Penguins Report: Closing Time 2012
Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 2:10 PM ET / Penguins Report
- Ray Shero & Dan Bylsma (4:30 PM).
- Sidney Crosby (5:05 PM).
- Evgeni Malkin (4:52 PM).
- Marc-Andre Fleury (5:11 PM).
- Kris Letang (5:53 PM).
- Brooks Orpik (5:30 PM).
- Jordan Staal (6:05 PM).
- James Neal (6:30 PM).
- Chris Kunitz (6:15 PM).
- Pascal Dupuis (6:23 PM).
- Matt Cooke (6:32 PM).
- Matt Niskanen (6:33 PM).
- Steve Sullivan (6:42 PM).
- Pens pics (2:10 PM).
- Pens pics II (7:00 PM).
- "You already know how this will end.." (7:15 PM).
- "Time for you to go back to the places you will be from..." (2:00 PM).
Well, that’s a wrap for the 2011-12 campaign. There were a lot of wonderful and unforgettable moments – from Geno hitting 50 to the 11-game winning streak to the C Revolution to Crosby’s comeback(s).
But all good things must end, including the Penguins Report (tear). As with every season, it is truly a blessing to be able to cover this team and this group of guys over an entire season. These players and coaches are really an amazing group of gentlemen. Good people. They’re always willing to deal with us media types (even after tough losses) and always handle themselves with grace and class. Without them there would be no Pens Report. They're cooperation is much appreciated.
I’d also like to thank all the people who have made the Penguins’ website the best in the NHL (in my pompous opinion). So many have contributed this season that I hope I don’t leave anyone out: Michelle Crechiolo; Kaitlin Zurawsky; Justin Criado; Brittany Goncar; Mark Cottington; Meghan McManimon; Mike Maraden; James Archer; Mike Canella; Zach Tyke; Christine Williams; Tara Kavanaugh; Steve Finerty; Mike Davenport; Leo McCafferty; Aaron Spiegel; Nick Shultz; Steve Mears; Beth Vietmeier; Katie O’Malley; Melissa Marchionna; Jason Seidling; and Jen Bullano. The staff has done a phenomenal job all season long of getting to their game. They’ve sacrificed a lot of time and hours (and often times sleep) to bring you the best Pens coverage.
But the biggest thanks of the season goes to the readers. After all, you guys are really what makes all of this coverage possible. So thank you all. I hope you’ve enjoyed the stories, blogs and videos as much we have in producing them. I wish we could be producing a few more weeks of content, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.
We are going to end today’s final Pens Report with the way that we start it everyday – with a song. To finish the season, here is DeVotchKa with “How It Ends.” Don’t forget to check back with us during the summer months for our coverage of the NHL Awards, NHL Draft, free agency, prospect camp and much more.
But for now, the Pens Report is a wrap. I hope everyone enjoys the summer. And remember – Let’s Go Pens!
Some final pics of the day...
Media interviews Evgeni Malkin
Sidney Crosby's final media scrum
On if he’d like to come back to Pittsburgh:
I’ll have to meet with Dan (Bylsma) and Ray (Shero) and see what their plans our. We’ll discuss it with the family. It’s not a decision for just myself anymore. It’s a family decision. We’ll see what the options are, discuss as a family and go from there.
On if he fit in well in Pittsburgh:
It’s been a great year. The transition was seamless. It’s not the way we wanted it to end. Fifty-one regular-season wins was really good. Great dressing room and great bunch of guys.
On why the team lost:
I would give you the same answers today about why I believe this team could win a Cup. It’s very disappointing it ended the way it did. We don’t have answers. If we would have had answers we would have fixed them before it comes to an end. It’s a question that eluded a lot of us.
On the players taking responsibility for the loss:
To a man we all feel responsible for it. It’s a team game. We can all have been better in some area or another. You win as a team and lose as a team. I can’t speak for anybody else but I can guess that we all feel responsible.
On the power play allowing shorthanded goals:
I’m not sure. Those three shorthanded goals definitely hurt us. It could have turned this series around. It gave them momentum. We’re proud of the fact that we’re able to score a lot of power-play goals. You want to create momentum on the power play by goals or good scoring chances. You definitely don't want to give them shorthanded goals.
On his foot injury:
It happened in the game in Boston. I took a Brian Rolston shot off the foot in the first period. I was able to finish the game, but after I took the skate off it was pretty painful. That being said, getting it shot up before games, it didn't deter from my play at all. I really couldn't feel the pain.
On how the players feel about the coach and GM taking responsibility:
That’s the kind of people they are. They shoulder a lot of that. They care a lot and have put a lot of time and effort into the season. At the end of the day, the players are the ones that are on the ice and have to make it work. We’re disappointed like they are. It’s kind of a crummy way to end it.
On if he wants to re-sign this summer:
Yeah I’ve fallen in love with this organization. I think I play my best here.I hope I’m back. That’s not entirely up to me. But hopefully everything works out where I can be back next year. I think I’ve found a home here and I’m comfortable here. Looking forward to being on a winning team again next year.
On if there have been any initial talks:
Not that I know of. I kind of stay out of that. My agent will keep me updated as that progresses, but nothing yet.
On why he thinks he’s played his best here:
It’s a good team to be around, for one. I have good players here, that helps. I think I had a real determined effort from the first moment this year in training camp. A lot of it was driven by work ethic and the determination to be ready to play, I think. Most of all, I think it’s just a great fit how we play here. It fits my strengths as a player and what I can bring. It’s a good fit.
