Live Pens-Kings Blog Notes

By John Toperzer

First Period

Liked seeing Christian Ehrhoff with the number of shot attempts he took. Growing confidence can only help, especially when Maatta sits out November.

Malkin getting his 400th assist was a big landmark. Was it Malkin and Crosby that had achievements on the same puck and thought about splitting it in half?

Wonder how much of a difference game would be if Quick was in goal instead of Jones. Of course, giving the Pens four power-play opps is a recipe for disaster right now.

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Biggest surprise of the night is that Martin Jones is starting in goal for Los Angeles. Kings play tomorrow in Detroit and Jonathan Quick will start against the Red Winges.

Jones allows Dupuis rebound attempt on long Simon Despres backhander. Not sharp early, but not tested much thus far.

Christian Ehrhoff with a nice wrister from high in the slot. Jones hangs on. Would be nice to see Ehrhoff put the puck on net more often.

Andy Andreoff called for tripping on Patric Hornqvist. Early Pens’ PP 3:28 into game.

Alec Martinez with nice board work, preventing Evgeni Malkin from keeping puck in offensive zone.

Blake Comeau with an early Subway check of the game against Drew Doughty behind the LA net.

Kings go on PP 6:25 into contest. Don’t want to fall behind Los Angeles the way Pens did versus New Jersey.
Tyler Toffoli hooks Olli Maatta, LA power play ends. Good thing for Pens, Can’t fall behind.

Doughty puts slapper on net from between center red and blue line. One of Rick Tocchet’s favorite players in the NHL.

Doughty crunches Hornqvist, flagged two minutes for interference.

Thirty-nine seconds for two-man PP, set it up in O-zone with 21 ticks left.

Kunitz with a pretty little re-direct, gives Pens 1-0 lead on power play.

Evgeni Malkin collects his 400th assist. Still remember his first NHL goal. Do you know who assisted on it?*

Simon Despres draws penalty 5:36 left in first. Can’t believe he didn’t take the penalty.

Mike Lange announces Dustin Brown has served as LAK captain since 2007, Phil Bourque correctly guesses that he replaced Rob Blake.

*Mark Recchi assisted on Geno’s first career score.

Kris Letang passes up good look on PP and attempts pass to Kunitz, only to see puck go off Kings’ Dwight King for his first goal of season. Letang netted a career-high 11 goals in only 37 contests in 2013-14.

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Second Period

Kings shooting themselves in the foot tonight. Taking penalties, though the refs changing their minds on penalty call to Jarrod Stoll for interference on Brandon Sutter at the blue line is a first.

Steve Downie got into a little bit of trouble, but maybe that’s something the team has lacked in recent years, I’m not sure.

The Pens are only six goals short of their Saturday total.

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Kunitz just misses third point, almost shovels puck past Jones but misses net.

Don’t think Kings want to play Quick tonight, might be sink or swim with Jones. Would’ve been interesting to see what might have happened if Kunitz had converted.

Malkin took a shot coming down right wing 2-on-1. Good thing for Malkin to take those shots. He’s feeling it.

Jarrod Stoll called for interference on Sutter, refs change mind not penalty. Bourque incredulous on radio, says he’s never seen that before.

Dustin Brown called for two minutes slashing on Malkin. He has been a big waste since signing his last contract. Huge disappointment last season, which is shocking because of how consistent he had been.

Dupuis misses pretty set-up in slot. Best chance on an unsuccessful power play.

Malkin shoddy defense on the right boards of his own end, no surprise but Fleury makes glove save of shot from the slot to cover up.

Downie and Stoll stir the pot, both go to the box, Downie gets an extra two minutes. Even so, it’s amazing to see Downie restraining himself from going totally loco.

Kings miss on second power-play attempt. Seems like last minute of first period was Kings’ best showing of sustained pressure.

Mike Richard slashes down on Kris Letang hard, earns a trip to the sin bin. Pens 2-for-5 thus far on the man advantage.

Letang wrister from high in the slot save, then Matt Greene pushes Hornqvist from behind after the whistle. Kings frustrated.

Took potty break. Saw Mark Madden going for a food/drink break. I got popcorn and Snapple didn’t stick around to report on Mr. Madden’s choices.

Robin Regehr with a two-minute shift killing penalty, Pens’ first unit apparently stayed out for the bulk of man advantage.

Section 120 winning the cheer award for the game. Out-rooting rest of Consol like kids on a field trip.

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Penguins Notes: Jagr’s Giggle, Downie’s Restraint, Maatta’s Maturity

By John Toperzer

– Tuesday’s game will mark the first time the Penguins have played New Jersey without Martin Brodeur on its roster since 1993. Does it matter, will it help? Even at 41 years of age, Brodeur beat the Pens in both of his starts last season – limiting Pittsburgh to one goal in each contest.

On a side note, one wonders if Brodeur would have the backup job he so desires right now if he’d been a little less cranky working with fellow goalie Cory Schneider.

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IMG_8574Misty water-colored memories of the way we were

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– If you’re Jonesing for a quick little Mario Lemieux fix, Click here for your daily dose.

