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Savran: Patrick's moves paying off now

Saturday, April 21, 2001

The record shows the Pittsburgh Penguins won their first Stanley Cup May 25, 1991. Many, however, are convinced the battle was joined and Cup won March 4th the same year, the day the Penguins acquired Ron Francis and Ulf Samuelsson. But the biggest deal was not the only important deal. What of the far less attention-grabbing acquisitions of Larry Murphy and Peter Taglianetti? Or quietly stealing Joey Mullen on draft day in 1990?

There are so many parts to a championship machine that must mesh perfectly. And while this current group of Penguins is a long way from a championship -- hey, they are a long way from winning this opening round tussle -- there have been a series of non-blockbuster transactions made by Patrick that might be credited for any post-season successes.

December 28, 2000: Patrick acquired defenseman Marc Bergevin from St. Louis for Dan Trebil. Bergevin has been perhaps the team's steadiest defenseman, always positionally sound, always making the sound play.He has been a calming influence and a highly respected veteran voice providing strong leadership. And, after readily admitting his culpability on the Capitals' overtime goal in Game 4 Wednesday, Bergevin has proven a stand-up guy. You do not win Cups without that.

January 14, 2001: And you were convinced there's nothing to like about Bobby Clarke? The Flyers' general manager really had no use for Kevin Stevens, so he did him a favor by sending him where he wanted to go. Thank you, sir, may I have another? No, Stevens is not the same player he once was. But the energy and passion which always exemplified his game is palpable -- and contagious. He fully comprehends what it takes to win in the playoffs and what he is capable of contributing. He has driven a shoulder into anything that moves in this series. He would smack into the Zamboni if it twitched during his shift. His power play goal in Game 2 was purely a result of planting himself in front of the net and taking the abuse a crease invader receives. That is the price for a goal like that, and Stevens is more than willing to ante up. He is also a tremendously popular player in "the room," backing up his boisterous vocal leadership with the same kind of boisterous play on the ice. While Stevens has certainly benefited from Clarke's largesse, it pales in comparison to the rewards the Penguins reaped.

February 1, 2001: Not many paid attention to what Patrick received in return for Matthew Barnaby because Barnaby's popularity made his departure the centerpiece of the story. But when the Penguins got Wayne Primeau, it enabled them to set up a third line with the necessary size to perform its function -- bang around, check a scoring line and exact a physical toll on an opponent, which is so crucial in the playoffs. Last year's third line consisted of Barnaby, Rene Corbet and Tyler Wright, all willing and able, but just too small to have the kind of impact you need, especially when the Penguins ran into Philadelphia. Plus, acquiring Primeau enabled them to return Jan Hrdina to the top line, giving it a defensive presence.

March 13, 2001: Johan who? Johann Sebastian Bach? The Penguins already had a Sebastien in goal, didn't they? A career minor-leaguer whose next playoff save would be his first is the goaltender to save the Penguins? Some expect this Hedberg fairy tale to end any minute. Because of what's inside that Moose mask, I'm not so sure. This kid is no kid. He turns 28 next month and is as solid psychologically as any rookie you'll ever find. I think his pulse rate matches his age. He's very strong mentally and doesn't figure to melt under the intense heat of playoff pressure.

March 14, 2001: Sometimes the best deals are the ones you don't make, and Patrick's decision not to trade Aleksey Morozov might turn out to be as important as the ones he made. Perhaps Morozov has been miscast all this time. Generally, a forward taken in the first round was selected because he scored a lot at whatever level he played. Bob Errey is a classic example. As a number one pick he was expected to score goals. But it took a while for Bob to discover his niche. Morozov has a long way to go until he displays the skill, grit and character of Errey, but with his role clearly defined on the third line, he has slowly emerged in that role, a valuable contributor as the lock in the left wing lock. Not dealing him at the deadline is providing results now, with the potential for reaping even greater benefits in the future.

If the Penguins manage to advance, think of these dates. They might not become dates that will live in infamy, but they have helped to at least form a foundation on which Stanley Cup dreams are built.

Oh, and one other date, which Patrick had little or nothing to do with. December 27, 2000: The day the magic returned to hockey nights in Pittsburgh.


Stan Savran is the co-host of SportsBeat, 6:30-7:30 p.m weeknights on Fox Sports Pittsburgh.

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