PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Learning from recent playoffs failures may be the biggest reason the Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings are playing for the Stanley Cup.
The Flyers got to the final for the first time in 10 years because they learned the past two years that it wasn't enough to rely solely on center Eric Lindros and his linemates to get the job done in the playoffs.
For all his talent, Lindros can only do so much against teams that are getting contributions from everyone. New Jersey proved it to Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference final in 1995 and Florida did the same thing in the conference semifinal last year.
While the Red Wings have had more talent the past two years than the Flyers, the playoffs showed they lacked the size needed to win. New Jersey overpowered them in the '95 final, and Colorado had the grinders to win the Western Conference final last year.
Both have made adjustments and now will try to end long Stanley Cup droughts when the best-of-7 series starts Saturday night.
Philadelphia, which has made the playoffs the last three years after missing the previous five, last won the Cup in 1975. Detroit, which last missed the playoffs in 1990, won its seventh and last NHL title in 1955.
"You can almost say it was three years in the making," third-line wing Shjon Podein said Thursday after the Flyers practiced at their New Jersey training site. "I think we learned from what we did wrong the last couple of playoffs.
"We all didn't pitch to help the team out offensively, fourth line and things like that," he added. "When we have success everyone is pitching in. I just think it's a team effort that's lifted up to this level."
Lindros comes into the final tied for second in playoff scoring with 11 goals and 12 assists and linemate John LeClair has seven goals and 11 assists. But they are also getting help.
Rod Brind'Amour is having a spectacular playoffs centering the No. 2 line. He has 10 goals and seven assists, while Mikael Renberg has five goals skating mostly with the second line.
Philadelphia also has 14 other players who have scored goals.
"Toward the end of the season I just think we all made the commitment to play solid defensive hockey and to get offensive output by everyone on the team, not one person," Flyers wing Trent Klatt said. "If you add those two together with the talent we have, that makes the difference."
Bobby Clarke, the Flyers president and general manager, also noted that Lindros is a more mature player now. The past two playoffs have taught him to be more patient and not to try to do everything by himself.
"You have to let players go through it," Clarke said. "You can't tell them about it. No teen-age player is going to be as good as a 23- or 24-year-old and no 23- or 24-year-old is going to be as go as a 27- or 28-year-old. They are going to get better, compared to themselves."
Veteran Red Wings center Steve Yzerman is impressed with the Flyers, who got the finals by beating the New York Rangers in five games. Detroit advanced by avenging last year's loss to Colorado, winning in six games.
"They're hitting on all cylinders right now," Yzerman said. "Right now, Brind'Amour's line looks as strong as the Lindros line. Guys like Klatt and Brind'Amour are getting big goals for them."
Yzerman also thinks the Red Wings are better, too. Sergei Fedorov, Darren McCarty, Martin Lapointe, Vyacheslav Kozlov and Nicklas Lidstrom have more experience and have players like Brendan Shanahan and Joey Kocur to play tough on the ice.
"There's a lot of things that scare me," Klatt said of the Red Wings. "They have speed and if you let them use it they will kill you. They are a very talented hockey team, a very strong defensive hockey club and they would not have gotten this far without being a good hockey team."
Klatt then stopped for a split second.
"We also feel if we play our game and do the things we do right, we'll have good success," he said.
For the Flyers, that means being physical.
"Colorado did not take the body as hard as they should and that's something we have to do to be successful against the Red Wings," he said.