NEWARK, N.J. _ Flyers coach Peter Laviolette says his team needs to play with discipline and smarts _ listening, Scott Hartnell? _ and have its aggressive forecheck working when it faces the New Jersey Devils in an Eastern Conference quarterfinal that begins Wednesday.
The forecheck sets the tone. If it’s clicking, the Flyers are usually the aggressor and dictating the game’s pace. That will be pivotal.
Limiting odd-man rushes and keeping the Devils shooting from the perimeter were two of the Flyers’ traits during the regular season, when they won five of six games against New Jersey.
“It comes down to not what happened in the regular season, but who plays the best on that night,” Laviolette said after Tuesday’s practice in Voorhees. “If you do it four times, then you’ll probably move on.
“We need to play OUR game and not worry about the New Jersey Devils.”
Added Laviolette: “It’s more about our style, our attitude, our intensity, our speed. Those are the things that will determine the success.”
So will the play of the defensemen. Chris Pronger, whose intensity and physicality increases at this time of year, and steady Matt Carle form the top pairing. At Tuesday’s practice, Kimmo Timonen was paired with Lukas Krajicek, and Braydon Coburn was with Oskars Bartulis. That means Ryan Parent could be a healthy scratch Wednesday.
Laviolette is hopeful the Pronger and Timonen duos can shut down New Jersey’s talented top two lines _ as they did in the regular season, when the Flyers allowed just 2.17 goals per game.
My pick: New Jersey in seven.
This looks like it will be a grinding series with a lot of 3-2 scores. I think New Jersey’s Ilya Kovalchuk, who may have the league’s hardest shot, will be the difference. After being acquired from Atlanta, Kovalchuk managed one goal, total, in three games against the Flyers. But he seems to have gotten more comfortable with the Devils’ system lately. He will make a statement for those seeking him in free agency.
Give me your pick and a quick reason.