Archive for June 2010
I don’t know about you, but the 2008 Phillies championship ride was a nailbiter for me while it was going on.
I mean, they had to go through the Brewers, with CC Sabathia, the Dodgers, with Manny Ramirez and the Tampa Bay Rays, with David Price. Before the World Series, ESPN’s Stve Phillips said that the Phillies were “scared to death of David Price.”
I had never heard of him at the time, but if the Phillies were scared to death of him, I would be too. What do I know?
So it was nerve wracking.
Except, that, in retrospect, it wasn’t.
The Phils were dominant that postseason. They easily handled Sabathia and the Brewers, despite our fear and panic after losing a game. They crushed the Dodgers, despite us freaking out after losing a game. And after the infamous day and a half rain delay that came a half inning too late, we were convinced that the baseball gods (and Bud Selig) would not let them win.
Except they did.
Despite our in-series angst, the fact of the matter is that they were never seriously challenged in any of the series. They dominated all three en route to their first championship in 28 years.
Which brings us to this year Flyers. In two years, will we be looking back at this playoff run wondering why we were worried?
This team is at the tail end of a championship run. A week from now, when the parade is over and we are all metaphorically drinking from Lord Stanley’s Cup, we will look back at this historical run and see the following:
Greatness. On an historical level.
This team is talented. After all, The Hockey News picked them to win it all before the season started. If you had said to most fans before the season that Philly and Chicago were going to meet for the title, no one would have had a problem with it.
What we didn’t know was that they would go through two coaches, seven goaltenders, and an indescribable playoff run to get there.
But dominant? Can we really call them dominant this postseason?
Absolutely. Let’s break it down.
First, the New Jersey Devils. The Flyers hated rivals from up the turnpike were the second seed in the Eastern Conference. They had home ice advantage, history, experience and a future hall of famer in net in Martin Broduer.
The Flyers barely made the playoffs, needing a shootout win over the Rangers on the last day of the season.
Brian “Hot Tub Time Machine” Boucher beat Henrik Lundqvist in a shootout.
Not even Ms. Cleo could have seen that coming. And if you say you did, even right before the shootout happened, send me tomorrow’s winning Lotto numbers.
So, Devils win easy, right? I mean, that’s what all the experts were saying.
Except that Flyers were never really challenged in a 4-1 series that could easily have been a sweep.
Of course, that’s all well and good, but now the Flyers were going to have to face the hated Penguins in the second round. And if that weren’t bad enough, the Flyers lost Ian Laperriere, Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne to potentially season ending injuries.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the in state brawl. The Montreal Canadiens beat the top seeded Washington Capitals, meaning THEY got to deal with the Pens. The Flyers drew the Boston Bruins, who, having upset the Buffalo Sabres, were a much better matchup for the Flyers.
But still, no Carter, no Laperriere, no Gagne plus a hot goaltenders spelled trouble for the boys in orange. Then they fell down 3-0 in the series.
Thanks for the run boys, see you in September.
But a funny thing happened to the end of the season. Gagne returned to claim the title of The New Boston Strangler in game 4, putting the team on his back and carrying them back to tie the series at 3.
Surely they wouldn’t complete the comeback? Especially after falling behind 3-0 in game seven in the first period?
When the tale of this championship season is told (kinda like it is being told now) the pivotal point will be right here. Coach Peter Laviolette called a time out and told his team to calm down, that they were going to win this thing, and to start playing.
Four goals later, including Gagne’s game winner, history was made. No team ever – in the history of organized sport – had come back from a 3-0 series deficit and a 3-0 deficit in game seven and won.
That should have told us everything we needed to know.
Still we worried.
After all, now we had Montreal, the team that had beaten Washington and now, Pittsburgh. They had the hottest goaltender on earth, speed to burn and a home crowd that is nearly as intimidating as we are.
Oh, did I mention the 24 championship banners that hang from the rafters of the top rated arena in the NHL?
So, naturally, the Flyers crushed them, four games to one, in a series that wasn’t ever close and included three shutouts.
Bring on the Chicago Blackhawks for Lord Stanley’s Cup.
The experts said that the Flyers had a great run, but they hadn’t run into anything like this Chicago team. Chicago had run roughshod over the Western Conference, which was far superior that the Flyers’ East. They swept the San Jose Sharks, the team with the second best record in the NHL’s meaningless regular season. They would, the experts continued, make quick work of the Flyers, and hoist the cup in 4, or, at the most, 5 games.
They won the first two games at home. Their fans had brooms at the ready.
Then, they came to Wachovia Center.
Where playoff dreams come to die.
