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April 26, 2014
by Josh Yohe


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Yohe: The truth about Crosby and leadership

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Good afternoon,

 

During the past 72 hours, I have literally received dozens of emails and Tweets about one specific topic: Sidney Crosby’s poor leadership skills.

It seems that, in this era, if you go four straight playoff games without scoring a goal – and going back to last postseason, it’s actually been nine straight for Crosby – you’re a poor leader.

Crosby does deserve a heavy dose of criticism regarding his recent play. There is no question about this. His leadership, however, isn’t really an issue. In fact, suggesting that Crosby is a poor leader is merely a lazy excuse for his recent play.

I’m one of few people who cover Crosby daily, so I think I’m pretty well equipped to analyze his leadership skills. Here’s what I see.

= Crosby is always one of the first players on the ice at practice, and is always one of the last players off the ice. His work ethic is rarely exceeded by fourth liners in practice, let alone star players. He consistently sets a good example. Many young players – Olli Maatta in particularly – have told me stories this season about Crosby taking them aside to make sure they understand the system and their respective roles in certain situations.

= Crosby isn’t especially vocal by nature. Neither was Mario Lemieux. And like Lemieux, Crosby isn’t a phony. He doesn’t run his mouth daily to the press or speak to teammates so regularly that it becomes a bore. However, a number of players have commented to me this season that Crosby has spoken up at appropriate times, more than in other seasons. Crosby, in response to a question from my colleague, Rob Rossi, while we were in Columbus, said he will speak when something needs to be said in regards to the Penguins’ troubles with the Blue Jackets.

= Crosby, unlike many of his teammates, has never backed down from dealing with the media following difficult losses. A handful of Penguins typically speak following losses. Only a handful. Crosby is always in that handful. Yes, he’s the captain, but trust me when I tell you that all captains don’t speak after games. Or even before games. Crosby never backs down from the heat.

= It is commonly believed that true “leaders” in hockey score big goals in big games. I don’t really buy this theory, but in case you do, let’s look at this objectively. Who scored the gold medal game-winning goal in Vancouver? Who scored on a breakaway in the gold medal game-winning goal in Sochi? Who pumped life into the 2008 Stanley Cup Final against Detroit by scoring twice in his first home Stanley Cup Final game? Who scored the game-winner and set up another in Game 4 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final, the game that told the Penguins they were better than the Red Wings? The game-winner in a shootout in the first ever Winter Classic? Or, how about the opening goal in Game 7 in Washington in 2009?

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Yeah, almost all of those moments were five years ago.” This might be true. But the clutch gene – call it leadership if you must – doesn’t arrive in waves at age 21 and then suddenly disappear.

= Back in March, on during the trade deadline period, I was with the Penguins in San Jose. On the morning following the trades, most of the Penguins were on their way back to the team hotel. Word had spread that Lee Stempniak and Marcel Goc were mere minutes away from arriving at HP Pavilion. Most players, creatures of habit on game days, went about their business of leaving for the team hotel. Crosby, however, still needing to shower and head back to the hotel, waited patiently outside of the locker room until the new players arrived. He wanted to make sure they were immediately welcomed by the team’s captain upon arriving.

But, you know, Crosby hasn’t scored this series. So, he’s a bad leader. Right.

Here’s what I think … I think Crosby is dealing with confidence issues now. It’s rare for a 26-year-old, future Hall-of-Famer to stop believing in himself, but maybe we’re seeing some of that right now. And there might be a reason. Crosby has never been the same player since sustaining a life-altering concussion in 2011. You all know the story. Crosby is finally healthy again, but his style is a little different now. He’s still great, still the world’s finest player. No one is disputing that. But his game is a little different now, a little less reliable.

Crosby was once a bulldog who would charge to the net numerous times a game. We don’t see that so much anymore. He’s still great on the boards, but he hasn’t “Spezza’d” anyone in a while, has he? No, he hasn’t. He’s more of a perimeter player now. He prefers to stay at the top of the right circle on the power play now where, frankly, he isn’t as good as his natural habitat, down by the goal line. Why has he turned the puck over so much on the power play lately? Because playing that perimeter game doesn’t come as naturally to him, and because it’s more high-risk by nature.  He’s not terrible at this style of game, obviously. He easily won a scoring title playing this way. His reinvented game is still wonderful. But in the playoffs, pretty goals don’t really exist. Crosby the bulldog scored so many of his goals in those dirty areas, and while he doesn’t dodge the dirty areas, he doesn’t seem to dominate them the way he once did.

