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Flyers' 4 Beating Devils' 6

Tuesday, 04.20.2010 / 7:26 PM / News
By Mike G. Morreale  - NHL.com
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Flyers\' 4 Beating Devils\' 6
The Philadelphia Flyers\' top four defensemen have had the upper hand on New Jersey\'s tops six forwards.
(Philadelphia, PA) - It's no coincidence the top six New Jersey Devils forwards have struggled to find a groove against the big four defensemen of the Philadelphia Flyers.

And, really, it all boils down to the fact the top two defensive pair for the Flyers have been better.

The Devils will look to change all that Tuesday in Game 4 against the Flyers at the Wachovia Center (7:30 p.m. ET, TSN). The Flyers lead the series, 2-1.

"Having two solid pair of 'D' gives us the match against what I consider two first lines (in New Jersey)," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "We try and get those guys out there to do their best; to try and play against them and match up when we can. Timmo (Kimmo Timonen) quietly goes about his business in an effective manner, Chris Pronger should be a Norris Trophy candidate in my opinion, Matty (Carle) has done a terrific job in using his positioning and Braydon Coburn has been on the top of his game in the playoffs."
Philadelphia Flyers' Kimmo Timonen, left, of Finland, checks New Jersey Devils' Dainius Zubrus, of Lithuania, to the ice during the first period of an NHL first-round playoff hockey game Wednesday, April 14, 2010, in Newark, N.J. Timonen received a two-minute penalty on the play. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

"They're playing good," Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said. "(Pronger and Timonen) are two really good hockey players who play a lot of minutes and they defend well. They're good on the offense, good overall and that's why they're among the top defensemen in the League."

While there is a considerable size discrepancy between Pronger (6-foot-6, 220) and Timonen (5-10, 194), Laviolette finds it hard to distinguish between their rock-solid play in the back end.

"I actually don't think they're that different of players," he said. "They both defend the same way. They're very smart and are always in position. They're sticks are in the right position and they make the correct reads. They're similar a bit in the way they play the game."

Through three playoff games against the Devils, the defensive pairs of Pronger and Carle and Timonen and Coburn have been earning their keep while averaging 30-or-more shifts a game. All four players rank among the top five on the team in ice time, with Pronger (29:30), Timonen (25:35) and Carle (25:11) among the top three and Coburn (21:06) coming in fifth.

Pronger and Timonen rank first and second on the team in average ice time while shorthanded and on the power-play. There really isn't any situation Laviolette won't think twice about putting them out against either of the top two lines for the Devils, which consists of some combination featuring Zach Parise, Patrik Elias, Ilya Kovalchuk, Travis Zajac, Jamie Langenbrunner and Dainius Zubrus.

The acquisition of Pronger has also relieved some of the heavy defensive burden on Timonen.

"Obviously we know Chris is a great player and probably a future Hall of Famer, so, sure, it's a different situation," Timonen said. "But I just go out there and do my job. I really don't care who plays what. I work on my thing and make sure I do my job as good as I can."

Timonen considers the challenge of stopping Kovalchuk similar to that of denying Washington's Alex Ovechkin. When the Flyers eliminated the Capitals in seven games during the 2008 Conference quarterfinal round, "Ovi" was held to 4 goals at a time when Timonen was called upon time and time again. Kovalchuk has 1 goal this series and was even held to zero shots in the Flyers' Game 3 overtime victory.

"It's the same kind of player (Ovechkin and Kovalchuk)," Timonen said. "They're both great players. They can shoot the puck and make plays and if you give them space and time, they're going to make plays so the key is to take that away."

Still, it's interesting to note that Timonen still averages more ice time now than he did during the '08 Playoffs when he didn't have Pronger as a teammate, logging 24:40 in 13 games.

The play of the Flyers' defense seems to have the Devils second-guessing themselves on offense, which is a direct result of what Timonen was referring to when he noted his keys of taking away time and space.

"They do a good job of taking away our time and space with the puck and I just think we all need to support and use our linemates more -- that'll make a big difference," Parise said.

The Flyers have allowed the Devils 16 power-play opportunities in the series and the Devils have only connected three times, including a 2-for-8 showing in Game 3.

"I think everybody is trying to make things happen in different ways and to say we're doing it individually would ... I don't think (playing as individuals) is something we set out to do," Langenbrunner said. "We want to make something good happen and do something to help the team. Sometimes less is more."

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - BOS 82 54 19 9 261 177 117
2 y - PIT 82 51 24 7 249 207 109
3 x - TBL 82 46 27 9 240 215 101
4 x - MTL 82 46 28 8 215 204 100
5 x - NYR 82 45 31 6 218 193 96
6 x - PHI 82 42 30 10 236 235 94
7 x - CBJ 82 43 32 7 231 216 93
8 x - DET 82 39 28 15 222 230 93
9 WSH 82 38 30 14 235 240 90
10 NJD 82 35 29 18 197 208 88
11 OTT 82 37 31 14 236 265 88
12 TOR 82 38 36 8 231 256 84
13 CAR 82 36 35 11 207 230 83
14 NYI 82 34 37 11 225 267 79
15 FLA 82 29 45 8 196 268 66
16 BUF 82 21 51 10 157 248 52

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
C. Giroux 82 28 58 7 86
J. Voracek 82 23 39 11 62
W. Simmonds 82 29 31 -4 60
S. Hartnell 78 20 32 11 52
M. Streit 82 10 34 3 44
B. Schenn 82 20 21 0 41
M. Read 75 22 18 -4 40
S. Couturier 82 13 26 1 39
V. Lecavalier 69 20 17 -16 37
K. Timonen 77 6 29 5 35
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
S. Mason 33 18 7 .917 2.50
R. Emery 9 12 2 .903 2.96
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