December 9, 2010

Richards Scores the Game-Winning Goal that Wasn't

For all intents and purposes, the "would've, could've" game works well in this situation, in which Philadelphia Flyers forward Mike Richards put the puck in the net just after time had expired in overtime against the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday. If there had been just a few milliseconds more on the clock, the Flyers would have won. It's that simple. It's not as if San Jose goalie Anterro Niittymaki or any one of his teammates saw time expire and just stopped playing. He tried to make the save and just failed to do so.

However, it's not as if the Flyers or their fans can turn anyone into a scapegoat for this latest defeat, which saw them succumb 5-4 in a shootout, with Logan Couture getting the winner.

There was no money being exchanged between Sharks head-coach Tood McLellan and the referees. There was no phantom timekeeper that purposely put the scoreboard out of sync with the offical game clock. There was no Montreal Canadiens defenseman that was talking smack out of turn, distracted Richards, and prevented him from shooting the puck one second sooner. There was just the Flyers getting legally bested by the Sharks. But Flyers fans can take solace in the fact that their team most certainly deserved a better fate. They deserved to win, plain and simple.

Of course, that's not really taking into account the fact that they gave up three-straight goals and a 4-1 lead to get to that point, where a last-second goal would have had a direct impact on the outcome of the game, but, still, in the spirit of how the game was meant to be played, the Flyers won. Only they didn't. Confused? Well, it's like when you read the winning lottery numbers in the morning, seeing that your numbers actually won, and for a split-second that overwhelming dislike you've been carrying around for everything in the universe, God included for never, ever giving you a break the length of your tired, long, miserable existence, dissipates suddenly and you actually feel a smile forming on your face... until you realize you didn't buy a ticket this week because you were hungry and went for the beef jerky at the convenience store instead.

It's a moral victory. And how sweet are those? Am I right?

Obviously, the need for timekeeping is there, and there's little point in ridiculously making an argument that the goal should have counted. It will just be interesting to see how the regular season plays out and if Philadelphia ends up needing one extra point to clinch the Atlantic division in April, and falls just short. Of course, there's hardly any reason to worry in that regard. The way the hated Pittsburgh Penguins are playing, the Flyers will never find themselves in that situation. Feel better, now? I thought so. But, hey, Flyers fans, just remember: if they do, when the Penguins are bulldozing their way through the competition thanks to the higher seed en route to the Stanley Cup Final, it should be you in their place.

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