Blogs | Sports | News
Chipped Ice

« Font size »
Decrease | Reset |Increase

October 21, 2014
by Jason Mackey

No comments yet - you should start the discussion!

Mackey: Q&A with Steve Downie


When Steve Downie talks, you listen.

Or at least I do.

Downie talked today and addressed crushing Frans Nielsen at the end of Saturday’s game against the Islanders, as well as the upcoming Flyers game, his first in the series as a member of the Penguins.

Here’s part of the media scrum today with Downie, who revealed that he and his wife went to the Penguins Halloween party as nerds.

“It wasn’t the best costume, but it was funny,” Downie said.

Q: What’s it going to be like facing the Flyers?
A: They’re a physical team. They like to intimidate teams. They like to play the body first. We have to be ready for their compete level. We know they’re going to come in here and work as hard as they can. We have to match that.

Q: You played for Philly. Is it weird being on this side?
A: I like being on this side. (Laughter) It’s going to be a fun game, so I’m looking forward to it. We have to match their intensity level and come to play the smart way.

Q: Walk us through the situation with Nielsen and Hamonic.
A: I thought they came out and played a physical second (period). They started taking runs at our D. At that point, I thought maybe I’ll start hitting them back a little bit. Take the pressure off our D a little bit. I made a hit. I thought it was a clean hit. I’m going to play hard. I’m going to play the body as hard as I can. There’s a time and place for that. I thought that was the time.

Q: What about the end of the second period, when you were seen jawing with goaltender Jaroslav Halak?
A: That’s part of the game. That happens on every team. You have to answer the bell when it comes and play a disciplined game.

Q: Year-to-year, is there ever a difference in the rivalry?
A: That’s a tough question. You play for the jersey on you. I forgot about Philly. My focus is here in Pittsburgh. This is where I want to be. I’m excited to be here. Excited to be a part of this organization and this group of guys. It’s been a good start. We just have to keep it going.

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



October 21, 2014
by Jason Mackey

One comment so far - add yours!

Mackey: Harrington, too early for trends and the PK


What to make of defenseman Scott Harrington being sent to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey league?

No clue.

Was a bit of a surprise, I’ll admit.

I was told – and had fairly strong reason to believe – that management wanted him to do more than sit in the press box. That didn’t happen.

The reasons will remain a secret, at least until Tuesday at practice when we get to ask around. I know this, though: Bringing Harrington up, and sitting him next to Rob Scuderi, was not by happenstance. Harrington is a key piece of the Penguins’ long-term future; Scuderi, at 35, is not. But the latter has won a couple of Stanley Cups, and learning from Scuderi would not be the worst thing for Harrington.

“It’s been great,” Harrington said. “I’ve learned a lot from all the defensemen on the team. They’ve been very helpful with giving me some pointers and stuff like that, making me feel welcome. Every day is a learning experience for someone in my position. Just try to soak it all up as much as you can.”

I asked Scuderi what the relationship with Harrington was like. He, like always, took time to think about the question and provided an intelligent response.

“Hockey is a sport where it’s more about observation,” Scuderi said. “Every once in awhile you might have a conversation about a particular play, but it’s more about looking at what a guy does than individual situations.

“I know that’s what I did. I think for the most part that’s what other guys do.”

>>Amid all the scoring for the Penguins’ top-six forwards, there are a few deficiencies – but Mike Johnston said it’s too small of a sample size to get worked up over.

In four games, the Penguins’ bottom-six and defensemen other than Kris Letang and Olli Maatta have combined for one goal (Blake Comeau) and two assists (Paul Martin, Christian Ehrhoff).

Could be a problem if we’re, say, 10 games in. But not four.

“For statistics, it’s still so early in the season,” Johnston said. “Ten games gives you a little bit more of a measuring stick on where you’re at in special teams. Or where you’re at with your depth in scoring.”

>>Funny how last week we were asking what’s wrong with the Penguins’ penalty kill, and Monday Johnston got a question about assistant coach Gary Agnew’s work with the unit.

