BOSTON -- If you carved the Mount Rushmore of Boston's recent championship coaches into stone, Claude Julien would occupy the space chiseled for Teddy Roosevelt.
Washington would be too majestic, Lincoln too contemplative, Jefferson too cerebral. But, like the president who once declared, "Speak softly and carry a big stick," Julien knows how to make his voice resonate when he wants to deliver a message.
He also clearly prefers rough riders to powdered wigs.
We may never know exactly what was said following the horrific first period in Game 2 of these Stanley Cup finals against the Chicago Blackhawks, but we do know this: Julien had seen enough, and he let his team know it.
Dylan Reese, Upper St Clair native and defenceman in the Penguins system.
The major question facing each team in the NFC North as summer break looms.
Chicago Bears: Offensive line. Jay Cutler has been sacked a whopping 148 times over the past four seasons. That won’t do. I commend the Bears for their efforts to improve their abysmal offensive line from 2012, but did they do enough? Honestly, I think they did, but I am having a tough time finding holes in Chicago’s roster right now, so offensive line is still my choice for its biggest remaining question. One more wide receiver or defensive back would be great, but with all the changes in the front five, there could be growing pains in terms of continuity and determining exactly who should be the starter at each position. From left to right, the Bears most likely will be starting Jermon Bushrod, Matt Slauson, Roberto Garza, Kyle Long and J'Marcus Webb. Only Garza and Webb were on the team in 2012, and Webb is moving from left to right tackle. Change was needed, but continuity is a key aspect of offensive line play, and I don’t see a singular great player in this group. That could be an early problem for the Bears. The scheme will help, though, as will former offensive line coach Aaron Cromer as the offensive coordinator. This line will be better, but it does remain a question.
Detroit Lions: Offensive line. Quietly, the Lions’ offensive line did a fine job last season. But three of their starting five are gone, including both offensive tackles. My hunch is Detroit would have loved to select Lane Johnson to plug in at left tackle with the fifth pick overall in this latest draft, but three offensive tackles, including Johnson, went in the top four picks. As a result, Riley Reiff, who is best fit as a right tackle, will start on the left side and highly unproven Corey Hilliard or Jason Fox will man the right side, which is an obvious concern. I loved the drafting of Larry Warford, a mauling pure guard who should upgrade the right guard spot. He should solidify the interior of Detroit’s offensive line, especially in the run game, along with incumbent Dominic Raiola at center and the vastly underrated Rob Sims at left guard. But the tackles certainly worry me, especially considering the edge pass-rushers in the division, headlined by Julius Peppers, Clay Matthews and Jared Allen. Matthew Stafford is very tough and has been durable over the past two seasons, but the Lions certainly don’t want their franchise quarterback taking a lot of punishment, particularly considering how passing-oriented this offense has become.
Green Bay Packers: Offensive line. Seeing a trend developing in this division? The reality is, like the Bears, I don’t have a lot of major concerns with Green Bay’s roster at this point of the process. I understand moving Bryan Bulaga to left tackle, as he is the best candidate on the roster for that job. And moving Josh Sitton, Green Bay’s best offensive lineman, to left guard to keep that continuity intact between the two players while improving Aaron Rodgers’ blindside protection also makes sense. But I also feel like it was messing with a very good thing on the right side, which gives me mixed feelings on those changes. Marshall Newhouse is clearly better suited for the right side, but it wouldn’t shock me if he was unseated as the starter by David Bakhtiari, who I thought was a mid-round steal for Green Bay. T.J. Lang is solid, the loss of Jeff Saturday should be addition by subtraction and maybe Derek Sherrod is finally healthy and can contribute at tackle. I also liked the selection ofJ.C. Tretter, a small-school prospect who is tough and smart. Improved play at the running back position also should help this line immensely. Still, there are quite a few questions that need answering from this unit overall, and the Packers can’t afford for Rodgers to be sacked anywhere close to the 51 times he was in 2012.
