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Scoring first not a winning formula for Flyers

by John Kreiser

He who scores first usually scores most -- unless one of the team is the Philadelphia Flyers in this year's playoffs.

Ilya Bryzgalov
Goalie - PHI
GAA: 3.46 | SVP: 0.887
In a League where the team that gets the first goal won more than two-thirds of the time during the regular season, the Flyers managed to lose six times in seven tries this spring after they opened the scoring. That includes all four of its losses to New Jersey in the Eastern Conference Semifinals -- the Flyers scored first again on Tuesday but saw their season end with a 3-1 loss in Game 5.

In all, the team that scored first in the Flyers' 11 postseason games won just once -- Philadelphia scored first and beat Pittsburgh in Game 6 to close out their first-round series. The Flyers were 4-0 when they allowed the first goal this spring, but became the first team ever to score first in all four of its losses in one series.

In contrast, the team that scored first in the Nashville-Phoenix series won all five games -- and all 10 of the Predators' playoff games this spring were won by the team that opened the scoring.

Power outage -- One reason the Devils are moving on and the Flyers are going home was New Jersey's return to its record-setting form on the penalty kill.

Philadelphia shredded Pittsburgh -- the NHL's third-best penalty-killing team during the regular season at 87.8 percent -- for 12 goals on 23 power-play opportunities in the opening round. Meanwhile, the Devils' record-setting penalty-killing unit allowed Florida to score nine times in 27 opportunities in New Jersey's seven-game victory.

But the Devils, who killed a record 89.6 percent of opposition power plays during the regular season, reverted to form against the Flyers, killing off 16 of 19 Philadelphia power plays (84.2 percent) while scoring a shorthanded goal. New Jersey's power play managed four goals on 18 attempts (22.2 percent), including Ilya Kovalchuk's backbreaker five minutes into the third period on Tuesday night.

Who's too old? -- Martin Brodeur turned 40 on Sunday, and there have been whispers during the past could of seasons that he was nearing the end of the line. Don't try to sell the Flyers on that notion.

Martin Brodeur
Goalie - NJD
RECORD: 8-3-1
GAA: 2.05 | SVP: 0.920
Brodeur limited the Flyers, the NHL's third-best offense during the regular season and a club that torched Pittsburgh for 30 goals in the opening round, to just 11 in five games -- and only seven while winning the last four. The winningest goaltender in NHL history got better as the games went along; he posted a .953 save percentage after the second period against the Flyers.

Brodeur has long been known for his puck-handling skills, and he's already tied the record for most assists by a goaltender in one playoff year with three. That total hadn't been reached since 1993, when Tom Barrasso, Glenn Healy and Kirk McLean all did it.

The drought continues -- The Flyers' season ended Tuesday the way it has every spring since 1976 -- without a Stanley Cup. Philadelphia's Cup drought extended to 37 years since its last championship in '75 when the Flyers were beaten by the Devils in Game 5.

Philadelphia now has gone longer without winning a championship than everyone but Toronto (1967); St. Louis and Los Angeles, both of which have yet to win a Cup since entering the NHL with the Flyers for the 1967-68 season; Vancouver and Buffalo, who haven't won since joining the League in 1970; and Washington, which joined the NHL in 1974-75, Philadelphia's last championship season. The Flyers have appeared in six Finals since beating Buffalo in '75 -- and lost all six, including their most recent appearance in 2010.

The Flyers have won their first-round series in each of the past two years, but have dropped eight of nine games in losing their second-round series.
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