Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript: May 24, 2013
By Dejan Kovacevic
Published: Friday, May 24, 2013, 1:07 p.m.
Dejan Kovacevic: Afternoon, all. Much ground to cover ...
Comment From Andy B: Hey DK! Are there many(any?) other markets where thousands of fans gather outside the stadium just to watch the game on a big screen?
Dejan Kovacevic: The Maple Leafs were just doing it doing their brief (and rare) appearance in the playoffs, to great effect. And you do see some teams, usually colleges, set up indoor screens when a team is on the road. But something like this ... where it's right outside the building where it's happening, with these kinds of numbers ... I mean, it's starting to look like Woodstock out there.
No, I'm not aware of something comparable.
Comment From Devin: I think Neal is the wildcard for the Pens to succeed this year. Teams always will key in on Crosby, Malkin, and Letang. They simply can't focus on more guys than that with top defensemen. When Neal performs...the team wins.
Dejan Kovacevic: That's a fair way of looking at it, Devin, but there's no reason to leave Jarome Iginla out of the same equation. The Penguins have both of those guys going, they'll be very hard to stop for a variety of reasons.
And lest we forget who's leading the playoffs in goals with seven: Pascal Dupuis.
But yeah, I see where you're going: Neal can be a little streaky, and once he gets going that's an awful lot of different areas on which a defense needs to focus.
Comment From Daquido Bazzini: What alternatives do you feel the Pirates have to alleviate the innings that Grili and Melancon are building at this still early stage of the year?
Dejan Kovacevic: It's hard to say because Clint Hurdle has used those two in just about every close-it-out type situation. They'd like for Tony Watson to be capable of that, even had him pitch the ninth once. They'd like for Bryan Morris to be that. Even the elder Jose Contreras. Justin Wilson, even with his history of control issues, pitched the eighth last night. So there are theoretical options, but none anywhere near certain.
Comment From Guest: Good Afternoon DK! I've seen a lot of media outlets ranking the Steelers as the third best in the division for 2013. Was wondering where you rank us in the AFCN, and if you think Baltimore really deserves to be #1 considering the amount of turnover their roster has sustained.
Dejan Kovacevic: I don't get the blind eye toward the Ravens. They've lost a ton of players in part because of the Joe Flacco contract. And these were good or even great players, in a few cases. Ray Lewis. Ed Reed. Bryant McKinnie. Paul Kruger. Bernard Pollard. Dannell Ellerbe ... Ozzie Newsome is a genius at team-building, probably nothing less than that. But I don't think there's any question this Baltimore team will be very different.
Cincinnati ... eh, I'll believe in the Bengals when they get something done. Andy Dalton and A.J. Green are legit, and the defense is better than most realize, but putting it together isn't something that happens a lot in Cincy.
Comment From Jon: Hey Dejan what do you make of Letang's spotty defensive play and sloppy turnovers in this series but obviously excellent offensive play? At times he looks like the Pens biggest liability on the ice, but at others, the team's biggest asset.
Dejan Kovacevic: Spent more time with Letang than anyone else on the Penguins up in Ottawa, and I think I'm at least beginning to get the feel for what makes him tick. Or flop. He's really, really tough on himself. And it isn't until he stops being tough on himself that he fares well.
Game 4 was the perfect microcosm of both. As he acknowledged in my Thursday column , he was at least partly responsible for the Senators' first two goals, but they he quickly cast them aside. In the interview, I mean. Called them “things that happen.” He bounced back after the first intermission with that seriously bold rush up the right side to set up Iginla's first goal, essentially daring Ottawa to try to stop him.
Amazing talent, but yeah, there's a real inconsistency to how it gets applied.
Comment From Kasey in D.C.: I don't care who is in net, as long as the team is winning. Having said that, fast forward to playoff Game 1, Round 1 next year. Can the team/organization possibly trust Fluery ever again in postseason play?
Dejan Kovacevic: I'm starting to kind of cringe at the Vokoun/Fleury questions that keep popping up, if only because they're really difficult to address without seeing how the rest of the playoffs go.
