Devils expect Giroux-less Flyers to step up
May, 8, 2012
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com
PHILADELPHIA -- There is something a little cyclical about the dynamics of Game 5 of this Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Philadelphia Flyers and the New Jersey Devils.
The Flyers, of course, face a must-win situation, trailing 3-1. And they must persevere Tuesday night without the services of their top scorer -- indeed, the top scorer in these playoffs -- Claude Giroux, who was suspended for one game for his blow to the head of Dainius Zubrus in Game 4.
If anything, the Devils have a keen understanding of the dynamics in the Flyers' dressing room, as they faced the same thing heading into Game 2 in this series, when star scorer Ilya Kovalchuk was ruled out due to injury.
“[Giroux] is a big part of their power play and plays a lot of minutes, a lot of their offense goes through him, but you know what, it’s similar to when we were missing Kovy,” New Jersey captain Zach Parise said Tuesday morning.
"You saw everyone elevate their game and I would expect the same out of them. So we’ve got to be ready."
The Devils won Game 2 by a 4-1 count in Philadelphia, and head coach Pete DeBoer is expecting the Flyers won't be sitting back with their top scorer on the sidelines.
“I don't know about technically, but they're obviously going to play," DeBoer said. "They're not going to be sitting waiting for him to score a goal. They're going to have to go out and different guys are going to try to step up. I'm sure they're going to try to get contributions from everybody, get their four lines going like we've gotten ours. They're going to have to rely on more of a team game."
“This is a tough building to play in,” added Patrik Elias. “Just because they don’t have Giroux, that doesn’t mean that they’re going to give up. We know usually what happens when your top player is out: The team rallies around it and just battles harder. I think for us we’ve got to stay with what’s been working for us."
What has been working for the Devils has been a solid team game that has featured seven players who scored game-winning goals this spring. To the team’s credit, the Devils continue to get better as the days have passed this spring.
“I feel like it and I think all the players do too," Parise said. "When you see the results -- we were talking about this the other day -- when you see the results of when we play the right way and you see how well we’re capable of playing, and it’s easier to do and I think it’s easier for the coach to teach like that. But I think throughout this postseason we’ve been getting better as the games have been going on."
DeBoer believes that success has come from a lineup that doesn’t rely on just its high-end players to get the job done.
“You know, I think that's a key anywhere you look," DeBoer said. "We obviously have some high-end skill guys with the Kovalchuks, the Parises, the Eliases, but I really think the story of this team has been our depth and our ability to roll four lines and six defensemen, to get contributions from different people every night, and that's got to continue."
Notes: Zubrus said he was satisfied with the league’s ruling on Giroux’s hit on him late in the second period of Game 4.
“I saw the explanation by Brendan Shanahan online. I don't think he's making anything up. I can't say that I disagree with him,” Zubrus said.
“He did a good job of explaining his thought process and how he is looking at things.”
Zubrus said he appreciates the league’s decision, even if he doesn't consider Giroux to be a dirty player.
"It doesn't change anything, really,” Zubrus said. "If there was no suspension it wouldn't have changed my approach or this team's approach to this game at all. He's their big offensive guy, but we expect them to rally. Again, you don't like to see anyone get suspended. I know Claude Giroux. He's a great player and he's not a dirty player. But it's a dangerous hit, and we're fortunate it wasn't a serious injury."