The Flyers may have the March Madness as their goalie situation gets turned on its head, quite literally, once again.
The March Madness might be a sign; a sign of change. It spreads through the American world much like a strong heavy rain washing away all of our winter interpretations of reality while bringing along the excitement of the unknown as we soldier on, as we do every year.
But change happens often. What is so special about March? In fact, what is so “insane” about March 2010?
Well, the last five Marches have been a particular journey for me. As a Flyers fan I’ve seen the entire spectrum of what Flyers hockey can be from a perch in Washington, DC. It might have culminated last Saturday during a weekend trip to the ever exciting District of Columbia. I was in town for Shamrock Fest, the second biggest Irish festival in the United States (second to Boston for obvious reasons). The festival began at 1 P.M. on a rainy afternoon which was the same time the Flyers were matched up against the Chicago Blackhawks.
I probably would have skipped a chunk of the concert had my friend who I was staying with had Center Ice, but I decided text updates would suffice. So I went to the concert with my younger brother, beer in hand, and standing in the pouring rain while listening to some of the best Irish bands the world had to offer. I was annoyed as the alerts came in that the Flyers had fallen behind 2-1.
One of my top three all-time bands, The Tossers, were about to take the stage to my left when I got the text message that the Flyers had tied the game with just over 2 minutes left. The Tossers’ lead singer, T. Duggins, stepped up to the microphone when my phone buzzed again. There, covered in beer, drenched in rain, and smelling like any number of bars, I got word that Chris Pronger had pulled off a miraculous regulation win with roughly two seconds left.
How did I react? Well, my brother and I ran straight into the fray. That’s what happens at these kinds of things. The Flyers had created yet another couple points out of what probably would have been a sure loss. Goaltending or not, the Flyers are finally finding ways to face adversity, something that never happened under Stevens. With Laviolette, the pressure does not effect the team. They rise instead of shelling up and going quietly into the night.
March 2010 is the story of Flyers’ creationism. Turning nothing into something. They turned a rainy afternoon Irish festival into an incredible celebration of the very best things life has to offer; alcohol, music, friends, and sport (not necessarily in that order). They have not played particularly great, though not particularly bad either. Even so, they’re finding ways to win despite two back-up goalies and a quarter tank of gas. Teams that don’t quit are the teams that do well in the playoffs.
At the beginning of March they were a team that didn’t make a move on a more proven goalie. Now they’re a team that can find a way to win despite whoever is in net. That’s a great sign.
Orange and Black Depth Chart Theatrics
Last night, with the 8-10 week injury to Michael Leighton just beginning, the Flyers went back to the other goaltender in their reserve. Boucher hadn’t started a game since getting hurt in a 4-1 loss to the Florida Panthers back on December 21st, 2009. Last night, he was absolutely incredible as the Flyers came from behind once again to beat the Dallas Stars.
I wrote before about Leighton’s Christmas Miracle, but that seems to have ended abruptly in the worst possible way.
So, for those keeping track at home:
- Offseason: Sign Boucher. Sign Emery.
- Early Season: Emery hurt. Boucher in. Claim Leighton.
- Early Mid-Season: Boucher hurt. Leighton in.
- Late Mid-Season: Emery returns. Emery in. Leighton back-up.
- Early Late Season: Emery hurt. Leighton in. Boucher back-up.
- Now: Leighton hurt. Boucher in.
It’s a miracle that the Flyers are still winning games with all that upheaval between the pipes. However, I’ve mentioned this plenty of times before: goaltending is largely dependent on the team of skaters. If you have an elite team, your goaltending will look much better than it actually is.
Another thing to point out is that technically speaking Boucher is a better all-around goaltender than Leighton. He’s much more positionally sound and more athletic. Leighton may have found some chemistry with the roster, but Boucher never got a real chance to get his starts in once the team had fully pieced together Laviolette’s system.
Anyone else remember 1999-00? 35 GP, 20 W, 1.91 GAA, and 0.918 SV% regular season? 18 GP, 11 W, 2.03 GAA, and 0.918 SV% postseason? Ring any bells?
March 2010 is the story of Brian Boucher and his return a decade later. 2009-10: Unfinished Business?
No Draft Picks? No Problem.
At the beginning of this month I made a “fairly” in depth write-up about the Flyers’ prospect pool as they added two more free agent signings. Well, with a lack of draft picks and prospects, Holmgren is looking for other ways to restock the cupboard.
Luke Pither – Signed to a 3-year Entry Level Contract beginning next year. He is a skilled, offensive center who will play with the Phantoms next season.
Shane Harper – Signed to a 3-year Entry Level Contract beginning next year. He is a skilled, offensive winger who will play with the Phantoms next season.
