Penguins' Adams scores points with Bylsma
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He played just 10 minutes, 59 seconds Saturday, less ice time than all the Penguins' forwards but Mike Rupp.
He didn't score a goal for the 101st consecutive regular-season game going back to December 2008, a streak that even he concedes is ridiculous.
Yet, this much seems certain:
If the other players had done their job as well as Craig Adams did his against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Penguins would have won an important home game instead of letting a valuable point slip away in a 3-2 overtime loss.
And you wonder why Adams has played in all 72 games this season? Why he hasn't been a healthy scratch even after the Penguins brought in winger Alexei Ponikarovsky at the trade deadline? Why Tyler Kennedy was benched for two games not long after the deal? Why Stanley Cup hero Max Talbot sat for three of the past four games?
"I think you'd have to fight the coach to scratch [Adams]," Penguins general manager Ray Shero said the night of the Ponikarovsky trade March 2.
I asked Dan Bylsma about that late Saturday afternoon in a dingy Mellon Arena corridor. Clearly, he was steamed about the loss. "That wasn't a strong game from our team," he understated.
This was the Penguins' only home game in an eight-game stretch, and they gave a lifeless performance against an opponent that, though playing well of late, started the day with the third-worst record in the NHL. The Penguins blew a late 2-1 lead in regulation and lost when the Hurricanes' Jamie McBain blistered a shot by goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury with 00.9 left on the overtime clock.
Just like that, holding off the New Jersey Devils in the Atlantic Division became that much tougher for the local hockey club, especially with games ahead at Detroit Monday night and at Washington Wednesday night.
All things considered, this likely was a good time to ask Bylsma about his penalty-killing unit in general and Adams' role on it in particular. It seemed to brighten his dark mood. A tiny bit, anyway.
"You just highlighted one of the areas we've done well in," Bylsma said of his penalty-killers, who denied the Hurricanes on five power plays, including four in the third period. They're on a streak of 20 consecutive kills, 29 of the past 31 and 84 of the past 96.
"You've also just highlighted one of our main people on that unit," Bylsma said of Adams, who was on the ice for 3:41 of Carolina's 6:05 of power-play time in the third period, including 22 seconds when it had a 5-on-3 advantage. You need more proof of the faith that Bylsma has in Adams in those tense situations? He had Adams on the ice at the end of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final in June in Detroit to do his part to protect a 2-1 lead after the Red Wings pulled goaltender Chris Osgood.
"He sets an example for our team," Bylsma said.
"There's a misnomer by the fans and sometimes by the media that everybody's job is to go out there and score goals. Not everybody has to score goals."
Not that one from Adams wouldn't be welcome. His most recent regular-season goal came against Edmonton Dec. 16, 2008, when he was playing for Chicago. He's no dummy; he majored in history at Harvard. He knows it has been a very long time.
"It weighs on me, of course," Adams said. "I'm not proud of it, for sure."
Funny thing is Adams had three goals during the Penguins' Cup run last season. Yes, two were empty-netters, another indication of how much Bylsma loves sending him on the ice with the team trying to hold on to a lead. But the other was huge, giving the Penguins a 2-0 lead early in Game 7 of the Washington series. They beat the Capitals that night, 6-2.
"He doesn't have to score goals to do his job," Bylsma said, firmly.
This is just a guess, but Adams probably isn't going to be scratched in any game soon.
I'm thinking the odd winger out should be Ruslan Fedotenko, although Bylsma has shown no indication that he's leaning that way. Kennedy has played better since he sat for consecutive games March 11-12. Rupp is too valuable as a physical presence to bench.
That leaves Talbot, who has done nothing this season, mostly because of the lingering effects of offseason shoulder surgery and a groin injury. But it's awfully hard to think of the Penguins heading into the playoffs without him in the lineup. His postseason track record is that good. Remember his two goals in the 2-1 win in Game 7 in June in Detroit?
I can't forget 'em.
That's why I'm suggesting to Bylsma that he sit Fedotenko as long as all of the forwards are healthy.
I wouldn't even think of suggesting Adams.
Last thing I want to do is fight the coach.
First Published March 21, 2010 12:00 am