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Rossi: Pens vs. West – there’s something to the results.


Matt Niskanen said there might be something to it.

That would be the suggestion that Western Conference clubs struggle with the Penguins’ system.

“There might be something to that,” Niskanen, a former Western player, said. “Detroit plays that puck possession game, but (the Red Wings) do things differently.

“I think the temp, in general, is a little faster here. In the West there’s more structure, guys are bigger, different styles. It can be tough (playing the Penguins) if you’re not used to it.

“(San Jose) has guys that can play at that pace, but if you don’t see it very often it’s tough to adjust.”

It was for the Sharks, who despite possessing the puck a lot and generating 45 shots –­ on 75 attempts ­– appeared unable to handle the Penguins’ transition game.

Western clubs always seem to struggle with that, even before the Penguins’ adopted their left-wing lock approach for this season.

This win, 5-1, was the Penguins’ 43rd in 67 games against the West under coach Dan Bylsma. They have failed to get a point in only 15 of those games.

That will be something to consider if the Penguins ever get back to the Stanley Cup Final.

Something else to consider:

The Sharks are beastly when it comes to advance measurements for puck possession and shots generated. That was the case in this game.

The Penguins handled themselves well, and they used their transition game to do it.

That’s what this left-wing lock is all about.

It’s about finding a way to generate offense when the opponent denies the Penguins’ the puck.

One game is too small a sample size, but it was notable how different the Penguins looked against San Jose than in the East Final.




*** So, this Marc-Andre Fleury guy, how about him? THE GAMER:

*** Evgeni Malkin did not play Thursday. Josh Yohe’s NOTER has the latest on that and another “Piece” of news:

*** Columnist Dejan Kovacevic opines on Kris Letang:




Taking you INSIDE the Penguins, like me:

ONE… James Neal does not want to speak for opposing players, but he did admit Thursday that he “thinks about” how difficult it would be to play the Penguins when they are clicking as they did against San Jose.

“It’s hard to judge,” Neal said. “(Thursday), I thought we were physical on pucks, taking pucks to the nets – you think about what’s going through the Sharks minds when they come into our building. It’s obviously a difficult building to play in when you don’t come in much.

“Yeah, it can be (overwhelming). And we stuck with it. I think that’s the biggest thing.”

TWO… That was a nice, fitting video tribute to Tyler Kennedy, who scored the last goal that really mattered at The Igloo. Playing in Pittsburgh was good for Kennedy, and literally life altering. His fiancé is from Pittsburgh, so he’ll probably be back at some point (if not as a player).

THREE… Kennedy caught Brooks Orpik with a clean check early in the first period. Orpik seemed to grimace after the hit, a rarity for him. His response was to hunt checks. He was credited with four hits. It felt like there were a lot more.

The salary-cap is going to increase next season. By how much remains a differing opinion among teams’ executives. No matter the cap, somebody is going to pay Orpik, who took less money to stay with the Penguins in July 2008.

He is unlikely to do that again if he gets to free agency.

The Penguins’ best bet to keep him is going to be signing him to an extension during this season. So far, there is no indication of talks.

Orpik is one of the greatest Penguins, and still one of the few defensemen in the NHL that can play AND play physical.

To keep him, the Penguins will need to pay – and they’ll need to make some hard decisions.


Be EXCELLENT to each other,






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.

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