Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Canucks' time to shine

They're celebrating their 40th anniversary this year, and there's only one item on their wish list -- a big, engraved silver cup, filled with champagne to duly mark the occasion.

Chilling won't be a problem, since there will be an ample supply of ice available over the next couple of weeks. Their only problem? Someone else also wants that chalice, eager to rekindle the feelings they had the last time they got their hands on it, some 39 years ago.

It says here the Vancouver Canucks, who so far have enjoyed a great party in their 40th anniversary season, will cap it by winning the Stanley Cup for the first time in their existence -- despite the fact their opponents, the Boston Bruins, will be bringing noisemakers in hopes of lifting their first Cup since 1972.

The Canucks have a pair of superstar brothers, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, who finished first and fourth, respectively, in the NHL in scoring this season. (That's Daniel, above, against Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas). They have a budding superstar in Ryan Kesler, who glided onto the national stage playing for Team USA during the Olympics and scored a career-high 41 goals this year, fourth in the league. And they have strong goaltending with Roberto Luongo.

They will also be carrying the torch for a nation; a Canadian team has not won the Cup since 1993, when it was captured by Montreal. The Canucks have been to the Finals twice in their history, and oddly enough beaten by New York teams both times; they lost to the dynastic Islanders in 1982, and in 1994 fell to the Rangers, who ended their 54-year Cup drought.

A Canadian team that has never won the Cup is a compelling story, as is an Original Six squad that has not skated a victory lap in 39 years. The Bruins haven't even been to the Finals since 1990, when they lost to the Oilers in that dynasty's last victory.

An interesting sidelight is both the Canucks and Bruins see Mark Messier in their nightmares; Messier played for both teams that denied Vancouver and Boston in their last trips to the Finals: the 1994 Rangers and the 1990 Oilers.

Here's something else to chew on: EA Sports' NHL 11 simulation engine, which correctly predicted the winners in 13 of 14 series in this year's postseason, is picking the Canucks to top the Bruins in seven games -- it had actually selected that scenario before the season even began -- with the home team winning every game and the Canucks repelling the Bruins 3-1 in Game 7 at Rogers Arena. The Conn Smythe Trophy winner was Luongo.

Canucks in seven? Sounds about right to me. Enjoy the series.

Monday, May 23, 2011

What, another NBA conspiracy theory?

Take your pick -- warm, fuzzy feel-good story, or the latest fodder for conspiracy theorists?

Last week's NBA draft lottery, the event where a bad bounce of a ping-pong ball can teeter the balance of an entire sport, was notable for a couple of reasons:

On the surface, it was redemption for the once powerful, then woebegone, now strutting-again Cleveland Cavaliers, who went from the NBA Finals into the garbage pile once a certain someone decided to take his talents to South Beach. And now, after winning the lottery, the Cavs are suddenly in position to become relevant again, given they have the first and fourth overall selections in next month's draft.

It was also a compelling human interest story. The Cavs were represented at the lottery by Nick Gilbert (above, center), the 14-year-old son of team owner Dan Gilbert (above, right). Nick is afflicted by neurofibromatosis, a rare nerve disorder that causes tumors to grow in the body at any time. The scene of Nick doing a victory dance at the lottery's conclusion, while Timberwolves GM David Kahn and Jazz GM Kevin O'Connor (Minnesota and Utah were the other two teams with a shot at the No. 1 slot) could only stand by scowling, was priceless.

But as soon as the event ended, the tin hats came out. First to pull one on was Kahn, whose Timberwolves have never been awarded the No. 1 pick in 14 trips to the Lottery.

"This league has a habit, and I'm just going to say habit, of producing some pretty incredible storylines," Kahn said. "Last year is was Abe Pollin's widow (referring to the longtime owner of the Washington Wizards) and this year it was a 14-year-old boy and the only thing we have in common is we have both been bar mitzvahed. We were done. I told Kevin (O'Connor), 'We're toast.' This is not happening for us and I was right."

Kahn is far from the first person to raise his eyebrows at unusual events where the NBA is concerned. Officials Hue Hollins and Nick Bavetta (who was dubbed "Knick" Bavetta) have been called out in the past for their perceived propensity for making calls in favor of a certain New York team. And what about Tim Donaghy, the disgraced official who really DID fix games, and spent time in prison for it?

