Breakdown: Flyers vs. Devils
Updated: April 21, 2004, 2:45 PM ETBy Bill Clement | Special to ESPN.com
The Devils are the top defensive team in the NHL and the Flyers are second in the east, but it will be very difficult for New Jersey to match Philly's depth down the middle with Michael Handzus, Keith Primeau, Jeremy Roenick and Alexei Zhamnov.
He got the nod as the starting goalie and the expectations are huge because of the goaltending issues the Flyers have had going into the playoffs for the last decade.
Stevens is still not cleared to practice because of post-concussion syndrome and the only way the Devils win is if he comes back.
Although the Devils had the No. 5 penalty killing unit in the league during the regular season, the Flyers had the No. 2 power play and New Jersey is also playing without top defenseman Scott Stevens. Philadelphia is now fully healthy and can put two units on the ice without a noticeable dropoff.
The Devils' power play is much better than it was last season, and with Scott Niedermayer and Bryan Rafalski both healthy they are solid at the points. The Philly penalty kill raked only 10th in the east, so New Jersey has the edge.
No matter who New Jersey faces in the playoffs Martin Brodeur gives them the advantage in terms of goaltending.
The resumes of New Jersey's Pat Burns and Philadelphia's Ken Hitchcock are nearly carbon copies. Each is a defense-first taskmaster and each has one Stanley Cup to his credit. It looks pretty even, but Burns has a tougher job because he has fewer horses to ride.
The Devils are the defending Stanley Cup champs, but the Flyers had success against them this season. Hitchcock and Burns are both matchup coach, but Philly has home-ice advantage and gets the edge based on that.
Philadelphia in seven.
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