One day after the Devils eliminated Philadelphia from the playoffs in convincing fashion, winning the series 4-1, much is being made of Philadelphia's apparent lack of effort in the series and subsequent elimination. After a grueling and entertaining first round victory over in-state rival, and presumptive Stanley Cup favorite Pittsburgh, a series that featured little defense and atrocious goaltending, Philadelphia could not adapt their style of play to what New Jersey was giving them.
Much of the blame is falling on Flyers' goalie Ilya Bryzgalov with his Tommy Salo-esque gaffe in Game 5, clearing the puck off the Devils' David Clarkson which then rolled between the aloof Russian's legs for what would be the game-winning goal. Definitely a bizarre play but lost in the mocking of Bryzgalov, a good amount of which he brings on himself with his entertaining interviews, was the fact that he was hung out to dry for most of the series, especially Games 2 and 4. The Flyers coughed the puck up their own zone often thanks to New Jersey's aggressive forecheck and the Devils taking away outlet passes on the boards. Bryz was given little help in terms of having rebounds cleared or players picking up trailing attackers while the Devils also make Philadelphia pay for getting in too deep on their own forecheck, see Ilya Kovalchuk's goal from Game 3 as an example and Marek Zidlicky's tally in Game 4.
Philadelphia's defense deserves much of the blame, but offensively, New Jersey was able to quell Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell and Jaromir Jagr, especially at even strength. Martin Brodeur did not play his best hockey in this series, but he did more than enough to shut down what offense Philadelphia could muster. There were stretches where Brodeur legitimately didn't have to do much, but he made the saves when needed. Game 2 is a prime example of Philly's lack of offense and New Jersey controlling the flow of play. The Devils dominated the second period of Game 2, keeping the Flyers from getting a shot on goal until roughly 1:20 remaining in that period, and it was on a power play. The ice seemed tilted from that point in the series and Philadelphia couldn't keep New Jersey at bay.
New Jersey has been an aggressive team in terms of forechecking most of the season and boasts a balanced scoring attack featuring three 30-goal scorers and the always crafty Patrik Elias (Clarkson, Zach Parise and Kovalchuk all cracked 30). They received production from a handful of players in the series; Dainius Zubrus, Adam Henrique and Alexei Ponikarovsky frustrated Philadelphia massively and contributed offensively. One of the bigger surprises from the series had to by Bryce Salvador with three points over the last three games of the series, but we're going to guess he will hardly do that again. The Devils' ability to force the issue against Philadelphia and winning puck battles along the boards simply left the Flyers befuddled and Philadelphia did not adjust. Credit has to to go Peter DeBoer for winning the bench battle with Peter Laviolettle.
Whomever the Devils face in the Eastern Conference Finals, Washington or the Rangers, neither of those teams are as aggressive as Philadelphia or, to put it another way, less defensively disciplined. The Devils boast three lines that can hurt teams, strength down the middle thanks to the strong play of Travis Zajac, Elias and Zubrus and a defense and goalie that shut down one of the league's top scoring lines.
The Flyers essentially were handed the Prince of Wales trophy after beating Pittsburgh; that attitude shone through when Scott Hartnell noted that the Devils "definitely played stronger" than the Flyers thought they would.