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Orpik: Penguins must keep their cool

| Friday, April 18, 2014, 9:41 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Kris Letang checks the Blue Jackets' Matt Calvert during their first-round Stanley Cup playoff game Wednesday, April 16, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.

Brooks Orpik made a visit down memory lane Friday. He thinks his teammates should, too.

Orpik spoke candidly about the Penguins' continual problem with maintaining composure and said a lesson learned six years ago could come in handy when the first-round series between the Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets resumes Saturday with Game 2 at Consol Energy Center.

“I always go back to when we lost the Final in 2008 to Detroit,” Orpik said.

The Penguins entered the 2008 Stanley Cup Final on a 12-2 rampage through the Eastern Conference and believed they could emotionally overwhelm the older, calmer Red Wings.

They were wrong.

The poised team prevailed, something Orpik doesn't believe was coincidental.

“The first couple of games,” Orpik said, “we thought we'd run them right out of the building. And they pretty much laughed at us. They had the puck the entire game. We were in the box the entire game. That's something I draw back on. Not everybody was here for that. But it was the most frustrating thing (in that series).”

Orpik's Penguins mostly have proven incapable of turning the other cheek.

Many of their top players — Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Jussi Jokinen and, most recently, Kris Letang — have been guilty of retaliatory penalties during the past few seasons. The problem seems to escalate during the postseason.

The Penguins so badly lost their cool in Game 3 of the 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinals in Philadelphia that three players were suspended for Game 4. They also snapped against the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of last season's Eastern Conference final.

Orpik said remembering how the Red Wings handled confrontation in 2008 could be beneficial now.

“They just walked away,” Orpik said. “And they beat us. And that was all that mattered.”

Defenseman Rob Scuderi, who was winning a Stanley Cup in Los Angeles during the same spring in which the Penguins imploded against the Flyers, also would prefer the team play more controlled hockey.

The Penguins were short-handed four times against Columbus in Game 1, and two those penalties — Letang's slash on forward Boone Jenner in the second period and Letang's interference of defenseman James Wisniewski in the third period while behind the Columbus net — were deemed unnecessary by the coaching staff.

“You have to realize the stakes and where you are,” Scuderi said.

“Kris is a top-end player. He knows they're coming after him. You know it's coming every time. It's not easy. He's got to turn the other cheek and let stuff go. If he doesn't, it's only going to hurt him and the team.”

The Penguins have struggled at Consol Energy Center in the postseason. Orpik sees a connection to their troubles in their new building and the Penguins' inability to control their emotions.

“I don't think it's a reach,” Orpik said. “We tend to play a little bit different at home for whatever reason. I don't know if it's the excitement of the crowd or trying to impress the crowd. You always hear the term ‘a good road game,' which you want to duplicate at home. It's more boring, responsible. I don't think we're the only team that's fallen victim to it, but it has shown in the last couple of years.”

The Penguins were 22-9 during the Sidney Crosby era in playoff games at Civic Arena. At Consol Energy Center, they are 8-8.

“We can talk about it until we're blue in the face,” Orpik said. “Every guy has to be more disciplined.”

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

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