If there's, say, a situation where Vokoun stumbles — and not just one bad game — and Fleury jumps in and does well, all this talk is rendered moot.
If Vokoun sticks all the way through, then yeah, with salary cap issues, I don't even know if you're keeping Fleury next year.
But the now just doesn't offer much in the way of meaningful answers.
Comment From Rob: Were you surprised by the Pens scratching Morrow or is it just a matter of his game not suited for this series?
Dejan Kovacevic: Brenden Morrow is injured, something to do with his arm, from what I gathered in Ottawa. He'd be smart to stay out of Game 5 and heal up. Lots of hockey left.
Comment From Ron in Germany: Do any other teams come close to the Pens in away game support? Rebel photog Chaz's photos from Ottowa were filled with Pens fans.
Dejan Kovacevic: Staff photog Chaz Palla got three side-by-side Penguins fans celebrating the Kunitz breakaway goal for the Trib sports cover the next morning. But Chaz will be the first to tell you that was coincidence. There weren't that many Pittsburgh fans up there. Long way from home.
Comment From WV Sammy: Are you a playoffs guy? I think you've stated before that you do not follow the NBA much. I'd argue that they are the only American professional sports league, where you could argue the best team winds up as champion. All other leagues put on great tournaments, but regulary produce fluky results like the Cardinals winning the WS or the Kings winning the Cup. I guess it's the American way.
Dejan Kovacevic: That's a very fair point about the NBA. I'd put the NFL not far behind in that regard.
But I also think you're being a little unfair to the Kings. They didn't just win the Stanley Cup. They destroyed everyone in their path, No. 8 seed or not. And you're seeing now again that they're anything but a fluke, up 3-2 on the Sharks.
Easily the least predictable is baseball, largely because of the starting pitcher effect.
Comment From Rob: Do you thing there was any correlation between the last minute lapse in games 3 and the production in game 4?
Dejan Kovacevic: You missed the Thursday column ! That's 50 laps around Chris Phillips for you, pal.
Comment From Guest: Obviously, as fans, we remember the last two Pirates' collapses and approach this amazing start with a sense of pessimism. But, in the locker room, do the guys who actually went through those colossal struggles sense the same thing? Does Hurdle publicly address it with his players or just build on the positive momentum established so far?
Dejan Kovacevic: Hurdle has done so much to prepare the eventuality he might as well be stocking supplies in his basement for the coming nuclear armaggedon. He's read books, met with coaches in other sports ... some of which I described in a column from Florida in March.
But there is such a thing as talking about it too much, to the point that when the first little thing goes wrong, or Jerry Meals happens or Aroldis Chapman hits your best player, the Pirates' planet explodes with panic.
Not an easy balance there.
The players themselves are adamant that they've learned from both collapses, gotten tougher as a result. Obviously only one way to demonstrate that.
Comment From Justin: Although I'm hesitant to look too far forward, but it appears a Pens/Bruins clash is most likely. What type of lineup do you expect Bylsma to field, more specifically with the 4th line roles? More physical with Glass/Morrow or more offense with Jokinen/Bennett to best match the Bruins?
Dejan Kovacevic: Opening with the obvious disclaimer that neither team has clinched, if the Penguins and Bruins meet — and no one will want to hear this — I think you've got to have a physical fourth line because you've got to make sure you're knocking Zdeno Chara around. This isn't a secret. You saw the Rangers do it to great effect last night, and you've also seen the Penguins do it to Chara all year long.
Chara can control a game. He's that great. And the only way to keep him from doing that is to wear him down.
So what I'm saying, basically, is yeah, you'll see Tanner Glass.
Comment From Guest: With a team that is so dependent on skill, why can't the Penguins organization and the Console team make the ice surface any better? The puck is always rolling and unsettled and players often lose an edge. Seems like someone should be able to figure out how to make the ice colder to improve play for a team like the Penguins, right?
Dejan Kovacevic: Oh, I think all concerned know how. I just don't think they try hard enough.
