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Wakeup Call: Fix the Penguins edition

.

Brief and to the Point …

>> My Monday column examines whatever passes for the Penguins’ home-ice advantage.

>> After you read — and yes, that’s the toll — I’d welcome hearing your suggestions for ways to heal some of the stuff you’ve seen go wrong the past six games. Doesn’t have to be aimed at Dan Bylsma, either. Can be anyone or anything on the team, such as, say, Tyler Kennedy needs to hit the net with at least one of 10 shots attempted.

>> Peter Laviolette wasn’t the only coach or manager calling someone ‘gutless’ yesterday. Wait till you hear what usually reserved Jim Tracy had to say about Ubaldo Jimenez’s … well, gutless act.

>> Burning couches and destroying property over a collegiate athletic victory?

That once was West Virginia’s domain, but the Kentucky fans in Lexington blew that away early yesterday morning by causing rampant mayhem over a semifinal win.

Congratulations to one and all.

>> In other news, the Canucks are primed for another long playoff run.

>> Pedro Alvarez’s struggles have gotten plenty of attention this spring, but the opposite infield corner hasn’t fared much better. Alvarez will come north with a .163 spring average and 22 strikeouts. Garrett Jones will do so with a .232 average and 20 strikeouts.

This offense simply can’t afford that type of production at key spots for bats.

>> If you missed Rob Rossi’s extensive Sunday piece on the NHL burying its head on obstruction, I strongly recommend it, especially if you were less than delighted at all the hooking and holding by both teams yesterday.

>> Here was my appearance on KDKA-TV’s ‘Showdown’ last night, along with Ron Cook, Paul Alexander and host Bob Pompeani.

Comments

  1. deb says:

    I did read your article DK. As usual, it was well reasoned. I have been reviewing the Pens’ goals, and goals against. It is fairly alarming. Recent Trib articles about the team’s defense woes all seem to be couched in “Since Crosby’s Return” as if the team splintered at that moment and fine defensive work stopped. This blame the Sid adjustment has really been misleading and misdirecting fans. As best I can tell from the stats, the Pens are playing d with the same effectiveness as they were back in Nov and early Dec….

    Looking at the month to month goals against, the Pens are currently pretty much within expected performance (based on season long data), despite the sudden focus on fans and media that Pens are “not playing good defense.” The truth of the matter is, the Pens have ignored defense all year and played run and gun style all year.
    Goals Against Avg:
    Oct 2.076;
    Nov 2.833;
    Dec 2.714;
    Jan 2.666;
    Feb 2.615;
    Mar 2.8;

    What is misleading is the goal differential. The Pens have scored a touchdown or more against several of the ‘weaker’ teams, which has screwed the percentages of goals for/when comparing with teams that have beaten the Pens by 2 or more goals.

    The Pens in fact have the worst record of 5 on 5 goals against (other than Chicago) of any playoff team. The only teams lower are Toronto, Isles, Carolina, Columbus, Tampa bay.

    What has carried this team is Fleury has been lights out all season, the powerplay has worked, and the PK has been even better. In Dec was when the .2 drop in goals against occurred, and became the margin of victory. That was when Flower began to stand on his head, and Neal decided to begin scoring 17 powerplay goals.. (Neal and Kunitz NET PRESENCE has scored 23 ppgs).

    Recently Flower/Backups has looked ordinary and has not made the usual quota of miracle goalie stops/saves. Neal went into his late season funk, and the PK has been less effective in the past 10 games.

    I fear that just as the Caps couldn’t ‘switch on the defense gear’ during playoffs, as teams start hammering down for playoff hockey, the Pens run and gun will be exiting first round.

    I do agree with you, that Bylsma has coached this team with a onetrack mind at times that is perplexing. His repeat til you die approach didn’t get them past Tampa last year, and I don’t think it will get them past several of the better coached teams this year, especially the Blues or Detroit..if they should make it to the final.

    Give Flower some rest and try to ride him to the Cup. He has been the Pens’ MVP this year and stats bear this out.

    DK: Yes, except for those stats that bear out Evgeni Malkin being the NHL’s MVP.

    Just messing with you, Deb. (And everyone else who floats this.) Your statistical insight there is very strong and should change some misconceptions.

  2. PigLegs Robinson says:

    Those aren’t the only corners with no production. What about right field?
    If Nate McLouth is still sitting on the bench at this time next week, I’ll be depressed.
    At least in left field Alex Presley has continued to hit well.

    Also in fairness to Jones, he once again had the most rbi for the team in exhibition season (16), and this spring was second to Hague in homers with 4.

