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Penguins Report: 4/12/11

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
  • Neal will play in Game 1 vs. Tampa Bay (12:29 PM).
  • Bylsma updates the status on Crosby and Tangradi (1:03 PM).
  • Neal is on the ice for practice, as is Staal, Kunitz, Martin & Crosby (11:00 AM).
  • Pens' lines (11:22 AM).
  • Potash gets Punk'd (11:44 AM).
  • Plum High School’s new lipdub video (4:25 PM).
  • Coach Bylsma on Michalek, Staal’s playoff role and shutdown D (2:35 PM).
  • Pens ink Philip Samuelsson for 3 years (2:16 PM).
  • Katie O’Malley gave away 2 Game 1 playoff tix (5:04 PM).
  • Neal, Kunitz and Staal spit knowledge (2:07 PM).
  • PensTV has a dialogue with Dupuis, Fleury and Plato (4:35 PM).
  • Coach Bylsma gets prepped for “Rome is Burning” while Nero fiddles. (5:12 PM).
  • Pens pics (11:50 AM).
  • “She packed my bags last night pre-flight…” (10:25 AM).

5:12 PM:
Pens coach Dan Bylsma made a TV appearance today with ESPN's Jim Rome for "Rome is Burning" (somewhere in the distance Nero is playing the fiddle). Here are some pics of his interview from CONSOL Energy Center. Look at the fancy shirt cuffs!

Gettin' his mic put on

Smilin' like a butcher's dog

5:04 PM:
PensTV's Katie O'Malley and her new bangs gave away two free tix to Game 1 against the Lightning through a social media contest. Check out Pens new media coordinator Jon Meck making an awkward cameo in the background before he tweets and Facebooks. He's "ready to go!"

4:35 PM:
PensTV had a dialogue with Pascal Dupuis and Marc-Andre Fleury.



4:25 PM:
Plum High School released a new lipdub video. This year's version includes two songs and a much more elaborate orchestration equipped with syncronized swimmers, more dancing, an appearance by Iceburgh and an energetic chant at the end. PensTV was there the night of filming to bring you some behind the scenes footage.

Of course, we can't forget the original video from last year, which nearly has 250,000 hits on YouTube.

2:35 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma…

On Staal not changing his game in the playoffs:
Over the course of the last 40 games there has been a point of discussion more than once about not changing his game and understanding that for the last three years he has gone head-to-head against Ovechkin and Richards and Carter and shut them down as Jordan Staal playing his game. If Jordan Staal were to go head-to-head against Ovechkin, Richards, Carter, Stamkos and St. Louis and try to be Stamkos or St. Louis, he wouldn’t fair as well. His focus is continuing to play the same way he’s played the last three years for us, very similar matchup situations for him, playing against the other teams’ top lines and still playing his game and having success. That’s something that Jordan has done very well in the last 20 games. It’s been a big factor and will be going forward.

On Neal playing in Game 1:
It’s a situation where we took precautions and rested a few players on the weekend. We knew he’d be ready to practice today.

On Michalek being a shutdown type of defensemen:
The way our team has played this year I don’t think we can say we’ve had one shutdown pairing the whole time. Brooks (Orpik) and Kris (Letang) were it earlier this season. Martin and (Michalek) have been the shutdown pair for the last 20 games or so. With Orpik coming back and pairing with Letang, they have really assumed the second team’s top line. So Z and Marty have been that pair the last 20 games and will continue to be that way. Playing Tampa Bay, they’re going to have dangerous people on more than one line. We’re going to have matchups for our defensemen in situations we want them to be in. Z and Marty will be considered a matchup pair in this series.

On the chemistry between Martin and Michalek:
Two things they’ve done really well: playing rushes in tandem and having a good gap; also going back for pucks together and breakout together as a unit with the first forward back. They’ve really improved in that area over the last 25 games. Those two areas combined, they’ve really done a good job of limiting time and space for the other team’s top players. They’ve made it very difficult to get zone time because they’ve been very good at leaving the zone as quickly as possible. In addition to being outstanding defenders, good sticks, they’ve been able to limit that time and make it very difficult on the oppositions good players.

