Friday, December 30, 2011

Pens Blue Line Depth, Free Agency, Trade Asset Management

This year has been busy enough that I have had very little time to post anything other than game updates.  Tonight, I will make an exception, and will take a look at the impressive depth on the blue line, the salaries and time left on their contracts.  I and you can speculate on how King Ray uses these assets going forward.  Let's start with the top 2 defensive pairings.  Brooks Orpik and Kris Letang are both signed through the 2014-2015 seasons or two seasons after this one.  They make 3.75M and 3.5M respectively, bargains in my estimation.  Paul Martin and Zybnek Michalek are signed through 2015-16, or three years after this one at 5M and 4M respectively, both within market value.  So the top 4 are signed through two more years at least.  As I review the remainder of the list and the pending UFA status of James Neal, and the following season, Jordan Staal, Sidney Crosby, Tyler Kennedy, Matt Cooke, Pascal Dupuis, and Craig Adams, I look at Paul Martin as a chip the Penguins will try to move this offseason despite his no movement clause, and his upside.  The 5M price tag, along with a glut of capable, younger, cheaper players makes him a target for cap relief.  Out of the remaining defensemen who have seen significant ice time this year, Matt Niskanen is a RFA at 1.5 million after this season, as is Robert Bortuzzo at $535,000.  Despite a rough night last night, Matt Niskanen has been a steady player on the blue line and seems to be a perfect fit for the Bylsma system.  He has 2 goals and 12 assists and has played to a +9 on the season. He is second to Letang in points for a defenseman on the Pens and leads all Pens blueliners in plus/minus.   I would think that Shero would try to keep Niskanen if the price and term were reasonable.  I would think Niskanen would relish the chance to stay.  Bortuzzo is a young guy they think can be a net clearing defenseman, and he is RFA, not UFA, but I am not sure where he fits here in the next year or two.  Deryk Engelland who makes $566,000 per year is signed for more two more years, and I like his chances to remain a 5th or 6th defenseman since he adds a physcal presence they lack on the blue line, he is cap friendly, and his overall game has improved by leaps and bounds.  Engo has 2 goals and 5 assists, and has played to a plus 5 this year.  He can also play the heavyweight role when necesssary,   What about Ben Lovejoy?  He has one more year after this one, he currently makes $525,000 per year, and also seems to fit the system of puck moving defenseman who make good first passes and can take the puck up ice to a tee.  A very solid, cap friendly player, but I don't think his ceiling is much higher.  Then you have Simon Despres, a highly touted, first round pick who almost made the club out of camp as a rookie last year.   Despres, our 2009 first round pick, is signed at a cap friendly $840,000 per year for two more years after this one, before he becomes RFA.  Despres has proven he can play in this league, NOW, but may not warrant enough ice time at this level IF we ever get healthy to keep him with the big team THIS year.  He needs big minutes to continue his development, so if the team gets to be 100% on the blue line, I see 47 heading back to WBS as he does not have to clear waivers.  I do see him however being the guy who makes Martin trade bait, as the more than 4M salary cap hit differential between he and Martin, and Despres' skill set and ceiling would seem to set up a possible move of Despres for Martin, with Martin fetching forward prospects to free up space for Neal and Staal.  Despres at 6'4" and 218 lbs is quick, agile, big, and getting more physical.  Could he be a bigger version of Tanger over the next two years?   Another intriguing decision centers around Alexandre Picard, a young defenseman who only makes $600,000 per year, and is RFA after this season.  Once the injury situation clears up, Picard would have to clear waivers to be sent to WBS, an unlikely event given his steady play, low cap hit, and the value on puck moving defensemen in the NHL.  He has 4 assists in 17 games, and is a plus 4.   I could see a Picard for draft picks move, similar to the Letestu move, simply because other GMs will know the situation King Ray is in with Picard.  After Picard you still have Carl Sneep at $850,000 per year and RFA after this season and Brian Strait at $861,000 (RFA after this year) who have played on the big club and look like possible fits for next year at this level.  Neither is flashy, but both have size, can skate, and have pretty good potential as 3rd to 5th defensemen at the NHL level.  After these two guys, you have this year's first round pick Joe Morrow, the 2011 first round pick and making $925,000 per year, signed for 2 seasons after this one before becoming RFA who made a strong case for a look at the NHL level this year, and may have on a team with less depth at the position.  Morrow has big upside as a solid defenseman with offensive skills, that I have making the move to the NHL, after a season in WBS next year.  Currently he plays for Portland in the WHL.  For Portland he has put up 9 goals and 20 assists in first 28 games, for better than a point per game as a defenseman.  Penguins scouts say that his skating and speed make him stand out at this level.  This year's second round pick, Scott Harrington beat out Morrow to make Team Canada for the World Juniors, as he is a more steady stay at home kind of player Team Canada favors over more offensive defensemen.  Still, he is a good skater, who makes good decisions with the puck and could be NHL ready in two years.  Harrington is currently playing for London of the OHL, and scouts say he plays the system well, and functions as a shut down defenseman who skates well enough to support the rush and add some offense.   At a current cap hit of $617,500 he is RFA after 2 more years.  Finally, you have Ulfie's son, Philip Samuelsson, also signed for two more years at $900,000, and projected as a solid NHL, 3rd to 5th defenseman.  Samuelsson is known as a guy who has great hockey sense, and can move the puck, even under duress.  He has to work on his skating. All of these prospects are bigger players at 6 feet to 6 feet 4 inches tall and 200 pounds or more.   Finally, the Pens have Boris Valabik, at $550,000 and RFA after this year in the system.  Valabik, like Picard, has played at the NHL level, and adds size and toughness, but probably is no more than a number 7 defenseman in the NHL.  He could stay for insurance purposes at league minimum.  If you count Valabik, the Pens have 11 defensemen in the system who have played solid time in the NHL.  Most teams are happy to have 8 or 9.  In addition, with Morrow, Harrington, Sneep, Samuellson, and Strait, and Bortuzzo  they have 6 more ready in a year or two.  That is a big stable of talent on the blue line.  The Penguins rate 7 of their top 10 prospects in their system as defenseman, with Tangradi, Bennett and Kuhnackl the only forwards regarded in that manner.  Tangradi who is RFA after this year at $845,000 could also be trade bait.  He has good size at 6'4" and 221 lbs., and a net front presence, so he has value to somebody, but thus far has not shown to be a fit in the Byslma system.  He has 10 G and 10 A in 24 games in WBS, but has not scored in 4 NHL games this season.  I am not sure how the Pens regard his future HERE, but he is an asset that still has value.  The biggest priority in my opinion for the Penguins would be to a. sign James Neal to a long term contract and b. obtain other young forwards who can score and c. prepare for two years out when much of the core of the team is up for contracts.  The above referenced stable of blue liners will be key to those objectives.  The question is, how will Ray Shero juggle the assets to keep this team a legitimate threat to win it all?  Stay tuned, it should be a fun ride!

