4/3/2012 12:20:52 PM
Battling for playoff positioning, the Penguins and Flyers engaged in an
exciting and spirited battle on Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh, with
Philadelphia pulling within a point of the fourth-seeded Pens with a 6-4
victory. But the battle wasn't just on the scoreboard as the two Atlantic
Division residents combined for 52 penalty minutes with 63 seconds left to
play in the game.
The animosity began to build when Penguins captain Sidney Crosby took a cross-
check to the back from the Flyers' Brayden Schenn after a whistle. Moments
later, and with the game all but decided, Pittsburgh's Joe Vitale leveled
Daniel Briere with a clean, open-ice hit that prompted a response from the
Flyers on the ice. All the skaters came together and Philadelphia head coach
Peter Laviolette got into a shouting match with Pittsburgh assistant Tony
Granato after Laviolette broke a stick in front of his own bench, with part of
the remains ending up in the Pittsburgh bench.
It was just the latest chapter in the Penguins-Flyers rivalry which should
produce an exciting first-round matchup in the upcoming playoffs if the
current standings hold up.
But how will the Penguins approach what is sure to be a brutal and physical
The fact that it was Granato and not head coach Dan Bylsma that engaged with
Laviolette shows that Bylsma isn't going to let the Flyers try to alter his
style or get inside of his head. Though Pittsburgh will be forced to be more
physical and protect its stars when facing Philadelphia, Crosby feels his
coach is taking the right approach.
"I think that's par for the course," Crosby said a day after Sunday's rough
stuff. "I think both teams bring out that in one another. That's certainly not
our game, so we got to stay away from it, getting caught up in it. It's
useless for us to get caught up in it. We're a much better team when we just
play. I think it's something that we will try to stay away from a little bit
Even Crosby, though, admitted he was no angel in Sunday's matinee.
"I know that's probably the most hacks I've given out personally in a long
time. They seem to bring out the worst in me, too," said the former Hart
Somewhat surprisingly, it was Bylsma still taking some heat in the aftermath
of Sunday's game.
First, he was called gutless by Laviolette following the contest for putting
Pittsburgh's fourth line onto the ice after a Flyers' empty-net goal. Bylsma
was then bashed by NBC studio analyst Mike Milbury on a Philadelphia radio
station, with Milbury making a series of comments for which he has since
"It's not totally uncommon," Milbury said on Monday of Laviolette's actions
toward the Penguins bench. "I can remember being on such a perch, or at least
trying to climb over the boards to get at somebody to make a point. And I
thought Dan Bylsma should have took off his skirt and gone over there."
Again, Bylsma would not bite.
"I wasn't wearing a skirt. It was my blue suit," the coach said later on
Monday when asked about both Laviolette's and Milbury's comments.
As for Laviolette calling him gutless, Bylsma said, "Antics and theatrics on
the bench by their coach are just that. We don't play the game. What happened
on the ice was a clean hockey play. There was no penalty on the play. Their
team took exception to a play where there was no penalty on. Our team, you
know, probably would have done the same thing."
Bylsma showed what he is about in the locker room when NHL fans got a look at
him during HBO's "24/7" series detailing the Penguins' road to the 2011 Winter
Classic. He has won a Stanley Cup and Jack Adams Award with Pittsburgh as the
league's top coach and knows that another championship will be won on the ice
and not through the media.
Rather than worry about the Flyers or studio analysts, Bylsma will turn his
focus on to why the Penguins have lost four of six overall and haven't beaten
the Flyers in five regular-season meetings at the CONSOL Energy Center. He
could start by getting Marc-Andre Fleury back on track, as the goaltender has
allowed 14 goals over a personal three-start losing streak.
"I've let in a lot of goals those past three games. It's rough going down like
that. I have to do better, play better, get some wins," Fleury said.
Fleury will have some chances to do that with the Penguins set to visit the
Boston Bruins on Tuesday night before a showdown with the playoff-bound New
York Rangers two nights later.
Then there is the Pens' season finale that features another visit from, yup,
the Flyers. Bylsma will try to get his club to scale back the extracurricular
stuff, but that will be hard with home-ice advantage in the first round of the
playoffs possibly being on the line.
And, of course, there is that whole rivalry thing.
Crosby hit the nail on the head in summing things up on Monday.
"Let's be honest. Both teams bring out a lot of bad things in one another," he
said. "You can sit there and put a microscope on every little slash that goes
out there. The fact is, both teams do it. Both teams aren't going to sit there
and deny that they don't. We don't like each other.
"That's the way it is."