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Penguins Report: 12/7/10

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • New “Mustache Boy” for December (11:55 AM).
  • No Malkin at practice, lines (11:05 AM).
  • Pens fans have been unreal in their support of Letang for the All-Star Game (2:16 PM).
  • Brent Johnson’s helmet cam, courtesy of HBO (11:08 AM).
  • Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham visited practice (1:29 PM).
  • Coach Bylsma on Malkin’s injury, the winning streak and Toronto (1:50 PM).
  • Words of wisdom from Orpik, Crosby (1:45 PM) and Fleury, Dupuis (1:27 PM).
  • Pens pics (11:12 AM).
  • Bonus Pens pics (1:47 PM).
  • Leafs pics (1:52 PM).
  • “I want to know if love is wild. Girl I want to know if love is real...” (10:44 AM).

2:16 PM:
ROCK THE VOTE!!! Pens fans voices are being heard!!!

1:52 PM:

Leafs head coach Ron Wilson

Goalies warm up

1:50 PM:
A long one today from Bylsma's media conference.

Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma…

On resting Evgeni Malkin:
It’s day-to-day, but yes, the logic is that instead of continuing to deal with a nagging injury, it’s better to get healthy.

On if being in first place in the league is vindication of his early confidence
We don’t try to establish our game and our team and our identity of how we’re going to play so I can have vindication. That’s for sure. But every season, you have to have that process with your team. You have to go through those steps. There’s always going to be adversity. There’s always going to be some kind of story that provides some adversity for your team or players. That section of games when we lost – like Dallas and Anaheim, then coming back home and playing Boston and New York – there was some adversity there. This isn’t the first time this has happened to our team or me as a coach. So hopefully, you know you’re heading in the right direction and you know you’re establishing how you’re going to win games and your identity. Part of those difficult times is learning some of those lessons. We’re only about 30-games deep. So we still have a long way to go as a team and tough games to play. We have more than a majority of the season to go.

On how the team keeps focus during a streak like this:
There are a lot of things that seem to be in question when we play a hockey game – the referee, bounces – you can feel susceptible to that at times. You can feel like you played a good game, but they shoot a puck 25 feet away on the power play, they flub the shot and it hits a guy in the hand and drops down and he scores a goal, you can throw your hands in the air and say “What can we do about that?” That can be disheartening. But we want to play the game in a way where we don’t worry about those kinds of things. We don’t worry about the referee, we don’t worry about bounces. We don’t worry about the other team getting a lead or a goal off the side of the net. We want to play a certain way where we can take those bounces and plays out of it. If we play that way, we’re not going to win every game, but we feel like that’s the way we can play. When the team executes that way, we minimize the other team’s chances to have success and we maximize our chances. We call that a 70-30 game and that’s the way we want to play.

On if that takes the opponent’s game out of the equation:
That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to play in such a way that it doesn’t matter if the roof caves in, if it’s at home, on the road or the referee. We don’t leave things to chance.

On if bad habits creep into players’ games during winning streaks
Like I said yesterday, there are more worries now about things like that – about habits, about details – than when we started this when I felt like our team was doing a lot of good things and we just needed to make some adjustments. Right now, yes, there’s that considered in a lot of the stuff that we do in practice. A lot of the focus is staying on our game and keeping attention to details in how we play.

On Crosby’s goal Monday night:
My brother usually sends me a text after games. And in three out of the last four, he sent me a text during the game saying “you’ll watch that replay over again.” This last one, he said, “I know I said this two other times, but you’re going to watch this replay over again.” It’s pretty amazing. When you have guys on our bench that look at each other and shake their heads and say, “Did you see that,” it’s a pretty special play. And with the speed and ease that it looks when we all know that it’s not easy if you’ve ever donned skates, it’s an amazing full speed play. It shouldn’t come as a surprise because we keep getting texts to watch the replay again.

