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Not exactly all smiles for Flyers going into the Stanley Cup Playoffs

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The playoffs haven’t even started yet, and there is already scuttlebutt surrounding the Philadelphia Flyers.
 
Defenseman Chris Pronger’s return is still up in the air, and Mike Richards sat out practice Wednesday for a “maintenance day.”

Although the players would never say anything to the contrary, is anyone out there getting the feeling going intoThe return of Chris Pronger is vital to the Flyers' Stanley Cup chances. Photo: http://www.businessinsider.com Thursday’s round one matchup against the Buffalo Sabres that this is not exactly the good-ship Flyers?

This is nothing new. Despite an overabundance of talent, the Flyers are undoubtedly the team with the biggest bullseye on their backs going into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  Some experts have them losing to Buffalo (the NHL’s hottest team by the way) in an early first round exit. Some have them beating the Canucks to take the the Stanley Cup.

There really are two extremes when it comes to this team, and nobody knows for sure which on we’ll see starting Thursday.

In addition to the overall health of Pronger and now possibly Richards, two of the biggest question marks are how rookie goalie Sergei Bobrovsky will peform, and if the once potent offense that seems to have fallen asleep for the last eight weeks, can get it together.

Just as the Flyers have had their issues on the ice during the last several months, you don’t need a reliable source (although I have one) to tell you that some of the team’s problems have started in the locker room, which were present last year as well. Winning however, cures a lot of things. Just ask Larry Brown behind closed doors how many times Allen Iverson was REALLY late for practice during the Sixers’ NBA Finals run of 2000-2001.

On the other hand, you take a team like the the 2004 Phillies, who bitched and moaned their way to missing the playoffs with a whooping 86 wins, which of course was all Larry Bowa’s fault. People hated that team for what went on behind the scenes.  If the orange and black didn’t win that shootout against the Rangers last year, you can rest assure that the griping on behalf of the players would have been made a lot more prominent.

It’s one thing when you’re a team like the Oakland A’s in the 1970’s getting into knock-down drag-out fights with each other every day while winning three consecutive World Series titles. It’s another when you’re a bunch of malcontents who haven’t won anything yet.

When Scott Hartnell infers that the team knew they were in the playoffs weeks ago, which may have been a reason for their slide, and then he starts trash talking against Buffalo on Monday, it makes you wonder how many of the other guys on the team feel the same way. Make no mistake, I’m not blaming the Flyers skid on Hartnell, but it’s kind of gutsy talk coming from a player on a team who finished as miserably as the orange and black did.

Who knows? Maybe Hartnell and the Flyers know something we don’t.  Maybe they are THAT good. Maybe they were just bored with the regular season and can just ‘turn it on’ whenever they’d like. Maybe they can put aside their egos and possible differences to coast effortlessly to the Stanley Cup.

Or maybe they will get their lunch handed to them by a hungry Sabres team.

The next few weeks will determine the legacy of this group of Flyers. Were they really the best team in hockey for four months who just hit a rough patch, but are now on their way to playoff dominance?  Or are they merely underachievers who overachieved their way to last year’s Stanley Cup after winning a shootout?

There's nothing more exciting in sports than playoff hockey, and the quest for the cup begins Thursday.

 

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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Pronger photo: www.crunchsports.com

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