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.

Flyers Notes: Travis Konecny sparks power play with 1st NHL goal

Flyers Notes: Travis Konecny sparks power play with 1st NHL goal

The kid finally has his first NHL goal.

Travis Konecny scored at 4:30 of the third period (see video) during the Flyers' 4-3 shootout win over Buffalo on Tuesday night (see story).  

His was the first of three power-play goals to erase a 3-0 deficit and get the Flyers into overtime.

First markers are always that much more special when they make a difference in a comeback victory, such as this one with the Flyers in a brutal stretch of six games in nine days.

“I am just excited that it happened,” Konecny said. “But the thing for me that was more exciting was coming back after that 3-0 [deficit] and an overall exciting night for us.”

The three power-play goals were a season high for the Flyers.

“We got going those two power plays ... our power plays set a tone,” Konecny said. “When that gets going, it makes it hard for the other team to stop us.

“It’s awesome because we know what they can do [on the top power-play unit]. They have been sticking with it and fighting the puck, whatever it’s been the past couple of games, but you know what they are capable of — you can see it the past couple of years. 

“You knew it was coming and tonight is the perfect night to get it going and I am sure that they are going to keep rolling with it.”

Schultz sits
The decision to sit 15-year veteran blueliner Nick Schultz to get Radko Gudas back into the lineup wasn’t easy but it made sense on several levels. Gudas had been suspended for six games.

First, Schultz doesn’t play on the power play, whereas Andrew MacDonald carries heavy minutes with the power play and penalty kill.

Brandon Manning? Not happening. He’s been the Flyers' best defenseman this season. Mark Streit? Doesn’t work because he quarterbacks the second-unit PP and is essentially teaching that duty to rookie Ivan Provorov.

“It’s real tough,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “It’s part of the business and [Schultz has] done an excellent job. He’s always very well-prepared.

“We talked about what’s best for our team and we feel like Gudy going in, especially on a back-to-back, gives us fresh legs and a fresh body coming back into the lineup.”

Hakstol recently has had to switch around his defensive pairs to get more defensive coverage and consistency on the ice. For instance, moving Provorov from Streit to Manning.

He discounted Schultz’s age (34) as a true factor in the decision.

“I think the more flexibility you have, the better, whether it be for rest or for the injury situations,” Hakstol said. “First and foremost, I think we’re still looking for the true consistency that we need through our entire team, but certainly your D pairs are a big part of that. 

“Before we start getting to a comfort level of guys playing with different people, first we have to find true consistency. We’ve been pretty good, but we’ve had stretches where the consistency needs to improve, as well.”

Give and Go: Predicting Sixers' MVP, win total and more for 2016-17

Give and Go: Predicting Sixers' MVP, win total and more for 2016-17

The Sixers officially get back to work Wednesday night in their regular-season opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder (see game notes).

Before tip-off, Sixers insider Jessica Camerato, producer/reporter Matt Haughton and producer/reporter Paul Hudrick run the Give and Go to break down some burning questions surrounding the team.

What is the one stat that will most define the Sixers' season?

Turnovers: The Sixers want to build a defensive identity and understandably so — they ranked last in the league in rebounds with a minus-518 differential and were outscored by a last-placed 10.2 points per game. That being said, I am looking at turnovers this season. Last season, they were prone to throwing away points with errors. They ranked 29th (second to the Suns) with 16.6 turnovers per game. The team is down two ball handlers in Jerryd Bayless and Ben Simmons (both injured), which heightens the challenge. In order for the Sixers to get into any type of rhythm and build an offensive flow, they have to actually maintain possession.

It's got to be defense. Brett Brown is banking on Joel Embiid being the centerpiece to the team's defense, and he better be for the head coach's sake. Embiid also better get some help from the guys around him on that end of the floor or it will be another year-long parade of bad rotations, easy buckets at the rim and wide-open jumpers. In Brown's three years as Sixers head coach, the team has ranked 29th, 20th and 30th in opponents' points per game. That has to change if the Sixers want to take the next step in their rebuild.

With an abundance of big men and Simmons eventually taking the court as the team's main facilitator, the Sixers need players that can shoot. Last season, they took the eighth-most three-point attempts in the NBA while finishing 24th in three-point percentage. That second number has to go up if the Sixers ever want to create floor space.

Who will be the Sixers' MVP?

Embiid: The towering 7-foot-2 presence is going to be the dominating force on both ends. Brown intends for Embiid to become the “crown jewel” of the defense and the offense to go through Embiid and Jahlil Okafor, whose role is restricted (knee). Embiid has shown in a small sampling of preseason games he is capable of leading the team on all sides of the floor.

Of course the answer is Embiid, but let's go another route and say Brown. The coach got an extension last season and also received a boost in roster talent. Now he just has to figure out how the pieces fit together. That didn't go so well with Okafor and Nerlens Noel a season ago, but playing those two together was essentially the only intriguing thing about the Sixers in 2015-16, which is why Brown stuck with the pairing. With better players to mix and match this time around, I believe Brown will figure out some solid options to have the squad in better position to compete on a nightly basis.

The easy pick is Embiid, but I'm going a little outside the box with Dario Saric. The 22-year-old Croatian showed off the versatility of his game during the preseason. He's an old school player that excels in the team game. He's what's often referred to as a "glue guy." He has skill, but the skills he lacks he makes up for with grit and basketball savvy.

What is your season projection for the Sixers?

This season was supposed to be a bridge year, the start of rebuilding. That will be delayed until the team is healthy with key players like Simmons, Okafor and Noel back at 100 percent. In the meantime, the Sixers' outlook is better than last season’s 10-win total but less than earlier projections with Simmons in the lineup. Because of injuries, I am shifting their win projection to 19.

The injury bug, starting with No. 1 overall pick Simmons, has certainly put a damper on the Sixers' projected win total. Las Vegas odds books originally set the mark at 27½, which seemed like a long shot even with a full roster. I say they show strides but fall just shy of doubling last season's win total and finish with 19.

This really depends on the return of Simmons. Simmons will make this team so much better on both ends of the floor. Bayless' absence early will hurt this team as well. And don't forget about all the minutes restrictions. They're going to struggle early on, but if Simmons returns in January, I think this team can double its win total from last season and win 20 games.