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Talking to Myself: Downie Can Play

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This week, I talk about other people talking about Steve Downie: real hockey player, Sidney Crosby's goal drought, the importance of the regular season, and more.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

January 5, Penguins Live

Michelle Crechiolo on Steve Downie:  "You had a feeling this is what he could bring ideally, but you never know what could happen.  Sometimes players just don't fit in, but Steve Downie is fitting perfectly.  He's exactly the kind of guy the Penguins needed and I love what he has been doing on the first line with Sid, because you have that guy out there that's just teetering on the edge of craziness, that could lose it any any time.  That kind of 'you never know when this guy's is gonna go ballistic' and that might make you second-guess certain actions, especially against 87.  And the fact that he can finish too, I mean that toe drag move was absolutely beautiful, the patience he displayed was incredible."

Brian Metzer and Adam Gretz also talked Downie in Metzer's hour.  Metzer said, "I think we've all been waiting for Steve Downie to play with Sidney Crosby.  He's showing he can actually play and be very effective with a good playmaking center like Sidney Crosby."  Gretz added, "You have a lot of necessary elements there for a pretty good line.  You have a guy in Crosby who's a playmaker.  You have a guy like Downie that can do a lot of the rough stuff, the dirty work around the net and the boards.  And then you have a guy like David Perron who just has a ton of skill, great hands, very creative player."

Metzer also mentioned how physical Perron is, and cited his 78 total hits after the home loss to Montreal, good for top 5 on the team.  Gretz mentioned his recent article on power forwards, where he looked at guys who had a certain number of hits, goals, and positive possession numbers.  Go check it out if you missed it.  I wouldn't be surprised to see Perron make that list later in the season.  More on Downie in a bit.

January 6, Penguins Live

Sam Kasan weighed in on Downie too:  "I think an underrated part of his game is that he can finish plays.  He is a former 20 goal scorer.  I know it only happened once in Tampa Bay a couple years ago, but that being said, he's shown he can do it.  I actually think he could be a consistent 20 goal scorer if it weren't for the fact he spends 300 minutes a year in the penalty box, which obviously eats into his ice time.  He's smart enough to know where to go.  He's smart enough to know where to be.  Even his passing is actually what I've been most impressed with.  He's a great complimentary player."

Go back to the day Downie was signed and tell me I'd be writing about how he's been a useful addition.  Good luck convincing me you aren't insane.  I'm still not 100% on-board because he takes some incredibly stupid penalties, but so far, that hasn't really cost them thanks to the league's second-best penalty kill.  I'm still concerned he might explode at an inopportune time, but that said, he is a lot better at playing hockey than I thought.  I always looked at his 22 goal season as part lucking into a spot along Steven Stamkos and part fluke, ala Chris Simon's 29 goals in 1999-2000.  He isn't a legit top 6 wing IMO, but can be a decent fill-in.  When he keeps his head on straight, he looks like a pretty decent hockey player.  Here's hoping he keeps it up.

January 7, Penguins Live

Wes Crosby on Crosby:  "Sid's always been a pass-first forward, and I think a guy like Perron can bring that out of him even more.  Crosby has been down as far as goals go, but as far as assists, I just wrote a piece.  He's on pace for 70, which would tie I think the second-most in his career. I believe it would be the second-most since his sophomore year, when he won the Hart with 120 points.  He does need to be a little more aggressive [with shooting].  He's a 50 goal scorer, so he can shoot the puck.  There have been points this year where there have been clear shots that he hasn't taken.  Over the past few years, those are shots he has been taking.  That's why he's been scoring in the 30s.  He has that ability, he needs to showcase it and that will help his linemates as well."

Crosby has 12 goals in 38 games, which projects to a shade under 26 over 82 games.  That is the lowest pace of his career.  He can (and probably should) shoot more, but is that all it is?  Another recent article from Gretz suggests it may not be.

Kasan on not over-valuing the regular season:  "I think its great to see the coaching staff is willing to make these adjustments and tinker with things now because some coaches get stuck in their ways and they force things and are afraid to mix and match, and try new things, and take some chances.  In my opinion, when you have 82 games in the season, not every game is do-or-die.  I know points are important, winning's important, building momentum's important, but also finding chemistry is important.  Finding what works is important.  And even going through adversity is also important.  So when you have the opportunity, instead of trying to stick with one thing and putting your best units together, at some point, you're cutting yourself off from opportunities you might not realize.  Like using Chris Kunitz with Brandon Sutter.  That's something I don't think a lot of people really thought they'd try, and and now they are.  And if it works out, it could be something they end up using in the playoffs."

Over the past couple of seasons, I often said I'd rather see younger guys like Simon Despres and Robert Bortuzzo get a chance to play through some rough patches so they'd be better equipped for playoff hockey.  If that cost the team a few points in the standings or even a division title, so be it.  This staff doesn't seem to be as concerned with squeezing every possible point out of the regular season.  I think it's a welcome change.

January 7, Penguins Hotline

Phil Bourque on the power play in the wake of the OT loss to Boston:  "It's to the point where this power play has got to get it together.  It's mind-numbing when you look at the personnel.  I know some key components are missing, especially Patric Hornqvist, but one guy should not be such a difference maker.  One power play goal in four opportunities could have been the difference in this game.  It's got to simplify.  I'd almost say, 'listen, if you're going to pass the puck 40 feet across the other team's box, just grab a seat' because it's not working.  It's taking that square peg and a taking a sledgehammer and trying to jam in into the round hole.  It is not working.  They continue to try these cross-ice saucer passes through the other team's box and it's breaking up any momentum the power play has because it's going down the length of the ice.  When the power play is is struggling, simply, simplify, simplify.  One pass and a shot and just hunt those rebounds down like crazy."

Bourque sounded a little exasperated here.  Compare their simple, effective approach from October to their recent one, and who wouldn't be?  The over-passing is obvious to everyone except the five guys on the ice.  Of course, they get an overtime game-winner in Montreal that included two guys passing up shots to pass, though at least they weren't risky ones.  Fortunately, Crosby didn't make it three and immediately put the puck on net.

January 9, Penguins Live

Josh Yohe on Craig Adams' most recent hit on Evgeni Malkin:  "To be honest, I think it was blown out of proportion.  All I tweeted was Adams crushed Malkin into the boards and he dumped Pouliot into the boards and it was a physical practice and people ran with it from there.  I think was happened quite frankly is that a lot of Penguins fans are well aware that Evgeni Malkin is probably the best player in the world right now and obviously something was going on between he and Adams last week, so I think people are really fast to jump on Craig Adams at the drop of a hat now quite frankly.  I don't think Malkin and Adams are best pals by any stretch, but I don't think it was that big of a deal.  Obviously something happened [last week] between Adams and Malkin that might have been a pretty serious thing because you don't see guys that have been teammates for six years get into a fight at the morning skate, but what happened yesterday wasn't a huge deal."

If Adams was just practicing hard, fine.  Given recent events, it was fair to ask if it was related though.  Given it's been a few days since it happened and Adams is still here (and playing), it's safe to say how the organization viewed it.  I don't think he's got much left and the team would be better without him, but that may have to wait until next year.  Keep an eye on Zach Sill though.  He's been getting work on the penalty kill, and if the coaches like what he does there, that and his edge in speed could push Adams to the press box.

Last minute update:

On the way into work this morning, I heard a replay of an interview Yohe did with Mark Madden the day of this latest incident (a day before the above comments).  Yohe comes on around the 25 minute mark, and the brief comments on Adams are around 33.  They paint a slightly different picture, take a listen:

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