#1 We linked this Bob McKenzie piece about Herb Brooks yesterday in Pens Points, and it made me smile. Stories about Herb made me think about how lucky the Penguins were that Herb was a team employee for many years at the end of his life. And it made me thought of a favorite memory from way back in the day, with one of my favorite Penguins growing up, the notorious Matthew Barnaby.
As the PG's Dave Molinari put it back in 2003 for Brooks' obiturary:
Brooks, then the Penguins' coach, was furious after a 4-3 loss to Colorado upon learning that two Denver television announcers had accused one of his players, Barnaby, of faking an injury when he was cross-checked in the back by Avalanche defenseman Alexei Gusarov. Surrounded by cameras and microphones, Brooks shouted at the announcers in a Pepsi Center corridor, threatened to kick their behinds "all over the place" and ultimately needed to be restrained by a security guard.
That was 1 month after Brooks took the Pens coaching job, and knowing what we know about his motivational tactics, was surely a way to show his new players that he had their back and wanted them to buy in. Brooks was a gem and a treasure to have.
#2 Loved this tweet too, in response to the report that Carolina GM Ron Francis flatly denied that he was going to trade Jordan Staal. Things sure can change quickly in an NHL front office.
#3 So much moves fast in hockey. Who would have guessed a year ago at this time that Sidney Crosby would be skating with David Perron and Patric Hornqvist?
#4 Pierre Lebrun said yesterday that the Penguins "as of Monday had only about $500,000 to $600,000 in cap room to play with". That will be really important to remember leading up to the trade deadline on next Monday. Unless Pittsburgh is willing to trade a NHL roster player away, they won't be able to bring in much. I suppose it could be possible to demote Derrick Pouliot if they pick up a defenseman, or waive/re-assign Zach Sill if they get a forward, but that will not really open up a ton of cap space either. Given that the Pens seem content with the majority of their lineup, it might be about impossible to bring in a new face unless the other team is willing to retain salary.
#5 And, is it just me, or do you think Beau Bennett might be dangled as trade bait? The Penguins don't have a 1st or 3rd round pick, and they probably want to hold onto their 2nd rounder. That doesn't leave a lot valuable to trade away, since the team has said openly trading any of their 3 top defensive prospects (Pouliot, Scott Harrington, Brian Dumoulin ) isn't something they want to do. Bennett doesn't seem like a favorite of the coaching staff and hasn't played a Top 6 role very often. Haven't heard anything official, but to me it seems like Bennett might benefit from a fresh start. And the team will probably have to move somebody if they want to bring a new player in. Just throwing it out there.
#6 Or will it be Steve Downie? The gruff forward has fallen into a healthy scratch rotation and is working from the 4th line, despite being a reasonably productive forward, with more points on the season right now than Brandon Sutter and Nick Spaling . Downie can hurt the team though with untimely penalties and the next time he skates away after a post-whistle incident without being pulled away by a ref, will be the first. With Downie's talent he should be adding to the team, wasn't that a Rick Tocchet calling card to keep his charge Downie on a tight leash?
#7 Not to beat up Tocchet too much, but he's in charge of the power play and it still looks directionless, even though it did wake up over the weekend. Sidney Crosby still looks out of sorts, but I think Patric Hornqvist is the most important player to watch on the top PP unit. If he can get open, it gives Crosby somewhere to go with the puck other than back to Malkin or Kris Letang at the point. Once Hornqvist gets it, he needs his shot to be accurate, sometimes it is not. But, when it is, he's a big benefit either crashing to the net, or finding the soft spot and unleashing. While the big boys play catch around the perimeter, watch to see what Hornqvist is doing. If he's active and successful, chances are the puck will wind up in the net.
#8 Someone named their human child "Malkin Crosby". I texted my mom to ask why I wasn't named "Lemieux Bullard". Haven't received a response yet.
#9 In 2008-09 and 2010-11 the Penguins only won 1 shootout game vs. Washington and lost every other game in those seasons. The past two years in 2013 and 2013-14, it was Pittsburgh's turn to sweep the Capitals in the season series. This year, of course, it's 3-zippy Washington with their chance to return the favor on the season sweep between rivals. It's been very odd how the swings in this rivalry go from year-to-year, often times with one team totally dominating one season, and then finding it difficult to even win a game later.
#10 That's a nice lead in for the usual ender of this feature, the division recap and outlook:
The Rangers really remain in the driver's seat with their games in hand giving them the chance to jump up into first place, thanks to their 6-5 comeback win over NYI last week. February has been very kind to NYR, since this column last Tuesday, they only played 3 games with just 1 against a playoff team (VAN) and took advantage, going 2-0-1 on the week. This next week should be tougher with 4 games, three of them (@CGY, @NSH and home for streaking Philly) look tougher on paper than anything they've recently played.
The Penguins loss to Columbus last week looms large. They lost ground on all the other teams in the division because of it. Simply put, if they want to win the division, that was a game they really needed to win. There's a lot of jockeying left to go, but that's one you can already look back at and regret. The Caps game tomorrow night is of huge importance.
The Islanders have 3 home games this week against mediocre at best opponents (CGY, PHO, CAR) and should be set up for another successful week.
After winning 3 games last week and then losing the last, the Caps are also setup for what could be a successful week. After the Pens game at home, they move on for the rest of the week to play the 3 weakest teams in the conference that aren't named Buffalo (CAR, TOR, CBJ).
(Total standings points earned since last column on 2/17: WSH- 6 , NYI - 5, NYR - 5, PGH - 4)