Blogs | Sports | News
Chipped Ice

March 2, 2015
by Jason Mackey

No comments yet - you should start the discussion!

Postgame: Penguins 5, Blue Jackets 3


Defenseman Derrick Pouliot and forward Daniel Winnik are Penguins’ youngest and newest players, respectively.

Both were solid during a 5-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday at Consol Energy Center.

Pouliot scored his second goal of the season, going top-shelf with a Patric Hornqvist rebound on the power play, and Winnik set up linemate Steve Downie for a goal in the third period.

“I thought sometimes I was a little tentative and unsure of where to be on the ice,” said Winnik, who played 13:29, including 2:23 shorthanded, and finished with one hit, one giveaway and no shot attempts. “But that’s pretty typical, to get used to the new system and the guys I’m playing with.”

Pouliot, I thought, was superb, their best player at times. So did fellow beat man Josh Yohe.

Pouliot is trying to earn a postseason job and may have just done that by playing a strong puck-possession style, skating with a lot of confidence.

The 21-year-old finished with seven shot attempts, six on goal and played 18:25.

“He had the puck a lot,” coach Mike Johnston said. “If you look at puck-possession time, he may have had the puck as much as anybody on our team.

“That’s the way he is as a player. He can jump into holes, find those holes, get the puck and start to move with it. Those types of players, they put the other team back, and they don’t force you to have to defend as much because you escape your zone so quick.”

I asked Pouliot afterward whether this was the best game’s played as a pro.

The answer was telling.

“I think it’s getting up there,” Pouliot said. “I think I still have another gear or two, but I’m definitely feeling more comfortable and back to my normal self.”

Other observations from this one:

=The Blue Jackets miss Brandon Dubinsky. Like, a lot. Not only because he becomes a pain in Sidney Crosby’s backside – Crosby finished with two secondary assists – but his energy is something that Columbus thrives on.

Dubinsky suffered a concussion Thursday and is out indefinitely.

“When you take a guy like that out of your lineup, you’re going to miss something,” Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. “We’ve talked about it before, when he’s been out of the lineup, the emotion that he brings, when he plays, the tenacity that he brings, a lot of times that becomes contagious to the group.”

=The Penguins have won four in a row and have a plus-9 goal differential (18-9) during that stretch. In their past 12 games, they’re 8-3-1. Their suddenly resurgent power play is 6 for 18 (33.3 percent) during the winning streak.

=They finished with 41 shots – the fifth time this season they’ve hit the 40-mark – which was their most since tallying 43 Jan. 30 at New Jersey.

=The Penguins practice Monday (11:30 a.m.) and Tuesday (10 a.m.) at Southpointe before flying to Colorado, where they play the Avalanche on Wednesday.

The West Coast swing – Colorado, Anaheim, Los Angeles and Anaheim – runs Wednesday through next Monday. Yohe will have you covered. (If we’re lucky, we’ll convince Josh to stop in Haight-Ashbury and soak in the scene.)

“It’s nice we have a couple days of practice now,” Winnik said. “I think we’ll get used to each other a little more. We have four games in the (next seven days).”

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



February 27, 2015
by Jason Mackey

No comments yet - you should start the discussion!

Pens Roundtable link


Were the Penguins in on Jaromir Jagr? What about Jordan Staal? What does the Daniel Winnik deal mean? Why was Josh Yohe snooping under cars in the parking lot?

These are all questions you can find out answers to by listening to our weekly Pens Roundtable on TribLive Radio.

Here’s a link to the show. If you see Rossi, give him a hug from us.

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



February 25, 2015
by Jason Mackey

No comments yet - you should start the discussion!

Pregame: Penguins at Capitals, 8 p.m.


WASHINGTON — The Penguins’ power play has scored in two consecutive games, something that hasn’t happened since scoring in four straight since Jan. 10-18.

Such success breeds confidence, forward David Perron said.

“In St. Louis, we could have almost gone 3 for 3,” Perron said. “Ended up being 1 for 3. … Obviously when they go in, you start feeling it a little bit more. Just like any five-on-five game, when goals are going in, you feel good about yourself. I think it’s the same thing for the power play.

