"Elektra" at the Met, two ways

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .

On Saturday, I had the good fortune of seeing Richard Strauss' "Elektra" in a new production at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Elektra 3311-sWaltraud Meier played Klytämnestra and Nina Stemme took on the title role of Strauss' "Elektra" at the Metropolitan Opera. (Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera)

Post-Gazette senior editor Robert Croan had seen this production in the Met's Live in HD broadcast on April 30, so we agreed to do side-by-side takes on the production.

I've gushed about the Met's Live in HD productions before. Here are the details for next year's offerings. There are also four encore broadcasts over the summer; more at this link

FYI, the Pittsburgh Symphony will perform the "Elektra" Symphonic Rhapsody, a suite conceived by music director Manfred Honeck and arranged by Tomas Ille, this weekend at Heinz Hall. So if you couldn't see "Elektra" in the movie theater or at the opera house, you can experience Strauss' remarkable score in a symphonic setting. 

Elektra setRich Peduzzi designed the set for the Met production of "Elektra." (Jonathan Tichler/Metropolitan Opera)

Now, onto the reviews:

NEW YORK—At most opera productions, there is a bit of a ceremony before the actual performance begins. The orchestra tunes, the conductor comes out to warm applause, the curtain goes up, the musicians play. It is a ritual that we know and find comfort in.

The mood that opened of the Metropolitan Opera production of "Elektra" on Saturday night was different. Conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen seemed to sneak up to the podium, evading applause. The opera began not with the severe opening chords of Strauss' score, but with a servant brushing at the steps of the Palace of Mycenae. Her sweeps, deliberate and crisp, like a breath, resounded throughout the massive space of the house. For the first several minutes of this two-hour opera, this was the only sound we encountered.

It was in this way that the Met's tremendous production of "Elektra" opened — not with the loud, brash sounds of Strauss, but with these engrossing, eerie sweeps, "as if to purge the primal sins that earlier had occurred there," as general manager Peter Gelb put it. Even after having read his note in the program, I was still shocked at this moment. It was as if the fourth wall had been constructed without our consent.

This new production was the brainchild of the French director Patrice Chereau, who died in 2013, a few months after this "Elektra" debuted in France. His staging, revived at the Met by Vincent Huguet, unearthed the emotional and musical dimensions of this work, and the Met's dramatic and musical forces delivered a knockout realization of his intent.

The production embraced what seemed to be the classic, timeless nature of this one-act opera, which is based on the Greek myth and features a German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Elektra avenges the murder of her father, Agamemnon, by her mother, Klytämnestra, with the help of her brother Orest. Richard Peduzzi's stone-colored sets, with their clean, stark lines and high central arch, evoked an ancient city on its way to becoming ruins.

The singers and orchestra offered this thorny, challenging music with zeal and purpose. In the title role, Swedish soprano Nina Stemme was masterful, delivering a hefty yet nuanced interpretation of the complicated Elektra — twitchy yet full of ardor. Her scene with the fierce mezzo-soprano Waltraud Meier, portraying Klytämnestra, was a highlight, a carefully crafted moment that humanized the characters.

Adrianne Pieczonka, playing Elektra's sister Chrysothemis, seemed to get better over the course of the performance and impressed with the substance of her singing in the upper register, while Eric Owens offered a bold, steely take on Orest. Mr. Salonen sculpted a confident, wrenching interpretation, and the orchestra's detailed performance was a rich sound-world unto its own.

—Elizabeth Bloom

Elektra 3666-sEric Owens portrayed Orest in Strauss' "Elektra." (Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera)

It's always best to experience an opera live in the theater. But if you can't get to New York, and your local company is not likely to produce Richard Strauss' "Elektra" in the foreseeable future, the Met's invaluable Live in HD series is an excellent substitute. Moreover, the screen version brings out details that are impossible to discern even from the best seats in the house. This was particularly evident in the superlative production of "Elektra" that closed the 2015-16 Live in HD season on April 30. Notable was the highly nuanced portrayal of the title character by Nina Stemme, seen in close-ups and at unusual angles that showed every gradation of expression and reaction.

