Penguins Notes: Orpik strong, Fleury’s usage Saturday, Russia and the US

IMG_1204Penguin center, Evgeni Malkin

By John Toperzer

“Passive,” “disinterested,” “soft,” these adverbs aptly describe the Penguins’ effort Saturday in Philadelphia.

The Flyers dominated from the drop of the opening puck and Pittsburgh did little to quiet an “amped-up” Wells Fargo crowd. After the game, Pens coach Dan Bylsma focused on his team allowing two special teams goals, including a power-play marker and a short-handed score. Bylsma made it a point to call out Simon Despres’s penalty as “undisciplined.”

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I’m a little torn about the repeated mention of lost Penguins man-games. There’s no denying the impact they had on Saturday’s game. Losing James Neal and Chris Kunitz cannot be understated. But the total of 400 or so games lost includes 65 each from Tomas Vokoun and Beau Bennett. That’s 135 games from two players who really wouldn’t have affected Pittsburgh’s record significantly even if they’d been healthy. It could be argued Fleury’s played better because Vokoun hasn’t been there as a threat every time the Flower has had a stinker.

For years, the thinking was that if the Pens only had both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin healthy at the same time then everything else would fall into place. Crosby hasn’t missed a game – knock on wood – and Malkin has missed 11 out of 66, none since Jan. 5. Shouldn’t there also be talk about the relative good health of Crosby, Malkin and Fleury?

After all, these three players alone account for more than one-third of the team’s salary cap hit.

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Okay, enough of playing Devil’s Advocate. Let’s look at something positive. Brooks Orpik has picked his game up. Whether his health has improved or he just gets excited to play rivals like the Caps and Alexander Ovechkin or the Flyers, who knows? The fact is he’s got 22 hits and 14 blocked shots over the last four games.

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Does it matter that the Penguins didn’t send a message to the Flyers late in the third period Saturday? Zac Rinaldo was running anything in a black & gold sweater, but only Evgeni Malkin took the bait. He almost laughingly tried to catch up to and Braydon Coburn as the defender skated to his bench.

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Speaking of Malkin, how does the chilling of political relationships between Russia and the United States impact Russians playing hockey in North America? I haven’t heard any discussion on the matter and that’s probably a good thing. It could make for an awkward situation. Malkin is certainly a patriotic Russian. If Russia pushes its troops past Crimea in the Ukraine and the US deploys more military personnel into bordering countries like Poland, things could get a little hairy. Let’s hope Russia and Putin stand down.

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Fleury went 35-18-7 with a 2.67 GAA and .912 save percentage when the Pens won the Stanley Cup in 2008-09. He appeared in 62 games, starting 61.

The Flower holds a 34-15-2 mark with a 2.26 GAA and .918 save percentage in 2013-14 (before Saturday’s tough tilt).

Pittsburgh has 16 games remaining in the regular season, meaning Fleury could start a maximum of 69 games. Considering Jeff Zatkoff (and perhaps Vokoun) figure to see some action, Fleury will likely start somewhere in the neighborhood of 65 games. From 2008-09 to 2011-12, he started 61, 66, 62 and 64 games, respectively.

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ROOT Sports announcers Paul Steigerwald and Bob Errey suggested the Pens rest Fleury for the third period of Saturday’s game, in order to have him fresh for Sunday. Tweets from Penguin followers also flooded Twitter, suggesting the same thing. The fact that Fleury tended all 60 minutes leads one to believe Zatkoff will get the nod in the rematch Sunday afternoon.

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Brian Dumoulin is back playing defense for the Baby Penguins after missing considerable time with a lower-body injury. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Pens recall him if they (i.e. coach Bylsma) grow even more fed up with Despres.

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Prior to Saturday, the visiting team in the Pens-Flyers series had won 25 of the last 27 regular-season games, according to the @PensRadioNet and @Brian_Metzer. I went back to see how the two sides fared against one another in the postseason. Dating back to 1996-97, the home team has won 15 of 28 playoff games, with Philly holding a similar 15-13 advantage in wins.

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Tom Kostopoulos leads the Baby Pens with 42 points in 58 games (heading into Saturday’s action). I’d kind of like to see him come up and add some fire against Philly on Sunday, but it won’t happen. Kostopoulos is the only player on Wilkes Barre’s roster born before 1980.

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The good thing about Saturday’s loss is that the Pens have a chance to get rid of the bad taste in less than 24 hours.

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Dan Bylsma:

Sidney Crosby:

Brooks Orpik:

Courtesy, Pittsburgh Penguins

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Treasure Life!
JT
@JohnToperzer
@PiratesTalk

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Pens Wednesday: Bylsma talks Flyers, Kunitz with Malkin?

by John Toperzer

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DAN BYLSMA INTERVIEW

Coach Bylsma spoke to the media after practice Wednesday. Here are some of the highlights.