    To me though the best single stat that summarizes a hitter is total bases, and the leaders this spring were:

    1. Matt Hague – 42
    2. Andrew McCutchen – 29
    3. Alex Presley – 28
    4. Nate McLouth – 27
    4. Garrett Jones – 27

    DK: Spring stats for veteran players? Come on, Robbie, you’re better than that!

  3. Leah Backus says:

    There’s a really weird combination of flexibility and inflexibility going on. On the one hand, lines are changing so fast I can’t even keep track. On the other hand, Bylsma is absolutely insistent on continuing to use the five-forward power play experiment despite its obvious failure. Fleury is clearly tired (or something) and hasn’t been his normal, brilliant self. But honestly? I think the biggest problem is that Sid’s return, for better or worse, completely disrupted the chemistry this team had going for much of the latter part of the year. There’s nothing that could have been done about that, nothing that can be done about it now.

    For now, I’ll stick with what Brooks Orpik said after the game today. I’m reserving judgment on whether this game should be a cause for worry going into the playoffs. Ask me after Saturday and then I will decide.

  4. SD says:

    Great column DK – I agree with everything you said about the Pens. Here are a few other things I’ve been thinking about:

    -Position players on the PP according to their strengths. I’m not sure why Bylsma decided to put Sid on the point when he hadn’t played in 18 months and hadn’t played in that position since Juniors. Why not put him somewhere where he would excel? My PP would be Sully and Letang on point, Sid down low, Geno on the half wall and Neal as the floater down low. Sorry Kunitz, you get to be on the second unit.

    -Stop with the over passing. It seems they have forgotten how they got here – simple, north-south hockey. Dump and chase, cycle the puck, puck retrieval. All these fancy passes to nowhere are driving me nuts. If your jersey does not say Malkin or Crosby, don’t do it. And those two need to be more judicious with their passes – when they work they can make the highlight reel, but when they don’t it often results in a turnover.

    -TK needs to find the net and when he does, needs to find a different place than the crest of the goaltender.

    -I loved Sid doing some of his great work along the boards today and I’d love to see more of it. I think it’s been a matter of him becoming more comfortable so I think we will.

    -To my eyes, there seems to be a fair amount of standing around in front of Fleury. No one wants to clear out the opposition. Someone has to do that dirty work and give Fleury a bit of help now and then.

    -And lastly, I love Joe Vitale. What a little sparkplug he is.

  5. Leah Backus says:

    SD, oh, my god. You just reminded me of something that made me so mad today. What in the WORLD was #4 doing during that power play goal? You CANNOT allow Wayne Simmonds to stand close to the crease like that because he WILL score. I found a site a while back that makes a chart with dots showing where a player’s goals were scored from. 99% of Simmonds’ goals are scored from the perimeter of the crease. Someone needed to get in there and knock him back!

    Which reminds me of another observation I forgot. I’m very concerned about the lack of physical play (by pretty much everyone but Joe Vitale, that is). Philly was playing the second of back-to-back games. By the third period, they should have been worn out and ready to be beaten. But the Penguins never put on the requisite physical pressure they needed to. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s a solution to this, either, other than perhaps giving the 4th line a bit more ice time.

  6. Hello DK

    I agree with your points, solid insight I wanted to add a few others for debate:

    The Pens “D” is not built for playoff hockey, I blame the GM and the stubborn coach. They lack size and muscle. If Letang does not get a huge D-man to play with who has attitude, he will be on IR all the time. Paul Martin is a 5 million dollar train wreck and the other 5 miilion dollar man is not far behind him. Niskanen is Mr. Softy. Engelland is a tough bird who gets the most out of his talents and they have worn Orpik out. When is the last time you saw him really crush someone? In addition, they lack a shutdown pair of D-men. (No Gill and Scuderi) They need some Joe Vitale’s on D, that man puts a hurting on you.

    Fleury looks worn-out and you see it in the mental mistakes and lack of rebound control.

    Tyler Kennedy still continues to have problems getting his a shot on net, It’s embarrassing. I take Talbot all day over him.

    Crosby has to stop the whining and act like a Capt. He got away with murder yesterday. Getting knocked on his can was good for him. In my opinion, Joe Vitale is future Capt material.

    Bylsma is married to his system and adjustments are the weakest part of his coaching game. The TB series last year proved that.

    You need to get physical with the Pens, agitate them, no one does it better than Philly. I can’t see them beating Philly, Talbot will not allow it and his value will be magnified during the series. On the other hand, they should shutdown Malkin, Orpik, and Fleury until the playoffs. Who cares if they lose the rest of thier games, this team looks tired.

