Saturday, October 31, 2015

McCutchen named Clemente Award winner

PITTSBURGH -- Andrew McCutchen's baseball career has been full of awards and accolades, but the honor he received Friday resonated in a special way for the Pirates' star center fielder.
McCutchen was named the winner of the 2015 Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet before Game 3 of the World Series at Citi Field, an honor named after the iconic Pirates outfielder for his positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement.
"It means a lot. I feel like it means a bit more to me, just because of it being Roberto Clemente and him playing for the Pirates, wearing the same uniform," McCutchen said Friday. "It just shows that I'm moving in the right direction as far as being able to do the things that I want to do off the baseball field. Just getting a prestigious award like this is very humbling."
McCutchen is the second Pirates player to win the Clemente Award; the first was Willie Stargell in 1974. The award is a tribute to Clemente's achievements and character, as well as a recognition of those who reflect them today.
For McCutchen, the continued association with Clemente is an honor greater than his 2013 National League MVP Award trophy, the five All-Star nods or any of his previous accolades.
"Definitely at the top," McCutchen said. "That's for sure."
McCutchen, 29, was selected from a list of 30 nominees -- one from each club -- by a panel of dignitaries that included Commissioner Rob Manfred and Vera Clemente, the wife of Roberto and an MLB Goodwill Ambassador.
Clemente, a Hall of Famer and 15-time All-Star, died in a plane crash on New Year's Eve 1972 while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.
"I am very happy that you are part of this family, too, and from this family of award winners," Vera Clemente said to McCutchen at Citi Field. "I know Roberto would be very happy to see a Pirate player being on his team."
McCutchen is actively involved with a number of community and nonprofit organizations in Pittsburgh and in Bradenton, Fla., the Pirates' Spring Training home.
He and Pirates Charities founded "Cutch's Crew," his signature program, in 2010 to mentor Pittsburgh's inner-city youth baseball players and at-risk children. He also supports the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation, the Homeless Children's Education Fund, the Light of Life Rescue Mission and Habitat for Humanity, among others.
"Andrew always makes it a priority to be a positive impact in our community, the very same way that Roberto Clemente once did," said Pirates chairman Bob Nutting, who was in New York on Friday to support McCutchen. "Having a Pirates player recognized for carrying on Clemente's legacy of giving back makes this extra special."
McCutchen, the Pirates' franchise player and one of baseball's most recognizable stars, does not draw much attention to his charitable efforts. Still, his giving spirit is hard to hide.
Several times this season, from McKechnie Field in Bradenton to PNC Park in Pittsburgh, McCutchen welcomed children from the Make-A Wish Foundation to spend the day with him. When he cut off his signature dreadlocks this spring, he auctioned them off and gave the proceeds to charity. This week, he provided Halloween costumes for patients at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh so they could go trick-or-treating.
McCutchen flew to New York City on Friday to accept the award. Before heading to the ballpark, however, he and Manfred visited patients in a cancer ward at Mount Sinai Hospital.
"Those sorts of activities build the kind of bond that's so crucial to growing our game over the long haul," Manfred said. "And it's especially important, in addition to giving his time, he goes out on the field and is one of the best players in the game."
Even when he's not doing community work, McCutchen has found ways to give back. One of the most enduring images of the entire season came just after the final out of a game in San Diego. McCutchen ran back to the outfield wall and handed his batting gloves to a pair of kids decked out in Pirates gear, a small but meaningful gesture that won't soon be forgotten.
"You're just trying to make a difference," he said. "Baseball is a great sport and has blessed me a lot. I'm just trying to do my best to give back."
During his time in Pittsburgh, McCutchen has spoken to plenty of people who knew Clemente. Through those conversations, McCutchen has learned why Clemente still means so much to this city and to baseball. McCutchen has been inspired to create a similar legacy of his own.
"The thing is, you never hear a story about how he played the game. You always hear about how great of a person he is," McCutchen said. "I feel like what was most important to Clemente was helping others. You can see it through other people.
"That definitely made a big impact on me. That's how you want to be remembered."
Adam Berry is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Malkin, Zatkoff lift Penguins over Sabres 4-3

By Dan Scifo
October 29, 2015

Malkin, Zatkoff lift Penguins over Sabres 4-3

Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Pascal Dupuis (9) and Nick Bonino (13) congratulate Jeff Zatkoff (37) following an NHL hockey game against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015, in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh won 4-3.(AP Photo/Don Wright)

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Penguins may be starting to find their stride.

