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Dejan Kovacevic's Blog

Pittsburgh sports talk with the Trib columnist

Wakeup Call: Penguins’ double-disappearing act


Brief and to the Point …

>> It’s Joe Starkey’s column day, and he focuses on the Penguins’ power play, which is now 1 for Infinity dating back to the playoffs last spring.

Here is where to find all of our coverage for the day.

I’ll share a few of my own Game 1 observations right here, and I hope you do, too …

>> Let me start with after the game: Exactly four Penguins made themselves available to the media –Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury, Craig Adams and Tyler Kennedy and credit to them. It’s not easy speaking after a tough loss, especially so soon after it ends so abruptly. Good for them.

But within no more than a couple minutes of the time the room opened, it emptied out. Most players wouldn’t even pass through.

Personally, I couldn’t care less. I had a specific set of questions that I needed to ask the Flyers, so I went over there. But I can’t imagine anyone could take it as some great sign that the dominant majority of the roster bolted the place as if it were on fire … after a Game 1.

That room’s made of tougher stuff than this. More guys needed to stand up, to speak up. If Fleury could do it after that comeback, none of them had an excuse.

>> Yes, the Flyers scored one goal clearly offside, and the Brooks Orpik penalty was iffy, though not definitively bad. But anyone blaming this loss on officiating is a) ignoring that one of the Penguins’ goals was scored on a play that should have been icing and b) in total denial over what actually happened.

The Penguins’ system and mindset is predicated on being aggressive. They stopped being that after the first 15 minutes or so, then tacked on that third goal for the three-goal lead.

Not good enough.

This team must play in the other team’s zone.

>> Sure, Kris Letang failed to intercept the pass on Jakub Voracek’s winner. It looked terrible from up here, and it’ll look just as bad on the highlights. But Jordan Staal paid zero attention to Voracek coming in from behind, part of a long evening of the Penguins watching the puck rather than looking for orange sweaters.

>> Only thing I’ll say about the power play: It’s one thing to have Sidney Crosby on the point, it’s quite another to have someone else taking faceoffs in the attacking zone. That needs to change. Dan Bylsma complained that the power play had “too little zone time,” and he’s right. All the more reason to do your best to maintain possession once there.

>> You know what they say about how your best players have to be your best players?

Kennedy was the Penguins’ best player. Even beyond the goal, he skated relentlessly and — unlike so many of his fellow forwards — took the middle of the ice on the breakout when it was available.

>> I didn’t count formally, but it sure looked like James Neal took more shots from the Flyers than anyone. And he took them up high. Maybe they know something we don’t about whatever kept him out in the past week. Remember, the Penguins described it as “lower body” at the time.

>> A lot of players were lousy, but Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek were really lousy. Together or split up, it just doesn’t change much. But I’m well past thinking there’s a solution for the Penguins at this stage. Got to go with ‘em.

>> It’s time to ditch the whiteout, especially with Winnipeg back in the league. The Jets began doing it in 1987, well before Penn State or anyone else. The Penguins look as silly doing this as other NFL teams do in trying to create their own versions of the Terrible Towel.

>> Turning to Steelers, if you thought Mike Wallace was nuts for discussing Larry Fitzgerald money, just wait until he tries a holdout against the Rooneys. That won’t end well. Not for the player, anyway. And especially not with Jerricho Cotchery reupping for two years.

Without getting into all the technicals, Wallace has to put in a year in the NFL to qualify for unrestricted free agency. Holding out doesn’t get him a year. Holding out through part or all of training camp doesn’t help him have a good year.

He and agent Bus Cook will fold, and the Steelers know it.

>> Our weekly chat will be today at noon. Hope you can attend.

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