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The Mighty, Mighty Bylsmas

That is the tag I’ve used to introduce the Penguins in a weekly notes-share submission to fellow beat scribes. That tag won’t find its way into my submission Thursday, because these Penguins lack might.

I’d try to play off that word — “might” — and say they might not be long before the playoffs; but “might” implies that a feeling of doubt, and I do not doubt this group will bow early in the postseason.

Something is off, and D BROOKS ORPIK nailed it after this 2-0 loss to the otherwise depressing Tampa Bay Lightning when he suggested the Penguins have “accountability” issues.

Orpik has offered a lot of damning words over the last few months:

Jan. 2 after a 3-1 loss at Tampa Bay: “It’s kind of like we’re just showing up and assuming… right now we think we’re good enough to show up and beat whoever we play, and we’re not. I don’t know how good we are to be honest. Early in the season I think we got lucky with a lot of games, a lot of different aspects of it. Maybe it’s catching up to us now.”

March 22 after a 3-1 loss at Detroit: “It seems like some guys are in it one night, and other guys aren’t. And the next night, maybe the handful that was isn’t. Role reversal; there’s really no excuse for it.”

March 24 after a 4-3 shootout loss at Washington: “Maybe I’m in the minority here, (but) I’m getting tired of hearing we worked hard or maybe deserved better. We’re not winning hockey games and that’s what it comes down to. I don’t feel very good leaving the rink when you lose. … I’m getting very concerned. Everyone wants to talk about the playoffs. We’ve got eight games to go here and we’re not playing too well. They way we’re playing now we’ll be out in the first round.”

I’ve written many times that Orpik is the club’s conscience. He is also one of few players that I rate as having consistently played up to or beyond expectations this season. The others: C SIDNEY CROSBY, C JORDAN STAAL, RW PASCAL DUPUIS, LW MATT COOKE, D MARK EATON.

Six is not a good number when it comes to noting players that have night-in and night-out matched or beat expectations. However, six might be the number of playoff games these Penguins have in them unless something changes soon.

As always, your thoughts are appreciated:



The Penguins took the day-to-day media on a tour of Consol Energy Center before this loss, and the scenes were mind-blowing to a reporter who is loathe to gush about anything (save, perhaps, his beloved WVU men’s hoops squad).  My favorite features:

Upper-concourse brew pub. Fans with the highest seats get a great perk with this upper-concourse treat. The sight lines from the last row of seats were perfect for watching hockey, but I can already envision quite a few paying customers standing behind that row and tossing down frosty beverages from the brew pub while peeking at the game in-between conversations about whatever. I predict the upper-concourse brew-pub area will surpass the rotundas at PNC Park and Heinz Field as the best place to hang out while watching a Pittsburgh team.

Hockey’s most spacious players’ facilities: I’ve been to every dressing room/training room/players’ lounge/etc. in the NHL. Nothing — and the “Rocky” means nothing — compares to what the Penguins will provide their players. The oval-shaped dressing room is massive, and it leads into a player’s loungue that will be able to fit pool tables, massive hi-def TVs and enough room for EQUIPMENT MANAGER DANA HEINZE to hang a billboard if he so wishes. The Penguins also have provided Heine with rooms to work on skates and sticks — yeah, one room each — and TRAINER CHRIS STEWART a water-training room for rehab and muscle relaxation. A massive workout room includes a short track for players to run their pre-game sprints. All of these perks came at the request of CO-OWNER RON BURKLE, who argued that in a cap-system the best way to entice players to stay (or join) Pittsburgh’s NHL club was to build a winner — and not just on the ice. The Penguins have built a winning players’ area, and I’m curious to see how it pays off in landing free agents down the road.

Oh beautiful, for spacious press box. OK, so 99.9 percent of people entering Consol won’t care about the press box, but I do and this is my blog, so deal with this next bit. Upon seeing the space where I’ll work — and I do mean space, as there is enough room from the computer benches to the walls for a two-lane race of wheeled chairs — the only words that came to me were from the Cure’s “Just Like Heaven”: “Daylight whipped me into shape/I must have been asleep for days.” Look, the media is an oft-agitated bunch that lives to gripe about anything. That is actually my favorite part of the job. Still, anybody among my media colleagues that finds fault with this press box is simply looking for something about which to complain. Plus, we have a media elevator. A MEDIA ELEVATOR! I’m still weeping at that one.


I’m no star, but check out this video anyway:

And, as always, thanks for reading.

— Rossi (4/1/10)


Author: Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi is the lead sports columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has been called many names, but “Rossi” is the one to which he most often responds. He joined the Trib in November 2002 and was promoted to the columnist role in July 2014. Previously, he had covered the NHL’s Penguins (2006-14) and MLB’s Pirates (2006), while also working on beats associated with the NFL’s Steelers (2005-06) and the NCAA’s Pitt (2004-06). He has won national and local awards for his coverage of youth concussions and athletes’ charities. Also, he is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association executive committee and the Pittsburgh chapter chair. Raised in Crafton and Green Tree and a graduate of West Virginia University, he has covered a Super Bowl, All-Star Games in baseball and hockey, the NCAA basketball tournament and over 100 Stanley Cup playoff games, including the Cup Final twice. Oh, and his sports reporting has led him to brief chats with Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen; so that’s pretty cool. He is a regular contributor on TV with WPXI, Root Sports Pittsburgh and TSN. Also, he is the authorized biographer of Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.


