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Penguins Report: 4/14/11

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • 17 Pens practice (11:37 AM).
  • Mears is talkin’ about practice (4:00 PM)
  • Orpik levels Stamkos (11:00 AM).
  • Coach Bylsma on adjustments, Orpik and matchups (2:40 PM).
  • Coach Boucher on St. Louis, Stamkos and scoring goals (4:31 PM)
  • Fleury and Neal speak with grace and eloquence (2:13 PM).
  • Staal, Talbot, Asham and Lovejoy spit knowledge (1:09 PM).
  • Guessing game (2:55 PM).
  • Pens pics (12:02 PM).
  • Bolts pics (2:20 PM).
  • “Tell me do you think it’d be alright if I could just crash here tonight?…” (11:00 AM).

4:31 PM:
Coachspeak with Guy Boucher…

On St. Louis being a trooper:
Marty St. Louis is a warrior. If you come to our room we have a gigantic picture of when they won the Cup. Vinny (Lecavalier) has the Cup in his arms and Marty is bleeding beside him. That pretty much sums it up. Just being in the NHL at his size and going through everything he had to go through in his life to prove at that size in the old NHL you could be there. To do what he’s done is incredible. I see him everyday so I would have been very surprised if he wasn’t at practice today.

On Adam Hall:
When the year started I thought he was supposed to be slower than he was. He trained on his speed this summer. When he came into training camp he grew on me and the assistant coaches. I love his attitude. He has leadership, which I didn’t know about. He’s a real gentleman off the ice and a go-getter. He’s someone the guys would turn to for information when guys don’t understand some stuff. It was quite intriguing as training camp went on, he took more and more space. He became a penalty kill specialist. He’s played against the first lines most of the year, him and Thompson. They block more shots than anybody on our team. He’s one of those warrior guys that won’t necessarily fill the net, but you need him in different roles that are quite important not only at this time of year, but during the entire year.

On the team’s lack of offense:
I think it’s more about the frustration. I don’t want to get frustrated. There were enough scoring chances. I looked at the video after. I was quite amazed at how many times we should have been able to create something. We know we’re encountering an amazing goaltender that can win a game by himself. We also know that there were instances where our guys weren’t at the right space to make something happen. To get goals against this goaltender will take more than a free shot. It’s going to take a second and third chance. That’s pretty much what the playoffs are about. Ovechkin scored a goal not off a scoring chance. He was battling so hard that it just happened. With half our team having never been in a playoff game, it was probably an eye opener in some of the battle areas and how much the compete level needs to be at a very high degree. We know this is a team that has a lot of playoff experience lately. It’s a team that battles real hard. They’re not going to give us any freebees. What killed us yesterday when I looked at the video was taking those penalties. We were playing amazing in the first 15 minutes. We could have had goals before the first period would have ended. Then we started taking penalties. We deserve those penalties. When you look, they’re the most penalized team in the league and they only take one penalty. Either they’re really smart about it or we’re not smart about it. We have to figure out a way to take less penalties. If they’re the most penalized team in the league it will show up in the next games.

On adjusting from Game 1:
There are always adjustments. I make adjustments against anybody, whether it’s Pittsburgh or somebody else. I’m sure it will be the same for them. I’m certainly not going to share that to the world, but we are making a few adjustments. Personnel I always do from game to game. It’s very rare that I keep the same lines. I don’t think we surprised them or they surprised us. We played against them a short while ago and it was a battle. Yesterday it was 0-0 going into the third, pretty much what they expected and what we expected. It’s going to be a war.

On playing against the Pens defensemen:
The challenge they present for any team is that they’re very quick to transition the puck. They’re very quick to breakout. You think you have them on the forecheck, that’s actually what they want. They want to be pressed, draw you in so they can make that quick pass. And they’re very good in traffic and can find their areas to get out and make that pass, and they take off quickly. You either have to press them real hard or back off. If you’re stuck in between, it isn’t going to work for you.

