After Games 3 and 4, the Pens-Bruins series will be:
Tied at 2-2 (31%)
Bruins 3-1 (31%)
All over, Bruins sweep (38%)
Ron Tugnutt: I can hear The Standells already playing at TD Garden. What strategy changes could Blysma possibly make to turn this series around? To me the Pens are not built for Playoff hockey.
Jerry Micco: I'm not ready to say they aren't built for playoff hockey, considering this team has advanced to the East finals. That said, they played lousy in Game 2, and were stymied in Game 1, though I thought they played a pretty solid game. I don't know that changes will make a huge difference. What will is how Crosby, Malkin, Neal, et al play and if they can get some consistent goal tending. The Bruins aren't going away and the Pens need to step up.
The Chief: Jerry, who do you think should be in goal tonight?
Jerry Micco: I'd start Fleury. If he is your franchise goalie and you are down 2-0 in the conference final, he has to start. If he doesn't, that says to me he has no future with the club. I cannot see starting his backup and paying him $5 mil to watch games and play in the regular season. I'd live or die with my franchise goalie. If indeed he is that.
Michel Dion: As a non biased hockey fan could you see why people say Crosby whines too much?
Jerry Micco: I can. TV shows every time he has a conversation with an official and after a while, you get that image of him. And as a captain, he can work an official. I think he was much worse as a younger player and it's not as bad now as it used to be. But once you get a label, it's hard to shed it. I've seen plenty of guys complain to officials about calls. But when Crosby does it, a lot of people notice.
Rennee Stennet: It's only June 5th and the Bucs Bullpen is starting to show signs of wear, is this the beginning of the end to the same movie?
Jerry Micco: Not ready to say that yet as they are still 11 over .500. But you can't expect guys like Grilli and Melancon to keep going like they are. The Pirates are going to need to develop another late-innings guy or acquire one. If the starters are not going to go deep, and that seems to be their MO, then you need to keep your bullpen replenished. And while they've lost 4 of 5, the Reds and Braves are good clubs. They aren't collapsing to the Cubs and Padres. That's usually their late-season MO.
Chunkles: I hope all the missing children are found. THEN, we can put all the missing Pens players on milk cartons. Orpik, Crosby, Malkin, Neal, Kunitz, Dupuis,Iginla, Morrow, and Murray. Especially those last three. NOTHING out of them and they were brought in here to bolster the lineup and be there when our stars were not. And to think, the two captains came here because it was their best chance to win a cup. He fellas, Do something about it!
Jerry Micco: I got all the trades except Morrow. I didn't see that he had much left in the tank, and I don't expect him back next year. Iginla is in his twilight and Jokinen and Murray have specific roles to fill, but aren't star players. The stars are Crosby, Malkin, Neal, Letang and Fleury. Those guys need to come through. if Iginla and Morrow get you something, great, that's a bonus.
The Chief: If Boston brings out the broom, is it the end for Disco Dan?
Jerry Micco: I would think if it went just 4 or 5, Bylsma's job would be in some jeopardy. Would Shero pull the trigger? I'd say 50/50.
praveen: When Toronto choked, I was almost as depressed as most Toronto fans because I knew the Pens road to the finals just got much tougher. Boston has had some chokes recently, but brings their best against the good talented teams. But even I had no clue the Pens would be as bad as they showed in Game 2.
Jerry Micco: No one thought the Penguins would have such a poor showing in Game 2. No one. How could you predict that kind of performance out of a team that was so good preseason and was 8-3 postseason up to that point? But Boston was picked by many to win the East in the preseason and whoever didn't pick the Bruins picked the Penguins. The best 2 teams are in the conference final, but only one is playing like it.
praveen: Iginla needs to be used more often on the PP. The only asset he has left is that shot. Plus more time for him on the PP means another top player gets enough rest to be used more on 5on 5 where Iginla is not very good(regardless of the wing). Iginla just destroyed his free agency value with his terrible forechecking. He doesn't look like a power forward inthe least.
Jerry Micco: As I said, Iginla is in the twilight, and I agree I'd like to see him on the power play because that's where he does the most good. I think he's pretty easy to neutralize 5 on 5. And against the big Boston players, he's not going to make that big a difference when it's even-up. He can still do some things, though. I'd like to see him around the net more to finish. He can still do that.
Torts: Kevin Stevens isn't walking through that door tonight, do the Penguins need to hire a non friendly player coach or does a hockey coach really make much of a difference?
