Oh, you mean the playoffs haven't started yet?
The Flyers overcame a two-goal first-period deficit and beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 6-4 today. They're now a point back of the Pens with a week to go in the regular season, and with one more game in The House That Sergei Bobrovsky Built, home ice edge in the inevitable first-round playoff series between these two teams is seriously possible.
Setting up for the playoffs was what today's game was all about. It was a vital two points in the race for home-ice, but we know these two teams are going to battle in Round 1, and considering the Flyers have never lost at Consol Energy Center, home-ice isn't nearly as important as it would normally be. (Not to say it's not important at all.)
Today's game was all about setting the tone, and that's true on both sides. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were their typical sneaky-dirty selfs, slashing and interfering and doing all sorts of illegal things just under the scope of the officials. The Flyers did the same, if not a little more blatant with it all -- Brayden Schenn cross-checking Crosby from behind, Sean Couturier not stepping down to the much bigger Malkin, etc.
By sending out his fourth line in the final minute of the game, immediately after the Flyers took a 6-3 lead on an empty net goal, that's what Dan Bylsma was doing as well. Joe Vitale nailed Danny Briere with a clean hit, but it wasn't the legality of the hit that bothered Peter Laviolette (seen above, being a bad ass). It was the timing of it. Oh, I imagine he wasn't exactly happy with two dudes jumping Brayden Schenn, either.
I'm clearly going to side with the Flyers here -- Peter Laviolette called the move by Bylsma "gutless" -- but I also understand why Bylsma sent those guys out. He was setting the tone. It's really that simple. The Pens were fine purveyors of questionable stick-work all day, the Flyers responded by stepping up to their best players, and this is how Pittsburgh responded in turn. Neither team is completely at fault, nor is either team completely wrong.
It's all about setting the tone. The playoffs begin in 10 days.
Comment of the Day
The camera wasn't shaking there, that was Lavi's rage bending reality.