Blogs | Sports | News
Chipped Ice

I’d plead for calm, but that didn’t work last time. Oh well…



Happy Mother’s Day to my mom now, because I won’t get a chance Sunday on the return trip to Montreal.

OK, the inconveniences of a sportswriter’s life are not a topic most readers favor. How about this one:

Even-strength scoring: The Penguins lack it through four games of this second-round playoff series against Montreal. Not counting a couple of empty-net goals by RW Bill Guerin and RW Pascal Dupuis, the Penguins have three even-strength goals.

D Brooks Orpik suggested after a Game 4 loss at Bell Centre that special teams would have to win the Penguins this series. I’m not willing to go that far, but I’m leaning toward it as the struggles of Cs Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin continue.

I’m not sure what more amazes me: C Jordan Stall playing in Game 4 or Crosby and Malkin combining for one goal in the series.

No, wait; I’m going with Staal – and at this point I’m thinking of petitioning the NHL to have him removed from consideration for the Selke Trophy. After all, humans should win those NHL awards, not Terminators. Staal must be a machine to have played nearly 14 minutes on a foot that last Friday night was surgically repaired to fix a severed tendon. More on him in a bit, because there is a way I see the Penguins winning this series without either Crosby or Malkin getting on a goal roll, and Staal figures in it heavily.

Back to Crosby and Malkin, who are saying all the right things about not being frustrated, which makes me a bit uncomfortable because I actually believe them.

At some points — and actually, I’m way past it — these Montreal Canadiens aren’t a bad team, an eighth-seed on a run, or just a gutsy club with no quit in it. At some point, these Canadiens are a well-coached unit that is comfortable with its system, which is designed brilliantly to deny quality scoring chances to skilled superstars.

Consider this number: 1. That would be the goals scored by Crosby, Malkin and Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin over the last six games against Montreal. That isn’t an accident, kiddies.

However, nobody who watched Game 4 can convince me that Crosby and Malkin aren’t getting quality chances, which leads me to believe that at some point they’re going to break out big. This is why I’m having a hard time getting worked up — as I suspect some Penguins fans already are — about this even-after-four series.

A) The Penguins did their job at Montreal. They reclaimed home-ice advantage. If they lost Game 3 and win Game 4 everybody in Pittsburgh is thrilled. Go vice-versa, as they did, and the panic will hit a point that I’m half expecting that mothers will keep their daughters off the streets until Game 5 on Saturday night. Yinz… must… chill.

B) To me, this series goes one of two ways: Crosby and Malkin bust out, or maybe just make a little move, and that’s enough to put the Penguins over the top in games that, for Montreal to win, must be tight. The other possibility is they never get going. If that happens, everybody simply tips their caps to the Canadiens for another superstar-beatdown remarkably well done. I’m not betting on it, but stranger things have happened. For example, while in Old Montreal on Wednesday night I spied a star of iconic Canadian teen soap “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” and the cat seemed completely dissatisfied to be have been recognized. That’s not the strange part; I’m pretty sure the strange part was me recognizing a star of a teen soap. Pretty sure. My point is that the smart money remains on Crosby and Malkin not finishing the series with one goal between them — and on Holly J. eventually making a move on Spinner (for those who also watch “Degrassi: The Next Generation.”)

C) Staal’s return is going to give the Penguins this series. See, told you I’d get back to him. Game 4 was his test-run. He handled it well. If he is back to his 18-20 minutes self in Game 5, the Canadiens better hope G Jaroslav Halak has it going on in that contest and the remaining ones. He’ll be the only reason they have a chance. Staal, as former Penguins D Rob Scuderi told me before the series, is the one player for whom the Canadiens have no answer.  It’s because of the wild-card option he provides coach Dan Bylsma. A regular-workload from Staal will allow Bylsma to play Crosby and Malkin together a lot more often because “The Nightmare Line” of Staal, LW Matt Cooke and RW Tyler Kennedy can essentially become a No. 2 line at that point. The Canadiens are going to have a tough time stopping Crosby and Malkin if they are on the same line for more than end-of-period shifts, as has been the case with Staal either out or limited. Plus, I’m not sure Staal won’t chip in a couple of goals in Game 5 and beyond. His size-skill combo is tailor made to work over the Montreal defense because the Canadiens aren’t going to use shutdown D-pair Josh Gorges and Hal Gill against Staal — especially if Malkin and Crosby are together.