Pens fall to Flyers 4-2

Strange night at the Consol Energy Center last night. At dinner, I had the pleasure of meeting Flyers owner Ed Snider while waiting in line for food. I have to say that he was a very friendly guy, who spent a few minutes talking about the Pens-Flyers rivalry, and also the concept of AHL holiday jerseys and how cool they were.  He mentioned some past Christmas jerseys of the Philadelphia Phantoms, and how much he liked them.  The conversation started with a compliment on my newly arrived WBS Penguins Alexandre Picard Christmas Sweater Holiday jersey.  Interesting start to the evening!  Great guy.
Anyway, on to the game.  After all of the hype about the nasty crowd, the crowd was pretty tame. The boos for Talbot and JJ were there, but not to the fever pitch advertised.  The game got off to a promising start for the Penguins as Jordan Staal cashed in on his 15th goal of the season at the 19:16 mark off of a great feed from behind the net from Tyler Kennedy who earned his 14th assist of the season. 1-0 Penguins.  However, Kimo Timmonen tied the game on a power play goal at 10:04 of the period off a great feed from Giroux and Simmonds.  Game on.  During that period the Pens and  Flyers both played a fast up tempo game that looked like it could live up to all of the hype.  That would change in period two, as the Flyers really began to dominate play, winning the puck battles and exposing the Penguins poor gap control defensively.  At the 13:57 mark Jaromir Jagr ripped a backhander past Fleury to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead.  As much as I hate to say it, a beautiful play by 68, who was the best player on the ice last night.   At 13:49. Matt Read beat Matt Niskanen to a Courtierer rebound to give the Flyers a 3-1 lead.  The Penguins looked almost timid at times during this period.  The third period started in a similar manner, but just when you thought the Pens would sleep walk through the rest of the game, Tyler Kennedy scored his 5th goal of the season blasting a rocket over the shoulder of Bobrovsky at 6:29 of the period from Malkin (28), and Simon Despres (3).  The assist extended Malkin's scoring streak to 9 games (6G and 13A).  And now we had a game!  Not much later, the Flyers took a bench penalty and the turkey was on the table!  But, as it had all night long, the Penguins power play fizzled with the game on the line, and Max Talbot sealed the deal with 24 seconds left to seal the deal for Philly at 4-2.  It was a strange game for me to evaluate to be honest.  On one hand, I really thought that for the latter part of the final two periods the Flyers were dominant despite the Pens outshooting them 26-23 for the game.  It just felt like Philadelphia was playing with swagger, winning puck battles and getting better chances.  Their team was evident all night, and the top line of Giroux, Hartnell and Jagr looked dangerous every time it was on the ice.  The Penguins seemed to be intent on making pretty plays instead of getting the puck on the net and getting their noses dirty digging out rebounds.  The Flyers top line played very well and you could see how dangerous a player Giroux is.  I thought that Geno played a disappointing game overall, as did our top line in general, but you will have that at times.  The negative view of the game is that the Penguins are now 0-2 against the Flyers and 0-3 against the Rangers and  Flyers, their top two rivals in the Atlantic Division.   The power play was a liability, and the Penguins looked almost flat despite the hype and magnitude of the game. The Penguins did not take advantage of the absence of Pronger to attack the Flyers net.  Marc Andre Fleury made a few ten bell saves or this game could have been a blow out.  The Flyers earned this game by outworking the Penguins and taking advantage of their opportunities.  The positive view of this game is that despite all of the above, the Penguins could have won this game pretty readily.  Jagr made the best back check play of life lifting Neal's stick just before he poked home a goal midway through the third period, and Joe Vitale hit a crossbar as well in that period. Both plays could have changed the outcome of the game.  The Penguins are also still missing not only Crosby, but Letang, Martin and Engelland from the blue line, which is half of their starting 6 and still made this a game.  I think that Letang's speed in particular on that top pairing makes a big difference in this game, as does Engo's toughness.   But in the end, all of that is part of the game, and the Flyers took advantage of their chances, and killed a late power play to secure the victory, and that is the name of the game.  On another note, Tyler Kennedy seems to be finding his stride, and was the most noticeable Penguins player on the ice. Orpik and Niskanen struggled last night.  I was surprisingly happy about the tribute to Talbot and the crowd reaction to it.  I also loved the lack of Jagr tribute!   The crowd, for all of the pregame hype was very vanilla though.   In short, put this one in the rear view mirror, focus on the Devils on Saturday, and let's get back on the winning track.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

To Boo or not to Boo? That is the question!

Tomorrow night is a game that many fans had circled on their calendars on both sides of Pennsylvania since the schedule came out this summer.  First, and foremost, it should be a big game between two bitter rivals, with positioning in a tight Atlantic Division at stake.  Any time the Pens and Flyers play, it is an epic encounter, but tomorrow night's tilt will add more fuel to an already hot fire given the fact that it is Max Talbot's first game in Pittsburgh as a Flyer, and it is the return of Jaromir Jagr to Pittsburgh after a summer in which the locals thought 68 would be coming home to finish his career as the franchise's second most prolific offensive force in history.  I wrote a long piece that I won't rehash here telling fans that still hated Jags for his Dying Alive commentary to forgive and forget, and to welcome Jagr home with open arms.   We all know how that turned out!  Many fans plan to give both players a pretty nasty welcome to Pittsburgh run tomorrow.  Everyone is entitled to handle that any way that they want, but for me, I will give Jagr some venom, but not nearly the venom that most will.  I did not like the way he handled the events of this summer, I did not like the ending of his first tenure here, and I really don't like Jagr that much off the ice either.  That said, I have many memories of his contributions to both Penguins Stanley  Cups in the '90's, his Art Ross seasons, and his game tying goal in the first game of the 1992 Stanley Cup Finals.  I also remember how much of a gamer Jagr was in the post season for the Penguins in the mid nineties prior to his "dying alive."  I will give 68 some shit, but my desire to really be an ass will be tempered by many on ice memories of his heroics in the black and gold.  Relative to Max Talbot, I have been all over the board here.  When it was first announced that 25 signed with the Flyers for 1.9M per year over 5 years, I was glad for  him thinking that if he got that offer, he would be nuts to not take it, as it seemed to be WAY more in both term and dollar value than he was worth to me.  So, even if it meant going from the Hatfields to the McCoys, anyone would have to accept a financial offer like that right?   Then, I heard that the Blackhawks offered the same kind of deal, and I felt less like defending Talbot, as the Hawks offered the same chance at winning, the same money, and it was not like hanging out with the dude who raped your sister, like joining the Flyers from the Penguins was.  And like many others, felt like Talbot had stolen his paychecks the past two seasons, scoring 2 goals in the 2009-10 season (but had a bad shoulder all year), and only 8 goals in the 2010-11 season.  His need for attention had grown a little old, particularly with his lack of production on the ice.  And like many others, I forgot about how big a role 25 played in our two glorious runs to the Finals, and in bringing the third Stanley Cup to Pittsburgh.  Chew on some of these facts before you decide to crucify the Super Star tomorrow night:

The Penguins were 11-1 when Talbot scored in the postseason, a .916 winning percentage;

Talbot had 5 career Cup Finals goals as a Penguin, only Mario with 10 and Kevin Stevens with 6 had more;

Talbot's willingness to let Carcillo use his face as a punching bag seemed to turn the momentum of a 3-0 deficit in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals of 2009 into a series clinching victory;

In the Stanley Cup run of 2009 Talbot had 8 goals in the playoffs, third on the team behind Crosby (15) and Malkin (14).   He finished with 8 goals and 5 assists and a +8;

Talbot scored the game tying goal in Game 5 of the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals with the goalie pulled to set up Sykora's game winner to force Game 6;

Talbot scored the opening goal in Game 3 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals.  A critical marker given the fact that the Penguins were down 2-0 in the series;

Talbot won a puck battle against Ericsson of the Wings to set up Tyler Kennedy's game winner in the must win Game 6 of the 2009 Finals;

Talbot scored both goals including the game winner in the decisive Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals to bring Lord Stanley's cup home again!

