Thursday, February 28, 2008

The 2nd best #66

Alan Faneca is free to get paid like a guy who's made 7 straight Pro Bowls should be. And perhaps no one deserves it more.

"Big Nasty" has been a favorite of this blog's editor for a long time. As a young buck, we actually got his autograph his first training camp in Latrobe when they used to let fans run onto the field and get up close to the players. The first target of ours wasn't the most popular players of the day like Jerome Bettis, Levon Kirkland or Kordell Stewart (ha!) that most swarmed too, but a childhood hero Dirt Dawson. Faneca was the next closest, and as a rookie, was unoccupied by the masses so he was next, sparking a decade long rooting interest that will not end at 11:59 PM tonight when he's no longer a Steeler.

The most visible highlight of Faneca's Steeler career was easily the one that sprung Willie Parker on a record 75 yard Super Bowl run. Many people (including us) thought Faneca should have probably been named MVP of the disjointed game, given the impact this one hit made.

All the best to a consumate pro who's at the top of his game and is moving on. The Steelers will be lucky to replace Faneca with someone half as competant. But at least the replacement will fit right in with the rest of the current subpar o-line.

If you're keeping track at home (and you're probably not), this makes two of our favorite Pittsburgh athletes leaving in a matter of days, not to mention the passing of a Pittsburgh institution. The times they are a'changin.

This is Hooks Orpik....On sports.*

*We've always wanted to say that just once.

Well, maybe not THE worst...

From the PG:

Right winger Marian Hossa, making his Penguins debut after being acquired from Atlanta at the trade deadline Tuesday, sprained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee and is expected to miss about a week.

Hossa has had a knee injury before, so we suppose that information has immediately been released about just a sprain and an early window of one week isn't the worst thing that could have happened.

Gary Roberts-Sidney Crosby-Marian Hossa

For most teams this would easily be the #1 line on their team...For the Penguins it'll be injured players skating with each other before practice. Not to mention Adam Hall, Mark Eaton, Rob Scuderi....

Time to regroup and push forward. The Pens will have to hang in their until the reinforcements trickle in.

And when they do, you can bet it will be the opponents that are hurting.

Worst Case Scenario

Right from the beginning, not a good game tonight. The Bruins--who we've said always seem like a scrappy bunch that will find a way to make the playoffs--out hustled, out worked, out everything the Penguins.

To make matters that much worse, Marian Hossa left the game in the 2nd period with what initial reports are calling a MCL sprain after an accidental knee-to-knee collision with "Anyone But" Glen Murray.

Dealing with Rob Scuderi's finger "explosion", the Pens used two new defensive pairs; newcomer Hal Gill worked with Kris Letang and surprisingly our boy (but not the coaches') Brooks Orpik worked with the Sarge on the top unit. As you'd expect with three new faces in the lineup and new defensive units, the Pens weren't able to get in sync tonight.

If there is a positive (and there's not) it may be that the dynamic duo of Evgeni Malkin and Petr Sykora fired 9 shots on goals. Malkin, as usual, played well and had jump in his step, it just wasn't his night. Or anyone's. With Hossa's injury, those two should be reunited with winger Ryan Malone and hopefully be able to pick up where they left off.

A couple of role players in Jeff Taffe and fresh-faced Pascal Dupuis played well too and contributed a little, something that will need to happen in the future for valuable secondary scoring. It is hard to say at a time like this, but Taffe is playing excellent and if he and Dupuis can provide above average support roles that will go a long way towards long-term success.

This was probably the third appearance that Ty Conklin made where he wasn't sharp. The first two goals (both by Marco Sturm) would be hard to stop by anyone; a wacky deflection and a perfect shot. But Conklin was out of position on a Phil Kessel shot (that mercifully hit iron) and looked rattled. The mark of a good goalie is bouncing back, hopefully Conklin will be able to do so. As our buddy the Peerless noted, the Ty has been the MVP of the Penguins this year, but Conkblock's mindset can't be good after a night like this. Hopefully a short memory will enable him to bounce back.

Marc-Andre Fleury got in for the second half of the game, but it's hard to judge his performance since everyone bascially knew the result. Who knows which goalie Coach Therrien turns to next, but his decision--as well as that netminder's performance may well set the stage for the rest of the season, good or bad.

In conclusion, a terrible loss; probably the worst of the season considering not only how the result, but also that Hossa went down. If ever this team needed Sidney Crosby, it's now. Who knows how his ankle is feeling but the Pens were flat and one gets the feeling his mere presence in the lineup will provide a huge boost. He shouldn't come back before he's ready, but the team would benefit so much if he was ready soon.

Next up after a day off, a four game stretch in 6 days begins, in four different cities on top of that.

The 2007-08 Penguins have been marked by much more adversity than last year's suprise upstart team that only lost 7 games in regulation over the second half of the season. We've seem this team respond before, but at this hour that doesn't mean much. It's time to lick the wounds and regroup a little in order to come out strong for the next hectic stretch.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Not News: The Maven has no concept of reality

This is worth a chuckle...

As a matter of fact, I'll now go on record stating that the acquisitions of Swedish defenseman Christian Backman and forward Fredrik (Call Me Freddie) Sjostrom will be as positive for the Blueshirts roster as last year's addition of Sean (The Great Gabbo) Avery.

I'll go one step further and hereby forecast that the roster, as now constituted, is good enough to carry New York to the top of the division and then all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals

So a guy who was a 5/6 defenseman in St. Louis and a guy with 73 points in 261 NHL games are going to put the 7th place Rangers all the way over the top?

Oh, Stan.

Reports of Gary Roberts Demise Greatly Exaggerated?

A simple, almost throwaway line in the PG today, but then you read it and it floors you..

[Sidney]Crosby and left winger Gary Roberts (broken leg, high ankle sprain) skatedyesterday for about a half-hour with no apparent problem, team officials said

Uhhh, what was that again? Slightly different then the bombshell PG Columnist Ron Cook laid out in his column entitled: "Latest setback threatens Roberts' career"

Make no mistake here.

This really is crunch time for Roberts.

Like never before in his career.

Off topic a bit, but a personal beef.

What's the deal with almost every newspaper writer in America going overboard on these one sentence paragraphs?

It's like, come on let's develop these things a little more.

The PG's Shelly Anderson is the worst at this.

It's very annoying.

And doesn't seem like the mark of an effective or good writer.

But that's just one man's opinion.

Anyways, as you can see Cook basically spelled out that Roberts career is in jeopardy and after reading it, you thought he was Barbaro or something and the docs were about to put him down. Cook also wrote (emphasis added):

He said he won't try to skate for two more weeks. His new target date to play again is March 27, a home game against the New York Islanders. "At least that would give me five games before the playoffs."

So much for that big push for the team down the stretch.

In conclusion, the day this hit news-stands (yesterday) Gary Roberts skated for 30 minutes with Crosby. The legend continues to grow.

Todays lines and a new injury

Rob Scuderi apparantely broke a finger last night and is expected to be out 3-4 weeks. Scuderi has been playing on the top even strength unit and killing a lot of penaties so his loss is unfortunate. He's not the ideal top unit guy, but he's played very admirably covering for the Sarge ever since Mark Eaton's injury.

We guess that settles who will sit to make room for Hal Gill's spot in the lineup. It's also lucky that Gill's best traits are the ones mentioned that Scuderi's void will need replaced. A lucky coincidence.

Also, here were the lines used today in practice, expect to see them tomorrow night's game in Boston. Your starting netminder for the first time since December 6th will be old white pads Marc-Andre Fleury.


``The biggest change is obviously Staal will be Hossa's center and Malone is bumped off the top line to join them. We like this. Dupuis is a responsible player away from the puck and his style would seem to support the sleekness of the Malkin-Syko combo.
``Staal has been used as a center all year, it looks pretty obvious that even though coaches/management could put him back on the wing, they don't want to. One has to wonder if Staal is ideal for Hossa's wing though. Eric's little bro has just 26 assists in 145 career games.
``Love the 3rd line though. Taffe has been a pretty reliable lower-line player and hasn't looked out of place in the NHL. We think he might even deserve a spot in the lineup when the injured players come back.
``Speaking of injured players, could you imagine a Robers-Talbot-Kennedy 3rd line come playoff time? What a blend of speed, grit and determination.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

It's setting in

Shockwaves of the deal will be felt for a long time, but we went back tonight, before calling it a night and found a picture that does speak 1000 words. Wanted to share it. In all the jubilation and, well, shock that Ray Shero had the fortitude to make such a ballsy deal, the focus was more on what the Penguins were getting and how it all may or may not fit into the big picture for next year's salary cap situation.

But the reality that the Penguins altered their lineup and chemistry so drastically is finally starting to sink in. It'll be interesting to see how the team gels and comes together in the last 18 games before the playoffs. Judging by tonight's 4-2 win over the Fishsticks (yes apparantely there was actual games today), round 1 was a success.

Still, it's going to be difficult to replace a guy who brings things like this to the table...

Farewell, Army

Best of luck to Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen. On a personal note, as this blog editor grew up, learned the internet and started following and tracking prospects Brooks Orpik's 2000 draft class was the first, but Army and EC were two guys we've followed for almost 7 and 6 years now respectively.

