In advance of tomorrow's opening game of the Eastern Conference semifinals between the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils, SB Nation New York will break down the matchup. Today we preview the offense; we'll touch on the defense and goaltending in further posts.
The New Jersey Devils will have their hands full with the Philadelphia Flyers offense.
In one of the more lopsided advantages of this series, the Flyers have far better scoring than the Devils. They had four skaters record seven or more points during their first round win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, including Claude Giroux posting a ridiculous 14 points in six games.
Philadelphia's big advantage is their scoring depth. Coach Peter Laviolette can send out three lines he can count on to put the puck in the back of the net. During the regular season, the Flyers had seven forwards that recorded 49 or more points. That's an insane amount of scoring, and it showed during the first round. Granted, Marc-Andre Fleury helped inflate the numbers, but the Flyers can send wave after wave of scoring onto the ice.
Unlike the Florida Panthers, New Jersey can't focus on shutting down one line. If they stop scorers like Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr, guys like Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and rookie Matt Read can take over.
All that offense translates over to the specialty teams, where the Flyers finished first in both powerplay goals (66) and powerplay assists (128). The Devils penalty kill, a surprising weakness in the first round, will need to be sharp against a team that knows how to score with the man advantage.
The Devils don't have nearly as much scoring depth, but they receive production from all four lines. Role players like Stephen Gionta and Steve Bernier played an important role in the first round, making the fourth line a dangerous weapon for coach Peter DeBoer. Even players like Ryan Carter and Dainius Zubrus stepped up, scoring goals in the first round.
New Jersey, though, will need production from their top six forwards. Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk both finished the first round with three goals, but disappeared in some games. Zach Parise and Patrik Elias netted just two scores, finishing the series tied with Gionta and Bernier. New Jersey will need their big guns in this series, and the pressure will fall on the top six forwards to start producing.
DeBoer mixed the forward lines today at practice, moving Parise off the top line. He's looking to find that spark, but it'll be interesting to see how long he keeps Parise, Zajac and Kovalchuk apart. Remember, those three combined to score the overtime winner in Game 6.
Another key forward for New Jersey will be David Clarkson. He virtually disappeared in the opening round, unable to find his scoring touch. He led the team with five assists, but will need to get to the front of the net and disrupt Ilya Bryzgalov.
The Flyers can send out three great scoring lines, and their depth is virtually unmatched. While the Devils have solid depth, Philadelphia skates away with the offensive advantage.