Time to cheese off Philly

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 12:31 PM ET


 If he was about 25 years younger and in top shape, Pat Quinn probably would love to take a crack at the Philadelphia Flyers.

 "They are not a team you have to work hard to build a hate for," the Maple Leafs coach said yesterday before the club departed for Philadelphia and tonight's opening game in the Eastern Conference semi-final.

 "Enough said. They're a competitive bunch and we'll have to be at our competitive best if we hope to move on."

 And just like that, the Ottawa Senators are a distant memory. Resonating for the Leafs when they skate on to the ice at the Wachovia Center is last spring's demolition by the Flyers and some abysmal regular-season performances against Philadelphia.

 PHYSICAL

 Where the Leafs were able to adjust to the Senators' speed by tightening their defensive game, now they have to brace themselves for the Flyers' brawn and physical tendencies.

 It is rather doubtful Tie Domi and Donald Brashear will drop the gloves on the first shift, but the intensity level will be high from the opening faceoff.

 Leafs goalie Ed Belfour will get at least double the traffic he saw against the Senators. From the outside, the view was that the Leafs' defence corps couldn't handle the Flyers in Toronto's end a year ago, and even with the additions of Brian Leetch, Ken Klee and Bryan Marchment, the Leafs will be hard-pressed to keep their foes under control.

 Tomas Kaberle was dreadful in the series last April and was a healthy scratch in the final regular-season game against Philadelphia on March 18. How Kaberle holds up will be a point of intrigue.

 "They are bigger but they are not as fast as the Ottawa team," said Kaberle, who was not visibly shaking in his designer shoes yesterday. "They forecheck hard so we're going to have to spend less time in our zone."

 Of course, that's where the Leafs forwards come in.

 They are making plans to help the defencemen as much as possible, which would be a boost to the Leafs' transition. Not only do they wish to assist down low, but impeding Philly's forwards will be part of the tactics, too.

 Keith Primeau was a force last spring, and without Mats Sundin to check (at least for tonight), Primeau may be able to concentrate more on putting the puck in the net.

 "It is a series of redemption, in two cases," Leafs forward Tom Fitzgerald said. "One, for guys up front to pull it together and not have to rely on Eddie. And two, for what happened last year. We have to try to outwit them and you can't get into wrestling matches with giants."

 As for Belfour, Quinn said simply: "We can't expect to stay around for a long time if he has to win every game for us."

 A number of Leafs will have to be more productive than they were against Ottawa.

 Alex Mogilny, Darcy Tucker, Nik Antropov and Ron Francis are looking for their first playoff goals.

 "Our team is more than ready for this," said Francis, who took no time to earn his new teammates' respect after coming over from the Carolina Hurricanes at the trade deadline.

 "We got through a tough first round and now we're on to the next challenge. It is what you play for all season."


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