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Penguins Report: 11/22/11

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Asham & Letang maintenance days (1:15 PM).
  • No Asham or Letang (11:15 AM).
  • Pens lines (11:23 AM).
  • Picard to WBS (10:50 AM).
  • Crosby talks the day after his return (1:53 PM).
  • A very lengthy Bylsma interview (3:00 PM).
  • Flower and Geno chat with the media (3:05 PM).
  • Photos of PensTV exclusive programming (2:05 PM).
  • Bonus pics…(1:08 PM).
  • Proof of Pens at practice (11:42 AM).
  • Lots of Pens shined in triumph over Isles (10:30 AM).

3:05 PM:
PensTV chatted with Fleury and Malkin...



3:00 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma...

On facing two former coaches in the upcoming schedule and if he’s talked to them:
I have. In terms of speaking with Davis, I saw earlier in the year he was someone’s pick to be coach of the year, and that same person picked him to be fired first. Yes it does give me pause for thought, and obviously talking with a good friend who got fired is something that I’ve been talking to him about a couple times. It’s not a great thing to think about and tough to deal with, but that’s a little bit a part of it. I know spending some time with him, it’s emotionally a tough one to deal with.  Hopefully that won’t be the case in this for me.

On what it’s like to have Crosby, Malkin and Staal all healthy and how he manages that:
I don’t call (Staal) a third-line center and his responsibilities don’t really change. He’s going to be playing like he’s has been, playing other teams’ top lines. That’s what he can expect pretty much every game that we go into. He understands that he’s going to go up against their best players. That’s a pretty big role on our team and that’s a big part of this team. The bench is much different with all three of them on the bench. Ice time is different, it’s different not so much for Jordan as it is other players, and getting players in the mix of the game, getting them in the right spots. It’s a lot different with those three guys. You have three guys that are going to play 20 minutes a game. That means that the fourth centerman is not going to play at all if you put them all on the center. As we get going and into more of a flow, you’ll see players together, you’ll see 71 and 11 together sometimes, you’ll see 87 and 71 together sometimes, and we did that a little but last night for two shifts. Jordan played with Neal and Sullivan for two shifts. We’ll find different spots to put them in depending on the given night, the matchup that we have. We may be playing Jordan with Evgeni Malkin for some games or some periods of games.

On how he refocuses the team on the system after last night’s offensive showing:
I’m not sure that they’re going to make it look as easy as they did last night. That was a pretty high level from 87 and a lot of guys followed along. At times it kind of looked easy, but there’s a lot to our game that we need to have to play that way. (Crosby’s) first goal is a great example. That’s a D zone play that starts that play. We’re coming out of D zone, we have speed through the neutral zone, but that’s a lot of what we need to do to play well. It wasn’t just a highlight reel goal by a great player, there was a D-zone coverage play, there was coming out of D zone. A lot of that is our attention and how we got to play the game. We’re at Game 21. We’re a long ways away from being where we’ve got to be, where we need to be at for Game 70. Our players know that and they know how we’re going to get there, and what we need to do. It’s nice to feel good about that game. It’s nice to put up 5-0 and have a great game, it was an unbelievable atmosphere, but our players know we still need to get a lot better in our game and a lot of areas and we’re still working on that. That focus goes right into today’s practice. Our focus coming in today, we didn’t have a party or celebration last night, there are areas we need to get better at. We looked at them today and addressed them in practice. We got 61 more to go.

On if he still can’t believe what happened last night in Sid’s return:
I can believe what happened. I had a feeling he can go out there and be at a high level. Not sure you can draw up the dramatic fashion in which the game unfolded, but him stepping back on the ice, the building, the embrace from the fans, the energy in the building and then what happened on the ice was special. I still feel that way about it. I’ve certainly moved to coaching and our team and where we’re going. We got St. Louis coming tomorrow whose been playing well, but this will be a game and more so than any that you take it in as a spectator and as a fan. It’s really a unique game and a unique setting, unique how it unfolded, the dramatic scene. I still feel that way even though we’re moving on to playing hockey today and tomorrow.

