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Thursday Wakeup Call: Steelers ‘weren’t really together?’

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media columnist

Morning, lunatics …

>> The weekly chat will begin at noon, as always, though you can begin submitted entries as early as 6 a.m. Hope to have you aboard.

>> One subject certain to come up will be Antonio Brown’s ludicrous popoff on ESPN’s ‘SportsCenter’ yesterday about the Steelers not being ‘really together’ last season. He goes on to describe how the Ravens were more together and, thus, were better.

Anyone buying that?

I’ll save my thoughts for the chat, but here’s what Ike Taylor had to say on the topic during his weekly TribLIVE Radio show Tuesday.

>> There are many bad things to say about the Penguins’ lack of defense and discipline in the excruciating loss to the Flyers last night, and there aren’t enough bad things to say about that last goal on Tomas Vokoun.

But if I might pick one nit from the pile, does it ever occur to anyone that maybe Evgeni Malkin wouldn’t be so irritated by Sean Couturier if they weren’t on the ice together all the time during a home game in which the home coach has the line change?

Let’s not throw the backup out with the bath water.

A lot went wrong in that game, and that includes Dan Bylsma’s blatant refusal to match lines and to let Peter Laviolette essentially do as he pleases.

Here, just look at the official NHL scoresheet and zoom in on Philadelphia’s even-strength goals. Look who was on the ice for the Flyers and for the Penguins, and try to explain.

>> If the coaches kept Couturier off Malkin, maybe this wouldn’t be necessary …

>> Quite the exchange of quotes between Tanner Glass and Daniel Briere.

>> Columnist Joe Starkey carves up Jamie Dixon’s many problems.

>> Olympics in Pittsburgh? Hey, they asked.

>> Bob Nutting is ‘incredibly optimistic.’

>> Here’s a podcast of my TribLIVE Radio guest appearance yesterday discussing the Penguins’ goaltenders and Jason Grilli’s honesty.

Author: Dejan Kovacevic

Dejan Kovacevic, a lifelong Pittsburgher, is an award-winning sports columnist for Trib Total Media covering the Steelers, Penguins, Pirates, Pitt and more, including his fourth Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He also appears on WPXI-TV's 'Subway Final Word’ and hosts a weekly show on TribLIVE Radio. For 2011, he was named one of the top four columnists in the country -- highest circulation category -- by the AP Sports Editors. For 2012, he was named one of the top three columnists in the country by the National Headliners Awards. For 2013, he was named top columnist in the state by the Keystone Awards and second-place by the Pennsylvania AP Managing Editors.

233 Comments

  1. Because Dan Bylsma is a bad coach. Period. No accountability or adjustments. Same quotes after every game.

    And people are talking about him for US Olympic coach? I think we all saw again tonight an American coach that actually knows what he’s doing.

    • I won’t go as far as saying he’s a bad coach but he’s not a great one either and especially with this team, it seems he’s going nowhere but down. He’s the reason this team fails to adjust to opponents tactics against them game after game, month after month and now; season after season. He’s the reason why it’s status quo and deja vu and the team seems to be morphing into what looks like a bad cliche of itself. He’s also the reason they can’t seem to find a way to beat teams that by all accounts and by how they match up on paper, they should have more success with. The environment and mindset needs changed and by sticking to the same formula the has resulted in progressively worse play season after season, the coach must be held accountable. Hey, Lindy Ruff is available.

      People can blame the players all they want, but I fail to see how it can be a collective player malfunction that they can’t get over the hump against certain teams and I also can’t see how they all can play badly at the same time without the coaching being at the root of it all.

      That said, it doesn’t help matters when Crosby fails to shoot on two good scoring chances early on and decides to pass instead, getting the pass blocked. Outside of the few spectacular plays, I haven’t seen him or Malkin be the best player on the ice at any time yet this season. You’d think at some point one of them would got out and earn their paycheck…or at least finish on a perfect scoring opportunity. Oh and it also doesn’t help when Orpik scores the second Flyers goal and for the entire game, turns into the Orpik that once best served this team as a winger.

  2. I must say, I just did as asked and I get this:

    1st Goal: Couturier line vs Vitale line
    2nd Goal: Briere/Schenn/Simmonds vs Crosby line
    3rd Goal: Giroux line vs Crosby line
    4th Goal: Simmonds/Giroux/Talbot vs Crosby/Malkin/Neal
    5th Goal: Giroux line vs Crosby line

    So…the original complaint is about Couturier being on the ice vs Malkin a lot. It looks like the problem may be Sid vs Giroux. Not sure what from this data says anything about Couturier vs Malkin. I think Bylsma is OK with Crosby vs Giroux – perhaps he should rethink that part of the strategy.

    DK: No, Crosby-Giroux/Voracek was exactly what I wanted you to glean from that scoresheet. Malkin-Couturier was being cited solely of seeing their incidents during the game, notably the penalty.

    • Makes sense. One does wonder who the Sutter line was being used against tonight. Sutter vs Giroux is perhaps a matchup that should be pursued in the future.

      DK: Yes. Or any matchup, actually.

      • If Scotty Bowman was coach, we wouldn’t even be having a discussion about line matchups. He was the best. Bylsma’s stubborn refusal to adjust because he thinks it’s the other teams job to adjust to him and they’ll just play their game like they are in an oblivious bubble is maddening.

  3. I am ready to fire Disco Dan…. I know you may think this is an over reaction but I ask you what has he done to improve the team?

    I will give him credit he won a cup but I believe that MT had as much to do with the cup as Dan. MT instilled Dfence so much so that it was is down fall. Dan came in and took the hand cuffs off but the team still had that Dfence back checking mental approach.

    Since the cup Dan’s system hasn’t worked come play off time and has not had success against the flyers.