And then there's the main event when it comes to the NBA's image of supposed impropriety: the 1985 Draft Lottery, and the right to select Patrick Ewing No. 1 overall, famously won by the Knicks. At that time, the lottery was determined by team logos on huge envelopes pulled out of a bin by NBA commissioner David Stern. The story, which some people I know and trust swear to be true, is that the envelope with the Knicks logo was kept in a freezer before the lottery -- so when Stern was fishing through the envelopes, he knew which one to avoid, until it was the only one left.

Kahn wasn't the only one drawing conclusions last week, either. The New York Times reported that seconds before the lottery winner was announced, John Wall -- last year's No. 1 pick -- was standing next to Duke guard Kyrie Irving -- who could be this year's No. 1 pick -- and "whispered 'Cleveland' in Irving's ear before the cameras turned on."

In the days since, Kahn has backtracked -- OK, turned and fled -- from his initial view, claiming he was "joking" when spoken to moments after his team lost out yet again.

"I don't believe in jinxes, curses or hocus pocus, and I certainly don't think we were wronged," Kahn told the Associated Press. "But I do believe in the power of story, and I joked that it's a heck of a better story for a 14-year-old kid to beat out a couple of middle-aged executives standing together on a stage on national TV, and that our league seems to always have its own share of luck in being a part of these stories.

"That was the entire meaning of what I said in a joking fashion, and what I believe was received in such fashion."

The reality is he and the Timberwolves are just on a run of really, really bad luck. The perception? Another story entirely.


UPDATE: Back on May 12, I wrote about the backlash that slashed, crosschecked and boarded the Rangers' Sean Avery after he taped a PSA in support of gay marriage for New Yorkers for Marriage Equality.

With every day that goes by, the movement is getting more support from the sports world. Longtime Suns CEO and president Rick Welts recently came out, announcing he is gay. TNT analyst Charles Barkley, a former Sun, spoke out in support, saying he had no problems playing with gay teammates. "I'd rather have a gay guy who can play," Barkley said, "than a straight guy who can't play.

Now, a prominent NBA star, the Suns' Steve Nash, has joined Avery in taping a PSA for the organization.

"Hi, I'm Steve Nash," he says in the PSA. "I spend my summers in New York and I love playing at the Garden. A growing number of professional athletes are speaking out in support of gay and lesbian couples getting marries, and I'm proud to be one of them. Join me and the supermajority of New Yorkers who support marriage equality."

On Friday, ESPN.com reported the results of a Gallup poll, which said 53 percent of respondents said same-sex marriage should be recognized as lawful and valid, while 45 percent said no.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Scott Raab, Holocaust comedian

Up until now, Scott Raab was mostly known as a journalist who writes in-depth celebrity profiles for Esquire Magazine. On his Wikipedia page, Raab calls himself "a fat Jew from Cleveland" who has a tattoo of Chief Wahoo on his forearm -- done during an interview with Dennis Rodman.

Raab was in the center of a mini-controversy last fall, when the Miami Heat refused to give him press credentials, a by-product of Raab's negative approach while writing about LeBron James' exit from Cleveland.

But this week, Raab became known for something much worse. He placed himself into a pot of boiling water that, outside of Deadspin.com and a few sports blogs, has largely gone unreported.

In a tweet -- presumably in response to a contest being run by the Dallas Mavericks, asking fans to choose an "official" nickname for Dirk Nowitzki (above), who had just dropped 48 points on the Oklahoma City Thunder -- Raab wrote the following:

"All the fuss about a Nowitzki nickname is absurd. Gotta be "Zyklon D," nein?"

Zyklon was a pellet-based pesticide that became lethal when exposed to oxygen, and was what the Nazis used in the gas chambers at Auschwitz, Treblinka and Dachau. The full name of the poison was Zyklon B, which Raab twisted to Zyklon D, as in, D for Dirk Nowitzki.

Let all of that sink in for a moment.

I can immediately think of 6 million reasons to be upset about this, and I'm sure you can too. The fact that Raab is Jewish doesn't matter. I'm Jewish, and when I saw it, I was offended and sickened by the reference. And imagine how would you feel if you were Nowitzki, who, of course, is German and was born in 1978, 33 years after World War II ended?

I haven't found or heard any reactions from Nowitzki on the matter, probably because it has not hit the mainstream. Perhaps the main reason for that is Raab is now a "regular contributor" to Esquire as opposed to a member of the magazine's staff, which he was until 1997, according to his Wikipedia page. The point is that because Raab does not have to answer to anyone for his tweets, he can pretty much say whatever he wants, unfiltered and without anyone questioning, in this case, his judgment and taste -- which is why self-editing is a necessary skill in today's tweet-happy world.

