The Philadelphia Flyers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins, which earned them the right to move onto the National Hockey League's second playoff round. Last season, the Flyers defeated the Buffalo Sabres in the first playoff round and then got set to face the Boston Bruins in a playoff rematch.
My, what a difference one hockey year makes.
Looking back at any hockey team's digital record reveals the barely recognizable names that many fans just had to have on their 'jersied' backs. And no that wasn't a New Jersey reference, though buying Martin Brodeur's threads at any point would have made a nice investment.
Driving home the Philadelphia point: Five years ago the Flyers began their season under the leadership of current St. Louis Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock, continued it under John Stevens and ended that 2006-07 season with a League worst 56 points. Obviously, there are no playoff notes to add, so let's just push that mental DVR forward by four years.
Brian Boucher was in net on April 26, 2011, as the Flyers escaped a seven-game series that included five one-goal decisions. The 5-2 victory, that sent the Sabres to summertime, was caused by a team whose key players included: Chris Pronger, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Ville Leino, Daniel Carcillo. Well, okay not 'Car Bomb' Carcillo, but he had two goals in that series and you get the point.
None of those men played one second of the 2012 Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Other than Pronger's fans, no one has been able to wear their jerseys (proudly) to a game since last spring.
The here and now
Any old school fan knows that Paul Holmgren was a great Flyers warrior when he was on the ice. Every current Flyers follower knows that Holmgren the general manager has done a great job in remaking this team.
Moving a few foundational pieces to acquire numerous core players and obtaining Ilya Bryzgalov's rights were gutsy decisions. Having assembled a front office team that fortified the minor league ranks, gathered college graduate talent, added free agents and made sharp in-season additions has all been truly commendable.
No matter where the 2012 playoff road goes, this base of this Philadelphia hockey team surely has a longer shelf life than last year's group. And the ability to make multiple postseason runs increases the odds that Lord Stanley will finally return from that trip he took out of town in the mid-1970s.
Sean O'Brien is based in the Philadelphia region. He has written professionally for over two decades and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and also read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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