Q: While it's certainly too early to make any assumptions, the Penguins' turnaround since the arrival of Dan Bylsma is nothing short of amazing. The return of Sergei Gonchar and the acquisitions of Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz were definitely a shot in the arm, but I'm curious: Has any team made it to the Stanley Cup final in back-to-back years under different head coaches?
Mike, Tacoma, Wash.
MOLINARI: The Penguins are one of three franchise to pull off that particular feat.
They won their first Stanley Cup with Bob Johnson behind the bench in 1991, but he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer a few months later and was replaced by Scott Bowman, the coach when they successfully defended their title in 1992.
Toe Blake guided Montreal to the first post-expansion Cup in 1968, but had given way to Claude Ruel when the Canadiens made it two in a row in 1969. The first franchise to reach consecutive finals with different coaches was Boston, where Cy Denneny was in charge in 1929 and Art Ross took over the following season.
Interestingly, the 1930 Bruins were the only one of those six clubs that failed to win the Cup.
And you obviously are correct that it's a little early to suggest that the Michel Therrien-Dan Bylsma tandem is ready to join that rather exclusive club. There is the small matter of qualifying for the playoffs, then stringing together 12 victories once they're in before that goes beyond the hypothetical stage.
Q: It seems like there should be a lot more times when icing is called. The puck goes down the ice all the time when it seems like no one has a chance to touch it, but they still don't call the icing.
Scott, Mechanicsburg, Pa.
MOLINARI: Icing used to be pretty black-and-white. If a player shot the puck from his side of the red line and it crossed the opponents' goal line without being touched (or having a reasonable opportunity to be touched by a member of the other club) and an opponent got to it first, icing was called.
Now, however, a portion of Rule 81.5 gives linesmen the discretion to wave off an apparent icing when it involves a pass attempt "if those passes are deemed receivable." That wrinkle in the rule not only reduces the number of flow-interrupting stoppages in play but encourages teams to be more aggressive about trying to generate offense. And most linesmen seem to be fairly liberal in their interpretation of what constitutes a "receivable" pass attempt.
Q: Do you think the Penguins are wearing their third uniforms too often? It seems like every Sunday this year, they wear it. Moreover, it doesn't seem to bring them any luck, as I'm pretty certain they have a losing record when wearing it.
Ashwin Ramakrishna, Jersey City, N.J.
MOLINARI: Statistics maintained by the Penguins show that they are
4-5-2 when wearing their powder blue sweaters since those debuted in the outdoors game at Buffalo on Jan. 1, 2008.
Wearing them fairly often is a good marketing tool -- don't lose sight of the fact that the primary, if not sole, purpose of third jerseys is to generate revenue -- especially when the games are nationally televised, as the Penguins' 3-1 loss to Philadelphia Sunday was.
It probably wouldn't hurt sales if the Penguins won a little more often when wearing powder blue, but there are a lot of factors that have more of an impact on the outcome of a particular game than the color of the sweaters they have on. Sunday, for example, it wouldn't have mattered that the Penguins had on their third jerseys if their special teams had been more effective.