Let's put it this way: If Raab worked for, say, ESPN or were a full-time columnist for a newspaper or website, he probably would have been fired. Rogers SportsNet in Toronto fired a TV host last week because he supported the anti-gay sentiments of a hockey agent who criticized the Rangers' Sean Avery for supporting gay marriage.

What I am sure of is this: Nowitzki would be as horrified as anyone. In Germany, it's illegal to display the swastika or other Nazi symbols, and the Holocaust is a legacy of shame and disgust for nearly every decent person in today's Germany.

For his part, Raab did apologize on Twitter 13 hours after his initial tweet, linking to an article he penned for Esquire on a convicted Nazi death camp guard who relocated to the United States. But it's important for us to object to and call out anyone who slurs or makes light of any form of intolerance, or in this case, genocide.

There are at least 6 million reasons why.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Kevin Durant has your back ... pack

NBA players have never been shy about their wardrobe and fashion choices, from the loud, obnoxious-colored suits that were in style (?) in the mid-90s, to the Allen Iverson-inspired street look that drove the image-obsessed league to institute a dress code. And AI was only talking about practice.

And we won't even get into the color palette in Craig Sager's closet.

Now we have new stars and a new movement that some have dubbed nerd-chic, now spotlighted by the Oklahoma City Thunder's young star, Kevin Durant. Never mind that he scored 40 points and pulled down eight rebounds Tuesday night in OKC's 121-112 loss in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals (in a game that the Mavs' Dirk Nowitzki scored 48 points). The focus on what he was wearing, specifically a checkered button-down shirt -- buttoned all the way to the top -- and a backpack, circa fifth grade.

Apparently, Durant has made his backpack his accessory of choice this season, and now that the Thunder have stormed their way into the national consciousness, it has become a topic of conversation. After a victory over the Grizzlies in the previous round, TNT's Charles Barkley even made an unflattering comment on it, and Durant was asked about the contents during an appearance on "Inside the NBA."

"I've got a Mac computer, my game shoes and clothes for the road trip," Durant said before embellishing. "Three pairs of jeans, three shirts, some dress shoes, phone chargers, a basketball, my phones ... I've got three phones.

"Oh, and I've got Dunkin' Donuts and Krispy Kremes for Chuck."

Which prompted Barkley to retort, "I didn 't hear anything about underwear. That means Kevin Durant is going commando."

Perish that thought. After a recent game, Durant was more low-key when asked about it again during the postgame interview session.

"I've got my iPad, I've got my Bible, my headphones, and my phone chargers."

Not too exciting, but you've got to respect Durant for having the confidence and poise to take the nerd-retro approach to fashion.

And then there was Thunder teammate Russell Westbrook, who sat next to Durant in the interview room wearing a pair of glasses that looked like they came from the Steve Urkel estate. That's another story for another time.

Monday, May 16, 2011

For Posada, this can only end badly

The events of Saturday night at Yankee Stadium have been dissected, analyzed, torn apart and rebuilt again, and that was before the final out of the Yankees' 6-0 loss to the Red Sox, the middle of a three-game sweep that led to a fair amount of preening in Kenmore Square and pouting on the 4 train in the Bronx.

We've heard different versions and details, from tweaked backs and lineup cards to tweets from Posada's wife, who felt the need to defend her man after Posada and his .165 batting average were only deemed worthy of the No. 9 spot in the batting order by Yankees manager Joe Girardi. That led to what Jack Curry, a respected New York sports reporter on the YES Network, called a "hissy fit" and Posada asking out of the lineup, much to the consternation of GM Brian Cashman and the bewilderment of Girardi, who when pressed afterward said Posada asked him for "a mental day" to "clear his head."

The journey in time back to the Bronx Zoo era seemingly ended Sunday evening, when Posada apologized for his actions, admitting it was his ego, and not his back, that was bruised.

"It's just one of those days that you wish you could have back," Posada said.

Why someone making $13.1 million for playing a game needs a mental day is another issue entirely, but all seemed forgiven. The "Bleacher Creatures" honored Posada in their nightly "roll call," and Girardi was satisfied. "This has been a great player for a long time," he said.

Fair enough. Posada's eventual plaque in Monument Park will include nothing of this incident, and it will do nothing to tarnish his legacy as a "great Yankee."