Jerry Micco: Some difference, but ultimately it's the players who make the difference. You'd think with the Penguins you could just flip pucks out there and that talent would beat most teams most of the time. And they do. Except now they are playing a team that is well-coached and plays a defensive system that confounds the Pens. The Bruins don't have the Penguins stars, but they all pull in the same direction. And when they do that, they are very tough.
The Chief: It appears the week layoff really hurt the Penguins from a momentum standpoint, but it also appears they were not prepared to play the Bruins as the first two games looked like they were training camp games.
Jerry Micco: I don't know that the layoff had that much effect. Both teams had to do that. The only benefit might have been for Boston, who was banged up on the blue line and it allowed Ferrence to return. But other than that, you're just seeing the Bruins play their game to a high level and the Penguins have not risen to that yet.
Guest: Who would you take Chara or LeTang?
Jerry Micco: Letang only because he's much younger. Chara is better at defense, but Letang is gifted offensively. In this series, Chara has been much better for his team because he's doing what he does best. Get his long stick into the passing lanes and use his big body to move guys out of the way.
praveen: Why do I think Bylsma is most responsible? It's the way these players react to adversity. Also the lack of positional soundness and lack of patience tells me that these freelancing players do not trust their coaches no matter what they might say to the press. If you trust your coaches, you will be in good position more often than not.
Jerry Micco: I think Crosby alluded to this after Game 2, that when they got down a couple goals, they started chasing the puck. If you do that against a disciplined team like Boston, they will kill you. And it does say something about the coach-player relationship when the players, often on the big stage, can't do what the coaches want. They know they are talented and maybe they are all trying to win the games by themselves. That's not impossible, but that's the long-shot way to win.
Bill L: How long are the PED suspensions going to be in MLB?
Jerry Micco: Depends on if they can be proven, which they have not been, and what offense this is. Second offense is 100 games.
The Chief: I know it is a sample of two games, but does Yusel Puig's debut bring Andre Either closer to a Pirates uniform?
Jerry Micco: It probably brings him closer to some uniform. If the Pirates want him, they'll have to give something up something big in return. If I'm the Dodgers, i'd want Cole or Taillon. Or ask if Marte is available.
Harvey Haddix: Locke had over 104 pitches when he was pulled last night and Reid promptly gave up a 2 run dinger, why do these pitchers not go deeper? Does Hurdle give them the hook too early?
Jerry Micco: I think Hurdle is following the normal mindset in today's MLB: Pitch limits of 100 are the general norm and after that, you are taking some risk both physically and performance wise. Now, if Reid gets Upton, Hurdle is a genius. And he's managed them that way all year. To the tune of 35-24.
The Chief: If the Penguins only win one game in Boston , does the sell out streak en with Game 5?
Jerry Micco: Nope. Those tickets are already sold.
Guest: Does Jags know more than the Pens front office?
Jerry Micco: I don't think so, but maybe somewhere in that mind of Jagr, there is a genius. I'm not betting on that, though.
Jerry Micco: BTW: Wandy Rodriguez pulled in bottom of first with Pirates trailing 1-0. Looks like some sort of arm issue.
praveen: One thing Iginla is doing well is chip passes in the middle of the ice. He knows his limitations better than the other Pens and doeswn't try too many low percentage passes. Maybe when the stretch pass is not working, more Pens need to be more patient(once again, they need to trust their teammates more), and try more chip passes. Patience is needed more than line changes.
Jerry Micco: I would agree with what you said. The Bruins do a left-wing lock, or 2-3 trap all game. The best way to attack it is to chip passes through the zone and try to possess the puck deep. The Penguins have done little of that this series.
Guest: Don't you think the media adds the fuel to the fire of expectations when most local writers and talking heads act like the Pens were penciled in for the Cup Finals after the Iginlia trade? Fans bought into the hype
Jerry Micco: Most hockey people thought that, too. Why do you think the Bruins and their fans were so upset when they heard Iginla spurned them for the Penguins? Because they thought he was their missing piece. I think the Pens would be Cup contenders without Iginla. No question one of the best 4 teams in hockey at the start of just about every season. Media doesn't fuel that. Just look at the roster.
Phil: The critical analysis of the Pirates is misplaced. Jones, Walker and Cutch have to produce more offensively. At some point you have to win a few games 5 to 3, 6 to 4, Jones is lagging in HRs, isn't he? Overall team is not hitting in the clutch. And Marte is hitting the rookie wall. He's basically a rookie.