In a game 3 overtime thriller, Claude Giroux, with the prettiest tip in you’ll ever see, reminded everyone what this team is made of.
When we look back on this series in a week or so, game 4 will be remembered as the one that redefined the series.
The Hawks were not willing to work. And they got pounded for it.
Oh, they made a comeback and made it close at the end. But the fact of the matter is they were dominated for 50 minutes because they were unwilling to do what it took to win.
The Blackhawks take solace in the fact that two of the last three games of this NHL season may be played in Chicago.
I have bad news for them and their fans.
After game three, the Flyers have not lost a single game this postseason. They are 9-0 after the third game of a series.
So enjoy game five, Chicago. It will be your last there this year, for you, just like the Devils, Bruins, and Canadiens, have come up against a team that was just too dominant.
See you on Broad Street next Friday.
First, a couple of notes for my six regular readers.
One, you’ve probably heard this story, but it was requested in blog form from the teeming masses on Twitter (read: two people).
Two, I am typing and posting this from my phone. That is INSANE.
In 2005, the Eagles went to the Super Bowl in Jacksonville where they lost to the New England Lying Cheating Scumbags. But that’s not what this is about. It’s about my nephew, James.
The world’s greatest Cowboys fan.
James and I made the trip to Jacksonville on Friday night. Since Jacksonville has approximately 5 hotels, we stayed in Savannah, GA, a two hour drive from the game. But we didn’t care.
We were going to the Super Bowl.
James was 15 at the time and a die hard Cowboys fan. He knows his stuff and is realistic about his team.
But for 72 glorious hours, he was one of us.
Oh, he’ll deny it. But everything that follows is true.
There was an Eagles pep rally on Saturday at a place called Jacksonville Landing. It’s designed to hold about 500 people, so, naturally, it was chosen, by some genius, as the site to inflame the passions of Philadelphia Eagles fans.
There were about 3000 of us jammed into this spot. I was wearing a McNabb jersey. James was wearing a Westbrook jersey.
The rally was scheduled to start at 7:30. We got there around 4:00. The place was packed by 5:00. Filled with bars, there were 3000 drunken Birds fans working themselves into a frenzy.
Inevitably the “Dallas Sucks” chants start. I asked the guy next to me why we were chanting “Dallas Sucks” if we were playing New England.
Filled with rage, he replied, “BECAUSE THEY DO! DALLAS SUCKS! DALLAS SUCKS!”
Laughing, I turned to James and nearly choked on my 23rd beer.
Because he’s chanting “DALLAS SUCKS! DALLAS SUCKS!”
I check to make sure he hasn’t been sneaking beer while I wasn’t looking.
Incredulously, I ask him, “Why are you chanting ‘Dallas Sucks?'”
“Do I look stupid? DALLAS SUCKS!”
It gets better.
Later, some moron tries to make his way through the crowd wearing a Tom Brady jersey.
Of course, he was immediately serenaded with chants of “(SEVEN LETTER WORD THAT RHYMES WITH GLASS BOWL), (SEVEN LETTER WORD THAT RHYMES WITH GLASS BOWL)!”
In classic Philly style, this was done with the guy’s 2 year old son on his shoulders.
In a little Brady jersey.
What happened next was not chronicled anywhere but here. But it belongs in the same legendary pantheon as booing Santa, the now-Governor/then city councilman throwing iceballs at Jimmy Johnson, vomiting on a little girl, stealing an opposing reporters license plate and “Don’t taze me, bro.”
I turn to the same guy as before and say, “Come on, man, he’s got his kid with him.”
Even drunker, and, if possible, angrier, he says, I swear to God, “HE NEEDS TO LEARN EARLY! LITTLE (SEVEN LETTER WORD THAT RHYMES WITH GLASS BOWL)! LITTLE (SEVEN LETTER WORD THAT RHYMES WITH GLASS BOWL)!”
So I joined him. As did James. And the rest of the crowd.
At full throat.
For a full ten minutes.
I have rarely been prouder to be an Eagles fan.
Now, look, I’m not necessarily a “blame the victim” kinda dude. But why – WHY – would you bring you kid into a situation like that?
Anyway, at the game, James wore the McNabb jersey and I wore a Cunningham jersey, and, of course, the cheesesteak hat. The guy behind asked me to take it off so he could see, but I just laughed at him. And of course, every time the Birds scored a touchdown, we all sang “Fly, Eagles, Fly.”
Including James, who, for 72 hours, was one of us. If you had cut him that weekend, he would have bled midnight green.
Which makes him the greatest Cowboys fan ever.