    This team talks about not falling into the flyers game, yet every game is a like ping pong up and down match. The Pens fall right into it and are baited into penalties. They talk a good talk but never come through.

    Danny B has been out coached in every game by Laviolette.Its insanity if you have the last line change that you don’t try to mix and match lines to get Malkin away from Couturier.

    I guess what concerns me the most is he doesn’t know how to get the most out of Malking and Crosby as neither of them are able to thrive at the same time.

    • It’s not an over reaction, the end results speak for themselves. Those who blindly want no change based on a result over 3 years old that in many’s opinion, was mostly a product of someone else’s is what’s hard to comprehend. If you could print Bylsma’s success on a chart the line would look like a trip down Canton Avenue. If the Pens were a publicly held company, the stockholders would be selling like mad or demanding a change at the top.

      Speaking of someone else; Isn’t that person coaching a first place team right now…in his first season.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more Troy! Disco Dan is way overrated. He was definitely in the right place at the right time when he took over for MT. He got all the credit for what was essentially MT’s work. Bylsma has been lucky enough to have some regular season success over the past few years, but has failed miserably come playoff time! He has been schooled by coaches that have been smart/creative enough to break his “system”. He lacks the ability to course correct.

      The Pens lack consistency and discipline this year, the game last night made that painfully obvious! And regardless of what “The Great DK” wrote in his article yesterday, touting how well Paul Martin is playing and how smart “The Great Ray Shero” was for keeping him, PM is NOT a shutdown Dman! Keep him on the PP but, for the love of all things black and gold, take him off the top pairing and trade for a real shutdown Dman. Are you listening Ray? Otherwise, you and Disco Dan will be spending another looooong spring watching the rest of the more disciplined, better coached, teams that can play defense battle for the Stanley Cup!

  4. Bob Nutting blows smoke again…

    Some off-season fussing within the Steelers we don’t always have (or, at least, hear about), but I’m not overly concerned. Yes, Woodley needs to perform better, and so does Antonio Brown (rather than doing laundry in public). But winning football will pretty much take care of it all. Gene Collier and Ed Bouchette once were playing up a supposed ‘rift’ between Ben and Hines. The rift was news to the two, themselves.

  5. Hoka Hey everyone!

    I am THRILLED that Bob Nutting is “incredibly optimistic” …. ;-)

    repeat …
    rethread for 2014 spring training speech ….
    repeat …

  6. Do you think maybe Sid insists on going head to head with Giroux?

  7. The link to Antonio Brown’s popoff doesn’t work for me.

    But it seems to me that too many Steelers are too friendly with and too envious of the Ravens

  8. DK,
    I clicked on the link and listened to your discussion yesterday with Steigerwald regarding Grilli and how the Pirates felt at the deadline last year. It may all be true but it didn’t sway my opinion of them in the situation.

    You say that the players saw the coaches and their teammates working hard and putting everything into it (pitching on no days rest, sliding head first into someone’s leg, giving everything they had). Well that is what they are supposed to do!! No tears of pity from me.

    The players went from 16 games over .500 to 4 games under .500. So for me, the players don’t haven’t earned the right to bitch & moan about the FO or what deals they want made or weren’t made.

  9. After seven decades of losing, Nutting and the Pirates are polarizing figures in Pittsburgh.

    I expect that Pittsburghers, actual or long-distance adopters, will read Nutting’s comments according to their prior opinions of the owner. After all that has been written, said and witnessed, how can we not?

    - “why does he mostly say the same stuff (he does) year after year as we have our hearts broken and sphincters knotted?”

    - “did he just put more pressure on the management group? Optimistic? Front-loaded? Push the chips in early this year? Does that mean bad things happen to the management team if their chips don’t hit and they’re 10 games back in late May?”

    - “please stop talking about championships. It is either stupidity or lies. Incompetent or just covering a drive for profit”

    - “finally got the 82-win thing about right. Not a goal but a reason to celebrate.”

    I can understand each of these opposite perceptions. I really can.

    That’s what happens after seventy years of losing.

  10. I had an Olympic Burger once when I was in LA.

    Tasted good but it was too big.

  11. Dan Bylsma is either arrogant, misguided, a poor strategists, or some of all the above. One thing he is NOT, and that is a coach who is going to win anything. The 09 Stanley Cup was as much MT, as Bylsma.

    Just watch Mike Babcock. He has a game plan for heaven sakes, where he deploys his team to achieve a shut down of an opposing player, or achieve advantage. Dan seems to think if he does the same thing over and over eventually he will win. HELLO!!!!

    • I’ll agree Bylsma needs to do some in-game adjusting. We’ve all been saying that. But how many years will it take these players to learn not to play right into the hands of the Flyers friggin goons? I mean, c’mon. A little discipline goes a long way.

  12. The goal every year in sports should always be win more than you lose.

    It’s why they keep score.

    • Uh huh, and they also say it’s not if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game. The Pens problem is they win more than they lose, except they play the game wrong and it always catches up to them in the end. But that’s’ ok folks, keep watching the score board and I’ll see you here in May when you’re all asking what went wrong and then want the coach fired two years after it should have been done.

      If the Pens would have played better last night and still lost, I would have felt much better about this team and it’s future than if they somehow even managed to win.

  13. I don’t think it’s something any rational city should look at as an economic opportunity,” Zimbalist said.

    Read more: http://triblive.com/news/adminpage/3520415-74/pittsburgh-olympics-games#ixzz2LXBBf5ob
    Follow us: @triblive on Twitter | triblive on Facebook
    Well put – Olympics are an economic black hole !

