We're seeing a pattern in these finals
"I don't think we're playing bad. I think we outshot them again, outchanced them, but we're just not capitalizing. I think when you get to this point, everyone has a good goaltender. We're just not getting enough of the second chances we should be getting."
PHILADELPHIA -- No, the comment was not from the Philadelphia Flyers. It was from San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton on May 18, the night his team fell behind 2-0 in the Western Conference finals to the Chicago Blackhawks.
"I don't think there's any frustration, actually," Flyers star Jeff Carter said Tuesday. "We would like to be on the other end of this, but we're getting better. We're creating chances. I think it just comes down to bearing down in front of them and in front of the net. There's a lot of pucks that are kind of laying in the crease and laying around in feet, that if we start bearing down we're going to be on the other end of those games."
Or how about this from Flyers coach Peter Laviolette on Monday night.
"I'm not sure we should be frustrated," he said. "I don't think we got outplayed. I think when you're at the end of the night, you're going to look at it again, probably outshot them, outchanced them a little bit and didn't get the results we were looking for. I thought their goaltender played extremely well in the third period. We had more than enough looks to tie up that game and opportunities to get out of it. It didn't happen. We have to go home and take a look at some things and come back. We have to win our home game."
There is truth in all their statements, Laviolette, Carter and Thornton. The Sharks and Flyers both deserved a better fate than being down 2-0 through two games of their respective series. In the West finals, San Jose definitely had a grip on Game 1, but let it slip away thanks to Hawks goalie Antti Niemi's 44 saves. In the Stanley Cup finals, Philadelphia blew three leads in its Game 1 loss and overwhelmed the Hawks in the third period of Game 2, outshooting them 15-4 and yet finding itself in a big 2-0 hole.
Anyone notice a pattern here?
The Blackhawks aren't dominating the Flyers, just like they didn't blow away the Sharks in a four-game sweep that was much closer than what history will remember (Chicago won three of the four games by one goal and the Sharks opened the scoring in three contests).
And yet, the Hawks just find a way. Chicago has won six straight games, and perhaps only one of them -- Game 2 in San Jose -- was a no-doubt victory. The Hawks have received different contributions from everyone in the lineup (in high-scoring wins, low-scoring wins, comeback wins and overtime wins), and they have fallen on the right side of the docket against very good opposition.
Jonathan Toews' top line got the job done against San Jose. Now, Patrick Sharp's unit is providing most of the offense in the Cup finals. Dave Bolland's checking line has been effective in both series. Fourth-liner Ben Eager even has a game winner. And, of course, Niemi has been the constant.
Now we find out if the Flyers can do what the Sharks could not: turn it up one more notch and not be satisfied with saying they're in every game despite not winning them. That's not good enough.
"These guys don't know the meaning of the word quit," Flyers owner Ed Snider told ESPN.com on Tuesday. "Even in [Monday] night's game in the third period, the goalie for Chicago did a great job, but it just showed that we were prepared to come back in that game. We did fall short, but in their building, we outshot them 15-4 in the third period. I think that says a lot."
On Wednesday night at what should be an electric Wachovia Center, we'll find out if these never-say-die Flyers can find one more gear to what has already been a decent effort so far in these Cup finals. We wouldn't be the slightest bit surprised if they do. Talk to observers who have been around this Flyers team, including our own ESPN.com columnist Scott Burnside, and they will tell you how amazed they are by Philadelphia's competitive spirit.
"In all the Flyers teams that I've covered, none of them had the bounce-back ability of this team," veteran Flyers beat writer Tim Panaccio of CSNPhilly.com told us.
"I think we've done a great job all year of bouncing back after losses, and I think with the crowd, we fed off their energy," said Flyers captain Mike Richards. "We know it's going to be loud in here. It's something that we can hopefully kind of push through and feed off them and play consistently throughout the game a little bit better than we have."
The Flyers still believe, and it's genuine.
"The good thing is, everyone's given up on us. But I'm certainly not going to quit and I know the guys in here aren't going to quit, either."
A quote from the Flyers? Nope, that was Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle after Game 2 of the Western finals. The Sharks had their heart in the right place, but it's the Flyers who have a chance to actually deliver on those words.
"We're still confident that we're going to make a real good series out of this," said Snider.
Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.
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