A Message for the Penguins: Get Back to Basics – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

A Message for the Penguins: Get Back to Basics

A year can do a lot to your memory. Especially when you get to be my age.

I’m trying to part the haze and remember how the Penguins played last spring. Every once in a while an image pops through.


Fast comes to mind. Jet fast. And precise. I recall us advancing the puck with a combination of crisp, tape-to-tape passes.

If we dumped the puck in? Speedy forwards like Bryan Rust arrived lickety-split, ready to make a play.

“It’s reading and reacting and understanding that the faster you can be, the faster you can do things, it puts your teammates in a better situation when they get the puck,” noted Pens forward Chris Kunitz. “Gives them more time to make that next play, catch someone else out of position.”

THN scribe Matt Larkin coined a phrase for it. Organized chaos.

Excuse me for saying so. But the only chaos I’ve witnessed this postseason—organized or otherwise—has occurred in the Penguins’ zone…often in close proximity to goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

My long-winded way of saying we haven’t played the way we should.

It isn’t that our guys aren’t trying, Lord knows. They’re on pace to block more shots than finger-wagging Dikembe Mutombo in his prime. Our captain Sidney Crosby, recently concussed, practically launched himself through the end boards in a desperate attempt to score in Game Six. Patric Hornqvist pushes himself to the limit—and beyond—each and every shift. So do the other guys.

No, effort isn’t a problem.

Our physical well-being? That’s another matter.

The Pens are beat up. The cumulative effect of last spring’s Cup run, plus a long and arduous regular season clearly have taken a toll, to say nothing of eleven bruising playoff games against two brutish Metro Division rivals.

Indeed, our guys have absorbed 412 hits this spring, a whopping average of 37 per game. That’s a lot of punishment for a smaller team to absorb—a veteran one at that. In particular our defense, minus mobile puck-mover Kris Letang, appears to be a brace of sitting ducks at times. They’ve taken tons of abuse.

All the hits. All the blocked shots.

Their bruises have bruises.

Still, banged-up as they are, a lone victory is all that separates the Pens from a berth in the Eastern Conference Final and, with it, a chance to continue their quest for a second-straight Cup. One that would cement their legacy as the preeminent NHL team of the new millennium or, at the very least, place them alongside three-time Cup champion Chicago.

That, alone, should provide plenty of motivation for tonight’s clash with the Capitals.

If ever there was a time to get back to Mike Sullivan’s basics, it’s now. Forget about being too fine. Make the simple play. The smart play, as “Sully” is quick to say.

Skate with a purpose. It’s the lifeblood of our game, our bread and butter. Chip bodies, battle hard and support each other. Protect Fleury. And for goodness sake, shoot. Good things happen when you get pucks to the net.

May the hockey gods shine a little puck luck on you, too.

Bring everything you’ve got, lay it on the line and make us proud.

We’ll be cheering you on.

*Be sure to check out Rick Buker’s books,
available at TriumphBooks.com, Amazon.com, and BarnesandNoble.com

Shop.NHL.com Outlet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


  1. Jim's Gravatar Jim
    May 11, 2017 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    Hey Rick,
    The morning after..Way to go Pen’s !!
    8 wins done….8 more to go….
    For me,being a relatively new Pens fan,( the day they drafted Mario,) I know we have had a few ” great and memorable Games “. Obviously the two cup winning games against Detroit and San Jose have to be my # 1 and # 2. But last night’s game for me ranked as # 3 of all time. Way to go guys !
    Please let me indulge a moment …. We lost our # 1 defense man…. our Bobby Orr or Denis Potvin …. We lost our starting goalie and his back up had to play ( you know how stupid that sounds now) but factually accurate…. We lost several players to injuries….They cheap shot our Captain and try to remove him from the series… the Vegas odds makers had us a 1.75 to 1 under dog in game 7,… one other source had us a closer 2.75 to 2. 40… but again losing the game….My knowledgeable local hockey friends and TV pundits flopped back and forth during this series more than a fish swimming upstream to spawn.
    Against all that …WE WON !! For me a very heart warming experience.
    To say I am pleased is an understatement.
    Lets give the Cap’s their dues… That was the best Cap’s team I have seen in 10 years. They were deep..Big….Fast…. strong…Skilled… and confident …..
    The one thing they were not was…… Totally committed . The Pen’s blocked way more shots last night,( again) . They threw themselves in front of pucks. Wilson fought Orpik, and lets be brutally honest…. MAF stole the game for us and had the game of his life last night !!! We wanted it MORE !!
    The heart of a true Champion. Way to go Pen’s…. 🙂
    Our next series will not be as tough as this one …
    Ottawa plays a much different style and they too are an injured team, lucky to have survived the Ranger onslaught. Plus their Captain and super star, Erik K. is playing on a broken foot …. He has all series. He is not the player he was in the regular season.
    Pen’s and Sen’s ! Here we go.

    ps: The Hockey God’s smiled again at us because the Oilers lost 2-1 in another game 7 against the Duck’s last night. I watched that one too.
    Prediction…Next year the team out of the West in the finals will be the Oilers…. It is not just Mc David.They have 4 or 5 SUPER STARS in waiting and they will be a good team for a long time …Let’s win this one now !

    • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
      May 11, 2017 at 8:09 am | Permalink

      Hey Jim,

      It was a wonderful win, especially considering all of the obstacles.

      Now that the Series is over I can say some of the things that superstition has kept me from saying.

      1) If the rumors were true that Shattenkirk really had a say in the trade and he chose Was, thinking that they were the team to beat, good for him. If you really did spurn us, then enjoy the early tee times. If it was St Louis that made the choice, how do you feel now St Louis, you got an earlier tee time while MAF is still playing.

      2) We could have and should have lost that series. The good news was we had a couple of Aces;

      – probably the best Offense in the League. These guys treated 2 of the 3 Vezina trophy candidates as if they were so much garbage. Bobrovsky ended his playoff run with a 0.882 Sv% and a 3.88 GAA while Holtby was treated to a 0.887Sv% and a 2.57 GAA. Washington did a better job as a team defending, helping to keep Holtby’s GAA somewhat respectable but by his Sv% he didn’t fare much better.

      – Now the one that most people may get mad at me over but; the Gorilla on the Caps back had to be the Pens unsung hero. The Pens D stunk and in this series MAF was really his normal Jekyll and Hyde. He had 3 great road games; 2 to kick it off and 1 to close it out. However in between he was sub-Par. The Gorilla on the Caps back had them over thinking and trying to either make the perfect shot at times or just throwing wildly at the net, praying for puck luck. In that respect, I am sorry Jim, I have to disagree with you. Outside of game 6 the Caps did not look like they had any confidence at all. They took to long to shoot and when they did, they often missed. The tale of the tape reads 98 missed shots in 7 games and 156 blocked attempts; that is 14 and roughly 22 respectively per game.

      Hopefully MAFs strong performance last night means he has gotten the monkey off of his back.

      Superstition now stops me from saying more just yet.

      • Jim's Gravatar Jim
        May 11, 2017 at 9:23 am | Permalink

        Hey Coach,
        You Goalies are always superstitious !( haha ) Hard habit to break.
        You raise a good point my friend. 98 missed shots ! Some may argue that due to the speed of the series and the obvious Capitals game plan was to play us physical and close…meaning take away the time we had to make a play…It almost worked Coach. Our d had serious issues in completing simple breakouts due to the Cap’s being in their faces all the time. Conversely we were too. A lot of their rushed shots were due to us being in their face as well.
        For me the Caps were most dangerous when their second center, EK carried the puck into our zone, time after time to the net or behind the net and made an out let pass and we could not HANDLE him !! Malkin used to play that way as well, not as much now that he is a bit older.
        Ovi was not a factor. Backstrom until the last 2 games was the same way. I was very surprised. How many times did we here the name Lars Eller ? He was always around the net . Once Karl Alzner returned in about game 4 I think, their D corps also transformed as well.
        You mention Shattenkirk . This series and the previous one with Toronto exposed his defensive weaknesses. In St. Louis he was paired with partners who helped cover his weakness. St.Louis was not stupid in moving him. He may be the top rated Free Agent D man in this years draft , but this series did not help his cause.
        Always great to get your thoughts and knowledgeable opinions Coach….but be honest…. you said the Pen’s in 7 when we first started..Rick too, but after that game 6 beating the Cap’s gave us and you were very quiet yesterday, were you surprised by the outcome ??
        I was….
        Thank you very much MR. Fleury !!

        • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
          May 11, 2017 at 10:14 am | Permalink

          Hey Jim,

          You got that right, goalies are superstitious, especially during the playoffs.

          However, Washington had a great game plan going into the series; they were aiming bounce passes off of MAF’s pads but were missing the wide open net behind him. I won’t go into anymore detail just yet, there are still 8 more wins to get.

          I agree, Ovie was pretty much an empty jersey thru the series, other than his stick to Crosby’s head and following slew foot. The best adjustment the Caps made was dropping them to 3rd line and in my mind that wasn’t to get balanced scoring but to get dead wood off of the top 6.

          I feel bad for my friends in DC, barring a miracle, they may be in for some lean times having went all in for this year.

          I must admit I was one of those who did want to see the Pens get Shattenkirk. I may have been wrong there. He did look bad during the play-offs. However, part of that may have been in how he was used and who he was partnered with. Seems to me if you have an offensive defensemen you need to pair him not only with a good defensive defensemen but one with young fast legs who could cover for him when he would try and press the O.

          On the plus side, I may have been right about Rowney, Wilson, and Hagelin. Rowney and Wilson played, Hagelin didn’t; Pens win.

