|For the second straight season, Daniel Briere's team is down, 3-0, in the Eastern Conference Final. While his Buffalo Sabres dropped Game 5 and the series last year, Briere is more upbeat about the Flyers' chances this season.
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The Flyers had the NHL's second-best power play in the regular season, and it’s continued to click at a 23.8-percent clip in the postseason, also second-best in the League.
The Flyers went a combined 1-for-9 in the first three games against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but scored twice on four chances in Game 4.
Why the success all of a sudden?
“We just executed better,” said Jeff Carter, who scored one of the goals. “The first few games there we were rushing things, not winning the battles, the puck was bouncing, all sorts of things. Last game we were wining the battles, got the puck settled down and just calmed down, settled everything down and went to work.”
Coach John Stevens credited some of the success to a change in lines; Scott Hartnell was switched to the first unit with Daniel Briere and Joffrey Lupul, with Mike Richards and Randy Jones at the point, while the second unit consisted of Carter, Mike Knuble and Vaclav Prospal, with Sami Kapanen and Jaroslav Modry on the points.
But he said the biggest change was getting more pucks at the net.
“I think there was a willingness to shoot the puck,” he said. “We had a lot of pucks at the net, we won a lot of puck battles. The goals that we scored came off rebounds at the net. And that's been our M.O. all year. I think early in the series we were looking to pass the puck into the net, and Pittsburgh just angled too well. They take lanes away.”
Despite the struggles, the players on the extra-man units remained confident.
“We’re still 22, 23 percent, consistent with where we were during the regular season,” Knuble said. “In this series it’s been down, but the ingredients are there, so it was going to pop up sooner or later.”
Been there before — Forgive Daniel Briere for having a déjà vu moment.
Last season Briere and his Buffalo Sabres were down 3-0 against the Ottawa Senators, won Game 4, but lost Game 5.
He said he feels much more confident with this year’s Flyers.
“I think the mood is completely different,” he said. “Last year I remember we were down 3-0, we won Game 4, but it just felt like we just kind of squeaked by and we kind of got lucky. We lost (Dainius) Zubrus, and I remember a couple more guys got injured really bad, they didn’t even know if they were going to play. Last year the mood was going the other way, where this year we played extremely well for 2½ periods. We let them back in late in the game, but for 2½ periods we played a solid game.
“We’re getting (defenseman Kimmo) Timonen back, maybe more. The mood is different than it was when I was in the same situation last year. It’s a lot more upbeat.”
What pressure? — So who has more pressure going into Game 5? The Flyers to stay alive? Or the Penguins to close out the series without having to come back to Philadelphia for Game 6?
Mike Richards contends that the pressure is on the Penguins.
“In a big way it is,” he said. “For us, it's desperate times again and we'll go out there and play hockey. I think before last game everyone was loose and joking around the room, not worried about making mistakes, and we go out there and have a great first period. So hopefully we have that same mentality tomorrow night. I don't see why not. It's the same situation, pretty much.”
Daniel Briere took the diplomatic approach.
“I think both teams have a lot of pressure on them,” he said. “They're trying to move to the next step, we're trying to move to the next game. So at this time, I think both teams have a lot of pressure there. I don't have the feeling that there's more pressure on one side or the other as of right now.”
The Flyers do know how the Penguins feel: They had a 3-1 series lead in the first round against the Washington Capitals, only to let the Caps force a deciding Game 7.
“We were in that situation,” coach John Stevens said. “You want to try to close it out as soon as you can, and for us, we'll have to continue to try to make strides in our own play, and play with the urgency, discipline and execution level that we did last game.”
Change was good — The Flyers will keep their new-look lines for Game 5, which means Daniel Briere will remain at wing on a line centered by Mike Richards.
“I know I had a lot of fun,” Briere said. “I thought our line played well. We created a lot of chances. As for myself, I just felt I was on the puck a lot more, I was on the forecheck a lot more. It forced me to be involved a little bit more in the offensive zone. I had the chance to get there a little quicker on their defensemen. Maybe it was just that game, I don't really know, but it worked out.”
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