The regular-season finale today against bitter rival Philadelphia will offer Penguins captain Sidney Crosby a new experience.
"I've never been in that scenario before," Crosby said of a game that is meaningless in terms of the standings and yet intriguing because the Penguins and Flyers already know they will meet in the first round of the playoffs, beginning Wednesday or Thursday at Consol Energy Center.
What's far from new for Crosby is the rhetoric that has dogged him and the Penguins, particularly over the past week.
Although for the most part the Penguins have been subdued in their reactions to various rants aimed at them by member of the Flyers, NBC analyst Mike Milbury and, most recently, New York Rangers coach John Tortorella, Crosby lashed back Friday.
He called the harsh criticism "garbage," "crap," "nonsense," and said, "It's getting pretty old."
The NHL apparently is taking notice. It fined Tortorella $20,000 for his comments Friday after the Penguins 5-2 win Thursday night against the Rangers, although the league did not get more specific.
Tortorella said Brooks Orpik made a "cheap, dirty hit" on New York's Derek Stepan, wondered "what would happen if we did [the same kind of hit] to their two whining stars," labeled the Penguins "one of the most arrogant organizations in the league" and said the whining starts "with their two [expletive] stars."
That would presumably be Crosby and center Evgeni Malkin.
"I figured he was just blowing up. I'm sure he'll apologize about it, and everything will be forgotten," Crosby said in deadpan fashion before the fine was announced.
Earlier in the week, Milbury also called Crosby a whiner, made light of Crosby's trouble with a concussion and called him a "goody two-shoes." He later apologized.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette -- who got into a shouting match with Penguins assistant Tony Granato late in the 6-4 Flyers win Sunday -- likened the Penguins' strategy to goonism and called Penguins coach Dan Bylsma "gutless." He was fined $10,000 by the NHL; Granato, $2,500.
Veteran Flyers center Danny Briere said a hit by the Penguins Joe Vitale late in that game that left him injured was clean but carried an intent to injure.
And Flyers assistant Craig Berube said Crosby and Malkin were the Penguins' "dirtiest players."
The Penguins, in a pretty significant response Friday, recalled enforcer Steve MacIntyre from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He had not arrived in time to practice, and it's not clear whether he -- or Flyers enforcer Jody Shelley -- will be in the lineup today.
"I don't know when this all started, if this is part of the new tactics heading in the playoffs, but it's garbage," Crosby said of the war of words. "The game's played on the ice. You get all this stuff going on. It really is, it's garbage. It's nonsense.
"If they want to do it, great, but I'm not going to waste my time answering questions about it all the time. It's getting pretty old."
Crosby figured there was a method to the trash talk.
"If anything, they're trying to persuade officials from not making calls or second-guessing things," he said. "I hope it doesn't affect us. I really hope [officials] are not listening to that crap because it's nonsense.
"They're trying every which way to gain an advantage. So be it. Try it, but we're not paying a lot of attention to it. It's getting old."
Crosby took particular offense at the suggestion that he whines or complains to the officials to the extreme. That's a charge -- along with being a diver -- that has been levied against him by the Flyers and Philadelphia fans for years, but most recently it came from Tortorella.
"I don't know what he's talking about," Crosby said. "I mean, if you want you can put a camera on us all game, put a camera on [Rangers captain Ryan] Callahan all game, and you'll see who's over there [complaining to officials] more. He should worry about his own players."
That said, Crosby admitted that as a teenager early in his career he spoke up too much to officials.
"I'll be the first one to admit my first couple of years I was pretty hard on the refs," he said. "I've come a long way since then, but I'm nowhere near where I was then, and to get those kinds of remarks every day is uncalled for and not warranted.
"I don't need to sit here and defend myself for something that's not going on, but, if they want to try that garbage, try it. Go ahead."
Maturity, Crosby said, taught him to cool it with officials.
"I think after a while you learn it's a waste of your own energy. It doesn't help anything. They're not going to change their mind after penalties. Yelling isn't really going to help. I think it's just something with time you learn.
"It's experience, and I'm a pretty competitive guy, but you've got to learn to kind of control that sometimes and put your energy toward things that matter -- and that's playing hockey," he said.
"I think it's been a gradual thing. There's no doubt I'm emotional. There are times when I'm going to get fired up, but not enough to warrant all that. It's nonsense. You can put a camera on me all game if you want. It's not even close. It's not even close."
Whether any of this spills over into the game today is anyone's guess. General manager Ray Shero declined an interview request.
Coach Dan Bylsma called the buildup "gamesmanship," but he has engaged in it some, too, declining to specify what his lineup will look like, how he will dole out ice time or even whether he might switch goaltenders at some point during the game by design.
And this is only the game before the playoff series.penguins