Thursday, April 12, 2012

A day to Remember

It wasn't the Sixers beating the hapless Raptors, or the Phillies defeating a once-was-great Josh Johnson, or even the Flyers beating the Penguins. But last night's Philadelphia 'trifecta' - thanks Rich- was a compensating evening to the blows dealt on Saturday, thanks to the recently awakened Danny Briere.

I'm not going to comment on the Sixers winning 2 in a row other than by saying this- they are great at beating the Bobcats, Nets, Wizards, Cavs and Pistons, going 14-3 in those games against the worst teams in the east. Unfortunately, they won't match up with any of those teams in the playoffs. Ok.

The Phillies-well, they had bats against Josh Johnson, who gave up 10 hits his last start, and just isn't the same Josh Johnson from two years ago. Still, we'll take the confidence boost and hope it propels the team forward. Hunter Pence is on a roll, Jimmy Rollins is swinging a good bat, even when he gets out, and Shane Victorino has been a pillar of surprising consistency. But the fact that Ty Wigginton, Jim Thome, Juan Pierre and Laynce Nix see at-bats every game (not all of them obviously, but a combination) will be problematic for the Phillies as the year goes on. And with our depleted farm system, there's little hope of this improving throughout the year. Halladay is a beast, and expect somewhere between 50-60 wins this year from the big 3, putting the team in the 80-90 win category and a good, not great, shot at winning the division, making last seasons 102 wins seem even more impressive.

Now on to the real pleasure.

A good friend of mine Scotty Roesch sent me a message before the game predicting a 2-1 Flyers OT win, and for a shout out in my blog. He got 2/3rds of what he wanted.

Let me start by saying this- Scott was pretty darn right and pretty darn wrong about his prediction.

The Flyers made a good push at the end of the season to break out of the 5th-seed post, but they were just too far back and the Rangers were just too good and the playoff system is flawed. What I'm trying to say here is that this team wasn't satisfied with a fifth-seed and they didn't sit back all season. They didn't sit back last night either. Hence, the comeback. Hence, the overtime goal. Hence, the improbable win. That is where Scott was right.

Where he was wrong is that in no way were the Flyers going to hold the Pens, who haven't given their starters real minutes since locking up the fourth-seed almost a week ago, to just one goal in 60 minutes. He forgot the run of games where the Flyers surrendered a goal in the first five minutes, and two goals in the first 10 minutes, just like last nights contest.

This flaw in the system is two-fold- terribly inconsistent goal-tending, and a defense (and a front line for that matter) that isn't ready for the start of the game. Either the defense isn't prepared for battle ahead of time, or they crap their pants when the puck drops. How many times do you catch the team looking around for someone else to attack the puck, hoping the pressure is taken off them. There was a free puck more than a few instances last night in the first 10 minutes, with the Flyers standing around looking at each other- No one wanted it.

And Bryzgalov. What a train wreck at the beginning of games. The guy is never in position and completely over skates one-timers, leaving rebounds wide open and not even being in front of the net at the end of the play. The second goal-not his fault. The third goal-completely his fault. So I would be hard pressed to claim the Pens would score just one goal in extended time.

But the great part of last night is that none of that mattered to the Flyers, who have been in this situation more than not in the last 15 games. Down 3-0? Ok. Goalie and defense that uses the first period as warm up? No big deal. Danny Briere, were you on the team this year? Yes, I actually was.

A team that realizes a game is 60 minutes long is a team that will always have a chance to win. The Flyers realized a game can be more than 60 minutes long-and that is why they won. Chip away, correct the flaws, and believe in your coach. Laviolette, I give him credit, made the adjustments and didn't waver on his team. He didn't think of pulling Bryz, he didn't press the net in the second or third period and sacrifice defense, he just let his team play. And they responded. Capping a heck of a night for the city of Philadelphia.

But it's just game one. This is going to be a great series.

And I wanted to leave with a shout out to another friend of mine-Eric Bonds. Eric, who hasn't told anyone he's a Penguins fan his whole life, posted on facebook how the Pens 'got rid' of Jagr after 10 years. And finished with 'Go Pens,' after Pittsburgh came out hot in the first period and took the lead.

This has been a recent trend on facebook-unwarranted smack talking in which 1 of the 2 sides ultimately looks stupid. Calling Crosby a whiner and saying the Pens are dirty and whatever other smack talk comes out-it's just annoying- in both directions. Especially when you are invisible in the sports realm all season. I'm only citing Eric as an example. There were probably 10-15 posts on this crap yesterday. Don't confuse another teams success or potential success with your confidence and accomplishments. It doesn't mean anything to anyone but yourself. If you're going to comment on something, be a fan, or add something fruitful. Don't be a member of the high school spirit squad.

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