Finally, playoff hockey that rocks

Members of the Flyers and Penguins fight during Game 3 of their NHL Eastern Conference quarterfinal...

Members of the Flyers and Penguins fight during Game 3 of their NHL Eastern Conference quarterfinal series at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Penn., April 15, 2012. (TIM SHAFFER/Reuters)

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:55 PM ET

TORONTO - My friend Kirkland Lake Ron called on Monday morning to tell me how much he’s enjoying the opening round of the NHL playoffs.

Of course, Ron is just an ordinary guy, not one of these hoity-toity insiders pontificating from a press box or broadcast studio.

But in my world, Ron’s opinion counts.

Hockey fans, it seems, are really digging these opening round matchups.

There’s a bigger buzz than usual. People are talking. Pundits are debating. It’s all good.

You gotta love (as one radio guy put it), the passion and emotion of the NHL playoffs so far.

It’s awesome. It’s intense. And sometimes it’s been a bit crazy.

But, on the whole, it’s what playoff hockey’s all about — as Philadelphia Flyers coach Peter Laviolette so eloquently put it. So much for those sensitive types who love to whine about how there’s no fighting in playoff hockey, therefore there should be no fighting during the regular season. Those who sniff and moan over fighting and rough play ignore the fact that the fans who actually show up at the games, who pay their hard-earned money for tickets, have loved every second of these tough, opening round matchups — particularly the Flyers-Penguins and Rangers-Senators series.

The NHL is out of control? Give us a break.

Those anti-fighting types weeping into their hankies should take note that even the players seem to be enjoying the rough and rumble action.

Flyers’ forward Brayden Schenn gets cross-checked in the face by Penguins banger Arron Asham and says it’s no big deal. Luke’s little brother actually called the fact that he got hammered a couple of times “fun.” Same with Flyers skill guy Sean Couturier when he got crushed by James Neal. I believe even Sidney Crosby, despite his team being down 3-0 to the Flyers, is enjoying himself, mixing it up and dropping the gloves against fellow skill guy Claude Giroux.

And how do you think Ottawa Senators fans are feeling? The Senators used to be pushed around like old brooms during the playoffs, their skill players constantly being targeted with little retaliation. But then Matt Carkner steps up in Game 2 and hammers Rangers pest Brian Boyle for taking liberties with Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson, and you could almost hear Senators Nation stand up and cheer — despite the fact that Carkner received a one-game suspension.

Nobody wants anyone to get hurt. But I’ve got news for you. When big, fast players, playing with incredible intensity, face off on a relatively small sheet of ice, guys are going to get hurt no matter what. But I’d much rather watch guys going at each other hard and physical, and dropping the gloves occasionally, as opposed to enduring one of those trap-filled games with teams hanging back, waiting to jump on mistakes, terrified that they might take a penalty. It’s great that so many teams in the opening round are throwing caution to the wind and letting the shoulders and fists fly.

Yes, we don’t want elbows and head shots. But that’s what Brendan Shanahan is for, though the NHL marshal is taking a ton of abuse for being inconsistent with his disciplinary rulings. But the good Mimico boy can’t win.

He gets slammed no matter what he does.

They way I see it, there’s not enough room on the ice anymore for wide open playoff hockey, like in the 1970’s and ‘80’s. The players are too big and fast. Every second pass and shot seems to be intercepted or deflected. Without the physicality we’re seeing in these opening rounds, you’d have boring hockey, which we see too often during the regular season.

When NHL players get emotional, s..t happens. And the NHL playoffs bring out that emotion. So let’s stop whining about how rough and tough these games have been and sit back and enjoy. Most guys I know, guys who have been hockey fans their entire life — Steve in Guelph, Mike from Mimico, and Kirkland Lake Ron — are really enjoying it.

And they don’t care what the mucky mucks think.

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca

twitter@beezersun


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