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Another Philly flop

When it comes down to it, trust Brodeur over Esche in the big games

Posted: Tuesday April 13, 2004 3:58PM; Updated: Tuesday April 13, 2004 4:36PM
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No. 3 Philadelphia vs. No. 6 New Jersey

STORY OF THE SERIES

Midseries Breakdowns

SI.com's Kostya Kennedy breaks down the first-round series after Game 3.

Eastern Conference
Lightning-Islanders
Bruins-Canadiens
Flyers-Devils
Leafs-Senators

Western Conference
Red Wings-Predators
Sharks-Blues
Canucks-Flames
Avalanche-Stars

The Devils' defense clearly has been in disarray without captain Scott Stevens. Suddenly, there has been a lot more ice for Flyers forwards to exploit without fear of recrimination. Philadelphia has, for the time being, ended any aura of invincibility on the part of New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur. The Flyers have beaten him twice, scored eight goals in three games and believe that when they really need a goal, they can beat him.

SURPRISE OF THE SERIES

The tremendous performance by Philadelphia center Jeremy Roenick. The last time hockey fans were focused in on Roenick, he was lying in a puddle of his own blood after being hit by puck and breaking his jaw against the Rangers. Roenick peeled off his jaw protection for the playoffs, and within a short time was taking on New Jersey's 6-foot-4, 215-pound defenseman Colin White, fearlessly trading punches in front of the Devils' net. Roenick has two goals and three assists in three games, and has played at a high level both on the power play and as a penalty-killer.

THE FLYERS WIN IF ...

They shut down the Devils' top line, which played its best in Game 3. If Philadelphia can stop Patrik Elias and Scott Gomez, the Devils' lack of scoring depth will show. The Flyers also need to keep up Robert Esche's confidence, which, given all the doubts about him, can be fragile

THE DEVILS WIN IF ...

Brodeur turns in one of his dominant games, and if they can get their defense straightened out. Scott Niedermayer needs to clamp down -- he made a costly mistake in Game 3 -- to lend some defensive leadership. If New Jersey can get a goal early from a second- or third-liner, it will be nicely set up.

THE PICK

Esche remains a weak spot, and the Devils will get better as the games wear on. New Jersey will win a couple of one-goal games, and will take the series.

Sports Illustrated senior writer Kostya Kennedy takes sides each week at SI.com.

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