Anyway, those are my rambling thoughts before packing and heading back to Pittsburgh. As always, share yours at

— ROSSI, from Montreal


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. After seeing how tacky the Montreal fans are, constantly booing Sid and company, throwing things on the ice at the players and officials, acting like they just won the Stanley Cup, poor sports in all–they probably would have clapped if one of the Pens broke a leg–I have no desire to EVER SEE A GAME THERE.
    Rossi, you get in for free. Us fans actually pay good money to watch our team lose.
    That being said, the Pens blew the lead, could not tie up the game, and lost to an inferior team. The Pens are now a joke–every sports commentator seemed happy and joked about the Habs trying up this series. Bylsma should have called a time-out after the second goal got scored and settled his team down–or should have tried actually coaching. Did anybody see his half-assed attempt at consoling the team, after the second goal went in off of Letang’s skates??!!??–his feeble pats on the back of the players?!? Give us all a break.That’s the kind of “pat” you give to a child.
    And Crosby–quit skipping the “optional team skate”–you are starting to look like Ovie. : No goals, period.

  2. hockeymn25 says:

    GET A CLUE denver fan. PENS in six,

  3. Sophia says:

    Do you think there is time for Crosby to play for Canada in Europe for the World Hockey Championships?
    Maybe he could score a goal!

  4. Bobby O says:

    Montreal fans are by far the worst and msot annoying, even topping the childish Philly fans by a mile, or is that a meter in Quebec? Just like Philly, they claim it’s just being “passionate”. Well, Richard Ramírez was passionate about his work too and I get the impression Nazi Germany was uber-passionate about it’s cause. Being passionate about anything is no excuse to behave like fools and collective idiots. They act like they know nothing about the game itself most of the time and I’d rather watch a game with feces throwing monkeys than sit at the Bell Center with a hoard of passionate drunks who feel entitled to make a spectacle of themselves while mocking the game and it’s players.

    It must be a French thing because I get the same impression watching games at Montreal as I do when I see Mardi Gras footage. Do Habs fans pass out beads for breasts and puke/urinate in the aisles too?

  5. Hap says:

    Is it now time to panic?!? Maybe, maybe not.

    But face it, folks–the Pens blew it last night. No one rallied–how did Malkin get a breakaway and NOT SCORE?!? He told Halak he was going to shoot to his left–Halak’s right–and of course he stopped him…Malkin needed to fake him and shoot right, top shelf, the puck goes in and game tied.

    And What about Crosby? He is MIA. He is paid 8.7 million yearly to score goals…and he has not. Ron Cook has a great article in the Post-Gazette–I hope Sid and company read it. He writes “blame this loss on Pens stars…” Crosby and Malkin need to find a way to beat Halak–he is not a God–and earn their high priced salaries. And Bylsma and company say the same old things after each loss…

    But if the Pens lose game 5 at home–which they have lost alot of games at home this season–then it will be over. Winng a game 6 in Montreal–for the Pens–if they are trailing this series??–I hope it doesn’t happen: I hope the Pens can win the next two games and be done….but they need to find a way to beat Halak or they will be done. Just a fan lving in reality.

  6. Lisa says:

    Halak and company know they are frustrating Sid and Geno–an are probably getting a good laugh from it. Time to step up, guys, superstars–Crosby and company and start putting pucks in the net.
    Maybe the Pens can win this in 7…then again maybe not. I am still flabbergasted by the Pens inablility to put teams away, to finish them off…they let the Habs hang around last night and looked what happened.

    HockeyMN25 tells Unhappy to :get a clue.” The Pens are the ones who need to get a clue.

    Come one, guys, lets go!

  7. concernedpensfan says:

    The fickle sports fans who have commented here need a reality check. First, Crosby is skipping optional skates for the first time in his career because he has skated more than reasonable for a forward. Check the skating minutes of other teams stars…regular sessn, 17-19 minutes and playoffs 18-22 minutes a game max. Crosby…22 to 24+minutes most games. This combined with his Olympic workout, and his past two short summers are killers. If we want him to have anything left in the tank for the Cup finals..he needs to skip optional skates. However, he is not skipping practices (like a well rested Ovie).

    Second, Crosby (and Malkin as of game 4) have been contributing. Ask the Capitals…snipers are not the answer to Halak. It is no accident that when Pens goals have been scored in this series, CROSBY AND/OR MALKIN HAVE BEEN ON THE ICE for about 95% of the goals. This is a key statistic, in that the are battling hard and are drawing defenders, and opening up space for the other players. THIS IS HOW YOU CAN BEAT MONTREAL. The fewer shots win is an unusual game plan, but just ask the Capitals, who kept trying to out shoot, and out deke and dangle. That style plays into the Habs game. It has ironically been Crosby’s strenght at backchecking and doggedness that has carried the day…meaning he has continued to battle, and force the Habs to defend him, continuing to create time and space for Letang and Gonchar and others to score the gutted out, dirty goals as they say. So while what Sid and Malkin are doing isn;t counted as a stat…it still wins hockey games. I would rather have wins than see pretty goals…(ask the Capitals fans which they would rather see).

  8. Frank says:

    Are we permitted to be a little concerned yet?

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