We were in attendence for Armstrong's first ever game with the Penguins. It was September of 2002, a preseason game in Washington DC. Armstrong scored 2 goals that night, it was wonderful. We won't stop following either player--or stop being fans, but it's going to be strange not having them in the organization.

In that strange way we'll all get the chance have some closure this Sunday when Atlanta comes to town...It sure will be surreal to see Colby and Crusher wearing Atlanta Thrasher jerseys. But it's the world we live in now.

Responding to Empty Netters

We like the blog on the post-gazette's website, Empty Netters (even if they never link or make mention of us!.

His inital reaction to the big trade is not favorable. Let's offer the other side of the coin:

OUR TAKE: We don't like this deal at all on many levels.
1.) Hossa is a noted playoff underachiever. He's produced only 35 points in 55 postseason games. After racking up 100 points during the regular season last year, he disappeared in Atlanta's four-game sweep at the hands of the Rangers producing only one assist.

Before last season Daniel Alfredsson (and pretty much every other Senator) was considered a note playoff under-achiever too.

True, Hossa didn't put Atlanta on his back, but neither did Ilya Kovalchuk, Keith Tkachuk, etc etc. Atlanta a relatively inexperienced team that was straight up over-matched all the way across the board by a more veteran New York Ranger team.

Hossa's play in the playoffs will determine, ultimately, whether this was a good deal or a terrible one. Our thoughts are: elite skill players will perform with other skill. It's worked with Jagr/Lemieux, it's worked with Crosby/Malkin, it's worked Hossa/Kovalchuk and it will work Crosby/Hossa.

Especially when dude man is playing for a payday.

2.) This flies directly in the face of the philosophy the Penguins supposedly have as far not giving up too much of the future for the present.
That is true, Shero always said he wanted to build through the draft and younger guys. But he swung this deal without sacrificing guys like Kris Letang, Jordan Staal, Alex Goligoski or any of the young core.

The Penguins gave up a guy who has reached his ceiling (Colby Armstrong), and a player who wouldn't get quality minutes at his natural position of center (Erik Christensen). Shero did trade a "boom or bust" guy in Angelo Esposito (who doesn't seem comfortable on the wing) and also likely a late first round pick.

There's no doubt it's a heavy price to pay. But it's made the Penguins into a real contender. Pittsburgh, for the first time in our estimation since 1996 now has the team to beat in the East. If Hossa goes to Ottawa, this is not the case. So if you can pony up the brass of a riverboat gambler why not make it?

3.) What does this do to the team's chemistry? Armstrong was one of the team's most popular players.
This is a valid point. Aside from being Crosby's best bud on the team, Armstrong was a teammate of many of these guys coming up through Wilkes-Barre.

But they are professionals and this is ultimately a business. Life goes on. At the end of the day the organ-eye-zation did what it thought was best to put the team in a position to hoist the Stanley Cup THIS year.

4.) Can they guarantee Hossa returns following the season? He's a free agent when the season ends and he's been asking for big money.
No, there is no guarantee, which is why the risk. And even if the Penguins COULD resign Hossa, does that mean they should? That would likely mean about $30 million would be invested in three forwards. No one knows what the future holds and this might end up being a very expensive rental.

The Penguins sacrificed two roster players that seem largely replacable and are not going to have top-line draft picks trickling through the organization in the coming years. But the Pens have the depth of guys like Ryan Stone and Jonathan Filewich that can play a large role in the NHL next season. The cubbard isn't totally bare.

Don't get us wrong, Marian Hossa is an absurdly talented player. But he comes with a lot of baggage.

Looking too far ahead

Just imagine, barring injuries this could be the Penguins opening series lineup...




That's a lineup that could certainly rival anyone in the East Conference.

Stunning....Hossa to the Pens

"As with anything, it depends on the cost. It's like when you go shopping for a car. You might like something, but it's way out of your price range, or if you have a family budget, sometimes it's not going to fit into what you want to do." --Ray Shero (yesterday afternoon)

First thought:
  • Wow
Second thought:
  • Well, this changes things.

Let's look at what the Penguins gave up:

  • Colby Armstrong: The best thing he had going for him was that he was Sidney Crosby's best friend and road roommate. Armstrong seemed to find his stride, notching 40 points in 47 games just a couple of seasons ago and throwing several devasting checks last season. But this year he hasn't produced as much and those huge open ice hits have been absent. Army's a great guy and a good locker-room guy, but his NHL ceiling is a 3rd line winger.
  • Erik Christensen: Shootout specialist but with the Pens depth chart he never really could get quality minutes and couldn't fit in on the wing.
  • Angelo Esposito: Excellent prospect who dropped in the draft and the second person to ever be cut from Team Canada's WJC team three times in a row.

And the Penguins get:

  • Marian Hossa. Marian freakin Hossa.
  • Pascal Dupuis. I saw Atlanta play in Washington a couple of weeks ago and I thought Dupuis was the Tbombs best forward that night, FWIW.

And perhaps just as important, here's who didn't get Marian Hossa:

  • The Ottawa Senators
  • The Montreal Canadiens

The East is wide open and the Penguins, out of all the competitive teams were the only ones to drastically improve themselves. Heck, they were the only ones to really improve themselves at all (excusing the Lapointe to Ottawa deal).

For now who cares about whether this will backfire in the long run or whether or not the Pens gave up too much or if it will all work. The great thing about being a fan is the excitement the game gives you. The Penguins just got a dynamic, offensive skilled winger. For the time being we'll let the Penguins front office (who probably knows better than any talking head you head opine) deal with the details.

They must have a plan. But at least it's starting with hopefully a lengthy playoff run.

Pens acquire Hal Gill for 2nd, 5th round picks

Also some reports have the Pens hot on the trail for Marian Hossa (!!!). Stay tuned.

The Avs want to party like is 2001

After luring Peter Forsberg back to North America, Colorado has swung a deal to get defenseman (and wishful thinking TST target) Adam Foote back to their team. All indications were that Foote was interested in re-signing with Columbus but negotiations didn't go well and it seemed feelings on both sides were hurt---TSN used the word "divorce" more than once to describe how things went down.

Ok so now if the Avs announce they're bringing back Patrick Roy and Ray Bourque back, we're calling shenanigans.

Now it looks like the wheels have fallen off the Colum-BUS (sorry). TSN just announced Sergei Fedorov is a, gasp, Washington Capital. No word on the return yet.

Hopefully the BJs want to ship a guy named Mike Peca to Western PA...

Monday, February 25, 2008


To make matters worse, the news comes from a reputable source...

Tonight on KDKA-TV [Pittsburgh's CBS affiliate], Bob Pompeani reported that Roberts season and possibly his career could be over.
Pompeani says that Ron Cook of the Post-Gazette reports in tomorrow’s editions thatRoberts, who was expected back soon, after a long recovery from a broken leg, has had a major setback. In fact, his career might be in jeopardy
Roberts told the p-g, that he tried to skate 2 weeks ago and crumbled to the ice in a heap……He was r-examined [sic] and it was revealed that he tore a ligament in his ankle….and now, he hopes to be back by march 27th….but that is a long shot at best!

But then again we are talking about a man who, over 10 years ago, endured two separate 8 hour neck surgeries just for the possibility to play again.

A man who prides himself on dogged determination, an unmatchable toughness and world-class conditioning. But at now almost 42 years old could this leg/ankle problem do the old bastard in?

Now we're going to post a picture to make ourselves feel a little better.

Trade Silence

Apologies for no updates this weekend---this blog's editor does, shockingly, maintain somewhat of a hectic personal life (read: drinks beers with friends and chases girls).

Anyways, you know what happened this weekend; 2 disappointing losses, one an overtime loss, one a shootout. Fleury got his expect re-call and now we're just waiting to see if the Penguins (or anyone in the NHL for that matter) care to make a deadline trade or two.

Here's something cool to think about, courtesy Mirtle, M.D. The Penguins have been the best team in the NHL in the calendar year of 2008. If they can keep that up for a little less than four more months it will be happy times indeed. Hey, that's not asking too much, is it?

