Earlier this week I was able to collect my first VHA Cup as the Philadelphia Flyers. It was an incredibly long and stressful run, during which I was pushed to the max by 4 very gifted GMs. I consider it an honor to have found a way to beat 2 time cup champion Jamie (TOR), perennial cup finalist, Mathias (PIT), a consistently dangerous playoff performer in Sergio (MTL) and Roi (CGY), who had an incredible season and playoff run. There's a few words I'd like to end with, but first a few numbers...
Philadelphia over Calgary 2-1 in OT
Philadelphia over Calgary 1-0
Philadelphia over Calgary 3-2
Philadelphia over Calgary 4-1
Carter Hart was named the playoff MVP after allowing only 4 goals in a 4 game sweep of Calgary. For the playoffs, Hart was 13-2 with a 2.41GAA and a 91.57SV%.
Anze Kopitar: 21GP - 5G - 13A - 18PTS
TJ Oshie: 21GP - 7G - 10A - 17PTS
Mike Hoffman: 21GP - 10G - 6A - 16PTS
Paul Stastny: 21GP - 7G - 8A - 15PTS
Erik Gustafsson: 21 - 5G - 10A - 15PTS
UNSUNG HERO OF EACH ROUND:
Philadelphia over Toronto (4 games to 0)
There's no easy way to say this (for Jamie), but every one of the forwards had a great series vs Toronto. Paul Stastny elevated his game and scored some big goals, but frankly, it was the overall depth that put Philadelphia through to the next round here. Perhaps the most unsung hero is Roman Josi, who continually refused to fight Kyle Clifford, until he beat the wheels off him late in the series.
Philadelphia over Pittsburgh (4 games to 2)
It sure as hell wasn't whoever was covering Pastrnak! In truth, if I had to pick one player it would be Clayton Keller, who was traded to Philadelphia from Pittsburgh, earlier in the year. Keller was part of the 3rd line with Nylander and Foligno, which did it's job by scoring important goals vs whoever they were thrown out against. Pittsburgh routinely tried to catch line 3 out vs their line of Guenztel, Crosby and Kane, but but Keller and Nylander held their own and found ways to create turnovers and goals.
Philadelphia over Montreal (4 games to 3)
This is possibly the most clear pick for me. In spite of a fantastic standin performance in net by Anton Khudobin for the first 2 game, the pick has to be Erik Gustafsson. I don't know that I'll ever be able to explain how insane it was to see Gustafsson (who had 0 playoff goals prior to this series) score 4 huge goals in this series alone. Gustafsson would go on to score the game winner vs Calgary in game 1 of the final, but vs Montreal he was dominant here. Whether he was on human growth hormones or just the beneficiary of a very hot run at he perfect time, we may never know, but he was the clear standout, finishing the series with a +11.
Philadelphia over Calgary (4 games to 0)
It's very hard to pick one player from this series, but it's hard to argue against Carter Hart, who only gave up 4 goals in 4 games. In games 1 and 2, Hart faced limited shots, but he made several key saves in each game, which Philadelphia won 2-1 and 1-0, respectively. In game 3, Roi upped his offensive game and by game 4, Calgary was putting serious pressure on Hart, but he would not bend. I could possibly also have made the case for TJ Oshie, who scored some big goals here, but Hart stole the show.
There were many times, over many different seasons, where I played my final game of the season and thought that perhaps someone who played the way I played (strictly within the rules), simply couldn't win the cup. I'm happy to report, that's untrue. I'm also happy to report that the hard work I did on my roster really mattered, thus proving that YOUR participation matters too!
I could feel the difference in ratings when facing Jamie, who had somehow started a rebuild and still managed to finish 5th in the East. I could feel the depth of my bottom six keeping me within striking distance vs Mathias and his team of all-stars. I couldn't have survived a 7 game series with Sergio without the depth I had in goal and on D. In short, I couldn't have won the cup without having put in my time building assets and bringing it all together for this run. To that end, I hope everyone who watched any of these series believes that you can win, not only by playing cleanly, but by being active, making trades and participating in all of the offseason events that can push you over the top.
And with that...the honeymoon is over, it's time to start the process of building a team that can defense this title!
Thanks to all who participated this year and I hope everyone comes back, more active than ever!