On a typical Sunday, I’ll plop down on the couch and watch NFL football for about ten hours, then maybe a new episode of whatever series is currently on HBO, or maybe catch the late airing of the latest Mad Men episode. Life is good.
But it’s the football off-season, and the hockey post-season. And trust me, I could go on a two-thousand word rant about how awesome the playoffs are and why sports kick ass and all that jazz. Instead, I thought I’d try something new.
With three games today, I thought I’d pick the one that would be the most intriguing, and do a running diary of it. And while it might be fascinating to potentially see Washington upset Boston, or Los Angeles take down Vancouver, it was of this writer’s opinion that Pittsburgh heading to Philadelphia was the biggest draw. And who would disagree? Of all the series’ in the 2012 post-season, Penguins-Flyers has had it all: blood, fights, goals, chirping, cheap-shots, suspensions, terrible goaltending, coaches yelling at eachother, and Scott Hartnell’s hair. It has been glorious.
So here it is: Huntzy’s Running Diary of Sunday’s Penguins-Flyers Tilt.
12:15 — PREDICTIONS!!1!!!…I think Philly woke up after game 5 and said “Alright, enough of this crap, we’re closing it out back home.” I got the Flyers winning 5-3.
12:21 — No one does pre-game anthems better than Philadelphia in the playoffs. When they sing “God Bless America”, everybody in the building has goosebumps. Lauren Hart from ice-level, with an image of the iconic Kate Smith on the jumbo-tron, has an uncanny ability of taking your breath away.
12:24 — PUCKDROP
12:25 — Uh, that was quick. After running over Sidney Crosby at the beginning of the shift, Claude Giroux finishes it off with a snipe past Marc-André Fleury. 1-0 Philly.
12:33 — Dear God Scottie Hartnell is an ugly bastard.
12:44 — 10 minutes into the first period and only one goal? In this series? Something’s not right.
12:47 — Ah, that’s better. Hartnell pokes it in on the power-play to make it 2-0 Flyers.
1:02 — End of one, and the score remains the same. I don’t like those “Because it’s the Cup” commercials, they aren’t nearly as good as the old “History Will Be Made” ads. Those were amazing, probably the most brilliant advertising strategy we have seen from the NHL since…ever? Here’s the best one:
1:24 — And that’s a back-breaker. Five minutes into the 2nd period, Erik Gustafsson scores a weak one on Fleury that makes it 3-0. Fleury has looked like absolute garbage throughout the playoffs, and appears to have no confidence at the moment.
1:33 — Evgeni Malkin scores on the power-play to cut the lead to 3-1. That shot was textbook perfection. The Pens are back in this one.
1:34 — Are you friggin’ serious Fleury? 34 seconds after some form of life was breathed into Pittsburgh, Danny Briere takes it away with his fifth goal of the post-season, making it 4-1 Flyers.
1:38 — I’m not putting all the onus on Fleury more I think about it. Brooks Orpik and Zbynek Michalek have appeared to discover their inner-Jeff Finger and have been brutal for the most part. Defense wins championships, and the Penguins aren’t in that conversation at the moment.
1:40 — Just read that Orpik is already minus-three in today’s game. Well there ya go.
1:54 — Fleury makes a save, and the Philadelphia crowd gives him a bronx cheer. ”Fleuuurrrrryyyyyy, Fleuuurrrrryyyyyy, Fleuuurrrrryyyyyy”. God I love Philadelphia.
1:58 — End of two, still 4-1 Philly. Pittsburgh better wake up if they want to stay in this game, because at the moment, they only have 20 minutes left in the season.
2:06 — NON-HOCKEY-POINT: Moxie’s commercials are terrible. Is it a restaurant? A place to pick up women? Watch the game with the boys? How about…none of the above! It’s like Moxie’s takes the worst part about some good things (drinking, wheeling, chilling with the boys, etc.) and combines it to make a mediocre product. In other words: the Calgary Flames.
2:25 — Midway through the 3rd, Pens aren’t showing any fight. Kimmo Timonen just threw James Neal into the boards, which draws applause from the Philly faithful. Some of the Pittsburgh players look like they don’t want to be there, and that wish could be fulfilled soon enough.
2:29 — Kris Letang just made a game-saving play with a backcheck on Giroux. I don’t think any other player on the Penguins had the speed to catch him.
2:36 — “CROSBY SUCKS! CROSBY SUCKS! CROSBY SUCKS!”
2:37 — I think some of the fans will begin to chant this as the game winds down…
2:45 — Bruce Arthur (@Bruce_Arthur) just tweeted this: “A team with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and James Neal is going home in the first round. Good luck with your blueprints, all.” That’s pretty mind-blowing when you think about it.
2:48 — Uh, hold on a second. Neal just scored for Pittsburgh to make it…wait…NO GOAL!!! Referee is saying that Neal pushed Ilya Bryzgalov and the puck into the net, therefore voiding the goal. Penguins cannot catch a break.
2:51 — One minute to go, still 4-1 Philly. The fans are going absolutely insane, as my guess is that they rant out of beer. I’ll be sure to checkout Barstool Philly incase any fans fought after the game. That always brightens me up.
2:53 — Empty-netter for Brayden Schenn. Goodnight, Pittsburgh.
2:56 — Time for the series-ending handshakes, which are probably the most honourable thing about sports. These guys spend a few weeks absolutely hating eachother with a passion, then come to respect eachother as one moves on, and the other goes home. Awesome.
Here are my final thoughts: Game 6 was won in the opening 30 seconds, with Giroux absolutely laying out Crosby, then getting the opening goal immediately after. If that’s not setting the tone, then I don’t know what is. Following that, Crosby looked average and had little-to-no impact on the game, while Giroux on the other hand, looked brilliant at times, and may have come away from that series as the best player in hockey (at the moment). The goaltending as a whole was horrible, with Fleury looking like a CHL goaltender — no, not the Canadian Hockey League, but the Central Hockey League — while Bryzgalov better pick it up if Philly wants to go deep into the playoffs. He played solid today, with the Penguins not generating very many chances; that may be due to the fact that the Flyers blocked 40 shots today, 30 of which were from the defense.
Can Philadelphia carry this into the second round? A playoff series like that can have a lasting impact on a team, and the Flyers may be physically spent after going to war with the Penguins. If their next set of games are anything like what we just saw, then we as fans are incredibly spoiled.