Go back to the days of the Broad street bullies and you will find the humble beginnings of a long cultivated identity that goes along with Philadelphia hockey. Tough as nails and full of grit, opponents learned that in order to play the Flyers you had to pay a physical price.
Players like Bobby Clarke, and Ron Hextall embodied this image more than any, and when Bob Clarke took over as the head of Personnel decisions, he made sure the roster was always stocked with players that fit the image. After all this is the team that took Steve Downie in the first round, not because he was a first round calibre player but because he was a Flyer type of guy.
This broad street bully mentality has suited the Flyers well for the last 30 years but back to back seasons of playing their cross state rivals in the playoffs may prove once and for all that the Broad Street Bullies are no longer relevant in the new NHL.
It was with relative ease that the Penguins swept the Flyers aside last season on their own improbably march to the Stanley cup. They played the game at a pace that the Flyers simply couldn't match and dealt with them rather easily in five games.
Hardly the end of the world, Flyers fans and members of the organization probably felt that they could have beaten the Penguins if a few breaks had of gone their way. That may well have been true but I can bet you the Flyers had absolutely no desire to test that theory again this year in the Playoffs. Yet, here in the first round they have drawn a Penguins that team that although the roster has changed, still emphasis speed and skill over brute force.
Game one was what I would call the epitome of a Flyer game. The Penguins carried the play, beat the Flyers to just about every loose puck and waited for their opportunities to capitalize on Flyer mistakes, which the Flyers gave them ample chances to do so.
I wasn't shocked when Lupol used a nudge from Letang to slam into Fleury, that is exactly how the Flyers won game seven last year against the Capitals. On the winning goal they crashed the goalie and claimed the player was pushed into the net....That is Flyer hockey.
I wasn't shocked when the Flyers tried to send a message at the end of Game one. Although I think the league needs to review the matter at the end of the season. Perhaps penalties in the final two minutes of a game need to carry over into the next game in a series. Jordan Staal could have had his career ended in Game one and for what, a 15 second penalty to the offending player.
Think for minute about if the Cleveland Cavaliers had to sit Lebron James for the final 2 minutes of a Basketball game because they were nervous that some role player on the other team might go out on the court with the intention of harming him to send a message. I mean really, think about that for a second.
The announcer on CBC couldn't even get the words out of his mouth before the Flyers starting to chop down Penguin players. But of course, everyone knows that is Flyer hockey.
Yet the most poignent message comes from the result of Game two. The Flyers played a solid game. They relied on the skill and talent of guys like Richards, Carter and Timmonen to play stride for stride with the Penguins.
The first time in 7 straight playoff games that the Flyers were able to do that. Yet in the end, they were again done in by Bone head Flyer hockey. They made the Penguins pay a price, but the Penguins simply made the Flyers pay.
If the Flyers lose to the Penguins for the second year in a row, it will be time for the Organization as a whole to re-think what it means to play Flyer Hockey. They have in my mind one of the greatest players in the NHL in Mike Richards and he spends most of the game killing penalties taken by the bone-head players he is surrounded with. (Its no wonder he led the league in Short handed goals).
If the Flyers lose to the Penguins again it will be time to surround Mike Richards with players that can send a message to the other team by putting the puck in the net, and not by slamming them head first into the boards.
I look at this situation alot like the Ottawa Senators of the early 2000's. The Senators were exactly the opposite. A finesse team that scored alot of points and then wilted in the playoffs every year.
Usually at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs (Back when the leaf actually still played play off games). Eventually the Senators got the message and started to bring in grit players. It wasn't until they got that balance that they started to go deeper into the playoffs, finally making it all the way to Cup Finals.
The Flyers have assets on their team, once they rid themselves of their Broad Street Bully attitude that permeates right at the top of the organization and filters all the way down to the players, I think they will be a formidable organization once again.
Another series loss to the Penguins and the Flyers as we know them might be gone forever. A lost relic of another era of hockey that is no longer relevant in today's new NHL.
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