In Montreal, they manage the Bell Centre ice around the clock. Treat it like a newborn child. Monitor it, water it, maintain it. In Ottawa, they basically do nothing other than let it sit there. In Pittsburgh, unfortunately, they don't do much beyond keeping Consol really, really cold in the mornings.
Yes, it's ridiculous. More on this some other time.
Comment From Burgh Steel: DK- Love your coverage of all the teams great writing- have you ever thought of writing a book.
Dejan Kovacevic: Thank you, but no. Not a book guy. I wrote my Thursday column from Ottawa in roughly a half-hour. If I spend much more time than that on anything, makes me nuts. Say what you want to say, and move on.
Product of being in deadline-oriented newspapers all my life.
Comment From Guest: Why doesn't the coaching staff seem to value Jokkinen much right now? Seems like he would be best playing with Morrow and Kennedy or Bennett on the 3rd line and leave Sutter, Cooke, and Adams as the 4th line. That would make the whole team stronger, wouldn‘t it?
Dejan Kovacevic: Jussi Jokinen is playing through injury. Nothing more to it than that. He did a couple good things in Game 4, but he also was visibly tentative. Something's wrong.
Comment From Guest: Who is the locker room voice of the team, leading here in the playoffs, like Vokoun did previously when he implored the team not to play pond hockey? Someone must be the ‘conscience' of this team when they have these obvious breakdowns?
Dejan Kovacevic: It's Sidney Crosby's team. Now more than ever.
Comment From Louis in Michigan: Dejan, love the blog! First thing I check in on when I sign in at work. Oh, and work stuff, too, I suppose. On to the Pens, does the confidence you spoke of that came from a completely dominating victory in Game 4, disappear if they start shaky in Game 5, like they did in Game 4. Or did you sense something a little different and unshakable in that room Wednesday night?
Dejan Kovacevic: I did, but never mind that. What's infinitely more important is what you saw yourself, which happened on the ice. The Penguins did get off to a lousy start in Game 4, but they kept coming. Never stopped.
That'll happen the same way in Game 5, assuming another poor start.
Comment From Guest: How come a savvy, experienced player like Iginla doesn't ever seem to keep up on the rush and drive the net? Too old/slow? This is the key to a lot of success in hockey - witness the Crosby line.
Dejan Kovacevic: I see no signs of this Iginla who can't keep up, as a few are describing. Iginla always has been the late guy on the rush, including with Calgary. That's because he sets up for the shot, say, on a three-on-two while the other forward takes a D to the net with him.
Comment From Poole: Of the teams in left in the West, who would be the Pen's best matchup for the cup final?
Dejan Kovacevic: Yikes. Toughest question of the day. I hate to say this, but it's probably Detroit from the simple standpoint that so much of their defensive success is systematic over talent-driven now that Nicklas Lidstrom's gone. There's still some skill there — Niklas Kronwall is a beast — but it doesn't compare to what was there.
Comment From WV Sammy: Loved seeing OPS, UZR and WHIP when I read the blog. I figured this is the place for the more detailed questions about BABIP, xFIP, and ISO or is that the door to my left? :)
Dejan Kovacevic: All topics welcome. Absolutely the only issue I have with baseball's advanced metrics is when they're cherrypicked to make a case, as opposed to being handled in a truly objective way. Happens a ton.
Comment From Tim in Arlington: Not even a book about Miguel Sano? :-)
Dejan Kovacevic: Well, I'll tell you this: If I ever did do a book on Sano, it would be far fairer and more accurate than the hatchet job that the movie ‘Pelotero' did. Unthinkable to do a real-life bio without getting all sides of the story. I have both, just as I had them all along at the time.
Comment From Shrivz: I just want to take this moment and remind everyone what the Flyers are doing right now. That is all.
Dejan Kovacevic: Well done.
Comment From Daquido Bazzini: Should we be concerned about Jarvis Jones having a hamstring problem in the first few OTA's?