Guessing reality falls somewhere in between.

I’ll say this: The goals allowed has dropped from three, to two, to one, to none. Amazing to see a pro sports team seemingly identify a problem, admit it, work to fix it, then have it improve.

Seems a novel concept, no?

Against the Islanders, especially five-on-three, the Penguins’ PK was exceptional.

The net-clearing problems were lessened, there were sticks in lanes, and they were able to clear the puck with ease when they did get a stick on it.

“I know early, with the three games against Anaheim, it didn’t look very good,” Johnston said. “But that was the first game. We did have some new people killing. We’ve got a couple new things we’re trying to do on the kill. It’s really evolving.”

Johnston said they haven’t incorporated some additional forechecks that they will eventually. Right now it’s pretty much an exclusive 1-3 look.

“We do have some other things we’re going to add to that,” Johnston said.

Practice Tuesday. Philly Wednesday. In Detroit Thursday.

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



October 19, 2014
by Jason Mackey

5 comments so far - add yours!

Postgame: More on Hornqvist, special teams


Penguins coach Mike Johnston said he believes a player needs 200 shots to score 20 goals or 300 shots to score 30 goals.

By Johnston’s logic, forward Patric Hornqvist is on pace to score somewhere around 57 goals; after 12 shots during Saturday’s 3-1 win over the New York Islanders at Consol Energy Center, Hornqvist is on pace for 574 shots this season.

Seriously, the guy has 28 shots ON GOAL in four games.

“Our team philosophy is to keep teams off-balance with the shot,” Johnston said. “We want to get pucks to the net, create havoc and put them back on their heels.

“Hornqvist has been one of the leaders in that area. When he gets a chance to shoot, he’s not afraid to shoot. He doesn’t over-pass the puck.”

No, he doesn’t.

Hornqvist likes to shoot, likes to keep things simple, and that’s OK. Ask Hornqvist a question, and it will likely evolve into how he’s going to stick to his game and get to the net.

It certainly worked when he got his stick on an Evgeni Malkin point shot for the game-winner at 14 minutes, 44 seconds of the second period.

“He’s good shot, move puck, he’s going to net every time,” Malkin said. “I have puck, he go to net. Tonight, he score because he go to net.”

Hornqvist has eight points and four goals through four games, roughly 18 percent of his goal total from last season already. He also has a goal and four assists on the power play.

“They’re four good players,” Hornqvist answered when he was asked why he has meshed so well with Sidney Crosby, Malkin, defenseman Kris Letang and forward Chris Kunitz. “They’re unbelievable. Sid and Geno are probably the best pair in the world. Letang is great on the point, Kunitz awesome in front.”

>>The penalty kill was also a story in preventing the Islanders for starting 5-0-0 for the first time in club history.

The second-best power play in the league went 0 for 7 Saturday.

“Our penalty killers battled really hard,” Johnston said. “They have a really good power play. We gave them too many power plays. But our penalty killers were outstanding.”

I talked to Nick Spaling about the PK wanting redemption on Saturday at the morning skate. Here’s one quote I thought was especially interesting:

“Obviously that’s the goal here (to keep the other team from scoring),” Spaling said. “We have the guys in here to do it. It’s just a matter of getting it done. Every PK, especially the start of the year, it’s about finding your rhythm and getting everybody on the same page. We’re on our way to doing it, and we want to start tonight.”

Looks like they did.

Club’s off Sunday. Josh Yohe will have a feature you’ll definitely want to read for Monday’s paper.

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



October 18, 2014
by Jason Mackey

No comments yet - you should start the discussion!

Pregame: Penguins vs. Islanders, 7 p.m.


The Penguins won the Metropolitan Division last season. By quite a bit, too — 13 points.

If they plan on doing the same this year, the Penguins will have to handle the upstart Islanders, a team with plenty of skill and one they’ll see five times this season.

“With the couple of additions they had and who they had there before, I think it was only a matter of time,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “I think you’re seeing now they’re having some success because of that.”