  1. Chuck Schubert says:

    Rob, I think you are dead on this morning predicting a short spring for the Pens. The ever-elusive “on switch” apparently needs rewired this season. Keep up the great work.

  2. Lisa says:

    Hi Rob, yes I agree with you. I have written to you before about what is wrong with these Pens. At least Crosby is now stepping up and saying how poorly they all played as a team, taking responsiblity–not sugar coating it. That is what needs to be done. I think you could be correct–this will either be the game that shakes them up–wakes them up–or dooms them for the playoffs and a very short post season.
    Before the game last night on Versus, Jonesy said the “Pens are still the team to beat in the East…” Does he know something we all don’t?? Or he wishing thinking?
    And I have to wonder why Ray Shero rewarded Letang with a long-term contract for such a lackluster season–only scoring three goals…and Letang couldn’t buy a goal last night. That is simply astounding. Reward success, not failure.
    Let’s go Pens, please get it together.

  3. Lisa says:

    sorry..I met to say “wishful thinking”. Thanks L

  4. concernedpensfan87 says:

    I disagree somewhat with Rossi’s assessment. I think Rupp, Adams and yes Letang have produced as well. I think Gonch and Gogo have been off their game all season, and that the second line led by Geno has been a liability all season. Geno’s line has never gotten going, nor produced points needed, and when playing, was not responsible defensively, giving up way too many deflating goals/taking bad penalties.

    However, what the second line did do was force teams to split their defensive focus between the number 1 and 2 lines, which created some space for Crosby to score goals.

    Crosby has scored 5 gwgs this year plus 4 shot out game winners. He has also set up the primary assist for 9 other gwgs, and closed the win on 4 others in shootouts. This equates to 22 games EXACTLY HALF THE teams WINS that he has personally delivered by either shooting in the goal, or setting up the winning goal. [Hart Trophy???]

    I think the coaches are trying to play an up tempo north south game, without the talent depth needed to produce. Over skating Crosby [23-25 minutes] has won them some games. He obviously has the skill to put the puck in the net. But without at least a few other legitimate scoring threats on the team, opposing teams can wrap all their shut down defense around Crosby, taking away his time and space, and probably explains why his goal production drops when there is no other scoring line on the team (i.e. Geno is out) that requires such attention. It doesn’t help if Crosby’s wingers are not finishing their checks and not creating space.
    Teams know that if they shut Crosby down, the team has little else offensively to offer with Geno out of the lineup. Geno has never played without Crosby on a team with this configuration.. when Crosby was previously injured, Geno was surrounded by Malone, Recchi, Roberts etc….who were masters at garbage goals and forces on the powerplay which was ranked in the top 10 in those days.

    The constant refrain from the media, pens announcers etc about “Since Geno and Gonch are out the team hasn’t had a good power play” gave coaches an excuse to not address some key weaknesses in my opinion. If you look at stats from last year (when Geno didn’t miss a game) and this year, the powerplay production is about the same (16.7 and 17.2). And Crosby and Malkin’s pp goals average is about the same 21 last year and 23 this year. What is different is their total assists on PP goals are way down…56 this year vs 81 in ’09…which speaks to the lack of secondary scoring and lack of a net front presence hitting in rebounds. This also carries out into the game…with Crosby’s even strength assist numbers way down this season. Geno’s total production is way down.

    Overcoming this skill deficit is a coaching issue. Constant harping on Crosby goal production stats with Geno out, and the refrain about power play production will improve when geno/gonch/johndoe returns is counterproductive and is letting the coaches off the hook. The coaches need to have a legitimate game plan that speaks to the realities of the team as it is configured. Desperation moves like skating Crosby 23-25 minutes a game and hoping that he can pull out the win (which he has done a lot) is not going to win championships.

    Look at Mike Babcock…he kept his team competitive without his best players all season by shear coaching genius. Bylsma has the team to win with, he needs to step up with the gameplan and sit folks who are disinterested.

  5. Jared says:

    Rob…I don’t know that it’s a matter of mindset at this point. Last year, I think the Pens were the least flawed team among many flawed playoff teams in the Eastern Conference, and they played an aging Detroit team with some key injuries way late in the playoffs. This year is a little different, particularly at the top of the Conference standings…Washington is better (although I still contend that their record and some of their other statistical achievements are less impressive than they appear because they play in the Southeast, and are guaranteed six games a year each against backmarkers Tampa, Florida, Carolina and Atlanta, none of whom have more than 80 points as of yesterday)…Buffalo is better…New Jersey is better…and the Pens’ appalling total record against those three other top teams strongly suggests to me that there’s far less room for flaws this spring than last. Maybe they’ll prove me wrong, but I’ve not been expecting a particularly long run in the playoffs this year for some time now. The interesting thing to me is how they’ll go about addressing their flaws this summer. They have a ton of cap space occupied by not very many players, and a disproportionate amount of that space is occupied by players who all play the same position (center). That arrangement is not particularly conducive to diversifying your scoring, signing a #1 defenseman, etc.

