Q: Why do the Penguins keep scratching their best defensive defenseman, Brooks Orpik?
MOLINARI: It really is baffling, why what was supposed to be a five-man rotation for sitting out a defenseman when the Penguins don't dress seven has suddenly become all Orpik, all the time.
One of the few things the Penguins have done with any consistency this season is to let opponents hang around their net to capitalize on deflections and rebounds and the like. The thinking here is that having Orpik, their only defenseman who routinely plays the body and is capable of throwing a punishing hit, available to clear the crease now and then wouldn't be such a bad thing, but coach Michel Therrien obviously doesn't agree.
What Orpik has done to get into Therrien's doghouse isn't clear, but the Penguins allowing four goals in each of the first two games he sat out wasn't enough to get him back in uniform for yesterday's game against Boston. No one is suggesting that Orpik is on the cusp of a serious run at the Norris Trophy, but when rookie Kris Letang is the closest thing to a primary physical presence on the blue line when Orpik isn't in the lineup, something needs to be done. And that something is to get Orpik back into uniform.
Q: What was up with the delay-of-game calls against Zdeno Chara and Georges Laraque after their first fight (last Thursday in Boston)? I thought the ref was being funny. Was he, or is that something a ref can do if a fight is terribly short or otherwise weak?
Todd Thurheimer, Boston
MOLINARI: There is nothing in the rulebook that prevented veteran referee Bill McCreary from issuing Chara and Laraque delay-of-game minors after their short-lived fight early in the Penguins' 5-4 shootout victory at the TD Banknorth Garden. McCreary, though, has been around long enough to know better.
That's a reasonable call if an official is trying to put a couple of pacifists who had no real interest in fighting after they squared off in their place. To make such a call on Chara and Laraque ?? the former a captain trying to rally his team after a miserable start, the latter a top heavyweight responding to a challenge from a veritable giant of a man ?? was totally uncalled for, and an apparent attempt to show up two players who did absolutely nothing to merit such a show of disrespect.
Frankly, that McCreary made the call he did says a lot more about his judgment (or unique sense of humor) than it does about Chara or Laraque who, not surprisingly, went at it again exactly six seconds after their original penalties expired.
Q: Can you tell me the last time a Penguin scored a hat trick? Or better yet, when's the last time there were two Penguin hat tricks in one game? Or maybe you could tell me the last time the Pens scored ten or more in a game.
Daniel Ross, Johnstown
MOLINARI: Or maybe, since it's that festive holiday season, the Q&A could pass along the answers to all three of those, courtesy of the good folks who put together the Penguins' media guide:
1) The most recent Penguins hat trick was by Ryan Malone on Feb. 19, 2007.
2) The last time two Penguins had a hat trick in the same regular-season game was April 9, 1993, when Joe Mullen scored four and Mario Lemieux had three.
3) The last time they reached double-figures during the regular season was a 10-0 victory against Tampa Bay on Nov. 1, 1995.
And to all, a good night.