Penguin Olympic Notes: Tavares, Malkin, Vokoun, Bennett

Bet you’d be bummed if I had told you one of the NHL’s top three scorers would tear his knee during Olympics play and miss the remainder of 2013-14.

Well, that’s exactly what happened to the Islanders’ John Tavares, who tore an MCL and meniscus in his knee. You’ve got to feel for the Long Island fans — losing the league’s third-leading scorer (66 points) and team captain likely ends New York’s chances of progressing through the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Tavares was the one player who I thought could really benefit from playing with elite linemates and show his true talent level on an international basis in the Olympics.

Here’s to wishing for a speedy recovery.

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Now, can you imagine if Sidney Crosby suffered a season-ending injury? I won’t even go there, but I’d rather see all of the Penguins return healthy from Sochi than the USA win gold. The Olympics make for great exhibition theatre, but the Stanley Cup is something the Pittsburgh Penguins need to win.

That said, Pens coach Dan Bylsma is having a great Olympics. He’s making the Russian coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov look like Barbecue Bruce Boudreau. Evgeni Malkin had a poor showing, but he should have been on Team Russia’s No. 1 power-play. Russia lacked veteran leadership and apparently a thoughtful head coach. Numerous reports said Malkin had to tell Bilyaletdinov to pull his own goalie against Latvia on Wednesday.

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For all of Alexander Ovechkin’s struggles, I do give him props for making Malkin speak with the media. According to Dejan Kovacevic, Malkin would talk with Russian media but blow past the North American contingent.

Sometimes I think Malkin needs to learn to respect others. One thing that infuriates me is how he skates away from his spot before the American/Canadian national anthems finish in NHL games.

Malkin is neither American nor Canadian, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t show respect. Everyone else does, why can’t he?

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Raise your hand if you predicted Olli Maatta would lead all Penguins players in Olympics points. Okay, now put them down because I don’t believe you.

Maatta has four points, including two goals and two goals, for Team Finland. Jussi Jokinen has a goal and two assists. Malkin also finished with a goal and two helpers. Crosby has two assists, Brooks Orpik has one assist and Paul Martin has yet to point.

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Tomas Vokoun is back practicing with the Penguins in Pittsburgh. He’s missed time with a blood clot in the past and returned, so there’s reason to believe he’ll be ready prior to the playoffs. What impact will his presence have on starter Marc-Andre Fleury? Fleury has done well in 2013-14 with backup Jeff Zatkoff not a threat to take his job. As funny as it sounds, Vokoun clouds the picture. We might look back and say what were the questions about, when and if Vokoun comes through in a clutch playoff spot, but right now I’m oddly comfortable with Fleury and Zatkoff alone.

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The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Rob Rossi reported on WPXI-TV a few days ago that the Pens are proceeding as if Kris Letang will not return this season. I think that’s a wise decision. Letang should undergo the procedure to close the hole in his heart and come back healthy next year. No reason to rush things.

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The NHL trade deadline is 13 days away. I was surprised Beau Bennett was not taking part in the Pens’ practice at Consol on Wednesday. If he’s the right wing answer for Sidney Crosby, then he better get healthy in a hurray.

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Treasure Life!
JT
@JohnToperzer
@PiratesTalk

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