Wrapping up a practice day at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex …
=No line rushes today. A lot of two-on-none drills, chip plays off the boards, etc. Stuff designed, it seemed, for players to skate with the puck with confidence.
=Kris Letang wins the Most Quotable Player award today. (There’s actually no such award, FYI.) Letang looked up from his stall to see a circle of media forming. Letang joked that he may talk, depending on what we asked. Well, he talked. And then some. Typical for him. Here are some gems from that exchange:
On getting hit/elbowed by Andrei Markov taking an interference penalty:
“Every time I get hit from behind like that and there’s no call … it was kind of my way to disagree. Obviously they called a penalty that I don’t even think … I don’t know, I don’t think it was close to a call but whatever. What happened happened. We had to turn the page.”
On being a minus-11, the third-worst such figure in the NHL:
“I don’t pay attention to it. I’ve been doing a lot of video all my life. I’m still doing it at my age. If I look at it, I should not worry about it. It’s out of my control. There are five guys on the ice. If I would commit 14 turnovers that wind up in the back of my net, that would be different. That’s not the case.”
Quick interruption: Plus/minus stinks as a stat. I hate it. I don’t blame Letang for not caring. That wasn’t even the point of the question. You’re just not used to seeing a minus-11 next to Kris Letang’s name.
A better evaluative tool — and one the Penguins use — is scoring chances for/against. So, let’s look at that a minute and decide on Scoring Chances Against Per 60 (SCA60). Letang ranks 18th-worst among NHL defenseman who have played at least 100 minutes this season at 30.44.
Is this cause for a gigantic freak out? No. Is it good? No, not really. From 2006-15, Letang’s SCA60 is 26.61. There’s definitely room for improvement, but I get why nobody is hanging their hat on a minus-11. Anyway …
=Evgeni Malkin and Matt Cullen missed practice today because of maintenance days. Wouldn’t read too much into this. Their equipment was at the facility, an indication that there was at least some intent on them practicing. Coach Mike Johnston called them “a little under the weather.” We’ll see if they’re on the ice for Friday’s morning skate. Would expect they will be.
=Lot of talk about shuffling lines, about the new-look third line, about Patric Hornqvist’s big-time goal. Here’s a little more Hornqvist:
On moving to a new line:
“I think it sparks the whole team when you move the lines around. You want to show the coach or your teammates we’re better than what we were. In Calgary, that was not a very good game from our side. Changed the lines. We got going. We had a great first period. Then we got away from it a little bit in the second. Then we came out really hard in the third. Then won the game. Big step for our team.”
On putting pressure on himself to score:
“Obviously you put a lot of pressure on yourself when you’re struggling scoring goals. You want to be out there around the net and find those loose pucks. That’s been my problem this year so far. Keep working on it. Hopefully I get those pucks around the net here soon.”
=Sidney Crosby brought up an interesting point:
“I think with the way we play, our second periods should be consistently good. We play a pretty fast game. With a longer change, it’s something you can take advantage of in the second period. We’ve had our fair share of good ones. Most recently we’ve not done as good of a job.”
Obviously Wednesday stunk. That was as bad of a period as I’ve seen the Penguins play. But check this out.
In the second period alone this season, the Penguins have a allowed 25 fewer scoring chances than they’ve generated. That’s the fourth-worst ratio in the NHL. The 141 they’ve allowed are the second most.
All from me for now. Dark Star Orchestra tonight at Stage AE. Can’t wait.
Be GRATEFUL to each other,