Friday, October 31, 2008

A reminder of how good Mario was...

Big hat tip to Steel City for this eye opener....

October 31, 1989
Mario Lemieux begins a 46-game scoring streak (39 goals, 64 assist; 103 points). This is the second longest in NHL history lasting until February 14, 1990.

Fitting that we leave you on Halloween with something scary, eh?

Anything but piping...

The Penguins will unveil their new 3rd jersey on Wednesday. It'll look a lot like the winter classic sweater, but hold the phone there's gonna be PIPING?! Gross, but we'll wait and see for final judgement.

If we were running the ship the 3rd jersey would kind of be like Notre Dame's green jersey: the blue only comes out for special occasions (like a weekend afternoon game against the Flyers) and it's done so rarely and in an unannounced fashion. Since away teams wear their white jerseys on the road anyways this won't be any confliction.

In our time the Penguins have always worn the black-and-gold so it is exciting to see them make this partial change, even if it is just largely a money grab....We'll probably order one up for sure, provided the piping doesn't ruin the classic look.

Kane > Crosby? Uhh, no

Semin exploded on Puck Daddy:

What's so special about [Crosby]? I don't see anything special there. Yes, he does skate well, has a good head, good pass. But there's nothing else. Even if you compare him to Patrick Kane from Chicago ... [Kane] is a much more interesting player. The way he moves, his deking abilities, his thinking on the ice and his anticipation of the play is so superb.

I think that if you take any player, even if he is "dead wood," and start promoting him, you'll get a star. Especially if he scores 100 points. No one is going to care about anyone else. No one is going to care whether he possesses great skill. Let's say you put someone in front of the net and let him deflect pucks in, and he scored 50 goals; everyone will say "Wow!" and then hand him a $10 million per year contract. That's what they like here.

And as if he couldn't endear himself more to us...

Have you forgiven the United States for stealing Russia's gold medal in the 1980 Olympics?
[Loud laughter] Why would I still be mad at them? Their team is weak now. The Canadians are our main rivals.

I wonder if Semin knows that his wonderboy Pat Kane (who he's seen a grand total of two times in live action) is in fact, American.

As far as the first quote goes, despite playing about the same number of games (224 for Crosby, 201 for Semin) Sid has more than double the points of the Russian player. (307 to 153). We'll leave the impressions to you.

The Change We Need...

Like a machine not firing on all cylinders, things just aren’t adding up for the Penguins. It’s frustrating to watch and it’s frustrating for them to go through right now. There’s a variety of problems: not enough puck possession, not enough shots, too many shots against, bad penalties, not converting rare scoring chances, losing 50/50 pucks, losing key faceoffs that lead to goals, apparent lack of effort for most periods, and the list could go on and on and on. In fact, if it weren’t for the sterling work of Marc-Andre Fleury and Dany Sabourin this 5-4-2 team probably would be about a 2-9-0 team.

But before we all jump into the deep end of despair check that calendar…That’s right it still says October and no team ever won—or loss, a Stanley Cup eight months before they give it out.

It’s obvious though something isn’t clicking, in two sentences Sidney Crosby gave to the newspapers he used the word “urgency” four times, as in what the Penguins aren’t showing out there but need to be. As if things couldn’t be worse, Crosby didn’t play much of the 3rd period after appearing to have some sort of rib/torso injury that he would only specify as a little “discomfort”. It appears it should be a day-to-day thing, which is a good thing.

So what’s missing this year, why the lack of urgency? Is it simply all the new faces adapting to the system the Pens play? Undoubtedly the injuries to the top two defensemen on the team is a part of it, but the season would be lost if the Penguins hang on the crutch and wait for them to return.

Here’s three options the Pens have…It’s clear something is needed to kick-start them, but any of the proposed solutions could spell doom.

1—Fire the coach
Michel Therrien has always had his detractors and perhaps this time they’re right. He doesn’t look like he has control of the team, surely they’re not operating the way he wants them to. The coach’s job is to keep a team in game shape and prepared for the opponent. The Penguins don’t look motivated, they don’t really look prepared. In hockey coach’s come and go with the seasons, and when a team is struggling it sure is easier to replace the coach than the 12-15 disappointing players. But dismissing Therrien would be a huge push on the panic button, something that might not fly with a relatively young team that’s really only had one head coach at the NHL level.

2—Pull a trade
Jay Feaster, a knowledgable and respected hockey man, is saying the Penguins are having discussions with the Thrashers and he used the word “blockbuster”. At this point that could only mean one name: Ilya Kovalchuk. Jordan Staal+Kris Letang+a pick (and maybe Darryl Sydor to even out the salaries) could get it done. Is it worth it? Evgeni Malkin’s contract kicks in next year and that would mean the Pens are paying three forwards $24.9 million, add in other salaries of Fleury, Whitney and Brooks Orpik and that’s $37.65 million for just six players, with no guarantee the salary cap will rise in this rough economic time. Then after next year Kovalchuk would be a free agent and probably walk to the highest bidder, which surely the Penguins won’t be. Plus just nine months after the Marian Hossa deal are we ready to trade with Atlanta again? And would they part with their lone star a year and a half before they really have to?

3—Ride it out
The most likely option is the simplest, every team is forced to face adversity and this frustrating stretch isn’t the worst thing that could happen to a club. The players need to band together, hold themselves accountable and start chipping in. Down 2-1 last night, for instance, the Penguins had a 5 on 3 powerplay. They score and suddenly the momentum and energy is reclaimed by the Penguins. But guys like Malkin and Alex Goligoski couldn’t orchestrate it, they couldn’t finish it. Execution is the difference between winning and losing and, other than the goalies, no player can really claim to be happy with their season to this point.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dupuis out, the next Robbie Brown up?

JB brings it, as usual...Pascal Dupuis is out tonight and Chris Minard (7 goals in 7 AHL games) is up with the big Penguins...

If Minard does get the spot on Crosby's line, people will scoff. They'll say Pittsburgh must be desperate if they're putting a career minor leaguer in that role. They'll note that Minard is 26 and was never drafted and played in places like Pensacola, San Angelo and Anchorage on his way to the AHL. That, to me, is snobbery at best and bigotry at worst. What difference does it make where he came from? If he can play, he can play.

People will say Minard is too slow to keep up with Crosby, but that's not true. When WBS did its skills competition last year, Minard was second in the fastest skater contest, by one-thousandth of a second, to Jonathan Filewich. He can skate.

I'm not saying Minard is going to become an NHL all-star. In fact, I wonder if he can get his shot off against stronger, quicker NHL defensemen. But he's done everything he's been asked to do the last year-plus. At a time when the parent club's offense is struggling, it's worth giving him a chance in a scoring role. Who knows? He could become Crosby's Robbie Brown.

We would advocate giving Minard a shot with Crosby. In the lockout year, Minard played with Scotty Gomez in Alaska of the "East" Coast Hockey league and scored 49 goals in 69 games. Granted, the level of talent was no where near NHL caliber, but the stats are what they are; no one else on that team had more than 28 goals. Gomez incidentially went an Adam Oates-esque 13g, 73a in 61 games if you were wondering.

Dupuis was practicing with Crosby before leaving practice after being hit with a puck, so it would reduce the line juggling at least to slide him into the vacated slot. HCMT, of all people, of course is not afraid to switch everything up though, so who the hell knows what the lines may look like come 10 PM eastern tonight. Minard can shoot and he’s proven can play with a premier playmaking center in Gomez, why not give him a crack, if only for a night, to see if he can do it at the NHL level.

"We have no shots on the power play, this is awful!"

Kuklaskorner has a new voice that will supply Penguins information (direct link here), which really is way over-due considering they have focuses on teams like the Blue Jackets and Predators. It's Tony formely of MVN, so good luck to him, we're sure he'll be bringing it all year.

