Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Reputation - not conspiracy - hurting Flyers

By Michael Rushton
The Phanatic Magazine

Philadelphia, PA – Much has been made of the treatment the Flyers have been receiving during their second-round playoff matchup with the Montreal Canadiens.

In fact, many fans, writers and analysts have already begun churning the wheel of conspiracy, hinting that perhaps Philadelphia is up against more than just the Canadiens themselves. Is the NHL rooting for the lone representative of Canada still alive in the postseason? Are the officials out to get the Black & Orange in an effort to help the Habs?

In a column written by Sam Donnellon for Tuesday’s Daily News, the writer brings up some convincing arguments to back up some of those claims. That includes a statement by "Daily News Live" analyst Chris Therien, a former Canadian-born Flyer, that his team felt like they were playing Canada’s team during a postseason bout with the Maple Leafs some seasons ago.

Well, I’m here to tell all you Catcher in the Rye-readers that it isn’t a conspiracy that is working against the Flyers. Instead, Philadelphia is being harmed by its own reputation.

You see, thanks to early-season shenanigans by Steve Downie, Jesse Boulerice, Randy Jones and Scott Hartnell, in the eyes of the officials, if it looks like a penalty by a Flyer, then it must be a penalty on the Flyers. Forget whether the prior’s suspensions were justified – that is a separate and old argument at this point – the bottom line is that suspensions were handed down, and the Flyers obtained a reputation in the process.

Think about it. When a crime is committed and police have no leads, if television and cinema have taught me anything, the law usually goes to the usual suspects to try and dig up information. The same thing happened in school when a prank was played on an unsuspecting teacher. Said instructor almost always went after the class clown, with or without proof.

That’s just how it works. Sorry.

Take Mike Richards’ phantom knee in Game 1. Replay showed the center leveled Alex Kovalev with a shoulder. However, the on-ice officials didn’t have the benefit of replay and if it looked like a knee, than it must have been a knee.

How about Derian Hatcher’s boarding call? It was such a viscous hit that Francis Bouillon was not only able to get right up afterwards, but he was able to take a few shots at Hatcher as well. Before the Flyers defenseman was booted out of the game, might I add. If you want to see a boarding, I think the Boston Bruins can show you some video of what a five-minute boarding penalty that warrants a suspension looks like.

Anyway, Hatcher’s hit deserved two minutes at best. And how about the liberties Montreal has been taking on the Flyers after the whistle? Likely, the black and white enforcers just see Montreal defending itself from the big and bad bully known as the Flyers.

But what can you do? It’s the bed Philadelphia made for itself all year long.

Michael Rushton can be reached a mrushton@phanaticmag.com or rushpac@comcast.net

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