Three Stars

  1. Ben Lovejoy
    #12, Pittsburgh
  2. Patric Hornqvist
    #72, Pittsburgh
  3. Ryan O'Reilly
    #90, Buffalo
Evgeni Malkin scored his fourth of the season on the power play, Jeff Zatkoff made 50 saves in his season debut and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 on Thursday night.
''We know we have the guys that can score, but you're not going to win just on talent,'' Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis said. ''You have to grind games and win them the hard way. It's what we're learning to do early in the year.''
Dupuis, Patric Hornqvist and Ben Lovejoy all scored their first of the season and Malkin added an assist. Pittsburgh beat Washington on Wednesday night and has won three straight, six of its past seven and seven straight over Buffalo. Malkin has four goals and nine points in his last seven games.
Sidney Crosby had two assists, his first points in three games. Crosby is off to the worst start of his career and went without a point in eight of the team's first nine games.
Dupuis' goal was his first since last November after he missed most of 2014 with career-threatening blood clots.
''When you come back, you want to be an impact player and want to get back to your old ways,'' Dupuis said. ''It's taking a while, but it's slowly getting there.''
The same can be said for the Penguins' power play. The unit is statistically the worst in the league despite a number of world-class players, including Crosby and Malkin. It scored its third of the season in 32 chances, breaking an 0-for-11 slump.
That helped support Zatkoff, who got the call after Marc-Andre Fleury started the first nine games for Pittsburgh. He turned aside 41 shots in the final two periods, including 23 in the third.
''We knew they were going to throw everything at us,'' Zatkoff said. ''They put a good push on, but thankfully we had a two-goal cushion.''
The Penguins were able to hold the cushion thanks in part to Phil Kessel. The winger saved a goal early in the third period when he fished a puck off the goal line and out of harm's way during a net-mouth scramble to keep the Penguins ahead by two.
Jamie McGinnNicolas Deslauriers and Matt Moulson scored for Buffalo.
The Sabres have yet to win back-to-back games this season but had a chance to Thursday after beating Philadelphia on Tuesday. Buffalo has dropped five of its last seven.
Chad Johnson made 25 saves for the Sabres.
Sabres coach Dan Bylsma returned to Pittsburgh after winning a Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2009.
Bylsma won 252 games and earned 43 playoff wins, both franchise records, in addition to a Jack Adams award for most outstanding coach in the league before he was fired after the 2014 season.
Buffalo finished with the worst record last season and hired Bylsma to turn around the franchise and aid rookie Jack Eichel's development the way he helped Crosby. The Penguins welcomed him back with a video tribute in the first period and the fans responded with a standing ovation.
Crosby got his assists as Pittsburgh scored twice in the first 7:16 to open the scoring.
NOTES: Pittsburgh won for the ninth time in 11 games against Buffalo. ... Crosby has at least a point in 26 of 29 games against Buffalo. ... Zatkoff got his first NHL start since April 13, 2014. ... Buffalo returns home Friday against Philadelphia. Pittsburgh begins a four-game road trip Saturday at Toronto. The Penguins won't play at home again until Nov. 11 against Montreal. ... Sabres F Tyler Ennis missed this game with a lower-body injury. D Carlo Colaiacovo also sat for Buffalo. ... Pittsburgh scratched D Adam Clendening and F Sergei Plotnikov.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Phil Kessel scores go-ahead goal, Penguins top Capitals 3-1

By Howard Fendrich
October 28, 2015
Phil Kessel scores go-ahead goal, Penguins top Capitals 3-1
Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Phil Kessel (81) prepares to shoot a goal past Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby (70) in the third period of an NHL hockey game, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Washington. The Penguins won 3-1. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- With Sidney Crosby and the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins' skaters off to a low-scoring start to the season, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is carrying the club.

Three Stars

  1. Marc-Andre Fleury
    #29, Pittsburgh
  2. Phil Kessel
    #81, Pittsburgh
  3. Evgeny Kuznetsov
    #92, Washington
Fleury made 33 saves, and Phil Kessel scored the go-ahead goal off Evgeni Malkin's pass less than 2 minutes after Beau Bennett tied it in the third period, leading Pittsburgh past Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals 3-1 on Wednesday night.
'''Flower,' was big when he had to be,'' Penguins coach Mike Johnston said, using Fleury's nickname.
Never bigger than in the second period, when the Penguins were outshot 14-4.
''The more shots he sees, the better he plays,'' said Bennett, who returned after missing five games while injured. ''We can't do that every night, but he was definitely our best player tonight and kept us in it, even when they had those flurries in the second period.''
Fleury has started every game this season, and after opening with three losses, the Penguins have won five of their past six.
They also ended the Capitals' five-game winning streak.
After a pair of scoreless periods and superb play by both goalies, Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov put the hosts ahead about 1 1/2 minutes into the third, when his wrist shot deflected off the left skate of Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi and past Fleury.
''Our guy scored,'' Fleury said with a chuckle, ''so that doesn't count.''
Even Washington coach Barry Trotz couldn't help but concede it was ''a little bit of a fortunate goal.''
And then he lamented that the ''next shift was huge.''
That's because all of 24 seconds later, it was tied, thanks to Bennett. His initial shot was blocked by Braden Holtby, but Bennett put in the rebound. Soon after, Malkin sent the puck in front of the goal and through defenseman Karl Alzner's legs to Kessel for his fourth goal. In Pittsburgh's previous game, Kessel scored the winner 41 seconds into overtime to beat Nashville 2-1.
On Wednesday, Nick Bonino added an empty-net goal with less than 2 minutes left.
Fleury's save count included a stop on Ovechkin on a rush with Kuznetsov with 5 1/2 minutes remaining. Neither Ovechkin nor Crosby - who has only one goal and two assists this season, all in the same game - registered a point.
Pittsburgh entered the game with a grand total of 13 goals, the second-lowest total in the entire NHL. And their power play has been the NHL's worst, now 2 for 31 this season.
Thanks to overlapping penalties on Washington's Chandler Stephenson and Brooks Orpik, the Penguins had 105 seconds of 5-on-3 time in the first period. But not only did they fail to score, they only managed to put two shots on net during that two-man advantage.
Then, 4 seconds after the game was back at even-strength, Alzner was sent off for high-sticking. When a game official went over to get him off the bench and make him head across the ice to the penalty box, Alzner looked up incredulously and asked, ''High stick?''
Notes: D Kris Letang became fourth blueliner to play in 500 games with the Penguins. Orpik played in the most games with Pittsburgh of any defenseman, with 703. ... Last season, the Capitals went 3-1 against the Penguins, outscoring them 13-5, and Holtby had shutouts in two of those games. ... As part of Hockey Fights Cancer Night, and in connection with Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic, a 12-year-old from Maryland participated in a ceremonial puck drop between Ovechkin and Crosby. Fans booed loudly when Crosby's name was announced.
Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Penguins can't maintain survival mode

Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015, 10:41 p.m.
Evgeni Malkin #71 of the Pittsburgh Penguins on the bench during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on October 10, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Penguins 2-1 (Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images).

No need to make it seem as though all the signs are troubling for the Penguins. They're 4-4, which isn't all that bad considering they've scored all of 13 goals.

Also, at least they shouldn't lack for motivation the next couple of nights. They'd better not, anyway.

Alex the GR8 and Disco Dan will be motivated. Not just to win, either.

Alex Ovechkin and Dan Bylsma will be motivated to march the troubled (if not lifeless) Penguins into a state of disarray. So for the Penguins, the next two nights are less about wins and points and more about showing some signs of life against opponents led by an arch-nemesis and their former coach.

The NHL season might be young, but it's not too early for the NHL's most star-studded team to start scaring somebody other than prospective buyers.

On the ice, with the exception of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, the Penguins appear to be a hot mess.

Coach Mike Johnston's puck-possession system has become one of dumping, chasing and calling for his future Hall-of-Fame centers to play 200 feet. As if anybody buys tickets (let alone the team) to watch Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin skate deep into the defensive zone every shift.

The Penguins are 3-4 when Crosby hasn't recorded a point. They might be holding it together during a rare scoring funk from their best player.

But hasn't Crosby's production decline under Johnston (no points in 37 of 85 regular-season games) proven the funk to be a regression?

The Penguins have scored more than two goals once. They could be learning to play tight, low-scoring games that are common come playoff time.

But haven't they played enough of those the last six times they've failed in the playoffs?

These Penguins weren't built to win tight, low-scoring games with Crosby being coached to channel Jonathan Toews. These Penguins are co-owned by Mario Lemieux and captained by Crosby, two all-timers who rate second and fifth, respectively, in points-per-game.

Scoring. It's what the Penguins are supposed to do. It's how the Penguins are supposed to win. But it's become what the Penguins don't do. It's become why the Penguins don't win.

It's been that way for more than a couple of weeks, too. Just like joyless, along with troubled and lifeless, have been adjectives applied accurately to the Penguins for more than a couple of weeks.

Let's not pretend the last couple of weeks haven't looked like the last couple of months from Johnston's first season.

Pick some trouble, any trouble. The Penguins still haven't come from behind in the third period. They've gone from near 40 percent to under 10 percent on the power play since December.

In-division struggles would be the trouble to address first. No time like the present, either.

The Penguins are at Washington on Wednesday night. The Capitals represent their first crack at a Metro foe since Metro foes finished last season with 21 wins in 30 games against the Penguins. That record doesn't count the four wins in five playoff games by the Metro champ New York Rangers.

The Penguins can survive losing to the Capitals on Wednesday night.

They can't survive simply surviving much longer, and maybe not the rest of this week.

That's how the Penguins look right now, like they're trying to survive. It's not that Fleury's brilliance kept high-end opponents (Dallas, Montreal and Nashville) from Blitzkrieging the Penguins in their losses. It's that he needed to stop 116 of 121 shots against middling-to-weak opponents (Arizona, Ottawa, Florida and Toronto) to allow the Penguins to win those games.

I could be wrong, but the guess here is GM Jim Rutherford didn't assemble this group simply to survive.

Not in October.

Used to be the Capitals and Ovechkin — the actual Best Player of His Generation — would light the fire for the Crosby/Malkin-led Penguins. Should still be that way, especially with former Penguins' conscience Brooks Orpik (and Matt Niskanen) fully part of Team Ovi.

What will it say about the Penguins if the Capitals can't get them going Wednesday night? What will it say if the next night, in Bylsma's return to Consol Energy Center with the Buffalo Sabres, the Penguins still show signs of being a troubled, lifeless and joyless hockey club?

It will say there aren't signs. There's trouble.

Big trouble.

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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