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4-3: The Flyers Make History

May 15, 2010

I said that it could happen.  I said that if any team was capable of winning a series that they were losing 0-3, it was the 2009-2010 Philadelphia Flyers.

Some people will say the comeback had more to do with the Bruins than the Flyers, and they might have a point.  While the Flyers will certainly celebrate this win as a historic comeback, in Boston the loss will be remembered as a monumental collapse.  The Bruins had four chances to win one game, and they simply could not get the job done.

I was slightly concerned that after the Flyers came back to tie the series they might suffer a letdown.  In any sport, you’ll often see that after a team makes a comeback from a large deficit, once the score gets tied they tend to relax a little.  So now that they were back even at three games each, would the Flyers feel a bit self-satisfied, and stop playing with the intensity that allowed them to make the comeback?

The Flyers certainly seemed like they might have been a bit self-satisfied at the game’s beginning.  They took a few penalties, and the resulting power plays allowed the Bruins to score the first goal.

Most people figured that the team that scored first would have a huge advantage.  If the Flyers scored first, the Bruins’ home crowd would probably go into full panic mode, and it would hard for the Bruins to not play a little nervously.

But if the Bruins scored first, it would lift the team and the crowd, and the momentum might carry them to victory.  This certainly appeared to be the case as the Bruins also scored the next two goals to go up 3-0.

At this point, most Flyers fans might have consoled themselves thinking “If they can come back from a three game series deficit, then a three goal deficit shouldn’t be much of a problem.”  However, most Flyers fans were probably just angry, figuring that the amazing series comeback would all be wasted.

The Flyers themselves did not give up.  Despite the imposing deficit, the Flyers continued to play hard.  But regardless of effort, comebacks from 0-3 don’t happen unless the leading team makes some mistakes to give the trailing team an opportunity.

The first mistake came late in the first period when Flyers forward James Van Riemsdyk put a soft shot on goal.  It seemed like an easy save for Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, but somehow, it bounced off his pad and into the goal. 

Giving up a cheap goal was probably the worst thing that could have happened to the Bruins.  If the 3-0 lead had pushed the “Oh crap, we’re on the verge of a monumental choke job” feelings to the back of their minds, the goal probably brought them back to the forefront.  At the very least, it certainly killed the crowd’s energy.

In the second period, the Flyers continued to play hard and dominated the action.  The dominant play was soon reflected on the scoreboard as the Flyers scored the next to goals to tie the game at 3-3.

While the soft first goal was the mistake that opened the door for a Flyers comeback, the Bruins gaffe in the third period essentially slammed that door in their own faces.  A little past midway of the third period, the Bruins were called for a too many men on the ice penalty.  This is the type of penalty that is utterly avoidable, and Bruins fans will probably ponder for years as to how it could have happened.  The Flyers made the most of the opprtunity, scoring a power play goal that gave them a 4-3 lead.

The Bruins made a furious attempt at a comeback, but when the final horn sounded, the Flyers had won what will certainly go down as one of the greatest games in their history.  Not only were they the first team since the 1975 Islanders to come back from an 0-3 series deficit, but they had to overcome a 0-3 goal deficit in game seven to do it.

Amazingly enough, in the conference finals, the Flyers will actually have home ice advantage.  The 8th seeded Montreal Canadiens topped not only the top seeded Washington Capitals, but the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins as well.

While the matchup against the Canadiens seems much more favorable for the Flyers than a series against the Penguins would have been (The Flyers simply have not matched up well against the Pens the past few seasons), the Caps and Penguins probably thought that the Canadiens were a favorable opponent as well. 

Keep in mind that the Canadiens probably think that the Flyers are a team that they can beat as well.  After all, once you’ve taken out two of the best teams – and arguably the league’s best two players – why would the Flyers seem intimidating?

The Flyers need to come out in this series with the same intensity that they showed in making the comeback.  They need to remember that they’re still missing some key players, and have a third string goalie in net.  They need to play as if the previous two rounds meant nothing.  Because once that puck drops on Sunday night, everything that happened up to this point is moot.

It’s hard to believe that despite everything they’ve been through, the Flyers are still only halfway to a Stanley Cup.  Two rounds down, two more to go…

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