I hate Ryan Miller.
I want to stab him in the throat with a rusty battery (is my Philly showing?).
He's the boogey man of Philly sports since I've been a kid.
That said, I knew this would be a tough series and the flyers limping into the playoffs did nothing to help that.
Then there was Ryan Miller and arguably the hottest team coming into the playoffs.
It was a great game. The Flyers and Sabres both came out swinging and playing some uptempo hockey. Big hits, great defense and timely saves....and a typical night for a Philly sports fan.
This game encapsulates the greater part of my existence as a Philly sports fan. The Flyers looked pretty good tonight-and that's the problem. Disappointment is something you come to live with and expect as a Philly sports fan...but that is not something unique to us. Lots of cities have disappointing teams. These fan bases have the luxury of being USED to the losing. It's the norm. It sucks to be a Detroit Lions fan, but you know they're going to lose. Washington Nationals? Do their fans even know their losing?
The problem is in Philly is that our teams have a unique talent-despite our emotional calluses built up after years of losing and disappointment, the teams manage to still find a way to give us that glimmer of hope-just that one little moment that tugs at your heart just enough to believe just a LITTLE....that this time will be different.
The Flyers lost 8 of their last 11. They were playing lifeless, listless hockey after having a screamingly strong first half of the season. It would have been easier if they came in and lost tonight playing that same kind of hockey.
They showed up though. They played with an intensity and a drive that we only saw glimpses of in the second half of the season. Tied nothing nothing going into the second and seeing that up tempo, blue collar, hustle and hit hockey you slowly started to forget the lackadaisical hockey we've been seeing for months. The Sabres played like they were the hottest eam coming into the playoffs and one of our big questions-goaltending-had some shining moments. The defense played strong hockey and made sure his first shots were easy ones. As much as I didn't want to get on the hook, that I didn't really want to believe that they could just "flip the switch" and play strong hockey, they started to get my attention.
Claude Giroux's couple shots hitting the post, Richards scrabbling in front of the net, Briere agitating his former team...all of them playing like we as fans wanted and hoped. They got me. They hooked me. I started to believe.
And any story needs to have a bogeyman. Tonight it was in the guise of Ryan Miller. Formerly played by Joe Carter in '93, the Rockies in 07, Mike Vernon in 97, Patrick Kane last year.
I'm not saying the Flyers are done, but I've seen a lot of stories that start this way with my Philly teams.
All that said, this sounds like a eulogy, more appropriate for a loss that ends a season rather than a first loss in a seven game series. Bobrovsky played well-the goal he let up was in traffic and was a breakdown of the defense. Richards looked like the Mike Richards we love- a hitter with a mean shot and a guy who leads by example. The defense looked great for long stretches, great in transition and creating turnovers. The Sabres are a good team, but rely on their speed more than their size. The Flyers win on the scales so if they can drag this series out a bit, the bigger guys who can take and deal the punishment better might come out on top. I mean, really....can you doubt a team that came down from a 3-0 game defeceit and a 3-0 goal defeceit just a year ago? And 100% or not, Pronger will hopefully be back Saturday and that adds some attitude and even more depth to a good defensive corp.
Son of a bitch. They got me on the hook again. Flyers in 6.
Let's go Flyers!
PS. If, after the battery reference, youbring up any of that "typical Philly fan" crap, I may actually pelt you with a battery. Don't get me started on that rant...though Ed Rendell-former PA governor, Philly mayor and all around good guy, has a pretty thorough rebuttal of the steroetype: