Moments before the Flyers took a quick 1-0 lead over the New Jersey Devils in Tuesday's Game 2 of the Stanley Cup semifinals, Dave "Sign Man" Leonardi, who has been flashing his homemade placards — "THE TOUGH KEEP GOING" — at home games since 1972, talked hockey with tattoo-covered, orange-mohawked Eric Rothstein against the glass.
Jim Dowd, who played for the Flyers and Devils, and won the Stanley Cup with the '95 Devils, listened as Sign Man waxed poetic on Sidney "Crybaby" Crosby's whining in the Flyers' quarterfinal dismantling of the Penguins.
"I can't believe how much he whined through the whole thing," Dowd agreed, as his son, Jimmy Jr., 11, wearing a Van Riemsdyk jersey, watched the Flyers warm up. "You get beat, you shut up," Dowd said.
Prophetic words. The Flyers held that lead for two periods before it disintegrated into a startling 4-1 defeat that sucked the orange energy out of the Wells Fargo Center.
Rothstein, who easily has more Flyers tattoos than any other fan alive, showed Broad Street Bully his newest one: a Flyers "P" and the legend "Never Give Up" just below his neck.
Sign Man, who travels to all home games from Ewing, N.J., directed Bully's attention to Claude Giroux repeatedly bouncing a puck into the air off his stick, and said, "Giroux always air dribbles the puck in warm-ups."
Rothstein shook his head in admiration. "I can't do that even once," he said.
WON'T DIS BRODEUR: Leonardi showed no mercy toward Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in the quarterfinals, signing, "CAN WE GET A PIROUETTE?" and "SPIN LIKE A BALLERINA." But he refuses to disrespect legendary Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, after meeting him at a charity golf tournament last summer.
"I said, 'Martin, there's usually a pane of glass between us when I'm giving you a hard time in Philadelphia,'" Sign Man told Bully. "Martin said, 'How long you been doing that?' I said, 'Since 1972. But I gave up trying to distract you years ago. You're way too focused.'"
Sign Man smiled. "Brodeur's really a nice guy," he said. "He told me, 'The Flyers made their best move getting Bryz. He's the best goalie in the NHL.'"
Both Bryzgalov and Brodeur were sharp last night, but Brodeur had the more tenacious team in front of him.
"The Devils were all over us in the second period and stayed aggressive in the third," Leonardi said as the Wells Fargo Center emptied quickly.
"We were losing face-offs and either chasing the Devils or chasing the puck all night.
"They outworked us today. I don't think they can keep that up. We'll get them on their home ice." n