Islanders forward John Tavares leads the league in scoring. He also spoke with quite a bit of reverence this morning when asked about challenging the Penguins in the division.

“These teams have been division opponents long before I was here,” Tavares said. “There’s been that, and they’ve been one of the premier teams for awhile now. We’re trying to work our way to getting back to that kind of level of consistency with making the playoffs. They’re a team you have to go through quite a bit. It brings a lot of games, a lot of intense battles, and it’s a lot of fun.”

The Penguins won three of the four games in the series last season, outscoring the Islanders 16-13 and outshooting them 139-117.

Crosby has more points against the Islanders than any other opponent; goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury’s four shutouts against the Islanders are tied for the most that he has against any opponent; and the Penguins’ 62 home wins over the Islanders are the most they’ve recorded over any opponent.

This offseason, the Islanders added names like Boychuk, Leddy and Halak to Tavares, Okposo and Nelson, creating buzz and expectations. They’re one of only two teams in the NHL that has yet to lose in regulation, and their power play is ranked second behind the Penguins.

“We’ve watched them closely the past few days to get a feel for them and the changes they’ve made,” Penguins coach Mike Johnston said. “Certainly their defense has a lot of depth. They spread out their minutes on defense. They feel that they can play their group against anybody, at least their pairings.

“Up front, I see that they counterpunch really quickly. They’re quick in transition, and they’re very quick in the offensive zone. They do have some elite players.”

News out of the skate: Forward Pascal Dupuis was a full participant and joined his regular linemates, Evgeni Malkin and Brandon Sutter. Still, he’ll be a gametime decision; he said he still needs to talk with head coach Mike Johnston and the Penguins’ medical stuff. Curious, though: Per team policy, injured players aren’t available to speak with the media. Dupuis talked. … Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo and forward Beau Bennett skated with strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar and defenseman Scott Harrington prior to the morning skate. Johnson said Bortuzzo will hopefully rejoin practice next week, while Bennett is still seven to 10 days away from rejoining practice in even partial capacity. Both are out with lower-body injuries.

TV/Radio: Root Sports/105.9 FM

About the Islanders: The Isles are 4-0-0 to start the season for the first time since 2001-02. They’ve never started 5-0-0. … They added G Jaroslav Halak (trade then sign) and defensemen Nick Leddy (trade) and Johnny Boychuk to drastically improve their back end. … This in addition to skilled forwards in John Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Brock Nelson. Here’s a look at what those guys have produced through four games. It’s ridiculous:

Tavares 2-7—9 (leads NHL in points and assists)
Nelson 3-4—7
Okposo 2-5—7
Boychuk 2-4—6 (tied for NHL lead with five power play points)
Halak 3-0-0, 2.92 GAA, .900 SV%

The series: Penguins have won seven of the last eight regular season meetings, outscoring the Islanders 32-18 in those games. … They’re 16-3 in their last 19 home games against New York. … Sidney Crosby has 25-58—83 in 45 career games against the Islanders, the most he’s accumulated versus any one team. … Penguins won three of the four meetings last season, going 5 for 16 on the power play and 11 for 12 on the penalty kill.

Key to the game: Has to be special teams, right? The Penguins have the best power play at 46.2 percent (6 for 13). The Islanders rank No. 2 at 42.9 percent (6 for 14). They’re also the league’s two worst teams on the penalty kill. Pittsburgh is last at 60.0 percent (9 for 15). New York is next to last at 61.5 percent (8 for 13). The Penguins have allowed a power play in every game thus far, including the game-winner for Dallas Thursday with 2.9 seconds left. Expect a high-scoring one, too; the four games last season featured a combined total of 29 goals.

Next up: Penguins vs. Flyers, Wednesday, 8 p.m.

The Trib’s Penguins page
The Penguins’ home page
The Islanders’ gameday page’s preview and box score


October 17, 2014
by Jason Mackey

No comments yet - you should start the discussion!

Mackey: Could we see more Blake Comeau?


The talk Friday around Consol Energy Center focused on Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis and rightfully so.