“The power play was going fine until (Kris Letang) got hurt, (Sidney Crosby) missed time, (Evgeni Malkin) missed time, (Patric Hornqvist) came back. A lot of things were moving around. Now that we have almost everyone back, it’s obviously nice. Hopefully we can roll with that.”

Which they will try to do tonight against the Washington Capitals, who have successfully killed all 11 Penguins power plays over the first three games of the season series.

“We’ve done a good job the last couple games of doing some really good things,” forward Blake Comeau said following an optional gameday skate Wednesday at Verizon Center. “I think everyone in this locker room is looking for consistency. Playing the right way. That’s basically it. We’re basically just trying to climb in the standings, get as high as we can and be playing some really good hockey come playoff time.”

That doesn’t, apparently, include specifically seeking out Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin following his two-handed whack of Letang in the last meeting between these two clubs.

Coach Mike Johnston stressed that the issue is in the past, that the Penguins need to build on what they did during a 3-1 loss on Feb. 17 before allowing a five-on-three goal late.

“This is a different game, and we have to be able to come in here and play the right way,” Johnston said. “Play the type of game that we need to play. I thought we made good strides last game as far as playing against Washington. I really liked our game. It came down to the final few minutes with a power-play goal for them, but I still liked our game overall.

“We have to play a very similar game. For me, a lot of lose puck battles will be key tonight.”

Expect defenseman Christian Ehrhoff to return from a 12-game absence after suffering concussion-like symptoms when his head hit the Verizon Center ice in a game on Jan. 28.

While he was out, Ehrhoff said he kept a close eye on the Penguins’ recent progress and hopes to keep it going tonight.

“I think we’re headed in a good direction,” Ehrhoff said. “The last couple games where really good especially against a great team like St. Louis. I thought we played one of our best games there. I’m happy to jump in and hopefully I can do my part to get it going.”

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



February 23, 2015
by Jason Mackey

2 comments so far - add yours!

Postgame: Penguins 5, Panthers 1


It’s Oscar Night, so let’s roll that way.

Best play went to Evgeni Malkin. His goal at 19:33 of the second gave the Penguins a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes where they really didn’t play all that well. Turned the game, in my opinion. Kicked Florida in the collective gut.

But the best player was most definitely Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. My goodness. Fleury stopped 34 of 35 shots Sunday and has turned aside 113 of 118 in three meetings with the Panthers this season.

“Fleury was the difference the first part of the game,” Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said.

“At times tonight, I thought Flower was our best player,” coach Mike Johnston countered.

Fleury has allowed two or fewer goals in seven straight starts. The Penguins are 23-2-2 when he allows two or fewer.

On Sunday, Fleury stopped all 16 shots he faced in the opening period, and that seemed to set the tone for the rest of the game.

“Felt pretty good,” said Fleury, who’s now 27-13-6 on the season with a 2.16 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage. “(Stopped) a few shots at the beginning right away. It was good to get into it. Felt pretty good.”

So did the Penguins after Malkin scored what turned out to be the game-winner.

Malkin picked up a puck in the neutral zone, won a footrace with Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov and backhanded a shot five-hole past Al Montoya. He later added 24th of the season – also on a backhander – to produce his first multi-goal game since Dec. 6.

Paul Martin scored at 19 seconds of the third to end this one early.

“That second goal was a killer for us,” Gallant said. “Then they get the third goal the first shift of the third period. That was really tough.”

“You always talk about it and say, ‘Let’s move on.’ ” Gallant added. “It obviously had an effect.”

Couple other notes from this one:

=The Penguins are 23-3-1 when scoring on the power play

=They’ve allowed two or fewer goals in seven of their past 10 games

=Kris Letang contributed an assist and current has 47 points – tied with Calgary’s Mark Giordano for the NHL lead among defensemen. Letang has 24 points in his past 22 games.

Club is off Monday. Not giving away anything, but you’re going to want to pick up a copy of Tuesday’s Trib. Both Josh Yohe and I have stories you will definitely want to read.

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



February 21, 2015
by Jason Mackey

51 comments so far - add yours!

