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Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript: June 6, 2013

| Thursday, June 6, 2013, 1:06 p.m.

BOSTON — Welcome to the chat, one and all. All kinds of happiness to cover today, from the Penguins on the doorstep to being done, the Pirates' pitchers falling left and right and the Steelers' QB under the knife.

Oh, and before we get started, I'll probably make lots of references to today's column on greatness coming through in big games, so thought I'd throw the link out here early.

Away we go ...

Comment From Joe U: Dejan, given the talent and team we had this year is Dan Bylsma's coaching career over in Pittsburgh ? Too much talent unmanipulated makes Ray look bad, yes ?

Dejan Kovacevic: Too much talent not getting it done makes everyone look bad, even Shero. Let's not let the GM wholly off the hook when he entered the postseason with only three defensemen the coaching staff truly trusts to take a regular shift judging by how they're being deployed five-on-five.

There's blame all around.

But sure, the bulk of it probably will end up with Bylsma, especially if the Bruins complete the sweep. The concept that Claude Julien will have outcoached Bylsma will then move into fact territory, and that's a heck of a thing for any coach to take.

I wrote at the beginning of playoffs that, based on my talks with the front office, Bylsma was safe almost no matter what. But situations change, moods change, emotions flare ... they're all obviously keeping to themselves these days, but it'll be interesting to see if they've changed at all.

Comment From Andy B: Dejan, it seemed like earlier this year second chance shots were the pens “bread and butter” but this series that has been lost. I am I off base here and how much is this contributing to the lack of scoring?

Dejan Kovacevic: It's still way atop my list, Andy. I can't say this is scientific, but I've done my own informal count of rebound shots — that's official shots directly off a rebound by Tuukka Rask — and I count three: One by Crosby in Game 1 (big slapper, remember?), two more last night by Cooke and Adams.

If you're aware of more — and be sure of it — I'm listening.

Whichever way the number actually turns out, it's downright laughable.

Comment From Dragoon: Malkin was a warrior last night. With bad shoulder, can fans demand more? What is his future on this team?

Dejan Kovacevic: Malkin's effort was extraordinary, his effort at times superhuman.

He didn't get it done.

And let's go easy on the health thing. Malkin shot a puck hard enough last night to — literally — break a man's leg. If you haven't heard, Boston's Gregory Campbell is done for the year with a broken fibula from lying down in front of Malkin's right point slap shot.

I'm sure Malkin's shoulder isn't well. Not doubting that in the slightest. Just saying it doesn't excuse zero points. And neither does effort. Not this time of year.

Comment From Guest: Two goals in three games. I thought Morrow was brought in to be a disruptive net-front presence. I thought he and Kunitz would be making life miserable for goalis. But I mostly see perimeter shots on Rask who seems to have plenty of room to see and move.

Dejan Kovacevic: Brenden Morrow had a terrific game last night, maybe his best of the playoffs. He did exactly what you're describing up there, too.

Chris Kunitz did not.

Comment From DNY: Dejan, as you wrote, the Cookes, Morrows, Adamses outshined everyone. Seems to me these are the Guerin types that are willing to take the beating in front to get the rebounds/chances that having stars create. Year in, year out this is the wall we hit. Why do you think it's lost on this team/staff that these are the things you have to do in the playoffs?

Dejan Kovacevic: I don't know. I really don't.

I'll never sit here and pretend to have all the answers, and I'll honestly concede I don't have that one.

If you figure it out, though, let me know, because I think you'll have uncovered how Boston's taken this 3-0 lead.

Comment From Cari Q.: Whhhhhhhhyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?

Dejan Kovacevic: Yeah, exactly.

Comment From Steelerdan70: Hey Dejan, love your stuff. With the last two weeks of Pirates play it looks like everyone's prediction of how the bullpen can't sustain its early season dominance has finally caught up with them. Or is it more the bats going silent? Long way to go, but the series against both the Reds and Braves really makes me wonder if collapse part 3 is inevitable.

Dejan Kovacevic: Really, I don't think it's fair to take the past week and criticize the Pirates any more than it was smart to take the first two months and anoint them contenders. I really, truly try to look at all baseball matters in a 162-game prism, including the statistics I'll view. The legit objective viewers of the game — as opposed to the posers looking to support their own cases — will do likewise.

So my view hasn't changed:

1. I think the Pirates will hit better than they have and probably wind up around National League average.

2. I don't think they've got anywhere near the starting depth — on the depth chart or in depth of innings per game — to match the league's best teams.

3. The bullpen's arms will fall off by mid-July, especially those of Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon.

And I'll repeat: What you've seen so for is for real. Really is. But it's for real through two months, and baseball is played over six. Certain things have to happen in those two months in order to benefit the final four. That's not forecasting doom. That's reality.