On how much better he expects to see Stamkos next game:
Well, he’s a 20 year old that’s figuring out when you’ve got a lot of pressure as he did to finish the year as being one of the main guys, when you’ve got the top defensemen playing against you and the top forwards playing against you and everyone’s expecting and studied your game, it’s different than last year where all of a sudden you’re surprising everybody and you had less pressure. So I think that’s something he’s aware of, he has to adapt to and the fact that it was his first-ever playoff game. I saw (Alex) Ovechkin the other day talking about how it took him three years to figure out how tough it is to compete in the playoffs and be a winning team. So that was his first NHL playoff game and he’s 20 years old. So there’s a lot to learn there, and what I like about him is that he’s very honest, very smart and he’s certainly humble enough to say he’s got a lot to learn.

On Bylsma having the advantage in head-to-head matchups being the home coach and how he feels his guys did with those:
We got three of our lines that played really well. We got one I didn’t like. I don’t want to say who, but I didn't like it. So we need four lines, and if we don't have four lines, we can’t sustain. But again, if you play five-on-five for most of the time, you’re going to be able to sustain more of what you’re trying to do. But when you're defending and when you’re getting tired on the penalty kill, I know some of our defensemen got tired, some of our forwards got tired on the penalty kill, and some of the forwards sat during those penalty kills so we don’t have them on the offense. So it’s clear to me that we have to stay out of the box if we want to have a chance to beat that team. They’re a team that wears teams down. Their goaltender will stop everything. They work really hard, they wait for their chances, they’re very patient as you saw (Wednesday). If we’re too eager and we’re just pushing, pushing, pushing, we’ll do like most teams – we’ll lose.

On if there is an appreciation outside of this series for how good the players on Pittsburgh’s roster actually are:
I know some of those players and I know them well enough to tell you that there’s guys in there that are relentless. What they’re lacking in skill, they certainly balance it with what I think are the most important things in the game, are the intangibles – how much you want the game, how much you want to follow the plans. That’s a team that follows the plan real well and you can see they’re all on the same page and everybody’s going to do the small details to make it happen. There’s some teams you saw this year too in the league, they finished the year really well and some better players were gone and you wonder why. Sometimes it’s just because the chemistry is different and sometimes it’s because everybody becomes on the same plan and follows it. I’ve had teams before where I had some guys who were top players and doing well, but when some top players were gone, after that, it’s a different way to play, it’s different chemistry, you just win a different way. But if you had Crosby and Malkin in the lineup, you’d be talking about an outstanding team because they still have the character – because those guys do have it. And you’d still have guys following the plan. Whether they’ve got those guys or not, to me, they’re a serious threat and they’re a Stanley Cup contender this year, with or without those guys. With Crosby and Malkin, they’re more powerful offensively. But they still have the character; they still have the same systems. They’d be more powerful offensively, so even more of a threat.

Whispers at the bus stop: Michelle Crechiolo

4:00 PM:
Steve Mears talks ice hockey playoffs.

2:55 PM:
A new player is being plastered on the CONSOL Energy Center windows. This guy is halfway done and we've asked Pens fans via our Twitter account (@pghpenguins) whom they think this player will be when complete. My guess: Josef Beranek. The left kneecap is a dead giveaway.

2:40 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma…

On Michalek and Martin upgrading the D:
Both have a reputation for playing defense, but they do it a little bit differently. Paul Martin, the efficiency and the position with which he plays defense causes you to shake your head a little bit with how smart he is, where he positions himself, his ability and efficiency in his skating, it’s not overpowering, it’s not particularly fast. But he’s good against speed, he’s good against rushes. He also seems to have an ability position-wise to win battles, prevent guys from getting space in the offensive zone. What you hear about Paul if you talk to teammates and opponents, coaches, he’s underrated because it looks smooth and like he’s not working hard. That’s what it looks like because his positioning is so good. When you see him day-in and day-out, you know he’s extremely good at limiting other teams’ space and can do it a couple different ways. Michalek’s battle level is much different than Paul’s. It’s an extremely high battle level. He’s scratching and clawing for every inch, blocking shots and will do whatever it takes in a defensive situation to prevent his guy from getting space and to the net. It’s two different kind of mindsets and mind frames, but both guys do an extremely good job. Paired together they seem to gel well with those different aspects of playing defense. The time and space they take away and skating ability with which they do it makes them a formidable pair. They’ve added over 82 games and were a factor last night.

