NHL Playoff Game 7: Philadelphia Flyers – Buffalo Sabres
With mere hours before one of the most exciting sports events takes place – a Game 7 NHL Playoff Game between the Philadelphia Flyers and Buffalo Sabres – I’m forced to take a frustrated look at how the Flyers have limped to this point. When I took a look at this series through the rose-colored glasses the Flyers provided me for free about 2-months ago, it was hard to see them losing. However, that’s when what could turn into an epic collapse by a Flyers team that made the NHL Stanley Cup Finals just one year ago (losing to the Chicago Blackhawks).
It’s a tale of two seasons. Before the hiring of Peter Laviolette in the middle of last season, the Flyers were deep basement dwellers and there wasn’t a knowledgeable fan alive who believed that they would ever make the post-season in 2010, let alone the NHL Stanley Cup Finals. However, there they were, the Philadelphia Flyers making the NHL Playoffs at as late a period in time during a season as one can – a shootout overtime victory against the New York Rangers to secure the 8th seed in the NHL Eastern Conference. From there, they embarked on a historic post-season run which included a series win against the Boston Bruins after being put down 3 games to 0. Even more amazing was that they had to overcome a 3 goals to 0 deficit in that 7th game of the series to move on.
Oftentimes a lack of expectations can lead to such a whirlwind of professional playoff excitement. Conversely, high expectations can lead to the potential epic letdown, which is what the team risks for its fans tonight.
A couple of months ago, it appeared as though the Flyers were the unstoppable team in the league. It appeared that the President’s Trophy would be a runaway. “The Cup Is Ours” spewed from the lips of Flyers fans everywhere, including my own.
Then the bottom fell out of the regular season. The team plummeted to the #2 seed behind the Washington Capitals. Shakey goaltending and erratic play littered the aftermath of many games down the stretch. It continues into the first round of these 2011 NHL Playoffs. The team has used an unheard three different starting goaltenders in the first six games of the playoff series. The parade of goaltenders. Tonight, it will again be Brian Boucher. Michael Leighton, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Brian Boucher, too – all have turned in woeful performances at points during the series. However, Brian Boucher, with the most experience and who has statistically outplayed even Ryan Miller is going to get the chance to close this one out – whether it is closing out a series win or closing out the epic collapse.
Lindy Ruff is 0-2 in playoff Game 7s. Peter Laviolette is 3-1. Regardless of the outcome of this season – if the Flyers don’t do something to secure a solid goaltender starting next year, the 3+ decade Stanley Cup drought in Philadelphia looks to last well into the future.