5 Reasons Philadelphia Flyers' Physical Play Is Great for the NHL
Perhaps the most epic playoff series between two NHL rivals is unfortunately over. But the good news is, the Philadelphia Flyers looked like the Broad Street Bullies that they once were back in the 1970s.
Since then, the Flyers, as a franchise, have been trying to model after that style of play. It is the staple of the Flyers and the city they represent. Since the back-to-back victories in '74 and '75, the Flyers have been trying to replicate that success, largely through physicality.
Some years, it has worked brilliantly, and others (especially the Dan Carcillo years) were flops that accomplished nothing, except trips to the penalty box.
The number of Stanley Cups the Flyers have is just two, but they should have more than that—three-to-five Stanley Cups more.
1997, 2000, 2004 and 2010 should have all been Stanley Cup seasons for the Flyers (the Edmonton Oilers dominated the 1980s, and despite Philadelphia reaching the Finals in '85 and '87, the Flyers were not expected to win). Even two out of those four would have been fine.
The goaltender situation in Philadelphia is a significant reason why the Flyers have not won a Stanley Cup despite having great teams through the years.
If the Flyers want to have a chance at a Stanley Cup in 2012 and in future seasons, the whole package has to come together.
Can the Flyers win 12 more games? The NHL better hope so.
The Fans Love It
Philadelphia is a tough city. Drive through it, and you will see why. It has a reputation that is hard to explain until it is seen and experienced firsthand. Only natives of the city limits can really understand what I am talking about here.
Crunching hits that you can hear up in the 15th row of the 200-level at the Wells Fargo Center get the crowd riled up. Players in the NHL always talk about the Wells Fargo Center being one of the loudest and toughest places to play in the league.
The Flyers deliver the hits and skate hard after every loose puck.
Tickets are scarce due to high demand. Sellers raise their prices, and it soon becomes the toughest ticket in town, forcing fans to head to their favorite sports bar to watch the game.
The casual sports fan will also tune in to see a hard-hitting game where guys can fight and not get suspended, instead of watching the shuttle run that is the NBA.
What the player formerly known as Ron Artest did in the "Malice at the Palace" game is normal in the NHL. He may have not even gotten a penalty had it been on the pond.
They Don't Whine (As Much)
Everybody whines when a call goes against him. Until somebody is a trained referee and actually officiates a game at any level, can a person fully appreciate a bad call.
Sidney Crosby has gotten away with a lot, and that image doesn't just come from fans whose teams he defeats. Their argument has some evidence to support it.
Don't believe that?
Then listen to what Chris Therian had to say during a broadcast of Game 3 in Philadelphia.
Scott Hartnell pleading with the referees over his hair getting pulled could be viewed as whining. It was whining, but anyone would complain when that happens.
Hartnell had a valid reason for his displeasure. When Crosby has a valid reason, it goes unnoticed because he is a frequent whiner—and when Crosby whines, it affects his whole team.
A few years back, when Jeff Carter was the best-looking hockey player in Philadelphia, the Penguins and Flyers met in the first round. The Penguins beat the Flyers on their way to win it all in 2009.
Carter tried lifting Crosby's stick in typical hockey fashion, and as Carter pulled his stick back, it grazed Crosby. Sure enough, like many observers had seen before, Crosby turned to find the closest referee and voiced his displeasure.
First-year players are always fascinating. Matt Read, Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn have been mixing it up with the grisly (literally, with the playoff beards) veterans.
Matt Read is a centerman in the making. He has potential to be like Danny Briere or a smaller version of Eric Lindros.
The comparison to Lindros is a big stretch, but the Flyers have lacked a guy who is solid in the faceoff circle, and Read has that potential. He can have a Jordan Staal-like role as a third-line center for the Flyers for the next few years and could become a second-line center.
Couturier's two-way abilities are what make him so fun to watch.
He was a steal as the eighth pick overall in last summer's entry draft and is such a smart player, with the skill to back it up. A versatile, physical player who can also dazzle with his stick-handling skills is close to a star.
French-Canadians have had great success in the NHL, and Couturier has been the most complete player at his young age that hockey fans have seen in a long time.
Schenn is a scorer who likes to hit. He is a winger version of the guy he was traded for, Mike Richards. Give Schenn a little bit of time in the NHL, and he should be scoring 30-plus goals a season before you know it.
They Rattle Opponents
Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are one of the best pairs to ever play in the NHL. But, they are not invincible, as some may think.
They scored goals in this series, but on many occasions, they were taken off their game to engage in a fight. The Penguins found themselves in a spot that they're not used to—for the first time, it looked like they wanted to win the fights, instead of the game and the series.
To sum it up, if it rattled Crosby, and the Penguins gave up the lead as much as they did in this series, what does it mean for an opponent who does not have the star power of Crosby and Malkin?
The hard hits will make them think twice about going after the loose pucks along the boards.
Too many people don't consider the NHL as one of the four major sports in the U.S. In Canada, there is nothing to debate.
The NHL and the game of hockey are healthy. The Flyers-Penguins series' goal-scoring craziness brought in new fans. It was so good that even ESPN had no choice but to give Barry Melrose some face time—or in his case, hair time.
Like it or not, ESPN has a lot of influence over the health of certain sports. The NBA was not nearly as popular as it is now. Its popularity has risen as a result of ESPN's coverage and LeBron James.
ESPN hardly pays attention to hockey now, unless someone gets cut by a skate or the glass breaks during a goal celebration.
With the Skip Bayless types drooling over NBA stars like Kevin Durant, I'd love to see them explain why Raffi Torres should be suspended longer than James Neal for their dangerous hits in the first round. Bayless probably thinks that hockey uses a ball.
It's hard not to pass up a chance to bash the guy whose name (that he goes by) is similar to a brand of peanut butter. He lives for the drama off the court and makes a living being a soap-opera analyst.
As I write this, on SportsCenter, I just witnessed a pass from half court to a guy in the paint for an easy layup. Of course, Stuart Scott was wide-eyed with drool pouring from his mouth like a waterfall. Pathetic.
I've seen toe drags between the legs get lower rankings on the Top 10 plays than some of the random dunks.
The continuous physical play of the NHL playoffs is bringing in better ratings. The Winter Classic has brought new attention to the game and almost forced ESPN to make a bid for NHL broadcasts.