The Flyers had completed an 8-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins to take a 3-0 lead in their first round playoff series, but everyone wanted to know about the events that left Timonen sporting his facial wound.
|Kimmo Timonen had all 17 of his playoff penalty minutes in Sunday's Game 3 |
Midway through the first period, Timonen exchanged words with Sidney Crosby after the Penguins’ star swatted a loose glove away from Jakub Voracek
as the Flyers’ forward was heading to the penalty box.
As Timonen and Crosby sparred, Kris Letang came at Timonen from behind and, that quickly, Timonen was involved in his first career fight. His actions also resulted in a game misconduct.
“Well, there was stuff going on earlier – that and Crobsy thought that I knocked his stick out,” Timonen said. “We went at it and then (Letang) came behind. That was it.”
Fighting is not a strength of Timonen, as evidenced by the ease in which Letang knocked him to the ice. However, he counts diplomatic responses as a strong attribute, which made his involvement in a fight surprising and his postgame responses fairly typical.
Timonen didn’t sugarcoat his feelings toward the Penguins. Like many Flyers, Timonen perceived the Penguins to have ill intentions during the third period, when a couple key Flyers were on the wrong side of some hard hits.
But Timonen didn’t throw any bulletin board material toward the Penguins. Instead, he turned the conversation into a discussion that focused just as much on dirty plays around the league as it did on the ugliness between the two intrastate rivals.
“It’s not just our game,” Timonen said. “I watched games (Saturday) night and it’s been like that. I don’t know what that is, but it’s disappointing. There’s some guys running around that aren’t supposed to be, (guys) that don’t usually do that. I don’t understand that.”
The playoffs barely had begun last week when Nashville’s Shea Weber intentionally slammed the head of Detroit star Henrik Zetterberg into the glass. That incident failed to draw a suspension for Weber, but since then, several players have earned suspensions for foul play.
Despite a fierce rivalry that simmered late in the regular season, the Flyers and Penguins played the first two games without any notable misdeeds.
Game 3 was quite different, with the teams combining for nearly two and half hours of penalty minutes, six fighting majors, four misconducts, two game misconducts and one match penalty.
It even featured a fight between Claude Giroux
and Crosby, two skill players who, like Timonen, aren’t known for dropping their gloves.
Timonen, a veteran of 13 seasons, said the game was unlike any postseason game he had ever seen. He said some players acted out of character, which he did not like.
“If you’re a hard, forechecking guy, play like that,” Timonen said. “To me the problem is when some guys are running around when they’re not supposed to be like that.”
Late in the third period, with the Flyers nursing a three-goal lead, the Penguins’ James Neal leveled Sean Couturier
on a play away from the puck. Couturier spent several minutes lying face-down on the ice before slowly skating off with assistance.
“If you can hit guys without the puck nowadays, that’s dangerous,” Timonen said. “I understand the rough thing. I understand the guys with the puck – you can hit it. I like the rough game, but when guys don’t have the puck and you hit blindsided, I don’t understand that. The league should get on that.”
Timonen said he didn’t think the Penguins’ hits were “calculated,” but he said that style wasn’t something they had displayed during the season.
“I don’t know why you’d change the game for the playoffs,” Timonen said. “I don’t like that but, like I said, if they think they’re going to win that way, go ahead and do it.”
While the Flyers don’t want to lose any player to injury, an injury to Timonen would be as costly as the loss of any player.
Timonen was the Flyers’ top-scoring defenseman with 43 points (4 goals, 39 assists). He finished plus-8 and totaled 129 blocked shots while playing key parts on both the penalty kill and power play.
Playing on the Flyers’ top defensive pairing, Timonen maintained a large role in keeping the Flyers defensive corps cohesive. His steady presence helped the Flyers weather the loss of captain Chris Pronger
, the backbone of the Flyers’ defense.
Timonen is not flashy, speedy or physically imposing. But he’s rarely out of position and he minimizes mistakes.
“He’s a real smart hockey player (on) both ends of the ice,” coach Peter Laviolette said.
He’s durable, too. Before missing five games in March, Timonen had appeared in 248 straight games, a streak that stretched back to the 2008-09 season.
Laviolette labeled his All-Star defenseman “rock solid.”
“To come in and see him every day and every game and what he goes through to get himself ready to play – he’s the complete professional on and off the ice,” Laviolette said. “He’s a good teammate and a good person. He’s a heckuva hockey player.”
As a teammate of Timonen in both Nashville and Philadelphia, Scott Hartnell
has witnessed every attribute Timonen has to offer. At least that was the case until Sunday afternoon, when Timonen debuted another.
“I didn’t know he was a fighter, too – which is great,” Hartnell said while laughing. “A little secret gun there on the back end. … Kimmo took a couple of punches in the face and he was marked up a little bit, like I am right now. It shows a lot of guts and I was definitely fired up when he was in there mixing it up.”