After what happened in the first round of last year’s Eastern Conference playoffs, it’s a little different seeing Craig Adams fighting Daniel Carcillo and not Max Talbot.
Pittsburgh Penguins (23-10-1, 47 pts.) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (15-16-1, 31 pts.)
However, coach Dan Bylsma had a decision to make and decided to sit Talbot for Eric Godard and his physical style of play. The gamble of sitting out one of the most popular players in the locker room paid off as the Penguins won, 6-1.
There undoubtedly were other candidates, but Talbot has struggled to find a groove since returning to the lineup from shoulder surgery. Talbot has appeared in 12 games since coming back from injury, registering just one goal and two assists.
“I don’t think it’s fair to assume he’s gonna be at the level that he was,” Bylsma said. “I don’t know the number of games that he’s played totally. Speaking from similar circumstances — other players, my career — it’s difficult getting set in in the middle of the season.”
Bylsma continued to say that there are several levels of getting acclimated to playing games on a regular basis. Training camp is one of them, which Talbot missed in its entirety, and Bylsma said that has put him a step behind the rest of the team.
“That’s a difficult thing to be put back in to,” Bylsma said. “Skating-wise, physical-wise, timing-wise, it’s a tough thing and it’s what Max has been dealing with. He’s worked really hard and (it’s) part of the process. He’s gotta keep gettin’ better at those aspects and keep gettin’ his game to a higher level.”
Talbot is a scratch again tonight, considering the Penguins won in such convincing fashion Tuesday night. Part of that success came from matching up physically with Philadelphia — a team renowned for pride in physicality.
What goes largely unmentioned is how gritty the Penguins have been so far this season. Pittsburgh leads the National Hockey League in hits with Brooks Orpik (112 hits), Matt Cooke (85) and Chris Kunitz (80) sitting in second, third and fourth in the individual hit standings.
The clear visual evidence came Tuesday night with three fights in 16 seconds.
“When you think of toughness obviously you think of fighting, but it’s more than that,” Sidney Crosby said. “It’s physical play and being in a team’s face. (It’s) playing the right way and not stupid and not being too aggressive, but playing a hard game of hockey.
“That’s the brand of hockey we wanna play. We wanna play a skilled game but be tough to play against. When we have success we’re seeing that.”
Facing an Philadelphia team that’s hearing it from the fans and the media will likely put Pittsburgh’s physicality on display again tonight in the second of back-to-back games.
“That’s the game, it’s who’s gonna play it better,” Crosby said. “Obviously we were able to do that last night, but if mentally we’re not ready to do the same things then it could flip pretty quickly. Both teams know what to expect from each other, it’s a matter of who can do it the best. Both teams are more than aware of what to expect when they play each other.”
- Bylsma commented on Guerin’s status after Wendesday’s practice at Southpointe: “He’s sore but (we’re) hoping it’s not more than that, hoping that tomorrow morning he’ll get on the ice and be fine to go for tomorrow night … I’m thinking he’s in the lineup, I’m preparing like he’s gonna be in the lineup tomorrow.”
- Bylsma was also asked about the atmosphere he expects in Philadelphia at the Wachovia Center: “Different arenas bring different atmospheres. We talk about controlling our emotions, playing the way we need to play, dictating and not letting other things come in to play. I would hope we don’t react, but I can’t always promise that.”
- When Crosby was asked about the treatment he faces every time he plays in Philadelphia, he said it has happened for so long now that anything different would seem weird to him. “That’s what I expect when I go to Philly,” he said.
Chris | PPT