Today's a day for a deep breath, as we wait for any trades (check out the widget on the top right of this page for up to the minute breaking news on official deals) and get ready for six games in the next ten nights for Pittsburgh.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Please Malkin Don't Hurt 'em

In a raucous Montreal environment a team could be excused for pulling the Islanders method: just trying to play simple, road team hockey, muck and grind your way to a 2-1 win or maybe a 2-1 loss if the bounces don't go your way. Well the Penguins aint your grandma's Islanders. And now for your "All Malkin All the Time" gamenotes:
  • Chalk Alexei Kovalev up as the latest player to visibly try to ratchet his game up to the level of Evgeni Malkin. The competitive countrymen were all over the place tonight, both were the best player on their respective teams.
  • In perhaps the peak of the game, with the Habs up 4-3, Malkin high-sticked Kovalev and went to the box. The vaunted Montreal powerplay failed to score for the first time tonight (they were 2-2 before) and Ryan Malone sprung Malkin on a breakaway shortly after he got out of the box. Goal.
  • Speaking of Malone, he had a wonderful game. He's extraordinarily good at tossing out those 2 line passes to trigger breakaways and he also added his 20th goal of the season. The big guy was amazing and is definitely playing the best hockey of his professional career in the past 4 or 5 weeks.
  • Congrats to Sergei Gonchar on his 600th career NHL point. It was fitting for him that it came on a goal, and on the powerplay.
  • Ryan Whitney had another up and down game. In perhaps the micro-cosm of his career, he scored his 12th goal of the season (ties him for 4th in the NHL among defensemen) and dished out 2 primary powerplay assists. But he was weak in his own end and was on the ice for three of the goals Montreal scored.
  • Just as Malkin took that high-sticking penalty the Montreal crowd took to sing-songing his name in a fimiliar chant. After he delievered the dagger, they had nothing to say. Perhaps the lesson was learned: taunt Zhenya at your own risk.
  • Malkin was flying all over the place, credited officially with a game high 3 takeaways. He was literally backchecking like a man possessed and just effortlessly stealing pucks away from sticks. Not only has he been the best offensive player in the league since Christmas, he's been one of the most well-rounded forwards out there as well.
  • Dany Sabourin had an up and down night too. He wasn't particularly sharp and was caught cheating a little too far by Montreal's sharp-shooting powerplay. But he did his part to hold the team in the game when he had to; no spectacular or inspiring saves but a nice performance.
  • It seemed like a pretty quiet performance for Petr Sykora, but it's anything but a quiet stat-line at the end of the night: 2 assists and a +2
  • Jordan Staal fired 6 shots on net and Colby Armstrong had a game high 5 hits. Keep it up boys, the work will eventually pay off. Just ask Jarkko "Maurice Richard" Ruutu..

One gets the feeling that the atmosphere in both barns, should it happen, for a Canadiens/Penguins playoff series would be absolutely electric. Both teams don't just play aggressive, they play to win. They have deadly powerplays and don't know how to take the foot off the gas.

Harnessing ones Chi before punching your face in

Ok so Georges Laraque enjoys a yoga session or two...You gonna say somethin' about it?

Didn't think so

Dany Sabourin makes The Onion

In honor of what could be his last start in Pittsburgh this season (or perhaps ever) tonight, here's a pretty funny link to the Onion that you'll probably enjoy. We suppose that is calling the Onion funny is a little redundant, though

A good problem to have is still a problem

You'll have to forgive us for being very excited about the imminent return of Marc-Andre Fleury. The kid groomed to be the franchise goalie has certainly had a bumpy development, but hey he's a goalie. What has he missed?

Ty Conklin
2.18 GAA (tied for 4th in the league, behind the 2 Detroit goalies and that Brodeur fellow)
.932 save % (1st in the league)

As you can tell, though he's played about half the games of a guy like Brodeur or Luongo, Conkblock's numbers rival or surpass them this year. And it seems more than just lightning in a bottle. Hotstreaks come and stay for a while but Conklin's appeared in 24 games now and has not been totally solid perhaps 2 or 3 times. This wave he's riding doesn't appear to be dying down anytime soon.

  • So what of Fleury, the "golden" boy (but thankfully not in those pads anymore), what becomes of the former #1 overall pick that's probably always been "the guy" at every level of his young career?
  • Or what even of Dany Sabourin? Do the Pens risk him to waivers? Don't be so quick to scoff, Dany Sabs was already claimed once when the Pens waived him.

To the first question, we stress communication. Obviously Fleury knows the team has been winning not only with Conklin, but on many nights because of Conklin. When your getting that kind of performance out of a netminder it's impossible not to use him as the go-to guy.

Will Fleury like this arrangement? Probably not. But he must also realize Conklin is a UFA after this season and probably isn't in the Pens long-term picture. Also, as any Edmonton fan could tell you, Conklin could fall apart at any minute, perhaps his wave will finally crash. Just because Conklin should be the #1 goalie right now doesn't mean the team won't be in a position where they will need MAF.

On the second point, waiving Sabourin is no easy matter. As we pointed out, Conklin is a UFA and with the season he is having his agent must be doing backflips. Goaltending is of the utmost importance and without it you're doomed (see Kings, Los Angeles or the Coyotes pre-Bryzgalov). Sabourin has a contract next season and an affordable one. While he couldn't carry the torch through Fleury's injury, Sabourin's proven to be a decent NHL backup goalie, enough to pickup the slack for the 13-15 games MAF won't start. So Dany Sabs should be kept.

Another point is goalie depth. What seems to be an advantage right now could quickly turn. Imagine Sabs is picked up and Fleury tweaks the ankle injury that's already kept him out almost 3 months. By this point the trade deadline has passed and Dave Brown is sitting #2 on the organ-eye-zational depth chart. You could even imagine if the Conkblock magic ran out? Worst case scenario, to be sure, but hey it's out there.

No one--and we do mean no one--likes the arrangement of carrying 3 goalies on the roster. The Sweater Ted hasn't quite figured out how to handle this tricky situation, but then again it's not like we're cashing consulting checks from the Pens (but we're open to it!) so this decision is up to them.

Maffy, Maffy, Maffy

Regardless, his final AHL numbers are remarkable: 3-1, 1.51 goals-against, .951 save percentage. You have to wonder how the WBS Penguins will fare without an NHL-caliber goalie behind them this weekend, but you don't have to worry if Fleury is sharp enough to return to The Burgh. He is.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Edmonton and Pittsburgh scouting each other?

Before the deadline we will also profile the few "sellers" at this year's market. Given that so many teams are in the hunt for a playoff berth this late in the season (only Los Angeles is truly out of the hunt) this will be short. Today's whispers: Edmonton

Take the source with a grain of salt, but....

Keep an eye on the Edmonton Oilers come deadline time…I have a sneaky suspicion that they have interest in a Penguin player or two…quite possibly Erik Christensen. They have been scouting the Pens a good bit lately…could be nothing, could be something…you never know this time of year.

As the old saying goes, ya gotta give something to get something and the name that never really goes away from trade speculation is Christensen. Surely if there is a roster player moved in the next week he figures to be the #1 guy.

Ray Shero says his MO is to continue to build through the draft but he has been willing to throw picks to acquire Georges Laraque and Nils Ekman..Shero seems (wisely) averse to dealing his first round pick; which many deals this time of year come with as a prerequisite (scroll down to the next post if you don't believe).

For their part Edmonton could use more draft picks after the Dustin Penner RFA fiasco gutted their arsenal and the Oil is all but out of contention (9 points out of 8th place with six teams to climb over) so it makes sense they'd be looking to "sell".

Possible targets of interest
``Well you can probably throw out a guy like Ales Hemsky. He's signed for years to come and his price is too valuable to the Oilers for the Penguins to meet. We're talking attainable:
  • Marty Reasoner Edmonton already traded their current captain (at the '04 deadline for Sergei Samsonov) and he returned as a UFA so he is the definition of a pure rental. Reasoner's got great wheels, and has won 52.1% of his faceoffs. He'd be a great depth guy for the Pens to get for a playoff run
  • Steve Staios A veteran defenseman with playoff experience and a tough edge Staios is practically the embodiment of what the Penguins need the most. He has 60 hits and 133 blocked shots this season and his offensive stats (6 goals, 5 assists) put him head and shoulders above the Orpik's, Sydor's and Scuderi's of the Pens lineup. But Staios is signed at a pretty reasonable rate ($2.7 million cap hit) through the 2010-11 season so it's not a given that he's on the market.

The Penguins and Oilers shared Wilkes-Barre's club last season and both teams must be more than familiar with each other's young talent. Fans often fantisize about JF Jacques or MA Poilout could do with the Pens top 6 but it doesn't stand to reason that the Oil would sell any young forward of promise away when they can simply build around them.

Something to keep an eye on, for sure.

Trade Deadline: Part 1 A look at deals since '04

Gearing up for the trade deadline the question was asked: what happens to teams that go and make waves by trading picks/prospects to land that rental player?

Part 1 of this series looks at exactly that; trades made at or very near the trade deadline. What we were looking to discover, namely was:

  • How did it work out for the seller, did they parlay a guy who would likely walk as a UFA into a contributing NHL player or two?
  • Did the buyer get enough production/playoff wins to justify sacrificing a part of their future for the veteran they picked up?

--Philadelphia sends Peter Forsberg to Nashville for Scottie Upshall, Ryan Parent, a 1st round pick and a 3rd

The result: Nashville bounced in 5 games (Forsberg playoff stats: 2 goals, 2 assists). Upshall has settled into a contributing role for Philly and the 20 year old Parent is one of the best defensive prospects around. Forsberg, of course, has been unable to play at all this season due to foot problems but is rumored to be trying to comeback (the most mentioned destinations: Philly, Colorado and Nashville).

To make matters worse for Nashville, they ended up re-acquiring their 1st round pick they gave up in this deal in exchange for Kimmo Timmonen and Scott Hartnell. So basically that total deal netted out to being 22 games of Forsberg for Nashville in exchange for 3 roster players (Upshall, Timmonen, Hartnell), a terrific prospect (Parent) and a 3rd round pick. Ouch.

