April 15, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Flyers center Brayden Schenn (10) and Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) are separated by referee Kevin Pollock (33) during the third period in game three of the 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinals at Wells Fargo Arena. The Flyers defeated the Penguins, 8-4. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE
Let me begin this by disclosing the facts: my roommate (who, unlike many in the past, I actually really like) is a Flyers fan. Half of my family lives in Philadelphia.
Still, it's taken to this point that I've found any soft spot in my heart for the Flyers. There are reasons for this that are not limited to the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs and the boorish reputation of their fan base and their atrocious orange sweaters.
But man, now that we're here, it sure feels damn good to root for the Flyers, doesn't it?
Sure, a large part of that owes to Pittsburgh's cowardly performances on the ice in the past three games. Maybe a larger part owes to the fact that as someone firmly on the Boston side of things, I have no interest in seeing the Penguins in the playoffs.
It hasn't been long since the Montreal Canadiens and Bruins kicked their rivalry up a notch - in fact, it was just a year ago at this time that the Bruins began their first march back from an 0-2 playoff series deficit against Montreal, and we all remember how heated things got in 2010-11 between Montreal and Boston.
But with the Canadiens having nearly turned themselves into the laughingstock of the league and the Bruins remaining among the league's elite, we now have Pittsburgh and Philadelphia to deliver us the postseason series featuring bad guy-turned-charismatic everyman and the child star-turned-adult disgrace that we pine for each postseason.
And that's why I hope the series doesn't end tonight. Or Friday night. Or Sunday afternoon. I hope it goes seven games, because I can't get enough of the pop the Flyers get from Twitter every time they take the ice, and I really can't watch enough of the ridiculous heel turn that the Penguins have embarked upon.
It's like the main event at Wrestlemania, and yet, we're still hours (figuratively speaking) until the real main event actually gets here.
Yes, NBC and their network-wide crush on Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have made it even better. They're the Jerry Lawler to common sense's Jim Ross when it comes to this series - nothing the Penguins do can be viewed as criminal, despite the fact that they're jumping defenseless Flyers, pulling hair, and flicking away gloves as they lay on the ice, with no more extensive explanation as to why than "I hate them."
And to think: three weeks ago, the Penguins were the team people pulled for, with the enigmatic star who'd just returned from a career-threatening injury to boost his team's playoff chances. People (myself among them) wanted to see Sidney Crosby succeed, they wanted to see him hoist another Stanley Cup.
Now, they don't want to see him or his team at all.
Crosby's been the one doing much of the instigating when things have gone bad in the series, and what so many seem to conveniently forget is that he's the kid (yes, he's still just 25) with the head problems, the concussion symptoms of unknown causes and the skull that might just not be thick enough to protect all the brainlessness that he acts with.
Nobody wants to see Crosby hurt. Nobody not named Raffi Torres wants to see anybody hurt. But that Dan Bylsma hasn't pulled his captain aside and reminded him that it didn't even take a hit to the head last time to sideline him for three months is a bit absurd. Bylsma doesn't look like the coach in this series; he looks like the manager who's slipping brass knuckles to his outmanned wrestler in hopes that the referee doesn't see them and that they don't wind up used against him.
The referees, to be sure, have missed a lot in this series. But that doesn't give Bylsma a reason to keep letting his stars embarrass themselves, their franchise or their game in the way that they have.
It may be a distorted analogy, but this series, this rivalry, isn't much more than a wrestling match at this point. The main event - the final bout before the lights go down on Pittsburgh - may be tonight, or it may not be for another week.
In all likelihood, it's tonight. And really, although we all may want the show to go on, that would be the best possible outcome. For the Penguins, for the Flyers, and for the game.
But if it goes seven - and everyone's heads go unharmed - I don't think anyone will be too upset. Except maybe for Flyers fans.
And let's be honest, when have we ever felt bad for them?