent a pass to Briere on the left side. Briere shot the puck from the side boards that beat Brodeur over the glove for his first goal of the series.
4. The Flyers Kill of James van Riemsdyk’s Penalty
James van Riemsdyk opened the door for the Devils at the end of the second period, taking a roughing minor with 4.6 seconds left. The Devils would get nearly a full powerplay to start the third period. But the Flyers didn’t allow the Devils to set up their powerplay. They played aggressive defense, and in the end took the Devils chance away.
5. Daniel Carcillo Puts The Nail In The Coffin
It seemed like the penalty kill put the Flyers right back on track. Carcillo scored the goal to figuratively end the game, netting his second of the series at 4:10 of the period. Carcillo began the play, hitting Colin White behind the net to jar the puck loose. Carcillo curled to the side boards, and put a shot on net that beat Brodeur through the pads.
Where Has The Aggression Gone?
The Devils began this game a desperate team. They looked like they wanted a win. They were buzzing, creating their own chances and making Boucher work for every save. But, in the end, that play would disappear near the end of the first period. After that, the Devils were badly outplayed. Philadelphia received the better scoring chances and played a great game. The Devils went back to putting easy shots on net and not pressuring Boucher. They broke down defensively, allowing the Flyers to continually get quality scoring chances. And while Brodeur was good, he wasn’t the same Brodeur as Sunday night. Philadelphia pounced on their opportunities, burying the Devils in the final two periods.
Wanted: An Effective Powerplay
Once again, the Devils teased us with their powerplay. It looked so good at first, creating great chances and making the Flyers work to clear the puck. But, by the end of the game, the Devils reverted back to their old form. No more creativity, no more crisp passes. The team just dumped the puck in, held on to it for too long, and made the Flyers’ job easy on the penalty kill. With the Flyers giving the Devils eight chances tonight, they once again let an opportunity pass. The Devils are now 4-24 (16.7%) with the man advantage in the series.
Continue reading after the jump for the entire game recap!
Things I Liked:
1. Kovalchuk’s First Period
Kovalchuk’s first period was a great one. The left-winger led all scorers with five shots on net, and he almost had two goals on the powerplay. But he settled back into his disappearing role in the second and third periods. When the Devils took a bench minor in the third period, Devils’ coach Jacques Lemaire sent Kovalchuk to serve it. If Kovalchuk had played the entire game like he did the first period, maybe he could have affected the outcome of the game. But his first period was a solid period.
2. Brodeur’s Play
Even though he wasn’t as sharp as Sunday, Brodeur was the only one keeping the Devils in this game. There’s only so much you can ask the goalie to do, and Brodeur tried to do it all. But when he receives no goal support and even less defensive help, you’ve got to expect him to give up a few.
Things That Annoyed Me:
1. No Hustle, Aggression, Etc.
I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but this team played like they had a 10-goal lead and led the series, 3-1, near the end of the first period. I don’t know what happens, but it seems like the Devils have motivation issues. I don’t know if this is a Lemaire issue, a Langenbrunner issue, or just something that’s nagged this team the entire year, but it’s been the main reason for their terrible two games in Philadelphia. The Flyers’ outhustled the Devils, beating them to every loose puck. They made adjustments, they played solid defense, they’ve done everything correct. But the Devils haven’t been able to do any of those things, and now they face a 3-1 series deficit.
2. The Lack of Discipline
With the Devils down, 2-1, in the third period, they decided to take a new approach to the comeback. Instead of putting shots on net or pressuring the Flyers’ defense, they took three minor penalties in the first half of the period, including giving the Flyers a 5-on-3 advantage. As you might assume, it didn’t help matters at all. Philadelphia went on to score twice more in the period, and the Devils wouldn’t come back. The Devils would collect 28 – no, that’s not a typo – penalty minutes, including two game misconduct penalties. It’s that lack of discipline which helped lose this game for the Devils tonight.
3. The Defensive Play
Where was the defense tonight? After the first period, it seemed the Devils’ defense crumbled. The Flyers received great scoring chances all night tonight. Brodeur made up for their mistakes in Sunday night’s game, but he couldn’t do it two night in a row. The defense was exposed tonight, and the group looked slow and unorganized.
The Devils are now 10-15 in their last 25 road playoff games.
With the loss, Brodeur drops to 0-5 in his last five playoff starts in Philadelphia.
The Flyers have defeated the Devils in eight of ten meetings this season, including the playoffs.
The Flyers and Devils will play game five at the Prudential Center Thursday at 7 p.m.
Photo Credits: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images