--Phoenix deals Ladislav Nagy to Dallas for Mathias Tjarnqvist and a 1st (Nick Ross)

The result: Dallas bows out in the playoffs in 7 games (Nagy: 1g, 1a). Tjarnqvist has played all year on Phoenix's blueline and they also drafted Nick Ross, a defenseman currently in the WHL. Nagy scoots on to LA.

Hard to tell a clear winner, Nagy didn't make an impact at all really for Dallas (he has since scooted on to LA this season) but it didn't cost them an arm and a leg. Tjarnqvist seems to be a nice player, but he's not a gamebreaker. Ross seems to be as good a prospect as any late first round pick, but obviously the jury's not even close to bringing in a verdict as to whether or not he's going to have a NHL career.

--St. Louis loans Keith Tkachuk to Atlanta for Glen Metropolit, a 1st, a 2nd and a 3rd

The result: Thrashers get swept in round 1, Tkachuk tallies 1g and 2a. Metropolit moves onto Boston and Atlanta trades Tkachuk back to St. Louis for the first they gave up. So this deal was softened since they basically gave up a 2nd and 3rd round pick for a chance at the playoffs with Tkachuk; not as high a price as many think Atlanta gave up. But still, it clearly didn't pay dividends for them last spring.

--Montreal trades Craig Rivet and a 5th round pick to San Jose for Josh Georges and a 1st (Max Pacioretty)

The result: The Sharks are upset in the second round. Rivet played well (11 games, 2g, 3a) and was re-signed by SJ ($14 million for 4 years). Montreal goes on to take a chance that hometown boy Angelo Esposito will still be around at pick 22; the pick they got from the Sharks. Much to the dismay of their fans, he wasn't and Les Habs drafted their second American (!) player of the first round, Max Pacioretty.

This trade was pretty even, especially in the long run if Pacioretty; a highly regarded prospect, pans out into a NHL contributer.

--Bill Guerin to San Jose for Ville Nieminen, Jay Barriball and a 1st (Ian Cole) to St. Louis

The result: As we mentioned, the Sharks got bounced in the second round of the playoffs. After being a pretty good contributer in the regular season [8 goals, 1 assist in 16 games], Guerin battled through injury and was not effective or a force in the playoffs [0g, 2a in 9gp]. Guerin moved on in the summer to the Islanders.

For the Blues they added yet another impressive defensive prospect in Ian Cole at the draft and Barriball is now in his sophomore campaign at one of the NCAA's strongest programs (U. Minnesota)

--Dainius Zubrus and Timo Helbling to Buffalo for Jiri Novotny and a 1st (pick traded; Caps eventually get Phil Desimone and more picks)

Zubrus, a victim of Buffalo's forward depth last season went from riding shotgun with Ovechkin to playing on a 3rd line. Buffalo got bounced in the East Conference finals, but Zubrus didn't really have much of an impact [15 gp, 0g, 8a].

Novotny was given a chance, and pretty much bombed, as being Washington's 2nd line center. They let him walk and he was signed by Columbus where's he appeared in 49 games to date.

--Ryan Smyth for Robert Nilsson, Ryan O'Marra and a 1st (Alex Plante)

The deal that broke a million hearts in Western Canada....Well for the Isles "Captain Canada" was exactly as advertised, he scratched and clawed and produced [18 games 5g, 10a]. The energy and boost Smyth gave NYI was one of the top reasons they made the playoffs, where they were quickly and uncermoniously bounced by Buffalo in 5 games.

After considering his options on the open market, Smyth decided to sign with Colorado rather than return to either one of his "old" teams.

Edmonton got a lot of great prospects out of this trade; Nilsson's been in their NHL lineup almost all season and is starting to be a bit more of a point producer. After starting out the season in the ECHL, the 20 year old O'Marra is now in the AHL and Alex Plante is already a 6'3 and 220 pound defenseman at the age of 18. But one gets the feeling what Edmonton lost (the heart and soul of the franchise) really has taken the wind out of the whole organization's sail.


--Minnesota trades Dwayne Roloson to Edmonton for a 1st round pick and a conditional 3rd

Roloson went 12-5 in the playoffs with a 2.33 GAA for Edmonton, leading them all the way to the Stanley Cup finals. But then Marc-Andre Bergeron drove Carolina's Andrew Ladd into Roloson in Game 1 of that series and that was all she wrote. Roloson resigned with Edmonton that summer.

Minnesota used this 1st round pick (and Patrick O'Sullivan) in a trade to acquire Pavol Demitra from LA.

--Pittsburgh trades Mark Recchi to Carolina for Krys Kolanos, Niklas Nordgren and a 2007 2nd round pick

A rare success, for both teams involved in a deadline deal! Carolina, of course, won the Stanley Cup, bolstered by veteran acquistions like Doug Weight and Recchi. The Recchin Ball played a supporting 2nd/3rd line role, and he was great in it. He had 7 goals and 9 assists in 25 games for Carolina in the playoffs and then re-signed with Pittsburgh a couple weeks later.

Pittsburgh had the opportunity to give some young guys a chance to sink or swim and the results were, um, definitive to say the least. Nordgren played 15 games with Pittsburgh and did not record a single point. He now plies his craft in Switzerland. Kolanos was brought in to buoy a strong Wilkes-Barre team; he was a solid point-per-game producer in the regular season but only had 2 goals and no assists in 11 playoff games and the organization decided they'd seen about enough of him.

The pick involved was traded in the summer of 2006 to San Jose for Nils Ekman and goalie prospect Patrick Ehelechner.

--Edmonton acquires Sergei Samsonov from Boston for Marty Reasoner, Yan Stastny, and a 2006 2nd round pick (Milan Lucic)

With two years of hindsight your immediate reaction might be that Edmonton dearly overpaid. But consider before Samsonov walked as a UFA, he scored 31 points (in 43 career games) for the Oil and was a big reason they made it just one game away from the Stanley Cup.

Marty Reasoner, a UFA himself, jetted back to Edmonton that summer. Stastny didn't catch on in Boston (38 career NHL games, 6 points) and has bounced around the AHL since. The real prize of this deal is Milan Lucic; who's got incredible size, good hands down low, is willing to fight and mix it up. Did we mention he's still 19? Lucic is the prototypical young power forward that all 30 teams chase and covet.

--Nashville acquires Brendan Witt from Washington for Kris Beech and a 1st round pick (Semen Varlamov)

Again Nashville shows they're willing to sacrifice to get veteran talent, and again they last 5 games in the playoffs. Witt would go on to sign a contract that summer with the Islanders.

Before we all get a good laugh in about Kris Beech; consider he went to the AHL (where he belongs) and dominated for Hershey, scoring 28 points [14g, 14a] in 21 games. He helped lead the team all the way to the Calder Cup finals before a goalie on a hot streak (Montreal's Carey Price) knocked them out. Washington's other player from this deal, Semen Varlamov, is a fairly highly regarded goalie prospect but at this point he's probably most famous for getting smoked by Team Canada during last summer's "Super"series.


--New York Rangers trade Alexei Kovalev to Montreal for Jozef Balej and a 2nd round pick (Bruce Graham)

Ironically the Rangers had to sell off a high price super-star. Kovalev's endured a bumpy ride with the Montreal media and fan craze but he is generally regarded as one of the more skilled and productive players in the NHL. Balej didn't work out in the NHL and has bounced from Europe to this year in the AHL with Manitoba. Bruce Graham (listed as 6'6 and 235) has bounced between the ECHL and AHL this season and at the age of now 22 his NHL prospects seem to be fading.

--Washington deals Sergei Gonchar to Boston for Shaone Morrisonn, a 1st round pick in 2004 (Jeff Schultz) and a 2nd round pick in 2004 (Mikhail Yunkov)

Gonchar, as usual, played well with Boston with 9 points (including 4 goals) in 15 regular season games. Boston was bounced in the first round after a 7 game series, the Sarge had a goal and 4 assists in the playoffs. Gonchar, of course, would go on to sign that summer with Pittsburgh.

Morrisonn has developed into a solid top 4 defensive defenseman (and perfect partner for Mike Green) while Schultz has also grown into an NHL role as a young defenseman. The prospect Yunkov is still in Russia and seems unlikely to be in Washington's long-term plans. Still a great deal for Washington to develop two, young NHL players out of a guy who was about to leave that summer anyways.

--The New York Rangers trade Brian Leetch to Toronto for Maxim Kondratiev, Jarkko Immonen, a 1st round pick in 2004 and a 2nd round pick in 2005 (Michael Sauer)

The Rangers trade away one of their great players for one last chance at a deep playoff run. Leetch played well in Toronto, scoring 15 points in 15 regular season games and added 8 assists in 13 playoff games. But Toronto got bounced in the second round and Leetch would go on to Boston to wear another strange jersey.

The prospects the Rangers got didn't amount to much for them 3 years later: Kondratiev is back in the RSL, playing only 29 games with NYR. Immonen only played 20 games with them and is back in his native Finland and Sauer is playing his first professional season in the AHL.

