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Sunday column: Hey, why all the long faces?

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

dt.common.streams.StreamServer.clsUNIONDALE, N.Y. – The Sunday column from Game 6 of Penguins-Islanders tries to point out that having a rough first round in the Stanley Cup playoffs actually can be a good thing. But I somehow doubt many will agree.

You’ll also find on that same page, over to the right, full game highlights and postgame interviews.

Very curious to get your reaction to the game in general, and how it makes you feel about the club’s chances going forward.

Here’s our game story on Brooks Orpik’s overtime goal, by beat man Rob Rossi.

The Penguins found some unlikely heroes, by Chris Mascaro.

The Islanders have a tough time stomaching defeat, by Denis Gorman.

Expect sparks with the Senators in the next round, by Joe Starkey.

Flying back home in the early morning, and I’ll have another Penguins piece Monday. I’ll also be joining Rossi and the WPXI-TV staff on tonight’s episode of ‘The Final Word’ at 11:35 p.m.

But before I sign off, one last time …

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, recently, 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 country's top four columnists by the AP Sports Editors. For 2012, he was named one of the country's top three columnists by the National Headliners. For 2013, he was named the state's top columnist by the Keystone Press Awards and top columnist in Western Pennsylvania by the Golden Quills.

Comments

  1. Dave G says:

    On to round 2 and the Ottawa Senators. Dogfight ahead…

    Let’s Go Pens!!!

  2. Bizrow says:

    One step in a long and winding road, that’s what makes the Stanley Cup so dam precious

    Welcome Lunatics, if you don’t see your current location below, please add a reply to this post

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  3. likeabugonarug says:

    My feelings? Was hoping the Bucs win in NY was a good omen? Pens were outplayed most of the game, but somehow were able to keep it close. NY tried not to give up the lead in the latter half of the 3rd period and that’s exactly what they ended up doing. They got surprised when Geno turned on the jets and went around the goal. Lucky break on Martin’s goal, but hey, that’s what you need to win in the playoffs.

    But most important….win #4. Doesn’t matter how you get it, just that you get it. And that’s the goal against the Sens – get to win #4 before they do.

    LET’S GO PENS!

    Kevin

  4. twentytwo22 says:

    Assuming Game 1 is Thursday, they will have time for rest and at least two mandatory practices. They sorely need both rest and practice. They are also healthy.

    Good pressure-free sports Sunday …

    Pirates have clinched a series split and can hang a first loss on Harvey.

    Three hockey games, one Game 7.

    Penguins classic 1992 Game 4 vs NYR

    DK: The last of those remains to this day the greatest sporting event I’ve witnessed in person. Nothing like it.

  5. Bizrow says:

    + 1

  6. BillyBaduka says:

    Excellent article DK, very well stated.

    And I’m not saying that for brownie points.

    I mentioned after games 2 and 3 that adversity in this round could be a good for the Pens. I didn’t mention it again because I didn’t want to see the Isles win 3 in the series. That’s a little to much adversity to enjoy.

    If the Pens continued to sleepskate through the series and won in 4 or 5 they likely would have a rude comeuppance in round 2. As it were, they got that in games 2-3 and much of game 6. Fortunately, they did just enough in games 3 and 6 to win.

    It would have been nice to see the Pens be more consistent in their response to the Islanders speed and aggressive forechecking. But the Pens did respond enough to win those games and the series. That’s what matters most for a team that has not won its last 3 rounds. It’s what should matter most for the fan base.

    Give the Islanders credit. They played at the top of their game in 4 out of the 6 games in this series. As Brooks said, “they gave us all we could handle”. The Islanders speed was a difficult matchup for the Penguins.

    They will face a new set of challenges in round 2, notably in goal as you mention. Anderson is playing well. But they should be better prepared to handle the adversity thanks to the Islanders series. And the next round won’t look like this series. Ottawa may try to employ the same tactics as the Isles but Pens will have edge in speed and hopefully will be able to counter Ottawa forecheck more successfully.

    Breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy the days leading up to round 2. Because the Pens are moving on to round 2.

    One series at a time. All the way to the Cup.

    LET’S GO PENS!!!!

    Now I have to get packed for vacation in Outer Banks. That helps contribute to feeling of relief and optimism.