  14. Pens lost a tough one and fell into the Flyers trap (again).
    Steelers seem to be in a bit of disarray but the big news in Pgh is
    Nutting plans to tell the players “he expects them to win a championship”. he also said “There’s a lot of talent out there playing baseball,” Nutting said. “It doesn’t look at all like it did three years ago”

    What a bunch of spring training bunch of bologna.

    Then he goes on to warn us not to look for big time trade deadline additions…..

    If you buy a ticket you are part of the problem

  15. JAL’s When You Wish Upon a Star Morning Links

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aafpos35u-s

    GENERAL DAILY UPDATED BASEBALL SITES

    1- MLB Transactions

    http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/transactions

    2-MLB Trade Rumors-Pirates

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/pittsburgh_pirates/

    3 Go Buccos- Pirate News (from external sources)

    http://gobuccos.com/pittsburgh-pirate-news/

    4 Pittsburgh Pirates 2013 Spring Training Tracker

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/st2013

    BLOGS and such

    5—Pirates Prospects

    Contract Notes For Inge And Sanchez

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/02/contracts-notes-for-inge-and-sanchez.html

    Pirates Name Burnett Opening Day Starter

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/02/pirates-name-burnett-opening-day-starter.html

    6 Bucs Dugout

    Pirates name A.J. Burnett Opening Day starter, kicking off elaborate April Fool’s Day prank

    http://www.bucsdugout.com/2013/2/20/4009792/pirates-name-a-j-burnett-opening-day-starter-kicking-off-elaborate

    Jason Grilli blames ‘bloggers’ for taking remarks out of context

    http://www.bucsdugout.com/2013/2/20/4009562/jason-grilli-blames-bloggers-for-taking-remarks-out-of-context

    7 This Is Getting old

    Pirates Name A.J. Burnett Opening Day Starter

    http://thisisgettingold.net/2013/02/20/pirates-name-a-j-burnett-opening-day-starter/

    8 WHYGAVS

    The Pirates need Starling Marte to make the leap

    http://www.whygavs.com/pittsburgh-pirates/february-2013/the-pirates-need-starling-marte-to-make-the-leap.html

    9 Rumbunter

    A.J. Burnett Named Pittsburgh Pirates Opening Day Starter, List Immediately Improves

    http://rumbunter.com/2013/02/20/a-j-burnett-named-pittsburgh-pirates-opening-day-starter-list-immediately-improves/

    10 Green Weenie

    Pitching Notes

    http://oldbucs.blogspot.com/2013/02/pitching-notes.html

  16. NEWSPAPERS and MAGAZINES and Other Media

    11 Bradenton Herald

    Pittsburgh Pirates, Bradenton unveil the ‘new’ McKechnie Field

    http://www.bradenton.com/2013/02/20/4401562/pittsburgh-pirates-bradenton-unveil.html

    Spring training | Bradenton’s Mike LaValliere returns to Pittsburgh Pirates, helps out with catchers

    http://www.bradenton.com/2013/02/21/4402536/spring-training-bradentons-lavalliere.html

    12 Bleacher Report

    Pittsburgh Pirates Are Right to Attempt to Balance Present, Future Priorities

    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1536377-pittsburgh-pirates-are-right-to-attempt-to-balance-present-future-priorities

    13 Wall Street Journal

    Which MLB Team Won the Winter?

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324449104578314463726340052.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_sections_sports

    14 PBC Site

    Nutting excited about Pirates moving forward

    http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20130220&content_id=41825318&vkey=news_mlb&c_id=mlb

    15 Viva El Birdos

    The Fear

    http://www.vivaelbirdos.com/2013/2/20/4010146/the-fear

    16 ESPN Boston

    Morning report: Introducing Brock Holt

    http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/red-sox/post/_/id/24910/morning-report-introducing-brock-holt

    17 Onward State

    Top 10 Reasons Why Pittsburgh is Better Than Philadelphia

    http://onwardstate.com/2013/02/20/top-10-reasons-why-pittsburgh-is-better-than-philadelphia/

    18 Sweetspot

    Over/unders for all 30 teams

    http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/33203/overunders-for-all-30-teams

    SPORTS WEBSITES

    19 Baseball Prospectus

    The Socratic Approach to PECOTA

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=19673

    20 Fangraphs

    Torre Continues to Resist Changes on Home-Plate Collisions

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/torre-continues-to-resist-changes-on-home-plate-collisions/

  17. Steelers Blogs

    21 Behind the Steel Curtain

    Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau wants to “add some youth” at safety

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2013/2/20/4008246/steelers-2013-nfl-draft-safety-dick-lebeau-ryan-clark-comments-lamarr-woodley-conditioning

    Steelers Jonathan Dwyer says he didn’t ask to be pulled, he was told to take himself out

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2013/2/20/4008126/Steelers-nfl-free-agency-running-backs-jonathan-dwyer-wife-baby

    22 Steelers Depot

    -Antonio Brown Say Teammate Throwing Rocks at Lamarr Woodley Needs to Come Out

    http://www.steelersdepot.com/2013/02/steelers-antonio-brown-throwing-rock-lamarr-woodley-espn-first-take/

    Soccer(football)

    23 Daily Telegraph

    Fifa confirm that goal-line technology will be in place for the 2014 World Cup

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/competitions/world-cup-2014/9880096/Fifa-confirm-that-goal-line-technology-will-be-in-place-for-the-2014-World-Cup.html

    AC Milan 2 Barcelona 0: match report

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/competitions/champions-league/9883891/AC-Milan-2-Barcelona-0-match-report.html

    24 World Soccer Daily

    10 Stories You Need to Read 20th February 2013

    http://www.worldsoccer.com/247/world-soccer-daily-10-stories-you-need-to-read-20th-february-2013

    PENGUIN BLOGS and NHL Links

    25 Pensburgh

    Flyers down Pens 6-5 in crazy game

    http://www.pensburgh.com/2013/2/21/4012070/flyers-beat-pens-6-5-in-crazy-game

  18. On the bright side, Nutting volunteered “It’s important that I stand behind our management team and support them as long as they are our management team.” Sounds like less than a ringing endorsement.

