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Penguins Report: Closing Time

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

2:49 PM:

Closing statements from head coach Dan Bylsma:

Head Coach Dan Bylsma
On the meetings:
It’s not a central message for everybody. I think everyone is in different positions and different scenarios. We are two days removed from a disappointing and emotional time when you lose a Game 7 and you aren’t going on. It’s probably not the best time and it’s a short amount of time to digest all of that. Each person is different. We are meeting with the guys to talk about the year and what in store and what is ahead.
On losing his first playoff series:
It’s not the first time that I have lost a playoff series – it is as a head coach. You don’t win every year. Winning every year is certainly what you are after and hope for. With the group of guys that we had we thought we could win again. It’s tough to digest the disappointment and get to some true feelings. There are a lot of things I would like to talk about and discuss, I just don’t know some of the questions to ask myself or even some of the players. I hope I never get used to it because this isn’t a good feeling.
Head coach Dan Bylsma
On the words to describe the feeling:
I am not a huge fan of the English language and it is tough to say in words exactly what you feel and the emotions of losing. We talked to a player today who lost in the (Cup) Final and this was more disappointing than that – at least to that player. I think it is different for each playoff series.
On the expectations making the loss so tough:
I think the anticipation and opportunity – it is a different feel than some of the other experiences that I have had.
On potentially thinking ahead:
I wish I didn’t have human thoughts, but like everybody – if you look at that picture (of the Penguins’ 2009 Stanley Cup celebration) over your shoulder – I think this is a group of guys who could’ve been in that picture again this year. The opportunity we had with playing Montreal in the second round – it is disappointing because of those expectations. You don’t get these opportunities every year.
On potential surgeries for players:
I don’t have anything enlightening to tell you about the health of our team. There are a couple of guys who had injuries I know are getting evaluated today. We were in typical playoff mode – we had some bumps and bruises. We were generally pretty healthy. I don’t know the answer to your question. There may be some guys being evaluated today who may need some rehab with what they are dealing with.
On the team being in a possible transition period with possible young guys stepping up:
I think just the nature of the game now – we did return some players after a win but we did also lose five or six guys from that team. I don’t know the exact number but we do have some unrestricted guys and some guys who are in some different spots with their contracts and age. We are going to see some turnover, but it is probably going to be similar to last year. We haven’t gotten anywhere close to discuss salary cap, players and who is coming back. We also know that a part of our organization is continuing to infuse younger players into our lineup and growing within our organization. I think you saw a pretty good dose this year of younger players playing eight, 10 or 12 games for us and they showed they could play in this league. You talk about a Ben Lovejoy and a Deryk Engelland – I think they surprised everyone with the games they played and the minutes they played. A guy like Eric Tangradi is a guy who somewhere down the road is going to get a good shot to play and be that next wave of development we believe we need to have in our organization.
On how he felt the Penguins played in the postseason:
As a group we got together at the beginning of the year and talked about some of the hurdles and struggles and pitfall that come after winning a championship and identified many of them. I think we could check them off the list. If you want to talk about your word – inconsistency – I think we went through those struggles. What I liked about this group of guys is that they were always willing to go through the struggle. We knew we were struggling at different times but we did it together with the group and the leadership we had in there. I liked where we were getting in the playoffs. I liked where we were at. Even if you make a decision that works for the positive, I still struggle wondering if I did the right thing or not. I will always mull over those struggles and if we could have avoided them in any particular way but I’m not sure you can without fighting through them the way we did. That group of guys worked through it and did that. We got to the playoffs and in large portions put ourselves in position to win hockey games against the Canadiens.
On Guerin’s and Gonchar’s future:
Three years for Gonch would put him at Billy Guerin’s age, right? Sergei Gonchar was the sixth-leading defensive scorer in the league this year despite having missed 21 games. That’s what Sergei Gonchar delivers and can bring to our team. We can identify all of our mistakes in the playoffs and what we did right and did well. That’s the way we want it and that’s the way we’ll lose. Sergei Gonchar, when you look back on it, his 11 goals and his point total, that is what he brings to our team. He is a power-play quarterback guy. I can definitely see him doing that in the future.
On how long until they formulate a free agency plan and his thoughts on watching the playoffs:
Right now, they are having the amateur meetings across the street, so they are dealing with that. After that we will have the coaches and pro scouts meet and talk about our team – where we want to go and what we want to do with our free agents. Then obviously with our pro scouts the July 1st situation – we are not there yet. We are digesting where we are right now. We are in the process of talking to every player – finding out where they are. There are lots of issues that go into the salary cap. Sergei Gonchar’s contract and all of those things will be weighed into those things. I probably will watch the playoffs. I don’t have a lot of interests to watch on TV so I will probably turn the games on. If my son’s baseball games are on I certainly won’t be watching hockey.
On Malkin and Fleury being criticized:
I think with the status they have on our team and the quality of players that they are, when things don’t go well, you are going to get criticism. Evgeni Malkin had roughly 40 points less than last year. I think there are going to be some questions and criticisms. I think Geno feels those. We think Geno is a 114-point guy. He wasn’t that this year for us. Marc-Andre Fleury – he didn’t have a strong season and he didn’t have a strong playoffs. He is well aware of that situation and the criticism that comes with those things like being the guy who stopped pucks for us when we won the Stanley Cup and being the No. 1 goalie for a great team. He is going to get that criticism. We can talk about a shot that did or didn’t go in or whether it should have gone in or not and I’m sure Marc will tell you right now I want to stop that next time and I should have stopped that. I know from our guys and Marc-Andre Fleury that we will take those criticisms that come our way and we will feel those. I don’t fear for those guys’ mentality of having to deal with that criticism. They will be back and be stronger. We will be ready to put that on the ice when we have to.
On Jaroslav Halak:
Evgeni Malkin, if you showed him on tape the scoring chances and where he was going to get them from, and said that is where Halak is in the net – he would say ‘I’ll take that every day of the week and twice on Sunday.’ Halak was very good as well. Not only was he good, he was good when his team needed him the most against some good players. That’s the storyline.
On players going to the World Championships:
I never had the opportunity to do that. I wish I did. Obviously they would like to still be playing and I would like to still be playing. We are not and they are going to get those opportunities to go do that. That’s something I wish they would do.


