Most people around the NHL are stunned that the Flyers got past Montreal in five games and are in the Conference Final. But I doubt any Islanders fans who were at the Coliseum on March 29 are surprised by Philadelphia's postseason run.
The display of tenacity the Flyers put on that night against the Islanders was remarkable. To recap, the Flyers had an emotional win the night before. They came to the Coliseum exhausted but in need of two points. Philadelphia started the game tight and the Islanders played like they had nothing to lose.
On top of that, Wade Dubielewicz was amazing in perhaps his best game as an Islander.
Nothing was going Philly's way. The Islanders went up 2-0 before the Flyers tied it in the second. Frans Nielsen scored to make it 3-2 midway through the third period, but Mike Richards willed a goal with 4:22 left to send the game into overtime. Daniel Briere beat Dubie for the shootout win.
I saw the Flyers coming off the ice and into the locker room. They didn't make much noise, no whooping and hollering. They looked like a team that had just taken care of business.
In the days after that Saturday night game, I raved about Philadelphia's performance to everyone I knew. This was one of the reasons I loved hockey. You just didn't see games won in other sports on sheer heart like the Flyers did. Final shots on goal: Islanders 30, Philadelphia 54.
No, I didn't come away from that game thinking the Flyers were going to win a Stanley Cup, but their success so far hasn't stunned me or anyone else watching closely - and with admiration - on March 29 at the Coliseum. Sure, the Flyers added talent when GM Paul Holmgren turned over the team starting around the 2007 trade deadline, but it's their work ethic that's made them a model franchise this year.