Jerry Micco: Jones has 6 HRs, so he's behind last year's pace. But on pace to knock in about 75 runs. Those three (Walker, Cutch, Jones) all need to produce, no question. The offense has been underperforming despite better efforts from Snider and Sanchez. As for Marte, I said preseason that I was concerned because this is his 2nd year (not considered a rookie by MLB standards), and sometimes there's the sophomore slump. That take looked terrible early on, but you can still see some holes in his swing. But he's young and is going to be very good.
praveen: How humbling sports can be. A few years ago, pens and Steelers win championships wth young bright coaches who have experienced a lot of downs since then(even if Bylsma continues to use a system that works well in the regular season). I hope Tomlin realizes from Bylsma's failings that there is a lot still to be learned by young coaches.
Jerry Micco: It's the cyclical nature of sports. You can't be up all the time. No one is. Pittsburgh, aside from the Pirates, has enjoyed tremendous success in hockey and football. Shoot, since I arrived in 2004, I've worked three Super Bowls and two Stanley Cups. That's not bad. And the Pirates are more than respectable these days. But all coaches have to often reset and try something different. Unfortunately, they oftentimes don't get that chance. Our hurry-up-and-win society won't stand for it.
Tom: Why is everyone blaming the Pens forwards for lack of production? Isn't the D to blame? Why is D pinching in 30 seconds into the game and leaving Sid at the point or why was Iginla the only man in front of the next for 2 of the goals? The D has been out of place (mostly Letang) which has been messing up the O.
Jerry Micco: I think that fact that the top 2 lines: Crosby, Dupuis, Kunitz, Malkin, Neal, Iginla have exactly 0 points in 2 games is the issue. Yes, there have been defensive lapses, but if your two near-All-Star lines don't get a point. That's the elephant in the room.
Paul: You've stood next to guys who are 6'5" over 300 pounds. Disturbing to think someone could assault someone so big with a knife, isn't it?
Jerry Micco: There are a lot of disturbed folks out there. And according to police reports, there was a gun involved, too.
Don Koharski: Do the Refs give the Pens some early calls tonight to get them on the PP? If you believe in conspiracies and Boston fans NBV and the NHL may want this to go to 7 games.
Jerry Micco: I don't think the NHL will fix its own games, so I don't look for that. The Pens may earn those penalties, though, if they possess the puck deep for long periods and bang on the Boston D. Tired players commit penalties many times.
praveen: Best punishment for the muggers in the Mike Adams stabbing. Put them in a cell with a die hard Steelers fan.
Jerry Micco: Currently they are suspects who are charged, not convicted. And I think that is covered under cruel and unusual punishment.
James: There is absolutely no reason for the Pirates to trade for Andre Either! Why give up Cole or Tallion for a guy who isn't producing?
Jerry Micco: Because he has always produced and sometimes you change scenery and you get rejuvenated. He's certainly worth the discussion for the Pirates. I don't think they'd pull the trigger, but they should be talking.
Tom: Could the Pens problems be solved solely if Blysma has the courage to tell Letang that "Defense wins Championships."
Jerry Micco: Then he's playing to Letang's weak suit. His strong suit is he's an amazing offensive player. What Bylsma is telling him, (I'd bet), is that while the team needs that offense, he can't over-commit and leave the team out to dry.
Jerry Micco: This just in: Vokoun announced as start for Game 3 tonight.
Chuck: Wandy yanked in 1st inning for injury, time to bring up Cole?
Jerry Micco: let's see how Wandy's arm is first. Cole has not been lighting it up in AAA, and you do have Morton ready to return.
The Chief: OK, so the streak remains, but what does a humbling experience that appears likely do to the Penguins fan base going forward?
Jerry Micco: If it's a solid fan base it does nothing. The Penguins are still going to be a very good team because of the personnel. But those prices for tickets at the Consol Center won't be as palatable if the team starts to swoon. That will end the streak, but i don't see that coming soon.
James_Pittsburgh: Can the Pirates compete for the wild card without adding a bat? Of course Marte only had a .293 on-base-percentage in May. If he can consistently maintain a .360+ on-base-percentage, it will really help the Pirates offense.
Jerry Micco: I think their pitching has to hold them up, but if they could get a bat (Ethier) that would make things much easier. Their offense is spotty and right now, that needs their attention, unless the big guys start hitting more consistently. And that includes Alavarez.
