Tuesday, May 25, 2010

12 Down, 4 To Go

And here we stand, Eastern Conference Champs. The Finals. 4 more wins and our beloved Flyers will hoist the most beautiful trophy in all of sports. Its been 35 years since the Stanley Cup belonged to Philadelphia, and now there is a chance it could belong again. All that stands in the way are the kings of the Western Conference, the Chicago Blackhawks.

There is no way that even the most imaginative of Hollywood screenwriters could write a script like this. At one point of the season, the Flyers had accumulated the 2nd fewest points in the entire NHL. Head coach John Stevens was fired, and Peter Laviolette was pulled from the VS. studio to turn this team around. A heartbreaking loss in the Winter Classic, and a late season tailspin gave the fans little hope that their team would even make the postseason. It all would come down to the last game versus the hated Rangers to secure the last spot in the dance. As I watched that game, and as overtime approached, I thought having it come down to a shootout would be the worse thing that could possibly happen. The Flyers were terrible at shootouts, and Ranges goalie Henrik Lundqvist was one of the best shootout goalies. But somehow, the Flyers pulled off the impossible, and qualified for the playoffs.

The 1st round brought the New Jersey Devils and netminding legend Marty Brodeur. Once thought of as Flyer-killers, the Devils were one of the teams the Flyers seemed to own in the regular season, and the playoffs were no different. Philly disposed of the Devils in 5 games, but not without losing key forwards Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne, and Ian Laperierre to injury.

The huge loss of depth probably should've spelled doom for the Flyers in the 2nd round. And after the first 3 games of the series with the Boston Bruins, doom was probably the only word in the minds of dejected Flyers fans. Only two other NHL teams and only three in the history of modern sports had ever come back from being down 3-0 in a best-of-7 series to win. So needless to say, the Flyer faithful had pretty much accepted their fate. But then a glimmer of hope in the form of a returning Simon Gagne as he netted the OT winner in game 4 to keep hope alive. It wasn't over yet. Then, in game 5, a complacent Bruins team returned home, hoping to go through the motions on their home ice to secure a trip to the Conference Finals. Unfortunately for them, the Flyers weren't ready for summer vacation. They absolutely smashed the Bruins, sending the series back to Philly for game 6 and the seed of doubt in the Bruins heads started to bloom. The Wachovia Center crowd was raucous, knowing their home team was not going to let the Bruins end the series on Philadelphia ice. The Flyers won 2-1, setting up the most improbable of game 7's back up in Beantown.

Its a night Philadelphia sports fans will never forget. The score was 3-0 before the Flyers could blink an eye, exactly how the series was at one point. At that point, Coach Laviolette called what will forever be known as the most famous timeout in the history of Flyers hockey. You could read his lips and get the gist of what he was telling his team, "one goal at a time". A few minutes later, and right before the first period had ended, James Van Riemsdyk threw a puck past Tuukka Rask and gave the Flyers the hope they were so desperately looking for. In the 2nd period, Scott Hartnell and Danny Briere, the two players who committed costly penalties that turned in to goals for the Bruins, each scored to tie the game. And then, with 7 minutes to go in the 3rd period, Simon Gagne, broken foot and all, buried a powerplay goal, and that was that. A comeback of historic proportions had been accomplished. Fortunately for the Flyers, they realized that they were only halfway to their ultimate goal. An Eastern Conference Finals matchup with the equally improbable Montreal Canadiens was on deck.

Destiny seemed to be the buzzword floating through the streets of the Delaware Valley by Flyer faithful. After jumping out to a 2-1 series lead against Montreal, Jeff Carter and Ian Laperierre returned to help the team win 3-0 in game 4 and take a 3-1 lead in the series. While most teams get more banged up in the playoffs, the Flyers seem to be getting healthier. And last night, the final nails were hammered in to the Canadiens Cinderella-shaped coffin. The Flyers are in the finals.

This team has already etched their names in Philadelphia folklore. Their next step is to etch their names in Lord Stanley's Cup. No matter the outcome of the finals, the 2009-2010 Philadelphia Flyers will be remembered forever in this town. And if somehow, they can win 4 more games, a story so farfetched can have the happiest of happy endings with a trip down Broad St. for 25 never-say-die warriors and 2 million of their closest friends.

Nothing else to talk about today. Lets Go Flyers

1 comment:

  1. I took a pleasant bike ride on the boardwalk of Ocean City this afternoon. The boards were very Flyered up. I'd say it's the first time ever I saw more people in orange and black than tan skirts and Utley shirts.