Flyers goal: Keep it short and sweep
Burying the Penguins Wednesday would give the Orange and Black time to heal and rest.
Pascal Dupuis had no Mark Messier in him. Dupuis, the Penguins' scrappy forward, stopped short of guaranteeing a victory for Pittsburgh in Wednesday night's Game 4.
His words were short and sweet, as the Penguins stare down being swept for the first time in 33 years.
"It won't end like this," Dupuis said.
That's a more tepid guarantee than the one Mark Messier delivered on behalf of the New York Rangers in a 1994 Game 6 matchup with the New Jersey Devils. He made good on the promise and the Rangers went on to win the Stanley Cup.
For the Flyers, the benefits of ousting the pompous Penguins with a handshake on home ice are endless - including handing their hated rival the dubious distinction of being just the second team in the 94-year history of the sport to be swept in the first round following a 50-plus win season.
For the record, the 1993 Bruins (51 wins) are the only team to be ousted in four straight, though that was before shootout wins boosted totals.
Along with the emotional boost that would come with a sweep of the odds-on and anointed Stanley Cup favorite, there would be tangible and physical benefits for the Flyers if they win on Wednesday.
In a black-and-bruised series in which the winner was supposed to limp into the second round of the Stanley Cup gauntlet, the Flyers could skate into the Eastern Conference semifinals with nearly nine days of complete rest.
The Stanley Cup playoffs are a war of attrition; two complete months of exertion for 16 wins. Injuries are a nightly occurrence.
"We don't want to go back to Pittsburgh to take that chance," Max Talbot said on Tuesday. "You want to finish it as fast as you can. It's important to finish it [quick]. You'll have more time to rest. Obviously, you'd be moving on, so that's always a good thing.
"We're going to give everything we can to finish them. That's for sure."
The Flyers could watch the East's other six teams beat on one another. Every other series in the East is guaranteed to go at least five games.
In fact, the Flyers could get James van Riemsdyk and even defenseman Andrej Meszaros back for the start of the second round, depending on how the schedule breaks. Both players skated on Tuesday; Meszaros by himself. Van Riemsdyk said he could play in Game 4 if called upon, but this isn't a desperate time.
"Some mornings are tough to get out of bed," said Jakob Voracek, who has just seven career playoff games under his belt. "You can tell it's totally different hockey than the regular season. I'm not that bad [getting up] but I am sure some of those guys are pretty sore. We can win (Wednesday), rest up, and get ready for the second round. Or, we can make it hard on ourselves."
History does not tend to be on the Flyers side for a sweep. There have been just 13 sweeps in the 90 series (14 percent) played since the 2004-05 lockout season - just four of those by teams separated by 10 or fewer points in the first round.
The Flyers are 3-7 all-time in Game 4 when leading a series by a three-games-to-none margin.
Pittsburgh has been swept just twice (1972, 1979) in franchise history. The only other time the Penguins faced a 3-0 deficit, in 1997 against the Flyers, they forced a Game 5 before bowing out.
For the Flyers, who have scored 20 goals in the first three games, advancing to the second round has been more of a "when" and not an "if." Just four teams in the history of the three major "series" sports (MLB, NBA, NHL) have ever beaten a three-game deficit in a series: the 2010 Flyers, 2004 Boston Red Sox, 1975 N.Y. Islanders, and 1942 Maple Leafs.
Last spring, Detroit and Chicago both clawed back to force a Game 7. Both lost.
"We've got to make sure that we don't give them any breathing room," Voracek said. "Every game you can win in the playoffs is huge, especially [Game 4]."
If the Flyers were to fly back to Pittsburgh for a Game 5 or even Game 7 . . . well, they say they're prepared for any eventuality. Jaromir Jagr, who has averaged less than 14 minutes of ice time per game with all of the penalties and shenanigans, said he feels fresh.
"I was always beaten and spent after the first [three] playoff games," Jagr wrote on his blog at iSport.cz. "But it is different now. It hardly comes to my mind that the playoffs have already come. I believe this can help me, in fact, if our team qualifies for the second round."
"Winning four straight games is like winning the lottery," Nick Grossmann said. "Your body can take more [abuse] than you think. You train all summer, all year for this. That doesn't mean we don't want to win now."
on the Flyers' playoff run at facebook.com/sportsinq