PHILADELPHIA – One win away from the Stanley Cup Finals, the Philadelphia Flyers are in no position to be overconfident.
The Flyers know how difficult it is to finish a playoff series, having overcome a 3-0 deficit against Boston in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Their opponent has been resilient in this post-season, too. The Montreal Canadiens have come back twice to win a series, going 5-0 in elimination games.
“With each series, it obviously gets harder and harder, but I don’t think you can look past that next game and that next win,” Philadelphia defenceman Chris Pronger said. “You’ve got to focus on closing out a team and being closers. We’ve got a team now down 3-1. We’ve got to get that fourth win.
“We’ve got to understand what it’s going to take, because they’re obviously a team that’s had their backs against the wall throughout the course of this playoff, through Washington and Pittsburgh, and they’ve been able to rally and come back. We obviously want to stymie that and make sure we’re putting our foot on the throat.”
The Flyers can advance to the finals for the first time since 1997 with a victory in Game 5 on Monday night at home in front of their raucous, orange-clad fans.
It’s been quite a journey for Philadelphia, which nearly missed the playoffs. The Flyers needed a shootout victory over the New York Rangers in the last game of the regular season just to clinch a spot as the No. 7 seed.
The Canadiens got in as the eighth seed and then knocked off Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington after falling behind 3-1. Montreal trailed Pittsburgh 3-2 before advancing past the defending Stanley Cup champions in the second round.
“We have to be careful,” Flyers forward Danny Briere said. “If there’s a team that would know that, it’s us, with what we were able to do in the previous round to the Bruins, and also what Montreal did to Washington and Pittsburgh. We’re definitely not going to take them for granted. There’s still one big win.
“We always say the fourth one or the last one is always the toughest to get against a team. We expect them to come out with a lot of desperation in Game 5, but at the same time, yes, we know we’re getting closer.”
The Canadiens are hoping for one more comeback after an impressive run just to get this far.
“We’ll have to regroup,” Montreal coach Jacques Martin said. “We know how we have to play, and I think we need certain areas of our game that need to be better.”
The Flyers bounced back from a 5-1 loss in Game 3 with a dominant defensive performance in Saturday’s 3-0 victory in Montreal. Michael Leighton stopped 17 shots to become the 13th NHL goalie to have three shutouts in one series. Leighton is 5-1 with a 1.37 goals-against average since replacing the injured Brian Boucher.
He had a relatively easy time in Game 4 because the defence, particularly from the forwards, was outstanding. The Flyers blocked 27 shots in front of Leighton, who has a .951 save percentage in these playoffs.
“We talked right before the game, and said we want to block as many shots and stop them charging the net, and we definitely did that,” Leighton said. “Our ‘D’ did a great job doing that, and our forwards at the point were doing a good job blocking shots, too.”
The Flyers, who haven’t won the Stanley Cup since 1975, are 18-2 with a 3-1 series lead. None of that matters to the Canadiens.
“We put ourselves in this hole and it is what it is. We’ve got to go and win a game,” Montreal defenceman Hal Gill said.