The Philadelphia Flyers are going to the Stanley Cup Finals. No seriously. That's actually happening.
And by far the worst part about it? They're way, wayyyy too likable.
Killing a penalty and down 1-0 in the first (after a great Scott Gomez(notes) slap-pass and Brian Gionta(notes) finish), Richards played the type of shift that earns you statues in most cities. He mowed over Marc-Andre Bergeron(notes) like he was a pee-wee player, made a nice dish on an offensive rush, came back to help kill the penalty... and then "it" happened.
Claude Giroux(notes) flipped the puck just into Canadiens territory, and Richards raced Montreal defender Roman Hamrlik(notes) down the ice while Halak charged out to make a play on the puck. Just when a chaotic, three-man pile-up seemed inevitable, Richards somehow had the puck on the offensive side of the two-Canadien wreck, and back-handed the just-settled pill into the net while MA Bergeron could only watch. You know, since he had been coasting for an entire zone.
It was the first of many events where Richards looked super-human and MA Bergeron looked like an extra in a Mighty Ducks movie. But the Flyers captain wasn't the only guy bringing it for big orange in Game 5.
The still up-and-coming Claude Giroux (who was born in 1988, by the way) was exceptional on both sides of the puck. Aaron Asham had four "shoulda-scored's" in just over eight minutes of ice time. Ville Leino(notes) continued making it look like the Red Wings didn't do enough to keep him. And most notably, Ian Laperierre emphasized his reputation as one of the league's most rugged wingers, blocking a number of threatening Montreal shots despite recently having a brain contusion. And yes, I'm going with "rugged" over "dumb" on that one, out of respect.
Throughout most of the night, Gomez was one of the few Canadiens who seemed to have the pop to push their team to the next level. Hal Gill(notes), who had been so solid for so long for the Habs, finally looked slightly less than mediocre (no points, no shots, minus-1 and a mere 16:43 of ice time).
The Habs just didn't seem to have the gas they'd need to climb out of another well.
The overall thought I'm left with from Game 5: The success of this Flyers team is no fluke.
It's been years of having three lines that can hang with 95 percent of NHL teams and a defense that's nothing to sneeze at. They've paid their dues.
Dissenters, of course, will say they played a worse team in every round on the way to the finals (No. 2-seeded New Jersey, then No. 6-seeded Boston, then No. 8-seeded Montreal). But folks: What else can they do but beat the teams in front of them? They earned this Eastern Conference title.
So with that win, the finals are set. Chicago and Philadelphia,
two original six teams are about to write another chapter of NHL history. (Ed. Note: One original six, one not-so-original.) So this time when the commercials are put together, we can all agree: Yes. history finally is being made.