Comment From Seabass: Dejan - Knew you had a column written regarding MAF that obviously got to hit the broad strokes?

Dejan Kovacevic: Hm. You're right. Forgot about that.

I wrote an early column for our print editions that managed to stick through most of our newspapers because the game didn't end until 12:13 a.m. It was about Fleury's future.

How about if I put it up on the blog when we get done here?

Comment From SeanAY: DK, in recent weeks and months you've said that it is all but a lock that the Penguins will re-sign Malkin and Letang this offseason, in that order of priority. In today's column, it seemed like you may be wavering ever so slightly. Do you think it's still a lock, or has this series - or overall play of those two in these playoffs, frankly - really affected the view of these two that a major shake-up may occur?

Dejan Kovacevic: “Ever so slightly” is about right. The ending to today's column, which has gotten most of the reaction from readers, is meant much more to open the discussion than to take a position.

I haven't done anywhere near the amount of cap-studying, roster-studying and all that's needed to take that position yet.

Just think everything should be on the table, that's all.

Comment From Mark G.: Dejan, is it in your DNA to ever admit, that you were wrong? You continuously say that Boston has not won any of the games, rather that Pittsburgh has lost the games. You seem to have the same naive thought process of those of the Penguins, which, is probably why they're down 0-3. It's time for you and the Penqs to look in the mirror and FINALLY admit, that Boston is the better TEAM, in this series. Yes, pitt has the better PLAYERS, but Boston, by far, has been the better TEAM.

Dejan Kovacevic: I didn't write any such thing about Games 2 or 3, Mark. But you understand, right, that a Pittsburgh readership is far more interested in what the Penguins are doing right or wrong than in the opponent?

And my sole specific points in those columns as related to the Bruins is that no defense and no goaltender should limit this offense to two goals over 11 periods without something being seriously amiss with this offense. Read today's column in particular, and I spent nearly 40 percent of it praising a great play by the Bruins.

But hey, whatever makes you angry, I guess.

Comment From PirateApologist: DK, Just wanted to give props to you for stating that Tomas Vokoun was Shero's best pickup this year.

Dejan Kovacevic: Most definitely undeserved. Much as I've backed Vokoun's signing and his play from Day 1, I'd be lying if I told you I thought he'd be this good.

Tomas Vokoun has been tremendous.

Maybe what happened last night will finally shut up everyone inventing reasons to think otherwise.

Comment From Naterosboro: Seems as if you're giving no credit to Boston for their 3-0 lead, as if the Pens are being beaten by a far inferior team. This is the ECF is it not? Don't you tip your cap sometimes?

Dejan Kovacevic: Forty percent of the column! Count the words! (Groan.)

Comment From theplanisworking: Been a pretty bad week for Pittsburgh sports. Give us something positive to look forward to!

Dejan Kovacevic: For real?

OK, I was over at the Steelers' OTAs this week — day before Ben Roethlisberger had the minor knee surgery — and came away impressed (yet again) with their top draft picks. Obviously, I'm not talking in the football sense all that much. When Mike Tomlin says “football in shorts,” he means it. Not much to see. But in dealing with Le'Veon Bell and, now again for the radio show, Jarvis Jones, these two just exude poise and confidence. That's especially true of Jones.

Know what I like about Jones so far?

The other linebackers, in particular Foote and Woodley, already are making noise about how tough it's going to be for him to beat out Jason Worilds.

Sure it is.

You don't even bother saying something like that unless you see it as likely.

Comment From Toook: Dejan — - you are Neal Huntington, and with pitchers falling left/right, do you call up Gerrit Cole, or do you bank on electric stuff Charlie Morton?

Dejan Kovacevic: I most assuredly am not Neal Huntington, but I don't call up Cole based on a major-league need any more than I would any major prospect. I know that's not popular but, for all the areas in which I've criticized this management for its lousy development — especially of pitchers — I've always been in favor of the patient approach in calling them up from Triple-A.

You don't want to see players make a backward step once they're up.

The Pirates are down three starters to injury now (Rodriguez, Gomez, Karstens) and one to whatever (McDonald), and it's up to their flood of depth and $52 million in draft spending to bail them out now. Shouldn't be a problem.

Comment From Lew: Are Mike Golic Jr. or Guy Whimper good enough to back up our offensive line or do you anticipate them signing another offensive lineman? Seems like the only backup we have for all 5 spots is Kelvin Beachum. And the way our line always seems to get hurt the depth has to be a concern.