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– Olli Maatta’s announcement Monday that he has a thyroid tumor and possible cancer seemed eerily similar to Lemieux’s presser 21 years ago. Both players were scared, which isn’t the least bit surprising or unexpected. Maatta leads the team’s blueliners with a goal and five points in seven games and plays in every possible situation. The Pens might miss Maatta’s composure amidst chaos more than anything else, which sounds crazy to say about a 20-year-old – and one who still must complete his military obligation to Finland before age 28 — but he’s proven himself hockey-wise beyond his years. Surely he’ll handle his off-ice setback with equal aplomb.

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Click here for an article from 1992 about Jaromir Jagr.

So popular is Jagr, teammate Rick Tocchet said yesterday, that “a bunch of us will go out for a drink and he’ll head straight for the video games. There’ll be 100 young girls giving him quarters to play. They tell me, ‘Get your own quarters.’ “

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From Five quick points about the New Jersey Devils.

3. The penalty killing is terrible.

Having allowed seven goals in their last 13 shorthanded situations, the Devils’ PK now ranks last in the NHL (11 power play goals allowed in 35 shorthanded situations, 68.6 percent). What makes it so hard to believe is they’ve excelled at penalty-killing in recent years.

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Jagr netted his record 19th overtime game-winning goal and 125th game-winner Saturday.

“The scoring (stats) don’t show it, but I feel the best I’ve felt in probably the last 10 years,” Jagr said. “I had confidence that hopefully my luck was going to turn around and it did today. But even when the scoring wasn’t there I felt okay.”

After 11 seasons skating in a Pittsburgh sweater, 2014-15 marks Jagr’s 11th season skating for a different NHL organization.

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– Mike Cammalleri is not expected to play Tuesday. Penguins fans will remember his three-game stretch during the 2009-10 postseason when he blitzed Pittsburgh with four goals and five points, helping to bring the closing of Mellon Arena to an ignominious end.

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– Listening to the Bob Pompeani radio show Saturday morning illustrates why he’s the fluff-master of Pittsburgh sports.

Pompeani corrected a caller on air for mispronouncing the name of a Pittsburgh Steeler who said “Mar-ta-vee-us” instead of “Mar-ta-vis.”

Then, Pompeani — who is the KDKA-TV Sports Director — interviews former Penguin, James Neal. Pompeani asks Neal how it felt to score a hat trick on James Neal Bobblehead Night in Nashville on Thursday. Neal didn’t call out Pompeani until he further pressed the topic. Finally, the forward told Pompeani that his bobblehead giveaway was scheduled for the upcoming game Saturday night.

So Pompeani goes out of his way to correct a name that is difficult to pronounce in the first place but doesn’t even prepare for an interview with Neal. I hesitate to write bad things about other reporters, but it happens all the time with him and it’s annoying.

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– Back to hockey. Did anyone else see the restraint Steve Downie displayed Thursday? The Wings’ Jonathan Ericsson attempted to goad Downie into a retaliatory penalty during a third-period Pittsburgh power play. Ericsson struck Downie across the back of his legs but Downie kept his cool. Both players were flagged for minors though Ericsson was the initiator. Downie got a coincidental minor probably because of the name on the back of his sweater, but it was impressive to see his restraint. His talks on the bench with coaching mentor, Rick Tocchet, are fun to watch. One of these games Tocchet will tell Downie to “sic ‘em” but only when it won’t hurt the team.

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– One thing that sets Jagr apart from other people is his boyish enthusiasm for life. One time I met him at the Hooters near Station Square in Pittsburgh. I used to give him hockey cards of himself to give to kids in hospitals. So I met him and Martin Straka and their buddy, Dave at Hooters. Jagr introduces Straka to me and then says “that’s Dave, he’s nobody” and proceeds to chuckle for the next five minutes over what he said.

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– Hopefully Maatta isn’t taking any risks by playing in the next three games before undergoing his thyroid procedure next week. Roberto Bortuzzo isn’t expected back for another five or six days, according to The Trib’s Josh Yohe. Maatta’s impending departure and Bortuzzo’s return sets up the timing almost too perfectly.

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Sidney Crosby took some heat for his whining against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday, but his reactions were warranted. Henrik Zetterberg might be one of the sneakiest dirty players in the NHL. Zetterberg repeatedly held Crosby’s stick, picked off Penguins players like Pascal Dupuis in the offensive zone. If Simon Despres played like Zetterberg he’d be in the box the entire game. Of course, Despres is no Zetterberg.

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Penguins Audio (courtesy of the Pens)

Mike Johnston:

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Sidney Crosby:

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Kris Letang:

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Pascal Dupuis:

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Paul Martin:

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Treasure Life!
JT
@JohnToperzer

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Penguin Notes: The Good, The Bad — The Philly

By John Toperzer

It took all of 13 days and five regular-season games to derail new head coach Mike Johnston’s honeymoon in Pittsburgh with the Penguins. Unsurprisingly, the team from Philadelphia caused the abrupt ending. In the post Mellon Arena era, the Flyers have now defeated the Pens 10 times in 12 games at Consol Energy Center during the regular season (and have also taken two of three in the postseason).

