After what seems like the longest break ever, the Philadelphia Flyers will finally kick off their second round playoff series when they host the New Jersey Devils on Sunday, April 29. The Devils beat the Florida Panthers in double overtime to advance. Now the Flyers get to face a division rival for the second straight time in the playoffs. While the Flyers are the favorites, winning this series won't be easy. There are several things the Flyers need to have happen if they want to advance. Here is a look at some of the keys for the Flyers as they battle the Devils.
1. Get early momentum
After winning two straight elimination games in overtime, the Devils have some confidence heading into this series. It is up to the Flyers to take that away from them. Philadelphia needs to come out strong early and put the New Jersey skaters back on their heels. That means that the forecheck needs be strong and the attack needs to be aggressive. The Flyers don't want to give the Devils any reason to think they can win the first game of the series. The sooner they take them out, the better things will be.
2. Keep up the power play
The Flyers were about as good on the power play in the first round as anyone could have dreamed. They have to keep that going in the second round. Power plays will play a major factor in this series, so whoever performs better with the man advantage will have an inside track. Philadelphia has enough explosive players to keep the power play in their favor. If they are anywhere close to as strong as they were against the Pittsburgh Penguins, New Jersey will be in trouble. Consequently, the Flyers need to do a little bit of a better job when it comes to killing penalties.
3. Claude Giroux needs to keep it going
Giroux was snubbed as a Hart Trophy finalist, but he probably doesn't care right now. He is a man on a mission for a Stanley Cup. Everyone in Philadelphia already knew he was among the best in the league before the Pittsburgh series. He catapulted himself to a whole new level after that. Now he has to keep that going. With his talent and leadership qualities, there is no reason to think he won't be able to do that.
4. Attack Martin Brodeur
The Flyers shouldn't be intimidated by Brodeur's three Stanley Cup wins. He will turn 40 during this series and is vulnerable to the attack. If the Flyers stay aggressive in the offensive zone, they should be able to get to Brodeur often. An early goal or two will spoil the confidence he has after the two overtime wins against Florida.
5. Solid goaltending
Ilya Bryzgalov got more comfortable in the last two games of the Pittsburgh series. He needs to get off to a strong start in this series. The Flyers don't want to fall into any more early holes like they did against the Penguins. Bryzgalov is prone to getting hammered in the first period. If he turns in a strong performance early in Game 1, he should be brimming with confidence the rest of the way.
* - Mark Paul is a Philadelphia resident and lifelong Flyers fan.
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