Who’s Keeping Score Between Flyers & Pens?

In Dan Bylsma’s world, Scott Hartnell is a heartless bully who picks on the handicapped, while insisting senior citizens be stripped of their healthcare, voting rights, and social security. The coach’s post-game perspective on the scrum between Hartnell and Penguins defenseman Kris Letang was so outlandish, he later backpedaled, insisting his comments were “in jest.” But if we’re truly keeping score when it comes to bush league tactics, let’s not only fairly assess the Hartnell-Letang scrum, but check the scorecard as well.

Steve Mason suffered a concussion after Jayson Megna shoved Andrew MacDonald into him in Philadelphia's 4-3 overtime win on Saturday.

Steve Mason suffered a possible concussion after Jayson Megna shoved Andrew MacDonald into him in Philadelphia’s 4-3 overtime win on Saturday. (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

Keeping Score With “A History”

Kris Letang’s return from a stroke he suffered 10 weeks ago is nothing short of miraculous. His rare misfortune for a man his age, 26, reveals just how valuable and fragile life can be. And with nothing but relief and well wishes, Letang has been back on the ice for Pittsburgh’s last two games. But if Letang is still vulnerable, however, to further damage his well-being, why is he even back on the ice in the first place?

In a game with large implications for the Flyers, the Pens upped the ante on their bitter cross-state rivals. Pittsburgh, who had the Eastern Conference’s second seed locked up already, threw the kitchen sink at Craig Berube’s team, outhitting the Flyers by a 35-24 margin. So it’s understandable if Scott Hartnell showed up to do what he’s paid to do – get under the skin of his opponents.

After trading goals in the third period that resulted in a one-goal Flyers lead, Pittsburgh turned up their pressure, playing with the urgency of a team that was fighting for their playoff lives. As Letang, who had already recorded a goal and an assist, moved in towards Flyers goalie Ray Emery, Hartnell re-established his presence by delivering a hit to Letang and ending his scoring chance.

Hartnell’s physicality didn’t sit well with Bylsma after the game, despite his own team’s dirty actions that resulted in Flyers goalie Steve Mason suffering a possible concussion (More on that later).

“He had the play and the puck on his stick to try to score a goal and it fell off the stick and the whistle and everything ensued after that,” said Bylsma. “A guy picking on a guy who had a stroke.”

If there’s one defense to Bylsma’s outlook, though, it’s the past that Hartnell and Letang share. Back in 2009, Letang accused Hartnell of biting him in a scrum; an accusation Hartnell neither denied nor admitted.

“A lot of stuff happens on the bottom of the pile,” said Hartnell when asked about the incident. “He had his hands in my face, doing the face wash, and we were rolling around. I can’t say what happened.”

But since we’re keeping score, what about the countless slashes to Claude Giroux’s wrists from Sidney Crosby in the 2012 quarterfinals? The type of “roughhousing” that resulted in a broken wrist in which Giroux played through.

Were the Pens keeping score when Sidney Crosby broke Claude Giroux's wrist with countless slashes in 2012?

Were the Pens keeping score when Sidney Crosby broke Claude Giroux’s wrist with countless slashes in 2012? (Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE)

“I don’t try to go after his wrists, but if I caught it, I’m not sorry for it,” chirped Crosby. “I really like to win the face-off. I think it’s hilarious that I hear that stuff from Philly. It’s comedy to me, to be honest with you. They’re probably involved in that stuff more than any team in the league and they’re the ones always talking about it.

“I guess I’m not apologetic. I was trying to win a face-off and if I caught his wrist, then I caught his wrist. He seemed to play okay so I couldn’t have hurt him that bad.”

While Giroux did play “okay” throughout that particular series, it’s believable that Giroux’s wrist injury caught up with him in the following series against New Jersey. But you’ll have to forgive Crosby; he was in rare form in that playoff series, whether it was on the ice or in post-game interviews.

Nevertheless, the year is 2014. Even Todd Bertuzzi is back to playing under anonymity with Detroit. And while it’s absurd to even allude to the fact that biting another play is acceptable, Hartnell’s hit on Letang on Saturday was anything but dirty.

“Personally, watching it happen live was a little unsettling. Kris Letang had a stroke was essentially the first thing to come to mind here, too. But that’s as far as it can go. Unless it’s a hit far outside the norm — and Hartnell’s was not — it has to end there. For everyone. Letang, unlikely as it may be, is playing hockey at its highest level, and deserves to be treated as such.” — The Sporting News

Karma, The Result Of Keeping Score?

Craig Berube’s response to Bylsma’s comments echoed such sentiments. After hearing of Bylsma’s take on the situation, the first-year coach quickly came to the defense of his veteran forward.

