PHILADELPHIA – There has been no player, in the history of the franchise, who has frustrated the Flyers more than New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur.
For nearly two decades, Brodeur has found a way to stifle the team like no other goalie in the 45 years of Flyers existence.
Not Patrick Roy. Not Jacques Plante. Not Ken Dryden.
And last night was no different.
Brodeur made 23 saves registering his 11th career shutout against the Flyers 3-0 at Wells Fargo Center.
The 11 shutouts are the most by any opposing goalie against the Flyers.
The loss all but eliminated the Flyers from playoff contention. One more win by either the New York Rangers or Winnipeg Jets or one more loss by the Flyers makes the elimination official.
“It’s never fun,” said Scott Hartnell. “It’s the first time in a long time for Philadelphia, for myself to be eliminated not by your own doing. It [stinks].”
Well, it technically was by their own doing, as the Flyers never got their season going in the way that they would like, and left themselves in a hole they simply couldn’t climb out of – and last night’s game was emblematic of the entire season.
The Flyers never could get going against the Devils, something that has been a bit of a chronic problem against their division rival since the start of last season’s Eastern Conference semifinal series.
And, as usual, the Devils frustrated the Flyers as the game wore on and forced the Flyers into mistakes and low percentage decisions that ultimately led to their demise.
“I don’t know what gets carried over and what doesn’t,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “Certainly when you make mistakes against any team, and the Devils are certainly one of those teams because they play a tight checking game.
“They’re very patient, and when something happens they’re capable of scoring a goal and playing a 1-0 game to the end. The first period I thought it was competitive both ways, a good period. The second period, I think we not only made mistakes but just were behind in areas… behind in skating, behind in competitiveness… make a mistake, try to force things and you end up losing a period.”
And that’s what happened.
After a scoreless first period, things started to get away from the Flyers in the second period.
However, they had a golden opportunity on a 3-on-1 breakaway. But Matt Read held onto the puck far too long, looking to pass to either Wayne Simmonds or trailing forward Sean Couturier and ultimately had the puck bounce away.
The puck squirted through Gustafsson and created a 2-on-1 break for the Devils.
Unlike the Flyers, the Devils were able to finish, with Ryan Carter beating Ilya Bryzgalov with a snipe over his stick to break the scoreless tie.
“It seems against the Devils they just realized how to play us,” said Danny Briere. “They realized how to wait us out. I guess they know we become very impatient. It’s frustrating. Against Montreal and against the Rangers we created a lot more offense. You feel good, you keep going, but with the Devils they wait four or five guys back, they don’t give you much. Like I said, you have to wait for your chances and I think we’re not very patient at doing that.”
The Flyers lack of patience has been their offensive Achilles’ heel for an expanded portion of the season.
And while some are quick to point to a failure to adjust systematically on the part of the coaching staff, Briere was equally fast to say that the gameplan was solid, but the execution – which falls on the players’ shoulders – was what failed.
“It has nothing to do with Lavy.” Briere said. “Lavy has come up with different ways to play them and I think in the first period we did a fairly good job. I’m not going to tell you what the plan was, but we did a good job of getting a few chances, getting the pucks wide and getting a few shots on net.
“In the second period, like I said, we became impatient and we got away from what Lavy wanted us to do and it cost us.”
The Devils iced the game late in the third period when another breakdown sprung Matt D’Agostini for the insurance marker on Bryzgalov and Adam Henrique popped in an empty netter.
And with that, the remainder of the season becomes almost meaningless.
“There have been other nights like this as well,” said Laviolette. “I have always said that after the game, you come into the locker room and you sit here, you come in the next morning… and the players care. The organization cares. It’s not a comfortable spot. There have been other nights like this as well, but you’ve got to keep pushing forward.”
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