- What's the Penguins best asset?
Everyone knows that Pittsburgh has the 'big name' offense. Personally, I feel the key asset to Pittsburgh's success this season has been hugely effected by their depth. At one point the Penguins had eight guys out with injuries - that's eight starters on the IR. Gary Roberts, Mark Eaton, Rob Scuderi, Sidney Crosby, Marian Hossa, Kris Beech, Adam Hall and Marc-Andre Fleury have all struggled with some setbacks this season. In their absence, assistance from the minor league Wilkes-Barre squad has produced some mainstay players like Tyler Kennedy and Ty Conklin. There's even been a few games this year powered ahead by guys like Jarkko Ruutu and Georges Laraque--guys not exactly known for offensive prowess. It's been exciting to see the Pens play this year because really, anyone can hit the mesh. Then again, in the case with Philly the other day, sometimes no one can.
- The Pens' biggest liability?
Liability - hmm. I place liability on a few things. First off, the penalty kill. Last I checked they were ranked 22nd in the league in killing penalties. When you have a team with guys like Gary Roberts, Jarkko Ruutu and Georges Laraque, you run a pretty decent risk of taking penalties; more often than not 'dumb ones'. Jordan Staal is one of our biggest penalty killers but really lacks on the draw. Pascal Dupuis has turned into a huge pickup since the trade deadline moves and is really making his presence known on the kill. It's hard to say really - the PK has been a bit tighter in the last 10 games or so - but if it has and the Pens are still ranked 22nd, then that also goes to show you how well it performed beforehand...
The other thing, as touched upon with Staal, is face-offs. This is definitely not the Penguins' strength. I'm convinced guys like Adam Hall have only found their way back to the club after injury because of their percentage on the draw (he's slightly over 50%). Crosby is decent, [Evgeni] Malkin is OK and Staal is probably one of the worst.
- What intimidates you about the Sens?
The biggest threat is, and I don't mean this as a jab, thankfully not playing. Daniel Afreddson is probably my biggest fear as far as the Sens go, but that's not to say I'm writing them off at all. [Jason] Spezza and [Dany] Heatley won't go down without a fight, this I know for sure. In addition to players, I think I speak for a lot of Pens fans in that away games against Ottawa aren't always the most welcoming events of the year. Nothing beats an intense Canadian hockey crowd. Add in the playoffs on top of that and you may break the sound barrier.
- What makes you think the Sens are in trouble?
Well, as far as trouble goes, I'd imagine not having your captain for the playoffs is a pretty big hit to the team's morale. But I also don't doubt he'll find a way into the locker room to try and rally the troops. I've felt Ottawa's slide into the playoffs doesn't help, as evidence has often shown that teams do better in the playoffs coming off a streak (i.e. Washington). I can't say for sure what Ottawa's biggest problem may be, although I'm hoping you'll answer that when I come back around to you.
- Seriously... Marc-Andre Fleury? Is he an answer?
You'd be surprised. Fleury started the season off a bit shaky, started to heat up and then went down with the ankle sprain. That kept him out for nine weeks. While rehabilitating in the minors he went 3-2-0, but the two losses were merely no thanks to his offense as both were 1-0 finishes. He's been phenomenal in net. It has worked out well for the Penguins, as Ty Conklin started to go cold just as Fleury was coming back around again. MAF is 10-2-1 with two shutouts since his March return and has only allowed more than two goals a game on one occasion (three on March 6th against Florida). He may wind up being the Pens' biggest asset heading into the playoffs. I know this sounds insane with names like Crosby, Malkin, Hossa and [Petr] Sykora but it's true. Stat sheets would say that as long as Pitt puts up two goals, they have a great chance of coming out on top. That's what I'm mentally shooting for in every game against the Senators.
- Do you like the idea of mailing in the final game in the season against Philadelphia? Were most Pittsburgh fans and pundits in favour of playing Ottawa instead of Philly in the first round?
There has been a lot of talk about whether or not Pittsburgh gave a lackluster effort against the Flyers to take on Ottawa in round one. Personally, this is what gives a coach the nod for strategy. If you know you've struggled all season against a team (5-3 series) against a team like Philly, why would you want to run the chance of wasting a phenomenal 82-game season in the first round? Not to mention, why run the chance of having your guys subjected to foul play? If every game this season against Philly was evidence to one thing, it was that they weren't ready to man-up and play straight hockey. It was going to take cheap shots and late hits to give them the edge. So Coach Michel Therrien must've decided, "You know what? Let Washington and Philly duke it out and mess each other up. We'll take a rematch with Ottawa."
I put up a survey one day at Pensburgh.com asking readers who they'd rather play: Philly, Ottawa or Boston (still factored in at the time). Overwhelmingly, 56% of people chose Ottawa, while Boston and Philly both came in even at 21%. I think revenge was a bigger factor than anything else.
Overall, if Pittsburgh is going to be perceived as a team that mailed in the last game of the season then so be it. If sacrificing the conference title increases their chances of taking home the cup, then I think I speak for many Penguins fans when I say "Good job."
Monday, April 7, 2008
FrankD from the Pittsburgh Penguins blog PensBurgh contacted us to collaborate on some cooperative stories on our respective teams, and he answered a few questions we asked him in anticipation of the first-round series against the Pens: