With the addition of Evgeni Malkin the following season, the Penguins became the league's showcase team. The Pens have made the playoffs every year since '06, have appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals twice, won one in '09, and have appeared twice in the NHL's Winter Classic in just five years, matching the Philadelphia Flyers' number.
Sadly, they have become known by many fans, critics and writers not as the league's showcase team, but rather as the biggest babies in the league. In particular, Sidney Crosby.
Case in point, Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals between the Penguins and their hated rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Penguins—who blew a three-goal lead in Game 1, then surrendered eight goals in Game 2—found themselves down 2-0 in a best-of-seven series and in a must-win situation heading into Philly's Wells Fargo Center.
Instead, the Penguins quickly unraveled, and down 3-1 just 12 minutes into the first period, things finally hit their boiling point.
Frustration set in for Sid the Kid, who took two whacks at Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov's glove after covering up the puck, and set in motion two scrums that resulted in two fighting majors and two game misconducts for players from each team.
After the first scrum was settled down, Crosby re-ignited a second scrum after pushing away the discarded glove of Flyers right winger Jakub Voracek, who was trying to pick it up off the ice.
The second fracas resulted in two separate fights, one involving Crosby, and the other involving Penguins defenseman Kris Letang and Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen. The second fight resulted in game misconducts for both Letang and Timonen.
Now, it has been well noted and recorded thanks to the magic of YouTube, that the Pens and Flyers don't like each other. And it's also well documented that Crosby (more than any other Penguin) has been the target of slashes, late hits, checks and scrums from Philadelphia.
Want proof? Check the first video out of Crosby getting cross-checked in the back by Brayden Schenn.
More? How about this video from 2008 when then-Flyers center Mike Richards slashed Crosby on a faceoff, goading him into a roughing penalty.
Throughout his entire career, Crosby has been subject to a great number of things designed to ruffle his feathers, yet nobody outside of PIttsburgh says anything about it. Rather, they applaud it. And yet, when the Penguins and Crosby fight back, all of a sudden they are looked at as whiners, babies, sore losers or a dirty team.
People looked at and blamed Crosby for starting the first major scrum of Sunday's game when he took two whacks at Bryzgalov—which he did do and was summarily ripped apart by every major hockey publication and commentator as the dirty instigator. Yet what about the shot by the Flyers' Scott Hartnell on Marc-Andre Fleury back in 2009?
And it's not just about Crosby. Before the second big scrap took place in the third period, Malkin was cross-checked from behind and yet no call was made and no mention in the major media. Instead, what was mentioned is that the Penguins are sore losers and were trying to hurt the Flyers with cheap shots.
Now watch the video at right that shows Aaron Asham's cheap shot on Brayden Schenn. Yes, the same Schenn who cross-checks Crosby in the first video. Pay attention to what the NBC Hockey broadcast team calls Schenn's hit—"a clean hit, nothing wrong with that." Yet, Schenn was hit with a charging penalty. So how can it be a "clean hit"?
Finally, there's the final scrum where a fight breaks out between Hartnell and Penguin Craig Adams. Once again, the NBC broadcast crew puts blame entirely on the Pittsburgh left wing James Neal, who roughed up and wobbled Claude Giroux (which led to this scrum and, ultimately, the fight between Hartnell and Adams).
So, where was the blame when Schenn's charging call led to a retaliation hit by Aaron Asham?
People often complain that all Crosby and the Penguins do is whine and complain about missed calls and rough play then turn around and commits the fouls themselves.
But here's my question: Why is it okay for the rest of the league to take shots, rough up and mess around with Sidney Crosby, and nobody complains, yet when the Penguins try the same tactic, they are branded as a bunch of dirty cry babies?
There really is a media bias against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins, don't you think?