NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE ~ 2012 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
Eastern Conference Semi Finals
Devils Lead Series 2-1
I - PHI 4; NJD 3
II - NJD 4; PHI 3
III - NJD 4; PHI 3
*I and III overtime*
IV - SUNDAY
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
Brick City, New Jersey
NEW JERSEY DEVILS: Flyers Fall in Devil's Playground.
Game One and Two:
No Sympathy Needed; Series Tied
N.J. Devils - Renaissance Men
GAME THREE FINAL:
Philadelphia Flyers 3
New Jersey Devils 4
On a night their top scorer wasn't supposed to play due to overly aggressive back pain, Ilya Kovalchuck turned into a pain for the Flyers. And in a game when all the Devils' players you wanted to see score goals did, a little known former Toronto Maple Leaf yeoman; Alexi Ponikarovsky; stepped up to play hero for the home crowd.
Little known Ponikarovsky? He's not exactly your average household Devil. In ten seasons; eight full seasons; he has scored 179 regular season goals. So, he's not exactly a slouch. But if you don't know who he is, don't worry. If the Devils can capitalize on their 2-1 series lead, and take Game Four at home, the Flyers will surly never forget him. Just like they won't forget Adam Henrique or Adam Larsson either. Because for all the Flyers' fire power, these are the names beating them.
The imported veteran left winger scored the Devils' winning goal with just 2:39 left in the first overtime. Why? Because midway through the third period, Daniel Briere showed up and did what he does best - score clutch, back breaking, playoff goals.
The Flyers scored first in this game as the Devils insist on continually putting themselves in the penalty box. In all, the Devils put Philly on the power play five times this game. Philly's Brayden Schenn made them pay on the Flyers' first opportunity, scoring at the 6:08 mark of the first period. The Devils then struck back with fury. First, Patrick Elias rejoined New Jersey's scoring effort with his own power play goal at 12:33; his third of the playoffs. Just twenty seconds later, Travis Zajac burned Ilya Bryzgalov for a 2-1 Devils lead heading into the first intermission.
A little over four minutes into the second period, the Flyers tied the game on Matt Carle's second goal of the playoffs. Then in the third period, Zach Parise scored what the Devils thought would hold up to be the winning goal. But three and a half minutes later, Daniel Briere erased that notion from New Jersey's minds.
Martin Brodeur faced twenty-eight shots and made twenty-five saves for the win. In three games this series, he has surrendered eight goals on eighty-four total shots against. For the playoffs, Martin Brodeur is sporting a 2.16 GAA, and owns a .917% Save percentage. Game Three was Martin Brodeur's 105th NHL playoff win of his career. It is a growing record his team mates hope Marty will continue to increase upon.
By far, the most mischievous Devil during these playoffs has been Travis Zajac. Zajac is the Devils top scorer with five goals and nine points. Ilya Kovalchuck also has nine points, but sports a -2 plus/minus, while Zajac is a plus-two.
Kovalchuck and Zach Parise have four goals each. The one Devil yet to join the overall scoring is Dave Clarkson. He has been getting his share of shots on goal, but has also been the Devils' biggest repeat offender and keeps finding himself in the penalty box. As things stand right now, if Clarkson can get his game turned around, and he exercises a bit more discipline, he could very well become the deciding factor in upsetting the Philadelphia Flyers.
Philly is still too dangerous. Look what they did to Pittsburgh, and it's not like the Penguins do not play defense. So it's too early to start talking about a series win for the Devils. But David Clarkson can sure as hell hasten an untimely Philly exit from the playoffs. And if the Devils can win again Sunday on home ice, they'll have three chances to win one game, with still one more home game in hand.
If Philly pulls out a win on the road to tie, prepare for another seven game series. But in order to do that, on one level, their scoring has to stop being so wildly streaky. On another level, the same goes for the Flyer goalie. Both aspects of the Flyers game have been either terribly hot or cold, or just plain 'ol inconsistent. When combined together, Philly has been their own worst enemy. So the Devils can either do what it takes to win, or, wait around to see which Philly team shows up that day and let them beat themselves. But is that really a choice?
The operative magic number in this series is the number FOUR. Four goals is what it has taken to win a game this series. And in two out of three games, it took a FOURTH period to get it done. Do the Devils have enough fire power (for argument sake) to score four goals per game? Yes. Can Marty Brodeur, who will turn FORTY years old on the same day as Game FOUR, keep Philly under four goals per? He's cutting it close. Can the Devils still win Game Four at home? Yes. Can the Devils stay out of the penalty box? We'll see. Let's give that an over/under of four infractions as well. So, here's hoping for at least a push. Right?
* Devil's Playground Graffiti/Bushwick BKN