Friday, April 23, 2010

Bring On Best of 31

Candidly, this Flyers’ fan could have watched the Flyers feed the Devils a healthy dose of their own medicine for a lot longer than five games. Seriously, bring on best-of-31 or something.

How many times over the last decade-plus did I watch the Devils pitch this same formula at Philadelphia: long stretches of territorial dominance thwarted by superior goaltending, clutch goals from guys down on the roster, quality defensemen patiently pitching the puck out with the lead as soulless robots within a “system”? And of course, at the end, a bewildered coach slurring his players as no one can quite put a finger on why the whole was less than the sum of the parts.

Zach Parise = John LeClair? Oh yes, yes- drink it all in.

Even better, that is it! This is the end of the Devils’ dynasty- the magnitude of this lost will consign the last of our old enemies populating that roster to also-rans. Forever. The New Jersey Devils are dead- they will be turned over starting now and their snotty vibe is over.

Ultimately the Devils weren’t good. I pitched them as a team that probably would, if the season re-started today- lose more than it won. The defense collective isn’t very good. Brodeur is up and down, period to period. Kovalchuk is a freelance player locked in a system environment, a Lecavalier without a St. Louis- a winger added to a team that needed depth down the middle.

So this series never figured well for the Devils. Plus, the two traditional ways to close a series talent gap are goaltending and power play- and the Devils got jobbed here too. In goal, Boucher played his best hockey in a decade and the Flyers dominated special teams play- a situation further aggravated by the official’s willingness to stack the penalty box for sundry infractions. The result: New Jersey looked bad an awful lot of the time.

Hard to know what to make of the Flyers though? After a season of disappointment featuring winning as often as losing, it is hard to go whole hog crazy by rubbing out a bad team literally declining every night. This probable next series with the Caps feels a lot like the one with Buffalo a few years ago. The Flyers' defense seems pretty good- but repelling that firepower night after night with officials calling every bump or stumble an infraction penalty. Unlike the Devils, the Caps will score repeatedly given eight power plays a night.

The formula used against the Devils- rely on the Devils inability to score, feel little urge to force the play, win the special teams battle- probably won’t work. The Flyers need to score here- and the issues up front make nightly production of four, five goals problematic.

Still, it is bouncing out those fink Devils- and that will never get old. Winning always helps (at the very least, one of the goalie roster spots for next year is no longer problematic, which is up a notch from “a total mystery with no good choices” between Boucher, Emery and the guy who is hurt). And it looks like Coburn and D are legit top four defensemen- although that will have to be further validated against Washington.