This post about Evgeni Malkin's frustration (via EMac) caught are eye. It’s always interesting to see people like Malkin, Jaromir Jagr and Alex Ovechkin give interviews in their native languages even though a little might be lost in the translation it shows their natural personalities better in a more comfortable situation.

Malkin will have his work cut out for him, he's been shuffled back to the 2nd line center position and will have his buddy Petr Sykora as well as one of the NHL's leading hitters per game, Matt Cooke, as linemates tonight.

Game 11: Howl like a Coyoooote

About the opponent: The Phoenix Coyoooootes
Record: 3-4-0
Notable wins: at Anaheim, Washington
Notable losses: at Montreal, at Ottawa
Last game: 4-1 loss at home to Calgary on Saturday...That's right, once game time comes around it'll be 5 full days since they've played
Statistical star: Olli Jokinen [1 goal and 6 assists in 7 games]
Disapointment so far: Ed Jovanovski [0 goals, 0 assists, team second worst -4]

Phoenix player to watch: We want to say Jokinen (who's scored 14 goals and 12 assists in his last 20 games versus the Penguins) but we have to go with Danny Carcillo. The former Penguins prospect gets his first crack at playing his former teammates at the NHL level. Of particular note is will he meet his old buddy Paul Bissonnette--the two were kindred spirits in Wheeling and Wilkes-Barre and surely were fimiliar with each other from playing in the OHL at the same time for a few years. Carcillo is a fun player to watch, he skates like a madman, will hit and fight at the drop of a hat. His antics are wild, but to reign him in would limit his effectiveness. When Carcillo's on the ice one can't be quite certain of what will happen, but it'll likely be action packed.

Penguins player to watch: Ruslan Fedotenko. He got bumped up to Crosby's line and played well with him in the dying moments of the San Jose game...Can Rusty keep it up? It appears he's been coming around lately and been playing at a higher level than he started the season, a continuation of that (and maybe some chemistry with Sid to boot) could be very beneficial for this game and the long run.

Will the desert air bring back some offense for the Penguins? While "that one" has a famous goal that happened in Phoenix, let's not forget another highlight goal that's been overshadowed...Something about playing in Phoenix lends itself to highlight reels, well at least it has for Crosby and Ovechkin...Let's see if their contemporary Evgeni Malkin can add to the magic.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Say, the Penguins could sure use a skill winger...

From the NY Post:

The 39-year-old unsigned right wing who'd been advised for months by GM Glen Sather to "sit tight" in anticipation of both a roster spot and salary-cap space opening up to create an avenue for his return to Broadway, Shanahan is no longer doing so.

Nearly four months after becoming a free agent, Shanahan is putting himself
onto the open market.

"I've told Rick [Curran] that I can no longer wait and that it's time to move
on," Shanahan, referring to his agent, told The Post this afternoon. "Until now,
Rick has been under instructions to tell inquiring teams that my focus was on
re-signing with the New York Rangers, and that I was not accepting any other

"That has changed."

Sure, you can point to the fact that Shanahan is turning 40 years old in January and that's valid. You can also mention how Shanahan's point totals have steadily fallen in the three seasons following the lockout [81 to 62 to 42] and that's another point taken.

But dude's still scored 92 goals in the past three seasons. He's still got the shot and he did score 11 PPG last year. At this point of his career he is a shell of his former power forward self, but he's got 650 goals and 690 assists for a reason. Could he play a full season on the first or second line? No.

But would he be a better option for situational use on a top line (and some rest) while taking a regular power play shift.

Giving a call to inquire about Brendan Shanahan is a no-brainer. He got a first hand look in the playoffs last spring about how great the Pens can be. Join us, Brendan, join us.

Game 10: Pens get Sharked

There are no sure goals with Sabu

Sorry for the late recap, we've been battling illness. Anyways onto the thoughts...

  • First of all, gotta give props to Dany Sabourin who again played excellently and held the Penguins in the game for much longer than they deserved to be in it.
  • The Sharks are now coached by Todd McLellan, who was a Detroit assistant. And it showed because the Sharks sure did show some shades of Red tonight, controlling the puck for most of the night, limiting the opponents shots to a measely figure (and the shots allowed mostly came from outside non-prime scoring areas). The Sharks are an elite regular season team, especially at home and it was on display tonight.
  • Describe Sidney Crosby's night in a word? Frustrating. Mr. Sid went 4-20 in the faceoff circle as "Jumbo" Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau pretty much had their way winning clean draw after clean draw all night long. Crosby, like so many of his teammates, also failed to get a shot on goal (though he did ring one off iron) and slammed the puck into the boards showing his frustration after a borderline penalty.
  • From the "how the heck does this happen department", the official scorer credited the Penguins with 10 giveaways but then awarded Shark players 13 takeaways. Does that make sense to anyone?
  • Further, the Sharks were hit for 21 giveaways but Penguin players were only credited 7 takeaways. Were San Jose players going Ilya Kovalchuk and stealing pucks from their own teammates?
  • When the number of minor penalties taken (6) is approaching the number of shots you get on goal (11) you just know it wasn't a fun night....But at least the penalty kill went 6 for 6, right?
  • The last five minutes of the game the Penguins showed some real effort, got some good cycling shifts and Ruslan Fedotenko took advantage of playing with Crosby and Evgeni Malkin by popping Crosby's rebound in. So also at least Crosby and Malkin could push their duel scoring streaks to now six games and counting.
  • This team needs a skilled winger. Janne Pesonen has points in every AHL game he's played so far. Of course they're probably not going to fly him out for the West Coast trip, but just sayin'...
  • In the end, definitely a game the Penguins didn't deserve to win and now go to 0-1-1 on this road trip. But the toughest two games of the trip (at NYR, at SJ) are in the rear view mirror with two relatively easy opponents the Coyotes (3-4-0) and then St. Louis (a surprising start of 5-3-0).

Finally, thank you to the Arlington County street construction guys out there for starting jackhammer and other heavy machinery work at 6 AM sharp this morning on the street in our neighborhood directly behind our house. That is really lovely after a West Coast game that keeps us up until 1 AM.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sydor requests trade

According to the Trib, Darryl Sydor has asked the Pens for a trade.

Not shocking, even with Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney out with injuries, Sydor couldn’t find his way into the lineup due mainly to rookie Alex Goligoski playing so well at the NHL level. Further, sooner or later Gonchar and Whitney will re-join the team and that’s just going to push Sydor even further down the depth chart, if not off the team entirely.

So it shouldn’t be surprising that Sydor has seen the writing on the wall and requested a change of venue. The bigger question is, at 36 years old, are there any takers for him? Surely the Penguins would be willing to shed Sydor (and his $2.5 million salary) for little more than a late draft pick or far-flung prospect.

Sydor hasn’t been ineffective when he has been in the lineup but it is clear time is starting to pass him by and he’s not the player he once was. Still, it’s hard not to think he could be a 5/6 defensemen on any number of NHL teams and as injuries mount up perhaps another team will be willing to get Sydor.

TST Roadtrip

November 20th, Pittsburgh at Atlanta

We'll be there to visit some old friends as the quest to go to a game in all 30 cities continues...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Corsi Rating: Forwards

If you missed what this means, read the post below...Sorry we threw this one together real quick, prior commitments dictated it. So without further a-due, your combined first 8 games of Corsi Ratings for the forwards (again click to enlarge).

As you can see, Jordan Staal is on the bottom and another somewhat surprise of Tyler F. Kennedy leading the pack, anything surprising in the middle?

Defensemen Corsi Rating

Our boy JP loves him some Corsi Rating...What the heck is that?