On playing well despite the injuries:
It’s different than past years with teams that we’ve had and expectations. Two years ago we got momentum going into the playoffs. It was a different feel. This year, one thing I’m most proud of is that we didn’t slide into the playoffs. We didn’t sneak in with 91 points. This team found a way to keep working, keep battling, keep playing whether it was defensively, penalty kill or good goaltending, winning one-goal games, we’ve found a way to be a successful team and getting 106 points with different players at different times. I think the confidence this group has playing hockey game is one of the most gratifying things to see from the guys. This team is stepping up together. They’re expecting it and getting things done on the ice, earning the second-most points in franchise history.

On Michalek working on the power play:
His shooting presence has been enormous. He’s a guy that can rip the puck. He affects teams trying to block it. He affects team when he gets to the front of the net. You saw him score the goal in Long Island with a heavy shot. It’s a situation with a guy that is dangerous with his heavy shot. It’s affective. It’s a part of the power play we’re trying to get better at. He’s been able to add that. It’s something we haven’t had for a while.

On being the veteran coach in the series:
I don’t feel that way. I think every time you step out for a playoff season there is an anticipation that feels like the first time. Their coach has had success in the playoffs last season. He guided his team through three series last year. He’s had some success in the past. He’ll be able to lean on that and draw from that. I feel like every playoff year, this is my third in the National Hockey League, I feel like it’s my first time. That anticipation of starting tomorrow in the first game is like it was two years ago.

2:16 PM:
The Pens locked up draft pick Philip Samuelsson to a three-year entry level deal. The BC sophomore was the team's second-round pick (61st overall) in the 2009 Draft.

Philip is also the son of former Pen and Cup winner Ulf Samuelsson. Ulf was one of my favorite Pens growing up and maybe the toughest player I've ever seen play.

Side item: who would win in a fight, Genghis Khan or Ulf Samuelsson? My money is on Ulfie.

Ulf and Philip Samuelsson at the 2009 Draft in Montreal.

2:07 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room...

James Neal
On dealing with his injury:
I am good to go. Like I said I am just excited to get playing here. I can't wait to see the way the CONSOL (Energy Center) is tomorrow with the excitement and the fans and the buzz around the playoffs here.
On if he thought he would miss tomorrow's game:
No, I knew I would be good to go. A few days rest before playoffs never hurts. Like I said, I am ready to go now.
On watching the playoffs over the years, having not been part of them:
It is always tough when your season ends short. You go home and you’re watching the fun the guys are having playing in those huge games and scoring those big goals. Just everything that surrounds the playoffs and growing up and watching them, it is something you dream about being a part of. I couldn't ask to be in a better team going into the playoffs right now.
On if his game is suited to the playoffs:
I think so. Hopefully I have been saving it up for this. I am just excited to get going and it will be fun to play in my first playoff game.

Chris Kunitz
On having to finish chances against Tampa Bay:
We have to play our system. That is taking pucks to the net and looking for second chances. That is the only way you’re going to beat goaltenders in the playoffs. You have got to be in front of them so they can't see the puck. Every goalie is a great goalie.
On trying to create a bit more traffic in front of the net on Roloson:
You play against him but we don't really know his style. We have given him easy saves, shots from the outside and not crashing the net. These are things he can see I think, so in any goalie that breeds confidence. You don't just want to throw a few there early just because. You want to make sure your taking it there with purpose and putting it there and putting guys in front.
On not having Crosby and Malkin in the lineup and how it affects their approach:
We have been playing the last 30 something games without our power offensive guys. We have built a defensive game. Our goaltender has been our best player by far. From our defense blocking shots to our forwards being aware of playing in our own end. We have played some tighter games which gives you experience for the playoffs as there are a lot of close games. There are not too many blowouts in the playoffs. We can't really judge until we get there how we are going to do without those guys. We can just hope that Sid gets better and can join us at some point. We believe we are a good team in here. We have confidence, we finished with a high point total because we are a good team and play good systems.

Jordan Staal
On how it feels to be back in the playoffs again:
We are excited with the season we had. We are real happy to be in the playoffs and be in the race again. Once you get in anything can happen.
On the mentality of the team going into the playoffs:
It is just a matter of not getting too high or too low. It is just a matter of getting those four wins as fast as possible. That is what we are focusing on.
On the importance of the power play against a dangerous team like Tampa:
Power play is always going to be big. Special teams are an important part of every game. It is going to be a big part of the series. Our PK has got to be great and our power play has to be great as well.
On if not having any games nationally televised helps the team to fly under the radar:
Not really. We don't really notice the TV thing. It is a big game every single time we are playing. It is still a playoff feel in the dressing room. We are getting prepared and ready to win.

