Monday, February 9, 2009
Saturday, February 7, 2009
11. Will the Caps meet the Penguins in the playoffs?
The short answer to this is…”no.”
The long answer: the Caps are 1-5 in the playoffs against the Penguins, so hopefully the team that hasn't won a playoff series in over a decade doesn't run up against their historical and more experienced nemesis.
Not in the first round, not in the second round, not ever this year. Why?
Because one team will lose early? Like the team that lost early last year? Tell us!
Because the Penguins are the kind of mess in the same way that a room of furniture bought from eight different stores is a mess.
Oh, I thought it was because the Penguins were currently out of the playoffs if they were to start today. Which they don't. And Pittsburgh is only a whole point out of 8th place.
Maybe it is because they are a mess of furniture though.
The pieces don’t seem to fit coherently to make for a long, successful run of wins.
The Penguins won six games in a row in November. And the core of the team (Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Brooks Orpik, Ryan Whitney, etc) was three goals from winning a Stanley Cup last June.
But, you know, other than that they can't really be expected to make any long, successful runs.
Do they match Crosby and Malkin on a line, or do they split them up?
Crosby and Malkin are 1 and 2 in the points race. Malkin, in particular, has shown that he can be effective as a winger on Crosby's line or centering a "second" line.
Together or apart, they make plays. Whether or not they are on the same line seems like a bigger concern for how the opposition sets their checking lines and defensive pairs.
When is Gonchar coming back?
About 2-3 weeks, which is a little ahead of the original prognosis.
What winger can they match with Crosby to get any production?
Evgeni Malkin, Tyler Kennedy, Petr Sykora or whoever they add at the trade deadline.
And who are they looking to add production to? Crosby has 45 even strength points this season--second in the league only to Malkin's 51. They've rotated no shortage of players with Sid (like Malkin, Kennedy, Max Talbot, Pascal Dupuis, Matt Cooke) and Crosby has put up numbers. Whoever is playing hot gets their shot on the top line, and Crosby usually comes through with them.
What happened to the power play (tied with Tampa for 23rd overall and dead last in the NHL on the road)?
The loss of Gonchar, who was #2 in the entire league with 46 power play points last season. The next highest defensemen (Nicklas Lidstrom and Mark Streit) had 34 PP points. Gonchar also led all players in the NHL with 38 power play assists.
Given that he's played a grand total of 0 games this season the lack of power play success comes a little bit more into focus.
What happened to Fleury (he’s saved fewer than 90 percent of the shots he’s faced in nine of the last 16 games he’s played)?
A lot of shots is what happened. Fleury's faced 1095 shots in 36 appearances (over 30 a game). Despite that he still has a save percentage of .911 and a record of 18-13-1. Jose Thedore's save percentage is currently .899, by the way.
Do Crosby and coach Michel Therrien not get along?
Will – or when will – Therrien be fired?
Barring an extended, extended losing streak, no time this season.
The Penguins have, as they say, “issues” that go far beyond a Stanley Cup hangover.
Uhh, it's February. No one on the team is thinking about last season, they're focused on this year.
And as mentioned, of this writing one point of of 8th place (though other teams do have games in hand). One whole point, time to turn it in for the season! They're so hungover they're practically still drunk. Jordan Staal hasn't been this hungover since the day after his brother's bachelor party!
Even Barry Melrose, who would know the specie (having seen one up close coaching Tampa Bay this year), said that the Penguins aren’t a very good hockey team.
Even Barry Melrose! Well that solves it! No chance at all the Penguins could get to the playoffs now if the esteemed Barry Melrose thinks they aren't a very good hockey team. Because surely has he ever erred in his hockey judgement.
- Sidney Crosby, who still doesn't look like himself with the knee injury, got a goal and two assists. He made plays and still had enough burst to be a difference maker.
- Marc-Andre Fleury--who had a 1.97 GAA in the playoffs--has reverted back to that form. Tonight he got 33 stops on 34 saves, including several acrobatic and impressive ones. In the playoffs you only go as far as your goalie takes you, and tonight Fleury paved the way.