On when a hockey player reaches his prime:
I don’t know when the prime is. You can talk about what the prime physical condition of an athlete is and what those ages are, doctors can do that. But I feel like I’m always trying to get better no matter what I’m doing. And Sidney Crosby is always trying to get better no matter what age he’s at. He may play the game differently at different points in his career and that may mean his numbers are better. I don’t know what that’s going to mean, but he’s always trying to get better and if he gets to the point where he’s playing at an older age, he’s still going to be trying to get better, to add and learn and maybe do things a little bit differently. He’s in that process now, and I think he’ll do that right until the end. He seems to have found a new consistency to his level that’s unique for him. Maybe that’s him getting to his prime, but I know that he’s going to keep working to get better.

On Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek:
We did feel early in the season and in training camp that pairing them with a guy who maybe had a better understanding of the system and who knew some of the words we were talking about and what we were looking for on the ice was better. But after Z came back from his injury, pairing them together is almost like we have two shutdown pairs now. They fit together real well, with the defensive style where Martin carries the puck and holds on to the puck a little bit more. And Kris Letang has that same aspect in the pairing with Brooks Orpik. Sometimes it’s a work in progress with them playing together, but it’s worked well for both of them. They have settled in and they are a big part of us playing better defensively.

On if Toronto creates a different environment in Pittsburgh:
I’m not going to get into mystical talk about what they do in our city and what spell they cast. But they assert certain challenges. And again, we want to try to take out the elements of the game that are out of our control. We want to be aware of what they do and consider where they’re dangerous and where they’ve been successful, but we’re also going to try to eliminate what they do well and still get to our game. We want to take their game out of it and change the game in our favor.

On if he’s ever seen a player do as well as Crosby is right now:
He’s making a lot of special plays and it seems to be every night. I think the unique part about this situation right now is the consistency at which he’s there. His highlight reel is long, but the consistency with which he’s playing, there’s no cheat, there’s no holes, there’s no ‘on his own page.’ It’s within the structure of our team and how we want to play. And he seems to be finding that consistently night in and night out right now. That’s the uniqueness of what we’re seeing right now.

Shorthanded goal: Tony Jovenitti

1:47 PM:
Some bonus pics of the Pens practice:

1:45 PM:
More sounds from the locker room...

Brooks Orpik

On avoiding bad habits during a winning streak:
On a winning streak, you sometimes ignore the things you do wrong. But we’ve done a good job through video and stuff like that to focus on the mistakes we’re making and always knowing that we can play a lot better than we’ve played. Obviously when you’re on a 10-game winning streak, you don’t want to change too much, but there’s definitely some detailed stuff that can be a little bit better. I don’t think anyone’s getting too complacent because there’s always room to get better.

On the defense during the streak:
I think just the mindset going in is to play well defensively instead of trying to outscore the other team – which maybe that was our approach to games early in the season that got us in trouble with some of those high scoring games. The goaltending has been good and we’ve been playing a lot better in front of them, limiting chances.

On everyone being on the same page now:
Yeah, there were a couple different guys – Michalek and Martin – that had a transition, probably even more so away from the ice. They had to move their families here and get used to living here and just different things like that. So it probably took them a while to get comfortable, but I think we’ve gotten to the point right now where everyone understands what their role is on the team.

Sidney Crosby

On his goal where he kicked the puck to his stick:
Yeah, we’ll work on those skills every once in a while. You never know when you’re going to have to use them, but when they work it’s nice. It’s not something you see a lot but it’s just something that you may have to react and do once in a while.

On if he thinks about his scoring streak
I don’t really sit around and think about it. When it’s going you just try to keep that momentum for as long as possible. Our team is obviously playing well. Our line’s quick and playing pretty well, we’re creating chances and the main thing is that it’s going in. Right now we’re making the most of the bounces and the chances we get.

On Chris Kunitz:
I think both him and Dupuis have done a great job creating loose pucks and making some nice passes. I’ve had a couple great opportunities because of some of the work that Kunitz’s has done and some of the plays he made. And Dupuis is creating a lot from his speed and his forecheck. We’re playing well and so is the whole team. Every line is contributing.