  7. Deb says:

    I wasn’t able to watch most of the game, so I had to rely on my twitter feed to keep me updated. What stood out was folks were discussing (1) That if Sid could play 50 minutes the team would be ok, (2) that Sid was playing great, but his line looked less than normal due to no Kunitz to create additional time and space (3) that Malkin was in a pout the entire game, and appeared to be un-interested in winning, even referencing that Coach was chewing him out on the bench a time or two (4) that Malkin was playing terrible with half effort/no effort

    I saw the over time period. Malkin makes a simple, no effort ‘accept a pass from Kennedy pass, pass back to Kennedy’ and Kennedy sets up Orpik, game over and suddenly reporters (not twitter) are saying things like “brilliant play from Geno” etc. when it was clearly nothing of the sort. Doesn’t make sense.

    I have these thoughts:
    1) These Pens are flawed. I don’t know what the problem is, but it seems to revolve around getting effort from a few guys. Starting with Geno.

    2) Putting Kunitz on Geno’s line to try to get him going isn’t the answer. This just dilutes the teams first line of Duper, Sid and Kunitz.

    3) This is your series that the goalie has stolen for the team. This strategy and execution won’t work in Ottawa and it sure won’t win you a Cup against Chicago.

    4) Coaches need to figure Geno out. He is a risk every time he goes on the ice. Is it going to be pouting Geno with no effort, or engaged Geno who actually back checks? or as several tweeps were posting ” why does Geno lose his hockey IQ for long stretches and play like a moron?”

    A bit harsh, but a valid point. Geno isn’t the only player underachieving, but he is the only one being paid 9 million dollars to underachieve (with expectations of earning even more on his next contract). Big dollars should bring big expectations and accountability.

    5) What has happened to Sutter? he was great during the season, MIA during the playoffs. The third line is under performing, leaving Sid and his line to matchup against the Islanders top line a great deal of the time. This has to be fixed as well.

    6) Kudos to Bylsma, who stepped outside his comfort zone and actually made some adjustments. A little more of that, please.

    Interesting to see what Ottawa brings.

  8. JoeyBats says:

    4 wins down….12 to go :-)

    (The NYI playoff curse is FINALLY broken )

    Let’s Go Pens !!!!

  9. Vette60 says:

    Just spent 15 minutes watching highlights of that ’92 game on YouTube…was a junior in HS during that run…can’t believe it’s that long ago…

    Funny, in a way, how different things were – the crowd was great, but way less folks decked on in Pens gear than today – very few “sweaters” in the crowd….

    Amazing to see Jagr out there and he’s still doing it today. What a great game. Enjoyed it for sure…

    Thanks for reminding me about it.

    Randy in RVA.

  10. Vette60 says:

    Morning all…

    Hope everyone is doing well on a beautiful Mother’s Day – Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms on the blog!

    In typical fashion, I recorded the game and was watching after my son went to bed. While he is almost 7 and is interested in the game, he wanted to spend his last night of our guys week watching Return of the Jedi, so I obliged. Well, the old extended time on the DVR wasn’t enough and my recording stopped a few minutes into the OT! Crud.

    I flipped on the NHL network, saw the score and breathed a big sigh of relief! Didn’t want that game 7 tonight and certainly would have been cramped watching it since my wife and daughter are back in town later today!

    When I saw the highlight of Brooks scoring – wow. Wouldn’t have picked that, but great for him and us!

    In terms of in-depth analysis. Well, they did enough to win. Do they need to play better overall, yes, absolutely. But I hope getting the monkey off their back by wining this first round series translates into good things to come. They have some tough decisions – who to go to in goal, how to get Malkin more focused, but that’s why they are the coaches and I am a fan! The Sens series should be fun for sure.

    Let’s go Pens – 4 down, 12 to go!

    Take care all,
    Randy in RVA.

  11. CoachWard says:

    What a ridiculous display of hockey. Embarrassing at times. Islanders looked like the more skilled team 95% of that game. When it was 5 on 5 Isles looked like they were on the PP. When Isles were on PP looked like it was 5 on 3. Two D Men behind net????? Awful! Never saw us cycle the puck or set anything up on offense during 5 on 5. How can we not put pressure on teams with the skill we have? All in all the most stressful, frustrating, annoying 3 hours I’ve ever spent in front of the television. Sad part is I expected it to be that way. Yohe said it best, if NY PP wasn’t horrible the series would have been over in 5. Sorry, just venting. I have no real logical solutions to their problems. However I believe the poor play goes back to what I was worried about after the deadline. Many new faces and many current ones out injured created chemistry problems for this team. If this team could have played together for 2 weeks before playoffs began I think this series would have been different. Now that they have played together for a series, maybe they’re starting to get it figured out.

