Zac Rinaldo was really dumb on Wednesday night. His attack on Zbynek Michalek late in the second period was inexcusable, and as our friends Seth Rorabaugh of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette points out, it's not even the first time this month Zac has hit Michalek in a dangerous fashion. The first hit back on April 7 legitimately wasn't all that bad -- it was from behind, but could have been much worse -- but that's exactly the kind of penalty that will be called against Rinaldo every single time.
We can talk all we want about Rinaldo's reputation. He was insane in the American Hockey League last season -- more suspensions than goals, as we've mentioned on more than one occasion since his call-up this year -- and that led to his initial reputation, but for every clean hit he's thrown this season with the Flyers, he does something like what he did last night to Michalek. His reputation is deserved, no matter how much we might dislike some of the weak calls that get thrown at him as a result.
Rinaldo tried to explain his thinking today. His explanation does not sit well.
"Frustration came out on me. It happens in hockey, you see it all the time. I'll roll with the punches. Whatever happens, happens. I don't regret doing it. I play with my emotions. I don't think I put my team down. It was already 9-3 when I went out there. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I was really frustrated that we were getting blown out of the water, so I took matters into my own hands." ... "It was just personal frustrations. [Michalek] didn't do anything."
This is the kind of off-the-handle stuff the Flyers cannot tolerate. That's for two reasons.
a) He doesn't regret it and he plays with his emotions, and no, he didn't hurt the team in this instance. It was a six goal game. But this is the kind of stuff that gives him the reputation he deserves, and yes, that reputation has hurt the Flyers in this series. It's hurt them on a ton of different occasions all season long.
b) We can't sit atop the mountain and condemn the way the Penguins acted on Sunday without looking at Zac and making him sit in the corner. Frankly, seeing a guy in orange pull that BS is embarrassing as a fan of this team, and I'm not against him never playing for the team again if he's going to throw obvious elbows at players heads. I don't care if he's frustrated or not. You can't do that, and if he's going to do that, he shouldn't play on this team.
It looks as if James van Riemsdyk is going to come back for Game 5. If that happens, it's obvious that Peter Laviolette needs to scratch Rinaldo. But even if Reemer doesn't return, Harry Zolnierczyk would be a nice addition in Rinaldo's spot. He brings the same kind of energy on the fourth line, but he doesn't bring the same risk of awful reputation penalties.
With the way the officials are calling this series, and with the way the Penguins power play looked on Wednesday night, the Flyers cannot afford to sit in the penalty box. Zac Rinaldo needs to sit out. He's too much of a liability.