this the final Flyers gamethread of the 2011-2012 season? With no reason
to obfuscate the obvious, we need to accept the possibility that unless
the Flyers can dramatically turn around the trends of the past three
games, it will be.
Even some diehard Flyers junkies are calling this
series over already. We're definitely not ready to do that, but we can
understand the perception of lifelessness. The series with the Devils
has been like a four-game methadone dose after two weeks of sped up junk
in the Pittsburgh series. Dramatic highs and excruciating lows replaced
by a gradual dulling of the senses. We still want what nearly killed us
in the first round, but we can barely remember it.
Without his best player, who has been suspended for a
possible series-deciding game, Peter Laviolette is tasked with
establishing a gameplan that can penetrate an amazingly efficient
forecheck, then generate something resembling sustained pressure. Since
game 1, the Flyers have rarely been able to do so. Failing again tonight
will mean the golf clubs and another early departure from the
postseason—the hallmark of my hockey-watching life.
Can they turn it around not only tonight, but the next three games?
the odds are against them. Taking Claude Giroux off the ice doesn't
help matters, although the optimists among us will hope it causes a few
other faces to step up and take control of a listless, toothless
It's been said that perhaps G was trying to do too
much on every shift, a draining exercise if the shift proves futile.
Were others perhaps waiting for his heroics to emerge like they did in
the Pittsburgh series?
How to beat the Devils' forecheck is something that
eludes me. Fortunately, I'm in great company, as Lavvy hasn't figured it
out yet either. Dumping and chasing isn't working, as the Devils are
either winning the race to the end boards or having the puck volleyed
back to them by Martin Brodeur, if icing isn't called. It's like trying
to play dump-and-chase against a team that has a third defenseman
sitting behind the net.
Simply put, the Devils have been outstanding at
taking away the time the Flyers have to advance the puck. As soon as a
Philadelphia player touches it, a Devil is on him. Once they cross their
own blue line, it's like watching a full-court press, only it lasts all
If the Flyers can't find an offensive strategy to
get through the gauntlet, perhaps the answer is a different style of
play when the Devils have the puck. Overall this series, they don't seem
to finishing checks well or making a point of taking the body whenever
possible. True this can, and has, lead to being out of position, but
maybe being more aggressive without the puck (within reason) will wear
the Devils down while ratcheting up the Flyers intensity to levels
rarely seen in this series.
It's not a plan, just a place to start. The Flyers
have more talent, but they have not been the better team. The Devils
adherence to their system is the primary dividing line, but their
intensity has been a huge difference too.
We'd add "Get traffic in front of Brodeur," but that too is pretty obvious, and anyway, they're not generating the shots that would benefit from traffic anyway. If there's time and space to wind and fire, then by all means, put a body in front of the old man.
Mesz News Ever?Andrej Meszaros could return to the blue line in a last-ditch effort to stagnate an opportunistic Devils attack. No idea how effective he'll be after spending time on the shelf, or how close to 100% he is.
Coming Up BryzOne thing's for certain,
regardless of what happens in this series, if the Flyers depart, it
won't be the sole fault of Ilya Bryzgalov. Depending on tonight's
action, virtually nothing can be blamed on him. Goaltending was the most
frequently cited concern in last year's playoffs, and ownership wanted
that silenced. For most of the season, it certainly was not, and Bryz
even drew criticism in the opening round, when he was on the ice for
what felt like a series-long shootout.
But in a series showing far more measured pace, Bryz
has kept his team alive in games during which they've otherwise been
dominated. He hasn't stolen them the proverbial game yet, but it's hard
to ask for much more than he has given.
No one can go into this game thinking the season is over. We've seen the Flyers come back from worse and beat better.
7:30 start time on NBCSN. South Philly get loud.