It was, most likely, an integral part of Toronto's game plan.
Or maybe it just was the way things played out.
Whatever the case, the Maple Leafs obviously hoped to knock Penguins center Sidney Crosby off his game Wednesday night by playing physically against him. And, just as clearly, failed.
Oh, Crosby ended up spending six minutes in the penalty box during the Penguins' 5-2 victory at Consol Energy Center, but he also picked up two goals and an expression of respect from Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson.
"He competes," Wilson said. "I wish we had more guys [like that, and that] our top players played as hard as he did. You get to him, and he stands up for himself."
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma agreed Thursday that Toronto had made a point of going after the Penguins' most-talented players, but noted that that approach has not been effective against his club.
"It looked like they were trying to target our skilled guys, trying to get them off their game," he said. "But our team has been there for each other, been there to say, 'That's not going to happen to our team.'
"If it does get a little rough, we have enough guys to put the jerseys together, and have their backs together, that that's not going to happen against our team. It's probably not even a good idea to try."
Brooks Orpik and Kris Letang, who make up the Penguins' top defense pairing, were excused from practice Thursday because of what Bylsma described as "maintenance issues."
He added that "we expect them to be on the ice" for practice today at Southpointe, which means both seem likely to be in the lineup when the Penguins visit Buffalo Saturday night.
Forwards Evgeni Malkin (knee), Jordan Staal (hand) and Mike Comrie (undisclosed) also sat out the session, and there is no word when any of them will resume practicing.
Orpik realized long ago that Buffalo's Ryan Miller is a pretty fair goaltender.
"I always knew he was really good, all the way back to college, but he was a guy who always slipped through the cracks, growing up, on national teams and stuff," Orpik said. "I don't know if that was justified or not."
Playing alongside Miller on Team USA at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, however, gave Orpik new insight and appreciation for the way Miller approaches his craft.
"The thing I saw about him that [outsiders] probably don't see is his preparation before every game, every practice," Orpik said. "It's the best I've ever seen, or the most committed I've ever seen out of any goalie.
"He goes through about a 45-minute warm-up, which is nonstop. Some of the stuff seems kind of goofy, but for goalies ..."
Miller's regimen, he said, includes things like reaction drills, using a tennis ball.
"It's the same routine, over and over," Orpik said. "He's a really focused kid. For practices or games, he's always super-competitive."
The workout Thursday was the Penguins' annual "Open Practice" and attracted an estimated 10,000 elementary and middle-school students.
At times, it seemed as if each of them had contributed a decibel to the noise level.
"It's amazing how loud 10,000 people can be," Bylsma said. "I think for the playoffs we'll fill the building with 18,000 school kids because that's as loud as it's been, I think, all year. ... We were talking on the ice and calling for pucks, but we couldn't hear each other 'cause of how loud it was."
The students' experience included a definition of "short-handed" that was posted on the arena scoreboard and referred to the opposing team having "it's" full complement of players. There also was a scoreboard graphic that identified Craig Adams' birthplace as "Brunai."
Presumably, the teachers who accompanied the students pointed out that "its" would have been the proper spelling, and that Adams actually was born in "Brunei."
Dave Molinari: email@example.com .