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Saturday column: Healthy Penguins at head of class

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

The Saturday column finally, finally sets up the Eastern Conference final, while also looking at the benefits of the long break for the Penguins.


A look at the rest of our coverage this morning …

>> Brenden Morrow has a singular focus on the Cup, by Kevin Gorman

>> Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are getting that look, by Rob Rossi

>> Zdeno Chara will be chopped at every chance, by Josh Yohe

>> Ray Shero speaks bluntly about Tomas Vokoun’s effect, by Yohe

>> Fans filled the old Courthouse courtyard Downtown for a rally, by Jason Cato

>> Complete playoff photo gallery, by our Chaz Palla and Chris Horner

>> Latest on the Bruins from our news partners at the Boston Herald

>> Finally, here’s this morning’s front page …

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.


  1. likeabugonarug says:


    20 hours, 12 minutes and counting

  2. Patrick says:

    Thanks as always for the hard work, and for providing the links. “One stop shopping” is always nice.

    Out of curiosity, should one of the current defensive players gets hurt, who do you see as the next guy in? Both Engelland and Despres have had ups and downs. Do they try one of them or does Bortuzzo get thrown to the wolves?

    DK: I’d see Engelland as the choice, if only because of Boston’s size up front.

  3. Drew71 says:

    Wow. That picture.

    ummm, how do i ask this nicely?

    Shouldn’t people who cover athletic events look like their only personal athletic activity isn’t the Jelly Donut Lift?

  4. BillyBaduka says:

    LET’S GO PENS!!!!

  5. BillyBaduka says:

    I think they are fans, not reporters.

    Besides, what’s a persons appearance have to do with their analysis and writing skills? Me thinks, not much.

  6. BillyBaduka says:

    Or we’re you referring to DK’s photo to take an early morning shot across the bow?

    I shouldn’t post before at least one cup of coffee.

  7. Karen22 says:


  8. radio wave says:

    Now that my team is out, and as a lifelong Bruins hater, good luck Pens.

  9. Drew71 says:

    coffee?? try gin

  10. radio wave says:

    I was just listening to Boston radio. They claim best tactic for Bruins is to turn the game into a street fight like Flyers last year.

  11. Thundercrack says:

    finally, finally sets up the Eastern Conference final,

    I’ll say. Got a bit tired of hearing about a game that was going to happen.

    ps: The Pirates lost last night. (sustainability joke withheld)

  12. Thundercrack says:

    ‘They claim best tactic for Bruins is to turn the game into a street fight’

    Radio, that may break out during this series between the Pirates and Reds.

  13. Jandy says:

    Starbucks ;)

  14. Jandy says:

    Good job, radio! :)

  15. Jandy says:

    Looks like I missed a stinker last night…boo

  16. Jandy says:

    SOMEONE needs to step up and plunk some friggin Reds already sheesh!
    Sign me up! I’ll do the dastardly deed.

  17. Thundercrack says:

    “Teams that have a player with the combination of 20 to 30 (home run) power and quality defense at third base are the teams that are usually in the playoffs.

    That from Scott Boras (article in the Trib).

    Thanks for letting us know the key to making the playoffs. And I always thought it was ‘defense up the middle’.

  18. Thundercrack says:

    Zagursky did hit Brandon Phillips.

    And I think Phillips is still running his mouth about it.

  19. Jandy says:

    Need to hit more…tell Phillips to STFD and STFU! ;)

  20. Jandy says:

    Boras is an a$$ lol

  21. Jandy says:

    Well, gotta get in gear, helping hubby with a job today. Hopefully catch you all in the Pen’s game thread tonight…GO PENS!

  22. cherokee23 says:

    I thought another comment of Boras’ was telling. He said ” we will be looking at where this players performance is headed”, and not necessarily where it is now. The comparison to Freese and his arb $ won’t be close to what Boras/Alvarez want

  23. Pucknutz says:

    GO PENS!!!

