The showing of the Flyers in game 5 in Chicago surprised almost all of us. Probably the same amount of us will be surprised if the Flyers don't win tonight. Let's face it, this has been a series dominated by the home teams and with it returning to the City of Brotherly Love tonight, I see no reason why that trend shouldn't continue for one more game. This morning's fly-by linked to an article listing five reasons the Hawks would win. Sure five is a nice number, it's nice and round (meaning that people base Anniversaries off it, not that it's even) and it's really easy to multiply (a huge factor when determining if a number is nice or not.). Well to answer that article I decided to list some reasons why the Flyers should win tonight. They chose five, I chose 21,414. So here after the jump, in no particular order, are a few thousand reasons why we should push the series to a game 7.Reason #1 - Relentlessness
This team has been pushed to the brink on too many occasions to handle. Whether it was a must-win game against the Rangers to get into the dance, or the three game hole they dug for themselves against Boston, at no point has this team thrown in the towel or decided that they couldn't overcome whatever obstacle was in their way. We may have scoffed at the theme when it was introduced at the beginning of the year. Yet, little did we know it would be the most apt description in the English language, besides maybe Suprimeau...but then again that's not in the dictionary. Well, not official dictionaries anyway.
Reason #2 - Heart
Gene Hackman said it best when he beat his breast with a rolled up piece of paper. "Lots and lots of heart." Heart is taking a puck to the face and coming back weeks later to aid your team. Heart is having two broken feet and still playing 117% every night. Heart is playing against a skillful power play and giving everything you have just to keep that puck out of the net. Heart is not complaining about a stick you take to the jaw, its shaking it off and clearing the puck even though your sweater is stained with blood.
Reason #3 - Experience
The Flyers have been in this situation before. Their record with their backs against the wall is flawless this postseason. In fact, the Flyers haven't lost a game when the series can be clinched by either team. They have performed in big games, when it counts the most. High-pressure situations are nothing new to the Flyers or coach Peter Laviolette. Of course the Stanley Cup Finals are a different beast, but there should be no fear or trepidation in the locker room. What's one more "biggest game of your life?" In fact I say we spot them a 3-0 lead in the first just to toy with them. KIDDING! KIDDING! ONLY KIDDING! KNOCK ON WOOD AFTER READING THAT! SERIOUSLY I'M NOT JOKING!
Reason # 3.918 - Save Percentage
Michael Leighton's save percentage is tops out of all goalies who aren't named Jaroslav Halak, but he's playing golf so who cares about him. While some chalk this up to one man only, I view this as a team stat. Sure, a couple of those saves are ones that Leighton has no business making, where he robs someone of a rightful goal. I choose to look at it a little differently. Because his core-four defense is playing so well in front of him, the shots that Leighton actually sees are roughly 90% stoppable. If a team is allowing great scoring chances and shots from great angles then a goalie is going to need to be unbelievable to have that high of a save percentage. A team that's playing well defensively is only going to allow a handful of high-percentage shots, thus allowing their goalie to see and make the save on most of the shots he sees.
Reasons #4-#24 - The 20 players dressing tonight.
To a man every player seems to contribute something to this team game in and game out. (NOTE: I choose to overlook things like Parent's 0:41TOI from Game One where the only thing he really did was allow the Hawks to score) This lineup is filled from top to bottom (and yes, I am including Boosh even though he [hopefully] wont see any action tonight) with point-producers, role-players, shutdown-defenders and energy-inducers.
Reasons #25-#34 - Home Ice Record (9-1)
The Flyers have only dropped one game on Wachovia Center Ice this year. They have outplayed Chicago when hosting and there's no reason that won't continue tonight. (For more on home-ice advantage see reasons #1,081 - #21,384) Not to mention the fact that our ice is much better than theirs.
Reasons #35 - #55 - 20 Goals Produced by Non-Top Line guys
Blair Betts, Arron Asham, Dan Carcillo, James van Riemsdyk, and of course the Grilled Cheese Wonder himself Claude Giroux. These are all players who have deposited the biscuit in the basket despite not playing on one of the typical "scoring lines." Some of these goals have been key (Carcillo's vs NJ, Asham's vs MON) some have been surprising (Betts' vs CHI) and others have been down right pretty (Just about all of Giroux's) but they all have been necessary to bring the Flyers to where they are right now. The only question is, "Who will produce tonight?"
