Sunday, June 20, 2010

Back to Earth

After Patrick Kane slid that final goal of the 2010 Stanley Cup Final through the Bermuda Triangle that was Michael Leighton's five hole, I received multiple text messages and personal greetings from friends offering me their heartfelt condolences. I got the usual "there's always next year" and "stay away from sharp knives, tall buildings, and thick rope." But the one that upset me the most and the one I had the most trouble responding civilly to was the "it was a good season" comment.

Sure it was a good season. I think we all can agree that with the way the regular season unfolded and how the Flyers had to get into the playoffs, for them to make it to game six of the Stanley Cup Final was a great achievement. But the fact that they came this far only to be in the same position as the other 28 teams in the NHL is nothing short of heartbreaking.

From April 14th to June 9th the Flyers took their fans on a roller coaster ride that had the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. They pulled off the upset over future Hall-of-Famer Martin Brodeur and the Devils in five easy games. They became only the fourth team in sports history to come back from a three games to none series deficit to win a series. And in the final game of that series, they became only the third team in NHL history to come back to win a game seven after being down by three goals. They beat the unbeatable Jaroslav Halak and the Montreal Canadiens in short series that saw Michael Leighton record three shutouts. All the while through their run to the Cup Final they saw key players such as Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne, and penalty killer extraordinaire Ian Laperriere go down and come back from injuries. They lost their goaltender Brian Boucher to knee injuries during the Boston series and many wondered if Michael Leighton would be able to resurrect himself to the player he was towards the end of the regular season. He did. They went down 2-0 in Chicago and most counted them out, then they won both in Philadelphia and they were right back in it.

I probably lost years of my life during this playoff run. I now know exactly what Roger Maris felt like in '61. It was one of the most exciting two month periods of my life...but it ended too soon and left the Flyers without a championship for a 35th straight season. It ended without a parade down Broad Street. It ended with Jonathan Toews hoisting Lord Stanley instead of Mike Richards. It ended with Michael Leighton in despair, not Antti Niemi.

It's going to be difficult to go back to the Finals for the second consecutive year. The Penguins and Red Wings did it last year but neither stood pat. They both made moves, signed players and improved their teams. If the Flyers are going to return to the NHL's final series they need to do the same thing. They made the first step in trading Ryan Parent for Dan Hamhuis, but that's only the beginning. They need to look to acquire a netminder during the offseason either through a draft day trade or a free agent signing.

This may be my final Flyers post for a while unless they make a trade that deserves to be talked about. For the time being I'll move on to the Phillies. A team that struggles to score when the pitchers are dealing and struggles to get outs when the hitters are raking. I'm going to the game Wednesday against Cleveland. So if I don't post beforehand, I'll have a Phillies mid-season report shortly following the game.

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