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First 20 minutes tell the tale for Flyers

by Mike G. Morreale
CHICAGO -- There is a method to the maddening success the Philadelphia Flyers have experienced in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

While that four-man defensive crew and plentiful secondary scoring have played major roles, don't overlook Philadelpahia's strong play in the first period.

Behind goalies Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton, the Flyers have gone 8-1 in games when their goalie has stopped every shot faced in the opening 20 minutes. The only loss coming in Game 2 against the Chicago Blackhawks when Leighton turned aside nine first-period shots and still lost the game, 2-1.

"You got to play a full 60 minutes in the playoffs, but that first kind of sets the tone for the game and it's important to come out and play the game hard and establish your game plan."
-- Darroll Powe

"They are feeling confident and good about themselves to start a game," Flyers goalie coach Jeff Reese told "A good, solid first 10 minutes from the team also helps. It helps get their feet underneath them. Just watching them, they both play with a lot of confidence and I think that's a big thing, so it's always nice to get that first period out of the way, but that first shot is the one that counts. Our team has done a good job of keeping shots from the outside and that always helps."

Before sustaining those knee injuries on May 10, Boucher was 3-0 when shutting out the opponent in the first and 3-3 when allowing at least one goal with a 1.00 goals-against average and .894 save percentage.

Since making his first start in the playoffs on May 12 -- Game 6 against the Boston Bruins -- Leighton has gone 5-1 when shutting out the opponent in the first, including three shutouts, and 3-2 when yielding a goal with a 0.818 GAA and .926 save percentage.

It's obvious a well-played first period goes a long way in determining the outcome for the Flyers.

"(A good first period) is huge," Flyers forward Darroll Powe said. "You got to play a full 60 minutes in the playoffs, but that first kind of sets the tone for the game and it's important to come out and play the game hard and establish your game plan."

Claude Giroux agrees.

"Before our last game, I don't think our first had been our best in the three previous games in the Final, but when we did, we just took that momentum and kept going," Giroux said. "Our first period (in Game 5) is going to be huge."

Be prepared -- Jeff Reese said both Flyers goalies are equipped with all the tendencies and tactics of opposing players before entering a playoff series.

"That's something we talk about before every series; we talk about the shooters and what their tendencies are," Reese said. "Chicago's a team that we haven't seen much of (once during the regular season) so there's a little adjustment there but, other than that, you can't get too wrapped up in everything because that could get you in trouble if you think a guy is going to go high glove all the time and, all of a sudden, he shoots low blocker. You still have to be patient and react to the shot."

When told Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville could very well break up his top line of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Dustin Byfuglien, Reese shook his head.

"It's all the same," Reese said. "You still have to block the shot. You still have to battle in traffic and find the puck and make the save. It doesn't matter what lines are coming at you. You still have to be aware of who's on the ice; if Toews is out there, he does certain things and Kane does as well -- it doesn't matter."

Chicago switched up lines in the third period of Game 4 Friday in Philadelphia, dropping Kane down to join Kris Versteeg and Dave Bolland while Andrew Ladd settled in with Toews and Byfuglien.

Flyers' status quo? -- There wouldn't appear to be any significant lineup changes for the Flyers entering Game 5. But coach Peter Laviolette really didn't show his hand during Sunday's morning skate since he ran a practice in which two forwards skated in on the goalie instead of full lines.

Both James van Riemsdyk and Daniel Carcillo did participate in the morning practice at United Center. Van Riemsdyk is expected to start his second-straight game, which would make Carcillo a healthy scratch.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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