April 22, 2012 was a good day to be a Flyer's fan - Game 6 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Pittsburgh Penguins. I was down at the Center, nervously waiting for the puck to drop with friends I had brought to the game. God Bless America was sung and I knew they were going to win that game. The whistle blew, the puck dropped, and Claude Giroux leveled Sidney Crosby and scored a goal all in the first 30 seconds of the game. The Flyers didn't take their foot off the gas the rest of the game and we beat the Pens 5-1 and won the series 4-2. Claude Giroux and the Flyers were supposed to take us as fans to the promised land of Girouxsalem - winning the Stanley Cup.
The Flyers had a full week off between their final game and their first one against the New Jersey Devils. I knew this would be a challenging series because any team that makes it to the second round is playing pretty well. But ultimately I thought we would do pretty well and win in 5. I based this on their regular season play against the Devils - we went 3-3 against them with 2 shutouts and losing one in a shootout. Plus the Devils has just come off a challenging series against the Florida Panthers, winning Game 7 in a double overtime. We were the fresher team and an offensive Juggernaut plus we had Orange Jesus himself, Claude Giroux on our side.
Through the first four games of this series, the Flyers have managed to play awful hockey and are down 3-1. The Flyers look like they are the team who went 7 and played a double overtime in the last series. Our forecheck has been non-existent and we look slow. The Devils have been quicker to the puck and have taken advantage. We look very much like the team that I wrote about in the post "My Heart Hurts."
Tonight will be a REALLY tough night. Giroux is suspended for a head shot on Danius Zubrus (I think the suspension is bogus - not because it wasn't a head shot but because much more egregious head shots have happened throughout these playoffs and not been called on the ice or disciplined further off it - yes Malkin I'm referring to you). This is not a good thing. But it may bring just the level of desperation that the Flyers need to play their game. And if the Flyers play THEIR game and not the Devils game, they can win tonight and the next two as well. Hockey is the ultimate team sport and the Flyers when playing as a team does it as well if not better than any other in the NHL.
Rich likes to say there is no moral victories in hockey especially in the playoffs. A win is a win, a loss is a loss and if the Flyers don't win the Cup ultimately the season is a disappointment. The Flyers have never done anything easy. It's not easy being a fan of this team - they can take you so high and drop you so low so quickly. But I'm not ready for this to be over - and I don't think the Flyer's are either - so Tonight's Gonna be a Good Night