Monday, February 9, 2009

Flyer Nation

If you're like me--and I know I am--you hate that every team now has a "nation." Red Sox Nation, for example, is based on the idea that there are Red Sox fans all over the country, and that's what makes them great. But long before Red Sox Nation and the predictable, adolescent response of "Yankee Planet," and without the fabricated marketing tool of labeling it as such, there really was, and still is, a Flyer Nation.

If you've ever watched Flyers games in places that don't deserve NHL teams, then you know what I'm talking about. At last week's game at Tampa Bay and Sunday's 3-2 win over Atlanta, at least half of the people in the seats were wearing Flyers jerseys. The slight roar of the crowd after each Philly goal was delightfully confusing, as you knew it sure wasn't a home game, but almost forgot it was a road game. In the games in real NHL cities (Boston, New York, Toronto, and of course on Broad Street), when the visiting team scores, the reaction, or lack thereof, is so muted, you almost think it didn't really happen or it's not going to count.

But somehow, there really are Flyers fans everywhere. Carolina, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Phoenix, Florida, Nashville, Tampa, and Atlanta. You watch and you just get the feeling that the Flyers coming to town is a big thing for these franchises, cause the attendance shoots up.

At any rate, Flyer Nation got another treat Sunday at Philips Arena, continuing their dominance over the Atlanta Thrashers and their hideous third jerseys. It was their 14th consecutive victory over Atlanta, bringing Antero Niittymaki's all-time record vs. the Thrashers to 13-0. The Flyers' all-time record against Atlanta is an astounding 29-3-1. How on earth does that happen?

The win capped a four-point weekend on the road, after Saturday afternoon's 4-3 win over the Boston Bruins in overtime. This game was a very big deal for a number of reasons.

For one, the Bruins are AWESOME. I don't know exactly why, or where they came from, or who saw them coming. But they are the real deal. We put up a good fight Wednesday night at home, but fell 3-1 in the end. Saturday's game saw us come out with good energy, but Martin Biron was just awful. The first B's goal came inside of four minutes on a weak wraparound shot that somehow trickled under Biron's pads and in. The second goal wasn't so much his fault, but he had a chance to sweep it out of the way and reacted too slowly. But the third goal came literally eight seconds later, so that four minutes after Simon Gagne's goal tied it up at 1-1, it was 3-1 Boston.

But Coach Stevens pulled Biron at the intermission and went back to Niitty, who made some big saves and kept the Bruins off the scoreboard. Arron Asham forced a turnover deep behind the Boston cage, dished quickly to Glen Metropolit whose wrister made it 3-2. And then, Scott Hartnell (the new John Leclair?) got a lucky bounce and enough of the puck to tie it up at 3. In the overtime, Randy Jones, persona non grata in Boston after he ended Patrice Bergeron's season last year, floated a shot from the blue-line that went off the knee of Bruins' defenseman Andrew Ference and in for a 4-3 win. Over the best team in hockey. In their own backyard. Without some of our best players.

The best stat is that in the Claude Julien era as coach of the Bruins, the team is 57-1-4 when having a 2-goal lead at some point in a game. Meaning, only once in 62 games has Boston blown a two-goal lead in a game not resolved by a shootout. Make that twice.

The weekend wins put the Fly-guys into the fourth-seed in the conference, with the fewest games played of any of the current playoff teams. It's pretty unlikely we'll catch Boston for the top seed. But we're certainly making a run at #2.....
Other Musings: The Flyers are one of just three teams in the whole league to be in the top 10 in both power play and penalty kill percentage. (San Jose and Buffalo are the other two...yes, they still have a team in Buffalo.)

Wanna see an absolute heavyweight bout? Check out Riley Cote versus Eric Boulton from Sunday's game. Cote looks good at the start, then fades. But this one is a classic.

A comment in response to the A-Roid fiasco. I love how all the "Yankee Faithful" are calling for his head, urging the team to buy him out and kick him to the curb. I have a lot of issues with a confession and apology that were half-hearted at best, but he still came further than Roger Clemens and Jason Giambi. And no one said boo then. Just in case you needed another reason to hate New York sports fans, now you can add hypocrisy. If they buy, ahem, win the World Series this year, we'll see what the "Faithful" say then.

Kudos to the NBA, for offering an array of awesome games between good teams with plenty of starpower in the week following the Super Bowl. LeBron and Kobe each at the Garden, then facing each other. I actually spent some time at the bar on Sunday watching a regular-season basketball game. Imagine that.

The Bud Light ad I saw for the first time the other day begins with the phrase, "Summer may be over, but don't close up the deck, or put away the grill." "Summer may be over"?!?!??? IT'S FEBRUARY. You're still airing this after Groundhog Day?? Honestly. Oh, and by the way, if you have to ad lime to a beer, then the beer sucks. Period.

Anyone see the Dunkin' Donuts ad where the women goes up on the roof to announce that their coffee is the best she's ever had? And she's talking to other people doing the same thing? And one of the women says it's her sixth cup of so far? So, let me get this straight. It's early morning, you've got six cups of coffee in you...and you head to the roof? Somebody hates their job. I don't think that's an ad for coffee. I think that's a cry for help.

Yesterday's Around the Horn with Lil Wayne was awesome. In his face time at the end of the show, he talked of how there's one guy he's always been afraid of, and that's the original LT, Lawrence Taylor. But now that he's agreed to be on Dancing With the Stars, Lil Wayne proclaimed he is officially no longer afraid. Then he said LT should now stand for "Lil Twinkletoes." Fantastic.

In Sunday's game in Atlanta, following the announcement that the Thrashers were headed to the power play, the song "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" came over the PA. I know they're the second-worst team in hockey, but that just doesn't seem very fair.