Well, we've got a series now.
The Flyers, thanks to a Matt Read goal, jumped out to an early 1-0 lead over the Devils and then were completely played off the ice. The Devils suffocated the Flyers over the the final two periods en route to a 4-1 win - evening the series at 1-1. How bad was it? The Flyers, typically a dominant second period team, were held without a shot over the first 18+ minutes of the second period.
Quite simply, the Devils just played at a more desperate pace. They scratched and clawed for every inch of ice. The Flyers seemed unwilling or unable to match New Jersey's urgency. The Devils were first to every puck. The few times the Flyers were able to get the puck deep the Devils prevented them from getting their forecheck going.
The loss overshadowed what was a tremendous performance by Ilya Bryzgalov. Bryz kept the Flyers in the game through the first two periods. It's been a long time since a Flyers goalie stole a playoff game, but Bryz certainly stole the second period. The Devils peppered the Flyers goaltender with 12 second period shots. Bryz was perfect through the first two periods, stopping all 25 shots he faced.
Matt Read's goal (video below) stood up for 40 minutes. However, the Devils systemically outlasted the Flyers.
Everything the Flyers did tonight was along the perimeter. Credit to the Devils for funneling play outside, but the Flyers did not seem willing to pay the price to get to the dangerous areas in front of Martin Brodeur (who was called on to make just 19 saves). Perhaps the Flyers were too mindful of Brodeur's puck-handling ability, which affected their dump-ins, but each time they played a puck to the corner a Devils defenseman was there to win the puck.
Peter Laviolette will likely need to make some adjustments to his game plan in order to get his forwards in deep on the Devils defensemen. The Flyers clearly enjoy an advantage in depth, but that depth is neutralized when the forwards are losing puck battles all game. Not a single Flyer forward stood out tonight as all four lines were effectively muted by the Devils.
Lavvy has one full day to figure out his changes as the series resumes on Thursday in Newark.
Photo Credit: Tom Mihalek, AP