Most of you who know me are aware of my love for the game of hockey. In my opinion it’s one of the greatest sports on earth but unfortunately it doesn’t get the notoriety of other American sports such as the NBA, NFL or MLB. For whatever reason hockey, more than any other sport in America is a niche sport. The following isn’t quite there like the other 3 sports I mentioned but for those that do follow they tend to go all in. Even here in Philadelphia I know a huge amount of die hard Flyer fans that tend to keep up with the other 3 pro teams in town to a certain extent but when it comes to the Flyers it’s a religion. Right now that religion is about to take center stage as the NHL playoffs are upon us.
Some of you out there haven’t watched a single minute of the NHL season since it started back in October. Others might have watched an occasional game here or there and know enough at least about our Flyers to realize the playoffs are starting and you’re on the fence about jumping on the bandwagon at this point in the season. Well I’m here to tell you the bandwagon is always open this time of year and if you fall into one of the classes I just mentioned then I challenge you to jump in with both feet and watch the NHL playoffs. I’m so confident in the NHL as a product that I’ll guarantee if you take the time to watch a full playoff series from start to finish you’ll be hooked. For those of you who haven’t watched all season and are afraid of your lack of knowledge of the teams involved don’t worry you’ll be schooled in no time once you begin watching.
Almost all of you out there are fans of the NFL to some extent. Everyone knows Tim Tebow, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady among others and no matter how big a fan of the NFL you are or aren’t you all tune into the Superbowl every year because it’s a cultural phenomenon in America. I tend to compare the NFL with the NHL on many occasions when trying to convince others to give the NHL a chance. The way I see it the NHL is the NFL on skates and is played more than once a week. Let’s face it most of you watch the NFL because it’s a game of intensity and artistry. You have the opportunity to see grown men being brutally violent towards one another while beautiful, artistic passes and run plays take place every week. It’s a game full of strategy and competitive balance from the start of the season to the end.
For those of you who enjoy the fast pace action of the NFL but haven’t tuned into hockey then imagine the NFL on skates and without stopping for a huddle after every play. Every team plays 3-4 times a week as opposed to once a week. Any team can win on any given night as the competitive balance is at an all time high around the NHL. The violence is still there and in my opinion it’s more intense in the NHL than the NFL. Now if you love the physical nature of the NFL than the NHL is for you. Yes in the NHL they don’t just hit each other, players will drop the gloves and beat one another to a pulp all while grown men balance themselves on an ice rink. Each team only has 1 timeout per game so the action is pretty much non-stop for 60 minutes. At the end of the playoffs the winning team is awarded with North America’s oldest trophy the Stanley Cup. I’ve been lucky enough to visit the hockey hall of fame in Toronto and got to see the Stanley Cup in person and it is without a doubt the coolest, most prestigious trophy in sports. What else could you want?
In Philadelphia we’re lucky enough to be part of the premier series in the first round of the playoffs as the Flyers will take on the cross state rival Pittsburgh Penguins. Much hate exists between both teams and their fan bases. This will be the third time since 2008 the Pens and Flyers will face off against each other in the playoffs and yes the previous two times the Penguins were victorious so the Flyers are due. For those of you unaware of the backdrop for this series both teams met twice in the last week of the regular season where plenty of fists were thrown between the teams. It even got to the point where the coaches were ready to throw down with each other. The physical play of those last two games combined with the already existing intensity that comes with this rivalry will set the stage for what’s being considered a PA Bloodbath.
For those of you who haven’t been following along this season this is the series you want to watch. I’m predicting a long, bloody series that will go 6 or 7 games. Both teams have a high powered offense so scoring will be there to go along with all the violence. In the end though for the Flyers to advance it will come down to the goaltending of ilya Bryzgalov. The first year Flyers goaltender played lights out in March and was awarded with NHL player of the month honors. The other side of that glory is that Bryzgalov struggled most of the season up until March. If Byzgalov plays like he did in March I have no doubt in my mind the Flyers will win this series if not though it’ll be an early exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the orange and black.
Regardless of the outcome the Flyers/Penguins series and every other series starting this week will be entertaining. For those of you that watch the NHL on a regular basis like me you know the intensity goes up a notch during the playoffs so buckle your seatbelts. The NHL bandwagon is open so accept my challenge and watch the NHL playoffs this spring. Don’t worry you’ll thank me later.