There's no sense worrying about the rust accrued from the seven-day layoff. The Flyers usually don't show up until the middle of the second period when Peter Laviolette screams at them during a timeout.
If Jersey needed seven games and an overtime to dispatch of the mediocre Panthers, it's hard to envision them being able to beat the Flyers. Marty Brodeur is going to have to steal a couple of games and Ilya Bryzgalov is going to have to be the December Bryzgalov.
The Flyers caught a break by not getting the Rangers in this round, but they will get them in the conference finals. Against the Devils, call it:
Flyers in 6
The big question is momentum. Did the Flyers lose it because of their week off? There might be some cobwebs early, but by the second period, expect to see the Flyers you just enjoyed against the Penguins. The Flyers power play scored at a 50-plus percent clip against the Penguins. You'll be thrilled with 15 percent this series. The Devils won't score much but they don't have to with Marty Brodeur in net. Oh, and the Flyers goalie must show up for every game this series, not just some of them.
Flyers in 6
I am very alarmed. You should be very alarmed. On behalf of the hockey-loving fans of the entire Delaware Valley, I am trying to find some reason (reasons?) to pick the New Jersey Devils over the Flyers, thereby assuring the Flyers will prevail.
A quick refresher: I picked the Penguins in 6. Go back further and, over the years, you will find me on the wrong side of the ledger far more than the right, which is one reason I do not live in Vegas or even am allowed to go to the track with Dick Jerardi. It's a pretty simple formula: I pick the home team, it loses. I pick against it, it wins.
I have found just one reason. Ilya Bryzgalov. If he's a mess, New Jersey can win this thing, especially with the Martin Brodeur I saw in Game 7 against Florida. So, let the party begin.
Devils in 7
Offense wins games, defense wins championships, and et cetera. Which leaves the Flyers exactly where, as they head into the second round of the playoffs against the New Jersey Devils?
They are the best offensive team left in the tournament, and they always will have the capability to stomp on the pedal. But, to me, the most interesting part of this conversation is the way the Flyers played the last two games of the first round against Pittsburgh. After the whole thing blew up in Game 4, and with the pressure building, the Flyers played an excellent, balanced game in Game 5 (despite losing) and a bug-squashing Game 6 in which they blocked 40 shots. Those games were the tell. Some of it was the way goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov settled down, but most of it was the reality that the Flyers can play it either way, depending upon the circumstances. That, and an increasingly deep and healthy defense corps, will be the keys here.