Despite the fact Philadelphia wasn't forced to battle through the final game of the regular season to qualify for the playoffs as they did last year, fourth-line center Blair Betts
sees plenty of similarities between this year's club and the one that earned a playoff berth on the final day of the regular season in 2009-10.
"Just looking back, we weren't playing all that well going into playoffs last year either," Betts told NHL.com. "It's not like we won a ton of games at the end of the year to make it in. We kind of limped in and then that playoff atmosphere just kind of lifted our level of play.
"This year, I think we're in the same situation. We were kind of playing mediocre hockey down the stretch. I expect the playoff atmosphere to lift our game a little bit and I think it will. I think we have a team that's built for playoff hockey … guys that seem to elevate their game this time of the year and that's what you need to be successful in the playoffs."
The Flyers certainly exhibited that passion and intensity that may have been lacking over the last few weeks in Game 1 of their series-opening 1-0 loss to the Buffalo Sabres
on Thursday. Still, they had nothing to show for it.
Without the services of defenseman Chris Pronger
, Betts believes the team needs to manage the puck with special care.
"Making good decisions with the puck and puck management are key," he said. "Chris Pronger
is a big part of our team … he has an ability to slow things down when it's hectic. But we've had great games without him and we have the personnel in here to make up what he's taken out of the lineup."
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette
was asked if Pronger would have made a difference if he was in the lineup.
"If Chris Pronger
was available, he could be a difference maker," he said. "I think that speaks for itself. But he's not so there is no sense in worrying about things we don't have right now."
Despite a good effort, which saw the Flyers outshoot the Sabres, 35-25, Laviolette believes his team could be even better.
"I think we can be better," he said. "There are things we can get better on and we'll will focus on that (on Friday) and be ready to go for Game 2. It's the scoreboard that we need to make sure we have in check. We did a lot of the things we wanted to do, but that's not good enough in the playoffs."
Betts, one of the League's most underrated defensive-forwards, returned to the lineup on Thursday after sitting out three games with a knee injury.
"(Buffalo) has a little bit of everything … guys who can score like (Thomas) Vanek, guys that make plays like (Tim) Connolly, some gritty, physical players and small shifty guys like (Nathan) Gerbe. Of course, goaltending could make a difference."