If the Flyers are indeed playing with fire, they've learned how to avoid getting burned. And unless the Montreal Canadiens can find a way to add some more heat, this Eastern Conference semifinal will end without the need to return to Philadelphia.
The teams are heading back to Montreal for Game 5 on Saturday with the Canadiens on the brink of elimination mainly because the Flyers have managed to stymie the league's top offense -- particularly the power play and its triggerman Alex Kovalev -- in a way no other team has this season. Goalie Martin Biron, an early playoff MVP candidate, obviously has a lot to do with it because the Canadiens are getting their chances, but the Flyers are clearing rebounds, getting pucks out of their zone efficiently and winning board battles and key faceoffs.
The Flyers are also getting offense from a variety of sources and when you put it all together, it adds up to a team that seems to have gotten into Montreal's heads.
That's one reason Habs coach Guy Carbonneau decided to shake things up tonight by replacing Carey Price in goal with Jaroslav Halak, the Canadiens other rookie goalie. Halak didn't make the coach regret his decision, although he probably would have liked to have the game's first goal by R.J. Umberger back, but ultimately he didn't get any better support from his teammates than his colleague did.
In fact Philadelphia's in-your-face approach made the team that finished first in the East look inept for large stretches of the game, so while the Flyers again gave up way too many shots (38) and failed to hold a lead they should have, they still found a way to win.
Truth is, the Flyers have been a lot more effective in this series than the stat sheets might suggest. With a little luck they would have already gained entry to the Eastern Finals instead of being just one win away because had Jeff Carter not broken his stick on a crucial late faceoff in the opener, the Canadiens would not have gotten to win that one in overtime.
The irony is that the first game was arguably Philadelphia's best overall int he series. Since then, they've been so good in so many subtle ways, the Flyers have reversed roles with the team that came in as a heavy favorite. And now they have the Canadiens heading home scratching their heads and trying to figure out just how it all came apart so quickly.
The Flyers know.