NEWARK, N.J. _ Trying to change his luck, New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur shaved off his playoff beard before Thursday’s game against the Flyers.
Trying to ignite his lifeless team, winger Ilya Kovalchuk guaranteed a Devils victory.
It didn’t work, quite simply, because the Flyers were the hungrier team Thursday _ and in the entire series.
At times, this space has poked fun of the Flyers’ “Relentless” slogan during an up-and-down regular season.
But the slogan came to life during the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, which ended Thursday with the Flyers’ 3-0 win over the Devils at the quiet Prudential Center.
The Flyers’ domination Thursday was downright stunning because they played without two of their top players _ Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne, who were injured Tuesday and will have foot surgery on Friday.
In winning the series, four games to one over the second-seeded Devils, the seventh-seeded Flyers got production from all four lines and received terrific work from their defenseman, especially Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen.
Oh, and goalie Brian Boucher continued one of the most remarkable in-season transformation in Flyers’ history.
It was just last month that Johan Backlund had replaced the struggling Boucher as the starter in Pittsburgh.
Shortly thereafter, Boucher steadied himself. And in the playoffs, he has been one of the NHL’s best, compiling a 1.59 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage.
On Thursday, Boucher notched his first playoff shutout in 10 years _ and he became the first Flyer to notch a shutout in a series-clinching win since April 16, 1987, when Ron Hextall blanked the Rangers, 5-0, en route to reaching the Stanley Cup Finals.
An omen? Probably not. But if this team continues to play like it did in this series, it will make Washington _ its expected opponent in the next round _ work hard to get to the conference finals.