Philadelphia rolled into the Prudential center looking to do something they failed to do last night. Eliminate a team from playoff contention. This time it was hated rivals, the New Jersey Devils. The Devils were a team on a mission and with help from Flyers killer, Patrick Elias, they defeated the Flyers, 4-2.
The biggest key to any game against the Devils is getting the lead and holding it. Once New Jersey wriggles in front they squeeze the life out of you quicker than a boa constrictor with an agenda.
Those of you who aren't familiar with New Jersey's system pay attention. The Devils employ what is know as the trap. The trap is one of, if not the most, boring systems to watch for many fans. Once the Devils get the lead, or in some cases a tie score, they spring into action. The defense (the Devils in this case) station four of their players in the neutral zone. The fifth player, usually the center, forechecks and cuts off passing lanes, forcing the offensive team to the sideboards. The only alternative is to use the dump and chase method to break the trap.
Now that we have the boring stuff out of the way, onto the game. Which subsequently wasn't much better.
The Flyers came out with a ton of jump for the second consecutive game. They carried much of the play, and even leapt out to the early lead. James van Riemsdyk would cash in his 20th of the season becoming the 7th Flyer to do so. In contrast the Devils have one 20 goal scorer, Ilya Kovalchuk. JVR, as we know him, took a great pass from captain Mike Richards and tipped the disc past Johan Hedberg to make the score 1-0, good guys.
The Flyers continued to carry the play early on in the second. Little did they know they were about to be Eliashed. Patrick Eliashed. The long time Devil has been a thorn in the side of the orange and black for as long as I can remember. So much so that he sits second in active goals against the Flyers with 32. (Kovalev is first with 33)
The first Devils goal came when Brian Rolston charged past Andrej Meszaros. He showed amazing patience and slid the disc to a wide open Elias in the slot. Patrick wasted no time and blasted the puck to the back of the net tying the score at 1-1.
The second Devil's goal of the evening came a mere 1:52 later. The Flyers had the man advantage. Claude Giroux thought it would be a wise idea to throw a blind saucer pass to the point. It skipped over the defenseman's stick and into the neutral zone. Rolston again attacked the puck and roared down the ice in a 2 on 1 with Elias. Brian slid a perfect pass to Patrick, and he beat a down and out Boucher to make it 2-1. The Devils now have half as many goals on the Flyers power play as they do in the last 25 opportunities.
The Flyers responded in the third. They came out with a hunger and quickly knotted the game at 2-2. Nikolay Zherdev, who played outstanding this evening, assisted on Jeff Carter's 36th of the season. Yes you heard that correctly, Nik Zherdev had an assist, only his 5th of the season.
Unfortunately for the Flyers the lead didn't last long. Just four minutes later Ilya Kovalchuk waltzed through the entire team and wristed a shot towards the net. It found the back of the net, but not before it deflected off yet another skate. This one belonged to Nick Palmieri, and he got his 8th goal of the season.
With just under 3 minutes remaining in the contest Patrick Elias would complete his hat-trick. After yet another outstanding play by Rolston the puck ricocheted off of Boucher and then Elias' skate into the gaping 4x6. The war room in Toronto had a look at it, but in the end the goal would stand cementing the win for the Devils.
Not a whole lot of positives you can take out of a loss like this. The Flyers came out with jump eary. However, they couldn't sustain momentum and quickly fell behind.
These are the games you need to be winning, or at least making them interesting. This was a chance to eliminate a long time, and hated, rival from post season contention. The Flyers failed to administer the 'death blow' to a lower opponent. This is something Philadelphia has lacked all season long. The inability to close out teams once getting a lead.
Another growing concern is the ineptitude to get a shut out. Now this may not seem like a major concern now. It is almost a joke. But come playoff time you need that ability to win those close, low scoring games. Being able to win 1-0, 2-1, or 2-0 is a must under the bright lights of the playoffs.
Time to right the ship boys. Actually, the time to do that was two weeks ago. The Fly guys need to start revving up their engines for the playoffs and do it now. Sputtering across the finish line isn't the recipe for post season success. The Flyers have four games remaining against the Rangers, Senators, Sabres, and Islanders. I wouldn't say they are all "must win" games. But it would sure do a hell of a lot to boost the boys confidence, and ours for that matter, if they could post a 4-0 closeout to the season.
As always, LET'S GO FLYERS!!!!!!!!!!