Flyers-Rangers rivalry to be viewed on national stage
PHILADELPHIA -- It took Philadelphia Flyers rookie forward Zac Rinaldo all of two regular-season games against the New York Rangers to learn why there is so much hatred in this Philadelphia-New York rivalry that will take center stage Monday in the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park (3 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS).
"(Brandon) Dubinsky," Rinaldo told NHL.com when asked to give a reason why he dislikes the Rangers so much. "He told me I was a liability on the ice and he told me I was a bad hockey player. Then the next game I asked him to fight, and he doesn't back it up. That's a coward move. You don't tell someone he's a bad hockey player and then not back anything up. That's a coward."
Given a chance to respond, Dubinsky, the Rangers' fifth-year forward who has played 28 games against the Flyers, at first said he wasn't going to, but then his answer bled into a jab at Rinaldo.
"I've never even heard of the guy, really," Dubinsky told NHL.com. "So, no need for me to say anything else besides that."
Rinaldo said he won't create a sideshow with Dubinsky on Monday because "he's not even worth my time," but the war of words between the two players Sunday are enough of an indication of the type of game fans should expect Monday.
The Rangers and Flyers do not like each other very much. The Flyers' fans flat-out can't stand the Rangers' fans, and vice versa.
The rivalry traces back to the Flyers' first season in 1967 and has featured 311 games, but for the first time the two sides will take it outdoors in a game that, while it is still for the requisite two points, means so much more for the national stage it will be played on and where the teams are in the standings right now.
The Rangers lead the Eastern Conference with 50 points, while the Flyers' 48 points puts them in fourth place. The Flyers will leap the Rangers with a regulation win Monday.
"Every time when we play the Rangers, it's usually a tight game, 2-1 or 3-2," Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen said. "It's hard-nosed, hard-forechecking games with a couple of fights in there. The goalies play well. And I'm not expecting anything else (Monday), even if we play outdoors and it's Winter Classic. I'm expecting hard-nosed game and hard-forechecking game. Obviously it's just a different environment for both teams."
The Rangers have owned the season series so far this season, with a pair of wins at Madison Square Garden. They beat the Flyers 2-0 on Nov. 26 and 4-2 on Dec. 23.
"I can only speak for our team, we just go about our business," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "We don't change our game plan or do anything special against Philly."
New York has won the last four meetings between the rivals dating back to its 7-0 victory March 6, 2011 at Madison Square Garden. However, the Flyers won the previous five games, starting with their 2-1 shootout victory on the final day of the 2009-10 season that put them in the playoffs and knocked the Rangers out.
"Hate is a big word, but that's definitely a word you can use between the Rangers and Flyers. It's so competitive that it's always like a playoff game." -- Rangers' forward Brandon Prust
Flyers forward Jody Shelley played for the Rangers in that game and scored their lone goal. He vividly recalls the feeling of leaving Philadelphia that afternoon.
"You don't feel happy for any of (the Philadelphia fans) because you really hate them," he told NHL.com. "We left there on the train with the image of the fans standing up so happy, and that's not what you want. It's not us and them, it's the Flyers fans against Ranger fans. We came to Philly knowing what the Ranger fans were doing that day, and we were heading back to New York while these guys were standing up."
The Flyers fans that came up to New York for the games this season left disappointed. The Rangers have won the two previous meetings between the clubs this season behind strong goaltending from Lundqvist and a well-rounded offense, including points from 13 different players, led by Michael Del Zotto's 3 assists.
"They played great defensively," said Flyers forward Jakub Voracek, who like Rinaldo is getting his first taste of the Rangers-Flyers rivalry this season. "Lundqvist was solid both games and we struggled to score on him. I don't think we played bad games, we played pretty solid hockey games, but we just couldn't finish."
Of course, it's not a Flyers-Rangers rivalry without some pugilism. Rangers forward Brandon Prust has been in the center of that.
In the first game this season, Prust fought Rinaldo just four seconds after the opening faceoff. He then fought Wayne Simmonds later in the first period Nov. 26. And in the second meeting, he fought Marc-Andre Bourdon in the first period.
The two games this season have featured a total of 72 penalty minutes, including eight fighting majors, two unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties and two roughing minors.
"Hate is a big word, but that's definitely a word you can use between the Rangers and Flyers," Prust told NHL.com. "It's so competitive that it's always like a playoff game."