  19. Living welll outside of Pittsburgh I only get to see the nationally televised Penguin games. Sutter looked pretty good to me last night. He seems to be a very well rounded player that won’t hurt you while on the ice. Maybe he should be on it more often. With some of you seeing all of their games I was wondering if he has played well all year and how you like him so far.

    • Sutter isn’t a flashy player. He’s defensive-minded, is responsible, and yes I like him as well.

      • I liked him ok except for that wiff at an open net last night. Still not as good as Staal and never will be. Even with his defensive qualities, I don’t think we’ll ever hear Sutter’s name being mentioned as a Selke candidate like we did with Staal. Sutter was a downgrade, accept it everyone.

        • We were lucky to get anyone for Staal. I’ll keep Sutter. :)

          • you are correct ma’am. Stahl had Shero backed into a corner, wasn’t going to resign here. To get that trade was amazing in itself under the circumstances.

          • There is nothing wrong with a dependable player in return. I don’t see how they could have kept Staal and Letang cap wise so I don’t mind that they got something for one of them. A team with Staal, Neal, Crosby, Malkin, Fleury and Letang just wasn’t possible money wise. Obviously one of these guys was just like arguable the best two players in the world. So he was the odd man out. Hopefully we never face him in the playoffs.

            • well said, Nate.

            • Not saying they could have kept Staal, just reminding everyone that going from Staal to Sutter is a downgrade and there is nothing that Sutter can do better, or as good as Staal. Which is said just to reinforce my opinion that this team – even with the addition of Vokoun – is from a player perspective, worse than last season’s team.

              • Exactly.

                For better or worse, Shero finds himself committed to giving more money to less players. Staal was a major casualty of that strategy.

                Without contributions from cheap, young players, the team is going to become less talented over team. No way around it.

              • That happens to teams all the time. The upside is that …so far…Crosby and Malkin are both healthy…so that is an improvement.

              • @Jandy

                To the extent the Penguins find themselves in?

                I don’t see it. At least not the ones winning the Cup. That’s pretty clear.

              • I dunno NMR, I don’t have time to check that in-depth. But I do know with the salary cap, and the expansions, the roster changes can be hard on a team. I still think with Crosby, Malkin, Neal, complimented by Kunitz, Dupuis, and the D led by Tanger, Brooksie and Martin….the main problem with this team is lack of discipline. DB’s unwillingness/inability to enforce this, and to make in-game adjustments is also a problem. Losing Staal and getting Sutter in his place is secondary.

              • I’m not a puckhead by any stretch, but I agree with you, Jandy. Hard to blame it on the personnel when the personnel are only being used one way. The lack of in-game adjustments isn’t new.

    • For all the gusto for Staal, he still hasn’t won a Selke or proved himself as a 1-2 center like he wants to be (yet). He’s only had 50 or more points 3 times. He’s very good defensively, but hardly immune to major mistakes. Yeah Sutter is a downgrade offensively, but Staal wasn’t scoring 50 goals and 80 points either. From what I’ve seen, Sutter has been just as good defensively- plus he’s still in his first truncated season here on a team not known for stellar defense. Playing with Tyler Kennedy does not help one’s Selke case.

      He wanted to leave, so for Shero to get a 1st rd. pick, a high D prospect and a solid player rather than nothing, I’d say he did OK. I’d take a Shero trade over a Neal the SEAL trade any day.

  20. Red Sox unofficially open spring-training today with your traditional double-header first game against Northeastern University second game against Boston College. It’s a 14 inning doubleheader they will use 14 relief pictures. Joel Hanrahan will pitch the first inning of the first game probably is “only start quote of his career.

  21. The steelers are looking to bring back Foote. I thought he was thinking about retirement.

    http://espn.go.com/blog/afcnorth/post/_/id/65694/wake-up-steelers-in-talks-with-foote

  22. While I understand everyone’s frustration with HCDB and his seeming inability to figure out how to coach against the Flyers, but I’m not so sure I’m ready to call for his head yet. It is hard for me to be down on a coach who has produced as much winning as he has. His record as Penguins coach is 167-85-25. This means the Penguins have gotten at least one point in 71% of the games that he has coached. That’s pretty big.

    Now I agree that he needs to figure out a way to adjust to teams like the Flyers, but part of that has to fall on the players too, and one player in particular. The Captain of the team needs to help the coach in getting players under control and he needs to set the example of how to stay under control. Last playoff series, Crosby was one of the biggest culprits in playing into the Flyers way of playing and this cannot be the case. Also, in HCDB’s defense, Fleury was not good last year in the playoffs and cost the Penguins at least 1, if not 2, games. You can only do so much as a coach when your players are not playing at the level you expect.

    I’m not going to go out and say that HCDB is a perfect coach and I agree that he needs to learn how to make adjustments, but I think we may be too quick to funnel all the blame on him.

    • For sure the guys need more descipline. Lack of that last night caused them a lot of trouble.

    • Ice,

      My main bugger with HCDB is this: since 2009 no Stanley Cup, no Stanley Cup final, no conference final, 1 semifinal, 2 quartefinal exits.

      Right now I’m not seeing an end to that trend no matter what the point total is.