It's a measure (here's last night's game) that explains, well, let's just rip off his explanation:

For example, if Player A skates a shift in which he takes a shot that misses the net, his teammate then puts one on goal and another teammate blocks a shot at the other end before the end of Player A's shift, Player A will have a +1 Corsi Rating for that shift. To put it in context, Henrik Zetterberg had the League's best Corsi Rating a season ago and a bunch of Thrashers were at the bottom. Basically it's another tool in the analytical arsenal to gauge a player's even strength effectiveness. Got it? Good

Now, as you've doubtlessly noticed, the Pens have allowed quite a bit of rubber at their goalies, which will lead to the several negative Corsi ratings you're about to see. Further a bunch of Penguins defensemen (Hal Gill, Rob Scuderi, Brooks Orpik, Mark Eaton) have the offensive instincts and put less shots on goal than the kids who play during intermission. To that point those four d-men have combined for 17 shots on goal in 31 man games....But hey, they've also as many goals (2) as Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin do, so you can't knock them too much, the point being if you're not shooting and your partner doesn't shoot much, you're probably looking at a bad Corsi.

But who would have thought rookie Alex Goligoski's at the head of the class? And remember, Corsi only measures of even strength instances (click to enlarge)

Offensive eruption

Ohhh so THAT's what Ruslan Fedotenko looks like in a Pens jersey...

As we noted in the preview, Michael Leighton's been on his game as of late and it certainly showed for the

  • Evgeni Malkin looked like a man against boys out there, circling the entire defense with the puck at points, firing five shots on goal. He was rewarded by the hockey gods at the end of the game to get his goal back to that was "stolen".
  • Speaking of that, Sidney Crosby wasn't sure where his stick was in relation to the cross-bar, so he played it coy to the refs, not taking credit for the puck he clearly deflected. Savvy move there.
  • Crosby is on a four game point streak in which he's scored 9 points...Not to be outdone, Malkin is also on a four game point streak which has seen him score 10 points...Anything you can do..
  • Another typical Brooks Orpik statline: 22:40 icetime, +1, 5 hits, 5 blocked shots, 1 takeaway and 1 giveaway...Not too bad, eh?
  • Too bad that lone innocent looking giveaway was a hideous misfire by Orpik on a pass that 18 year old Brandon Sutter took in for Carolina's lone goal.
  • By the way, some intrepid person (won't be us) should compile a list of players who have scored their first career goal against the Pens over the past 2-3 years. It would be staggering. This sounds like something Seth would be good at..
  • It was nice to see the much maligned second line of Ruslan Fedotenko-Jordan Staal-Petr Sykora all combine for some tic-tac-toe passing to slam the GWG home. Everytime you write Staal off as not a playmaker he'll pull a pass like that out of his hat.
  • Michel Therrien better be careful....People could fall in love with the "3rd" line of Tyler Kennedy-Max Talbot-Miroslav Satan. They had a shift for the ages in the dying moments of the second, taking ownership of the puck down low. Could any 3rd line in the league boast the sheer speed, skill and determination of this trio? We doubt it.
  • Marc-Andre Fleury was stellar again in net and was thisclose to scoring an empty net goal for himself. We have no problem with him shooting for the moon, so long as it's a 2 goal game.

So who thought the Pens would be 5-2-1 after eight games while missing Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney? Not many.

This neatly wraps up one segment of the season, the "Post-Stockholm Recovery" of having five of six at home...Now a new segment, a trip to New York to face the 6-2-1 Rangers and then three games out west. Tall challenges on the horizon for sure, but for now it's ok to sit back and enjoy the satisfaction of a two point night.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Game 8: Hurramacanes

So here’s the stat-line for Carolina’s goaltenders, one is a young franchise goalie that already has a Stanley Cup trophy under his belt in Cam Ward and the other is journeyman Mike Leighton:

1-1-1, 3.29 GAA and a .892 save %

2-0, 1.93 GAA and a .935 save %

So you know the trick is in, Leighton is the statistically superior goaltender this early into the season and will get the start tonight. Also, due to injuries it looks like the Canes will dress seven defensemen which means our old friend Josef Melichar will be back in the NHL for the first time since his Penguin days.

This is also the Pens last chance for some home cooking before departing to New York and then out west for three games. The next time a game will be in Mellon Arena (November 8th) will be after a President is elected. So there is a light at the end of the tunnel even if it’s probably a train.

Carolina player to watch:

Something to keep an eye on is the Hurricanes haven’t really had a “go to” player. Sure, Eric Staal is the man there, but through five games ten (10) or more players have at least three points. Contrast that with your Penguins who have played two more games than Carolina, but only have half the number of players with at least three points. So even if E. Staal is limited, that doesn’t mean the third line might have one of those nights where they put a couple past the Penguins before we know it. And with perhaps a rusty Darryl Sydor back in the lineup they may just do that.

Penguins player to watch:

Jordan Staal –did you know he has a brother in this game? If not, the television people will let you know this any number of times. Anyways the 3rd of the Staal boys has had a rough season so far (he’s one of the Pens under three points) and hasn’t quite emerged from the sophomore slump yet. Also rumor has it if he doesn’t show something tonight the boys at the Pensblog are gonna put the Amber Alert up on his ass. Which, would he know what that means around the interwebs, well it would be all the motivation needed to break out. History doesn’t suggest Jordan will fare well, in 8 NHL games against brother Eric, J-Staal has 0 goals and 2 assists. Maybe, like a certain “other sibling” tonight will be his night to step up and outshine big bro.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sure it's early..

Yeah so if this NHL season was a person it barely be out of diapers, but let's give the devil his due (gahhh) compared to other notable line-mates of Sidney Crosby....
  • Miroslav Satan: 7 games, 4 goals, 2 assists
  • Marian Hossa: 5 games, 1 goal, 4 assists
  • Ryan Malone: 6 games, 1 goal, 0 assists
  • Gary Roberts: 6 games, 0 goals, 0 assists
  • Mark Recchi: 6 games, 2 goals, 0 assists
  • Erik Christensen: 6 games, 0 goals, 1 assist
  • Colby Armstrong: 6 games, 2 goals, 0 assists

Just sayin'.....

Yay another injured defenseman

Injury strikes again, this time the USS Hal Gill is pulling into port for repairs..

Gill did not participate in the Penguins' practice at Mellon Arena today, and it is not known when he will be able to resume playing.

Again the Penguins are lucky to not only have the youth of players like 21 year old Kris Letang and 23 year old NHL rookie Alex Goligoski playing and playing well but also to tap a guy with 1328 reg. season + playoff games as a replacement. Darryl Sydor's only played two games, but his experience and mindset should benefit the young club that's given up a ton of shots on net lately.

Gill's loss could be a major one though, the big guy's been very reliable, doing a lot of little things to help the team win. Gill's 4:56 per game of penalty-kill time is second on the team (to partner Rob Scuderi) as well as second on the team with 16 blocked shots.

Monday, October 20, 2008

SABUUU....Pens win

Image courtesy of the Pensblog

Another night at the office huh?

New feature here for re-caps, three up/three down..

3 UP

1- Dany Sabourin: 35 saves on 36 shots and after giving up the opening goal in the gimmick he shuts the door for four straight attempts. The surprise starter--most had thought Marc-Andre Fleury would get the go-- but Dany Sabs did the trick and more.

2- Evgeni Malkin: Got the assist on the Penguins lone goal, led all Penguins forwards with 24:58 in icetime, had four shots on net and one hit....OK so he went 0-for on faceoff (on five draws) but a small decline. Plus the shootout deciding goal too.

3- Brooks Orpik: Tons of other candidates but we're going to give the nod to Orpik, who like most the defensive players did his job there-- with a game high five hits and four blocked shots and led everyone not named Zdeno Chara in ice-time with 26:32.

***Honorable mention***
--Max Talbot went 12 for 14 in the face off dot. That's worth at least a mention. As this Penguins team that's relied on almost exclusively young centers (Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Talbot, Jordan Staal) have aged in the past few years, it's been nice to see in action their numbers all gradually improve.


3- Ruslan Fedotenko: OK maybe this is a little picky, Rusty only got 14:37 in even strength ice-time, 11 seconds of mop up power play. But what did he do with it? 1 shot on goal, 1 hit and 1 giveaway. This adds nicely with his 0 goals and 0 assists on the year in now seven games.