Dejan Kovacevic: The Mike Adams incident should have made that clear for us this week at OTAs because Whimper, in particular, should have gone in at right tackle. But he didn't. Beachum took most of those reps for his first RT action of OTAs, even though Tomlin had been, as you point out, using him as the backup of all trades to that point, even backup snaps at center.

Maurkice Pouncey has had injuries in his career. I don't think you can have a backup center also being your top backup at RT.

I'm sure Adams' health will define what happens next.

Comment From Biz: Speaking of Wandy, have there been any reports as to what his injury may consist of?

Dejan Kovacevic: Follow the Trib's Pirates page and beat man Rob Biertempfel for news updates.

I'll tell you this: The next “forearm strain” that doesn't eventually get identified as an elbow issue will be the first. Everyone in baseball does this. Not sure why.

Comment From Shrivz: 0 and “way to many” on the powerplay last night. Kunitz spent 80% of the time no where in front of Rask. If only there was a magic way we could add a hall of famer into our top PP unit......

Dejan Kovacevic: Well, Iginla did take a power-play shift in OT and didn't look good, but then he hasn't really fit in down low on the Penguins' man-advantage at all since coming over. Where he should be — and should have been all along — is on the left point.

You're right about Kunitz. Everywhere but the front.

And a final power-play note: How any sane person watches how fantastic Paul Martin was last night and doesn't want him on the top power play is beyond me.

Hurt feelings if benching someone else?

Who cares?

Dejan Kovacevic: Let's do a little Tampa Bay Lightning round here before wrapping up ...

Comment From Jan: I know Dan Bylsma mixed d-pairings a lot last night, but who is considered Letang's partner? It seems he doesn't actually have one, and with his style of play, wouldn't he benefit from a consistent, stay at home partner?

Dejan Kovacevic: The D pairings were all over creation because of the aforementioned reliance on three guys rather than a steady top four. That doesn't help.

Comment From Guest: Maybe Letang is the solution on Malkin's right side. Doesn't seem like he particulary cares to play defense.

Dejan Kovacevic: Most definitely cares. Just doesn't always think it through.

Comment From Ken: Any changes to the D pairings for next game?

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes. Every single shift.

Comment From B Cic: How scary is it to see our teams playoff falter and to see the only talent in the system is MORE OFFENSIVE DEFENSEMEN??

Dejan Kovacevic: I wouldn't put Bryan Dumoulin in that category. He's probably closest of any of them.

Comment From Roy: Pens win one game?

Dejan Kovacevic: Sure, why not? I certainly didn't see any quit in them last night. We'll see if there's any in Game 4 rather quickly, I'd suspect.

Dejan Kovacevic: There must be tons of bats there ready to go. After all, I read a report in a national outlet — quoting one scout — that the Pirates have the best system in baseball. And said report actually got a rise out of all the usual corners.

If I write here that an American League scout with whom I spoke in the past week told me the Pirates have nothing at Triple-A or Double-A other than Cole and Jameson Taillon, and that their next real bat is Gregory Polanco all the way down in Single-A, that assessment means nothing, right?

One scout vs. one scout.

It's all about the position with which you enter the conversation and what you hope to cull from it.

Comment From nick: Wilkes-Barre already foreshadowed Pittsburgh. Whether the AHL or NHL, Pens in 7 after down 3-0, ha Dejan Kovacevic: You're right. I'd forgotten about that. For those who don't know, the Baby Penguins were down in their Calder Cup playoff series just recently by 3-0 and won the next four. It's outrageously rare, but it's happened.

Comment From Ryan: Spurs or Heat?

Dejan Kovacevic: Kings.

Comment From danny: Should Despres actually play next game? Could use the experience and provide more offense.

Dejan Kovacevic: I don't think you approach this as get-the-guy-some-experience. For all we know, jobs are on the line. They've got to play for the W.

That's not to suggest Despres wouldn't be a better option than, say, Engelland. But it might be fairer to go with Eaton, given that Despres hasn't played in such a long time.

Comment From DJH: Do the players in the room think they can win four in a row?

Dejan Kovacevic: James Neal certainly does.

Comment From Guest: Dont forget Baby Pens did that Boston's AHL team

Dejan Kovacevic: That's right.

Comment From Roy Fleury done here?

Dejan Kovacevic: Check the blog in a few minutes. I'll post that entire print-only column.

Comment From Burgh Steel: LETS GO PENS!

Dejan Kovacevic: See? Someone still believes.

That's all for this week. No point in giving you the column schedule until after the Penguins are out because they pretty much just run every day while they're in. The radio show is Tuesday, this chat Thursday, and the blog is like Jaromir Jagr: People spread rumors of its demise, but it keeps making the big plays at the big moments.

Thanks for participating! I'll put that Fleury piece up now.

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