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Penguins Report: 2/13/12

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

5:23 PM:
PensTV chatted to Orpik & Neal today...



2:04 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma…

On the split squad practice:
I’ve done it before. Looking at the schedule last week, looking forward to this week we have a scheduled day off Thursday after the Wednesday game.  At this time of year, having practice and going through a series of drills that maybe you’ve done throughout the year may not get the attention focused, especially after we played the two games. I just want the opportunity to take a day, work on some skills, specific skills, individual skills, possibly partner skills and the defensive pairings. As PK players it’s not really something you work on a ton in a regular practice. Splitting them up 30 minutes each, having the opportunity to work on specific skills for the individual positions and players, that was something I thought about last week and really trying to focus on some skills we can get something out of, something where were going out with a purpose and a plan to get specific skills worked on and improve at. Some of them are a part of our game that we need to have and that’s what the hour session was today. 

On the Evgeni Malkin line and where they can improve:
It’s tough to say for a line, when (Malkin) gets five points and two goals the next night and Chris Kunitz gets more than a handful of points in two games, that they can play better. I think there’s a focus on them as a line. There’s focus on them as a player and that can be tough to play with. There was a tendency sometimes to start surging for offensive situations or taking chances to create those situations to try and keep going and keep that going. I think they’re focused really. They are playing the right way in terms of the structure and support and offering speed. When they play that way they’re dangerous, even though the other team’s expecting it from them. I know it can feel like there is nothing you can do against maybe Evgeni Malkin. I think there is more in certain areas of the game where they can be a presence in the offensive zone, holding onto extended shifts and some of that is consistency in that game as well. Whether they get the matchup, whether they get the tough defensive parings, being consistent in that game and being able to play that even though you’re going to be stuck with the tough matchup is a challenge every game. Being consistent in that and playing at that level is something they’ve showed they can do for long stretches. If they can keep doing that, that’s being better at what they do.

On wearing the Bowling Green jersey behind the bench on Sunday:
In five minutes I’m allergic to the mothballs that are on that jersey. That one’s in a box in the attic, but I enjoy getting it back out and some of the comments I got from the players were worth it. I won’t be wearing it too much more. I’ll go with the golf shirt. I feel better wearing the brown and orange gold shirt.

On the impact of Jordan Staal’s return:
Was that Jordan Staal’s best hockey? No. Did he go completely dominant? No. But the impact is drastic on the game. It’s tough for them to handle. Defensively, it’s another matchup. It’s also a guy that’s being used against other teams good players. Some of the focus, especially a game like Tampa Bay, where they play their top three guys together, separate lot of that would be shifted to “Geno’s” line. Jordan and his line play a big role deflecting some of that and also playing great defense against Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier. I think his speed in the middle of the ice is real evident. Last game two or three, four times his speed through the middle of the ice, north speed, executing wide, going around their defense, he’s tough to handle offensively that way. In some cases it’s the second pairing he can have his way in the offensive zone as an offensive player. It adds a huge factor to our team. It makes the way we play look a little faster and a little more north. It makes us tough to play against defensively, smothering and how we want to play. It allows our team to play more the way we want to play as well, be affective that way. I think you saw that with Dustin Jeffrey’s goal. You saw that with Jordan’s goal in the Winnipeg game. I think he’s had two good games, but I think he’ll continue to get even better as he gets more minutes and more games under his belt.
On why the power play has improved:
Two things have been big factors. Steve Sullivan being the quarterback and bringing the puck up the ice, and Kris Letang has come a long way in being a quarterback type of guy. But I think Steve Sullivan has added a different level back there with Kris being more of a shooter and flanker-type guy, attacking with the puck. Steve is the quarterback. He dictates and reads and is really good in that regard. It’s allowed us to enter and distribute the puck smartly and keenly from the point. Secondly, our mentality has been really consistent. We have a lot of movement and motion. We attack well. In the last five games, how we’ve hunted down pucks and kept offensive zone power play alive with (Kunitz) and (Neal) hunting down pucks, recovering, getting back to the point and attacking. We’ve been real consistent in that mentality and sticking with it. Whether we’ve scored the last five or haven’t had success. That’s something we’ve been better at than we have in the past. I see power plays not just scoring goals and being effective, but being dominant and changing momentum, getting lots of shots on goalies, net-fronts and screens. Momentum power plays and scoring has been a factor for us.

