PHILADELPHIA - The Flyers started three goaltenders, lost their leading scorer, suffered through a putrid power play, dropped a pair of home games, and were called whiners.
Somehow, the disjointed recipe didn't totally sidetrack the Flyers on their way to the Eastern Conference semifinals. Second-seeded Philadelphia knocked off Buffalo in seven games and won its fourth series in the last five tries.
They will play No. 3 Boston this weekend in Game 1 at the Wells Fargo Center. The Bruins advanced with a 4-3 overtime win over Montreal in Game 7 on Wednesday night.
For now, though, rest.
Coach Peter Laviolette gave his team the day off Wednesday. It's a well-deserved break for a team that trailed 3-2 in the best-of-seven series and seemed headed for an early exit.
"Sometimes just a day off and a break away from that is a good thing," Laviolette said. "With the extra days we are allowed here, we can utilize this to our advantage to come in fresh tomorrow. We will know where we are going and which direction we are going."
Philadelphia knows it's going the right way toward the Stanley Cup after eliminating the Sabres with a 5-2 win on Tuesday night. The Flyers won Game 6 in overtime and scored the first four goals of Game 7 to turn a challenging series into a successful one. This was the third time the Flyers won a series where they trailed 3-2 after five games: The others were the 2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals vs. Boston, and the 1989 Patrick Division Finals vs. Pittsburgh.
They have clearly mastered the post-season comeback the last two seasons.
"I think that our experience really showed," playoff star Danny Briere said. "It's not a secret. We have played a lot of big games in the last year with mostly the same group. I think that had a lot to do with it."
Briere, much like he did a year ago, is leading the post-season charge. He scored a whopping six goals in seven games and tormented his former team from the opening faceoff. He won a clutch faceoff early in Game 7 that led to Philadelphia's first goal. Briere, one of the top free-agent signings in team history, has 94 points (41-53-94) in 93 career playoff games.
"You need good players around you, as well," Briere said, "to make you look good."
For as good as the Flyers looked the last two games, though, it doesn't quite sweep some of their other lingering problems under the Zamboni.
Briere and James van Riemsdyk each scored power-play goals in the clincher, a needed boost for a feeble special-teams unit. The Flyers were 1 for 20 on the power play at home, and 3-31 overall until Tuesday. It will only get tougher to win a series with those kinds of numbers.
Having a healthy Chris Pronger back at full strength, though, should bump the conversion rate.
Pronger, the six-foot-six star defenceman, returned in Game 6 after missing 21 games while recovering from surgery to repair a broken right hand. After playing 4-plus minutes solely on the power play in Game 6, Pronger played nearly 18 minutes and blocked five shots in Game 7. With three more days of rest—Game 1 will likely be Saturday night—Pronger should be ready to roll in the next round.
"It was a good test and you gain a little bit of comfort," Pronger said. "I think, as the series progresses, and as you go through the rehab, therapy, and all the rest of that, eventually you hit a point where you get tested and (Game 7) was that night."
The Flyers now turn their waiting game to injured centre Jeff Carter, who led the Flyers with 36 goals. Carter hasn't played since he injured his right knee in Game 4.
And Mike Richards, who had 23 goals and 66 points this season, had no goals vs. Buffalo. His contribution to the series came in two punishing hits that sent him to the penalty box. Sabres coach Lindy Ruff called Richards and the Flyers a bunch of whiners.
"Moving on again, the opportunities, getting the chances, keep working hard and it will eventually come," Carter said.
Carter believes his time to shine will come much like it did for goalie Brian Boucher, who kept the faith all season. He was the backup in Games 1 and 2, but won all four games. Two of the wins came in relief, including the win-or-else Game 6.
Moving forward, he's the man in the net—for now.
"I felt like I was doing a pretty good job," Boucher said. "I just tried to focus on myself, knowing where I am at and how I am preparing, and not worry about the outside stuff."