Q: Do you have a feeling that the Penguins tanked Game 4 so they could play Game 5 at home and earn some much-needed money? I understand that it sounds silly, but the players' performance in the first half of the game was just terrible. There was no effort at all. They just weren't playing. Only at the end of the game did the team put on some pressure, but it was like just saving face.
Alexander Zuiev, Kiev, Ukraine
MOLINARI: It seemed for a while that this too-absurd-for-words line of thinking would be confined to North America but, obviously, it eventually made its way across the Atlantic.
Perhaps it's understandable that, after watching the Penguins win 11 of their first 12 playoff games, people would grope for a simplistic explanation for the team's lackluster play in much of the first period Thursday, when the Flyers built a 3-0 advantage. However, to suggest that the Penguins intentionally lost the game for any reason -- whether to generate more revenue for the owners or because they simply preferred to wrap up the series on home ice -- is such a severe disconnect from reality that it defies any reasonable attempt to rationalize it.
Forget the minor matters of integrity and respect for the game that a team would have to ignore in such a scenario; why would a club purposely give an opponent an opportunity to stay in a series any longer than necessary? It's only happened twice in NHL history, but there are precedents for teams rebounding from a 3-0 deficit to win a series. Why would a team even think about giving an opponent an opportunity to become the third?
The Penguins, you might recall, closed out a first-round sweep in Ottawa last month. Wouldn't a fifth game against the Senators have been another payday for ownership? Wouldn't a Game 5 then have given the Penguins a chance to advance with a victory on home ice? So why didn't the Penguins donate a victory to the Senators in Game 4?
And if the Penguins were intent on not eliminating the Flyers Thursday, how can their surge in the third period, when they nearly forced overtime and would have had a chance to close out the series in four games by scoring the next goal, be explained? Was it a sudden, team-wide attack of Quitters' Remorse? Or might it have been that they regrouped from their poor start -- anyone out there ever have a bad day at work, or even part of one? -- and began to do the things that allowed them to win the first three games in the first place?
If you want to explain the outcome of Game 4, consider giving the Flyers credit for responding well to the potential end of their season -- believe it or not, the Penguins' opponent wants to win, too -- and capitalizing on the openings the Penguins gave them during the first period, then managing to hang on when the Penguins elevated their game during the final 20 minutes.
Q: What the heck is "clipping" in hockey? In my 35-plus years of watching, I have never seen that one called before.
John Becker, Tempe Ariz.
MOLINARI: This has been the second-most popular topic in Q&A submissions the past few days, obviously in reaction to the penalty Kris Letang was assessed midway through the first period in Game 4.
Unfortunately for those who think the call was made by a guy who usually works football games -- or, better yet, who simply invented an infraction that doesn't exist -- clipping has been a penalty in hockey for a lot of years, even though it isn't called very often.
It is covered by Rule 45, which describes it this way: "Clipping is the act of throwing the body, from any direction, across or below the knees of an opponent."
Clipping can, by the way, take the form of a minor, major or match penalty, depending on the severity of the infraction.