At the end of the day, the Flyers represent one of our biggest rivalries, and Talbot is now a Flyer, as is Jagr.  That said, both have been a big part of the championships of our favorite team, and I will find it hard to be too nasty tomorrow.  Go Pens!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Pens beat Carolina 4-2

The Penguins win tonight at home to take their record to 21-11-4 with 46 points.  Tonight was a night with more milestones for Pittsburgh.  Jordan Staal became the seventh youngest player since NHL expansion in 1967 to play in 400 games at 23 years and 108 days.  Dan Bylsma won his 135th game putting him in a second place tie with Michele Therien for 2 all-time in wins for the Penguins.  The game started off with early chances by Malkin and a rocket by Staal hitting the crossbar.  The Canes then took a 1-0 lead off of a bad clearing attempt by Zybnek Michalek was interecpted by Tim Gleason, who shot it on net, while Tim Brent in front chopped home the rebound to give Carolina the lead at 9:37 of the period.  The period ended with Carolina up 1-0.  It stayed that way until about mid way through the second period at 11:50 when Chris Kunitz split Gleason and Allen at center ice and attacked the net, flipping a backhander from from the right circle at Peters.  James Neal crashed the net, and the puck went off of the shaft of Neal's stick giving him his 21st goal of the season from Kunitz (13) and Malkin (26).  A great play by Kunitz who did not quit on the play, and another point for one of the league's hottest lines.  The goal also puts Neal only one goal behind league leader Marion Gaborik.  The period ended in a 1-1  deadlock, and it was anyone's game.  But just like the other night against Winnipeg, a third period explosion by the Pens put this one away.  At 18:42 of the third, Steve Sullivan scored a power play goal, his 7th goal of the year, assisted by Malkin (27) and Neal (15) to give the Penguins a 2-1 lead.  Just a little over a minute later at the 17:32 mark, Super Duper gets his 11th goal of the year off of a two on play from Tyler Kennedy (12), assisted also by Zybnek Michalek (4).  This would prove to be the gamewinner as it put the Penguins up 3-1.   Fittingly, Jordan Staal closed out the scoring for the Penguins at the 11:55 mark for his 14th goal of the season, assisted by Tyler Kennedy (13).  The Canes kept coming, and at 5:07, Tuomo Ruutuu made it 4-2 after a misplay behind the net by Fleury.  The game would end that way, 4-2 Penguins.  The win ran Marc Andre Fleury's record to 19-7-2 on the year.  Neal had two points with a goal and an assist, and both Kennedy and Malkin recorded two assists.  For Kennedy, he now has 5 points in his past 4 games, and Geno not only extended his scoring streak to 8 games, but with 287 assists he passed Jean Pronovost for 9th place all time in assists for the Penguins.  The Penguins outshot the Canes 52-18 tonight, the power play was 1 for 3, and the penalty kill a perfect 2 for 2.  The Penguins have held 3 of their past 4 opponents to under 20 shots, despite having both Letang and Martin on the shelf for all of those games, and Engelland out for the past two.  Pretty impressive number given the holes on the blue line due to injury.  Up next two big Atlantic division tilts coming up, with Philadelphia in here Thursday night with Mullet boy and STD making their respective returns to Pittsburgh, and a road game against New Jersey on Saturday.  Four big division points on the table, Lets Go Pens!

Rascal Dupuis - Pittsburgh Magazine - January 2012 - Pittsburgh, PA

Rascal Dupuis - Pittsburgh Magazine - January 2012 - Pittsburgh, PA

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Pens beat Jets 4-1 to celebrate Festivus

A couple weeks ago people were bemoaning the fact that the Penguins were not beating the better teams in the league anymore.  They were only feasting on the weaklings of the league according to those people.  Nevermind, that the team is tied for first in man games lost, and have used 12 defensemen due to injury (the most in the league), staying in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race was not enough for some people.  Well this week, the Pens embarrassed a very good Buffalo team 8-3, beat the league's hottest team, the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2, and beat a Winnipeg team on their ice, who had been 7-1-1 in their past nine home games, 4-1.  Tonight's win putst the Penguins' record at 20-11-4.  Okay, now for game highlights.  At the 13:59 mark of period one, Joe Vitale tips in a rebound for his second goal of the season off of a shot from Alexandre Picard (4).  Pens are up 1-0.  Later in the first, elite middleweight fighter, AA Enforcer engages Tanner Glass after Glass puts a solid check on Malkin.  Not a great fight, but advantage Asham as Glass so NO MAS after a spirited battle.  I love the way Asham battles for his teammates.  In the second period, Burmistrov ties the game for the Jets at the 9:11 mark from Wheeler and Kane.  It looked a nail biter in the third period with two big points on the line.  Well as :22 of the third period, the Real Deal James Neal scores his 20th goal of the season, off a feed from Evgeni Malkin (25) and Chris Kunitz (11).  2-1 Penguins.  Then at 4:14, Jordan Staal who looked healthy for the first time in a long time scores a power play goal (13), from Chris Kunitz (12) and Steve Sullivan (12).   The assist was Steve Sullivan's 700h career point!  Then, 40 seconds later Pascal Dupuis nets his 10th goal of the season from Tyler Kennedy (11) to deliver the knockout punch to complete an outburst of 3 goals in under 5 minutes!  Duper continues to make his case as best dollar for dollar value in the league.  Some thoughts from tonight.  I HATE fans from Canada.  Period.  Second, Jordan Staal looked good physically tonight and got his first point in 8 games.  Hopefully, this gets Staalsy back on track offensively.  With Engelland, one of the Penguins steadiest blueliners out due to suspension, I was worried about the blue line.  I should not have been.  First, Z came back on his 29th birthday, and logged 20 plus minutes, and led the game with 5 blocked shots.  Matt Niskanen continues to play like a top 4 defenseman, and Ben Lovejoy in his second game back logged another strong game.  Add Picard getting an assist on the Pens' first goal, and Despres playing yet another strong game, and you can see the depth of this blue line shine tonight.  I don't see how Paul Martin is not traded at some point between now and the start of next year.  That is not an indictment of Martin, as much as it is acknowledgement that the Penguins depth on the blue line will make the 5M dollar salary of Martin part of the equation necessary to sign Neal long term ( among others), and perhaps add a little scoring depth.  James Neal and Evgeni Malkin extended their scoring streaks to 7 games each tonight. Neal leads the league with 10 power play goals, and Malkin has 16 points in his last 7 games.  Chris Kunitz was the game's number one star with two points and continues to shine as a catalyst for this team.  Kuni does the hard work, with a ferocious forecheck, tremendous puck battles along the wall, and is a nasty disruptive force in front of the net.  Love to watch the guy work!  The Penguins are off until Tuesday, and hopefully those 4 days will get some other bodies healthy and ready to play for the Penguins.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Arron Asham vs Tanner Glass, Dec 23, 2011

