Flyers hope past is prelude

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Claude Giroux, on 3-2 series deficit: 'Our positive is that we just don't quit.'
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Claude Giroux, on 3-2 series deficit: 'Our positive is that we just don't quit.'
Posted: April 30, 2014

CLAUDE GIROUX had not yet totally arrived as the Flyers' next superstar or captain, but was beginning to burst onto the scene in the 2010 postseason.

One thing he took from that magical run to the Stanley Cup finals was the comportment of defenseman Chris Pronger.

It was May 2010. The Flyers already had knocked off New Jersey in five quick games. They were not playing poorly, but quickly found themselves in a hole against Boston.

"We lost a game. I was ready to break all my sticks," Giroux remembered. "I was really mad. I just looked over at 'Prongs' and he was just all calm. He already put that game behind him. That's what playoffs is; you've got to put that game behind you and worry about the next game."

Game 5 is over for the Flyers. That next game is here, tonight at Wells Fargo Center. And it might be their last game.

They trail the Rangers, 3-2, in the best-of-seven Metropolitan Division semifinal series, faced with the daunting task of having to take down Henrik Lundqvist on consecutive nights to advance to the next round and keep their dream alive.

If ever there were another Flyers team equipped and capable of a recovery of that 2010 magnitude, it would be this one - with their franchise-record 11 third-period comeback wins this season, after being forced to play at a 102-point pace for the final 6 months following a 1-7 start.

This Flyers team revels in adversity. Heck, when the playoffs began, each player received a T-shirt that reads "Started From the Bottom, Now We're Here," with an image of Lord Stanley's chalice on the back.

"We have a lot of character, a lot of passion in this room," Giroux said. "Guys hate losing. Our positive is that we just don't quit. Some teams might be down low that they lost Game 5 and they're down, 3-2. We just kind of look at it like we're playing at home [tonight] and we've got a chance to go to Game 7."

The deck is stacked against the Flyers, for sure. But they are not attempting the impossible.

In fact, the Flyers have overcome a 3-2 series deficit to win twice in the last 5 years: that round against Boston in 2010 and also against Buffalo in 2011. They have done it three times total (3-14) in franchise history.

What's more impressive is that the Flyers even trailed, 3-1, in Game 6 vs. Buffalo before turning on the jets. Giroux has three points in those two Game 6s when the Flyers trailed Boston and Buffalo.

Besides Giroux, three other players remain from those 2010 and 2011 teams: Braydon Coburn, Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell. Craig Berube was an assistant coach then. That history is not insignificant.

"The guys that we have that have done it, they understand that we can do it," Berube said. "We've just got to go win a game and get back to New York. That's our mindset now. And I think we can."

According to WhoWins.com, a team trailing, 3-2, has completed the comeback only 72 times in 340 tries in NHL history (21 percent). However, across all major sports with seven-game playoff series, the trailing team has been able to force a Game 7 nearly half the time (314 in 698 attempts).

"The whole year, we came back. A lot of games," Timonen said. "Now, we're down. The guys were pretty loose [at the rink yesterday]. It's a good sign. If you're too intense at this time of the year, it's not going to work. I am looking forward to [tonight]. We're home. We can be better. And guys were loose. So, it looks good to me."

The key, Giroux said, is for the Flyers not to shoot themselves in the foot again in the first period. They have been outscored, 7-4, by New York in first periods this series, and trailed 2-0 early on multiple occasions.

"We've got to be responsible with what we do," Giroux said. "The first period is key for us. The first goal is going to be really big. If we [get] that, we're going to be in a good situation."

That's because maybe, just maybe, doubt will begin to creep into the minds of the Rangers. New York has lost a Stanley Cup playoff record 11 consecutive games with a series lead, dating back to 2009. That spring, they lost a commanding, 3-1 series lead to Washington and haven't quite recovered.

Maybe, the Flyers hope, that doubt can snowball back to Madison Square Garden tomorrow night, where the Rangers haven't been very good all season.

"The playoffs is a mind game," Lundqvist told reporters yesterday. "It's about controlling your mind. In a game where you can close them out, you don't want to start thinking about other things."

Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi even acknowledged yesterday that New York is "excited about maybe what could happen" if they can knock off the Flyers "when we have them on the ropes."

Undoubtedly, the Flyers are on the ropes. But this isn't their first rodeo.

In their back pocket, they have a history teeming with possibilities and the confidence that they have not yet played their best game. Plus, one other thing: When they arrive at the Wells Fargo Center tonight, they will be wheeling in overnight bags for one more train ride to Manhattan.

"The whole year, we didn't care who we played against," Timonen said. "Sometimes, we worry way too much about what they do. Who cares? I know we can play better. We all can play better. That's why I'm really confident."


On Twitter: @DNFlyers

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