Five ways for Flyers to force Game 6
ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency
|Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov makes a save on Devils forward Steve Bernier during Game 4 of their NHL Eastern Conference semifinal series at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., May 6, 2012. (RAY STUBBLEBINE/Reuters)
PHILADELPHIA - Perhaps the Pittsburgh Penguins were a little too much of a pushover for the Flyers, who are rapidly running out of playoff tricks.
Whether it was scoring or scrapping, both worked well in the battle of Pennsylvania, a relatively easy six-game win for the Philly side. Against the Devils, however, the Flyers have lost both their fight and their scoring touch and trail the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal 3-1, heading into Tuesday's Game 5.
Without their suspended leading scorer, Claude Giroux, the Flyers will have to re-ignite the passion in a hurry or risk being blown out in a series they were favoured to win.
"It's not going to be easy and it's not just going to happen out of the blue," Flyers forward Danny Briere told reporters Monday. "There's a lot of things we need to fix, but I think the first step in that is believing in ourselves."
How do they get back in a series that seems like it's barely started? Here's five ways:
1. Welcome back
With the absence of Giroux, who will be serving his one game head-hunting sentence, the player introductions at the Wells Fargo Center will be crucial.
Specifically, it is time for Briere, Jaromir Jagr, Scott Hartnell and others to check back into the playoffs. All of them played huge roles against the Penguins, especially Briere, who scored timely goals in just about every game, it seemed.
Hartnell's sandpaper approach worked much better against the Penguins and Jagr is starting to show his age.
2. Send Devils to Hell
So far, the Devils have been angels.
They have resisted the overtures of players like Hartnell and the bullying of others, a tactic that has worked so famously for generations of Broad Street Bullies. It is clear that this has been a point of emphasis from New Jersey coach Peter DeBoer and his staff, a logical strategy given how rattled Sidney Crosby and the Penguins appeared in their first-round defeat.
Instead, it is the Flyers who are paying, specifically Giroux, who lost it at the end of the second period Sunday night.
If the Flyers are unable to lure the Devils into some deviant behaviour early in Game 5, they best switch course because it hasn't worked so far. Instead, they need to win the battles within the rules, the ones that the Devils have owned throughout.
3. Bryz turns to Bernie
Here's the thing about Ilya Bryzgalov, the supposed answer to the Flyers woes in net -- he actually played decently in his teams losses in Games 3 and 4.
But the Bryz is far from inspiring confidence among those playing in front of him. If he has a shaky, nervous-looking start on Tuesday -- like he often does -- it will send the wrong signal to a team that can ill afford any dose of doubt at this point.
4. Puck around
If this were the NFL, the time of possession stats would be humiliating to the Broad Street boys. The Devils have dominated, keeping the Flyers from getting off shots and controlling the puck for large portions of several of the games.
Part of it is discipline, part of it is coaching, but the Flyers are still looking for a way to adapt.
In Round 1, the Flyers were efficient on the forecheck, forcing the Penguins defence into repeated turnovers. In Round 2, they're getting beat by the same tactics.
5. Rookie camp
Remember all the love heaped on the first-year players against the Pens? It's becoming a distant memory now as Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn and company have been far less visible. The freshman are such an important part of the Flyers success thus far that they need to chip in soon.