Tiny Dancer: Joe Prince-Wright

1:03 PM:
Coach Bylsma said that the lineup will be based on game-time decisions. He added some updates on Crosby and Tangradi. When asked if Tangradi could play in the series if needed, Bylsma responded: "Absolutely."

"Our lineup will be game-time.

"There is no change in Sidney Crosby's status. The fact that he's practicing with the team has not changed his progression. He's not been able to progress to the next standpoint yet. In terms of it being a full practice, he's not participating in the contact portion of the drills. The players are aware of that and know to stay away from him in practice.

"I can't give an exact on when (Tangradi) moved to contact and to full practice. It's been more than a week that he's been involved. Right now we want 15 forwards on the ice for full practices. Today he wasn't out there for that one. That doesn't change his status, doesn't change where he's at. He was ready to go for more than a week. We had an opportunity to get him in the game and get him some game situations, which he hasn't had for quite a long time. He looked very good in that game. He had a great net-front presence. It's a situation where getting that game in gives him more confidence going into the playoffs."

12:29 PM:
James Neal told the media that he will be back in the lineup Wednesday night for Game 1 vs. Tampa Bay.

"I'm good to go and excited for my first playoff game."

12:16 PM:
By the way, a bunch of radio and TV interviews going down today. Click here for the details on where you can hear/see from the team.

11:50 AM:
Practice pics for your viewing pleasure...

Gilles Meloche talks with Brent Johnson (left); Talbot warms up with his helmet unstrapped. Going with the casual look

Staal and Fleury point in a general direction (left); Kennedy shoots some pucks with a transparent stick (right)

Group shot on bended knee (left); Rupp, Talbot and Crosby are focused (right)

James Neal is back at practice...holla

Staal (right)

11:44 AM:
By the way, "somebody" had some fun with ROOT SPORTS reporter Dan Potash today. A bunch of his pictures, with different funny slogans written on them, were tapped up throughout Southpointe today. Here is a little sample:

Some other good ones:

"You want the truth? You can't handle the truth."

"Do you feel lucky punk? Do ya?"

"I love me some of me."

And my personal favorite:

PS - Big thanks to Potash for being a good sport and letting me post the pictures. He's a solid guy.

11:22 AM:
The Pens used the following lines at practice:


For a brief period the top two lines were flipped:


11:00 AM:
James Neal is on the ice for practice after leaving the Pens' game versus the Islanders on April 8 and missing their game against Atlanta on Sunday. The other players who sat out Sunday's game - Jordan Staal, Chris Kunitz and Paul Martin - are also on the ice. Sidney Crosby is skating with the team. The only Penguins missing are Eric Tangradi and Nick Johnson.

10:25 AM:
Good morning Pens fans and welcome to the start of the 2011 NHL postseason! Pittsburgh will be battling the Tampa Bay Lightning for the first time ever in a playoff series. The strength of the Bolts is in their dynamic forward group - which Michelle Crechiolo scouted for your reading pleasure

The opening round kicks off Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the first postseason game ever at CONSOL Energy Center (spoiler: there are going to be a lot of firsts this playoffs with the new arena). Until then, the Pens will hit the ice today at 11 a.m. at Southpointe for practice.

Time to open the day with some tunes. We'll start the day with an old classic by Sir Elton John. "Rocket Man" was written in 1972, but it's staying power is undeniable. It's a beautiful, simple melody about how astronauts went from being heroes to just another everyday occupation.

"Rocket Man" may be the most covered song (or possibly Radiohead's "Creep"). But a personal favorite of mine is the My Morning Jacket version. The tempo is slowed to a crawl, the drumming vibrates and the overall tone sounds like it was recorded in a basement. The song has this eerie, yet calming quality. The band pulls off the contradiction perfectly.

And lastly, I heard this version of "Rocket Man" while watching the TV show Californication. While the My Morning Jacket recording is tracked in a more subdued style, this version is slightly more upbeat with drum tempos and record cuts.

Anyways, enjoy.

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