James_Taipei: What do you see as the Penguins biggest weakness heading into the playoffs?
Shelly Anderson: At this point, it has to be production on the power play. With the skill the Penguins have, they need to be able to put games away with a power-play goal. Whether the problem is too much passing and setting up and not enough shooting or not getting to rebounds and dump-ins, or what -- it has to improve.
James_Taipei: Do you see the Penguins making a deep run in the playoffs this year? Do you think we might see a Devils-Penguins Conference final?
Shelly Anderson: We'll get a preview of any Penguins-Devils playoff series this week at Mellon Arena. It's possible those could be the last two teams standing, but a lot depends on the early-round matchups. The Penguins, if they can match their play over the past six or seven weeks and get the power play clicking, could make another deep run in the postseason. They also could run into trouble early and make a quick exit. That's how important the matchups are, and how competitive the Eastern Conference is.
remy_bassett: What team do you feel would be the best matchup for the penguins in the first round of the playoffs?
Shelly Anderson: There is no team that would be a mismatch to the extent that Ottawa was last year in the first round, and there also is no team the Penguins couldn't be competitive with. New Jersey, if it can get past its recent funk, would be tough with Martin Brodeur back and in top form. Washington might prove a fun series with all sorts of hype, and the Penguins perhaps could benefit from the fact that the Capitals goaltending could be a weak point.
remy_bassett: It seems like Sid is having fun on the ice and on the bench. Do you think the extra veteran leadership from Guerin is the reason or is it he is finally feeling healthy?
Shelly Anderson: Probably a little bit of everything. If you have a chance to watch Sidney Crosby in practice and when he's sitting around talking about hockey and joking around with his teammates, you know he gets a lot of enjoyment out of the game. Winning has probably made it more obvious lately. He's also someone who puts an enormous amount of pressure on himself, so winning, being healthy and perhaps a little less pressure on him as a leader could help to make him more comfortable.
SAP-Aman: Shelly, I love your weekly chats. A couple of questions for you: Do you think Sykora's current slump will hurt his contract value? Also, what do you think of Mad Max's long-term potential and fit on the Penguins?
Shelly Anderson: Thanks for the kudos. Winger Petr Sykora has not been fully healthy for a while and has been sitting on 299 career goals for what seems like ages. There is little doubt about his overall value as a sniper and top-six forward -- and as a winger who works well with NHL leading scorer Evgeni Malkin -- so his free agency value is more likely to be affected by things such as his age (over 30), his salary demand, concern over the possible lowering of the salary cap, and how his desire to remain with the Penguins affects his willingness to take less than perhaps elsewhere. As for Max Talbot, the Penguins thought enough of him to sing him to a contract extension this season. With his energy and penalty-killing skill, he seemed to thrive in the games right after interim coach Dan Bylsma took over, although his playing time seems to have diminished recently. We don't know if Bylsma will be hired permanently, so it's tough to predict how coaching philosophy will affect Talbot beyond this seas
SAP-Aman: An update to my previously-submitted question: "Also, what do you think of Mad Max's long-term potential and fit on the Penguins? He had quite the scoring touch before coming up to the NHL, but has mainly been used in a 3rd-line checking role since."
Shelly Anderson: It's not at all unusual for a high-scoring junior/minor-league player to fill a different role in the NHL. Those who followed the Penguins in the pre-Cup and Cup years can look at current broadcaster Bob Errey as an example. That's not a knock on Max Talbot; it's just the way things work out.
Natalia: What match ups do you see being the best and worst for the Penguins if they hold onto a playoff spot?
Shelly Anderson: As mentioned before, New Jersey when its on its game and with Martin Brodeur, can be difficult to beat, but there are pluses and minuses with every other potential matchup in the East.
praveen: NY team and media are furious about Avery's treatment by the refs, not just in the Pens game, but other games too. Do you think they have a point? I thought the Pens were careful not to get into any blatant illegal hits on him
Shelly Anderson: Not having seen a lot of the New York Rangers since they picked up Sean Avery, it's hard to comment on any potential pattern of officiating where he's concerned. I did not think he was getting mugged regularly in the Penguins' 4-3 win Saturday. I do recall an incident early in the game when Avery cross-checked Penguins defenseman Hal Gill in th Penguins' crease. Gill turned around and hit Avery back, and it sure looked like Avery dove to his knees. There was no call for either. I'm assuming the concern on the Rangers' part is that opponents are being given the freedom to go after Avery without being penalized because of Avery's agitator role and perhaps in retribution for his offensive remarks that got him suspended and jettisoned from the Dallas roster. I doubt there's an actual conspiracy, and I would hope the referees would be more professional than that.
praveen: Maybe shooting the puck on the goalie more often in the PP will also help create more stoppages resting Malkin and Sid more and last longer during the PP. Staal for some reason just doesn't seem to click on the 2nd unit.
Shelly Anderson: That might be true, but the idea would be to jump on those rebounds and keep things going and create more chances and shots.
Shelly Anderson: Thanks, everyone. We'll do it again next week.