Sunday, November 30, 2008
Detractors will say that Pesonen didn't get the chance in this latest stint to establish himself, playing so few. And that's a good point. But you have to look at what Pesonen did with the minutes he got. 0 shots on goal, and though he did draw a penalty in both games, he did little to show that he might have produced much even if he got 15-17 minutes a night.
Now we're not going to say the guy is Vladimir Vujtek or Lasse Pirjeta just quite yet, but it's clear that Pesonen has nothing to offer for this version of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Look at the guys the Penguins are using as top line wingers on even strength or on the powerplay. You got Miroslav Satan and Petr Sykora, clearly more skilled and established players that are simply better options than Pesonen at this point. Then there's gritty hustle players like Max Talbot and Tyler Kennedy that can bring more to the table than Pesonen in the realm of digging up pucks, killing penalties, taking faceoffs, etc.
Pesonen's getting top line minutes in the AHL where he's an impact player. He's just there yet for a high quality team such as the Penguins. Hopefully Pesonen goes back down, keeps his attitude up and works at getting better.
Also, during a goalmouth scrum, Zenon Konopka took a drink out of Adam Berkhoel's water bottle. I don't think I've ever seen that before. What do you do if you're a Penguins defenseman in that situation? Do you take great offense? I mean, it's not, on its face, a terribly offensive act. The guy just took a drink of water. It's not like he put his lips on the bottle or spat it at someone. I think you just call him a name and move on to the faceoff. What would you do?
--Sidney Crosby was awesome. He had a jump in his step all night long. When he got the puck, he was deking and juking around any defenseman in the way. 3 goals, 1 magnificent assist, +4 and six shots on net. One of Crosby's best games so far. In late October he had that unusual rib/torso injury that seemed to limit him. Clearly that is gone now.
--Mike Zigomanis 11 for 14 in the faceoff circle. Best pickup for future considerations ever? The case could be made. And we get the feeling it will be continued to be made in the games to come.
--Total team effort continued with 22 blocked shots for the Pens, including at least one for every defenseman, and fourteen of the eighteen skaters were credited with at least one hit. As Borat would say, very nice!
--The scoresheet only says two assists for Evgeni Malkin, but that hardly captures how Geno was galloping around, doing basically whatever he pleased making things happen. Malkin's now on pace for 139 points this season.
--Only two players (Thomas Vanek, Jeff Carter) have scored more goals this season than El Sid...Any comments Darren Dreger?....No? Didn't think so.
--Dany Sabs is 4th in the NHL in save percentage and the league leader in goals against average....File that under "things you wouldn't have thought at the end of two months of play"
--Still not a goal scored (yet) for Kris Letang this season, but he played more minutes than any Penguin not named "Malkin" and has blossomed into an established top unit defenseman in the NHL....Which is probably more than you've done at the age of 21.
--1 : the number of teams in the Eastern Conference with a better Goals For minus Goals Against differential than the Penguins (Boston)
--The Penguins are now 7-3-2 at home and 7-3-1 on the road. That's what we call balance.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
1) It's good to use Mike Zigomanis in situations to win faceoffs....But should he be sometimes taking full shifts on the top powerplay over guys like Petr Sykora? Even when the puck goes out of the zone and they have chances to change they don't pull Zigomanis. He's a NHL worthy player, but he's got 21 goals in 187 NHL games. Not bustin on the guy, just sayin..
2) Ever since Darren Dreger suggested Sidney Crosby should use a curve on his stick blade in order to help his shot (which would hinder his backhand passes not to mention his shot) El Sid has 7 goals in 8 games....Keep makin' noise up there, Canada.
3) Through now more than a quarter of the season, Evgeni Malkin is on pace for 138 points, which would be the most in a season by any player since Mario Lemieux rang up 161 back in 1995-96....Most would say the best player in the NHL now is Alex Ovechkin or Crosby, but we think that Geno is making his case pretty clearly every single night.
4) It seems a bit odd to say Alex Goligoski reminds us of a "young" Mike Green since Goose is only a couple months younger than the Washingtonian blueliner, but the similarities are there...Other than being left handed and not being as able to rush the puck up ice as a current day Green, Goligoski has become a sensational player that isn't bad in his own end of the ice either.
5) Despite the loss tonight, John Curry is definitely making his case to be the future backup goalie to Marc-Andre Fleury next season. Dany Sabourin is an unrestricted free agent after this season, for the record..Also, listed generously at 5 feet 11 inches, how much smaller does Curry look in the net than MAF (6'2) and Dany Sabs (6'4)?
6) Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Matt Cooke has recorded 20+ assists three times in his NHL career. Any doubt that he'll get there this season with 8 assists already and doing a lot of dirty work digging pucks up and throwing them to the front of the net?
7) It's not often you see a guy score more goals in the NHL than he did in juniors, but Tyler "Mister" Kennedy might just do it. Kennedy's top mark in the Ontario Hockey League was 22. He's got 6 this season and has a penchant for putting the puck past the goalie at the NHL level. We're betting he'll beat his junior mark, probably sooner than later.
8) Ruslan Fedotenko was a healthy scratch tonight against Buffalo, and rumor has it he's asked for a trade, as he doesn't agree with the opportunities the coaching staff has given him...But it's hard to blame HCMT when Feds hasn't really been effective with the Pens....Still we get the feeling Fedotenko will get the chance to redeem himself and he will score a huge goal sometime in the season.
9) Sorry if that last bullet sounded a little Stan Fischler-esque. Hell, Rusty already scored a huge goal-- remember the OT game winner in Detroit? If Fedotenko's production (or lack thereof) is the Pens' biggest problem for the rest of the season, odds are things are going to be alright for the boys.
10) Therrien's finger on the button to slide Malkin and Crosby together in the middle of games for a jump has been excellent. It's reminiscent of Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg in the late '90s...They can play apart and make things happen, but when you need to get a boost put them together and watch the magic happen, like it did for the five goal explosion that 87 and 71 had a part in four of them in Long Island a couple nights ago.
