Apr 17, 2012, 12:58 PM EDT
In Philadelphia, we’ve always enjoyed making a mockery of the Pittsburgh Penguins fan base.
Where do we start? Their love for soft, whiny players who always get their way? The fact that it’s only because of Lemieux that their team isn’t playing in Kansas City? The
fact that most of them wear those shiny new bandwagon baby blues after the empty
hockey building in Pittsburgh welcomed three straight number one or two overall
draft picks? Pittsburgh was given it all.
But this isn’t about the Pittsburgh fans. It’s about their beloved team, who until now
was always perceived as a talented, hardworking franchise with at least an ounce
That all changed on Sunday.
The world finally got to see the Penguins for who they really are. They put on the
most gutless display of hockey seen in years. It’s one thing to fight—to challenge an
opponent. That’s fair; that’s hockey. That’s actually what Philadelphia enjoys and
respects. It’s another thing to take unwarranted runs at talented young players with
a clear intent to injure. It’s beyond disgraceful and disrespectful. It’s cowardly.
The Penguins captain, Sidney Crosby, started everything and finished nothing.
I love fighting and rough play in this league, but it’s the not the same anymore. Why? Because it was changed for Crosby.
People love to praise Crosby as one of the world’s best players—his strength on his skates, his unreal stickhandling and playmaking ability. But some people who have never played hockey don’t understand how he truly works. Philadelphians don’t chant “Crosby sucks” because of his abilities—his skill level is on another planet; Philadelphians chant that because they can see straight through him.
He’s a phony. The antithesis of our ideal hockey player—a dirty coward who dives and starts fights but doesn’t finish them himself.
It’s a catch-22 for a defender. He knows Crosby’s strong on his skates. He creates space on the ice because honestly, yes, he’s damn good and fast. The defender plays him as hard as he can, but the problem is that he knows if he so much as taps him the wrong way, he’s going down, diving. And Crosby’s going to the get the call more often than not, because the league protects its “superstar.”
How do you, as a player, prevent that? You either defend him and get called, or back off and run a greater risk his talent prevails with a goal. That’s how he’s created himself; that’s how he creates space on the ice. Not merely because of his playmaking/scoring ability, but his diving/coercing ability. How can a hockey fan honestly respect that? His slashes and other on-ice antics could fill an entire article by itself. There are countless examples of every sneaky dive from Crosby, and it’s obviously contagious on the team.
Even though the Flyers were branded as the Broad Street Bullies (only after they were bludgeoned by the St. Louis Blues early in their existence) and they’re known for being aggressive, as a Flyers fan, I’ve never enjoyed dirty hits or unnecessary runs. I’ve always cringed when I see nasty, disrespectful things. But the Flyers are well aware of their aggressive reputation, and they know the second anything is questionable, it’s going against them. There is a code on the ice. If you’re challenged, you answer the bell. I’ve always been proud of the Flyers for largely sticking to it. Case in point: Mike Richards fought David Booth.
This current Flyers team is a bunch of kids, nothing like the team, or the sport, in the 70s. However, the Penguins made it perfectly clear yesterday that they were going to be relentlessly dirty in an age when their sport protects its stars from the very actions they displayed.
Not a proud day in Penguins history, and even their own fans are proclaiming their disgust.
In the first period when the Flyers were up 3-1, I could sense and see it; the Penguins were going after Flyers, and they needed to worry about injuries at that point. Matt Cooke, who has been surprisingly calm collected (probably because after being the dirtiest player in the league, he only has one more strike) took a run at Jagr at center ice. You could argue he was trying to disrupt a stick handling legend. It was clearly a run, though.
But it was only the start. It didn’t take long after that to realize the Penguins weren’t trying to score or prevent goals anymore. They were trying to disrupt the Flyers’ momentum. But the blatant intent to injure, the unprovoked picking on smaller, younger kids is what I have a huge problem with, and that was the Penguins’ mission.
Here are just a few specifics:
1) Crosby started almost everything. The ridiculous hacking of Bryzgalov’s glove after a play and then hitting away at Voracek’s glove as a scrum dissipated. Jumping Kimmo Timonen. All on one shift. Cute, Crosby.
2) He got away with a vicious slash on Talbot, his long-time friend. No call.
3) Crosby wouldn’t drop the gloves, yet he punched randomly with the gloves on. Never once did he truly answer the bell.
4) The fight with Giroux doesn’t count. Did you see how quickly the referee jumped in? Crosby didn’t start throwing punches until the referee stepped in. The unwritten code is if you initiate things in the National Hockey League, you need to finish them, but that’s the captain of the Penguins for you.
5) Arron Asham crosschecking Brayden Schenn in the neck, then punching him in the head as he went to the ice. Brutal. The start of the unraveling of the Penguins.
6) James Neal plowing Sean Couturier without the puck, not looking. Unnecessary. Unprovoked. Yet, no game misconduct?
7) James Neal, again literally going for Claude Giroux’s head. Unnecessary. Unprovoked. Clear intent to injure. Possibly incurring a concussion. Easily suspendable.
8) Crosby horse-collars Hartnell. Lays a good hook into him. Starts everything and keeps his mouth guard in, with his gloves and helmet on. Won’t fight Schenn.
9) Then Craig Adams, third man in, is punching Hartnell from behind before actually fighting.
10) Zac Rinaldo got a game misconduct for trying to respond, not Neal or Crosby. So where does the league stand?
Not once did the Flyers take a serious run at Crosby or Malkin. The Flyers, thankfully, took the high road. They fought back, but didn’t stoop to the same level of cheap-shotting. That’s a testament to Laviolette, his team, and their mission.
It doesn’t take a genius to see who’s in the wrong and who’s in the right.
Bylsma has been pushing this crap because his “world
class” players have been dominated by a bunch of kids. That’s why Laviolette pointed at him. It was to call him out for being the disrespectful hack he truly is.
Finally the world got to the see the Penguins, and Sidney Crosby for who they really are. Crosby’s always been known as a diver and a whiner. Pens fans loved to wash aside those comments as Philadelphians were “jealous” or “paranoid.”
Hockey fans are finally starting to wake up, and even most Pens fans can’t defend their team during this series.
Bitter. Arrogant. Cowardly. Gutless.
And, hopefully, the first chapter a Flyers’ Cup run.
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