2- Eric Godard: Minor nit, but Godard is taking too many minor penalties. As it stands he's only going to be playing 6-7 minutes a night, so there's no reason he should be backing his team against the wall if possible.

1- Jordan Staal: Took the penalty that led to the Bruins only goal and took another one in over-time to negate a power play the Pens were on. Got 18:47 and only put two shots on the net, didn't produce any offense and was under 50% in the faceoff circle.

To be sure all of today's 'downers' didn't perform that poorly, but in most cases they didn't perform. It's hard to be find too much negative to work with when there's no goals against at even strength, a superb goaltending performance by the #2 and an exciting finish.

You stink, Wyshynski!!!

A screen cap from today's Boston/Penguins preview on Yahoo Sports... notice who they list as Penguin (and Boston) innjuries...

Game 7 Preview: Boston on a Monday night the Pats play and the day after Red Sox lose

Tonight ends a moderately taxing stretch of four games in eight nights for the Pens against three clubs that made the playoffs last year. The game is Pittsburgh's real first away game and also Boston's home opener. And it sounds like B's defenseman Aaron Ward is slightly excited about coming home from a four game season opening roadie...

I'm tired of listening to other teams' chants and listening to everyone else's grand opening and anniversary ceremonies," defenseman Aaron Ward wrote on his blog. "I am so sick of sitting around on their blue lines listening to how great their organization is, and I can't wait to see a lot of black and gold in the stands at the Garden."

OK then...

No one is quite certain if the Super-powers line of Evgeni Malkin + Sidney Crosby will stay in tact tonight, but we're guessing it's a pretty good bet. They created two goals on even strength (and four for the night) on Saturday, why break up something clicking so well.

Also an interesting note is Marc-Andre Fleury's workload, he's expected to start his 7th game tonight, and if you're keeping close tabs on the season you may notice it's Game 7. Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers and Dan Ellis from Nashville have also appeared in six games so far this season, but it's important to note the Rangers have played eight games, while the Preds have rode Ellis through all six of their games . Fleury's seen 198 shots so far, 26 more than the next closest goalie in the league-- shellshocked Atlanta netminder Kari Lehtonen who's faced 172 shots in just five games.

But of course Fleury's played so well and the Pens have seen their October schedule pretty favorably stretched out--with a long homestand to boot since coming back from the early start in Sweden. But if you look at the schedule starting today through Thanksgiving weekend the Penguins have 17 games coming up in the next 39 days, only one instance of two games in two nights but some meaningful travel too....Just something to keep an eye on going forward.
The key for tonight's game is weathering the storm....

As you can tell from Ward's words, the B's are going to be pumped up to be back in front of their fans and surely the Boston fans will be looking for something to cheer about-- even with the Patty's on Monday Night Football.

TST Key players to watch:

Marc Savard....Never more than a 28 goal-a-year scorer, the mainly assist master Savard has already light the lamp 5 times this season. Since the lockout he's an eye-popping scored 19 points (3g, 16a) in just 12 matchups against the Penguins.

Marc-Andre Fleury....As we alluded to Fleury's seeing a lot of minutes and a lot of rubber early in the season. How he can handle Savard and the pumped up B's in the early going of the game will go a long way in determining who comes out of it with the 2 points at the end of it.

Putting down the Bears

Wow, it's almost as if starting the season on a 5 game streak of killing teams would inflate a team's confidence or something...

John Curry's back stiffened up when he was making a save midway through the second period and Adam Berkhoel had to come on in relief. As he skated to the
net, Berkhoel said the Bears reminded him about how his previous two outings went against them. (Not good for him.)

That's some quality chirping by the Bears, nice to see the relatively unheralded Berkhoel keep them at bay, if only for once.
Chris Minard and Ryan Stone led the way offensively for the young Pens, two veteran guys that should be offensive factors in that league every night.
Also if you were wondering how prospect Janne Pesonen is doing in the AHL, the answer is pretty well, he's second on the team in scoring (behind Minard) with 1 goal and 5 assists in four games. Pesonen had a breakout game Friday night with a breakaway goal and two assists.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Game 6: Hockey Night in Crosby

Increased hugging, another direct side-effect from teaming Geno and Sid up.

Something about the "Hockey Night in Canada" spotlight always seems to make Sidney Crosby shine the brightest....Not such a bad idea to put him on a line with Evgeni Malkin, eh?

  • 14 different Penguins (all but Crosby, Malkin, Tyler Kennedy and Miroslav Satan) blocked shots. A much better team effort tonight in that regards.
  • 27 shots, 26 saves. Another routine night of excellence for Marc-Andre Fleury.
  • As we mentioned, the newly formed top line with Crosby, Malkin and Pascal Dupuis worked. They generated 2 even strength goals, and one thing to keep an eye on is how well Dupuis is keeping up. He had 4 shots on a goal, one more than Malkin and Crosby had combined. A Crosby/Malkin combination is only as effective as the third piece of the puzzle and Dupper did well tonight.
  • With the statistical outbreak, Malkin (4 assists) and Crosby (1 goal, 3 assists) outproduced, in one night, Alex Ovechkin's season so far (2 goals, 1 assist). Just sayin'....
  • The night's games aren't over yet, but at this moment Malkin is your at-the-moment scoring leader in the league this season with 2 goals 8 assists in six games.
  • Another league leader at-the-moment is Brooks Orpik and his 25 hits. It should be noted the Pens have had their team employed statisticians for every game of the season so far (they went to Sweden) but anyone who's watched the games could tell you that the most of Orpik has come by his accredited hits mostly honestly. And the Pittsburgh stats people are fairly reasonable, unlike some other cities that don't tend to give visitors hits.
  • The Penguins again killed it in the face-off circle, winning 61%. Crosby was awesome, winning 73% of his draws (16 for 24).
  • As you'd probably expect with a 4-1 final, the Pens won the special teams battle going 2 for 4 on the powerplay and 5 for 6 killing Toronto penalties.
  • First too-many-men on the ice call of the year, wooo! We think the Pens should definitely have one of those counter things that you see at industrial worksites "XX days without a too many men call"..That sounds like a Dan Potash project to us.
  • Toronto's 18 year old rookie, Luke Schenn, is a keeper. It's so hard to make the jump to the NHL as a defenseman at that age but he's done it and doesn't look out of place at all. The scary thing is he was the third defensemen taken in the draft too, looks like an excellent class.
  • A couple of banner moments: Crosby's 100th career goal and 300th career point (but not on the same play) and Malkin's 200th career assist.
  • Two of Crosby's assists (for the Satan's and Petr Sykora's goals) were similiar plays, firing sublime passes through the defense, right on the tape and easy slam dunks for the wingers. They were ones the hypothetical fire hydrant would have gotten too.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Bradley vs. Bissonnette

While Matt Bradley's participation in this fight as being heralded as a cult hero in some places, we have to imagine this highlight isn't going to make any Caps montages or highlight reels. And while you do tip a hat to Bradley's courage to drop with a bigger, stronger, young, better fighter, you can still question the results. Heart and desire will only get you so far (in the locker-room for stitches, in this case). And it was admirable that Bradley returned to the ice but hey it's hockey, where uncommon occurrences of playing through pain are, well, common.

We wonder what will happen when Caps enforcer Donald Brashear is back in the lineup for the next Pens/Caps game…Will he go after the youngster Bissonnette or stick to his more traditional heavyweight dancing partner of Eric Godard.

Do this to someone on the street and they will take you to jail, kids..

Crosby gets a stud new winger...

