BOSTON _ Been there, done that.
That was the message Peter Laviolette, the confident Flyers coach, delivered at a news conference Friday afternoon as his team prepared to play the Boston Bruins in what he called “our fifth Game 7 here.”
Laviolette was referring to the fact that the Flyers, in effect, were getting ready for their fifth elimination game since April 10.
It started with the final game of the regular season. They needed to win that game just to sneak into the playoffs, and they did. Barely. They outlasted the New York Rangers, 2-1, in a shoot-out.
In the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Flyers fell into a 3-0 series hole. They staved off elimination with three straight wins, setting up Friday’s showdown to determine which team would meet Montreal in the conference finals.
“It really is our fifth time facing elimination,” Laviolette said. “I feel like we’re ready for this. The message hasn’t changed from Day 1 since I’ve been here until where we are right now. Everything has stayed the same. The meetings are the same. The message is the same. What’s expected is the same.
“When we start mention a Game 7, there’s this buildup because somebody’s going home, but like I said, we’ve been faced with that for a while.”
Defenseman Chris Pronger was preparing to play in his seventh Game 7, the most on the team. Pronger was acquired in an off-season deal with Anaheim just for these type of games.
“I feel like we’re still here today because of what’s in our room _ and a guy like Chris Pronger,” Laviollete said. “Not only has he proven it in the past, he’s proven it already here. Our team has been in survival mode; we’ve been fighting. And you don’t win those fights unless there’s great type of people in the locker room. Mike Richards. Danny Briere steps up. Chris Pronger plays his minutes. Guys who have proven they can get there and handle the pressure of an elimination game, and that’s where we are tonight.
“There’s no question that Chris Pronger can be a difference tonight.”
Laviolette said he never looked at being down by three games.
“If you look at it like that, it seems daunting,” he said. “We have not approached it like that. We liked the way we played the first three games, especially the way we played in Game 3 (a 4-1 loss with an empty-net goal) _ and that was the most lopsided score against us. We thought we played a terrific hockey game; we had the chances heavily in our favor and the bounces didn’t go our way that night. We took a lot of confidence from that, and we really methodically went very slow. One game. Game 4. And here we are, Game 7.”
Let the drama begin.
* * * * * * * *
Trying to change its luck, Boston did not have a morning skate _ the first time they haven’t had one before a playoff game in two years. (They lost to Montreal the last time they didn’t have a morning skate in the playoffs.)
Simon Ggane brushed aside a report that he re-injured his broken foot in Game 6, saying he has felt "better and better" with each game.
* * * * * *
Both teams stressed the importance of getting off to an aggressive start in the first 10 minutes and setting the tone.
The Bruins will be trying to feed off their crowd; the Flyers will be trying to quiet the fans with an early goal _ like they did here in Game 5.
* * * * * *
In the entire playoffs, Boston has been outscored, 28-22 in even-strength situations, while the Flyers have outscored their opponents, 21-16, in those situations.
The Celtics’ Ray Allen after his team’s series-clinching win over Cleveland Thursday had a message for the Bruins: “Tell them we warmed up the building for them,” he said.
* * * * * * * * * *
In parts of two playoff games, the Flyers' Michael Leighton has a 0.63 goals-against average. Boston's Tuukka Rask has a 2.49 GAA in 12 playff games.
And whatever became of Tim Thomas?