Talbot is serious in playoff role
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How about this for a signature moment:
It's late June 2002. The close-knit Talbot family of suburban Montreal is at Air Canada Centre in Toronto with Max, the youngest of three rambunctious brothers, for the NHL draft. He is projected to go maybe late in the third round, but as the picks pass No. 100 and No. 200, there are no takers.
"I remember my mom crying in the stands and my dad walking in the hallway and the agent kept saying, 'It's OK,' " Max Talbot's oldest brother, Francis Talbot, recalled earlier this week.
Finally, in the eighth round, the Penguins made Max Talbot the 234th draft pick.
Disappointing, for sure, but as Penguins fans have come to learn, Max Talbot is not a man who quits at anything -- his career, a play, finding the lighter side of things.
"I think it helped him," Francis Talbot said of his baby brother having to prove himself after falling in the draft.
- Matchup: Washington Capitals at Penguins, 7:08 p.m. today, Mellon Arena.
- TV/Radio: FSN Pittsburgh; WXDX-FM (105.9).
- Series: Capitals lead, 2-1.
- Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Simeon Varlamov for Capitals.
- Penguins: Have not posted consecutive victories since Games 1 and 2 against Philadelphia in Round 1. ... D Sergei Gonchar has four-game points streak. ... Have lost Game 4 in three of past four series.
- Capitals: Have outscored opponents, 11-6, in first period in these playoffs. ... LW Alex Ovechkin has at least one goal in six of past seven games. ... Have had seven of past 10 games decided by a goal.
- Hidden stat: Capitals are 4-1 when allowing 30 or more shots on goal.
The equivalent of the Penguins' class clown, Max Talbot laughs as hard as he plays and, at 25, has trumped his draft position in the same way he forced himself to be good enough to compete in sports with Francis, 30, and middle brother Will, 27, when they were growing up.
A regular as a fourth-line center, penalty-killer and that NHL quantity called an energy guy, Max Talbot also sometimes plays on the wing, as he did Wednesday with center Evgeni Malkin in Game 3 against Washington. Talbot had an assist in a 3-2 overtime win on a night when Malkin broke out of a quiet stretch with a goal and nine shots.
It's not known if Talbot will remain in that spot tonight for Game 4 at Mellon Arena as the Penguins try to tie the series at two wins apiece.
"I love Max," Malkin said. "He's a nice guy and lots of energy. We [talked a lot] before the game and I know how to play with him. Last year, I played a couple games with him. I love playing with him. We play aggressive the whole game."
This was just the second season Talbot spent entirely in the NHL, collecting 12 goals each of those two winters, but he has added a couple playoff signature moments that hit the opposite end of the spectrum from draft day.
The first came in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final last year. He scored the tying goal with 34.3 seconds left in regulation as the Penguins came back to beat Detroit, 4-3, in triple overtime.
The second came in Game 6 in the first round this season. He took on Philadelphia bruiser Daniel Carcillo and lost the lopsided fight that nevertheless sparked a Penguins rally from a three-goal deficit to eliminate the Flyers with a 5-4 win.
"It's special because these moments are what you get remembered from," Talbot said. "This is when you make a name for yourself, in the playoffs. It's amazing just to have the chance to be part of those."
He credits his upbringing and family for his good fortune. The humor comes more from his mother's side, the work ethic from his father's line, and the amalgamation is a say-anything, do-anything attitude that inspires the Talbots to run headlong at life.
"We're nine cousins, nine Talbots, two girls and seven guys," Talbot said. "We're a really tight family."
The cousins, ages 18 to 30, each have a "T" tattoo. Max Talbot's is on his upper right arm, enhanced with a shield and wing.
The patriarch is Paul Talbot, who at 81 still mows the grass for neighbors and wants to tinker when he visits.
"He's really got a lot of personality," Max said.
Paul's son, Serge, works in construction with concrete.
"He's blue collar," Francis Talbot said. "My dad wakes up around 4 every morning to go to work. We all worked with him in the summer.
"One of the first things my dad taught us was the value of work. One time, I asked him if I could have an allowance. He gave me a newspaper bag and said, 'Here's your first customer. Don't be late.' It's old school."
Then there's the down time for the French-Canadian clan.
Two years ago, the men in the Talbot family gathered at cabins in northern Quebec for a fishing trip and, as they had prescribed among themselves, all had mustaches.
"It was beautiful. Every Talbot is hairy," said Max, who already has a substantial playoff beard.
Around his teammates, Talbot often is horsing around, whether it's joking or tossing tape balls in the locker room or playing around between drills at practice.
He stops short of being a distraction, though.
"He knows when the time is to get ready and to make guys ready around him," said center Sidney Crosby, a longtime friend through shared agent Pat Brisson. "When you see a guy who's usually loose like that or easygoing and all of a sudden you see that switch turn and you see him serious, I think that's the indication for everybody to make sure they're ready because if he's not joking around, then nobody should."
Talbot's passion, like everything, is rooted in family.
Once, while he was playing junior hockey, he got permission during a playoff series to go home briefly -- two hours each way -- and surprise his parents for their 25th anniversary.
"He's got a lot of character," said Francis Talbot, whose name has been anglicized to Frank by Max.
Will Talbot builds Rolls Royce jet engines. Francis Talbot, a chewing gum salesman, travels and hopes to be at Game 4 tonight and Game 5 tomorrow night in Washington.
Francis would have been at Wachovia Center to see his brother's fight with Carcillo, but he got stuck for hours in traffic just outside Philadelphia because of a fatal accident close enough that he could see the flames.
So he listened to the game.
"The broadcast people were making fun of him because they said Carcillo owned him," he said.
Francis was in the Mellon Arena stands with Serge in November 2005 when Montreal's Steve Begin caught Max, then a rookie, with his head down and pulverized him with an elbow that earned Begin a major penalty and game ejection.
Francis and Serge were brought downstairs and into the training room, where Max was, as usual, in good spirits despite his nose being, literally, out of joint.
Doctors set it, making a terrible crunching sound.
"My dad got all white. He got scared," Max said. "There were, like, six doctors around me. So he started to panic. But it was OK.
"After, we went to eat at a restaurant and every five minutes they would show the hit on TV and he would just [cringe]."
Max Talbot figures that's just part of playing hockey.
You ask him about the chore of being primarily a fourth-line center behind Crosby, Malkin and Jordan Staal, and he puts a selfless spin on it.
"My best friend plays for the Islanders, [Bruno] Gervais. He's never made the playoffs. He hates it. I would hate it.
"Even if I would be on a third or second line on another team, even having more responsibility as a third-line center, I would hate not making the playoffs.
"Everybody knows their role on this team. That's one of the reasons we're successful. That's the beauty of it. We all have fun and we create things together."
First Published May 8, 2009 12:00 am