Mike Testwuide – Signed to a 2-year Entry Level Contract and could even see time with the Flyers this season. He is a crease bully with some scoring talents.
Ben Holmstrom – Signed to an Amateur Try Out with the Phantoms and could get signed to an Entry Level Contract if he performs well.
Jussi Rynnäs – Young, heavily scouted undrafted goaltender out of the Finnish league that Holmgren is pushing hard to acquire.
There’s no question that there’s more to come. Holmgren is rumored to have his hand in quite a few NCAA free-agents. Right now, our prospect group is starting to get a little tight for the Phantoms next season. We’ll see how it goes. It’s definitely going to be an exciting offseason at the minor league level.
THE REST OF THE NON-HOCKEY WORLD
Philly Blog March Madness
Far be it from me to question the seedings of someone else’s bracket, but The Phield is conducting their own version of March Madness. This one involves the best Philly Blogs in the known Philly Sport-verse. You can vote for which Philly Blog advances in each round until there is a winner. Well, your very own Phinally Philly got 7th seed in the Lauber Region. This is how The Phield sees the “Lauber Region” going:
The favorite: Phillies Nation
Created in 2004 by Brian Michael, Phillies Nation has been the major force among red-clad fan blogs. Part of the reason is its networking abilities: The Nation was one of the first blogs to champion Twitter, and also gained an enormous following on Facebook. The Nation’s reach is strong, with fans across the world checking the site regularly. Posts are every day with a mix of news, opinion and character. Its foray into podcasts became a hit, as well. It’s a regular one-stop shop for Phillies news and information, and towers above the other red-clad fan blogs.
The dark horse: The Fightins
We shouldn’t call The Fightins a dark horse, but many have debated its placement as a No. 3 seed, which might light the fire under these boys. Run by a motley cast led by meech.one, The Fightins paces the charge in Phillies humor, posting videos, photoshops, .gifs and lolz on the reg. Its off-centered content has made it a darling among beat writers and even players, who were seen sporting their t-shirts. Look, we know The Fightins is big time, so we might have to ready for a huge matchup in the elite eight.
The cinderella: The Shibe Times
It’ll be hard for any blog to power past Phillies Nation, The Fightins or No. 2 seed High Cheese, but we’ll mark the Shibe Times as a potential upset special. Its design is among the best, and its throwback theme kicks. It has a tough match against Phinally Philly to open, but it’s scrappy style might give enough of a scare to rattle some boards.
The unknown: The Good Phight
A weird case. The Good Phight gets a lot of hits. Commenters galore. Regular content and solid analysis. But where does it rank among the chalk? It’s probably the best 5 seed among the lot, and could even make a case for a 3 seed, but as we stand, it’s mired. We love WholeCamels and dajafi and the rest of the crew, but can they make enough noise to take down Phillies Nation in the Sweet 16? Maybe.
Best first-round matchup: Long Drive vs. Dirty Wudders
A solid 6-11 match, Long Drive is a new but loud force in the sphere, while Dirty Wudders is way under-the-radar, but provides more quality than you think. Long Drive might be cocky here, but be warned: these games are traps.
Best possible second-round matchup: The Fightins vs. Long Drive
And come on, if Long Drive gets past the first round, what a fun game this could be. The boys at Long Drive have ties to The Fightins, yet are completely focused on defeating them. We’ll see. Either way, consider this the marquee second-round matchup.
I think we, the fine folks here at Phinally Philly, have been underrated. We’re not getting our due. Granted, we are a younger blog, but out of most of these 65 (now 64) competitors.
Honestly, I think The 700 Level will run away with it, but what do we qualify as? A Cinderella? Who knows…just get out there and vote for Phinally Philly. Let’s make a run!
Beyond the Blogs
There’s also much more March Madness floating around if Flyers’ drama and blog showdowns aren’t enough:
There’s Real March Madness in the form of a guest post by Joe Gallagher. Don’t forget that everyone’s official Phinally Philly Sheets of Integrity are in full swing. Nova almost lost in OT, and Notre Dame screwed up my bracket beyond repair. Good luck to everyone still in the running for the Grand Prize.
There’s some Eagles Spring Cleaning Notes by Kieran Kelly since our Eagles’ writer, Dany Sloan, is taking part in some conferences down in Austin, TX. Take a look for your up-to-date Eagles’ offseason as we countdown to draft day.
There’s plenty of notes about the Phillies. All you have to do is head to the Phinally Philly Homepage to get a rundown on the shake-ups and preseason performers.
Then there’s more depressing news about the Sixers by Mike Santa Barbara.
There’s also the Union’s season in limbo as the MLS players threaten to lockout. Stay tuned. I have some hockey surprises in store for the upcoming weeks as well.
Don’t forget to go vote for Phinally Philly.