The thermometer flirted with 90 today and while most New Yorkers dreamed of a weekend at Coney Island, the Rockaways or Jones Beach, workmen tried to figure a way to keep the Nassau Coliseum ice from deteriorating into slush for Saturday afternoon's sixth game of the Stanley Cup finals.
The Islanders, hoping to bring New York its first cup in 40 years, worked out at Cantiague Park and attempted to forget Thursday night's 6-3 loss in Philadelphia, which granted the injury-bedeviled Flyers one more life.
There was admiration for Flyers Paul Homgren and Jim Watson, who played good, hard hockey Thursday despite injuries that would have prompted an ordinary guy to call in sick without a guilty thought. But the man the Islanders could not remove from their minds was Flyer goalie Pete Peeters.
Peeters, a 22-year-old rookie, has played four of the five games in this series, including both Flyer victories, and instead of feeling the increasing pressure, he keeps getting better. There is the inevitable comparison to 1971, when rookie goalie Ken Dryden carried underdog Montreal to the Stanley Cup over surprised Boston and Chicago teams. The 6-foot, 170-pound Peeters does not suffer by such comparisons."
"He'll be good for a long time," said Bernie Parent, the hero of the Flyers' Stanley Cup victories in 1974 and 1975. "He's big, he's young, he's bright and he has a good picture of the game. He has everything going for him."
Thursday night Peeters certainly had a lot going for him. The Islanders outshot the Flyers in every period, but Peeters' 35 saves were the difference. It was a continuation of his remarkable play in a losing cause Monday, when he turned back five clean breakaways, three in the second period that kept the Flyers, only a goal behind, in contention.
Although Peeters possesses many positive qualities, a candid approach to media inquisition is not among them. Peeters speaks softly and carries interviews to a conclusion as quickly as possible. He would just as soon avoid them, as he almost managed last week by telling a New York reporter he was Rick St. Croix, the No. 3 goalie called up from Maine in case of emergency.
"I'm a private person," Peeters said today. "I don't like to talk about myself. I'm just like anybody else. I know people look at professional athletes as something special, but I don't see that I'm anything special."
The bare statistics would declare otherwise, even if teammates and opponents didn't. Peeters had a 29-5-5 record and 2.73 goals-against mark in the regular season. He was a key figure in the Flyers' record 35-game unbeaten streak and he did not lose until his 28th decision, Feb. 19 in Denver.
Peeters' playoff figures read 8-4 and 2.62, not bad either. He was Campbell Conference's all-star goalie and actually dropped his first decision in the All-Star Game at Detroit.
"I'm proud of that streak, but I did not always play that well," Peeters said. "The team played very well in front of me and I got a lot of breaks. When I finally lost, I was relieved. I didn't like the publicity I was getting. I was losing my concentration."
There has been no such problem in the playoffs, despite media distractions. Peeters' stand-up play has frequently frustrated the Islanders and his concentration has been remarkable, considering the antics of some of the defensemen detailed to protect him.
Peeters was happy to see Watson, the Flyers' most talented defender, out there Thursday, playing despite a painfully bruised left shoulder. He joined his teammates in praising Holmgren, too, as the gutty Holmgren skated and scored although his left knee was taped and protected by a brace.
"Paul and Jimmy are enthusiastic guys," Peeters said. "It's important to have them on the ice, but it's also important to have their attitude in the room. We need their leadership."
The Flyers need Peeters, too, and Watson preferred discussing the goalie to elaborating on his own situation.
"You get to the position we're in and you have to have good goaltending," Watson said. "Pete gave that to us. We didn't play well early in the final, but he made the big saves."
The Islanders were pretty much bogged down on the same subject.
"Peeters made some very, very good saves," Coach Al Arbour said. "We had the opportunities, but they got the puck in the net and we didn't."
"Every time we missed at one end, they came back at the other end," Mike Bossy said. "Peeters just stood up and blocked every shot. He's a good goalie. We've just got to get the puck by him."
The Flyers have a 1-16-2 record in Nassau Coliseum since the 1975 playoffs, posting a 5-2 decision during that 35-game streak. Can they make it two for 20 Saturday?
"If Pete plays like he did, we'll be hard to beat," said Rick MacLeish, a two-goal scorer Thursday. "And if we get that one, I can't wait until Tuesday. That'll be fun."
Saturday's game, to be televised by CBS in the NHL's first U.S. network exposure since the early 1970s, will also get the full Hockey Night in Canada treatment. It could be the largest audience ever for a pro hockey game and Peeters was asked whether that would get him on an emotional high.
"I don't go up and down emotionally," Peeters said. "I'm usually not excited about anything."