THE RECENT SCRIPT of the Flyers being down early, 1-0, 2-0, 3-0, has been written so often, Jaromir Jagr is calling for a revision. He has devised the perfect solution on how the Flyers can avoid falling behind so quickly.
"Sometimes, I think we should take the timeout in the first minute," Jagr joked Tuesday. "We always play better after the timeout. They should drop the puck and we should call timeout right away."
It was a lighthearted moment for a guy who is savoring every second of this season and these playoffs. They are the primary reason he came back from playing in Russia after a 3-year hiatus. They are why he skated all those evenings alone at the Flyers' practice facility, pounding himself into NHL shape. And they are why he subjected himself to being a human pincushion while electro-acupuncture healed his wounds.
"I love to enjoy the game. I love to smile during the game," he said. "The only way you can do that is to be in better shape than everybody else. If you work very hard in practice, the game's a lot easier."
The offensive part of hockey always seemed to come easy to Jagr. He was often an easy target for derision, because his skills were geared more toward open ice and less toward the clutching, grabbing and grinding of the NHL before the 2004-05 lockout.
"I'm not too quick anymore," he said, "but I'm still strong."
That was how Jagr explained his amazing, one-handed assist in Game 3 when he held off Pittsburgh's Pascual Dupuis with one arm and shoveled a pass that Claude Giroux buried for the Flyers' seventh goal of the game. It was one of those disheartening moments for the Penguins, like what the New York Knicks must have felt in trying to defend Wilt Chamberlain the night he scored 100 points.
Jagr holds at least a 35-pound edge on Dupuis and used every ounce.
"Don't forget, I'm 240," he said. "Sometimes I have to use my power."
At 40, Jagr has speckles of gray in his playoff beard. Sean Couturier, 19, is struggling to even grow his.
"Being around him every day, you see what he does on and off the ice that makes him so good," said Couturier, who was merely a glint in his parents' eyes when Jagr helped Pittsburgh win two Stanley Cups in the early 1990s. "For us younger guys, it just makes us push harder. He's 40 now, but he still loves the game, and he works so hard to be in shape and be at his best. That's what makes him so good."
It doesn't hurt that Jagr also is young at heart. One of his personal highlights from Sunday's win, which, remember, was his first home playoff game as a Flyer, was when Hulk Hogan was shown on the main video screen encouraging the Wells Fargo Center crowd.
"I appreciate every game I can play. Even if I don't play a lot, I just appreciate it," he said. "I don't know how many more playoff games I have left. Playoff hockey is the best thing a hockey player can dream of. There is great energy in the stadiums, even the negative energy when you play on the road. That's what drives you. That's what's exciting about it."
He dresses alongside Giroux, Scott Hartnell, Danny Briere and Wayne Simmonds. Just over to his left is Ilya Bryzgalov. Jagr is an important component for Peter Laviolette's Flyers, but he's not nearly the main cog, as he was in Pittsburgh and in Washington and with the Rangers.
Said Jagr: "There's a lot less pressure on me than there was before."
A number of Flyers expect the zebras to call things very tightly for Wednesday's Game 4, given how the previous game frequently deteriorated to thuggery.
"That first slash on a goalie's hand when he's got the puck covered or that first slash to the back of the legs or that first punch in the face: That guy's going - for sure, 100 percent - right to the penalty box," said Hartnell, who seemed to be describing a large part of his own game.
"I can't comment on how he feels or what he's thinking, but you can really tell that he hasn't been himself," Hartnell said of Sidney Crosby, who has five mostly quiet points in three games. "He hasn't done what he's supposed to do, what he can do. And that's the scary thing for us to think about. If he wants to turn it on and play the way Sidney Crosby can, he's a very dangerous player."