Philadelphia Flyers fans tend to react a bit sensitively from time-to-time. Considered some of the smartest hockey fans in the league, the Orange and Black faithful can succumb to thinking with their hearts instead of their brains.
I’ll take a second to write one sentence with my heart and not my head: The Flyers, led by Claude Giroux, will not make the Stanley Cup playoffs.
And the rest of this piece will be written with my brain.
It happens every season in every sport to a handful of teams with expectations beyond making the playoffs. Your team loses a couple of games or doesn't look like the Edmonton Oilers of the mid '80's and you see your championship dreams erupt into flames like a random car on the streets of Vancouver in June.
When your team is entrenched in the playoff hunt later in the season, do you ever remember how you freaked the puck out months earlier?
It blows my mind how short the fuse is with some sports fans. But it makes far less sense for fans of the game of hockey.
It's played with a rubber disc on frozen water atop concrete with dudes in shoes with sharp blades on the bottom. Pucks bounce and find stray sticks and skates to ricochet off of and referees blow a handful of calls every damn game.
In what sport are the odds of losing a game that you utterly dominate the greatest?
Even in the Flyers' 2-1 victory of the New York Rangers, a game in which Philadelphia utterly dominated, you know you saw a scenario in which the Flyers would be the victim of a bad bounce or three and lose the game.
Hell. In the final stanza, Philadelphia incurred a compound of misfortune in a missed call on a Flyers' power play that would have given them a 5-on-3. It was followed by a Ranger checking his face into a Flyer's stick, drawing blood of course. And then a weak call gave New York the 5-on-3 just seconds later.
Need I delve into waived-off goals for goalie interference or nearly kicked pucks?
I think not.
I know the Flyers didn't lose three straight last year. I know three games this year are more important than three in a normal year.
I have simple advice: get over it.
Philadelphia didn't look sharp right away, but neither did plenty of teams in the league.
This isn't really the season of normalcy. You'd hope your team would fall on the side of victors, but you couldn't have been surprised when the "product" wasn't perfect from day one. Could you?
Look at last night's opponent after their first two contests. Analysts already had the NHL start engraving their names into Lord Stanley's Cereal Bowl before a single puck had been dropped.
Then the Rangers played a couple of games.
After Thursday night's victory and more importantly, great effort from start to finish, I hope these worries are quelled.
Even so, fans need to look beyond the results and the statistics and actually watch the game. Is the team skating? Are they fighting for every loose puck? Are they communicating?
There will be games when Marty Brodeur plays like Marty Brodeur.
We need to be focused on if the Philadelphia Flyers are playing like the Philadelphia Flyers.