What we're talking about after last night's Game 6 at the Wachovia Center:
HARD TO BELIEVE:
With the clock winding down on the fading Flyers and the Stanley Cup all buffed and shiny, Ville Leino made another dazzling rush with the puck and Scott Hartnell scored and the game moved into overtime. And after all the Flyers had accomplished this spring, why not, eh? But Chicago's Patrick Kane put an end to those dreams.
Starting in the Game 5 blowout and continuing last night, the Hawks looked like the fresher team with more jump, getting to more loose pucks and winning puck battles along the boards. That translated into a 17-7 Chicago shot advantage after one period and 27-13 after two periods. There was a growing realization that the Flyers might have hit the wall after a playoff run for the ages.
After a huge Mike Richards hit reignited the building, Danny Briere scored at 8:00 of the second period, after a gorgeous move by Ville Leino, to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead. If momentum ever were to take over, this looked to be the time. But Chicago's Patrick Sharp scored 1:58 later to tie the score.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN:
The Hawks won the series. It was no fluke. They deserved it. The Flyers will reflect and know that even as the second-best team, they could have won the Stanley Cup. Looking back, the first two games in Chicago were the ones that got away from the Flyers. Both were winnable. Neither was. The feeling was those losses would come back to haunt the Flyers. They did.
When you make the Cup finals, "next year" is a mere 4 months away. The Flyers should be able to build off this wholly unpredictable playoff run. Their top forwards are young and can really play. In Michael Leighton, the Flyers have a quality goaltender. They need defensive help. If you're barely playing two of your defensemen, there needs to be improvement. In getting this far, the Flyers endeared themselves to an already adoring fan base and brought along many new fans who were in it for the excitement, but might have learned to love the hockey along the way.