--Columbus traded Geoff Sanderson to Vancouver for a 3rd round pick in 2004 (Dan Lacosta)

Vancouver added Sanderson (a 30 goal scorer the year before) but it was to no avail, as they were disposed of in the playoffs in game 7 of the first round.

Lacosta, a goalie, has split time between the ECHL and AHL. He has pretty good numbers in his 8 AHL games (4-2-2, 2.28 GAA and a .920%) so perhaps he's a young goalie to keep an eye on.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

New man on the top of the mountain

As the Russian fans used to chant: "Zhenia is the best...Zhenia is God"
Your move, Alex.

These two have been a treat to watch, but our guess is you haven't seen anything yet. Both Ovechkin and Malkin--while friendly towards one another-- are very fiercely competitive and want nothing more than to out-produce their fellow countryman. Don't think for a second that Ovechkin won't know heading into tomorrow night that not only is he 2nd in the scoring race; he's 2nd to Malkin.

27 points in the last 14 games. Unbelivable. Everyone knew Malkin was among the top players in the league, but few knew he is towards the top of that heap. Perhaps now he'll finally get recognized for what he deserves by the media at-large. Geno's not just a sidekick to Crosby or stuck in the shadow of the more flamboyant Russian, he belongs right in their class.

The Power Move Personified

Step 1: Cut a hole in, uh get the puck and drive to the net. Try to stuff the puck under or between the goalie.
Step 2: Pay the price.
Step 3: Celebrate.
So simple, even Taters can do it.

Don't call it a comeback

When Sidney Crosby went down with a high ankle sprain, most thought the same thoughts when Marc-Andre Fleury suffered the same injury. Hopefully the Penguins could keep their head just above water until their #1 center and #1 goalie could return, went the hypothesis. Luckily Evgeni Malkin (27 points in 14 games of flying solo) and Ty Conklin (16-4-3!) did not harbor such thoughts. They have risen to the top in league categories--Malkin in points, Conklin in save percentage and have not just held the Pens heads above water, why they're powering the team towards the playoffs injuries be damned!

  • Ryan Malone has been playing some inspired hockey as well. Maybe it's the recent birth of his first son, maybe it's realizing he could be cashing in on a pretty good payday this summer, whatever it is we don't care. Malone's been a force and has finally shown that he will be consistent in driving to the net, playing physical, getting pucks on goal and generally living up to his hype.
  • How 'bout this stat line for the Sarge: 27:00 TOI, 1 assist, +2, 5 shots, 3 blocked shots and 2 hits. We'll take that kind of effort anyday.
  • Colby Armstrong (who scored the ice-breaking first goal) threw 4 shots on net and really seemed to be making an effort to get off more shots. His empty net goal (the first in 16 games for him) seemed to have made a big difference in his confidence with the puck and tonight he really played well. Weird how something as simple as flippng a puck into an unmanned crease from behind the blueline can so postively effect a player, but it worked for Army.
  • What else can you say about Ty Conklin. He's been terrific. Better than that. Early in the game, somehow, the Penguins gave up 3 clean breakaways. He Conkblocked the first 2 of them and probably let the third one in just to teach his team a lesson.
  • For the opposition: David Booth has 18 goals this year, which is about 13 more than we here at TST would have guessed before this game began. Good for him for quietly having a good year. Also, Kamil Kreps also was good too when he had the puck, a lot of burst out of him. One gets the feeling that the Panthers have the makings of a good team, they just need a couple more pieces and some more experience and maybe they don't blow leads like their last game and this one.

The Rangers were up 5-0 on the Canadiens tonight, so them losing in a shootout must be something of a best case scenario for the rest of the Atlantic Division. Speaking of shootout losses, the Flyers decided to get in on that party too. New Jersey and the Islanders were idle, so a good night for the Pens who claw back up into a tie of first with the Devils (NJ holds the tiebrake based on better head to head record).

History of Penguins Deadline Day Deals

Two can play this game (props to my guy japers for the idea)....Here is a summary of the Penguins activity near the deadline since 1990--which was former GM Craig Patrick's first deadline.

  • March 6th 1990: Pittsburgh trades future considerations to Edmonton for Brian Wilks
  • March 6th 1990: Pittsburgh trades future considerations to Chicago for Alain Chevrier
  • March 4th 1991: Pittsburgh trades John Cullen, Zarley Zalapski, and Jeff Parker to Hartford for Ron Francis, Ulf Samuelsson and Grant Jennings
  • March 4th 1991: Pittsburgh trades Brad Aitken to Edmonton for Kim Issel
  • March 4th 1991: Pittsburgh trades Ken Priestlay to Buffalo for Toni Tanti
  • March 10th 1992: Pittsburgh trades Frank "The Save" Pietrangelo to Hartford for future considerations
  • March 22nd 1993: Pittsburgh trades a 3rd round pick to Tampa Bay for Peter Taglianetti
  • March 22nd 1993: Pittsburgh trades Bob Errey to Buffalo for Mike Ramsey
  • March 19th 1994: Pittsburgh trades Jeff Daniels to Florida for Greg Hawgood
  • March 21st 1994: Pittsburgh trades Mike Needham to Dallas for Jim McKenzie
  • April 7th 1995: Pittsburgh trades Martin Straka to Ottawa for Troy Murray and Norm Maciver
  • April 7th 1995: Pittsburgh trades Drake Berehowsky to Toronto for Grant Jennings
  • April 7th 1995: Pittsburgh trades Greg Brown to Winnipeg for an 8th round pick
  • March 20th 1996: Pittsburgh trades Markus Naslund to Vancouver for Alek Stojanov
  • March 18th 1997: Pittsburgh trades future considerations to Vancouver for Josef Beranek
  • March 18th 1997: Pittsburgh trades Glen "Anyone But" Murray to LA for Ed Olczyk
  • March 24th 1998: Pittsburgh trades Patrick Lalime to Anaheim for Sean Pronger
  • March 13th 2000: Pittsburgh trades Pavel Skrbak to Nashville for Bob Boughner
  • March 14th 2000: Pittsburgh trades Tom Barrasso to Ottawa for Ron Tugnutt and Janne Laukkanen
  • March 12th 2001: Pittsburgh trades Jeff Norton to San Jose for Johan Hedberg and Bobby Dollas
  • March 13th 2001: Pittsburgh trades a 6th round pick to Columbus for Frank Kucera
  • March 13th 2001: Pittsburgh trades Sven Butchenson to Edmonton for Dan LaCouture
  • March 2002: Pittsburgh trades a 4th round pick to Columbus for Jamie Pushor
  • March 2002: Pittsburgh trades Billy Tibbetts to Philadelphia for Kent Manderville
  • March 11, 2003: Pittsburgh trades Wayne Primeau to San Jose for Matt Bradley
  • March 11, 2003: Pittsburgh trades Jan Hrdina and Francois Leroux to Phoenix for Ramzi Abid, Guillaume Lefebvre and Dan Focht
  • March 11, 2003: Pittsburgh trades Marc Bergevin to Tampa Bay for Brian Holzinger
  • March 11, 2003: Pittsburgh trades Ian Moran to Boston or a 4th round draft pick
  • March 11, 2003: Pittsburgh trades Shean Donovan to Calgary for Mathias Johansson and Micky Dupont
  • March 9th 2004: Pittsburgh trades Brian Holzinger to Columbus for Lasse Pirjeta
  • March 9th 2004: Pittsburgh trades Marc Bergevin to Vancouver for a conditional draft pick
  • March 9th 2006: Pittsburgh trades Mark Recchi to Carolina for Krys Kolanos, Niklas Nordgren and a 2nd round pick (later traded)
  • March 9th 2006: Pittsburgh trades Cory Cross to Detroit for a 4th round pick (Alex Grant)
  • March 9th 2006: Pittsburgh trades Ric Jackman to Florida for Petr Taticek
  • February 26th 2007: Pittsburgh trades Noah Welch to Florida for Gary Roberts
  • February 27th 2007: Pittsburgh trades Daniel Carcillo and a 3rd round pick for Georges Laraque
  • February 27th 2007: Pittsburgh trades Dominic Moore to Minnesota for a 3rd round pick (Casey Pierro-Zabotel)
  • February 27th 2007: Pittsburgh trades a 4th round pick to Florida for Joel Kwiatkowski
  • February 27th 2007: Pittsburgh trades a 7th round pick to San Jose for Nolan Schaefer

I wore some pads for you, and they were yellow

And now to answer your question.....Why?!

"Just for fashion. I always kind of wanted to have a yellow jersey. I thought it looked pretty good. A little yellow, but that’s OK.”

Uhh, sure Marc...If you say so...

As far as things that matter here's a look at Fleury's stats in 3 rehab starts. They have been, from all reports, very, very strong.

Record: 2-1-0
Goals Against: 1.35 GAA
Save %: .957

Fleury is expected to stay with Wilkes-Barre until the weekend, but Pittsburgh, starting today plays 4 games in the next 6 days so there's reason to believe he will be back in the NHL sooner than later. Whether the Pens will risk sending Dany Sabourin through waivers or hold onto the awkwardness of having 3 goalies on the roster remains to be seen.

