Mike Darnay is a good friend of the blog and an all-around awesome guy, even if he is a Penguins fan. He was kind enough to answer my questions about his team. You can follow him on Twitter @MikeDarnay
1. Michel Therrien was once with the Penguins and is now with the Habs. Sergei Gonchar was once on the Penguins and is now on the Habs. How soon can we have Sidney Crosby?
As long as you take good care of FHCMT and the Sarge, we can consider your debts paid and will not pursue further actions or try to steal P.K. Subban. Seriously though, even though he is old, Gonchar is amazing. So many people pinpoint the Pens firing Therrien and hiring Bylsma to them winning a Cup (which is a big deal, yes), but Therien's last game was Gonchar's first game of the season in February. He was so huge for the Cup run.
2. What one major difference would you say you see between Dan Bylsma's coaching and Mike Johnston's coaching?
Under Bylsma, every Penguin seemed like they had to play at 100 mph, always sending the puck 'north' IMMEDIATELY. Defenseman stretch passing to some of the best hockey players on the planet, who could easily be immobilized at the blue line. Under Johnston, the defensemen have a lot more responsibility to make reads on their own. If the best play is to move the puck to their defense partner and let them make the read and regroup. It lets you enter the zone on your terms instead of forcing it up the boards or up the middle through a crowded neutral zone gap.
3. Other than the Penguins, who do you see as legitimate contenders in the Eastern Conference and do you think the Penguins could beat them?
I would consider the Canadiens a contender, as well as the Rangers and Tampa Bay. I would say that those are the Top 4 teams in the two divisions so far. I think they could, yes. A lot of that would hinge on the Penguins depth and goaltending coming through, as they haven't in recent years, but from what I've seen so far, coaching and management is utilizing the depth players to do their role and call it a day. No one seems to be in over their heads.
4. The Jim Rutherford hire was criticized at the time for being a "more of the same" kind of hire but he did go off the board with his decision to hire Johnston. What do you think of him so far?
I think it has been great. Johnston is 57, but in his first NHL coaching gig. He seems....fresh, still. Legitimately happy to be at the rink coaching the Penguins. He is a scientist of the game (as he has a Masters in Coaching Science) and seems to love talking about line combinations and pairings and line matching. It's fun to hear him speak.
5. In your own words, and in detail, can you describe your feelings about what's going on in that picture of Evgeni Malkin congratulating Sergei Gonchar on his 800th point?
I believe yesterday I referred to it as saying 'i adore it.' Seriously though... Malkin and Gonchar 2009 Cup run. Perfect Russian brothers.
6. Bonus question: what is your favourite thing you have ever cooked?
A couple months back, I made crispy pork carnitas tacos with fire roasted tomato salsa that was pretty elite. Also a few months back, shrimp fra diavolo. Good stuff.
7. Second bonus question: Can we have Mike Johnston?