I am going to preface this by saying, I don’t particularly care for either of these teams nor does my NHL playoff bracket don either of their names to reach the coveted Stanley Cup finals. Having said that, I have not seen a more intense, exciting and all around awesome series in the first round of playoffs than the one between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Ever. Period.
Avid hockey fans rejoice. Casual fans rejoice. Even non-hockey fans rejoice because this series is exactly what makes hockey exciting.
It had all the right elements heading in to it: tradition on both sides, an unparallel rivalry and an intent to win that is adequately summed up the NHL’s slogan, “Fight for the Cup.” And fight they have.
The Flyers have looked reminiscent of their former Broad Street Bullies and even superstar Sidney Crosby mixed it up with Flyers all-star forward Claude Giroux early on. Through the first and second periods of Sunday’s Game 3 alone there was a combined 80 penalty minutes assessed between the two teams (46 PIM to the Pens, 34 PIM to the Flyers).
And that type of intensity was imminent. Not only are the NHL playoffs arguably the most passionate playoffs in professional sports, but there’s a taste of bad blood between these two teams from the start, further evident by Crosby’s comments after Sunday’s game noting, “I don’t like them because I don’t like any guy on their team.” The Penguins slipped in to get the No.4 seed in the Eastern Conference with Philly hot on their tails at No.5. Game on.
Filtered in between the board shattering checks and penalty box sendings were dangles, slapshots and breakaway goals that would energize any highlight reel.
Here’s a look at the scores of the series so far:
Philly 4, Pitt 3 it OT
Philly 8, Pitt 5
Philly 8, Pitt 4
The Flyers have scored eight goals in back-to-back games. Yes, read EIGHT. That is just unheard of to do in one game, let alone two playoff games against a team who’s etch on the Stanley Cup was brandished there just three years ago. They have outscored the Penguins (and two of the games most predominant goal-scorers in Crosby and Evengi Malkin) 20-12 through those three games, including a rally from a 3-0 hole in Game 1 and down 2-0 and 3-1 respectively throughout Game 2, both on Pittsburgh’s home ice. The Flyers held home ice advantage Sunday and keep it for the deciding Game 4 on Wednesday where you can be sure Flyers fans rants of “you can’t beat us” will be well echoed throughout the sea of orange come game time.
Sure the series is at a 3-0 Philly advantage and sure the scores appearlopsided in favor of the Crosby-less team but what has been seen in this series is exactly what, for me, makes this game so invigorating, especially considering the fact that it still doesn’t mean that the Penguins are down and out, with past playoffs proving that a team on any given night can come back and gain the momentum needed to win the series.
Tune in to NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus) at 6:30 CT and I promise you won’t be disappointed.