Let’s all be honest here. Despite a slight advantage to Philly over the years, every Devil fan loves him/herself a Devils/Flyers match up. Well… we’ve got a playoff matchup against them now and it certainly did not start as per my needs. Game 1 of this Eastern Conference Semifinals between New Jersey and Philadelphia was one that Devils fans will want to forget forever.
Before the puck was even dropped, Cam Janssen was apparently warming up for the Devils (he didn’t play) for an intimidation factor I suppose. Coach Peter DeBoer also changed the lines up in an attempt to generate more offense (Alex Ponikarovsky moved up to the 1st line and captain Zach Parise moved down to the 2nd line). When the period started, I was amazed with what the Devils were doing in the first 3 minutes. To start against the Flyers like that was unbelievable. Just 3:16 into the game, Zach Parise brought me out of my seat with a shot that beat Ilya Bryzgalov down low! His 3rd goal of the playoffs was assisted by Patrik Elias, who made a great pass to set up Parise. Philadelphia forward Jake Voracek took a slashing penalty nearing the 16 minute point. I was very impressed with what the ensuing Devils power play had to offer. Though they couldn’t score, the Flyers didn’t seem to have any motive to stop New Jersey’s momentum. Midway through the period, the Devils had an 11-0 shots advantage but that was broken 2 seconds later when Marty Brodeur made a stop on a Flyer player coming up to him on his right. That got a sarcastic applause from the obnoxious and disrespectful Flyer crowd. After that shot however, I truly believe everything went Philadelphia’s way throughout the game. The Flyers got a lot more shots but the Devils had some fair chances in Philly’s zone (mainly because Bryzgalov was misplaying the puck many times). After one, shots-on-goal were a promising 15-6 in favor of NJ.
If I was forced to describe this period in one word, it would be unfathomable. It was simple up and down hockey but the Devils were icing the puck more than need be. I even lost count and in a playoff game, that’s definitely not something to be proud of. From this, the Flyers took advantage of all the chances they got, but Marty was there to save the day (his stop at the 15:15 point on Max Talbot and at the 12:50 point on Sean Couturier). A minute after the Couturier save however, things started to fall apart for the Devils. Voracek found an open teammate in Danny Briere and passed him the puck, which allowed Briere to go on a breakaway. I’m not quite sure why Marty went down so early and stacked his pads when Briere didn’t even move but Briere found an opening and put it by Brodeur. His 7th goal of the playoffs assisted by Voracek tied this game up at 1. Misery continued for the Devils just 37 seconds later. This time, Marty was truly to blame. He tried to play the puck but instead to the stick of a Devil, Philly defenseman Erik Gustafsson took it and passed it to an open teammate in James Van Riemsdyk (The Traitor), who scored on a wide open goal. Van Riemsdyk’s 1st goal of the playoffs was assisted by Gustafsson and suddenly the Flyers were up 2-1. Eric Wellwood of the Flyers took a tripping penalty but the Devils power play that ensued had no effect, in fact, it harmed the Devils more than it helped. Just 9 seconds after the power play expired and Wellwood came out of the box, Elias took a hooking penalty. I put my palms in my face at that moment because I was almost ready to give up on the game. Adam Henrique, however, reversed that expression on my face with a great shorthanded attempt, ultimately resulting in a penalty on Flyer defenseman Matt Carle at the 6:38 point. Ultimately after the 4-on-4, the Devils power play quickly cashed in! Travis Zajac, at the 6:07 point, came swooping in and shot the puck from a pass, which trickled over the goal line behind Bryzgalov! Zajac’s 4th of the playoffs were assisted by Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk and the Devils tied it at 2. Chances were pretty even after that, but the majority of those Flyers chances came off of turnovers from Marek Zidlicky. Shots-on-goal after two were 18-14 in favor of NJ.
