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Bylsma expects results to trump circus

by Dan Rosen /

PITTSBURGH -- Dan Bylsma raised his eyebrows and said he was surprised the question he was about to answer referred only to the last couple of weeks.

"Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have been called names in this rivalry and against this team for a long time," Bylsma said. "Most of the nicknames for Sidney Crosby have originated out of Philly. But, frankly, the start of the series I think makes it go away. It's about playing hockey now."

Bylsma's assessment could be true, but that's not usually how it works in the Battle of Pennsylvania, which might be more intense than it has ever been with Game 1 of the latest chapter in the in-state rivalry set to get under way Wednesday night (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN).

Outside of what the Flyers' fans and some players and coaches may feel about Crosby and Malkin, the Penguins' superstars have also been called names during the last several weeks by a television commentator and by an opposing coach that has nothing to do with this series. They say it's all white noise to them, but really what it has done is add even more hype and even more intrigue to a series that probably didn't need any more of both.

"Everybody hates everybody and it's going to make for good games and it'll be a good show for the fans. The boys are pretty excited." -- Claude Giroux

"I don't really need any extra motivation to be honest with you," Crosby said. "It's not anything that changes the way I approach the game. Those are tactics that I've seen for a long time, way before I got to the NHL. Some things never change and that's one of them. I don't think that changes my mindset at all."

The mindset for players and coaches on both sides is focused on one thing, and it is not name-calling or verbal sparring.

The mindset now is all about winning Game 1.

Bylsma, who was called "gutless" by Flyers coach Peter Laviolette after the meeting on April 1, said the roughly two weeks of buildup to this first-round matchup has reminded him of the Penguins' second-round clash against Washington in 2009. But, just like it did then, the conversation will change once the first faceoff is taken Wednesday night.


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Oh sure, there may still be some public sparring and name-calling going on in this series over the next several days, but the talk will soon become more about Xs and Os, about the battle of the matchups, about the goaltenders, about superstars either dominating or underperforming, and about unsung heroes coming to the fore.

"Every meeting it seems that it gets very emotional," Flyers center Danny Briere said. "That's what I expect. I expect hockey that is going to get very emotional."

That emotion stems from familiarity. It seems almost impossible for either team to win with the element of surprise because they know each other so well.

Not only have they met six times this season, but 19 players in this series were part of the 2009 quarterfinal-round series between the Flyers and Penguins. The Keystone State rivals also played in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2008.

"We know the opponent. We know what they bring and what they can do," Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis said. "We know they're a good team, but we know we're a pretty confident group in here. We know what to expect from each other. The core has been the same for five or six years. We know what to expect and they know what to expect. We just have to perform."

Added Crosby: "I don't think there is going to be much feeling out because we do know each other so well. Most times teams in that situation get right into it and both teams know what to expect. The fact we played each other pretty frequently down the stretch I would expect it to be pretty intense."

The buildup, the hype, and the name-calling suggest he should be correct.

"Everybody hates everybody and it's going to make for good games and it'll be a good show for the fans," Flyers center Claude Giroux said. "The boys are pretty excited."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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