Mackey: Big deals coming? Maybe.


“We’re going to be watching the next two games as closely as we’ve watched any games this year.”

That was how one member of the Penguins front office described the team’s upcoming back-to-back set Saturday at St. Louis and at home Sunday against Florida.

We’re there.

Nobody who has a hand in personnel decisions is happy. This much was made very clear to me on Friday.

General manager Jim Rutherford, I learned, did not travel with the team. Instead, he spent the day Friday on the phone, exploring various trade angles.

Nothing is imminent, but I’m told Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury are the only names not in play.

Current players have been made aware of this displeasure, that a significant trade or two could easily happen if the effort put forth Thursday against Columbus — and several times before — is replicated.

In my story for Saturday’s Trib, I explore the significance of these two games, which are certainly unlike any of the other 16 back-to-back sets on the Penguins’ schedule.

It’s ironic, too, given that the Penguins face a get-well opportunity against non-Metropolitan Division opponents, a group of teams they’ve actually fared well against this season.

Evgeni Malkin talked yesterday. To me, that’s a testament to where the urgency is with this group. Here’s a sampling of what he said, which will appear in the story Saturday.

“When you (lose a) couple games and (you don’t) play (well), everyone (gets) nervous,” Malkin said. “Coaches, players, organization, we (get) nervous. It’s not bad, but it’s not good.

“We know we (can bounce) back. I believe this team (includes) good guys, good players. (We) just (need to) support each other. Relax. We’ll be back.”

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



February 20, 2015
by Jason Mackey

10 comments so far - add yours!

Postgame: Blue Jackets 2, Penguins 1


Sidney Crosby hardly ever fights.

Seven times in his career. Six in the regular season, once in the playoffs. Three times since Nov. 3, 2010.

Yet there was Crosby, dropping the gloves Thursday in the second period of a 2-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets at Consol Energy Center, taking on Brandon Dubinsky.

I asked Crosby what triggered the fight, and he didn’t offer much.

“Nothing really,” Crosby said. “It wasn’t much of a fight anyway.”

Dubinsky was a bit more expansive, telling our Josh Yohe:

“I hit him in the corner. He tried to pulled me down. I was holding on to him. We both got up. He dropped his gloves. I obliged and dropped mine. He’s a competitor. Any chance you get a chance to trade off and take one of the best in the world to the box for five minutes, I’ll take it.”

Coach Mike Johnston said it was an “emotional” fight, the kind that happens between star players, not goons.

He also sounded less than interested in having one of his two franchise centers do such a thing.

“On occasion,” Johnston answered when Josh asked him if he was OK having his captain fight. “Those types of fights, they’re emotional fights. When top players go at each other in the game or the top player drops his gloves, it’s an emotional fight. Sometimes the other ones are a little bit more, where two guys bang together, they’re pretty tough guys, and they go at it.

“Sid showing that type of emotion, I think that’s positive. I wasn’t here for it, but I know what happened in the playoff series (in 2013-14). They had a long battle in that playoff series, Dubinsky and Sid. I think that was part of the carryover (Thursday).”

I wrote for Friday’s print product about the Penguins’ failure to elevate their game following Crosby’s fight and a key, five-on-three penalty kill late — things that should have theoretically given them some momentum. Enough to finally score on the power play, you would figure.

But that didn’t happen.

The Penguins continue to be maddeningly inconsistent. Let’s look at their past 10 games.

2/19 vs. Blue Jackets, 2-1 L (shots even)
2/17 vs. Capitals, 3-1 L (shots even)
2/15 at Blackhawks, 2-1 L (SO) (plus-5 shots)
2/12 at Senators, 5-4 W (SO) (minus-4 shots)
2/11 vs. Red Wings, 4-1 W (minus-3 shots)
2/7 at Canucks, 5-0 L (plus-4 shots)
2/6 at Flames, 4-0 W (plus-9 shots)
2/4 at Oilers, 2-0 W (plus-4 shots)
2/1 vs. Predators, 4-0 L (minus-3 shots)
1/30 at Devils, 2-1 W (OT) (plus-29 shots)

Grading simply pass or fail, here’s what my report card would like, starting with the Devils game and working forward: pass, fail, pass, pass, fail, pass, fail, pass, fail, fail.

