It was Sunday June 7th 2009 and I was in the Campbell’s Field parking lot in Camden, New Jersey tailgating and enjoying the pre-concert festivities for the return of one of my favorite bands, Phish. The last time they were touring, I was merely in middle school and did not even know they existed. It wasn’t until my guitar teacher got me to finally give them a shot late in high school did I find myself adding them to my list of all-time favorite acts. It would be my first time seeing them live, obviously. What does this have to do with the Flyers and their playoff series with the Devils?
Phish frontman Trey Anastasio is lifelong Flyers fan and is very public with his love for the team and for the city of Philadelphia. I remember him reciting this rhetoric at the show I was at, and I own an audio copy of the show and can listen to it whenever I want. Here’s a direct quote from that same show last year in Camden after they finished playing Tweezer, which is what I believe is the first time he’s made this prediction:
“…We just love Philadelphia… Flyers fan, lifetime Flyers fan. Next year is the year, I know that. I have personal knowledge of that for next year.”
This was towards the end of the set, they then encored with the premiere of one of their new songs, Joy. Then, they followed that with a stellar ending of Bouncing Around the Room > Run Like an Antelope > Tweezer Reprise. Great set.
Then there was Trey’s rocking of the Richie Winter Classic jersey at the November 24th show, and then he went on The Orange Line a few months ago and had this to say:
“But we’re waiting for the next dynasty team. By the way that’s starting this year, we’re going to start the new dynasty.”
Can Trey be right? The Flyers were playing for their playoff lives against a New York Rangers team who were doing the same thing. It came down to the wire in a shootout. An event the Flyers have struggled with endlessly and one that the opposing goaltender happened to be one of the best with. Brian Boucher was in net for us, one of five goalies to do so this season. We won. The New Jersey Devils were one of the teams we best matched up with during the regular season. Flyers fans everywhere were calling for a first round draw with the Devils. We got it. The stars aligned here…
The last time Brian Boucher faced the Devils in a Flyers uniform in the post-season, this happened:
Can he have a repeat performance, or is he really too old? He will one of the x-factors in this series. If he can re-ignite some of that 2000 playoff magic where he was stellar as a rookie goaltender, maybe the Flyers can take this. Then there’s the whole deal with Marty Brodeur in between the other pipes who is arguably the best goaltender of this era. If he catches fire as well, he can absolutely steal the show. The Flyers have outscored the Devils 20-13 this season in their 5-1 record against their Atlantic division rivals this year and seemed to have beat Brodeur for a majority of the season, yet I am not fully convinced that they can do that in a playoff series. The team seems to be throwing that record out the window according to interviews I’ve seen and read, and that’s the right way to approach it.
The other facet of this team Boosh and the Flyers will have to face is the scoring prowess of two Devils in particular, Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise. Both are explosive in their own right, and can simply score on command if you don’t defend them well enough. Pronger is going to have to take Kovalchuk head on, and Timonen is going to have to stay with Parise. I expect Laviolette to use those match-ups like he did in the regular season. Steve Coates calls Parise the “best kept secret” in the NHL, and rightfully so. He has 38 goals and 44 assists for 82 points, while Kovalchuk has 41 goals and 44 assists for 85 points. Keeping these guys from scoring is almost impossible and an unrealistic goal, but containing them is something that we can and should do. Don’t forget about Patrik Elias and his 48 points this season either.
The Flyers offense is deep and any line can score, and I think it comes down to which line is hot on which night. It also depends on the line-up. Scott Hartnell has been on my shit list lately, and I hope he learns to control his frustration. He had a stretch of games in March where he looked like the Scott Hartnell of old and was playing his game along the boards. He needs to get back to that or I would have no problem of swapping him out for Leino. The other buzz is the possibility of sitting JVR for Leino, but I don’t see that happening. One of your young players with high potential is going to be benched during his first playoff action? I think not. The players like Danny Briere, Mike Richards, and Simon Gagne will also be a huge difference maker. When these guys are scoring goals, the Flyers usually win. Claude Giroux was our top point-getter in last year’s playoffs, can he do it again? It’s also easy to overlook our 4th line, but I believe Betts and Lappy will have a huge effect on this series between their leadership and penalty killing. Carcillo needs to remain the agitator he is and draw the Devils into making mistakes, and I wouldn’t mind seeing the patented Carcillo backhand to beat Brodeur a few times as well.
Defensively, I see the Flyers winning in that area. The Devils don’t have any pairings that could totally shut down any of our lines, but you don’t necessarily need that kind of pairing on your team when Martin Brodeur is your goalie. The Pronger-Carle pairing has been our best all year, and it needs to continue that. Timonen-Krajicek has to play stingy as well, and the 3rd pairing needs to get their act together. It will be interesting to see who Lavvy goes with Wednesday night. Does he sit Coburn for his lackluster play lately and start Bartulis and Parent? I think he’s going to play Coburn and Bartulis, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Parent is given a shot as well.
Regardless of what people are saying, this is going to be an entertaining series. I don’t want to go up 3-1 in the series and blow it like last time, and I’m sure Boosh and Gagne are going to do their best to not relive that experience from 10 years ago.
Richie, lead us into the Prudential Center and grab us at least a split of the first two away games and take home ice away from them. Bring it back for two home games and I swear to you you’ll find some love and support towards your cause. Show us why you have that C. Do what Keith Primeau would have done.