Zac Rinaldo just became the leader of the pack.
The penalty pack, that is.
The Flyers young Italian ruffian has played 14 games and not the full 18 games the team has played.
The penalty minutes have added up for a guy who has had five fights but seems to be drawing boarding and charging calls by the bushel.
Given the 10-minute misconduct penalty he earned Thursday night against Phoenix, plus the five-minute major fighting, he is now tied with Ottawas Zenon Konopka as the NHL's penalty minute leader.
That gives Rinaldo 73 penalty minutes same as Konopka.
Keith Yandle came off the bench and was chirping ... and he threw a left jab to my face but I didn't retaliate, clearly, but then Raffi Torres came in, a couple other guys came in, Shane Doan came in ... started chirping, little jabs here and there and then settled down, Rinaldo said.
Then, the next thing I know, I'm getting a 10-minute misconduct. That's what happened that's about it.
Inciting? Honestly I don't know what it is.
Were you trying to incite a riot?
You'd know if I was starting a riot out there, you'd know, Rinaldo replied, laughing. But I don't know, I don't know if I deserved it. Maybe I did something, I'm not sure, but I don't recall doing anything to deserve that 10. That's just the way the game goes and you have to look positive. You can't look negatively at all ... you just have to plow through it.
Twice, Rinaldo had to be separated from players, which is likely why he drew a penalty.
But "inciting"? Never heard of it? It's Rule 75.4 iii.
Maybe because hes barely 5-foot-11 and levels bigger guys with such impact, the officials think he is doing something illegal, like leaving his feet.
My hits arent dirty or cheap, Rinaldo said. My reputation has stuck with me this far. Ive always had a battle with the refs. Thats my past. The present now, I dont have any problems with the refs. I don t think anything carries over. Its something I have to overcome. Just keep playing and hope it changes.
His role model was Eric Lindros, but when you think about it, The Big E was such a big player, perhaps a better role model would have been Mark Recchi, who hit with thunderous passion for a small guy about Rinaldos height, but much broader in the shoulders.
Ive perfected the hitting game to a T, Rinaldo brags. I am a perfectionist on and off the ice. Ive perfected my hitting ability to 100 percent clean.
Some refs see it as clean and some refs dont.
Stupid as it sounds, the sound a player makes getting crushed on the back boards seems to play a role in todays game as to whether the hitter gets a boarding or charging penalty. If it sounds bad, it must be bad.
Hes made a couple of thunderous hits and gone to the box just because theyre thunderous, coach Peter Laviolette said. I guess thats open for opinion. I think hes done an excellent job with discipline and trying to stay focused to play the game.
Rinaldo agrees that sound, coupled with crunching bodies, can mean two minutes in the box.
Maybe they hear the impact and think, Oh crap, better give him a penalty, Rinaldo said. And the fans figure in, too. Its how big the impact is and the sound and stuff like that.
You get the fans booing and the ref feels bad and he has to call something. Why not pick a rookie like me, right? Its OK.
Unlike Dan Carcillo, who often took bad penalties for similar actions and earned himself a spot in Laviolettes doghouse, thats not the case with Rinaldo.
I think Zac has played an extremely clean game since hes been here, Laviolette said. The physicality in what he does has been excellent. I like Zac because hes a positive person in the room and out on the ice he brings a lot of positive energy to our group.
Hes played a good game. Hes been more than just be physical and looking for hits. Hes able to contribute solid D-zone play. Hes contributed on offense. Hes made plays.
Hes been a real positive addition for us. If discipline comes into play for selfless actions, they get looked after, but I dont think thats the case here.
But what if the officials keep whistling Rinaldo for clean checks? At this rate, he will finish with 406 penalty minutes this season.
Im not changing, Rinaldo said. If I change, Ive changed for the better. I havent stopped hitting or fighting and Ive put more skill into my game. Ive just been getting better and better.
E-mail Tim Panaccio at email@example.com.