Arron Asham vs Tanner Glass, Dec 23, 2011: Arron Asham fights Tanner Glass from the Pittsburgh Penguins at Winnipeg Jets game on Dec 23, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Penguins beat Chicago 3-2

Tonight was a big win for the Penguins considering that they were playing the number one team in the league, winners of 5 straight games and 7-0-1 in the month of December.  Won't even get into the continued watered down line up of the Pens.  It was a physical game from the outset, with both teams hitting everything they could.  Deryk Engelland took on 6'8" 258 pound John Scott, and got the worse of that tilt.   In the end, this game was won by the stout goaltending of Marc Andre Fleury, who is now 17-2-2 on the season, and the continued brilliance of Evgeni Malkin who is now in a 4 way tie for the league lead in scoring with 39 points.   Geno has 8 points in the past two games, and he has 6 goals and 9 assists in his past 6 games, a torrid pace!  He was even 67% in the faceoff circle tonight.   I love watching this Geno, reminds me of 2009.   On that note, Geno is averaging 1.44 points per game, which is higher than his 1.38 points per game that won him the scoring title in 2008-09.  As far as the game, the Penguins got on the board first, with Chris Kunitz scoring his 12th goal of the season off of a beautiful stretch pass from Malkin (22) and Niskanen (11) at 10:02.   Kunitz now has 2 more goals than Ovagkin, just sayin'!  Pens lead 1-0 and the period would end that way.  Then at 2:45 of the second period, James Neal scored his 19th of the season on a beautiful snap shot.  The goal has him tied for second in the league.  He was assisted by Malkin (23), and Niskanen (12), giving the Penguins a 2-0 lead.   Niskanen's assist was  his 100th point in the NHL!   Then, at 16:34 Tyler Kennedy broke a long drought, potting his 4th of the year from Ben Lovejoy (2), and Geno (24).   The Penguins took a 3-0 lead into the third period, lights out right?  Not quite yet!  Just 49 seconds into period three, Jonathan Toews scored his 19th to give the Hawks some life.  At 6:12, Stalberg made it 3-2, with a lot of hockey left play.  This is where Fleury stole the game.  While the Hawks outshot the Pens 19-4 in the third, Fleury made several stellar saves to win this one for the good guys.  Going into Saturday's game, the buzz as how the Pens injuries might be finally taking its toll, and Penguins could not beat good teams, and finally how they were dropping like a stone in the standings.  Two games later, the Penguins beat two good teams, including the top team in the league, and are now 2 points away from the division lead, and 3 from the conference lead.  That is how tight the East is this season.  Jordan Staal had a couple of good scoring chances, and was 70% in the faceoff circle, so not a bad return for 11, but he did not look quite healthy tonight.  Also, Simon Despres continues to impress, with 16 plus minutes TOI in this game, and looking solid all night long.  Special teams were a missed bag, as the PP was 1 for 7, and missed some chances to blow this game open, but they did get a goal with the man advantage.  The Pens were perfect on the PK, including a 6 on 4 late in the game as Neal got whistled for his third penalty with about one and a half minutes left.  All in all, two good wins for your flightless birds, let's make it three Friday night in Winnipeg.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Penguins bounce back to beat Buffalo 8-3

Yeah, I was so pissed about last night's game, and continued injury fest that for the first time in 2 plus seasons I did not recap the game.  Soak your head in camel piss if you don't like it!  Now that this is out of the way, on to tonight's game. This was a big tilt in the Eastern conference, as the Penguins by virtue of losing 4 of their past 5 games, and going 5-5 in their last 10 games were falling in the conference.  Buffalo was only 3 points behind them, and a regulation loss would put the Sabres only one point behind our flightless birds, who had recently dropped to 5th in the conference.  It is not hard to comprehend why this could happen if you look at the injury list up front and on the blue line.  The Penguins are missing Crosby and Staal, 2 of the top 3 centers, along with Park and Jeffrey up front, and on the blue line it is even worse. They are missing top scoring defenseman Kris Letang, and their entire second pairing (9 million dollars in salary), along with Ben Lovejoy, Brian Strait, and Robert Bortuzzo.  So, two of the top 3 centers, and 3 of the top 4 defensemen out, along with solid depth players.  When Carl Sneep was called up today, he became the 5th defenseman from Wilkes Barre to get called up this season, and the third to make his NHL debut this season.  So coming off of a piss poor defensive showing last night, and a fading position in the conference, riddled with injuries, the Penguins needed a big effort tonight.  And they got it!  On the very first shift, Chris Kunitz came out and made two booming checks in the Sabres zone to set the tone for the Penguins tonight, and their battle level stayed at the level all night.  Okay, at 2:17 of the period, Jason Williams gets his first goal of the season, and first as a Penguin on a long ranger slapper from Picard (2) and Craig Fucking Adams (4)!  Penguins lead 1-0.   Marc Andre Fleury then made a huge save on sniper Derek Roy at 3:36 of the period, a possible goal that could have changed the complexion of the game.  Then on a power play, Simon Despres scores the first goal of his career, with a snap shot off a feed from Tyler Kennedy (10), and Jason Williams (1) to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead!  What a play, and a great shot by 47.  At 9:43 Evgeni Malkin chases Ryan Miller with a nasty wrister, his 13th goal of the season, assisted by Chris Kunitz (10), and Brooks Orpik (5). This was Orpik's 100th point of his career. The Penguins go up 3-0 on Buffalo.  At 12:55 Thomas Vanek backs up Brooks Orpik and scores to get the Sabres within 2 goals at 3-1.  Don't worry though, Malkamania scores his 14th goal of the season on a backhand shot from Carl Sneep (1st point of NHL career), and Picard (3), giving the Penguins a 4-1 lead.  Geno then draws a penalty late in the period that would carry over to the second period.  Then 53 seconds into the second period, James Neal scores the second power play goal of the night on a snap shot from Geno (20), and Matt Niskanen (9), Pens up 5-1!  Oddly, the goal was on Ryan Miller who was put back into the net for some reason.  The score remained the same until late in the period when Deryk Engelland scored his 2nd goal of the season when a shot trickled behind Miller, assisted by Arron Asham (9), and Pascal Dupuis (14), giving Duper 300 career points, and the Penguins a 6-1 lead going into the third period!!  The Sabres made it MILDLY interesting about midway through the third period when goals at 8:49 and 10:13 by Luke Adam and Paul Gaustad made it 6-3 Pittsburgh with half a period of hockey left to play.  The momentum that Buffalo had was short lived though, as Evgeni Malkin completed his hat trick on the power play (15), from James Neal (14) and Matt Niskanen (10).  It was the third power play goal of the game for the Penguins.  It was now 7-3 Penguins.  Then, at 13:39 the hedgehog, Chris Kunitz closed out the scoring with his 11th goal of the season, assisted by Malkin (21) and Deryk Engelland (8).  It was Geno's 5th point of the night!  The win improved the Penguins to 18-11-4 and gave them 40 points on the season.  The Penguins had six players with multi-point nights including Jason Williams 1G and 1A, Geno 3G and 2A, Chris Kunitz 1G and 1A, Matt Niskanen 2A, James Neal 1G and 1A (including his league leading 10th PPG), Deryk Engelland 1G and 1A.  Malkin's five point night moved him into a tie for 3rd place in scoring in the NHL with Jason Spezza, and behind Phil Kessel by one point, and Claude Giroux who is out with a concussion.  Geno now leads the league in points per game (1.384) with 36 points in 26 games!  Lately, 71 looks like the one man wrecking crew who carried the Penguins during the extended absence of Crosby in 2007-08 and the beast who won the Conn Smythe in the 2009 playoffs.  If he can sustain that level of play, the Penguins should be in great shape!  Malkin's hat trick tonight was the 7th of his career, and his first since 11/3/10 v Atlanta, and the first for the Penguins since Kunitz laid 3 on the Lightning on 1/5/10, Crosby's last game of the past season.  Malkin also passed Ron Schock for 10th all time for the Penguins in assists.  There were many other milestones tonight as well including:
Fleury's 200th win, making him the 4th youngest to do so in the expansion era;
Despres' first NHL goal;
Sneep's first NHL point;
Dupuis' 300th point;
Orpik's 100th point;

