The Things I Think About
In the middle of the week, I’m not sure what makes the Philadelphia fan feel worse: the Flyers down and fighting against the odds for survival in the Stanley Cup finals, or the Phillies peculiar offensive slump that many now see as a threat to their World Series hopes.
To put this in perspective, as of Wednesday, June 2, the Phillies have only scored two more runs in their last 92 innings than the Flyers have goals in the first two games of Cup finals against the Chicago Blackhawks. And there is definitely something wrong with that picture. [SIGNUP]
First, the Flyers.
They have played really hard in this series, but let there be no doubt that the Blackhawks are the better team. For the Flyers to win the Cup, they had to steal game one in Chicago and, as Dennis Green would say, they “let ’em off the hook.” In game one the Flyers got sucked into an end-to-end hockey game, which allowed them, for a while, to compete — until they ran out of legs in the third period. The Flyers had a shaky goalie and squandered three leads in the game, and quickly. Had they held on to the lead for at least a chunk of minutes, they might have been able to force desperation on the young Hawks, mounting pressure on the opposition in their own demanding building. Instead, Chicago came right back and scored to tie the game three times.
In game two, in an effort to tighten up and turn the game into a more physical style, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette started cement-headed forward Dan Carcillo and placed him on the team’s top line with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. While Carcillo went flying around like a wind-up toy on a linoleum floor, bumping into everything in his way — including his own teammate on perhaps his best hit of the year — all it did was deplete the line’s playmaking ability. The Flyers got only three shots on goal in the first period. By the time they were able to pick up that pace, it was the third period, and Hawks goalie Antti Niemi stopped everything that came his way. (And after Niemi’s game one performance, who could have expected that? In Finland, where Niemi honed his craft, apparently they don’t shoot the puck high because he goes down like a worm).
The way the Flyers have grown through these Stanley Cup playoffs, it would not be a monumental disappointment if they lose to the Blackhawks. For the fans that still have hope that they can pull this thing off, stay thirsty, my friends. But the facts are the facts. In the 33 times a Stanley Cup final has started off with one team in an 0-2 hole, only two teams in NHL history have been able to come back and win.
And now for the really strange story.
I would have taken out another mortgage and bet it against the Phillies only being able to score 8 runs in their last 92 innings, or being only able to hit one home run (Ryan Howard Tuesday night against the Braves) in a span of 68 innings. Hitting slumps have come to this team in the last several years. But they have been very temporary. This one is Twilight Zone stuff.
The firm conclusions we can draw from this, though, are as follows: a) Jimmy Rollins is the engine that makes this machine go, and b) the Phillies bench just isn’t good enough.
Without Rollins’ energy, the Phils look weak, like a lawnmower without a pull cord. And with J-Roll out of the lineup — and then Placido Polanco — the Phils have had to play guys like Greg Dobbs, Ross Gload, Wilson Valdez, Juan Castro and Ben Francisco, sometimes all at the same time. With Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth going through colossal slumps all at the same time, the Phillies are putting out a lineup with as many as seven of the starting nine as non-hitters. Ugh.
Polanco will be back soon. Rollins is getting closer to returning. But the Phils need a fix right now and they need one badly. It’s time to release Dobbs and bring up John Mayberry Jr. He’s not a superstar, but at least Mayberry can hit you a bomb every once in a while and at least be a competent outfielder. Geez, you can’t even play Dobbs or Gload anywhere on the field without getting burned.
The Things I Think About…
* Apparently, Chris Pronger stole the game puck after the Flyers game two loss, incensing Blackhawks forward Ben Eager, another cement-head tough guy. When Eager objected as the teams were skating off the ice, Pronger shot a puck his way and then flipped a towel towards him. Was the movie Slapshot really a parody?
* Is it possible to Photoshop human beings? If so, I’d put Venus Williams’ derriere on her sister Serena.
* Was it wise for Andy Reid to have a few of his recovering players practice on the Astroturf field at the Eagles’ inside practice facility because of the rainy conditions last Tuesday? Brent Celek and Stewart Bradley were a lot luckier than newly acquired safety Marlin Jackson, who ripped up his Achilles tendon and is out for the season.
Listen to MIKE MISSANELLI weekday afternoons on 97.5 The Fanatic.