Philadelphia's inexperienced players are far from quiet
Center Jared Ross is one of five young Flyers getting their first playoff experience, and, as in this case with Ross scoring Sunday, contributing against the Penguins.
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PHILADELPHIA -- It's a label that used to belong to the Penguins. At least for this Eastern Conference quarterfinal playoff series, the Flyers have pilfered it.
The Penguins aren't the young, inexperienced team in this matchup.
While every member of the Penguins had at least some NHL playoff games on his resume coming into the postseason, Philadelphia has indoctrinated five -- forwards Claude Giroux, Darroll Powe, Jared Ross and Daniel Carcillo, and swing man Luca Sbisa.
Going into Game 4 tonight at Wachovia Center, the Flyers' youth has been far from wide-eyed wallflowers. Those five have combined for three goals, including the team's only winning tally, three assists, a plus-minus rating of plus-2, seven blocked shots and 11 hits -- including an attention-grabbing hit that led to a suspension.
They have manned positions on the third and fourth lines and have produced right along with Philadelphia's top players.
"Even at the end of the year, coming down the stretch, they were really stepping up for us," second-line center Jeff Carter said. "If we're going to make any noise here, we need those guys to keep going because we can't do it with two or three lines."
Down 2-1 in this best-of-seven series with a critical home game tonight, the Flyers could use continued help from their inexperienced corps.
"[Coach] John Stevens told us for the first game, 'Hey, if you're inexperienced and young, you've got to make up for it by working harder.' That's what we're all trying to do," said Jared Ross, who centers the fourth line and scored not only his first playoff goal but his first NHL goal in the 6-3 victory Sunday against the Penguins.
Ross, 26, is the oldest of the bunch but had played in just 10 NHL games before being recalled for the playoffs.
Sbisa, the youngest at 19, is a first-year pro who spent the first 39 games of the season with the Flyers and also was summoned for the postseason. He primarily plays defense but was used up front on the fourth line for Game 2 -- his only appearance in the series so far -- when Carcillo sat out on a one-game suspension for a hit to the head of Penguins forward Max Talbot.
Carcillo, 24, a former Penguins prospect, has the most experience with 149 NHL games, but those came mostly with playoff-challenged Phoenix. He has no points and eight hits in two games this series.
Giroux, 21, a rookie, has made the biggest splash, with a goal and two assists and a regrettable slashing penalty in overtime of Game 2 that gave the Penguins a five-on-three advantage on which they scored the winner.
"We're just trying to be like it's a normal game, just be comfortable," Giroux said.
Powe echoed that.
"What it's about is being comfortable with your surroundings. Come playoff time, you just have to step it up," said Powe, 23, who played in 60 games this rookie season and was earning raves from Stevens even before he came up with a goal, an assist and five blocked shots in the series.
Stevens' biggest advice to his first-timers coming into the playoffs was simple -- "Don't be nervous; be excited" -- and they listened.
"I haven't felt that I've been too nervous," Ross said. "I've felt definitely excited. You also have to control that emotion and not get too excited."
Powe and Giroux help as penalty-killers and have been flanking center Daniel Briere on the third line. Carcillo or Sbisa have skated with Ross and winger Arron Asham.
"It's big, when you get the third and fourth line producing offensively and everyone contributing in the defensive zone, blocking shots," Powe said.
The less experienced players have helped fill in while some of Philadelphia's top players shook out their legs a bit offensively.
Top centers Mike Richards and Carter each got his first goal of the series in Game 3.
"We have some young players who settled in and played extremely well, and that's a learning experience for them," Stevens said. "And our key guys stepped up and produced.
"When you get those kinds of contributions from your young players combined with what you expect from your top players, it really enhances your chances of winning."
First Published April 21, 2009 12:00 am