Life is all about knowing your limitations, right? With the New Jersey Devils now facing the Philadelphia Flyers in a best-of-seven-series, the team needs to understand a few things.
The Devils are a much less physical team than Philadelphia. They are a much worse passing team. (Much worse is being kind. There are stretches when they literally cannot complete an outlet pass leaving the defensive zone or into the offensive zone. In fact, completing passes for them in general is a struggle.) Their power play lacks imagination (is it going to be Kovy with the one-timer that misses the net or Zidlicky with the slap shot into a blocked shooting lane?), and their penalty kill and inability to stay out of the penalty box nearly lost them the series in the first round. They will get dominated in the faceoff circle, and from a pure talent standpoint, the Flyers are superior.
But all of this speaks to the beauty of the NHL playoffs. Many of these things could have been said about Washington going into their series against Boston, and when you throw in that one of their top-two defensemen, Dennis Wideman, nearly blew the series, and they still won (with their third string goaltender at the start of the season in net), clearly crazy things can happen.
The Devils do have one very strange strength that the Flyers lack. It is their biggest strength. Everyone who has seen the movie Pulp Fiction remembers that iconic scene where Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta go into that apartment to get the coveted briefcase and after doing their hit-men routine, the two are about to leave when a resident of the apartment jumps out of the closet and shoots his gun six times at both of them and misses on every shot.
The Devils have experienced a similar kind of “divine intervention,” as Jackson calls it in the movie, many times this season. A great example goes back to February 4th through 9th, a stretch when they played at Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and New York, and home against St. Louis. They won three of the four, losing only to St. Louis in overtime. And even though this was only a four-game stretch, it shows that they can compete with the NHL’s best for an extended period.
In the Flyers’ and Penguins’ games that time, the Devils had a temporary out-of-body experience, combining to score eleven goals, not their typical survival mode. Their 1-0 controversial victory over New York is perfect though. The entire game they battled along the boards and walls, kept the Rangers honest, and gritted out the victory.
FIVE WAYS THE DEVILS CAN WIN:
The black hole named Peter Harrold does not come back to hurt them.
How bad was Harrold in the series that just completed against the Panthers? I actually Googled “Peter Harrold gambling debts” thinking that he had to owe some money to some people from South Florida. My favorite Harrold turnover so far? With 13 minutes left in the second period of Game 7, he picked the puck up along the left wall in the Devils defensive zone and with speed moved behind the goal line like he was going to send the puck behind the net and up the right wall. Unfortunately, he came under some pressure from a Panthers forechecker, and in Harrold fashion, backpassed to the trailing Volchenkov.
The problem, though, was that former Devil and current Panther John Madden saw this telegraphed move from a mile away and intercepted the pass. Madden tried to backhand pass it to Marco Sturm but Stephen Gionta also saw the Harrold turnover coming and defended the pass. The best part of this story is during the telecast when coming back from commercial, Chico Resch highlighted this as a nice defensive play by breaking it down for the viewer. Unfortunately for Harrold, it came at his expense because it was such a bad turnover.