Stop the bandwagon right now, I want to get off. That’s right. I am giving up on the most resilient team in Philadelphia sports history. I am thinking the unthinkable. The Flyers are done. They won’t win the Stanley Cup.
Irealize this position wins me no friends in a city that has embraced this hockey team as no other in its past, including the two championship clubs of the mid-70s. I understand there has never been a team that better symbolized the never-say-die attitude of its people than this noble band of warriors.
But the run is about to end, tantalizingly short of the ultimate goal. The Flyers will not win their first Stanley Cup in 35 years. They will not write a happy ending to one of the most improbable sports stories of our lifetime.
It’s all a simple matter of logic. If the Flyers couldn’t show up — couldn’t compete in the first period — for a Game 5 in Chicago that represented their best chance to win the Cup, there is only one reasonable conclusion. They are out of magic, out of gas, out of luck.
The team’s leader, Chris Pronger, was on the ice for six of the Chicago goals, and in the penalty box for the seventh. At one humbling point, he was also on his butt, the victim of a vicious (and clean) check by his nemesis, Dustin Byfuglien. Pronger’s humiliation was more than a bad game by a tired player; it was a preview of coming attractions.
There is much to admire in these Flyers. They are a seventh seed that won a shootout in the final regular-season game just to make the playoffs. They will be remembered for that incredible shift by Mike Richards that doomed Montreal. The way two nondescript goalies, Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher, shared the heroics has simply never happened. As for those comebacks against Boston, there will never be another team matching those feats.
But the truth is, all of that is a part of the sweet past. In the present, the Flyers have no goalie they can completely trust, no answer to the speed and energy of the Blackhawks, and no explanation for their own inconsistency.
Nothing would please me more than to eat these words next week, with a side order of confetti, but that’s not going to happen. Sometimes, you have to go with your head instead of your heart.
Sometimes, it’s more important to be right than to be popular.
So plan accordingly, Philadelphia.
There will be no parade this spring, no 2 million people clogging Broad Street to celebrate another championship. This amazing run is going to end a few strides short of the finish line.
The Flyers will be the most beloved also-ran in the history of Philadelphia sports. But when the season finally ends later this week, that’s all they will be — an also-ran.
– Angelo Cataldi is host of 610 WIP’s Morning Show, which airs weekdays from 5:30-10 a.m.
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