2:40 PM:
More words of wisdom:

Evgeni Malkin

On looking back on the season:
I think it was a good year. We had good experiences. We lost but it was a good experience. The team played very well this season. We tried to win, but it’s hard to win every year. The last two years we played in Stanley Cup Final. We want to win but it’s really hard.
On coming back next season:
I will have a good vacation. I’ll have good rest, great workouts and come back. I want to win again.
On his season:
Compared to last year, it’s a bad year. But I tried and next year I’ll be better. This year wasn’t good for me.
On if the players were tired from the Cup Finals, Olympics, parades, etc.:
I think it’s been a long season. We see Detroit is in the same situation. They’re tired too and lost in the second round. It’s tough to play two years in the Final. With the Olympic Games it’s a little bit tougher.
On playing for Russia in world championships:
Yes, maybe I’ll leave today for Germany, or maybe tomorrow or in two days. (Sergei) Gonchar flies out today. I’ll probably go tomorrow. It’s my national team. They called me. I want to play for them. I can go. I won’t say no.
On if he’s playing because of the disappointing Olympic showing:
We lost and it was bad emotions. I was very mad and if we win now it will be a little bit better. I think we deserve to win. We have a good team. We’ll try.
On why Crosby and he couldn’t score:
I don’t know what was the problem. We tried. Seriously, I don’t know.

Sergei Gonchar

Sergei Gonchar
On being a free agent:
Being a free agent is obviously so different this time. I like the city. I like the defensive unit that supports us. I like my teammates. It seems like we have a great group of guys here with great chemistry. We still have plenty of time. Ray (Shero) and I just talked, and there is going to be some time before July 1 to sit down and talk. We have plenty of time to do something.  I want to be happy. Obviously Pittsburgh is a place where I have been happy for the last five years here as a player with my teammates. I would like to stay here, but at the same time, we have to do work both ways and be fair. When I go to look at my contract, I’m going to have to weigh everything.
On if he is considering staying with the Penguins next year:
There is still a good chance. Ray and I are going to have a conversation soon. It’s really tough for me to say right now. My mind isn’t really into it yet. I’m playing in the World Championship, and I’m leaving tonight. I’m just going to leave it to Ray.
On playing in the World Championship:
I was disappointed with this season and unsatisfied with the way that our season ended. Plus, I’m getting older, and there are very few chances left for me to win something. I haven’t won a World Championship yet, so I just want to take advantage of it.
On being unsatisfied with the outcome of Game 7:
It was a collective effort. I don’t think that we can single one guy out and say that the guy is happy about the game, or that guy is not. I think that as a group we didn’t win that game, and we’re a little unsatisfied. For me, there is a chance to maybe get some satisfaction in the World Championship now, and I’m going to do that.
On the Travis Moen goal in Game 7:
He shot the puck in, and I thought that it went to the corner, so that’s why I didn’t turn. At a previous game at home when we played against him, I was in his way, and it was the same situation on the power play. They gave me two minutes for interference, so at the same time, I was worrying that if I did the same thing, I would get another two minutes. That’s kind of why I let him go easily, but unfortunately the puck wasn’t in that deep in the zone. Usually when they put a puck deep in the zone, my partner goes to pick it up, and I try to get open for him. That’s what I was hoping would happen. Unfortunately the puck didn’t go in very deep, and the puck was laying right there. He went right by me and shot the puck and scored the goal.
On if he is worried about getting any injuries when he plays in the World Championship:
If I was worried, I wouldn’t be going there. It’s one of those things that might happen, so I got insurance. I had to inform the insurance company that I was going to play hockey. It’s 24-hour insurance. It’s not about my shoulder. 

