Penguins Notebook: Therrien admits rapid progress is surprise
Saturday, February 10, 2007
By Dave Molinari, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
TORONTO -- It's almost guaranteed that someone out there was convinced four months ago that the Penguins would have 65 points after 54 games.
But odds are it wasn't anyone on the team's payroll.
"We've kind of surprised the hockey world," coach Michel Therrien said after practice yesterday at the Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto. "We all realized that we have some great young kids, but the progress is a little bit faster than people were expecting. And than we were expecting, as well."
The Penguins earned four points with 4-1 and 8-2 victories against the Toronto Maple Leafs, whom they will face at 7:08 p.m. today at the Air Canada Centre.
Despite the convincing nature of those victories, however, the Penguins are wary of proclaiming they have a clear edge over Toronto.
"You never know when you've caught them on an off-night," center Dominic Moore said. "When we've only played them twice, it's hard to gauge that."
The Penguins are on a 10-0-2 roll, but the Maple Leafs have been hot lately, too. They had a five-game winning streak before a 4-2 loss Thursday at Nashville.
"We have to be ready because they've won a lot of games lately," right winger Michel Ouellet said.
True, but the Penguins have an advantage in team speed, an asset they have used quite effectively of late. They also have developed a strong belief in their abilities.
"We know we're playing well now," Moore said. "We know we're confident. We expect to win every game we play, no matter who it is [against], if we play up to our capabilities and play the way we should."
Not so hot
Although Sidney Crosby scored the deciding shootout goal in the Penguins' 5-4 victory Thursday in Philadelphia, the Flyers shut him out in regulation and overtime for just the second time in 15 career meetings.
His linemates, Mark Recchi and Ryan Malone, didn't have terribly productive evenings, either.
Although Recchi got a goal, neither Crosby nor Malone was on the ice at the time, and Malone was one of only three Penguins skaters who failed to record a shot on goal.
"We're looked at to create offense, and we didn't do that," Crosby said. "We have to be better."
How slow is slow?
Watching Erik Christensen's shootout attempt Thursday was almost like witnessing a slow-motion replay.
In real time.
Christensen moved so deliberately that he seemed to be in real danger of becoming the first player ever penalized for delay of game on a penalty shot. He insisted, though, that he felt he was proceeding at a fairly normal pace before being denied by Flyers goalie Antero Niittymaki.
"Everyone's saying that I was going in slow," he said. "I didn't feel like I was going in slow. The last couple [of shootout attempts] I'd had, I felt the same.
"I try not to go in with so much speed that I'm going to mishandle the puck, possibly. I sort of stumbled on a piece of ice right when I picked up the puck [at center ice] and it threw me off a bit, with my concentration. But that's not an excuse."
No time to agonize
The Penguins weren't pleased with their failure to protect a two-goal lead in the third period Thursday, but weren't agonizing over the point Philadelphia salvaged when Mike Knuble scored with less than two minutes left in regulation.
No surprise there, considering the Flyers not only trail the Penguins by 31 points in the Atlantic Division, but are a near-lock to finish last in the overall standings.
"It's not exactly like giving one to the [New York] Islanders or Tampa Bay," defenseman Ryan Whitney said.
Crosby attracted a large contingent of reporters and photographers to the Penguins' workout. ... Toronto is playing without agitator Darcy Tucker, who has made only one appearance since a foot injury Dec. 26 and is expected to be out for at least several more weeks. ... Penguins winger Nils Ekman, recovering from a dislocated elbow, skated with conditioning coach Stephane Dube again before practice yesterday.