          Now, we have to refocus and on a different team. I would like to think that the Pens should get a break, but getting to the Conference Finals may bring an extra gear to the Sens.

          To the plus side, if the Pens O could make 2 of the 3 Vezina Trophy finalists Anderson may be in for a rough time.

          • Jim's Gravatar Jim
            May 11, 2017 at 11:27 am | Permalink

            Hey Coach
            Having watched the Sens most of this year and having a family member living in Ottawa who is very passionate about the Sens, I have a pretty good knowledge of their team.Ottawa is a team that plays run and gun hockey.
            They love 5- 3 Hockey games. Their offense flows thru Erik Karelson. When he is on his game they can be a handful for anybody. He logs a lot of ice time.They have Bobby Ryan, Kyle Turis, and Mark Stone. A few others but these players are not Crosby,Malkin, Kessel caliber. Star players yes but not super star status as we have,except Erik K. ( as posted earlier he is playing on a broken foot and unofficial reports of serious bruised ribs.) Just like Hornqvist ! What is with these Swedish guys …They do not quit.
            Seriously , we should welcome this match up and our 4 line scoring will be the difference. They have a few big bodies but for the most part our smaller guys, Sheary,Jake, Rust, Wilson,Hornqvist will have an easier time to work their magic.
            Pens in 5…

            * Here is a crazy idea. ..If Murray can not play…Start Tristan Jarry in game 1. Just to throw then off.
            He is a NHL caliber goalie.We still win game 1 because it will be a track meet and Ottawa has no idea how fast we are over our entire 4 lines.


            • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
              May 11, 2017 at 11:43 am | Permalink


              Not going to say too much just yet. There is a lot of time before the fat lady sings. However, my thoughts aren’t that far removed from yours.

              Although I think Murray is the better goalie, I don’t think I would start anyone other than MAF at this point. I probably would have started him last night, if he was ready. MAF has several shaky games in a row. But this is a new series, the slate is clean, and when he has been on, MAF has been really good. He has earned a chance to chase away ghosts of the past. I wouldn’t tamper with the line-up unless a monumental collapse happens.

              I do hope Murray does get healthy real soon, though. I would much rather have Murray to lean on if the need arises.

  2. Jim's Gravatar Jim
    May 10, 2017 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Well written Rick. 🙂
    You echo all our sentiments !
    Give it your best shot Guys….All we ask of you !
    Win or Lose, you have once again given all of us a wonderful roller coaster ride of emotions since last September. Thank you .
    What ever happens tonight, let there be no regrets.
    Just do your best.
    I think we will win tonight….

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      May 10, 2017 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      Thank you, Jim … 🙂

      Hope your crystal ball is crystal clear, my friend, and that we win tonight.

      Pens ‘n’ Sens. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?


      • Jim's Gravatar Jim
        May 10, 2017 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

        Hey Rick
        What’s wrong?
        Everybody is so quiet….It seems like a funeral and not a celebration! Everyone is so nervous.
        Come on guys and gals…We are in a game 7 of the second round of the play offs. Cheer up….Let’s go Penguins.
        I know the experts are saying we will lose.Some odds makers have us at 1.75 to 1…..

        But I have something to say to the so called experts…
        According to the experts bumble bees can not fly..
        Their wings are to small for their big bodies and according to accepted engineering principals ..they can not generate enough lift to fly.
        BUMBLE BEES can not fly.
        They do fly and WE WILL WIN Tonight.!

        Now everybody ….. step up and cheer…
        We win tonight.


        • Jim's Gravatar Jim
          May 10, 2017 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

          End of first period 0 – 0.
          Pen’s 10 SOG
          Cap”s 8 SOG

          MAF held us in the first 10 minutes.
          Played better in the last 5 minutes.
          Let’s go Pen’s

          • Jim's Gravatar Jim
            May 10, 2017 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

            End of second period
            Pen’s scored. . Rust from Jake and Sid.
            1 -0
            Caps SOG 22
            Pen’s SOG 17
            Pen’s were out shot 14 to 7 that period.
            MAF made many great saves.
            20 minutes to go.
            Let’s go Pen’s

            • Jim's Gravatar Jim
              May 10, 2017 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

              Third period
              8.35 to go
              2 nothing !

              Let’s go Pens

            • Jim's Gravatar Jim
              May 10, 2017 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

              2 nothing
              33 seconds left.
              Way to go Pen’s
              We are coming to Canada. ..
              Sens and the Pen’s
              We won

            • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
              May 10, 2017 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

              WE DID IT!!!!!

              What a game! Was pulling like crazy for Fleury to get the shutout!!

              More tomorrow…

            • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
              May 10, 2017 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

              I guess that Gorilla was too huge for Was!!!!!!

              And how about Rust? I s he Mr Clutch or what. He has that knack of scoring the big goal!!!


Follow PenguinPoop

Shop.NHL.com Outlet

PenguinPoop Unique Visitors