And he's fimiliar too, per the PG here was today's lines:

Biz Nasty-Thomas-Godard

(Zigomanis out with minor, unspecified injury)

We think this is an idea worth trying for many reasons:

  • It gives some life for Crosby and Malkin...The best players love playing with each other, they're on the same wave length that others don't understand out there.
  • Jordan Staal has been far too quiet this season, and moving him back to the center may well be a good idea. It helps the next opponent is Toronto. In his brief career Staal has 5 goals, 2 assists and 28 shots on goal against the Maple Leafs in eight games. It's definitely one of his favorite teams to play.
  • That 3rd line could be a great one. Petr Sykora cut his teeth for too long last year on the 3rd line before Coach T trusted him and it looks like this will be Miroslav Satan's fate as well. That and it would be over-kill to play him on Sykora's line.

It can't be bad to try. This team needs to create at 5 on 5. The Pens doing well enough to make the other team take penalties (and then make them pay) but they need to bury some chances to get the confidence up and then we'll be rolling. There's no better way for a shot in the arm then to try Geno up on the top line.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Biz Nasty wins the fight, the Caps win the battle

Credit to you Caps, coming back from being 3-1 after two and totally out of the game. The Caps won tonight and deserved to even though they only won 20 minutes. That's it and that's all. Carrying 40 minutes of play doesn't matter if you can't finish and that's what matters.

But still, watching Biz Nasty unequivocally jack up Matt Bradley is still awesome.....Hey, it's October, right? Plus Evgeni Malkin (3 points) and Sidney Crosby (2 points) sure did outscore that Alex Ovechkin (0 points)? Small consolation though. Both teams will live to see another day. It's only October, after all.

Game 5: Caps/Pens...the opening salvo

Thanks to geography, we're in the middle of Capitals country...The Penguins and Capitals both feature some of the best and most active blogospheres around and we have friends on both sides. Our circle of hockey buddies is split: 2 Penguins fans (and the editor) and 3 Caps supporters.

With all this mixing, we're stuck right in the middle. So even though tonight's game is just one of 82, and in the big scheme of things not that important, anytime you've got Crosby vs. Ovechkin vs. Malkin, it's a big deal. Each one of those guys wants to be the one to shine the brighest anytime they share the stage together. Bragging rights personally are on the line. It's what the sport is all about.

So, for our Penguins readers and comrades, here's a look at the Caps with things you need to know:
  • Viktor Kozlov is out with injury, and Caps captain Chris Clark is on the top line now. Clark's kind of like an undersized (but more mature) version of Ryan Malone. His precense in front of the net and down in the corners should mesh well with the skill of Nicklas Backstrom and Ovechkin.
  • If the Penguins forwards don't challenge Mike Green, he will rush the puck all the way up the ice into a scoring area. Green's off to a ridiculously frantic start (3 goals in 3 games) and if unchecked will do damage.
  • Alex Semin, the enigmatic but extremely talented winger, has been one of the hardest working players on the ice this season. That is a scary thought, when he wants to be one of the best players in the sport he can be, but his work ethic (be it from injuries or disinterest) hasn't seemed all there in the past.
  • The Caps have experimented with Sergei Fedorov on the blueline but appear to have him as a forward tonight. This is good news as it means that the dim-witted and slow skating John Erskine is back in the lineup and probably paired with the not fleet-of-foot Milan Jurcina. This could be a great matchup for the Pens speedy 3rd line with players like Tyler F. Kennedy and Max Talbot.
  • Jose Theodore settled down a little after the second game but the fact remains he's given up 6 goals on 48 shots and has been very shaky early in games.

Crosby vs. Ovechkin head-to-head

So far, it's been a huge mismatch or mixmatch, as Emmitt Smith did actually say.

Team Records:
Penguins: 10-1
Capitals: 1-8-2

Sidney Crosby: 7 goals, 12 assists, 19 points, +7
Alex Ovechkin: 4 goals, 8 assists, 12 points, +3

(In interest of painting the full picture, AO did go 2g +1a in a 6-5 win for the Caps while Crosby was out with an ankle injury).

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Game 4 Redux...Super Dupper

Pascal sez..."I did WHAT!?"

  • Another Brooks "sampled the score sheet buffet" as they say (eighth note down). Orpik had 1 goal, 1 assist, a team high 25:07 icetime, 2 Penalty Minutes, 4 hits and 1 takeaway
  • If you thought this was Free Candy's first career multi-point NHL game, you'd be wrong. He actually had two previous games, both 2 assist nights, and both coincidentally came against the New Jersey Devils.
  • One last Orpik note (we promise) last night marked the first time the Pens have won a game when he has scored a goal. The record in such occurrences is now 1-3-1.
  • We're starting to see why they brought Mike Zigomanis in...Not only did he score a big goal, but he went 11 for 13 in the faceoff circle. You can basically make your fourth line players niche guys; Eric Godard is the enforcer, Ziggy is the faceoff specialist, Matt Cooke is a solid heart and soul guy capable of firing out passes like the assist. Impressively, Zigomanis went a combined 5 for 5 against Mike Richards and Daniel Briere-- two players that have historically had a lot of success in draws against the Pens.
  • Sidney Crosby had a good game doing the little things as well, he won 71% of his draws, was credited with 1 takeaway (w/ 0 giveaways), threw 2 hits and fired four shots on net (though only one was on target). One gets the sense Mr. Crosby is about to break through sooner or later on the score sheet in a big fashion.
  • The night's over-time hero, Pascal Dupuis, put 5 shots on net and generally looked comfortable back on the top line with Crosby and Miroslav Satan. All of those shots were slapshots, we wonder if the Pens were intentionally firing slappers to overwhelm the Flyers goalie as it appeared that a high number of slapshots were taken by the whole team.
  • Rob Scuderi really must have been a goalie in a past life. Jeez, he literally stood in the crease during a scramble and made two saves. The NHL should credit him for that or something.
  • Alex Goligoski got a staggering 8:03 in power-play ice-time (the Pens were on the power-play for a combined 10:54) and as we mentioned in the liveblog continues to make small plays and look comfortable. Goose was also on the ice for three of the four goals scored in regulation (2 by the Penguins).
  • Marc-Andre Fleury was solid again. He's picked up with excellent play right where he's left off ever since returning from injury in March. We really can't remember him having had a bad game since that point. The franchise goalie has definitely bloomed.
  • Also if you've seen a Ukrainian man who answers to the name of Ruslan, please direct him to the Penguins locker room. Thanks.
So that's a wrap on Game 4, with the Pens now with 5 out of a possible 8 points. For younger fans--and perhaps myself included-- it's difficult to savor a win over the Flyers as much as "more experienced" (err, older) fans who can still remember all the beatings Philadelphia would give Pittsburgh in the '70s and '80s. We enjoy it nonetheless, still it can't be the same satisfaction.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008 strikes again

Wow Pascal Dupuis is starting to look a lot like Mike Zigomanis nowadays..

It's a Live-blog!

Hey, how about a live-blog!

7:40- Some douche is wearing a Big Ben jersey and siting behind John Stevens...We hate that. Anger and the game hasn't even started.

7:41- Long first shift for the Crosby line and the Flyers keep it in the Pens zone almost the entire time and had a couple shots on Fleury. Ominous start.

7:44- Pascal Dupuis sends a pass from behind the net and Miro Satan almost bats it out of mid air for a goal. Dupper back on the top line has been good, and Fedotenko had a good shift earlier with the 3rd line (Max Talbot and Tyler F Kennedy)

7:46- Scottie Upshall rings one off the crossbar. Yikes.

7:49- Excellent fight Eric Godard vs. Riley Cote. Both were swinging and swinging violently in a long fight. You'l definitely want to check this one on youtube. We give the edge to Godard who connected with a flurry of lefts and rights.

7:50- Crosby is interfered with and the call is made...Pens to the powerplay after the commercial break.

7:52- Crosby goes down and slashes Andrew Alberts, negating what had been an unimpressive powerplay.

7:57- Max Talbot springs himself on a shorthanded breakaway and tries to go five hole (looked like he had too much speed to make a move.

