So this is what it must have felt like for all the Penguins fans after the Flyers had taken them down 3-games to zero in the QuarterFinals. You go into a Series with great expectations only to have your world flipped upside down. You're asking questions you know the answers to, you just don't want to believe them. You don't want to acknowledge them.
You're so damn frustrated and depressed, you don't know whether to scream or cry. Is it a question of heart and hunger? Or is it simply that New Jersey's the better team?
Does it matter? It doesn't change a thing.
We're down in this SemiFinals Series, 3 - 1, because of the Devils' unmerciful forecheck, their zone defense, and their ability to capitalize on our mistakes. Which are many. Without Bryzgalov's effort between the pipes, last night's 4 - 2 loss could have been doubled in goals against us. Alas, another one of Ilya's performances ends in vain.
Though the Flyers had gone up on the scoreboard, 2 - 0, to begin the match, New Jersey buckled down and brought the heat we've seen virtually all series long. Another lead seen lost.
And now, here we sit, the day after our loss. On the brink of elimination and 32-hours away from what could possibly be our final stand of the 2011-12 season.
There really isn't much to report that hasn't been already. Except this time our team's frustration was made visible by our squad's greatest star, Claude Giroux.
As the 2nd period was winding down, New Jersey had already scored three unanswered goals to capture the lead away from Philadelphia. An angered Giroux skated in on Dainius Zubrus (who did not possess the puck at the time) and focused a shoulder crunch on Zubrus' head --
As a Flyers fan, it wasn't something I was happy to see. We witnessed Pittsburgh star forwards like James Neal and Evgeni Malkin target our players' heads due to their frustration clouding their judgement, and we ripped them apart for it.
Though Giroux's headshot on Zubrus wasn't anything close to Neal supermanning into Couturier, or Malkin's countless dirty attempts at the skulls of our players away from the action, it was certainly a textbook play that the League is focusing on eliminating.
"He surprised me," Zubrus said. "I don't think the puck was that near, so I was just trying to get in on the forecheck. He decided to play me. I had a similar hit earlier in the year where I felt the point of contact was in the head and it was a similar thing where he didn't get me in the jaw or anything, didn't knock me out, but I still needed a few seconds for sure just to kind of get back to it and get my feet back under me.
"Then, I went to the room. It was the end of the period, so I had plenty of (time) to recover and get looked at by the doctors and I felt fine."
In his post-game interview, Giroux mentioned:
"I was trying to finish my hit, and he kinda leaned in and he kinda tried to chip the puck in. I didn't see the replay, so I don't know, but obviously I'm not a dirty player. I don't want to hit guys on the head. I was just trying to finish my hit there."
Prior to the incident, Giroux had been screaming at the officials for a non-call that had happened seconds earlier. Marty Brodeur (clearly) stepped out of his trapezoid while handling the puck away from the forechecking Flyers, Giroux noticed it and decided to give the refs an earful.
For his questionable shot on Zubrus, Giroux's scheduled for a disciplinary hearing today (Monday, 7-May) with the Department of Player Safety (via telephone). His expressed anger for the referees will not play in his favor, only it'll further prove he had motivation to deliver the headshot on Zubrus with retaliating purpose.
However, Claude's never once been suspended or even questioned to be a dirty player. And if Shea Weber can get away with a $2,500 fine for slamming Zetterberg's face off a stanchion, then Giroux could possibly exit the issue with the same slap on his wrist.
On the ice, Giroux was handed a 2-minute minor for an illegal check to the head. Zubrus was not injured on the play. These are two other factors that coin into Claude's favor.
Regardless, the shot was without a doubt unethical. It spoke volumes on how effective the Devils have played against us. When you're outshot 43 - 22, your star forward (and unofficial leader) has to be your team's beacon. Your lighthouse. A guide.
We lost that when Giroux snuck up on Zubrus.
And as TSN's Bob McKenzie points out, it's a clear violation of Rule 48 which Claude could easily be suspended for. So we're possibly skating into an elimination Game 5 without our best player.
A player who had a shorthanded goal and assisted on Hartnell's PPG in last night's 4 - 2 loss. A player who's graduated to Super Star Status in this League.
Pffffff, this League? Try the world.
We lose Claude Giroux for a game, and our already-terrible likeliness of advancing into the Conference Finals gets even worse.
Aside from Giroux's infraction, I can totally understand his disappointment, his frustration and his anger with the officials for missing the call on Brodeur. In fact, ever since Marty opened his mouth and complained about the "interference" on him in Game 1's overtime loss, he's managed to absorb the favorable end of the officials' calls.
We saw Brayden Schenn head to the box in Game 3 for bumping Brodeur's legpad during a Flyers power-play (which if went uncalled, would have resulted in van Riemsdyk's PPG), and lastnight Scott Hartnell connected ever-so-slightly with Marty's skate as Harts snuck by the crease to screen.
What's infuriating is that in order to get a chance to beat this Devils team, we're going to need our grinders to position themselves on Brodeur's Welcome mat. But if they're called for goaltender interference simply for breathing heavily on #30 then the chances get even slimmer.
The Comeback Kids, we call them.
Well, if there ever was a chance to prove that nickname true, it's now. It starts Tuesday. I will say this -- if the Devils can win three games in a row, so can this Flyers team. Sure, it's looked like a great team versus a terrible team, but all it takes is desperation. When your back is against the wall and there's literally no more room for error, it's amazing how dangerous one can become.
And if you take a look at the firepower, the speed and work ethic from this Broad Street Club, dangerous would only be the beginnings of what could be an epic comeback.
Are the odds against us? Yes. We have a better chance of seeing Paris Hilton receive negative test results from a health clinic. But it can be done.
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