After four games against the favoured Pittsburgh Penguins in round 1 , the Flyers enjoyed a comfortable 3-1 series lead and would go on to take the series in six games. However, after four games in their Eastern Conference Semi-Final series, the Flyers are now the team presented with the task of coming back from a 3-1 deficit against the upstart New Jersey Devils.
Since taking game one of the best-of-seven matchup with their Atlantic division rival, the Flyers have been badly outplayed by a New Jersey team that has beaten them at every turn, every angle, and been the better team in every aspect of the game.
Despite what may seem like a daunting task, the challenge that lies ahead for the Flyers is clear. The team has to find a way to win two games in front of their home fans and come up with one road win in New Jersey.
Starting with what they hope will be an inspired effort in the first elimination game of their 2012 playoff campaign, Philadelphia must first win game 5 before they can start thinking about finding a way to steal one in Newark.
In their three series wins, the Devils have outshot the Flyers 107-70 including a 42-22 margin in last night’s 4-2 victory. They have also had a decided advantage in time on attack, using a relentless forecheck that has come in waves at the Philadelphia defense. From the first line to the fourth, the Devils forwards have dominated the series with their work along the boards and behind the net, winning battle after battle and peppering goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov with shots. Defensively they have been equally as stout, keeping the speedy Flyers forwards at bay and forcing most of their shots to come from the outside.
Giroux Suspended, Will Miss Game 5
As this was being written, the fate of star forward Claude Giroux has been learned. Currently leading the playoffs in scoring with 17 points through 10 games, the Flyers will be forced to try and stave off elimination in Game 5 without their best player and emotional leader. The NHL handed down a one game suspension on Giroux after his hit to the head of Devils forward Dainius Zubrus late in the second period of Game 4. The hit has been said to be a breach of Rule 48 in the league’s code of conduct: bodychecking with the head as primary point of conduct.
Although playing without Giroux in a game that could end their season will seem disastrous at first thought, this could end up being a major rallying point for Philadelphia. A player of Giroux’s world-class calibre is obviously a huge loss but it will give the rest of the team that much more motivation to want to step up in his absence. They will also be aided by the fact that they will be at home and will receive a big boost of energy from their fans; something that should benefit them regardless of being without Giroux.
Game 4 Hero Unfazed By Hit
On the receiving end of the Giroux hit, veteran forward Dainius Zubrus shook off any of the cobwebs he might have had and came back in the third period to finish off what he started late in the second. The hulking winger scored the go-ahead goal and eventual game winner at 17:47 of the second period and then capped off his strong night by capping off the scoring with an empty-net marker in the game’s final minute.
Coming off his best regular-season in the past five years, Zubrus has continued his renaissance performance in the playoffs. He has 3 goals and 3 assists in 11 games, and like most of the Devils forwards, Zubrus has been very effective as a forechecker and on the cycle in the offensive zone.
A Happy Birthday For Marty
Future Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur received the best birthday present he could have asked for on Sunday. Celebrating his 40th birthday, the legendary New Jersey netminder was solid in the crease, making 20 saves in his team’s 4-2 win. After surrendering two first period goals, Brodeur shut the door on any further Philadelphia offense and allowed his teammates to crawl back into the game and eventually seize control.