The Flyers have gone 37 years without winning a Stanley Cup, despite some great teams and amazing players. How improbable would it be if the current collection of lovable misfits ended that drought?
Of course, a championship is still a long way away, but can’t we dream for a moment after that amazing win Sunday against the gutless Pittsburgh Penguins and their crybaby superstar Sidney Crosby? Can’t we fantasize that this team of slow starters filled with clueless rookies, a nutty goaltender and a tempestuous coach might just be the one to win it all?
The next time you hear an expert commentator predict what’s going to happen in this insane series, change the channel. Nobody predicted that the Flyers would be up 3-0 against the Cup favorites. Nobody saw the Penguins unraveling the way they have. And nobody envisioned that it would be the Flyers controlling play and winning respect.
Nothing is going according to plan right now, and that’s just fine. The playoffs are supposed to be a test of goaltending, you say? Well, Ilya Bryzgalov has a goals-against average of nearly four – and he’s undefeated. Compared to Penguins sieve Marc-Andre Fleury, Bryzgalov is the second coming of Bernie Parent. And Bryzgalov has been a model of locker-room decorum, another shocking twist.
Then there are the six Flyers who have never been to the NHL playoffs because this is their first year in the NHL. Sean Couturier, Matt Read, Braydon Schenn, Zac Rinaldo, Marc-Andre Bourdon and Eric Wellwood comprise nearly 30 percent of the post-season roster. The average age of the six is 22. Two of them aren’t old enough to drink.
All Couturier has done so far is make the MVP of the regular season, Evgeni Malkin, disappear. The kid even absorbed a cheap shot Sunday by James Neal and laughed in the thug’s face. Oh, yeah. The rookie also had a hat trick in Game 2. He will be 20 years old in December.
Schenn, 20, came here in the Mike Richards trade last summer, and the optimists predicted that someday he would compare to the former Flyer captain. But in his first year? In his first playoffs? Not a chance. And all Matt Read did was score 24 goals this season, and two more in his first three playoff games. That’s all.
What makes this Flyer team so amazing is its complete disdain for hockey convention. Good starts are imperative in the playoffs? The Flyers won the first three games after trailing 3-0, 2-0 and 1-0. Leadership is essential? Captain Chris Pronger is watching the games on his couch at home. A steady hand behind the bench is critical? Peter Laviolette was perched on a ledge two weeks ago threatening bodily harm against the Pittsburgh coaches.
No, this is no normal team, and this is definitely no normal series. Now all we can hope for, after so many years without a Stanley Cup, is for no normal ending, too.
Pat Burrell will be honored on May 15 with a final goodbye at Citizens Bank Park. I have only one question: Why?
When the Phillies announced their plans last week to sign Burrell to a one-day contract and schedule a special day for him, my first reaction was that the team is setting a terrible precedent. To me, Burrell was a disappointment in all ways but one. He did win a championship. We’re all grateful for that.
As a hitter, his legacy is the strikeout. He was known early in his career for flailing at any outside breaking ball that approached the plate. Later, he simply refused to swing at third strikes. In only nine seasons as a Phillie, he struck out 1,273 times, second most in team history. For this he gets a special day?
Yes, he put up some power numbers (257 homers and 827 RBIs), but not when they mattered most. Remember the parade, which he led with his dog Elvis? Well, that was the first time he led the team during the championship run. He hit .071 in the World Series, with no homers and one RBI. For a first-round draft pick still at the prime age of 32, shouldn’t we have expected more?
Finally, Burrell was a jerk. From the day he arrived in Clearwater, he was as aloof and fan-unfriendly as any Phillie in the past generation here. The next warm and fuzzy Pat Burrell story will be his first in Philadelphia.
Hey, I know we’re all supposed to remember the good in players at times like this, when they retire. No, thanks. May 15 will be a great day for him, but not for the many fans who know Pat Burrell for the player and person he really was.
A few weeks ago, there was widespread speculation that this could be the final season of Doug Collins’ brief reign as Sixers coach. Now many fans are not speculating anymore. They’re really hoping this is the end.
Collins is a good coach, demanding but fair, a father figure capable of appealing to the pampered brats he has adopted. In the past month, however, his commanding presence has evolved into an awkward aimlessness. During the team’s dreadful second half of the season, Collins has strategized with a dart board.
Exhibit A is Nik Vucevic, a rookie who played a grand total of three minutes in the first three games of April, and then was named the starter two days later. Exhibit B is Evan Turner, who finally emerged as a star very briefly last month before a return to the coach’s doghouse. Exhibit C is Andre Iguodala, who keeps getting the ball at key moments despite being the worst clutch player in the NBA.
Collins has lost his way with managing the fragile egos on the team, too, as he admitted last week when he said the players see him as an “ogre” now. He is so unsure of himself, he said he checks with assistants after timeouts to make certain he wasn’t too tough on the players.
The Sixers are going nowhere in the immediate future, with or without Doug Collins. Based on the past few weeks, they will be better off without him. It’s not enough anymore just to be better than Eddie Jordan.
Idle thoughts . . . .
• NBC hockey analyst Mike Milbury had his job threatened two weeks ago when he suggested that Sidney Crosby “has a bit of punk in him.” As we have all seen in the playoffs, Crosby is a whining child, a cheap-shot specialist, and yes, a punk. NBC owes Milbury an apology.
• There are reports that the Eagles are trying to move up to No. 4 to pick Ryan Tannehill of Texas A & M, a converted wide receiver who has played only 19 games at quarterback. Grooming a new, raw QB just doesn’t seem like the act of a coach fearing for his job, does it?
• The third anniversary of the passing of Harry Kalas was last Friday. No one man has ever had the impact on Philadelphia fans, in any sport, than the velvet-voiced gentleman who graced our presence for 39 magical years.
• The chants of “Freddie, Freddie, Freddie” at Citizens Bank Park are shocking, considering whom Freddie Galvis is replacing and his .222 batting average. It might be a good idea for Chase Utley to end his Arizona getaway. If I didn’t know better, I’d think his fans were cheating on him.
• In a sports world of creeps and lowlifes, there is a new king. Former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino, 52, hired a paramour half his age, covered up a motorcycle accident, and allegedly cheated on both his wife and girlfriend with “Miss Motorcycle Mania.” Where does he get the energy?