JVR grows up on the greatest of stages

By MATTHEW NADU
Staff Writer — mnadu@highhopesblog.com
________

Lauren Hart sings "God Bless America" in front of a group of servicemen and women.

Echoes of  “U-S-A!” chants were still ringing throughout the Wells Fargo Center long after the Philadelphia Flyers starting line-up was announced.

Even after Philadelphia police and firefighters were honored on the ice and as the combined voices of Lauren Hart and Kate Smith belted out the final verses of  “God Bless America,” shock waves were running up every single spine in the arena.

The chants that rose above the never ending sea of orange and American flags lasted just long enough for the James van Riemsdyk show to begin.

Behind the fans the Flyers struck early in a redemption Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, just 29 seconds into the first period on JVR’s sixth goal of the playoffs after a 7-3 blowout to the Boston Bruins in Game 1.

On the day when most of America found out that terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden had terminated by United States Armed Forces, the nation wasn’t soon to forget a decade of anguish and despair.

JVR let Flyer nation know early he hadn’t forgotten those events either, or the beating the Boston put on Philadelphia in Game 1, 9:02 later when he netted his second goal of the evening.

The crowd went into a frenzy that lasted the rest of the night.

Obviously being an American and playing in a city like Philadelphia , one of the most prominent American cities is pretty cool and the fans were unbelievable,” said JVR after the game.

As the game proceeded and with each shot on goal, JVR displayed a confidence only matched by the unity of our own country.

Perhaps it was the momentum of the game. Perhaps it was the “U-S-A!” chants that exploded from every mouth as videos of veterans and scenes from New York City during 9/11 flashed on the big screen giving fans more than just hockey to cheer about. Perhaps it was his last professional hockey game as a 21-year old kid.

Or perhaps it was just the heat of the moment.

Either way Philadelphia fans have been in the right place at the right time over the past two evenings.

Starting with the Phillies-Mets game Sunday straight into Monday nights showdown, Philadelphia has seemingly reversed it’s ruffian reputation, at least for the time being.

Yet for the second straight night Philadelphia found itself on the losing ended of an extended game as the Flyers fell in over time 3-2.

Despite falling 2-0 in the series to Boston, Philadelphians left the arena with a sense of pride.

Call it patriotism, call it jubilation, call it revenge, call it whatever you’d like but unless you witnessed Philadelphia pride first hand there’s no true way to put the past two evenings into words.

“Yeah it was great,” said Claude Giroux who assisted JVR’s first goal.  “I had some goose bumps and it got me going a little bit.”

This phenomenon isn’t just happening in the City of Brotherly Love, it’s spreading throughout country.

The nation has united in ways we almost forgot how to during nearly a decade of frustration that began on that fateful September morning in 2001. Since then, the United States of America has declared war on all terrorist threats.

And the Flyers have declared war on the Bruins.

Yet beating Boston goaltender Tim Thomas seems as impossible for the Flyers to beat as it was for our troops to find bin Laden amongst the vast desert. Thomas has never lost to the Flyers in Philadelphia going a perfect 6-0 in the regular season and 2-0 in the playoffs.

Philadelphia attacked relentlessly, launching a new home franchise record 22 shots in the third period. Still Thomas remained resilient.

That didn’t seem to phase the Flyers Monday night as “U-S-A!” chants gave way to “Let’s go Flyers!” before the arena began to boom “J-V-R!”  “J-V-R!” every time No. 21’s line hit the ice.

“[The fans] are so passionate about our country and our sports and to hear that it was pretty special,” said JVR.

Overnight the home team watched van Riemsdyk become a man on the greatest of stages on the greatest of days.

“It was really awesome to watch him play like that,” said Flyers coach Peter Laviolette. “It was such a good night for him. It makes you anxious to see his future unfold. Tonight he was an impact player. I thought it was the most dominating performances that I have seen from a player.”

“He’s our best player right now,” added Giroux.  “He has a lot of energy and a lot of confidence.  I think we just need to follow him.”

The Bruins would tie the game 2-2 and as OT kicked off with the toll of the Liberty Bell to AC/DC’s Hell’s Bells it seemed evident this night was destined to be in Philadelphia’s favor. However, Thomas saved 52 total shots and the Bruins emerged victorious once again on the road against JVR and Philadelphia.  Sometimes the script doesn’t go the way you plan. Just asked Boston who let a 3-0 Conference final series lead slip to the Flyers last season.

Game 2 was more than just another hockey game in Philadelphia. It was bigger than anything any of us can explain or perhaps  ever witness again. For three hours we were united as a team, as a city and as countrymen.

“You know certainly tonight was awesome,” said a humble Laviolette. “The fans, the way they got going, and you know I just listened to the way “God Bless America” played out to the fans, and the events of the last couple days; just being a part of a sporting event that you can rally around like that is a special night.”

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