11) By the way in case you didn't know, Sakic and Forsberg raised the Cup two times and probably would have done it a time or two more without a bum foot getting in Floppa's way.."Salvation lies within" and in hockey, strength lies within the middle. Believe that.
12) Finally, just remember: everyday that goes by is a day closer that Fleury, Ryan Whitney and Sergei Gonchar get to re-joining the boys. Heaven help you Eastern Conference when that happens.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
"[Marc-Andre Fleury]'s not going to play (Tuesday)," head coach Michel Therrien said. "It's not a major injury but we don't want to take any risks. That's why we want to be really cautious with his injury."
Therrien confirmed that Fleury suffered the injury late in Saturday's game against the Buffalo Sabres. Fleury still played the entire game. If he isn't healthy enough to backup Dany Sabourin on Tuesday night then the Penguins will re-call a goalie from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Dispite the assurances of Therrien, we wonder if this is something that Fleury has been fighting through for a while; although he played well in the Buffalo game Saturday night, his GAA was over 3.00 the previous five starts, whereas he only had one 3.00+ night in his first 8 outings of the season. Yes, crazy to believe that a coach with absolutely no reason to tell the truth might be bending the situation for his own good, but hey.
Regardless, it’s nice to have a backup who is really clicking right now. Dany Sabs personal stats are 3-1, 1.68 GAA and a .942 save % and even more importantly he has to have confidence and the trust of his teammates for his incredible mop-up duty in the Philadelphia game, topped off of course by the five shootout saves in a row.
But despite how well Sabourin has been, it wouldn't serve the Penguins well if their #1 franchise goalie was out another 6-8 weeks like last season....Hopefully Therrien was telling the truth when he said that this injury doesn't look too serious.
On the other hand, we welcome Phillipe Boucher. This is an interesting acquisition; right handed defensemen are in short supply and Boucher did score 19 goals two season ago before battling all sorts of injuries. If nothing else, Boucher should provide a little more “oomph” on the power-play than say, Brooks Orpik, and hopefully steady what’s been, at times a shaky unit on the man advantage. If Boucher can remain healthy (and obviously that’s a big if) he could be a key player down the stretch.
Our forward thinking mind though can’t help but wonder what will happen when Ryan Whitney and Sergei Gonchar return. Whitney is already practicing and should be back sometime in December—though it is too early to say if that will be in the earlier or later part of the month. Gonchar is still in a sling and no where close to coming back, but he should be around come March. It’s a great thing to have a surplus of defensemen at the NHL, especially given the injuries that can happen at any given moment. But having too many NHL caliber players could poison the drinking water—like it may have if Sydor wasn’t such a good sport—and that would be a terrible thing. Boucher, for instance, has said that he is playing for a contract next year and we can’t imagine him being happy or quiet if he’s the odd man out. A lot of the logjam has been created by Goligoski establishing himself as a full-time NHL defenseman right off the bat. If his play wasn’t at such a high level it would be easy to demote him to the minors for further work. But that probably isn’t an option at this point.
So which two of the eight defensemen (this includes Whitney) are the odd men out? Surely not a healthy Whitney or Orpik. Letang’s played well in an expanded role, and as mentioned, Goligoski has been awesome. The team has been very high on Gill (remember Therrien called him a top 4 guy a couple weeks ago) so seemingly he’s in too. This would leave one playing spot for three veteran defensemen: Boucher, Rob Scuderi and Mark Eaton. Eaton’s had a rough season so far and Scuderi, though a solid shot-blocker and reliable guy, is a 5/6 guy that could be replaceable.
If all are healthy, would another trade be coming? In that case it would seem that Eaton or Scuderi would be the most likely candidates.
That’s probably how we would line them up, provided Boucher plays well. We realize the risks in looking even that far down the line, but what do you think? Sooner or later when reinforcements trickle back in the Penguins are going to have some decisions to make.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
But somehow--maybe by being young, maybe by being a professional athlete and maybe with a little luck--Malkin would get up after a second and then instantly put the whole incident behind him. What looked like something that could have put his season in jeopardy just became another play.
Whew, and then sitting at home on the couch, you remember to breath again.
Better know an opponent: The Buffalo Sabress
Record: 9-4-3 (21 points, second in the Northeast Division, 5th in the Eastern Conference)
Season series: first meeting
Notable wins: Washington, at NY Rangers
Notable losses: at Boston, Ottawa
Key injuries: Tim Connolly (regret over braking Gary Roberts leg)
Last game: 6-1 loss home to Columbus last night (yikes!!)
Statistical star: Thomas Vanek [12 goals and 3 assists in 15 games]
Disappointment so far: Drew Stafford [2 goals, 1 assist, -2 in 13 games]
Notable Notes: So far this season four Sabres players (Vanek, Clarke MacArthur, Jason Pominville and Ales Kotalik) have combined for 29 goals, everyone else on the team only has contributed 17...The Sabres have given up 16 goals in their last four games (1-2-1 record)...Have only one regular center (Adam Mair-- 54.4%) with above 50% in road face-off wins...Have only two defensemen (Henrik Tallinder, Toni Lydman) that have a positive +/- rating.
TST Opposing Player to Watch: Maxim Afinogenov
TST Homeboy of the Game: Petr Sykora
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Atlanta Thrashers/Hawks: Fans attending Atlanta Thrashers/Hawks games at
Phillips Arena can purchase 64 oz. adult beverages for approximately $8 in the food court area of the adjoining CNN Center.
Yesss. We can only hope this isn't like the mythical $4.50 beer in our usual neck of the woods.
Also, in time for the field trip, we wanted to get one of those purdy new, blue jerseys....NHL.com delievered, but they made a serious error, putting a Captains "C" on an Orpik 44 jersey where the alternate's A was requested. Someone else's order slip (for two t-shirts) also ended up in the box. Is it even worth calling in? We'll probably just perform some surgery and try to remove it.
Record: 5-6-3 (13 points, fourth in the Atlantic Division, 13th in the Eastern Conference)
Season series: 1-0 Pens --3-2 over-time win in Pittsburgh on 14/14 by the Pens [Orpik, Zigomanis and Dupuis your unusual goal-scorers]
Notable wins: New Jersey (twice), NY Islanders (twice)
Notable losses: San Jose, Tampa Bay, NY Rangers
Key injuries: Danny Briere (sand in vagina)
Last game: 3-1 win Tuesday night at the Islanders
Statistical star: Mike Richards [5 goals, 12 assists for 17 points, +2 in 14 games]
Disappointment so far: Tyler Kennedy's punching bag Scottie Upshall [1 g, 3a for 4 points, -3 in 14 games]
Notable Notes: Don’t let the 13th place fool you, a win tonight and the Flyers could jump as high as 8th place, they’re right in the thick of things….18 year old rookie Luca Sbisa has been impressive earning a regular spot on an NHL blue-line…Come to think of it, only three defensemen from last season’s playoff series (Kimmo Timonen, Lasse Kukkonen and Braydon Coburn) will be in the lineup tonight for Philly….The Penguins are out-shooting opponents 36-8 in the 3rd period of their last two games…Mike Richards has just 2 goals in 23 regular season games against the Pens….Marty “French Toast” Biron is sporting some Osgood-esque numbers; a 89.0% save percentage and a GAA well north of 3 (3.29).
It’s been a rollercoaster this season for the Flyers: they lost their first six games (three of them in OT/shootout) but then won the next four…Then they dropped three games but they just won on Tuesday, is this their turn upwards or can the Pens kick a hated division rival while they’re under .500? You try to figure this team out, it been tough to so far.
For the Penguins, after what’s been the biggest win of their young season, it’ll be interesting to see if the emotion fuels them to a good effort or if some players will be drained and not moving so well. Defensemen Rob Scuderi is looking like a no-go, so Mark Eaton will get a chance to not suck it up out there tonight. How the defensive holds will be critical, Philly is a good transition team that picks and chooses their spots and can jump out to opportunistic goals as well as any team in the East.
TST Opposing Player to Watch: Simon Gagne
--Gagne isn’t hurt (yet) and he’s had a great year, second on his team with 8 goals and 8 assists. Gagne also has been a thorn in the Pens side, scoring 35 points [16g, 19a] in 42 career games against. With Briere nursing his vagina, Gagne can’t fall apart just yet on the Flyers.
TST Homeboy of the Game: Evgeni Malkin
--Malkin and countrymen Alex “Deadwood” Semin are playing quite the game of one-upping each other this season. It seems they’re swapping the NHL points lead almost every single night, and last night’s 5 point Semin explosion (heh) puts him three up on Geno. Malkin is riding the league’s longest point streak of the year (11) and has registered a point in every game but one….The contest against the Flyers.
Rare game prediction!
[Goals by Malkin (2), Sykora, Satan and Letang]
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Except when the youngest player on the ice decides to play like the biggest. Jordan Staal's long shown flashes of brilliance and dominance but nothing like a performance tonight. The puck kept finding his stick and he kept burying it. Big time performance from a big time player.
As we mentioned in the post below, Marian Hossa earned his choice of team's to play for and still didn't pick a bad gamble in Detroit, the league's closest team to a sure thing. However, consider for a second that he turned down a multi-year offer to play on a team where the age of the regulation goal scorers were: 21 (Sidney Crosby), 24 (Max Talbot), 22 (Evgeni Malkin), 20 (Staal), 20 (Staal), 20 (Staal). We're sure Mr. Hossa sleeps just fine through the night these days, but who could blame him if it might take a second to fall asleep thinking "what could have been", not only for this season's run for a Cup but for the years to come.
Pens fans love to think of ex-players possibly returning, but don't count on it. This team has moved on, signing Brooks Orpik long-term and will have to keep using the other money on a rotating cast of supporting characters like Miroslav Satan and Ruslan Fedotenko to fill the gaps around the core. By rejecting the long-term offer from Pittsburgh--in effect what was the invitation to join the core-- Hossa cast his lot in a different direction. We won't know how it will work out in November, if Detroit is dancing with Lord Stanley in seven months time he'll obviously be a smart man (and have earned it). At this moment though, it certainly is satisfying to see such a marvelous comeback from this side. The grass isn't always greener, you know.
The Pens were aided by two penalties the Red Wings took within seconds of each other. This time posed with a crucial 5-on-3, Malkin buried the puck emphatically. It was like a demon was exorcised from the playoffs and the legendary kill Hank Zetterberg and the Wings pulled. At that moment, even though the score was cut to 5-3, one got the sense these Penguins finally were breathing easily, like when Rocky drew blood on Ivan Drago. These guys aren't a machine, they're just hockey players like any other collection on a roster. They can be beaten if you keep chopping.
Speaking of Malkin: if you're keeping track at home that's now an 11 game point streak for the big guy, who's jumped back into the top spot for the league's lead if only for another night.
When Rob Scuderi went down from blocking a shot, it's interesting that it was youngsters Alex Goligoski (team high 28:12 ice-time) and Kris Letang (second highest among Pens' defensemen with 23:19) that the team primarily turned too. And it wasn't all power-play team either, no one on the ice played more team at even strength than Goligoski (23:57)--and yes that includes Nicklas Lidstrom.
...And just imagine the next time these teams meet the Penguins might be able to lean on Ryan Whitney and maybe even Sergei Gonchar instead of two inexperienced players like Goose and 'Tang...But don't get too ahead of yourself, remember these teams meet again in Pittsburgh in February before any chance of another finals.
Mike Zigomanis just wins big face-offs when they count, doesn't he? It's surprising that he never fit in on an NHL team because he's working on carving a solid niche on this team that has no shortage of quality forwards.
