Today was one of those days in sports that made me proud to be a Philly fan. More importantly, it made me VERY proud to be a Flyers fan.
That isn’t something you always hear from a Philly sports fan, but today it is a distinction worth mentioning. The Pittsburgh Penguins came out today, looking more interested in hurting people and disgracing themselves than actually winning a hockey playoff series. For years now, I have heard about how horrible Philly fans are and how the Flyers are dirty and so on and so forth. It has always made me sick. Today, the team that the NHL has embraced and tried to protect because the future of hockey rests on the shoulders of Sidney Crosby came out and embarrassed themselves. Today, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Arron Asham, Kris Letang and the rest of Penguins were the disgrace.
Arron Asham cross-checked Brayden Schenn in the throat, then leaned down and punched him as he laid defenseless and motionless on the ice. What a criminal. Common folks would be locked and prosecuted for less. James Neal left his skates and clobbered Sean Couturier, the rookie that scored a hat trick against these Pens on Friday night. He got away with that one and decided to take a run at the Flyers’ best player in Claude Giroux. At one point, Sidney Crosby and Scott Hartnell were tangled up along the boards when Craig Adams came along and inserted himself into the altercation. Hartnell peeled off and turned to face his attacker. At that point, Adams wasn’t quite so brave. In fact, he wound up pulling Hartnell’s hair like a 7-year old girl. Are you kidding me?
I have been a hockey fan for 30 years now. NEVER have I seen the likes of what I witnessed today. The Pittsburgh Penguins, starting with their owner, Mario Lemieux, and ending with their coach Dan Bylsma, should be absolutely ashamed of themselves. Anyone who condones, took part in, witnessed or allowed to happen what happened on the ice today is a disgrace. I wish there was a better word to describe it. But that it what it is. A stone cold disgrace. I wonder what Colin Campbell will have to say about this game. Maybe he’ll be upset by an offsides call like he was in Game 1? Maybe he’ll think a Flyer got away with hold? Clearly he was upset that the Flyers’ first goal on Thursday was scored on a missed offsides call. He promised there would be repercussions.
Arron Asham should absolutely be suspended for the rest of the playoffs, and maybe beyond. There can be no question that Asham was targeting Brayden Schenn. There is also no question that there was an intent to injure him. He was immediately given a match penalty and a game misconduct. If Brendan Shanahan fails to discipline him, it will be a black eye on the National Hockey League.
Perhaps this all points back to the “gutless” coach Dan Bylsma. He obviously has absolutely no control over his team. When faced with adversity, rather than rising to the challenge, his Pittsburgh Penguins reacted like children and threw temper tantrums. When the Flyers found themselves down in this series, they gut checked, pant-checked and staged brave and improbable comebacks. The Pens cheap-shotted their way through the afternoon.
At some point, someone will have to pay for what transpired this afternoon. Either the NHL, Colin Campbell and Brendan Shanahan will all have to man up and actually discipline this morally-lacking Penguins team, or the debt will be paid on the ice in blood. Any way you slice it, what happened this afternoon was NOT hockey. It was a black eye on hockey. Every fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins, every member of the organization and every “player” on the ice today should hang their heads in shame!
In the meantime, the Flyers maintained their cool, and battled through. They now lead this series 3-0. On Wednesday, they can finish it off.