Monday, April 27, 2009

Going Out With a Whimper

"So close, yet so far away." --Hall & Oates

"Today I sing tomorrow's song." --Phish

The world was a beautiful place.

Danny Briere's power play goal had given the Flyers a 3-0 lead at home over rival Pittsburgh four minutes into the second period. Fifteen seconds later, toughguy Daniel Carcillo beat the living snot out of Maxime Talbot, exiting the ice with an energetic salute to the riled-up faithful at Wachovia Center. All the momentum was swinging our way. Visions of a miraculous series comeback--or at least a Game 7--danced in our heads. All was right with the world.

I was jumping up and down with excitement. I was about to turn to my friends and say that the last Flyers player who won fights and then saluted the crowd like that was Dave Brown.

I didn't have the chance.

Talbot skated off the ice and put a finger up to his pursed lips, as if to say "shh" to the Philly crowd. He must have known something we didn't. Because fourteen seconds later, former Flyer Ruslan Fedotenko poked home a loose rebound, and the momentum vanished. And Briere's goal, enormous for not a whole minute, would be the last of the season.

Sure, there were a couple of saves that should've been made, like on Sid the Punk's game-tying soul-crusher at the end of the period. (Marty, you gotta snag that out of the air.) Sure, Jeff Carter's sudden inability to score didn't help. And sure, the officiating was absolutely offensive in its rampant inconsistency and blatant favoritism towards Pittsburgh's dynamic duo.

But this loss isn't on the refs. And it isn't on Marty. It's on everyone.

Saturday afternoon didn't hurt so much because we lost. Once we went down 3-1 in the series, I had resigned myself to the fact that it was over. Not that I gave up hope for a comeback, mind you. But I was prepared that the season would end. Between that and the manner in which this team finished the regular season (especially the home loss to the Rangers on the last day that kissed home-ice away), even I, the eternal optimist, had significantly lowered my expectations. And I wasn't wrong.

No, Saturday's loss hurt because for 52 of the 60 minutes of game time, the Flyers didn't show up. It was all reaction, not action, like the entire game was a glorified penalty kill. Once the Pens tied the game, we could feel the end was near. The problem was, the players did too. There was no urgency, no desperation, no fight til the final horn sounded. There was nothing. And since you get out of something exactly what you put into it, here we are.

In a seven-game series, the better team wins. Plain and simple. Many complain about the length of the hockey postseason, and they're entitled to have their own ignorant, wrongheaded opinion. The Penguins were the better team and, along with Boston, are the favorites to represent the East in the Stanley Cup Finals. So, I'm okay with losing to a better team. I just wanted to see some fight, some pride, just something. Anything. And I got nothing.

I still really like this Flyers team. As said multiple times throughout the season, the pieces are in place, both at the pro and minor-league levels, to be in contention for a while. Carter, Richards, Briere, Gagne. And you have to love the breakout of Claude Giroux. There's nothing that he doesn't do, and he's 20. Just wait til our #1 pick and Jersey native James van Riemsdyk hits the ice. Last season we overachieved, this season we underachieved. Get me a shutdown, physical defenseman like what Derian Hatcher used to be, and maybe an upgrade at goalie, and we're a Cup contender.

Be sure to tune in next year, friends. Same Flyer-time, same Flyer-channel. But hopefully, a different result.
Other Musings:
In the meantime, an almost completely opposite dynamic was in play in Florida this weekend. Down 3-0 to the Marlins in the ninth, all was wrong with the world, no Phillie could hit, and I was wondering if we'd been spotting teams 3- and 4-run leads before the game even started. By the middle of the ninth, it was 7-3 Phils. By the end of the weekend, the Marlins were swept.

I've actually been watching the Sixers. They came all the way back last night to tie it at 81, and then Hedo Turkoglu drained a 3 with 1.1 left on the clock, and home-court advantage went back to Orlando. Sad.

In other news, the Eagles are still actually operating. The draft brought us a great wide receiver in Jeremy Maclin from Missouri, and running back LeSean McCoy from Pittsburgh. I'm happy with what I know of both of these players, and I like the acquisition of cornerback Ellis Hobbs from the Patriots. But I'm especially excited by the fact that we now have a DeSean and a LeSean. How many teams can say that?

I saw a guy at the gym the other day wearing a Yankees world championship t-shirt. This is the essence of what I hate about Yankees fans, because there's no better representation of how they feel about winning it all. It's to be expected, an entitlement. So much so that you wear the shirt to work out in. I haven't even taken mine out of the package, let alone worn it.

I like how the commercials for the new Mets stadium call it a "world-class home of baseball." They just wanted to use the word "world" and couldn't follow it up with "champions."

I really like the commercial for the Kia Soul with the hamsters. A great social commentary, but what really makes it is the little nod the passenger gives out the window.

Lastly, I almost bought a case of Bud Light when I saw this in Philly a few weeks ago.