Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Flyers Versus Versus

It's hard to tell which group of miscreants is bothering me more right now. On the one hand, Joe Beninati is two levels past unbearable. On the other, God himself hates Derian Hatcher. He dropped the lump of clay when He was molding Hatcher and it hasn't been right since. Back on the first hand, Darren Eliot makes Neil Cavuto look nuanced and intelligent.

Look, only a low class person insecure with his faculties would complain about officiating and announcing in a series in which his team is up 3-1. So let me tackle those very topics. Actually, the officiating wasn't as horrible as I would like to believe, although the first period certainly made it seem so. I mean, if the league is so interested in seeing a Game 5, let's just assign Philadelphia two goals before the opening faceoff and get on with it. Like handicapping in golf, to level the playing field between a superior opponent and an inferior one.

Let's just focus instead on Darren Eliot and his 60-minute knob bob job of the Flyer franchise. Hearing him talk about how incredible Philadelphia was last night, I had to go look up which team was up 3-0 in the series. (Hint: Pittsburgh)

Eliot could not stop talking about the amazing response Daniel Briere had to being called out by coach John Stevens. Briere had a power play goal in the first period and finished with 4 shots and a -1 for the game. First, I'm not sure how incredible that is. Even giving him extra credit for "effort" for the first time all series. Second, he basically checked Fleury on his goal and knocked in the puck Fleury dropped. Third, Hal Gill just didn't get turned around in time to see Briere sneaking in the back door. If he did, Briere would've been a stain in the faceoff circle. Fourth, should you be happy that somebody making $7.5 million a year needs to be called out before showing up for the conference finals? Fifth, if this was such a genius move, why didn't Stevens do it after Game 2? Hell, after Game 1. Sixth, all this lauding of Stevens for jumbling his lines? His team was down 3-0 and had 5 goals in the series! He should've switched them up earlier. Christ, how do you get credit for that? "Well, once I realized we were basically out of it, I decided to try Hartnell with Briere." "Coach, this is Darren Eliot from Versus. Just wanted to say that's a great move!" Seventh, cataloging the lunacy of Darren Eliot could honestly take all day and most of the night.

Every fan thinks the announcers are secretly pulling for the other team. It's in our sports DNA and there's no fighting it. But on his goal, Briere was hiding out along the boards and only went to the crease when he saw he could sneak behind Gill, who wasn't looking. Throughout the game, Eliot lauded Briere for his ability to play along the boards and avoid traffic in the middle. As a center. It maybe was the first time in NHL history that a pundit praised a player for not getting his nose dirty.

I guess Briere's play along the boards, far, far from the net in Games 1-3 wasn't worth bringing up. Fine, Darren Eliot loves how little Danny Briere avoids contact. So when in the third period Crosby lost the puck and Eliot accused him of bailing out of the middle because he fears contact, I almost burned Versus headquarters to the ground. Unfortunately, like almost everybody, I have no idea where the Versus offices are actually located. Little Rock? Montpelier? Somewhere where Engblom's hair can be kept away from civilized society, I know that much. Eliot opined that maybe it wasn't in Game 4 entirely, but cumulative contact over the course of the series. And I opined that maybe Eliot is an idiot and not paying attention to a series in which the Flyers are being physical with Malkin and Crosby is getting two points every night, maybe of them coming in traffic. Actually, that reminds me. You know who has been taken out of the series by physical play? Daniel Briere!

Anyway, if I did manage to find Vs. HQ, I would try to explain to somebody why they might want to show replays of penalties once in a while. If there's a penalty, you'd better catch it the first time, because there's no way Versus is showing it again. Hell, there wasn't even a mention of Orpik's penalty until :14 seconds into the kill. Luckily the arena announcer's call on power play is loud enough to hear on TV.

So Darren Eliot isn't the finest announcer in hockey history. All right, whatever. And so we have to waste another game on this goon squad. All right, whatever. Except, during play after the empty netter, Upshall charged Staal, leaving his feet to drill a guy bending over. And though it looked like Upshall was talking trash to a prone man, a second replay showed that maybe he was making sure Staal was all right. You want to make sure a guy is all right? Don't blast him in the head along the boards! I understand Upshall wanted to finally have some effect on the series, but come on.

Then of course, at the end, Richards chopped Crosby for some reason. I guess when you're the heart and soul of the Flyers, you have to do something cheap eventually.

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