Turns out the incident Thursday night, where Dupuis left the ice on a stretcher when he was hit on the back of the neck with a puck, looked scarier than it really was; he skated Friday morning and could play as soon as Saturday.

If Dupuis can’t go, one player who could see his role increase significantly is Blake Comeau. And we should probably be talking more about Comeau than we are, whether or not he replaces Dupuis.

Comeau led the Penguins in the preseason by tallying a goal and three assists. He’s a physical guy who’s also been strong on the puck and in the corners. Comeau could join Brandon Sutter and Evgeni Malkin on the second line.

“He’s been good,” Sutter said. “Good on the puck, strong guy. I thought he’s been good the first three or four games, even through exhibition. He was really good at just hanging onto the puck and making plays offensively. He should be a good fit for us.”

Though he has played mostly with Marcel Goc and Steve Downie, Comeau isn’t your average third- or fourth-line grinder. He scored 41 goals between 2009-11 while with the Islanders, the second season scoring 24 while averaging a career-high 2 minutes, 15 seconds on the penalty kill.

Comeau is getting 35 seconds per game of PK time so far, down from his career average and a number he wouldn’t mind rising. But he has been doing a lot of others things well. Besides scoring in the home opener, Comeau ranks fourth on the Penguins with eight hits. He has six shots and carries strong possession numbers – 60.3% Corsi For, 63.1% Fenwick For.

The average ice time – 13 minutes, 21 seconds – is the most Comeau has gotten since 2011-12, but if Dupuis can’t play, that will surely go up. Maybe it goes up even if Dupuis can play.

“His puck-possession time in the offensive zone is really good,” head coach Mike Johnston said. “He hangs on to the puck well. I like the way that he drives out of the corners in the offensive zone and takes it to the net.

“He’s playing that power forward role. We need a power forward in our group. I like the way it’s shaping up for him right now. He’s playing with lots of confidence.”

Comeau signed with the Penguins on July 1, the first day of free agency, for a one-year deal worth $700,000. A top-six role was probably not in the cards, Comeau knew at the time, but that hasn’t stopped him from being one of the team’s most impactful players and making an impression.

“Coming to Pittsburgh, I thought it was a good opportunity to play with some really good players,” Comeau said. “Whether it’s the fourth line or first line, there’s so much depth here. I’ve had some success early on, and I’m looking forward to trying to continue that.”

With defensemen Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik in Washington, two of the media’s most reliable quotes are gone. Along with Sutter and defenseman Rob Scuderi, Comeau has picked up the slack when it comes to consistently articulating his thoughts.

Like this gem about bouncing back from Thursday’s 3-2 loss, where the Penguins built a 2-0 lead, saw Dupuis get hurt, then played a wretched third period.

“That wasn’t an easy one to lose,” Comeau said. “I’m glad we’re back on the ice (Saturday). We need to get a win and put (Thursday) behind us.”

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



October 17, 2014
by Jason Mackey

4 comments so far - add yours!

Looking ahead after Thursday’s loss


So, what now?

Well, for one, Friday’s 11:30 a.m. Penguins practice should be interesting. Will forward Pascal Dupuis be there? Is he OK after taking a puck to the back of the neck during Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the Dallas Stars?

Several coaches and players spoke after the game about Dupuis potentially being OK, although his gear was not in his locker, a sign that he likely went immediately for testing.

Center Brandon Sutter said he heard Dupuis talking on the ice. Head coach Mike Johnston said Dupuis told Penguins’ trainers he had some numbness in his arm, and the feeling was coming back.

“That was a real positive sign,” Johnston said.

I thought I would share a note I got from a friend of mine who’s an athletic trainer and watched the Dupuis injury.

When your neck gets flexed, the vertebrae open up so the spinal cord is more vulnerable. At the same time, getting hit a little off center to either side can cause trouble, even a fracture, but no spinal cord damage. Let’s hope that is the case.

You hate to think this way, but if Dupuis is out for an extended period of time, what happens?

Beau Bennett isn’t due back until around Nov. 8. Kasperi Kapanen is in Finland, Oskar Sundqvist in Sweden.