“Then he shouldn’t play,” Berube shot back. “He shouldn’t be out there playing, bottom line. It’s a stupid comment.”

And then there’s the actions of Jayson Megna, who shoved Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald into Steve Mason, resulting in Mason’s early departure from the game, and a potential concussion diagnosis.

“I don’t see our guys doing that,” said an irritated Berube.

But then again, why would they? The Flyers have owned Marc-Andre Fleury, beating him three times this season and leaving him with an .885 save percentage in the season series. In other words, taking an eye-for-an-eye would have been counterproductive to what the Flyers were trying to do – score goals.

But it is interesting, nonetheless, to note that Megna was rightly penalized for shoving MacDonald into Mason, while Hartnell and Letang were both penalized. And before the official-bashing begins (by those who have likely never officiated a hockey game in their lives), the Penguins had four power play chances to Philadelphia’s two.

Let’s not forget about Tanner Glass’ third period cheap shot on Jakub Voracek, who just coincidentally scored two of the Flyers’ four goals on the day.

“Regulation’s over at that point. I didn’t see any need for him to go at him,” said Flyers defenseman Hal Gill. “Jake took exception to it, and I did too.”

Keeping Score – The Pot Calling The Kettle A Heartless Bully

Keeping score of James Neal's illegal hits and embellishment penalties can be a lengthy task.

Keeping score of James Neal’s illegal hits and embellishment penalties can be a lengthy task. (Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI)

If the “dirty team” label being lobbed from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia isn’t the definition of irony, it’s straight slap schtick. This is not to say the Flyers are a team littered with Lady Byng candidates, but it’s time to acknowledge the truth – Pittsburgh is just as, if not more dirty than Philadelphia. The proof of that is found beyond the bitter rivalry between the two teams.

Lost in the chaos surrounding Shawn Thornton’s attack on Brooks Orpik earlier this season was James Neal’s blatant unsportsmanlike knee to the head of Boston’s Brad Marchand. Speaking of Neal and history, he has one; just ask Sean Couturier. And then there’s Brooks Orpik, who masterfully pulls off the “Who, me?” mantra. While his devastating hit on Loui Eriksson came during the same game, it was just one of his many hits that have been labeled “borderline dirty.”

“In watching the replays, I thought Brooks was just kind of lining him up,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “No matter what, he was going to line up the hit more than even attempt to play the puck. Maybe people will argue that it touched his blade but it certainly wasn’t from him (Eriksson) trying to take a pass. It took a weird bounce off the boards.”

It’s equally surprising to see Bylsma and the Penguins playing the victim card since their poster boy for integrity and fair play, James Neal, is the only player in the league to be threatened with suspension for racking up three embellishment penalties.

“I have also seen enough of his play to know something else: James Neal is not my type of hockey player. He has been involved in multiple incidents, showing reckless disregard for the safety of fellow players. Furthermore, he’s a player who has acquired the reputation for being a diver.

“The law of diminishing returns, which I learned in my college days at the University of Pennsylvania, comes into this. For all of Neal’s talent, he is at risk of starting to cost his team more than he gives. Which each new incident, he becomes more and more of a distraction to his own team.

“When I was an active referee, I would tell the team leaders and the coach to get control of such players or I would have to do it for them — and they wouldn’t like the result. If I told Ray Bourque or Dave Poulin to get someone on their team in line, I never had another problem with that guy. I would hope Sidney Crosby could be told the same thing by an official, but I have not seen that sort of leadership from him.” — Former NHL Official, Paul Stewart

It’s beyond obvious that Dan Bylsma, and the likeminded folk who regurgitate such bias, is dead bolting a door that’s attached to a house of cards. As for Berube, Pittsburgh’s antics are nothing new to his coaching eyes. The former enforcer lambasted the Pens back in the 2012 playoffs when he served as an assistant under Peter Laviolette.

“They (Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby) slash, they punch guys in the face, they do all these little things,” Berube said. “I got no problem with what (Brayden) Schenn does, and if somebody runs [Crosby] over, that’s great, they should run him over. This guy gets away with too much in my opinion, whines to the refs all day and all night, it’s a joke.”

Yes, the Flyers are the most penalized team in the NHL. And yes, they’re in the top three in the league in major penalties, misconducts, and game misconducts. It’ll be difficult to find anyone foolish enough to argue they’re a disciplined group of choir boys. But let’s not turn a blind eye to Pittsburgh’s pair of match penalties, which is one more than Philadelphia has committed. Especially if you plan on riding a high horse to and from the arena.

