The Philadelphia Flyers
deserve props for advancing this far in the NHL post-season. Weeks ago they
barely qualified as the seventh seed, needing over-time drama to claim a berth
over the New York Rangers.
Now they are in the Stanley
Cup finals after embarrassing the New Jersey Devils (who seemed for real),
beating the Boston Bruins and tripping up the hot but exhausted Montreal
Canadiens (who are one of the biggest surprises in sports this year).
On Saturday at 7pm (Cayman
time) this reporter feels all of the momentum will grind to a halt against the
Chicago Blackhawks in game one of the Stanley Cup finals on NBC. It’s not
because of the Flyers offense which is baffling teams with their production
from guys like Mike Richards and Daniel Briere. It’s not due to the Philly
defense, which commands respect with gritty players like Chris Pronger.
The real difference-maker in
this reporter’s eyes is the scorching play of Antti Niemi in net. Thanks to
Niemi the Blackhawks defense has the chaps in tight games not to give up soft
goals. His performance against the Vancouver Canucks (who this reporter
originally felt had a solid net-minder for the playoffs) showed he can shut the
door when tested.
It has been a good ride for
Philly but a title run should fall short in six games.