PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 15: Maxime Talbot #27 of the Philadelphia Flyers heads for the bench following his third period goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center on April 15, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Penguins 8-4. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
You're up 3-0, but you've been down 3-0, so you know what it's like to be there, some of your players know what that's like. Does that help them prepare, knowing what that desperation is?
"My team? My team hasn't been down 0-3."
Some of the players on the team...
"Yeah, but this team hasn't."
> Peter Laviolette, talking to a reporter Sunday
The Flyers have left the 2010 team in the past. Hell, they've left the 2011 team in the past. Some players remain, but for the most part, this team is all brand new this year. Paul Holmgren said over the summer that they'd be "different" this year, and they certainly are. Peter Laviolette's quote here defines that.
Think about the rookies. Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, Matt Read, Zac Rinaldo, etc. Think about the guys who came over from the West: Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Ilya Bryzgalov, Nicklas Grossmann, Andreas Lilja. Think about the guy who hasn't been in the league in three years, Jaromir Jagr. Think about the guy that used to be a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Max Talbot.
The previous iteration of the Flyers could not beat the Pittsburgh Penguins. Sure, they had some success at times, but when push came to shove, that group lost two playoff series and a majority of regular season games against the Pens, all while watching them go on to win a Stanley Cup three years ago. That commands respect.
This current Flyers team? Why the hell should they respect the Penguins? They've walked all over them all season long, whether it be in Pittsburgh or in Philadelphia. You think Schenn and Couturier have respect for Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby? Yeah, maybe in some abstract, politically correct "They're great players on a great team and they're always gonna play us tough" kinda way. But they've been able to walk all over those guys this season and this series.
When they step on the ice against that team, there's no fear. There's no respect -- which, by the way, shouldn't be confused with disrespect. The Penguins are simply no longer a benchmark to which the Flyers need to meet, and that's a truth that's permeated this matchup since their first meeting back on December 8. It's a major part of why they've been able to beat Pittsburgh in seven of their last nine meetings.
With the way this series has played out, it's clear the tables are turning in this rivalry. The Penguins are now the team that fears the Flyers. The Penguins are now the team that shows too much respect to the Flyers on the ice -- at least in terms of the actual hockey playing. The Penguins are the team that, when they step onto the ice against Philadelphia, feels like they need to meet a benchmark.
We've been waiting several years for this rivalry to turn in our favor again. I think that time is finally here.