Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript: May 9, 2013
By Dejan Kovacevic
Published: Thursday, May 9, 2013, 1:16 p.m.
Dejan Kovacevic: Afternoon, everyone, and welcome to the weekly chat. All topics welcome, as always. All sharp objects left at the door please. Hang your jacket over there by Kyle Okposo's billiards table.
Comment From MAdesso: DK, your thoughts on the appearance of Eaton, Jokinen, and Glass out and Kennedy, Vitale, and Despres in tonight? Obviously, speed is the theme but ...
Dejan Kovacevic: There will be much change for the Penguins tonight, as the morning skate strongly indicated. Not sure if it's purely for speed, though. Fact is, none of Eaton, Jokinen or Glass were playing well. Neither were Brandon Sutter or Brenden Morrow, for that matter. The one guy I'd see as being a speed move is Despres over Eaton.
But there's definitely grit and aggressiveness added in the form of Kennedy and Vitale. And simple play. Those are needed above all right now. When your third- and fourth-liners aren't making the simple plays — and they haven't in the past three games — there's always a very simple solution for that.
Comment From MAdesso: DK, why put Neal back on the left wing tonight? Him n Geno are just to comfortable with Neal on the right. why break that up?
Dejan Kovacevic: Well, that's the other big apparent move tonight, and it's well overdue. Neal has played most of his NHL career on the left side, and he roams around enough he'll still get his chances from wherever. Iginla is a future Hall of Famer brought in presumably to maximize all he can bring, and yet he was the one moved to a side he's hardly ever played.
Well past time that was rectified.
Comment From David: What are the Islanders doing that stops the Pens' long passes on the breakout and what can Pens do to counter?
Dejan Kovacevic: Sounds like I'm in the minority, but I haven't seen the stretch passes being as much an issue as they were, say, in the Flyers' series. The Penguins still have other ways to break out of the zone and are taking them, and I wouldn't be surprised to see even more stressing on going up the middle beginning tonight. That keeps the Islanders from clogging up the boards.
Watch for the centers to come back down low for a quick first pass.
Comment From Alan Gifford: more playing time this year for the Steelers Jones or Wheaton
Dejan Kovacevic: I don't think there's any question Jarvis Jones has the best chance to play a lot over all the other draft picks, not just Markus Wheaton. Sure, there's opportunity at WR for Wheaton, but that's asking an awful lot of a rookie.
Ben's receivers almost surely will be Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery and Plaxico Burress. That's not a spectacular group, by any means, but it still wouldn't be easy for a late-round pick to break through right away.
Comment From Naterosboro: Melancon/Grilli. Best setup/closer combo in baseball right now. (that's not a question) How long can they keep it going though?
Dejan Kovacevic: Nor should it be a question. Total statement of fact. Mark Melancon, the primary acquisition in the Joel Hanrahan trade, and Jason Grilli, signed two summers ago out of the minors, have been stirringly close to perfect this season. Credit to all concerned — from finding them to working with them to putting them in the right roles — but above all, credit to the athletes themselves.
The concept of perfection alone, obviously, should answer your question. No one maintains perfection. But if they're managed right — and I use that term advisedly — I don't see a reason why they couldn't keep pitching at least well all season.
As I've been writing for a bit, though, their pace of appearances right now has red flags written all over it. Other pitchers need to step up, especially now that Jared Hughes has taken a big step back.
Tony Watson? Bryan Morris? Jose Contreras?
Guess we'll see.
With how abrupt the starts have been most nights, this is absolutely paramount for the Pirates, to make sure this back end continues going at least close to the level it's shown so far.
Comment From Matt: Why do some people act like Vokoun starting tonight means that we will never see Fleury again in the playoffs? Is it not possible to give the flower a breather during a hard fought series?
Dejan Kovacevic: Oh, this hasn't come across as a breather, Matt. When the coach pans you the night you give up six, then the coach breaks his own ‘team policy' to hold a press conference the very next day to announce the backup is now the starter, then lavishes the backup with praise, that's not a breather.
I'm not suggesting Fleury's done. I've never written that, never suggested it. But I can't imagine he'll play again in this series and probably not for another decent while.
Comment From tim mohr: malkin flashes of incredible brilliance? or coach killer? what will be his epilogue?
Dejan Kovacevic: Hm. A coach-killer, by unofficial definition, is someone who not only goes against what the coach wants but also openly defies him in a him-or-me sense. That's hardly Evgeni Malkin.