      • I very much agree with this Brad, I’m just not ready to throw in the towel on him yet. There are certainly concerns with your above stats and if the Penguins see an early exit in the playoffs again this year, Dan needs to go, but you also have to keep in mind some of the other things going on in those playoff series. Last year, there was definitely some coaching and discipline issues, but again, I would emphasize that I believe a big portion of that falls on the team captain who lost it. Also, nothing HCDB could do about Fleury being just plain bad in a couple of games with a backup who was playing worse. The previous year, they had to play without Crosby because of injury. Again, something outside of the coach’s control.

        This isn’t to say that HCDB is off the hook. It is the coaches job to make adjustments in situations like those mentioned above, and we have seen that Bylsma sometimes struggles with those adjustments, I’m just not convinced yet that Bylsma is a bad coach.

        • Ice,

          I don’t really think he’s a bad coach- just a coach who can’t or refuses to tackle his weaknesses. He can’t get over the hump. The players are a big part of that also when they play like crap, but he’s gotta rein it in. And while he certainly deserves credit for the Cup, we can’t ignore what Therrien did that season and the skills and mentality (for better or worse) he instilled in the team.

    • Iceman,

      While regular season success is nice, championships are won come playoff time. I think way too many people are giving Disco Dan a free pass based on his regular season stats. As I have stated in my post above, Bylsma has a very difficult time being able to make in game adjustments. He has demonstrated that again and again. Not sure if he is in denial or just unable to come up with a plan “B” on short notice? Either way, I think we are starting to see the beginnings of a team that is starting to lose faith in Disco Dan’s system.

    • It’s interesting that people fault Bylsma for the playoff losses but never question the teams Shero gives him.

      I can only imagine this is because of two players, Crosby and Malkin. Otherwise, nothing about the Penguins teams over the last four years is that much better than the other elite level NHL teams.

      When you figure that those two players were out for the 2011 playoffs, Bylsma is 1 for 3 in producing championships. Hardly a record of failure in post-lockout NHL terms.

      • NMR,

        True it’s interesting, but he’s really 1 for 4. Also, he had/has guys like Staal (who most teams would be happy to have as a 1 or 2 center), Tyler I haven’t scored in 2 years Kennedy put up a 20 goal season in that time, D like Gonchar, Orpik, Letang, Martin, Michalek, James Neal, Bill Guerin and some very sound players like Cooke, Kunitz and Dupweee.

        So the roster is/was hardly barren without Malkin and Crosby. Granted guys like Martin and Michalek didn’t perform as expected and I still rue the day they resigned Kennedy, but he got those teams to such lofty heights during the regular season, so why couldn’t he do it in the playoffs? They’re obviously a different animal, but he’s had a while to figure it out now.

        • The roster certainly wasn’t barren, but we’re talking about the Stanley Cup. The hardest test in all of sports. Nobody in their right mind figured the Pens to be Cup contenders without Crosby and Malkin in ’11.

          At least admit to me that your expectation year in and year out is Stanley Cup or bust.

          With those kind of goals, in a post-lockout league where parity reigns, I don’t believe it’s any team should EXPECT to develop some kind of dynasty.

          Bylsma certainly has his flaws, but I don’t see a coaching change even close to garunteeing improvement. The chances of regressing are far higher, in my opinion.

          • I admit I have lofty expectations- it’s hard not to when you spend to the cap every year and have 2 of the best players in the game. Realistically I think we should have made it to the conference finals at least once since ’09, namely the year we lost to Tampa- no good reason we lost that one and Malkin could have come back. I don’t really expect a dynasty, just better performance in the playoffs. I know they’re extremely grueling, but the really good coaches like Babcock figure out a way to do well in them consistently. I’d be less disapproving of Bylsma if he could at least get to the second round more than once in the last 3 years.

            If we look at the last 3 champs, none of them had legitimate Crosby or Malkin level talent. Some excellent players to be sure, but none that are unquestioningly regarded as top 5 in the league, so I don’t factor major stars into my expectations. If Bylsma was good enough to have them one win from the President’s in 2010-11, he should have been able to escape the first round. Just MHO.

            • “If we look at the last 3 champs, none of them had legitimate Crosby or Malkin level talent. Some excellent players to be sure, but none that are unquestioningly regarded as top 5 in the league…”

              Maybe we’re missing the forest through the trees, Brad. Who says that having one or two top 5 players is better than a complete team of contributors? The results seem to say otherwise.

              The way this team is put together has always been an experiment. Lets not forget that. No other team has been constructed as “top heavy” in the salary capped NHL. This has been a concern since the “core” truly came together in ’09. We always knew that eventually Crosby, Malkin, Fleury, Letang, Staal would get exponentially more expensive, leaving less room to fill in around them.

              Considering that the ’09 team was the deepest of the Bylsma era AND the fact that the 3rd and 4th lines won the Cup that year – not Crosby and Malkin – I’m not so sure we should expect the results of this roster building experiment to be different.

              • But regardless, a coaching change is clearly your first option before blowing the team up.

                I just personally don’t hold my breath that it will solve all our problems.

            • NMR, you’re right…the coach is the first one to go. I’d like to see Mario step in first, tho, and “offer” advice.

          • I like Bylsma. But I wish Mario would sit down with him and maybe make some “suggestions” to improve things. I get that owners shouldn’t poke their noses in and try to run things. But this is getting ridiculous.
            Ahhhh then again, maybe it’s just me being female. :/

            • I believe when the owner is the greatest player to ever play the game, he can go ahead and poke his nose in. I wouldn’t be offended if I was Bylsma.

              And females are better hockey fans than males. Proven many times over on this blog.

              • Unless they are from Buffalo.

              • Spunky, you’re the best :) :) :) :)

              • Nobody is from Buffalo, Brad. Except Ron Jaworski and he’s from Orchard Park.

              • Greetings from a female hockey fan living in Buffalo!

                I was at the game last Sunday – needless to say, it was great. No heckling for my LeTang sweater this time. It was a lovely change of pace!

