Much like the rest of this postseason, the Flyers did everything they could to win this game, and left it all out on the ice; but in the end, it wasn’t enough. The Flyers were outplayed from the start of the game early, and Michael Leighton had to keep the Flyers in the game early. The end of the first period saw a 1-1 score. The Flyers got on the board first in the 2nd period, when Danny Briere continued his great postseason and roofed a shot over Niemi. However, the Blackhawks responded with 2 in the period to take a 3-2 2nd period intermission lead.
The Flyers really dominated the 3rd period, as they needed to in order to stay in the game. Finally, the Flyers were able to beat Niemi with about 4 minutes left in the game, as Scott Hartnell notched his 2nd goal of the game. Once again, the Hartnell-Briere-Leino line was easily the best line on the team, and was the most effective line of the postseason.
Once overtime started, the Flyers had the momentum and were outplaying the Blackhawks, getting most of the scoring chances at this point. However, all it takes is 1 shot on net, and Patrick Kane provided just that. On a very innocent looking play in the Flyers zone, Kane had the puck on the side, and really nowhere to go with it. He made a couple moves, got some room past Kimmo Timonen, and sent a puck towards Leighton, who was covering the post. The puck somehow snuck through Leighton, and into the net to give the Blackhawks their first Stanley Cup since 1961. It was a pretty weak goal to be honest, but that is also what great players do; they score big goals when it doesn’t look like they have anything or anywhere to go with the puck.
The Blackhawks were probably the better team, I would say overall they probably had more chances than the Flyers, especially in 5 on 5 situations, and when the game was tied. The Blackhawks seemed to come out at the start of games and really outplay the Flyers. The Flyers seemed to play their best hockey when they were down in games. That isn’t to say the Flyers didn’t play well or Chicago dominated the series, because I don’t think either of those are even close to true; it just seems like the better team overall won. Not the better team by much, but the better team nonetheless. If the Flyers had been able to steal 1 of the first 2 games in Chicago, it would have been a completely different series, and probably a different outcome. As the road team, you have to win 1 of those first 2 games.
Either way, it was a great season and everything. Even though the Flyers disappointed at points, and were very up and down, they still made it to the Stanley Cup Finals which can’t be considered a disappointment as a season. It is disappointing, and will be going forward, but the season as a whole is not a disappointment. Even before the season when the Flyers were considered one of the top teams in the East, you still would have put them behind the Penguins and Capitals in the pecking order.
We did get to see some unbelievable moments. The final regular season game win in the shootout. Beating up on the Devils handily, who routinely beat up on the Flyers the past 2 decades. Coming from 3-0 down against the Bruins – not only in the series – but also in Game 7, to advance. Watching Brian Boucher play great hockey, getting injured, and then watching Michael Leighton pick up right where Boucher left off. Whooping up on the Canadiens, while collecting 3 shutouts in the Eastern Conference Finals. And then finally hitting the wall and losing in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Flyers did their best, and managed to not fold when they got down 2-0 in the series, and make it a series at least.
Most of the team will be back next year to try to make a run at another Stanley Cup appearance. It will be much tougher next season, as we still will go into the season behind the Penguins and Capitals, as teams expected to win the Eastern Conference. Either way, it was a great season, with a disappointing end, and we can look forward to hopefully winning it all next season.