Stanley Cup finals, Game 3 morning skate: 'We need to get on the board,' Flyers say
Philadelphia Flyers Coach Peter Laviolette dropped the rhetoric and went back to basics Wednesday after his team’s morning skate, dropping the mind games he and his players had been playing recently and stating the obvious.
“We’ve got to win some hockey games. We need to get on the board,” he said, referring to the Chicago Blackhawks’ 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup finals entering Game 3 tonight at the Wachovia Center.
“This is a good place for us. The guys are confident.”
They have reason to be: they’re 7-1 at home during the playoffs. But the Blackhawks have a seven-game road winning streak and are 7-1 away from home in the playoffs, so something’s got to give.
Laviolette seemed more businesslike than he was Tuesday, when he joined defenseman Chris Pronger in trying to get into the Blackhawks’ heads. Pronger grabbed the game pucks away from Chicago players after each of the first two games, and Laviolette had suggested that Chicago rookie goalie Antti Niemi could be rattled because of his inexperience and the burden of trying to lead the Blackhawks to their first Cup championship since 1961.
The gamesmanship vanished Wednesday for Laviolette, perhaps because he realized that another loss would put his team in an 0-3 hole again. Though the Flyers overcame that deficit in the second round against Boston, becoming only the third NHL team to win a best-of-seven series after trailing by that margin, the Blackhawks are a better team than the Bruins were and would make the Flyers’ comeback effort much more difficult.
“I'm not sensing a lot of pressure,” he said. “As far as the building and the fans and the energy, I'm a big believer in that. I say harness all of it and ride it as hard as you can. The pressure, I'm not seeing it from our guys. I don't see it in the interviews. I don't see it on the ice. I don't see it in the locker room.
“We're a loose group. We're really comfortable where we're at right now, and we would like it to be the other way, but we're not. We're comfortable here because we've been here too many times. We're looking forward to it tonight.”
He never gives much away in terms of strategy but said the Flyers must “fine-tune our shots” on Niemi. Previous opponents have tried to shoot high on the goalie’s glove side, and Laviolette said he has seen a lot of video, too.
“I think there’s room there. I think there’s other room as well,” he said. “We’ll get there.”
The Blackhawks said they’re prepared for an early onslaught by the Flyers.
“It’s going to be so loud the first five minutes,” said winger Marian Hossa, who had a goal in Chicago’s 2-1 victory in Game 2.
“We have to make sure we play a simple game in those first five minutes. I totally believe this is one of the most important games because there’s such a difference between 3-0 [in the series] and 2-1.”
Said winger Troy Brouwer: “When the building’s up and the building’s excited it’s tough for the visiting team, whether the coach is trying to yell out line combinations or players talking on the ice. It can get pretty intimidating if it gets loud enough.
“You’ve got to just block those things out. We’ve played in some tough buildings in San Jose and Vancouver the last couple series. Real loud, real intense. So we’ve dealt with some pretty loud buildings before and we’ve come out ahead.”
Elsewhere, congratulations to Don Maloney, general manager of the Phoenix Coyotes, who was selected GM of the year by a panel that included his peers. GMs are meeting later today in Philadelphia.
More later at www.latimes.com/sports
-- Helene Elliott in Philadelphia