Matt Cooke

On leaving Mellon Arena:
I haven’t had much time to think about it really. It’s something where I’m still trying to digest what has gone on in the last 72 hours. I just have a lot of questions.
On being a free agent:
We’ll have to wait and see what happens. It’s a process, and negotiations always happen. We’ll see where it goes and where it takes us. I always said that I have felt at home here in Pittsburgh. It’s a place that I would want to continue to play. Negotiations will have to be between the team and myself and my family. Any talks that we have will stay between us.
Matt Cooke
On if the loss has settled in yet:
There has been a lot to chew on. It’s frustrating, because we felt like at times – not Game 7 – we played well enough to win that series. That’s what makes it have such a sour taste.
On feeling like he is a good priority for the Penguins:
If I was joking about it, I would say that I am the most important. There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle that Ray (Shero) has to figure out. You have to understand and realize that he is in a tough situation. I don’t think that we have a lot of defensemen signed at this point, and you need at least six to start the season. That might be a more important issue. That’s up to them to decide.
On being a part of a consistent third line alongside Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy:
I think that you get attached to certain players. That’s for sure. For the better part of two years, I have played with Staalsy (Jordan Staal) and TK (Tyler Kennedy). We established a pretty good niche for ourselves. It’s too hard to sit here and talk about what-if’s. All that I can say is that between the organization and me, we’ll try to get something done and see how far that goes.

Alex Goligoski
On the year:
It was my first full year and it was definitely a learning experience. There were some ups and downs with everything. It ended not on the end way we wanted it to end.
On the lack of defensemen signed for next season:
You don’t really know what is going to happen. There are a lot of guys in the locker room that we know will be back. That is always a good feeling.
On being a power-play quarterback:
I have always run power plays. I feel comfortable out there. That being said I hope we can get Gonch back. He is unbelievable at running a power play. He is a great player, great defenseman and great guy. Hopefully he’ll be back.

2:20 PM:
Some final sounds from around the locker room:

Sidney Crosby

Sidney Crosby's last media scrum at his Mellon Arena locker
On his last day at Mellon Arena:
I don’t know if this will be the last day. I’m sure that I’ll be back at some point. At the same time, you look forward to going to a new rink and hopefully making some good memories.
On watching the remaining playoff games this year:
I don’t think that I’ll watch much. I think that during my first couple of years I always really enjoyed learning about the intensity of them and getting a feel for that. This year, I don’t see myself watching too much of them. The one thing that I think never gets old is seeing someone lift the Cup every year, so I’ll be tuned in to see that. Outside of that, I don’t think that I will watch too much.
On how the feeling of losing this round compares to how it felt to lose in the Finals two years ago:
They’re different, but losing is losing. When you go to the Finals, you never know if you’re going to be back there again. That loss was pretty devastating. This one was different. Neither felt good, but they were different.
On the Penguins dealing with the team’s free agents this year:
That’s the challenge that you face now every year, and especially this year we obviously have a lot of guys and some decisions to make. I think that it’s kind of early now. I’m sure that there will be a lot of conversations between now and July 1 with a lot of those guys. I think that we all really like the group of guys that we have. I think that we have come a long way. The more familiar that we keep it is obviously better, but at the end of the day, it’s up to both sides to kind of agree on that. We’ll see with time where that brings us.
On how he feels physically after the postseason:
I feel OK. I’m pretty good considering the amount of hockey that we have played in the last few years. It has been a lot. If anything you don’t like losing or being out. At the same time, to get a full summer in, that’s something that I haven’t had in a long time. Right now, I’m looking forward to just making the most of it and healing and trying to gain as much as I can in the upcoming months before the next season.
On if he thinks Bill Guerin wants to come back for another year:
I think that he does. That’s the indication that I got, but that’s another thing on Ray (Shero)’s list that I’m sure will be discussed. I think that he would definitely love to be back.
On comparing the team’s identity this year with the one that the Penguins had last year when they won the Cup:
I don’t think that it was much different. I think that the identity of our team was pretty similar. There is really not a big difference. When you break everything down, there are minor details, and we made some mistakes here and there. The fact is that we went to Game 7 in the exact same situation last year, and we could have lost that game. There has not been a lot of difference. I think that guys play with a lot of character and a lot of guts. The last few seasons have been long, and some guys were pretty beat up. I don’t think that you can ever question the character in this room. That is one thing that has been proven time and time again. That’s an important trait for a team that wants to win consistently.
On the difficulty of leaving Mellon Arena:
There are going to be a lot of new things. That’s for sure. That’s tough obviously just because I played my first game here and have all of those memories. At the same time, not too many people have the opportunity to go into a new building. It’s a building that will be state-of-the-art. Especially here in Pittsburgh, we have had great support, and that’s exciting, too. I kind of have mixed emotions, and there’s a part of me that will be sad, but at the same time, I’m looking forward to the new rink, as well.
On getting accustomed to new daily routines in the new arena next year:
It will just be something that becomes habit. You’ll see the same people and the same security guards. I enjoy that a lot. I enjoyed seeing the same people coming in for games and the same walk. I will never forget all of those things, and I’m sure that I will bump into those people in the new rink. All of those things will kind of just develop I think.

