Thursday, June 10, 2010

Phillies Better Start Winning Immediately

Wading through the disappointment this morning, I am ultimately left with the same sort of acceptance experienced after Dallas thoroughly whipped the Eagles in last year’s NFL play-offs. Candidly, I don’t really need to see anymore of this hockey series to know the Blackhawks are a better team than the Flyers.

These two teams played six games. The Hawks had the better of the play in two games, the Flyers in one, three were pretty even (the two overtime games and the first game exercise in trading goals). I bet that is a pretty typical distribution for a series of this nature: one team a clear, but not overwhelming, step better than the other. The trick for the underdog is to disproportionately cash in those even games- but the Flyers ultimately could get only one of the OT games.

It is frustrating- because even merely good goaltending probably brings all of those games home to the win column. The hype aside, the weakest part of the Hawks team in the series was their own goalie Antti Niemi. Put Ryan Miller or Lundqvist in the Flyer’s goal- and Philadelphia makes a lot of this gap up. But without an offensively challenged Montreal or Boston facing him, Leighton matched Niemi's pedestrian play. The chance of distinctly winning the goalie match-up, to compensate for issues elsewhere, went away.

Some might want to dump on Richards, Gagne and Carter. But you know, Chicago is allowed to be good too- and their top defense pair is simply super. I think it was a mistake to not consider breaking them up a little- much like Chicago did their top line to avoid Pronger.

I also would have liked to see more of Carcillo- press the violence and distraction angle some more. It is no surprise to me that the Flyers best game was the one he played in Philadelphia. They got absolutely nothing from van Riemsdyck- a minus two last night. Carcillo would have been an excellent banger to spot and mix in with Richards, Gagne and Carter. People mock the guy- but he is a valuable tool to send after excitable personalities on the other team. There is a reason why guys like him populate NHL rosters- and why the Flyers attitude picked up when he got ice time.

Nevertheless, more Carcillo is not a recipe for big improvements. So goalie is where the improvements have to begin for Philadelphia. They struggled all regular season in nets- leading to a desperate effort to even make the play-offs. And honestly, how many times since 1987- the year Ron Hextall won the Conn Smythe, have the Flyers entered the play-offs with a goaltender realistically in the top six of sixteen in the tournament? Maybe the rejuvenated Hextall in 1995?

They must have a good nucleus. The last three years in succession are pretty commendable: lose conference final, lose first round due to a horrid opening draw (Pittsburgh), and lose Finals. Seems to be enough for a push again next year- but the Flyers need a goalie.

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