At long last, the stage is set for the 2015 Stanley Cup final. After several terse series that validate why the Stanley Cup playoffs are the best playoffs in sports, Tampa Bay and Chicago will meet in what promises to be nothing short of a dogfight for the Cup.
As hard to believe as it may seem, this year marks five years since the Flyers' miracle run for the Cup (and start of the quasi-dynasty that the Blackhawks have since assumed). That's right -- Brian Boucher's victory jig after stopping Olli Jokinen in a shootout to give the Flyers the final playoff berth, Ian Laperriere's puck to the face, not just one but two 3-0 comebacks against Boston, Mike Richards' epic penalty kill against Montreal, Chris Pronger's puck-stealing shenanigans and everything in between -- all happened five years ago.
I remember where I was for all of those moments as well as the rest of that miracle run, and I'm sure you do, too. That run gave fans of the Orange and Black plenty of hope for the future (even as a slew of questionable moves on management's part led to that hope fading away in the years that followed).
Here at Flyerdelphia and Sports Talk Philly, we take pride in the Flyers' history. Our own Mike Watson does yeoman's work on a weekly basis in discussing the team's storied past. It may seem like it just happened last year, but along the line, that scrappy 2010 team has added itself to that storied history.
Organizationally, the Flyers have been a team focused on the present, with emphasis on the past. While Ed Snider's been ruthless in his desire to see his pride and joy hoist the Stanley Cup for a third time as expediently as possible, icons from the team's past have had power and influential roles within management -- much to the fans' discontent. Who could forget Uncle Ed's surly "we don't need a fresh perspective" from 2013?
Since that 2010 run, plenty has happened for the Orange and Black -- so much, in fact, that it almost feels like a blur. The NHL is not a league that focuses on what a team has done last year, five years ago, 10 years ago and beyond (except Montreal, where the team's legendary past has become its fabric). The NHL, like the rest of professional sports, focuses on what a team is doing as well as what a team will do.
It's easy to look back with fond memories of what the Flyers accomplished in 2010, and is hard to believe that it all went down five years ago. But considering all that has happened since, 2010 is slowly becoming a distant memory.
Sure, the Blackhawks and Lightning will get their time on the NHL's biggest stage starting this week. And considering what both teams have showed all observers, it's a strong possibility that this won't be their last time on that stage. It's easy to admire the raw talents of guys like Steven Stamkos and Patrick Kane, or the leadership of the NHL's best captain in Jonathan Toews, or the youthful exuberance of the Triplets Line and Andrew Shaw. It's also easy to look at the path that the architects of both teams -- namely Stan Bowman, Joel Quenneville, Steve Yzerman and Jon Cooper -- have taken in getting their respective teams to this stage.
With Ron Hextall firmly in charge now, the Flyers remain focused on taking a path to provide their fanbase with another Stanley Cup run to take pride in, as well as similar traits for fans and observers across the NHL to admire. It may not happen next year, or even the year after, but it will happen in due time. And that will give long-suffering Flyers fans something else to be proud of.
Rob Riches is a contributor to Flyerdelphia. Follow him on Twitter @Riches61