But it is reason to take pause, as a more nefarious opponent is lurking to stick voodoo pins between the pinstripes -- time.

Posada is the first member of the Yankees' esteemed "Core Four" to careen down the slide that eventually claims every athlete of a certain age. Some handle it more gracefully and adroitly than others. For every Sandy Koufax and Jim Brown, legends who retired at the top of his game, there is a Willie Mays and Brett Favre, who stubbornly live in denial of their declining skills and play on.

Andy Pettitte went out on his own terms and Mariano Rivera is still Mariano Rivera. It can be argued that Derek Jeter has already arrived at the playground, climbed the ladder and is staring stoically down the slide in the only direction he can go -- down -- but he remains an icon in the Bronx and will soon become only the 11th player in major league history to amass 3,000 hits with the same team.

Jeter has not been dropped to the No. 9 position in the batting order, a spot traditionally reserved for pitchers, as Posada was. His off-season contract negotiations were contentious, but he was not "disrespected" while in uniform, which Posada claimed he was Saturday. Jeter has not been moved to full-time DH duties, as Posada was this season. And Jeter was not forced to face a sea of microphones and tape recorders to apologize, as Posada was Sunday.

Posada enjoyed one of his finest seasons in 2007 (20 homers, 90 RBIs, .338 BA), the last of an eight-year run in which he played no less than 137 games in each season. But since suffering an injury to his right (throwing) shoulder in 2008, Posada's decline has accelerated:

2009: 111 games, 22 HR, 81 RBI, .285 BA.
2010: 120 games, 18 HR, 57 RBI, .248 BA.
2011: 33 games, 6 HR, 15 RBI, .165 BA.

Even more telling are the games Posada spent at catcher, DH and first base:

2009: catcher 100, DH 9, first base 2.
2010: catcher 83, DH 30, first base 1.
2011: DH 32.

The bottom line is that this will only get uglier for Jorge Posada. The proud Yankee may have said, "I'm sorry," but there can be no apologies that will soothe what lies ahead, for the specter of time forgives no one.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Sean Avery and the jackass

Stop us if you've heard this one before. Something insensitive, stupid and self-
serving was said, and in the same sentence are the words "Sean Avery." Old news, right?

Avery, the New York Rangers forward, has created a cottage industry, if not a career, on doing or saying the wrong thing throughout his NHL career -- whether it's distracting opposing goaltenders, sucker-punching a foe looking the other way or making crude and inappropriate remarks about opponents dating ex-girlfriends -- Avery has rightfully earned a place in the conversation of the most despised players in the NHL (A recent such poll by The Hockey News ranked Avery No. 3 in that category, behind the Penguins' Matt Cooke and the Sabres' Patrick Kaleta).

The Rangers have been eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs, but Avery still managed to get a reaction this week. But unlike perhaps any other time in his career, he wasn't the one firing the first shot.

Avery, along with several other prominent New Yorkers, including former president Bill Clinton, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, actor Sam Waterston and actress Julianne Moore, taped a public service announcement for the New Yorkers for Marriage Equality campaign in support of same-sex marriage.

Avery is not the first athlete to support such an initiative. Ravens Pro Bowl linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo taped a similar announcement for a like-minded organization.

In the PSA, Avery says, "I'm Sean Avery and I'm a New Yorker for Marriage Equality. I treat everyone the way I expect to be treated and that applies to marriage. Committed couples should be able to marry the person they love. Join me in supporting marriage equality."

An unheralded hockey agent in Toronto named Todd Reynolds took issue with Avery's stance and chose to use Twitter in his call from the mountaintop.

"Very sad to read Sean Avery's misguided support of same-gender 'marriage,' " Reynolds tweeted. "Legal or not, it will always be wrong."

Reynolds didn't stop there. In subsequent tweets, Reynolds felt the need to "clarify" and stated, "This is not hatred or bigotry toward gays," and "This is my personal viewpoint. I do not hate anyone."

In an interview on TSN Radio in Toronto, Reynolds went on, "I believe in voicing your opinion and not being part of the silent majority. If Sean Avery or any other player can comment on one side of the discussion then -- I work in hockey, I'm in hockey 24-7 -- why can I not comment on it as well?"

You want an answer, Todd? Here you go: Avery was lending his support toward a cause he believes in. And you? Well, we'll get back to you in a minute.