When he wrote "Elektra" in 1909, Strauss pushed the musical techniques of his day to their limits, calling for a mammoth orchestra of approximately 100 players, advancing traditional harmony, upping the emotional thermometer and adding a Freudian element — in Hugo von Hofmannsthal's masterful adaptation of Sophocles' ancient Greek drama — that is only hinted at in the original.

Strauss' contemporaries, notably Arnold Schoenberg, would carry musical expressionism further, into the realm of "atonality" and so-called 12-tone music. Strauss took a different route, turning backward after "Elektra" to write neo-Mozartean operas for the rest of his life. As it stands, the Strauss-Hofmannsthal "Elektra" remains one of the most powerful pieces of musical theater ever written, 105 minutes of high tension and inexorable beauty, a cathartic experience in the fullest sense of the Greek definition.

The late Patrice Chereau, staging this opera at Aix-en-Provence in 2013, updated the work to emphasize its timeless message and concentrate on individual feelings and responses. Contrary to tradition, Elektra is no raving lunatic, rather a frightened, abused woman obsessed by the horrendous events she has witnessed. Klytämnestra, too, is portrayed by Waltraud Meier as a still attractive woman living in fear and guilt after murdering her husband, Agamemnon and taking his enemy, Aegisthus, as her lover. The slayings of Klytämnestra and Aegisthus are shown on stage. At the end, Elektra does not dance herself to death, but lingers catatonic and immobile, while Orest returns from the building's interior to walk proudly out the palace gate.

The greatest glories of this performance were musical: conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen's magnificent rendition of this immensely difficult score, and the extraordinary all-star cast. The Met's orchestra is arguably the best orchestra in the world today, and it was in top form. Ms. Stemme is a consummate singing actress, whose ironclad soprano can weather engulfing orchestral torrents, or produce meaningful pianissimos when required by the musical or dramatic context.

Ms. Meier, regal and in top form at 60, was not the usual caricature of an evil harridan. Her confrontation scene with Elektra was probing and credible. Filling out this trio of troubled women was Adrianne Pieczonka's unusually spunky Chrysothemis, a full-voiced rendition that suggests she might graduate to the title role sometime down the road.

Most affecting was the recognition scene between Elektra and Orest. As the long-lost brother who returns to avenge his father's murder, Eric Owens was a commanding presence whose resounding bass-baritone caressed the ear and made every one of his lines significant and eloquent.

Casting was generous down the line. Aegisthus was Burkhard Ulrich, a German character tenor new to the house. The Overseer was Susan Neves, who has sung Tosca and Turandot with Pittsburgh Opera. And cast as the fifth servant woman was a fresh-voiced 67-year-old Roberta Alexander, returning to the Met after an absence of 25 years.

—Robert Croan


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Dumoulin finds success in rare pairing with Letang - 05-11-16

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

With defenseman Olli Maatta on the verge of returning to the lineup for Game 6 after recovering from a suspected head injury, it was a safe assumption he would be paired with defenseman Kris Letang. After all, no two defensemen on the Penguins had played more five-on-five minutes with one another this season.

Yet during Monday's practice and Tuesday's thrilling series-clinching 4-3 overtime win at home against the Capitals, it was Brian Dumoulin who was paired with Letang. According to Natural Stat Trick, they logged an even 18:00 of common ice time in Game 6 and routinely faced the Capitals' top line with superstar left winger Alex Ovechkin. Dumoulin (6-foot-4, 207 pounds) got physical with the bigger Ovechkin (6-foot-3, 239 pounds) and even knocked him off the puck occasionally: 

Ovechkin finished the game with six shots and two assists, each on the power play.

Prior to last night, Dumoulin and Letang played relatively little with one another.

How little? Defenseman Rob Scuderi, traded in mid-December, had more ice time with Letang this season than Dumoulin:

Player Five-on-five ice
time with Kris Letang
Olli Maatta 674:27
Ian Cole 285:14
Trevor Daley 172:22
Rob Scuderi 94:36
Brian Dumoulin 50:41
Ben Lovejoy 35:15
Derrick Pouliot 31:33
Justin Schultz 8:12
Adam Clendening 4:00
David Warsofsky 0:31

(Statistics via

What prompted the coaches to pair them together for a crucial elimination game, especially with Maatta returning?

