Originally created 04/24/04

Flyers beat Leafs with skill, discipline



VOORHEES, N.J. -- The Philadelphia Flyers used to beat teams with their size and strength. Now they're doing it with skill and discipline.

The Flyers opened their Eastern Conference semifinals series with a 3-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night. They did it by playing solid defense, taking few penalties, and capitalizing on their scoring chances.

"As far as them being like the Flyers of old, they are not even close to being that physically dominating team," Toronto coach Pat Quinn said Friday. "They didn't give up much last night and it was a strong part of their game."

Gone are the Broad Street Bullies, who used to intimidate opponents with their fists, hard checks and even some cheap shots. Those Flyers teams, however, were the last to win the Stanley Cup, with consecutive championships in 1974 and 1975.

These Flyers have a lineup that blends finesse and power players. It's the quickest way to success in a league filled with European players who have changed the way the game is played.

Philadelphia overcame a major obstacle in the first round, finally beating longtime nemesis New Jersey. The Flyers eliminated the defending Stanley Cup champion Devils in five games, setting up a playoff rematch with Toronto.

The Flyers beat the Leafs in a grueling first-round matchup last year that amounted to the equivalent of nine games - seven games and seven overtimes.

In Game 1, neither team played the same style it did last spring. The Leafs are even playing a different way than they did the first three times the teams met in the regular season.

There were few wide-open chances and no odd-man rushes in the series opener. The teams grinded it out against the boards, concentrating on defense and limiting their opponents' chances.

"There is no open space," Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Both teams are committed to not giving up anything."

Game 2 is Sunday night in Philadelphia. The Leafs got a much-needed day off Friday after having one day off between games. Toronto advanced with a victory over Ottawa in Game 7 on Tuesday night. The Flyers were well-rested, getting four days off between games.

"We didn't really like the way we played," Flyers forward Simon Gagne said. "You can't take a rest against this team."

Hitchcock expects the Leafs to benefit from some rest. He was concerned about the rest of the series after the Flyers had a difficult time winning the opener.

"They play sound playoff hockey. This is going to be a hard series now," Hitchcock said.

Both teams are hoping to get injured players back. Flyers defenseman Kim Johnsson (hand) sat out Game 1, but could return Sunday night. Leafs captain Mats Sundin (leg) missed his fourth straight game, and Quinn disputed a report that he'll play in Game 2.