In the End There Was a Memory, But Forever....There is Only One Crest
I can remember back to late September, 2011, and logging onto the Flyers website to catch our pre-season games against teams like the Leafs, the Wings, the Devils and the Rangers, and it's funny how that seems like such a distant memory.
I remember sitting at a desk at home with my earphones on, praying to God that the feed came in and stopped skipping because all I wanted to see were our new players and how this face-lifted squad presented themselves as an assemblage, united by one crest. These pre-season matches weren't televised. I mean, some were, but to watch the rest you became a slave to some of the crappiest internet streams any programmer could ever come up with.
I remember watching Jaromir Jagr scoring his first in Orange & Black against the Red Wings, I remember the banana fiasco involving Wayne Simmonds' shootout attempt up in London, ON. And I remember witnessing Matt Read solidifying a roster spot while leaving no room for doubt.
Like I said, it all just feels like a decade ago. So much has happened since those September nights, huddled in front of a computer screen, aching to get the regular schedule underway. And when the 2011-12 season finally began, we ruined the 2011 Stanley Cup Champions' banner night by defeating the Boston Bruins in their own barn, in front of their own fans, in front of their Cup.
When you manage to put things into perspective (as a Flyers fan) then you shouldn't be able to help the feeling that this season has -- more or less -- been a success. Fresh faces, fresh talent, more youth and a different look to the Broad Street Bullies.
Expectations were......well, they weren't high nor low. We really had no clue what to expect from a team built out of aged vets and more whippersnappers than any Club in the League!
Claude Giroux was just a "very good potential talent" back then. Ha! Waaaay back then. Chris Pronger wore the 'C' on his sweater like General Patton wore an intimidating sneer on his face; with authority.
We were all given a look inside the sacred hallways, rooms and lives of our organization, its players and coaches with HBO's 24/7 series. And from that, we witnessed our boys play under the stars in Citizen Bank Park.
As the season grew onward, we welcomed even more new faces with talents that quenched the needs of this team almost immediately, while simultaneously we experienced keystone players falling to injury after injury after injury.
No one's ever said it's easy to be a Philadelphia Flyers fan. Our world has circled the sun thirty-seven times since Lord Stanley was placed in our players' hands. Broad Street has seen 13,505 moons since the last dawn stretched over our city's pavement, ready to host a Cup parade.
Yet, here we are.
Continually coming back, year after year, with that small glimmer of hope which sits in the center of our souls like a pilot-light. And as the sun sets on one season, our wounds heal quickly and the Bullies fanatics set their clocks for the next upcoming 82-games.
It wasn't the way we all wanted to go out. Hell, it wasn't the way we even expected to go out.
A Best of Seven Series with our division rivals, the New Jersey Devils, ending in only five. Losing the last four like a reverse diagram of the evolution of man. And oddly enough, for the fourth straight game in a row, our Flyers scored first.
Almost like a curse, that first goal (which ended up being our only goal) was answered by the Devils -- not once, but -- twice in the 1st period.
After Bryce Salvador put a fluky wrist-shot on Bryzgalov which camped top shelf, it was David Clarkson who potted the game-winning puck midway through the opening frame. And, ohhhhh what a shittastic goal it was --
Many are quick to judge Timonen's decision to pass the puck backward to Bryzgalov, because our $51-million netminder is notorious for having the puck-handling skills of Edward Scissorhands.
"Terrible mistake by our veteran defender," you say.
Though I absolutely agree that Ilya Bryzgalov is the last player I want with possession, Kimmo Timonen was looking for Bryz to make a routine pass to the opposite d-man, who in this case was Braydon Coburn, waiting up alongside the far boards.
Like a deer in the headlights, Ilya played a game of chicken with a forechecking Clarkson and managed to flick the puck in the one space a Devil was occupying.
That goal, that play.....pretty much summed up Ilya's first season here in Philadelphia. And to think it wound up being the game's winning goal is just an additional shot to the chones.
I feel for Bryz, though. He's a character, that's for sure. But there's no question he wants to win. In his own special needs way, Ilya Bryzgalov -- surrounded with the correct personnel -- seems right between Philadelphia's pipes. Afterall, he is the only goalie this season who managed the NHL's Star of the Month in March.
Is that milestone enough to drown out the season he was having prior, or this bad-bounce in Game 5?
I don't know. I honestly can't give you an opinion. His contract anchors him in this city for the next eight seasons. Barring an eye-popping circumstance, Bryzgalov's here to stay, and the sooner we get used to it, the sooner we allow that question to roll under us like water beneath a bridge.
The rest of regulation came and went. There were the traditional missed calls and bad calls by the officials, but overall there's no way you can take anything from how dominating the Devils were all Series long.
And of course it was Ilya Kovalchuk with New Jersey's third and final goal in the 3rd frame that ripped into our hearts and chest like a serrated bayonet.
Some hometown fans had taken that as their key to leave, and to them I say.....good riddance. If you can't sit around and wait to salute your team off our ice in our final tilt, then you simply don't deserve to be there in the first place.
But as the final minutes melted from the clock like articles of clothing off a stripper, the reality of an early exit grew heavier on our broken hearts like losing someone close to you. We watched their last breath escape them, and then it finally came time to say goodbye.
As this chronicle started off, it's all a memory now. A memory filed and registered with the seasons past like another photo in a photo-album.
We tip our caps to the Orange Brethren, and keep the Open-Armed-Welcome crisp and fresh which will be ready for them to absorb come August. In the meantime, our minds race with questions such as; Who's staying? Who's leaving? What's Holmgren's plan now? Who is our organization scouting for the NHL's Entry Draft? Is Matt fucking Carle finally going to leave?
Sorry for that last one. I saw red for a moment, I apologize.
Before this season's first puck dropped, one thing was certain -- It was going to be an interesting year. And down to the final seconds, it lived up to (at least) that expectation.
My fellow readers --
It's been an honor serving this Flyers tour of battle with each of you.
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