The Flyers are in the Stanley Cup Finals! Congrats to all the Flyer faithful, and even those who had their moments of doubt and pain.
Mike Richards is becoming a leader before our eyes. His taking the game into his own hands against Boston, when he demolished Krejci, reminded me of Scott Stevens (only cleaner) on Lindros. As a Flyer fan who was psychologically injured by that hit, and what it ultimately did to the organization, it was somehow redeeming and cleansing to be on the other end of such devastation. I somehow feel better about it now (hey this is the world we live in). That play tonight on the PK, when he leveled Bergeron and led the charge for the odd numbered attack, his tenacity in getting back to disrupt the Habs setup then get open for the outlet he takes all the way down beating the rushing Halak and a stray stick for the puck where he shows patience and presence of mind to put it into the vacated net...he showed similar determination on the puck on the Carter empty netter too. That's leading by example.
Claude Giroux is becoming a star. He's an extremely gifted and smart hockey player, able to play the game at any speed. I like the way he finds space allowing him to maintain posession and mount an attack...his combination of top end skills and an underrated physicality -- his strength on the puck and along the wall and willingness to lower the shoulder and nail someone at times -- are Forsbergian in nature imo.
Ville Leino was a fantastic pickup by Homer and both should he and Ville should be congratulated. He's a top-six winger, signed through next season at a cheap number, which could allow the Flyers to shed some cap if needed.
HUGE props to the players who came back from injuries without missing a beat. I mean, when does that happen to this team? What Gagne has been able to do from game 4 of the Boston series onward (returning early from the broken toe received from blocking a shot) is AMAZING and heroic. MAJOR props to GAGS! Let no one question his grit and desire. Leighton too, jumping right in, 1st game back off that high ankle sprain rehab and playing "Leights out" after Boosh went down, also AMAZING and heroic! Lappy and Betts too showing grit and determination...Carts coming back too, with broken bones, playing well/producing right away...big PROPS (and a Prop Guffaw taboot) to these guys (and McCrossin?) for being able to come back and have such immediate impacts...who would have thought that all this was possible? Amazing...Is it fate? Is it destiny?
On D Pronger and Timonen have been superb, outclassing every D they've faced. Pronger simplifies the game and confidently makes very sound, deliberate plays at both ends...he plays somewhat conservative, which allows him to play huge minutes while still being able to cause imminent mayhem when necessary. Timonen is an absolute warrior who plays bigger than his size, like a pit bull aggressively defending his zone, hitting people, winning battles for pucks and making smart plays at both ends, 99% of the time. These guys anchoring the top 4 pairings has been critical to the Flyers success thus far. If the team had say, traded Timonen for a lesser player and picks/prospects at the deadline, that dynamic just isn't there. Kudos to Homer for having the patience and faith in his team to stay with the status quo.
Laviolette has been a revelation. As the season has progressed you could see his influence on the team growing. As he displayed his skill as a coach, he gained respect and players bought in. Some might say who the coach is doesn't matter, that it's all just the players. Well, someone has to be the manager, the guy with the system, who teaches, motivates, commands, disciplines, praises etc....these are things that can and do impact how well the given players on team may play. Laviolette>Stevens. Some discounted the impact of Lavy's system and how it took some time adapting to it during the regular season. I disagree.
Panotch even asked Prongs tonight about Lavy's system and how long it took to grasp it:
"I don't know if you watched our first 8-10 games under Peter, but they weren't pretty...I don't think we were, I don't think "ready" is the right word, I think...we had to grasp it and understand it and play to a higher level , it's an agressive, intense, high tempo system and we needed to get into that rhythm and we all needed to learn it and understand it so that it became second nature and you didn't have to think out on the ice and uh, probably, we all needed to buy into that system. You know as the season progressed we went through stages where we looked like we were graspin' it, (then) fell asleep at times, and uh, it was a little to up and down and now we seeem to be firing on all cylinders, everybody understands what we're doing out there. It's a seamless transition from line after line..." - Chris Pronger
Ideally, it wouldn't have been such a rough road to get into the playoffs this year, but I've always believed, once you're in, anything can happen. Especially with this Flyers team, as it has a number of players who typically raise their games in the post-season. Despite the ups and downs, I thought they could do some damage in the playoffs (as long as they got in).
Pronger was also asked about when, during the playoffs, he felt the team could really go far:
"...probably from the time we beat the Rangers on a shootout, getting into the playoffs and understanding we have an opportunity...if anything we've seen 8th seeds, 7th seeds, all the way through, uh, make rounds and go to the finals and have an opportunity to win, and just getting that opportunity you've got to seize the moment and seize the opportunity, and we've done that this far... and we've still got a big hurdle to go but, um, right from the first game in New Jersey all the way through, we've always believed in the system and our players and what we were doing on the ice, and it was just a matter of us getting into that rhythm and buying into the system, guys blocking shoits and doing all the little things, you know, sucking it up and taking a punch to draw a penalty or whatever, the little things that make up a lot of the little battles over the course of the game to win the war and we've done a very good job thus far of that..." - Chris Pronger
I think the Flyers match up well with the Hawks. Defensively, I like our top four. Coburn is playing well and Carle, when he's on, is a big asset... we know what we will get in with Pronger and Timonen...hopefully, they can help nullify big Buffoon (starting the smack talk now heheh) down low...I think they can. Offensively, we are deep (as are they) with Gagne, Carts, Richie, Briere, Giroux, Leino leading the way, with guys like Hartnell, Ashcan, JVR pitching in....and in goal, who is playing better than Leighton? Barring some unforseen implosion he's capable of matching or surpass Niemi's efforts imo. Special teams are fairly even... I like our PK units a lot with a healthy roster (giving the option for Carts/Richie and Gags to play in certain situaitons), the PP needs to produce.
LET'S GO FLYERS! SEIZE THE MOMENT!