Wednesday night, Philly beat Pittsburgh, 4-3, in a game which early on looked as though it might be a romp for the Pens over their intrastate rivals. The Flyers played a first-period game of rope-a-dope, taking a pounding from Pittsburgh’s power play but not allowing a goal on two man-advantage opportunities.
By the end of 60 minutes, the game had taken an all-too-familiar course, with Philadelphia skating away with yet another victory on Pittsburgh ice.

On the surface, an October loss won’t likely be remembered as much as, say, a playoff loss in the spring. And that’s a good thing. Since Day 1, coach Johnston has stressed that each day and each game is a buildup to the postseason. The Penguins can learn from Wednesday’s disappointing showing.

On the other hand, Pittsburgh squandered a chance to defeat the ultimate “thorn in its side,” a team which had been dismantled 24 hours earlier by Chicago, a team with just one win in its first six games.

Unfortunately for the Pens, they won’t have a chance to erase the bad taste against the Flyers at home until April 1, 2015 (yes, April Fools’ Day).

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Sidney Crosby was held without a point Wednesday for the first time in 2014-15. On the positive side, he turned away from a possible emotional confrontation with Philadelphia’s Sean Couturier – something that probably wouldn’t have happened in past seasons. So at least the captain kept his cool. He also made it through the game uninjured, which is always a good thing. When the Penguins unveiled their third sweaters at the Heinz Field Winter Classic, Crosby suffered his infamous concussion courtesy of David Steckel. Flyers agitator Zac Rinaldo did get one lick in on Crosby, but it was Rinaldo who would be forced to leave Wednesday’s game early.

Crosby leads the Pens with nine points in five games but he has yet to finish any game with a winning record in the faceoff circle. He lost 12 of 20 draws against Philly and is winning just 44.3 percent overall – the lowest mark in his 10 NHL seasons. A cynic might say that it’s possible his wrist isn’t fully healthy.

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Kasperi Kapanen, Pittsburgh’s 2014 first-round draft choice, has scored three goals and six points in his first four games with KalPa Kuopio this fall. While those totals are pretty good, they look even better when one considers Kapanen scored seven goals and 14 points in 47 games for the same team last year. Click here for the link.

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If you thought Evgeni Malkin looked scary in his Dracula outfit for Halloween, then you must’ve been really scared whenever Geno handled the puck in the defensive zone Wednesday.

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Angie Carducci @ACarducci captured the essence of the Penguins’ pre-game tribute to all affected by the tragic events in Ottawa. One of the nicest members in Pittsburgh media, Angie’s work for Inside Hockey can be found here.

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The Penguins changed up their lines in the third period, inserting Blake Comeau as a top-six forward on a line with Chris Kunitz and Evgeni Malkin. Comeau has played pretty well in the early going and the team appears set to rely on him for some of its secondary scoring.

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Whether you believe GM Jim Rutherford is telling the truth when he said Marc-Andre Fleury will be his goalie as long as he’s the Pens’ general manager or not, his comments certainly didn’t help the Flower play any better Wednesday. Fleury came out of the net, dropped his stick and looked shaky at times.

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Something to keep in mind for Thursday’s game. In the preseason, coach Johnston noted Detroit’s speed and said the Red Wings were the toughest team to keep up with – and that was with Pavel Datsyuk sidelined with a shoulder injury.

Datsyuk’s back. Click here if you don’t believe me.

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Brandon Sutter finished with a minus-4 rating for the first time in his seven NHL seasons Wednesday. The only other time Sutter had compiled a minus-3 rating with Pittsburgh was last April – against these same Flyers. On the bright side, Sutter won 14 of 19 faceoffs Wednesday. So far, Sutter is the anti-Crosby. Both players have totaled 106 draws, with Sutter winning 57.6 percent and Crosby losing 55.7 percent.

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Coach Johnston said in the preseason he wanted to get Crosby and Malkin more short-handed time than in past seasons. Crosby is averaging 27 seconds while Malkin is averaging one second on the man advantage. In the last three seasons, Crosby has averaged 30 seconds, 41 seconds and seven seconds, respectively. Malkin: one tick, one tick, two ticks.

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I don’t mean to sound like a broken record (do people still remember records?), but the Pens’ lack of toughness in front of their own net will continue to hurt them against physical teams and players like Wayne Simmonds. Simmonds didn’t have a big night Wednesday, but he’s more than capable of doing so in the future. It will be interesting to see how Robert Bortuzzo fares in his return. The Pens will need his size and at least one other blueliner with a similar skill set in the postseason.

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Pens-Flyers Audio (Courtesy of the Pittsburgh Penguins)

Mike Johnston:

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Sidney Crosby:

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Craig Berube:

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Team Notes:

The Penguin’s have killed off 11 consecutive penalties in their last two games without surrendering a goal.

