I have an admission to make. I don't really watch regular season hockey very much. Ever since the 2004 NHL Lockout I've virtually lost all interest as a fan in the sport. I'm one of those "watch the playoffs only" type of people. I've tried to change my attitude - but I just haven't been able to get back into it. After that lockout so much about the game changed - the rules, the players, the teams. I also never played hockey as a kid - so I probably didn't have the same unconditional attraction to sports like baseball, tennis, basketball, football, and cross country skiing. With all of that being said - there is a big regular season game happening in what's been dubbed the "Winter Classic." As with any big sporting event - I'll try to share some knowledge, make a pick, and watch the outcome. Check for the analysis after the jump...
New York Rangers @ Philadelphia Flyers (-135) - Citizens Bank Park, 3 ET - NBC - W
Having grown up smack dab in the middle of New York and Philadelphia - any matchup between the two cities is usually appealing to me. Hockey is no different - especially since these two teams have been 2 of the top 3 teams in the Eastern Conference all year long. They've already met two times (both in NY) this year with the Rangers coming out victorious both times.
I'm not going to lie - the real reason that I'm writing this blog is because I've been hooked to the HBO documentary 24/7. Basically the HBO cameras follow both teams around and you get a real look into the locker room and mindset of the players and coaches. The documentary gives this game the hype of a huge boxing match or a Superbowl for Hockey - not like I needed an extra reason to watch the game - so long as there's a betting line and a nationally televised event - I'm usually in.
The Rangers have been good this year in large part thanks to the outstanding net-minding that they've gotten from All-Star goalie Henrik Lundqvist or "King Henrik" as he's referred to in NY. Lundqvist has allowed less than 2 goals per contest (1.91 GAA). Marian Gaborik and Captain Ryan Callahan lead the team in goals and points.
The Flyers rely on their star player Claude Giroux who is second in the NHL in points scored with 45 (17 goals and 28 assists). Giroux and linemate Jaromir Jagr have been a lethal combo so far this year as the older Jagr has admitted that Giroux makes the game much easier for him. I would also be remiss if I didn't mention what an oddball character the Flyers have tending the net - Illy Bryzgalov. This clip pretty much sums it up. Bryzgalov has dropped the last 4 contests that he's been in net for and he noted "I have great news and even better news - Great news, I'm not playing (Monday). Good news, we have a chance to win the game (Monday)." Funny stuff.
For the pick - I've got insiders on both sides telling me that their team is unquestionably better. I know the home field will definitely be in effect for Philadelphia - but when it comes down to it I'll take the steady goaltending of King Henrik any day of the week. I'll back the underdog Rangers (+115) in this one.
Season Record: 1-0