Dejan Kovacevic: To an extent, being worried about a hamstring is always fair, if only because it's one of those few injuries that fall firmly into the “preventable” category. I've heard the Steelers were none too pleased with Mr. Jones about this, and that's understandable. Stretch and hydrate, and hammies shouldn't be a problem.
Jones' explanation was that he “tripped” while running the 40 at Georgia pro days. Not sure what that means, unless there was an obstacle course.
Comment From Daquido Bazzini: Can you expand more on your thoughts concerning Lamar Woodley's OTA speech the other day?
Dejan Kovacevic: No. I wasn't there. I was in Ottawa. Wouldn't be fair at all to Woodley. I just find it encouraging that, according to others who saw him, he's apparently a little lighter.
Comment From Rob: Most intriguing thing you have learned from OTA's? If any?
Dejan Kovacevic: Without a doubt, it was the piece this morning by our Mark Kaboly on the Steelers' new blocking scheme. Terrific stuff.
Comment From Guest: Better baseball insight - Peter Gammons or Keith Law?
Dejan Kovacevic: Not fair on a lot of levels. Difference in age. Peter was on top of his profession not so long ago. Difference in style. Keith comes at it through a scouting pedigree with an exceptional mix of advanced metrics. Plus, I consider Keith a friend and would never be able to give an unbiased personal view.
Comment From Guest: Is Iginla really the consummate pro he appears to be? Your interview with him about the power play was excellent and he looked to handle it with aplomb.
Dejan Kovacevic: He's all that and more. And yes, he handled a couple of what I thought could have been pretty uncomfortable questions like they were nothing.
Comment From Tom: Ray Searage for best pitching coach in the major leagues? There have been a few he couldn't help (Sanchez, Qualls), but man, he can take almost anyone to the next step.
Dejan Kovacevic: Searage is special, no question. It's not these two months. He's had this touch on so many pitchers — not all, of course — from the moment he came up from the minors and took the job by force.
Best thing you can say about Searage is that, even when the Pirates were cleaning house of John Russell and staff, it was abundantly clear all through the organization that he was the one guy — well, Jeff Banister, too — that weren't in trouble.
Couple more today ...
Comment From Jake: DK, of the four teams currently facing elimination (Ottawa, NYR, SJ and Chicago) whom do you see fighting back to possibly triumph in seven games?
Dejan Kovacevic: No way anyone should count out the Hawks.
Comment From Damon: Odds Le'Veon Bell is the NFL Rookie of the Year? It seems he'll be getting a lot of chances if he starts...
Dejan Kovacevic: Whoa there. Let's see him learn a new offense, adjust to NFL-sized men beating him around, then beat out Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer for a starting role, huh?
Comment From Guest: So, it is Keith Law that is feeding you all of the “unsustainable” info about the Pirates...I knew it had to be some other genius!
Dejan Kovacevic: Ha! No, haven't communicated with Keith on that one.
Comment From Sean: Would you consider writing a blog giving us a behind the scenes look at your work? How the deadline works, how you come up with topics to write about, what happens when a game goes to overtime, etc.
Dejan Kovacevic: Sure, but I'm not sure how many readers would be interested in that. My philosophy always is that people who want to read about sports generally, you know, want to read about sports.
Comment From Zach: Dejan, better athlete, in your opinion, Crosby, Cutch, Polamalu
Dejan Kovacevic: Kris Letang, Starling Marte, Antonio Brown.
Comment From Jeff: Huntington deals for..?...at deadline?
Dejan Kovacevic: I wouldn't rule that out.
Comment From Guest: Will Bylsma figure out the power play and put Iginla back on the left point? You really pushed him on this in the interview and there was no good logic about it.
Dejan Kovacevic: There was none in the response, actually. Though you did see Iginla out there on the left point, albeit with the second unit. I'd doubt it at this point of the series. Maybe in the next one, maybe not. Patrice Bergeron is a brilliant penalty-killer and constant short-handed threat. And evidently, the opponent dictates the strategy.
Dejan Kovacevic: That's all for this week. Because, like Daniel Alfredsson, we know when it's time to quit.
Thanks for participating!
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