Penguins Notebook: Players react calmly and coolly to media horde, Cup pressure
May 25, 2008 4:00 AM
Ryan Malone faces the microphones at the Cobo Center Friday == the day before the Penguins opened the Stanley Cup final against the Red Wings.
The NHL brought out Mario Lemieux and Detroit great Steve Yzerman to drop the ceremonial first pucks before Game 1 last night at Joe Louis Arena.
By Dave Molinari Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
DETROIT -- The Penguins might lose the Stanley Cup final because they can't find a way to consistently neutralize world-class talents such as Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk.
And they might be defeated because Detroit can play stifling defense, or because goalie Chris Osgood elevates his game to a dizzying level and keeps it there.
But there's no overt evidence to suggest that if the Penguins fail to beat the Red Wings, it will be because they allowed the pressure of competing for a championship to affect them.
Fact is, they were remarkably loose after the game-day skate that preceded Game 1 of the Cup final at Joe Louis Arena last night. Most -- even those who don't generally draw much media attention -- faced wave upon wave of interviewers after leaving the ice and took it all in stride. A few sat in a small area off the main dressing room with members of the training and equipment staffs and laughed as if they had front-row seats at a comedy club.
"The guys who are supposed to be clowns in the room are doing it," forward Pascal Dupuis said. "We were like that the whole way, so why change now?"
Rather than adopt a deer-in-the-headlights look about appearing in their first final, the Penguins' youngest players seemed to embrace the extra attention they're attracting.
"They're young," Dupuis said. "They don't know any better yet."
The Penguins' game-day skate wasn't just a chance for them to stretch their legs and undergo a final round of interviews before the series began.
It was, given the limited experience most of them have with playing at Joe Louis, a learning experience, and they picked up some valuable insights.
Like how lively the boards in this building are and how pucks that strike the ones behind the net often carom directly into the slot, where they can lead to scoring chances. The Penguins first noted that while studying tape of the Red Wings, and quickly concluded that Detroit sometimes will shoot wide of the net by design.
"They have real active boards here," defenseman Rob Scuderi said. "Sometimes, [pucks] bounce back real quick, as opposed to the absorption power of the Mellon Arena boards. It comes right back out. That's something we're going to have to pay attention to."
Sydor bides his time
Penguins defenseman Darryl Sydor is on a Cup finalist for the fifth time.
Whether he'll actually be involved in the series isn't clear, though.
Sydor has been the team's seventh defenseman this spring, and the Penguins have avoided significant injuries on their blue line. What's more, the coaching staff has not seen fit to alter the lineup for performance-based reasons.
Consequently, Sydor has spent the past month and a half trying to remain focused and keep an edge on his game, in the event he is thrust into the lineup.
"Obviously, it's hard -- it's very hard -- to be in this situation, but the team's doing well," he said. "You just have to be a positive leader and a positive teammate.
"Every day, I say to myself that, I could be the reason [the Penguins win a championship]. Who knows? I just have to stay positive, keep working hard."
Sydor was, as usual, a healthy scratch for Game 1. Forwards Gary Roberts, Kris Beech and Jeff Taffe, goalie Dany Sabourin and defenseman Mark Eaton (knee) did not dress, either.
Crosby banks memories, too
While Penguins center Sidney Crosby has gotten pretty good at making memories for other people, he accumulated a few of his own during his years of watching Cup finals.
Like when Montreal, his favorite team during his boyhood, defeated Los Angeles in 1993 in what Crosby said is "probably my first memory" of a final.
But the one that seemed to make the most indelible impression was just two years ago, when he saw graphic evidence of just what some players will go through to earn a championship.
"One that always sticks out in my mind was probably when [Carolina center] Doug Weight lifted the Cup and had a separated shoulder," Crosby said. "Nobody thought he could play, and there he is lifting the Stanley Cup with a separated shoulder he could barely get over his head."
Penguins center Jordan Staal, who will turn 20 Sept. 10, is the first teenager to compete in a Cup final since Dainius Zubrus, then of Philadelphia, did it against the Red Wings in 1997. ... Rookie right winger Tyler Kennedy said the Game 1 crowd was supposed to include his girlfriend's parents and some of their friends, as well as a few of his pals from Ontario. He lined up tickets for his girlfriend's parents' party, but added that, "my buddies were on their own."