Fan Rant: Letting Loose on the Penguins

Fan Rant: Letting Loose on the Penguins

Level reader and creator of the great Philly Sports Power Hour video, John Gallagher, sends in a Bundy-like rant of his own. These are his words.

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
of respect.

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.

Go Flyers.

End to End: Who will Flyers protect, lose in expansion draft?

End to End: Who will Flyers protect, lose in expansion draft?

Throughout the offseason, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End today are CSNPhilly.com producers/reporters Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone.

The topic: The expansion draft, who to protect and best guesses at Vegas' selection.

Dougherty
We have and will continue to discuss in detail the entry draft, but we haven't talked much about the June 21 expansion draft. That's what we're doing today.

The expansion draft will affect the Flyers' plans this summer because they will be losing a player to Vegas, but the impact will be a minimum. They will not lose any core pieces.

How the expansion draft works: Teams have two options in protecting players. They can either protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, or eight skaters and one goalie. The expectation is the Flyers will protect seven forwards, three D-men and a goalie.

There are six forwards and two defensemen who are obvious protections: Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, Valtteri Filppula, Shayne Gostisbehere and Radko Gudas. Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny are exempt.

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall will have decisions to make on who the seventh forward and third defenseman he protects. Then there is the goalie protection.

That leaves forwards Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Nick Cousins, Taylor Leier, Scott Laughton, Michael Raffl, Matt Read, Jordan Weal and Dale Weise; and defensemen Andrew MacDonald and Brandon Manning.

Losing any of those six forwards would not be major blows to the Flyers. Now on the blue line, it gets interesting. My prediction is that the Flyers will choose to protect Manning with the hope Vegas takes MacDonald's contract.

Probably isn't going to happen.

Of the goalies, I don't think Vegas will have any interest in Anthony Stolarz, especially since he tore his right MCL in April. So that should cut the question here. That would mean the Flyers protect Michal Neuvirth, whom they signed to a two-year extension.

So what is my best guess at who Vegas plucks from the Flyers?

I think it will be a toss-up between Laughton and Raffl. I suspect the Flyers will re-sign Weal before the draft and then protect him, or have a verbal understanding they'll sign him after the expansion draft. Both parties appeared interested in him coming back.

My pick? Let's go with Laughton, a former first-round pick who turns 23 on Tuesday.

Laughton hasn't panned out as the Flyers hoped. He spent last season in Lehigh Valley and both Leier and Weal earned call-ups over him. I think that is a telling sign here.

So I'm predicting Laughton going to Vegas, where a change of scenery helps him out and the Golden Knights get a young forward that can slot into a third- or fourth-line role and still has upside.

Hall
There's a lot to the expansion draft — tons of possibilities and things can still change before June 21 that could impact the Flyers' decisions.

Albeit unlikely, Steve Mason could re-sign, which would obviously affect the Flyers' protection plan at goalie. Assuming that doesn't happen, I think the Flyers protect Neuvirth, especially considering Stolarz's health is in question this offseason and he may not be the true goalie of the future. Stolarz is also a pending restricted free agent, so he'll have to receive his qualifying offer from the Flyers before the expansion draft.

Now, let's say the Flyers go with the seven-forward, three-defensemen approach.

The blueliners are pretty clear: Gostisbehere and Gudas will be protected, as it comes down to MacDonald and Manning. I feel the organization thinks a bit more of MacDonald and his versatility compared to Manning, whose two-year deal last summer was likely strategic on the Flyers' part in planning for this expansion draft.

As for the forwards, Giroux, Voracek, Simmonds, Schenn, Filppula and Couturier are staying put. I believe Weal will be re-signed and protected.

Ultimately, I could see Raffl being Vegas' choice. At 28 years old, he's not super young or inexperienced, but also not old by any means, and the winger can play all four lines because of a well-rounded game that complements different styles.