Player Notes:

Nick Spaling’s first-period goal was his first goal and first point since joining the Penguins on June 27 via trade from Nashville. The tally was Spaling’s first since March 11, 2014 at Buffalo as a member of the Nashville Predators. Spaling also had a primary assist on Marcel Goc’s third-period goal. His two points tied a career-high.

Pascal Dupuis tied up the game in the second period by scoring his second goal of the season. He is now one point shy of 400.

Paul Martin recorded an assist on Dupuis’; second-period goal. Martin’s 20 career assists versus the Flyers are tied for the most against any one team in his career (NYI).

Evgeni Malkin’s helper on Dupuis’; goal extended his assist streak to five consecutive games to start the season. He now has 59 points (22G-37A) in 44 career games against the Flyers – the most he has accumulated versus any one team.

Blake Comeau and Christian Ehrhoff picked up assists on Spaling’s first-period goal. Comeau, who led the team in points in the preseason with four (1G-3A), picked up first his regular-season assist with the Penguins.

Center Marcel Goc’s third-period goal was his first as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and first since March 2, 2014 at NYI when he played for Florida.

Forward Steve Downie recorded an assist on Marcel Goc’s third-period tally. The assist was Downie’s first since February 27, 2014 versus San Jose.

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Treasure Life!
JT
@JohnToperzer

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Penguins Notes: Paul Martin’s Confidence, Harrington’s Journey, Crosby, Hornqvist

By John Toperzer

Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov’s arrest for suspected domestic abuse shows that it doesn’t take an NFL player to do something stupid. Shocking, I know. Just over one month ago, Allan Muir of Sports Illustrated took a look at NHL abuse cases here.

And the Toronto Sun ran a story in which Blue Jackets defenseman Fedor Tyutin, a Russian (as is Varlamov) was quoted as saying, “It’s just American laws are on the women’s side, that’s why they can go to the police for any little thing, complain and bring a lot of problems to men.”

Looks like the NHL has gotten things right, suspending Voynov indefinitely. Live and learn from the NFL’s mistakes.

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The Penguins played two games in both Weeks 1 and 2. That won’t happen again until the next calendar year, when Pittsburgh plays twice from January 5 to 11. Until then, the team plays at least three games per week. Incidentally, the Carolina Hurricanes are the only other Eastern Conference team to have played as few games as the Pens (insert snarky comment here_____).

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Wouldn’t it be nice if an impressive back-checking display by Evgeni Malkin was more of the norm than an event worthy of post-game praise by coach Mike Johnston? We all know that Geno is here for his offensive prowess, but helping out on defense shouldn’t be big news.

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I like Steve Downie mixing things up, mostly when it’s an organic display of team unity. Sometimes, fighting can be too staged. Georges Laraque springs to mind. Of course, when Laraque came to Pittsburgh he suddenly was overwhelmed by desire to show off his offense. Funny how that’s happened with tough guys coming over to the Pens. Certainly, that hasn’t been the case with Downie, and he does have some offensive potential. Wednesday should provide some sort of “entertainment value” with Downie going up against his old mates in Philadelphia.

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I don’t get the feeling new head coach Mike Johnston is overly impressed with Paul Martin. Whenever he speaking about his defensive corps he notes how Player A or Player B has the ability to generate offense, he stops short with Martin, saying that he’s more of a stable guy. Martin may have been better on the power-play point than Kris Letang the past couple seasons, but he’s now likely third behind Letang and Christian Ehrhoff in the pecking order.

The team doesn’t seem concerned about building Martin’s trade value, but even more than that, Martin is a player who has fed off confidence or shrunk by the lack of it in the past. Penguins fans will remember who poorly Martin looked when he signed his five-year deal. In fact, he had a frank summer chat with then GM Ray Shero during which Shero asked if Martin wanted a trade. To his credit, Martin said “no” and went out and positively turned his time around in Pittsburgh.

But confidence is big with Martin – perhaps even bigger than it is with other players – and Johnston is walking a fine line with his biggest trade chip.

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Why is Scott Harrington with the Penguins and not the Baby Penguins? He needs to play. Coach Johnston even said that when he demoted him to Wilkes-Barre at the end of training camp. Why then has he sat in the press box eating pretzel nuggets the last week? The only thing I can think of is if the systems are different at the NHL and AHL levels. With Bylsma, Pittsburgh played the same system in both places but I haven’t heard whether that’s the case with Johnston. Another reason might’ve been that Taylor Chorney, who spent the first game with Pittsburgh, was simply really bad. Either way, Harrington will likely go back to the Baby Pens when Roberto Bortuzzo returns and that could happen in the coming week. To quote the title of a 1990s pop group, the team’s handling of Harrington seems like a case of “Arrested Development.”

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There is much to like about Johnston. I like how he went back to starter Marc-Andre Fleury on Saturday after he allowed a couple late goals to the Stars on Thursday. Johnston didn’t panic about the Flower’s final goal with 2.9 ticks remaining in regulation, a shot that needed to be stopped. That has to inspire confidence in Fleury. Two days later, the netminder made 34 saves in a 3-1 win over the Islanders.

