PITTSBURGH He was among the very last Flyers to walk out of CONSOL Energy Center on Sunday.
As usual, Jaromir Jagr was happy.
The playoffs have already started, Jagr said with a sly grin.
Indeed, hockeys version of Sunday, Bloody Sunday, saw the Flyers skate out of Pittsburgh with a 6-4 win (see story).
They left with numerous cuts, bruises, black eyes and major injuries (like Danny Briere's upper back contusion, see story) as reminders of what lies ahead when the Eastern Conference playoffs begin next week.
Its going to be interesting, Jagr said. It looks like were going to see each in the playoffs and weve got one more game before the playoffs. I think the last game is gonna decide who has the home ice advantage.
No one will ever forget that memorable Game 6 in Philadelphia in 2009 when Max Talbot, then a Penguin, sacrificed himself in a fight with Dan Carcillo that sparked a Penguins 3-0 comeback to clinch the series against the Flyers.
Crosby and others later said that fight was the defining moment that transformed the Penguins overnight into a tightly-knit club that won its third Stanley Cup in the months ahead.
Sundays game wasnt a playoff game, but saw 68 penalty minutes between the two clubs and five scrums in the final 1:03.
Just a sip of what the glass holds in the quarterfinals.
They got a lot of skill, a lot of guys who can score, said Scott Hartnell, who added the Penguins not the top-seeded Rangers who face the Flyers on Tuesday and the best team in the East right now.
Theyre dangerous. When Marc-Andre Fleury is on, he is one of the toughest goalies to beat. That is why they have been so good the last 4-5 years.
We have to play our best hockey to beat those teams. That is what playoffs are about. You have to beat good teams to move on. So why not face them in the first round?
The Flyers are 5-0 against Pittsburgh in their new arena and have won 4 of 5 overall games this season.
You have to wonder how much the Flyers have gotten into the Penguins heads and how that carries over into postseason.
That would be more a question for them whether were in their heads or not, Claude Giroux said.
I hope we are. Were going to play them in the playoffs. Its important for us to make sure they know its going to be a tough one. It should be fun.
Its a rival team. Every game we play against them, its tough games. We know it wont be easy and they know it wont be easy. Its a great show for fans. Thats what you look for hockey like that.
Hartnell said Pittsburgh was one of the cities that hates me the most.
I always get fired up to play here, he said. Hulk Hogan behind the bench there, hooping it up. That is what hockey is all about. Those fan and player interactions
And he agrees with Giroux that the Flyers might have gotten to the Pens.
With every team, you try to get on their top guys, he said. Make them focus on you as a person, you as an agitator, rather than what they can do with the puck or the plays they can make.
There is a fine line of going overboard with us or taking a penalty ... I think weve done a great job the last few games against them.
Someone asked Jagr when he signed with the Flyers last summer, did he envision a playoff series against Pittsburgh?
Jagr said that wasnt on his mind. Then he added this:
The hockey gods always find a way to make it interesting, Jagr said. And they did again. Its going to be a helluva series.