Q: For the most part, I am not a big believer in the idea that what is said between games can have much of an effect on what takes place in the game itself. But in hindsight, don't you think that Brooks Orpik's comments on how the Red Wings were tired and yapping at each other (in Game 4) had to serve as a source of motivation for Detroit? I think Orpik's comments magnify the difference between these teams. Detroit is all business, all the time and Orpik, along with the other players who had their opinions on their opponent's play, look like the ones still figuring out what it takes to be champions.
Kevin Cohen, Boulder, Colo.
MOLINARI: One suspects -- and certainly hopes -- that the Red Wings are more motivated by the opportunity to win another Stanley Cup than they are by any comments coming out of the Penguins' locker room.
Unless one sees reason to question the accuracy of the observations offered by Orpik after Game 4 -- and no one did so at the time -- there was absolutely nothing wrong with him responding to questions in a candid manner. Frankly, it's refreshing when a guy speaks honestly, because so many players routinely toss out thoughts so dry that one expects them to spontaneously combust as they exit the guy's mouth. (Really, don't you get tired of hearing about how "We just have to work hard," or "We have to take it one shift at a time?" Every syllable of those cliches might be true, but they are neither interesting nor insightful, except perhaps to folks who believed hard work was optional and that looking ahead to the next period or game or series was a swell idea for players.)
Of course, it's possible that the Red Wings took Orpik's comments personally; some former players say guys will look for a little extra incentive wherever they can find it, regardless of how innocuous a comment or development is, or how much it must be removed from its real context to serve their purpose. In that sense, maybe what Orpik said helped Detroit a bit. But nowhere near as much as the Penguins' all-encompassing collapse during the second period of Game 5 did.
Q: The schedule had two days of rest before Game 6 (and, if needed, Game 7). How big of a lift would that give the Wings, to get that extra day off?
James Murtha, Hermitage, Pa.
MOLINARI: The thinking late last week, when there were indications that the Red Wings might be running a bit low on energy (see above), was that having one more off-day than usual toward the end of the series would work in Detroit's favor.
However, given the embarrassing nature of the Penguins' loss in Game 5 last Saturday, having some additional time to clear their heads and refocus might well turn out to be a benefit for them. And if coach Dan Bylsma decides that the circumstances are right for giving Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin extra ice time in Game 6 -- not a bad idea, since his team's season will be on the ice -- having an extra day for those guys to recover before Game 7, assuming one would be necessary, would be a plus for the Penguins, too.
Q: Is it true that all salary payments to NHL players stop at the end of the regular season? Are there winning and losing bonuses for each round?
Gary Morrison, Lenexa, Kan.
MOLINARI: Players' contracts are, in fact, set up to pay them strictly for the regular season (presumably because hundreds of guys sit out the playoffs each year), although arranging to have the actual payments spread over 12 months, or any other period, isn't a problem.
Teams do receive money from the league based on how far they make it in the playoffs, but every year there are players who earn more for a single regular-season game than they do for helping their club win a Stanley Cup.
While the chance to make a very good living obviously helps to lure players to the NHL, no amount of money can buy a spot on the trophy, and being able to see their name there is something that has driven most players since childhood. One suspects that many, if not most, guys would give up their salary for a season if it would help to turn that dream into a reality.