(Hat-tip to Penguins Insider for the picture and quote)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Questions that will define this season

We'll check back in later on the themes that have emerged this year...

#1) Can the Penguins get their key players healthy and contributing again while avoiding other costly injuries?

#2) Well GM Ray Shero address seemingly obvious needs (a scoring winger, a defensive defenseman) the team has to becoming a deep contender?

#3) How will Michel Therrien and the organization handle the goaltending situation once Marc-Andre Fleury is back?

Why 3 may not be a crowd

Jonathan Bombulie up in Wilkes-Barre weighs in on the roster decision the Penguins are going to have to make coming up here soon:

I don't think Pittsburgh can afford to get rid of any of its goaltenders. They can't send Conklin down because he might be the No. 1, depending on how Fleury plays. They can't really risk sending down Sabourin either. It's not likely, but what if he gets claimed and Fleury re-aggravates his ankle? Then you have to make a trade or a waiver claim on a goalie because you couldn't realistically go into the playoffs with a Conklin-Curry tandem.

It's not that big a deal, really. NHL rosters expand at the trade deadline Feb. 26, so you only have to worry about using a roster spot on a third goalie for about nine more days. From a WBS perspective, it's good to get Curry and/or Brown some playoff

They just have to make sure Sabourin stays active in practice because they might need him in the playoffs. I've seen Michel Therrien use three goalies in a series before. Twice, in fact.

JB makes some good points, but usually in the NHL nobody is happy with a 3 goalie rotation; the goalies don't like it because it limits the amount of work the get, obviously in games but practices too. There are only two nets on the ice, after all.

Really though most of his hypotheticals center around another team claiming Dany Sabourin off of waivers. Sabs has had his moments, both good and bad this season but looking at the other teams in the league it's difficult to see one that might claim Sabourin this late in the season.

If we had our finger on the button (an last time we checked, we don't) Sabourin would be back in Wilkes-Barre. We'd roll with the risks that Fleury won't re-injure his ankle and Sabs wouldn't be claimed.

Oh yeah, and if Therrien ever ends up using 3 goalies in one series (short of having injuries), well then we are all in a world of hurt.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Pens win, Pens win

In what's been a common occurrence...
  • The Penguins win
  • The Penguins get heavily outshot
  • The Penguins lose more faceoffs than they win
  • Sergei Gonchar gets a powerplay point
  • Evgeni Malkin has a multipoint game
  • Jarkko Ruutu scores a goal

Ok, so only the last bullet point hasn't been that common of a happening, but it was important for Pittsburgh to win tonight, lest this become their third loss in a row in what starts a 7 game stretch in 12 games.

Also some notes:
  • We'll give Coach Therrien credit for shuffling lines a little. The unit of Malone-Malkin-Sykora hadn't generated an even strength goal in 2 games and the whole team struggled. Therrien was smart enough to keep his two most skilled guys together and add Maxime Talbot to the mix. Talbot brought his usual energy and determination and I thought he did well to generate chances (including Malkin's back-breaker of a goal).
  • Speaking of Geno, he's now just one point behind Alex Ovechkin, with a game in hand. Perhaps the trophy engravers should wait a minute or two; a lot of the awards that most conceded to Ovechkin a couple weeks ago are very much up for grabs.....Just imagine what Malkin's going to do on the powerplay in a couple of weeks when Sidney Crosby does get back.
  • Due to EC and Kris Beech's injuries some new faces got in the lineup and particularly Connor James made a better impression than his last stint.
  • What a tribute to the Pens organizational depth to be missing so many regulars for so long and have players young and old to step up from the AHL and contribute. This year's regular season success is starting to match last season's remarkable turnaround but there's no doubt that this has to be more satisying; there's been tons more adversity to deal with and the core has kept getting favorable results despite the key injuries.
  • Ty Conklin is now 15-4-3. 15-4-3. Sorry, just had to type that again.
  • Ryan Malone handled his demotion well, generating two assists, the first one a perfect two-line breakout pass to Ruutu who had just exited the penalty box.
  • Nice to see Ruutu and Colby Armstrong get goals. Obviously these guys aren't going to--or are supposed to--contribute at top tier rates, but as we know depth and secondary supporting is necessary and has to come from somewhere. Can't be Malkin and Sykora shouldering all the burden every single night.

Crosby back tonight?

Apologies in advance for the brief game preview...It's been a long weekend and the flu bug has hit on top of that.

--The PG reported today that Sidney Crosby took a full practice in a regular jersey (centering Colby Armstrong and Ryan Malone). This website says their sources say that Crosby could possibly be back in the lineup tonight. Time will tell. The linked website is right with their "inside" information less often than a broken clock, so take it with a huge grain of salt.
--Erik Christensen is out tonight with a shoulder injury but said to be day-to-day. The Kris Beech experience, round 2 hit a huge delay when he broke his wrist.
--Ty Conklin is expected in net tonight for the Pens.
--Sabres player to keep an eye on: Derek Roy. He's got 17 points in the past 14 games, quite a streak there.
--The Rangers just polished off a win over the San Jose Sharks, so now they're up to 67 points in the standings, just 2 behind the Penguins. Pittsburgh does have two games in hand over NYR however.

Friday, February 15, 2008

See ya Sunday

We're out of town all weekend, so wanted to give an update to our readers to check back in sometime Sunday before the next Pens game (starts at 6 PM Eastern time, btw) for a game preview.

Next week on TST is Trade Deadline week where we examine, extensively, the buyers and the sellers of year's past and how that's worked out for them. You should like it.

You can’t make everybody happy all of the time

Not really the Staal we wanted to see celebrating..
Well, we talked about secondary scoring but we didn't even mention our boy Brooks Orpik's 180 game goal drought, because that wouldn't seem right. The hooks man put one home and, to the surprise of no one, Evgeni Malkin added a powerplay goal but the Pens ended up blowing a 2-1 lead.
  • Can't blame Dany Sabourin. In what likely was his last start of the year for Pittsburgh he made 42 saves and stopped the ones he should have, just didn't have the team in front of him.
  • Kris Beech wasn't bad but wasn't good and took a hard spill into the boards right on his arm. If he doesn't have a broken or dislocated wrist it would shock us.
  • Jordan Staal was listed on as a -3 and took 3 penalties. Plus he won just 24% of his faceoffs. Not a good night for little brother.
  • The Penguins only had 22 shots. They took another 22 shots that got blocked down by Carolina.
  • Ray Whitney, as we identified as being -11 in the past month, feasted on the powerplay. He had an even +/- rating but had 1 goal and 2 assists on the powerplay.
  • Rob Scuderi's patented "take a knee and stick your stick out" cost the Penguins a goal against. Scuds has morphed into a decent NHL defenseman but someone ought to tell him to act like a defenseman and not a goaltender at times.
  • In his first game back, Tyler Kennedy did more than just bring his usual energy. He had exactly 13 minutes of icetime and provided 2 shots on goal (with 2 more blocked), was credited with 3 take-aways, 1 hit and a blocked shot of his own. If he can continue that kind of effort one gets a feeling the Pens can feed off of that in nights to come.
  • Two Canes had a negative +/- and no Pens did. That tells you that Carolina's powerplay did their job and Pittsburgh's did not.

Unfortunately the Pens let one loss become two tonight. But Philadelphia, the only other Atlantic team in the mix, lost too, so the boys didn't lose that much ground.

Pittsburgh has a rare Friday and Saturday off and get to return home for a practice until Sunday on the road against a scrappy Buffalo team. Beech's apparent nasty spill must mean that Erik Christensen can get back into the lineup and the team will have enough time to regroup and hopefully get their legs under them again.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Goin to Carolina

It's a hockey night in Raleigh!

  • Season series: 2-1 Penguins (including the last two). This is the last match up of the regular season between Pittsburgh and Carolina.
  • The Hurricanes, uh, made waves (sorry) with their big trade of sending two impending vets that were UFAs (Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore) for two younger players not as established (the injured Patrick Eaves and Joe Corvo). Consider though, the four games before that trade the ‘Canes only scored a total of 4 goals. In their only contest since they scored 3 goals and won. Sometimes a GM needs to shake things up to get the message through.
  • Dany Sabs is expected to be in net. We have no idea what that means. At times Sabourin has showed he can be an effective NHL backup and give a good performance. But at other times he shown quite clearly that he can give the goal judge's red-light finger a workout. With Fleury's return coming very soon this might be one of the last times this year Sabourin gets the chance to start an NHL game. Surely he must know this. Hopefully that pressure brings the best, and not the worst, out of him.
  • The tightness of the Southleastern Division--Carolina is tied with Washington and Atlanta with 60 points at the top, Florida has 58 points and don’t sleep on Tampa who’s only 6 points out of 1st with at least a game in hand on everyone else. Point being, all of these teams are going to be fighting and clawing in what’s best described as the measured and nothing against mentality of “playoff hockey”. Which is ironic since no team in the Southleast is in the top 8 in the conference right now on their own merit.
  • Ray Whitney has a +/- rating of -11 in the past month. We know this because he was on our fantasy team. As in the past tense.
  • Coach Michel Therrien called out the secondary scoring and it’s easy to see why. Since Crosby’s injury the top line has been ridiculous and the 2nd line of Christensen-Staal-Talbot has created too. Look at these droughts:

--The last time Colby Armstrong scored a goal; there wasn’t a roof over his head. Since the Winter Classic he’s played 16 games and only has 2 assists in that timeframe.
--Max Talbot only has 1 goal in his last 17 games (though he is piling up assists at a decent rate)
--BGL isn’t here to score, but he’s had 0g, 1a in the past 15 games.
--Jarkko Ruutu is 0 for the season (46 games for him).
--Kris Beech, naturally, is scoreless in 3 games too
--Jeff Taffe is on a 10 game goal-less streak.
--Young players Ryan Stone, Jonathan Filewich and Nathan Smith, in limited minutes, also produced nothing offensively in 18 combined games.