    Keep up the good work DK, much appreciated!

    Penguin Pat

    DK: Welcome aboard, Patrick.

  7. Curt says:

    If Matt Hague punched you in the face, you’d have a strong urge not to thank him.

    Mosquitoes refuse to bite Matt Hague purely out of respect for him.

    Chuck Norris wears Matt Hague pajamas.

    All joking aside, the spring stats speak for themselves.

    Free Matt Hague!

  8. Rob says:

    I’ll keep this simple since I don’t have much time to write a detailed critique. Don’t panic! This slump or lull, or the players reading too many headlines about how invincible they are, was inevitable once they clinched a playoff spot. What do they need to do? Keep it simple and get back to the basics. It is a tried and true formula which works in almost every walk of life. I also think this is a symptom of knowing the playoffs are around the corner and consciously or unconsciously playing not to get injured. Even if it only reduces the intensity 1%, it makes the difference between playing all-out.

    Bottom line get back to basics, simplify, simplify, simplify! Winning is contagious, so is losing.

  9. Lee says:

    You can’t go by Spring Stats, but……

    Put Hague at first and (gulp) Alvarez at 3b! McGahee and Jones are J-O-U-R-N-E-Y-M-E-N.

    Let’s see what the Hit Collector can do!!

    Let’s see if Alvarez is any good or a total (probably) bust.

    Foo

  10. montyb says:

    You know you have an intense rivalry when Craig Berube is acting as PEACE maker between the Pens/Flyers coaching staffs.

  11. Jandy says:

    Ahhhh.,.,.the Penguins. Just when you think they had it all together….BAM!
    My biggest gripe at this point is the PP. PLEASE slpit Geno and Sid on the PP. Leave Geno on the first unit. Put Letang at the point. Add Neal, Kunitz, and another of your choice. I think Joe Vitale would be a great choice, either here or on the second PP line.
    The second one should be Sid, Sully at Point, Staal, Cooke, and Dupuis. Asham should get some time here for the playoffs as well, he’s a proven playoff performer.
    That way, both are a threat to convert.

    Someone slap Bylsma upside the head. The constant line juggling has everyone dizzy, including the players themselves. This is ridiculous. Watch some tape, Dan, and SEE what you are causing! Sheesh!

    Let Beej start a few more games, The Flower needs to recharge his batteries.

    Most importantly, pay attention to DETAILS. Keep it simple. Puck protection must be paramount in the playoffs. We’re handing the opposing team goals on a silver platter. This has to stop.

  12. JMB says:

    With the brutal schedule in April and the possibility of a June trade-off, this Pirates’ team has the potential for another 100 loss season.

    I watched the MLB 30/30, and while it is the typical puff piece, the fact is that the only way the Pirates break the streak is if El Toro, Legend, and the Mighty Casey have monster seasons with Tabby & Elvis staying off the DL for their usual extended stretches.

  13. Milo Hamilton says:

    Make Brooks Orpik the captain. There, all fixed.

  14. Milo Hamilton says:

    Or should I have said Or-peck ?

  15. Jandy says:

    Milo, wish it were that simple lol. Even he isn’t up to his usual standards. I feel he is still feeling the effects of the surgery he had. Still, he’s one of the more responsible/physical defensemen.

  16. Jandy says:

    RE the Pirates, With the Hague’s bat so warm already, it baffles me that management continues to snubb him. But that’s just my humble opinion, and I admit I am still learning all the baseball politics.

  17. buckeyehba says:

    You can’t put Jones on the bench. He is presently the top RBI guy….nuff said.

  18. LuckyNKentucky says:

    Just two comments on a busy Monday.

    Free Matt Hague!

    Can Karstens pitch every day?

  19. mcpitt88 says:

    Jal? Any links sir?

  20. Stuart says:

    Stop the soft “touch”passes to team mates 20 feet away, with an opponent 10 feet away! In other words stop giving up the puck so easily. Also Sid has no business on the point, and neither does Geno. I’d put Letang and Niskanen on the points and Geno on the half wall, and Sid down low. Kunitz on the second PP with DuPuis and Jordy. Suly on the point on that unit with Orpik.

    On the Bucs, simply platoon Alvarez and McGeehee, as well as Hague and Jones. If any of those gets hot, let them play more than just the platoon. I would have Tabata leading off and Pressley batting second. Nate is strictly the 4th OF, playing only occasionally at each of the OF positions to give someone a rest. McGee and Alvarez need to bat cleanup when in the lineup. We have worried too much about taking the pressure OFF of Alvarez. Time to put it ON! As usual, we’ll go as far as the pitching.
    Stuart

  21. LuckyNKentucky says:

    JAL is travelling. No links today.

