Flyers earn their touch of Wales trophy with tireless work ethic
PHILADELPHIA -- Why shouldn't the Flyers spit in superstition's eye? Why shouldn't captain
The team that was one shootout away from missing the playoffs entirely and one overtime goal away from being swept by Boston, the squad that needed to rally from three goals down to the Bruins in a deciding road game, yeah, that team could have been derailed by something far less imposing than a jinx. A good exhale could have done it. Maybe a mere hiccup.
Instead, the Flyers, a team of belief and will, of depth at every position, especially goaltender, battled injuries, a coaching change, and a 29th-place midseason standing in the league to rally itself into the Stanley Cup Final against the Blackhawks. The Flyers' 4-2 victory against the Canadiens on home ice in Game 5 sealed the result, but it was clear long ago that very little can strike fear into this squad.
"It's not the trophy we want," Richards said, "but we haven't done anything conventional all year, so we'll go against the grain one more time."
It was a day to celebrate goaltending in Philadelphia.
For the Flyers, who won their last Stanley Cup in 1975, it was a time to enjoy the fruits of their tireless and consistent work. "All year long, this team battled with a belief that there would be this kind of payoff at the end," said forward
In fact, the Flyers' long road to the finals revealed itself in numerous ways on Monday night. When
While learning the new system, they fell to 15-18-2 on Dec. 21 and sustained a five-game losing streak later in the season as they grew accustomed to new roles. "If you had looked at us eight, 10 games into Peter's [tenure], it wasn't pretty," said Pronger. "Once guys understood the commitment and responsibility, we began to gel, but it didn't happen overnight."
In Game 5, they seemed to swarm the Canadiens when they needed to and protect their goaltender when they had to. They failed on four power-play chances and gave Montreal windows of opportunity, but assumed control early and earned their touches of the trophy. "When we needed to, we made the big plays," said defenseman
Though the Flyers have been preaching better starts after a series of poor opening shifts, the Canadiens got on the board in the first minute. Pronger made a long outlet pass that failed to connect in center ice. The Canadiens turned the puck back into Philadelphia's zone and
The Flyers actually generated more chances in the first period with three shorthanded stints than with their two power plays. Soon after
That goal seemed to stomp out the Canadiens will for a good chunk of the game, and the idea of another series comeback began to fade as the night wore on. Shortly after another Montreal power play, Asham pushed the puck past Habs' defenseman
Three minutes into the second period, Montreal's
The Flyers increased the lead just 84 seconds later. Timonen took the puck from the point, skated to the left corner and fed Richards behind the net. Without a hesitation, the Flyers' captain made a one-touch pass to
The Canadiens had a good chance to get back into the game in the opening minute of the third period when
The Habs finally got one back at 6:53 in the third. Showing early and appropriate desperation with his team struggling to score, defenseman
Two minutes later, Subban again caused the Flyers some misery when he drove deep into their zone, spun with the puck and drew a double minor for high-sticking when he was clipped by Pronger. The Flyers allowed just one shot on goal during 2:23 of those minutes before
"They played well," said Montreal coach
As they had for much of the series, the Canadiens lacked a consistent net presence in front of Leighton. But give credit to the Flyers for that. They had jump on the puck and away from it, attending to little things as good Flyer teams often do. "Those small things add up," says Flyers forward