Avery is used to scrutiny in this type of arena. Even though he has been romantically linked to celebrities such as Elisha Cuthbert and Rachel Hunter, he writes a fashion blog and was an intern at Vogue Magazine, which caused people in some circles to out him. He even spoke openly on the topic during an interview with ESPN in 2008:

"It's just like a cardinal rule among athletes, that if you're not married by the time you're 30, all of a sudden you're 'definitely gay,' '' Avery told ESPN. "I just laugh it off. It's crazy ... it's just the narrow-mindedness of sports, which is probably the one thing that turns me off about it."

Is Avery gay? Who cares? The point is this: Intolerance in any form -- whether it be sexual, cultural or religious -- is frowned upon in any thoughtful, insightful or intelligent discussion. While Avery was voicing his opposition to ignorance and intolerance, all Reynolds did was take the opposite view -- in theory, supporting ignorance and intolerance -- in hopes of giving himself some pub and running the clock on his 15 minutes of fame.

If that was your goal, Todd, then mea culpa; I'm writing about you, so you got my attention. But I'm happy if I personally took your clock down to 14 minutes.

And to have a discussion including the words "Sean Avery" and "jackass," with someone else but Avery being the jackass? Now that is news.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Lakers' classless exit

We expected so much more, didn't we? Everything good comes to an end sometime, and when it became quite clear the expiration date had come and gone on the Los Angeles Lakers' latest dynasty, we surely thought a team and force led by the Zen Master, Phil Jackson, and his prized pupil, Kobe Bryant, would be dignified and humble when the buzzer finally sounded, in this case, on Jackson's Hall of Fame coaching career.

It was bad enough the Lakers were stomped on and swept away by the Dallas Mavericks, who finally have their chance to squint in the sunshine in a rare moment away from L.A.'s shadow. Consider that in Jackson's 20 seasons as an NBA coach, strewn with 11 championship rings through 63 postseason series, his teams had never been swept ... until now.

And as for the proud franchise itself, the Lakers had only been on the short end of a four-game sweep six times since moving to Los Angeles in 1961, and hadn't experienced this sort of defeat in 12 years, when they were zipped by the Spurs in the 1999 Western Conference semifinals.

The juxtaposition of a tight-smiling Jackson walking laboriously off the court for the final time, followed by the cameras and shaking hands with seemingly everyone within his huge wingspan seemed somewhat strange in the wake of ejections very much earned by Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum within 45 seconds of each other in the closing moments of the Lakers' 122-86 embarrassment; Odom with a hard foul to an unsuspecting Dirk Nowitzki, and Bynum with a senseless, deliberate, dangerous elbow to the ribs of an airborne J.J. Barea, who was driving down the lane at the time.

Bynum's foul, in particular, should translate to a heavy fine and a sizable suspension when next season begins. There is now a question what uniform Bynum will be wearing when that time comes.

"I don't know where we lost it, that certain drive, that bond that we've had in the past," said Bynum, who said he "was feeling salty" when he committed his unforgivable foul on Barea. "There was something missing for us."

How about class? The Lakers acted more like petulant children being told to go to bed than an accomplished group of athletes used to being at the top of their profession. And maybe that was the problem -- we often hear about also-ran teams needing to "learn how to win." These Lakers never learned how to lose.

At least Jackson and Bryant took the opportunity to stand up for sensibility.

"I wasn't happy with the way our players exited the game on Lamar and Andrew's part," Jackson said. "It was unnecessary, but I know they were frustrated and Barea was one of the guys that really frustrated us today."

Bryant took his feeling a step further.

"You don't want to see that happen," he said solemnly in the postgame interview room. "You don't want any of their players getting hurt. They played better than we did, so to make the game ugly like that ... it's not something that you want to see happen in the game of basketball, ever."

Perhaps the strangest scene was Ron Artest, of all people, playing peacemaker and helping pull Bynum off the court and toward the general vicinity of the Lakers' lockerroom. Maybe it was simply that Artest is so familiar with such exits, he could easily show his teammate the way.

Now there's some playoff experience for you.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Celtics can make history

High on all four walls around the court at the Boston Celtics' practice facility in Waltham, Mass., hang the testaments to the storied franchise's postseason pedigree, like sacred scrolls. Some are a bit discolored, some are a bit frayed, and one -- from the early '60s -- has what appears to be a huge coffee stain on it ... how something hanging indoors from the roof of a building could get splattered so messily is probably a great story in itself, but I digress.

The point is, as they practice under the watchful presence of those NBA record 17 championship banners, the the Celtics are literally surrounded by history. And sometimes, history visits in the flesh.

