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Last Stand at Buffalo

Flyers @ Sabres, WCQF Game 6, April 24, 2011

–First Period–

I don’t even want to turn on the game.  I don’t know what state of mind the Flyers are in but I am thoroughly overwrought.  The notion that they might be done today is too much for me.  No one will die from it, the team will be back next season, true.  But also not true.  The team will not be reconstituted quite the way they are now.  They will not be the same. Some players will go, others will come, the time and psychic state and personality of the group will change.  So really, if this is it, then this is it, for these Flyers at least.

I still haven’t turned on the tv.  The game has been going on for 30 minutes.  Instead I tidied the bathroom, put away laundry.  I’m not procrastinating.  I have people coming over. I need to tidy the house.  In case those people, like, turn up.  I can’t have some damp towel hanging in the bathroom or dog hair on the carpet or laundry left out…

Did I ever mention that I was a total and complete slob?  But, when hockey games are going badly, I feel like cleaning.  Last night during the Sharks game?  I washed the bathroom.  The whole thing: floor, walls, cieling, fixtures…

My house is really effing clean now.

Ok.  I’m going to do it.  Turning the game on now.  Hopefully said people will show up and interrupt me before I start cleaning again.

TV on.  They say Pronger may play.  Leights starting.  Well, if I’m watching the last game, I’m glad Leights is in it.

They say yes, Pronger is in.  As soon as the puck drops I get a little woozy.

And someone comes in.  Instead of being grateful for the interruption, I have a strong desire to send them packing.  GET OUT! I want to scream like they are making a raucous noise at the side of a friend’s deathbed.  I explain the Flyers are about to be knocked out of the playoffs.  Person does not go away.  I start typing this.  She leaves.

A fight breaks out, Gaustad and Hartnell.  Before the whistle goes, the puck is sliding around next to the net, Timonen seems to be looking for it.  No one seems to know where it is.  But Leights does.  He gloves it.

Not long after, during the 4 on 4, the Sabres score.  Niedermayer.  Argh.  Here we are, facing that stupid stat that says the first team to score keeps winning games in these playoffs.  80 some percent of them.

Carcillo takes a penalty.  I don’t know how to explain it but the puck zips around in front of the crease and by Leighton.  2-0.  Not quite sick to my stomach but there’s a tightness in my throat.  The Flyers get some chances but the puck always seem to go just to the wrong place.

Gerbe grabs Briere’s stick.  A Flyers power play and finally Pronger is on the ice.  He has not played so far.  I wonder if this means Lavi has 7 D out there, so Pronger only has to play during a power play.  It seems to be asking too much, even of the amazing Pronger, to be able to help out after not playing for so long, and now with playing hardly at all.  It all seems nuts.  The power play accomplishes nothing.

Is that it?  Did they burn too brightly in the beginning of the season?  Is that the secret?  The season is so long, you can’t expect to finish strong if you start too strong?

The Briere line is in the Sabres’ zone, banging around like bulls in a china shop. My heart is in my throat, thumping away. They score.  We have a hockey game.

Good God.  Leights has only made like four saves on six shots, but Lavi doesn’t pull him.  Perhaps he too recognizes that who’s in goal doesn’t matter and Leights deserves to play after spending so long with the Phantoms.  Why the hell not?

Four minutes left in the first, the Flyers have a delayed penalty but can’t keep the puck for long.  On to the power play.  I wonder if Pronger is warmed up yet, I wonder how many power plays it will take for him to get there.

The power play is far from dominant but it isn’t terrible. It’s good enough to get the Flyers a 5 on 3, as a Sabre clears the puck out of play.   It doesn’t last long.  Pronger gets penalized for responding to a cross check (and a punch to the face) from Tyler Myers.  So much for Pronger helping out here.

From bad to worse, Meszaros takes a penalty and now it is 4 on 3 for the Sabres. All I can think is that at least the period is almost over.  A reset about now would be good.  Instead, the puck slides down and under Leights. Now down by three.

The announcers talk about pulling Leighton.  I don’t know.  I still want to chant “it just doesn’t matter” on the goalie question.  Lavi gives Boosh the intermission to get ready.

–Second Period–

The Flyers win the opening faceoff and less than a minute later, JVR gets his third goal of the playoffs.  It’s a game again.

It crosses my mind that it would have been nice for Bob to be dressed too, so each goalie could play one period.

