Posts Tagged ‘Stanley Cup’
BOOM. This week Alex was sick (awwww) so he’s drinking some vile spinach concoction. We rip LeBron, Dale Hunter and the Sixers Mascots Choices. Third voice is Dan Roche of Comcast Sports Net. Alex sings AGAIN! Top 5 ringless QBs, and twitter shoutouts. Oh and Geoff badgers Alex about becoming a METS FAN. Really?!
Also available on iTunes here. Leave a rating and a review there.
College football is the most exciting regular season in American sports. Every single game matters. There is no playoff, and in some seasons, a single loss will take you out of the running for a title.
The NFL is a close second. The difference between teams in the NFL is so close, that frequently, one loss is the difference between getting in the playoffs and going home. Had the New York Giants, for example, beaten the Green Bay Packers last regular season, they, and not the Packers, would have gone to the playoffs. Instead, the Packers went on to win the Super Bowl, despite being the last NFC team to qualify.
In 2010, the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers made the playoffs on the last shot of the last game of the regular season. They went on to win the Eastern Conference Finals.
So why does it grind my gears when people insist on getting worked up about every Phillies loss this year?
Because baseball is different.
There are 162 games in each season, a little over 10 times the number of games in an NFL season. An NFL team is generally considered to have a very good season when it wins 13 or so games. It happens almost every year. In fact, most seasons have teams win 13, 14 even 15 games. Once, the New England Cheaters won all sixteen.
The most wins in baseball history is 116 by the 1906 Cubs (in a 154 game season) and the 2001 Seattle Mariners. This would be like an NFL team going 11-5 or 12-4.
Again, that happens every year in the NFL. It is far, far harder to do in baseball for a number of reasons.
A baseball season is a battle of attrition. It is a grind. Clearly, it is far less physical than football, but the season is also two months longer. While one loss in football is big, one loss in baseball really isn’t in the grand scheme of the season. There are so many games, that everything you can think of will happen to every team in a given season, even the best ones.
They will win some 1-0 games. They will lose some 1-0 games.
They will blow some people out. They will get blown out.
They will lose games that they shouldn’t. They will win games that they shouldn’t.
They will get out hustled sometimes. They will get out coached sometimes. They will just get beaten sometimes. It is impossible to maintain the same level of intensity for 162 games. No one can do it.
The way that teams are successful is by remembering not to get high on any win, and not too low on any loss.
The Phillies know how to do this. They have won four straight NL East titles, two of the last three NL Pennants, and a World Series three seasons ago. They didn’t do this by freaking out when Charlie Manuel pitches Joe Blanton, JC Romero, Kyle Kendrick and Denys Baez in the same game.
He messed up. It happens. It’s going to happen again.
People say that the offense isn’t good enough, the bullpen isn’t good enough. When Chase Utley, Dom Brown and Brad Lidge return, those people will freak about something else. Because when the Phillies are pounding people and winning 3 out of every four games, the game they lose 1-0 when Roy Halladay pitches a gem and loses will be the one they fixate on.
The Phillies are fine. They have the best record in baseball. It’s early in the season. And for those who say every game counts, I offer you this tidbit:
In the last 30 non strike seasons, guess how many times the NL East has been decided by a single game? Go on, guess.
In fact, it has been won by twenty or more games more often than it has been won by one. History, recent included, has shown that the Phillies are much better in the second half of the season. And they have the best record in baseball, with Wilson Valdez starting most nights at second base.
Think about that for a second.
I, personally, am very content with the way they are playing. If nothing changes, and they continues to win at the same pace, they will finish with 107 wins, nine shy of the all time record.
Chase Utley hasn’t played a single inning,
Neither has Dom Brown.
Or Brad Lidge.
And they have the best record in baseball, on pace for a team record 107 wins.
Get a grip, people. Seriously.
I got a haircut today.
What does that have to do with Brian Boucher, you might ask?
Stay with me.
When I moved from Philadelphia to the DC suburbs of Northern Virginia 21 years ago, I asked my dad three questions:
Where’s the subway? (He laughed.)
Where, for the love of all that is holy, am I supposed to get a freaking CHEESESTEAK in this god forsaken place? (He laughed again.)
