Welcome to the stretch run Flyers faithful. The greatest time of the year is coming close, but we must remember that even though there is a sprint to the finish coming soon it has been a marathon. The NHL season is the longest of all professional sports and it shows on the players and fans. It wears us all down, but that is when we have to battle back harder.
For Philadelphia the season has seemed even longer with injuries to many players including Danny Briere who seems to never be healthy. That is no reason to fret though. He will be back. There is still time to get ready before the playoffs; there is still the opportunity to get into a full steam ahead rhythm for this high powered offense. As New Jersey, Boston, and Washington have all begun to hit walls the Flyers are hoping to rocket forward.
Remember that 2006-2007 season? I know I shouldn’t bring it up but remember that it was just as painful for me as it was for the rest of Philadelphia. I was there. I witnessed the letdown that has plagued our city for 25 years (100 seasons / 4 teams) of professional sports. That was until one day this past fall. We all know what happened. Now the future is brighter than ever.
In the 2007-2008 season we rebounded. No one expected us to come from the bottom, and our rise back to the ranks of the elite was behind a giant banner proclaiming that the Flyers were indeed “Back With A Vengeance!” Now we stand nearing the end of a brilliant 2008-2009 campaign in front of that banner. Everyone expects us to be there at the end. We are supposed to make a splash. We are no longer the Cinderella, but we can live with that. Gagne is healthy, Briere will be back to his old self soon (these things require patience), Carter has jump-started his game, Timonen quietly continues about his team MVP performance, and Mike Richards continues to do everything that he is known for. Hartnell continues to dominate the flow of games, Giroux has become a spark on the third line a year removed from his miraculous QMJHL playoff run, Knuble still sets up in his office deflecting anything thrown at the net, and Joffrey Lupul, one of the true Philadelphia Miracle Men, hasn’t been traded but in fact scored 2 goals on fan appreciation night against the Predators to not only lead the Flyers to victory but also become the 6th forward on the team this season to reach 20+ goals. On top of that the little things are staying in tact. Parent’s been shutting down forwards since his call up from the AHL, but nobody hears about him because his presence is felt through silence. Coburn and Carle have started playing better together than they have all season. Even Marty’s glove hand, which has been off and on, seems to have found its niche Saturday against the Nashville Predators.
There are no new big faces on this team. Dan Carcillo had his first fight and point during the win Saturday. He looked good on the ice, and that’s a piece the Flyers will need going forward without Scottie Upshall. The Flyers though don’t need big faces. There are no players on this team who will compete for the Hart or Norris. Individual accolades are not something the Flyers thrive on. History has never said that the Flyers had the best player in the NHL or the one who scores the most goals, but what the Flyers bring to the table is hope. Year in and year out they give the city of Philadelphia hope for a championship. In fact out of the 39 seasons that the orange and black have suited up they have only missed the playoffs 8 times. This is the Flyers 40th season (41st year) of existence. While Montreal boasts of 100 years we have quite the history of our own here in Philadelphia. Why can’t it be our year?
The road ahead is tough though. We play the Rangers four times, the Panthers and Sabres twice each. We also have to play the Red Wings, Bruins, Capitals, Penguins, and Devils. It will be a battle for the finish line, but I believe the Flyers can push through it.
Back on May 19th, 2008, right after the Flyers crushing defeat at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals, a writer on SI.com posted about the heartbreak of Philadelphia sports. Entitled 100 Seasons…100 Heartbreaks the article listed a detailed ranking of the worst moments in Philadelphia sports history since the last championship.
The top 5 listed:
- Sixers miss shot to take ’01 Finals stranglehold with Game 2 loss (June 8th, 2001)
- Superbowl XXXIX (February 6th, 2005)
- Flyers complete epic East finals collapse against archrivals (May 26th, 2000)
- 1993 World Series Game 6 (October 23rd, 1993)
- 2002 NFC Championship Game (January 19th, 2003)
That’s right. We have experienced a lot of heartache in the past 25 years. We have lived each moment over and over again in our heads. It is history we have witnessed, but for every heartache we have been there for the good times.
We saw Joffrey Lupul score the game 7 game winning OT goal against the Washington Capitals to take the Flyers, a year removed for their worst season ever, on to Stanley Cup playoff legend. We saw the Eagles this past season knock off the Cowboys in the final game of the year in incredible fashion, get into the playoffs by fluke, take it to the Vikings and the hated Giants, and force us to believe once again that the Philadelphia Eagles can win. We saw the 76ers without a star player make an unimaginable run to make the playoffs. And to top it all off we saw this:
I’d say that the city of Philadelphia has had a pretty good year. So sound the call the arms! Are we content with just one championship or are we going to push for more? The last quarter century has humbled our hearts but never our voices. We know we can’t always win. That’s how it goes. We take the good with the bad in every season of every sport, and in the end we often remember the losses more than the wins. We went through a drought without a championship; 100 seasons. In the end each one of those disappointments led us to where we are now. When we win it just means that much more to us. It’s something that no other city can feel. We are the most heartbroken, the most outspoken, and the most grateful group of sports fans ever assembled in the world. Now one of our teams is about to try for another push at yet another Philadelphia championship. Everyone remembers where they were when the Phillies won the world series. Will you say that you missed out on every puck drop for the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs?