Gentlemen, it’s a race to 4, and reaching that magic number today means extra time to rest up, heal up, and get our minds right for the next level. If you want the next level, if you still remember what it was like, that taste in your mouth when Detroit came into OUR house and held that cup up, then you take that feeling and you turn it into something you can use on the ice today because that road is long, and we still have to get off this one.
Those guys in the other locker room, in their house, think they have us, think they can take this series from us. We’re here today to prove them wrong, to steal another win from under their noses in their house because we have the talent and we have the experience and we have the memory.
It’s gut-check time, boys. What do we need to do to win this?
- FOCUS–60 minutes of pure, unadulterated focus. Focus on the puck, focus on your man.
- Protect the net–backcheck hard and clear the puck smartly, with authority up the boards. North-South, North-South. Do not let them play with the puck in our zone. If you can’t get it out in under 10 seconds, it’s in there too long. Get it. Clear it. Clear it hard.
- Face-offs–win them, especially in our defensive end. Draw them back and the off wing go hard to the puck, and you’d better clear it up the boards with force to your guys waiting there for the outlet.
- Score first–it will make it easier on us because they will be forced to have to match us and keep the game moving. If they score first, they will go into protect mode, clogging the neutral zone and backing en masse into their defensive zone to make it harder for us to get at Biron, which is what they did in the 2nd and 3rd periods of Game 5. To break that, we have to Murphy dump and forecheck hard, and I don’t mean once or twice, I mean every time until they back off. Then, and only then, can you venture to carry the puck in. Beat your man to the puck and win the scrums on the boards and in the corners.
- Shoot–I don’t care if it’s 5-on-5 or 5-on-4. Move the puck, move your feet, force them to have to work you. If you have the shot, I don’t want you to chance another pretty pass to get a perfect goal. I want the shots at the net from all angles. If they can zip it across Marc-Andre’s shoulders from the goal line, we can do the same. Off guys crash the net and take a man. Ugly is gorgeous if it puts points on the board, and we have the talent of a whole benchload of guys to make that happen.
- Physical play–take a body every chance you get, but don’t be stupid. Watch the stick work. I want you to separate them from the puck and make a play. Make them tired. Make them sore, but don’t get sucked into retaliation. Skate away after the whistle no matter what they say or do. Give ’em a grin and file it away for later when you hit them legally. That’s your payback.
- Penalty-kill–keep moving, keep forcing them to the outside. If you get the break, take it, and continue to be smart in knowing where your help is. Get a shot off if you can. Beat them on the boards in their end and grind out the clock so that they do not have a chance to set up and get going in ours.
- Power-play–no more than 3 passes. I want the puck on the net from all angles, and I’m not talking slap shots, either. We take too much time on the wind up for a slapper that they just slide into position to block it. The puck ricochets off their shins and past our defensemen. And then we’re forced to have to go back and reset because they are sending one and sometimes two guys to challenge us agressively in the neutral zone as time ticks away. Make them have to fight for and secure the puck in the corners. Make them have to work to clear it. Shoot, shoot, shoot, crash the net, and pick up the garbage. Make Biron have to break a sweat, have to second-guess what we are going to do. We want him edgy. We want him nervous.
- Have fun–feed off the hatred in those stands. Feed off the desperation against you on the ice. The Flyers have to prove to their fans today that they can stay alive. The burden is on them. Nothing would be sweeter than telling them no, in their house, on this day. Kill a crowd, kill a team–the way you know how. Do it with a smile. Do it with relish. Do it for 60 solid minutes. Taste it, smell it. That’s their fear. That’s their desperation. That’s our victory.