Dead even, of course.

Chris Kunitz had three assists in Calgary and the game-tying goal late against New Jersey. In the other eight games? One assist.

Evgeni Malkin has three goals but no assists in the eight games since he returned from a groin injury. Crosby has seven points in those games and four goals, but the goals have been confined to two games.

The Penguins have been outscored 9-4 in their past 10 third periods.

“I think you have to look inside yourself and find a different level,” defenseman Rob Scuderi said. “There are certain things, whether they are mental or physical mistakes, that you just can’t make late in games. It takes each guy in here figuring that out.”

Some other nuggets from Thursday:

=Beau Bennett struggled. He was demoted to the fourth line for a stretch in the first period and played just 9:53.

=Kris Letang played 28:09. In a game that ended in regulation, mind you. That’s the 12th consecutive game Letang has led the Penguins in ice time, and this one wasn’t even close. Paul Martin was second at 21:10.

=Malkin scored the Penguins’ lone goal, his 22nd of the season. He has never NOT scored against Columbus. In nine games, he has 4-7–11.

Club practices at Southpointe on Friday. at 11:30 a.m. Talk you from there.

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



February 19, 2015
by Jason Mackey

2 comments so far - add yours!

Pregame: Penguins vs. Blue Jackets, 7 p.m.


Don’t be fooled by the Blue Jackets’ record or their place in the standings. Columbus is a solid hockey team, one the Penguins know well and one they’ll try to get right against tonight at 7 at Consol Energy Center.

“They’re a tough team to play against,” Penguins defenseman Kris Letang said. “They’re fast. They work really hard. They have some skill, and their defensemen are active. Their record does not indicate the way they play. It’s going to be a tough battle again.”

The Blue Jackets are 25-27-3 and have 53 points — 20 shy the Penguins (32-16-9). They’re tied for sixth place in the Metropolitan Division and are not exactly planning for the third playoff appearance in franchise history.

But they do have two quality scorers in Ryan Johansen (21-31–52) and Nick Foligno (22-30–52), and the Blue Jackets have found an offensive groove of late, scoring 26 goals over their past six games for an average of 4.3 per contest.

“Columbus is a hard-working team, very disciplined in their structure,” Penguins coach Mike Johnston said. “They play a gritty game, much like they did against the Penguins last year in the playoffs.”

Johnston also praised the Blue Jackets’ forwards. He didn’t name names, but it’s likely he was talking about the trio of Brandon Dubinsky (3-2–5), Matt Calvert (2-1–3) and Cam Atkinson (2-1–3), who have combined for 7-4–11 since being put together as a line three games ago.

“As they’re getting healthy now, they have some pretty good balance in their forward lines,” Johnston said. “They’ve got some grit. They’ve got some skill. I like their balance in their group of forwards.”

Why aren’t the Blue Jackets better?

The beginning of the season — and injuries — did them in. They’ve lost an NHL-high 353 man-games to injury. And, after opening with wins in four of six, the Blue Jackets endured a 2-13-2 funk from Oct. 24-Nov. 29.

They rebounded by going 12-2-1 from Dec. 1-Jan. 6, but the damage was done.

Other stuff to watch out for tonight:

=The Penguins’ power play is 0 for 18 over its past eight games. Without a goal tonight, they will officially be in the worst power-play funk of Sidney Crosby’s career.

=The penalty kill has hit the skids. The Penguins are tied for fifth in the league at 85.1 percent, but they’ve allowed a power-play goal in 10 of their past 15 games, killing just 35 of 47 penalties (74.5 percent) during that stretch.

=Crosby has a 10-game point streak against Columbus, during which he has 5-7–12. Evgeni Malkin has played eight games against the Blue Jackets and has scored in all of them, total of 3-7–10. Marc-Andre Fleury has won three straight starts against Columbus.

Team-wise, the Penguins are 10-1-2 against the Blue Jackets since Oct. 21, 2006, and they wouldn’t mind falling back on history given their recent struggles against Metropolitan Division teams.