Assist: Tony Jovenitti

1:29 PM:
Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham was in attendance for the Penguins practice today. He got to see the locker room and met up with fellow Bowling Green alum Dan Bylsma.

1:27 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room...

Marc-Andre Fleury

On the team’s loss to Toronto on Oct. 13:

It just seems a while ago, we’ve played a lot of games since then. But I just think our whole team has been solid lately, not giving too much to the other team, not too many shots. (We’re getting) big goals, Sid is on fire. It’s all of the little things that helps us.

On Toronto having success in Pittsburgh:
I don’t know why, but maybe they are. Going into tomorrow night’s game, we won’t be thinking about the successes they’ve had here. It’s just another game, start from scratch and take them seriously. I think lately they’ve been getting some wins, so we’ve got to be ready for them.

On what he thought of Toronto growing up in Montreal
I think for most people, but I didn’t mind them that much. I liked Felix Potvin, their goalie, so I kind of liked them a little bit.

On if he rooted for goalies, not teams:
I rooted for goalies, yeah. I rooted for Montreal because I was from there. And out of all of the other goalies around the league, (Felix Potvin) was my favorite.

Pascal Dupuis

On Sidney Crosby:
Anywhere you kind of put it towards him, he seems to find a way to get the puck, to either bring it with his skates, catch it with his glove. Even if it’s behind him, he’s that kind of guy.

On if Crosby ever ceases to amaze:
Seriously, like you saw last night, I tried a cross-ice pass that hit his stick, it was so far behind him but he didn’t break stride, he caught that puck and made an unbelievable pass to Kunitz, and the puck was in the net.

On being Beckham-like with his footwork
We play a little soccer before games, but he’s not one of the best ones out there. So he has to do that little soccer game before.

On if this is as good as Crosby has played
It’s as good as I’ve seen any hockey player play. He’s on top of his game, not even putting points on the board but blocking shots, winning faceoffs, playing in his own zone. Obviously, the leadership comes with it when you’re Sidney Crosby, when you have the “C” on your jersey, guys are following by example.

On if it surprises him that Crosby keeps finding another level:
Not at all. It’s just the way he puts his mind into stuff, the way he practices, the way he prepares. It can’t surprise you. You kind of know it’s going to happen when a guy’s prepared that well for a hockey game.

Assist: Michelle Crechiolo

11:55 AM:
The Pens just finished up the December "Mustache Boy" shootout. The final three were Mark Letestu, Paul Martin and Deryk Engelland.

Letestu tallied first - leaving Martin and Engelland. The two traded chances, but couldn't score. Finally, Engelland beat Fleury with a nice stick move. Martin had his chance to tie and force another round. As he got to the crease he dove to the ice, pushed the puck to his stick and tried to bat it in. However, he missed wide.

Ladies and gentlemen, December "Mustache Boy" is Paul Martin.


Here are some pics from the mustache boy shootout:

Ben Lovejoy watches the contest from the penalty box

Paul Martin misses the shot (left) and skates back with a little extra hair on his lip

11:12 AM:

Coach Bylsma (left); Brent Johnson (right)

Bylsma takes shots before practice with HBO cameras lurking

HBO is in the house!

11:08 AM:

HBO is filming today for the "24/7 Pens-Caps: Road to the Winter Classic" series. Brent Johnson is wearing a camera on the side of his mask for practice. It's pretty awkward looking, but it should provide some good footage for the "Mustache Boy" shootout contest at the end of practice.

11:05 AM:
The Pens are on the ice right now for practice at CONSOL Energy Center. Still no Malkin for the Pens. They stuck with the lines from the past two games:


10:44 AM:
In case you were AWOL Monday, the big news of the day (other than the Pens extending their winning streak to 10 games and Crosby pushing his scoring streak to 16 games) was the retirement of 18-year NHL veteran Bill Guerin.

I know this is a day late, but in honor of my favorite professional athlete of all time, a little video tribute to start the day. Guerin was a huge Bruce Springsteen fan, so let's open today's blog with The Boss singing "Born to Run."

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