“We knew that Brian and [Letang] were going to get the lion's share of Ovechkin's line," said head coach Mike Sullivan following the win. "That line has some pretty good speed on it and we like Brian's mobility. So we thought that was a better match-up or advantageous match-up from our standpoint. … That was some of the thought process going behind that pair and we liked it.”

Letang certainly liked the arrangement.

“[Dumoulin is] a great two-way player," Letang said. "He's got good ability on his skates. He's got a great stick. So the coaching staff has no problem to put him against a top line.”

In addition to limiting Ovechkin in five-on-five play, Dumoulin also recorded the primary assist on the game's opening goal by right winger Phil Kessel:

"I saw him out wide," said a modest Dumoulin. "I just tapped to him and Phil had a great shot. He did the rest."

His performance in Game 6 represented something of a rebound after Game 5 in which he had an ugly turnover leading to an insurance goal by Capitals right winger Justin Williams:


"Obviously, in hindsight, I wish I didn't make that play in Game 5," Dumoulin said. "But I knew I had to bounce back. Had to play a solid 60 minutes and just come out, play my best."

What's the key to playing with a dynamo such as Letang who is more than willing to go deep and take chances?

“Just keep it simple," said Dumoulin. "He's all over the ice offensively and defensively and he makes terrific plays. I watch him every game so whether I'm playing with him or not, I can see instantly what he does. Just try to take note and keep it simple."

“It was good. It's fun playing with him. He's an aggressive [defenseman] and he plays the game hard. It's fun to be out there with him. It seems like every shift, he's creating a chance. It's fun."

Above all else, Dumoulin realizes defense is the reason he was given such a prominent assignment.

"When you're given that role, you want to do the best to shut them down," said Dumoulin. "That was my number one focus in the game and throughout the whole series."

(Photo: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

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Empty Netter Assists - Recapping Penguins-Capitals - 05-11-16

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Playoff Stuff
Penguins - Capitals

-The Post-Gazette's recap from last night's game. “It wasn’t pretty. It was the second or third whack at it.” - Center Nick Bonino on his overtime goal.

-The Associated Press' recap. "What we talked about was taking a deep breath, not changing what's happened and letting it go." - Head coach Mike Sullivan on how his team approached overtime.

-The Washington Post's recap. “We’ve made some progress, but obviously, not enough. We need to get through this round. That’s part of the deal.” - Capitals coach Barry Trotz.


-Mike Lange's goal calls.

-A few great looks at Bonino's goal as allowed by Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby:

-The celebrations:

-The non-celebration:

-Goaltender Matt Murray was all over this puck:

-Ditto here:

-Ditto Holtby:

-Captain/center Sidney Crosby shook hands with Capitals defenseman and former teammate Matt Niskanen:

-Murray and Holtby had a moment:

-Murray had a moment alone:

-Murray had support from defenseman Brian Dumoulin and right winger Bryan Rust against Capitals right winger T.J. Oshie:

-Left winger Conor Sheary was just doing his thing:

-Defenseman Trevor Daley had things under control:

-Crosby and center Evgeni Malkin had a chat:

-Murray and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury chatted with defenseman Ian Cole:

-Sullivan seemed perplexed by something:

-Capitals assistant coach Todd Reirden held court at the bench:

-Sad times for Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik:

-A hockey night in Pittsburgh:

-“I’ve never seen it in all the years I’ve been around the game. To have three delay-of-game penalties right in a row like that? That’s a tough one to swallow, you know.” - Sullivan on the sequence in the third period where his team took three consecutive delay of game penalties.

-Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta and Capitals defensemen Brooks Orpik each returned to their respective lineups.

-The Penguins advanced despite not getting much production from Crosby or Malkin

-Commentary: The Penguins took advantage of Orpik's mistakes

-“We lost in the second round again. It [stinks].” - Capitals captain/left winger Alex Ovechkin

-Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner left the game in the second period due to an injury.

Calder Cup

-“I think the last few years, it’s crossed my mind before all the playoff games here and definitely this year. You never know when you’re going to be done and, right now, I’m taking each series like it could be my last one." - Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins captain/right winger Tom Kostopoulos on 17 professional seasons.

-After the Jump: Mike Johnston finds work.

