March 9, Penguins Live
Adam Gretz on last Saturday's win in LA: "It was a very physical game, there was a lot of intensity in it and nobody felt the need to start a fight after any of the big hits. I just love that. It's a physical game, you don't have to take every play personally and try to start something just because you got hit. That was actually pretty refreshing to see." Brian Metzer agreed, "That's a great point. That is fun when you can see an intense style that teeters on the edge of being playoff-type hockey without all of those shenanigans because that just muddies the waters and drags it out. They just went out and played the game. It was very awesome to see that happen."
Fights after big hits are a waste of time. The less often they happen, the better.
March 10, TribLive Radio
Jesse Marshall joined the show and talked a lot about the defense. On Ian Cole: "When Ian Cole was picked up, a lot of people wanted to know who a potential comparable would be for him in the National Hockey League and I said Matt Niskanen. And my reasoning for that was not only in skill set, but Matt Niskanen was a guy that went to Dallas, came in as a very young player, kind of got into a situation where they didn't really know what to do with him. He started to experience some hiccups, had trouble getting into the lineup on a regular basis. When he came to Pittsburgh, the Penguins gave him the opportunity to flourish, and look what he's done. He's been one of the best defensemen for the Penguins, he's doing an amazing job for the Washington Capitals. I think these are two guys that are pretty similar."
Niskanen had better numbers when he came to Pittsburgh and was a little younger, but the comparison is still pretty good. Both are pretty mobile guys with good offensive skills and instincts who had stagnated to some degree on their last team. If he works out even partially as well as Niskanen did, the Pens will have a steal on their hands.
Marshall continued: "I think the thing I've been most impressed with about Ian Cole is his ability to one-time the puck on the fly. He's not a guy that's going to accept a pass, wait, tee it up and shoot it. I described his shot as violent just because he gets so much momentum off the blade of his stick with limited motion and he can take good shots from bad positions."
A guy that doesn't hesitate to shoot? I'm in. Josh Taylor asked Marshall to expand upon this:
Pouliot has been amazing. But I want to see more of Ian Cole. It's a shame that we'll never get to see the best six guys playing together.— Jesse Marshall (@jmarshfof) March 10, 2015
Marshall answered: "I think in any situation across all sports, when you have a high reputation veteran like Rob Scuderi, a guy who's done a lot of good things in this league, and I still think Rob Scuderi can play, but I think having a top 6 without him puts the Penguins in a better situation. When you watch a game, teams are targeting Rob Scuderi as a weakness. When they dump the puck in on offense, they're dumping it to Scuderi's side with the knowledge that their forwards have a pretty good shot at beating him to that puck. It puts a lot of pressure on his partner and the forwards, because now you have guys coming back in support. I don't think Rob Scuderi's been terrible this season, I just think the options that they have right now... if I was to rate these defensemen one through seven, I'm putting him at seven. That's a testament to how good the rest of the squad is, but when you have a situation where you have a high reputation veteran on a pretty decent salary, signed to term it's no often... it takes a lot for those guys to work their way into the press box. He's still a veteran presence for this team, he's still done a great job working with the young guys, and again, he hasn't been horrible, but I just think the Penguins get the most bang for their buck out of putting Ian Cole with Christian Ehrhoff and seeing how those two guys together work moving forward. I don't think that will happen, I think Ian Cole will ultimately find himself as the odd man out, and you know injuries and things, they're going to happen in the playoffs and that creates a a whole new scenario, but ultimately I think what Ian Cole's shown in a very short amount of time would make me want to give him an extended look."
Many view Scuderi as vastly improved this year, and while that's technically true, it think it speaks more to how bad he was last year than anything else.
Ken Laird said he wanted Scuderi in there if Steve Downie was, because they'd need him to kill penalties and "that's the one thing he's really good at still." Not so fast, says Marshall: "The Penguins penalty kill, it allows more goals, it allows more shots... Let me clarify too, when players play different amounts of time, you don't want to look at raw numbers because not everyone's out there for the same amount of time. When you break it down by rate, the Penguins allow more shots on the penalty kill, they allow the most shots on the penalty kill in the time that Scuderi's out there. They allow the most goals on the penalty kill when Rob Scuderi's out there. All of these numbers are still, even-strength, penalty kill, they're lopsided in one way. Virtually very number you can come up with, you're going to find Rob Scuderi's name at the bottom of the list, so the question becomes, would the penalty kill improve with a guy that's a little more mobile out there? Now granted, the Penguins play a tight box. They're not super aggressive on the penalty kill. They like to take lanes away, protect their goaltender, so maybe that stuff's not important, but like I said, virtually any where you look, you're going to see Rob Scuderi's name at the bottom of all those lists and that's a concern moving into the playoffs."
I think a lot of people see the Pens have the 5th best PK in the league, see Scuderi as a mainstay of that unit and assume the two are related. These stats paint a different picture, and if you've watched Scuderi take himself out the play by leaving his skates to block passing lanes or attempt to play goalie, it's one you're not surprised by.
March 12, Penguins Live
Phil Bourque on the amount of power plays the Penguins have received lately: "I think it's a combination of the Penguins not putting themselves in position to draw penalties. It's not been a problem, but it's something that's definitely been on my radar for quite a while during the season. There's been lots of games where the Penguins have got 1, 2 maybe 3 power plays, and that falls on the players, but the other side of it is, as we get down to the short strokes here, the referees are human. They really don't want to be involved in the outcome of important games. I'm not saying the standard has changed, but I think referees, again human nature comes into play here. They don't want to be part of the outcome. They want to the players to decide it so it's going to be tougher to get on the power play."
In all the time I've watched hockey, I've yet to have someone make sense of this. A ref doesn't want to impact the outcome of a game by doing his job and enforcing the rules of said game? It defies all logic. A ref who sees a call a refuses to make it IS impacting the outcome of the game, no matter what his twisted sense of logic says. Penalties and power plays are part of the game. Sticking your head in the sand and ignoring them doesn't change that.
March 12, Penguins Hotline
Mike Johnston on Derrick Pouliot's rough night against Edmonton: "I do know him well, so I do know how to handle him. Usually with players like that, with young players, you have to be careful at this level because the reason he plays well is because he plays with confidence. You don't want him to lose his confidence, but he has to recognize consequences in a game. Tonight, where he got himself into trouble was when there are people around him and all he has to do is move the puck, punch it away, get it beyond the traffic, and he didn't do that, and that's where Derrick gets himself in trouble. I think for him it's a learning experience. I talked to Gary [Agnew] on the bench, we sat him for a few shifts, we threw him back out into the action. I think that's the only way to really develop young players, to make sure they really recognize what you're saying, then you allow them an opportunity to try and correct it."
Cap issues and injuries up front conspired to send Pouliot to Wilkes-Barre, but he'll be back sooner than later. Johnston hasn't been perfect in his rookie season as head coach, but his communication, particularly with young players, has shown to be excellent on multiple occasions this year.