Presidents' Trophy worth pursuing for Flyers

Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky is congratulated by Claude Giroux after victory.
Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky is congratulated by Claude Giroux after victory.
Posted: January 26, 2011

OF COURSE, the Flyers should do whatever they can to win the Presidents' Trophy.

* Not because it's the most prestigious regular-season team award in the NHL.

* Not because the winning team gets a $350,000 bonus for the players to split, although something like that never hurts.

* Not because it's a trophy the Flyers have never won.

* Not even because doing so would clinch home ice for the Flyers for as long as they are in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Flyers should do whatever they can to win the trophy awarded to the team with the most regular-season points because doing so would be a natural extension of what they've already done during the first half of the season.

After last night's 5-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens at the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers lead the NHL with 71 points. They reached that number by executing a system of play that has made them as formidable as any team in hockey.

They did that by playing with an attitude, a confidence and an edge that says they believe they are the best team in hockey.

Winning the Presidents' Trophy, or, at the minimum, staying right in the race for it would mean that the Flyers completed a regular season of superb play.

That's what championship teams do.

Conversely, considering where they presently stand, to not have a chance for the most points in the league would mean something changed dramatically for the worse over the final 32 games.

"It's not the goal," Flyers center Danny Briere said of the Presidents' Trophy, "but at the same time, if we're not in the running, it would mean there was a serious collapse there down the stretch.

"We expect to be there. We want to keep playing good hockey. We want to keep improving. The goal is the playoffs and we want to make our path as easy as possible."

There is no logical downside to the Flyers finishing with the most points.

If you want to go the superstitious route, one that has no true bearing on what this current Flyers team may achieve, you could say that only seven of the 24 Presidents' Trophy winners went on to win the Stanley Cup.

In fact, the last two winners - the Washington Capitals and San Jose Sharks - both flamed out in the first round of the playoffs.

Maybe it's just me, but I don't see how that is an indicator of what the 2010-11 Flyers might do.

On the other hand, securing home ice throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs could be significant.

I know that for whatever reason, playing at home doesn't seem to be as big a factor in the NHL playoffs as it is in other sports. But I think that's just an overall rule in hockey that doesn't apply to some specific teams.

Some home-ice advantages are far superior to other home-ice advantages, and South Philadelphia has historically been one such place.

With the victory over the Canadiens, the Flyers became the first NHL expansion franchise to record 1,000 regular-season home victories.

It may not be the Spectrum, but the Wells Fargo Center is not a place where visiting teams like to play. Flyers fans are loyal, loud and occasionally obnoxious.

If it is a reality that fans can provide an edge of intimidation, a Flyers home audience has to rank as one of the best in all of sports.

Everything about the Presidents' Trophy says it is something that the Flyers should want to capture.

Home ice means that the first two games of every series will be in the Wells Fargo Center. There is no way you could convince me that does not significantly increase the Flyers' odds of getting off to a quick start.

Considering the first two games of last year's Stanley Cup finals were one-goal games, it is hard not to wonder if they would have resulted in Flyers' victories instead of losses had they been played in Philadelphia instead of Chicago.

Had the Flyers started out 2-0 instead of 0-2, it is hard to believe they would not have won the Stanley Cup.

Possibly more important than a quick start to a series is the location of a potential Game 7. If a series goes to a seventh game, it inherently means the teams involved are evenly matched.

In an evenly matched series, any edge - real or perceived - matters.

I can't believe that there is a Flyers fan out there who would think that a Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals played in the Wells Fargo Center would not work to the advantage of the orange-and-black.

The Presidents' Trophy isn't the be-all and end-all for the Flyers.

Still, considering the way they have played over the first 50 games, it is something they should want to win.

Send e-mail to

smallwj@phillynews.com.

For recent columns, go to

http://go.philly.com/smallwood.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|