So, if you choose to be critical of Crosby the hockey player, go right ahead. It might be deserved. But criticizing his leadership skills is more ignorant than anything.

Jonathan Toews is a great leader because he scored that overtime goal against St. Louis last night, right? Well, how do you explain Toews scoring exactly one goal in Chicago’s first 20 postseason games last season? Does this mean Toews was being a bad leader last season? What if Detroit would have beaten the Blackhawks in overtime of Game 7 last season, with Toews finishing with one goal in 13 playoff games that spring? How would the hockey world have judged him then?

Crosby’s legacy is on the line beginning tonight. He’s a Hall of Fame lock, and clearly the best player of his generation. If he wants to someday be in a class with Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe, Jaromir Jagr, Rocket Richard – you know, the best players who ever lived – then he needs more championships, and need to start scoring against teams like the Columbus Blue Jackets. We all know this. Crosby knows this. Calling him out is completely fair.

But let’s call it like it is. This isn’t about leadership. In fact, leadership in sports is such of a stupid concept. It barely exists. Teams on the same page, teams with talent, teams willing to work hard, are the teams that usually win. Leadership? It’s just a made-up word, especially in hockey. Broadcasters always talk about “great leadership” after someone scores a goal. Really? Maybe great players just score goals sometimes, and the idea of leadership doesn’t really factor into the equation. Is blocking a shot a sign of leadership? Is sacrificing your stats for the betterment of the team a sign of leadership? That’s more like it, if you want to make an argument. But Crosby is paid to score and set up goals. And he’s not doing that right now, so he’s a bad leader?

Sorry, I don’t buy it. Rather, this is a great player who has temporarily and slightly – check out his number since December – lost his way. I suspect he will find his way, maybe even tonight. Great players always do. And if he does score tonight and lead the Penguins past the Blue Jackets, will that make him a great leader again?

-          Yohe

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April 26, 2014
by Rob Rossi


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Rossi: Crosby on pressure: “It’s there, let’s be honest.”

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The Penguins exposed an elephant on Saturday morning.

Hours from a feels-like-it pivotal home Game 5 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, veteran players acknowledged that pressure – the worst kind, as in that from the outside – has been internalized during Round 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

“It’s there, let’s be honest,” captain Sidney Crosby said.

“It’s something we’ve talked about,” winger James Neal said.

“Sometimes,” defenseman Rob Scuderi said, “I think we’re just held back by the fear of losing.”

A first-round series is tied, 2-2. Game 5 is at Consol Energy Center on Saturday night.

A season that began with external Cup-or-best expectations is down to a best-of-three series, and the favored club (the Penguins) is openly acknowledging, as Scuderi phrased it, “a burden of expectations.”

Words do not win playoff games.

Great players, can.

Crosby and fellow franchise co-center Evgeni Malkin can change everything with slump-busting performances in Game 5 and 6 or (if necessary) 7.

However, for a group of players that has rarely been known for its candidness – heck, that is why “Team Conscience” defenseman Brooks Orpik’s words resonate – the acknowledgement on Saturday morning that pressure is being felt, well, it felt significant.

This feels like more than just another home playoff game for the Penguins – especially for Crosby, Malkin, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and coach Dan Bylsma. Three first-round exits in four years will bring change, as defenseman Paul Martin noted Saturday.

This feels like a defining moment.

Maybe with the elephant out of their room, the Penguins will have some more space to breathe.

 

>> The best way to ease tension is often with a joke, so Bylsma opened with one before his media availability on Saturday morning.

“Brooks Orpik and David Backes skated earlier at an undisclosed location,” Bylsma said.

Orpik, who left practice early on Friday, did not take the morning-skate practice on Saturday. He is a game-time decision for Game 5.

Also, winger Brian Gibbons (upper body) did not practice. He skated before the session.