  22. tk says:

    Penguin Pat post#6, totally agree about Fluery. The man is tired, his legs don’t seem as fast with those kick saves/rebound control. I know this is a silly idea but, for the last 3 games of the season what if they play Fleury for just the first periods and then put BJ in to finish the games. Flower needs time off but you don’t want him to lose his timing and Johnson can get some playing time after his long absence.

  23. LuckyNKentucky says:

    As usual, hockey comments deferred to the AHL, not the American Hockey League, but Articulate Hockey Ladies, Jandy, Leah, Deb, Sheila, and gentlemen Milo, Groat and DK, but it seems to me, heading into the second season, there is some confusion and uneasiness rather than calm and organization that should take center stage now. JMHO.

  24. Aaron says:

    I was watching the game yesterda and found it odd that the NBC announcers were singing the praises of Scheen. They replayed him taking the shot at Crosby and lauded it by saying he is “big character guy” and “thats what you get with him, lots of character.” I’m not saying they were pro-philly, but doesn’t that come across as about low character as possible, them promoting a guy who skates up 10 seconds after the whistle and hits a guy in the back with his stick?

    Which brings me to my second point. No doubt I’m slighly biased toward the Pens, but what does Laviolette expect to happen? It seemed to me (trying to be unbiased) that after every whistle, there was a Flyer player skating up and taking a shot at the Penguins. What happened at the end of the game was just the Pens finally fighting back after 2 full games of liberties were taken by the Flyers.

  25. scapper says:

    Super column today. 100% agreement on every point.

    And if the Trib ever needs to send in one line (instead of entire columns) for a contest, you already have your winner, which might be the best line you’ve ever written:

    “The Flyers behaving boorishly is about as newsworthy as Cup-free summers on the other end of the commonwealth.”

    Beautiful.

  26. Jandy says:

    Lucky, you’ve got the feeling right, it’s chaos, and the bulk of the problem is on DB and his PP set-up and line juggling.. The balance is on the guys, they need to play defensive hockey. keep their cool.

    That said, how about some love for Dupuis, 14 game point streak (league high).
    Gotta love Duper =)

  27. Jandy says:

    Aaron, someone else noticed it besides me? lol.
    The friggin Flyers were constantly throwing pot shots AFTER the whistles. Our guys started dishing slashes and other stupid paybacks, and got called for it. Not smart hockey. You have problems with the after the whistle stuff? You do what Vitale did at the end of the game, only you do it the next shift. Play smart hockey otherwise, no stupid penalties.

    scapper, lol I just LOVE that line! Beautiful, DK, beautiful!

  28. Bizrow says:

    Anyone else hear Gorkys got traded to the Nats and Leroux got traded to the Red Sox?

  29. LuckyNKentucky says:

    Did they get anybody for either one, Biz?

  30. Milo Hamilton says:

    @Biz

    Haven’t seen anything on those trades. Doesn’t mean it’s not true.

  31. Bizrow says:

    Don’t know about Leroux, Gorkys was for cash or a PTBN.

    It was posted on you know, the other place, but I haven’t seen any confirmation anywhere.

    I trust the blogger though.

  32. Milo Hamilton says:

    There’s your spot on the 40 man.

  33. NMR says:

    re: Penguins

    No offense, you guys know I kid, but what do you think are the chances that Sidney Crosby and Dan Bylsma are freaking out as much as Jandy and Lucky?

    Sports, as in life, follow an ebb and flow. The best in any game manage the peaks and valleys.

    There may be chaos on the blogs, but I’d make a pretty solid bet that the waters in the locker room are much calmer.

  34. sidelinespensfan says:

    DK,

    Don’t know why this is so hard for Bylsma, it seems like the answers are just staring him in the face….

    1. Load up two lines. You have plenty of third and fourth liners, so showcase your skill on the top two lines. Leave the first line alone- Kunitz- Malkin- Neal, and put a feared second line together- Staal, Crosby, Dupuis (Cooke).

    2. TK as a healthy scratch. I’m sorry, but he just hasn’t earned his place. Hustle is one thing, but you need either size or skill to back it up, and TK has neither. My third line would be- Sullivan- Adams- Cooke (Dupuis), leaving the fourth unit as- Tangradi- Vitale- Asham.