Raffl's injuries last season (abdominal, knee) may cause red flags. At the same time, the Golden Knights should be intrigued by the two seasons prior in which Raffl played all 82 games of 2015-16 (and was a plus-9) after scoring a career-high 21 goals in 2014-15.

A loss of Raffl wouldn't be ideal, but not as damaging given the Flyers appear to be gaining more depth and youth at forward.

Paone
June 21's expansion draft will be the biggest wild card of the NHL summer. And that's not just some corny pun because it involves an expansion team from Vegas.

It'll be the first piece of player movement during the offseason, coming before the entry draft and free agency. But since it will be the first piece of player movement of the offseason, it will help mold how the Flyers and the rest of the teams around the league approach their summers.

None of the Flyers' "big guns" will be on the move and my gut tells me the Flyers will be protecting Neuvirth as they want him to shoulder the starting load this coming season.

We don't know exactly what Vegas is looking for in the expansion draft because general manager George McPhee is keeping that close to the vest. But if I'm the Golden Knights' GM, youth is at the top of my wish list.

That leaves three Flyers to stick out in my mind — Weal (25), Cousins (turns 24 in June) and Laughton (turns 23 on Tuesday).

After the sparkplug Weal was down the stretch with eight goals and four assists in 23 games, the Flyers should reach a new deal with the UFA and keep him in Philadelphia.

That leaves Cousins and Laughton.

My instinct tells me Vegas will gamble (sorry, still getting used to this whole Vegas having a team thing) on Laughton, a former first-round pick.

There's a reason he was a first-rounder in 2012. The guy can play, even if he hasn't shown it consistently in Philadelphia. But remember he's been yanked back and forth between the AHL and NHL on numerous occasions and when he's been with the big club, he's either been in the press box as a scratch or been tossed back and forth between center and wing. That constant instability in both level and position can be detrimental to a young player. Vegas would give Laughton a fresh start, a fresh home and some fresh stability.

Plus, I know there are only so many protections to go around, but Cousins is a guy the Flyers should want to keep around. Just 16 points (six points, 10 assists) in 60 games isn't good enough offensively, but not many Flyers were great offensively last season. Everyone needs to be better there. But Cousins has that pest intangible that can be so effective, especially in the rugged Metropolitan Division, where basically every game is a rivalry game. It's a good quality to have.

Phillies-Reds 5 things: Skidding Phils take on veteran Bronson Arroyo

Phillies-Reds 5 things: Skidding Phils take on veteran Bronson Arroyo

Phillies (16-30) vs. Reds (23-24)
4:05 p.m. on TCN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

Tim Adleman and the Reds shut down the Phillies in Friday night's series opener, dealing the Phillies a 5-2 defeat. It was the Phillies' 21st loss in 26 games (see full story).

Jerad Eickhoff takes the ball for the Phillies on Saturday, trying to get both the team and his own season back on track. Veteran Bronson Arroyo takes the start for the Reds.

Here are five things to know for the game:

1. Worst in baseball
The loss on Friday paired with the Marlins' win over the Angels gave the Phillies sole possession of the worst record in baseball. 

The loss to the Reds was enough to make manager Pete Mackanin call a team meeting with the Phillies hitting a definitive low at 16-30. The 2016 squad didn't fall 14 games under .500 for the first time until Sept. 2. The Phillies are 5-18 in May and have scored 86 runs compared to 131 by opponents. 

Many of the games recently haven't even been close. Six of the losses this month were by at least five runs. The team brought the tying run to the plate on Friday, but it was behind 5-0 and had just one hit going into the ninth. 

The offense has gone silent in the last six games, scoring no more than two runs each time out. In five of their last six, the Phillies have faced a starter with an ERA above 5.00 who proceeded to throw at least five innings and give up one run or fewer. Adleman was the latest to victimize the Phils (see story).

The bright side? The upcoming schedule is much more palatable for the squad. After the Reds, the Phillies face the Marlins, Giants and Braves for 10 games. Those three teams have a combined record of 57-85 this year and the Phillies went 5-0 against the Marlins and Braves in April.