  12. scapper says:

    I was on Geno’s case all night, too, but the great play he made before the game-winner was his hellbent rush down the far boards and the way he used his whole body to keep in the attempted clear by the Isles. Then he forced the puck deeper. Just awesome effort.

    Of course, that is one of only 3 times I could say “awesome effort” about his performance last night, but damned if he didn’t make two huge plays to set up goals. If he could just bring that crazed Geno to most shifts, we’d coast to the Finals.

  13. cherokee23 says:

    Ya…that DVR has left me stranded a few times, too. lol…..whether he’s playing well or not, Orpik has always been a straight shooter with his answers to interviews. I put a lot of stock into what he says. I think it just comes down to the speed and tenacity of those guys. Even at times when our guys weren’t pressured, they were expecting pressure, and making bad plays because of it. As a “glass half-full” guy, I like that even being outplayed, out-possessed, out-zone timed, they won 4 games to 2. Throw out Game 1, and they really never got consistently rolling like we know they can, even in Game 5. There were times last night that you realized the bulk of the problems weren’t in goal. The difference being simpy that Vokoun didn’t let the 1-2 soft goals in…..Bring on the Sens! This should be fun!

  14. CoachWard says:

    Let me take you through how I watch Geno play hockey….”Trade him, nice play, cut him, bad pass, great pass, horrible, he doesn’t care, all Russians don’t care, oooh nice move, just give Malkin the puck, get Geno off the ice, Pens better off without Geno, Geno is the best Penguin on the ice, Geno is the best player in hockey, he will never live up to his potential, Geno sucks, Geno is amazing, he’s soft, Geno just took that guys head off” Get the idea?

  15. CoachWard says:

    Grafton, Ohio

  16. Thundercrack says:

    The Pirates won too yesterday. In the same city as the Pens did

  17. scapper says:

    Brooks Orpik has one career playoff goal. Darius Kasparaitus scored two career playoff goals. Incredible.

  18. KenKopp says:

    I repeat. Lord Stanley’s Playoffs are a tough gig. The Pens caught a very hot number 8 seed in the Islanders. New York was already in playoff mode after having to fight just to get in. This series was really the first time I’ve watched Taveres closely. Dude is good. Yeah the Pens play was probably their worst stretch of games this season, but they won.

    Regroup, rest and get ready for a tough, hot playing Ottawa squad. Confidence level is high. 4 down 12 to go.

    Side note: Last year the Buc’s record at this point was 14 – 18. This year 20 – 16. Tough one today though. Harvey is going to be a hard nut to crack.

  19. Nassau?

    An impressive win, too.

    Hope we see that Lirano for the long haul.

  20. Bizrow says:

    Welcome to the blog

  21. Anchor says:

    Biz, just saying, Edwards, CA is an Air Force Base…

  22. Bob Hasis says:

    Has anyone noticed how much brighter the sun is this morning, now that the cloud which represented the Islanders has disappeared.
    It’s Mother’s Day, just returned from Church, and am in process of making a fritatte (an Italian word meaning exotic omelet), Liriano looked fantastic, Tabby looked like he is now serious, and several et ceteras…….regarding the Penguins, Pirates and the TPC tourney at Ponte Vedra, FL

    Enjoy the day everyone!.

  23. Bob Hasis says:

    Especially THE MOTHERS

  24. hockeymonster says:

    Pens were under pressure from a desperate team but mostly it was a result of us adjusting to more of a 1-2-2 trapping formation and letting nyi dump the puck in instead of playing a 2 man forecheck allowing high speed rushes up ice like we were earlier in the series and last playoff against philly. In a weird way pens need to re-learn how to win using a more conservative forecheck, regrouping deep in their zone and breaking out after forcing dump ins.