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Pittsburgh’s fast start begs the question of whether the organization wasted the primes of both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin with Bylsma at the helm. The Pens look so much more organized and in control under Johnston. Puck support and puck possession versus stretch passes and low percentage dumps in’s?

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Christian Ehrhoff might have to wait until an injury strikes before getting an opportunity on offense. He hasn’t sniffed the first-unit power play. Ehrhoff has just one even-strength assist on six shots through four games. It’s widely thought that he could sign a longer term deal than his current one-year, $4 million contract after the beginning of the 2015 calendar year, but it will be interesting to see if the way the team uses him factors into his decision to stay.

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Sidney Crosby, who scored goals in just two of his final 23 games (including the postseason) in 2013-14, already has four goals (and nine points) in four games. In 2012-13, Crosby totaled three power-play goals in 36 games. He already has three scores on the man advantage. So long as his wrist and shoulder both hold up – neither of which are givens, he’s in for a monster year.

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In 2009-10, Patric Hornqvist set career single-season highs with 30 goals and 275 shots. While he’s on pace for 574 shots on goal, I think he has a better chance of surpassing the 30-goal mark than he does the 275 shots. That said, he’s looking good on both fronts right now.

Hornqvist has potted three goals in 24 career playoff games. The Penguins will have to work on that number this spring.

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Treasure Life!
JT
@JohnToperzer

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Penguins Notes: Crosby, Fleury, Maatta, coach Mike Johnston

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Now that the euphoria from Thursday’s 6-4 Penguins victory has worn down …

Pascal Dupuis saw more than two minutes on the power play Thursday. In 39 games and 690 minutes of ice time last season, Dupuis totaled 11:21 on the man advantage. New head coach Mike Johnston is looking at his talent in a new light and that’s refreshing. We all know that Dupuis won’t become a power-play maven overnight after 10 seasons in the NHL but it’s good to see the Pens are thinking out of the box.

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P1580704Fleury must still be breaking in those gold goalie pads

Marc-Andre Fleury turned the puck over behind his own net, leading to a layup goal by Corey Perry. It’s a lot easier moving the puck forehanded with a goalie stick than it is with a backhand and Fleury paid the price. The goalie did stone Nate Thompson’s penalty shot backhand. Henrik Lundqvist might be the only goalie better than the Flower on penalty shots and shootouts.

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Sidney Crosby decided against summer wrist surgery and scored two wrist-shot goals Opening Night. Penguins fans will remember Crosby netted just one goal in 13 playoff games last spring.

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After all the talk of giving Brandon Sutter more chances throughout the Penguins offense, he scores a short-handed goal (his seventh career tally) while killing a penalty.

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Evgeni Malkin and Zach Sill were the only two Penguins forwards unable to register at least one shot on goal Thursday. Malkin, who missed the entire preseason, will try to make amends Saturday. He is averaging 1.83 points per game against the Maple Leafs with 44 points in 24 games – his best numbers versus any NHL opponent. Eventually he’ll move back to center from right wing, but why mess with success for another couple games?

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The Pens made a somewhat curious move by recalling defenseman Scott Harrington after just one game. Originally, the thinking was that Harrington was best served by seeing full minutes with Wilkes-Barre instead of sitting in the press box for Pittsburgh. Coach Johnston noted how the rookie is much more defensive-oriented than Taylor Chorney, who the team sent to the Baby Penguins, but unless Harrington plays (as he should) then the move lends itself to some second guessing.

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Crosby likely wished Blake Comeau and Steve Downie were on the Penguins roster when Marc Staal abused the Penguins captain during the playoffs and nobody protected the captain. After Ryan Kesler took some liberties with Letang on Thursday, Comeau and Downie made a point to retaliate against Kesler. On Friday, Letang said he “appreciated” their efforts but made sure to say he hoped that the team would react the same way for any of his teammates.

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It’s incredible to think Olli Maatta lasted until the 22nd pick of the 2012 draft. Maatta missed all six of Pittsburgh’s preseason games, only to tally three helpers Opening Night – his first three-point effort. It’s good the 20-year-old has an experienced partner like Paul Martin to learn from and absorb.

Martin is likely a luxury the team will move before the deadline, but the depth he gives the blue line makes him a valuable commodity. It’s pretty much assumed the Pens will move his $5 million salary, so enjoy his puck-moving skills while you still can.

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Too bad the Chicago Blackhawks don’t need a Paul Martin. Brandon Saad will be a free agent after the season and would look good in a Penguins sweater, real good. According to CapGeek, Chicago is just $384,000 under the cap while Pittsburgh is $138,000 under the limit (and that was after the Blackhawks traded puck-moving blueliner Nick Leddy before the start of the season).

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GM Jim Rutherford seems like such an unassuming, down-to-earth guy. Twice in the last two home games, I saw the general manager looking at pictures of past Penguin successes (such as a framed headline page of a Stanley Cup win) in the media hallway all by himself.