7:58- A good shift for the Staal/Malkin/Sykora line, a lot of cycling down low. Malkin looks more authoritative out there.

8:04- Scrum time in front of the Flyers net that's almost a line brawl. We notice TFK and Albert going at it. Scumbag Mike Richards gives an otherwise occupied Penguin a face-wash and is sent to the box.

8:06- The powerplay without an identity continues, the crowd's getting restless now. They circled in their own zone for a little waiting to breakout and then subsequently iced the puck. This defense needs a puck-moving defenseman.

8:13- Long cycling shift for the Talbot line but no payoff. Gotta like the chances and energy that TFK is bringing to the table.

8:15- Rusty Fedotenko takes a holding penalty about 170 feet from his net with about 80 seconds left in the period. Foolish.

8:18- At the end of the first it's 0-0

8:24- Christine Simpson is interviewing Mike Richards....Is it just us or did she pickup a more noticeable Canadian accent over the summer? Granted, she is from Ontario but it seems a lot more prevalent now. Not that

8:36- Game's back on and the penalty's killed but not before Marc-Andre Fleury kicks a rebound out past everyone.

8:39- They're buzzing now. Crosby has the puck and motors around, set Dupuis up for four big shots, including one from point blank that would have been a goal had his stick not failed him.

8:42- Things are definitely looking up for the boys. The Crosby line was down low doing work and drew an Andrew Alberts hooking call. The last two 5 on 5 shifts for this line has, without exaggaration, looked stronger than the powerplay. Cue the tired hack joke about being able to decline penalties. 2nd period shots are 6-2 Pens.

8:45- The powerplay features a lot of great puck movement and control but no dice. One gets the feeling it might take an ugly goal to trigger a huge breakout.

8:48- Matt Cooke to the box for a cross-check, taking away all the momentum and confidence that's been building.

8:50- 5 on 3 time for the Flyers, as Brooks Orpik slashes a rushing Flyer.

8:51- Therrien used to use two forwards and one defensemen for these situations but went with the long stick of Staal, and human shields Mark Eaton and Rob Scuderi

8:52- Holy shit moment, Scuderi literally makes two saves. Gotta appreciate the scramble and sacrifice. 5 on 3 killed, powerplay killed.

8:55- Due to the powerplay, Malkin plays a shift with Satan and Sykora. They apply much pressure, including Malkin's impression of his Crosby-drop-to-a-knee one timer but hits the far post.

8:57- Glen Metropolit attempts a lobotomy on Jordan Staal, ready or not here comes the powerplay but (thankfully?) it's only for 2 minutes.

9:00- A fluttering Evgeni Malkin wrister pops off the post. Thisclose once again...

9:01- GOAL! Orpik shoots, Kennedy's in front. The ugly one we mentioned. Looks like an Orpik seeing-eye puck. 1-0 Penguins

9:04- GOAL! Nice keep in at the blueline by Goligoski to keep it in and then a quick pass out by Cooke to Mike Zigomanis. Eric Godard touched it to and will get an assist, so unfortunately the play by Goose won't be recognized. 2-0 Penguins

9:07- Welcome to the season boys.

9:08- Eric Godard is a goal away from the Gordie Howe hat trick. Not bad for a guy who's gotten just 2:00 of icetime so far.

9:10- Jeff Carter pinballs one in. The Penguins couldn't clear the puck and the Flyers had a down-low two on one and the puck bounces off of the USS Hal Gill. Yuck. 2-1 Penguins still lead.

9:12- Another one. Faceoff win by Briere over Crosby, Timonen snaps it on the net and Gagne gets a nice deflection goal. This game is 2-2 but it feels like the Penguins should be winning. If you want to get chewed out by a hockey coach, give up a goal in the last minute of a period. The Pens just gave up two of them. Mercifully, it's intermission.

9:33- Game is back and Bobby Orr takes a penalty. Don't disrespect Kimmo Timonen in the eyes of Flyers fans eyes.

9:34- Malkin breaks a stick. A lot of broken twigs tonight, and as usual it's at the most inopportune time.

9:37- Goligoski is doing a lot of the little things right, including now when he lugged the puck through the zone and fired a nice shot that just was deflected at the last second. He's learning his way in the NHL and seeming to look a little better every period.

9:38- A Sykora rebound bumps out to Jordan Staal. It hits his skate and he kicks it to his skate but his hurried shot goes just wide.

9:44- The Talbot line works the puck low and then Max gets a high stick from Scott Hartnell. Fortunately for the Flyers their only punishment is facing the Penguins top powerplay unit.

9:47- Powerplay killed pretty effortlessly. Ossi Vaananen slew footed Crosby pretty viciously but he appears to be OK.

9:52- Pascal Dupuis' doing some solid work on the PK (Ziggy went to the box). Whatever the Pens PP has must be contagious, now Philly's looks sick.

9:58- Jeff Carter takes it to the net and gets taken down...Penalty coming up. 4 minutes left in the game, huge kill coming up, if the Flyers score a goal here that's practically your ballgame.

10:02- Beautiful pinball flipper save by Fleury when a puck comes unexpectedly bouncing in on him. The Pens are doing well to clear the puck often and not let them set it up.

10:06- Last ditch effort by Malkin and Kennedy fall short, we're going to over-time.

10:11- 18 year old rookie Luca Sbisa just flipped the puck in and nailed Mark Eaton with a huge check. That's the first time we really noticed him. And he's out there the last minute of OT, shows you how much they trust him.

10:14- Pascal Dupuis!!!!!!!!!! Big shot down the wing after a terrific breakout pass from Brooks Orpik.

So that's that.

When teammates fight

A report from the Lets Go Pens message board:

"Godard-Letang fight in practice

saw it on Savran on Sportsbeat

No punches thrown, but Godard's gloves came off and had Letang in a head lock"

Now it is never really a good thing when teammates scuffle, but it's not to be unexpected. These guys are forwards and defensemen lining up against each other every single day in many grueling, physical drills that Coach T even admitted he wanted to see more intensity.

There were reports last year that Rangers defensemen Marek Malik got into an actual fistfight on the ice with Sean Avery (gee, how could anyone get angry at him?) and that didn't seem to hurt the Rags. All that has to happen is Godard and Letang don't hold any grudges, move on and sweep the whole thing under the table. If that happens, no probs.

If not, a fight among teammates can be a distraction and bring down a team. That's one of the factors of Ottawa's collapse last year after tough-guy Chris Neil duked it out with problem child goaltender Ray Emery. Let's hope the Pens can be rational enough to take care of any problems before they start....We're sure they will.

Game 4 Preview

It's been since May 18th, a 6-0 beatdown to clinch the series since the Penguins and Flyers have matched up. It hasn't seemed like almost five months since that playoff series but time keeps marching on.

Martin "French Toast" Biron is being haunted now, so it looks like Antero Niitymaki is going to play which you would think bodes well for the Penguins who are still struggling to find their way offensively (2 goals in the past 2 games). Also Petr Sykora practiced today and his groin reportedly held up well. If Geno gets his running buddy back that could do a lot of good for the offense too.

That's your key to the game, it's how the Penguins can put pucks in nets. Simple but the offense just hasn't looked ontrack yet. Enough talk of the cross continental trip, the free agent defections, the mounting injuries, enough. Last time we checked the firepowers is still there. Let's do it boys.

Also remember the game is going to be on Versus so get ready for 360 degrees of all things Sidney Crosby.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Slow starts

2006-07 Penguins: Hovered around .500 the first 40+ games and were even an unimpressive 18-17-7 at one point....Rebounded to finish with a 105 point campaign

2007-08 Penguins: Started 8-11-2 with healthy Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury, lost them to injuries for a while and still ended up with a 47 win, 102 point season.

