Popular misconception: Defense and goaltending win Stanley Cups.

Oh, they help, no question. And the Flyers wouldn't mind if goalie Ilya Bryzgalov somehow came close to matching his stunning regular-season numbers against New Jersey - a 0.29 goal-against average (gulp) and .987 save percentage (double gulp) - in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

But for folks to dismiss the Flyers' Cup chances because their defense has been glaringly inconsistent this season, well, that would be foolish.

The Flyers, partly because of an inordinate amount of injuries to their defensemen, finished 20th in the 30-team NHL with a 2.74 goals-against average in the regular season. Bryzgalov, whose game has alternated between hot, cold, scorching, and chilly, had a 3.89 GAA in the team's impressive first-round win over the Cup-favorite Penguins.

The Flyers overcame the defensive woes by averaging an eye-opening five goals per game.

All of which brings us back to our opening misconception about defense and goaltending.

Those qualities are important, but not necessarily required to drink from the famous silver bowl.

Consider: In the last 20 seasons, 10 of the Cup champs have had defenses that finished in the top five during the regular season.

But . . .

In that same time frame, 12 of the last 20 Cup champs have finished in the top five in offense, including the Peter Laviolette-coached Carolina Hurricanes of 2006. The 'Canes had the league's third-best offense and 18th-best defense that season.

Jaromir Jagr was a young, mullet-haired star when he helped the Penguins win consecutive Stanley Cups in his first two seasons, 1991 and 1992. The 1991 Penguins were second in the league in offense, 18th on defense. The '92 team had the NHL's best offense and defensively was 20th out of 22 teams.

We bring this to your attention because as the Flyers get ready to host the New Jersey Devils and start the conference semifinals Sunday afternoon, most say they need to tighten things up defensively.

Yeah, that would help. But is it mandatory to advance? We think not.

In other words, if Bryzgalov plays somewhere between his lost-in-the-woods stage of late October and his lights-out play in March, the Flyers should be fine.

The Flyers are a team with arguably more depth than any of the NHL's final eight. They are a team that can roll four lines and not have a major drop-off in any of them, a team that can continue to advance by continuing to be in attack mode.

New Jersey is defense-oriented and doesn't have the firepower to match the Flyers. That said, the Devils are more offense-minded than in recent years.

When you think of New Jersey, you think of a team "that plays a trap. But with this new coach, they are a little more aggressive than that," said Flyers forward Max Talbot, who had three goals, including two shorthanded, in the series win over the Penguins. "They're going to have an aggressive forecheck, and their defense will attack by joining the rush. They had great [penalty killing] the whole season. Special teams, like every playoff series, will be a big factor."

Ah, special teams. They played the biggest role in the Flyers' upset of the Team That Was Supposed to Win the Stanley Cup.

The Flyers' power play, capitalizing on pristine passing and crashing the net, was a ridiculous 12 for 23 (52.2 percent) in the opening-round series. Against a Penguins team that finished third on the penalty kill in the regular season.

Now the Flyers will face a New Jersey penalty kill that set an NHL postexpansion (after 1967-68) regular-season record by snuffing out 89.6 percent of the power plays it faced.

The Flyers seem unfazed. Maybe it's because Florida's power play was 9 for 27 (33.3 percent) against New Jersey in the quarterfinals. Or maybe it's because they think their six days between games won't disrupt the power play's Round 1 rhythm. "We had a lot of quality practice time this week on it," winger Wayne Simmonds said, "and I think it should actually help it."

For the resilient Flyers - whose 4.33 goals-against average in this year's playoffs is next-to-last among the 16 qualifiers - the power play was their calling card in Round 1. If that happens for three more series, Bryzgalov won't have to be the main focus.

And, yes, he'd be happy with that.

Inside the Flyers: Flyers-Devils Matchups

Here are the probable lineups for Sunday's Eastern Conference semifinal opener between the Flyers and New Jersey Devils at the Wells Fargo Center:



1. LW Zach Parise (31 goals in regular season),

C Travis Zajac (2), RW Ilya Kovalchuk (37).

2. LW Petr Sykora (21), C Patrik Elias (26),

RW Dainius Zubrus (17).

3. LW Alexei Ponikarovsky (14), C Adam Henrique (16), RW-David Clarkson (30).

4. LW Ryan Carter (4), C Stephen Gionta (1),

RW Steve Bernier (1).


1. Bryce Salvador (plus-18) and Marek Zidlicky (minus-6).

2. Mark Fayne (minus-4) and Andy Greene (minus-3).

3. Anton Volchenkov (plus-3) and Peter Harrold (even).


Marty Brodeur (31-21-4, 2.41 GAA, .908 SP).



1. LW Scott Hartnell (37 goals in regular season),

C Claude Giroux (28), RW Jaromir Jagr (19).

2. LW James van Riemsdyk (11), C Danny Briere (16),

RW Jakub Voracek (18).

3. LW Matt Read (24), C Brayden Schenn (12),

RW Wayne Simmonds (28).

4. LW Max Talbot (19), C Sean Couturier (13),

RW Eric Wellwood (5).


1. Braydon Coburn (plus-10) and Nick Grossmann (plus-5).

2. Kimmo Timonen (plus-8) and Matt Carle (plus-4).

3. Erik Gustafsson (plus-12) and Andreas Lilja (plus-9).


Ilya Bryzgalov (33-16-7, 2.48 GAA, .909 SP).