Matt Cooke (2 assists, 6 hits) and Tyler Kennedy (no points or credited hits) deserve a nod for their relentless effort keeping the puck down low and those three did a lot to fuel the fire of the comeback. The boys down in the trenches have to do the dirty work and the Pens team just had more desire and effort over the last half of the game.
Michel Therrien doesn't usually receive much credit from the outside but the decisions he made , from personnel (like having Zigomanis out there late) to usage of timeouts were right on the button. Even if you're a fan with gripes about his style it's hard to argue that this man doesn't have the exact right feel for this team when it counts. It has shown time and time again.
We thought even before Staal's game-tying goal with :23 that the Penguins may be able to take some sort of minor emotional or psychological victory out of there, if only to show battling back out of those huge goal deficits. Sure, it would have been hollow, but the sense of dominating the Red Wings a little was there. Now with such a huge win the confidence is going to be sky high.
Pavel Datsyuk is the reigning Frank Selke trophy winner for the league's best defensive forward....Think he saw it coming when Staal--at the end of his shift mind you--stick checked him, put him on his seat, wheeled around and set up the winner? Bee-you-tee-ful. Can't wait to see the tears at kuklaskorner tomorrow.
In the end, as you can tell from this recap, some games on the schedule do mean more than 1 in 82. The Penguins will only take two points into the standings column, the same as any other game they win. But the mood coming out of this one has to be a lot higher than your average win. This a nice one to enjoy, if only for a night.
Oh we know this Opponent: The Detroit Red Wings
Record: 9-2-2 (20 points, first in the Central Division, 2nd in the Western Conference)
Notable wins: New Jersey, at Carolina, at Ottawa
Notable losses: at Toronto, at San Jose
Last game: 3-1 win Saturday night home versus the Devils
Statistical star: Marian Hossa [8 goals, 9 assists for 17 points, +9 in 13 games]
Disappointment so far: OK, so maybe to call them disappointments is a stretch, but the play of both goalies has seemed shaky. Chris Osgood has a 89.2% save percentange and a goals against average of 2.97, and our old buddy Ty Conklin is 89.7% and 3.20 and those respective categories. But those goalies are 6-1-2 (Osgood) and 3-1 (Conkblock) so their unimpressive individual starts hasn't hampered the team.
Notable Notes: The five other defensemen that the Red Wings have used not named Lidstrom or Rafalski have combined for 1 goal, 8 assists and a -6 +/- rating in 52 man-games...Detroit is 2nd in the league for team face-off percentage, winning draws at a 54.2% rate so far this season...
When the NHL schedule first comes out there are always a couple dates to circle and clearly tonight's SC Final rematch is one of those. Both teams have been winning again so far this year, both have battled through some tough injuries--Johan Franzen is expected to return tonight-- and both teams are looking to get back to where they got last season. Detroit is averaging more than 36 shots on net a night and their powerplay is clicking at a ridiculous 30.9%. This does not seem to bode to well for the Penguins who are allowing 31 shots a night and have shown lapses in discipline that have led to several minor penalties.
However there are cracks in Detroit's armor: the Wings are giving up 28.9 shots on their own goal so far this season--still good enough for 10th in the league--but well over the 23.5 shots they gave up last season (which was #1 for the NHL). As we mentioned, other than Lidstrom and Rafalski the rest of their defense has not been good and the goaltending play hasn't been impressive either. This incarnation of the Red Wings has been a little more wide-open, covering for these defensive deficiencies by scoring more at the other end, not the same old method of "out skate 'em, out shoot 'em, out control 'em" hockey they've played in years past.
Throw in the "you know who" factor of Detroit's #1 player so far and this game has everything. Don't expect the Penguins to take Hossa's decision too personally, we can guarantee you that you won't see Brooks Orpik go head hunting on Hoss. In fact remember it was Orpik who said booing Hossa would be dumb. These players know how hard a guy like Hossa has worked and toiled in a hockey hell like Atlanta for so long and he earned the right to choose where he wanted to play, for the first time in his career. We still believe the fans have every right to be pissed he chose Detroit over Pittsburgh, but that was the man's choice.
TST Opposing Player to Watch: Marian Hossa
--Still, wouldn't it be nice if Hossa got his head down and see Orpik floor him?
TST Homeboy of the Game: Sidney Crosby
--Crosby has the spotlight on him too, coming back to the city he got so close to the holy grail at, plus the whole attention from the Hossa fallout. The thing we've learned about Sid is he comes through and produces in the highest pressure games when the whole hockey world is looking at him. Let's see what happens tonight.
And, oh yeah, because we'll use any excuse to show this, here's what happened the last time the Penguins played in Detroit...
And don't forget about this either..
Enjoy the game everyone.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Sunday, November 9, 2008
- Down 3-1 with about 25 minutes left the Penguins were able to pull a comeback that they've watched so many other teams try to do to them. Though Dany Sabourin wasn't really bad, he wasn't really stellar either in the game kicking out rebounds, pucks zooming by his glove (most just missing).
- Shots were 18-1 in the third period. It was almost if the Pens woke up with Jordan Staal's great effort to make the game 3-2 before heading to the lockeroom for intermission. Obviously you could see the Pens felt like they could control the play, work hard and eventually pop in a goal.
- How about that Matt Cooke/Mike Zigomanis/Tyler Kennedy line? Joey MacDonald might have had dreams last night of those three buzzing around, controlling the puck, cycling, cycling and then scoring.
- Kennedy imparticular had a solid night, 6 shots on net, 2 goals. He's a big time player.
- Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin each grimaced through 24:14 of play. Though the big boys seemed to be skating well, shooting well and passing the puck with some zip, it's clear that neither is 100% right now and something is just a little off. Despite saying that, each are still creating several scoring chances a game for themselves and their linemates but it is a little unsettling to see them out there and clearly not at full strength.
