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2012 stanley cup playoffs

The Flyers Organization Is Having a Lot of Fun With Their Series Against Pittsburgh

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 15:  Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins speaks with Claude Giroux #28 of the Philadelphia Flyers in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center on April 15, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Penguins 8-4.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Sidney Crosby; Claude Giroux

Some of what we've seen in the Penguins–Flyers first-round series would have been hard to predict: The Flyers have scored a total of twenty goals over their three consecutive victories to open the series, including seventeen against Marc-Andre Fleury (whose save percentage in this postseason is currently under .800). Evgeni Malkin — the Hart Trophy frontrunner and a former Conn Smythe winner — has yet to score a goal. And tonight, when the teams face off in Philadelphia, the Penguins — a popular pick to win the Stanley Cup just one week ago — will be facing elimination.

Other aspects of the series, however, we could have seen coming. (After all, who can forget this melee from April 1, not to mention our favorite screencap from the 2011-12 regular season?) Things got especially ugly in Game 3 as the Penguins started to totally unravel, between Arron Asham's vicious cross-check of Brayden Schenn, James Neal charging at Claude Giroux, and the subsequent fight that at one point included hair-pulling. And so, if it wasn't clear that these teams didn't care for each other, Sidney Crosby came out and explicitly said so after the game. From a transcript of his postgame interview, via Broad Street Hockey:

Q: When you knocked Voracek's glove on the ice and hit it away was that just out of frustration?

"I don't like any guy on their team there. It was near me and he went to pick it up and I pushed it."

Q: Why don't you like them?

"I don't like them, because I don't like any guy on their team so."

There's nothing necessarily wrong with those quotes — of course he doesn't like them — but the Flyers organization homed in on them, and tonight they'll distribute T-shirts to fans in attendance at Game 4 with the following message on the back: "Guess what? We don't like you either!" Not that this rivalry really needed to be stirred up any further, but still: Well played, Philly.

The T-shirt slogan in Game 1 was also specific to the Flyers–Penguins rivalry: That one read "Whatcha gonna do?" and was inspired by a fan who sat behind the Flyers bench during that April 1 game in Pittsburgh dressed like Hogan. They even had Hogan record a video to fire up fans, which might be the most brilliant move of all of these. (The video even got the attention of the players on the benches.) We don't often pay compliments to the Flyers, but give them credit: Their promotions and in-game entertainment staff has thus far been way more prepared for this series than Crosby and his teammates.

Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images