This series is all about the match-ups. There are some holes in each team that the other can easily exploit. Because of this, the team that plays to its strengths the most often will be the one that will advance to the Conference Final.
The Flyers seem to have it all; they are physical, they pass well, all four of their lines are threats, their defense can be very good, as can the goaltender. However, the final two, the defense and goaltending, will be where this series will be won or lost by the Flyers. Looking back to the Pennsylvania series against Pittsburgh proves that. Just look at the scores: 4-3, 8-5, 8-4, 3-10, 2-3, 5-1. In four out of those six games, Bryzgalov and the blueliners in front of him did not play well by any stretch of the imagination. In spite of this, though, the Flyers won 3 of those four games because the offense bailed them out. This will not happen against a very experienced, crafty and defensive team like New Jersey. Bryzgalov has to earn his huge salary in this series or the Flyers will be playing golf in about two weeks.
Meanwhile, the Devils play a different kind of game. They hold the fort, and then exploit defensive mistakes by their opponents. Also, when needed, New Jersey’s big guns (Parise, Kovalchuk, Elias, Zajac) use potent offensive strategy when the situation necessitates it. On top of that, one of the greatest playoff goalies of all time, Marty Brodeur, is still wearing the jersey with the big red “N” on the crest. His numbers against an aggressive Florida team were impressive; he maintained a GAA of 2.06 and a save percentage of .922. Like the Flyers, the play of the man between the pipes will be a major factor in either winning or losing. I say this mostly because the Devils are a middle-of-the-pack team when it comes to goal scoring and power play. However, on the flip side, they own one of the best defensive and penalty kill schemes in the league, and if they play to this strength, they will win the series.
My prediction: Flyers in 6. They crushed Pittsburgh, and they showed, at least in games 1 and 6, that they can defend their zone. Also, their physicality will wear down the Devils and thus lead to more defensive mishaps, which will eventually lead to goals. However, the goaltending duel between Brodeur and Bryzgalov will be the deciding factor in the semifinal. Look for Bryz to step his game up.