When New Jersey and Philadelphia began their playoff series I'm sure most people had their predictions for how it would go -- mine was Flyers in six or seven -- but I'm not sure many people thought we would see it this way. The Devils have a chance to close out Philly in Game 5 at Wells Fargo Center tonight and the fact that New Jersey is in this position, and the way the Devils have gotten there, really isn't a surprise.
It's a complete shock.
Coming off their first-round win against Pittsburgh the Flyers looked like world beaters and Claude Giroux looked like he might be the best player on the planet right now. The Devils, meanwhile, escape the weakest division winner in the East on a double-overtime goal in Game 7 and had to play two games facing elimination to advance.
Now it looks as if the roles are completely reversed. Giroux won't even be in the lineup Tuesday because of his one-game suspension for a high hit on Dainius Zubrus, but he's been struggling in this series anyway. Giroux has just three points in four games of this series after having 14 points in six games against the Penguins.
Philadelphia's power play was so good against Pittsburgh that it's still the best-ranked unit in the playoffs, but against New Jersey the power play has looked terrible. Just look at Game 3, when the Flyers had not one, but two power plays in overtime, and mustered all of one shot on net.
This is even crazier considering New Jersey, though it had one of the greatest penalty-killing units in NHL history, was abysmal against Florida's power play in the first round. This time around New Jersey's defense has looked great. And what's wildest about this is that Bryzgalov has been great this series. The only way this should conceivably be 3-1 for the Devils right now is if Bryzgalov has been terrible and Marty Brodeur has been good, but it's been the other way around. Marty has still been good, but Bryzgalov has been great and his teammates and his defense have been terrible.
I'm very surprised that the Flyers look so slow compared to the Devils whereas the Flyers looked so fast compared to Pittsburgh, and if you know hockey, you know Pittsburgh is one of the fastest teams in the NHL. The Flyers were dominant in the first round, getting on the puck first and finishing checks first, but now they're being totally outworked and outcompeted by the New Jersey Devils and their tremendous forecheck.
The Flyers still have a chance to come back and win this series, but with this deficit, I don't think I see it happening. You don't come back from down 3-1. It happens once in a while, and the Flyers know that as well as anyone after their historic comeback against Boston in 2010, but generally you don't come back from 3-1 -- and I have a hard time seeing it in this series.