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Postgame thoughts - Penguins 4, Capitals 3 (OT) - 05-10-16

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Observations from the Penguins' 4-3 overtime win against the Capitals:

Playoff histories are fun things to look at.

You can easily get lost on YouTube watching old playoff overtime goals or big hits or spectacular saves. Digging through old media guides or looking up hockey statistical sites trying to find who had however many game-winning goals or power-play assists can be addicting.

It can also be meaningless to the here and now.

When the Penguins and Capitals began play tonight at 8:10 p.m., the fact that the Penguins had troubles protecting 3-1 series leads didn't have any bearing on how this game would go. Neither did the Capitals' inability to get past the second round. 

This was just two great hockey teams conspiring to display the sport at darn near its highest level. No, it wasn't a perfect game. The superstar players didn't necessarily influence this game as much as many would have liked. And there were plenty of errors or imperfections to this contest. In one sequence during the third period, there was a simply bizarre series of delay of game penalties unlike anything most hockey fans have ever seen.

But good gosh ... This was marvelously scintillating theater.

Justice would have given this series a Game 7. Center Nick Bonino only allowed it to go to Game 6. That doesn't mean this wasn't one of the best series we've personally seen in quite some time. 

This game was a perfect capper to what was a showdown between the NHL's two best remaining teams in the postseason.

Ultimately, the Penguins' speed and depth pushed them past the Capitals and into an Eastern Conference final showdown with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Tonight, they made some history.

What happened

The Penguins took the game's first lead 5:41 into regulation. Taking a simple outlet pass in the neutral zone from defenseman Brian Dumoulin, right winger Phil Kessel gained the offensive zone on the left wing. He used Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner as a screen and sniped a wrister by the blocker of goaltender Braden Holtby on the near side. Dumoulin and left winger Carl Hagelin had assists.

A power-play goal gave the Penguins a 2-0 lead at 7:05 of the second period. With former Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik in the penalty box for a double minor after high sticking right winger Patric Hornqvist, defenseman Kris Letang took a pass at the center point then fed a pass to Kessel low in the left circle. Kessel surveyed the offensive zone, made his way towards the crease, waited for Holtby to commit and tucked a forehand shot by his left skate. Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen gave Kessel a shove in the back aftewards and Kessel did a bellyflop in celebration. Consol Energy Center was rocking. Assists went to Letang and Kunitz.

They cashed in Orpik's second minor 33 seconds later. Center Nick Bonino controlled the puck on the left half wall and fed it to defenseman Trevor Daley at the left point. Daley then dealt it to the right point for defenseman Olli Maatta. Maatta floated a wrister from the right point towards the cage. Hagelin was positioned in front of Holtby and deflected the puck downwards past Holtby's right skate.  Assists went to Maatta and Daley.

The Capitals' own power play got them on the scoreboard with 1:30 left in the second period. Left winger Alex Ovechkin dumped a puck in from the left point around the end boards. As defenseman Ian Cole tried to recover his stick behind the net, Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom settled the puck in the right corner and distributed it to right winger T.J. Oshie in the right circle. Oshie immediately released a fireball of a one-timer while falling. The puck blew by goaltender Matt Murray's right shoulder on the far side and hit twine. Backstrom had the lone assist. 

The Capitals pulled within a goal at 7:23 of the third period. Taking a feed below the goal line, Capitals left winger Justin Williams veered behind the net and backpedaled to the left of the cage where he lifted a wrister from in tight by Murray's glove hand on the near side. Backstrom had the lone assist.

The game was tied after a wild, bizarre sequence. After the Penguins took three consecutive delay of game penalties - by left winger Chris Kunitz, Bonino and defenseman Ian Cole -  the Capitals had 1:04 of a five-on-three power play to work with. Ovechkin fed a pass from the high sltot to defenseman John Carlson in the left circle. Carlson uncorked a one-timer which sneaked inside Murray's blocker on the near side. Ovechkin and Williams had assists. 

-The delay of game penalty sequence:

-And the goal:

-In overtime, Hagelin chased down a puck in the right wing corner and backhanded it to the left wing corner. Kessel settled the puck, allowed the play to develop and fed a pass back to Hagelin darting to the slot. Hagelin got a shot off despite pressure from Capitals defenseman Taylor Chorney. Holtby made the inital save with his right leg but couldn't deny Bonino chipping the rebound in with a backhand. Assists went to Hagelin and Kessel.

