Season series: Split 3-3
Oct. 8:Flyers 3 at Devils 0Nov. 3:Devils 4 at Flyers 3 (SO)Jan. 21:Flyers 4 at Devils 1Feb. 4:Devils 6 at Flyers 4March 11:Flyers 1 at Devils 4March 13:Devils 0 at Flyers 3
Key injuries: Philadelphia -- D Marc-André Bourdon (upper body, day-to-day); D Nicklas Grossman (upper body, day-to-day), D Chris Pronger, (head, out for season); D, Andrej Meszaros (back surgery, indefinite); New Jersey -- C Jacob Josefson (fractured wrist, day-to-day); Henrik Tallinder (blood clot in leg, indefinite).
Snapshot: After a circa 1985 showdown against Pittsburgh, the Flyers gingerly step out of the hot tub time machine, towel off and get down to what figures to be more of a 21st Century-style New Jersey Turnpike Series against the Devils.
These are not your father's Devils. Yes, Martin Brodeur is still in goal, famously eschewing the butterfly-style save whenever possible. But some of New Jersey's famous structure is missing and there is no classic Devils shutdown defense pair, even if Anton Volchenkov blocks shots with uncommon enthusiasm. Against Florida, a mediocre five-on-five team, this was not an issue, but it could prove debilitating against an attack that boasts Claude Giroux and seemed to revel in trading chances against the Penguins.
The Devils have gaudier weapons than they did in their glory years -- unlike their counter-punching progenitors, the line of Travis Zajac, a banged-up Ilya Kovalchuk, and Zach Parise create offense off the rush -- but will need more production from their other forwards, including from impressive rookie Adam Henrique, who scored the series-winner in double overtime against the Panthers. Curiously, New Jersey also got offense from the most unlikely of sources in the first round. The Devils called up bite-sized winger Stephen Gionta, who wasn't exactly rewriting the AHL record books this season (six goals in 56 games), but the 28-year-old contributed a pair of tallies against the Panthers while playing fourth-line minutes.
The rested Flyers offer an intriguing mixture of rookies -- six started Game 1 against Pittsburgh -- and veterans, including Jaromir Jagr and playoff wizard Daniel Brière. Philadelphia forechecks with a feral intensity, generally turning mistakes into goals. The Flyers also can cash in on the power play at an absurd rate: 52.2 percent in the first round. The Devils allowed only 27 power play goals during the regular season, but yielded nine to Florida in seven games and must clean up their penalty killing because erratic Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who was awfully hard to hit with the puck in the first round, figures to spackle some of the holes in his game.
Spotlight's on: Claude Giroux. When Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette proclaims that you are the best player in the world, the spotlight is indeed reflecting off your red playoff whiskers. Of course, the Flyers center also has those flattering backlights to illuminate him, the ones that all the stars get in photo shoots for the glossies. With the absence of Sidney Crosby, Giroux is the player who has his name above the playoff marquee. He had six goals and eight assists in the first round, lapping the field. He also creamed Crosby on the first shift of Game 6, announcing his presence with, uh, authority.
X-Factor for the Flyers: Sean Couturier. The rookie center doesn't seem to have any holes, except for that gap where three front teeth used to be. Brière calls the 19-year-old the Flyers' best defensive forward, hardly excessive praise after his sterling job controlling the presumptive Hart Trophy-winner, Evgeni Malkin, in the first round. Couturier figures to hound Parise next.
X-Factor for the Devils: Martin Brodeur. The 2012 version of the NHL's winningest goalie is a shadow of the Cup goalie of 1995, 2000 and 2003. He doesn't seem to track pucks as well, which forces him to guess on shots that he once gobbled. And Brodeur doesn't seem as square to the shooters. He will be seeing a higher volume and likely a superior quality of shots from Philadelphia than he did from Florida, which could be problematic. But Brodeur, who turns 40 during the series, registered his 24th career playoff shutout against the Panthers and made some critical Game 7 stops against them. He also was yanked after 22 minutes in Game 3.
The Pick: Flyers in 6