Ross: What did you think about Brooks' hit? And do you think the past two games have exorcised the demons we have been having recently? (Are we ready for the playoffs? (Yes, we need Geno back of course))
Shelly Anderson: The Brooks Orpik hit on Chicago's Jonathan Toews was a hard hit, leading with his shoulder. It was a clean hit, and there won't be any supplemental discipline. It's interesting, though, that the hit provided a huge spark for the Blackhawks, more than for the Penguins.
As for the team, it hit a lull, as a lot of teams do, and so far there's no evidence that it was more than a lull. The Penguins got a lift today with Paul Martin and Joe Vitale back at practice, and both could play before the end of the regular season, so that help keep the team going in the direction it wants.
A: Are the injured guys around? Or are they healing more at home?
Shelly Anderson: Yes, they are. Tomas Vokoun, whose family was in Florida, is the only one who was out long term who was away from the team for months while he was on blood-thinners and unable to practice. He's around now. Pascal Dupuis, Chris Conner, Evgeni Malkin, all are around.
Kim: Does Sid look tired to you? He seems like he is running on empty.
Shelly Anderson: No, I don't see that.
Big City: These yinzers should realize that Disco Dan forgot more hockey than they'll ever know. If this team gets healthy, Bylsma could be kissing Lord Stanley this June. Thoughts?
Shelly Anderson: Dan Bylsma being a good coach and Dan Bylsma winning the Stanley Cup with the Penguins this spring are two related but different thoughts. The team is, in fact, on the road to getting fairly healthy, and, as usual, it could make a deep run in the playoffs.
Nick: When all the forwards are healthy how do you envision the lines looking. I have no idea how the bottom six will look, but I like the idea of Bennett playing with Malkin and Neal.
Shelly Anderson: I'm not sure Beau Bennett will displace Jussi Jokinen. Jokinen has some chemistry on that line, and Evgeni Malkin won't have much if any time to work with Bennett when he comes back from injury.
Nick: Did Simon depres get scratched because of poor play, or did they Just want a different style dmen to play against the Blackhawks.
Shelly Anderson: I have stopped trying to analyze what the Penguins' thinking is when it comes to defenseman Simon Despres, He certainly seems to have a short leash, though, in terms of losing his spot in the lineup. It won't get any easier soon when Paul Martin returns.
Nick: Once Malkin is back one of the two Bennett/jussi will be on the third line. who takes the other wing on the line assuming the fourth is tanner/goc/Adams.
Shelly Anderson: Not sure that Marcel Goc will be back from injury for the start of the playoffs, so that could alter things. Bylsma today said the team is in the process of evaluating their third and fourth lines, looking for combinations and that those combinations could be concocted based on who their playoff opponent is. All that said, there could be any number of possibilities for the other wing on the third line, including Tanner Glass, Joe Vitale, Jayson Megna, Taylor Pyatt, Brian Gibbons or, if he gets healthy, Chris Conner.
Nick: Was wondering how Paul Martin looked in practice, and how close he is to returning?
Shelly Anderson: He looked good, although the Penguins did not do conventional line rushes or spend time on the power play. Martin apparently is close. He called Thursday at Winnipeg a "long shot" but said it sure would be nice to return Saturday at "home." Martin is from Minnesota, where the Penguins play on Saturday.
Arby: Brooks Orpik recently called out the team about their poor level of play and focus -- and this isn't the first time he has done it. It seems that Brooks really relishes a leadership role and wants the captaincy. I'm also sure that he broke Crosby's jaw on purpose last year in hopes of receiving the "C". How soon until Bylsma makes him the new captain to ensure Crosby's future safety?
Shelly Anderson: Right.
Stewart: Hello Shelly. The Pens have shown a little bit of snarl in their game the last two times out. I think that's been missed al lot, and their success in those games is no coincidence. Your thoughts?
Shelly Anderson: You can look it up -- snarl is mandatory for success in the playoffs. The Penguins have been accused of lacking grit at times, but they are capable of playing with that sandpaper and with an edge.