On where they go from here:
Obviously it’s a huge disappointment. It’s not where anyone in this group or this organization intended to be. I think that’s what you take from it. You take the feeling, you take the bitterness, the uneasiness of it being over. You remember it and you use it as motivation moving forward. This is different than last year. Last year obviously was disappointing, but we were men down. Now, it’s execution and being able to get the job done and we weren’t able to.
On how the players feel about the coach and GM taking responsibility:
I guess I disagree being a part of it and being a guy who was on the ice every night and being a part of this dressing room. It’s each and every one of us as a group. It’s not a GM, it’s not a coach, it’s not a trainer, it’s not a left winger or a centerman. It’s a group. We win and lose as a team. Everyone, to a man, should have done something different. Should have been better. I know it’s easy to say now, but it’s how we feel as a group in this room.
On if he feels any personal frustration with the way he changed his game:
(The refs) have a job to do just as I do. I’m trying to focus and worry about the job that I do. Hopefully they’re doing the same. That’s the best that I can ask.
On if he’s proud of what he did this year:
I think proud’s probably the wrong word. I’m content with how my season went leading up to the playoffs. It’s a work in progress. It doesn’t just end now. It’s something that I’ll have to continue on for next year. I was able to make a change in my game and I’m happy for that. It’s an ongoing process and it’s something I’ll continue to have to work on.
On keeping Staal:
He’s one of the best defensive centermen in the game. That’s without disrespecting his offensive abilities, for sure. I would take him every time I could to be my centerman. Hopefully I get the chance next year. All that stuff is stuff we don’t control.
On if he would try to influence Staal’s decision at all:
I mean, if he reaches out to me and asks me, obviously I would. I would speak to him in terms that I understand and that I can speak from in my past experiences. That’s all I could do. He’s a grown man. Decisions are going to be made. At some point, we all have decisions to make. I think that, a lot of times, decisions are made on sole issues and sometimes you’ve got to think larger than that.
On how much the thumb affected him in playoffs:
I was able to play with it. It was alright. There’s definitely no excuses that way. Everyone was playing through a few bumps and bruises.
On how this feels compared to last year:
It’s just disappointing. We had a great team in this locker room and we had a chance to do a lot of good things. I think that’s why it’s most disappointing.
On if it’s possible to get over this quickly:
I definitely don’t think we’ll be getting over it easy. It’ll linger around for a bit. It was a great team in this locker room. We had a good chance to do a lot of good things. Just came up short.
On how he trained last summer and if he’ll do it again this offseason:
Yeah, I’ll do the same thing I always do. I go back and train with Gary Roberts. I’ve trained with him the last six years. It’s a great summer program. He’ll have me ready for next year.
On having a breakout season:
Just the comfort level here in Pittsburgh and being able to play with ‘Geno’ and having that kind of success was great. Hopefully we can continue that in years to come. That’s probably the only positive thing that you can take out of it.
On having a six-year deal:
This is the place I wanted to be for a long time. I felt like I fit in good with everything. That worked out great. Just looking forward to next year and getting back to where we want to be.
On why the team lost:
If you look at the record during the season we finished top-3 penalty killing. We didn’t do the job on that situation. We didn’t execute the right way. We did win 51 games in the season and six games later you lose four and you’re out. Everybody is disappointed. It’s a tough loss.
On losing the shot at the No. 1 seed:
We can’t look back at that. We felt pretty comfortable going into this series knowing that if we played the right way and executed we would have won. We didn’t do either of that and they came out on top.
On if the PK snowballed after early failure:
It’s a game of confidence. They gained some and we lost some as they were scoring every game. It’s one area of our game we felt comfortable, that we were doing well and are proud of usually. That’s what really killed us in the playoffs.
On his own year:
It’s not individual stuff we’re talking about. As a team we lost. I’m part of that team. I’m not going to talk about myself right now.
On if he wants the core to stay together:
I’ll take the same team and take another shot at it.
On the disappointing first-round loss:
It’s still disappointing. It’s kind of shocking almost. As to what went wrong, we gave up too many goals in the series, too much pressure on our goaltender to make a lot of odd-man chance saves to keep us in the game. Our special teams wasn’t very good. The power play was giving up goals. The penalty kill also. It was something that we needed to do better as a team as a whole and better situationally. We lost to a team that played well and played us hard.
On if it’s difficult to play defense in an up-tempo style:
That’s how we played all year. We went and got our chances. We still played well defensively. We had a goal of not giving up so many goals in the season. I think we were fairly close to that. I don’t know. It’s mind boggling how we went out and started 3-0 10 minutes into the series and 10 days later we were out.
On what he’ll work on in the offseason:
The strength, the mental aspect of the game, making sure you’re prepared, getting into your routine. You build into the offseason, focusing and training specific things. Maybe I’ll work on my shot or change sticks. But nothing out of the ordinary.
On if he expected to be talking about a second round series right now:
That was the hope. It’s still very shocking. We had a good team, good matchup. We just didn’t execute enough to be a team to move on.
On keeping the core group together:
I think that’s why they didn’t make any moves at the deadline. They believed in everybody in the room. For 82 games we played well, played as a team. For the six we played in the playoffs, we didn’t play our game. We didn’t play the way we should have or the way we have anticipating the whole year heading into the playoffs on a roll. I think we have everything here. We just didn’t execute to the fullest that we needed to.
On if he’ll avoid the Internet this summer:
I don’t really have Internet in my cottage anyway.
On how it’s possible to keep three centers happy:
That’s a very good question. I think that’s probably a better question for the coach. I’m very happy being in Pittsburgh and playing with these guys. I love playing here. We’ll see what the future holds.