Simon Despres is getting better by the game, and tonight logged more than 20 minutes of ice time.  Deryk Engelland and Matt Niskanen remain the Penguins' two most reliable healthy defenseman, each playing solid tonight in their own end, and contributing 2 points each.  Let's hope that Staal, Martin, and Michalek can get healthy in time for Tuesday's game with Chicago!  Great time at the barn tonight.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Disco, King Ray, and the Mazefskys

Through our support of the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation, my family and I were fortunate enough to win the opportunity to have dinner with Ray and Karen Shero, along with Dan and Mary Beth Bylsma.  As a noted Penguins freak, I am sure that I don't have to tell you how much I was looking forward to an opportunity to get a few hours of time four on four with the Sheros and Bylsmas.  And despite all of the anticipation, it was even more of a pleasure than I had anticipated.  Ray Shero arrived first, taking a cab from downtown.  Did you ever meet a person you did not really know, but you felt like you could talk to them like you knew them from "back in the day?"  Well, that is Ray Shero.  We spoke for a good while, about many things, and there was not a single awkward moment.  The Bylsmas arrived next, and it was more of the same.  Dan Byslma is as down to earth, open and friendly as you will EVER meet, as is his wife.  They also jumped right into the conversation about hockey, parenting, specific players, and you felt like you knew them forever.  Karen  Shero arrived next, and it was more of the same.  Terrific woman, easy to speak with, and also very down to earth.  The way the seating worked out Karen Shero and Ray Shero were to my left, my wife Lisa to the right, then my daughter Krista and Alison were next to the Coach and his wife.  While speaking with the Sheros, I noticed how easily the Bylsmas spoke back and forth with my daughters about school, driving, food, hockey, and the Coach's anti drinking, anti drug speech.  It was like watching my kids speak to an uncle and aunt as opposed to the Jack Adams award winning Coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and his wife.  Without boring you with a lot of details, all I can say is that it really was so easy to converse with these two families, it was almost startling.  Getting some "inside" scoop on some players, and war stories from the road, along with sharing some family stories made almost 3 and a half hours pass like nothing.  The more of these Penguins folks that I meet, the more proud I am to be a fan of the team.  Thanks to Dan, Marybeth, Ray, and Karen for giving a family of Pens fanatics a night to remember forever and the City of Pittsburgh a franchise to be proud of!

In the Room Episode 1 Part 3

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pens lose 4-1

Well, tonight brought that quality opponent.........and a loss.  The game was much closer than the 4-1 score would indicate.  It was a well played game by both teams that had the Wings up only 2-1 with five minutes to play.  Dan Cleary scored with just under five minutes left to ice the win at 3-1, then again into an empty net to make the game look a lot more lopsided than it was.  The difference again was special teams.  The Pens formerly stellar PK unit again gave up a power play goal, while the Penguins' power play unit failed to score on four power play chances, including two in the third period.  Evgeni Malkin who scored a goal with only 5 seconds left in the first period, on an assist from James Neal and Brooks Orpik, played like the Geno from 2009.  He was all over the ice and could have had four goals with a little luck tonight.  I thought James Neal also played a strong game up front for the Penguins.  The team could have used a bit more from Jordan Staal, and frankly I would not have known Tyler Kennedy was playing tonight if I did not read the scratch list.  It was a well played game up until the latter stages of period 3, but the Penguins came out on the short end of it, largely based on special teams play.  I think the PK unit is missing Zybnek Michalek and Kris Letang just a bit.  Friday night, the Pens play in Ottawa, then return home Saturday to face Buffalo.  Time to get back in the W column Friday night!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Family adapts to hockey life | The Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, Scranton PA - News

Family adapts to hockey life The Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, Scranton PA - News

Highlights Pens v Isles

Pens come back to beat Islanders 6-3

Tonight's game started much as the past two games started, with the Penguins falling behind early 2-0, on two soft goals.  At 15:56 of the first period Ullstrom scores for the Islanders, after making Picard look like a pylon he whips a shot over Fleury's shoulder, who did not take the proper angle, leaving a lot of net for Ullstrom to shoot for.  Bad defensive play, and SOFT goal given up by MAF.   At 7:44, Milan Jurcina gives the Islanders a 2-0 lead on another weak goal, and it is not looking like Fleury's or the team's night.  And hey, they are again decimated by injuries, with Jordan Staal joining the group of Penguins unavailable to the team.  But, this Isles team is not the Flyers or Bruins, and the Penguins are not ready to give up yet.  At 5:32 of the period Joe Vitale strips the puck from Mark Streit and sets up Steve Sullilvan for his 5th goal of the season, while earning his 5th assist for his efforts.  Matt Niskanen also picks up his 7th assist of the season.  The Penguins were not done either......with only 28 seconds remaining in the period, James Neal gets his 16th goal of the season after Kunitz forces a turnover, and gets the puck to Malkin to who finds the real deal in front of the net, and he makes no mistake.  The assist for Geno was his 17th of the season, and tied the game for the Penguins.  Late period goals are often back breakers too!  It did not take too long for the Islanders to regain the lead in the second period, as Kyle Okposo gives the Isles the lead again at 17:07 with another softie given up Fleury.  This is the shakiest Fleury has looked all year, and many people, myself included thought it might be time for Johnson to come in.  Then, after a bad call on Hamonic, the Penguins end up with a 5 on 3 power play, and did something they almost never do.  They scored on it!  James Neal buried his 17th goal of the season, after Kunitz dug a Sullivan rebound free.  The assists were Kunitz's 7th and Sullivan's 9th of the season.  Neal also had gotten his league leading 9th power play goal on the play, and the game was tied again.  Then at 4:02, possibly the most versatile player on the team, Pascal Dupuis gave the Penguins their first lead of the night, burying his 9th goal of the year, assisted by Kennedy (8), and Picard (1).  The period ended with the Penguins leading by a score of 4-3.  Then early in the third period at the 18:56 mark, Matt Cooke got his 7th goal of the season, assited by Kennedy (9), and Niskanen (8).  Then came the backbreaker.  At the 9:50 mark, Paul Martin got his first goal in 79 games, assisted by Malkin (18), and Matt Niskanen (8).  This would close out the scoring, and give the Penguins the win, and 38 points on the season to date.  There are some players worth mentioning tonight, starting with Fleury.  He did his best Big Ben move tonight.  He looked awful in giving up the 3 goals early, but like Ben, his memory was short, and he made the saves he had to as his teammates battled back into the game.  Also, how much better has Deryk Engelland gotten.  The defense as a whole looked a lot better with Engo back in the game tonight.  Also, how about Paul Martin, getting a goal tonight, and chipping away at his plus/minus, now down to only a -6 for the year.  What about Matt Niskanen?  He was only +3 tonight with 2 assists, and now has 9 points on the season, and a plus 12!  Simon Despres continues to look solid, and is gaining valuable experience.  Pascal Dupuis the best value in the NHL, stays hot, scoring a goal in his first game as a center in the NHL.  How about Geno?  In 23 games, he is now tied with James Neal to lead the Pens in scoring with 28 points despite playing in 7 fewer games.  Matt Cooke recorded his 1000th penalty minute of his career tonight.  Those who thought that the Malkin, Neal and Sullivan line needed to be split looked pretty smart as each recorded two points tonight, along with Chris Kunitz.  Nice win, given the injury list, but Tuesday night it is time to see this against quality competition!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Great stuff-"In the Room"