Where am I gonna get my hair cut?
He didn’t laugh there.
For a black man, getting your hair cut is serious business. I can’t just walk into the Hair Cuttery and put nine bucks on the counter, despite what they tell you on TV. No, it takes a special set of skills to cut a brother’s hair properly.
Not that black folks’ hair is special, or anything. It’s just different.
Fresh out of high school, at the tender age of 16, I’d gone from the inner city to a place with no public transit, no cheesesteaks, and no black barbershops. That I could get to, anyway, I had no drivers license either.
My dad had been shaving his head, so it wasn’t an issue for him. But it sho’ nuff was for me. So, lacking any oasis in this wilderness, he volunteered to cut it for me.
I’d love for this to be a wonderfully horrifying tale of my hair being butchered, but the fact is, my dad is pretty good at cutting hair, as he is at most things. But still, it’s not cool for your dad to cut your hair for too long.
Six months later, a new barber shop opened within walking distance. We went to check it out, and stopped shortly after walking in.
It was fully owed and operated by Vietnamese people.
Now, for anything else, of course, this is not a problem. But my then 17 year old brain was not ready to handle anyone but a black man cutting my hair. I’d never done it before. Well, one time I had a black woman cut may hair, and it did not go well.
I looked at my dad, who had a grin on his face, then at one of the barbers, who told me, loudly, to come sit in his chair.
“Can you cut my hair?” I asked.
“Yeah, yeah, sure, sure, sit, sit,” he said.
I looked at my dad again, who leaned over and whispered, “Go on, I can fix it if I have to.”
So I sat in Mr. Li’s chair.
He has been cutting my hair ever since. He cut it for my baptism. He cut it for my wedding. He has even cut my sons hair from time to time.
It wasn’t the best haircut I’ve ever had, but it was far from the worst. It was fine.
Since that time, I’ve moved several times, still in Northern Virginia, and now I live 25 miles away from the ageless Mr. Li. I still go there occasionally, when I have time, like today. Why?
Because I know what I’m going to get.
Since then, I’ve tried other places. Some were ok, some were amazing, some were awful. But none were ever as relentlessly consistent as Mr. Li.
Which brings me to Brian Boucher.
Look, Boosh is never going to steal a series for you. You know what you are going to get with him in each game: he’s going to be steady, he’s going to make a couple fabulous saves, he’s going to get beat on a great shot, and he’s going to give up one where you go, “Aw, shoulda had that Boosh.”
Which, with the level of talent the Flyers have, will be good enough to beat Buffalo tonight and Sunday.
Occasionally, Boucher will get run out of the building. But that’s rare.
Occasionally, Boucher will stand on his head and pitch a shutout. But that’s rare.
Bottom line is, just like one of Mr. Li’s haircuts, he’ll be fine. And over time, you come to appreciate that consistency. When I sit in Mr. Li’s chair, and he says to me with his heavy accent, “Same ol’, same ol’?” I know what I’m getting. And I know it’ll be good enough.
Better than that actually.
Sometimes it takes stepping back from something to appreciate it.
Are there other goalies with more talent? Sure. There are better barbers than Mr. Li around here. But I like the fact that I don’t have to wonder if it’ll be good. I know it will.
Just like I know Brian Boucher will be. We don’t need him to be great. We need him to be him.
Which is pretty good.
Just like Mr. Li.
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.
It’s time for my breakdown and prediction of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Philadelphia Flyers. If you are looking for an in depth look at the players and coaching staffs, along with some deep scrutiny of the matchups at each position, then, frankly, you must be new here, because that’s not how I roll.
Here is the extent of what I know about the Blackhawks:
- They haven’t won the Stanley Cup since 1961.
- They have a bunch of guys who mispronounce their last names in the style of Patrick Roy.
- Their star player (allegedly) beat up a cab driver over 20 cents.
- They have a rookie goaltender with a name that will be difficult for us Flyers fans to chant derisively.
That’s about it. So my breakdown and prediction will be based on what I know about the two cities and superficial, meaningless items about the two teams. Since I lived in Philly for the first sixteen years of my life and visited Chicago once like 7 years ago, I feel this uniquely qualifies me to make such an analysis.