On why he wouldn’t want to try the open market and see what’s out there:
I think just being here. Talking to a lot of guys that have came and left, they’ve always had a soft spot for Pittsburgh. They loved playing here. I love being here and I love the guys in the room. That’s a huge factor for myself.
On if this core can still win more Cups:
Yeah. It was a very disappointing playoffs this year. We’re still very happy with our core group that we have here and very confident that we can be a very good team for a long time. Hopefully that works out.
On how his season went:
Personally, I felt I had a very good season. It was a bit of a jump offensively, getting the opportunities. When Sid was out I played a lot more offensively and the points went up, which was great. It was a lot of fun this season.
On if they can bolster the team defensively but keeping three centers:
This series, defensively we weren’t quite there. We have a lot of firepower up front, a lot of guys who can score goals so that’s always positive. We’ve got to find a way to play tighter and a more sound defensive game.
On if they were easy to play against compared to past years:
I don’t know if we were easy to play against, but it was definitely not as tight and we definitely didn’t play frustrating hockey that can rattle a team. We kind of kept scoring, but we didn’t keep them off the scoreboard and keep the momentum away.
On if the Flyers’ depth was just too much:
I’m not sure if it was the depth. I think they had a good power play, but there was just one too many mistakes for our PK. We just didn’t do the job. Whether it was the depth or their players, I think it was still just an onus on our PK unit just not getting the job done.
On if his hip injury will rule him out of Worlds:
Yeah. Different injury, but the hip was an issue all year. We’ve been talking to the doctor and I think the best thing to do right now is to rest it.
On if any surgery will be needed:
We’re still talking with the doctor. So nothing yet.
On when the hip injury happened:
It’s been a few years. This year, it’s been a little struggle. That’s why last year, I didn’t go there either. This year, it’s been bothering me a little bit more.
On dealing with various injuries all season:
It was a tough season. The injuries, everything. It was tough to come back and get another one and having trouble like that. At the end of the day, I think the regular season was good for most of the guys in the dressing room. It’s too bad we ended our season the way we did.
On the coach and GM taking responsibility for the exit:
I think it’s the team. That includes everybody. From the coach, from every player, I think we’re a group. If we win, we win as a group. If we lose, we lose as a group. I think that’s the key. That’s always been the team. We didn’t play the way we were supposed to play and that’s the reason why we’re not playing right now.
On if he’d like to see this team get another shot:
If you look at our team, from every individual, we are a really good team. A special group, a great group of guys. I think we had a chance to do something special this year and kind of ruined it in the first round. I wish I could see the same faces next year.
On what he needs to do this summer to take his game to the next level:
I think emotionally, I can be more in control at times. I think I have to be more mature every year. I think I can improve in every aspect of the game. Offensively, defensively. I think I made strides this year despite the injuries. There’s always room for improvement.
On if potential hip surgery is a big concern:
No. Not at all. It’s not a major injury. It’s something, though, that can change your game and bother somebody who likes to skate like I do. It was just from a pain standpoint, being able to play with it.
On why he’s confident that this group can do something special:
Just knowing what we did this season with all the injuries and everything that happened to our team, it’s a good group of guys. I think everybody is tight. We’re good at every position. It’s just a question of putting everything together in the playoffs and being successful. Pretty confident with all the guys we have in the dressing room.
On early exits being a wakeup call:
It’s a good slap in the face. I can say it like that. Every time we come to training camp, the expectation is not to get in the playoffs. It’s to win the Stanley Cup. We have the group of guys that are able to make that happen. I think next year, when we come to training camp, it’s going to have to be our goal.
On how healthy he was this season:
This is the healthiest I’ve been going into a summer, so that’s the encouraging thing. I don’t think I’ve had a good summer in three years. I think the last good one I had was the year after we won the Cup. That was the last real training summer I had. So that’ll be good just to work on some stuff there and hopefully come to camp in the shape that I usually come in and actually have a training camp. I think that’s something that probably hurt me a little bit these last couple years. As much as we hate training camp, it’s something where you need to kind of get your timing and get in game shape. It’s something where sometimes when you do miss it, you try to tell yourself that it doesn’t matter and just try to move on by it. Hopefully, knock on wood, nothing comes up this summer. Definitely looking forward to having a good summer of working out.
On if he’s heard from Team USA about World Championships:
No. I had a text message from Jimmy Johannson this morning, who’s the head of USA Hockey, but it had nothing to do with World Championships. I wasn’t really thinking too much about World Championships. I was fresh off our loss here that I’m sure we’ll think about for awhile. I think the most important thing, for me personally and my situation, is to have a good summer of working out and get my body back to where it normally is.
On knowing how tough it’d be to recover from a 3-0 deficit even with a big Game 4 win:
We all knew the situation we created for ourselves. It was something that was going to be tough to come back from, especially against a team that was as good as Philadelphia. I still don’t think people have given Philadelphia enough credit for the series. It’s always about what we did wrong and our missed opportunities, which is definitely fair to point out, but they did a lot of good things that probably forced us into making a lot of the mistakes that we made. That’s what the next little bit is for, to kind of look back on the mistakes we made and see why those occurred. A lot of times, the initial sting in the first few days following the loss is not the best time to make judgments on certain things because your emotions will probably get the best of you. A lot of times they aren’t very good judgments. Just got to be patient with it and I’m sure everyone will look back on it and try to learn from it.
