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Flyers’ loss to Sabres in Game 5 just another classic Philadelphia sports heartbreaker

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We’ve been here before. Sometimes you see it coming a mile away. Other times, it’s a lot more gut wrenching.

This one was a mixed bag.

You know the scenario: it’s a Rocky-esque effort from your team. Overcoming crazy odds, only to be rewarded by the other team dancing around triumphantly while your team’s players are most likely staring at the ground, wondering how in the world they lost that game.

Yes, the Italian Stallion truly IS more of a metaphor for this city than anyone bothers to realize, and not always in a way we like.

Welcome to the latest edition of Philly Sports Heartache 2011.

To be honest, the Philadelphia Flyers have not impressed me worth a damn since around mid-February, so anything that comes from this team good or bad is no surprise. I’m sorry to say I predicted a first round exit. There’s some strange karma surrounding this team, the return of Chris Pronger is still in question, and the goal tending situation (as usual) is a complete and utter mess, and that was BEFORE Friday night!

You have to look at the Flyers’ Game Five loss to the Buffalo Sabres in two ways. How the Flyers came back after sentimental fan favorite Brian Boucher let in two of the worst goals I have seen since the final goal of last year’s Stanley Cup is commendable. Although the orange and black won games two and three of this series, I have not seen them display the sense of urgency they did on Friday since last year’s playoff series against Boston. In fact, things were shaping up just like last year: a three-goal defecit in the first period, only to come back and eventually win the game. It was just a matter of time. Right?

Not so fast. Tyler Ennis changed all of that in overtime. The only trace of irony here is that Boucher’s replacement Michael Leighton had his last home playoff game end in the same fashion as well. There wasn’t a bigger microcosm than Game Five for us to realize that this is NOT 2010, the ending for this team might come much sooner than some of us thought, and last year was indeed lightning in a bottle. Some teams actually go all the way with it, but not everyone can be like the 2010 San Francisco Giants (continuing with our sports heartache theme).

Here is the other side of the coin: You can’t blame Leighton for this loss. It’s the second game of the year he has played at this level. It’s the NHL Playoffs, and you can’t spot a team three goals from the outset. Now, head coach Peter Laviolette has to decide whether he should go back to Boucher in Game Six, or stick with his once waived Stanley Cup goalie from a year ago. And oh yeah, remember Sergei Bobrovsky?

It's not a stretch to say that overall, the Flyers played betterThe last image of Eric Lindros as a Philadelphia Flyer. Photo:http://www.satiricaljustice.com  than the Sabres the last two games. But what matters when the horn sounds is the W or L, and right now the defending Eastern Conference Champions are just one game from extinction.

To a man, there isn’t a single person on this Flyers team who I want to see win a Stanley Cup more than Boucher. He’s a class act, and although Boucher will always have a special place in Flyers history, the ghosts of that 1999-2000 Flyers season will never go away until a Flyers team can finally bring home Lord Stanley.

Speaking of sports heartache, I’m awfully surprised a documentary has not been made about that squad. I know I’m getting a little deep here with this, but when you look back at what happened in regards to Eric Lindros, Roger Neilson, Gene Hart, and the drama that plagued that team throughout the entire year, you can’t help but feel there is still a dark cloud that hangs over this franchise’s head in some form.

In closing, we would be ignorant to assume that no other sports towns have suffered devastating lossesThe Curse of the Billy Goat in Chicago has haunted the Cubs for almost a century. Photo: www.mentalfloss.com. However, for every San Francisco Giants team who never won a World Series, there’s five Super Bowl rings. For every Mets team that chokes, there’s a three-time Super Bowl Champion. For every time the “Curse of the Bambino” reared its ugly head for the Red Sox, there are 17 NBA titles and three Super Bowls. Sure, there’s the “Curse of the Billy Goat” in Chicago, but six NBA titles, a Super Bowl, a World Series title from its “other baseball team,” and a Stanley Cup from a year ago ease the pain just a little bit.

Then there’s us. For every Game Five against the Sabres, Philadelphia has just one banner flying above Ashburn Alley in Citizens Bank Park. The only banner raised for a major sports team in this town since Kajagoogoo was relevant,and Superman III was playing at the box office (You know, the one where he gets piss drunk and “seduces” the hot blonde.)

It is a possibility the Flyers can still come back and win this series. If they do, the pain of Game Five will be forgotten.

If not, the list of classic Philadelphia sports heartbreakers just got a little longer.

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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