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HBO 24/7 Flyers/Rangers Finale Recap: Drama Surrounds Winter Classic

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The final installment of HBO’s 24/7 brings trouble for the Philadelphia Flyers right from the start, as a somber Ilya Bryzgalov answers questions from the media in regards to his brutal performance in the team’s 5-1 loss to Tampa Bay. Stay tuned for more on this.

Meanwhile, the orange and black are next slated to play the Penguins, where it will be a homecoming for two former Flyers: Max Talbot and Jaromir Jagr, who is anticipating the worst from the Pittsburgh crowd after turning down the offer to return to the Penguins this summer in favor of joining his current team.

Prior to the game, Coach Laviolette praises his team for their strong December and offers some encouragement just prior to face off, which sees the Peguins take an early 1-0 lead. For Talbot, it is a special moment, as the Peguins faithful give a standing ovation to the 2009 Stanley Cup hero. Jagr, on the other hand, is dealt with a smattering of boos. So how does he handle it? He promptly scores, of course. And when Talbot seals the game with an empty netter, the Flyers come out of their final game before the Winter Classic with a 4-2 win.

While the Flyers have been leaking oil lately, the Rangers is gaining steam. After victories against the Devils, Islanders, and Flyers, this team is clearly developing swagger. After their plane lands in Florida for a game against the Panthers, coach Tortorella chats with his team in a morning video session in which the head coach almost blows a fuse when the projector breaks down halfway through the session. Tortorella only gets half crazy before the power is restored.

As the Rangers edge the Panthers, it’s become obvious to all that Tortorella’s hard work and determination has made the Rangers a serious Stanley Cup contender. He has won a Stanley Cup with the Lightning in 2004 (remember who they beat in the Eastern Conference Finals?) And although it's early, he might be working his magic again.

As the Flyers practice as New Year’s Eve approaches, Laviolette informs HBO that Sergei Bobrovsky will get the start in the Winter Classic and Bryzgalov will sit the bench. The Flyers’ coach spends New Year’s with family and friends, while the Rangers and their trophy wives/girlfriends spend it in their hotel in Philadelphia.

The scene shifts to Citizens Bank Park on January 1st, where ex-Flyer Jeremy Roenick offers some strong words of encouragement to Bryzgalov. Minutes later, Bryzgalov announces to the media that he is not starting Monday’s game. Something that Laviolette hasn’t announced publicly yet. Not the kind of drama the Flyers want to be dealing with as the play the biggest game of their season.

Nonetheless, the show goes on, and the moment has almost arrived. Flyers and Rangers tailgaters are out, Patti LaBelle is singing the National Anthem, and in a moment of foreshadowing, Rangers center Mike Rupp tries to motivate his team just prior to the puck dropping. After the jets fly over Citizens Bank Park, it’s officially game time.

In a game featuring a strong goalie in the Rangers’ Henrik Lundvquist and an above average goalie in the Flyers’ Bobrovsky, whichever team scored first stood a very good chance of winning.

Too bad that did not apply to the Flyers.

The first period mainly featured some great stops from Lundvquist and lots of trash talking between the two teams. That changed in the second period when Brayden Schenn scored his first NHL goal, giving the Flyers a 1-0 lead. Claude Giroux followed minutes later with another, giving the Flyers a seemingly comfortable 2-0 lead.

Then the roof caved in. Rupp of all people netted the next two goals, mocking Jagr with his trademarked salute to the Philly fans, and knocking in the tying goal which Bobrovsky seemed to easily mishandle.

Rupp slowly but surely is becoming the Claude Lemieux of this generation for Flyers fans. His salute rubbed Giroux and Hartnell the wrong way, as the two exchanged unpleasantries at the start of the third period. One which saw the Rangers take a 3-2 lead on a goal by Brad Richards. A double penalty by Ryan Callahan and Kimmo Timonen and a missed penalty shot by Danny Briere later, the Rangers won the Winter Classic with a 3-2 victory, and the Flyers suffered another heartbreaking loss on hockey’s biggest stage.

This game made several things clear from the Flyers’ and the Rangers’ perspective. The Rangers were a team struggling to find its identity at the start of 24/7, while the Flyers were riding high with a seven-game winning streak. Now, the tables have turned. The Flyers are the ones who seem to be out of sorts, and with the new goalie controversy, this could be yet another classic Flyers team with high aspirations who can’t get it done because of their netminder.  This is becoming like the Phillies-Mets rivalry, only the Flyers are more like the Mets right now. The two teams despise each other, even refusing to shake hands at the end of the game. I know I’m jumping the gun, but this has all the makings of an Eastern Conference Finals showdown. Only time will tell.

Oh and by the way, Mike Rupp got the Broadway Hat at the end of the game.

Man, that thing is lame......

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com


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