[LOS ANGELES, CA] -- We went to see an
Eagles Concert last Saturday at the hallowed Hollywood Bowl. The band
joked about hosting the 'Assisted Living' tour given their advanced
age but still rocked the house with all their hits over two hours.
Across the continent, in the city where
the band's NFL football namesake resides, there's not so harmonious
music being made in the locker room of a team surging to an unlikely
first round upset.
The Philadelphia Flyers were underdogs entering their first round
matchup against the New Jersey Devils despite the fact that they were
undefeated against them in the regular season. Even with a roster full
of big names, the Broad Street Bullies chugged over the post season
finish line on the season's last day. A major factor in the
disappointing regular season was the longstanding goaltending dilemma
that ended with the last man standing being both an old friend and an
Brian Boucher was the Flyers number one draft pick in 1995, the 22nd
player select overall. It was thought back then that Boucher was going
to be the connection to the long lost net minding glory of Bernie
Parent and Ron Hextall. Brian had a three-year run before being
banished to Phoenix (these days not quite a bad banishment) for
Michael Handzus and Robert Esche.
You may recall that during one of his
stints in Phoenix (he's had two) he set an NHL modern day record in
the 2003-04 with five consecutive shutouts. Then, the nuclear winter
that was the NHL lockout occurred and that flipped Boucher’s status to
the dreaded designation of "journeyman".
He bounced to Europe, the AHL and then
back to the NHL with a cushy gig as Evgeni Nabokov's caddy in San
Jose. But when the injury plague hit the Flyers he was brought back
home but there was no celebration down Broad Street as his regular
season ended with a bad 9-18-3 record. But it's how he earned that
ninth win is why Brian is a character in this story, Boucher went save
for save with King Henrik Lundqvist in the season's thrilling final
game. Only when he stopped Rangers' world class underachiever Olli
Jokinen did the Flyers secure their playoff berth.
So with the deck stacked against Boucher and the Flyers, they've
acquitted themselves well in the first round against their Turnpike
rivals. If they're able to knock the Devils out and Ilya Kovalchuk
into unrestricted free agency, it would be a nice little story in the
land of Cheese Steaks.
Or so you would think.
The reality is the Flyers locker room is the most fractured of any NHL
playoff entry. Old school veterans like Chris Pronger question the
young leadership that's been given to the likes of Mike Richards and
Jeff Carter. Not that he resents the huge dollars given Richards and
Daniel Briere; it's the fact that the younger talent doesn't play the
game the right way. With comfortable wallets and no Stanley Cup rings,
the inexperienced pivotal players have a 'me first' mentality that's
created a mini-Grand Canyon in South Philly.
The plot gets really juicy with the Flyers holding a commanding 3-1
lead against the Kovalchuks, but in the process losing two key
players, Simon Gagne and Jeff Carter.
Assuming they close out the Newarkers,
the stakes (not cheese) get raised even further and with a two faction
locker room, it makes it almost impossible to beat the probably second
round opponent, the Washington Capitals.
If they don't make quick work of the
Devils and they get extended to a Game 7 on the road, how much of a
chance would you give a team that barely tolerates each other in the
HERE AND THERE
Playoff time is awesome for both the fans and the media. The intensity
is off the chart, there are no blowouts and the spotlight shines very
brightly. Some observations from press row...
...I've campaigned since the season started that Rob Blake is badly
miscast as the captain of the San Jose Sharks and never was that more
evident than in Game 3 of their playoff series against the Avalanche.
After netting what could have proved to been a series deciding own
goal, Dan Boyle faced the music in the post game locker room. Boyle
faced the press with dignity and grace, just like he did when the
Sharks were eliminated in Game 6 last year in Anaheim. Although he's
won a Stanley Cup, true leadership is exhibited when you win, not
lose. If Todd McLellan survives another possible early season exit (GM
Doug Wilson should go down if and when there's a still another South
Bay flop), his first order of business should be to bring the C where
it truly belongs, on Dan Boyle's chest.
...I'm pretty sure my vote for Drew Doughty as the Norris Winner was a
...Vancouver writers: A conspiracy against a team who played sub-.500
hockey and routinely disappears in April? Please, the conspiracy is
how the Kings are 9 for 16 on the powerplay. Come up with something
more viable like Roberto Luongo was brainwashed during the Olympics.
...While the Kings-Canucks looks like a seven game series, there's one
huge difference between these teams. Los Angeles possesses a far
superior defensive unit; Vancouver can't trump the offensive prowess
of Doughty and Jack Johnson and really misses the presence of Willie
Mitchell in front of the net. Even if they were to outlast the over
achieving Kings and win the series, they're neither sturdy nor
talented enough on the backline to go much farther.
...To stir the pot in Denver for you nice Avalanche folks, try this on
one for size. Craig Anderson: Nice guy, nice season, average
goaltender. He'll be a backup in two years.
...Maybe the Hawks get off the deck but they need to stop reading all
the great press about themselves and get in the game.
...So if you're Kings GM Dean Lombardi and you get a call from Patrick
Marleau's agent on July 1, would you take the call?
...All of a sudden, my October Stanley Cup pick of the Bruins isn't