Penguins Notebook: Teams make themselves at home on road
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Visiting teams won three of the first four games in the Penguins-Flyers first-round playoff series.
That road clubs would have some success shouldn't be a surprise, given that the Flyers won five of the six regular-season games they have played at Consol Energy Center and the Penguins' strong record in Philadelphia in recent years.
Turns out that home teams have fared poorly all over North America this spring. Going into the Friday night games, road teams had won 21 of the 32 games -- just shy of two-thirds -- to that point in these playoffs
"Maybe [road teams] keep it simple," Penguins winger Pascal Dupuis said Friday before Game 5 at Consol Energy Center. "Don't feel like they have to please anybody or shoot when the crowd tells you to."
On a more basic level, teams might try to block out the venue.
"You get to playoffs, you throw all that stuff out the window and just worry about what you can control." Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn said.
Consol Energy Center has been pretty comfortable for the Flyers, who were 7-1 there in regular-season and playoff games going into Game 5. Its predecessor, Civic Arena, by contrast, had antiquated, smelly, cramped quarters for road teams. Are the visitors' quarters too nice at Consol Energy Center?
"It's a new building," Coburn said. "It would be a shame if they didn't."
Flyers center Claude Giroux thinks the atmosphere and reception in a building make a difference, particularly when there is a game involving these bitter rivals.
"We don't really like the fans here, and I guess we have something to prove to the fans -- that we're better than them," Giroux said, adding a tale about Game 2 at Consol Energy Center.
"There were two fans on the glass, and the whole game we were kind of looking at each other. That kind of gets me going a little bit. I would like to thank those two fans. I didn't know what they were saying. It was just yelling and making signs with their hands that I can't really say, but it kind of got me going."
Giroux had a hat trick and six points in an 8-5 Philadelphia win that night.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma isn't a big fan of dressing seven defensemen, but did it for Game 4 Wednesday, when the Penguins had three forwards -- James Neal, Craig Adams and Arron Asham -- suspended and defenseman Paul Martin was not available because of an injury.
He did it again for Game 5.
Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen said having seven defensemen might make it a bit tougher for some guys to get into games because they aren't playing as many minutes as usual, but noted the obvious benefits of the defensemen staying fresher for a longer time because of a reduced workload.
Zbynek Michalek believes the impact of having an extra defenseman on the bench is negligible.
"It's maybe tougher for [the coaches] to give us ice time and distribute the pairings," Michalek said. "For us, it doesn't really matter. We just try to go out there and do our job. It's not like our roles change. We play seven [defensemen], we try to do the same thing. We had different partners along the season. We know we can play with anybody here."
Philadelphia played without defenseman Nicklas Grossmann, who had been part of a shutdown pair with Coburn.
Giroux let it slip that Grossmann has a concussion, apparently from a hit by Evgeni Malkin or one by Tyler Kennedy -- or both -- that forced him to leave Game 4.
"He's a good defensive player," Giroux said. "I had a concussion this year. It's just the worst. You can't really do anything. You just sit on your couch. You can't even watch TV because it messes with your mind. It's not fun.
"We hope he gets better soon."
Zac Rinaldo got 24 penalty minutes for cross-checking, elbowing and sucker punching Michalek in Game 3, but the Flyers winger got no further punishment from the NHL and no harsh words from Michalek.
"That's his role on the team," Michalek said. "That's why he's there, to provide some spark, some energy for their team. He did what he had to do. I guess that's the playoffs.
"The officials on the ice handled it really well. What goes on after that, it isn't my business. I guess [the NHL] didn't call him, so that's it."
Rinaldo was a healthy scratch for Game 5.
Winger Matt Read had 24 goals, 47 points in 79 games for the Flyers, but was not among the finalists announced Friday for the Calder Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year.
Read said he figured he didn't rank higher in voting by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association because he is 25. The finalists are New Jersey's Adam Henrique, 22; Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog, 19; and Edmonton's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 19.
First Published April 21, 2012 12:47 am