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Transcribed Penguin Interviews (Courtesy, Pittsburgh Penguins)

Mike Johnston media notes:

We thought Scott had a good camp, heading into this weekend in Toronto, we’ll be bringing some players back and forth. To bring Scott up, he’s a very good defensive defenseman. He’s had a good training camp, we want to bring him up for a bit here, have him with the big team.
Chorney, I was very impressed with how he played, gives us an older experienced guy, mobile, can move the puck. Harrington gives us a defensive defenseman look.
We do a game review after every game, we summarize areas where we do well and where we have to improve. Every game we try to take two or three things and chisel away and improve them. I liked the puck movement, puck possession time. We made a few poor decisions with the puck. If you want to be a puck possession team, you have to weed out those poor decisions and start to make sure guys know what to do when they’re confronted. They don’t have to make plays through people, but it’s a process, it’s not going to happen right away.
I thought for the first game, I like the way we hung in there through some adversity in the second period. We generated 21 shots on goal in the second period, so I liked the way we put the shots on goal.
To protect anybody, I do like that. I like the response of the team. There was a hit … sometimes you have to take a stance at the right time.
Any area of the game where we get exploited is a concern. The penalty kill is still a work in progress. Through the exhibition series we’ve had some new guys killing together. We’re still trying to get our pairs down, get our defense pairs with our forwards. Once we get the groups together and get our more game tape that we can watch sequences… The first three or four weeks, unless you’ve had your same unit and same coach from the year before, it’s going to take a series of eight to 10 games before you get your special teams in synch.
We weren’t really sure because Olli (Maatta) hadn’t played in an exhibition. We were kind of playing it as we went along. Paul (Martin) is very stable, very smart. He’s not defensive, per se, but he has a defensive mindset. Olli can jump into the play, so there’s great balance in that pair. I really wanted to monitor because Olli hasn’t played a lot in the preseason and I thought he may have a setback in his first game, but he went the other way, he just kept getting better and better as the game went along.
Mike Bales (goaltending coach) and I talked today. We’re gonna look at the schedule ahead and solidify those dates when we’re looking at putting him into games. We’ve sketched it out, but we’re gonna nail it down in the next couple days while we’re on the road. So we’ll look at our schedule slot, this is a good game for Greiss and that’s what we’re going to give him. Do that ahead of time rather than reacting on the spur of the moment. I think it’s always best to do that.

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Sidney Crosby media notes:

He’s played for other teams, too (Chris Pronger), so I don’t think it’s a big deal.
I thought that was a great job. No matter who it is, I think you want to make sure you stick together. Whether it’s a new guy or someone who’s been around for a long time, I think that’s an important trait.
I think it’s an area you want to improve (sticking together since last year). We could’ve been better in that area for sure. When you’re winning 6-3 and guys want to take liberties, you have to make sure you stick together. That’s part of the game and it’s going to happen. But you want to react the right way. I think we did a good job of that.
It’s just going to take time. We worked on knowing where we need to be and make sure we support the puck.
It’s always exciting (to play in Toronto). You feel that energy. The crowd gets behind them. Obviously being in Canada, you know how passionate everyone is about the game. I think a lot of us grew up watching those Saturday night games, so it’s always fun to play in them.
I feel like, not good, it’s a little bit hard. My shape not great yet. I should play in the first game, no injury for me. We play at home. Just keep going work hard nice practice. We win, it’s good but I should play better. When you not play in a long time it’s tough. Practice is so much different. Every game is hard. I’m glad I started yesterday and we win.
We have Duper. He score goal, assists. He do everything. I not play in a long time, I need time, too, you know, sometimes I lose position (right wing) … see my video yesterday and today. Just focus my game, work hard and try to help my team win, you know.
Very big performance (by Dupuis) because I remember my injury was the same. We see how smiling, how hungry, he hadn’t played in such a long time. I’m glad for him, he’s a very important player for our team. I hope he plays the same way every game.

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Kris Letang media notes:

That’s what we need, stick up for each other, really appreciate the two guys stepping up for me. I think we have to do it all around the dressing room. That was nice.
We have a great group of guys, we’ve seen it in training camp, we had a chance to go on the road.
On Chris Pronger taking a league job, though he’s still on Flyers’ payroll.
That’s not really my business to discuss that. Obviously, if you’re an employee of a team you can’t really decide on a disciplinary decision on guys on your team, so it’s kind of a (little) conflict.

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Steve Downie media notes:

Anyone on this team, if someone gets hit like that, five guys on the ice gotta step in there and do their job.
This is a pretty tight-knit locker room. These guys are playing together for a while now.
No, not at all. I spent some time with Prongs last year. He’s a great guy, he doesn’t care what people think or say. He’s an honest man. I think it’s good for the players and good for the league.
We did a good job, we got up three, we kind of let up. Answered the bell. A little sloppy, couple things to clean up but it was the first game and we can build on it.
(Saturday in Toronto) They always seem to come out of the gate quick and we have to be ready for them.
Tocchet’s a great coach. He helped me develop my game at a young age. Happy to be back with him, should be fun working with him.
It’s not one guy on the ice. If something happens like that it’s all five guys got to get in there and make something happen. I thought we did a good job last night.

