The Philadelphia Flyers have now achieved their regular season goal, muscling their way into the playoffs on an emotional two-game win streak; but do the Broad Street Bullies have a chance at the ultimate goal? Their first impedance to immortality answers to the title
Alexander the Great
, and boasts astonishing numbers during the tail end of his team’s
The Washington Capitals started out their season with the NHL’s worst record with only thirteen points out of a possible forty-two (6-14-1), but since then have installed vital components, behind the bench and on the ice, surrounding the catalyst to their success in pure goal-scoring-sniper Alexander Ovechkin. The initial change in personnel ensued the day after Thanksgiving in which the Caps took on their now first-round playoff opponents, the Philadelphia Flyers. Leaving his minor league days behind, Bruce Boudraeu took the stand behind the bench as head coach and capped off his debut with an overtime win over the Fly Boys (4-3). The trade deadline may have introduced the most surprising commodity to the mix in ex-Montreal Canadian goaltender Cristobal Huet, while also producing vital players such as the reliable face-off winning center Sergei Federov and the threat of a scoring blue-liner in Mike Green. All these ingredients added to other promising talent such as the other Alexander (Semin) and Nicklas Backstrom have catapulted the Caps beyond their early struggles and into the playoff picture as the third seed in the Eastern Conference and winning their division title on a head turning hop over the captain-less Carolina Hurricanes. But in all seriousness, the only reason Washington is now everyone’s “second favorite team” and bathing in its submersion into the media’s accolade for success is the formidable Art Ross and Maurice
trophy winner, Ovechkin. The Moscow native posted 114 points and rewrote the record books for left-wingers by netting sixty-five goals in his assault on hockey history. Zoning in on a possible Hart trophy as league MVP, this former Calder trophy winner is only the 38th player of all time to score 60 goals, while only ten have found twine more than 65 times in all of the game’s books; all these stats adorn him in an era when goals are being scored on an average 5.45 times a game, compared to the time of the great Wayne Gretzky’s recording of 92 goals when 8.02 goals were being scored on a nightly basis. The obvious focal point for head coach John Stevens’ troops will be the fearless sniper’s dominant play, keeping in mind the imperative fact that a team wins a series and not a man. His celebrations and pure love for the game has softened the hearts of many rugged hockey-faithful, but Flyers fans may be the only souls wishing never to see such joy until next October. But as the first time NHL playoff coach related Tuesday,
It’s about the passion and determination that comes into playing the game. Xs and Os can only take you so far. It’s the little things that will make a difference…
The Flyers flaunt a much different group of well-balanced scorers and are therefore able to effortlessly roll three lines continuously throughout a crucial series. Led by future captain and leading goal scorer Mike Richards, the Broad Street Bullies boast the league’s most potent line of scoring forwards with a total of seven men netting twenty or more despite key injuries. The Flyers also hail as the runner-up only to the Montreal Canadians in power play success, a lethal weapon come playoff time regardless of its cooling down of late. Physical play will also be a daunting factor in play as Philly has been ruthlessly tagged ever since early season suspensions as a rebirth of their 70’s campaign as Broad Street Bullies, and Washington has established its fore-checking game with a combination of underrated physical toughness.
In spite of the hot runs put into flight at the end of the season for both clubs, playoff hockey emits a shortage of momentum to the successful teams’ mindset. Winning 11 of their last twelve enabled the Caps to sit in the position they do now, but do not forget the 7 and 1 season ending record tabbed by the Philadelphia Flyers. A controversial point would be that the Caps have feasted on their own division mainly, which is perhaps the weakest in the entire league. On the other side of the rink, the Flyers have mounted victories against what is perhaps the strongest division in the league in the Atlantic (all but one team are in the playoffs). This may or may not be sounding evidence of the Flyer’s superiority, but yet another factor must come into play to ensure such triumph. The physical game of the Philadelphia Flyers has elevated their game time after time, marking them down as a blue collared team working for every inch. The Caps have been misjudged in this category, as their leading scorer also maintains 220 hit this past season. Underrated or not, this club relies on every aspect of the game, including physical play, to squeeze out a win night in and night out. Defense wins championships, though, and both of these teams cannot say theirs’ is finer by any degree. Led by Kimmo Timonen, the Flyers have been hot and cold the entire season and only stack up their defensive courage at random times in games. Collapses are all too familiar, but with the experience of Friday’s New Jersey game and the controversial win over the Pens, the Fly Guys look to reverse their bad defensive karma and rely on their recently stellar goaltender, Marty Biron. The Caps are also looking to their net minder for assurance and lately have the utmost degree of confidence in the paint.
Although the Flyers’ theme for the duration of the year has been
, you can’t help but view the Capitals as another team who is and was in a similar boat as Philadelphia both this year and last. Philly and Washington ended their seasons in the ’06-’07 season last in their divisions, and now look to put the icing on the cake of their miraculous come-backs in this underdog series of foes who haven’t met in such an atmosphere since ’89. Although the Caps gain home ice advantage due to their Southeast division victory, the Flyers actually maintained a higher point total than their rivals and on paper seem to be the favorites. But as the playoffs have taught all hockey lovers, paper doesn’t win games, and most media personnel are helplessly falling into the love-struck mentality of a possible
team led by one of the most exciting and passionate players in the game. The Flyers need to be prepared both physically and mentally at the drop of the puck, in spite of the opposing fans and players around them. Philadelphia fans are being urged to visit the district of Washington D.C. beginning on Friday to support their club till their eventual homecoming initiated Tuesday, April 15th. Although the outcome is entirely unpredictable one thing is certain, all eyes will be on the Bullies and The Great One, just like old times.