- Blocking shots was a huge storyline of the night too; Pittsburgh got 32 shots through but the Isles were able to block an astonishing 29 more. Pens defensemen combined to have 18 total shots blocked, compared to just 6 they got through to the goalie. Still, have to give NYI and specifically Andy Sutton (8) a lot of credit for being human shields out there. Sutton's a player we haven't always had the highest opinion on as a player, but he played big minutes and was as good as we've ever seen him last night.
- After being on the ice for the Isles 2nd and 3rd goals, Mark Eaton only got three more shifts in the last 2 minutes of regulation and none in OT. Rough night for the usually steady Eaton.
- The NHL's shootout is a gimmick and the bizarre ending of it de-credited any good will it may have built. For those that didn't see it, the Pens were winning 1-0 in the shootout, final round for NYI to score or go home. Trent Hunter comes in, shoots the puck and it disappears somewhere in the myriad of pads that goaltenders wear these days. Sabourin's momentum carries 95% of his body completely into the net, the refs close in to see where the puck got caught up.
- It's somewhere in Sabs' leg pad. No one can be quite sure, but given that Sabourin's legs were at one point almost entirely in the net up to his skate, it's reasonable to say goal. Nothing can be said definitively or conclusively, of course, since the puck is not visible. But surely the rubber was behind the line for a second or too.
- But since the initial call was "no goal", or perhaps more accurately "we have no idea if it was a goal" video review can't conclusively over-rule and award a goal so game is over. The shootout gimmick looked even more cheapened tonight.
- Somehow it would have been more satisfying if they just credited that goal and then let the Pens use Crosby, Malkin or shootout whiz Kris Letang to score an undisputed game winner.
But what's done is done and the Pens will take these two points and move on to an away game in Michigan against some random Western Conference team. That game won't mean very much, will it?
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Glen Sather raised the issue at the general managers' meeting in Chicago two weeks ago, citing CBA Article 8.3 (b) that stipulates that compensatory picks be awarded to teams unable to sign first-round draft picks.
Sather is submitting that the Rangers should receive the 17th selection in the second round of June's draft as compensation for losing Cherepanov, the 17th overall selection in the 2006 Draft who died in Russia on Oct. 13 while playing for Omsk.
"The question is with the one parenthetical phrase in Article 8.3 (b) that refers compensation for an unsigned first-round draft pick who is '… again eligible for the Entry Draft or becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent …'," Rangers assistant GM Cam Hope told The Post. "That language was inserted to clarify that a team would be owed a compensatory pick even if they were to re-draft that player or sign him as a free agent.
"It seems now as if that phrase is unintentionally precluding the deceased from being included as eligible for compensation. We understand that this is a sensitive issue, but with all due respect to Alexei's family and his memory, he is technically eligible to be drafted again next year.
"We are not attempting to capitalize on a tragedy, but there would be no question regarding the Rangers' right to a compensatory pick if Cherepanov had been revived and survived the incident and were on life support"
First of all, beyond the telltale "with all due respect" and hypothetical "if they revived him" scenarios let's take a look at who is eligible to be drafted, per the collective bargaining agreement, Section 8.4:
8.4 Eligibility for Claim. (a) All Players age 18 or older are eligible for claim in the Entry DraftOk fair enough, but they also define a "player"
“Player(s)” means a hockey player who is party to an SPC, a Rookie, Unsigned Draft Choices, and Free Agents.
While Cherepanov remains an unsigned draft choice, it's hard to define him as a "hockey player" at the time of the draft next June when he has, you know, died.
So even ignoring human decency it seems unlikely the Rangers legal request would be approved the way the CBA is written. But even if the obvious is brushed off and the Rags are awarded the 17th overall pick in the 2nd round of the draft, let's take a look back over the past dozen years to see who the Rangers might be in line to select along with their NHL stats, when applicable...
1995: Dwayne Hay (WAS)--LW, Guelph Storm [OHL]....79 games, 2g, 4a, 6p
1996: Jan Bulis (WAS)--C, Barrie Colts [OHL]...552 games, 96g, 149a, 245p
1997: Juha Gustafsson (PHO)--D, Kiekko-Espoo [FNL]
1998: Mike Fisher (OTT)--C, Sudbury Wolves [OHL]...475 games, 117g, 127a, 244p
1999: Martin Gernier (COL)--D, Quebec Remparts [QMJHL]....18 games, 1g, 0a, 1p
2000: Jared Aulin (COL)--C, Kamlops Blazers [WHL].....17 games, 2g, 2a, 4p
2001: Alexander Polushin (TB)--RW, Tver THC [Rus-1]
2002: Alexei Kaigorodov (Ott)--C, Magnitogorsk Metallurg [Russia]...6 games, 0g, 1a, 1p
2003: Matt Carle, (SJ--now PHI)--D, River City Lancers [USHL]...163 games, 17g, 48a, 65p
2004: Blake Comeau (NYI) Ohio State University....54 games, 8g, 7a, 15p
2005: Tom Fritsche (COL)--LW, Ohio State University
2006: Shawn Matthias (DET--now FLA)--C, Belleville Bulls [OHL]....5 games, 2g, 0a, 2p
2007: Dana Tyrell (TB)--C, Prince George Cougars [WHL]
2008: Maxime Suave (BOS)-- C, Val d'Or Foreurs [QMJHL]
Yep, those are the average selection of guys the Rangers set their price for class on....Disgusting. But then we say that "with all due respect" to their organization.
Record: 4-8-1 (9 points, last in the Atlantic Division)
Notable wins: at NY Rangers
Notable losses: Montreal, at Philadelphia, Carolina
Last game: 4-3 loss Thursday night at Atlanta
Statistical star: Three players tied at 11 points (Mark Streit [4g, 7a], Trent Hunter [5g, 6a], Doug Weight [2g, 9a]
Disappointment so far: Jeff Tabellini [0 goals, 1 assist, -5 in 11 games]
Notable Notes: The Isles only have five players with an even or better plus/minus rating and other than our old friend Richard "The Penguin killer" Park, none have played more than six games...And, interstingly enough as the PG pointed out, the Isles are just 1-6-1 when defensemen Mark Streit registers a point
Well the news is in and it is good, via NHL.com Sidney Crosby will play tonight. He's believed to still be a little salty in the hip area from some sort of weird, undisclosed injury that happened during the Phoenix game when it appeared he took an unintentional stick into said hip region.
