With All of Their Will, Will They?
Flashback to where you were the night of May 14th. If you were following Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Bruins and Flyers, you were surely hearing all about how only two teams had ever staged the comeback that the Flyers were trying to stage - winning a best-of-7 series after losing the first three games. You were hearing about how, while the Flyers had done a pretty amazing thing already by bringing the series to a Game 7, there was no way they would actually win it. Things looked especially dismal when, less than fifteen minutes into the game, the Bruins had taken a 3-0 lead.
Flashback to 17 minutes and 12 seconds into the first period. Peter Laviolette had told his team during a 30-second timeout that they only needed one goal to start turning things around. At 17:12 in, James Van Riemsdyk scored that one goal - and the Flyers never looked back.
Flashback to the Scott Hartnell goal less than three minutes into the second. Flashback to the Danny Briere goal about six minutes later. Flashback to the feeling in the pit of your stomach when the game was all tied up: The Flyers are going to do this.
Flashback to that goosebumps-causing, chills-inducing, still-choke-up-to-this-day moment when Simon Gagne scored a power play goal with just over seven minutes left in regulation. Flashback to the way you felt when time ran out, and you realized you just witnessed something incredible.
Almost a year later, people still continue to talk about that Boston series not only because it was such an incredible one to watch as a Flyers fan, but because of how improbable it was that the Flyers would do what they wound up doing. All of the odds were against them, and yet, they overcame the obstacles, the stats, and history. It’s trite, but they did make history that night.
After that comeback in Boston, and the fight that the Flyers put up all the way up to Game 6, numbers don’t mean much. The team ultimately fell short, but they sure took us on an incredible ride. The question is, can they do it all over again (except, this time, with better results)?
You have to remember that this is a team that really stepped up in the postseason last year. Think about the unlikely heroes - Ville Leino, James van Riemsdyk, and even Michael Leighton (yes, I said it) - that came through in the clutch. Think about the strength and determination that it must have taken to come back from the deficits, to defeat the odds, and to go as far as they did when they barely made it into the playoffs in the first place. Think about the overwhelming disappointment the team must have felt after coming so close to winning the Cup but not making it all the way there. Think about the hunger that, though it has laid dormant over these last few weeks, is surely burning in each and every player on the Flyers team.
Heading into round one of the finals, the Flyers are in a better position than they were this time last season, but not by much. While they finished the season in 2nd place in the Eastern Conference (as opposed to 7th place last season), they struggled over their last few weeks, and face a tough team in the Buffalo Sabres. Still, the hope that they instilled in a city and a fanbase last season cannot be forgotten.
Some may think that those who believe the Flyers will bring the Stanley Cup back home to Philadelphia this season are delusional. They think that the Flyers won’t be able to overcome their recent struggles, and some think they won’t even make it past the first round. Maybe those people have forgotten about last season’s playoff run. Flyers fans haven’t. And though it doesn’t always happen, history does have a way of repeating itself from time to time.
So if the question is, can the Flyers recreate the magic of last season’s playoff and take it all the way to a Stanley Cup victory, then the answer is yes, they can. They can, but will they?
With all of their will.