On how concerned he is with the CBA situation:
I wouldn’t say I’m concerned about it. I’m definitely interested in it. I think everybody is interested in it. We’ve had quite a few meetings the last two or three months, which almost the whole team attended. I know a lot of that hasn’t been publicized. I think there’s been more communication between the two sides than people are aware of. I think both sides are pretty optimistic something will get done. I think there’s too much to lose after the last one we had to have another work stoppage.
On the flavor of those meetings:
From the players, we were really just absorbing a lot of the information. With Don Fehr being a new director in place, who’s a really, really knowledgeable guy, it was basically just kind of grabbing his ideas and seeing what he thinks is ahead here for us. I think he was just trying to get a feel for what we were willing to give up and what was important to us. I think those are more general meetings. I’m sure we’ll get a little more intense in the next couple months here.
On if he’s had any correspondence with Canada about World Championships:
Yeah, but I think they promised the first spot to Cam Ward. So I feel like I would be going and I don’t think I would have played. So I’m going to pass.
On what changed for the penalty kill:
I think they have good players out there, definitely. I think they got a few quick ones on us early on in the series and after that, it just seemed like everybody was trying to do too much and block them and stuff. Sometimes we got out of position instead of just being patient and waiting for them.
On what they can do to carry over their regular-season success into the playoffs:
We thought we were doing all right. We had a big win in the last game of the year against (the Flyers) at home. We had a good season and I think everybody was confident going into the playoffs with everybody we have on the team. I don’t know, it just seems like a couple bad things happen here and there. We lose that first game and then it starts going. The next game they scored all of the goals and that gets everybody thinking and trying to do more, maybe more than what we should have. It’s a long season. I think you can work through it a lot. But in the playoffs, everything happens quick. I think you’ve got to be able to reset after every game no matter what happens.
On how he feels about this team’s future:
Good. I think we have a great group of guys. A lot of guys are still under contract. It’s definitely disappointing to be out right now, that quick. I think we faced a good team. We had a pretty solid season. We fought for first place in our conference and in the league. I’ll be confident going back with these guys again.
On if he’ll be as confident in himself:
I’m not happy with the ending of it, that’s for sure. I wish I could be playing hockey still. I felt like we had such a good team and everybody was expecting to keep playing. It’s very frustrating to be done now and to be going home. We’ve got to do all the work again, get back working out, back at training camp and a full season. It takes a long time to get back to the playoffs. Once we’re there, I think we’ve got to make the best out of it.
On if Giroux’s early goal in Game 6 rattled him:
Not really. They had a few in this series, and every time they scored first we won the game. I wasn’t too bothered with it. The guy walked in the slot, took a shot and it went off the post and in. It’s early. They have the momentum of the game, but you have to be able to just forget about it and move on. I was still confident that we could come back in that game.
On if it’s two of the goals in Game 3 that he regrets the most:
It just seemed everything was not going my way all playoffs. It seemed like there were some crazy goals. I think Max (Talbot) just tossed it back to the net, I put my hand on it and it was just rolling, hit the back of my glove and ended up in the net. I was just like, what?! Just too many goals, puck was hanging around or it got tipped or would come back between my legs. It happened. I wasn’t happy with it, that’s for sure.
On if they wished they would have buckled down defensively at the end of the year:
I think we tried to play the same way pretty much all year. I think we have a very talented team that’s very offensive-minded. I don’t think it was that much of a problem in the season. We did pretty well. We knew the Flyers were going to be a very skilled team and had a good power play and all that. I don’t know, they just got the best of us.
On his health:
It’s pretty good. I took a couple hits in the last couple games. I would have liked to feel a little bit better after, but right now it’s just to make sure I have a healthy summer and feel good coming into next season. That’s the most important thing. That’s where I’m at. I want to have a good summer.
On if he had any other injuries:
No, I feel pretty good. The last year and a half has been tough to stay healthy. I think the best thing to do is give myself a full summer and get ready for next year and have a full season.
On Staal’s importance to the team:
He’s very important. He’s shown that for a long time here. He’s a complete player. He plays against teams' top players. He’s able to produce offensively as well. He’s a big part of our team. As far as contracts, that’s stuff you leave up to guys individually and they’ll handle to that. As a teammate I have a lot of respect for him. I hope that he’ll be around for a long time.
On his own future:
I don’t think there’s any real definitive decision there. It’s going to be something that the team and I will both wait to see what makes sense. It’s hard being in the situation that it is with the CBA. Typically you’d start talking soon. It might be a matter of waiting to see how it plays out and what makes sense for both sides.
On not being permitted to negotiate until July 1 due to CBA:
Exactly. In a typical year, when I look back to the last time, July 1st you pretty much knew that was something that would come up. Now we might wait and see what makes sense with the CBA.
On why the team lost to Philadelphia:
At the end of the day you try to put yourself in position to have a good transition from the regular season to the playoffs. I think we did a pretty good job of that. Down the stretch we were guilty of letting a few more goals in than we would have liked. We had leads in those first couple games. You can’t sit there and say we had our options. At the end of the day you have to play and execute. We didn’t do that. I think everyone always wants an explanation, as they should. At the end of the day you have to play. That’s automatic. You have to make sure you execute and we didn’t do that.
On playing desperate hockey:
Guys’ effort, want and care was all there. There is no doubt about that. It wasn’t a lack of effort by any means. Any guy to a man would agree with that. At the end of the day as a team we didn’t execute. It wasn’t one guy. We all made mistakes individually at different points. You just can’t afford to have that many mistakes and give up as many goals as we did in a playoff series and expect to win.
On if the three-center model works:
We’ve shown it works. That being said, as a player it’s tough to ask. That’s a decision for Ray (Shero) to make and how he sees the team performing its best. We’ve shown that three centers can work. There is not doubt there. That’ll be up to Ray.