He was sensational for two periods Tuesday, then made one whale of an ill-advised breakout pass up the middle that set up John Tavares' winner. It was a brain cramp, not open defiance.
Focusing on the stars and the goals, which is what a lot of folks seem to be doing, doesn't make much sense to me. The Penguins are scoring plenty. They need to allow less.
Comment From King of Rock: I feel like the problem the Penguinos have had in this series comes down to not being as young as the Isles. Generally, they have just looked out of gas by the 3rd period in last three games. Brenden Morrow is a great grit guy, but he is gettin' blown by...I LOVE the idea of inserting Kennedy and Vitale for a bit of speed.
Dejan Kovacevic: You might wind up being right, but I'll still point to a lack of stability/confidence on defense. Anyone who's followed or coached or played the sport at any level will tell you that nothing throws a team out of whack like thinking that every mistake will wind up in your own net. It makes everyone tentative, nervous and slower.
To that end, the most amazing aspect of what the Islanders have accomplished to this point is that they've overcome exactly that quandary with Evgeni Nabokov, whose next big save in this series will be his first.
It starts on defense. If the Penguins can find that stability, from the crease out, the goals and all else will come.
Comment From Matt: Is Niskanen okay? He sounded concussed in his post-game interview?
Dejan Kovacevic: Seems fine to me. A little upset, that's all.
Comment From mayhay22: Troubled by all the careless turnovers by the team, but by Letang in particular. Reminds me of his play early in the year. Is that something “simple” that he can fix tonight or do we just have to deal with it as his style of play.
Dejan Kovacevic: Letang has outrageous athletic gifts. Speed, strength, stamina. It's safe to say that hockey savvy isn't among them. And I'm not just saying that because of the fantastically oblivious cross-check of the linesman the other night — he's lucky he wasn't suspended — but because of poor decisions all over the ice, including on offense.
On those occasions he makes the right choices, he looks like the best defenseman in the world. That doesn't happen nearly often enough.
Comment From Wild Bill: Now that Hodges and Mauti were drafted, and others, like Farrell, have signed with the Steelers, do you have any change of heart about Penn State's decision to “play football”? Or do you (still?) think PSU football should have been shut down?
Dejan Kovacevic: What's the connection there? Are you assuming NFL scouts wouldn't have been aware of Michael Mauti and/or Gerald Hodges had there not been a season in State College? You don't think they scout past their TV sets?
Really, not being glib. Don't understand the connection at all. Feel free to follow up.
Comment From MAdesso: DK, When is enough, enough, and Pedro starts sitting on the bench?
Dejan Kovacevic: No chance of that. None whatsoever. No matter how bad Alvarez has been to this point, the fact is you've got a 26-year-old player coming off a 30-home run season. If you take Alvarez out of the lineup — never mind the damage to his own future — you're basically conceding the removal of 30 home runs from the lineup and hoping to replace at least a few of those with ... who, Brandon Inge? Gaby Sanchez playing out of position?
Not seeing the realistic choices here. Alvarez must play.
Comment From Andy Partridge: I am sure you still feel the same way about your Bylsma “hot seat” column from last week, but I wonder what the reaction to it would be if it was first published today?
Dejan Kovacevic: Bear in mind, first of all, that the sentiment that's the strongest about Bylsma was that expressed — emphatically, passionately — by the Penguins' front office. They love him, plain and simple. And I can understand that, as the column went on to say.
Would that be put to the test by going under against the Islanders in the first round, especially if coaching were seen as an issue?
Sure. For the front office, for me, for everyone, probably even Bylsma himself for all we know.
Time passes, situations change, sentiments change.
For now, though, I'm looking at a 2-2 series with plenty enough of a chance for the Penguins — and the coaching staff — to emerge unscathed so long as the right decisions bring the right results.
Comment From Dan: It seems to me that when drafting this year, the Steelers had the idea in the back of their head that Big Ben has about a 4-5 year window left. Thus the pick of Jarvis Jones (immediate impact, potential health issues several years down the line), Bell (very physical & upright runner, might only last 6 years or so before wearing down), Wheaton (fairly polished), and Thomas (human missile...possible Bob Sanders-type injury concerns down the road). All these guys seem likely to help out a lot in the good years that Ben has left...but maybe not far beyond that. Would you agree?
Dejan Kovacevic: The next sense I get from anyone on the South Side that the Steelers are building/constructing their roster for any Ben-shaped window will be the first. I don't see that, I don't hear it.