The Penguins

-Head coach Mike Sullivan is fond of chiding any reporters for referring to the Kessel-Bonino-Hagelin as the "second line." He'll ask, "Which one is the second line?" Regardless of what you want to label that line, it's pretty clear it was this team's top line tonight and throughout most of the series. They combined for six of the 15 goals the Penguins scored this series. And with centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin limited to one goal combined (by Malkin) this series, the top line - Kessel-Bonino-Hagelin line carried this team offensively to the Eastern Conference final.

-It's hard to get a read on Phil Kessel the person. You could talk to him after an 8-0 loss in which he had eight turnovers leading to all eight opposing goals and get the same type of temperament or responses from him if he had just set a modern-day scoring record himself. In one sense, he's a mystery. In another sense, he seems to be consistent in his personality. Tonight, he carried most of the load for his team's offense in an elimination game and it just seemed like a ho-hum game to him. He's as quixotic as he is talented.

-One key lineup decision in this game was the pairing of Dumoulin and Letang. With defneseman Olli Maatta returning from his suspected head injury, one would assume Letang and Maatta would be reunited but they opted to pair Letang and Dumoulin. They routinely saw time against Ovechkin's line in five on five and Dumoulin particularly took it upon himself to get physical with the 240-pound Ovechkin knocking him to the ice routinely. We'll have more about this duo tomorrow on the blog but they were really key to this win.

-Murray maybe showed a few chinks in his armor tonight. He could have made a stop on Williams' goal or even Carlson's score in the five-on-three situations. But at that stage, the Capitals were so desperate to get back in the game. He made some tougher saves down the stretch and put his team in position to get the game to overtime. He earned this win and earned the right to start Game 1 against the Lightning.

-Getting some production out of the power play was an important development too. After largely being a non-factor, the power play feasted on Orpik's double minor and seemingly buried the Capitals in the second period. Just getting some confidence for this group going into the next round is critical.

-We're not sure how to fairly evaluate the penalty kill. The Oshie goal was far too easy for the Capitals. But they did a remarkable job in the third period despite allowing Carlson's goal on the second five-on-three situation. THe Capitals could have done a lot more damage with their dangerous power play but the Penguins limited them.

The Capitals

-The Capitals defense was really hampered by defenseman Karl Alzner who left the game in the second period due to a groin injury. It's an ailment he's been battling through for several games and it finally did him in mid-way through this game. He's so important for them in terms of playing big and important minutes. It's really a marvel the Capitals were able to stage a comeback without him.

-As much scrutiny as the Penguins' top players - Crosby and Malkin - will get, and justly so, for limited production, the Capitals didn't get enough from some of their higher end players such as Ovechkin, center Evgeny Kuznetsov or Backstrom. It's almost as if the elite forward on each team canceled one another out.

-Orpik really turned into the goat of this game with his double minor penalty. Coming off his three-game suspension for injuring Maatta, he was booed most of the night any time he touched the puck then his former fans howled each of his penalties were converted into goals. Orpik is a proud and detail-oriented player and that had to be a tough pill to swallow.

-Holtby stole goals through most of the game but at the same time, he needed to steal one or two more. Holtby wasn't the reason the Capitals lost this series. He was very strong. At the same time, he wasn't strong enough to win it.

-Capitals center Jay Beagle saved his team's season - albeit temporarily - in overtime when he dove in his crease and blocked a would-be goal by Hornqvist:


-Letang described what happened with the delay of game penalty sequence:

"Bad luck. They were like that much over the glass. [Places fingers close together.] It's unbelievable. You're trying to make the simple play and it goes over. It's was a big character win. They had like three five-on-threes. I never saw that before. Guys focused. We allowed a goal but it's an unbelievable team we faced. It was fun to finish the third being tied and going to overtime."