On if he wants to get a deal done:
That’s the plan. If there is no CBA discussion I would expect to be talking July 1st. But that’s the only thing holding both sides to wait a bit. That’s the only thing.
On how much responsibility the players take for losing in the first round:
We all do. Nobody is trying to hide from that. We’re all disappointed with the way things ended. We expected much better. Unfortunately there is nothing we can do about it now. We have to learn from this and be better for it. If anything the last few years we’ve realized it’s tough to win. Just because you’ve won before doesn’t mean you don’t have to show up in the first round of playoffs and walk through it. You have to learn lessons like that sometimes. We had a tough one this year. I think we’ll be better for it. It’s a learning situation here.
On if he had any symptoms after the collisions in the playoff games:
No, I felt good.
On not playing in World Championships:
It would have been a great situation for me. I’m not hiding from the World Championships. In a typical year, I’ve got my old coach and assistant coach there. They’ve got a great team. Typically I’d be there in a second. This isn’t a normal situation. This isn’t me trying to hide from the World Championships. I love playing for Team Canada. No one can question that. Anyone that questions that right now doesn’t know me or isn’t thinking right. I don’t have anything to say to that.
On people questioning the leadership and character of the room:
You don’t like to hear that. When you talk to guys that have been here for a while, we take that personally. That being said, we did lose in the first round. That’s our responsibility. We have to take that criticism. Whether or not we feel that was an issue, we might not agree there, but people are more than welcome to criticize that. They’re not happy. We’re not happy either. Everyone is trying to look for reasons. We’re trying to evaluate what we did or what we could have done better. That’s always the case when you lose. That’s how it works.
On if he is healthy:
Yup. Everything is good. I feel good.
On if keeping the three-center model is important for this team:
I think it’s very important. I’d like to stay here, myself. I think with Staalsy and Sid, first of all fans love those two guys. We still have a good team. This year, it did not turn out great but we have a chance every year.
On if he’ll go to the World Championships:
Yep. We leave for Moscow May 2. I’ll meet the national team in Moscow on May 2.
On playing for Russia:
Really I don’t have a choice if we lose here. I want to win the World Championships too.
On what he wants to work on this summer:
First of all, I want to work hard again with (strength coach) Mike Kadar and just work my knee again, my physical (strength) a little bit more and we’ll see next year. I feel great and I want to win again.
On if he wants to have a similar summer to last year’s:
Yeah. I don’t think I’m going to change because I had a great year. Nothing will change.
On if he invited Kadar back to Moscow:
Yeah, he loved Moscow. We haven’t talked yet, but I think he’s coming.
On how disappointing the playoffs were for him:
Of course they were disappointing. We lost in the first round. It’s not what we want. But Philly is a great team and tough to play against. It’s a tough feeling now but maybe next year.
On if their system can translate to the playoffs:
It’s hard to say because we won 51 games in the regular season. It’s tough to change. I think it works because we won two games. The first game we had bad luck, we lost in overtime. I think it works, but sometimes (we took) bad penalties and they did a great job on the power play. They scored lots of goals. So I don’t know. It’s tough to say. We won the Stanley Cup with the same system, so I think it works.
On if he’d like to kill penalties:
It’s tough to say. Guys did a great job all year. It’s tough to play 4-on-5. It’s very hard. Philly had (Claude) Giroux, (Kimmo) Timonen – it’s five great players. I think they did a great job, but maybe sometimes we had bad luck.
On if he’s surprised his line was shut down by Couturier’s:
We tried to work hard. Sometimes we just can’t score. I know (Ilya) Bryzgalov did a great job too. I don’t know. It’s a tough question. ‘Nealsy’ (James Neal) didn’t play one game and Couturier, every time I had the puck he was coming close to me.
On when he last played on the penalty kill:
I like to play (on the PK). It’s always nice but it doesn’t matter if it’s penalty kill or power play. It was a pretty long time. I always played (on the PK) in Magnitogorsk. I played power play and PK. Sometimes I scored shorthanded goals, too. Cheat a little bit (laughs). Since I’ve been here, I have not played there.
On how many shorthanded goals he had:
I scored one for sure. Not a lot like Staalsy. I like playing it, but tough to play 20 minutes plus PK.
GENERAL MANAGER RAY SHERO
Thank you everybody for coming. I appreciate you guys showing up today. Just a few things to start off. I’ll make a few remarks here and then we can open it up for some questions. Firstly, I would like to thank everyone for coming, like I said, and congratulate the Philadelphia Flyers, Peter Laviolette their head coach and Paul Holmgren their general manager. They played a terrific series and proved they were the better team. We knew that going into this series that they were a high-scoring team. They gave us problems all year long and certainly over a six-game series proved to be the better team. Congratulations to them and good luck to them moving forward. Just a quick recap on our season, our regular season. There are a lot of things to be proud of. We appreciate again the fan support. Our Game 5 in the playoffs showed how special this place can be. The fan support was tremendous. Looking back at the regular season with 51 wins, the amount of points that we had, obviously a lot of individual milestones and a lot of things to be proud of. Heading into the playoffs we were a confident team. We knew we were playing a good opponent in Philadelphia. Having said that, 188 days in the regular season went down and kind of unraveled for us in 10 days. The disappointment that our team feels and I feel in our hockey club is a tough one to take. I think that the problem is that we have what we feel is a real good team. We proved that over the course of the year, but we played those games to get into the playoffs. That is where you prove how good you can be and this year we fell short. I have a lot of belief in our head coach Dan Bylsma. He’s the right coach for this hockey team. We are fortunate to have him. We have a lot of things moving forward that we have to work on, decisions we have to make. Every summer, when we lost in the Final we had a lot of decisions to make. When we won the Cup, a lot of decisions to make. And certainly while the core of our team is the right ages, its an advantage form for us. It’s obviously a situation where moving forward we have to make some major decisions based on the collective agreement the way it is and not knowing how it’s going to be moving forward. It’s a big summer for us and we’re going to take the next two months probably to sort through this. I met with the coaching staff for about three hours yesterday just to get a head start here. It’s going to take some time to sort through this, then talk about our team, evaluate our personnel and make some decisions here. Having said that, I’d like to open it up to some questions.
