Saturday, June 09, 2012

Season over for Flyers fans' divisiveness with Kings

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor 

No matter how you feel about Mike Richards or Jeff Carter or Simon Gagne (though public sentiment is overwhelmingly in the third name's corner as opposed to the first two), I hope you recall their initial foray into the glory that is the Stanley Cup Finals ended like this:

That was two years ago tonight.

For many of us, it qualifies as the worst ending to a Flyers season in our lifetimes, and it doubles as a hail of blows to the solar plexus because it was a sequence of events which blew up the club's hopes to stay alive in the finals, in sudden-death overtime, in front of the ever-hopeful home crowd.

Add to that the fact that nobody outside of Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp -- not the television personalities of NBC and CBC and least of all the radio crews in both cities -- knew what really transpired for moments afterward, you have the makings of a memory where time seems to stop, stand still and then warp like taffy beyond anyone's control.

Worst of all, you never could shake the feeling that once everyone came to their senses and put the pieces together, the true outcome would never be favorable.

Had Kane's shot been somehow squeezed off between Michael Leighton's pads, or had gone through only to trickle out to the far side of the net, there were no guarantees the Flyers could score thereafter to win it. Even less certain, the possibility of riding that wave to a Game 7 victory in Chicago, where the Blackhawks tallied 15 goals in winning their first three tries in the series at United Center.

So, when you add up all the transgressions, real or imagined, particularly of the Terror Twins both on and off the ice while they roamed Philadelphia, know that there's a slight karmic debt that has to be paid by the hockey gods for living through that nightmare.

It's going to happen whether you like it or not, so all the haters should find some place in their souls to heal and to forgive. You only have three more opportunities: tonight, Monday and Wednesday.

It's time to forget, because you have to realize, none of the ex-Flyers on the Los Angeles Kings really care if you wish them ill. It may even ease the burdens you carry from witnessing the thing that dare not be mentioned, which occurred at either 4:06 or 4:10 or 4:06 of the extra session on June 9, 2010.

Ask yourselves if there ever any time in your lives while playing sports you wish you had back because things beyond your influence conspired against your team?

Making that bucket to put your school ahead, only to see the other side drain a winning three as time expired. Hitting a line drive sure to score two when you're behind by one in the championship, only to see the shortstop make a lunging grab? And yes, thinking you have an open net only to see the goaltender dive across in time at point-blank range.

I've had enough of the endless blather between fan pitted against fan trying to prove who's a fan and who's not or who's got the high ground dissing the Carter/Richards binary star for whatever reasons. Though I hate telling people who invest their hearts, minds and dollars in their favorite pastimes how to react on a visceral level, I'm excepting myself this once because I see how some commenters love to do it to my colleagues:

Get over it. With 60 minutes of winning hockey standing between three ex-Flyers and their first Stanley Cup, you're either all in or all out. And I strongly suggest you go all in.

Carter sacrificed feet and a leg and saw all but one of his playoffs here shortened. Richards had two torn labrums three years ago and could barely take a faceoff, remember? Their failures as "leaders" are less their own than by management that each year has a plan in place, then won't hesitate to jump the line and go for broke at the slightest sign of progress. Richards is even on the cusp of becoming a member of the exclusive Triple Gold club among North Americans.

Both players now exist in the best of all possible worlds -- seasoned veterans, healthy, asked to be part of the mix instead of the spoons that must whip it all together.

Gagne suffered through concussion issues and groin issues and the insult of being a pawn in Paul Holmgren's Good Soldier game, then more concussion issues this year. You can't keep a good man down, even after shipping him to Tampa Bay. I don't need to list all his accomplishments, but he has Game 6 in OT against the Bolts in 2004 and Games 4 and 7 in 2010 against the Bruins to his credit and that's more than sufficient.

All are deserving equally of success that's just within grasp.

Same goes for LA assistant GM Ron Hextall, who as a player we last remember a shot by Rangers defenseman Chris Tamer from center ice slipping from his grasp in 1999, and a handful of bad goals in the 1997 Finals against Detroit. I guess 15 years is too long to recount the flambe his name endured from the masses after one too many long-range biscuits cost the Orange and Black.

You weren't for him then, and you're for him now? Don't waste time being so contrarian, so...Philadelphian about it.

Throw down your (verbal) arms, release the burden and enjoy the moment for what it is. Or don't, but steer well clear and stew in it while the rest of us bask in the warmth of some reflected glory.

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