Better With Popcorn

Tom Sestito leaves a mark against Bruins

Over the past few seasons, the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins have developed a heated rivalry.

While the origins of the hatred between the two teams dates back to the Flyers Stanley Cup victory over the Bruins in the 1974 postseason, the rivalry regained it’s momentum following the 2010 playoffs when the Flyers historically came back from three games down to defeat the Bruins in the Eastern Conference semi-final.

Since then, the Bruins have gotten the better of the Flyers winning nine of the last 11 meetings between the two teams (including a sweep in last year’s rematch in the semi-final).

What this has led to is a great deal of physicality whenever the two teams meet.

That was certainly the case this Sunday.

In the first period alone, the two teams combined for 36 penalty minutes and by the end of the game there were 13 separate power plays. Not to mention three fights and six roughing penalties. Even Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov received a penalty when he threw a punch after a scrum in front of his net.

While there was plenty of physicality and animosity to go around, Tom Sestito made sure to make his presence felt early and often.

After the Flyers allowed a goal 50 seconds into the game, it was Sestito who answered the bell to motivate his team.

On the Flyers first offensive zone faceoff draw (34 seconds after the goal), Sestito challenged Milan Lucic to a fight. 41 seconds after the scrum, the Flyers tied the game.

While it may have energized the Flyers, the most important dynamic of the fight was that Sestito (an energy player on the third line), managed to take Lucic (a player tied for the second most goals on the Bruins), out of the game for five minutes by goading him into a fight.

In the team’s game against the New Jersey Devils the day before, Jody Shelley challenged Eric Boulton to a fight after Boulton landed a hit on Shelley.

While it’s great that Shelley is finally starting to fight, it wasn’t necessary for him to waste his time. The reason to fight is to energize the team or to protect his teammates, not because somebody hit him cleanly and he didn’t like it.

Anton Volchenkov took an early run at Daniel Briere in the same game and Shelley was nowhere to be found. Briere ultimately suffered a concussion.

Earlier this year, in the preseason, Sestito ruined his chances of making the team out of camp when he was suspended for five games for hitting Andre Deveaux from behind.

The suspension effectively allowed Zac Rinaldo to win a spot on the team.

Now with Rinaldo out due to injury, Sestito is given a second chance at displaying his value.

Standing at 6’5”, 228 lbs, he is a force that is difficult to deal with. He is a decent skater for a player his size and looks for big hits every time he is on the ice.

Throughout the rest of the Boston game, Sestito played a prominent role in the physical dynamic and even landed a few hits on Bruins big man, Zdeno Chara.

Unfortunately, it may be that same desire to throw the body that may hold the 24-year old back.

During the second period, Sestito hit Nathan Horton in what the Bruins are calling a ‘blind-side’ hit. Horton sustained a head injury on the play and didn’t return to the game. Sestito was not penalized on the play.

As of Monday afternoon, it is still unclear as to whether the league will review the incident.

Another suspension could prove costly given the opportunity he has.

Regardless of what may happen, it is clear that Sestito has the potential to make an impact on the Flyers.

However, it will be his responsibility to make sure he is available to prove it.

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