Last Sunday, the Flyers and Penguins weren’t joking around, and they traded cheap shots and brawled their way through three tough periods of classic physical hockey. Philly came out on top—as they have in four of the five meetings between the two this season—but the game was really just foreplay for the first round of the NHL playoffs, when the Flyers and Pens will consummate their rivalry next week.
Some of the high(low)lights from last week include Sidney Crosby unnecessarily crosschecking Brayden Schenn and Schenn overreacting a bit in response. Then Pens head coach Dan Bylsma threw his goon line back out on the ice with a minute to go and Vitale nailed Danny Briere (with a clean, albeit classless hit) and everyone dropped the gloves. Both benches screamed and cursed and Lavs even earned himself a $10,000 fine by breaking a stick over the boards.
Following Sunday’s scrum, a columnist at Pittsburgh magazine canonized her hatred of the Flyers in a blog post. Her complaints include, unsurprisingly, her disdain for Scott Hartnell’s use of an iconic Hulk Hogan taunt to make a mockery of a Pens fan dressed like the infamous wrestler (which has spawned a wonderful Photoshop). It’s strange how quickly she forgets that, just three years ago, Pittsburgh fans lapped praise over then-Pen Max Talbot for shhhing Flyers fans after he had his face busted open by a flurry of rights from Dan Carcillo. I actually know a Pens fan who has a picture of the incident framed and hanging in his home. And it was in the same series that a bunch of Penguins threw their bodies into the glass after a game to taunt Flyers fans. I’m not suggesting that Talbot was wrong in some way (accept for, maybe, that he shouldn’t have been taunting anyone considering he just caught three punches with his face). But, the idea that it’s reasonable for Yinzers to have liked Talbot’s actions and enjoyed the team’s taunting of Flyers fans, but despise Hartnell for a similar practice is hypocritical.
Also, after hearing reports that the Flyers superstitiously equate part of their success in Pittsburgh to the food they order after each game, the owners of the team’s favorite rib joint in West Virginia (still Stillers country) announced they won’t be serving Philadelphia’s hockey team from here on out. Petty, right? You’d never see the DeAbreu’s stop Crosby and company from brunching in Philly.
And let’s not forget that Pittsburgh isn’t an actual hockey town, they’re just in the midst of renaissance. During the 2003-2004 season, Pittsburgh had the worst attendance in the league. Their average home figure of 11,877 was so dismal that there were eventually talks of moving the team to Kansas City. The Flyers haven’t had an average attendance figure that low since the second year they existed. Oh, but Mellon Arena was old and the Pens weren’t that good that year? Yeah, tell that to the 17,231 Philly fans per game who made it out to the Spectrum in 1993-1994 to watch the Flyers put Dominic Roussel in net and finish sixth in the Atlantic.
Attendance figures aside, Pittsburgh fans love their Pens, and Flyers fans bleed black and orange. The two teams openly dislike each other and have traded verbal jabs back and forth through the media. Expect most of that frustration to manifest itself in the culmination of the regular season tomorrow, because you can’t make someone’s head bleed in the playoffs. And expect the second round to be tough on the Flyers, because they’ll be black and blue after winning a physical seven-game series with the Pens.