For the Penguins though tonight will be an interesting game. While they are on the road against a divisional opponent, this ought to be a win. The Islanders and tied with Florida for the lowest number of points in the standings so far this season (and the Panthers have a game in hand). No one is expecting much out of the Fishsticks this year and they are not disappointing. With franchise goalie Rick DiPietro still on the shelf, the Isles are giving up 3.46 goals per game this year and have only been scoring 2.46.
But as we saw on Thursday night, if you take a period off in this league any team can make up a lot of ground in a hurry. If the Penguins don't show up, they won't win. Simple as that. They've been taught this lesson a number of times this season, like when Washington got back from a 3-0 deficit, or when the Rangers climbed out of a 2-0 whole in the 3rd period and obviously just last game when Edmonton scored 4 straight goals late in the game.
Getting an early lead is good and exactly what the Pens should do, but generating that killer instinct and giving a 60 minute effort is even more critical to winning the game. Hopefully by now they realize it. Tonight could be the perfect way to show it, against what is on paper as an inferior opponent.
TST Opposing Player to Watch: Richard Park
--When you play the Isles guys like Bill Guerin, Mike Comrie and Trent Hunter need to be minded. But Richard Park has feasted on his former team the Penguins, scoring 4 goals and 5 assists in 20 career games. That seems modest but consider Park has a career point/game figure of .31 (172 points in 545 games). Also Park has six points in seven contests at home this season and as we mentioned is the Islander to play in all games and have an even +/- rating.
TST Homeboy of the Game: Miroslav Satan
--Gotta go with Satan against his former teammates here...Satan, with 8 goals in 13 games, is now on pace for a 50 goal season. While he's not Marian Hossa, he's a lot better of a winger than the other guys Sidney Crosby has ever had--Colby Armstrong, old ass Mark Recchi, Ryan Malone, etc. Satan has been feeling it lately
Friday, November 7, 2008
Shanahan and his family live in New York City, fueling speculation that the free agent might sign with the New Jersey Devils to be close to home. In addition to the Devils and Flyers, Pittsburgh and St. Louis are among the teams that have inquired about Shanahan.
We hinted recently that the Penguins could use another skill winger and it still holds true. While Petr Sykora and Miroslav Satan should both be 30-40 goal threats this season, they're the beginning and end of the skill wingers on the roster and something Ray Shero will surely sooner or later address before the March trading deadline.
But is Shanahan the right man for the Pens? While he still does have a great shot and terrific goal scoring instincts, Shanahan's been a shell of his former power forward self for years. Plus he's almost 40 years old and over the past couple years the Penguins have seen up close and personal some of those old boys (John LeClair, Mark Recchi, and to an extent Gary Roberts) lose their effectiveness and production. So Shanahan would definitely could not be a 18-20 minutes a night pure top six winger for the Penguins scheme. He's not an "every-down back" as they say in the NFL.
Still it is intriguing, not many teams boast 600+ goal scorers on their rosters and adding a guy who netted 23 goals is never a bad idea, especially when your chief division rivals are looking to snag the same guy. It will bear a half-eye's interest in seeing where Shanahan lands. Here's to hoping it's not Philly or New Jersey (unless he's got nothing in the tank).
Sidney Crosby sat out the Penguins' practice today and is questionable for their game on Long Island tomorrow night because of an undisclosed injury.
A decision on whether Crosby will play against the New York Islanders likely will be made after the game-day skate.
Although he did not participate in the regular workout at the Mellon Arena today, Crosby was on the ice for a power play session beforehand.
Sid did look like he was skating very well last night (like when he sprung himself and Max Talbot on the short-handed 2 on 1) and he felt well enough to take a slapshot towards the end of the game on a powerplay. But for some reason it did sort of look like he wasn't his usual self, despite the fact he seemed to be moving freely and generally doing the things he does...
It's probably clear whatever he tweaked last week in Phoenix isn't 100%, and if there's a game to miss over it, surely it's against the lowly Isles before the war of the worlds that will be Tuesday night in Detroit.
Still the last thing the Penguins need are more injuries and they're lucky that Kris Letang was able to pick himself off the ice and carry on after being flattened by, to Letang's point of view, surely must have been a large truck of some sort.
Hopefully Crosby will shake this quickly, but even he must miss a game Evgeni Malkin--21 points in 13 games this season, in fact atleast point in 12 of 13 games (and nine straight)-- is easily the best "2nd" center in the league.
--For the first 35 minutes the Pens played one of their best games; they were getting a lot of Edmonton's turnovers, cycling the puck well and putting a lot of shots on the goal. The skill wingers showed skill; Miroslav Satan scored the first goal between his legs and deflected another, Petr Sykora was quick enough to one-time a sudden puck won by Evgeni Malkin, then he deflected a Malkin shot (which was saved) and put the rebound by the battered goalie Mathieu Garon.
--The second 25 minutes the Pens showed they could just about give away everything they'd established. As mentioned, we were off in comedy-land for a while and thankfully were spared the high blood pressure of witnessing the meltdown. But a lot of the breakdowns (deflections here, giving up a shorthanded breakaway to a defensemen there) didn't look like too much fault could be placed on Marc-Andre Fleury. Maybe the 18 guys in front of him wanted to watch NBC comedies as well.
--Rough night for the 4th line (Matt Cooke-Mike Zigomanis-Eric Godard), they were each on the ice for two of the goals. 4th lines have to play "nothing against" because they're not generating much in the way of offense anyways. Being on the ice for two goals against, no matter the circumstances, is inexcusable for this trio.