The Sabres get a very good chance, Boosh ends up sprawled along the side of the crease, trying to hold the puck out with stick and a glove.  Hartnell jumps into the net, gets his stick down and helps out.

The Flyers respond with a ferocious attack.  The Sabres get very lucky and their coach calls his timeout.

Heart races, settles down a little.

People arrive.  I need to show them the newly painted and cleaned house.  I don’t want to chase them away with a broom, so I take my own timeout.  I give them hyacinth plants, lovely purple ones I could not resist at the store. They smell wonderful.  We discuss planting instructions.

I come back for the power play and the Flyers score.

3-3, just shy of the half way point of the second.  I don’t know how to feel.  I think I have stopped breathing.

Things start to fall apart, the Flyers take penalties.  They kill them off, a 5 on 3 and a 5 on 4, and all looks good.  But just after the penalty ends, they let the Sabres come charging in and Gerbe fires a long shot right by Boosh.

I check the clock and there are almost three minutes left in the second.

The morning was drizzly and grey.  Around eleven, the sun came out and now the bright cheerful day outside mocks me.

The announcers narrate a replay, explaining that O’Donnell actually deflected Gerbe’s shot while trying to stop it. That vindicates Boosh but doesn’t make me feel better.  It’s like finding out that the operation was a success even though the patient died.

The last couple of minutes crawl by, chopped up into tiny pieces by stoppages.

Mercifully, it ends.  I am all caught up now, I can’t fast forward through upsetting parts or ads or analysis.  I can watch the bloody end in real time.

Or not.  I could walk away, go get some sunshine.  Is it time to save myself?  From what?  I’m not in danger here.  This doesn’t have anything to do with me.  The whole emotional investment thing suddenly seems a lot less fun, even dangerous.  Being sad is bad for you.  I saw a study once.

–Third Period–

I sort of want to cry about it, because crying helps.  But I’m not that sad.  It’s like nausea without quite being ready to puke.  It just lingers, that green feeling.  Or, in the case of sorrow about your team losing, blue.  Imagine that, I’m somewhere between blue and green.  I am teal.

That is not bad.  Sharks come first anyway.  I start to think about the Flyers’ season as for a farewell letter.  Last words, so to speak.  It has been very entertaining: the ups, the downs, excitement, suspense, elation.  It has been a wonderful ride.  All things come to an end.

There are 12 minutes left in the game but it looks so grim.  Even if the Flyers won this game, they would have to go seven games.  If they won that, they would be going into the second round with fatigue working against them.

The Flyers have a good chance.  Miller is there.  Of course.

I remember feeling sorry for Miller last season, and this season too.  He is so gifted, he does so much for his team, but they just don’t live up to him.  That seems to be the way in the NHL.  Teams with really spectacular goalies seem unable to assemble a team to match.  I don’t know that the salary cap is at fault.  A goalie is just one player, one salary.  Vokoun.  Thomas.  Brodeur…

OMG.  After a failed power play, Hartnell ties the game with just over 9 minutes left.  Well, he doesn’t do it all alone.  Leino, Richards and Harts together swarmed the net and each took a try.  The puck just seemed to come to them, the way it just evaded them at the beginning of the game.

This doesn’t change anything.  I mean, I don’t feel like puking just now but…

It goes to overtime after the Flyers miss two or three beautiful chances.  They were crazy combination chances so it isn’t really surprising they missed them but that doesn’t make me feel better.

The Flyers are showing their mettle now.  Is this character element incompatible with consistent performance?  Was it just not meant to be?


I decide I can’t watch.  I put the game on pause and go outside.

I don’t get very far.  A set of middle eastern coffee pots are delivered to me.  My grandmother wants me to display them.  They are hers.

It seems very important to go through them right now and arrange them by color and size and proper distribution across available shelf space.  I have to use the tv as a shelf because there are too many for my shelves to hold in an attractive manner.  I do some laundry.  I wash the dishes.

My pulse has returned to normal.  It starts to jump a little just thinking of the game.  I turn it on anyway.  It’s probably all over by now, I’m just watching the replay.  For some reason that is less stressful.

I watch for a bit and then turn down the volume. Not all the way, not because the announcers are offensive.  They aren’t.  But it seems more appropriate to have quiet just now.  That’s the way it should be as the end nears.  Quiet, peaceful.  Only happy thoughts of good memories and affection…

Holy shit.  Leino scores.



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