Sunday, May 16, 2004 Updated: May 17, 8:02 PM ET
Scorer has turned into a leader
VOORHEES, N.J. -- Keith Primeau used to be a top scorer. He's become an even better leader.
Primeau's outstanding performance in the playoffs has the
Philadelphia Flyers halfway to the Stanley Cup finals. But the
Tampa Bay Lightning are standing in the way, holding home-ice
With the Eastern Conference finals tied at two games apiece,
both teams took off Sunday, choosing to rest as the series shifts
to Tampa for Game 5 Tuesday night.
Primeau and the rest of the Flyers regained momentum with a 3-2 victory Saturday that left the Lightning wondering how they can
stop Philadelphia's captain.
"He has had a very good series," Lightning coach John
Tortorella said of Primeau in a conference call. "We have a
tremendous amount of respect for him. Our mind-set is we have to
worry about our hockey club. Do we have to make small adjustments? Sure, but our main focus is on our team."
Primeau scored one short-handed goal and set up another score Saturday, giving him seven goals and four assists in 15 playoff
games. He's been a dominant force on defense, setting the tone for
the Flyers with his physical play.
It's been quite a turnaround for a player who hadn't lived up to
his potential since coming to Philadelphia in January 2000. Once
considered an offensive threat, Primeau hasn't reached 20 goals in
his last three seasons after scoring a career-high 34 in 2000-01.
Instead, Primeau has become one of the NHL's best two-way
forwards and team leaders. Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock compared
Primeau's leadership skills to those of Steve Yzerman, Derian Hatcher, Mark Messier and Mike Modano.
After the Flyers lost two straight to Toronto to even their
second-round series at two games each, Primeau challenged his
teammates in a meeting before Game 5, then scored three goals to
lead Philadelphia to a 7-2 victory.
"He has been a force throughout the postseason and there have
been a couple games where he has taken it to the next level,"
teammate Sami Kapanen said. "I can't say enough about him."
Primeau fell out of favor with the tough Flyers fans after he
helped get coach Bill Barber -- a Hall of Fame player for
Philadelphia in the 1970s -- fired in 2002. But he has regained
their hearts with his tenacious, gritty play.
"You find out with the Flyer fans that if you play with a lot
of courage and you play hard, they forgive a lot of things about
people," Hitchcock said. "Keith knew that, and he went out and
The Lightning not only have to find a way to contain Primeau,
but they have to avoid breakdowns like the one late in the first
period of Game 4 when the Flyers scored two goals in less than 1½ minutes.
"We have to stay composed for 20 minutes and we didn't,"
Lightning defenseman Darryl Sydor said.
Tampa Bay had seven power plays, scoring on two of them. But the Lightning also allowed Primeau's short-handed goal. Hitchcock wants
his team to be more disciplined to avoid so many penalties.
"When you're playing a team like Tampa, any time you can keep those guys playing five-on-five hockey, that gives you a fighting
chance," Hitchcock said.
The Flyers got good news when they learned forward Jeremy Roenick and defenseman Joni Pitkanen are expected to play in Game
5. Both left Saturday's game with "upper-body" injuries. If
Pitkanen doesn't play, Dennis Seidenberg of the AHL's Philadelphia
Phantoms will take his place.