Andrew Ebbett could fill in short-term, but I get the feeling if this is anything serious, the preferred move would be to bring one of those two back.

Dupuis also could be at practice Saturday.

Here’s a second question you’re probably asking, as am I: What to make of the Penguins’ penalty kill?

Now six goals allowed in three games. New personnel, new coaches, whatever. Not good.

“PK has been a tough one,” defenseman Rob Scuderi said. “I think there have been a lot of individual breakdowns and plays that guys would like back. I don’t think that it’s necessarily a system problem. I think it’s execution of a few short plays that’s killing us. Those things have a way of working themselves out.”

Shots aren’t a huge issue on the PK. Dallas had three power play shots, and one went in. Still, I think we’re reaching a point where something, even if it’s small, needs addressed.

Me? I’d use Blake Comeau more, a guy who … wait for it … actually WANTS to do this sort of thing. Or defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, who killed penalties last season in Buffalo.

The Penguins have struggled mightily clearing the puck. They need someone, or a group of people, who can do this better than those who are doing it now.

Also, at what point do you worry about captain Sidney Crosby winning faceoffs? I know, minor right now. But he’s at 44.4 percent after going 9-11 Thursday. For the season, he’s 28-35. Crosby won 54.1 percent of his draws last season. He’s at 54.0 percent for his career.

Third, is the third-period collapse a concern? I think the Penguins showed some carelessness in the third, some bad puck decisions.

If it’s a blip, fine. But Johnston certainly has a few teaching points for Saturday, Evgeni Malkin’s giveaway at the blue line that nearly led to a goal chief among them.

“The first two periods were pretty decent,” Crosby said. “I thought in the third, they were down one, and they were coming harder. We weren’t able to get that next one. We probably made it a little too easy on them. Turned the puck over a bit. Still, to not get a point out of that is a little frustrating.”

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



October 16, 2014
by Jason Mackey

No comments yet - you should start the discussion!

Pregame: Penguins vs. Stars, 7 p.m.


Haven’t we seen this before?

Two of the Western Conference’s best players come into Consol Energy Center on one of the preseason’s most hyped teams.

Last week it was the Anaheim Ducks with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Tonight it’s the Dallas Stars with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin.

Benn and Seguin each had huge games earlier this week at Columbus — a total of seven points, with Seguin netting a hat trick.

“When you look at those combinations of players, you’re looking at some of the top players in the league,” Penguins coach Mike Johnston said. “Certainly when they’re playing together like they were the other night — I’ve watched the last two games and a little bit of the Chicago game — I thought their line has been good. They’ve changed a winger on different nights.

“Benn and Seguin complement each other because you’ve got skill and power. With Getzlaf and Perry, you have power and skill together with both of those guys. When you look at it as the coach at home, you have the last change. You have to make sure your matchups heading into the game are the right ones.”

Along with Getzlaf and Perry, Benn (34-45–79) and Seguin (37-47–84) were the only set of teammates with at least 30 goals and 75 points.

Because you’ll look it up: Sidney Crosby (36-68—104) and Evgeni Malkin (23-49—72) were close.

“They’re definitely a fast team that likes to skate,” Penguins center Brandon Sutter said. “They have some great offensive players. We have to be pretty sharp. We expect a fast game.”

It will be interesting to see if Penguins coach Mike Johnston matches his top line of Chris Kunitz, Crosby and Patric Hornqvist against Benn and Seguin’s line or against the Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky line.

One thing’s for sure, Johnston doesn’t automatically want his third or fourth lines out there to counter the other team’s scoring lines.

“Will we play our top lines against top lines? We will at times, for sure,” Johnston said. “We feel our top lines are as good defensively as they are offensively. We’ll challenge their line to be as good defensively.”

Stars coach Lindy Ruff said he would no problem playing his top line against Crosby’s line or Malkin, Sutter and Pascal Dupuis.