 

>> On Friday, as Chris Adamski reported, the Penguins vowed to give more: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5983659-74/penguins-bylsma-game#axzz2zlpPLkMm

 

>> Malkin knows he needs to score, writes Jason Mackey: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/6008020-74/malkin-game-goals#axzz2zlpPLkMm

 

>> The notes cover Marcel Goc’s impending return: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5983688-74/goc-puck-game

 

>> Contributor Craig Merz reports that Jack Johnson changed a lot for the Columbus franchise: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5983691-74/johnson-jackets-team#axzz2zlpPLkMm

 

>> Also, the #TribHKY info graphic is back. Have a look (designed by Melanie Wass):

PensPlayoff-042514

 

Be EXCELLENT to each other,

Rossi

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April 25, 2014
by Rob Rossi


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Rossi: Absurdity of agitation over Pens’ practices

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The Penguins are back at practice Friday.

They took off Thursday, and for some reason this was met with great negativity on the social media/talk show scene – even though the Penguins had played three games, two overtime ones, in five days; even though the labor contract mandates players get one day off each week; even though players were required to attend meetings and film-study sessions at Consol Energy Center.

The Penguins, like the Blue Jackets, did not practice – on the ice – Thursday, and this was some sort of sign of what is wrong with them in Round 1.

Here is what is wrong:

Marc-Andre Fleury went to play a puck behind his net, and it hopped badly over his stick blade.

If that does not happen, this series in 3-1 and the Penguins are looking to clinch at home Saturday night.

To be fair, the series could be 3-1 in favor of Columbus, too. It’s been that close through Games 1-4.

It’s also been wild – blown multiple-goal leads in Games 1-4 for the first time in NHL history – and wonderfully dramatic. Mostly, though, it’s been what I expected: tight, hard, and never really with the Penguins in danger of losing.

Yeah, they still haven’t trailed in terms of games.

Oh, and they would not have practiced had the won Game 4. That decision had been made the off-day between Games 3 and 4.

Schedules are released by the Penguins to start every month, before every playoff round. Those schedules identify reserved ice times. They are not set-in-stone plans.

Those schedules change a lot. Anyone that spends his or days around the Penguins has come to expect schedule changes.

Here is what really represents news when it comes to teams and practices: A scheduled day off being sacked in favor of practice.

Of course, since the sky above the Penguins is always falling, not practicing Thursday is absolutely a sign that everything is wrong with everyone everywhere.

Thank goodness there is practice Friday. That will change the hockey world.

 

>> Speaking of the hockey world, our local one has become pretty glum, as columnist Joe Starkey opines: http://triblive.com/sports/joestarkey/5983382-74/penguins-team-game#axzz2zlpPLkMm

 

>> Coach Dan Bylsma delivered a message Thursday. It was really just stating the obvious, but it was not wrong: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5983374-74/bylsma-game-fleury#axzz2zlpPLkMm

 

>> Captain Sidney Crosby is healthy, or is he? http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/6002635-74/crosby-penguins-game#axzz2zlpPLkMm

 

>> Josh Yohe’s #TribHKY Insider looks at Paul Martin’s big run to open the playoffs: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/6003027-74/penguins-martin-game#axzz2zlpPLkMm

 

>> Contributor Craig Merz writes that Brandon Dubinsky is having himself quite a Round 1 for Columbus: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5983384-74/dubinsky-game-blue#axzz2zlpPLkMm

 

>> Rachel Farkas on the Penguins’ soon-to-be practice facility: http://triblive.com/news/butler/6001840-74/facility-sports-upmc#axzz2zlpPLkMm

 

 

Be EXCELLENT to each other,

Rossi

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April 25, 2014
by Josh Yohe


12 comments so far - add yours!

Yohe: A look at Pens defensive options

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I see it every day. And I love it.

#freeborts

I, too, am a big Robert Bortuzzo fan. He has grown substantially as an NHL defenseman this season, and I have no doubt he will permanently reside in the top-six next season. Heck of a good guy, too.

But what about these playoffs? Should he be in the lineup?

Ideally, yes, you’d find room. The Penguins could use his snarl. But there is a problem.

Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik won’t be split by the coaching staff, so discussing such a possibility is pointless. (Not saying it shouldn’t be explored, but I don’t expect it will be. More on this later.)

The citizens badly want Rob Scuderi removed from the lineup. So, here are some possible looks.

 

Orpik-Martin

Maatta-Letang

Niskanen-Bortuzzo

 

I don’t like the above look. Niskanen and Bortuzzo have played together a little bit, but not in quite some time. Plus, this leaves Letang and Maatta – a talented but dangerous defensive pairing – as your likely second unit.

