Winning The Hard Way
Danny Briere laughed off questions about officiating and whether Pittsburgh Penguins stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin get more calls than they deserve.
He didn't want to get too involved in criticism, especially now that the Philadelphia Flyers are down 2-0 to their cross-state rivals in the Eastern Conference finals.
Briere took an elbow to the back of the head from Malkin in the second period of Sunday night's 4-2 loss in Game 2 at Pittsburgh. The shot left him dazed, and the Flyers forward missed a shift as a result of the unpenalized blow.
``That is something that should be called,'' Flyers coach John Stevens said Monday. ``We all know how the league is cracking down on blows to the head. If anybody knows that, it's us.''
This season, Philadelphia's Jesse Boulerice was given a 25-game suspension by the NHL, fellow forward Steve Downie was hit with a 20-game ban for a shot to the head of Ottawa's Dean McAmmond, and Riley Cote sat for three following an errant elbow.
While Briere realizes that prominent players have gotten protection from officials as long as the NHL has existed, some consistency would be nice, too.
``I've never considered myself a superstar,'' said a smiling Briere, who signed an eight-year, $52-million free-agent deal with the Flyers last summer. ``Obviously, they might get protected a little bit more. That's understandable, but when they do some of the cheap shots that they're doing I think it would be fair for everybody that they get the same treatment in that regard.''
This is all stuff the Penguins have heard before.
Last round, the New York Rangers were upset about calls whistled against them. Their biggest gripe was the penchant of Pittsburgh's players - especially Crosby - to embellish falls to draw a referee's whistle.
No matter. The Penguins shook off that talk and eliminated New York in five games. Pittsburgh is 10-1 in the playoffs.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Pittsburgh -114 money line favorites (NHL Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 5.5 goals (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 53% of bets for this game have been placed on Pittsburgh -114 (View NHL Bet Percentages).
``I read some comments about John Stevens, about how he's disappointed about some calls,'' Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien said Monday. ``At the same time, we're disappointed about some calls, as well.
``That's playoffs. There are times you're going to get a call, there's times you're not going to get a call. It's not about complaining. It's about playing the game. You hope to get the calls. It doesn't happen all the time.''
Pittsburgh went 2-for-6 on the power play Sunday and took advantage of a questionable hooking call against hulking Flyers defenseman Derian Hatcher who got his stick caught up with Malkin.
Philadelphia vowed to keep up its physical play because the Flyers feel they have to carry an edge if they have any hope of advancing to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 1997.
``Big Hatch was trying to do the right thing there,'' Stevens said. ``If our players take penalties with their intention to do the right thing with effort on the play, we'll live with the call.''
What they can't live with is limited production from the line of Briere, Vaclav Prospal and Scott Hartnell. The trio is pointless in the series and a minus-7.
The Penguins practiced at home Monday and then endured delays as they tried to make it across Pennsylvania on a very stormy day. Upon arrival, they will face arguably the most volatile fans in the league.
Game 3 is Tuesday night in Philadelphia, and Game 4 is Thursday.
``I would say it's a pretty tough place to play,'' Crosby said. ``At the same time, in the playoffs it makes for a great atmosphere. ... They're just a tough crowd. They're not afraid to say anything.''
For the first time in these playoffs, the Flyers are returning home for a Game 3 in a 2-0 hole. In series wins over Washington and Montreal, Philadelphia shook off losses in the opener to race out to 3-1 edges. Washington won twice to force a Game 7. Montreal went out in five.
``The real important thing is that we feel we have another level and we're going to hit that level (Tuesday) night,'' Hatcher said.
The breaks that seemed to go Philadelphia's way in the past now appear to favor Pittsburgh. A pair of 4-2 road losses have the Flyers facing what amounts to a must-win contest Tuesday.
``We're 0-2 right now, and I don't think we've played very well,'' said Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren, who praised the officiating in the already-physical series. ``We played better in the second game, but I think we have to play better if we expect to win a game.''
Both teams held optional practices on Monday, and Crosby took the opportunity to take a spin on the ice before hopping on the plane.
``Going home, they want to play well,'' Crosby said. ``Every game is important, but they want to make sure that they win this next one, there is no doubt.''
Philadelphia defenseman Braydon Coburn spent his morning visiting an ophthalmologist and undergoing tests to determine if he sustained any eye damage when he was struck in the face by a deflected puck Sunday.
The Flyers don't believe his left eye was damaged, but it was swollen shut. Coburn didn't break any bones, never lost consciousness, and didn't suffer a concussion when he was hit early in the first period. He did, however, lose quite a bit of blood from a cut that required over 50 stitches to close.
That made his flight home Sunday night unpleasant as he had lightheadedness and vomited, Holmgren said. A final determination has yet to be made, but Coburn is expected to be out at least for Game 3. Ryan Parent, who played 22 regular-season games and dressed for the playoff opener at Washington, will likely take his place in the lineup. Bet this game.
Here are some top trends for tonight's game:
- 17 of 25 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
- PITTSBURGH is 15-11-0 straight up against PHILADELPHIA over the last 3 seasons
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