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Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript

| Friday, April 20, 2012

Dejan Kovacevic: Afternoon, all, on another great day for ... well, it's just a flat-out great day out there. Plenty to enjoy even before all the stuff tonight.

Away we go ...

Guest: Given that Game 4 was not your typical playoff game, how do you think Despres performed in his first playoff game?

Dejan Kovacevic: Simon Despres had a hesitant turnover behind the Penguins' net on his first shift, but after that was solid to the point of barely being noticed. It's a good start. He's capable of more, and it already appears he'll get another chance tonight with Paul Martin being ruled out again.

Ross: Dejan, bottom line, can Pens do it?• What are odds• I believe they can!

Dejan Kovacevic: The historical odds are slim, obviously, if you look at taking four in a row. But if you choose to go one at a time -- and the Penguins internally are talking about one PERIOD at a time since the debacle Sunday -- those odds improve gradually.

But man, who can say with a series as crazy as this?

Never seen anything like it in a life filled with puck-watching.

Sam: Dejan, the Pirates are 5-7 so far. Better, the same, or worse than you expected at this (very breif) point?

Dejan Kovacevic: Better. And even though it is a brief point, Sam, it's a critical one in that it's easily the hardest part of the schedule they'll face all season long. If they're 5-7 against that kind of pitching with the awful hitting they have, you'll take it.

And I wouldn't ever suggest the 9-4 Cardinals, the defending champs, are underdogs. But they don't have Albert Pujols anymore, and now they won't have Lance Berkman either this weekend. Maybe a chance at some normalcy.

Justin: Garrett Jones had a really good series in Arizona. Could you see him playing his way back into the starting line up• If so at who's expense Tabata• or maybe McGee?

Dejan Kovacevic: He's already done that, to an extent, Justin. Right now, Hurdle is going to go with the guys who are hitting( with the obvious exception of Pedro Alvarez, who clearly is being given every chance to get going). Jones has pretty much proven at this stage of his career that he CAN hit righties and CAN'T hit lefties, so expect to see him out there, somewhere, vs. righties.

But Jose Tabata ... hey, 1-for-21 with mostly soft contact ... that's got to change at some point, not just for him but for the whole lineup.

Guest: Hi Mr. Kovacevic. Where's the Steelers' pass rush going to come from in 2012, other than from a hopefully healthy Woodley, and do you see any meaningful contribution from any of LBs Worilds, Sylvester and Carter• Thanks.

Dejan Kovacevic: Oh, no "Mr." please! I feel old enough after the back-and-forths to Philly already, with another possible this weekend, right?

The pass rush will come from LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison. That isn't going to change in a 3-4. Jason Worilds is an outside guy, and your inside guys will be Larry Foote and Lawrence Timmons. If Stevenson Sylvester and Chris Carter get involved, it will be as subs in the middle.

Of all the issues the Steelers have going into 2012, I'd rank a pass rush extremely low. And you forgot to mention a healthy Ziggy Hood. When Woodley's clicking, he and Hood work together to create gaps for Woodley to shoot through.

Sam: Dejan, Who do you think is more likely to get an extension before summer camp opens: Mike Wallace or Antonio Brown• Do you think Brown would be safe next year as a restricted free agent next year?

Dejan Kovacevic: If you go back to last summer, Sam, most of the Steelers' big extensions -- Woodley, Troy Polamalu -- got done during camp. Actually late in camp. Not before it. The Steelers aren't in the habit of offering guys extensions as a lure to show up.

If Wallace is unreasonable, he won't get an extension regardless of Brown. It won't be an either/or.

Right now, I'd say neither.

Ivan Puduski: Do you think both teams have been embarrassed enough to play defense in game 5?

Dejan Kovacevic: Ha! Well put. I kind of thought that might happen in Game 4, but it really didn't.

Though I will add this: If you watch video, you'll see that the Penguins gave up very few chances five-on-five. It's the Flyers' power play that's killing them. If the Penguins can make any kind of ... hey, wait ... what's that next question I see?

Dirk Diggler: When are the Pens going to make some changes to the PK• Philly has killed them not just this series, but ALL YEAR with their power play.

