If there’s anyone who can lead the Flyers out of a 2-0 series deficit, it’s Peter Laviolette. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time.
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After his Flyers fell behind 3-0 to the Bruins last year, Laviolette remained poised behind the Philly bench, instructing his team to take things one game at a time. The results were an overtime win, a 4-0 blowout, a tight, 2-1 win and an unbelievable comeback from a three-goal deficit in Game 7. It was during that Game 7 that Laviolette called a timeout late in the first period and told his players to regain their composure and score before the period ended. They did, and they went on to win 4-3.
This year, with the Bruins again grabbing an early series lead, Laviolette is getting to work. It starts with shifting the pressure to the other dressing room.
"When you lose your first two games in your home building, I would say that there is a real expectation for the Bruins to win the series now," Laviolette said after the Bruins won Game 2 in overtime, according to The Sports Network. "So it relieves us of the pressure, I believe, a little bit to just go in and play a game in Boston."
"We get to remove some of that pressure right now and just go play, have some fun and see if we can score some more goals than we did [Monday]," Laviolette added, according to WEEI radio.
While words are just words, and the games will be decided by the events on the ice, past history indicates that psychology did play a factor in last year’s series.
"I don’t know if we were maybe a little nervous," Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said after losing Game 5 last year. "It’s hard to explain and really find words for it, so for sure we didn’t play with the composure we were playing with. … Maybe it wasn’t nervous, it was just … we couldn’t make those plays we normally do, strong plays with the puck, plays that we are normally doing and all of the sudden it was tough for us to make those plays. Sometimes you want to win a series so bad and it doesn’t work for you."
Veteran Mark Recchi also admitted to a lack of urgency on the Bruins’ side after taking a 3-0 series lead.
"It’s starting to get crunch time and we’ve let them back in the series and now we have to get desperate. Now it’s our turn," Recchi said after that 4-0 loss in Game 5. "We can’t put ourselves in a position to be nervous, frustrated and lose composure. We need to play like the team with their backs against the wall, because now they are."
Bruins coach Claude Julien, however, wasn’t buying the "pressure is now on them" argument.
"If people can’t handle the pressure and they want to dish it out on others, that’s fine, because we don’t really need that," Julien said prior to that Game 5. "We put pressure on ourselves to win every game. When you handle pressure the right way, it’s a great thing. If you can’t handle it the right way, then it becomes a bit of a burden, and sometimes you try to hand it off to others."
Julien was confident, but his team, as you well know, ultimately let that series lead slip away. One year later, Laviolette is trying to dip back into his psychological bag of tricks.