Eight perfect and historical periods later....
As I sat in my seat last Friday and watched Ryder and Lucic from the Bruins single handedly put 3 pucks past Leighton in the first to go up 3 goals, the air was stolen from my over inflated high hopes. It's not that I lost hope, but I was looking around to see just how in the hell did my Flyers just comeback from being down 3 games to none in a series and allow Game 7 to start off like this.
"Hey, at least we made it this far, and that alone made record books," I thought to myself.
So I laid back, popped another top, and got ready to applaud my beloved Orange Brothers for their ability to overcome such odds that were dished to them throughout the regular season.....when....deep in the 1st....James van Riemsdyk slipped the rubber disc past Tuukka Rask ending the period with a score of 3 - 1.
Not since 1991 has a team ever gone up 3 - 0 and lost in a Game 7, but as I sat there I witnessed the Bruins getting closer and closer to matching that record as Philadelphia's defense, and Michael Leighton kept the Bruins at just 3 goals, and forwards Scotty Hartnell and Danny "Sergeant Playoffs" Briere tied the game up by the middle of the 2nd period!
"I've said it all year and you guys laughed at me when I said I thought we had a great playoff team," Briere said. "I just had a feeling that if we were able to start creating our own bounces, then we were able to come back in the series. I don't know if the other guys believed it, but I certainly did."
I felt overjoyed yet ashamed at the same time since it wasn't an hour before all of this that I was skeptical and almost ready to just hang my head by the end of the 1st. However, there wasn't time for that now.
Just over half way through the 3rd an adrenaline powered Leino, Richards, and Gagne line kept the puck in the Bruins zone with smart passing and genius positioning. Simon Gagne glided into Rask's crease while Richards handled the puck at the point. A heavy wrister from the Flyers captain bounced back from Tuukka in net and was immediately mailed right back his way from Gagne only this time the biscuit fluttered in net, stick side and the entire city of Philadelphia celebrated in unison!
By this time I had already been standing for a solid 10 minutes -- my hands clutching my hair and making fists over my head. As I witnessed the puck cross the line in net I am pretty sure I could have dunked a basketball.
That's right, this 5'8", 235 lbs....okay okay, 245 lbs man just said he could leap to a basket ball rim like Michael Jordan in his prime and on cocaine, windmill the ball through each leg four or five times, and dunk that ball so hard it would have blown the glass off the backboard into the upper atmospheres.
To be honest, I didn't watch a second of the team celebrating considering I was doing my own celebrating.
The contents of my Dos Equis brew hit the cieling of my buddy's family room, I nearly scared his kids' two cats out of their skin, and I shook the very foundation of his house as I leapt up and down like I just scored the goal myself.
As the game ended and a historical dream come true, the Flyers managed to not only comeback from a 3 - 0 deficit in the series, but they had managed to cut the heads off the Bruins early, and comeback and win 4 goals to 3 -- becoming just the 3rd team in the history of the NHL to reach that feat.
"Enjoy it now," I said outloud, "because we have one hell of an opponent coming up."
A squad who shocked the hockey planet by squeezing in the playoffs at 8th seed then defeating the #1 Capitals and the #4/Defending Champions Pittsburgh Penguins....
....the Montreal Canadiens
Now most of my readers would not be surprised to hear that I made it to Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals with a ticket in hand, and a tailgate plan.
Whoa whoa whoa....whoa.......Game 1 is in Philadelphia? Damn, it's STILL hard to believe that that remaining two teams in the Eastern Conference are the #7 and #8 seeds! The first it's ever happened, and I'll be damned if I miss the first game.
Tailgating was as much fun as ever; pulled pork and cowboy beans were cooked, and beer was drunk. Smiles were worn, and hometown Brotherly Love hugs were made.
Going into the game I put the parking lot fest behind me and began thinking about the game. I had all the faith in the world and started thinking about what we have over the Canadiens, and the advantages they have over us;
The Flyers out-size Montreal big time so the physical aspect of the series should be in the Flyers corner. The Habs, on the otherhand, have a stonewall in net -- Jaroslav Halak came off of two incredible series hotter than Jessica Biel's tanned ass in a thong and showed no hint of losing his streak.
(thong; streak....no pun intended)
But slap my face and paint me Flyer orange, because Philadelphia put on a clinic in Game 1. Halak let more rubber go by him Sunday than Charlie Sheen's callgirls.
Defensman, Braydon Coburn, began the night off in the 1st with a power play goal and the snowball just....got.....bigger. More Flyers players such as James van Riemsdyk, Danny Briere, Simon Gagne, Scotty Hartnell and Claude Giroux all put the puck in net ending the game in a Flyers victory, 6 goals to none.
Halak allowed 4 goals on just 13 shots before backup, Carey Price, took his spot in net. Price ended the night stopping 9 of 11 shots.
Flyers net tender, Michael Leighton, had now gone five consecutive periods without letting a shot get by. Sunday he ended his night stopping 28 of 28 shots versus the Canadiens.
"We know they're going to try to put pucks at net -- their power play didn't shoot many pucks," Leighton said. "We know they're going to have to come out harder in Game 2, and we'll be ready for it."
You best bet your bottom dollar he was right.
Not since 1975 against the Toronto Maple Leafs has a goalie gone back-to-back shutouts in the playoffs. You know who that goalie was? Philadelphia Flyers legend, Bernie Parent. You know who just broke the 35 year drought? Philadelphia Flyer, Michael Leighton!
That's right. Not 24 hours ago did Leighton shut the Montreal Canadiens out again for the second consecutive time this series -- putting the Flyers up, 2 games to none.
Michael stopped 30 of 30 shots, ending the game with another Flyers victory, 3 - 0. But it was no easy task.
Leighton stood on his head most of the 1st period taking 16 frozen pucks to his body and not his net. He was, simply put, out of control great. His performance was unreal.
Flyers forwards Danny Briere, Simon Gagne and Ville Leino had all of the Philadelphia goals throughout the evening, but it was their goalie that had the hometown crowds' jaws dropping.
Even though Montreal outshot Philly in each period of the game, totaling 30 shots to our 23, Leighton's production made history. By the time the game clock ran down and the horn sounded, Michael succeeded to shut his opponent out 8 periods in a row. Perfect. Not one goal, and in the process, making the record books and topics of discussions between every sports lover on the face of this earth.
Congrats to Michael Leighton (also, happy birthday today), and congrats to this Philadelphia Flyers team who have accomplished so much, realized how much they are worth and have gone out there and proven it to everyone.
Game 3 begins at 7:00pm tomorrow evening on the Versus channel. The series takes its first visit to Montreal. Let's get another one!
Below I added Leighton's most incredible save from last night. When this happened my facial expression resembled the SCREAM mask.