The Philadelphia Flyers may have already overcome a huge rival in the Pittsburgh Penguins. But Flyers fans like myself know that an even more powerful rival was waiting in the wings to ruin our Stanley Cup dreams. However, when the Ottawa Senators went up by 3-2 over the New York Rangers, we were ready to rejoice in the Rangers getting knocked out before they could spoil things for us.
Unfortunately, the Senators didn't quite have the killer instinct to finish off the huge upset. As such, the Rangers are still casting a shadow over the Flyers and the entire Eastern Conference, after surviving with a 2-1 win in Game 7 on April 26. Yet New York won't get to keep dominating Philadelphia until the Eastern Conference Finals, so there is a minor victory there.
The Rangers that won six straight games over the Flyers in the regular season did take a while to show up in the postseason. By the time they woke up, the Senators had put them on the brink of elimination and nearly given a huge gift to the entire conference. With the Boston Bruins also eliminated, Philadelphia could envision itself as the new Eastern favorite if New York lost one more time.
However, the Rangers came through and survived Game 6 in Ottawa, then took advantage of being back in Madison Square Garden for Game 7. New York opened up a 2-0 lead and let Henrik Lundqvist handle the rest, like he always does, which was just enough to keep Ottawa at bay.
The Senators may have exposed the Rangers to the rest of the playoff field - and maybe a team like the Washington Capitals can take better advantage in the next round. For that matter, maybe the Flyers can finally take advantage if they meet in the conference finals. But the big concern for Philadelphia and everyone else is that after this major scare, New York will wake up, fix its mistakes and dominate the rest of the way as expected.
Technically, this round worked out really well for the Rangers, as the Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins are both gone and there is no one left in the East above a No. 5 seed. And that No. 5 seed is a Flyers squad that barely put up a fight against the Rangers all season.
Philadelphia made out like a bandit in this round too, by upsetting Pittsburgh and actually getting home ice advantage over the New Jersey Devils in the next round. Yet as long as New York remains hanging around, there is the lingering fear that a harsh reality check is just around the corner.
Every time the Flyers thought they would take off in the regular season, the Rangers thumped them and proved that they weren't an elite team yet. Could the same formula repeat itself later in the conference finals? That is a long way off and might still never happen - but it would have been nice if the Senators already made sure the Flyers never had to answer that question.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and a Flyers fan since the age of eight.
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