Former Penguin Neal thinks team still 'rattled' by 2012 playoff loss to Flyers
Nashville Predators forward James Neal is having an immediate impact with his new club after being acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins in a draft-day trade in June.
On Thursday, the 27-year-old forward managed a hat trick in leading his team to a 3-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. In addition to his three goals, Neal peppered Blackhawks goaltender Antti Raanta with six shots. Then, for good measure, he threw one more shot at his former team after the contest.
Neal was asked by Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporter Josh Yohe about the Penguins' inability to get it done in the postseason during his tenure in the City of Bridges.
"Why we struggled in the playoffs is still a tough question to answer," Neal began. "I don't think anyone really can."
Then Neal, apparently unprompted, gave it his best shot. In doing so, he invoked the specter of the Penguins' biggest rivals: the Philadelphia Flyers.
"I didn't watch the game (on Wednesday)," Neal said. "But I guess they lost again to the Flyers, eh? It's the same thing that went on when I was there. What the Flyers do to the Penguins ... I don't know why things didn't go the way they should have gone in the playoffs. I don't know why everyone got so rattled. But it's not my problem anymore."
The Flyers famously outlasted the Penguins in a wild six-game series during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. It was one of the strangest and highest-scoring series in recent memory.
While Neal emphasized to Yohe he has "no hard feelings" towards the Penguins organization for the way his trade was handled this summer, one might reasonably interpret his comments Thursday as being critical of his former club's mental toughness.
The Penguins face off against the Predators on Saturday evening.
- Pelletier jokes about number change: 'Easier' for coaches to remember No. 22
- Robertson: Stars have all the pieces to compete for Cup
- Sabres' Dahlin: 'I was scared' of playing against new partner Clifton
- Fantasy: 10 breakout candidates to draft in 2023-24
- NHL 2023-24 futures: Best bets to win the Rocket Richard