Pens fall to Flyers 3-2

The Penguins have now dropped two games in a row to two premiere Eastern Conference teams.  This game had some similarities to Monday night's tilt with Boston, most notably another completely ineffective 5 on 3 for over a minute that could have changed the game.  On this one, there was a stretch where 2 of the three Flyers on the ice had lost their sticks on top of the 2 man advantage.   And again, the Penguins could do nothing with it.  Fleury kept this game close tonight.  The Flyers got on the board first with a fluky goal by Daniel Briere at 13:22 of the first, as he bounced a puck off a couple of Penguins defensemen behind Fleury.  Flyers up 1-0.  In the second period, the Penguins vaunted PK got nicked for another goal as Wayne Simmonds cashed in at 11:18 with assists by Voracek, and the red hot Claude Giroux.  Then at 6:28, FARTSMELL gives the Flyers a three goal lead.  At 5:58 Rinaldo interferes with Bortuzzo, in the process Bortuzzo becomes the latest Penguins blueliner to be injured.  Eight seconds later, Real Deal.......James Neal cashes in for his 15th goal of the season on the power play!  You heard that right, power play.......He was assisted by Malkin (16) and Niskanen (6) on the goal, his 8th power play goal of the year.  The period ended with the Flyers leading 3-1.  Then at 11:39 of the third period, Malkin buried his 10th goal of the year, with assists by Orpik (3), and Asham (7).  The Penguins however could not get the game tying goal.  Hey Pens......the games start at 7:08 and tend to last 60 minutes.  You cannot wait until 9 pm to start to play boys.  Wake up call time for Saturday night. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Bruins beat Pens 3-1

This was to be a measuring stick game for the Penguins.  The team with the most points in the NHL got a home date against the hottest team, and right now, the best team in the NHL on home ice, the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Boston Bruins.  The Bruins came into the game riding a 13-0-1 streak during which they outscored their opponents 63-26.  That is not a typo.  They have not only won these games, they have dominated them! The Bruins also boasted the league's best goals against average at 2.08 and were second in goals per game at 3.42.  This was to be no easy task, particularly when half of your blue line consisted of players who a week ago were in the AHL, with Bortuzzo playing his 5th NHL game, and Despres, only his third.  Claude Julien knew they were banged up, and he went after them!  After a well played first period by the Penguins blue line, the Bruins were able to pressure the young D into mistakes that resulted in 2 second period goals, and an early third period goal and a 3-0 Bruins lead.  Despite those mistakes, the bigger issue was the fact the Penguins power play killed them.  They could not convert on two 5 on 3 power plays, one that last 1:10, and another, very rare full 2 minute 5 on 3.  Failure to convert on those power plays is just unacceptable and ultimately led to the demise of the Pens in this one.  Matt Cooke finally broke Thomas' shutout bid mid way through the third on a great feed by Joe Vitale.  It was Cooke's sixth goal and twelfth point on the season.  But that was all the Penguins had, and despite outshooting Boston 45-27, they fell 3-1 to the Champs.  Do not let the shot differential mislead you either.  Other than a frantic last half of the third period, most of the Pens shots were perimeter shots that Thomas handled with ease.  Hey, it's a December game, against a great opponent, with half of your blue line on the shelf, and you lost.  No cause for panic. But some negative trends lately include an inablity to convert on 5 on 3 power plays, and a lack of goals from the top 2 lines for 3 full games now, other than a Kunitz marker in the Canes game.  Otherwise, Asham, Adams, and Dupuis have carried the offensive load.........not bad in an occasional game, but not good if it is three games in a row.  It was a bad night for Matt Niskanen, other than his tilt with Marchand, but he has been solid all year, so I am not worried there.  On a positive note, Paul Martin was stellar again, and I feel really good about his game when Z comes back giving the Pens that shutdown pair they thought they had.  Short memory boys, Flyers up next!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Pens 4th line grinds out a win in Carolina 3-2

Not much time tonight, watched game on DVR late due to party, and have Steelers game tomorrow, so this one will be quick.  The Penguins got goals from fourth liners Craig Adams and Arron Asham, along with a goal from Duper to carry them to a 3-2 victory. The Penguins killed off an extended 6 on 3, based on a cheap call on a dive by Eric Staal, and had yet another goal waved off in the third period.  A gutty, gritty win with Letang and Michalek out to start the game, then losing Staal and Engelland in the third.  Asham and Adams each had a goal and an assist, while Malkin and Crosby also had assists tonight. Pens back atop the league.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Caps Fangirl

Caps fan signs from Pensblog

John Carlson headshots Matt Cooke 12-1-11

Tough to take ShanaDouche seriously if this gets nothing while the NHL is looking to end headshots in the game.

