Devils and Dementia
Tempestuous. That’s how the psychiatrist described me on his way to a diagnosis of dysthymic disorder. Tempestuous, he said I am, and in a depressed mood nearly every day, tearful, without interest or pleasure in life, and feeling hopeless.
That pronouncement was made six hours before the New Jersey Devils eliminated the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. He should have seen me then.
Anyway, I have two choices now. I can either take the prescribed Venlafaxine Hydrochloride, a bicyclic antidepressant that inhibits the reuptake of serotonin, norepinphrine, and dopamine (whatever that means). Or, I can trade one mental illness for another by becoming a Devils worshipper.
I’ll take the pills.
In fact, I’d take the pipe before I’d cheer for Scott Stevens. It was a love-fest in the broadcast booth for this disgraceful old headhunter whose last remaining skill is to wait for a teammate to tie up an opposition player, then make a cross-ice run and drop a shoulder into the target’s chin. His hits on Daymond Langkow and Eric Lindros might have been clean, though methinks the Panger doth protest too much. Clearly, his intent was to injure, as it was the two times he low-bridged Keith Primeau; but that’s a judgment call, and judgment is a quality the NHL zebras lack shamefully.
And Claude Bleeping Lemeiux. This old fraud … this old fraud … this old fraud just kills the Black and Orange. On my lowlight reel of spirit-crushing defeats, his shot from the blueline that beat Ron Hextall in Game Six of the 1995 Conference Finals is tied with Joe Bleeping Carter taking Mitch Bleeping Williams downtown for his walk-off homer in the 1993 World Series, just ahead of Thurl Bleeping Bailey jumping clean over Akeem Bleeping Olajuwon for a buzzer-beating tip-in to win the 1983 NCAA basketball championship.
It makes me tempestuous. Bleeping dysthymic.
The word means “ill-humored,” which is ironic because the Prime Directive of Fred Shero, the genius behind the Flyers’ bench during their Glory Years, was: “Get to the puck first, and arrive in an ill humor.” For nine of the last 10 weeks, the Flyers played hockey like a bunch of win-crazed dysthymics.
They overcame a 15-point deficit to finish first in the East by ending the regular season with a 12-6-2 run. Too bad for them, according to the ESPN/ABC talking heads, who pronounced the Flyers DOA against Buffalo and rattled off one meaningless statistic (Dominik Hasek is 6-4 on the road on Thursday nights against Eastern Conference teams) after another to back up their prediction.
Game 1: Daymond Langkow undresses the Dominator on a short-handed breakaway and the Flyers win.
Game 2: Rookie G Brian Boucher stops 30 of 31 shots, the Flyers go 2/5 on the power play, and the Flyers win.
Game 3: Boucher puts up his first NHL playoff shutout, and the Flyers win.
Game 4: Keith Primeau ties the game at 18:25 of the third period, but the Buffs win in O/T.
Game 5: The Flyers uncork 36 shots and torch Hasek for four goals. Dominate this, pal.
In the second round, to make it interesting, the Flyers spotted Pittsburgh a two-game lead by getting swept in Philly to open the series. Stick a fork in them, they’re through, intoned the ESPN/ABC gasbags, because everybody knows Jaromir Jagr is the best offensive player who will ever play the game.
Game 3: Rookie D Andy Delmore scores his first NHL playoff goal in the first period and his second in O/T.
Game 4: Boucher sticks the knife in the Pens by stopping 71 of 72 shots and Primeau twists it by beating Ron Tugnutt glove side-high and the Flyers win the 5 O/T marathon.
Game 5: Delmore puts up a hat trick. The AHL Philadelphia Phantoms will miss him next year.
Game 6: Pittsburgh will win, predict the windbags, because they’ve never lost three consecutive playoff games at home. The Flyers close out the second round in business-like fashion. (Historical note: Jagr had 6 points in the first three games (5G/1A) and none in the last three.)
So, it’s Flyers/Devils for the Eastern Conference championship, and now the ESPN/ABC blowhards are sure: No way the Flyers can beat the Devils. It will be a short series, portends NHB Barry Melrose, if John LeClair and Mark Recchi don’t score early and often for the Flyers.
Game 1: You see, cheer the talking heads as the Devils spank the Flyers in Philly. It’s all over, they howl in unison, for Scott Stevens is the best defenseman who will ever play the game and Martin Brodeur is the best goalie who will ever play the game.
Game 2: Eric DesJardins scores at 19:21 of the second period, Rick Tocchet pots a pair, Boucher makes a circus save, and the Flyers overcome a two-goal deficit to tie the series at one game apiece.
Game 3: Oh, persist the windbags as the series moves to the Devils’ arena perched atop some North Jersey landfill: The Flyers never win in the Meadowlands. Recchi, Keith Jones, Tocchet, and Rookie Simon Gagne each tally for the Flyers, and the windbags are wrong again.
Game 4: Boucher turns away 24 of 25, Craig Berube scores the winner at 12:58 of the third period, and the Flyers are just one win from going to the Cup Finals. (Historical note: At this stage, Recchi and LeClair had a combined 3G/3A, proving once again that Barry Melrose is stealing money from ESPN.)
But, at the end of the day, Barry, and the Panger, and Gary Thorne, and Steve Levy, and the thousands of New Jersey fans who left their building long, long before Games 3 and 4 were over, all were vindicated. The Flyers did their version of the Philly Phold and lost the last three games by a combined score of 8-3.
That’s what sports is about, though. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. The Flyers have some questions to answer this summer. But right now, I’m going to crank up Surrealistic Pillow, inhibit the reuptake of some serotonin, norepinphrine, and dopamine, and hope that those two liquored-up cowgirls who were beating on the glass behind the Colorado Avalanche bench Saturday night have something to cheer about real soon.