--But we will give Godard his due, he rocked a young buck named Joey MacIntyre in a fight. Then when MacIntyre (who plays at 250+) totally flattened Kris Letang with a huge open ice hit--which looked clean except for the fact Letang passed the puck a full 2-3 seconds before getting trucked--Godard was there to remind Mac you can't do that. Thankfully Letang appears to be OK, but he was bleeding a little from the nose either from his visor or a stick.
--What a complete effort from Max Talbot; his first game of the year playing 20+ minutes, a short-handed goal to go along with 5 shots on net and a lot of hustle plays that the stat sheet can't record. With Talbot playing up there we think this is the best the first line has looked at even strength all season...And yes that includes the stint where Malkin played with Sidney Crosby.
--Malkin was a tour de force tonight, 3 assists, two of them were Ovechkin-esque (as in they were initially shots) but the play he made stepping around an Edmonton center immediately after the draw and firing a quick pass over to Sykora was a thing of beauty.
In the end winning 5-4 has just as much significance in the standings as winning 5-0. Hopefully the Penguins learn the bigger lesson on display for the night; that if you don't put in a 60 minute effort and try to coast in down the home stretch, you will pay. They've lost a couple games already when they were winning late into the game (Washington, at the Rangers) so you think that lesson would be learned. Whatever the case, a win is a win, now off to the Long Island for a matchup with the unimposing Islanders (4-8-1) in what could be a "trap game" before going to see our old friends in Detroit.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Notable wins: at Anaheim, at Philadelphia, Calgary
Notable losses: at Nashville, Boston
Last game: 5-4 loss last night in Columbus...We watched a little of this back and forth battle; Rick Nash is a monster but Edmonton played a very free skating and lax defensive game
Statistical star: Ales Hemsky [3 goals and 9 assists in 12 games]
Disappointment so far: It’s tempting to go with 19 year old sophomore sensation Sam Gagner here [0 g, 2 a, -2 in 11 games] but we’ll give the honor to Brooks Orpik’s old buddy Erik Cole [2g, 1a, -4, 23 PIMs]
Notable Notes: The Oilers given up 36 goals (3.00 a game) and only have scored 30 goals (2.50/game)….They’ve also only played 3 home games compared to tonight’s 10th road game and after tonight they still have two more games on the East coast…Finally, since starting the season 4-0, Edmonton’s only won two games since Oct 18th.
Whew, what's seemed like forever but we finally have a Penguins game to discuss. The Pens layoff after a 1-2-1 west coast swing came at a good time, as dinged up players got a chance to rest. Pascal Dupuis is slotted to get on the 2nd line with Evgeni Malkin and Petr Sykora, while if Ruslan Fedotenko can go it’ll appear he’ll be on the 3rd line with Jordan Staal and Tyler F. Kennedy.
It’ll be interesting to see how this relatively long regular season layoff effects the Penguins; a team that really has only put in one sixty minute effort all season. Will they be rusty or will the couple extra days of practice have helped breed a little more familiarity, especially between sniper Miroslav Satan and Mr. Deadwood himself, Sidney Crosby.
TST Opposing Player to Watch: Sheldon Souray
--The Oilers have a great “kid line” including Gagner and Andrew Cogliano; two very shifty, fast offensive players. Hemsky is always a guy who can burn a defense too with speed or precision passing. But the guy who always catches our eye is Souray. It’s hard to differentiate the speed of most NHL players slapshots, since they’re all big boys wielding cutting-edge sticks that can whip pucks at the net at very high velocities. But Souray’s shot, even to the naked eye, just appears to be a notch or two harder than everyone else’s in game situations. Souray already has 30 shots for the season on goal. Last night in the game we watched he was unleashing shots left and right, 11 in total. But of those eleven 3 missed the net and 4 were blocked. Souray will shoot when he doesn’t have lanes to do so for those unfortunate defensive players out there. You have to get the feeling a guy like Rob Scuderi is going to earn his paycheck tonight in a painful way.
TST Homeboy of the Game: Maxime Talbot
--It’s kind of a cop-out just to go with Crosby or Malkin every game, so tonight we’ll shine the spotlight on another superstar, your friend and ours Max Talbot. Max is set to join Sid and Satan on the 1st line, a position he looked comfortable in when he got bumped up last game and scored a goal. Pair Talbot’s speed and determination with Crosby’s passing abilities and the potential for Satan leaving a rebound and it seems certain that Talbot (or any other winger on this line) ought to get one or two dynamite scoring chances a game…Then comes the execution, so we’ll see if Talbot has it in him tonight to hold up his end of the deal.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
--If you're not reading Wilkes-Barre/Scranton defenseman Ben Lovejoy's blog, you're missing out. He usually updates it about once a week or so, and it's a riot. His latest entry about all the birds in Texas and a farting stranger on an airplane is solid stuff. It's interesting to see a candid first person look at a professional athlete away from the ice and Lovejoy's humorous musings are refreshing.
--We also can't imagine how Puck Daddy isn't must read for any hockey fan either about 5-10 times a day. Don't miss the comments on bargain enforcers list where--brace yourself--we actually have something complimentary to say not only about a Flyer, but a dimwitted, numb skull Flyer. (YIKES!)
--Crosby vs. Semin update: no update, at least nothing from Sid. What you expected him to respond? Crosby (already with 21 points in 12 games vs. Washington) will do his talking on the ice, of course.
--Going Five Hole has a good debate laid out for the values of Marian Gaborik versus Jordan Staal...Our thoughts? It'd be pretty tough for Gaborik to reproduce the performance that the "other" Marian did last spring, and Staal is still only 20, we'd pass for now but the Pens will need to add a skill winger at some point, just having Petr Sykora and Miroslav Satan isn't going to cut it.....
--Sticking with the player versus player angle, Bombulie makes a case on Chris Minard vs. Janne Pesonen and shows that while Pesonen is probably the better player, Minard's been playing well against better competition for longer.