 

Orpik-Martin

Niskanen-Letang

Maatta-Bortuzzo

 

Everyone will go crazy for this pairing. And hey, I love Maatta and Bortuzzo together, too. They were terrific in October. But Letang and Niskanen absolutely do not work together. It was first attempted early in the 2013 regular season. Didn’t work. We’ve seen glimpses of it since, notably in the 2013 playoffs and in spurts this season. Doesn’t work.

 

Orpik-Martin

Maatta-Niskanen

Bortuzzo-Letang

 

I like the first two pairings. The third one? Not so much. Bortuzzo and Letang have never played together. You’d be asking one of them to play on the left side, something either has ever done in the NHL. Niskanen, a right-handed defenseman, is rarely because he likes playing on the left side. Most don’t.

 

OK, so let’s be frank. It might be time for the Penguins to try something crazy, especially if they lose Game 5 to the Blue Jackets.

Would they split Martin and Orpik? Like I said earlier, I can’t imagine they would.

But I’d suggest this: The Penguins aren’t winning the Stanley Cup – or coming remotely close to playing for it – if they don’t get the most out of Letang. They must have him play great hockey.

Who has Letang always played his best hockey with? That would be Brooks Orpik.

So, if you want Scuderi out of the lineup and Bortuzzo in, I only see one possibility.

Tell me what you think about this:

 

Orpik-Letang

Martin-Niskanen

Maatta-Bortuzzo

 

Now, this is kind of intriguing, no?

Letang and Orpik have a history, and it’s a good one. Martin and Niskanen have played a little together, and have been good together. Their styles and skill sets are very similar. They’re both from Minnesota, for God’s sake. They’re both playing exceptionally good hockey right now.

Maatta and Bortuzzo? It’s an extremely young pairing, but they were great together earlier this season. Plus, you could really limit their minutes and ride the top four.

It’s just a thought.

Realistically, the Letang/Scuderi pairing has been something of a disaster. I’m not suggesting Scuderi should be removed from the lineup, but the Penguins do have some options here.

They better pick the correct option quickly.

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April 24, 2014
by Rob Rossi


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Rossi: Can Pens still count on their big advantages?

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – Nobody seemed rattled.

If nothing else, that was probably a positive for the Penguins as of late Wednesday night. They had blown a 3-0 lead, surrendered a goal with 24 seconds remaining, and lost in overtime for a second time in the series – but, from the dressing room, there was a sense of relative calm.

They have, most of these players ad coaches, been here before.

It was a year ago, actually.

The Penguins appeared in firm control of a first-round playoff series against the New York Islanders when, as the Columbus Blue Jackets have now, Game 4 slipped away to turn a best-of-seven into a best-of-three.

Then, as will be the case Saturday night, Game 5 was at Consol Energy Center, the fan base – at least based off the imperfect measure of social media – was mostly nervous. (A difference is that – again, based on social media – the fan base seems angry now; not necessarily for the right reasons, but…)

The Penguins’ performance in Game 5 against the Islanders last season was not perfect, but it was probably their closest to perfection of that postseason. They stayed composed, received a boost from a new addition to the lineup in the form of winger Tyler Kennedy’s goal and blanked the Islanders.

Something happened to the inexperienced Islanders once Round 1 became a best-of-three last postseason. The narrative went from “maybe they can pull an upset” to “they can actually do it.”

The Islanders didn’t handle that change well, either.

The Penguins ultimately exposed the Islanders’ lack of experience – and shaky goaltending – to advance last postseason. They did so by a slim margin and without looking dominant, but they did do that.

The Blue Jackets still lack experience, though not confidence. However, their goaltending might not be all that less shaky than the Islanders was a year ago. Sergei Bobrovsky has needed to make only 14 third-period saves in two Columbus’ victories. When tested, he has mostly been C-grade level.

If experience matters in the playoffs, that should prove the case in favor of the Penguins over the next three games.

Of course, maybe at this point this series is not about experience?

 

>> The Game 4 loss is not on Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Coach Dan Bylsma made that clear, and he was spot on. Still, now the series is about Crosby and Malkin. The two best players in the world should be expected to make a big impact with probably nothing less than the future of their coaches and some teammates on the line. THE GAMER: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/pensgalleries/5983091-74/game-penguins-goal#axzz2zlpPLkMm

 

>> As a counter to the Crosby/Malkin narrative, Josh Yohe offered this observation:

The Penguins are averaging 3.50 goals in this series, more than their 2.95 from the regular season. Of course, they are also allowing an average of 3.50 in this series, more than their 2.49 from the regular season – and 0.74 more goals-for than Columbus had averaged in the regular season (2.76).

