These are not your father's New Jersey Devils, even if guys your father's age will figure prominently in the Flyers' second-round series.
Jaromir Jagr was the fifth pick in the 1990 NHL entry draft. Martin Brodeur was the 20th pick. Both of them will be Hall of Famers. All things considered, they should probably be in the Hall of Fame already. Instead, they are still playing.
That year, the Flyers took Mike Ricci one spot ahead of Jagr. Ricci had a good career with four organizations. It ended in 2007. Derian Hatcher, taken by the Minnesota North Stars (yes, it was two franchises ago for the Twin Cities), finished up with the Flyers in 2008. Flyers third-round pick Chris Therien is still with the team - as a broadcaster. His playing career ended in 2006.
But here are Jagr, his NHL career resurrected with the Flyers, and Brodeur, still effective after 18 NHL seasons, preparing to meet in a playoff series 22 years after being drafted.
"Same draft," Jagr said after Friday's practice in Voorhees. "That's going to be special. He's going to turn 40 and I'm 40. We'll see what happens."
Fittingly, most of the history between these two teams is also ancient. It was 12 years ago that the Devils came back from a three-games-to-one deficit to eliminate Eric Lindros (of the 1991 draft class) and the Flyers in the Eastern Conference Finals. That is an eternity in any professional sport, but especially this one.
In the more recent and more relevant history, the Flyers crushed the Devils in five games to start their run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2010. Brodeur was outplayed by Brian Boucher in that series, which saw Claude Giroux take his first postseason steps toward becoming a superstar.
Brodeur will turn 40 on May 6, the day of Game 4 in Newark. He is still a very good goalie. He no longer carries the same mystique, however. He's good but human. Since winning his third Stanley Cup in 2003, Brodeur's playoff record (and therefore the Devils' playoff record) is 20-28. That includes twice being eliminated by the Flyers.
The Brodeur mystique derived partly from playing behind the Devils' stultifying defensive system. Their neutral zone trap was as difficult to watch as it was to play against. Based on the line of questioning of Peter Laviolette and the players after the Devils emerged as their next dance partner, the perception of the Devils hasn't changed. The Devils, on the other hand, have changed very much.
First-year coach Peter DeBoer favors a more aggressive, attacking style. It's not quite as aggressive as Laviolette's, perhaps, but Devils defensemen can now sometimes be found venturing into the offensive zone.
So the expectation shouldn't be for the kind of freewheeling thrill ride the Flyers experienced against Pittsburgh in the first round. That should never be the expectation in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
"That was a once-every-10-years kind of thing," Danny Briere said.
But that doesn't mean this series has to be one tug-of-war after another, either. If it is, it would mean the Flyers adjusted to the Devils' style of play rather than dictating their own.
"We're going to need to play the same way," Giroux said.
The series the Devils just completed against Florida resembled Flyers-Penguins only in that it was played on ice. There wasn't nearly the speed or space or star power. The Flyers went skate-to-skate with Crosby and Malkin and Letang and were better - at times, markedly better. Their approach should be to force the Devils to keep up with them, not to slow down and try to win tighter games.
In classic Laviolette fashion, all questions about styles or strategy were deflected. But it is Laviolette's job to make sure his team stays in character and imposes its will on the Devils. It is a job he has done very well in his three seasons here.
Laviolette gives the Flyers their biggest edge in this series. That's no knock on DeBoer. He may be a great coach, but he's certainly a less experienced one. After three seasons in Florida, he just coached in his first postseason series, defeating Kevin Dineen, another playoff rookie.
Going into it, DeBoer told the Newark Star-Ledger that he didn't "think things change, coaching-wise, in the playoffs. That thing you hear - 'This guy's a playoff coach, that guy isn't' - I don't buy it."
There is a huge difference, and it becomes more pronounced as you progress toward the Cup. Laviolette is a proven, exceptional playoff coach. He has won one Cup and come within two wins of a second. He has managed injuries and goaltender meltdowns, 3-0 leads and 0-3 deficits, and everything in between.
Now he has the Flyers moving toward another trip to the conference finals. And that's something that never gets old.
Read his columns at www.philly.com/philsheridan