The point here? It's not how you start, but what you build in order to set yourself up for a finish. 1-1-1 is not the end of the world in an 82 game season.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

An uninspired effort receives an uninspired recap

Really guys is this 2003? 45-14 shots against? All of you (except Marc-Andre Fleury) should be pretty disgusted with yourselves.

I'm just sayin' too...

Sometimes when it pays off, it pays off... (click on the image to see it better....considering how young we are it's probably criminal how little usage of technology we have)

Also if that Dany Heatley could play games 3-82 like he plays the first two he would re-write record books, eh? (If you click the link and the picture you'll get it)

Questions for the home opener

Thoughts running through our head as the Devils come to Pittsburgh for what sure feels like it should be Game 1, but is in fact Game 3...

  • What will Sidney Crosby have up his sleeve for tonight's personal special game? (Tonight is the first time both his grandmothers will travel to see him play an NHL game in person)
  • Will this be the game that Miroslav Satan-- 0 goals, 1 assist and just 2 shots on goal-- breaks through? If Satan comes through versus the Devils, we'll give in to temptation (gah!) and use a New York Post-esque headline for our game recap.
  • Is the power-play going to look more powerful back on American soil? 1 for 14 isn't going to cut it.
  • How much longer is Rob Scuderi going to have as many goals as Evgeni Malkin?
  • Does Bill Thomas get the start (or scratch) in his first chance to play in front of where he grew up?
  • The last two times Pittsburgh played New Jersey back in March the results were a 2-0 win and a 7-1 spanking, both in favor of Sid's Kids. Can they hold that pressure up?
  • If Biz Nasty gets a sweater tonight will this be his first fight? We think so. New Jersey doesn't have that many guys that regularly throw-down, but between David "Kelly" Clarkson, Bryce Salvador and Mike Rupp there ought to be someone to agitate.
  • In another match up against a guy that was his idol, will Marc-Andre Fleury out duel Martin Brodeur again? Fleury's 4-7-1 (since 2005-06) against Brodeur but MAF only allowed 8 goals in four match ups against Marty last season. That number looks a lot better too if you consider that Fleury yielded five of those goals in a single game.

Friday, October 10, 2008

"I'm not Radulov"

Metallurg Magnitogorsk WAS offering Evgeni Malkin $11 million U.S., but he told them to forget it ... In a wide-ranging interview with the Russian Sovetskii
Sport publication, Malkin said he told Metallurg he had a new, valid contract with the penguins, and "I'm not Radulov."..

Atta boy Geno.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Penguins Acquire Ziggy

No, not THAT Ziggy

Anyways, per the PG:

The Penguins have acquired forward Mike Zigomanis from Phoenix for
considerations. Zigomanis, 27, split last season between the Coyotes and San Antonio of the American Hockey League. In 33 games with Phoenix, he had two goals and an assist; he had 10 goals and 15 assists in 27 games with the AHL Rampage.

Interesting that they liked Zigomanis over Jeff Taffe. They're essentially the same player, good at the AHL level but not too much of an impact player in the NHL --though Zigomanis did tally 14 goals in 75 NHL games two years ago for Phoenix. But don't fool yourself, this is a 27 year old who hasn't established himself in the NHL and was on waivers from a team (Phoenix) expected to be amongst the bottom dwellers of the league...It's not like he couldn't make a forward heavy team lite Detroit or something.

Taffe, btw, cleared waivers and will add a little more offensive firepower to Wilkes-Barre. I'm sure it won't be too long either before he's reminded that he owes the boys down there $500...I wonder if they'll be tacking on any interest?

We'll see how the Zigomanis acquisition shakes out. An interesting development to say the least. The Penguins have taken castoffs before and made them into serviceable players (Adam Hall was the last reclamation project) so we'll see how this turns out.

Cool ESPN feature??

Wow, on the same day as hockey makes the cover of SI (at least regionally), ESPN is actually doing a cool feature?

Yep, a "new classics" where they compare todays players and styles to the glory days of old, something fans young and old can enjoy.

Take three guesses who got the Wayne Gretzky comparision as well as the "face of the league" distinction....

(hat-tip to href="">Japers for pointing out some of these)

Well, at least hockey makes the cover..

Along the vein of "break a leg", would it be of poor taste to say "blow a knee"? Yeah, we thought so.

Just remember Hoss, when they raise that banner tonight it is not your own.

(Hat-tip to going five hole for finding the cover....We can't wait to get home today and see it in the mailbox)

Why does Colby look unhappy

A) Because of the hideous jersey (We could have sworn it said "Trashers" at first view...and numbers on the front, really?)

B) Because it's going to be a long season in Atlanta

GMs wish they could build around Crosby

If you could pick one player to build your team around for the next five years, who would it be? A sniper like Alexander Ovechkin? A playmaker like Sidney Crosby? Maybe a stalwart goaltender such as Roberto Luongo?

That's the question TSN asked 28 NHL general managers and the result isn't terribly surprising...

the franchise player most coveted was Crosby, with 98 points in a 5-3-1 weighted system. Crosby was the top choice on 15 ballots.

Ovechkin topped Luongo 66 to 38 in terms of voting points, but its worth noting that Canucks captain had more first place votes (7) than the Russian gunner (5).

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Pens waive Taffe, one step closer to losing Beech

Somewhat surprising news: the Pens have waived Jeff Taffe and intend to send him to the AHL if he goes unclaimed. Taffe carved out a pretty solid niche as a 4th line center that played responsible hockey in 45 NHL games last season and although he didn't touch the ice for a game in post-season play, we thought his place as 4th line center/13th forward was secure.

Bill Thomas and Paul Bissonnette though beat Taffe out, as the Penguins obviously must feel they have enough talent but not enough grit and toughness. Emergency goalie for the Sweden trip John Curry was also sent back to the AHL, as expected.

Taffe played in the first game in Sweden and even got some time in with the second powerplay unit before being a scratch in Game 2. We have to wonder if the coaches saw something they didn't like.

The Penguins roster now stands at 22 players, one less than the maximum. Did they waive Taffe to potentially put a claim in for one of the many veterans on waivers? Interesting.

Also since Kris Beech won't report to Wilkes-Barre, the team put him on unconditional waivers. He likely won't be claimed by anyone but this gives Pittsburgh an out to not pay him anymore as Beech tries to find a league over-seas to play in.

1 for 14

That's the Penguins power-play so far, and even that one should have an asterisk, as it was scored literally last second in a meaningless fashion.

Plus add in that the Penguins have yielded a goal while they were on the power-play and it's panic central, at least among fans.

"Satan is a bust!"

"The powerplay sucks!"

"We need Cory Murphy!"

And those are some of the more mild observation from internet fans.

To be sure, there's cause for concern with just 19 shots on 14 powerplay opportunities. But considering 3/5's of last years top powerplay (Ryan Malone, Sergei Gonchar and Marian Hossa) are gone for one reason or another, it's only natural that a team that played just a handful of pre-season games hasn't put it together yet.

It's also worth giving credit to the Ottawa Senators' penalty killers who are an aggressive group that block more than their share of shots (hello Anton Volchenkov). Ottawa finished in the bottom half of the PK stats last year percentage wise-- a large portion of that belongs to their lackluster goalie play-- but they were #1 with 18 short-handed goals for, so it's not terribly surprising they were aggressive enough to score one and play well.

1-14 is terrible and frustrating but it's not worth getting upset about. The Penguins are back at practice today and will surely work on their powerplay, getting it tweaked and ready for life without Gonchar. It'll be a bit of an adjustment to primarily work the puck through Sidney Crosby down low instead of the Sarge at the point, but it's not brain surgery, it's hockey. Relax fans, it'll be alright.

Just when you thought the markets couldn't get any worse...

...It's Bettman! And the Islanders! The epitome of how to run a sports league and franchise!
Yeah, we're doomed aren't we.
(Hat-tip to the Puck Daddy)

Flyers lose to minor league hockey team

Monday, October 6, 2008

An early by the numbers...