Minnesota Vikings: Quarterback. I still have hope for Christian Ponder, but he was extremely up and down during his second season. Many ask me during my chats and radio hits, “What would be a successful season for Ponder?” My response is that he needs to play within himself -- allowing his impressive supporting cast to do what it does best -- and show composure and leadership late in games. He doesn’t have to become Dan Marino as a passer for this offense to be successful. In case you forgot, the Vikings do still haveAdrian Peterson as the foundation of this offense. But in addition to Peterson, Minnesota has one of the better offensive lines in the NFL, and I expect that group to be further improved in 2013 with Matt Kalil developing into one of the league’s better left tackles in his second season. The line, fullback blocking and Peterson will allow Ponder to see many favorable matchups in the passing game. Gone is Percy Harvin, but the trio of Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson and Kyle Rudolph should be able to exploit single coverage with a varied skill set. Patterson is far from a refined wide receiver, but if the Vikings limit him to deep routes or quick hitters where he can use his amazing run-after-the-catch abilities, he can be very effective in his rookie season. Jennings is a true professional who understands the position well, and Rudolph’s ability in the red zone and in the middle of the field should provide Ponder with plenty of throws that won’t challenge his average passing skills. It also must be noted that Minnesota upgraded its backup quarterback spot by signing Matt Cassel. Cassel had a nightmare of a 2012 season, but before that, he showed the caretaker quarterback skills that Ponder needs to develop.
The Pittsburgh Penguins took another step in maintaining a consistent Stanley Cup contender on Thursday by ensuring that superstar center Evgeni Malkin will remain with the team long term.
This eight-year deal, which includes a salary cap hit of $9.5 million, means that the Penguins will have about 28 percent of next year's cap ($64.3 million) tied up in Malkin and Sidney Crosby (who begins a 12-year, $104.4 million contract in 2013-14).
These two contracts will greatly impact the future of the Penguins roster, one that has weaknesses on the blue line and in net.
However, with two of the best players in the world on the same team, Pittsburgh will remain an attractive destination for free agents and veteran players on the trading block. This means that the Penguins will be title contenders for as long as Crosby and Malkin are on the team and healthy.
The Hart Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player judged to be the most valuable to his team. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association in all NHL cities at the end of the regular season.
The Hart Memorial Trophy was presented by the National Hockey League in 1960 after the original Hart Trophy was retired to the Hockey Hall of Fame. The original Hart Trophy was donated to the NHL in 1923 by Dr. David A. Hart, father of Cecil Hart, former manager-coach of the Montreal Canadiens.
Sidney Crosby is boldly going where no hockey player has ever gone before: He’s complaining about an innocuous hit from a hockey game two weeks after the fact, and he’s claiming ill intent.
Well, Crosby’s not even doing the complaining himself, leaving his agent, Pat Brisson, to be his mouthpiece. As Damien Cox of the Toronto Star passed along on Friday, “Sidney Crosby’s agent is convinced Zdeno Chara of the Bruins intentionally punched Crosby where he had broken his jaw in Game 1. Nasty.”
Game 1, in case you have forgotten, took place two full weeks before the agent spread the word. The reason may be because it took a while to not only find footage of the “punch” but to then display in slow-motion in such a way that it looked to be a heavy blow to the jaw. In real speed, Chara’s “punch” of Crosby was nothing more than a shove with his left arm, which only came after Crosby had grabbed the back of Chara’s shoulder pads following a whistle in front of the Boston net.
But in super slow-motion, and with some sort of mega zoom, Crosby and his agent were convinced that Chara had purposefully taken the time to carefully target Crosby’s exposed jaw with a direct jab in the middle of a scrum. And so they gathered the video and sent it along to TSN, which was happy to “report” on the wretched assault on hockey’s golden boy. (TSN’s Darren Dreger actually took Chara aside to show him the video. Chara is in the middle of playing for the Stanley Cup.)