Game Six is Real
A part of me wants to enjoy the euphoria, and a part of me wants to continue worrying. I’m a paranoid Philadelphia Flyer fan schizophrenic, so instead of cluttering this post with everything that is swirling around in my head, I’ll simply state what I observed in game five and what I know now. What I observed was the most dominating effort I’ve seen from the Flyers in a long, long time. What I know now is there will be a game six.
In an incredible turn of momentum, the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia will host a game tonight. I still can’t believe it. I’m not sure many outside of the Flyers locker room can believe it. Hell, I don’t even know if many inside of the locker room can believe it. This team looked dead, and I mean dead after game three. Although you could argue that the series had been played much closer than the series score would indicate, 0-3 is still 0-3. Yet, here we are. In my previous post I explained that I didn’t have the heart to push the Flyers away, and now they are showing heart beyond my wildest dreams to reward me.
The story remains the same with the Flyers in many ways. A team that has adapted to turmoil all season long has had to deal with it in the postseason too. Carter and Lappy are on the shelf and other players have had to step up (As much as it is going to kill me to write this next sentence, I wouldn’t do the series or the man a justice if I didn’t). In regards to stepping up, well, quite simply, Sideshow Scott Hartnell has been one of the best Flyers on the ice the last two games. His energy has been contagious; his play has been disciplined AND productive. At the halfway point of Monday’s first period, Hartnell had contributed on a goal and had drawn four penalty minutes. He would later go onto to break his seemingly never-ending drought with the team’s second goal. Does this justify the amount of money he makes? Absolutely not. Has he stepped up his game as much as anyone with his team’s season on the line the last two games? Absolutely.
Another player that has to be given his credit is Ville Leino. Certain people *cough cough* wondered why he didn’t see more ice time since being acquired from Detroit in the middle of the year. His effort and ability jumped out to me last night as he was quite simply the best offensive player the Flyers had. He remained aggressive and effective throughout the game, and with Giroux leaving the game after an injury, he saw time on the first power play line. The line finally found some success and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Leino stay there for game six.
Of course, the downside of the game five victory was the loss of Boucher in net. In a single game perspective, it appeared as if his injury actually spurred the Flyers as their level of play was obviously raised when Leighton replaced Boosh. In regards to the goaltending situation going into Wednesday night’s game, it’s hard to tell what to expect. Leighton played outstanding this season, but who knows if he can keep that up after a 22 game layoff and no prior playoff experience? Time will tell, but one thing is for sure, Boston’s emphasis is going to be on getting pucks at Leighton in high quantity. The defense will have to play well again and limit second chance opportunities to provide Leighton comfort in the crease. Also, Ryan Parent will have to make sure he doesn’t decide to make Leighton his own personal futon (is it just me or does Parent seem to have a hand in all things terrible involving the Flyers?).
The backcheck and forecheck on Monday night were simply outstanding and the net awareness was impressive as well. That was the story of the game, the Flyers were hungrier for the puck, and their hunger turned them into the hunters rather than the prey. If there was a loose puck, the Flyers got it. If it was in front of the net, the Flyers disposed of it, and every time the Bruins looked tentative, the Flyers took advantage. Also, their discipline was excellent, they surrendered two power plays and both times the penalty kill units played well. That coupled with the drawing of nine Boston penalties translates to disciplined hockey. The Flyers gave themselves a chance by playing smart hockey, while the Bruins trashed their chances by doing the opposite. Damn, it feels good to be on the other side of that phenomenon for once.
When Marc Savard attacked the Captain after a clean hit and needed his resident ‘Pick on someone your own size’ example Milan Lucic to help him engage with Richards, one thing was clear. The Bruins had lost their cool. I don’t know if that frustration will carry over to game six, but if they Flyers play like they did Monday, it’s a definite possibility. Also, seeing Gagne hurl himself on top of Lucic was the highlight of my night.
I literally have no clue what to expect in game six. As much as I’d love to write that it’s a foregone conclusion that the Flyers will force this thing back to Boston, I can’t. It’s simply not true. I watched Chicago absolutely destroy Vancouver in General Motors Place last night, and I hope it’s not a sign of things to come. Also, I distinctly remember feeling like last year’s Pittsburgh series was going to a seventh and deciding game after a great game five win on the road. We all know how that ended.
Hopefully, the Flyers can exorcise the demons from last year. Hell, hopefully they can continue to exorcise the demons from games one, two and three. Hopefully, they can control the ice the way they made it look so easy in game five. Hopefully, there will be a game seven. I can hope all I want, but all I know is there will be a game six.