“We’ve talked about that a lot,” Crosby said of the Penguins’ record (7-10-4) against division foes. “It’s an area we need to improve upon. For whatever reason, we haven’t found a way to be successful.

“Consistency in our game is important. We’ve had a few games where we didn’t give ourselves a chance against division opponents. I think lately we’ve been playing a little bit better, so hopefully that translates into more wins.”

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



February 18, 2015
by Jason Mackey

No comments yet - you should start the discussion!

Postgame: Capitals 3, Penguins 1


The numbers don’t lie.

And they’re not good.

Power play, penalty kill, record in the division, you name it.

Coach Mike Johnston praised the Penguins’ penalty kill following a 3-1 loss to the Capitals at Consol Energy Center on Tuesday.

“I thought our penalty kill was great tonight, to be honest,” Johnston said.

Fair enough.

The man’s entitled to his opinion.

But the PK allowed two goals on five chances. Yes, I know a bad change on the first, a fluke goal. A five-on-three on the second. But it’s the 10th time in 15 games they’ve been scored upon. The Penguins are 34 for 47 on the PK (72.3 percent) during that span.

“Other than a five-on-three goal, we limited their chances, and they (scored) from the corner backdoor,” Johnston said. “That’s a broken play. (Alex) Ovechkin’s dangerous on that backside circle. I thought our adjustments on our penalty kill were really good tonight to take that away.

“I liked how (Nick) Spaling blocked a couple shots. I have a lot of confidence in our penalty kill throughout the year, and I think they’re fine.”

Again, his words. Which obviously mean a heck of a lot more than mine.

The power play hasn’t been much better. Goose egg for three Tuesday. Goose egg for 18 over the past eight games.

The split power plays showed a new wrinkle Tuesday.

Sidney Crosby started with Blake Comeau and Patric Hornqvist on the first, then regular linemates Chris Kunitz and David Perron on the second.

Seven shots. Some of them even quality chances. No goals.

“We had some decent chances,” Crosby said. “I think we’ve moved the puck around fairly well. Besides capitalizing, I think we’ve done a better job here the last couple games.”

Defenseman Derrick Pouliot was a little bit more honest when talking about the power play.

“I think we got a couple good chances,” Pouliot said. “We still need to execute a little better, I think. I know one time myself, I lost it up top there when I probably shouldn’t have. We have to start converting a little bit, but we got some good looks.”

The third ugly number has to do with how the Penguins have fared against the Metropolitan Division, where one point separates second and fourth.

The Penguins are 7-10-4 against division opponents but 2-7-2 against the Rangers, Capitals and Islanders — the teams they will see soonest in the playoffs.

They’re 25-6-5 against non-Metropolitan Division teams.

“That’s our opponent generally for the playoffs,” coach Mike Johnston said. “Yeah, we’ve got to play better against Metropolitan opponents.”

Club practices Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. Talk to you then.

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



February 17, 2015
by Jason Mackey

4 comments so far - add yours!

Pregame: Penguins vs. Capitals, 7 p.m.


The Penguins don’t want to be stuck in neutral Tuesday night against the Washington Capitals.

Chances are, it won’t result in good things.

After two frustrating losses to the Capitals, neutral-zone play will be a focal point tonight at 7 at Consol Energy Center.

“They played a tight-checking game,” forward Nick Spaling said of a 4-0 loss at Washington on Jan. 28. “They didn’t give us a lot of space.

“We have to make sure we’re getting pucks in behind them. We don’t want to turn it over. They have a good transition game. The last two games we fed that a little too much. We gave them pucks back and let them make plays off it.”

The next goal the Penguins (32-15-9) score against the Capitals (30-17-10) will be their first of the season.

They’ve fired 58 shots off of Washington goaltender Braden Holtby, and not one of them has gone in.
Meanwhile, they’ve committed 17 giveaways. Washington has been credited with 11 takeaways in the two games so far this season. Much of the damage has been done in the neutral zone.

“The neutral zone is an area where they play really well,” defenseman Kris Letang said. “They make us turn the puck over, and they counterattack and score big goals. We have to manage the puck through the neutral zone.”