    3. Hands are tied because of special teams, coach? Not any more with those lines. The first line is the top PP and the second line is the second PP, and Sullivan and Asham step in as second line wings after a penalty kill. Easy fix.

  35. Jandy says:

    NMR, I’m not freaking out…yet. But I am disgusted that the Pens (especially Malkin and Sid) allow the Flyers to get a rise out of them so easily. I’m not liking what I see defensively either. Freaking out. Nah…not yet =)

  36. LuckyNKentucky says:

    Hope you’re right NMR, but I’m not freaking out either. I care, but I don’t care. My Buckeyes gave away a Final 4 game the other night and it bothered me for about 30 seconds. Hockey doesn’t bother me, but the Steelers, I might be upset for maybe an hour. I live in Philippians 4:7 (peace of God). I’d never freak out over a sporting event I can’t control.

    Free the Hague!

  37. NMR says:

    I gotcha, Jandy. It’s just a pet peive of mine when people equate fan reaction to player reaction. When someone in the locker room like DK tells me there is chaos, then I’ll start to worry.

    As for getting under the Pens skin, don’t underestimate the difference between the regular season and post season. The Penguins are a veteran team. They know better than to fall for the usual Flyers tricks. If they beat them before with a younger team, they certainly can beat them again.

  38. Jandy says:

    Lucky, I freak out a bit when I’m upset that my Pens lose, but…then I get all irreverent again, throw out a few cuss words, then I move on. Mother Teresa indeed! ;)

  39. Jandy says:

    NMR, gotcha too. Right now, about the only thing that has me REALLY peeved is the PP. I hated it when DB started it and I’ve only grown to hate it more. It doesn’t work. Scrap it.

    As far as the locker room, these are grown men we’re talking about. Sure, some of them are in their early 20′s, but I have to say, they sure are more grown up than say, Peter Laviolette ;)

    When I mentioned Mario earlier, It’s not like I want him to go storming into the locker room to take over. That would be horrible. But maybe give a bit of a pep talk, preach defense first, and whisper in DB’s ear to change the PP.

    But I’m not the owner or the coach, so what do I know?

  40. NMR says:

    @Lucky – I think thats a reason I enjoy talking sports with you so much. You keep it in perspective.

    Just busting chops on a Monday morning.

    Jandy on the other hand is getting more animated with all of her increased sports knowledge. Save your sanity while you can!!

  41. Bizrow says:

    But you know what? I think we/I just got snookered, not a word anywhere of these two being dealt.

    Might have fallen for it hook, line and sinker ;-)

  42. aglebagel says:

    @Stuart-
    Can’t disagree more strongly with the idea that you platoon Pedro with McGehee at third. He is still a guy that you’re hoping will turn into a star, and he needs at bats against righties and lefties, whether that’s in the majors or minors.

  43. wally says:

    If I see one more drop pass I think I will throw up.

  44. Jandy says:

    NMR ~ lol, animated? Do you mean I’m being FEMALE? ;)

    Sanity? What’s that? I lost it a loooong time ago lol.

  45. Jandy says:

    @Wally, here’s a bag ;X

  46. NMR says:

    @Biz

    I’d be surprised if Gorkys went straight up for cash. He’s the perfect type of fringe prospect to package in a deal without much fear of backfiring.

    For more examples, see 3/4 of the Jason Bay deal.

  47. NMR says:

    @Jandy – if animated equates to femininity, you better size me up for my prom dress!

  48. Lee says:

    Milo…#30….That opens TWO spots on the 40!

    hmmmmmmmmmmm

  49. Lee says:

    One last minor deal, probably of no great significance.

    Pirates sign son of famous pitcher:

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&source=hp&a

    Day Late (not not dollar short) Foo

  50. Lee says:

    Biz #41…don’t we always get snookered.
    :)

  51. LuckyNKentucky says:

    NMR,

    Jandy is Mother Teresa. A humanitarian hockey expert!

    Biz,

    I hope you’re right. Those 2 guys need to go. Just hope they got something for them.

  52. Jandy says:

    NMR, ok, got my handy tape measure here! ;)

    lol you got me!

  53. Lee says:

    LuckyN…maybe we can get DK to confirm???

    Foo

  54. Lee says:

    Biz…I think this proves that nobody reads my posts.
    :)

  55. LuckyNKentucky says:

    Foo,

    DK is still asleep. He was up at 2:58 AM, so can’t depend on him for another couple hours.

  56. Milo Hamilton says:

    Melancholy Happy Trails to Jerry Lynch. RIP.

    http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/s_789431.html

  57. Lee says:

    #LNK…..that’s what coffee is for.

    didja read my link?

