"Yeah," acknowledged Peter Laviolette this morning after his team's workout at Wachovia Center. "It's a must-win." The Flyers head coach went on to say Games 1 and 2 were must-wins, but he was merely back-tracking by then. "We've played well in our building and I expect it to continue. We have to get on the board tonight."
Sure, you can point to the Flyers' transcendent comeback a month ago as proof this isn't a must-win for them. But an NHL team comes back from down 3-0 in a playoff series only every 35 years or so.
In the second round against the Boston Bruins, the Flyers became just the third team in NHL history to overcome a 3-0 deficit. The feat had only been accomplished previously in 1942 by the Toronto Maple Leafs and in 1975 by the New York Islanders. Philadelphia knows it can't push it's luck.
"It's in the past," veteran defenseman Chris Pronger said of making history against Boston in May. "It was against a different team. Knowing we've been able to do it certainly helps. Every team is different. It's a different dynamic."
Blackhawks vs. Flyers Series Page
When you consider the Blackhawks are mostly healthy (missing only third-liner Andrew Ladd), while the Bruins were without playmaking center David Krejci, overcoming 3-0 for a second time in one postseason would appear to be an impossible dream. Coming back from 2-0 is challenging enough for the Flyers.
The numbers are not in the Flyers' favor. The team losing the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final on the road has failed to win the championship 31 of 33 times in NHL history. The Pittsburgh Penguins, after dropping the opening two games in Detroit, performed the trick a year ago. Again, what are the chances history can be made again so soon?
"If you're asking if this team can overcome obstacles or overcome adversity, we're so far beyond that," said Laviolette, who engaged in some mind games in Tuesday aimed at the confidence of Chicago goalie Antti Niemi. "We've been toeing that line since Christmas.
"I don't think you get to this point in the season when you're 29th (in the NHL) at Christmas and not be able to overcome adversity. We did it all year. We did it in the first round (an upset of New Jersey). We did it without injured players. We did it in the second round. This team is capable. We've been told to pack it in since Christmas. I'm 100 percent confident that this team is capable."
And let's face it: the National Hockey League would benefit from the Flyers making this is a series, instead of a death march to the inevitable. National television ratings have been wonderful. They'll only be wonderful locally if the Blackhawks make this a 3-0 series by the end of Wednesday night.
The Flyers, with good reason, are counting on a home-ice advantage. Like the Bell Centre in Montreal and Chicago's Madhouse on Madison, the City of Brotherly Love can provide ferocious support for its Flyers.
"We're playing good hockey at home," said Flyers forward Jeff Carter, who has four goals and two assists in eight postseason games. "It's pretty easy to come out and get fired up and play hard in front of our fans. They've been there, game in and game out, cheering us on. It makes it a lot easier to go out there. It's nice to be back. I'm looking forward to (tonight)." Said Laviolette: "Energy and execution is what it's all about. If we have them, we'll have a good chance."
Although Chicago plays in Philadelphia about once every three years because of the imbalanced NHL schedule, the Blackhawks know what to expect.
"I used to play in here when it was no fun back in the day," said head coach Joel Quenneville, a former NHL defenseman. "No matter who I played for, it was one of those nights you knew you could be in for a long game. Discipline is something we stress going into every game. This is going to be the toughest challenge we've had all playoffs. Being smart about how we go into it and playing with energy is what we're all about."
Besides, the ice surface may be the safest location in the arena.
"Their fans are definitely into the game," said Blackhawks center John Madden, who played a decade for the rival New Jersey Devils. "It's safer to be playing on the ice than to be a Chicago fan in the stands, I can tell you that."
Madden and the Blackhawks have another reason to feel safe and confident as visitors: in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, they are 7-1 road.
"We play a more simple game," said Madden. "We're not so worried about line changes. When we're able to play a simple game, we seem to be able to roll the lines and have a better forecheck. We're not concerned about where we're playing. We just go out and play hockey."
"We've never quit before," said Flyers right wing Daniel Briere. "We're not going to quit now."
The Flyers had better, at least for Wednesday night. If Philadelphia loses Game 3, Chicago will eventually have its first Stanley Cup in 49 years.