- Tonight was all about Kris Letang though...Pre-All Star break the young defenseman scored 1 goal in 43 games...Since the Youngstar game in his home province he's notched 4 goals in six games, and has gone to his wrist shot more to beat goalies. Letang contributing is a huge plus.
- Brooks Orpik had 12 hits, the entire Columbus team registered 21. Yep.
- Jordan Staal, as his usual since signing his extension, had a forceful game. 4 shots on net (with two more missing target), two takeaways, four hits and 9 of 13 in the faceoff circle.
- Would you believe Michael Peca is only 34 years old? Not gonna say he's been around for a while, but Peca played his first NHL games when we were in the 4th grade.
Now that this stretch is over the Pens are rewarded with the top two teams in the Western Conference, the Red Wings and the San Jose Sharks--though both games at home. Let's see how they stack up against the best.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
- This was one of the most physical games of the season. Former Pens Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts each recorded seven hits a piece. Tampa had 42 total on the night. Even Steven Stamkos got into the act with a heavy hit.
- And before you get too far down on Stamkos, allow us to present you with these two season statlines....55 games, 3 goals, 4 assists; 82 games, 13 goals 15 assists...Those are the 18 year old NHL seasons of Joe Thornton and Vincent Lecavalier respectively. Sure, they were both in the pre-lockout days where the game was a little tighter--but the point is just because phenoms like Crosby, Ovechkin and Malkin hit the ground running they're still very much the execptions, and not the rule.
- Malone's goal in front of the net showed the grit and skill that Pittsburgh has frankly been missing without him. Can't fault a guy for getting paid, but boy if he were still in the black and gold it's hard to imagine the Penguins struggling as much as they have been. Apologies to Marian Hossa (who's not having a shabby season himself) but Malone's presence on and off the ice might be the biggest loss the Pens suffered from all the ballyhooed player movement.
- 0-6 to start the powerplay for the Penguins on the night, including a 5 on 3 for a full two minutes. Ryan Whitney isn't making solid decisions back there. It's not all on him of course, but Sergei Gonchar (46 PP points last season, only one off of Alex Kovalev's 47 for the entire league) will help so much.
- After being outshot 14-5 in the first period, the Pens--outshot nightly seemingly every night--turned it around and won the last three frames a combined 27-10. The frantic comeback helped, the sense of urgency was finally there.
And take a deep breath, the Pens live to fight another day.
Monday, February 2, 2009
--For the second time in under a week, NHL disicplinarian Colin Campbell rung up a Penguin; this time it's Tyler Kennedy one game for leaving the bench to engage Toronto's Luke Schenn in a fight. It's unknown if Mr. Kennedy would have gotten a longer timeout if he hadn't gotten wiped on the ice by Scheen.
--In personnel moves, the Penguins have called up their brightest prospect from the minors; Luca Caputi. Paul Bissonnette has been re-assigned. Caputi has 13 goals (and 35 points) in 46 games down in the minors, not bad stats for a 20 year old. It will be interesting to see how he fares, here's to hoping that Michel Therrien doesn't give him the usual 6-7 minutes for most young callups.
--Two interesting tidbits from Pensburgh: Sergei Gonchar takes another step on the road to recovery by being cleared for contact in practice. And Ray Shero indicates the "expectation" management has for the players to "make a push". It sounds like a trade could be coming soon, possibly when Sarge can return. As we've mentioned before, signs are pointing that Alex Goligoski could be the bait.
--Sad story from Montreal, as former Penguin Robert Lang suffered a pretty gruesome career threatening achilles injury. The surgery was said to be successful, so that is a good thing. Here's hoping that Lang, an avid golfer, is back to the links at some point when the weather gets warm. And back to the NHL too.
--It would be a shame if Lang's career ended in this eye-popping jersey, eh?
--Congrats to Sidney Crosby, who was named the NHL's second star of the week...Penguin killer Jamie Langenbrunner was named the league's top star.
--A quick check of the standings don't show much progress, as a 1-1-1 record out of the break woud indicate. The Pens are in 10th in the conference; Florida is in 9th--one point up on the Pens (with two games in hand). Carolina is clinging to 8th place with two more points than Pittsburgh.
--James Mirtle's update shows the Penguins need to go 19-12-0 to ensure a playoff berth.