Inside the Flyers: Flyers seem to play better as underdogs

Posted: May 07, 2012

Maybe the Flyers were looking past the New Jersey Devils and ahead to a likely series with their Winter Classic pals from the city that doesn't sleep.

Maybe the Flyers thought the Devils would be an inferior opponent to a Pittsburgh team that they brushed aside in the conference quarterfinals.

Maybe the Flyers figured it would be easy because New Jersey was fortunate to get past mediocre Florida in the first round.

But the Devils, who have a two-games-to-one lead in the series, have their attention now.

"A wake-up call," said center Claude Giroux, who outshined Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and the rest of the NHL in the first round with 14 points, but has just one point in the Devils series.

To be clear, New Jersey has outworked the Flyers and deserves to have the upper hand in this conference semifinal series.

That said, this question begs to be asked: Were the Flyers too full (fool?) of themselves because they knocked off the Team That Was Supposed to Win the Stanley Cup?

"It's probably tougher than everybody thought it would be," right winger Jaromir Jagr said after Saturday's practice in Voorhees. "We were kind of confident after the series against Pittsburgh. It's not going to be easy. It's going to be very hard, a war."

The Devils have been the hungrier, more relentless team, the one that has stolen the Flyers' identity with the better forecheck and cycle.

"There's no excuse for not being ready to play and having them surprise us in the last couple games," center Danny Briere said. "If we thought they were just going to let us win, then we had the wrong mind-set and we deserved to lose."

For the Flyers, the good news is this: They can regain their footing - and the home-ice advantage - with a win in Newark on Sunday.

And this: They seem to play better in the underdog role. For proof, look at how many times they overcame deficits to win during the regular season and in the first round. And look at how they embraced the underdog role against the Penguins.

Now that they face a 2-1 series deficit, an underdog mentality might benefit the Flyers.

"Underdog is for you guys," said Briere, surrounded by a throng of reporters in the Flyers' locker room. ". . . With the team we have, I believe every game we can win, and it's been like that all year. I mean, it's been like that pretty much since my day one here in Philadelphia. There's not a day I step on the ice thinking I'm not sure we can win tonight."

But Briere did acknowledge that "for some reason, we seem to play well when we come from behind. We find ways to dig deep and we have a lot of character, which I like, and that's what we're going to need once again to get out of this mess."

Briere said the Flyers need to play with the same emotion they displayed in eliminating Pittsburgh, four games to two. So far, this series has lacked the passion and the hatred that marked the Flyers-Penguins matchup.

That series had the feel of a conference final. This one? Well, it just hasn't reached the same intensity level.

But give it time.

 "We just have to be desperate," defenseman Kimmo Timonen said.

Sunday will be the Flyers' 92d game since the season started Oct. 6. No game has screamed for more desperation.

"We know we can play better as a team and our work ethic can be better," Giroux said. "The message is pretty clear. We're going to see a different group of guys next game."

If not, the win over the Team That Was Supposed to Win the Stanley Cup will become oh, so hollow.


Contact Sam Carchidi at scarchidi@phillynews.com, or on Twitter @BroadStBull.

 

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