The Philadelphia Flyers were on track to reach the conference finals just a few days ago. In addition, Flyers fans like myself were a little interested in how Ilya Bryzgalov's old team - and Mike Richards and Jeff Carter's new team - were on track to reach the conference finals as well. Yet as of May 5, the Phoenix Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings are on a much easier track to the NHL's final four than Philadelphia is.
The Coyotes retook a stranglehold over the Nashville Predators on May 4 with a 1-0 shutout that secured a 3-1 series lead. This came 24 hours after the Kings took a 3-0 chokehold over the St. Louis Blues with a 4-2 victory in their Game 3. Now in just a few days, the Coyotes and Kings could already be set for a conference finals showdown - which would make it all the more embarrassing if the Flyers didn't join them.
With Philadelphia now staring down a sudden 2-1 deficit to the New Jersey Devils, its chances for an earlier than expected elimination have drastically increased. Should that happen, the Flyers will likely have to live down how the Coyotes lasted longer without Bryzgalov than Philadelphia did with him. There have already been enough reasons to second guess the Flyers for signing him, but this would shoot right up to No. 1.
But that wouldn't be the worst of it, considering how the Flyers gave away Richards and Carter last summer as well - and now even they might last longer in the postseason. Carter was especially supposed to get the worst of it when he was traded to the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets. Yet by dumb luck, he got reunited with Richards in Los Angeles and now they have helped the Kings dominate the two top seeds in the West.
Last summer reshaped the Flyers into a brand new team, and it looked like they had gotten the better end of the deal with so many new, young stars emerging. Although the Coyotes and Kings are proving to benefit from the Flyers' wheeling and dealing as well, it looked like all three teams would roll into their conference finals to settle who made out best.
Instead, now that Phoenix and Los Angeles are rolling towards each other in the Western finals, the pressure is on Philadelphia. If the Flyers can't even get to the conference finals with Bryzgalov and without Richards and Carter, while either the Coyotes or Kings reach the Stanley Cup finals, it will put last summer in a new troubling light. Although all those deals might benefit the Flyers more in the long term, the short term is suddenly turning against them.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and a Flyers fan since the age of eight.
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