Pens-Jackets postgame: Meal mayhem; and talking Jagr in the Buckeye State



The Trib’s Terrific Trio:

1 – C Sidney Crosby, Penguins

Key stats: 2 assists, plus-2 rating, 5 attempted shots

Rossi: He’s consistently very good, and rarely above or below that standard – giving the Penguins a chance to keep winning despite their recent injury bug. Oh, and he’s 4-for-4 this season in the shootout – but he’s not a good shooter, right?

2 – LW Rick Nash, Blue Jackets

Key stats: 2 goals, 10 attempted shots

Rossi: His first goal was sick. Seriously, a guy shouldn’t be able to beat the opposition to a loose puck while kneeling in the slot. Yikes!

3 – G Brent Johnson, Penguins

Key stat: 29 saves, including 20 over the first two periods

Rossi: He made three second-period saves that kept Columbus from putting the game presumably out of reach. Johnson may prove to be one of GM Ray Shero’s shrewdest signings.

Honorable mention – VP/Communications Tom McMillan, Penguins

Key stats: $7 paid for pregame meal

Rossi: So disturbed was he to have been charged – team officials rarely are asked to pay – that McMillan vowed to charge Blue Jackets HC Ken Hitchcock for three meals on Columbus’ next trip to Pittsburgh. I haven’t seen Tommy Mac this upset since The Great Finland Air Autograph Incident of 2008. Slap!

“You have to always be aware of that. We talked about that coming into the season; you deal with adversity, you have to deal with success too. It’s important when you are winning that every one is working on good habits and working on their game individually, and as a team you’re not losing sight of what’s important in all those details – and you’re not trying to play catch up in all those details. I think it’s important to not lose sight of that.”

Penguins C Sidney Crosby, on a fine line between confidence and arrogance

Rossi: In my hand towel-winning Sunday column I touch on this subject and how it applies to the struggling Detroit Red Wings. Cheap plugs aside, though; I’m consistently impressed with Crosby’s big-picture perspective. It’s one reason I don’t expect a let down from the Penguins over the next few weeks without C Evgeni Malkin, whose game-changing energy will be missed as much as his point production.

ON THE BEAT ROAD: Jakub Voracek

He shares a hometown with former Penguins RW Jaromir Jagr, but Blue Jackets RW Jakub Voracek said he shares little else with his boyhood idol.

Born in Kladno, Czech Republic, Voracek had not celebrated his first birthday when the Penguins selected Jagr with the fifth overall pick at the 1990 entry draft. Like Jagr in his early Penguins days, Voracek’s hair sprouts from the side and hangs down from underneath his helmet.

He speaks of Jagr with a reverence in his tone similar to that French Canadians such as Penguins C/RW Max Talbot show when discussing Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux.

“He’s one of the biggest guys in the Czech,” Voracek said of Jagr, whom he met only once, during a charity soccer match.

“Everybody knows him, where he goes and what he’s doing. He’s one of the best hockey players ever. It’s too bad he’s not (in the NHL) anymore.”

Since Jagr left the NHL in July 2008 to play for the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia, I have used this forum to occasionally lobby for his number to be retired by the Penguins.

I’m sad to report that No. 68 is no more likely to hang from the rafters at Consol Energy Center than it was the domed roof at Mellon Arena. Still, I’d like to remind fans that hold his departure in July 2001 against all the good he did for the franchise to look at those scoring champion banners that also hang from the Igloo’s roof. “Jagr” appears five times, second only to “Lemieux.”

He may not end up as it, but Jagr remains the second greatest player in franchise history at the moment – and something Voracek told me only emphasizes the Penguins should consider one day hanging No. 68 near No. 66.

“Everybody in the Czech, and probably all of Europe where hockey is popular, remembers Jagr with Pittsburgh,” he said. “Those were his best days. We were all Penguins fans because of him. They had so many great players with Lemieux and Ron Francis, but Jagr made Pittsburgh the big team for every Czech person in the ’90s.

“I know he played for other teams in the NHL, but Jagr will always be a Penguin to me and many others.”

–BY ROB ROSSI (10/30/09, from Columbus, Ohio)

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