  58. Lee says:

    #56…Milo…amen

  59. Jandy says:

    Lee, the Google homee page?

  60. Milo Hamilton says:

    While we’re waiting for a resolution on The Gorkys & Leroux matter. Is Pete Campbell a putz or what ?

  61. Jandy says:

    Or what…

  62. Lee says:

    Jandy/Milo/LNK….sorry for the bad link above. Here’s the link to the father of our new pitcher.

    Also ‘links’ to the Gorkys/Leroux moves.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/01/sports/baseball/01finch.html

    April Foo

  63. Milo Hamilton says:

    The only thing worse than an April Fool’s joke on April Fool’s Day – is one on April 2nd.

  64. LuckyNKentucky says:

    Amen to that, Milo.

  65. Lee says:

    Milo/LNK…..no sense of humor on this blog….boo….hiss.

    You’re just mad coz you got tooken.

  66. Release??? Peace???

    How ’bout the gutwrenching that passes all understanding?!

    I still am extremely upset that Duke lost to Lehigh!!

    And——if sprung on me at the wrong time——my eyes still quickly tear up when confronted with the ending of a certain baseball game in 1992!!

  67. Jandy says:

    Lee ~ I actually loved the Sidd Finch “story”. Neverh heard of it before now.
    Tooken, love it LOL!

  68. Jandy says:

    Someone please pass G2M2S a tissue box and hurry!!!!

  69. Lee says:

    Jandy…I can still remember getting that issue in the mail and reading it….no internet back then, so it had time to take hold.

    Good memories!!

  70. LuckyNKentucky says:

    Good one, Groat. That one did sting for a while. Sid Bream spoke at our church a few years after “the game” and even got a picture of him with my sons. Told him we forgave him for that slide. He didn’t seem like he cared, but he was sympathetic.

  71. Lee says:

    LNK….got a signed Bream card (while still a Bucco) with a scripture on it. He always signed it that way.

  72. BenderHeel says:

    Re: Pirates: Platoon McGahee and Alvarez at 3B, and platoon Hague and Jones at 1B. Play both positions to the strengths of the batters and make sure that the best hitters actually are on the team (hint Hague hint). Yes, that’s a lot of players tied up for two positions, but otherwise you have a couple of possible black holes each and every game.

    Re: Pens: Bylsma needs to make the proper adjustments with his lines – whatever he thinks is the best – and stick to it over the last three games so that they lines can actually start to gel a bit.

    In addition to agreeing with DK that Staal would look good on a wing with Sid opposite of Sullivan, I’d also suggest Kennedy being on the 4th line with Asham and Adams (with Vitale moving up to third line with Dupuis and Cooke).

    Stop playing Crosby on the point. Please. I realize that that move made the decision on who to play on the power play easier, but c’mon.

    The Flyers crying about another team putting out their fourth line in a 3 goal game and then getting beaten up? Never thought I’d see that. But crying about a clean hit even though they took cheap shots moments earlier? Yup, that sounds like them.

    And please, please, please sit Fleury in one of these final three games to give him some rest and hopefully allow him to re-focus his game. Yes, the defense in front of him hasn’t been great, but he hasn’t been sharp lately. Fatigue or otherwise, he needs to rebound like we know he can for this team to have a chance at beating the Flyers.

    Finally, that BBQ place in Weirton better stop selling to the Flyers since Laviolette claims that that’s been their good luck charm since Consol was opened.

  73. LuckyNKentucky says:

    Foo,

    Bream remains one of the good guys. Can’t hate him for rippin’ our hearts out. Can’t blame that game for 20 years of futility, either, like blaming Jerry “Safe” Meals for the second-half woes last year. Team effort in both cases, from top to bottom.

  74. Sheila says:

    You can’t have it both ways, as the Capitals have found out year after year. Pen’s Fans have enjoyed the teams “firing line” all year, till suddenly they have realized that the team was so busy scoring at will against non-playoff teams (sound familiar Caps fans???), or teams having an ‘off night’ that the Pens team never learned how to win against strong, well coached, defensive minded opponents. Deb [#1} makes a good point above, when she says:

    "The Pens in fact have the worst record of 5 on 5 goals against (other than Chicago) of any playoff team. The only teams lower are Toronto, Isles, Carolina, Columbus, Tampa bay."

    I had not realized this, and looked it up this morning just to make sure. It's true. This is a really serious flaw.

    I think DK hit it on the head in his article when he said [paraphrasing] ‘Yikes, Philly is reallllly good and Pens may not be Stanley Cup favorite afterall.’

