Could Ilya Bryzgalov be the Difference in the Flyers/Devils Series?
Against the New Jersey Devils this season, Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov has allowed one goal on 76 shots. Bryzgalov played exceptionally well against the Devils, with a 3-0 record, 0.29 goals-against average and .987 save percentage.
If he plays like that over the next two weeks, the Flyers will advance to the Eastern Conference finals.
On the flip-side, Devils goalie Martin Brodeur made four starts against the Flyers. He was 1-3, with a 2.26 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage.
While goal tending is always a key in the playoffs, the Flyers got by the Penguins with mediocre play by Bryzgalov. They might not be as lucky against the Devils in this series if Bryzgalov isn't at his best.
"The Devils have a lot of skill. Their top line can score. And their power play is dangerous." Scott Hartnell told the Philadelphia Daily News. "The key to beating them will be "to play defense and to keep going to the power play and scoring goals."
The Flyers will get a boost with the return of James van Riemsdyk who is projected to start on the second line with Jakub Voracek and Danny Briere. Van Riemsdyk returned from a foot injury on April 20, but he got very little ice time in that contest or Game 6 when the Flyers won their series. He's had another week to recover since Philadelphia's last game, so he should get significantly more playing time on Sunday - he was a huge asset in last years playoffs.
Also back for the Flyers will be Nicklas Grossmann seems set to return to action Sunday for Game 1 against the Devils. Grossmann skated with normal defensive partner Braydon Coburn during Saturday's practice without any setbacks and seems good to go after missing two games due to a concussion.
And don't be surprised to see the Flyers' have 19-year old rookie Sean Couturier shadow the Devils' top offensive threat Ilya Kovalchuk. Couturier and his linemates, Max Talbot and Eric Wellwood, did an excellent job of neutralizing Evgeni Malkin in the first round and they will likely draw a similar assignment against Kovalchuk in the second.
But in the end, none of this all will matter if Bryzgalov doesn't come to play, while the Penguins have bigger names, the Devils are a very patient, dangerous team said Danny Briere.
"Against a team like the Devils, you have to be very patient," Briere said. "They are a team that likes to slow the game down, they play very tight defensively, they like to frustrate you."
If the Flyers have patience and get steady play from Bryzgalov in net, they will advance.
The Pick: Flyers in 5