Penguins vs Flyers is absolutely bananas
This is unlike any playoff series I have ever seen. The Flyers and Penguins rivalry has reached a new level. The amount of venom in this series is beginning to rival the old Avalanche vs Red Wings series. We all knew this series had reached a boiling point. The fighting, chirping, and hitting was to be expected. What wasn’t foreseen, at least by me, was the low-level of play by the Pittsburgh Penguins. They were considered by many experts to be a favorite for the Stanley Cup, now it seems as though they are becoming the Canucks of the Eastern Conference.
The Penguins flat-out refuse to play team defense. I love that NHL playoffs are proving once again that will defeats skill every time. The Penguins are the more talented team, but they haven’t had the committment to defense needed to win in the playoffs. The lack of team defense by the Pens is compounded by the fact that they are getting squirt level goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury was phenomenal for most of the regular season before becoming a little leaky down the stretch. What was a leak in the final few games of the regular season is now a full-blown flood. Fleury looks completely rattled. 17 goals against in 3 games with a .798 save percentage has to go down as one of the worst performances by a former all-star goalie. Fleury isn’t the Penguins only problem though. They have completely lost their composure, and have everyone in North America outside of Pittsburgh pulling for the Flyers
The Penguins are becoming a team that is easy to hate. The actions of James Neal and Aaron Asham are deplorable. Neal is quickly earning a reputation as a punk. His late blind side hit on Couturier was disgusting. Definitely warrants a suspension. While Neal won’t be able to skate in game 4, hockey players have long memories. The first clash between Pittsburgh and Philly next season will provide the opportunity for vigilante justice to go with the formal suspension to be handed out by Brendan Shanahan. I personally believe that Asham’s suspension should be more harsh than Neal’s. Schenn delivered a great, clean, hard hit on a Penguin. That’s playoff hockey. There is no honor to the way the Penguins are playing this series. Having said that, I loved everything Sidney Crosby did on the ice and in the post game press conference. He is an easy target for some, but the guy is a winner and a tremendous competitor. I love that he fought Giroux. I loved that he saved Neal from getting murdered by Hartnell. I love that he pushed Voracek’s glove away. I love that he HATES everyone on the Flyers. Sidney Crosby is my guy. Like it or lump it. If only he could get the rest of the Penguins to play and compete as hard as he does.
While the hockey universe begins to hate the Penguins, for maybe the first time ever, fans are starting to LOVE the Flyers. Removing the Flyers two biggest villains (Pronger and Carcillo) has made the team much more likeable. If you love what Crosby did for his teammates, you also have to love how Giroux responded. Giroux might just be my favorite player in the NHL not on the Blackhawks. He is everything you could ever want from a superstar. He battles, he goes to hard areas, he plays in every zone, he stands up for teammates, and now we can say he has the “clutch gene”. Giroux has been without a doubt the best player in the playoffs. He is skilled enough and tough enough to carry the Flyers to the finals.
The extra-curricular stuff has been great, but I am somewhat disappointed in this series as a whole. The Penguins have let the NHL down. Their failure to compete has robbed us of a great 7 game series and their conduct feeds some of the negative stereotypes that casual observers have about hockey. I am hoping the Penguins are now desperate enough to recommit themselves to playing defense because fans deserve more of this rivalry. Even though I want the Pens to extend the series, I am 100% on board with the Flyers the rest of the way. SING IT MAC!!!
PS: Ain’t nothing but a G thang baby…
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