Andy Dudones
Andy is a contributor for The Hockey Writers, covering the Philadelphia Flyers. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Communications from Walsh University. He enjoys spending time with his family, golfing, and reading. He is married with a daughter. You can follow Andy on Twitter @ADudones.
Andy Dudones
Good night and good hockey, Flyers fans. Yeah! - 6 hours ago
Andy Dudones

6 Comments

  1. Pingback: It's Time to Stop Stereotyping Philadelphia Fans

  2. Wow I can’t decide if you sound more like the biggest flyers fan in the world or a whining little b&t(h but give me a break. This article could not be more one sided and unfairly scued if the republican party wrote it themselves. I mean I guess it’s good you learned how to write though.

    • Your articulation has won me over. I suddenly see the error in my ways. And since I had to point it out to the like-minded before, that’s saturated in sarcasm.

  3. A look at the numbers for every season post-lockout. We’ll disregard this season since the author has already listed Philly’s place in the penalty rankings for this season.

    2012-2013 Major Penalties/Game Misconducts/Misconducts

    Philly #2 #3 #2
    Pittsburgh #15 #9 #21

    2011-2012

    Philly #3 #10 #1
    Pittsburgh #20 #22 #23

    2010-2011

    Philly #13 #7 #9
    Pittsburgh #2 #2 #4

    2009-2010

    Philly #1 #2 #9
    Pittsburgh #14 #6 #6

    2008-2009

    Philly #2 #3 #15
    Pittsburgh #23 #15 #20

    2007-2008

    Philly #4 #1 #6
    Pittsburgh #10 #9 #14

    2006-2007

    Philly #8 #4 #4
    Pittsburgh #16 #12 #10

    2005-2006

    Philly #19 #15 #23
    Pittsburgh #7 #1 #6

  4. I certainly hope you didn’t draw a paycheck for writing that trash. I’ll just have a go at your “piece” one point at a time. Mkay?

    1) I’ll agree that Bylsma’s post-game comment was face-palm worthy, almost on the level of stupidity of Lavs claiming Giroux was the “best player in the world” a few years ago. Funny how nobody in the hockey world stepped to support the ridiculousness of that comment……not even from the Flyers locker room. Because, of course, it was a comment that was/is/always will be beyond stupid.

    2) Almost as hilarious as your quote by Claude Julien as some sort of statement that should be taken as the gospel on face value (we’ll get to Julien’s hypocrisy shortly), is taking that moronic claim by Giroux by Crosby was “slashing his wrists. First of all, every single face-off from that series is on film……and it’s funny how to this day NOBODY has been able to produce a clip from a single faceoff in that series showing Crosby trying to go at the Ginger’s wrists. In fact, Crosby had a pretty good faceoff % in that series…….which is kind of hard to do when you’re supposedly going at a guy’s wrists instead of the puck. Funny how Giroux didn’t fare so well yesterday against 87 in that regard either. Giroux is flat out not on Crosby’s level at the faceoff dot.

    And blaming Crosby because your boy got taken to the woodshed in the following series? Beyond laughable. Your entire squad were made to look like an AHL team. At best.

    3) I agree with Bertuzzi that Hartnell’s hit on Letang was not dirty. I had no issue with it as it happened and still don’t.

    4) There was no “cheap shot” on Voracek. In fact, Glass let him off the hook. There was time on the clock and Glass had him lined up with speed and had Voracek in perfect position to make him a permanent part of the CEC boards. He didn’t. Fact. There was no “slash to the ribs”. Absolutely ridiculous assertion.

    5) “Pittsburgh is just as, if not more dirty than Philadelphia. The proof of that is found beyond the bitter rivalry between the two teams.” LOL. Are you being serious? Here’s a little tip dude, you shouldn’t put a piece like this on the internet unless you’ve done your research and you clearly have not. Take a look at the numbers for every year dating back to the 04-05 lockout. That is a sample size of 8 seasons prior to this one, and we all know where Philly stands this year in the rankings as far as major penalties/Misconducts/game misconducts. So lets take a look at those three categories dating back to the 05-06 season following the lockout (Crosby’s first season). Philly has ranked ahead of Pittsburgh in all 3 categories in all but 2 of the 9 seasons since the lockout (including this one), meaning they’ve been guilty of committing more of those penalties on a FAR more consistent basis. The only two anomalies in that sample are the 05-06 and 10-11 seasons. Your assertions are ridiculous at best, which is probably why you try cherry picking a couple of quotes here and there from ridiculously hypocritical sources…..like Claude Julien. You know the numbers don’t line up in your favor. But your smoke and mirrors attempt is as ridiculous as it is transparent.

