Penguins Q&A with Dave Molinari
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Q: I'm writing this to you after the line changes were announced but before Game 2. The Penguins had won 12 of 15 games in the playoffs with the same lines; don't you think it's an overreaction to one game where we didn't really even know the opponent (who happened to have won the Presidents' Trophy) to make changes like this? Chemistry is more important than man-on-man matchups, in my opinion, and putting new people together just doesn't ring true after only one loss.
Scott Krasik, New York City
MOLINARI: We're on level ground here, Scott, because this response is being formulated well before the start of Game 2, also. By the time this is posted, there should be concrete evidence to indicate whether coach Michel Therrien's decision to reconfigure his forward lines was wise. At this writing, however, there are nothing but hunches and opinions.
Although Therrien has been criticized heavily here, and in other quarters, because of his penchant for shaking up his line combinations so often, it's not all that difficult to rationalize the decision to do that after the Penguins' 4-0 loss in Game 1. Indeed, the fact that remaking his lines is such a staple of Therrien's approach to coaching prevented his players from viewing the changes as a move rooted in panic; instead, they seemed to look at it as simply Therrien reacting the way he often has to an unsatisfactory performance.
It's true that the Penguins' lines have remained largely intact this spring, but that's mostly because they've had so much success and have been able to remain healthy, for the most part. Still, Gary Roberts, Adam Hall and Max Talbot -- and now, Georges Laraque -- have been out of the lineup at one time of another, so it's not as if the Penguins entered Game 1 of the opening round against Ottawa with four set lines and never tampered with them. Fact is, there have been more than a few occasions when Therrien broke up a couple -- or more -- lines in mid-game because he wasn't happy with the way things were going.
Finally, the Penguins' chances of being able to compete with Detroit will be greatly enhanced if Evgeni Malkin is able to get his game back in order, and giving him a new winger might help to get him jump-started. That's reason enough for Therrien to adjust his combinations.
When you're in a best-of-seven series -- especially one with a top-quality opponent like Detroit -- waiting too long to react to developments might be even more dangerous than acting in haste. Sometimes, decisions like the one to reconfigure the lines will not work out, and might even backfire. On other occasions, they might have an even greater positive impact than the guy making them expects. As with most other things in a playoff series, there are no guarantees.
Q: If the Penguins beat the Red Wings for the Stanley Cup, shouldn't they also get the sole right to call themselves "Hockeytown, USA"?
Lionel, Hamilton, Ontario
MOLINARI: Actually, it's highly unlikely that, even if the Penguins win the Cup, they will want to be known as "Hockeytown, USA." One suspects that being called "the Penguins" will continue to be quite satisfactory to them.
If you are suggesting that Pittsburgh appropriate that nickname if the Penguins take the series, that does not reflect the thinking here. Detroit picked up its tag as "Hockeytown" a little over a decade ago because of an obviously successful marketing/public relations campaign by the Red Wings. Precisely how anyone would conclude that it should be forced to surrender it solely on the basis of how a particular series turns out isn't clear. (If that were the case, shouldn't the transfer have happened the first time the Wings were knocked out of the playoffs by a U.S.-based opponent?)
There is one other minor matter to take into account. Warroad, Minn., took to calling itself "Hockeytown USA" decades ago, and it has done nothing to deserve having the name taken away. Even though, of course, the Penguins almost certainly would be solid favorites in a best-of-seven against the Warroad High School Warriors.
First Published May 27, 2008 1:33 am