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Blake Comeau media notes:

Got to limit that skill. Those are the kind of guys you have to play hard on. We’re gonna have a tough game (in Toronto). It was a nice win, to be able to contribute in the win (against Anaheim). It was awesome (the atmosphere at Consol). You could feel the excitement in the arena. As players you can feed of that, use that to your advantage. It’s a nice thing to have.

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Penguins Audio

Mike Johnston:

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Sidney Crosby:

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Pascal Dupuis:

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Evgeni Malkin:

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Kris Letang:

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Steve Downie:

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Blake Comeau:

*****

Treasure Life!
JT
@JohnToperzer

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Penguin Notes: It’s a hockey night in Pittsburgh!

IMG_2939Christian Ehrhoff and Kris Letang prepare for the 2014-15 campaign

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Only the Stars’ Kari Lehtonen (3803:59) saw more time in goal last season than did Marc-Andre Fleury (3792:24).

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Don’t be shocked to see Steve Downie have a big game in his Penguins debut Thursday. After all, he registered a Gordie Howe Hat Trick – goal, assist, fight — on Opening Night last season for the Flyers.

Downie had a turbulent time of it in 2013-14. Following his early success, he was traded from the Avalanche to the Flyers in late October for Max Talbot. Downie then battled ear and concussion injuries thereafter, even serving as a healthy scratch after coach Craig Berube questioned his intensity level.

Long term, the Pens might be more worried about Downie’s knee. He missed all but two games in 2012-13 with a torn ACL and MCL.

In the meantime, he should be a lot of fun to watch under assistant coach Rick Tocchet’s guidance.

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Kris Letang is getting a chance to prove himself on the power play in front of new head coach Mike Johnston. It’s not unfair to suggest that Paul Martin outplayed Letang on the man advantage over the past couple seasons.

If Letang shows improvement keeping odd-man, short-handed rushes to a minimum then the top unit of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz and Patric Hornqvist and Letang have a chance to stay intact. These players are skating as the team’s No. 1 unit during Thursday’s game-day skate.

More likely, defenseman Christian Ehrhoff will take one of the top five spots at some point as the power play finds its way.

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Hat tip to Ryan Wilson of Hockey Buzz for the link to Ehrhoff’s ability on the power play. His best years of production came with the Sedin twins in Vancouver and he should see similar talent here in Pittsburgh.

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“Hockey’s hockey. We’re not going to re-invent the game,” said Pascal Dupuis Wednesday, referring to new head coach Mike Johnston’s style.

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Thursday’s Game-Day Media Interviews (Courtesy, Pittsburgh Penguins)

Mike Johnston:

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Sidney Crosby:

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Olli Maatta:

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Pascal Dupuis:

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Transcribed media highlights (not intended to be perfect or complete statements)

Mike Johnston media notes:

I don’t think any team is where you want to be at this point. It’s still a work in progress. As far as execution goes, we’re still going to build over that over the next couple months.
Matchups, I still want to keep tempo and pace, don’t want to over matchup.
We look at the analytics and what we see, make our judgments as to what matchups are best.
Last night, a lot of the goals were scored in a five-foot area.
Power plays are based on your best players. Hornqvist and Kunitz are very good around the net. Interchangeable. Our other power play, with Sutter, has two defensemen on it.
If you want to play a speed game, you have to have shift range in the 40 seconds area. There’s no grey area.
The key thing in the morning skate is we want to keep our feet moving. For our goaltenders it’s really critical that they get the right types of shots. Then we had 2-on-1’s at the end.

Sidney Crosby media notes:

Long offseason, ready to start with a clean slate. We all just want to get started.
Pretty focused on what we need to do, not so much on other team.
Pat (Hornqvist) has a right shot, he’s good from that area. He goes to the net hard. Get pucks to the net. It has been a short timeframe, but we have a good idea of what we need to do. Stick to the basics.
We play a high pace game, got some grit thrown in there. Our depth and ability to play fast game will be our strength and have to improve over time.
You don’t want to be thinking too much out there, react.
With goalies, big guy takes space, get traffic prevent him from stopping first one, if he does, make it hard stopping rebound. Those things don’t change against any goalie you play against (John Gibson).
Getzlaf, he’s able to use his size to hold onto the puck I wouldn’t be able to lug it as long as he does. He does everything well.

Olli Maatta notes:

Absolutely, excited to get back in there, first game of the season.
I don’t expect too much but I’ve had a good summer, even with shoulder, anxious and ready to go. Want to be mentally ready (for first hit on injured shoulder).
Paul Martin – he’s so easy to play with, he makes it so much easier for myself.
Good four weeks of practice, I think we’re ready, get better as the season goes along.
Ducks have good four lines, first line one of best in league.
I knew I wouldn’t be ready for preseason, but really happy I’m here.