    6) Which brings me to my next point…..holding up the statements of Claude Julien as some sort of barometer for truth. This is the man made famous as the subject of the timeless (and infamous) Embellishment City video. This is the guy who delivered a huge diatribe about the league’s imminent downfall due to the embellishment of players (from other teams of course) during a famous presser. There’s no bigger guilty party in the NHL than his boy, Brad “I was trying to draw Five” Marchand.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6IxtxfsNWg

    7) Nobody in Pittsburgh is making excuses for James Neal. We’re all pretty much sick of his act at this point…..unlike Bobby Clarke who has made numerous public excuses and had plenty of public praise for the various thugs on his roster over the years. Especially guys like Steve Downie. But this all rings pretty hollow coming from a a guys who’s team currently has a guy on suspension for doing the high jump at another guy’s head. Hypocrite…..thy name is Philly Fan. See the below link for Bobby Clarke’s statement on Downie.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1AgE63LcOA

    8) And since when has James Neal been the Penguins’ “poster boy for integrity and fair play”? I’d love to hear you answer on that.

    9) Like all Philly Fans with a raging case of trophy-envy when it comes to Pittsburgh (6 Super Bowls, 5 World Series, 3 Stanley Cups) you sit there lobbing stones from your glass house. If you look to the west and squint hard enough, that gleam you see is the reflection from all that Pittsburgh hardware. Suck on that.

    • Thanks for reading and taking the time to write. Your lengthy response only exemplifies the height of this rivalry, which I believe we both can agree is the best in the league. With that being said, I saw several questions throughout your dissertation. And whether they’re rhetorical or not, I’ll bite.

      1.) I’ve noticed you tend to compare apples to oranges; your 1st point is the first. Labeling a player as a villain because he “hit” a guy who’s in the lineup and on the ice is not comparable to Peter Laviolette’s comments during the 2012 quarterfinal series. Furthermore, based on the numbers and outcome of that series, Claude Giroux WAS the best player in the world, even if it were for only that short period of time. It doesn’t need to be validated because, honestly, who really cares? It’s irrelevant.

      2.) When you hack at someone’s wrist, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the slashed player is going to have difficulty winning said faceoff. Why do you think he did it?! And if Giroux is out of Crosby’s league in the dot, how come their faceoff percentage is nearly identical? In fact, Giroux’s 52.9% slightly edges Crosby’s 52.5%, but I digress. If you’re hanging your hat on lack of evidence on YouTube, that’s your decision. It’s difficult to see things like that in faceoffs, especially when the two players are so low and chopping in the first place. I’m sure you’ve been exposed to his other antics in that playoff series, though, which is on par to Giroux’s allegations.

      3.) Push

      4.) I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree. After all, Voracek’s 2 goals before “the hit” was his 28th point recorded against the Pens since joining the Flyers. Only Claude Giroux has more points throughout that span, which explains why Voracek was singled out in that instance. The “there was time on the clock” argument is nothing more than a technicality. There was less than 2 seconds left, and the puck was in the neutral zone. In other words, the hit, clean or not, was unnecessary.

      5.) If I were cherry picking, I wouldn’t have included the fact that the Flyers are the most penalized team in the league this season (which you did later point out to my credit). But even if I hadn’t, the comparing of apples and oranges apply here as well. The Broad Street Bullies were flat out dirty. They were built that way for a reason. But regardless, it was a different game in a different era. Speaking of research, how many embellishing penalties have the Flyers been whistled for?

      6.) Do you really want to bring up Brad Marchand in your rebuttal? The same Brad Marchand that took a James Neal knee to the head? Or was he simply embellishing? Regardless, Julien was quoted because it was his opinion and he’s the head coach of the team that was involved in a dirty game with the Pens earlier this season. If anything, treating Brooks Orpik’s patsy routine as the Gospel is the true error; but hey, that’s just my opinion.

      7.) Where in my piece do you see me claiming the Flyers are a disciplined bunch that exemplifies ultimate sportsmanship? To bring up the Zac Rinaldo suspension, which was followed by the accusation of, “hypocrite,” is laughably absurd. Rinaldo’s hit was dirty and he’s serving his punishment. Nobody in Philadelphia is rushing the streets in protest, as it appears you’re alluding to. And while Rinaldo’s illegal hit was an isolated incident, James Neal’s track record is the antithesis. Remember the 2012 playoffs? But that’s right, you’re sick of James Neal’s act. Just don’t call the team he plays for “dirty.” Hmmm, ok.

      8.) Without further ado, it was sarcasm.

      9.) Were you part of that student body in high school that chanted, “Let’s – play – foot – ball!” when your team was losing in basketball? This is the weakest and most childish of all your points. This is the Hockey Writers. If you want to argue about the Steelers or whatever sports teams you have, I’d advise you to pound your chest in the proper setting. The Pens have been a complete joke in recent playoff action and the Flyers are in their head. It is what is, though, right?

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