    Our defense can’t handle those high speed 3 on 3 and 4 on 3 rushes that look like jailbreaks when our 2 man forecheck gets beat with a short pass or 2 so playing this “bend don’t break” style is pretty much a necessity. We just need to do a better job of the centers and wingers making themselves available deeper in our zone so our dmem can retrieve the dump ins with options available to move the puck quickly.

    We have enough offense to be patient for our chances as long as we’re not giving up the neutral zone for high speed rushes on our d. Going to a trap with this group on defense is long over due.

    How bout my buddy/pal PM leading the team in plus/minus and getting the tying goal? :) :) :)

  25. JRay3 says:

    Sanchez sent back to Indy today, further evidence Martin will not be headed to DL.

    Today’s lineup: Marte, Snider, Cutch, Jones, Mercer, Alvarez, McKenry, Barmes, Gomez.

    Mercer in the 5 hole, no way they can send him down tomorrow.

  26. Deb says:

    You may have just outlined why Geno has a reputation among reporters as “unstoppable” at times. He lulls the opposing team into thinking he is a lazy s.o.b., letting his team mates do the actual work of PREVENTING GOALS, and playing hockey, then he turns on the jets twice a game, surprises the opposition, who are so stunned it takes them a minute to recover, they create a defensive lapse, and meanwhile a scoring chance is set up, and Geno is done for the rest of the game. Presto..

  27. John Lease says:

    2 things, Hopefully McDonald has finally played his last game as a Pirate and Mercer will remain.

    And secondly, Dejan you were channeling Dave Ailes. They WON. There will be time for angst later, the win’s the thing today.

  28. Bizrow says:

    Thanks, Anchor, fixed it with a *

  29. Anchor says:

    Thanx

  30. Sarah says:

    So…how does Pens coaching/mgmt feel about the future of Fleury with this team?
    Are they still certain he’s their guy going forward, not just next series but next season?
    I think it has to be said, that when this particular team plays poorly defensively (and they have for large stretches last 4 playoffs….they’re just not D-oriented in the way they were 2007-2009….) …MAF is subject to mental meltdown.
    So….unless they change dramatically how they scheme, I think MAF will always be a liability.
    And I LOVE Fleury. I am a goalie myself.
    Pressure is fine – so long as your D is playing the way they are supposed to and the chances are more controlled.
    But the – how do I say this – CHAOTIC, uncontrolled pressure and chances that the Pens routinely devolve into, is a whole different thing.
    Fleury is fine with controlled pressure. See 2008-09.
    But he’s a meltdown waiting to happen with the way this team plays and when they breakdown.
    He doesn’t stabilize them, a la TV. He de-stabilizes them.

    I think unless they make dramatic schematic changes (which they won’t under Bylsma) ….I don’t think MAF can be their go-to guy for the future.

    What about this playoffs?
    I am not certain Vokoun can take them all the way. Doubt he could beat Chicago for example.
    But I am not sure that , riding Fleury, they can get that far.
    Unless they play A LOT better in their own zone, and I do not see that happening.

    So….what next between the pipes?

  31. scapper says:

    This is the greatest. But please stop getting inside my head and transcribing my exact thoughts.

  32. theplanisworking says:

    No long face here, DK.

    Happy to advance, no matter how.

    Style points just do NOT matter. We won 4, they didnt.

    Ottawa poses different challenges, namely their goalie.

    But let us not forget, even though Ottawa looked good against Montreal, Montreal was mega injured, and they are not the Pens.

    Enjoy it folks.
    Get down from the bridges. ;)

    4 down, 12 to go.

  33. Sarah says:

    Yep!
    It’s not a beauty contest!
    TG.

    But the Pens need to pick it up Dwise and puck mgmt wise (sorta the same thing, often).

    Soon.

  34. theplanisworking says:

    I think we all agree Disco Duck just wont change his defensive scheme. So I feel a key will be to not turn the puck over, and get good chances against Anderson, and then bury them.

    Remember………. if Boston does not gag the final 3-4 games of the season, they are the 2 seed, and I feel they would have eliminated the Sens. And that would have us playing the Maple Loafs.

    Hopefully Disco Duck learned some lessons from this series.

  35. Sarah says:

    Forgive me if I think DB is too stubborn (or per Tocchet) arrogant to learn much.
    Hope I am wrong.