On putting together the combination of Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Chris Kunitz:
We saw Geno and James Neal together immediately in training camp, opening day, in scrimmages at different times. Steve Sullivan was on that line a little bit. I think you saw some effectiveness, some chemistry, some players who compliment each other really well. Geno’s always a guy who’s going to have the puck on his stick. He wants the puck. He’ll go get it. He’ll have offensive zone shifts where he has it on his stick what seems like a majority of the time. We need a player to compliment him and getting open and getting in spots, finding spots, reading that. It’s not always the easiest thing to do for a player. Petr Sykora was good at it. James Neal has been able to really read off Geno, be in those spots, find areas to have him get the puck and not be in his way. If you have another guy who likes to have the puck on his stick, sometimes they’ll get in the way of Geno. They’ll meet each other behind the net and get in the way of each other. I think James is smart and intelligent in those reads and has been really good in that regard. Chris Kuntiz, I wish I could put a video together of how affective he is with skill players and his speed, his tenacity. James Neal gets the faceoff goal against Winnipeg. Geno wins the draw, Chris Kunitz makes the subtle pick there that gives James the chance to get the opportunity to rip the puck home. Last night Kris Letang scores and Chris Kunitz is hunting down the puck, wins the battle, helped the puck to stay alive and then he makes the play to Kris Letang who is certainly a good player. A lot of that secondary work, physicality, speed, that opens up a lot of space for good players. We’ve seen that for Sid. He went on a tear last year for 30 games. Chris was a big part of that. We see him do similar things with those two guys. He does a good job of getting out of the way as well. He’s content to be in and around the net. He’s content to be physical and on pucks. They read off Geno well, and it’s been a very good line.

On the new defensive lines:
I think it will be something you can expect to see in the future. I think our previous games against Tamp Bay and last year in the playoffs our lack of being physical on their skill players and not just playing good defense against them, but this year making it tough on them, taking away their time and space has been effective for us. In games, Deryk Engelland has been able to provide that against skill players, that physical aspect. A lot of the motivation to see that change was to get Paul (Martin) and Deryk together. The more physicality we saw that at the end of the game with Deryk. I thought Matt Niskanen played one of his better games in the last game. Not changing up our pairings, but giving them a different look in the game and throughout the game is something you see us do a fair amount more in the last couple games and you will probably see that as well going forward.

On the motion of the power play compared to last year:
Starting last year we had implemented a lot of what you are seeing now. I know the power play last year at about the 25-game mark was starting to feel like it was coming and had the attacking and motion. I think they started to get it then and then we ran into some injuries and other personnel. At that time our power play was probably where it is now in terms of percentage wise. This year coming into camp I think we approached it slightly different with the same goal in mind of what our power play had to be to have success. If you watched us practice right from Day 1 we had three different set ups. We had Malkin on different sides of the ice. We practiced that way and now in the game what we hoped would happen you’ll see Geno in a lot of different spots, his left side, his strong side. He’ll be on his weak side in a more customary position and it might be because of faceoffs, it might because of the way the puck entered, but we’re comfortable being in those spots. You can’t scout our power play and say this is where Malkin is going to stand and do these things. I think it’s much harder to understand where we’re going to be. It has allowed us to have motion from different areas and we’ve done a real good job of quarterbacking and distributing the puck, we’ve attacked it, we’ve recovered pucks and now we’re in different spots I think you see that motion pay off. At the start of this year the goal was to have a couple different sets that we practice from and hopefully we’d morph into those in the game and that’s where we’re kind of seeing from our unit as we’ve gone along here, especially the last 25-30 games.

Assist: Brittany Goncar

1:44 PM:
Congratulations to Pens center Evgeni Malkin, who was named hte NHL's No. 2 star for the week.

Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin was named NHL ‘Second Star’ for the week ending Feb. 12 today after leading all scorers last week with eight points (3G-5A) and a plus-6 rating in three games.