-Sullivan was proud of how his team responded to the three penalties:

“I've never seen it in all the years I've been in the game, to have three delay of game penalties in a row like that. I thought our guys battled hard through it against a very good power play. What I've liked about this group is their resilience. When we got to the overtime, we just talked to them in between periods about taking a deep breath. Can't change what just happened. We've got to let it go and we've just got to play. … I know our leadership in our room was strong. And we just went out in the overtime and started to play again."

-Letang laughed at the bizarre sequence:

“I've never seen that. I don't know if you've ever seen anything like that but I didn't. I think we have to change our curves. Something like that. It's just a question of bad luck. Guys, they are working hard. They are trying to make a simple play and it goes over the glass."

-Letang described the mood of the team when Washington tied the game:

“Not good. Not good. Not good. You're under control and it all goes to [manure]. Sorry for the words but that's what it is. After that, I get called for another penalty. I was just praying in the box that we killed that off and go to overtime get the win.”

-Letang talked about the power play's success:

“I think we moved our feet. We supported each other and it opened up. They got out of position and we were able to find some seams.”

Letang joked about the "second" line's identity:

“Whatever line it is, it's got no number. That line is a big line for us. Got a lot of speed. They're smart. Got a guy like [Bonino] that is a great playmaker for those two speedy guys. They come out huge with big goals every game.”

-Letang liked playing with Dumoulin:

“He's a great two-way player. He's got good ability on his skates. He's got a great stick. So the coaching staff has no problem to put him against a top line.”

-Kessel was curt when asked to reflect on being in the Eastern Conference Final compared to being out of the playoffs with the Maple Leafs a year ago:

“A bit of difference, right?”

-Murray tried to recall the postgame celebration:

“I can't really remember to be honest. I just tried to sprint down the ice as fast as I can. I just remember [Hornqvist] tackling me to the ice. It's an unbelievable feeling.”

-Bonino, who is usually pretty in-depth in describing plays on the ice, was tongue-tied when asked to describe his goal:

"I can't really put it into words right now. Still got chills a little bit."

-After a little prodding, Bonino outlined the sequence:

"[Hagelin] drove the middle. Their [defenseman] made a good play. Phil went down low. I just went to the front. Let them cycle. The puck always ends up there. I was able to get a stick on it. It wasn't pretty but they're usually not.”

-Bonino talked about taking the second delay of game penalty:

"That was the worst feeling I think I ever had in hockey when I whacked the puck out of play and [Cole] did it after … and after [Kunitz] did it. That's something you'll never see."

-Defenseman Ben Lovejoy had a big picture outlook:

"It's a huge win for this team. But it's only win number 8. We've got to enjoy it tonight. We have the day off tomorrow. We're probably going try to get some sleep and then we'll come to work in two days and focus on the Tampa Bay Lightning.”

-Cole described the scene during the third intermission:

“It wasn't a big speech time. Sid said, “Guys, we've still got a game here. We're still in a decent spot. Obviously, we want to finish it out. Everyone knows that. We can't stop playing. We can't just fold this game. We're still in a great spot. One more goal and this game is over. What's in the past is in the past. We can't do anything about it now. Got to play. Got to be moving forward and continue to play hard.'”

-Capitals coach Barry Trotz, who congratulated the Penguins at his postgame press conference before taking questions, lauded the "second" line:

“The Hagelin line, the Bonino line. They seemed to be the group that scored all the time looking at the game. Ended up being really the difference.”

-Ovechkin summed things up from his team's perspective pretty well:

"Again, we lost in the second round. It [stinks]."

-Former Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen was despondent:

"I think we're kind of shocked right now. … Hurts. It's amazing how if a series doesn't go your way, how fast it can slip away. I don't think we've comprehended what's happened yet.”


-The Penguins led in shots on net, 42-39.

-Hagelin led the game with eight shots.

-Kuznetsov, Ovechkin and left winger Jason Chimera each led the Capitals with six shots.

-Carlson led the game with 33:12 of ice time on 42 shifts.

-Letang led the Penguins with 30:28 of ice time on 41 shifts.

-The Penguins controlled faceoffs, 44-34 (56 percent).

-Crosby was 14 for 22 (64 percent).

-Capitals center Richards was 9 for 11 (75 percent).

-Carlson led the game with five blocked shots.

-Cole led the Penguins with three blocked shots.