Goal prevention is the game this time of season. It’s just not one the Penguins are playing.

Also, Yohe reported on Game 4’s TURNING POINT: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5983319-74/penguins-period-penalty#axzz2zlpPLkMm

 

>> Contributor Justin Boggs, who proved himself a deadline-writing wizard, was there to hear Nick Foligno insist he called his shot before OT. The story from BEHIND ENEMY LINES: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5983292-74/foligno-jackets-overtime#axzz2zlpPLkMm

 

>> Marcel Goc may call it a comeback. He could help in that goal prevention problem. NOTES n’AT: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5983292-74/foligno-jackets-overtime#axzz2zlpPLkMm

 

>> Unlike the Twiturkeys, columnist Dejan Kovacevic took a deep breath after Game 4 and opined that maybe Marc-Andre Fleury had earned a mulligan based on how all bout a couple of incidents have game. Fleury is probably the reason the series is tied instead of 3-1 in favor of the Blue Jackets. Uh, yeah, you read that right. It’s true. The Game 4 COMMENTARY: http://triblive.com/sports/dejankovacevic/dejancolumns/5983293-74/fleury-penguins-game#axzz2zlpPLkMm

 

The Penguins, as planned, sacked practice for Thursday. They’re being beat up in this series, but clearly the coaching staff is crazy for taking a big-picture approach. Chris Adamski and Jason Mackey will have your updates from Bylsma’s media availability at Consol Energy Center.

 

Tickets remain available for Game 5.

 

Tea is brewing folks. Believe that.

 

Be EXCELLENT to each other,

Rossi

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April 22, 2014
by Rob Rossi


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Marshall: Metrics point to Crosby busting goal slump

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Note from Rossi: Jesse Marshall, a local hockey blogger, has agreed to share his unique brand of analytical insight on this blog. His contributions will appear on an as-we-think-of-it basis. Enjoy.

 

>> Waiting on The Captain

The Columbus Blue Jackets have managed to keep Penguins captain Sidney Crosby without a goal in Round 1. That’s an impressive feat at face value.

It’s even more impressive when you dive into the possession numbers for Crosby through the first three games of this series.

As a primer to our discussion, let’s remember the value of Corsi percentages in hockey. Since the NHL doesn’t keep time on ice statistics, our goal here is to evaluate who has the puck and who is generating offense at even-strength. Corsi tracks all shooting attempts when a given player is on the ice, that includes saves, deflected shots, blocked shots, etc. It’s a general barometer of which way the ice is tilted in a given match-up.

Through three games against the Blue Jackets, Crosby has a Corsi-For percentage of 61.1 – meaning that 61.1 percent of all shooting attempts at even-strength are shots launched at the Columbus net.

That number is boosted by an absolutely dominant Game 3 performance. Crosby boasted a Corsi-For percentage of 76.2. He was on the ice for 16 attempts towards the Columbus net at even-strength and only 5 attempts launched at Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

These are gaudy numbers by advanced metrics.

The Penguins need Crosby to score goals, and the law of averages alone tells us that if this disparity keeps up, Crosby is going to find his goal groove in a major way. When the best player in the game is getting 76.2 percent of all shooting attempts in a given game, the floodgates might hold for a while – but it’s only a matter of time before they burst.

However, if the Penguins feel like they need to kick-start Crosby at even-strength, the coaching staff might want to consider throwing defensemen Matt Niskanen and Olli Maatta out with him.

Crosby was a 53-percent Corsi-For performer during the regular season, but his possession based metrics and goal-scoring metrics were at their best when he was paired with Niskanen.

Niskanen and Crosby spent 434 minutes together at even-strength – the highest number of minutes played with Crosby by a defender other than Brooks Orpik. The numbers paint a picture of success.

Crosby’s Corsi-For percentage with Niskanen rose to 58 percent at the end of the regular season. In addition, Crosby scored more goals per 20 minutes of even-strength ice time with Niskanen (1.47) and allowed fewer goals against per 20 minutes of even-strength ice time as well (0.50). When all was said and done, 74 percent of all the goals scored when Crosby and Niskanen were on the ice were goals scored by the Penguins.