“We’ve played a lot of top line versus top line,” Ruff said. “I think you’ll probably see that. If that’s what he wants, I haven’t been too concerned with changing on the fly or trying to change things up. We’ve got a couple looks we can (go to). At times, if we want another look, we can look another way. When you’re trying to get your top line on the ice 19 or 20 minutes, they have to play against other teams’ top lines.”

News out of the skate: The Penguins actually did line rushes this morning, but expect them to look this way tonight at your own peril. Here’s what they rolled with:

Chris Kunitz-Sidney Crosby-Patric Hornqvist
Evgeni Malkin-Brandon Sutter-Pascal Dupuis
Blake Comeau-Marcel Goc-Steve Downie
Craig Adams-Nick Spaling-Zach Sill

Paul Martin-Christian Ehrhoff
Olli Maatta-Kris Letang
Simon Despres-Rob Scuderi
Andrew Ebbett-Scott Harrington

TV/radio: Root Sports/105.9 FM

About the Stars: Dallas (1-1-1, 3 points) is coming off its first win of the season: 4-2 at Columbus on Tuesday. Seguin had a hat trick, Benn finished with four points, and goaltender Kari Lehtonen made 33 saves. … Seguin’s hat trick was the fifth of his career and fourth with Dallas. … No one can accused the Stars of standing pat following their first trip to the postseason since 2008. They traded for Jason Spezza and signed fellow forwards Ales Hemsky and Patrick Eaves. … Former Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar is on the Stars’ roster, but he’s currently out with a lower-body injury.

The series: The Penguins have won six consecutive games against the Stars in Pittsburgh. … Pittsburgh is 8-2 in its last 10 against Dallas. … Dallas won the most recent meeting — 3-0 on Jan. 25 of last season — when Lehtonen (24 saves) pitched a shutout and Gonchar got the game-winning goal. … Spezza leads all current Stars in goals (16), assists (27) and points (43) in 36 career games against the Penguins.

Next up: Penguins vs. New York Islanders, Saturday, 7 p.m.

The Trib’s Penguins page
The Penguins’ home page
The Stars’ gameday page’s preview/box score


October 15, 2014
by Jason Mackey

6 comments so far - add yours!

Mackey: Don’t miss the obvious


Sometimes the toughest stories to find are the ones right in front of us. I’ve thought this now for a couple days about Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, and it’s what I wrote about in Thursday’s Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Crosby, as I expected, was in no hurry to talk about essentially, with his lights-out play, sticking it to everyone who questioned him following the playoff fallout last season. So I went elsewhere.

Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and defenseman Kris Letang spoke passionately about Crosby being the best player in the world, how they’re not surprised that he’s been so good and how he’s been a pleasure to watch with six points and three goals in two games.

Letang said all players go through slumps, and that’s what last spring was for Crosby, nothing more. He also offered this quote that didn’t make my story. I find it interesting because these guys have seen Crosby play this way for years, why should this season be any different?

Yet after what happened against the Rangers and the summer that followed, it’s hard to deny there’s a different feel around the team these days.

“Was I worried? No. Am I happy for him? Yeah,” Letang said. “For me to look at him playing the way he plays, it’s just normal for me. I see him doing that all that time. Sometimes it doesn’t go in. You never know. There are so many other things going on right now. I’m really happy for him.”

A few other things to touch on:

>>The team called up defenseman Scott Harrington last week. I’ve been told this wasn’t so he could watch NHL games from the press box. Or so he could see what regular season travel is like. Harrington should and will play soon, it’s only a matter of when.

Fact is, with four days between games, there’s no way head coach Mike Johnston is going to give someone a night off. No need. You don’t take any of the Top Four out, not if you actually want to win, so that leaves us with Rob Scuderi and Simon Despres.

Has Despres done anything to warrant getting yanked? I don’t think so. Scuderi has struggled, especially on the PK. I find it interesting what could happen here. I think some other people do, too.

Here’s what Johnston said today when he was asked about Harrington:

“As with the goalie rotation, right now we don’t have a lot of games,” Johnston said. “It starts to heat up next week. Our intent would be to start to work a player like that in as we move into next week when we have three games in four nights.

