In a season where one of the participants in the Stanley Cup Finals needed a shootout goal in the last game of the regular season just to make the playoffs and completed a historic comeback by falling behind 3-0 in Game 7 all things are still possible.
Its just that after last night one wonders just how the Flyers
can find a miracle large enough to cover this hole.
Its not that the Flyers lost Game 5 in Chicago
, its that they got nuked in Chicago Sunday night. Chris Pronger was and unearthly -5, was on the ice for six of the Blackhawk goals and in the penalty box for the other. Season savior Michael Leighton was once again dreadful giving up three goals on 13 shots and raising his goals against average in these finals to a whopping 4.05.
This is not the way you win the Stanley Cup.
The Flyers should have seen this coming. The Blackhawks made a handful of line changes in the third period of Game 4 and all of them seemed to work. Chicago owned that third period and told everyone who would listen they were carrying momentum headed into Game 5. They did that and more.
Those line changes still worked Sunday night and the Flyers still had no answer for them. The middle of the ice became a playground for Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. The corners became Dustin Byfuglien's playpen where he threw the hit of the series to date on Chris Pronger and found his playoff mojo once again.
Those changes finally set loose the one great advantage the Blackhawks had coming into this series, team speed. The Flyers were in full retreat from the opposing blue line back Sunday night. They could not clog the neutral zone and could not possess the puck long enough to get it behind the quick Chicago blueline and get to the forecheck. That was the beginning of their doom.
Through the first three and a half games the Flyers were also good at never being outnumbered in their own zone and very good at being on the right side of the puck defensively. That started to fade in the third period of Game 4 and was gone entirely in Game 5. Chicago had too much room and too much time.
Michael Leighton was a victim of all of the above and again his own hand, or more precisely his own foot. The second goal Sunday night was as backbreaking as the second in Game 2. The Flyers were back pedaling at that moment, but not completely out of the game. They needed their goaltender to not only make the ordinary saves but a couple of great ones too. Instead they got a leaky second goal that was fatal.
Flyer fans will point at the scoreboard at 3-1, 4-2 and 5-3 and find hope. Yes, find hope that your team didn't quit, but don't kid yourself either. After 3-0 this game was O-V-E-R.
The good news here is that the Blackhawks and the Stanley Cup won't arrive in Wachovia Center until Wednesday night. That extra 24 hours could be just enough time for Peter Laviolette to push the right button one more time. The extra time could be just enough to run the Blackhawks record to 0-11 in Philly since 1996. The extra time could be enough for the Flyers to erase their memory banks one more time.
Find hope in all that the Flyers have done in this remarkable run to the Finals. Take solace in the comebacks you have witnessed since early April. But know that the hole has never been this deep. Know that the Stanley Cup will be in the house Wednesday night and only one team can take it home with them. Thanks to Sunday night that team is not the Flyers.