On if he thinks the Penguins are too easy to play against:
I don’t think we were easy to play against. Physically we played the game the right way, we defended the right way. Go back to when we lost to Montreal, we made the decision that we wanted to get better defensively. At that point when we lost to Montreal in the playoffs we were 20th that season in goals against. Our goal going into the next offseason was to get under 200 (goals allowed). That’s our goal every year now. In the next year we were 196. Obviously we signed (Zbynek Michalek) and Paul Martin. I think we went from 20th to I think 6th in the league. We’ve always been a team, including this year, that’s in the top five of shots against. We don’t give up a lot of shots. That’s hard to play against. Our penalty killing has been amongst the best the last couple of years and certainly fell apart in the playoffs. Our power play, it’s a situation where we always wanted to improve upon that. We got there this year. We have a very good playoff team. Same thing in the playoffs, but it’s negated by the fact that we gave up three shorthanded goals. In terms of a hard team to play against, we had 51 wins so I think we are difficult to play against.
On re-signing Jordan Staal and Sidney Crosby:
I’m not sure. I need to sit down with them over the next month or so, have some conversation with them and see where we are. Our goal is to re-sign both of them. I think they’re both special hockey players. They’re great assets; they’re at a young age; they’re in their prime. Until we can sit down in the next month or so, and especially make some personal decisions, we’re going into summer time where at this point we don’t have a CBA. I’m running business as usual and my business would be to try and re-sign some players here.
On the future of Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek:
They both have three years left on their contract. When we signed (Paul Martin) and Zbynek Michalek, as I just mentioned in another question, we went from 20th in goals to under 200, which was sixth in the league I believe. They were a big part of that. When we talk about our defense, when you give up 30 goals in a playoff series that’s not good. I appreciate the question, but both players are really good players in this league. They’ve proven that over the course of their careers. Paul Martin, over the last 20 games of the regular season was a plus-13. They’re good hockey players. When we talk about defense we talk about defense as six guys on the ice. Over the course of six games that failed us terribly. Over the last 11 games of the regular season it actually failed us. When I look back at the last 11 games of the season we were 7-4, but their goals against was about 3.75, which kind of led us into the playoffs probably. You take a look at the pervious 12 games to that we were 11-0-1. We gave up 20 goals in 12 games and this team is capable of doing that and we didn’t do it at the right time. All the decisions we have moving forward will be made over the next couple of months. We’ll see what happens.
On if they will look at intangibles during the offseason:
I think you need to look at all of those things. As a general manager I signed everyone of those players, re-signed for them or traded for them. I’m responsible for the outcome of the playoffs. I’m responsible for the performance of the hockey team. When you lose in six games I have to accept that. That’s my job. Our group in the playoffs this year to a man, we did not do the job. We underperformed. We have to figure out the reason why and that starts with me. I just had a meeting with our players and gave them my thoughts about our season and playoffs. The one thing I won’t question is this team’s leadership and character. With what they’ve gone through over a two-year period they showed great resolve. Why it unraveled in 10 days, that’s my job to try and figure out. That’s not a question. This group of players wanted to win desperately. They cared. They tried. They worked. Our execution was not good throughout the series, a lot of that due to Philadelphia probably to give them credit. It’s not the way we were built to play and whether it was a matchup, it didn’t matter. At some point we were going to play Philadelphia and they’re not going away. But our leadership, our character, those intangibles, we’ve got a really strong leadership and we’ve shown that. With 214 points over the last two years and our problem, it’s the biggest problem, is losing in the first round. We missed out on a really good opportunity for this hockey club.
On if Philadelphia brought out the deficiencies:
We’ve proven in the past that we can make it to a Final and with the Stanley Cup with this group. In terms of matchup with Philadelphia, it’s hard to really figure some of these things out. Philadelphia is a team we had problems with during the regular season and the playoffs. The Rangers are still playing and they’re the team that finished first in our conference and we played pretty well against them. They’re a team that beat Philadelphia all six times. I’m not sure how you figure that out. Philadelphia is going to be there and I believe we’re going to be there. For two years in a row we did this to them and I know how they felt. It’s not a good feeling to lose, especially not to your in-state rival. But having said that I think this is a group that is at the right age. A core of these guys have one the Cup, did it at a young age. Still some of these guys are 24, 25, maybe turning 26-years-old. They’ve achieved a lot, but this leagues tough. We see it now. There are 19 teams like us sitting out right now, some real good ones too. It’s a school of hard knocks and we’re going to see if we can bounce back.
On if they are going to consider to change the depth down the middle:
They’re three great young players and I think with anything we just have to take a look over the next couple of months and just see exactly where we are. Maybe in the next couple of months we’ll have a CBA and we’ll know what we’re doing. Right now we are going to operate business as usual, try to re-sign a couple of players. That’s a model that has worked in the past. Whether it’s going to work in the future we’re going to have to wait and see. They’re three great players. These are assets that have really delivered for us in the past. We just need to figure out where we are going to have to go in the future. That’s where I reference that most summers are really big. This summer is really big for us as will next summer. We’ll have to make those decisions moving forward.
