Not many people gave the Devils a chance against the Flyers in Round 2.
"It doesn't matter," three-time champion Martin Brodeur said. "Every year I've played and won a Stanley Cup, we were the underdog. It really doesn't matter. It's fine. We know what we're able to accomplish. We have confidence in ourselves."
It showed. New Jersey lost Game 1 in overtime, but came back to win fourth straight, eliminating Philadelphia in five games and advancing to its first Eastern Conference finals since 2003.
Just how did it happen?
It's amazing what having four capable scoring lines can do for a team, isn't it? Peter DeBoer elected to break up Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk at the start of the series, and it paid off in a big way. The Devils had 18 goals against the Flyers -- 11 different players scored them.
The Devils outplayed the Flyers 5-on-5 -- and they did so because of their relentless forecheck. The Devils were able to dump the puck in Philadelphia's zone, get it deep and work the cycle as a result of their forecheck. DeBoer said his team's best defense all series was its good offense. The Devils outscored the Flyers 14-7 5-on-5 in the series.
N.J. STARS > PHILLY STARS
Despite missing Game 2 with a back injury, Kovalchuk recorded a series-high seven points. Brodeur went 4-1 with a .918 save percentage. Meanwhile, Claude Giroux recorded just three points and one suspension after notching 14 points in the Pittsburgh series. Peter Laviolette juggled his line combinations, breaking up Giroux, Scott Hartnell and Jaromir Jagr, but it didn't work out.
Ilya Bryzgalov went 1-4 with a .907 save percentage. The $51 million goaltender wasn't the reason the Flyers lost the series, but he didn't do them any favors with his puck-handling gaffe in Game 5.
DeBoer knew the Devils needed to stay out of the box against a physical Philadelphia club that possessed a prolific power play. They did. And even when the Flyers did go on the man-advantage, New Jersey's record-setting regular-season penalty-kill shut them down. Philadelphia went just 3-for-19 on the power-play in the series.
The Devils have beaten the Flyers three times in the postseason. The previous two times (1995, 2000) they won the Stanley Cup.
The last three teams to eliminate Philadelphia from the playoffs have captured the Cup: the 2009 Penguins, 2010 Blackhawks and 2011 Bruins.
OF NOTE: According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Devils are just the fourth team in NHL history to win four games in which their opponent scored the first goal in one series, the first to do so in consecutive games.