Dejan Kovacevic: A-ha! As I was saying, if the Penguins can make any sort of improvement to their PK, you'll see that they'll immediately look like a much upgraded defensive team. As it is, their passive box -- jammed in between the hash marks and wiggling their sticks -- isn't getting it done.

The Flyers are relying on lateral passes for their goals, right through the box. Force them to turn their backs to the slot, and you stop those passes like a heart attack.

Hickle: Do u think Steve Adams is gonna be more like Blair star gone in two years,Gray solid 4 year player now in nba or Taylor bust/

Dejan Kovacevic: The profile being set for Steven Adams would suggest he won't be at Pitt very long at all. When you're that tall, that agile, that athletic, the agents will come knocking before long. Enjoy him while you can.

Same might go for James Robinson, the guard recruit, by the way. He's not of the same pedigree, but it didn't hurt his case to be selected to Team USA's developmental team just this morning.

Jason: Dejan, love your work. Facing three RHP's this weekend, I expect Jones starts all three but what about Alvarez• Got to right?

Dejan Kovacevic: Thanks, Jason. Hurdle has talked about preferring to have Alvarez get "comfortable" with a cluster of at-bats. This represents the best chance for that so far this season. So yeah, I think he'll be out there.

Guest: favorite/least favorite pirates, penguins, steelers uniforms from over the years?

Dejan Kovacevic: Steelers with the old block letters. Not close.

Hickle: How many people show up for the pirates game tonight with the pens playing down the road?

Dejan Kovacevic: Whatever the attendance, it will be impacted only minimally by the Penguins playing, believe it or not. Only about 5 percent of any given gate comes on walk-up sales. It's mostly advance sales or season tickets. No one could have been sure there would be a Game 5 in Penguins-Flyers until late Wednesday night.

But that won't stop EVERYBODY from talking about the topic you raised.

Jamsey: Is Paul Martin really injured, or are the just wisely not playing him• How did Shero get him so wrong?

Dejan Kovacevic: For Martin not to even be taking the ice -- he didn't again this morning -- and to be sitting up in the press box with the other scratches, as he did Wednesday in Philly, I'm leaning much more to the idea that it's legit.

Shero getting Martin wrong is a question worthy of a lot more than a live-chat answer. Very, very obviously, he blew it.

Vinchenzo: Dejan, what is your take on the lack of suspensions to the Flyers• Has it been unfair or am I just looking at it thru black and gold colored glasses?

Dejan Kovacevic: Kind of. My take is the same as it is on the lack of suspensions around the NHL, including the Penguins: The league is a joke, plain and simple.

I heard Gary Bettman on his weekly radio show laughing off the lack of a suspension for Nashville's Shea Weber -- who twice deliberately rammed Henrik Zetterberg's head into the glass like a WWE turnbuckle -- by saying, "The most I've heard anyone say Weber should get is one game, so there isn't that much difference" between one game and the $2,500 fine Weber got.


So the commissioner of the sport is taking what people like me or others write or say into consideration for whether or not Brendan Shanahan blew it?

Keep the faith: Dk, do u think the Pens have there swagger back as Josh annouced in his colume or is it relief that they did not get swept,also how do u feel after telling your readers not to bother watching game 4 ,will we get an apology the PPG did not do that to there readers.

Dejan Kovacevic: If I'd written anything close to what you're describing, I'd react to it. I didn't. Here's the Monday column for you to read, since it's glaringly obvious you didn't when it came out.

I wrote after Game 3 that the Penguins shouldn't bother coming back to Philly for Game 4 "until you're prepared to take the ice with some semblance of dignity, discipline and, yeah, maybe even a shift or two of defense."

It was right there in black and white. Plain as day. Obvious to anyone who would have actually read past the headline.

And it's funny, but that's EXACTLY what the Penguins ended up doing in Game 4. They showed up -- quite literally -- and played well in every one of those facets with the exception of penalty-killing.

Hans Gruber: Do you expect to see Fleurys best game of the series tonight?

Dejan Kovacevic: I absolutely do. Looked like himself down the stretch Wednesday, didn't he?

Money for Nutting: DK, just want to say I love your work and hope that you never get down because of people misreading or misinterpreting your columns. One question though, if the Pens pull off the impossible and win this series, are you wrong about your article about being wrong about Jagr making the right choice• If you know what I mean...

