It seemed like destiny, though there will be no story book ending, this time. The Flyers took their amazing run to overtime of game six of the Stanley Cup Finals, when Patrick Kane finally put their dreams to bed.
Throughout all the adversity the Flyers charged on with a “never give up” mentality that got them all the way to the Cup Finals for the first time since being swept by the Detroit Red Wings in 1997.
Their opponent this time around wasn’t very different from the Red Wing team they faced over ten years ago. The Blackhawks, like the Red Wings then, are seemingly just establishing themselves. Having made it to the Western Conference Finals last season, the next and most expected step was of course the Stanley Cup Finals. No one was surprised to see the Blackhawks make it as far as they did. Even though people had predicted the Flyers to reach the Finals before the season started no one could have imagined the road they would have taken to get there.
By now everyone knows the Flyers story. Now that the run is over it’s time to reflect on where this team stands not only historically but what the future holds for them as well.
In Philadelphia sports history there isn’t really a comparison to this years Flyers team. Teams who have been successful recently in Philadelphia have all had decent to fantastic regular seasons, in the end they were expected to be there, to compete for championships.
The early season buzz had the Flyers as contenders, a slow start cost John Stevens his job. Peter Laviolette was brought on board and the growing pains were still to come. Having implemented his system the Flyers were surprisingly playing like the team everyone expected them to be. Laviolette’s system preaches pressure, to play this system a team has to be completely on the same page, and in tremendous shape. Bag skates weren’t uncommon after poor performances, and Laviolette wasn’t only shaping the team philosophy he was molding his younger players into leaders.
The start wasn’t easy as rumblings were that the Flyer locker room for a time was split, between the veterans and the young guys. On top of the struggles, injuries, especially at the goaltending position started to pile up. Throughout the season seven different goaltenders suited up for the Flyers.
Laviolette’s best job was simplifying the big picture for this team. Let’s face it, Philadelphia isn’t an easy town to play in. No matter what, there will always be expectations, and every one’s going to be waiting to pounce when you screw up. Laviolette after a while got the team to play one game at a time, one shift at a time. Worrying about tomorrow isn’t going to help out today.
When the Flyers fell down 3-0 to the Boston Bruins in the 3rd Period of game 7 in Boston, Laviolette called a timeout, something that has become damn near legend in the Delaware Valley. As his players gathered round he stated “One, get one goal.” They did, and the rest is history. One goal at a time, you can’t worry about the third one if you never get around to getting the first. Laviolette came in and made his players believe, in him, his system and more importantly in each other.
About the Author
Written by Mike Santa Barbara
Sports writer covering mostly Philadelphia sports for over 10 years. Work has been featured on RealGM.com, GCobb.com and Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia (CSNPhilly.com.)