NEW YORK - Don’t let your emotions get the better of you.
That has been a topic of conversation all week by both the Flyers and Rangers as Game 1 of the playoffs open Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
“It’s about playing between the whistles and not getting frustrated into taking undisciplined penalties,” Flyers coach Craig Berube emphasized this week.
Feisty Rangers forward Daniel “Carbomb” Carcillo appeared to be going into the lineup tonight for Jesper Fast, when Fast was given the morning skate off, but Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said not to read into it.
Whether he plays or not, Carcillo is the kind of player who might tangle with someone like Zac Rinaldo at some point in this series.
In many ways, Rinaldo is a younger version of Carcillo, the former Flyer.
Carcillo and Rinaldo twice mixed it up on March 1 when the Flyers defeated the Rangers 4-2 at Wells Fargo Center.
“I don’t recall what got it started, but they are big and they are young and they play a hard game,” Carcillo said. “We have to play our game and not get caught up in the stuff after the whistles.”
Rinaldo, at age 23, is six years younger than Carcillo.
Rinaldo will be back in the lineup tonight after sitting out the final four games of the regular season with a suspension for an illegal hit.
Carcillo says Rinaldo is still learning where the line is and how to influence referees so they don’t see him as someone who’s automatically guilty on the ice.
“With experience comes a little bit of wisdom and you learn when the team needs you to be like that,” Carcillo said. “This time of year, your team does not need you to be like that. You play whistle to whistle and finish your checks.
“Everybody knows that he is going to do that, and I am going to do that. There’s certain guys in this series that will do that all the time. After the whistle stuff, you can’t entertain it.
“His suspensions and stuff, you can see he is still trying to figure it out. It comes with time. You learn what you can do and, hopefully, get some refs on your side which is probably the hardest thing to do.”
Of course, that’s easy to say now. Everyone knows it was Carcillo’s fight against Max Talbot in Game 6 of the 2009 quarterfinals against the Penguins that turned the game around. The Flyers were coasting along, 3-0, when Carcillo beat up Talbot pretty badly. Pittsburgh was so incensed it rallied to win the game, 5-3, and clinched the series in six games.
Sidney Crosby later said Talbot sacrificing himself to Carcillo was the single biggest turning point to the Penguins eventually winning the Stanley Cup.
Rinaldo, who did a pretty good job most of the season drawing penalties instead of taking them, said he’s tried to help his reputation with the officials this season.
“The refs will be a factor who wins and loses a game,” he said. “That was my whole battle even in juniors. Refs didn’t know how I was personally. They just thought I was a goof on the ice, an ass on the ice and an ass off the ice.
“This year, especially, I talked to the refs as a person, as a hockey player-athlete. This was my biggest year stretching the refs out and having them feel me out as a person. Not just as an agitator or hockey player.”
Scott Hartnell said discipline in the series is pivotal, and the Flyers know the officials are going to be watching them extra carefully.
“We haven’t played these guys in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s going to be electric in here and we’re going to have to feed off that and try to
ruin New York’s night – coming out with a simple, hard game.
“Especially myself, you have to play on that edge and be physical. Obviously, between the whistles, nothing up high in the face. Both power plays are dangerous. The team with the cooler heads after the whistles will be rewarded.”
Flyers coach Craig Berube has already gone over that with his team more than once this week.
“If I look at differently as regular season versus playoffs, then I’ll get all [bleeped]-up,” Rinaldo said. “If I just keep it as playing the same way in the regular season and bring it to the playoffs, I think I’ll be all right.”