As a life-long Flyers fan, I'm accustomed to reveling in the road less taken. At 29 year old, my fondest memories are not of the championships my team has won, but of the accomplishments they have achieved in pursuit of that goal. I think to the 1997 playoffs in which the Flyers were swept by the Detroit Red Wings and my main memory is Eric Lindros out skating and maneuvering Mark Messier to get a hattrick on an empty net to finish off the Rangers. Despite the 2010 loss the Chicago, my memories of those playoffs are without a doubt the 3 previous rounds of OWNING the nemesis Devils, Epic come back against Boston, and Shutout hockey played with Montreal all while Michael Leighton elevated his game to a level unmatched previously or since.
That in mind, I think forward to the upcoming playoffs beginning Thursday night for the Flyers. Looking at the bracket, I can see a dream scenario for incorporating all the drama, excitement, and challenge that we crave as Flyers fans! We don't want to see push-overs unless it's because the Flyers are just so dominant (see round 1 of 2012 against the Penguins).
We already drew an epic first round match up of excitement playing against the Rangers. There is drama with a split season and no wins at MSG for a couple seasons (even though prior to this season is useless stats because the teams are so different). They are heated division rivals who have history. This also is an opportunity for retribution for the previous Winter Classic loss. I'm much more confident in the Flyers this year than I was in that year.
It's going to be exciting no matter if we get Pittsburgh or Blue Jackets. Personally, I would prefer the Penguins simply because we love to hate Crosby and company. Not to mention, we want a little blood for what happened to Mason. Owning them this season also helps. However, I would not feel slighted if Columbus prevails in Round 1. While they have much more history with the Rangers, and the rest of the NHL world would be disappointing to not see that match up, we still have Bob and Umberger to remember. Those are both guys that I liked while they were here and they make it just a little bit more emotional. The excitement of that headline, however, is castoffs Voracek, the 8th round pick that became Couturier, and Mason going against the Blue Jackets.
I'm hoping so much for the Bruins but I would also accept Detroit as a preferred opponent. The Lightning could be a 2nd runner up simply because they've been such a thorn in the Flyers' side the past couple seasons, but no real rivalry or extended history there (now that Lavy is gone) other than some retribution for Lecavalier. Detroit swept the Flyers in the 1997 Stanley Cup Finals and I've been waiting almost 2 decades for that wrong to be righted. It would be so nice to see the Flyers be the ones to knock them out. Assuming conventional wisdom prevails and the Bruins win, however, we have a lot of recent history with them. The polarizing experiences of the epic 2-in-1 come back against them along with being swept in recent playoff meetings (plus the obvious former cup-winning opponent in the 70's) makes for a rich history. They are heavy favorites to win the cup and the president trophy winners to boot. With little success against them in the regular season, that could be an epic upset! (Plus we don't want to let the Mez trade come back to bite us!)
I'm hoping everyone is on the same page as me for the number 1 most preferred opponent being the LA Kings. Or as many call them, West Coast Flyers. Going up against Carter, Richards, Williams, and Assistant Coach John Stevens would be highly emotional. Of course East Coast Kings (the Flyers) have Brayden Schenn, Simmer, future GM Hextall, and the aforementioned Blue Jackets return for Carter.
So tell me, what would be your most desired match ups for the remainder of the playoffs? Tell me in the comments section who they are and why!