If anything, the one thing that Ben's presence virtually guarantees on a year-to-year basis is that the team itself will be built on mostly a year-to-year basis. In other words, they're not in a position to take a year or two off to do some Cleveland-level rebuild. They have to keep competing. (Which isn't always good.) Jarvis Jones was drafted because he's the right guy at the right position in the right spot of the draft. That's all.
Comment From Wild Bill: I believe that the opportunities for Hodges, Mauti, and others would have been far less had they transferred and had to fit in a new system, and had not had the chance to play under the new coach. Prosecution, fines, lawsuits — I was good with all of those and I'm no Paterno apologist. But take the game away from the kids who give up so much to play it? Never could see that.
Dejan Kovacevic: OK, I understand your point now, but I'll emphatically disagree. Look at the NFL draft now, and look at where they're finding their picks, even first-rounders. Scouts aren't dumb, and they aren't limited to BCS schools, and they've got the combine to even out pretty much everything, anyway.
Hodges and Mauti are fine football players. They'd have been noticed and appreciated if they were at Duquesne or Robert Morris. (Which they wouldn't have been. They'd have gone somewhere prominent, as did a couple of the Penn Staters who left.) I know the broader point you want to make, but this probably isn't the right path.
Comment From Damon: Since the Pirates' starters rarely go past 6 innings, will the bullpen be worn out by July?
Dejan Kovacevic: No, by June.
Comment From Guest: Since Penn St came up in today's chat, with all of the available information — in your opinion, what is the likelihood that JoePa, Tom Bradley, etc. did not know of Sandusky's proclivity? I maintain that this is impossible....
Dejan Kovacevic: Aw, come on, man. You want to do the JFK assassination, too?
Comment From Lost in Washington: Does Malkin Get resigned this summer or traded? Have they had enough of his malaise?
Dejan Kovacevic: Malkin will be re-signed. And If you think you saw ‘malaise' from him in Game 4, I'd ask that you take a glance at that definition in the dictionary.
Comment From BA: DK. I believe Pens should not re-sign Geno. Trade him for a goalie, some D-men or prospects. Crazy?
Dejan Kovacevic: (Audible groan)
Comment From Guest23: Nassau Coliseum is certainly awful looking, architecturally speaking, but is it an OK place to watch a hockey game?
Dejan Kovacevic: The environment from the standpoint of emotion and volume was fantastic, no question. Had a very old-school feel.
Comment From Matt: Any chance the pens play a trap tonight? I wouldn't mind seeing the tampa style. It seems like the forwards haveve been baited into poor forchecking only to open the ice for the isles attack.
Dejan Kovacevic: Wow, now we're making the Islanders out to be the mid-1980s Oilers?
Look at the goals they scored in Game 4. Which ones came off the rush?
The only one that comes close was Casey Cizikas' sealer at the end, which really wasn't a rush as much as it was one man heading toward a vacated net with a backpedaling goaltender.
The goals were long, lousy flicks from the point. Or billiards shots.
The Islanders do have speed, but let's not lose sight of how they actually scored.
Comment From jzpenguin: What makes more sense — Iggy on the right side of Geno & Neal, or on a line with Sid?
Dejan Kovacevic: I'm OK with leaving Sid's line alone and moving the future Hall of Famer over to his natural position.
Couple more today ...
Comment From josh: Why announce who our goalie will be? Any strategic advantage to making the islanders guess?
Dejan Kovacevic: The feel I get is that Bylsma more than anything wanted his team to not have that shake them up on a game day. Let them process it for 24 hours, know that something significant's about to change and show up today ready to play.
It was a good move.
Comment From Bob in VA: Is Jordy Mercer the 2014 Pirates shortstop?
Dejan Kovacevic: I have a really hard time with 2014 questions related to the Pirates, given the owner putting the front office on notice for the season that's going on right now.
If you're asking if Mercer is an everyday major-league shortstop, I don't believe that's a sentiment you'll find shared by too many in baseball. Not so much the bat but the glove and the consistency.
Comment From James: Who do the Pens miss more right now? Brian Strait, Ben Lovejoy, or Carl Sneep?
Dejan Kovacevic: They miss getting saves.
That's not to lay it all on Fleury. Haven't done that all series. But right now, what this team needs more than anything is to see some consistency in their own end. That starts in goal.
Dejan Kovacevic: That's it for this week. The column schedule is all out of sorts for now with the Penguins in playoffs. I'll basically just be writing a lot. The TribLIVE Radio show is Tuesday, the chat Thursday, and the blog is all the time.
Thanks to everyone for participating!
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