  6. Anthony Pistorius says:

    You are so desperate for readers that you try to rile up the Pittsburgh fans.
    I think you should pack up and leave town because ask Eddie Crowe, and a host of others what happens when you try to rile up the fans. Thats right they get like Vince McMahon says
    your Fired. Keep up the terrible work you jack ass.
    Tony Pistorius

  7. Lynn Smith says:

    Rob, how is the view from the press box? One complaint you constantly hear about new arenas is that the press box is so high up you can barely see anything.

  8. Bobby O says:

    I agree with all of Orpik’s comments, especially the one about them getting lucky early in the season. Even when they were winning, they never dominated like they’re capable (injuries or not) and seemed to get the majority of breaks and good bounces. The almost rookie play (to be kind) of Goligoski and Letang combined with the half-hearted, casual performance of many of the wingers, has me thinking there has to be a big overhaul with most of the “non-core” players this off-season. Some new attitude and desire to compete needs injected into this team.

    Still upset Shero didn’t bring in Armstrong instead of proven underperformer Ponikarovsky at the deadline. Other than a 40-goal winger, Colby was exactly what this team was missing to get a jump start into the playoffs.

    I’d like to hear about one player in the locker room saying to the guy next to him in all seriousness: “hey, how about you score a goal tonight?”, or “I bet you can’t finish tonight with a plus game?”. No personal accountability is what the problem is and unless every player takes it upon their shoulders to play the best games they can, then an early playoff exit is what they deserve.

  9. Anthony Pistorius says:

    Wait till the new arena and its worse for the press box, we will really see the negative Ron Cook type negative writer. You and on Cook can go cry you scum of the earth writers.

  10. jack vanluit says:

    I defending their stanley cup, the Penguins are taking a very simular path as the Steelers did in defending their superbowl. The reality is that, just like the steelers, this not a playoff caliber team. Both teams have under achieved and appear satisfied with winning one championchip. It became obvious to me when the penguins got shut out against the Tampa Bay at home. Good teams don’t do that. The only reason they are going to make the playoff by winning their first 10 games to start the season. Playoff teams to be taken seriosly don’t loose to the same team (new jersey) 6 times in a row. Also they don;t really looke good against the capitals

  11. Anthony Pistorius says:

    Typical yinzers, hockey playoffs are series of 7 games. I am sick of these band wagon jumpers like Rob Rossi by the way wonders why hes single. He keeps writing things negative to make a name and gets yinzers like Jack to along with him. I do not care if the pens lose 4 to Washington and 6 to devils bottom line is playoff season is an entirely new world.
    Good teams sometimes do not keep the intensity level up look at the Caps they have not played an entire game in weeks. Hurry up Rob and Jack jump on the band wagon as most Pittsburgh people do. I have been season ticket holder for 26 years good or bad.

  12. Lisa says:

    Hi Rob,
    Again I am writing to you after another dismal performance by the Pens. I am simply disgusted. Again I do not sugar coat anything and the Pens and Bylsma had better not. Question: why did Bylsma not pull the goaltender and go empty net when they had the power play with 5:28 remaining in the third period?? Fluery should have stopped at least 2 of those goals before he was pulled. And how could the Pens let Mr Trash get an empter-netter????–with 0.2 seconds left??!!?? Now he is tied with Sid. Now they may finish up in 4th place overall in the East.
    I sure hope the powers-that-be address all their problem issues in the off-season and start planning for next season. Bring in some fresh blood some guys that are hungery and want to win. Bring in some grit, some muckers, something. Maybe another goalie would not hurt either. Does any Pens fan really believe these guys, playing like this, are going to make it past the first or second round of the playoffs? Fluery is the last line of defense and he goes into the locker room throwing his stick, having a temper tantrum after he was pulled.
    I believe, in my heart, that Crosby knows they are doomed. He has tried to do everything but can’t–he needs the rest of his team mates to step up and they have not. Look at Guerin–he spends more time fighting and in the penatly box then in scoring goals. It is a shame because Sid has had such a great scoring season.
    I cannot wait to read what Orpik has to say after this mess.
    I hope they play better for all us fans–and for their pride–on Thursday, their final regular home game at Mellon Arena.
    Watching this game tonight, I had hope but they broke my heart.
    If they prove all of us wrong–including Rossi–and steam-roll through the playoffs, we can all say we are sorry and that we were wrong. My heart can’t take much more then that.
    A fan in Denver with hopes of a bright future and Sid for the Hart Trophy.

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