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Flyers-Canadiens Game 1: Preview

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Jarome Iginla amazes me.  His capacity to consistently dominate playoff hockey outstrips that of any other player currently in the NHL.  Regardless of what it says on the time clock or the scoreboard, regardless of who is in net or on defense, Iginla charges forward.  And what’s more – he carries his entire team with him.

Philadelphia could use Jarome Iginla for this next series.  The near collapse against the Capitals didn’t occur because Washington overpowered the Flyers or outstripped them in talent.  It happened because the Flyers weren’t prepared for Game 5 and quit playing halfway through Game 6.  They lacked the heart to win on pure adrenaline.

Boston, conversely, almost stole the series away from Montreal – everyone’s sure thing in the first round.  They spared no expense in energy or emotion in every game, 60 minutes at a time.  Maybe that was due to the leadership of Zdeno Chara, to the acrobatic efforts of Tim Thomas, or the drive of team work. 

Montreal is not unbeatable by any stretch of the imagination.  The only thing required is a little talent, a little grit, and a whole lot of heart.  Talent and grit the Flyers have.  So where will the heart come from?

Mike Richards is a possibility.  In my opinion, he may mature into the leadership capability of an Iginla.  We’ve seen him carry the Flyers through various regular season bouts and his ability to perform in big games. (Penalty shot, anyone?)  But he hasn’t demonstrated that component of his game in the playoffs.

Martin Biron could bolster his team with spectacular goaltending.  Goalies usually aren’t captains.   However, a string of great saves fertilizes team confidence, which grows into goals and victories.

Derian Hatcher, for all his struggles with knee problems and a broken ankle, is a proven warrior.  Anytime he’s dressed, the rest of team stabilizes at both ends of the ice.  Playing his third game in four nights may reveal the real progress in Hatcher’s health.  But fighting through pain and fatigue might inspire the Flyers to play harder.

Someone must step forward and push this team for its full effort if there’s any hope of advancing beyond Montreal.  When playing with house money, the second round should never be enough.

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