Less than a week ago, the Philadelphia Flyers were reeling after a well-played but deflating 3-2 OT loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. We wondered if the Penguins were too quick, too experienced, too sure of themselves, if the Flyers even had a shot to compete in this series.
But now, as we enter the series' second weekend, the Flyers come equipped with new hope. Game 6 is to be played tomorrow at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, an arena described by a Penguins fan during Game 4 as "the absolute loudest I have ever heard a building, ever, in any sport." That's high praise, especially since a Flyers fan had previously punched him in the stomach.
It's a home-ice advantage, in the truest sense of the phrase. I missed Game 4, due to Bruce Springsteen-related obligations (more on that next week), but it sounds like the Flyers played a full game in a style similar to the Penguins' first period attack last night - suffocating. However, Marc-Andre Fleury stole that one, just like Marty Biron stole period one in Game 5. And now, back on the ice where they played their best game, they get a shot to stretch the series to its breaking point.
As I said, for a while, it looked like the Penguins were too much for the Flyers. Our defense was inadequate at best, we couldn't move the puck successfully from blue line to blue line and the Pittsburgh skill players were blowing by us up and down the ice. However, after a victory, a well-played loss and another win, maybe we can now make the assumption that the Flyers' youth needed a few games to get acclimated to the playoff pace, that the defense needed some time to figure out how to play the Penguins forwards (their poke-checking and stick work in Game 5 was excellent) and that Marty Biron needed a chance to help steal a big game and make this a series again.
Claude Giroux, the future superstar, said today that the Flyers were just happy to be out there, playing hockey and trying to win. Let's hope that's true, because winning three straight against the Pittsburgh Penguins isn't going to be easy. But with a possible hot goalie at their backs, a huge momentum swing as they return home and the word "choke" looming over a possible final game at Mellon Arena, the Flyers have truly come from the dark end of the street to the bright side of the road.