“Our lineup is playing well right now. Our defense group, I like the mixture. I like the way they’ve been playing. We’re not going to force them into the lineup, but we’re going to make sure that we get him in and get him some game action.”

>>Oskar Sundqvist and Kasperi Kapanen had strong debuts with their European teams over the weekend, as both tallied assists. Kapanen helped KalPa of the Finnish League to a 2-0 victory over Karpat. Sundqvist and Skelleftea won, 3-2, over Djurgarden.

>>Thursday night against the Stars could be a busy night for milestones. Crosby needs two assists for 500 in his career. … Craig Adams needs one assist for 100 for his career (cue the jokes). … Nick Spaling is playing in his 300th NHL game. … Pascal Dupuis is two points away from 400 for his career. … and Evgeni Malkin needs one point to take over sole possession of fourth place on the team’s all-time list.

Hockey Night in Pittsburgh tomorrow. Can’t wait.

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



October 12, 2014
by Jason Mackey

One comment so far - add yours!

Postgame: Penguins 5, Maple Leafs 2


TORONTO — Sometimes we can get a little spoiled.

In life and hockey.

I won’t touch the whole life thing, at least not here, but that first sentence feels appropriate following the Penguins’ 5-2 win over the Maple Leafs on Saturday at Air Canada Centre.

Any other franchise has a guy post back-to-back three-point nights, and that’s without a doubt your next day’s story.

Sidney Crosby does it, and we’re asking him about the importance of getting off to a good start.

Through two games, Crosby has three goals and three assists, with four of those six points coming on the power play.

A decent start, no?

“It’s always important,” Crosby said to the question about getting off to a strong start. “You come in with the mentality that you want to start quick. Get some momentum and get some confidence. Had a long summer. Had a lot of time to think about last year. We’re all pretty excited to get started.”

Patric Hornqvist, who has produced back-to-back two-point games, didn’t have all summer to think about playing on a line with Crosby. But what part of it he did have, it’s doubtful he wished time would move a bit slower.

“It’s nice to play with him,” Hornqvist said. “He’s the best player in the world. But I’m not going to change my game. I’m still going to go hard to the net and create some space for my teammates. Obviously I can’t ask for any better center.”

A couple other thoughts from Saturday’s game:

>>There are problems on the penalty kill. Not serious problems — relax, it’s only two games in — but problems nonetheless.

Whether it’s personnel, the scheme or just some bad luck, the Penguins have three practices between now and their next game; I’m guessing they’ll spend a little time addressing the PK.

>>Marc-Andre Fleury has been quiet so far. Stopped 23 of 25 pucks Saturday, 25 of 29 against the Ducks. He’s been good, but it’s tough to write the goaltender when the team’s putting up the ridiculous numbers the Penguins are.

Head coach Mike Johnston lauded Fleury’s work on scrambles in front and said he “felt bad” about a defensive breakdown on Tyler Bozak’s power play goal late.

“I thought he was good,” Johnston said of Fleury. “I felt bad about that last one going in, a breakdown for us on the penalty kill and maybe a little bit of a bad bounce off the glass. I thought he was really good on those low, tight-net scrambles. That’s where your goaltender really has to be good.”

>>Fun with numbers. … The Penguins rank third in the league with 80 shots for. … Shift length, another one of Johnston’s points of emphasis. Paul Martin was at 57 seconds. Nobody else was over 49. Way better than last year, when normally you’d have at least one or two over a minute. … You probably hope this number improves and it’s just a small sample size, but Crosby is 19-24 (44.2%) in the faceoff circle.

That’s it for me. Club practices here at the ACC Sunday. Then I head home, and they stay an extra day for some sort of team-bonding thing.

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



October 11, 2014
by Jason Mackey

No comments yet - you should start the discussion!

Pregame: Penguins at Maple Leafs, 7 p.m.


TORONTO — You try to pretend it’s the same, only it’s not.

Saturday night in Canada has a special meaning, and there’s no denying it.