Dejan Kovacevic: Get down• Not at all. This is the job I've wanted my whole life, and I can't begin to tell you how much I'm enjoying it, how much fun it's been to bounce all over the place to the biggest events, here in Pittsburgh or on the road, and to be able to fully express myself. This term gets overused, but it's been a dream come true.

But, because I am so accessible to readers and communicate with them around the clock, yeah, it gets a little tiring responding to about three-quarters of all correspondence by simply sending a link back and asking them to read it.

As for the Jagr column , if you'll remember, the dominant majority of my case for Jagr having made the right choice was about how he FIT with the Flyers and Claude Giroux and even the setting there. That all worked out very well for him -- surprisingly, in my eyes -- way before the Flyers ever took a 3-0 series lead.

Again, if you look at the piece, I made only a scant mention of the 3-0 lead. It really wasn't what got me to write the column. Rather, it was the long talk Jagr and I had that day that included his revelation about being aware that Ray Shero didn't really want him.

Of course he's going to be a better fit for the Flyers than the Penguins if the GM there really wanted him.

Guest: The Pirates have score 26 runs. How bad can it get this year?

Dejan Kovacevic: Depends on your viewpoint. I'd mentioned to Andrew McCutchen the day the Pirates left for the West Coast that by the time they come back, every pitcher they face might look like a breeze compared to what they'd have seen to this point. He laughed but didn't disagree.

We'll see. It's certainly a good sign that Neil Walker's got a 9-for-20 going right now. His bat isn't optional.

Hans Gruber: Can we put a moratorium on baseball questions until the Pens are no longer in the playoffs?

Dejan Kovacevic: It's baseball season, too. And the interest level in Pittsburgh in the Pirates is a lot higher than people outside the city seem to realize. If you saw our Sunday piece last week, the Pirates had the ninth-best local rating in all the majors last season.


For a 72-90 team that hasn't won in two decades!

We'll happily take baseball questions.

Jeff: When will the Pirates bring up Marte?

Dejan Kovacevic: Hey, a baseball question!

Starling Marte is going to come up when the development people see him as fully ready in terms of establishing his strike zone and swinging with authority at the pitches that are best for him. They don't want him to dink his way up here, in other words, which he's capable of doing because of good contact skills.

But for those who ask this regularly, he WON'T come up because of a team need in Pittsburgh. That's a terrible reason to move up a good baseball prospect.

Jeff: Pens or Flyers tonight?

Dejan Kovacevic: If I already see Fleury as having his best game, I'd have to go with the home team.

Dave: Dejan. I just wanted to say your Pens article the other day on how the introduction of the stretch pass by Ottawa earlier in the season was excellent. From their performance in Game 4, do you think the Pens made the necessary adjustments to this• Also, is Martin in or out tonight• Hopefully out.

Dejan Kovacevic: First, thanks, Dave. What had to be most encouraging to the Penguins' staff about Game 4 -- other than double-digit goals, of course -- was that the team got back to moving in a pack. Forechecking and backchecking. And the way they addressed the stretch was to plain and simple have their forwards be a lot quicker on the back pressure. That kept the Flyers from having as many open, easy routes through the neutral zone, even for passes aimed at cherry-pickers.

It was a REALLY good team effort. Again, other than the PK. I'd like to see them get just as aggressive short-handed.

Frustrated Duke: What do you think of Duquesne's hire• Will they ever get over the "hump"?

Dejan Kovacevic: Those probably are separate questions, actually, because you can hire a great guy but he'll fail without administrative support.

Check my blog entry after meeting Jim Ferry last week.

Tim in KY: Keep the faith didn't read your column...

Dejan Kovacevic: No, he or she did not.

Mike Litoris: Can we get send out some belated thanks to Michel Therrien• His emphasis on sound play in the defensive zone is sorely missed.

Dejan Kovacevic: I hear that a lot the past few days, but Therrien's sound defensive play included two really sound defensemen in Hal Gill and Rob Scuderi, both of whom would be welcome on the current roster in prominent roles, just as they currently have with the Predators and Kings, respectively.

The Martin/Michalek signings are hurting the defense corps WAY more than the difference in strategies between Therrien and Bylsma.