--When we were younger, Steelers scat back Amos Zereoue used to be among our favorite players...Probably in large part because it's fun to say "Zereoue". PSaMP has a report about catching up with Famous Amos.
--The Surburban Rob Rossis have a cool comparison of new Penguins and how their old counter-parts are fairing in new cities, so far the new guys are 5 for 7 and even though Marian Hossa is clearly outperforming Satan, Miro's half the price and carrying his end of the deal so far.
--This is yesterday's news, but over at James Mirtle's new digs he had a nice feature on unrestricted free agents that haven't found teams yet. Somewhat sadly, you'd have to think it's curtains for most of those old boys at this point.
--Finally, over in Capital land, Japers Rink couldn't help themselves and would probably take any excuse to have a Sidney Crosby shirtless picture up. Crosby's probably the page-views equivalent of a male Erin Andrews. We enjoy it a lot more when JP does put up Andrews, or better yet Carrie Milbank.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Pittsburgh has a great fan base. Fans will travel from the city to DC-based games or they actually live here and break out the terrible towels and go to games here. They are Skins fans except when the Skins play the Steelers. We experienced that phenomenon with the Capitals too and same with the Orioles when they play the Yankees or Red Sox or the Nationals when they play the Mets.
As we've explained to Mr. Leonsis before, being a fan of a particular team is not a fluid decision for a lot of fans. We'd invite Ted to go to the Pour House or to our usual haunt; the Bailey's in Ballston right below his practice arena on a Sunday afternoon and see all that the only accompanying color to the gold in the crows is black, not burgundy. No self respecting Steelers fan we know would ever cheer for the Redskins, barring some sort of playoff implication that would benefit the Steelers.
If anything, hearing the annoying commentators and fans talk of an impending Super Bowl after every win, and then the “sky is falling” rants after losses give non-Redskin DC area fans nothing but malice to the local team…In fairness, this loathe of homer-ism undoubtedly applies to fans in Pittsburgh that don’t like the Steelers, Philly area non-Eagle fans, etc, etc.
He is right that Pittsburgh fans travel well, though. A lot (like our family and our friends' family) will come from Virginia Beach or Richmond to watch a rare Steelers game in DC. I suspect that is the case for a bunch of other Virginia/Maryland area ex-Pittsburghers. And because the team has been so successful and popular over the past 30 years factored into the large number of scattered ex-Burghers, you see why the Steelers "travel well" to basically any opposing city.
The enthusiasm of the black-n-gold clad fans also goes to disprove Mr. Leonsis' idea that these are Skins fans 364 days of the year and Steelers fans just when they play....The willingness to folks to drive from Richmond, or Maryland, or PA for a Monday game shows just how rabid and loyal they are. These people (blog's editor included) will not go to another Skins game this year, and certainly will not be cheering for the Redskins. Except for Clinton Portis and anyone else who might be on a fantasy team.
And as long as I'm asking questions, why does this happen? Why does it happen with Penguins games? Do Pittsburgh fans have more money? More passion? Fewer outside interests? Fewer job responsibilities? If a Redskins fan isn't going to hold on to his tickets when his team is 6-2 and playing a home Monday Night Football game for the first time in six or seven years, exactly when is he going to hold onto his tickets? Or is this just an inevitable part of playing Pittsburgh?
Haha, a silent count in their "home" stadium. Yikes.
Monday, November 3, 2008
The Pens were outshot 37-20 but still managed to hold on to the game by the score of 4-3....Guess it runs in the organization.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
- As you'd expect from six different players scoring goals, nearly everyone on the roster had at least a point. In fact it's easier to write who didn't have a point; Rob Scuderi, Mike Zigomanis, Chris Minard, Janne Pesonen and Eric Godard
- Pesonen's debut was relatively inconspicuous, though he got some looks on Evgeni Malkin's line, Pesonen only played 9:52 of ice-time and didn't really do anything notable. Clearly HCMT doesn't trust him to be out there too much in a close game, which is only natural. It did look weird seeing a #20 out there that wasn't Colby Armstrong.
- The Max Talbot/Sid Crosby/Miro Satan line combined for 2 goals, 4 assists and a +8 rating. They were great out there. We love the addition of Talbot as a spot winger for Crosby; Talbot hustles, he digs out pucks, he's fast and defensively responsible. Plus he can finish every once in a while.
- Also, hopefully the Therrien routine of "let's put new skill wingers on the 3rd line to teach them how to play my system" that he pulled with Petr Sykora last season until December and was well on his way to using on Satan too is finished. Satan has six goals, only seven other Pens have 2+ goals. Leave him with Crosby, we implore you!
- Malkin runs his scoring streak up to eight consecutive games with his smash power-play goal and an assist. In fact, perhaps more impressively the only game all season Malkin hasn't recorded a point was the Oct 14th win over Philly. Malkin also, at least temporarily, takes over the lead in the league's point scoring race.
- Hidden stat of the night: every Penguin that took at least four draws won over 50% of them, led again by Zigomanis' 73% (8 for 11) evening.
- Big game from Tyler Kennedy too, who ended up getting the eventual game winner, an apple and his usual energy to the team. Nice to see him break off the snide of a long goal-less streak and get his first goal of the season in North America.
- With all the injuries everyone expected big things from Kris Letang, who's definitely been over-shadowed by fellow young defenseman Alex Goligoski. Goose is getting most the PP icetime with the top unit, but Letang is emerging as a solid all around defenseman. Paired on the top unit with Brooks Orpik tonight, check out Letang's stat-line: 25:28 played, 1 assist, +3, 1 shot, 6 hits, 4 blocked shots and a giveaway. Not flashy, but solid nonetheless.
The Pens are rewarded by the NHL schedule with a five day break. There's still some things to work on and a nice time for guys like Crosby, Sykora and Hal Gill to rest some bumps, bruises and fix teeth hanging by a thread. Also, perhaps guys like Ruslan Fedotenko and Pascal Dupuis will be able to return from their undisclosed injuries.