    That’s a hard realization after all the excitement about the scoring, to realize that the team hasn’t learned to play defense. (sound familiar Caps?)

    I also looked up the powerplay stats. The Pens powerplay has been REALLY EFFECTIVE with or without Sid. With or without Letang. It currently is rated 6th at 19.3%. Compare to Philly that is rated 5th at 20.o% Philly has given up 9 SHG; Pens 10. The highest rated PowerPlay in the NHL is only 22%. So again, the ‘split the powerplay talk’ is just another red herring.

    The powerplay isn’t the problem. It’s the lack of commitment to defense and it’s been a problem all year. Just check out the plus/minus stats of the team.

  75. Lee says:

    LNK # 73…agree with both povs

  76. LuckyNKentucky says:

    All 4 members of the AHL have checked in today. Must have been a good column.

  77. Jandy says:

    I’m definitely not as pessimistic as Sheila. These Pens DO know how to play defense, when they choose to do so. It’s that they haven’t wanted to do so for some time now.
    Also, I disagree on the PP argument. The Pens’ PP clicks, they score one or two more goals a game. That is a difference maker and will get them more wins. The PP certainly has struggled lately, and did so when Letang went down for the second time. In fact, the pretty much sucked the first couple months of the season. Bylsma needs to go back to the format that was successful when Letang came back from his concussion.

    @Lucky, I’m thinking you enjoy us AHL too much ;)

  78. LuckyNKentucky says:

    Jandy,

    You’re thinking right!

  79. Jandy says:

    Lucky ~ at least you’re honest. Like I said, Mrs. Lucky is very lucky indeed ;)

  80. LuckyNKentucky says:

    Jandy,

    Knowledgable ladies have great perspective and reason, with emotion. Men have reason, as Deb states DK had in post 1. But our reason is tempered by information, sometimes from a narrow view. Not so much emotion (except for NMR) Years of pastoral counselling have proven this to me, not Freud or some other ultra-brain. You ladies keep the comments coming. We all enjoy them and learn from them, even if some don’t readily admit it. (Groat should have a field day with this one).

  81. Jandy says:

    Lucky, you are a wise, dear soul. Emotion? Never looked at it that way before. I wil continue to wear it on my sleeve. =)

    Groat? Lucky just gave you an inch, come take the whole hockey rink ;)

  82. Black n Gold (not yellow) says:

    The Penguins need to quit experimenting with the lines, period. Malkin, Neal, Kunitz — Crosby, Dupuis, Sullivan — Staal, Cooke, Kennedy — Vitale, Adams, Park/Asham. Those seem to be the best forward line compositions.

    And the Defensemen need to hit. Nobody has second thoughts about challenging Michalek and Martin back there. With the exception of Letang, they need to stop coming into the offensive zone past the top of the ciricles. I’m SICK of seeing odd man rushes going the other way.

    Lastly, SHOOT THE PUCK! As good as this team is at creating offense, they could aveage 75 shots per game if they would just take their open shots and stop trying to be cute all of the time. Half of those odd man rushes seem to come on turnovers caused by the “Harlem Globetrotters” nonsense (as described during the Flyers game).

    I’m not even going to touch the Spring Training statistics. Anyone who thinks a Major League hitter live up to a spring BA of .500+ is lacking of brain function (e.g. Starling Marte).

    However, my team (obviously hypothetical) would have Matt Hague splitting time at first base with Garrett Jones and Pedro Alvarez splitting time at third base with Casey McGehee so that all four were put into the most comfortable hitting scenarios possible. And those would be exclusive roles (i.e. McGehee would not play first unless necessitated by injury).

    The bench, at any given time, would be McLouth, McGehee/Alvarez, Hague/Jones, Harrison, and McKenry. McLouth would be the primary outfield backup. Harrison would back up SS and 2B. Mckenry, obviously, would catch 55-60 games behind Barajas.

    Baseball players, having been one, are creatures of habit and comfort. You don’t see this playground coaching mentality on successful teams. Everyone has a role and fills that role. Maybe it’s old school but it works.

  83. jackdeloplane says:

    Every major sport has one commonality. They are copy cat leagues. Until the pens learn to deal with the “after the whistle” activities, keep their collective heads and win, teams will use that formula to try to beat us. The Flyers have done it twice the the past two weeks, and once we started to react and tried to counter with chippiness of our own, we lost focus and the game.

