Penguins left winger Jussi Jokinen, left, scores against Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov in the shootout.
Shelly Anderson: We're heading into the final week of the regular season. Plenty to chat about.
Big City: Dan Bylsma had a 9-year NHL career, and as an NHL head coach has won a Stanley Cup and a Jack Adams. He is one of the most highly regarded coaches among NHL players and executives. He has been a great citizen in Pittsburgh, rubbed elbows with billionaires and hall of famers. Yet somehow a bunch of yinzers know more hockey than him and want to see him get fired. Thoughts?
Shelly Anderson: There's an old saying that you can't fire all the players, so you fire the coach when things go sour. That's probably a little of what's going on – from outside the organization anyway. There's no indication that Dan Bylsma is in jeopardy of being fired. It's possible that in the Penguins' case, it's difficult for fans to accept what they consider playoff disappointments when the team has elite talent, so Bylsma makes an easy enough target.
A: Shelly, are they just resting Sid or is he really hurt?
Shelly Anderson: It's doubtful any player who has played most or all of the season to this point is completely healthy, especially those who played in the Olympics, but the sense is that scratching Sidney Crosby from the lineup Sunday was primarily a matter of resting him on back-to-back games with the playoffs coming up.
Ross: It has been reported by several Pens beat writers that these last games may be experimental with line changes, WBS call ups, resting injuries etc. Any chance we see Vokoun? Whether its for his peace of mind or the coaching staffs to see of he is game ready going into the playoffs? I believe Zatkoff is a proven backup but would having Tomas available be a bad thing? (Of course we are not going to need either of them..Go Flower!)
Shelly Anderson: Bylsma has talked specifically about wanting to find an identity in particular on the third and fourth lines., Injuries have made that tough. As for Tomas Vokoun, it sure doesn't look like he's going to get in a game. There are only three left. I suppose he could pick up one of the back-to-backs next weekend, but there's been no indication of that, and Bylsma has said he is fine with Jeff Zatkoff as the backup going into the playoffs. Still, it would seem prudent to get Vokoun into a game if at all possible.
Even: What is the tone of the room? Are they confident about going into playoffs? Or are they lackluster. Feel like they can band together and play some of the best hockey or crash and burn.
Shelly Anderson: I wasn't on the recent three-game road trip, but in terms of post-Olympics, the atmosphere in the Penguins locker room doesn't seem a whole lot different than usual. Maybe just a touch more business-like at times. Certainly not lackluster.
Expectations: Last week you said that poor lineup decisions by the coach likely won't be a reason for the Pens' failure, but if the Pens fail, it will be because their elite talent faltered. Don't you think it's a little unfair to expect 2 players to carry a team in the playoffs? Doesn't it speak to the Penguin's lack of *quality* depth that they Uare expected to?
Shelly Anderson: Sure, scoring depth is important, but realistically the Penguins probably will go as as their elite talent takes them. That's a couple more than two players, but they are going to struggle to win an Eastern Conference final series with no points from Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
PeterG: With it being clear that there are obvious aspects of the game that the Penguins need to work on and practice why has the team cancelled so many practices? Only to then play Lacrosse in one instance.
Shelly Anderson: Even on a day without practice, they're probably going to find something fun to do rather than sit idly with their feet up all day. But in terms of missed practice, it's clear the team has made fresh legs and fresh minds a priority. The players seem to be on board. They still have video sessions, meetings, etc., as well as morning skates other than on back-to-back games.
Beau: Are you under the impression that Bennett will get more time with Crosby to see if he's a fit for playoff time?
Shelly Anderson: That wouldn't be surprising, assuming the two of them dress for the same games over the final three.
Alex: Last week it seemed as though you absolved Bylsma of all blame for each of the last two playoff losses by stating that "he wasn't the one who lost his composure" against Philly and that "he wasn't the one who couldn't score" against Boston. If it isn't a coach's job to keep his team disciplined or adjust when offense isn't working, what do you believe his job is?
Shelly Anderson: I didn't absolve Bylsma completely; just feel that there's plenty of blame to go around, and I stand by the players bearing a lot of it. A coach's job is to give the players in the best possible chance to win. The Penguins won two series last year, then had scoring chances and played decent defense against Boston.
Goeff: Do you expect Crosby to play any more games this regular season?
Shelly Anderson: Assuming he was primarily being rested Sunday, I could see him playing Wednesday against Detroit and in one of the two upcoming weekend games, or maybe even both of those games.
The Chief: Should the regulars, maybe this time including Flower, for the entire week?
Shelly Anderson: Assume you are asking if they should be rested the final three games. You probably don't want too many of your regulars to go into the playoffs with more than a week off, but some sort of rotation that gives them a game off wouldn't seem like a bad idea.
Sane: Why do they keep cancelling practice? Because if it's to rest the ball hockey/lacrosse day contradicts that, and given how they've looked practice is more important than rest.
Shelly Anderson: There certainly are benefits to practice, but at this point there are drawbacks, too. Other playoff teams also are cutting back on practice, particularly during busy stretches. The lacrosse or ball hockey or whatever might be looked at more as an optional team-bonding exercise. Doubt that they came away from it physically spent.
Guest: How do the Penguins ensure Bortuzzo is in the lineup come playoffs? He played increased mins the last few games and plays with that edge, tenacity, and grit needed come playoffs.
Shelly Anderson: Good question. Paul Martin is back. Unless we find out differently, Olli Maatta will be available for the postseason. And what if Kris Letang comes back? That leaves little room for Robert Bortuzzo. Like you, I like his game, but it seems unlikely he will replace a veteran in the playoffs other than perhaps for a game here or there. We'll see.
GreekHockey54: Shelly, I thought the Pens management did Letang a disservice by stating; "He can play when he is ready." Now all the pressure is on Kris, and when the playoffs get here, fans will not be rational in clamoring for his return. Pens bosses should have just said; "When everyone involved in Kris' situation agrees he is ready to play, he will play." What was their motive in putting all of the burden on Letang?
Shelly Anderson: Well, it is Kris Letang himself who has said he will have the final say in when he plays, based on how he feels and in consultation with his doctors. If I were him, I would have no tolerance for anyone who questioned his dedication or his caution in wanting to be sure about returning from something like a stroke.
dave: Any update on Malkin?
Shelly Anderson: No, although there's a decent chance we will get one tomorrow. The initial thought on his foot injury was that he would be back about the time the playoff start, or even just before that. Who knows? Perhaps he will get clearance to skate tomorrow.
Ham n Egger: How badly do the Pens miss guys like Max Talbot, Matt Cooke, Aaron Asham and Mike Rupp?
Shelly Anderson: Those guys, particularly the first two on your list, are great playoff guys. Arron Asham might be a little beyond his expiration date, and Mike Rupp hasn't always been fully healthy. The Penguins have a few players who might step into that role if given the chance -- Tanner Glass, for instance.
EB: Why don't the Penguins ever practice anymore? With injuries happening left and right and new players being called up, wouldn't it make sense to have more practices to gain some chemistry with new line-mates? And if Bylsma thinks they need rest, then why are they playing lacrosse on days they cancel practice?
Shelly Anderson: You guys need to get over the lacrosse thing. Let them have a bit of fun. As for the call-ups, one thing that helps make for a smooth transition is having the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton players use the same system, schemes, plays, terminology, etc.
Shelly Anderson: OK, everyone. Thanks for the questions. We'll do it again on the eve of the playoffs.
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