Guest column: Time for Pens' Therrien to make his move
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Right about now is when those nicely-dressed guys who stand behind the benches start earning their cake.
One game into the second season and adjustments must be made, the post-season imperative that the loser in Game 1 is the guy who has to react.
Penguins coach Michel Therrien will react today.
"This is where you have to coach, make decisions, you've got to find a way to win games," said Therrien. "This is where you've got to change your lines sometimes. You can't be stubborn. We try and make adjustments for almost every game, and we've got to do adjustments for (today's) game, there's no doubt."
At the top of the list is finding somebody to help out Penguins star Sidney Crosby, especially 5-on-5.
Crosby played Game 1 with Gary Roberts and Colby Armstrong, but was only a threat, really, when the Art Ross Trophy winner was out there on the power play.
That gave him the room to get away from Ottawa defenders Chris Phillips and Anton Volcheknov, otherwise know as "Saran" and "Wrap," respectively.
It was interesting to listen to Crosby heading into Game 2 today. He stressed how important it was for him to keep his feet moving and draw penalties, as if resigned to the fact the power play is going to be the quickest and best way for him to have an impact on this series, which the Pens trail 1-0.
"I've got to move my feet, skate and I'm confident they're going to have to take penalties," said Crosby.
The Senators are deathly afraid of Crosby on the power play. He scored a late goal in Game 1 with a power move to the front of the net.
"He's a scary guy," said Senators coach Bryan Murray. "You watch him. Every shift he tries to do something, and he most often does something. He gets a little more play from a couple of other guys he can pass the puck to on the power play."
All of Crosby's points this season against the Senators have come on the power play.
He's got nothing at even-strength.
So, the Senators' biggest adjustment from Game 1 will be to try and at least cut in half the 10 power-play opportunities they gave the Penguins.
The challenge facing Therrien is to shuffle his lines to try and help make Crosby more of a factor 5-on-5.
"It's not only Crosby. That's got to kind of stop. For us, the team, we have to play a better game and we will. I'm confident we will," said Therrien. "There will be less surprise than the first game. Now, they know what to expect, so we expect better."
Therrien has played rookie of the year favorite Evgeni Malkin with Crosby this season. That might be one of his options today.
"He's another kid who can really shoot the puck. I don't want to encourage that move, but that's up to Michel," said Murray. "Whoever (Crosby) plays with, we have to make sure we don't let him get the puck back in the offensive zone."
Malkin didn't exactly make an impression, except on the boards, in Game 1.
He was run by Ottawa's Mike Comrie on the first shift and pretty much slipped off to the suburbs of Magnitorgorsk for the rest of the game until Ottawa's Christoph Schubert rang him up, drawing the ire of Therrien.
"But (Malkin) will be fine. Those type of players always find a way to have success," said Therrien. "The last game, they're playing physical. He's got to get used to that. We've got to make sure we respond to that physical game."
Therrien said the guys who are playing the best deserve the ice time, and based on Game 1, the best Penguins forwards were the 19-year-old Crosby, 18-year-old Jordan Staal and Michel Ouellet.
"We've got a plan regarding changing our lines. You go with a strategy. Sometimes you've got to change quick, especially with a young team, because with a young team, you try to use as much as you can the players who are on top of their game. Put them together," said Therrien.
"Jordan Staal doesn't stop amazing me, amazing his teammates, amazing a lot of people. He's got that composure. He's a good, two-way player. It's pretty scary to see a young kid coming off a tremendous season, the way he handles himself in his first game in the playoffs in the NHL. We've got a player there. We've got a good player there."
The Penguins are going to need much more than "a" good player today, even if his name is Sidney.