On if Tampa surprised them and if adjustments are needed:
They’ve done a good job and their coaches have done a good job to have different looks in certain situations in the game so they don’t always throw at you one look. Going into the game we were aware of a couple different things they could do. We saw which aspects of breakouts or special teams that they would go with. We were waiting to see. They still have the potential, based on what they’ve done over 82 games, to make adjustments. We have to be ready for some of those situations. I thought they were good in the offensive zone on faceoffs. They caused quite a bit of situations where we had to adjust and started their offensive zone with winning the faceoff. There are things they did well and we need to get better at. They continue to have a presence in and around our net and crease. They look to get pucks there. They were dangerous at times. They got scoring chances and they could have scored some goals. Fleury had to make big saves. That’s something they continue to look to do and we need to be better at.

On Orpik’s hit against Stamkos being a statement:
Playoffs have that storyline to it. There’s going to be physicality, raised emotions, raised intensity level. Every playoff picture from year to year, a team has that picture of the physicality that gets raised up. You can go back to Kunitz on Timmonen two years ago. Last night was a picture of that. It was physical all around. They had some big hits as well on our guys. They were physical. They try to be physical on the forecheck. Brooks had a number of big hits in that game. There were other guys as well that were physical and that’s the way it’s going to be. That’s the way the playoffs are. To get that early in the game sets the tone for our team and raises the stakes in the game. That’s Game 1. There will be a story and a picture from Game 2. They know they did some good things against us and things they can capitalize on. We have to be better, especially in the first half of the game against some of the things they’re trying to do. You have to re-establish your game, the physicality and how you’re going to play in the next game.

On using the last change for matchups:
We think we did a fairly good job of getting matchups that we wanted to see on the ice with both our forward lines and our defensive pairs. Both teams can do a pretty good job of playing a fast game and that means at times they’re going to keep our defensemen and lines on the ice longer than we’d like them to be. They did that a couple times in situations where they got changes and got on the ice away from our lines and defensive pairings. We were able to do that as well at times at the end of the second where they iced the puck and we were able to make changes. For most of the game, the matchups stayed pretty consistent. We were able to get them because we have home-ice. But part of their game and what they’re good at is forcing us into long shifts and kept guys on the ice and got lines changes that got their guys back on the ice in good situations. That will play out. We have an advantage at home with the last change and that will continue to play out, and be in their advantage when we go to Tampa.

On playing physical with discipline:
You bring up a good point because we did take a lot of penalties early on (in the season) and be a physical team. With our penalty kill I’m not so sure we even saw it as a problem. As the year went on, in the last half of the year given our situation, we realized how we needed to be more discipline. We needed to limit teams’ opportunities on the power play. We started to do that. That helped us continue to be a good defensive team and a good penalty kill team and not give teams opportunities. Last night and going into this series with their power play and what they can do, it’s going to be a factor in the series. To only give them one power play is a big part of the game last night. If they had six power plays it would have been tough to kill all six off. I think we learned that over the last 40 games, that we needed to be more discipline. We’ve been much better at that. Going into the playoffs, we know in this series especially, it’s going to be a factor – our ability to limit their time on the power play.

On Orpik’s all-around game against Tampa:
We were trying to see if Brooks leads the NHL in points in the playoffs. If you watch areas when we did well, it was moving the puck as quickly as we could to go the other way. It turned into offense last night for Brooks. That assist was 200 feet from his goal. That’s one of the things we need to continue to try to do is quick execution and moving the puck out of the defensive zone, being quick in transition. Brooks was good at that last night. It gave us the opportunity to get that second goal, which was big for us. That assist was a long way away. It wasn’t quite as pretty as the Neal assist or the Paul Martin play on our first goal. Nonetheless, the transition and execution of moving quickly from defensive situations to offense, he and Kris (Letang) were very good at that last night and allowed us to be a fast team.

