Flyers coach Laviolette opens up the head games

Braydon Coburn is leveled by Boston's Johnny Boychuk in Game 2.
Braydon Coburn is leveled by Boston's Johnny Boychuk in Game 2. (RON CORTES / Staff photographer)
Posted: May 04, 2011

The date was June 6, 1997.

Standing in a hallway at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, just a few minutes after wrapping up a team meeting in preparation for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals against the Red Wings, Flyers coach Terry Murray famously described his team's 3-0 hole in the series as "a choking situation."

Murray's attempt to light a fire under his players backfired. The Flyers were swept the next day. Murray was fired a week later.

Head games, from injury secrets to bulletin-board material, are as much a part of the Stanley Cup playoffs as everlasting overtimes and bone-crunching hits. It all adds to the drama.

With the Bruins skating back to Boston with a 2-0, best-of-seven series lead in their pockets, it was Peter Laviolette's turn to try to make the Bruins think a little bit.

"I would say there's a real expectation for the Bruins to win the series now," the Flyers coach said after Monday's Game 2 overtime loss. "It relieves some of the pressure, I believe, to go and win a game in Boston. And while that relieves us of the pressure, it certainly mounts on to them to be successful now that they have a 2-0 lead.

"This team never quits and, like I said, we get to remove some of that pressure right now."

After meeting with his team on yesterday's off day, Laviolette said his crew "just put our comfortable slippers on," as they were preparing for their charter flight to Boston. Laviolette was referring to his team's 27-12-5 record on the road this season, including the first playoff round. The Flyers' 25 regular-season road wins set a franchise record.

"We are just calm in there," Laviolette said, making a reference to the Flyers' comeback from a 3-0 series deficit against Boston last spring. "When you are down last year 0-3, you're down this year 0-2, in back-to-back series against the same team, that's technically 0-5. I'm not sure any team in the history of the sport has ever come back from 0-5."

It was Laviolette's way of saying to the Bruins: "You won't choke twice on the same cheesesteak."

Mike Richards said it was hard to imagine the Flyers not playing with a fair amount of pressure on their shoulders, since a loss would put them back in a 3-0 hole.

"The pressure is on both teams," Richards said. "Boston obviously has had us in this situation before. For us, it's something that I think we can't get discouraged by, or the things that happened, we've just got to focus on the next game and worry about ourselves and not what they are doing."

At least the mind games are fun to watch. Laviolette was asked yesterday whether "seeds of doubt" could be planted in Boston's mind-set.

"Only if you do your job," he said, referring to reporters.

But wouldn't the Flyers need to first win in order to plant those seeds?

"Then," Laviolette said, "we'll do our job."

Carter skates

The Flyers seemed to get good news on the injury front yesterday, with Jeff Carter skating for approximately 10 minutes by himself to try to test his injured right knee for the first time since sustaining the injury in Game 4 against Buffalo on April 20.

Carter, the Flyers' leading goal scorer in the regular season, likely remains doubtful for Game 3, but could be closer to returning in time for Game 4 on Friday.

The Flyers remained tight-lipped about all of their injuries, saying no more than Carter, Chris Pronger (undisclosed), Andreas Nodl (eye) and Michael Leighton (back) all remain day-to-day.

None of those players chose to address the media and it is unclear whether Pronger skated. The nature of his mysterious injury has been closely guarded, sustained some time during Game 1 on Saturday when he went to the locker room with 2 minutes still to play. Pronger was seen limping at the team's practice facility yesterday and his status for tonight is unknown.

Boucher fine

Addressing the media yesterday, goaltender Brian Boucher kept his hand planted firmly in his sweatshirt pocket. Boucher left Game 2 for about 9 minutes while his hand was X-rayed and examined by team doctors. He returned to start the third period after Sergei Bobrovsky turned aside Boston's six consecutive shots to close out the second.

"The day after, situations like that, you're a little sore," Boucher said. "It was just kind of a fluke thing. Initially, I wasn't sure. But it turned out that X-rays were negative and the [doctors] helped me out there. I should be good [for tonight]."

Stat watch

Since 1978, when the Stanley Cup playoffs expanded to four rounds, the highest winning percentage by road teams in one playoff year is .529 in 1987, when the visitors went 46-41.

Through Monday, road teams were winning at a .544 clip (31-26) this spring.

This round marks the first time in league history the road teams in one conference (Boston, Tampa Bay) swept the first two games.

Record ratings

Game 2 against Boston drew a 10.70 household rating on Versus in Philadelphia, the market's best delivery on the cable sports channel since last year's Stanley Cup finals. The game was up 134 percent from last year's semifinal three-game average in the market.

On Monday, Versus was the No. 1-rated cable network during the 7:30-10:45 p.m. time period in Philadelphia. Tonight's game is also on Versus. *

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