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The Flyers story everyone missed

Posted by Chris Shafer On April - 23 - 2010

A disconnected locker room never looked this good.

What’s the phrase I’m looking for?

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Abraham Lincoln said that over 150 years ago, and it’s still true to this day. However, the opposite is also true. A unified locker room is capable of incredible things.

So what happened to all of the “locker room discord” that had been floating around for months?

The story itself about a feud between the veterans and the young core has died out almost completely. It was spotted last back on April 4th when Chuck Gormley put together his best attempt to explain why the Flyers’ season was falling apart right before the playoffs.

For most of this season, there have been chat room debates over whether Chris Pronger would serve as a better captain than Mike Richards.

Following Friday night’s 1-0 home loss to the Canadiens, Pronger vacated the locker room quickly, leaving a crowd of reporters around Richards, who looked up and said, “I’m not going first.”

Whether Pronger’s quick exit was intended to let the captain address the team’s shortcomings in one of its most important games is debatable, but Richards did not exactly provide the leadership expected from a 25-year-old with 10 years remaining on a $69 million contract.

The perceived power struggle between Pronger and Richards could be just the tip of a Flyers iceberg that will certainly be explored in the offseason.

With games against the Red Wings and Maple Leafs followed by a crucial home-and-home set with the energized Rangers, the Flyers are about to find out what they’re made of.

The Flyers will either prove they are as good as many predicted back in October, or they will be forever linked to the Phillies’ monumental collapse 46 years ago.

While Gormely, and many other Philly beat writers were trying to make a story where there really wasn’t one, a few have been saying all along that the locker room dramatics were just more nonsense.

How about the cries for Richards to give up his position as captain to Pronger since he was obviously not ready to lead this team?

They have all vanished to the tune of 8 points in 5 games. Richards is tied for third in postseason scoring with the Great Ovechkin, behind both Crosby and Nicklas Backstrom. Giroux has 6 points in 5 games. Briere and Pronger, the man supposedly at war with Richards, each are pacing at a point per game.

The Flyers have done the supposedly impossible by knocking off the 2nd seeded Devils in nonchalant fashion. The series was fairly easy with Parise quieted by strong defensive play and Kovalchuk looking almost foolish as he tried desperately to do everything himself.

These Devils were a team that was supposed to click at the right time with a gigantic weapon in acquisition Ilya Kovalchuk. Instead the Flyers forecheck, defensive depth, and awareness around both nets turned them into fairly easy first-round fodder. The Flyers were “banging home the junk” and “clearing out the trash” to borrow some phrases from The Mighty Ducks movies.

Pronger and Timonen have combined for 33 blocked shots. The rest of the roster has combined for another 52. That’s 85 blocked shots in 5 games.

Speaking of blocked shots, how about those Holmgren acquisitions? Still think he is a terrible General Manger who isn’t able to put a functional team on the ice?

A lot of the hatred headed his way is largely undeserved. Despite jokes about his “What can you do?” comment, there was really nothing he could have done. Did you want to give up Giroux, JVR, or Carter for Kovalchuk or Vokoun at this point? Perhaps you wanted to throw some of that defensive depth and futures Montreal’s way for Price or Halak when that blueline has absolutely anchored this team through the first series and will only get more important?

I don’t even need to touch on Pronger’s Norris-worthy season. In the playoffs he’s been even better.

Betts and Laperriere? Just look at Lappy’s face and tell me they aren’t doing their part. The Wonder Twins have helped kill 87.5% of the Devils’ powerplay. New Jersey has only scored four powerplay goals despite having an unimaginable 32, that’s right I said 32, chances with an extra man.

Carcillo? He’s a hero. I think everyone still calling him Downshall can switch to Carbomb now. His explosive nature, now under control somewhat thanks to Laviolette, has been important to the Flyers’ success. The extra goals? What can I say? Forecheckers need love too.

What about Boucher, who came out to play a decade after the epic implosion that was the 2000 postseason? He’s only stepped his game up when the games have mattered the most. The softies have virtually disappeared. Granted a lot of that has to do with a more confident group of skaters and I can’t necessarily promise his success will continue, but Flyers’ fans can be happy that they get a chance to rest before the next series.

Leino, who was a healthy scratch for the playoffs so far, stepped right into his role without missing a beat. He looked great last night even if he didn’t get himself on the score sheet. Injuries haven’t killed the Flyers just yet. They still have a chance.

So who is next?

Well, the Flyers are the first team to move into the next round. The Senators came up with a miraculous 3OT win last night against the Penguins to fend off elimination for at least one more game. The Bruins lead the Sabres 3 to 1, as do the Capitals over the Canadiens.

If the Capitals do beat the Canadiens, which is likely to happen at this point, everyone can get ready for some trips to the good old District of Columbia.

Since we likely have the Capitals, it’s safe to assume we’re already preparing for them as of today. Their defense, much like the Devils’, is weak and susceptible to a strong forecheck. We can beat the Capitals if we can play like we did in this series; play hard on the forecheck and use or defense depth as an advantage to thwart the likes of Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom, and Knuble. Boucher will have to be on his game, and we will still need all the offense we can get. That of course is made much harder by the fact that Gagne and Carter won’t be making appearances.

What can you do? We just have to soldier forward and hope for some rest as the other teams fight to move on.

In another note, everyone needs to have a round; have a beer or two on behalf of Ian Laperriere. The man is an absolute warrior. I’m glad he’s okay. Everyone’s glad he’s okay. I understand his decision to wear a shield from now on. You have to keep safe for your family, just never stop being an absolute warrior. You are Flyers Hockey.

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