Everybody hates the Pittsburgh Penguins
Over the course of the last week, an interesting development has broken out in the Atlantic Division.
Everybody hates the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Normally praised as one of the National Hockey League’s crown jewels, the star studded organization has faced a hefty amount of scrutiny from it’s two biggest rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers, for what the two clubs are describing as dirty acts.
On Thursday night, during the third period of the Penguins and Rangers final meeting of the regular season, Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik connected with a knee-to-knee hit on Derek Stepan.
While the intent is unknown, it certainly didn’t look good and it certainly didn’t stop Rangers head coach, John Tortorella from expressing his anger with the play.
"Absolutely, it’s a cheap, dirty hit," Tortorella said of the hit. "I wonder what would happen if we did it to their two whining stars over there, I wonder what would happen? So I’m anxious to see what happens with the league with this. Just no respect among players. None. It’s sickening."
The two whining stars that Tortorella is referring to are Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, two of the most famous players in the game today.
“It’s one of the most arrogant organizations in the league,” he added. “ They whine about this stuff all the time and look what happens.”
It is commonly thought amongst many that Crosby and Malkin get away with bending the rules because of how famous they are.
Flyers assistant head coach Craig Berube is one of them.
Berube was the first to callout the Penguins on a national level for whining and expressed many of the same thoughts that Tortorella did on Thursday.
“Crosby and Malkin are the two dirtiest players on their hockey team,” Berube said on Tuesday. “They slash, they punch guys in the face they do all these little things.”
The onslaught began last Sunday when the Flyers and Penguins met in Pittsburgh for the nationally televised NBC Game of the Week.
In the first period, Penguins forward, Joe Vitale landed a hit on Flyers defenseman, Nicklas Grossmann, which caused the two player’s knees to collide.
Grossmann was forced to leave the game with an injured leg and has had to miss the team’s two most recent games.
A player with a history of leg injuries, Grossmann already needed to wear a brace on one of his knees; he now has one on each leg.
While the hit didn’t look intentional, it certainly was reckless.
Later in the game, however, was when all hell broke loose.
With one minute remaining in the game, Vitale struck again this time hitting Danny Briere with a devastating open-ice hit.
While the hit was clean by all accounts, it seemed unnecessary in the final minute of a blowout game. The Flyers took exception and a line brawl broke out that also saw the team’s coaches get into a screaming match across the benches.
Flyers head coach, Peter Laviolette criticized Penguins headman Dan Bylsma for putting his 'goons' out there in the final minute after not playing much in the third period. He called the move 'gutless.'
Many have speculated that the hit was in retaliation to a play earlier in the third period, when Brayden Schenn crosschecked Crosby before returning to the Flyers bench. Crosby fell to the ice like a bomb hit him and immediately searched for the officials.
Of course, what some outlets have failed to note is that Crosby actually began the altercation just a few seconds prior by crosschecking Schenn in the corner with the puck nowhere near the play.
“If somebody runs (Crosby) over, that’s great, they should run him over,” Berube said. “This guy gets away with too much in my opinion, whines to the refs all day and all night, it’s a joke. The guy did something to (Schenn) a little bit earlier, so he just gave him a little shot. Not like it was a tough, bad cross-check; but the guy dove.”
Rival coaches aren’t the only one’s jumping on the Penguins for getting away with things. Broadcasters are starting to get in on the action, too.
Normally praising the Penguins and Crosby for their talent level, the team doing the NBC broadcast made sure to note that Crosby and Malkin where ‘surprisingly’ getting away with some extracurricular actions, like slashes and punches to the head of their opponents.
This is largely unfounded territory.
With the Flyers and Penguins gearing up for one more regular season meeting before the two teams meet in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, one thing is crystal clear.
There is no love lost between these two teams and things are only going to get worse.
This has the potential to be one of the most intense post-season matchups that the NHL has ever seen.
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