On their attack in the neutral zone being more evident with Crosby back:
You talk about how we play, you talk about how we execute, didn’t change last night. It looks a little different with Sidney Crosby’s speed through the middle of the ice. That’s a part of our game we believe in, our players talk about we need it in our game to play well. That speed in the middle of the ice is what our centerman are doing to support the play coming up the wall. It looks different when Sidney Crosby gets the puck. It looks different when Evgeni Malkin gets the puck. We had the same plan in Florida when Jordan Staal got the puck from the middle of the ice and had a 2-on-1 in Florida. It’s a big part of our game and we need it. It allowed us to attack with speed even if the puck goes in behind the defenseman on the forecheck. It allows us to get a guy on the puck with speed and it looks a little different when Sidney gets the puck, but that’s how we need to play and how we need to generate speed and be hard to play against as a speed and pace team. It allows us to get to that game, speed and offensive zone play in there as well.

On how Crosby effects the offensive power:
For a player like Richard Park who is trying to understand what a north speed looks like with a center going with speed became pretty clear last night when you see Crosby going in that direction. One thing I think about our team, yes there were fantastic plays, yes there were highlight reels, but a majority of what you saw happened within the way we need to play. A lot of it was offensive zone and good management with the puck, protecting the puck, good plays and attacking in the offensive zone. Not toe drags, not saucer passes, good hard-nosed offensive zone play, tough to handle with the way we manage the puck and execute. Second goal and other opportunities they had were a result of those types of plays. It looks different, but it’s not off the game plan. It’s not taking chances. It’s playing the way we want to play. It’s a different dynamic and different thrust when Crosby is in the zone and dancing like that. His second goal, it enlightens even our players. I can throw the puck at the net like that too, and make those plays. That’s what I saw in the second and third period when they played more in the offensive zone and were successful there.

On how Letang’s play improves with Letang:
You just see it with Brooks Orpik and his goal. It carries over to our other players. Kris is a talented guy. We’re playing in the offensive zone. It’s an extended shift. Our defensemen start to move, get mobile and get to the middle of the ice. Sid makes the backhand pass to Brooks Orpik. That’s what it does. More so for Kris Letang. You make good plays and execution out of the D-zone, good neutral zone transition plays, get in the offensive zone and spend time there, you’re able to move and get open. That’s what it does for Kris Letang more so than any of our other defensemen. You can see it with Orpik reading the situation, moving to the middle of the ice and getting a pass, scoring his second goal of the year.

On what advice he has for the HBO 24/7 coaches dealing with the cameras:
Winning 12 in a row helps, versus the other side of it. HBO did such a great job. They’re not hiding behind the corners trying to catch you with your pants down so to speak. They’re in the room the same time everyday. You know that. They’re not trying to catch you saying bad things or doing things the wrong way. It is tough to get comfortable with some aspects, when they jump on the ice with their cameras in the middle of practice. It’ll be interesting to see how both teams and coaches deal with that situation. The tough part is after you’ve lost a game and they’re there. We saw that last year. I felt it when we lost in the end and Winter Classic game. You feel the scrutiny with the cameras there. You feel like you have to say something. You feel like you don’t want to say something because the camera is there and you’re in a vulnerable moment. I want them to be themselves. I can’t wait to see the Rangers and Flyers, a closer look on the inside.

On Crosby’s playing time:
The first (period) was a little more than I wanted to see. He end up at 7:10 in the first, a lot of it was due to the power plays in our favor. The one time in particular he was on the ice when we drew the penalty. I was getting ready to change him. He knew the power play was called and I saw  him turn and go right to the faceoff circle. I thought he was telling me he is just fine. He played a few more minutes in that period than I would have planned. In the second I asked and he felt great. He did spend most of the game on adrenaline. We were up and played the ice time more evenly, were aware of where he was at. It was around 15, 16 minutes. If we had more power plays he probably would have played 17, 18 minutes. If the game had been 1-1 I probably would have put him out there in that situation on faceoffs or played him with Malkin or Staal to try and get a goal. I was pretty pleased with the number he was at.

Goal: Justin Criado

2:05 PM:
Pens coach Bylsma and Dman Martin do sitdown interviews for PensTV exclusive programming...

1:53 PM:
Sidney Crosby talks day after...

On how he felt when he woke up this morning:
I felt good. Tired, obviously it’s been a long time since I played. A little sore, a little tired, but felt good.

On how he’s going to feel the next couple days:
I think that’s normal first game, running on adrenaline. There are things as the games go on I have to improve and get better. It’s only going to happen through playing so I just have to make sure that I’m aware of what that is and work hard at adjusting as soon as I can.

On if he’ll be checked for concussion-like symptoms going forward:
I’m sure they’re (his team of doctors) going to be in touch with our training staff. I see a doctor every game anyway when they’re here. I’m sure we’ll keep in touch, but unless there’s something I really need to go to them for then I don’t see it being a constant thing.

