The NHL can bring the Stanley Cup and its white-gloved escort to Philadelphia, but chances are the Blackhawks will have to wait. Plan on a Game 7 in Chicago for your Friday night viewing pleasure.
Despite a troubling, sometimes no-show, 7-4 humbling at the hands of the Blackhawks at the United Center in Game 5 on Sunday, there are so many reasons to believe the Flyers are not done. Here are the key Philadelphia personnel for Game 6 on Wednesday.
Blackhawks vs. Flyers Series Page
The Goaltender of Choice: Philadelphia's probable starter on Wednesday could be in his final week as a Flyer, but history suggests Michael Leighton won't be the weak link in Game 6. During this Hollywood-scripted playoff run -- he truly is one of the more improbable postseason heroes of recent vintage -- Leighton has been a rock on Broad and Pattison. He is 6-0 at home during the playoffs since replacing Brian Boucher.
Leighton, who took a puck off his knee in warmups Sunday but said he was not injured, has also shown an ability to bounce back post-benchings. After he was pulled in the series opener, Leighton made 24 saves in a 2-1 loss in Game 2 before winning both games in Philadelphia. Even if many fans and scouts can't believe their eyes, the numbers for this journeyman waiver wire pickup do not lie. (If Laviolette starts Boucher, remember that he out-played Martin Brodeur in the opening round).
Chris Pronger: It may sound like some kind of joke, but what are the chances Pronger goes a career-worst minus-5 again? There's a far better likelihood, especially since the Philadelphia coaching staff has the last change as the home team, that Pronger will once again limit the scoring chances of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Dustin Byfuglien -- even if they are split on three different lines. In Game 5, Pronger had a bad night combined with poor goaltending behind him. If the Flyers come back to win the Stanley Cup, Pronger's name gets back on the list of nominees for the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and Simon Gagne: For all the point-producing exploits of Daniel Briere, Claude Giroux and Ville Leino, the deep-frontlined Flyers could be getting a lot more from some of their core. Captain Mike Richards (one goal, one assist and minus-6) has been appropriately vocal after each loss, but he has yet to take over a game in the Stanley Cup Final. Jeff Carter also has just a goal and an assist through five games. If Carter is limited by his injured knees -- impressively, he returned to the lineup ahead of schedule -- why is Laviolette playing him more than 17 minutes a games in the Final? Simon Gagne has two goals and is minus-5 in the series. Time for Carter, Richards and Gagne to have a big game (or two).
"When you get to this point there's a tremendous amount of confidence in your team to win hockey games," Laviolette said Monday afternoon. "They get it and they understand it. If any team gets it, this team gets it, because we've been here so many times. To have our back against the wall, we'll be comfortable (Wednesday). I have no question that our team will respond."
His players have said Laviolette is not so much a strategist as a master motivator. A Game 6 at home, down 3-2, does not call for Xs and Os. When you're the underdog, it's all about the heart. In every crucial game, the Flyers have demonstrated more jam than any playoff team for the last seven weeks. It's difficult to picture them going down without a fight to the finish.