Pens take a CrAP in DC

The Pittsburgh Penguins did something they have not done since March of 2008 tonight when they beat the Capitals in the regular season and in regulation 2-1 at the Verizon Center.  This is a number that every Captard can recite.   The number they forget is the one that says the Penguins have sent them home in the post season in 7 of the past 8 playoff meetings.  I digress.  Tonight's game was billed as a battle of the stars, with Crosby and Malkin v Ovechkin and Backstrom.  Other than Ovechkin running around and charging as usual, none of these players were that visible tonight, and none of them factored into the scoring.  It was a grinders game for both sides.  At 14:39 of the first period, Craig Fucking Adams snuck in the backdoor and scored his second goal of the game off of a beautiful feed from behind the cage by AA Enforcer aka Beagle Beater.  It was Asham's 6th assist of the season, and Richard Park collected his 5th of the year on the play.  At $775,000 per year, Asham sure fills a lot of roles for the Penguins. Right after the goal, 6 foot 4 and 220lb Caps tough guy John Erskine attempted to extract some revenge for the Beagle Beating by engaging AA in a fight.  Both men threw some big punches, with Asham landing more before Erskine took him off his feet lead the brain dead red thinking he won the fight.  Asham is a man I spent year exchanging unpleasant words with at Old Lady Mellon while he played for the Devils and Flyers.  Today, AA is one of my favorite Pens, and I have collected his game worn practice jersey from the Winter Classic, a game worn road jersey from Montreal, and a signed, game worn jersey from this year's Black and Gold game!  Ash was robbed in the second period, or he would have had himself the Gordie Howe hat trick tonight.  Back to the game.  Early in the second period, red hot Jason Chimera potted his 10th goal of the season, from Joel Ward and Brooks Laich, a very formidable third line for the Caps.  The second period ended 1-1.  Early in the third period, Simon Despres collected a puck along the boards in the Penguins' zone, got it out to Tyler Kennedy, who made a weak pass that John Erskine appeared to intercept.  But Chris Kunitz stripped Frankenstein of the puck, walked in, and bounced a knuckleball of a wrist shot off of Tomas Vokoun at 17:24 for his 9th goal of the year.  He was assisted by Tyler Kennedy (7), and Simon Despres' first assist of his NHL career.  It turned out to be the game winner, as the Capitals were only able to register 2 shots on goal in the third period, the last one coming at 14:28 by Cody Eakin.  In fact, the Capitals only managed 17 shots on goal in the game, the fewest they have ever taken against the Penguins.  The Penguins sit atop the NHL with a 15-7-4 record and 34 points.   Some additional notes from the game include Marc Andre Fleury recording his 14th win of the season, tying Jimmy Howard of Detroit for the league lead.  It also has Fleury on pace to be the 4th fastest goaltender to 200 career wins in NHL history.  Finally, let me spend a little time talking about the Penguins defense.  It was a bit concerning to enter this evening's game without 2 of the team's top defenseman, and using a third pairing of Despres in his first NHL game and Robert Bortuzzo in his third.  As it turned out, the defense was stellar.  Paul Martin earned the number one star despite not factoring in on the scoresheet due to solid play in all three zones and logging 28:11 of ice time.  Deryk Engelland played another great all around game, as a physical force, blocking shots, shutting Ovagkin down, and joining the rush at times.  I have said it before, he may be the most improved player on the team.  Orpik was passing out some free candy as well.  Finally, the two youngsters who are part of a STABLE of young blue liners were solid tonight. Despres had over 10 minutes of ice time, was a plus 2, and had an assist on the game winning goal.  Bortuzzo played more than 12 minutes tonight, and played a solid steady game again.  Disco did not try to hide them, as they skated regular shifts with the Pens protecting a one goal lead, even in the final five minutes, and the Caps only got two shots off all period long.  If you add Strait, Morrow, and Samuelsson to Despres and Bortuzzo, the Pens have 5 stud defenseman ready or almost ready for NHL time to complement their veteran core group.  Nice win on the road to spoil Dale (head) Hunter's NHL debut.  Late in the game John Karlson elbowed Matt Cooke in the head, and it will be intersting to see the league's response, since the infraction occurred to the hated Matt Cooke.  The love apparently spilled out to the streets with reports of fights, including a female Pens fan getting punched and knocked down in the street by a male Caps fan.  Game on bitches!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

And the new guy

Classy guy....should fit in well in DC

Final Goodbye to BBQ Brucie

Penguins fall to Rangers 4-3 at The Garden

The Rangers had come off of consecutive victories against Washington and Philadelphia, and saw tonight's tilt against the Penguins as a measuring stick relative to Eastern Conference supremacy.  The Penguins, as is the norm these days found out late that neither Kris Letang nor Zybnek Michalek would be available to them.  This is essentially a # 1 defensive pairing out, to be replaced by two AHL defensemen, one of whom, Robert Bortuzzo was playing in only his 2nd NHL game. In addition, they did not even get to the Garden until the pregame skate.  The Penguins cannot seem to get a break on the injury front these days.  At any rate, the Pens opened the scoring at 17:56 of the first period when James Neal scored his 14th goal of the season on a power play, assisted by Crosby and Martin, the 8th assist for each of them.  That is how the first period ended, with the Pens leading 1-0.  At the 8:01 mark the Rangers' Ryan Callahan scored a power play goal to tie the game, and start a 10 minute stretch where the Rangers scored 4 goals including 2 power goals to take a 4-1 lead, the fourth, a power play goal by Marion Gaborik at 18:26 of period 2.  These two power play goals sandwiched goals by John Mitchell and Brad Richards.  Despite those lapses, Evgeni Malkin gave the Penguins hope when scored his 9th goal with 6 seconds left in the period to make the score 4-2.  He was assisted by James Neal, his 11th and Steve Sullivan, his 8th.  You just got that feeling that the Penguins had that magic tonight, and that they would take this game in the third. When Pascal Dupuis scored his 7th goal of the year at 3:39 of period three, that feeling was amplified.  This goal was assisted by Crosby (9), for his second assist of the night and Deryk Engelland (7).  Alas, it was not meant to be.  Dan O'Hallaran and crew nailed the Penguins in the third penalty, forcing them to kill two extended 5 on 3's, and a soft boarding call by Kunitz very late in the game, sapping the Penguins of much offensive time.  In fact, they only mustered 3 shots that period.   In the middle of all of this, the Pens had ANOTHER goal disallowed, this one by Matt Cooke.  I thought the officiating tonight was questionable, but the Pens did not lose a result of this. They lost due to a lack of discipline and a loss of focus in the second period in particular, and could not battle back far enough.  Some positive notes to take from this include the fact that Paul Martin again played a solid game, and is showing signs of life.  Crosby had another 2 point night, but was held to only one shot on goal, prompting Stan Fischler of the MSG network to ask Sid he had hit a wall.  Crosby answered, u, no.   11 points in 5 games, and that is a question?  Also, Deryk Engelland played a very solid game again, strong in his zone, big minutes on the PK and added a little offense to boot.  Engo has become a very versatile, steady defenseman.  Finally, Super Duper scored again, giving him 20 points in 25 games this year.   Add his PK time and the fact that Duper is a cap friendly 1.5M per year, and he is the best bargain in hockey.  Next up, the Craps and their new coach Dale Hunter.  My Cup of Hatred Runneth Over Already!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Karma is one big angry bitch!