On if you would rethink developing young defensemen in the NHL versus Wilkes-Barre:
I think you are always open to that. I think depending on who the player is and how along he is. I’ve seen in the past, when I was in Nashville Shea Weber and Ryan Suter spent time in the minors. In Shea’s situation more than a year. Kris Letang spent some time there and was called back up. I think it all depends on the player, his maturity level, where he is in his game. We do have some young defensemen that are coming which we are fortunate to have. We look forward to seeing them. You just have see exactly what the makeup of your team is and go from there. We would really like to develop Simon Despres this year as a young defenseman. Brian Strait has really come along in his three years and he’s been developed. We have some guys there in Wilkes-Barre that are playing well so we’ll see. This will be part of the conversations that we have and maybe part of whatever the new CBA is going to be as to how you are going to construct your team.
On the health of the team going into the summer and if they want players to play World Championships:
It’s certainly up to them if they want to represent their country if asked. We have our physicals here at 3 o’clock so we’ll have a much better idea of where our players are physically. I know Sid’s been asked to play for Canada. James Neal, Kris Letang, Jordan Staal and Evgeni Malkin for Russia, Zbynek Michalek for Czeh and there are some medical issues with a few of these players. James Neal probably is going to have to pass because of his thumb injury. Just some injuries we are dealing with in the end, Neal with a thumb, which he had to get shot up to play. Steve Sullivan’s foot had to get shot up to play. Matt Niskanen with a shoulder had to get shot up to play. Kris Letang is dealing with a hip issue. He’s been asked by Canada to play. We have to see what the doctors say here with his hip, whether he needs rest or whatever. It’s a great opportunity for some of these players to play if they are physically able. If they are asked we encourage them. If they have medical issues then obviously that’s a different story.
On if Sidney Crosby had any medical issues at the end of the series:
Not that I’m aware of. I haven’t seen Sid since the end of Game 6. We’ll see him today and the rest of the guys including Kris. We’ll see how his hip is and see how everybody else is doing.
On if anyone will be looking at surgery or significant time off;
No. I think it’s just a matter of time. No surgeries that I’m aware of. I don’t think there are any surgeries that I’m aware of at this point. Obviously, if there are we’ll update you at that point.
On if there are any staff change possibilities:
No, I like our coaching staff. This is the unfortunate part of where we sit today. As I said in 188 days of playing well, playing with pride, getting to a certain point and overcoming a lot of things. In 10 days how we play as a result and these are the questions I get asked, which I understand and those are always the questions you have to ask yourself as a manager. As I mentioned with Dan Bylsma, Dan’s our coach. Dan’s a great coach and we are fortunate to have him. Tony Granato, no one is more disappointed then Tony with how the PK worked in the playoffs. For every blame he is going to get for that he’s certainly going to get the credit for the last two years for being first (place) two years ago and being third this year in penalty killing. Todd Reirden oversees with Dan our power play. It was obviously really good this year, where we wanted to get to. I like our staff in the terms of the coaching aspect of it. I’m anticipating moving forward with all our people there.
(Shero added after that Paul Martin suffered from concussion-like symptoms)
HEAD COACH DAN BYLSMA
On how they can keep the three-center model with satisfaction to all:
I think again, they each aren’t diminished or take a back seat or do anything different when they’re all three in the middle. Jordan Staal, his matchup, his minutes and what he does is the same regardless of if Sid and Geno are playing. (They are) basically the same for Sid and Geno. I think those three guys down the middle is the three best centermen down the middle of any team. That’s what we’ve had success with. Again it makes matchup pairs and so forth for other teams really difficult. We’re going to go forward with it.
On what were the major components that didn’t allow the team to beat Philadelphia:
I know as a coach I believe and believed in the players that we have, the team we have, how we play and what we do as a team. I think Ray Shero has put a very good cast of players together as a GM. We believe in how we play. We believe in what we do. The disappointing part is 10 days ago you would have asked me, “How (good of) a penalty kill team we are,” I would have said we are a very good one, confident in that area and a very good group. We’ve shown that. That’s really the disappointing part, how we lost and the circumstances in which we lost. We did not play at our best. Our team was not at our best. We believe in our players and the character and the desire. The want of our character, of our players, but we weren’t at our best. As a coach I take responsibility for that situation. We weren’t at our best. That’s really the disappointing part. Our team was good in a lot of areas, showed what we were and how we played. We weren’t at our best in a series against a good team and that’s something I certainly take responsibility for. I have questions about exactly what happened with situations like our penalty kill that went roughly from a 90-percent group to a 50-percent group. A power play that was a successful part of our team, that gave up three shorthanded goals that were big factors. A team that showed could play defense a certain way for the season and gave up over five goals a game for the playoffs. Those are the strange and difficult parts about how we lost.
On the increase in goals and goals against after Sidney Crosby’s return:
Given the number of goals we gave up and the goals in that time period and the goals we gave up in the playoffs, that’s part of the difficulty and the disappointment. I think we showed we were a team that didn’t give up a lead in the third period, minus three overtime or shootout situations, in the 29 games in the regular season. That was a huge factor in Games 1 and 2 when we had leads after first periods. Did we not know how to defend? Did we not play up to the way that we play in those time periods? That’s the disappointing part of the situation. We weren’t at our best and (those are) certainly questions that we are looking at. Sidney Crosby knows how to play defense. Sidney Crosby’s a good net aspect, as is our team. We just didn’t do that in the playoffs in situations when we were up 3-0 or up 3-1 after one period.
