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Always the Toughest

by Kevin Kurz / Philadelphia Flyers
(Voorhees, NJ) – For the Flyers, the memories of Game 5 against Washington in this year’s first round of the playoffs are still fresh in their heads as the team arrived in Montreal to try and close out the Canadiens on Saturday night at the Bell Centre (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet, Versus).

In almost the exact scenario as they find themselves in now, the Flyers were ahead of the Capitals three games to one with a chance to close out them out on the road. Although it ended up being a close game, Philadelphia couldn’t match the intensity of Washington at the start and registered just five shots on goal in the first half in losing, 3-2.
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Joffrey Lupul, who finally put an end to that series with his overtime winner in Game 7, remembers it well.

“The last Game 5, we played like we were an unsure team. I don’t think we knew if they were going to kind of roll over and die, or they were going to come out [hard],” said Lupul. “We kind of waited, and eventually we did match their intensity and their pace, but by the time we did we had dug ourselves a hole.

“They came out hard and we should have been prepared for that. We’ll be prepared for that [Saturday], because we know Montreal is going to come out and play their best game of the series, especially in front of their fans. Being the number one seed, they don’t want to go down this easily.”

Martin Biron, Philadelphia’s most valuable player so far in the playoffs, also thinks the Flyers learned their lesson in the previous round.

“I think we not only learned from our series, but we learned from watching other series’ like the Canadiens against Boston and knowing that the fourth win, that last win to clinch a series, is the hardest,” he said, referring to Montreal’s seven-game victory over the Bruins.

“I think you have to know that until the job is totally done, anything can happen and that is where the desperation and urgency in our game has got to come from.”

Stevens reinforced that theme saying the team must come out with a more aggressive, attacking style and not give Montreal life as it did Washington. Philadelphia has scored the first goal in all four games of the series, and the Canadiens have yet to hold a lead in any game except for the overtime winner by Tom Kostopoulos in Game 1.
Joffrey Lupul (left) expects the Flyers to come out strong for Game 5 against Montreal on Saturday. (Getty Images)

The head coach would love to see that trend continue.

“We can’t come into this game and wait. We have to come out and try and initiate the play and try and dictate the game plan,” said Stevens. “I think in the Game 5 against Washington, we came out and we were waiting to see what they would do, and they really came at us. We got on our heels and it was a really tough, difficult first period.

“We still feel like our hardest work is in front of us.”

With the two days off between Game 4 and Game 5, the Flyers were able to take advantage of a day of rest for the first time since the playoffs began. Stevens gave his club a complete day off from the rink on Thursday before practicing at the Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone on Friday morning.

It was a move that was welcomed by the team.

“I think we were due. It had been almost three weeks without a mental break,” said Danny Briere, who is tied for second in the league in playoff scoring with 14 points. “[Thursday] was the first time we really had a chance to get away completely to recharge mentally as well as physically, to move forward.”
“I think you have to know that until the job is totally done, anything can happen and that is where the desperation and urgency in our game has got to come from." - Martin Biron

“We haven’t had an opportunity to rest since we started. At the same time, the practice today was equally as valuable, because we just haven’t had a lot of opportunities to practice,” added Stevens, who put his team through a light 40-minute session on Friday.

Does that mean the head coach also got some time to relax? Not exactly.

“We were actually here watching game tape, and looking at parts of our game,” said Stevens of himself and the coaching staff. “We have lots of time to rest at the end of the year.”

Umberger leading the offense

Having scored six of the Flyers’ 14 goals in the series, it’s impossible not to take notice of third-year forward R.J. Umberger.

“He just seems to be a guy that continues to impress,” said Stevens, who coached Umberger during the Phantoms’ Calder Cup title run in 2005. “We always kid that he’s a utility guy, he’s a guy without a home and we move him all over the place, but I think when you have that kind of guy on your team they become very valuable.”

Umberger, who has seen his ice-time increase steadily throughout the playoffs, scored twice in the Flyers’ 4-2 win on Wednesday night, while also recording the first goal in three of the four games of the series (Scottie Upshall scored first in Game 3).

“He’s a very responsible guy without the puck and he’s worked his way into playing all situations for us,” added Stevens. “He kills penalties, he plays the power play, he kills 5-on-3 penalties, he plays 4-on-4 and he’s out there when you’re trying to catch up or trying to protect a lead. For a young player, he’s taken on a lot of responsibility and he’s earned the right to be out there.”

Another day off

Kimmo Timonen and Derian Hatcher did not skate on Friday, opting for a second straight day off of the ice, but both will skate on Saturday morning at the Bell Centre according to Stevens.

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Joe Siville also contributed to this article.
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