2. 10th time's the charm?
Nine starts into his second full MLB season, Eickhoff hasn't found the right stuff ... or a win. In 51 2/3 innings, he's 0-5 with 4.70 ERA. 

Why the slow start? First off, Eickhoff had some control issues. He's gone from a more than palatable 1.9 to a less stellar 3.1 walks per nine innings. Beyond dishing out free passes, he has a 1.43 WHIP, up from 1.16 last season. Still, his 3.77 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) indicates he shouldn't have struggled quite this much. 

Looking further into the numbers, Eickhoff has allowed more infield and bunt hits this season than he did on a rate basis last year. He's induced less weak contact, which could be part of his issue. Still, he's thrown 300 MLB innings over 50 starts and has a 3.66 ERA. It's hard to believe his true talent level isn't closer to his 3.65 ERA over 197 1/3 innings last year than his out-of-character 4.70 mark this season.

He faced the Reds just once before, taking a loss in the Phillies' second game of the year. It seems a while ago now, but Eickhoff started the year with three quality starts, including a two-run, six-strikeout game over 6 2/3 in Cincinnati. The Reds' batters have four extra-base hits against him and he's allowed home runs to Joey Votto and Scooter Gennett. Gennett's HR came as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers.

3. Arroyo back in action
You're forgiven if you didn't think Arroyo was still in baseball. He was injured and didn't pitch in either the 2015 or 2016 season. Despite being a non-entity on the field, he was still traded twice, going from the Diamondbacks to the Braves to the Dodgers, who immediately released him. 

At 40 years old, Arroyo is easily hittable now. The right-hander never threw very hard but now tops out at 87 mph, averaging 83-84 with his fastball. Like many soft-tossers, he constantly uses his off-speed stuff. He's heavily reliant on his curveball and slider, both of which are in the 70s. 

Hitters against Arroyo have been home run happy with 15 dingers this year over just 46 2/3 innings. Those 2.9 HR per nine innings are near three times as many as Eickhoff, who has struggled with the long ball at times over the past few seasons. The 15 home runs play a large part in his 6.75 ERA as batters hit plenty of flyballs vs. Arroyo. It doesn't help that he has a 1.479 WHIP. 

Among current Phillies, only Freddy Galvis (1 for 7) and Andres Blanco (1 for 3) have faced him. His career against the Phillies dates all the way back to three starts in 2000. Over 14 games (13 starts), he's 4-7 with a 5.14 ERA in 77 innings against the Phils. He's just the second starter after Bartolo Colon to pitch at Citizens Bank Park this season that also faced the Phillies at Veterans Stadium.

Arroyo is fourth among active pitchers in starts and fifth in innings pitched. 

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Moved into the leadoff spot on Friday, Odubel Herrera put together a few strong at-bats, finally coming through with a hit in the ninth inning to snap an 0-for-13 stretch.

Reds: Scott Schebler hit his 14th home run of the season off Aaron Nola in the second inning Friday. In just his third season, Schebler had just 12 homers in his career before 2017.

5. This and that
• Howie Kendrick made his third rehab appearance in Triple A Lehigh Valley Friday, going 1 for 4. He played all nine innings in left field. The IronPigs won, 5-4, with Nick Williams hitting a home run. Williams, J.P. Crawford and Jorge Alfaro each had two-hit nights.

• The Phillies haven't won a season series vs. the Reds since 2012 (10-18 since the start of 2013). However, the Reds are 16-30 at CBP and haven't won a series in Philadelphia since Aug. 2006.

• According to the Elias Sports Bureau, on April 18 this year, Arroyo became the first Reds pitcher older than 40 to win a start since Boom-Boom Beck beat the Phillies, 8-1, on May 31, 1945.

• The Reds are the only team in baseball with four hitters (Votto, Schebler, Eugenio Suarez and Adam Duvall) who have at least 10 home runs.