GLENDALE, Ariz. – The other team plays too.
Indeed, that is not a popular view among the masses after a Penguins’ loss; but there are two clubs on the ice for most NHL games.
Most applies because their two other losses since New Year’s Day – at home to Florida and at Dallas, both last week – the Penguins appeared to no-show.
They showed against the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday. The Coyotes were just better.
Players knew it, too.
That is, perhaps, why their postgame comments were a lot more about what Phoenix did – “They played a pretty tight game,” said Sidney Crosby – than what the Penguins didn’t do.
“Just because we’re ahead of them in the standings, even if we play well doesn’t mean we’re going to win,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “I thought our energy level and compete (level) was pretty high. It was good.”
It was, and Niskanen is among the Penguins’ most publicly vocal critics when he senses lapses in energy and competitive spirit and execution.
The Coyotes have struggled of late, but they were a top-10 team through December.
A good team that hits a bumpy stretch – wait, that happens in a salary-capped NHL?
The Coyotes lost eight games in regulation in January.
The Penguins lost two.
This was their third regulation loss of the New Year.
Watch the Super Bowl, follow our Alan Robinson on Twitter, and take a day from presuming the Penguins will lose their first four playoff games because they aren’t winning 9 out of every 10 games.
Here ends the preaching.
>> That said, Sidney Crosby looked a bit off-put as he sat on a bench in the visitors’ dressing room on Saturday night. He generated five attempted shots against the Coyotes – as many as the combined total of wingers Chris Kunitz and Brian Gibbons.
Crosby is human.
No, it’s true.
Anyway, Crosby is human – dude was even spotted sipping a milkshake on this trip – and no human dominates this defensive NHL every night.
He has two goals in the last nine games.
He also has eight points over that slump.
That, dear readers, is how one wins a scoring title. Average nearly a point per game when things are going poorly.
He’ll be fine.
>> Goodness, Rossi, do you have anything nasty to say?
Colds are lousy.
Colds that last about four weeks – colds that probably aren’t just colds – are really lousy.
Thanks to the Coyotes team doc for a last-minute examination before the game Saturday. Oddly, that has been required twice in my 12 years at the Trib. The other time was at the start of a baseball series in Phoenix.
>> Good for you, Zbynek Michalek.
He never wanted to leave the Penguins. His decision, in July 2010, to uproot his family and move from the Phoenix area to Pittsburgh was not without careful consideration.
Even after a rough second season with the Penguins, Michalek wanted to see his four-year contract through.
The Penguins, though, had come off an embarrassing loss to Philadelphia in Round 1, one that made their overall defense look suspect (at best), and GM Ray Shero approached Michalek for a list of teams to which he would accept a trade.
Michalek’s response was that he wanted to remain with the Penguins.
Still, Shero began talking trade with interested clubs, and took two to Michalek at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. One of those clubs was Phoenix, where Michalek had previously found a home as a shutdown defenseman.
Michalek, again insisting he would prefer to stay with the Penguins, told Shero that between the two teams he would prefer Phoenix.
The deal was struck, and Michalek again became a Coyote.
So, indeed, good for him for that goal on Saturday night – it had to be bittersweet.
Michalek was always pleasant and thoughtful during our interactions over two seasons. That probably wasn’t always easy for him, because during that second season he became a popular punch bag on the local talk-show circuit.
Free agency is a gambler’s paradise, but only a fool counts on it to build a championship contender.
Shero knows that. It is why most of his roster-shaping moves come at the NHL trade deadline.
That is March 5, by the way.
All is really quiet regarding the Penguins.
>> You probably watched, but read anyway. The GAMER: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/pensgalleries/5499282-74/penguins-games-crosby#axzz2s8S39lpA
>> Jonathan Bombulie’s Never-to-be-Missed weekly repot on the AHL Penguins: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5499226-74/skate-baby-blade#axzz2s8S39lpA
>> Evgeni Malkin’s next trip to Russia will be unlike any he’s taken before or will take after, and Sochi could be where he cements his place in hockey history: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5499269-74/malkin-penguins-olympics#axzz2s8S39lpA
>> Finally, columnist Dejan Kovacevic is headed to Sochi for another round of Olympics coverage. He’s your local guy with Games experience and he’ll be burning up Twitter soon enough. Starbucks, though, he might not easily find. His column of what to look for from the Games: http://triblive.com/sports/olympics/moreolympics/5410625-74/sochi-olympics-games#axzz2s8S39lpA
(Seahawks 26, Broncos 24. Defense wins championships even in this NFL).
Be EXCELLENT to each other.