CHICAGO _ After the Flyers won three straight against Boston to even the conference semifinals at three victories apiece, the players said unless they won Game 7, their rally from a 3-0 series deficit would be meaningless.
They have the same attitude about the Stanley Cup Finals.
Unless they win it all, several players said after preparing for Game 1 on Saturday in Chicago, their remarkable playoff journey won’t mean much.
“Who remembers the losers? Nobody,” right winger Ian Laperriere, 36, said after the team’s morning skate on Saturday. “There’s only two teams left, and we made it that far, we might as well win it. Like I told my young teammates, just because you made it to the Finals this year…. don’t expect it to happen all the time, especially with all the parity in the league now.
“They have to realize this may be their first chance and their last chance.”
Claude Giroux, the blossoming 22-year-old center who led the Flyers with six points and a plus-7 rating in the conference finals against Montreal, said “anything less than winning a Cup would be a disappointment for this team. We know it’s not going to be easy. We’re facing the best team that we’re going to face in the playoffs, so we have to give it to them and play hard.”
Right winger Ville Leino agreed with his teammates, saying the first three series wins won’t be as special if the Flyers don’t finish off the Blackhawks.
“They don’t give silver medals away here like the Olympics,” Leino said. “Obviously you don’t remember the losers, so we’ve got to win this to make this count.”
Leino’s situation is rare. He has made it to the Finals two straight years, having played for Detroit when it lost to Pittsburgh in last year’s championship round.
“It’s not a whole lot of fun to lose these Finals, so we’re going to be ready right away,” he said.
Andrew Ladd, Chicago’s third-line left winger, will not play Saturday because of a shoulder injury and will be replaced by Tomas Kopecky, who has three goals in 11 playoff games and is plus-2. Ladd has two goals in 16 playoff games and is minus-1.
Ladd was more consistent than Kopecky during the regular season.
Brian Boucher will be the Flyers’ backup goalie Saturday.
Laperriere on what it will be like to walk onto the ice and hear the noise on Saturday night.
“It’s going to be the second-best crowd left in the league,” he said. “It’ll be loud, but not as loud as our crowd is.”