Reasons #56 - #433 - Blocked Shots
There's no debating that blocking shots is a key component to any defense, especially when playing a man down. The Flyers have totaled 378 blocks this postseason with each player having at least two, except David Laliberte and Jared Ross. The orange and the black are unafraid to lay out and take some rubber for the good of the team. Chris Pronger and Matt Carle in particular lead the two teams with 6.7 and 6.3 blocks,respectively, per 60 minutes of ice time (5-on-5 Only). Considering that for Chris Pronger 60 minutes of ice time is about 1.8 games that's pretty impressive. They are the only two players in the league over an average of six. This is the type of sacrifice that will take you far into the playoffs and enough of it can even win you the Cup. Also, you'll be riddled with bruises and chicks dig that.
Reasons #434 - #1,080 - Hitting
There's no debating that the Flyers play well when they are hitting. Amassing 647 hits in the playoffs, the Flyers, when disciplined and physical, dominate their opponents. You might be surprised, though it makes perfect sense when you think about it, that Darroll Powe actually leads the Flyers in hits with 65. He is followed by Scott Hartnell (who would lead the team if hitting the ice counted as well) and Braydon Coburn. Hits are hard to compare between teams because what is a hit in Chicago is probably not going to count most of the time in Philadelphia. Dustin Byfuglien leads his team with 93 hits but he and Dustin Seabrook are the only two that have outhit Powe. While the top Hawks may have more than the top Flyers (again, I'm not adjusting for the notoriously stingy statisticians in Philadelphia) the Flyers have a very deep hitting chart with even Danny Briere accumulating 21. By the way does anyone else think it's really cute when he tries to hit someone? It's like watching a toddler try to stand up the first few times. But I digress.
Reasons #1,081 - #21,384 - The Wachovia Center Crowd
Setting and resetting the record for highest attendance at a hockey game in Pennsylvania, the Flyers Faithful have been a force to be reckoned with. Tonight should be absolutely no different. In Game 3, the crowd was tentative and nervous. This might be the case tonight as the Stanley Cup will be in the building and there is no way the Flyers can skate with it after the final horn. However, I choose to believe that the crowd will be even more energized tonight, willing their team on, not allowing them to lose. There is only one thing louder than the collective voice of 20,000+ at the Wachovia Center and that is the silence of 20,000+. So I urge you, if you are going to the game tonight. BE AS LOUD AS YOU CAN BE! Also, do you have an extra ticket?
Reasons #21,385 - #21,410 - 35 Years of Hunger
1975. It was the last time the orange and black army has had a reason to walk down Broad Street. 1987. It was the closest we've come since then, forcing a game 7 after an amazing goal by J.J. Daigneault. 1997. It was the last time we got to put pretty patches on our uniforms with hockey's ultimate goal emblazoned on them. We want it, we deserve it and we're going to get it. Sure they've waited almost 50 years but they can wait more. I mean they're used to it right?
Reasons #21, 411 - #21,414 - The Hockey Gods
(Author's note: Why Three? I see the Hockey Gods being a 3-in-1 deal. There's the Fathers, the inventers of the sport itself, The Son, Lord Stanley himself, and of course, The Holy Spirit, a shared collective spirit that is inside of every hockey player pro, amateur and want-to-be alike. The spirit is personified best, in my humble opinion, by players such as Kimmo Timmonen, Brian Boucher, and Mike Richards. )
While the Flyers have been genuflecting at the altar of their sport, patiently waiting and keeping the faith through multiple trials like a French-Canadian Job, the Blackhawks have been pissing on upside down crosses while creating false idols and coveting their neighbor's cups. Lets face it after all the things the Blackhawks have done to tempt fate (Laid out beautifully in an article by Travis yesterday), if they win the Cup, I will cease to believe in any and all higher power.
So there you have it folks, the reasons why we should be heading to the Windy City on Friday. I hope to Jeebus I'm right.