- History – Philadelphia is the cradle of American Democracy. Chicago was the home of Al Capone. ADVANTAGE – PHILADELPHIA
- Music – Despite what the people of Cleveland would have you believe, Philly is the birthplace of Rock and Roll. Chicago was very influential in the development of jazz. Normally, this would be a tie, but while we gave the rap world Will Smith, Chicago is responsible for Kanye West. ADVANTAGE – PHILADELPHIA
- Other Sports teams – Philadelphia is home to the losingest team in the history of organized sports (the Phillies), the most delusional team in the history of organized sports (the Eagles – hint: you are not the Gold Standard if you don’t have any trophies) the most unfulfilling team in the history of organized sports (the Sixers) and the Flyers. Chicago has a Super Bowl champion that is discussed regularly among the greatest of all time, six NBA championships, Ozzie Guillen, Wrigley Field, an original six hockey club and those loveable Cubs. A clear win for Chicago is marred by Steve Bartman and that monstrosity of a stadium that is in the spot where the real Soldier Field used to be. The stadium is a big minus, but still, the Sixers are a lot to overcome. ADVANTAGE – CHICAGO
- Tall Buildings – Philly has The Liberty Place Towers and The Comcast Center. Chicago has SIX buildings taller than the Comcast Center. One is owned by Donald Trump, though, so that doesn’t count. In fact, it gives negative points. Still ADVANTAGE – CHICAGO
- Food – Philly has cheesesteaks, soft pretzels, Tastykake and water ice. Chicago has deep dish pizza (if Uno’s is the only place you’ve had deep dish pizza, you have never had it), Italian Beef Sandwiches and the Maxwell Street Polish. If you are a Philly person that has never been to Chicago, this is a lot closer than you think. The pizza is that good. ADVANTAGE – PHILADELPHIA
- Cool stuff to do – Chicago actually has beaches on the shores of Lake Michigan. Of course, the water is always too cold to go in except for approximately 13 days in mid August, but still. Chicago isn’t called The Second City for nothing. There is a ton of stuff to do. Philly has Chickie and Pete’s and, uh, um, did I mention the cheesesteaks? ADVANTAGE – CHICAGO
So it would seem we have a tie. This series will come down to a seventh game. Who will win? ESPN hockey analyst Barry Melrose picked Chicago. ADVANTAGE – PHILADELPHIA
Flyers in 7.
On the night the series “24” ended, The Captain – Flyers center Mike Richards – won the NHL’s Eastern Conference Championship and propelled his team into the Stanley Cup Finals in 24 seconds.
An exaggeration? Perhaps. But think about what he did in less time than it takes to go from “I’m hungry” to “Ba da ba ba ba – I’m lovin’ it.”
The Captain began by taking the puck from Montreal’s Marc Andre Bergeron – along with his manhood – with a vicious forearm shiver to the jaw. Racing down the ice, The Captain received a pass from Claude Giroux, then fed Arron Asham for a great scoring chance.
After an amazing save by Canadiens goaltender Jaroslav Halak, Bergeron carried the puck back the other way, harassed continually by The Captain. Bergeron dumped the puck into the offensive zone, where Claude Giroux out fought the Habs’ Glen Metropolit for it. He sent a pass down towards The Captain.
Time seemed to slow down here.
The Habs Roman Hamrlik and The Captain raced for the puck. The Captain had a bit of an angle. Halak, in what was arguably the worst play in the history of professional sports, comes out of his net and meets Hamrlik and The Captain at the top of the right faceoff circle.
They crash into each other, all hitting the ice. The puck continues on slowly towards the net.
The crowd is in a frenzy.
Guess who gets up first?
If you guessed anyone other than The Captain, stop reading, and go watch “The Young and The Restless” or something.
The Captain got to the puck, and scored the tying goal.
In the first period.
Oh, did I mention that the Flyers were a man down?
All in 24 seconds.
Jack Bauer would have been proud.
Oh, he did more. He assisted on Jeff “Welcome Back” Carter’s goal in the second period. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) That goal technically went as the game winner. But we all knew it was over after The Captain’s 24 second rampage.