So it was yesterday. Down 2-0 to the Heat in their Eastern Conference semifinal series, one Celtics legend felt the time was right for an inspirational visit. Before heading to the airport to catch a flight to Scotland and a tee time at St. Andrew's, John Havlicek paid a surprise visit to the team's practice.

The catch here is that Havlicek was a member of the Celtics' 1969 championship team, the only one in franchise history to come back from a 2-0 deficit and win a series. Those Celtics trailed the Lakers 2-0 and wound up winning in seven games.

And for some of the younger Celtics, Havlicek's appearance added context to what might have been their only awareness to the Hall-of-Fame great -- his name being screamed repeatedly in one of the most famous sports calls of all time.

"I was talking to Havlicek -- you know, 'Havlicek stole the ball!' '' an inspired Glen Davis said. "I asked him, 'Which one of these banners ... He said the one that stood out to him was 1969, when they were down 0-2 and came back to win it in Game 7 against the Lakers. He was just saying, 'It's going to take everything in you to fight and claw back to get back to 2-2, and then it's going to take something special to finish them off."

The Celtics, with a host of players nursing nagging bumps and bruises, should get a boost from the return of Shaquille O'Neal, who is expected to play for the first time since April 3 due to a calf injury, and Paul Pierce should also be good to go, despite his strained left Achilles.

All told, though the Celtics are down 2-0, they look to be much more upbeat and in a much better place than that other storied franchise, the Lakers, who are similarly down 2-0 in their Western Conference series against the Mavericks. The biggest reason is Boston is going home with a chance to get back in the series while the Lakers lost their first two games at Staples Center.

And even better thanks to some inspiration from a real-life legend.

"I love all of them coming around," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "They've got more stories and the history above them."

Coffee-stained and all.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Fuhgeddaboudit, Flyers

On one glove, you could say the Philadelphia Flyers have the Boston Bruins right where they want them one game into their Eastern Conference semifinal series. The Flyers gave up seven goals. They had their starting goaltender yanked for the fourth time in eight postseason games. And they had home-ice advantage jerked away from them in a 7-3 loss to the Bruins Saturday.

For it was these same Flyers, one year ago against these same Bruins, who fell behind 3-0 in their playoff series but came back to win four straight and the series -- despite trailing 3-0 in Game 7.

But history will not be made this year. You can count on it. I'll repeat one particular sentence above for emphasis:

They had their starting goaltender yanked for the fourth time in eight postseason games.

The Stanley Cup playoffs are the domain of the hot goaltender, the singular sensation that carries a team on his back, instills confidence and gets the home crowd to chant his name. But forgive Flyers fans for having no idea whose name to shout out at the Wells Fargo Center.


The first round began with Sergei Bobrovsky between the pipes for the Flyers against the Sabres. He lost Game 1 1-0 in overtime, then was pulled in favor of Brian Boucher (above) in Game 2, eventually won by the Flyers 5-4 in overtime.

Boucher started Game 3 (a 4-2 win), Game 4 (a 1-0 loss) and Game 5 -- a 4-3 overtime loss in which he was yanked for not Bobrovsky, but rather Michael Leighton.

Leighton started Game 6 but was apparently on a very short leash and was replaced by Boucher in an eventual 5-4 overtime win.

Boucher started and won Game 7 5-2 as Philly advanced to face the Bruins, but was pulled for Bobrovsky in the second period after giving up all five goals.

The starter in Game 2 Monday is anyone's guess. How about Ron Hextall? Or Bernie Parent? Or Denis Lemieux? Because it won't matter. Not with whoever's in goal for the Flyers looking to the bench and coach Peter Laviolette's thumb. During the postseason, you want to ride your hot hand, not worrying about whose hand that's going to be.

"Certainly, you don't want to do that," Laviolette said regarding the game of musical chairs in front of the Flyers' net. "Based on the way we played, the team deserves most of the responsibility."

For their part, the Flyers are trying to keep their game faces on.

"It's always a wakeup call for the team," Boucher told NHL.com. "You always see to get a bit of a boost after there's a goalie change. I think that's why coaches are so apt to do that. That seems to be one of the last things they can do, as opposed to yelling at the guys or calling a timeout.

"At the same time, I don't see the need for a change, but we'll see what happens."

Laviolette was asked about momentum, and his response was telling.

"I believe in desperation," he said.

That sounds about right. Which is why the Flyers are done.