On the changes in Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin:
I don’t have a real good specific answer for that. I know those guys are counted on for our team to play defensive minutes in defensive situations against good players. This year they went through a stretch of time where they weren’t getting the results., on the back end of a lot of goals against. You see once that was broken up and we went with different pairings Paul Martin went from a minus player to a plus-19 or plus-17 in his last 19 games. Those guys are a part of our defense. They are a part of the guys who play against other teams’ good players. They’re good players. Zbynek Michalek was a huge part of the penalty kill and had a big plus in that regard. That month where they didn’t do well together, Paul Martin went to Kris Letang for a paring. That was a pairing that we’ve used for the better part of two months the previous year and they had good results together. (Brooks Orpik) and “Z” went together as a pair. They killed penalties for two years together, they played a lot of time together. I thought that break up and getting pairings was a big thing for both those guys getting back to defending the way they had been for us.
On if it’s business as usual in the offseason:
There is a lot of speculation in that question. I’m not going to give you that much speculation because I anticipate business as usual. I’m not really in tune with the labor negotiations, the labor agreement, what that might bring. I anticipate coming back, under I don’t know what kind of rules, to play next season. I know there are some things about that labor agreement that would indicate contract situations- when you can re-sign, if you can re-sign and so forth with players and free agency. Right now I know the rules would indicate that this is the team or certain things about the team are going to come back next year. Sid, Geno and Jordan Staal are going to be our three centermen that are on our team. And part of that as well as the other guys are going to have as a nucleolus come back. That will be what we operate under. We are going to have free agency and those things happen, but we are going to operate in terms of the rules, guys coming back and the contracts with business as usually.
On team chemistry:
There are a lot of things that are disappointing about losing in the first round and how we lost. One of the things is not the character and the work ethic of our team. I believe in our players. I believe in our leadership and the guys we have in that room. I think they’ve shown that at different times. The difficulty of dealing with this loss is that it’s hard to put your arms around. I think the penalty kill is a great indication. We gave up 50 percent of goals in the penalty kill of a group of guys you believe in, are great penalty killers, have done great things. We came up way short here. It’s a big factor in the series. Our players, I believe in that group, believe in the way we play and what we believe in. We just played uncharacteristic. We weren’t at our best. That’s the difficulty of putting our arms around losing in six games after having played the 82 before that and how we played it.
On the desperation between both teams in Game 6:
I think in Game 6, I think the first shift was obviously a big shift. Thirty seconds in or so they’ve got the first goal of the game. Oddly enough I felt that the first goal of the game hasn’t been a good indicator so I almost got a false sense of this games going to hold true to the first five. We just got the leading indicator that we’re going to win. I think the second goal in that game was a big goal for the (Flyers), and the third goal. We were desperately trying to get back into a game and get back to that game knowing the desperate circumstances we were in. I really think the second goal, it being on a power play, led to the desperation of our team going out of our comfort level of playing our way. You saw that I think in some of the situations in the second period for our team. We gave up a number of 3-on-2s and 2-on-1s against when we were desperately trying to find goals to get back in that game and get back to a situation to where we could draw it within one.
On if there wasn’t enough of net-front presence defensively:
It’s a great point. I think one thing in this series we did do was we made it tough on their defensemen with forecheck and playing the offensive zone. Something that we did not seem to be able to do was make it difficult on their team to play offense and make it hard on them around the net. I contribute a lot of that to the success on their power play. (With) players like (Claude Giroux), (Danny Briere) and (Jakub Voracek) having a lot of success on the power play. It makes them feel good about their game. They certainly did that so it was a factor. I don’t know if we deterred them enough and their forward group away from the net, playing offense and been as hard on that group as we need to be in the course of the series.
On obstruction coming back into the game:
I actually thought they called more penalties in the postseason in terms of that type of thing. We saw some trends at different points in the season, but I thought they called more penalties. There were more penalties called in the game when it came to interference and those types of things. Again it was a factor for our team. It was tough for our players in the offensive zone. You have to credit Philly for that and the way they played and the way they defended. I don’t think we did that as much as we needed to, to deter their good group of forwards, which we knew they were going to be able to score goals much like our own team. We didn’t deter them enough.
The equipment staff has set up the locker room for the Penguins arrival...
No doubt the hardest day of the year is “Get Away Day.”
Today is the official ending for the 2011-12 season as the players, coaches and staff gather at CONSOL Energy for the final time. The players will have exit physicals, individual exit meetings with coaches and clean out their lockers.
Each player will receive an evaluation of his play during the year from the coaches, advice on areas to improve during the summer and are given an offseason program with workouts and skill drills for the months ahead.
It’s a somber reality that hangs in the air on this day. Friends bid each other farewell not knowing if they’ll be teammates next season. The makeup of the team and lineup changes from year to year, even if some changes are only minor. So today is the final chance for this particular group of guys, who have battled together all season, to say goodbye to their teammates.
It’s also our final Penguins Report of the season. We’ll interview as many guys as we can for you, and say our own goodbyes. We’ll also be bringing you the season-ending media conferences with GM Ray Shero and head coach Dan Bylsma (which will be streamed live at approx. 2:30 p.m.). So stay tuned throughout the day for comments, pictures and videos as we bid the Pens farewell.
In keeping with tradition, for the third straight year we’ll start Get Away Day with “Closing Time” by Semisonic. Sigh.