4 – The number of countries the Penguins have played a game (pre-season included) so far this season: USA, Canada, Finland and Sweden

15- Hits so far thrown by Matt Cooke, putting him on pace for 615 for the season…One would think this is bound to fall off, being as last year’s leading hitter, LA’s Dustin Brown, was credited 311 hits.

11- Shots on goal for Sidney Crosby. He also fired 6 more that were blocked or missed target. Still, 5.5 shots on net is a pace for 451 in a year, a handful more than Alex Ovechkin got. Crosby’s game isn’t the same as Ovechkin’s, of course, but it’s encouraging to see 87 making the effort to throw more pucks at the cage.

9:43- The amount of ice-time Alex Goligoski played on the power play in his only game. Contrast that say to the 12:41 PP time that Game 1’s goal scoring defensemen Rob Scuderi had in all of 2007-08.

3-0 – Speaking of Scuds, that’s the Penguins record when he scores a goal (two of which Crosby has assisted on)

13-2-3—Penguins record (since beginning of 2006-07) when Scuderi registers an assist

3 – Tied for league high number of penalties that Ruslan Fedotenko has drawn

2- Tied for second league high number of penalties that Fedotenko has taken

Game 2 Redux...Frustrating loss, strange trip

Game two is done and the Swedish experience is over. The Pens struggle again on the power play, Dany Heatley beasts two goals in and that’s basically your game. Is it just us or were these games pretty surreal? 11 out of the 25 players from the Penguins playoff squad were gone due to injury/changing teams and this incarnation of the Penguins just hasn’t look comfortable yet. In a way it’s still weird to see no Sergei Gonchar out there, no Ryan Whitney, no Petr Sykora and, yes, no Ryan Malone…And what’s Jarkko Ruutu doing pinning Sidney Crosby down, isn’t that supposed to be him doing that to Daniel Alfredsson? Strange times.

The Penguins will come back with 2 out of a possible 4 points, but perhaps the journey here of traveling together and the forced team bonding will be more important in the long run than pure results of the trip. After all, most teams had maybe a routine couple of pre-season games this week, not too many have started the season. On top of that, no one’s had the injury laden roster turnover to deal with. The Pens can use their experiences and build off of that.

The season has started, it just might not feel that way.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


As John Madden always says, "you can't win 'em all if you don't win the first one.", and while no one expects 82-0, well, it's nice to get started off on the right foot thanks to some quick shots by Tyler Kennedy.

  • Kennedy got his shot on the second line with Jordan Staal and Evgeni Malkin thanks to the effects of an illness and groin injury knocking Petr Sykora out of action for today. TK made the most of his chance, obviously, scoring the two goals on quick surprising shots that Ottawa goalie Martin Gerber didn't seem ready for.
  • Coming into the game Rob Scuderi scored 2 goals in 219 NHL regular season games. Guess he worked on that shot on the off-season. Yeah, probably not.
  • Malkin was seemingly everywhere out there, flying around taking the puck away (credited with 4), blocking shots (2) and we actually thought, while watching the game that his faceoff percentage was a little better in the action than it looks on the scoresheet (4 for 11).
  • The powerplay was 0 for 7 and seemed pretty frustrated, especially in the first period when they got five chances as Ottawa made a bunch of dumb decisions and then paraded to the box. Sidney Crosby showed flashes and Kris Letang didn't look out of place but Ottawa's aggressive PK had the answer today. One can't help but wonder that with a healthy Sergei Gonchar that things don't look a little better on that end. We realize the Sarge aint walkin' through that door anytime soon so you can't think that, but still...
  • PK'ing was a big part of the night too, as the kill went 5 for 6 and Malkin (goal) and Crosby looked as dangerous as the opponent's powerplay. It appears they'll be playing more on the kill this season, which is never a bad idea to lean a little more on the best players.
  • Marc-Andre Fleury and the defense didn't seem that bad but not that good either. Definitely an opening night, no doubt a little weird being six time zones and an ocean away from home.
  • Interestingly enough, perhaps the biggest profile player ofthe evening was a -3 on the night, though Daniel Alfreddson did have 6 shots on goal and 4 takeaways the returning hero couldn't have had the night he was hoping for.

In conclusion, definitely a strange an unusual game in an unusual venue. It's bizarre to think this weekend's game mean just as much as a Wednesday night game in March, but that's the case. And though it wasn't necessarily pretty, the Penguins found a way to win. At the end of the day, that's all that matters.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Pesonen cut?

The rumor going around is the Penguins have decided to make Janne Pesonen the final cut, meaning the last forward spots are going to be claimed by Paul Bissonnette and Pittsburgh native Bill Thomas.

Though Pesonen hasn't looked out of place in qausi-NHL action (3 points in 4 preseason games), it does make sense to let him go to Wilkes-Barre and get some time in on the first line where he'll be playing in all situations, as opposed to being relegated to 4th line minutes with guys like Eric Godard and Jeff Taffe. Once he adjusts to the smaller rinks, increased physicality and gets the feel for North American hockey he'll be better off and ready to dive into the speed of the NHL game.

Hopefully Pesonen's attitude is this way, many European players balk at the lower salary and increased bus rides of the minor leagues, especially when they can be major players in their own country. The hockey playing JP (not to be confused with the blogger JP) is still in the Penguins plans, and hopefully he will take it that way and go to WB/S with the intentions of working hard to be a better player and keep his dream of playing in the NHL alive.

Talbot/Fisher injury updates

Mike Fisher and Maxime Talbot are a lot alike. Both play center for their respective teams, neither are the most skilled players on the roster and both are routinely over-shadowed by more heralded teammates. But ask any player or observant fan and they’ll tell you that a guy like Fisher is basically the backbone of the Senators, while Talbot is almost as important for the Penguins on and off the ice.

For once, good news for the Pens when it comes to injuries, as Talbot has been medically cleared to play after suffering a bruised thigh last week. Fisher, however, left with a groin problem in Ottawa’s 4-1 win over Frolunda (Sweden) and his status for this weekends games are in doubt.

If Fisher couldn’t go that would be a huge hole for Ottawa to fill. After Jason Spezza, they don’t have much in the way of center depth minus Fisher. They do have Chris Kelly and could throw Antoine Vermette out there, but neither can bring what Fisher can to the table.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

"Big deal, he breaks your face. Get it fixed."

Good story from the Canadian press about most entertaining fighters (to which there were many responses) and who is the most feared...To which there was just one..

Jarome Iginla:

"I wouldn't want to get caught in a line brawl with him."

Chris Neil:

"He's probably the toughest in the league. He's strong, he's powerful. It's one of those things where you watch his fights, meanwhile, when he's out there on the ice, he's coming after you, so you've got to be aware."

And the Penguins own, Paul Bissonnette:

"I'm not really afraid of anyone, but if I were to fight him, I'd probably be shaking going in. That's just the respect you have for him and what you've seen him do in the past. If I want to play in this league, that's going to be my job and obviously I'd have to do it, that's life. Big deal, he breaks your face. Get it fixed."

The man they're talking about, of course is this man (note: not Donald Brashear):

He's ready

"Did you see those passes," [Fedotenko] told, his eyes lighting up. "That's why they are all talking to him."

Crosby's goal-making pass probably was the singular moment most fans will take from the evening.

Skating along the goal line, Crosby deked one way before firing a pass across his body to hit Fedotenko cruising into the slot. Fedotenko had little to do other than flick his wrists to get the goal.

Yep, Sid and the gang are ready to roll.

Oh and Rusty, keep burying them, Bub.

Pens 4, Jokers 1

Good live blog here, the Pens are done with the preseason with a 4-0-1 mark.

Four different scorers for the Penguins and Crosby had 3 assists. Fleury and Danny Sabs split the goaltending duties with Sabourin giving up the goal on a penalty shot.

About time to bring on the regular season, even though it's not going to feel like it on this side of the pond.