The Flyers admire Marty Brodeur. Deeply.
Hey, how can you not admire a guy who is the winningest goalie in NHL history, someone who has led the New Jersey Devils to three Stanley Cups?
Never mind that he doesn't always play like Marty Legend.
Never mind that, with his 40th birthday just five days away, his instincts are not quite what they used to be.
Never mind that he sometimes has lapses, like the bad clearing attempt he made in Game 1 on Sunday that indirectly led to James van Riemsdyk's goal in the Flyers' 4-3 overtime win.
He is still regarded by many as the Best Goalie to Ever Wear a Mask, still regarded as a player who can steal a game, like he did in the Devils' double-overtime triumph over Florida in Game 7 of the conference quarterfinals.
"Obviously he's a great goalie, and he's been a great goalie in this league for a long time," Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds said after the team's optional practice in Voorhees on Monday. "As this series goes on, we just have to go to the net and provide screens in front of him, not let him see passes and [shots]."
Brodeur is known for his stickhandling, and he can jump start the offense with his passing.
"But at the same time, I think if you attack him, you can cause some turnovers," Simmonds said. "It's a thing we want to key on and make sure he doesn't have all day to handle the puck, because if he does, he's going to make a 100-foot pass, and they're going to be going two-on-one in the opposite direction."
Almost all the Flyers said they need to get more traffic in front of Brodeur in Game 2 on Tuesday.
"The way to beat him," Simmonds said, "is to take his eyes away from him."
Or his stick. Brodeur said van Riemsdyk pushed his stick and prevented him from making the save on Danny Briere's game-winning overtime shot Sunday.
Replays were inconclusive, and Van Riemsdyk's version differed from Brodeur's.
"I was skating in front of the crease and was getting bumped around," van Riemsdyk said. "That's usually the tough part of the ice to be at, and there's a lot of contact. I don't think I touched him at all. There was a defenseman [Andy Greene] in front there, so maybe that's what happened."
Brodeur said the Devils need to slow down a Flyers team that has 34 goals in seven playoff games this spring.
"They're a confident bunch of guys," he told reporters. "They took down the best team in the league [Pittsburgh], and they played us pretty well in the second and third period. They feel good about themselves. You have to find ways to put a little doubt in the way they play the game."
No one can give the Flyers more doubt than Brodeur, provided he's at the top of his game. He wasn't in the 2010 playoffs against the Flyers, going 1-4 with a 3.01 goals-against average and .881 save percentage.
Flyers rookie Matt Read knows what Brodeur has done in his Hall of Fame career, but he doesn't put him on a pedestal.
Not with a trip to the conference finals hanging in the balance.
"Now that it's a playoff series, you don't give him any respect at all," the winger said. "He's a goalie who saves every shot he sees; you've got to get in front of him and do those little things around the net to get in his way and bother him to create offense and create goals."
What makes Brodeur so good, Briere said, is that he keeps shooters guessing. On Sunday, Briere scored two goals - one on a breakaway, the other on a long shot that went past Brodeur as he was battling van Riemsdyk in front.
"That's what makes him so different from other goalies. You don't know what he's going to do," Briere said. "Just like on the breakaway. I had no clue what he was thinking, what he was going to do. I just kind of saw him move a little bit and I thought I had a little opening on the low blocker side. It worked out, but that was a split-second decision. Coming down on him I had no clue what I was going to do.
"It's a little bit like Dominik Hasek. You don't know what they're going to throw at you. The save he made on [Erik] Gustafsson before the goal by van Riemsdyk, what a save it was. We were fortunate to get the bounce back."
Until the second period, the Flyers had just six shots and had little congestion in front of Brodeur. When that changed, so did the game's tone.
On Tuesday, the Flyers will try to set the tone much earlier.