And for icing on the cake, The Captain assisted on Carter’s second goal, the most spectacular effort on an empty net goal outside of the US Olympic team you’ll ever see.
There are those who have questioned the decision to make Mike Richards The Captain. The questioning got louder when Chris Pronger was brought in. A former captain, a Stanley Cup Champion, and a future Hall-of-Famer, Pronger has always deferred to The Captain. He has always insisted that it is not his team.
It is Mike Richard’s team.
He is The Captain.
Mike Richards has been the Flyers captain for the last two seasons now. Last offseason, the Flyers signed Chris Pronger. Many people wondered if Pronger, a future Hall of Famer who has his name on the Stanley Cup, would be named captain.
Then 24 years of age, Richards remained captain.
The questions kept coming as the Flyers started off slowly, so slowly, in fact, that they got their coach, John Stevens fired.
There were lofty expectations for this team before the season. The Hockey News picked them to win the Stanley Cup. There was a buzz, an excitement about the team. It fizzled through uninspired play, injuries, and a freakish winter in the Mid-Atlantic.
When the Flyers were mentioned, the most common response was, “When do pitchers and catchers report?”
A lot of the blame for that was laid at the feet of Mike Richards. As The Captain, frankly, it comes with the territory. The issue here was two-fold. One, he’s so young, and two, the large, large shadow of Chris Pronger.
The team got hot. Then they got cold. Then they stumbled to the finish, making the playoffs on the final play of the regular season, a shoot out save by Brian Boucher.
(By the way, do the Flyers have a Hot Tub Time Machine or something? Boucher was as good as he was in the 2000 playoffs until he got hurt. I gotta get me some of that.)
You know the story. They manhandled the Devils in 5 games. We won’t rehash the historic comeback against Boston. (Sigh. Click here if you must.)
Then came the most storied franchise of them all. The Montreal Canadiens. There are those that say that they are the New York Yankees of hockey. Those people would be wrong. The Yankees have nothing on Les Habitantes.
I have watched Yankee games, in the old and new Yankees stadiums. I get nothing from it. No emotion. No love. No respect. I hate the Yankees.
Watching a game at the Bell Centre (or the old Forum) gives me goose bumps ON TV. That is hallowed ground. It is indescribably loud ON TV. Have to go there before I die. Suffice it to say, I have an enormous amount of respect for the Canadiens.
But I digress.
The Flyers took game one in a rout, 6-0. Game two was a rout on the scoreboard also, 3-0. But it was a lot closer than that. The Habs outplayed the Flyers for at least the first half of the game, but had nothing to show for it. Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton, apparently channelling the spirit of the 1987 Ron Hextall, was outstanding.
Then came Game three.
In the Bell Centre.
Montreal in a laugher, 5-1. And it wasn’t that close.
Now here is where the young captain comes in. How does your team react to getting its breakfast, lunch, dinner and fourthmeal(tm) handed to them?
Chris Pronger thought it was funny. He was terrible in game three.
In his defense, he tends to laugh like that after games, no matter the result.
The Captain wasn’t laughing.
“That was just an old-fashioned (butt)-kicking and they handed it right to us right from the get-go,” he said. “I don’t know if we thought we just had to throw our sticks on the ice and it was going to be easy.”
That is a disturbing statement.
What makes you think that you can go into hockey’s most hallowed ground and “just…throw (your) sticks on the ice” and beat a desperate Montreal team?
I was concerned with the way the Flyers lost. Sloppy in their own end, terrible giveaways, Leighton coming back to earth, it was bad from beginning to end.
How do you react?
How did the Captain react?
He was angry. Which is a good thing.
He added, “You always say you want to move on to the next game and forget about the last one, but maybe, hopefully, we can take this bitter taste in our mouth into the next game.”
They’d better. See, after the Comeback and going up so convincingly in the first two games, The Captain and his boys have gotten our hopes up. At first, we were content with getting into the playoffs.
Now we want the whole thing. Can The Captain deliver?
We will find out Saturday on that hallowed ice.
I say yes.
Flyers 4, Canadiens 2.