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Savran: Penguins getting their wish, sort of

Saturday, November 03, 2001

Consider the aphorism, "Be careful what you wish for, you're liable to get it. "

Through no fault of their own, the Penguins find themselves in that exact predicament.

After being smothered by the New Jersey Devils in last season's Eastern Conference final, the light bulb went on above Mario Lemieux's head, illuminating the idea that perhaps this was the way to win a championship:

Use 12 virtually interchangeable forwards in almost equal parcels of playing time, suffocating opponents in waves of similarity until their will disintegrates under the relentless siege and they become resigned to the inevitability of their defeat.

That's exactly what happened to the Penguins over the course of their five-game series with the Devils.

This is the transformation owner Lemieux and player Lemieux envisioned. A departure from the star system employed by the Penguins since his arrival in 1984.

The Penguins wished not only to be a different team, but a different type of team.

Now, because of all the recent injury misfortune, they are.

The days of Flying Wallenda hockey are temporarily, if not permanently, over.

No more death-defying rushes up ice, throwing caution --and defense -- to the wind.

It's not a shift in philosophy brought about by the shift in head coaches. It's reality.

The Penguins no longer have players capable of doing that. Necessity being the mother of invention, their style must change to avoid drowning in the suddenly choppy Eastern Conference waters. Which means some players are going to have to step forward.

Aleksey Morozov recently professed to being mystified as to why he was a healthy scratch Saturday night in Toronto.

Let's examine his contributions. Twelve games, 0 goals, 2 assists, and a lovely plus-minus of minus-6.

Can't understand why he was scratched, can you?

Does anyone, including Morozov, actually believe his banishment to the press box was a Rick Kehoe whim?

Or doubt the only reason he's back in the lineup is he doesn't have a broken leg, injured hip or swollen knee?

There is a prevailing thought that Morozov has never been given a chance, that somehow he has been mishandled, mistreated, a victim of some sort. That his inability to blossom was a by-product of not being given opportunity.

I suggest his inability to blossom is a product of his inability to take advantage of his opportunities.

The first month of this season is a classic example.

After a role was defined for him last spring, Morozov responded by playing solid, two-way hockey, giving hope he had finally discovered the physical and mental commitment necessary to succeed in the NHL.

Based on that performance and the promise of its continuance, he was placed on a skilled line and given a regular shift. He responded much as he always has ... playing a peripheral, disengaged, invisible game, which led to his benching, at least until the grim reaper claimed the sharpest of the Penguins' sharpshooters.

Mishandled? Mistreated?

I'm sorry. There comes a point when a player, or any person in any walk of life, is responsible for seizing opportunities which are presented or present themselves.

It's incumbent upon that player to make a statement.

Thus far, other than training camp and the odd game against Martin Brodeur, Morozov doesn't see the opportunity or perhaps doesn't understand it.

Now he is being given yet another chance. If he fails to respond again, management should abandon attempts to justify his first-round selection and number his time as a Penguin in days, not seasons.

It's not only Morozov.

Jan Hrdina has never scored more than 15 goals in a season, and it's become obvious he's never going to be a prolific goal scorer.

But no one's asking for prolific. More accomplished would suffice.

These are desperate times that demand desperate measures. Like shooting the puck on goal now and again, certainly more often than 12 times in 13 games.

The time has come for alleged scoring threat Milan Kraft to erase the alleged.

Last season -- even last month -- a goal by Kevin Stevens or Dan Lacouture or Wayne Primeau was frosting. Now, in these times of trouble, they are the cake.

The Penguins wanted to create a team with several contributors rather than relying on a scant few. With those scant few now out of the picture, it's time for the contributors to contribute.

The Penguins, through unfortunate circumstances, have become what they wished to be.


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

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