“Anytime you’re playing in Toronto on a Saturday night, it’s always exciting,” Penguins coach Mike Johnston said.

Television, tradition and an obsession over Penguins captain Sidney Crosby aside, the on-ice stuff figures to make this one exciting as well.

The Maple Leafs will likely welcome back defenseman Cody Franson, while forwards Nazem Kadri and Leo Komarov will try to agitate the daylights out of Crosby.

Crosby produces plenty against the Maple Leafs and at Air Canada Centre (17 points in 13 career visits), while the series between these two has featured nearly as many special teams goals (9) as even strength (10).

“I don’t want to invite a chance game,” Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. “That’s not what coaches really want. You want your team to go out and play a complete game in all three zones.”

Carlyle, a former Penguins defenseman, was asked whether any additional preparation went into preparing for players like Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

“When you have elite-level players, you have to at least remind your individuals of their Ps and Qs as far as being on the defensive side of things,” Carlyle said. “If you turn the puck over and give them the opportunity to transition and allow them to play on the power play, they’re going to hurt. That’s their makeup. They’re great players. They take advantage of the situations the opposition gives them. Sometimes they do things that other people wish they could do.”

The Penguins will look to improve their penalty killing unit, which gave up three power play goals to the Ducks on Thursday.

The Maple Leafs ranked sixth on the power play last season at 19.8 percent, with James van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel totaling nine and eight man-advantage goals, respectively.

“We’re playing against a top power play unit,” Johnston said. “We’ve had some different people killing together. We’ve got to make some adjustments for sure on what we’re doing — exposing the slot area — but we’ll tidy that up.”

News out of the skate: In line rushes, Pascal Dupuis switched wings with Malkin, Dupuis now on the right of center Brandon Sutter and Malkin on the left. Not sure I’d read too much into that, though. … Why, you ask? Because Johnston had defensemen Christian Ehrhoff and Paul Martin, Kris Letang and Olli Maatta and Simon Depres and Scott Harrington paired together, then said they’d stick with the same defense from Thursday. Makes sense as Ehrhoff and Letang have been great, same for Martin and Maatta and Despres and Harrington are both left-handed shots. … Franson (knee) was activated off injured reserve Saturday morning, and it appears the 6-foot-5, 215-pounder make his season debut. … Penguins defenseman Robert Bortuzzo (undisclosed) worked out on his own after the morning skate at Air Canada Centre.

TV/radio: NHL Network/CBC/Root Sports/105.9 FM

About the Maple Leafs: Toronto is coming off a 4-3 loss to Montreal on Wednesday. Defenseman Morgan Rielly scored at 17:41 to tie it, then Tomas Plekanec’s shot deflected off rookie defenseman Stuart Percy’s skate at 19:17. … Leafs were 1 for 3 on the power play and 2 for 2 on the penalty kill. … Kadri and Tyler Bozak also scored. … Bozak (19-30–49) and van Riemsdyk (30-31—61) are coming off career-best seasons. … Kessel is the only NHL player to have finished among the top 10 scorers in each of the past three seasons. … Leafs acquired LW David Booth in the offseason, but he’ll be out 4-5 more weeks with a right foot injury.

The series: Penguins went 1-1-1 against the Leafs last year, including 1-0-0 in Toronto. Pittsburgh has won two straight. … JVR led all scores with five points and two goals in 2013-14. … Nine of the 19 goals scored last season were on special teams. … Crosby has 20 goals and 23 assists in 28 previous meetings, including 17 points in 13 games at Air Canada Centre.

Next up: Penguins vs. Stars, Thursday, 7 p.m.

The Trib’s Penguins page
The Penguins’ gameday page
The Maple Leafs’ gameday page
The preview/box score

Other blogs
Sports: Rob Rossi | Steel Mill | Chipped Ice | Bucco Blog | iPreps | Pitt Locker Room | Penn State Sports
News: This Just In | Trib List | ICycle | Flow Back | Stories Behind Trib Stories  

» Top Sports
» Top News
» Top Breaking News