Thursday, April 12, 2012

True Grit

For the past month it was inevitable that the Flyers and Penguins would meet in the first round.  And for the last month I’ve been freaking the hell out about it.  These are the two best teams in the East, despite the Rangers ranking and their total evisceration of the Flyers during the regular season for whatever reason I’ve never considered them a team to fear.    

Well for the past 2 weeks I’ve attempted to write a column about this matchup.  How about a five point rationale on why this team or that team will win.  Big fuckin deal; who hasn’t done that?   No I want to write something original.  Ok; so how about a stupid first person narrative where I pretend I’m at their morning skate around or something.  Well the thing is I have nothing to really say that would either be the least bit funny or insightful.  Trust me I tried several times to make it work.  Ok so how about a pep talk speech in writing mixed with a few prayers that I made up.  Well I found out my rhyme scheme is terrible and I’m really not that creative.  Wait what about a story where Sidney Crosby is some sort of demon who only gets stronger by the amount of tears he sheds and the amount of dicks in his mouth.  That's a good start, but I don't know what I would do with it.  So what’s left?
How about something from the heart.  Ok here we go.

For the past 2 weeks I was sick to my stomach trying to think of a reason how the Flyers could win.  Hockey is the most team sport out of any of the big four.  But still the two best players on the ice are wearing Penguins sweaters.  Despite Giroux’s masterful season, Malkin’s was better and Crosby despite his overall faggyness is the best player in the world.  Their goalie is better, they have more experience, and despite my love of Lavvy, you’d have to say that Shero is a better coach.  As my Dad would say; you’re only as good as the amount of rings on your fingers.  So then how do I prove the Flyers are better?
Well it turns out I don’t have to.  The Flyers just did.

I forgot that the NHL playoffs are all about heart, a hot goalie and toughness.  And these Flyers are just tougher.  Seriously this team is filled with Rooster Cogburn's (hence the title).

My grandmother is in the hospital today( no big deal) so I missed the first period and a half of last night’s game.  But when I turned it on it was 3-0.  So I changed channel in disgust and just in time to catch the Phillies offensive boom.  Seriously I didn’t know we would score five runs in an inning all year.  But anyway I flipped back and it was 3-1.  And despite being down two I knew we were going to win that game.

The first period was to be expected, unfortunately.  This team always starts slowly, ALWAYS!  The first period was brutal; the puck was not bouncing our way.  Both the second and third goals were more a combination of fluke and luck than skill.  And our young guys finally seemed like young guys. 
But from the middle of the second period through overtime we were dominate.  Our fore checking was devastating; players were flying up the ice winning every, and I mean every, battle along the boards.  The defensemen were able to keep the puck in the offensive zone or crash down and extend scoring opportunities.  And slowly but surely you could feel the sphincters of every player and fan in the building start to tighten up.  They weren’t attacking, they weren’t forcing the issue and they certainty weren’t establishing either Malkin or Crosby. 

But getting back to my original point; I forgot about toughness.  I forgot that Danny Briere always comes to play in April.  I forgot why we traded Mike Richards for a couple of kids. And I forgot that we traded for guys to take Chris Pronger’s place.
Danny Briere had a terrible season, for his standards. He scored only 16 goals and didn’t have 50 points all season (wow really!?)  But that dude is a playoff warrior.  His first goal was orgasmic.  In the shootout he’s the only guy who does what I would do.  You know like if I could skate, shoot or grow a proper beard (although Briere can’t do that last one).  But skate down the ice and rather than the deke and duck just wrist it stick side.  And that’s what he did in front of a sprawled Fluery who looked like a wounded deer.  And then in the third the old saying came into play.  Get the puck on net and good things will happen.  So after Schenn won the puck behind the net gave it to Briere in the circle who skimmed it along the ice and somehow it went in.  Thank Crosby for the perfect screen, but credit Briere for doing what coaches tell kids from when they first start skating. 

Speaking of Schenn.  For the last 2 weeks of the season he was arguably our best player.  For a long time he seemed a little lost.  Much like JVR, he didn’t seem to totally know how to use his size and speed and was a little lackadaisical.  But now he is always in the right place on offense.  That check by Crosby and his retaliation cemented his legacy in Philadelphia, but it also seemed to give him some extra motivation.  That third goal, credit Hartnell for the perfect slap pass, but Schenn deserves all the praise for keeping his stick on the ice.
And then of course my favorite new Flyer; Nick Grosmann.  That dude starts and finishes every check.  He clears the area around Bryz.  And he plays like he is 10 feet tall.  I am so happy we extended him.  And a little pissed we gave up so much for Pavel Kubina.  You need at least four defenseman in a playoff series you can go to war with.  With Timmonen, Coburn coupled with Grossmann and Carle that’s a great blue line.  Add Lilja and if Mezzaros comes back that’s another two.  And that doesn’t even count our forwards who love to bang bodies like Hartnell, Simmonds, Rinaldo and Talbot.  This team hits early, often and effectively.  By the third period I don’t think Malkin touched the puck once or wanted to.

And finally let's not overlook the GM.  Earlier in the season I made fun of Paul Holmgren for the signing of Ilya Bryzgalov.  But give the man credit.  In one year he brought in Schenn, Jagr, Talbot,Simmonds, Courtier, Grossmann, Read, Wellwood and last night’s hero Jakub Vorachek.  All of those guys played huge minutes and were more than up to the task.  Holmgren took a huge risk jettisoning his two star gigolos’ and remaking the team in Claude Giroux’s imagine.  And so far it's working.  Although I am rooting for the Kings in the West.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.  The Flyers could still lose in five, six or seven games.  Bryz while good in the second and third period, was only good because he wasn’t really tested in those periods.  The Flyers are still smaller on offense, with the less skilled players and now maybe they’re a little too overconfident. 
But after watching last night’s it's obvious who plays with more heart. 

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