On the heels of all this, the Pens are happy to welcome back a guy in Tyler Kennedy who was on pace to be a 20 goal scorer in his rookie year (8 goals in 31 NHL games this season) and plays with a lot of energy and determination. You can count on Geno and the powerplay, but expecting them to produce 3-4 goals a night is not going to cut it; it caught up with the Penguins last night.

If the Penguins want to win this game, someone else is going to have to step up and somehow get one by an opponent that's sure to be clinging for dear life. That could be the spark the Pens need to carry them to victory.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Can't Win 'em All....Pens lose

In our pregame post we said that based on the results of tonights Pens/Bruins and Devils/Senators game that Pittsburgh could potentially be either 5, 4, 3, 2 or 1 point up on the Devs, the closest chaser (for now) in the ever shuffling mix of the Atlantic Division...Well, it ended up in the worst case scenario as the Pens lost in regulation and NJ won. But, it's better to have a "worst case scenario" night in February rather than in April.

  • The Bruins really set the tone in the first period, outshooting the Pens 13-4, out-working, out-skating, out-hustling and generally out-everything-ing the hometeam.
  • Rough first period for the Sarge...First he misplayed the puck and PJ Axelsson sped away from him on a breakaway forcing a penalty. Then Gonchar turned the puck over behind his own net which led to the first goal against.
  • Credit Jeremy Reich for the second goal, he got great position and knocked BGL over and then chipped a centering pass between Kris Letang's skates. Conkblock was caught trying to pokecheck and it was in the net by Vlad Sobotka. The Bruins lower liners made that play look fairly simple.
  • Usually we'd feel pretty good going into a game knowing the Pens would spend 12:07 with the man advantage. But they only produced 1 goal on 7 shots. Which isn't going to get it done tonight or most any night.
  • Other than Evgeni Malkin (the goal scorer) and Petr Sykora, no other forward really even looked like their head was in the game. Those two combined for 10 shots on net, the rest of the team only put 11 pucks on target.
  • In particular, it seemed like Erik Christensen (who's been great of late) had a pretty brutal game. Penalties, bad puck decisions, missing nets--you name it and if it's frustrating he probably did it. Hopefully he puts this one behind him and can come out with a better outing tomorrow.
  • Alex Goligoski had his NHL debut, and even though he only played just over 8 minutes (the Pens dressed 7 defensemen) he showed the wheels and potential that has the brass salivating. A couple of minor mistakes--as to be expected from a 21 year old professional rookie in his first game in the show--but overall he was as advertised. Dude is going to be a player in the NHL sooner than later.
  • Conklin settled down. One really couldn't blame him for either goal, but it's worth noting:
  • Marc-Andre Fleury made his first rehab start for Wilkes-Barre tonight and stopped 30 of 31 shots in a 3-1 win. That and a report that his ankle is feeling pretty good tomorrow morning is probably the best news the Penguins could hear right now.

A loss is a loss is a loss, there's no way around it. Give 100% credit to Boston; they had been in a slump recently but came out very strong early and definitely earned the win. One shouldn't take too much (positive or negative) out of just 1 game in a season of 82, but the Bruins definitely look like a team that should make the playoffs based off of the effort and performance they had tonight.

For the Pens part it seems like one of their uptempo, energy guys (Gary Roberts, Tyler Kennedy who scored a goal again tonight in his rehab with the Baby Pens) could have made a difference. Adding a player like that Crosby guy, especially on all those powerplays could have tipped the scales too..

But for now there's only if's and what could have been's. The Penguins lost and the Atlantic Division, once again, tightens a little more. Tomorrow nights game in Carolina, likely with Dany Sabs in net, becomes all the more important. An immediate chance for the Pens to regain their composure and wash the disappointing taste of a loss out of their collective mouths.

Penguins History of Deadline Day Deals

Two can play this game (props to my guy japers for the idea)....Here is a summary of the Penguins activity near the deadline since 1990--which was former GM Craig Patrick's first deadline.

  • March 6th 1990: Pittsburgh trades future considerations to Edmonton for Brian Wilks
  • March 6th 1990: Pittsburgh trades future considerations to Chicago for Alain Chevrier
  • March 4th 1991: Pittsburgh trades John Cullen, Zarley Zalapski, and Jeff Parker to Hartford for Ron Francis, Ulf Samuelsson and Grant Jennings
  • March 4th 1991: Pittsburgh trades Brad Aitken to Edmonton for Kim Issel
  • March 4th 1991: Pittsburgh trades Ken Priestlay to Buffalo for Toni Tanti
  • March 10th 1992: Pittsburgh trades Frank "The Save" Pietrangelo to Hartford for future considerations
  • March 22nd 1993: Pittsburgh trades a 3rd round pick to Tampa Bay for Peter Taglianetti
  • March 22nd 1993: Pittsburgh trades Bob Errey to Buffalo for Mike Ramsey
  • March 19th 1994: Pittsburgh trades Jeff Daniels to Florida for Greg Hawgood
  • March 21st 1994: Pittsburgh trades Mike Needham to Dallas for Jim McKenzie
  • April 7th 1995: Pittsburgh trades Martin Straka to Ottawa for Troy Murray and Norm Maciver
  • April 7th 1995: Pittsburgh trades Drake Berehowsky to Toronto for Grant Jennings
  • April 7th 1995: Pittsburgh trades Greg Brown to Winnipeg for an 8th round pick
  • March 20th 1996: Pittsburgh trades Markus Naslund to Vancouver for Alek Stojanov
  • March 18th 1997: Pittsburgh trades future considerations to Vancouver for Josef Beranek
  • March 18th 1997: Pittsburgh trades Glen "Anyone But" Murray to LA for Ed Olczyk
  • March 24th 1998: Pittsburgh trades Patrick Lalime to Anaheim for Sean Pronger
  • March 13th 2000: Pittsburgh trades Pavel Skrbak to Nashville for Bob Boughner
  • March 14th 2000: Pittsburgh trades Tom Barrasso to Ottawa for Ron Tugnutt and Janne Laukkanen
  • March 12th 2001: Pittsburgh trades Jeff Norton to San Jose for Johan Hedberg and Bobby Dollas
  • March 13th 2001: Pittsburgh trades a 6th round pick to Columbus for Frank Kucera
  • March 13th 2001: Pittsburgh trades Sven Butchenson to Edmonton for Dan LaCouture
  • March 2002: Pittsburgh trades a 4th round pick to Columbus for Jamie Pushor
  • March 2002: Pittsburgh trades Billy Tibbetts to Philadelphia for Kent Manderville
  • March 11, 2003: Pittsburgh trades Wayne Primeau to San Jose for Matt Bradley
  • March 11, 2003: Pittsburgh trades Jan Hrdina and Francois Leroux to Phoenix for Ramzi Abid, Guillaume Lefebvre and Dan Focht
  • March 11, 2003: Pittsburgh trades Marc Bergevin to Tampa Bay for Brian Holzinger
  • March 11, 2003: Pittsburgh trades Ian Moran to Boston or a 4th round draft pick
  • March 11, 2003: Pittsburgh trades Shean Donovan to Calgary for Mathias Johansson and Micky Dupont
  • March 9th 2004: Pittsburgh trades Brian Holzinger to Columbus for Lasse Pirjeta
  • March 9th 2004: Pittsburgh trades Marc Bergevin to Vancouver for a conditional draft pick
  • March 9th 2006: Pittsburgh trades Mark Recchi to Carolina for Krys Kolanos, Niklas Nordgren and a 2nd round pick (later traded)
  • March 9th 2006: Pittsburgh trades Cory Cross to Detroit for a 4th round pick (Alex Grant)
  • March 9th 2006: Pittsburgh trades Ric Jackman to Florida for Petr Taticek
  • February 26th 2007: Pittsburgh trades Noah Welch to Florida for Gary Roberts
  • February 27th 2007: Pittsburgh trades Daniel Carcillo and a 3rd round pick for Georges Laraque
  • February 27th 2007: Pittsburgh trades Dominic Moore to Minnesota for a 3rd round pick (Casey Pierro-Zabotel)
  • February 27th 2007: Pittsburgh trades a 4th round pick to Florida for Joel Kwiatkowski
  • February 27th 2007: Pittsburgh trades a 7th round pick to San Jose for Nolan Schaefer

Gameday Preview: Boston

The boys look to cap off a perfect 4 game homestand tonight against Boston. The Penguins will be on the road for five of their next eight contests. Including tonight the Pens have 9 games in the next 15 nights, another point where the schedule picks up a little (they had only played 5 games in the first 12 games of February).