Sophie: Shelly, what is your impression on Jacques Martin's role with the team? It was interesting to hear early this season that he wasn't assigned any specific role, and during an interview Dan Bylsma praised the other coaches by name and did not mention Jacques Martin at all. It also seems that he's frequently the one who is not on the bench during games. Has he been fully integrated with the coaching staff, or is he marginalized? Was he viewed as a potential in-season replacement for Bylsma should it become necessary?
Shelly Anderson: It's actually been difficult to pin them down on exact roles. We do know that Todd Reirden oversees the power play, Tony Granato the penalty-killing. Granato and Martin take turns being on the bench or upstairs as an eye in the sky, but it doesn't seem to be a strict rotation. Martin is known for his defensive smarts, but today he was working with the forwards for a while.Guess he's sort of like an assistant head coach in his varying duties.
IC: Shelly, if the Pens finally do get healthy for the playoffs, who do you think will be the odd players out? Thanks!
Shelly Anderson: Good question. That could, to some extent, change from game to game or series go series based on the opponent, performance and how things are going. Bylsma today alluded to Brian Gibbons getting the nod if the team is looking for his speed and Taylor Pyatt getting the nod if the team is looking for size. They're probably just hoping they have enough healthy bodies to be able to make some of those decisions.
Big Fan: The Pens have been playing poor hockey since before the Olympic break, and their recent record started to reflect that. Does one good game against Chicago absolve the weeks of inconsistent hockey we've seen from this team?
Shelly Anderson: No, but that's not the only good game they've had since the break. It's probably a case of the poor games (Phoenix comes to mind) standing out a lot more, especially considering that the team has lost a few games despite playing a decent game (St. Louis comes to mind).
Concerned: Shelly, it seems this past season, teams have resorted more and more to hooking, holding, interfering, and even tackling when defending players like Sidney Crosby. This seems to be part of a longer term trend. Is this something the team takes issue with? Is it something that the league is looking at?
Shelly Anderson: Those types of tactics have crept back into the game, no question. Obstruction would seem to be a bigger problem for teams with highly skilled players, such as the Penguins. There's no indication that the NHL is moving to address that, but here's hoping that the league does just that.
Sophie: Bylsma benched Jussi Jokinen for a few shifts after taking a penalty during the loss against Phoenix, and called him out after the game. When asked why he didn't do the same for Neal, he said that it was different for stars. Does he not worry that this double standard could create resentment in the locker room? How does he send the message to stars like Neal, Malkin or Sid that undisciplined penalties are unacceptable if he won't hold them accountable?
Shelly Anderson: Your questions are valid, and they underscore the difficult task of being a major pro sports coach. Like it or not, it is different when you're talking about benching one of the elite offensive talents on the team. Luckily for Bylsma, from what I can tell, the Penguins have a team of strong, grounded players who aren't readily given to resentment. Perhaps a little more self-policing on the players' level could solve such problems.
Marc Gladams: Do you think the coaching staff view Stempniak as a possible longterm fit with Sid and would look to lock him up? And with Beau a possible candidate for LW with Geno and Neal, does that make Dupuis a third liner next season?
Shelly Anderson: Good questions. While I'm sure GM Ray Shero and others in management are constantly evaluating and planning, they probably for now are content to see how things play out in the postseason, see how Dupuis does in his recovery, etc.
Rocky: Metro all but locked up. Highly unlikely catch Bruins for #1 position. Time start resting Sid, Kunitz, MAF, et all? More healthy scratches for Matta?
Shelly Anderson: Interesting idea. The Penguins can lock up the division title as early as tomorrow. None of those players would want to sit out, but it might be a good idea. Even a one-game respite seemed to help Olli Maatta, twice.
IC: Have the Pens selected a Masterton Nominee for this year?
Shelly Anderson: That should be announced soon.
Chris: What do you think they plan to do with Vokoun over the next couple of weeks?
Shelly Anderson: It would certainly seem like a good idea -- you never know what might happen in the playoffs -- but all indications are that Tomas Vokoun getting a start is a long shot.
Shelly Anderson: Thanks, everyone. We'll do it again next week as the playoffs get closer and closer.