Ken: PFT Mt. Rushmore update--the fan voting is skewing young. No Van Buren on the Eagles. No Well Mara on the Giants. Even the panel throws up their hands when the NFL before 1980 is mentioned--shame! I think the Steelers is clear cut: Art Sr., Dan, Noll and Mean Joe. Nationally, however, the fan vote will probably replace Dan with Bradshaw or Ben.
Jerry Micco: And maybe Hines Ward or Troy Polamalu make it.
praveen: The way Iginla is playing, Pens wouldn't need a discount to sign him. I can't see him getting anywhere close to his current salary in free agency. I know Boston sure as hell wouldn't want him. For the sake of the Pens and his legacy, I sure hope he can figure out how to contribute in this series.
Jerry Micco: I don't think the Pens, who will be cap strapped, will pay Iginla much to stay. And I don't see the Billy Guerin kind of "love" from the fans, either. Guerin took small money to stay another year. Of course, they won a Cup with him the year before.
The Chief: Jerry, what's your Garret Cole timeline?
Jerry Micco: The way he's pitching, I'd not bring him up until the rosters expand. He's been wildly inconsistent and nothing tells me that he'd become consistent facing big league hitters.
Guest: Blysma and that team clearly have NO confidence in MAF, Prediction tonight?
Jerry Micco: To me, the decision today to start Vokoun says that Fleury is likely gone. Why would you keep a franchise goalie who makes $5 mil on the bench when you desperately need a win? Why have him if you can't trust him in the playoffs? And with the cap going down $6 mil for next year, how do you keep a goalie at that price? I would have started Fleury, but I'm not a coach or GM. That's why they are paid the big bucks.
Darryl Sims: Read recently that Ziggy Hood heading into year number 4 has his position coach still trying to use his feet and hands properly. Should we expect a breakout season from the Zigmeister now that his feet and hands are properly aligned?
Jerry Micco: I've always thought Ziggy Hood would be a good player. He's not lived up to that, though I don't think he's as bad as people say. That said, he needs a breakout year in 2013 to stay with the club. Needs to be much tougher against the run and eat up more blockers so Woodley, if he stays healthy, and make more plays. Aaron Smith did that so well.
Phil: Some Pittsburgh people want to know--how are those things called the NBA playoffs this year?
Jerry Micco: Pretty cool final between Spurs and Heat. Six potential Hall of Famers on the court. And we run a story or two a day on it if you want to see it in the paper or online.
Jack Edwards: Is Owen there?
Jerry Micco: That was actually pretty funny. Didn't need the f-bomb thrown in there, but it was pretty funny.
Tom: Correct me if I'm wrong but the Pens played amazingly sound defensive hockey during their 17 winning streak. Why get into stretch passes and wide open hockey against the Isles and Boston when it clearly won't work? Seemed like it was even their gameplan according to Ignila interview before game 2. Are their egos to big and they think that they can outscore anybody or is it that poor of coaching?
Jerry Micco: It's a team that thrives on big plays with a lot of splash because that's how they are built. Stretch passes and then controlling the puck in the offensive zone and getting multiple chances is how they've played all season. They are going to have to be more patient vs. Boston and work the puck more. Not easy against the Bruins, but it can be done.
Guest: US Open, I've got Snedeker who ya got Jerry?
Jerry Micco: Always someone from out in the weeds who wins or contends. Hunter Mahan is on my mind for the Open as is Justin Rose, who I think will play Merion very well.
The Chief: Jerry, predicton, Flower will be blooming in Minnesota next year!
Jerry Micco: He'll be blooming somewhere. An office colleague just said trade him to Colorado for the No. 1 pick in the draft. Not likely, but very interesting.
Guest: Do we see Simon Depres tonight? IS that one of the major shake ups coming?
Jerry Micco: Doubtful. Maybe Beau Bennett, though, or even Dustin Jeffrey.
The Chief: Jerry your prediction on the outcome of the Pens-Bruins series!
Jerry Micco: I always give the Penguins a puncher's chance because they are such a good hockey team. And my original pick was Pens in 7. I'll stay with that. Maybe I'll regret it, but I can't change now.
Jerry Micco: OK folks, I need to get to some other things. Awesome chat today. I left too many questions on the deck, and I apologize, but got to as many as I could. Thanks for taking the time this week. We'll do it again next Wednesday at noon. Until then, enjoy the Pens series and have a great week! Follow me on Twitter: @PG_JerryMicco