On talking to Staal about finishing chances:
There are other times this year when I felt like there were opportunities and he immediately will work on that himself. It’s not an area you highlight – the fact that he had opportunities and didn’t score. He’s going to go work on them in the backroom, in the dressing room, on the ice. He’s going to try to find that touch and feel around the net. He’s a force for our team in a lot of different ways: power play, penalty kill, faceoffs, defense. His game I would focus on the things he did well and the defensive situations he was in, being around the net. A couple chances he had and created were because he was around the net. That’s something we need both five-on-five and on the power play. That’s a part of his game we’ll highlight. I’m confident he’ll work on ways to find that touch in and around the net where he’s getting his chances.

On if people are surprised by the Penguins’ strong defense:
It’s almost a start again for our team. Perception and view of our team changed from where it was 30 games ago, or 40 games ago to the last 10 games of the season. We played Boston and they’re surprised by our game, by our team a little bit. We make comments on how we could be a good team with the injuries. Now going into the playoffs, it’s a different animal. We’re now playing good teams with dangerous players. In order for us to win hockey games we’re going to have to prove it all over again that we can be a good team. When we win 3-0, teams are still looking to see if we can win games and be a good team in this type of atmosphere and setting against good teams and in playoff situations. I still think we have to prove that. We won last night’s game, but by our count 24 minutes into the game they were outchancing us and had some good opportunities. Our goaltender had to come up big. We’re aware that they’re a dangerous team and did some good things against us. We still feel we have to improve and get better at our game and still prove we are a good team in this type of setting and atmosphere.

2:20 PM:
The Lightning hit the ice at 2 p.m. at CONSOL Energy Center after holding an hour-long meeting. Here are some pics of the practice.

2:13 PM:
More sounds heard around the locker room...

Marc-Andre Fleury

On Brooks Orpik setting the tone with his hit on Steven Stamkos:
I think it was a great way to start the game. Brooks is a guy that always plays physical and obviously it was a big hit on one of their top players. So it just feel like the playoffs are getting started and it was fun to see.

On if that hit kind of settled the guys since they have to play physical to win:
Yeah, definitely. That’s part of our game plan in the system, and it was definitely a good start to the game and they kept playing the same way throughout the entire game.

On how he felt to get a win in Game 1:
Yeah, it was nice. Just to get some shots, get the first win, it was fun.

On if doing the goofy stuff in practice during shootouts helped him last night:
I don’t know (laughs). It’s just in practice mostly for fun, but I don’t know. I was in trouble at that time, and I just tried to do something quick like that and it worked out all right. But I wont be sliding my back to the play on purpose, though.

James Neal

On if his first playoff game lived up to be everything he hoped it would:
Yeah, it was. It’s an exciting building to play in and it was fun to get the game on. The anticipation building up to getting in the playoffs was something I’ve waited for for a long time, and it was good to get going.

On if he had that ‘Welcome to the playoffs’ moment where he thought ‘Ok, this is real’:
I think Brooksie’s hit on Stamkos set the tone and the fans kind of jacked up when he got that big hit. That was kind of the first moment where it was, ‘Here we go.’

On if this is the type of style they have to play against them to shut down their big three:
Yeah, they have that top-end skill with (Stamkos) and Vinny (Lecavalier) and (Martin) St. Louis. So as physical as we can be on them, we’ve got to make them pay as much as possible to get them away from their game.

Tomorrow we can drive around this town: Michelle Crechiolo

1:09 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room...

Jordan Staal

On his performance last night:
It was a win for the team. We had a lot of opportunities to score a goal, but we found a way to win the game anyway.

On the teams performance:
Our power play did well to find opportunities, to find a way to score goals. It was just grinding away the way we can and playing in their end, finding ways to get the puck to the net and get on those rebounds.

On playing against the right lines and matchups:
It is on the coach to get the matchups he wants. When I’m out there I will always play the same way I can. Whether it is against the Lecavalier line or anything like that I am going to be out there trying to defend and trying to score some goals.

Maxime Talbot

On Tampa Bay doing anything that surprised the team:
Nothing we weren’t ready for. We studied them enough to know what they were going to do. In the first maybe the way they came out they played really well in the first and they came at us. They were finishing their check and they came out to play. That is what we expect for Game 2 as well.

On the need for any major adjustments:
We will look at tapes and see what we can do better. But no major adjustments. We know our system and we have played it well all season.

On what impressed him most about Tampa Bay:
You have to respect their speed and you have to respect their skill. Every time they had a chance they put the puck on net. We are going to have to play better in the first period to get the win tomorrow. If they get the first goal it is a different game that’s for sure.