The Capitals have a dominant third line of Brooks Laich, Eric Fehr and Joel Ward. They’re also one of the bigger, tougher teams in the league. But the Penguins will be doomed Tuesday if they don’t have better neutral-zone play.

They felt they were pushed to the outside during the teams’ last meeting, the one Spaling referenced. That resulted in too many easy stops for Holtby.

“The faster we can move it in transition through the neutral zone, the less other teams are set up,” coach Mike Johnston said. “I thought we did a good job (Sunday) against Chicago. We were very good in the neutral zone.

“How we play as a team against Washington has to be better than how we played in the previous two games.”

Watch tonight. The Capitals play a 1-1-3. They’ll confront the puck-carrier in his own zone and force him to make a decision. The Penguins hope they’re able to make the right ones — and quickly.

This will mean zipping the puck ahead to forwards quickly and smartly and essentially bypassing this whole thing.

If they’re able to, as they like to say, get the Capitals’ defensemen turned out, things should work out well for the local club.

“They play that 1-1-3,” defenseman Paul Martin said. “We’ve had a couple teams play that against us. For us, it’s just managing the puck better through the neutral zone and making sure we get it in deep. Spend some time in their end.”

Notes: The Penguins have won five of eight and have points in nine of 12 (6-3-3). … They have a 2.43 goals-against average that would rank third all-time in franchise history (2.29 in 1997-98, 2.39 in 2010-11). … The third line of Spaling, Brandon Sutter and Beau Bennett has six points in three games together. … Alex Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals (36), and Nicklas Backstrom leads in assists (43). … Washington is third in the NHL in points by defenseman with (126). They finished 22nd in that category last season.

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



February 16, 2015
by Jason Mackey

8 comments so far - add yours!

Mackey: Do they always do this?


CHICAGO – They couldn’t believe it.

Sitting in a bar/restaurant at the top corner of Johnny’s IceHouse West in Downtown Chicago, the legendary Mike Lange to my left and a couple of Blackhawks writers to my right, the local guys were astonished at how the Penguins were practicing, how intense.

Do they always do this?

Always this physical?

Don’t the players hate Mike Johnston?

Does anyone get hurt?

Well, yes, yes, I don’t think so and yes.

I hadn’t thought about this for awhile: the look of the Penguins’ practices. Was a nice reminder. Lange and I agreed that this was one of their best practices of the year, but, yeah, they were going at it hard.

Odd-man rushes. Battles in the corner. Five-on-five work. A lot of intensity. The kind of stuff you expect when you cough up four goals in the third period two nights prior.

But it’s a shame what happens when you see something all the time: You take it for granted. The Blackhawks guys were impressed because they had seen nothing like this.

Given Chicago’s success, is there something to taking it easy at practice? I don’t know. Maybe. Two Stanley Cups within the past half-decade sure says it might be.

But this is also a new Penguins regime, a new practice style, and we don’t know yet whether this way of doing things works or stinks.

Lange calmly explained that the Penguins had the day off Thursday, that they had to get the legs moving – stuff that someone with 40 years of experience and in the Hockey Hall of Fame would think to say, not my silly explanations.

Still, the crowd kept at it.

“If (coach Joel Quenneville) did this, that would be the headline of every Chicago newspaper the next day,” one writer said, “ ‘Q puts Hawks through their paces.’ ”

Johnston was simply holding a practice, in a different city, on a Friday afternoon. They would eat Jimmy John’s later, go back to their hotel and relax.

Following a certain drill – one based on tipping pucks in front – I said to the Blackhawks writers: Watch, bet the losing team skates sprints. Sure enough, they did. The writers couldn’t believe it.

Told them, too, about Johnston’s end-of-practice sprints that started during training camp and have continued through the regular season, the same ones my colleague Josh Yohe loves capturing with his iPhone camera.

More disbelief.

Again, does this mean anything? I don’t know. But Johnston, in 56 games as head coach of the Penguins, has proven to have a different way of doing things.

Whether it works come playoff time will tell whether it was truly innovative or just plain stupid.

Be GRATEFUL to each other,


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