... In the midst of perhaps his best NHL season, Malkin currently leads the Penguins in goals (32), assists (37), points (69), rating (+11) and game-winning goals (7). His 32 goals rank second in the NHL behind only the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Steven Stamkos (37 goals). At his current pace, Malkin would establish a career high with 49 goals.

More details here.

(Getty Images)

1:37 PM:
Pens pics...

The defense count the number of pucks on the ice (left); The Reverend (right)

Only a blizzard could get between BFFs Park & Adams (left); You, Me & Dupuis (right)

We focus on O'Reilly while Sullivan fades into the background (left); Tony G - greatest human ever - gives the orders to the boys (right)

Pens fail to form a straight line. So uncoordinated (left); Fleury meditates (right)

1:22 PM:
Coach Bylsma said that Asham and Crosby did not skate for a scheduled day off. He added that Malkin and Cooke didn't practice for maintenance days.

11:40 AM:
The Pens are holding a split squad practice. The defense were on the ice for the first half hour while the forwards had meetings. Now they've switched. Forwards on the ice and defense heading to meetings.

(Ain't no split squad practice like a Penguins split squad practice because a Penguins split squad practice don't stop....actually it goes for 30 minutes).

11:03 AM:
Practice underway. Only players on the ice are the team's seven defensemen and two goalies. They're working with assistant coach Todd Reirden.

No forwards are taking part in the beginning of practice.

10:55 AM:
The Pens announced that D-man Simon Despres has been re-assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Despres, 20, has played in 14 NHL games this season for Pittsburgh, tallying four points (1G-3A) and a plus-4 rating. Despres had missed the previous 15 games while recovering from a knee injury suffered on Jan. 10 against Ottawa.

Full details here.

(Getty Images)

10:30 AM:
While Evgeni Malkin and his line have stolen all the headlines - and deservedly so - Letang has gone about his business as arguably the best two-way defenseman in the NHL. Michelle Crechiolo highlighted his stellar weekend.

It’s impressive enough for a defenseman to compile three goals and six points in
two games, which is exactly what Letang did. But it’s even more impressive when you factor in that Letang produced such offense while being tasked with shutting down the oppositions’ top players.

The two-time All-Star defenseman shadowed Winnipeg’s leading goal scorer Evander Kane on Saturday, holding him pointless with just one shot on goal while putting together his first two-goal game of the season, adding an assist and finishing with a plus-3 rating in Pittsburgh’s 8-5 win.

On Sunday, Letang and defensive partner
Brooks Orpik were assigned to contain the NHL’s leading goal scorer Steven Stamkos and his line – and Letang helped do just that. Stamkos’ stat line was full of zeros and, like Kane, he had just one shot on goal while Letang scored three points (1G-2A) of his own in the Penguins’ 4-2 victory.

Full story here.

(Getty Images)

10:20 AM:
Before we kick off a new week of exciting action, let's take a look back at last week's exciting action - highlighted by Orpik's hit and Malkin's 371-degree spin-o-rama shootout goal (Get it? Because 360 degrees is a complete circle? And Malkin's number is 71? Don't worry, Meesh didn't get it either until I explained it).

10:10 AM:
Time to check in with Hall of Fame broadcaster Mike Lange and his memories. Today he discusses the first game played by owner/legend/Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux. Of course, Mario scored on his first shift and first shot against Boston. A great start to a magnificent career. Or should I say magnifique.

10:00 AM:
Good morning from CONSOL Energy Center! Today the Pens are practicing at 11am. The team had a great weekend after coming up with back-to-back wins Saturday and Sunday. The wins have pulled the Pens into a tie for the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference standings with the Flyers (Philly gets the edge due to head-to-head results).


We'll take a slight deviation to open today's blog. Over the past two years, Plum High School has produced Pens-themed lip dub videos. Teacher Rick Berrot and the gang are back at it this year, shooting the third annual video. This year's video plans to pull out all the stops - including a portion filmed at Disney World in Orlando. Berrot was kind enough to send a pic to the Pens of the students from the Magic Kingdom.

I'm looking forward to seeing the latest lip dub piece. I actually covered the first video produced by the school. The second installment can be seen here. PensTV was there when they filmed the second video.

Anyways, I decided to use the first video to kick off the blog because it is the OG and my personal favorite. Enjoy.

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