Injury Updates

Paul Martin skated this morning prior to our team skate.

Olli Maatta got through his immigration just fine.

Tanner Glass back on the ice this morning.

Our lineup will remain game time but Marc-Andre Fleury will be in the net.

Lecavalier’s leading the team in goal scoring, dangerous power play as of late.

Two James Neal PP Dynamics

— Just the battle level and retrieval level with Kunitz and Neal go up almost two fold. winning battles, led to goal in St Louis.

— Have to be drawn to James Neal with his dangerous shot, have to respect it.

Both those things open up the ice for everybody else out there, whether that’s Chris Kunitz at the net or two guys on the flanks, with 71 and 87. It’s a dynamic that has immediate impact.

Pens-Flyers Rivalry

There’s no question that playing the Flyers is special, an intensity there that I stepped into it. I don’t know all the blood, the good, the bad the Penguins not winning in Philadelphia for a long time. Before I played (coached) my first Flyers game, even Pittsburgh fans had profanities, you haven’t done anything until you’ve beat Philadelphia. We’ve had two playoff series since I’ve been here, games that have gone all over the map. It doesn’t has to do with the records, it will be a special game.

Re Rob Scuderi: I don’t have an update, we gave a rough 6-8 week time frame that’s where we’re at. He’s still at a time where his rehab is minimal, hopefully that progresses as he gets to his third or fourth week.

Did Bylsma watch Tuesday’s Philly win? I watched the game with a pad of paper, notebook and the computer open, watched it, taped it. Fast forwarded it through timeouts. It’s a team we saw Game 7 of the year for us, Whatever you think there record is, you watch the game last night and get a pretty good feel for where they’re at. With the addition of Lecavalier and Downie being there and them getting some injured guys back and Hartnell who we didn’t see, they look like a pretty formidable team. Our prescout was watching the power play last night. I think its a real advantage to watch the game in preparation for the Flyers.

We feel like going into Philly is one of the toughest places to play (Pens are 11-3 last 14 in Philly, 1-6-1 in Pittsburgh). That record doesn’t make a ton of sense. Our record at home is pretty outstanding and yet against the Flyers leaves a lot to be desired. I’d make no rhyme or reason, we’re on way to changing that tonight.

— Note: This isn’t an exact, word-by-word transcript. You can click on the link for audio interview for that —

DAN BYLSMA INTERVIEW

SIDNEY CROSBY INTERVIEW

PASCAL DUPUIS INTERVIEW

BROOKS ORPIK INTERVIEW

TANNER GLASS INTERVIEW

BEAU BENNETT INTERVIEW

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Let the games begin! Tonight the Penguins host Philly in the first of an 11-game, 18-day stretch. Feels good to have hockey back after seeing the flightless birdies play two times in the last 10 days.

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Not including Evgeni Malkin’s 109-point effort in 2011-12, he’s averaged less than a point per game since 2010. He has 85 points (27G, 58A) in 91 games dating back to the 2010-11 campaign. More recently, Malkin’s got 12 goals in his last 48 contests, numbers that don’t match up well with his $8.7 million cap hit.

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The question is what will it take to jumpstart his game? Sidney Crosby played in only 22 of 82 games when Malkin won the Hart Trophy. James Neal had 40 goals and 81 points. Neal and Chris Kunitz skated with Malkin more than any other two players, according to Behind The Net.

It seems to me Chris Kunitz is the common thread here. If the Penguins want to jumpstart Malkin, move Kunitz from Crosby’s line to Malkin’s, at least for a spell. Put Beau Bennett on Crosby’s side and see what happens. That’s the eventuality coach Bylsma claimed for Bennett in the long run anyhow. Move up that timetable or at least give it a shot. Such a move runs the risk of short-circuiting Crosby, who hasn’t been lighting the lamp lately, but if the Pens want to get Malkin going again, and I’m sure they do, moving Kunitz to his wing would help in a big way.

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It’s at least a little bit funny, or perhaps ironic, that guys like Malkin and Olli Maatta sported US Military combat sweaters at practice Wednesday.

Pittsburgh papers reported Tuesday how Maatta must complete a year’s service in the Finnish military by age 28.

I watched a two-hour JFK special Tuesday night. Much of the show discussed Kennedy’s showdown with the Soviet Union’s Nikita Khrushchev in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Seeing a US Marines symbol next to Malkin’s locker is strange. I wonder if the Russians investigating the legitimacy of Semyon Varlamov’s domestic abuse case will next infiltrate the Penguins dressing room (I kid). Some Russians actually believe that the charges were drummed up by US Officials in order to keep Varlamov from goaltending in the upcoming Sochi Winter Olympic hockey games.

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Treasure Life!
JT

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