    Less than 12….

  24. JohninOshkosh says:

    Yes. I’m glad it’s here. The non-issue of all non-issues. Breaking news: TV desires and demands dominate sports.

    Two “issues” I could go the rest of my life without hearing about. Television and it’s impact on sports scheduling (that includes which teams to broadcast) and the effect of shadows that creep between the pitcher and batter.

  25. 21sthebest says:

    I like your list and I’ll add:

    – how layoffs affect teams.
    – how not retaliating after beanballs affects teams.

  26. JohninOshkosh says:

    *affect of shadows :)

  27. Thank you, Mike Zagursky, for employing your best Jimmy Anderson impression.

    May that game PLEASE just be Bucs’ typical losing the first game of every series. It felt different though. Totally outclassed by Reds. Maybe it was McCutch being hit again without retribution. Winning never seemed to be an option last night.

    Well, Pirates provided an appropriate send-off of Pittsburgh fans to the Penguins. It’s been so long, I won’t believe Penguins are finally here until I turn sound down on my TV tonight and hear Mike Lange say, “Look out Loretta!”

    Looking for a bruising series. I don’t feel the Pens are going to glide through Boston as most are implying. I could see Pens falling behind 2-1 in games easily. Then we’ll see if Pens can pull up their Big Boy pants and get to work. Volkun is NOT better than Tuka Rask. Let’s see if our Defensemen are positioned to clear the rebounds away, or we’ll be down before we know it.

  28. Bob Hasis says:

    This for Milo when he awakens; Hamilton Burger is NOT a Cincinnati fast food sandwich.

  29. Bob Hasis says:

    ALVAREZ OPEN TO STAYING WITH BUCS sounds like Scott Boras thinks he already has an edge in the upcoming negotiations – whenever they occur.

    His ego never takes a rest.

    I for one get awfully exasperated when PA helplessly swings and misses strike three down and in, or low and away from a lefty, then walks away expressionless and what just occurred was meaningless.

    PA has only proven he can hit a pitcher’s mistake a long way; I’d like to see him hit a pitcher’s pitch into a gap.

  30. JohninOshkosh says:

    Excellent Jimmy Anderson reference. Got the sprockets in my brain moving this morning!

  31. 21sthebest says:

    And the Scott Boras hype machine rolls on.

    Maybe he could talk his clients into having their wisdom teeth out in the off season.

  32. Drew71 says:

    I liked your last avatar, Oshie.

  33. Wasn’t he the DA that always lost to Perry Mason?

  34. Thundercrack says:

    Wouldn’t it be funny if Pedro suddenly becomes a .275 hitter…without his wisdom teeth. Or can’t reach the warning track…without his wisdom.

    I got a weird sense of what is funny.

  35. +many

    Consolation of the early day:

    Cole pitched 7 shutout innings last night. 2 hits, 1 walk, 5 K’s. Only 91 pitches, 62 strikes. Efficiency is getting better. Wonder if he can hit.

    And speaking of hitting, Tony Sanchez was 4 for 5 with his 6th HR. BA is up to .317. Matt Hague has 3 hits, Pie had 4.

  36. Bob Hasis says:

    yes sir, you are correct

  37. MadTurk says:

    Ta da we have a winner

  38. JHay had 3 hits, too. Shame that doesn’t translate to baserunning.

    Columbus left Joe Martinez in for 5.1 innings and 99 pitches. He gave up 10 runs and 16 hits. Only walked 1 though.

    Talk about taking one for the team. He’ll probably be released later today and Neal can grab him again.

  39. MadTurk says:

    To early to start the Let’s GO Pens chant?

  40. Drew71 says:

    Sitting on the patio at the Hurricane Seafood Restaurant overlooking St. Pete Beach in “Historic Pass-A-Grille”.

    You know it’s a nice area because there’s an e on the end of the name.

    Nice breeze off the gulf.