Whatever the case may be, the advanced metrics of this series tell us not to worry too much about Crosby. If the ice stays tilted the way it has in favor of the Penguins, the road to making this a best-of-three might get a bit longer for Columbus.

 

Jesse Marshall is co-founder of Faceoff-Factor, a site that breaks down the Penguins by using nontraditional methods such as the study of advanced statistics. Read his work at www.faceoff-factor.com. Follow him on Twitter @jmarshfof

 

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April 21, 2014
by Rob Rossi


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Rossi: From Columbus, changes come to Pens-Jackets

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – Change is coming to Round 1.

As the Penguins-Blue Jackets series shifts to Ohio’s capital city, and the lineups will be different.

For the host Blue Jackets, winger Nick Foligno will make his series debut. Also, defenseman Fedor Tyutin will not play on Monday night. Dalton Prout appears set to replace Tyutin in the lineup.

Blue Jackets coached Todd Richards said before Game 3 that he is “not concerned” with Prout’s insertion into the lineup, noting Prout was a top-four defenseman for Columbus last season.

As for the Penguins, the fourth line consisted of center Joe Vitale with wingers Jayson Megna and Craig Adams. Winger Brian Gibbons (injured) was not part of the mix.

Winger James Neal did not work with the top power-play unit. That consisted of centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin up front with winger Chris Kunitz. Manning the points were defensemen Paul Martin and Matt Niskanen.

 

Have a look at the Trib’s coverage from Monday:

 

>> Josh Yohe reports that Marc-Andre Fleury has started strong for the Penguins (though, certainly he will be tested Monday): http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5947922-74/fleury-penguins-blue#axzz2zLQahD5i

 

>> Columnist Dejan Kovacevic calls for The Mega-Powers to finally Hulk up and bring the Madness: http://triblive.com/sports/dejankovacevic/dejancolumns/5947869-74/crosby-games-game#axzz2zLQahD5i

 

>> The Playoff Insider examines how a lack of cohesiveness has harmed the Penguins’ top six: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5948382-74/penguins-defensemen-zone#axzz2zLQahD5i

 

>> Contributor Craig Merz on the excitement in Ohio’s NHL city: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5979248-74/game-blue-jackets#axzz2zLQahD5i

 

>> Outdated a bit now, but some off-day notes: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5947945-74/game-penguins-center#axzz2zLQahD5i

 

>> Finally, this wonderful piece by Jason Mackey on the state of Columbus hockey – a must read for fans of the sport: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5947067-74/hockey-blue-jackets#axzz2zLQahD5i

 

 

Be EXCELLENT to each other,

Rossi

 

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April 20, 2014
by Rob Rossi


2 comments so far - add yours!

Rossi: Pens look willing to give it away now

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Sidney Crosby has been credited with six giveaways in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Columbus Blue Jackets have five.

Think about that.

A lot is being made about the hit difference between these teams. Columbus has 99 hits to the Penguins’ 55.

Full disclosure: NHL real-time stats such as hits and blocks and giveaways – well, let’s just go with there being no consistency. What constitutes a hit in Pittsburgh is not necessarily the same definition of one in Columbus, Philadelphia or Montreal.

Still, the number that will generate a lot of talk between Easter Sunday and Game 3 is the Blue Jacket’s plus-44 advantage in hits.

Clearly, they have prioritized physicality.

Clearly, too, it is working in one way. The Penguins are turning over the puck way too often.

They have seemingly had more turnovers than the 23 giveaways for which they are credited. Crosby surely has more than the six on his ledger.

Still, whatever measured a giveaway in Games 1 and 2, Columbus ended up with 17 fewer than the Penguins.

Maybe the Blue Jackets cannot win this series, though that seems unfair to suggest given how they conceivably could have a 2-0 lead.

However, the Penguins surely can give it to them – and so far, they have tried.

 

 

>> Check out the quote in this Game 2 recap from Columbus coach Todd Richards regarding the Crosby matchup: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/pensgalleries/5947865-74/penguins-jackets-blue#axzz2zLQahD5i

 

>> Jason Mackey captures the scene surrounding Columbus’ first playoff victory: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5947889-74/game-columbus-calvert#axzz2zLQahD5i

 

>> Also from Mackey, the burgeoning Interstate Rivalry is on: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5955995-74/penguins-playoff-columbus#axzz2zLQahD5i

 

>> Chris Adamski with assorted notes from Game 2: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5947886-74/power-bylsma-game#axzz2zLQahD5i

 

>> Adamski on Brian Gibbons up-then-down Game 2: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5976745-74/gibbons-penguins-game#axzz2zLQahD5i

 

>> Adamski on the sequence that swung Game 2: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5947878-74/penguins-calvert-goal#axzz2zLQahD5i

 

>> Columnist Joe Starkey on the something foul in the air for the Penguins: http://triblive.com/sports/joestarkey/5947875-74/penguins-power-columbus#axzz2zLQahD5i

Happy Easter.

