With everything on the line tonight, the Philadelphia Flyers bring the 7-game Eastern Conference semifinal series against the New Jersey Devils back to the Wells Fargo Center, with the hopes of staving off elimination in the face of a major 3-1 series hole. Without their top scorer Claude Giroux though, it will take a major step-up in effort from the rest of a talented Flyers scoring offense, which has not been able to rise to the occasion in the face of veteran Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, and an increasingly suppressive New Jersey defense. With puck drop set for 7:30 PM ET tonight, expect this game to be the fastest-paced, and the most physically involved game of the series to date, with Philadelphia desperate to play better defense and promote more scoring chances against a frustratingly good New Jersey blue line.
The Philadelphia Flyers have simply not been able to find consistency on defense in this series, and haven’t been able to rely on a big-scoring offense as they had in the series with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Further, with the team playoff leader in goals, assists and total points sitting on the bench tonight, Peter Laviolette’s squad may have no choice but to try to correct their defensive gaps. Missing Claude Giroux is a huge blow in a do-or-die Game 5 at home, but regardless of whether Giroux’s hit on Dainius Zubrus was indeed worthy of suspension, the Flyers simply have to push that issue aside and focus on getting back into a proper scoring rhythm, while at the same time finding some way to disrupt a Devils offense that has shown no signs of being intimidated by the Philadelphia defense. As has been the story line throughout most of the playoffs, Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov simply has to be better in net for Philadelphia, in what could possibly be the final game of the season. Bryzgalov has been simply subpar across the board in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs, posting a 5-5 record with a 3.49 goals against average and a %.885 save percentage. The Devils have mustered nearly 4 goals a game in this series, and have taken the wind out of the usually-confident Flyers sails. Despite needing a better effort from their goalie, which has been the case in every game win or lose, what the Flyers really need to produce tonight is more scoring chances, and more of their typical attacking style from Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell and Jakub Voracek. Though missing Giroux is a huge absence at a critical juncture, the Flyers still have plenty of offensive weapons to rely on, but whether or not they’ll be able to show up against an increasingly confident Devils defense is another matter entirely.
The New Jersey Devils without a doubt are one of the most surprising teams in the NHL playoffs this season. The resurgence of Martin Brodeur in the playoffs (7-3, 2.15 GAA, .916 save %) has truly been a rallying point of the Devils, who have held the league’s 2nd-ranked scoring offense to just 9 goals in 4 games. With an uptick in offensive production as well, the Devils appear to be peaking at just the right time, as star left-winger Ilya Kovalchuk has bounced back from injury to lead the Devils in scoring, and Travis Zajac has stepped up, getting a point in every game during this series. While New Jersey doesn’t have the same caliber of scoring weapons, aside from Kovalchuk when he’s at 100 percent, the Devils have been able to succeed via a bend-don’t break defense, and taking advantage of a Flyers defense that simply doesn’t look up to par for a lasting run at a Stanley Cup trophy. That said, the Devils will find themselves playing against a wounded and dangerous animal in Philadelphia tonight, a team that is no stranger to making huge comebacks in the postseason (ask the Boston Bruins about that). With the Flyers determined to throw everything they have at the Devils defense, and attack all night long, the Devils need to formulate a game plan around the counter attack, which could catch the Philadelphia defense off guard when they push everyone forward into the Devils’ zone. New Jersey has been very calculating in their scoring chances so far this playoff run, and has been very good at getting the Flyers out of rhythm and off their scoring game in this series. The Devils most certainly will look to keep Philadelphia out of their groove, playing hounding defense and creating fast breaks while the Flyers push forward.
For Philadelphia to make a comeback in this series, they simply must find a new hero to replace Claude Giroux. The natural go-to guy is Danny Briere, who has accumulated a point per game in over 100 playoff appearances. Briere has to be the veteran leader tonight, and getting a goal from him will certainly help to rekindle some of the lost scoring confidence of the Flyers. Another big area Philadelphia can improve on is in their discipline. The Devils have done a great job not getting themselves into penalty trouble, and not taking the bait from the Flyers, who prefer a chippy game with lots of power play opportunities. Running at a %36.6 clip on the power play this postseason, but only getting 4 chances with the man advantage in the last two games, Philadelphia needs to generate more scoring opportunities in straight up hockey, as you can be sure the Devils won’t be lacking in discipline in a crucial Game 5. With the Devils likely to throw their defensive muster at Briere, Hartnell and Voracek, there could be a good possibility for the Flyers to find an unsung hero, perhaps by virtue of the young speedsters Braden Schenn or Wayne Simmonds, who could be in a position to find success tonight. Getting quick puck movement and lots of pressure on Martin Brodeur is critical, which could be achieved with more prominent games from the members of the Flyers 2nd and 3rd scoring lines.
Betting Lines for the Philadelphia Flyers vs. New Jersey Devils at the Oddsmaker Sportsbook
The money line goes to the home team Philadelphia Flyers tonight, who have -130 odds, but checking the betting trends at Oddsmaker Sportsbook, we see that already 65 percent of the money is going towards the underdog Devils, who are at +110 odds to win straight up. That most certainly is riding on the absence of Claude Giroux, who certainly has been the key focal point for the Flyers offense.
Against the spread tonight, the betting lines having Philadelphia with a -1.5 goal margin to overcome, as favorites on home ice. At +230 odds, there’s little confidence via the bookmakers that the Flyers will dominate in this game, while there’s plenty of hope that the Devils, getting +1.5 goals at -270 price, will be hanging tight in this critical Game 5.
For total goal tonight, the over/under stands at 5.5, with the expectations that defense will once again play a huge factor in the outcome tonight. Though Philadelphia is missing their top scorer, and New Jersey has frustrated the Flyers into low-scoring performances, in a game where there will be plenty of additional effort and lots of focus on getting pucks on net, we’re expecting 6 goals out of tonight’s showdown, and a bust-out of the total goals.