-- It wasn't the start Philadelphia Flyers
captain Mike Richards
envisioned for himself and linemates Simon Gagne
and Jeff Carter
in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
The Flyers' top trio, which was reunited for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Montreal Canadiens
, combined for zero points and a dismal minus-7 rating in a 6-5 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks
in the series opener Saturday. Gagne was minus-3, Richards minus-2 and Carter minus-2 -- they did, however, total 10 of the Flyers 32 shots in the game.
For the most part, Chicago coach Joel Quenneville
had defensemen Duncan Keith
and Brent Seabrook
on the ice when Philly's top line hopped over the boards.
"I thought we had good looks (on Saturday) and just didn't score, and did everything but, so I think persistence is something we need to have as a line," Richards said. "We can't get discouraged by one or two bad bounces."
All three players were on the ice when Chicago's Dave Bolland
scored the team's League-leading fourth shorthanded goal of the postseason midway through the first period. And they were out there again when Tomas Kopecky
connected for the game-winner 8:25 into the third.
"I don't think anybody's too concerned about it," Flyers forward Blair Betts
told NHL.com. "I think (Gagne-Richards-Carter) have been great throughout this playoff run. Occasionally you're going to have nights where you don't score goals. It happens a lot during the regular season and it hasn't happened much to them during the playoffs, which I think is a big credit to them.
"At the same time, it's nice that we had some other guys chipping in offensively and it was a night where we shouldn't have needed them to score but, unfortunately, the defensive side of the game wasn't great for us and that ended up costing us."
In the series-clinching Game 5 against the Canadiens, the trio combined for 3 goals, 5 points and a plus-7 rating.
"I think everything is played according to the way the game goes," Quenneville said. "I think we got a lot of respect for the guys that can make plays on their team. They have a lot of skill throughout their lineup. We saw that (Saturday), whether it's top guys, or second and third-line scorers. But everybody was jumping forward (Saturday) night in the production department, except the top lines."
Flyers wing Ville Leino
, who has 5 goals and 14 points in 14 postseason games, knows the top line will kick it into high gear.
"For sure, that's what we need," Leino said. "Actually, we haven't had that secondary scoring or third-line scoring in a while. We had that (on Saturday) and hopefully we'll keep that going. We know Richie and the other guys will be stepping up and that would be good for us."
"I thought we had good looks (on Saturday) and just didn't score, and did everything but, so I think persistence is something we need to have as a line. We can't get discouraged by one or two bad bounces."
-- Mike Richards
One other major topic discussed following Philadelphia's practice on Sunday was the huge discrepancy in faceoffs. The Blackhawks won 63 percent of the draws in Game 1. Richards won only 40 percent (6 of 15) of his faceoffs, while Chicago's Jonathan Toews won 75 percent (18 of 24).
"Faceoffs not only give you possession of the puck, but they also give you the state of the team and where they're at," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette
said. "Hockey is a very competitive game. It's about one-on-one battles and winning those battles, and that's most originated from the faceoff circle, so we have to compete a little better."
Danny Briere, the team's second-line center, was 33 percent on draws (3 of 9) -- most of which were taken against Toews, who leads his team with a 59.1-percent faceoff winning percentage.
"I had a tough start against (Toews)," Briere said. "I think, as a team, we did better in the second and third period. But definitely in the first period, I don't know, I haven't had the chance to pay much attention. We knew coming in that (Toews) was a good faceoff guy. In the morning, that's something I was planning on doing, taking time to kind of go over all the faceoffs that were taken (Saturday)."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale