Laviolette says comeback is about players, not him
BOSTON -- Peter Laviolette wasn't about to make this about him, although he unquestionably deserves at least some of the credit for what his Philadelphia Flyers accomplished on Friday night.
His Philadelphia Flyers. Hard to believe that when training camp opened on the 2009-10 season, that wasn't even the case.
Laviolette was a coach without a team, even though it was only a few years prior that he hoisted the Stanley Cup on the RBC Center ice with the Carolina Hurricanes. But a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately attitude left him unemployed on Dec. 4, 2008.
A year and a day later, a similar attitude found John Stevens out of work. Flyers GM Paul Holmgren wanted to make a change. He wanted Laviolette.
Fast forward to Friday night, when the Flyers made history by becoming the first team in 35 years to win a best-of-7 series after dropping Games 1, 2 and 3. An overtime win in Game 4 triggered arguably the greatest comeback in NHL history.
What makes this greater than what the 1975 New York Islanders or 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs accomplished? Well, not only did Laviolette's Flyers trail 3-0 in this series, but they trailed 3-0 less than 15 minutes into this decisive game.
They were toast. At least we thought they were.
We should have known better.
"It certainly was not the start that we were looking for," Laviolette said. "We talked about the first 10 minutes of the game and being sharp. Penalties that weren't so good. They scored a couple of goals."
By the time Milan Lucic scored his second goal of the game at 14:10 to make it 3-0, Laviolette knew what he had to do. He used his lone timeout to rally the troops. It worked.
"The timeout was just to try and slow things down, to get us back in there," Laviolette said. "I think that the biggest message was to just score one goal, get us on the board."
Enter rookie James van Riemsdyk, who had been incredibly quiet in the first six games. The 21-year-old scored an enormous goal to get Philadelphia on the board before the end of the opening period. Less than three minutes into the second, Scott Hartnell scored to make it 3-2.
The momentum was now in the Flyers' direction. They needed only another 5:50 to tie the game, when Danny Briere beat Tuukka Rask on a wraparound.
"We fought," Laviolette said. "Guys fought."
Philadelphia's hulking defense made its presence felt in the third period. The Bruins were held to just five shots on goal and came close only when Lucic hit the goal post midway through.
Shortly thereafter, Boston was nailed for having too many men on the ice. You could almost sense what was going to happen next. Laviolette's Flyers were going to finish the job.
History would be made.
Simon Gagne sealed the deal on the power play with a gorgeous wrister at 12:52 that gave the Flyers a 4-3 lead. No way were they going to relinquish it. They showed the type of character that Laviolette gushed about on Friday morning and again during the postgame press conference.
"There's the right people in that locker room to win a game like today," Laviolette said. "There's the right people to come down from 3-0 and win a game like today. I'm really proud of them. I'm really proud of the way they played. I'm really proud of the way they represented the organization. I'm proud of the way they represented themselves. It gets tough out there. The Game 7s are tough. There's a lot of pressure. You're on the road. It's a game that's made for men, and our guys proved to be men today."
Perhaps it was Laviolette who got the Flyers to play like men. Perhaps it was Laviolette who convinced his players they still had a chance after dropping a 4-1 decision on home ice in Game 3 to go down 3-0 in the series.
Hard to believe that roughly six months ago, he didn't even have a bench to lead.
"I'm really proud of them. I'm really proud of the way they played. I'm really proud of the way they represented the organization. I'm proud of the way they represented themselves."
-- Peter Laviolette
"Thanks for reminding me," he joked.
After a brief pause, he put a stop to anyone who was ready to give him credit for what the Flyers accomplished in this series. So what if Al Arbour is the only other coach in roughly seven decades to pull this off?
For Laviolette, all the credit goes to the 20 men who wore the white sweaters.
"I love coaching … it was great for me to be behind the bench," Laviolette said. "But this is all about the players. The players won a hockey game today. End of story. That's the biggest news that you guys can write about. They worked for it, they fought for it and they earned it."