Historically speaking

-Bonino's overtime goal was the third of his postseason career and his second to clinch a series. He previously did it with the Ducks in Game 6 of a 2014 first round series vs. the Stars.

-That was the Penguins' first series-clinching overtime goal since Orpik scored in Game 6 of a 2013 Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Islanders:

-It was the Penguins' first series-clinching overtime win at home since right winger Marian Hossa scored vs. the Rangers in a 2008 Eastern Conference semifinal series:

-The Penguins are now 8-1 all-time in playoff series vs. the Capitals. Oof. 

-The Penguins made a little history which probably isn't the good type of history:

-This probably isn't good history either:


-Mike Lange is the best:


-Game summary.

-Event summary.


(Photos: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

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ACC spring meetings: Day two notes (and Pat Narduzzi's comment)

Written by Craig Meyer on .

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. -- For all that yesterday lacked in news and activity, today more than made up for it.

I discussed a variety of topics with a few people around the ACC spring meetings -- Roy Williams (and his seahorse-adorned swim trunks) about new Pitt coach Kevin Stallings, Pat Narduzzi on the time demands placed on NCAA athletes -- that I'll touch on in stories a little later this week, but much of today's work centered around a single comment.

Today, NCAA chief medical officer Brian Hainline visited the football coaches' meeting that ran for four hours this morning. There, he discussed ongoing concussion research and how to process the increasing dialogue surrounding head injuries in the sport. I found this out second-hand from Narduzzi, who mentioned they talked about concussions.

I followed up by asking what the concussion discussion centered around and what kind of things they talked about. Were they talking about how to handle concussed players? Or how to possibly spot and diagnose whether a player has one?

Here was Narduzzi's response in full:

“Hopefully coaches aren’t doing that. We’ve got a major problem in college football if coaches are diagnosing. There was a neurosurgeon who came in and explained some of the data and how they need to get more data so they can make decisions. I think when you look at all the results and all the talk, I think it’s media hyped. They’re talking about how they need to get more data and feedback on really what it is that’s causing these injuries.”

The bolded part of that quote, of course, was what really generated a lot of discussion on Twitter. On its own, it's a bad look. The son of a coach, Narduzzi grew up around the sport and has made it his life's work. In many ways, it's who he is. But that statement, even in the full context of the quote, comes off as callous to a problem that has affected so many who played the game. From an optics standpoint, it was particularly searing given a) Pittsburgh's role in the concussion-in-football saga and b) the University of Pittsburgh's standing in the world of concussion research (hell, it's affiliated with a foundation named after the man who discovered CTE).

Hours after he said it, and long after it picked up some level of steam on social media, I followed up with Narduzzi. He apologized for how his remark came off and said the comment was misinterpreted, that he was simply reiterating the central theme of the morning meeting about concussions. Dr. Hainline didn't disagree with that interpretation, though he said he never used the term 'media hyped' when discussing fears surrounding concussions.

“I don’t talk about the media when I speak,” he said. “I think someone else may have said that, but it certainly wasn’t me. You can imagine the coaches feel under attack.”

Below is the rest of our follow-up conversation, beginning with Narduzzi addressing his initial comment. Anything not in quotes is a question from me:

“I apologize really for giving the impression I was minimizing concussions. I apologize for that. Basically, what I was talking about in there was in the conversation. It wasn’t about my philosophy or what I thought. It’s kind of coming from Dr. [Brian] Hainline [the NCAA chief medical officer], the specialist that came in and talked to us. That was the conversation, that there isn’t enough data. There’s not enough data they’re getting back to find out what’s going on. When you talk from the doctors’ perspective, not my perspective, they want more conclusive evidence of what’s going on.”

“I’m not the doctor. I’m just the coach. We take concussions and really anything medically related very, very seriously. When you look at the city of Pittsburgh and what concussions mean there, that’s where it starts. There couldn’t be a better place for our kids to be located for any problems as far as concussions or anything else. It’s just a matter of getting more information. They feel like they should have three years’ worth of data right now and they really aren’t getting it back, to make a long story short. It’s not what I think. It’s what the conversation is. They want more data. There were conversations in our meeting today talking about the contact-no contact period. They talked about practicing with no helmets on. They thought that might prevent things. There were all kind of discussions like that. That was one of the topics, one of several.”