                As for the state of affairs with the Pens, I largely agree with everyone else.

                I think Geno should impose his physicality on other teams – thoughtfully, of course. I am not talking about stupid penalties, but a few “hey, how ya doing” hits may ease his frustration a little, not to mention make me laugh. I could not tell if it was Geno or somebody else who threw a Flyer on the ice just by standing up on him. Once again, thank you NBC Sports for impeding my vision of other things that are happening on the ice.

                I should probably get back to work. It’s almost time to start class. Fun fact – I screen all penguins game highlights in my classes (I teach at an all boys high school). Most students have gone from outright booing to “did you just see what Crosby/Malkin did?” To which I reply, “yes, young man, I did”.

                Have a great rest of the day!
                ~ Joni

              • Just kidding about Buffalo. It’s not a bad town. Been there many times enroute to the Falls. Too much snow though.

              • No worries, Lucky!

    • Coaching in regular season is far different than coaching a 7-game series against the same team. Then it becomes a chess match of adjustments and counter-adjustments game to game.
      HCDB is at his weakest in those circumstances.
      Ratyher than overall numbers, let’s look at his record in playoff series. Just for fun, his record at home, and for more fun, his record at closing out series at home when there was the opp to do so.

      THOSE numbers are far more indicative….IMO anyway.

  23. JAL thank you for the correction.

  24. You guys are all saying other stuff about last nights game. Probably the right stuff. I’m a bad loser so maybe I am focusing on the wrong stuff. Here are my thoughts:

    - Fleury should have played last night. Not saying it would have made a difference. But, how could you not play the hot fleury. The rotation also makes sense because Vokoun could have played Friday against a familiar Florida team.

    - Refs were bad last night. I saw atleast 5 interference calls missed by the refs in the first period on flyers players most notably the one on Vokoun that resulted in the 2nd flyers goal. (Knuble was laying on top of Vokoun, how is he supposed to make that save)

    - Refs were really bad last night. I saw two penguins penalties.. notably Neal’s interference and Adam’s elbow that were NOT penalties in reference to the worst interferences that were already happening. One of the penalties resulted in flyer’s 3rd goal.

    So, in my mind, they got 2 early goals that shaped the rest of the game. And like everyone else said, the penguins got trapped into a retaliatory response instead of just playing their hockey and adjusting. I was so frustrated I couldn’t watch the 3rd period. I just don’t like that hockey.

    • Kevin,

      I didn’t watch the game either, but I said the same thing about Fleury yesterday. There was no reason to sit him against Philthy with another game right around the corner for Vokoun against a not-so-formidable team. Might not have made a difference as you say, but it was the wrong time to switch.

    • You can’t blame this one on the refs. You want a less bias look at it:

      On the first flyers goal there could have been a penalty shot for Philly becauswe LeTang closed his hand on the puck in the crease.

      There were several times I thought Pittsburgh could have been called for interference and it was also let go.

      I counted several cross checks on both sides that went uncalled.

      Now most of this was early in the game. After the early scrums in the second period the Refs addressed both benches and told them to knock it off. They started calling a couple things tighter.

      I won’t say it was a well officiated game, but it wasn’t one sided.

  25. Olympics in Pittsburgh??? Really??? I like the idea but really?
    Where does the city come up with 3 billion dollars?
    Where do build an Olympic village for the athletes?
    Where do you build the venues?
    What do you do with the venues after the Olympics?
    How do you get spectators in and out of the city?

    On second thought maybe, the last thought would solve the Squirrel Hill tunnel problem.

  26. I forwarded # 17 to all of my Philly buddies.

    Anxiously awaiting the replies.

    Pot stirring Foo

    (not that there’s anything wrong with pot, or that Nutting may be smoking it or has been hanging around Frankie C too long)

    .

  27. Really glad we don’t get NBC Sports on our Dish plan…I’d be lamenting the wasted hours watching the latest Pens-Flyers fiasco. Listening to the game’s synopsis is bad enough. No discipline, no discipline, no discipline. When will they learn??

    And I am “incredibly optimistic” over my ingrained Pirates pessimism. Fool me once, twice, three times and I’m NO LONGER a lady! ZERO expectations, and will not spend one dime on them until they actually reach the 82-win mark in one season. UGH!

  28. On a side note, TK scored a goal last night. I’m sure this makes Brad so happy because it gives the coaching staff more reason to keep him on the ice.

  29. I just don’t understand waht it is about the Flyers that makes Pittsburgh decide that they don’t need to play their own game and stick with it. The Flyers have a tendency to:
    1. Open the game up and make it more of an up and down game. Sid, Geno, Neal, and LeTang or more than happy to comply. I think Milburry said it best during the second intermission. “These guys are lacking structure. Most notably Crosby and Malin, they are like crack addicts out there who can’t get enough of the up and down game” or something to those effects. He had it ight on.
    2. Once they get the Pens going in the loosey goosey throw the puck around rink wide at the blue line game, they jump on it and take advantage. That’s called heads up defense. Something the Pens don’t do. They never have a man back. EVERYONE is jumping into the play. Niskanen and LeTang is an awful pairing in this game because neither are primarilly defensive minded. Put Brooks and LeTang back together. let Niskanen play with martin. Stop dressing Bortuzzo and play Despres with Engalland.
    3. Once all this starts going the Pens get frustrated. Neal and Malkin in particular. Malkin had me so livid last night with the give aways, shots from no more than 3 feet inside the goal line when he should have stopped up and set up an offense, and then the retaliatory penalties. i get you have to take the good with the bad when talking about Malkin but I’ve said it on here before, he needs to get over himself.

    And ultimately Sid, Geno, Neal, and the other prima donnas need to stop looking for the extra pass when they have a golden opportunity to shoot. Just too cute too often.

