I imagine a giant map on a wall in a secret NHL room, probably somewhere near the "War Room" in Toronto where the geniuses gather to review goals (seemingly without the aid of HD).
On this map is a representation of a recent national broadcast's viewership. The brighter spots on the map represent high viewership, and you can guess where they are. In between are thousands of infinitesimal lights, mere blips on the Nielsen radar, surrounded by hundreds of miles of darkness.
That blip in northeast Missouri is me. When I head to the grocery store in my Claude Giroux jersey, or my Quebec Nordiques sweater, I get the strangest looks from an area in which most believe the "St. Louis Blues" is some kind of mental disorder afflicting people who live under the Gateway Arch.
Hockey isn't big here, but it's big in my home, where my wife and I operate a kind of "Philadelphia Sports Embassy." Tuesday night, that embassy was partying pretty hard.
The Philadelphia Flyers showed - finally - what anyone watching this series with unbiased eyes could see. They were the better team. Period.
If not for Ryan Miller, this series was over in five games, but the Olympic standout (who showed he was a bit of a punk in that "I wish I was Ron Hextall but not nearly as cool" kind of way) stole not one, but two games via 1-0 finals.
Instead, it took seven games, but it may as well have been called off midway through the second period last night. The Flyers simply dominated, finishing the series by outscoring the Sabres 9-3 since a dreadful period 1 of Game 6.
They did it without Jeff Carter. They did it largely without Chris Pronger. They did it with a revolving door installed near the goal, the inhabitants of which were nicknamed the "Three Stooges" by the Buffalo News.
Well, "Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk," Sabres. It was the self-appointed "Curly" who got the last laugh.
Brian Boucher served as a steady force in net during a Game 7 that, at least early, could have gone either way. A meltdown similar to what he had in Game 5, and this post might be a different flavor today. But "Boosh" stood tall, bailed his defense out when he needed to, and then coasted with his 'mates to the second round.
The Flyers will need him in the next round and after if they are to make a serious run to the Stanley Cup Final. Be it in net, or mentoring Sergei Bobrovsky (Michael Leighton cannot see the ice or bench in these playoffs unless required by injury), Boucher will play a starring role if the Flyers succeed.
Unlike Miller, however, Boucher (or "Bob"
can't do it alone. He's going to need stronger play from some of his defensemen who struggled in Round 1 (Matt Carle) and more even production up front. Mike Richards, Kris Versteeg, it's time to show up. The playoffs have started, and they miss you both.
Perhaps it's true that the Flyers finally "flipped the switch" last night and regained the form that helped them dominated the NHL for three-quarters of the season, the same kind of play that got them to the Finals last year. If that's the case, Boston, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, it won't matter.
But much like that blip in northeast Missouri going out when I flip the channel, the Flyers have shown all too often they can turn it off even easier than they can manage to keep it going.
Strap yourselves in. If the first round taught us anything, these playoffs are a different animal and it's going to be a bumpy ride.