  36. theplanisworking says:

    Oh, I agree with you.
    We will see what he learned.
    If he didnt learn anything, then we be gone………. :(

  37. Milo Hamilton says:

    I ran into Matt Niskanen at breakfast. He was very nice. And I was surprised at how slightly built he is. It really gives you an appreciation of the beating these guys take.

  38. theplanisworking says:

    Milo, did you accidentally knock him over? ;)

  39. Sarah says:

    I spent some time at a hockey camp with Terry Greggson.
    He said the demands of playoffs are enormous, and even the refs would lose perhaps 10lbs or more over the playoffs.
    It’s simply too physically demanding, too many games too close together, not enoug time to eat and drink enough to catch up on the calories burned.
    Players and refs alike are absolutely gaunt after 2 months of it.

    A reason I’m worried about Crosby. Poor kid is already skinny after he jaw thing.

    Doubt he can eat steak and potatoes yet! Maybe mashed potatoes.

    But it is an unbelievable grind. Is there any sport that compares?

  40. hockeymonster says:

    Well said bout fleury! Just to follow up i was thinking along the same lines:

    Whether or not the coaches stick with this new found patient style?

    Does bylsma expect enough non-sense to go on with Ottawa that he insists on dressing glass and engelland again? Who goes out? Will concept of rolling 4 lines and maximizing our depth like we have last 2 games be in jeopardy if we go back to glass and/or engelland?

    Can we keep turnover situation manageable so 71, 58 and 7 don’t cost us goals?

    Oh and then there’s that goalie situation…which I believe is directly connected to style we play as Sarah stated above.

  41. Sarah says:

    Honestly hmonster, there are times I think, it’s Bylsma and his system, or Fleury.

    Not both.

    I just don’t think MAF has a future here with the way this team plays in playoffs under HCDB.

    Make of that what you will.

  42. dwf says:

    LOL!

  43. jav827 says:

    Roanoke VA

  44. hockeymonster says:

    Don’t disagree with the theory but don’t think shero would trade fleury that easily. I think he’d sooner make wholesale changes on defense.

    But overall I think fleury would be back to being really solid if we continue to play the way we have last 2 games. Definitely think we were more conservative on forecheck which led to nyi having less speed through neutral zone…classic bend don’t break defense. Next round will be extra tough and our defense can be exposed…again…but if we stay patient and roll 4 lines like we have last 2 games so everyone’s fresh with no need to take lazy fatigue induced penalties I think fleury would end up looking like he did in 08 and 09.

  45. Sarah says:

    Some wonderful examples here while we’re waiting for Bowser to arrive with his recap!

    http://www.faceoff-factor.com/1pittsburgh-penguins/4812/ff-telestrator-round-one-game-3

  46. Sarah says:

    Well….absolutely agree re Game 5.
    I think they were pretty awful yesterday tho! Sadly.
    Every goal the result of loss of position, Dzone awareness….the kind of mistakes more d-oriented teams rarely make. Lak, NYR, and so on.

    But I agree MAF would be fine if they played all games more like Game 5…..I only wish!!!!

  47. hockeymonster says:

    re game 6……58, 7 and 71 cant cost us goals in the manner they did last night. No question.

  48. scapper says:

    That type of grind is surpassed only by the Tour de France. Impossible to maintain the necessary calories for those 3.5 weeks.

  49. Pucknutz says:

    No long face here either, not an ear to ear smile by any means, just a pleasant little grin.

    Gotta give NYI credit, played hard gritty hockey and never quit.
    The first round can often be the toughest. I don’t expect the Sens to be a pushover by any means but I expect a whole lot less of an agonizing series. Just seems to me that the Pens get into their heads somewhat like the Flyers do to the Pens.

    As theplan says – ” Style points just do NOT matter. We won 4, they didnt.”

    4 down, 12 to go

    Get the next 4 and the smile grows!!

    GO PENS!!

  50. Luiz Mello says:

    Vitória, Brazil.

    Reading from day 1, commented just a few times.

  51. Luiz Mello says:

    “Don’t disagree with the theory but don’t think shero would trade fleury that easily. I think he’d sooner make wholesale changes on defense.”

    This.

    Also, what’s the excuse for the Penguins not to play a tighter, and above all more consistent defensive game? Something like, for instance, the way they played for the larger part of their 15-game winning streak this year?

  52. Jandy says:

    How did you not slap Greggson!??

 
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