Hardip Sidhu, a fellow Devils fan on twitter (@HardipGoDevils) tweeted before the game to “Hope for the best but expect the worst!” Well… that’s essentially what I was doing. I was HOPING the Devils could find a way to break this game open in the 3rd. Unfortunately, I just did not have that confidence in the Devils. We’ve all seen how they’ve performed in the 3rd as of late. All fans can do is pray. Knowing Devils fans and their prayers, they rarely get answered nowadays and the Flyers were ruling play for the majority of this period. There were several early chances by Philly that kept NJ on its heels. At the 16:10 point, Andy Greene took a hooking penalty. I was almost certain Kovalchuk would go off at the same time for whacking the Flyer player on the throat – thank goodness he didn’t. Well, there wasn’t really any reason to thank anybody on the ensuing power play, when Claude Giroux one-timed a rocket top shelf on Marty. Giroux’s 7th of the playoffs assisted by Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell came 19 seconds into the power play. I was essentially speechless because not only did the Flyers keep puck possession, but they eclipsed the Devils in shots! Still, I was sensing a miracle. Just a few seconds after the 9 minute mark, Philadelphia called a timeout, which greatly helped NJ. 20 seconds after the timeout, Petr Sykora, with great poise and patience, scored on Bryzaglov’s 5-hole on a breakaway! This game was tied at 3! Sykora’s 1st of the playoffs was assisted by David Clarkson. That didn’t stop the Flyers from getting the 4th goal though. Kovy turned the puck over a lot and that resulted in some scary chances for Philly. At the 6:18 point, Marty tried to play the puck behind the net but DROPPED HIS STICK! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! I’m thankful that there was a defenseman there otherwise things could have turned out pretty ugly. The Devils called a timeout with 3:39 to give the players some rest. The Flyers responded later with chances from Van Riemsdyk and Briere but no goals were scored. We were headed into overtime…again. Shots-on-goal after regulation were a shocking 29-22 in favor of Philadelphia.
The Devils were heading into overtime for the 3rd consecutive playoff game in a row. That’s the first time they did that in franchise playoff history. Could they make it 3 for 3 though? From the first 30 seconds I probably wouldn’t say so. That’s when Zidlicky (aka Bum) took a delay of game penalty. If you all recollect, Bum did this in Florida during game 7 in the waning minutes of the 3rd period, which allowed Florida to tie the game at 2. Here, the Flyers had a chance to win it. I thought the game was over on this power play when Briere “scored” at the 17:47 mark. We have this love for video replay though and it showed that Briere kicked the puck in. No Goal was the call! A minute later, Ponikarovsky almost won it for NJ but the loose puck near Bryzgalov was cleared out. It only took a shot from the point to beat Brodeur unfortunately. That shot was taken by guess who… Briere. You could make an argument that Van Riemsdyk interfered with Marty but to be honest I saw nothing. Briere’s 7th of the playoffs assisted by Voracek and Carle gave the Flyers the 4-3 win at the 15:24 point. Shot-on-goal for the game were a miserable 36-26 in favor of Philadelphia. Complete bummer.
- Danny Briere
- James Van Riemsdyk
- Zach Parise
Next Game: Game 2 Devils @ Flyers May 1st, 2012: 7:30 PM on NBC Sports Network
It was great news to me that the New Jersey Devils got to play a game on NBC for the first time in 5 years! In addition, I was excited to hear Doc Emrick call the game. Unfortunately, including the game today, the Devils have not won a game this season when Doc calls it. The last time the Devils knocked the Flyers out of the playoffs, they won the cup (2000). However the last couple of times the two teams played off against each other, Philadelphia won both meetings in 5 games (2004, 2010). Thankfully NJ doesn’t have to worry about those infamous rats anymore but keep in mind that a smoke bomb was thrown in 2008 in Philly. Anything can happen. Anyone notice what happened before the 3rd period? There was a problem with Marty’s goal post. 19,972 was the attendance but 19,900 of them had to be Flyers fans and when they saw that they chanted “Marty”. Yeah, it’s totally Brodeur’s fault for a dysfunctional goal post right? The majority of Flyers fans have absolutely no class and I’m not expecting them to conform into class acts anytime soon. The one good thing about this game was that the Devils PK went 5/6.
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