It is imperative that you approach the game psychologically, keeping in mind all of the accomplishments, the learning experiences, and the mistakes you’ve made throughout the season. You have to reprogram all of these things into your mind, making the playoffs your only focus.
Sadly, your family, your friends and the rest of the world do not exist. All that exists is you and your teammates. Taking this approach going into playoff hockey will definitely help you achieve success. Looking back at our championship seasons, that is how we lived. We would eat, sleep, and breathe hockey; nothing else. We focused only on the ultimate goal 24/7, and the entire team had to be on that same level or it never would have worked.
During the season, you have to allow yourself to get a little distracted. It eases the pressure of playing 80 games. But during the playoffs, every game is crucial. You only have 4 games to win … or 4 games to lose. Make them count. You can’t let your opponent gain momentum. There is no room or time for slacking and distraction.
When we played against Boston in 1974, Boston should have won in 4 games. That’s just how good they were. But they weren’t focused like us, and we built up our confidence, gained momentum, and ultimately beat them.
Thursday night’s game boasts two good teams, the Flyers and the Rangers. And I think the competition is fair.
The media makes a big deal about the Flyers not winning in New York, but guess what? Before we won the first Cup, we never won in Boston. The attitude that you’re going to take is crucial. Anything can happen, and we have a good core of strong players that never quit. This team has proven time and time again that quitting is not an option. Everyone thought Giroux was crazy for saying that the Flyers would make it to the playoffs this year, but they have proved the naysayers wrong once again. Bobby Clarke, one of the greatest leaders to ever play the game, helped adopt the “never quit” philosophy. And he’s never left the team.
One of the best things about playoff hockey? The crowd.
In Philadelphia, we have the best crowd in the National Hockey League; different than any other city that I’ve ever played in, no doubt. And I’m not just saying that because I had the best years of my career there. We have the best fans, hands down. But it’s different during the playoffs, and they’ve moved a step up from where they were during the regular season. They’re excited, they’re louder. It’s do or die in these 4 games, and the fans feel that. The fans take ownership with what’s transpiring on the ice. They are a part of the game and ready to support you as a player. In turn, the players feed off of the crowd’s energy and elevate their production. It really makes a big difference.
You only have so many years to be successful in professional sports. Make it count. Focus and tenacity on behalf of the entire Flyers organization will bring victory.