    NONE of this is the hockey bylsma preaches. Not a single bit of it. Bylsma has no control over his super stars. He can’t keep them focused in on playing the game they need to play. Someone said earlier Bylsma refuses to make adjustments when the Pens struggle. My assertion is that when the Pens struggle it is because he fails to keep the team playing the game they are trained to play. That’s a problem. And the line match ups last night were terrible. Lindy Ruff anyone?

    • Pens just need to fight fire w/fire. Come out smokin the first period, play the Flyers game, target a couple guys ,harrass the heck out of em. Sure, ya might get a few penaltys but take someone w/ya. The refs ALWAYS call the retaliation .
      Sid,Geno,Neal and LeTang need to lead by showing the disipline and not taking the retaliatory shots. Skate away and set up for the PP.
      2nd and 3rd period, play some D , Flyers are gonna make some mistakes and the Pens have enough firepower to score as many as needed.
      Get all the BS outta the way 1st period then play your game.
      Simple! LOL

    • Based on the article I just read here on the Trib, Crosby took offense to the Crack addict statement. As much as I have Milburry i think he actually got this one right. unlike his claim the when Crosby lifted a Phlyers stick on D last night it definitely should have been a penalty.

  30. Just to make it warmer

    Gold team lineup: Marte 7 Tabata 9 Hague 5 G. Sanchez 3 Hawpe DH Mercer 6 T. Sanchez 2 DeJesus 4 Ford 8

    Black team lineup: Presley 8 d’Arnaud 6 Sands 9 Robinson 3 Inge DH Goedert 5 Harrison 4 McKenry 2 Pie 7

  31. A happy 67th to Tricia Nixon Cox. Wow, time flies doesn’t it.

  32. After going to bed extremely aggravated last night I have calmed down and have had time to reflect on last night’s game. These are my thoughts (if anyone cares):

    1.) This team who, has shown a lack of discipline against other teams as well, will never make a deep playoff run if they do not get tougher mentally. Malkin, Neal, Letang, Crosby, etc. (although Crosby was not a culprit of getting sucked into the Flyer’s mind games last night) need to simply deal with the fact that teams, especially Philly, are going to try to goad them into stupid penalties, get them off of their game plan and do their best to suck them into an overall realm of frustration.

    The other 29 teams in the league know the MO of the Pens and they know that their team and especially their stars can be easily irritated. THIS WILL NOT STOP BEING A MAJOR FACTOR UNTIL THE PENGUIN PLAYERS DISPLAY THE PROPER MENTAL TOUGHNESS AND DISCIPLINE TO MAKE IT SO!

    2.) Many people may not agree with me on this one, but although Crosby is arguably the best player in the world, an absolutely fantastic playmaker and set up guy I want to pull my hair out from the roots every time I see him pass up a scoring chance by not pulling the trigger.

    Too many times Sid defers to a much less talented teammate (no offense to any of the Pens players, but no one touches Sid’s overall skill level on this team, save for Malkin and Letang) to put the puck on net.

    The most egregious example of his insistence on passing up (no pun intended) prime shooting opportunities in last night’s game was his two on one with Kunitz (I believe that’s who it was).

    Everyone in the free world, including the Flyer’s defenseman who easily broke up the play, knew Sid was going to pass. If he shoots on that play and more often in general it will open up more playmaking opportunities because the opposing players will not be so sure of what he is going to do.

    Crosby will never be mistaken for Brett Hull, but he has one of the best backhands, if not the best, in the game and a good, accurate shot overall. The guy won the Rocket Richard a few years back simply to prove to people that he could! Prove it again!

    3.) The Penguins, when they open up a multi-goal lead (especially at home), try to blow the opposing team out 10-0 instead of continuing to play the type of game that got them the lead in the first place (i.e. getting the puck deep, pressuring/punishing the opposing D and working the puck within the offensive zone). This simply has to stop.

    4.) In dealing with Philly, the coaching staff needs to figure out a way to counter the Flyer’s relentless forecheck. Too many times the Pens D were going back to retrieve pucks and worrying about getting hit instead of making the right play on the puck and ultimately creating turnovers for Philly (the forwards were also guilty of turning pucks over by being too concerned with impending contact).

    Also, the fact that the Flyers continued to have matchups favorable to them on the Pens home ice is inexcusable.

    5.) Vokun is certainly not the sole culprit in this loss with the horrible team defense that was played in front of him all night, but he simply can’t have mental/positioning errors that lead to soft goals (Voracek’s goal to open the 3rd and of course the ghastly game winner).

    Although Bryzgalov let in five goals he still made some HUGE saves throughout the game and Vokun was certainly less than spectacular. The Penguins can’t keep losing the goalie battles with the Flyers, no matter who is in net. They simply give up way too many soft goals against this team and the Flyers produce enough offense without handing them a goal or two seemingly every time they play.

    6.) The Penguins do not punish the Flyer’s defensemen enough. The Flyers D is not blessed with an abundance of speed or offensively gifted blueliners. Get pucks deep, make them pay the price and wear them down. Basically do to them what the Flyers forwards do to the Pens D.

    The Flyers also badly out hit the Penguins, overall, in this game and in recent games. The Penguins are not nearly physical enough with the Flyers front line players.

    NJ did a fantastic job of frustrating Giroux and the Flyer’s stars in last year’s playoffs. The Penguins should run video of that series on a continuous loop in their facilities when they are preparing to play Philly.

    7.) Finally, PLEASE stop trying to be too fancy or make the picture perfect play. This has been a problem with Pens teams for decades! They almost always have an abundance of superstars and/or highly skilled players, which has been and is a blessing, but this also often leads to over passing, players trying to do too much on their own and choosing the pretty play over the smart play.

