Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Did Pittsburgh Bench Crosby to avoid Flyers? Penguins Coach Calls it "Ridiculous"

The Penguins, citing injury issues, benched their young star Sidney Crosby for their last game of the season against the Flyers. It was a peculiar move, considering the Penguins were playing for first overall in the Eastern Conference. There has been much speculation that the Penguins benched Crosby for another reason: they wanted to avoid playing the Flyers in the first round. A win against Philly in their last game would have kept the Flyers in the 8th seed as the Pens moved up into first overall, setting up a series against the cross-state rivals in the opening round. Instead, the Penguins lost the game and will play the Ottawa Senators.

Senators coach Bryan Murray certainly thinks the Penguins are intentionally ducking the Flyers. Murray said that "from the drop of the puck" it was clear the Penguins wanted to face Ottawa instead of Philly. He thinks the Penguins wanted to avoid a "rough and tumble" team like the Flyers, and they would rather play a team like the Senators, who favor a more finesse style of hockey.

While Murray is using this as motivation for his team, Penguins coach Michel Therrien and his players think that the whole situation is "ridiculous". Listen to the Penguins response here, as they try to explain the situation. Team captain Sidney Crosby says the team has "tried to win every game it has played" this year. If that was the case, then why would you sit out your best player in a meaningful game at the end of the season? Crosby had played the previous four games, so his injury is not a very good excuse.

So, did the Penguins intentionally duck the Flyers? I think it's very possible. It's actually a smart move, because the Flyers would have worn the Penguins down in a seven game series. The Flyers might not have beaten the Penguins, but they would have definitely beat them up. That would have hurt them in the long run as they try to make a run to the Stanley Cup Finals. Playing the Senators will allow the Penguins to play their game, and possibly allow them to go deeper into the playoffs.

The Philly Flu seems to have made a return appearance, except this team it was an entire team that faked an injury and wanted to avoid the Flyers in the playoffs. We will have to wait and see if these teams meet up again in the later rounds because if they do, you can guarantee the Flyers will give the Penguins the beating they badly wanted to avoid.

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