So I heard an interesting theory on the radio this morning that made a lot of sense and I’ve been thinking about a lot. It’s in regards to the Leafs/Flyers series that will continue tonight.
It was said by one of the announcers that Philly coach, Ken Hitchcock, is going out of his way to be nice to the Leafs. The Leafs seem to play better when there is a hatred there and an intensity. The Leafs got by Ottawa this year and you know there’s a hatred there. They played Philly real tough in the playoffs last year when things started to get real mean. The Islanders and Senators the year before that definitely had some heat and when they go to Carolina there was no rivalry or hatred and they went right in the shitter.
The Leafs are made up of guys like Tucker, Roberts, Marchment and guys like that who play better with a burr in their saddle. They want it real physical, they want lots of lipping off and shoving and they’re not getting that.
When Hitchcock talks to the media about Toronto he is very very complimentary saying things like “we’ll need to get much better because we know Toronto will” “oh, they’re a great team and they’re going to push us to the edge” “well Sundin’s a great player and we knew it would be tougher with him back in the line-up” “we’ve been lucky to get a few by Belfour because he’s one of the best in the world” and things like that. The Flyers’ players are doing the same thing and it’s almost certainly by order of the coach.
You look at Jeremy Roenick. He is one of the most outspoken guys in the league who is always good for a quote to spark something and he has done nothing but praise Belfour and the Leafs. It’s obvious Hitchcock does not want to wake up the Leafs. I’m sure in the locker room they say all the same “Toronto are assholes” “fuck this guy” kinda thing but not publically. They’ve been very diplomatic and that’s something that the Flyers’ are not known for.
Philly is quite content playing an up and down game without much intensity because they’re winning at it. Philly plays tough but they’re not as big as they used to be and they don’t want this to turn in to a war. They wanna continue what they’re doing now and get the last laugh when they sweep the Leafs right out of the playoffs.
Toronto needs to find something to hate about the Flyers. You would think that the fact that they were eliminated last year by this would be enough but it has not been. In all fairness, the Leafs have not played poorly but they have not played that mean game that they can play and need to play to be effective. Philly has small guys on the team. You need to start hitting the Recchi’s, the Roenick’s and the Kapanen’s and taking advantage of that. That will accomplish two things. You’ll knock those smaller guys off the puck to create opportunity for yourself and you may upset them and begin to put some life in to this series. Toronto needs that.
I just thought it was an interesting theory and when you look back at the different series’ where Toronto has played well vs where they’ve played badly it usually has something to do with heat and rivalry. You can even go as far back as the wars with New Jersey. Toronto lost those series’ but they played well and they were long series’ and you KNOW there was hatred between those teams then.
Just something to think about.