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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Penguin Notes: Crosby, Letang, Giroux, George Clooney

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Even when Sid’s bad, he’s really, really good

By John Toperzer

Sidney Crosby’s blind clearing pass behind his own net into the slot Tuesday was one example of a rough night the game’s best player was having. That play led directly to a Vancouver goal. He’d taken a stick to the neck on a faceoff and briefly left the game after taking a puck off his right instep courtesy of an Evgeni Malkin shot. It just wasn’t Crosby’s night — or so it seemed.

The Vancouver Sun’s Ian MacIntyre even went so far as to send out the following tweet after the Canucks turned a 2-0 deficit into a 4-2 lead.

Superlatives don’t do Sidney Crosby justice for his efforts Tuesday night. Let’s just say he’s the best player in the NHL.

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Speaking of the best player in the NHL, former Flyers coach Peter Laviolette proclaimed Claude Giroux as the best around after Philly knocked Pittsburgh out of the 2011-12 playoffs.

Now? Giroux can’t make Team Canada and Laviolette is Penguins coach Dan Bylsma’s assistant for the Olympics. Funny how things work out.

Pens-Flyers Rivalry aside for a second, don’t be surprised if Giroux serves as an injury replacement before it’s all said and done. He’s playing great hockey right now.

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Letang stock soaring. Not even a leaping Tom Sestito check or a Kevin Bieksa slew foot could derail Letang’s manic play Tuesday. Letang has a history of concussion, sinus problems and migraines – if Letang can survive those plays, then you know he’s back. The offensive defenseman glided with ease on the well-manicured Vancouver ice sheet… if Pittsburgh’s ice was only half as good.

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The Penguins play one game in Week 16 after concluding a Western Canada road trip.

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For the life of me, I can’t imagine what Paul Steigerwald and Bob Errey talked to George Clooney about for “20 minutes” at a Vancouver restaurant Monday – but I’d like to know.

Errey: “I loved you in ‘The Facts of Life.’”

Steiggy: “This sock-eyed Salmon is great, isn’t it?”

Clooney: “Check please.”

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Game-winning goals should only count when they break a third-period tie. How often does a player get credit for a game-winner that was of little significance earlier in the actual game?

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Little was said or made of Pittsburgh GM, Ray Shero, in attendance at the Pens-Canucks game. Nothing wrong with a general manager scouting potential trading partners.

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Is there a Penguin who gets less respect from the refs on penalty infractions than Simon Despres?

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Bob Grove relayed an interesting comment during Tuesday’s post-game show. Grove said that Mike Lange believes teams which pull their own goalie late in games usually score about one time in every 10 tries. The Penguins scored twice with an empty net behind them to turn a 4-2 deficit into a tie Tuesday. How extreme are those odds?

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Should Penguins fans be a tad nervous about how Evgeni Malkin will play post-Olympics?. Malkin admitted to struggling with the Pens after skating 37 KHL games for Metallurg last year. The difference between the large European ice surfaces and the small North American ones is great.

As much as I enjoy the Olympics, I’d prefer another Cup in Pittsburgh over anything that could possibly happen in Sochi.

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Some folks don’t like seeing Deryk Engelland take a spot in the lineup, but he serves a tangible deterrent purpose.

Col. Jessep, from the movie “A Few Good Men.”

“Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall.”

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin don’t need enforcers like Wayne Gretzky did, but Engelland helps to keep opponents honest the way no other player on Pittsburgh’s roster can.

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Coach Dan Bylsma is now the winningest coach in Penguins history with 233 regular-season victories. Congratulations to Bylsma, but why is it wrong to question or doubt a coach that has totaled three playoff series wins in the last four seasons? Bylsma’s unwillingness to match lines or adjust his defense prior to this year would’ve gotten a lot of coaches fired.

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Bob Errey should never ever try to pronounce Kevin Bieksa’s name again.

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Treasure Life!
JT

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