As always, spare a thought for our troops as you spend time with your loved ones. Thanks to those men and women.

Be EXCELLENT to each other,

Rossi

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April 19, 2014
by Rob Rossi


2 comments so far - add yours!

Rossi: Pens look for rare home-ice hold

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Numbers do lie. That is one of the first things a journalist learns. Numbers can be manipulated, at least the presentation of them, to fit any narrative. This is probably worth keeping in mind as the Stanley Cup playoff progress, especially when it comes to Games 2 and 5 for a best-of-seven series. Usually, the winners of those games take the series.

The Penguins lost Games 2 and 5 at Detroit in 2009 and still won the Stanley Cup.

Trends exist to be gone against.

Consider the Penguins, who once dominated on home ice in the playoffs – especially early in series. From 2008-09, they went 15-1 in the first two series games played in Pittsburgh. Their lone loss came in their only series defeat. They dropped Game 4 at Mellon Arena against Detroit in 2008. The Red Wings took a 3-1 series lead, and that was basically that regarding the Cup.

Mostly, though, during the Cup Final runs, the Penguins either essentially ended a series by going up, 2-0, or – as was the case against Washington and Detroit in 2009 – evened the series by sweeping Games 3 and 4 at home.

The Penguins are playing their eighth series since last winning the Cup. They are trying to win the opening games at home for only the second time.

Taking firm control and making home ice a true advantage – that is before the Penguins for Game 2 against Columbus on Saturday night.

Now, to get you ready for the action…

 

>> Josh Yohe reports that some Cup veterans are again calling for improved discipline from the Penguins: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5947674-74/penguins-orpik-game#axzz2zLQahD5i

 

>> Jason Mackey spied an all-time Penguins great in the dressing room on Friday: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5947681-74/bennett-game-stempniak#axzz2zLQahD5i

 

>> Contributor Craig Merz, from Columbus, on Sergei Bobrovsky’s rebound attempt: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5947683-74/bobrovsky-game-columbus#axzz2zLQahD5i

 

>> Kris Letang offered contrition, but coach Dan Bylsma wants more – as in a resurrection of his 2009 form: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5947679-74/letang-bylsma-game

 

>> The “Insider” looks at the Penguins’ power-play plan, which actually was not changed by Letang’s off Game 1: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5948380-74/power-penguins-letang#axzz2zLQahD5i

Puck drops around 7 p.m.

Be EXCELLENT to each other,

Rossi

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April 18, 2014
by Rob Rossi


3 comments so far - add yours!

Rossi: Does Bylsma change anything for Game 2?

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A happy Good Friday to the dear readers, one upon which the Penguins will return to practice in advance of Game 2 against Columbus. With two days between the opening contests, it will be interesting to see what – if any – changes the Penguins plan after a 4-3 victory in Game 1.

To get you ready before our afternoon updates, here are some links to the coverage led by Josh Yohe from Thursday’s off-day.

 

>> They know each other well, these two head coaches: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5947081-74/richards-bylsma-coach#axzz2zF3t2IJm

 

>> Once a reason for success, the Penguins’ penalty kill is now often a reason for struggles. A “Playoff Insider” by Yohe: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5947073-74/penguins-penalty-killing#axzz2zF3t2IJm

 

>> Chris Adamski looks at speed, why it really does kill, and how it makes Brian Gibbons a factor: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5947075-74/speed-crosby-gibbons#axzz2zF3t2IJm

 

Also, paired with that piece in print, this Melanie Wass’ designed graphic on some stats from Game 1:

R1GM2stats-041914

 

>> From Columbus, contributor Craig Merz on the potential return for the Blue Jackets by Plum’s R. J. Umberger: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5965081-74/umberger-game-columbus#axzz2zF3t2IJm

 

 

Be EXCELLENT to each other,

Rossi

 

 

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