On what fuels him now after being out so long:
It’s always different things every year. You look for ways to be motivated. Sometimes they just kind of happen. For me, after going through this I want to get back to where I was last season. Winning is always the constant factor, the constant motivating factor. Individually when you’re setting goals, I want to get back to where I was and I know that’s going to take time, but at the end of the day you’re always working hard to win.

On his chances of winning a scoring title:
I don’t think that’s possible. It’d be great, but I don’t think that’s possible so not even something on my radar to be honest with you.

On sharing the moment with his dad:
It was nice having him here. My mom and sister watched from home. They were a big part of the whole process and the support around me. I think they saw pretty close up on a day-to-day basis so I was really happy they were able to be a part of that. I was thinking a lot about them throughout the day and having a chance to come back so it was really nice that my dad was able to be here.

On what he was most pleased with last night:
Just playing hockey again. There’s just something about a game day that’s just different. When it’s a game day, the preparation, the anticipation for a game and all the stuff that comes with it. I don’t think there’s one thing, but I would say just all those things combined were really fun to be a part of again and to win and go that way was great.

On if he had a lot of messages after game on his phone and Twitter:
Yeah, it was pretty amazing. After the game I really didn’t expect a lot of those throughout the league to text me. That really means a lot so I was kind of caught off guard by that. There was a ton of support and I certainly appreciate it.

On if one person stood out more than the rest in their support:
Nothing in particular. It was just more the amount that was surprising for me.

On Ryan Whitney’s Twitter:
He’s funny. I know a lot of guys follow him on Twitter. I know a lot of guys follow him for some good laughs and he provided that here.

On if this is the strongest team he’s ever been a part of:
We have a lot of depth, that’s one thing. I think that’s apparent so that’s a big part of winning. I think we got to continue and improve and make sure we prove that. There’s an opportunity there, but I think there’s a lot of other teams with that same opportunity. We’ll see how things go, but on paper, yes we have a great team, but it’s another thing to go out there.

Assist: Justin Criado

1:15 PM:
Pens head coach Dan Bylsma said that Asham and Letang had maintenances days and will be back with the team for practice tomorrow.

1:08 PM:
Pens pics 2.0....

Fleury was up to his usual hilarious shootout antics after practice. Here he is doing the beach whale. He also added a bench press to his repertoire (left); Crosby lost the shootout, but protested that there was some tomfoolery. Crosby will be "Magazine Boy" - buying a bunch of new magazines for the players' lounge and team plane. Malkin listens in with amusement. (right)

Malkin does the walking prey mantis (left); Kunitz's wife, children and father were in the stands to watch practice. He waved hi to them during a break in drills (right)

11:42 AM:
Pens pics...

Dupuis needs a minute to compose himself. He just finished watching Marley and Me (left); The Pens are a fluorescent rainbow of colors at practice (right)

Fleury randomly does a few sit ups at practice. Goalies are so weird (left); Crosby tries to prove that he can score on the forehand (right)

Kennedy spills the milk...oops (left): Niskanen's torque would make Ford jealous (right)

11:23 AM:
Pens lines at practice:


The 5 defensemen rotated.

11:15 AM:
Players are on the ice for practice. I don't see Asham or Letang. We'll get an update from coach Dan Bylsma afterwards.

10:50 AM:
Note: The Pens re-assigned Alexandre Picard to WBS.

10:30 AM:
Good morning from CONSOL Energy Center! Today the Pens will have an 11am practice as they get set to host the St. Louis Blues Wednesday night.


Lost in the Sidney Crosby dramatics was the Pens' 5-0 triumph over the Islanders. A lot of players really shined: Fleury with a 29-save shutout for his 21st career blanking (one behind franchise leader Tom Barrasso's 22); Dupuis' 3 assists and lots of hussle; Michalek looking solid in his return; Malkin; Sullivan; Neal; and on and on and on.

But I'm sure they don't mind being a little overshadowed on a day like that. After all, how many times does a player work back from a 10-month concussion absence and then blow up for 2 goals and 4 points in that atmosphere and on that stage. For Crosby it's no big deal.

There's nothing that can be said to add to the legend of last night. So I won't even try. Best part of the night in my opinion wasn't the goals, assists, lip reading or win. Best part was that Crosby was simply back. It was a long wait for everyone (longest for Sid himself, must have felt like a decade).

So we'll open the day with a recap of Crosby's unbelievable return. Crosby is back. It's a great day for hockey. Enjoy.

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