    Not sayin’ its easy….just sayin

    oh, and 91degrees and sunny today….Jandy

  84. Leah Backus says:

    LuckyNKentucky…Lady? **looks around** I don’t see any ladies over here. ;-)

  85. LuckyNKentucky says:

    Leah,

    I think that sounds better than “women” don’t you? I’m sure you’re all ladies.

  86. Leah Backus says:

    Oh, I’m a lady. Until I start jumping up and down yelling, “KILL HIM!! KILL HIM!!” when there’s a hockey fight.

  87. LuckyNKentucky says:

    That’s not unlady-like. Just normal for the AHL.

  88. Eric Bowser says:

    How to fix the Penguins…

    1) Stop turning the puck over at the offensive blue line, dump the puck and outwork your opponent. The Penguins won the Cup under Bylsma because they outworked teams by flying all over the ice to pressure the puck and then win the battles along the boards. The dump-ins are not happening or good enough to win the puck.

    2) Am I watching Ed Olczyk coaching behind the bench again or has Dan Bylsma tried to do too much to change his system in the last two weeks. This team is trying to do the stretch play as a breakout system way more than I ever remember under Bylsma. The forward-defense gap is too great and if the opposing team closes off the boards, our defensemen don’t have the skills to make those long passes over the pinching position. This is why we’re seeing so many turnovers at our defensive blue line.

    3) Notice a trend here, Bylsma again has the team throwing out a 5-forward power-play. Last time I noticed, Crosby’s best talent was down low in the corners and behind the net, he doesn’t have the shot or experience working at the left or right point. I am all for two power-play units but no one is willing to have that difficult conversation with Crosby and Malkin. As a manager, if you can’t find a solution that works with all involved then you make the hard decisions and do it. Everyone in a manager position do it in every walk of life but yet we see athletic coaches struggle time after time. This team lost in the first round the last two years and if they had anything remotely close to a decent power play, maybe they don’t lose in the first round against Tampa bay. If I’m Ray Shero and this team fails to get out of the first round again, then I’m firing Bylsma. The standard is the standard, I think I’ve heard that line a few times.

    4) Get the lines set, either put Crosby with Cooke and Kennedy or don’t, but whatever it is, stick to the lines and let these guys get some chemistry before the playoffs.
    Kunitz – Malkin – Neal – Martin – Michalek
    Cooke – Crosby – Dupuis – Orpik – Letang
    Sullivan – Staal – Kennedy – Niskanen – Engelland
    Asham – Vitale – Adams

  89. Tim says:

    Tough call on team MVP. Wouldn’t think so with the way Geno can make it look like he is on a totally different plane than the rest of the league, but if you look at it from the point of view of whom can the Pens least afford to lose, it would have to be Fleury. Tough week for him, more soft goals this week than I’ve seen all year, but he covers up big time for so many of their giveaways, and man, there have been A LOT of giveaways. Seriously, I can’t name three goalies I would want heading into the playoffs over Fleury. Not two. (Save percentage – save percentage. Really?) Letang is a close second. I hope Bylsma sticks with keeping Letang off the power play as long as he did taking Kunitz off of the Malkin line.

    Lastly, Geno is the man. Relax guys, take a deep breath. Play defense and in the words of the immortal Warren Zevon “HIT SOMEBODY.”

    DK: You don’t choose an MVP at any level based on the quality — or lack thereof — of an athlete’s backups. It’s not about the player you can least afford to lose. It’s about the best player, the one most valuable to the team.

  90. Tim says:

    Be that as it may, The question remains, “Who is most valuable?” Often times you have to look at the results not only when a player is playing, but also when a player is not playing. You have to, don’t you? Also, the award is called, “Most Valuable Player”, not “Most Best Player”. (eh, I think you get the point.) Could be splitting hairs here, but I find myself giving the Penguins a mulligan when Fleury isn’t starting.

    DK: Hart Trophy, by definition, goes to “player adjudged to be most valuable to his team.” If you like Geno for Hart, you like Geno for team MVP.

    My head will explode.

  91. bulaklak says:

    Magandang araw DK, it’s been awhile.

    No comment yet on the Pirates. I’d prefer to let things play out a bit and just try to enjoy some games.

    Pens: these sweet, highlight-reel behind-the-back, no-look passes are resulting in more turnovers than not, and teams are jumping all over them. The first 2 goals against the Flyers were straight off turnovers. Blech. No passess unless they can see where it’s going. Yeesh.

    Where oh where is the front-of-the net presence on defense? It’s occassional at best. Simmonds was camped out in front of Bulaklak (#29) when he scored his goal (which is where he scores almost his goals). Remove that individual please.

    Thanks for the great blog DK, be well and sayanara

 
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