Pro-tip to marketing gurus working for professional sports teams in Philadelphia: Do not give away free items that fans can throw. Because fans will throw them. Especially when their favorite team is playing like the Flyers played in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
An out-of-town perspective, via the Washington Post:
The game ended in ugly mayhem, with fans chucking their promotional light-up bracelets on the ice as crestfallen PA announcer Lou Nolan repeatedly pleaded with them to stop.
“This is Philly, this is not somewhere else in the NHL,” he said. “Have some class.”
“Ok, those fans that were classless enough to throw these…next one that’s out there is going to cause us a minor penalty,” he said in mounting panic.
“Ok, those of you that have been throwing them, you’ve done it now!” poor Nolan finally said in agony. “Two-minute bench minor. Way to go.”
Was this booing Santa Claus? Was it throwing iceballs at injured Cowboys or batteries at outfielders who spurned the city to play elsewhere? Probably not, no. Make it that if you wish, but what the team did the last half of the third period was more embarrassing than what a few frustrated (and probably drunk) fans did.
Now, there is no excuse for fans thinking they are entitled to throw anything on the ice, but in a sport that celebrates tossing hats and octopi on the playing surface when a team does something good, it stands to reason a few morons would throw a glowing piece of plastic on the ice when their team is that bad.
The Flyers racked up 51 penalty minutes in the Game 3 loss, much of which came in the third period as the Flyers flat gave up. Caps coach Barry Trotz was embarrassed for the Flyers, and the sport, after the game.
“They weren’t interested in playing anymore, and so we ended up on the power play for the last seven or eight minutes,” Caps Coach Barry Trotz said. “I just thought it wasn’t good for the game, plain and simple. We were on national television. I don’t think it displays our game very well.”
It’s over. The series is done. The Flyers—maybe emotionally spent after the loss of Mr. Snider and how his death has enveloped this playoff series, or maybe just outmanned by a much more talented team—have given up on the season. It’s over.
And yet, it’s not technically over.
There’s a reason the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs are best-of-seven series. In order to advance, teams have to win four games, so despite how disastrous the Game 3 loss to the Capitals was on Monday night — a 6-1 drubbing that was over about halfway through the second period when Alexander Ovechkin netted his first of two goals on the night, Washington’s only even-strength goal of the game—the season is not actually over yet.
The Flyers began the night with a tribute to Snider, painting his initials, EMS, behind each goal, and clearly rode the emotion of the tribute to an early lead, scoring 57 seconds into the game. Something felt magical, like the old boss was looking down on them for one night, helping the Flyers get back into this first-round series.
But four minutes later the game was tied, and a period after that, the Flyers were trailing, again, for good. Then things got ugly, both on the ice and in the stands, as the beaten and battered Flyers looked like they could use some help from a different EMS by the time the final horn mercilessly sounded.
Much of what we’ll read and hear today is about the typical boorish behavior of the Philly fans. It’s become a weird perverted badge of honor for some morons in this town to continue to perpetuate that stereotype. But the team gave out bracelets, then put a set of rules with them—do not remove the bracelets from you seats—practically begging fans to break those rules.
When the team gave up on the game, some fans gave up on being classy.
And much will be made about one or two fans yelling during the moment of silence for Mr. Snider before the game, as well, but it sounded (to me at least) like that person was chanting for the Caps, and the TV cameras immediately caught a few of the Washington players shaking their heads in disgust afterwards, so unless it was heard more clearly in the arena (or on other TVs) it’s hard to throw a blanket over all Flyers fans for that.
Still, there’s no way this wasn’t a Flyers fan:
So, yes, things got ugly. And yes, this playoff series is somehow more of a disaster now than we expected. But all is not lost.
Yes, almost all is lost. And, well, sure, all the games played so far in this series have been lost. Bad losses too, as the Flyers are getting outscored, wow, 12-2 by the Capitals and have held a lead for, yikes, a total of three minutes and 46 seconds in the entire series.
But all is not lost! Not yet, at least.
There is still one more game to play, and if the Flyers win that game, there are three more games after that, each if necessary. It seems insurmountable, sure, but it has happened before.
In 2010, the Flyers made the Stanley Cup Final, falling in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks. But those Flyers wouldn’t have made it that far, or even to the Eastern Conference Finals—where the Flyboys won in five games over the Montreal Canadiens—were it not for the most epic of comebacks in a seven-game win over the Boston Bruins in the second round.
Starting that series on the road, the Flyers fell in overtime to Boston in Game 1, 5-4, before losing again in Game 2 on a late-game winner for the Bruins. Heading back home down 0-2, there was still excitement for the Flyers’ chances to get back into the series, but a tough 4-1 loss put Philly on the brink of playoff elimination. Spirits were low. The season looked lost. If there were bracelets at that game, they surely would have been thrown.
It sucked. The Flyers were about to get bounced. Only, they didn’t.
Philly bounced back instead, winning an overtime thriller 5-4 in Game 4 to extend the series to a fifth game. Then the Flyers got a 4-0 shoutout in Game 5 to bring the series back to Philly. In Game 6, the Flyers won 2-1, with Boston’s lone goal coming with a minute to play, too little to make a difference. That led to Game 7, on the road, with the series tied.
Any good Philly sports fan remembers what happened in that game. The Flyers fell behind 3-0 in the first period, and all that work to come back in the series seemed for naught. But the game proved to be a microcosm of the series, as the Flyers chipped away with one goal in the first, then two in the second, before netting the game—and series—winner off the stick of Simon Gagne halfway through the third.
It has happened before. Recently. The Flyers can come back from a 3-0 deficit. They can.
Of course, they won’t. But they can.
Claude Giroux is the only current Flyers player who was on that 2010 team, so the captain is going to have to give one helluva pre-game speech on Wednesday night to get this team back to where that team was. And while those Stanley Cup Final-bound Flyers did come back from insanely insurmountable odds, only one of the first three games in that series was decided by more than a goal. Yes, the Flyers were losing, but they were close.
They haven’t been close in this series against Washington. At all. And after the way Monday’s game ended—both on the ice and in the stands—it’s going to be nearly impossible for first-year coach Dave Hakstol to turn this around.
“To say the least, we’re disappointed,” Hakstol told reporters after the game. “But we’ll pick ourselves up, dust off and go back to work tomorrow.”
“The last, you know, five, six, seven minutes were a tough seven minutes to play, but we did the best we could.”
That was the best they could?
It’s bleak. And yet, it is the Capitals. This is a team that hasn’t made it to the Conference Finals in more than 10 years. This is a team that lost in the first round of the playoffs three out of the last five times they won their division. This is a team with a lot of self-imposed playoff pressure this season.
One win against the Caps could get in their heads—”oh no, not again”—and two wins would shift the momentum back to the Flyers, with Game 6 here in Philly. Then anything can happen in a Game 7. Anything.
That’s if it gets that far, which given the way this series has gone, it won’t. But it might!
Until it doesn’t, it might. And right now, that’s all Flyers fans have left to hope for. But please, no matter how many more games are left in the season, don’t hand out any more projectiles. That was never going to end well.