Arron Asham

On being able to play the way they wanted to last night:
I think the first period they came out with some fire and they were kind of taking it to us. ‘Flower’ stood on his head. As the game went on we got to our game and in the second I think from there we took the game over. That’s what we have got to do. We have got to get the pucks deep and we have got to use our bodies.

On why he is scoring in the playoffs:
Luck. It is a big time of year and it is a fun time of year. The puck seems to follow me a little bit. Hopefully it follows me all playoffs. I thought our line yesterday had a good game. We were finishing our checks. It was nice for us to be rewarded.

On the importance of winning the first game:
It is key for us. But yesterday’s game means nothing unless we win tomorrow. I am sure they are going to come out firing and ready to play and we have got to match them.

Ben Lovejoy

On his first playoff game:
I felt good. I thought that our top four defensemen had unbelievable games. I thought Niskanen and I did a great job. I think we were good against the rush and I think we were really good on puck retrievals last night. We were able to limit time in the zone when they chipped it in. I thought that really helped us get out of the zone and be effective.

On the importance of the first win:
It is great.  It sets the momentum for the rest of the series. I think it will give us confidence going into tomorrow night’s game. I think we should expect more of the same. We were good when we played our game last night, we would like to get back to that and do more of the same.

On the high intensity levels of the playoffs:
It was crazy. It was a jungle in front of the net. Guys were battling for every puck. It was probably the most physical game that I have been a part of. It was fun to be out there.

English Laundry: Joe Prince-Wright

12:02 PM:
Practice visuals...

Coach blows the whistle..."Again!" (left); Cooke with the half grin (right)

Lesson time (left); Pens = focused (right)

Crosby (left); Tangradi (right)

Comrie scores!!! (left); Engelland skates (right)

Staal (left); Talbot (right)

11:37 AM:
The Pens have an optional 11:30 a.m. practice at CONSOL Energy Center. The players are making their way onto the ice. 17 players are taking part. Cooke, Nick Johnson, Tangradi and Crosby are on the ice with the team.

Those taking the day off to rest are forwards Letestu, Kovalev, Kunitz and Dupuis and defensemen Orpik, Letang, Michalek and Martin.

11:00 AM:
It's always a great morning after a big playoff victory. The Pens shut down the high-powered Lightning offense (with a little help from No. 29 in net) to post a 3-0 shutout victory in the first-ever postseason game at CONSOL Energy Center.

A lot of great things to take away from the game. Fleury was lights out - or whiteout, get it? - between the pipes. Great to see him carrying his MVP play from the regular season into the playoffs.

The Penguins have much more experience with postseason action than Tampa Bay, and that was evident early as Pittsburgh started fast and furious while the Lightning were trying to find their game. The Pens took it right to the Bolts from the opening faceoff (see Orpik's crushing blow to Stamkos in the opening minutes) and never took their foot off the gas.

You could tell the Pens were ready to play and knew how to elevate their game, and the Bolts were trying to adapt to the postseason atmosphere. The Lightning will no doubt get better as this series goes on, but Pittsburgh took full advantage of its experience and home crowd in the first game to grab a 1-0 series lead.

Fleury was excellent, but a bunch of players really stood out in my mind: particularly Brooks Orpik; James Neal; Jordan Staal; Zbynek Michalek; Paul Martin; and Alex Kovalev. Now the team will have to carry that play into Game 2 Friday night.

Let's start the day with one of the most underrated bands of the early 90s, Gin Blossoms. Sure their music is kinda cheesy and over-the-top poppy, but it's hard not to bob your head to the music any time one of their songs come on. Their record New Miserable Experience has a lot of hidden gems on it (and it's also the only record I know by them, but I'm sure they've recorded more). They peaked in the early 90s and have been riding that success for over a decade - now that's talent.

My favorite song by the Blossoms is "Hey Jealousy." Any time I hear this song I can't stop myself from singing. I'm powerless. It's definitely in my list of Top 5 Songs I Will Sing In A Bar Loudly and Completely Out of Tune and Love Every Second Of It.

Anyways, enjoy.

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