    Crab-spinach omelette just arrived. Best coffee on the beach.

    Hockey seems a million miles away.

    Ok. About 1,100.

  41. My mom watched that show religiously. Raymond Burr never lost. Kind of like Scott Boras.

  42. The wife with you?

  43. Bob Hasis says:

    sounds like they faced a pitcher heading to AA

  44. We had him once a few years back. I think we got him as a throw-in from the Giants. Didn’t last long here. Not enough downward plane.

  45. JohninOshkosh says:

    Thanks, Drew. Perhaps she will return someday.

  46. JohninOshkosh says:

    Wow. Crab-spinach omelet sounds freaking delicious. I settled for shredded mini-wheats.

  47. JohninOshkosh says:


  48. Bob Hasis says:

    I thought Della Street aka Barbara Bates (Perry’s reliable secretary)was purely pretty

  49. Bob Hasis says:

    I like both thoughts – though too ironic

  50. Buffalo Bob says:

    They need another Dock Ellis. One game, he was tired of the Reds intimidating the Bucs. He went to the mound and hit Morgan, Rose, and Bench. He had Perez scared stiff.

  51. Drew71 says:


    Very relaxing.


  52. Dom says:

    I might be he only one but I am a bit concerned that Vokoun will not be playing at the level he has been at for the rest of the postseason. I almost feel that this break will do him more harm than good.

    If Vokoun doesn’t miss a beat, then I feel the only way a team like the Bruins can beat us is if we beat ourselves with dumb penalties and poor play. We were 3-0 against them in the regular season and Geno missed every one of those games. I feel we’re going to win this one in six.

  53. Bizrow says:

    Sitting here watching the CBS news, they just talked about sustainable fish, now cooking sustainably.

    Maybe Clint can learn how to do that?

  54. Pucknutz says:

    Heck no!!

    LET”S GO PENS !!!!

  55. Drew71 says:

    I think I need my wisdom teeth back.

  56. Bob Hasis says:

    Sounds awesome. I settled for a glass of prune juice, and an orange

  57. Bob Hasis says:

    I’m going with your second paragraph

  58. Drew71 says:

    Sounds like something my wife would have (if I brought her).

    If you keep reminding me of her, you’re really gonna put a damper on this blog thing.

    Now watch. After talking about her, a storm will probably roll in.

    With Thunder.

  59. Dom says:

    It’s not one or the other. It’s either all or nothing.

  60. Bob Hasis says:

    Your second paragraph includes the first, “If Vokoun doesn’t miss a beat. . . . “

  61. Drew71 says:

    Wow. Working my wife and Thunder into the same post.

    Talk about Thunder and Frightening.

  62. MadTurk says:

    I am sure lunchbox can help.

  63. Vette60 says:

    Morning All.

    Running around getting things done before my son’s noon-time soccer game. Can’t wait for the game tonight – it seems like soooo long since the Pens were playing…

    Should be a fun series – I am a bit concerned about TV and the layoff – we’ll see how he responds early. Other guys that were banged up, layoff was not a bad thing in my opinion. Liked the fact that the Pens played well against the B’s this year (1 goal games) and seemed to have a pretty consistent approach when playing them – try to wear down the Slovak Giant in Chara.

    Hope that James Neal continues to have his scoring touch and manages to stay out of the box for stupid penalties. Need to continue to get scoring from 3rd & 4th line as well…

    Oh well, gotta go!

    Let’s go PENS! Pens in 6.

    Take care all.
    Randy in RVA.

  64. Dom says:

    What for?

  65. Drew71 says:


  66. DaveDigsPensCupRun says:

    I’m heading down to this one. Went to both Game 5s so far.

    This is going to be a heck of series and it won’t take long to heat up. The intensity will be there from the get go.

    I honestly don’t see this series going less than seven games.

    I think the Pens will prevail in 7 after a grueling, back-and-forth saga.