Adam: DUMB question (I think), but with the success of the Pen's PP in Game 4, does Neal get sent to the second PP line?

Dejan Kovacevic: Not at all a dumb question, judging from Neal practicing with the second unit in this morning's skate. We'll see at game time.

CleveSteelerFan: Steve Sullivan sure doesn't get the fanfare...but a steady producer for sure

Dejan Kovacevic: I gave him a pretty loud shout-out in the Thursday column . I agree that he was outstanding in Game 4.

Chris: DK - Do you believe the recent talk that Poe will be available when the Steelers pick comes around• If so, do thay take him or focus on the O-Line?

Dejan Kovacevic: Heck, from the most recent stuff about Poe, everyone's making it sound like he'll drop to the second round. Poe had an outstanding combine, the narrative goes, but teams that began taking a closer look were turned off by game film.

Do you think the Steelers were?

One longstanding trait to the Steelers' drafting is that they'll value the athlete over the college results. They'll take the raw material and shape it.

If they like Poe -- and it sure sounds like they do -- they know they've got at least another year of Casey Hampton in which to groom him. I can promise you Poe's college film won't come into play as it relates to technique.

A-run: DK, why isn't Dennis Dixon an option for the Steelers to sign• They need another QB since Leftwich hasnt signed and he's displayed talent when given the opportunity. GIven Batch's age, I would think DD would reconsider coming back to the Steelers. Thoughts?

Dejan Kovacevic: It takes two to sign out of free agency. If Dixon is serious about climbing the depth chart in the NFL, he'd be a little misguided to return. Sounds like he and the Colts might hook up. (Surprise.)

Keep the faith: Sorry Dk without reading your editorial and base on word of mouth I apologize i love your edits should have read it before evaluating you.

Dejan Kovacevic: I really appreciate that. Certainly didn't expect you to write back during the chat. That's huge on your end.


Matt: Dejan, I just wanted to mention that its not just local either, some of us expats are still following the buccos, even down here in Houston.

Dejan Kovacevic: No, I know, Matt. What I meant was the PERCEPTION outside of Pittsburgh about its love (and anger and all that) of the Pirates. Usually way off.

OK, five Lightning Round entries ...

Bizrow: How many inmates/lunatics here today?

Dejan Kovacevic: 734 lunatics as I type this, Biz. You ALWAYS need to know that!

Tim Tomczak: Wanted to commend you on the Jagr column. I've spent 10 years defending him to yinzers, but even I was a little stung by him signing in Philly. Makes more sense to me now.

Dejan Kovacevic: I appreciate that, Tim, but at the risk of sounding corny, the appreciation should go to 68 for sitting with me for a long time at the Flyers' facility the other day. He explained a lot.

Tim Tomczak: Poe, Hightower, and Jonathan Martin on the board at #24, who do you take?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'll still take Hightower, if my tiebreaker is positional need. There HAS to be strength at middle linebacker.

Devin: Standout player to contribute tonight for the Pens• I'm going to pick Dupuis. He has solid play and poise most of the series.

Dejan Kovacevic: I'll take Kris Letang, who suddenly looked like Kris Letang in Game 4.

Kate: Dejan ... big fan of your work. Likelihood of Pens going with seven D-men again tonight?

Dejan Kovacevic: Coaches HATE changing lineups in hockey after a win. James Neal and Craig Adams force your hand there, but that shouldn't change seven D. Hope they stick with it.

JuniataKid: Pedro's first non-home-run hit tonight?

Dejan Kovacevic: Ha! Someone tweeted the other night in the spirit of the Dos Equis ads: "I don't get many hits. But when I do, they're home runs."


Last one ...

Scott: DK, love your work. Anyone lucky enough to have a ticket needs to embody the spirit of the Igloo. This needs to be Consol's first signature win.

Dejan Kovacevic: Hm. Hadn't thought of it that way. The place has been pretty much a bummer since Day 1, hasn't it?

We shall see.

Thanks to all -- now 762 -- for participating. The column runs ... well, it runs all the time so long as the Penguins are alive in the playoffs. The blog is like Cliff Lee's pitch count. And the chat usually runs Thursdays.

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