Pascal Dupuis media notes:

Feeling great, played a couple preseason games. Long time coming, perfect.
Body feels good, knee feels great, last couple weeks were huge for me.
Everything is pretty much back to normal.
Sudsy played some great hockey for us in the playoffs. Geno wants the puck on his stick, makes my job easy, bring some passion and intensity to the game.
Hopefully the puck is going to be on his (Malkin’s) stick more than mine.
Pregame ritual, my nap, maybe? No, putting the pads on and playing the game that I love. Excited about coming back. It’s an exciting time, new coach, new management.
I have a lot to prove right now.

*****

Treasure Life!
JT
@JohnToperzer

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Just how vulnerable are the 2014-15 Pittsburgh Penguins? What if …

IMG_2961

By John Toperzer

What if …

… Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby don’t live up to expectations?

Let’s get the big question out of the way.

Given that the Penguins’ philosophy is now designed around puck possession, losing 87 and 71 would likely crush any chance of the Penguins hosting Stanley Cup IV. For a period of time, the team might be able to rally around its grinders, play a tight game, protect Marc-Andre Fleury and float around the .500 mark (only five NHL teams finished 2013-14 with losing records), but let’s be serious. The Pens need a healthy Geno and Sid to do real damage. We all know that.

Crosby appears to be relatively healthy, but a wonky wrist and an undisclosed injury rumored to be his shoulder could sideline the star at any moment.

Malkin has yet to practice. Even if he returns, who’s to say that he doesn’t suffer a setback? The team would be wise to take its time with the Russian star as he returns from a foot injury or whatever the undisclosed injury actually is.

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… Opponents find it easier than ever to camp out in front of Pittsburgh’s net?

The Penguins have done alright without a Dion Phaneuf to keep forwards honest, but with Brooks Orpik signing for big bucks in Washington, only Roberto Bortuzzo profiles as a blueliner with the ability to clear traffic in front of Fleury. Now, Bortuzzo is out for another few weeks, leaving behind a defensive unit that wouldn’t even strike fear in Nathan Gerbe. The 6-foot-4, 220 pound Brian Dumoulin will start the season in Wilkes-Barre but better leave his cell phone on & charged. Simon Despres has shown more feistiness in camp than ever before, but NHL refs have already seemed to have red-flagged Despres as a Penguin to call a penalty on whenever they want to make an “even-up” call.

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… Team management has too many Indian Chiefs?

We’re not talking about the old Johnstown Chiefs here. New GM Jim Rutherford has decided to keep a staff which is big. You’ve got associate GM Jason Botterill, assistant GM Tom Fitzgerald, and assistant GM Bill Guerin all pressing Rutherford’s ear. That’s fine for the 63-year-old, but first-year coach Mike Johnston might find himself looking over his back wondering if he’s making the right decision. Johnston was the organization’s eighth head-coaching pick, or something like that. Let’s just hope he’s not the insecure type when the team hits a bump in the road, as all franchises do at one time or another.

There’s also the long-term management question as to which Indian Chief takes over in the next couple years when Rutherford retires, but we’ll stick to 2014-15.

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… Age catches up to Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis?

The NHL is a young man’s game, with Jaromir Jagr and a few others serving as exceptions. Kunitz and Duper are both 35 years of age. While that’s still a good age for those in secondary support roles, both players will be counted upon for top-six minutes. Kunitz’s physical “badger” style lends itself to injury at 25, let alone 35. Dupuis relies upon elite speed and skating ability. Once his legs go, his game will surely follow. Throw in spring knee surgery and Sid’s linemates are not a sure thing. As we’ve seen, not everyone finds it easy to play wing for Crosby. Beau Bennett has looked good on occasion, but he’s out for the next month with a knee injury.

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… The team underestimated the impact of its departing players?

As earlier mentioned, Brooks Orpik is gone. Clearly he had lost a step, but he was voted to player’s player on numerous occasions and had the respect of the room. James Neal, Jussi Jokinen and Matt Niskanen finished fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively, in scoring. That’s a total of 164 points gone.

Brian Gibbons was discarded. He played some of the team’s best hockey in the playoffs. Joe Vitale might not be a big loss but he was one of the few decent faceoff men on the squad. Tanner Glass was a hitting machine in his second year, even though his advanced metrics were bad. Deryk Engelland, he’s gone. He set a career high in goals (6) and was coach Bylsma’s favorite (I’m only half joking here).

There are other names, too, but their absences will unequivocally help. Taylor Pyatt and Matt D’Agostini spring to mind.

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… Coach Dan Bylsma and GM Ray Shero really weren’t that bad of a combination?

Changes had to be made, don’t get me wrong. Change was long overdue and a legitimate argument could be made that Bylsma, at the least, should’ve been fired after losing in the postseason to Boston two seasons ago. But there’s something to be said about consistency. Pittsburgh finished no lower than second in its division the last five years. Of course, the ring will always be what it’s about so long as Sid and Geno are on the team, as it should be – but who’s to say that a 57-year-old, first-year NHL coach is the way to go?

Plenty of legitimate questions surround the Pittsburgh Penguins and the only real way to find answers is to play the game.

Puck drops Thursday night.

*****

Treasure Life!
JT
@JohnToperzer

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