The Stanley Cup will be in the house ... but will it go home with the Blackhawks?
The TV ratings have been good, the attendance has been great, so why not turn the Stanley Cup finals into a best-of-nine series instead of best of seven?
Flyers Coach Peter Laviolette surely would love to change the format, because a loss by his team Wednesday night at the Wachovia Center would allow the Chicago Blackhawks to win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1961. A win by the Flyers would force a seventh game Friday at the United Center in Chicago.
Asked after the Flyers’ game-day skate Wednesday if they have enough of their trademark resilience left to prolong the series, Laviolette sounded as if he wants it to go on forever.
"I definitely think there’s enough to go two more. We can go more if we had to," he said. "It’s not the position that we want to be in. I’m sure everybody would rather be up 3-0 or 3-1 and looking at a game where we could close out in Game 6 in our building. That’s just not the path we’ve taken this series."
This is the fifth time the Flyers will face elimination in the playoffs, and they had to win a shootout in the final game of the regular season just to make the postseason tournament. But they’re not ready for it to end either.
"It’s been a special year, and right now we have another chance in front of us," forward Claude Giroux said. “It’s a challenge."
Win or lose, it will be the Flyers’ home finale. They take a seven-game home winning streak and 9-1 home playoff record into the game -- and their record since they've had Kate Smith (via tape) and Lauren Hart (live) singing “God Bless America” is 11-1-0. They announced 30 sellouts this season and have drawn record crowds during the Cup finals.
"We believe we’re going to keep going after tonight, but it’s our last game here. I expect our fans to be crazy like they’ve been all year," forward Ian Laperriere said. "This is a special breed of fans. And I’m just glad I’m part of the Flyers. I need to be on the good side of this."
Blackhawks Coach Joel Quenneville praised his team’s morning skate as "businesslike," adding that he felt the team wasn’t distracted by knowing the Cup will be in the building Wednesday night and could be traveling back to Chicago on the team plane.
"The guys seemed focused. They seemed in tune,” he said. “I think whether it was jitters going into the morning skate, I didn't see any signs of that's an issue. I think going into the game, that's a concern. Their approach has been exactly how you would like it."
Marian Hossa, who made history by being the first NHL player to participate in the finals for three straight seasons with three different teams, said he was calmer and more relaxed than he was a year ago. He played for the Pittsburgh Penguins when they lost to the Detroit Red Wings in 2008, switched sides last season only to lose to the Penguins last spring and signed with the Blackhawks as a free agent last summer.
He said he’s approaching this as a game, not an end to a curse.
"You don’t try to think of all the big things around it. We’ll try to stay focused that way," said the Slovakian winger, whose afternoon plans included hanging out with teammates and taking a pregame nap.
But how is it possible, especially after playing on the losing side the last two years, to block out the knowledge that he’s so near to finally winning the Cup?
"Good question," he said. "On the other hand, you just have to think just about the game, nothing else."
More later at www.latimes.com/sports
-- Helene Elliott in Philadelphia