  • The Penguins are 2-0 against Boston so far this season, both wins getting picked up by Conkblock. But it's probably worth pointing out that the player named #1 star of those games (Sidney Crosby and Gary Roberts) will not be in the lineup tonight.
  • Tonight's game kicks off a 5 game road-trip for the B's, who played last night.
  • Offensively the Bruins are in a little bit of a slump, scoring only 11 goals in their past 5 games (2.2 goals/game). Their record in that stretch: 1-4.
  • 3 out of the 4 goals Kris Letang has scored have been game winners. Just wanted to throw that out there.
  • Tonight is game 4 of the Kris Beech experiment, round 2. So far we've gotten just over 24 minutes of icetime and Beech has produced 2 shots on goal, is a +1 and, of course has 0 points. But this means we're one day closer to this whole damn thing being over and Beech either being a force for Wilkes-Barre or getting claimed and continuing his quest to play for every NHL organization this season.
  • In the Atlantic watch: New Jersey (2nd place, 3 points back) is home tonight against the Ottawa Senators. No other teams are in action, guaranteeing the Pens will be in first tomorrow morning. But whether they're 1 2, 3, 4 or 5 points up on the closest competitor is a pretty huge swing for this time of year.

Malkin's Contract Status

John Buccigross, who we genuinely like, irked us: (emphasis added)

There is little doubt Malkin has risen to the challenge in Crosby's absence. I think Crosby's injury and Ovechkin's contract both are motivational tools for Geno. Through his insane play, Malkin has positioned himself for a contract similar to that of his countryman Ovechkin. I'm sure the Penguins are trying or will try very soon -- no later than this summer -- to extend Malkin's contract.
His deal will expire after next season.

More and more, with Ovechkin’s contract signed a lot of people are zeroing in on Malkin as the next big potential RFA to be. And with the way he’s been playing, for good reason.

But here’s the catch; Malkin’s only in the second season of the standard three year entry level contract. The CBA says the Pens can’t even talk extension with him until this summer, at the earliest.

Buccigross has become just the latest to subtly hint or suggest that Malkin’s long-term status as a Penguin could be in jeopardy. Nothing’s ever final until the pen hits the paper, of course, but the two sides aren’t allowed to even talk contract until after this season….It’s not going to happen but we wish the focus would be more on the hockey Geno’s playing right now, than his contract status.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Trade Season

Today's big Ottawa-Carolina transaction may have just opened up the trade deadline season.

Along with the NHL Entry Draft, the deadline day wheelings and dealings may be our 2nd favorite non-gameplay hockey event. Here at TST we've compiled a deep analysis of how trade deadline deals (namely rentals) have effected teams over the past couple years, both the buyers and sellers. We also have a part 2 that shows any moves past Stanley Cup Champions have made. Expect those to be out next week.

For now, here's a list of players that could be changing locations by month's end that we wouldn't mind seeing in the black and vegas gold. Keep in mind there's a myriad of complications (no trade clauses, other team demanding too much in return, etc) that could make a lot of these guys pipe dreams. But if we were running a hockey team---and the last time we checked, no such luck, here's a list of guys that would definitely be on the radar to improve a contender, especially one with the needs of the Penguins.

We're not going to include guys like Hossa, Sundin or Jokinen....While they'd no doubt be terrific acquisitions they don't seem likely to wind up in Pittsburgh. Also Buffalo may well trade Brian Campbell but the Penguins don't need a puck moving defenseman, they need muscle so it doesn't make sense. Think of this as a realistic wishlist. Also, we're going to only point out teams that are likely to be sellers at the deadline, or if they have an impending UFA they might move.

**Also, remember that, to this point contracts are about 2/3 of the way paid, since the season is about 2/3 of the way completed. So if the Penguins pick up someone with a salary of $5 million, they only have to pay the balance of the contract which would add about $1.66 million to the payroll (minus of course any salaries they end up trading). It's been reported the Penguins do have a couple million within their team budget to rise, so seemingly it'll be on Shero, and not the accountants to make this work.**

Mike Peca: 43 games, 4 goals 21 assists, -1....Winning 55.4% of his faceoffs. Salary is $1.3 million, UFA at season's end.
Adam Foote: $4.6 million salary, UFA at end of the year

Steve Staios
: 57 gp, 6g, 5a, -12, 56 hits, 126 blocked shots. Signed for two more seasons after this one (cap hit of $2.7 million). Is 33 years old and would make a good defensive defenseman on a contender.

Los Angeles
Rob Blake
Jaroslav Modry: 57gp, 1g 2a, -2, 34 hits, 91 blocked shots...36 years old, $1.2 million dollar contract and a UFA at season's end
Dan Cloutier: (just seeing if you're paying attention!)

New York Islanders
Mike Sillinger
: 52 gp, 14g, 10a, -10, winning 56.3% of faceoffs...Is 36 years old and signed next year for $2.3 million
Miroslav Satan: 54gp, 11g 19a, -4....UFA at season's end ($4.5 million salary this season).

If the Penguins want another skilled winger for Crosby and Malkin, this could be a guy to watch for. The Islanders and Penguins might make weary trade partners, being as they're division rivals but if Pittsburgh offers them a chance to improve themselves, the Islanders have little choice but to make the deal. These teams might not like each other, but it's not Pittsburgh/Philly or NYR/NYI type hate.

St. Louis Blues
Barrett Jackman: 50 gp, 1g, 4a, -16, 21:51 TOI, 95 hits, 81 blocked shots...$2.2 million salary, UFA at season's end.

It's been reported in the media that extention talks have broken down between the Blues and Jackman's camp, a major stickng point on money. It looks like Jackman might test the open market, and that's a good idea because NHL teams love physical defensemen entering the prime of their careers. If the Blues (2-6-2 in last ten games) continue to slip down the standings the very savvy John Davidson might be inclined to at least get something in return for the former Calder trophy winner.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Vincent Prospal
: 56gp, 23g, 28a, -6. $1.9 salary, set to be a UFA in July

Perhaps the most skilled forward that might be a realistic option for the Pens. But even though Tampa is 15th place in the East, they're only 7 points (and a game in hand) back on the Caps. And they're 6-3-1 in the past 10, so it's not as if they've rolled over for dead just yet. So it's still feasible that the Lightning might not be the sellers they were thought to have been even a week ago.

Toronto Maple Leafs
Hal Gill

That's it, that's the list, have at it.

The Old TK Got Arrested

Two Habs arrested in Florida nightclub incident

To be fair, in a crazy situation like this things can escalate really quickly. And when the cops have your buddy isolated they're not always the best communicators. Especially if you've been drinking.

But in looking through my handbook--as a veteran of going to bars, getting in trouble but avoiding jail, Rule #1 clearly states listen to the police and do what they say.

Kostopolous seems like a decent person and a good guy, I doubt he was causing a ruckus but things happen.

Run Steve Downie, Run

I too find just walking away from strenuous activities after about a minute is the best course of action. Here's the Jarkko Ruutu vs. Steve Downie fight from last night....

Also, Riley Cote must have decided not to take his usual beating from BGL...Which means Colton Orr wasn't the only punching bag to escape unscathed yesterday.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Greenie looking for Phaneuf Money?

Mike Green is a jokester (also pictured Brooks Laich [left] and me and my buddy

After the Caps game on Sunday, 4 players (Brooks Laich, Shaone Morrisonn, Mike Green and Eric Fehr) went to a bar after the game.

Among what I found out:

``Fehr said that his back and his hip are absolutely at 100%.
``Laich told the crowd much to my delight (when asked) that the best hockey player he has ever lined up against is in fact Sidney Crosby.
``I talked to Green about Dion Phaneuf's 6 year $39 million dollar new contract and asked him point blank where he would try to negotiate off of that..."You know me and Phaneuf have the same agent, right?" Greenie said. I just nodded and said, "Oh damn, so you about to get paid, huh?" He smiled and chuckled, "what other defenseman has 15 goals this year?".
``All the Caps there were great sports, signing things and taking pictures for everyone. I especially enjoyed Laich, he had a great sense of humor and good outlook on being there.
``Vodka and waters are the drink of hockey players. "Don't want all the carbonation and sugar of a soda", I was told.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Who that is? That's just my baby daddy

Congrats to Ryan and Abby Malone on the birth of their son last night. The newest 3rd generation Malone came into the world at a great time; his pop is about to be an unrestricted free agent and if he keeps scoring goals at this regular rate (a four game goal streak and seven goals in his past eight) he's going to stand to sign a pretty big check somewhere.

Game recap coming up later.

Last thought: For as much as everyone has been slurping Ovechkin (not totally undeserved), Geno is now just 4 points (and a game in hand) in the scoring race....Just because Sidney Crosby's out doesn't mean the Penguins don't have a shot at having the Art Ross winner for the 13th time in the past 20 seasons.