The Philadelphia Flyers have a lot of postseason traditions - like mediocre goaltending and not winning a Stanley Cup. Yet Flyers fans like myself have been used to a new playoff tradition in the last two years-facing off with the Boston Bruins. And there was a chance that for the third straight year, Philadelphia and Boston would meet in the second round yet again.
Instead, the Washington Capitals killed off this potential threequel in Game 7 of the first round on April 25. With their 2-1 overtime win, the Capitals made the Flyers' Stanley Cup route a lot clearer without the Bruins around for once.
If the Bruins won, they would have faced the Flyers again if the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils won their Game 7's on April 26. But if Boston prevailed, Philadelphia really would have needed either New York or the Florida Panthers to lose to avoid the Rangers in the next round. Yet given how the Bruins have made life difficult for the Flyers in the last few years, it would have been just like them to stick around and put a wrench into things again.
However, the Capitals did just what the Flyers did in 2010 - win a Game 7 in Boston. Of course, Washington didn't need to rally from a 3-0 series deficit to do it, and Philadelphia didn't need overtime to win its Game 7 two years ago. But the Capitals did forge a Cinderella story of their own, as they recovered from a mostly abysmal regular season to become clutch in the playoffs - unlike the Stanley Cup favored Capitals of the last several postseasons.
Tim Thomas stole the Stanley Cup for the Bruins last year, yet he was outdone by new Washington star Braden Holtby. After years of uncertainty at goal, the Capitals suddenly have someone to rely on in former third-stringer Holtby - and if Washington can fix that fatal flaw, surely Philadelphia can as well.
At the least, the Flyers won't have to deal with Thomas or the Bruins in the meantime, as this will be their first postseason apart since 2009. The memories of Philadelphia's 3-0 rally in 2010 and its much uglier 4-0 sweep-out in 2011 won't hang over these playoffs - as its biggest psychological obstacle left is that 0-6 record this year against New York.
Yet because of the Capitals' upset, the Flyers and Rangers now won't meet until the conference finals, which is just what Philadelphia needed. What's more, the Ottawa Senators still have designs on knocking the Rangers out early too - and if that happens, the Flyers will actually host Game 1 of the second round. It might even come against the Capitals themselves - so hopefully Philadelphia won't live to regret rooting for Washington over Boston.
For now, the Capitals' upset is a gift, as the Flyers can breathe a little easier without the Bruins to get in the way anymore. No matter what, there will be a new Stanley Cup champion in 2012 - and with every upset, Philadelphia's hopes to be that champion are rising a little higher.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and a Flyers fan since the age of eight.
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