Shero spin: Whatever Penguins GM Ray Shero says at media scrums, know this – he desperately wants to win, perhaps more than ever. Did he learn anything from being a frontrunner at the deadline last season? Perhaps. He might not try to fit a square peg into a round hole the way he did when he acquired a 17-year NHL veteran right winger and allowed coach Dan Bylsma to play him at left wing.
How often are both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin healthy at the same time? The two highest paid Penguins players are in their prime. This is a chance that can’t be wasted and Shero knows it. Crosby will almost surely win the Hart Trophy and the Art Ross Trophy. Malkin is mad about Sochi and figures to elevate his game the rest of the way.
Shero is too shrewd to show his hand in front of media people. Whatever he decides, expect to read about it after the fact rather than beforehand.
The Pens could place Kris Letang on long-term IR, meaning he’d have to sit out 10 games or 24 days. That shouldn’t be an issue, thanks to a stroke. The salary cap doesn’t apply in the postseason, so it’s possible Pittsburgh could use the pro-rated portion of Letang’s salary on another player through the end of the regular season and then welcome Letang back for the playoffs. It probably makes the most sense to simply sit the defender out for the remainder of 2013-14, but either way, his pro-rated $3.5 million salary should give the Pens some cap relief (along with Pascal Dupuis’s pro-rated $3.75 million).
Click here for a link from cap geek showing the Penguins’ salary cap chart.
The above blurry picture shows Paul Martin — wearing no. 7 — raising Brian Gibbons’s arm after Gibbons scored a goal against the Buffalo Sabres. Penguins fans know that Gibbons is not a demonstrative goal celebrator in the vein of say, a Theo Fleury OT playoff winner. Gibbons is almost as reclusive as Howard Hughes the way he celebrates goals. He’s quickly becoming a favorite to watch.
Here’s to hoping we see Paul Martin raise his own hand sometime in the next month.
Rob Rossi penned the article Penguins star Malkin angry after Russia’s flameout at Olympics. Rossi has greater access than most to Malkin. (Rossi’s quotes in italics, followed by my thoughts).
Malkin, second among NHL players at 1.23 points per game, did not play regularly on the top power-play unit.
Instead of skating with Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexander Ovechkin in the situation where it made sense — the power play — Malkin skated with someone instead named Popov.
Malkin believed coaches catered to players who were members of his country’s Kontinental Hockey League. He sensed a point was being made at the expense of star Russians — specifically, he and Washington’s Alex Ovechkin — who have chosen to remain in the NHL.
There were way too many Popov’s.
Malkin felt the system was geared toward protecting the defense, which consisted mostly of KHL players, instead of playing to what he perceived the squad’s strength: skilled forwards.
Hard to argue with that appraisal.
Malkin sensed coaches were dismissive of players’ feedback. He and Ovechkin, a winger on his line, repeatedly pushed to be split because of their limited experience playing together and their respective preferences to carry the puck. Malkin and Ovechkin felt playing on the same lines made the team an easier matchup for opponents.
Malkin and Ovechkin also confided to associates’ fears that Russia’s NHL and KHL Olympians would not always be on the same page. Both players had hoped defenseman Sergei Gonchar, a respected veteran of four previous Olympics with NHL players, would make the squad to help captain Pavel Datsyuk bring players from hockey’s two most prominent leagues together.
Gonchar, now playing for Dallas, was not chosen by the Russian Federation — a decision that equally frustrated and confounded Ovechkin and Malkin.
Uh-huh. I knew it. I pounded the table like Nikita Khruschev at the U.N. about how Gonchar should’ve been on the Russian Olympics squad, if only as a power-play specialist.
The Penguins have 24 regular-season contests remaining, or exactly half of the entire slate they had following the work stoppage of 2012-13. Pittsburgh went 36-12 last year and would need to go 18-6 to match that pace over the next couple months.
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