  67. Bizrow says:

    + 1

  68. I fear you guys are taking the Bruins too lightly!

    Including Dejan in his piece today.

    Tell ‘em, Lucky: “Pride goeth before a fall!”

  69. Oshkosh b’Gosh!

    Bring back Diane Lane. Or Elizabeth Shue——”Nobody gets outta here without singing the Blues!”

    I already miss that little tingle!!

  70. Sarah says:

    First game or two will tell a lot about the Pens D and Vokoun.
    Ott didn’t forecheck like th Bs will, big tough four lines.
    There can be no sloppiness behind around and in front of the net for Vokoun and the D.

    I think this will be a tough tough series.

  71. And a haughty spirit before destruction.

  72. pattonbb says:

    Hope Adams is ok. Stab wound to the stomach sounds extremely painful. Not that all stab wounds aren’t painful, but one in the stomach is just ….makes me cringe thinking about it.

  73. Sherry says:

    Greetings all! So, my birthday present in Nov was tix to see American Idiot when it comes to San Diego – and tonite is that night. Hubby is doing a half marathon in SD tomorrow, so we’ll be away overnight. Bottom line, I won’t get to see the game until tomorrow AM – and it is KILLING me! My mom has graciously decided to join me in not watching tonite, so we can watch together tomorrow.

    So, I’ll be off the grid for now – but I’ll be thinking about the boys and hoping they play a fast, composed, and heavy hitting game tonite! Let’s Go Pens!

  74. Sarah says:

    I will be very interested to see if Bylsma tries to match lines at home, esp if Bruins find a matchup that works for them, such as Marchand driving Malkin insane….
    Will DB adjust?

  75. Abraham’s Wife!

    You are spreading great wisdom here. Sarah laughed = Isaac.

  76. Sisyphus says:

    That doesn’t count, because with Zagursky it doesn’t send a message. It’s too likely that it was an accident :-)

    It seemed to me that Phillips was asking his teammates in the dugout, “Why do they always get me?” Wonder if any of them replied, “Because nobody likes you, Brandon.”

  77. Sherry Baby,

    Enjoy the Idiot tonight. Enjoy the play too!

    We will yell an extra yell every once in a while for you.

  78. Arriba Wilver says:


  79. Hey Dejan,

    The theme of your column was “the extra time will help!”

    Your writing was very crisp, fanciful, and ‘visible portrayals to see in our heads.’ One of your best crafted columns in a good while. Maybe the “extra time helped” you too.

    Your statement about the Penguins being so talented “they should win” makes me a little nervous, but, hey, why hold back?!

    I fear the Pens will be down in games 2-1 before they turn it on, but I will be happy to be wrong. I am extremely nervous about Vokoun’s rebound control against this Boston bunch.

    Prove me wrong, boys!

    DK: Thanks, Groat. Rebounds and control — including by the boxing-out defensemen — will be huge, I agree.

  80. Sarah says:

    Not to take credit from Abraham, but 30 yrs of goaltending does add perspective lol!!!

  81. Sarah says:

    Given all the above have been weaknesses at times – yes, this control, or lack of, will be huge.

  82. Abraham’s Wife,

    Sarah in the Bible hung around just outside the tent flap.

    You, Sarah, hang around just inside the crease.

    You can find out a lot in both places!!

    Rebounds and Pens D covering up for Vokun’s propensity to give them up key to series. Martin and Orpik need to be stars.

  83. Sarah says:

    Yep def agree.
    This will be a new level of pressure for the Pens.

    I guess the question in my mind is:
    Can they significantly tighten up the D and protect Vokoun?
    Or do they continue to play as is, give up some sloppiness around he net, and simply out-score the opponent?

    I think the former is best, but not sure they can do it.

    I think the latter – just going all Mario/Gretzky on the competition and out scoring everybody….would be rare in the last 20-plus years. But with this group, not impossible….

  84. Papa Croz says:

    Hendricks! Can’t go wrong their!

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