    “KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID” should be emblazoned on their locker room wall somewhere.

    Bottom line is the Pens are one of the best teams in the league, but like everyone else (except maybe the Blackhawks right now, I mean jeez!) they have some warts and these warts are too often blatantly exposed by Philly and it needs to stop (especially since I live in a suburb of Philly and I can’t freaking stand when the Pens lose to them!)

    I’d love to hear the thoughts and comments of other fans and remember one loss does not define a season! Let’s Go Pens!

  33. Oh, this is priceless:

    Comment From The Real Drew
    Since you’re 6-2 and can’t stand up while curling, what should be the average height of a curler? And did you re-injure your back in that 90 minutes?

    12:50

    Dejan Kovacevic:
    The gentleman instructing me in Winnipeg for that Monday column simply said the shorter the better. It’s one reason, he added, women can be more in control of their body motion and the rock than men.

    And no, the back’s been 100 percent for a long time now. Thanks for asking.

  34. I can’t decide what ticks me off more, Arrogant, Smug, Bylsma’s stubborn hard-headedness ( I must’ve said at least 3 times last nite – “why doesn’t he get Malkin away from Courtorier?”) and his ridiculously passive penalty kill, OR listening to Pierre McGuire do ‘analysis’, which consists of being so far up someone’s butt (this time Laviolette, usually Giroux when it’s Philly), that it’s all he talks about. In last year’s playoffs he compared Braden Holtby to Ken Dryden. He should’ve been fired on the spot for that comparison.

    • Well, I will say, last playoffs, Holtby was sizzlin’ hot.

    • Bylsma sure has his faults, but I missed the “arrogant, smug” part.

      • *Bylsma

      • DB isn’t arrogant nor smug, AW, you’re right. He’s a very down-to-earth person, from what I am seeing.
        I’ve been a strong supporter of DB, but man, he’s got to change some of his coaching tactics.

        • Agree with that last part, Jandy, just didn’t agree with painting him with horns and a tail (I know you didn’t).

          • AW, agreed. I’ve always been a staunch supporter of DB. I still will support him. But sometimes, we don’t see the forest for the trees.

        • I’m not saying he’s an jerk, and perhaps arrogant is a bit harsh, but the smug part comes from knowing he’s the next Lindy Ruff (he’ll be around forever), so why should he make adjustments when there’s no repurcussions for him? He’s convinced he’s always right, his system is perfect, he’s smarter than everyone, etc/ That’s where I get the smug. I’ll recind arrogant.

          • Jag, with the Penguins HC turnover record the last few decades, what makes you think DB will be around for 15 years?

            • Ray Shero just loves the guy. Part of me thinks Shero thinks DB is the 2nd coming of Badger Bob. I’m interested to see what happens when the Pens play Therrien’s Habs. No doubt he will get outcoached. and I’m not saying the Pens should’ve kept Therrien (at some point you have to try to score), but they won that Cup with a hybrid of both their systems.There’s a happy medium there, and DB has to find it, but I don’t think he wants to.

              • Jag7,

                The reason why DB has such a long leash with “The Great Ray Shero” is because DB is one of his boys! Ray Shero just HATES to admit that he made a mistake! As stated earlier, IMO I think the players are starting to tune out Disco Dan.

          • Jagr7–you notice I didn’t quarrel with “stubborn hard-headedness.” There’s got to be some reason. ;-)

            • Jag I see your point. I don’t, however, see 15 years of DB on the horizon.

              • Hey Arriba, Please don’t add ‘r’ onto Jag ! That turned me into Jagr! Ugh.
                Jandy, 15 is probably a stretch, but did you think Jamie Dixon (who is as stubborn and unadjustable – I think I just made that word up) as DB would be here 14 years? And I’m so glad I’m a Pitt bball bandwagon jumper or else I would’ve jumped off something else long ago.

  35. Another funny from the chat:

    Comment From JamesinNYC
    You catch flack for having your wife so small in the picture?

    1:01

    Dejan Kovacevic:
    Behave!

  36. Good chat Q, J-girl. And a good answer from the boss. At least from my untrained hockey eye.

    • Yup, Spunky, seems Dejan’s pointing at the coach. As I am as well. But still, the dumb penalties have to stop. Malkin is driving me insane with his shenanigans. Somehow, someone has to get thru to him. He’s key to the Pens making a long run in the playoffs.

      • This is where I feel Gonchar could have a huge impact (even bigger than being the quarterback of the PP). I feel as though Malkin still really respects and looks up to Gonchar and Gonchar may be able to get Malkin to settle the heck down.

  37. DK: “Let (them) win, or let them get fired.” Yes, yes, yes!!

  38. Meanwhile…
    Slightly ominous sign James Harrison’s days as a Steeler may, indeed, be numbered. Today Kevin Colbert bit on a hypothetical question about what the team would do without Harrison. Cobert said, “Jason Worilds did a nice job when he was called upon last year. Can he continue that? We hope. … In Jason’s case, he’s shown he can be productive.”
    My heart wants Harrison and the team to reach a compromise so #92 can have a great comeback year and retire a Steeler without being sent packing. My head tells that even injured and aging, James Harrison is still better than Jason Worilds.

  39. Pitching Pitching Pitching

    Sat. against Rays Jeff Locke, Chris Leroux, Bryan Morris, Mike Zagurski, Duke Welker, Vin Mazzaro, Brooks Brown

    Sun against Braves James McDonald, Jonathan Sanchez, Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon, Tony Watson, Jared Hughes, Justin Wilson

  40. DK going with the darkhorse 5th starter? I like.

  41. I’m afraid that yesterday will be the mark the point when the Flyers turn their season around.

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