How many people – outside of the Philadelphia Flyers organization, maybe – thought that this team would be two wins away from winning a Cup after they barely eked their way into the playoffs by beating the New York Rangers in a shootout during the final game of the regular season? Seriously, when your postseason dreams rest on the eventual failure of Olli Jokinen, it’s hard to justifying any chest pounding.
Yet whether you call it destiny, magic or lucky bounces, the Flyers can call this a magical run even if they fall short of the “ultimate goal.”
They’ve had a ruthless killer instinct while holding a roach-like ability to ward off death. Overall, the team is a stunning 7-0 in games where they or their opponents could be eliminated. In other words, once the number “3” appeared on either side of a series score, the Flyers never lost.
Philadelphia is also generating some serious home cooking, as I discussed earlier. They’ve won seven games a row and are an outstanding 9-1 overall at the Wachovia Center.
After the jump, I’ll look at a few other reasons why this run has been “magical.”
Surviving goalie injuries
To start the season, many people wondered if Ray Emery could make it happen for the Flyers. Now the question is if Emery will ever play hockey again.
Overall, the team’s faced a ridiculous amount of injuries in net. As great a find as Michael Leighton turned out to be, did anyone think that he’d work out so well for Philly? And who thought that the team could grind out a tough run to the playoffs on the strength of journeyman backup Brian Boucher?
The rise of Giroux and Leino
Those “in the know” were aware of Claude Giroux and Ville Leino, but there’s no guarantee that players with a pedigree will deliver right away like those two. Former European league stud Leino could very well be the all-time leading scorer among playoff rookies (he’s currently at 19 points) while Giroux is even better in his second playoff appearance with 21.
When you have two unproven players emerge unexpectedly, your team can jump to another level. That’s exactly what happened for the Flyers.
Danny Briere’s rebirth
Can you believe that Briere is the second highest scorer in the playoffs with 27 points, only one behind league leader Jonathan Toews? While the hockey world never really doubted his scoring ability, he’s one of the most frequent whipping boys in all of the NHL.
Briere is at the height of his offensive creativity … something that just about no one saw coming.
Whatever way you slice it, all these factors came together to help the Flyers put together a Cup finals run that few expected. If their record in elimination and long-odds situations is any indication, I wouldn’t count them out just yet.