I think some people were confused because, and I'm not meaning to play gotcha here, you did say 'I think' in that statement...

“Did I say ‘I’? I didn’t mean to say I. That’s basically what they were talking about. What do I know? I just do what they tell us to do. One thing I’m big on, when you’re talking about sensitivity to concussions, we don’t get very many, knock on wood. I think if a guy is dinged at all, we pull them out. The further it gets along, if you ignore it…that was one of the other topics, if one of your players ignores that they got a concussion – doesn’t want to let the team down, thinking they’re okay – it’s even worse. The faster you identify there is a concussion, the better off it is. We pull guys out so quickly. It’s a tribute to our medical help there at Pitt.”

When we're talking about 'media hyped', is it about talk of how widespread concussions are?

“Nobody knows. You talk about soccer and tennis and all the injuries related to those sports, you talk about rugby tackling and football tackling…there are so many topics and nobody really knows. They want to do more data on how people are tackling, how people aren’t tackling and all of that stuff. There aren’t enough details, I guess, is what the doctors are saying.”

There's obviously a separation between a football coach and scientific researchers at a major university, but what have you learned about concussions in football since arriving at Pitt?

“We learn from our trainers a lot. It’s really trying to be at the head of it. That’s for the medical field to worry about. We do what they say. We don’t put kids out there. They tell us and we’re very cautious. If anything, I’m going to keep a guy out. It’s not worth it. What if we’re wrong? But that’s not my say. They educate us all the time and I think we have pretty good idea of the protocol as far as what you do when you think someone has a concussion. It’s pretty simple. Take the coach out of it. We don’t make those decisions, but it can be safe, too.”

How much has the treatment of concussions by coaches changed from where it was maybe 10 years ago to where it is now?

“When you think about it as a coach, you’re always thinking about the safety of the players. I don’t think it has really changed. It hasn’t changed as far as what a coach thinks. We’ve always felt the same way. You try to treat those kids like they’re your own. I had a son that played the game of football up until eighth grade. You watch him out there hitting people and you’re always erring on the side of making sure you’re safe. I don’t think that has really changed. I think the research has changed. I think our knowledge of the situation and concussions has increased. But I don’t think the way we care for it has really changed a whole lot, for the doctors.”

So what to make of all of this? I'm not totally sure. I'm not going to try to play pop psychologist and speculate on which one he actually meant because that's not my job. Without making this too much of a journalism nerd tangent, there are misunderstandings between subjects and reporters in interviews. Whether it's an instance like this or something more innocuous, it happens, especially when some people have filler terms that almost subconsciously pop up in their speech (I have plenty of them, especially since I stutter). For Narduzzi, as he said, 'I think' may very well be one of them, even if it led to a clumsy comment on a delicate issue.

Regardless of how it came out or what he meant to say, Narduzzi's words highlight just how polarizing this topic can be. The NFL's denial of the prevalence of head trauma among its players is well documented, even giving us a movie in which Will Smith (more impressively than most believe) pulled off a fake Nigerian accent. It has claimed the lives of some of the sport's greats, figures like Junior Seau, Dave Duerson and, closer to home, Mike Webster. The frequency of concussions may be even worse than it appears. A 2014 joint study from Boston University and Harvard found that 26 of 27 concussions among college football players go unreported. An extensive piece from the New York Times earlier this year showed how drastically under-reported concussions are by teams at the NFL level.

But while so many of us are cognizant of the relationship between football and head injuries, it's a field of study that, by the admission of many of its researchers, is evolving. We now know so many of the damaging and heart-breaking effects of concussions, but there are gaps in knowledge that scientists are still trying to figure out (the NCAA and Department of Defense, for example, are spearheading a long-term study at 30 colleges in which, a year and a half into it, has already involved more than 20,000 athletes). So while more concrete data is being compiled, experts like Dr. Hainline are preaching patience and that people hold off on reaching overarching conclusions until there's a better understanding of concussions, what causes them and how they can be treated before devolving into something much worse.

Given its importance, it's an understandably thorny issue. And at least for one day, it made a conference where paramount topics include satellite camps and graduate transfers a tad more interesting.


Craig Meyer: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG

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