Marc-Andre Fleury  

On coming to terms with the loss:
Those couple of days were good to relax a little bit, but it’s still frustrating when I think about the game and I think about the way that it ended. I wish that we could still be playing and still be going for another series.
On pinpointing why the Penguins were not able to defeat Montreal:
I think that they played well. You have to give them some credit. They played very well defensively and didn’t give us much. They had guys who could score some goals and were talented offensively. I still think that we played well. We had a lot of shots. We did some good things. It just didn’t end up the right way.
On having a hard time believing that the Penguins are out of the playoffs for this year:
It’s weird just to be done right now already. I think that we kind of got used to making it until the end and winning. It’s tough to think about.
On being in the locker room at Mellon Arena for the last time:
I’ve played here for six years now, and it’s all that I know from Pittsburgh. I think that it will be a little bit weird to move out. There is so much great history here, and we won our Stanley Cup here also. It will be a little bit weird, but I guess that it’s for the best.
On what he will do with all of his free time now:
I will probably go on vacation for a while. I don’t really feel like going back to Montreal and seeing their fans. I will get away somewhere.
On some of the players needing a full offseason to refresh and recover:
It’s going to help everybody to have a long summer to rest and heal injuries. At the same time, though, when you think about it, everybody in the room would rather keep playing and be sore than go home and rest.
On seeing the team’s free agents all come back next year:
I love all of those guys. We have a very close group of guys, and I think that Ray (Shero) has been doing his job very well since he has been here. I don’t have any tips for him. He’ll be fine.
On watching the remaining playoff games this year:
I’ll watch Boston and Philly tonight. After that, we’ll see.
On if his finger needs to heal any more:
No. It’s fine.

Mike Rupp

Mike Rupp speaking with the media
On coming to terms with the loss:
You adjust the best that you can. You definitely get your mind going, and it’s hard to sleep. I think that the best thing for all of us to do right now is to remove ourselves from hockey altogether and probably not pay too much attention to the playoffs going on. It was the hardest loss that I have ever had for sure. It’s something that we need to grow from and I guess get stronger from. We hope that it doesn’t happen again.
On looking back on this year’s postseason and looking forward into next year’s regular season:
This team is obviously put together quite well. We plan on being in the position that we’re in – contending and being one of the elite teams in the league – next year and years to come. We just need to kind of take a few steps back. I think that, as players, we need to evaluate what happened and why we are done right now. We need to look at what Montreal did that allowed their season to go on. We need to be better in those aspects.
On what Montreal did better than the Penguins in their final series this year:
It’s tough. When you’re out-chancing a team like we were, you feel like in every single game you deserve better. We’re not trying to feel sorry for ourselves or anything, but we set ourselves up pretty nicely. We just didn’t get it done. We just have to try and stay a little more controlled. They played a really good series. They believed in what they did, and they did not waver from that. I felt like at times we did, and I think that we need to learn from that.

Assist to Caitlin Kasunich

2:12 PM:

Evgeni Malkin packs his gear for the world championships

11:14 AM:
The last game has been played at Mellon Arena but the ice remains (if only for a little while).


10:56 AM:
Friday afternoon is the official finale to the 2009-10 season for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Two days after losing to the Montreal Canadiens in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, the team, coaches and staff gathered at Mellon Arena for one last time. 

The players will clean out their lockers and meet with the coaching staff. Every player will get the coaches season and postseason evaluation of his play, advice on how to improve and an offseason program of workouts and skills to work on.

The day is also the final goodbye for the team. It is the last time that this group will be together ever. With free agency and other dynamics, next year's team will not resemble this year's squad. So this group that battled side by side for eight months will shake hands and part ways.

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