Yes, the game winning goal came on a play that should have been blown dead.  No doubt about it, but it wasn't.........and frankly, justice was served.  The referees were a JOKE tonight, and part of the reason this great sport ranks behind NASCAR in the US.  There were phantom calls and missed calls all night.  How about the biggest POS in the league PK Scissorskates KICKING James Neal, with no call?  Or the elbow to the head on Letang, that somehow warranted no call.  Or two more goals taken off the board both by Kunitz who has had 3 of those this year.  So how about a collective FUCK YOU to the whiny Habs fans and Penguins haters!  What a bizarre, but entertaining game tonight.  The Penguins got on the board just 21 seconds in when the red hot Geno Malkin his 8th goal of the year, assisted by the Sonic HedgeHog Kunitz (5), and Sidney Crosby (6).   Unfortunately, the Habs rattled off the next 3 goals, the first of which came only 1:27 seconds later by Travis Moen.  The next two were scored by Max Pacioretty (10) at 7:57 of the first period.  Then Erik Cole notched his 7th goal of the year at 11:09 of the second period.  Then, at 16:40, Pascal Dupuis drilled a wicked shot past Carey Price for his 6th goal of the season, assisted by Paul Martin (7) and Matt Cooke (6).  The second period ended with the Penguins down 3-2, with two goals disallowed.  But at 15:30 of the third period, the third head of the three headed  monster, one Jordan Staal whipped a shot past Price for his 12th goal of the game, assisted by Evgeni Malkin (14).  Then the elbow to the face of Letang sends Letang to the locker room with a broken nose.  He passed the concussion test, and after having a pin put in his nose, Tanger is ready for OT.  Then Old Lady Karma rears her head!  After James Neal drives the net and Price makes the save and has the puck frozen under his glove, the referee does not blow the whistle, and Kris Letang fishes the puck out from under Price and puts his 3rd goal of the season past Price, with assists from Neal (10), and Deryk Engelland (6).  They teach you from the beginning to play to the whistle and Tanger did.  After the way the game was called, I will gladly take the even up dose of NHL stupidity and take the 2 points.  The Penguins outshot the Habs tonight 42-27, but the Canadiens took 63% of the faceoffs.  Kunitz was a beast tonight, though he only had one assist to show for it, as was James Neal who also had only one assist.  Jordan Staal continues to notch big goals, and tonight's was a sniper's goal for sure.  Staal has an amazing 24.5% shooting percentage, first among the league's leading goal scorers.   A couple of solid defensemen are worthy of mention tonight, Deryk Engelland whose helper on the game winning goal gave him 7 points on the year, and he is a plus 4.  Also, Matt Niskanen, who has been solid all year long has five points and is a plus 9 on the year.  He fits the Penguins system to a tee, and has found his game here.  The Penguins top 5 scorers are James Neal (13), (10), for 23 points, Evgeni Malkin (8), (14) for 22 points, Pascal Dupuis (6), (13) for 19 points, Kris Letang (3), (16) for 19 points, and Jordan Staal (12), (6) for 18 points.  Evgnei Malkin is averaging 1.29 points per game, second only to league points leader Phil Kessel's 1.30, and Geno only trails Kessel by 8 points despite playing 6 fewer games.   The Penguins have a ton of Eastern Conference games ahead of them in the next month, so it is a big stretch for them.  With 32 points, the Penguins lead the conference, but only 7 points separates them from 9th place New Jersey.   One had to be encouraged by the way they hung in there in a hostile building, fighting some phantom calls, and took this game when it was there to take.  The Pens are now 3-4-1 when trailing after two periods, those 3 wins are tops in the NHL in that scenario.   GO PENS!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011

Pens beat Senators 6-3

The Penguins beat the Senators tonight 6-3 to remain atop the Eastern Conference with 30 points.  It sure did not start well, with Ottawa scoring at just 18:41 to take a 1-0 lead.  The Penguins have been falling behind early of late and playing catch up, but this time they answer just 27 seconds later when Engelland leads a rush out of the Penguins zone, finds Crosby who fakes a shot, then finds Kunitz who buries it to tie the game at 1-1.  It was Kunitz' 8th goal of the season, with assists by Engelland and Crosby.  Two seconds later Asham and Konopka square off in a spirited fight, I am sure as part of the carry over from the Islanders mess of last year.  Shortly thereafter, at the 16:35 mark, Tyler Kennedy got his third goal of the season, putting his own rebound off of Anderson from behind the net to give the Penguins a 2-1 lead.  He was assisted by Paul Martin(5), and Fleury(1).  The Penguins continued their assault on the power play when Sullivan got his fourth goal of the season, and third in his past three games, assisted by Malkin (13) and Crosby (4).  The power play was unique in that it featured 5 forwards (Sullivan, Malkin, Crosby, Neal, and Kunitz).  Evgeni Malkin then gave the Penguins a 4-1 lead as he scored his seventh goal of the season right after another power play expired as he picked up a loose puck on his backhand, turned to the forehand and chased goaltender Craig Anderson to an early shower.  He was assisted on the goal by Letang (16) and Crosby (5).  The period ended with the Pens up 4-1.  In the second period at the 16:15 mark, red hot Pascal Dupuis scored his fifth goal of the season, assisted by Asham (5) and Kennedy (5).  The Pens were now up 5-1.  Jared Cowen cut the lead to 5-2 on a delayed penalty call, and the period ended 5-2.  At 8:52 of the third period Jordan Staal scored his 11th goal of the season, assisted by Tyler Kennedy (6), and Paul Martin (6).  The goal was significant as it got Staal back on the board, it marked Kennedy's third point of the night, and gave Martin 2 assists and a +2 for the evening.  Hopefully this will mark the beginning of a marked turnaround in the play of Martin!  At 3:31 of the third Ottawa scored again to make the game 6-3, which was the final.  The Penguins have 30 points, putting them atop the Eastern Conference, and they are now 7-0-1 in their past 8 home games.  The Penguins embark on a four game road trip that will seem them play Montreal, New York Rangers, Carolina and Washington, before coming home to play the Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins on December 5th.  This looks like a key 5 game stretch for the Penguins against stiff eastern conference competition.  LETS GO PENS!,2,319

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Pens steal a point but lose 3-2 to St. Louis

Coach Disco said it best when he said that his team was not physically or mentally ready to play this game.  The Penguins looked horrid for the first 45 minutes of this game.  In short, there was very little they could right for the first two periods plus.  The Blues could only muster one goal despite the Penguins poor play due to the stellar effort between the pipes of Marc Andre Fleury.  The only goal came on yet another horrid Paul Martin play where he turned the puck over to Scott Nichol, then acted like a screen and ultimately deflected Nichol's shot past Fleury in the first period.  So after two of the worst periods I have seen this hockey team play all year, they were still only down 1-0, and I definitely felt like the Blues were going to pay for letting the Penguins hang around.  Sure enough Steve Sullivan(3) tied the game at 1-1 fairly early in the third on a power play goal assisted by Malkin and Kennedy.  Later in the period Martin again got caught floating around and puck watching, allowing his man to make a perfect pass to a player Staal left open in front of the net for the go ahead goal.  The Penguins fought back hard, and finally tied the game again at 2-2 on a goal by James Neal (13), assisted by Evgeni Malkin, whose two assists tonight marked his 6th multi point game of the season.  The Penguins then looked like they were about to take this game to a shootout, when the evening's king of turnovers Kris Letang inexplicably threw a no look pass in the defensive zone that led to the Blues retaining possession in the Penguins' zone, and Jamie Langenbrunner gunned home the game winner.  This game was not a good game for the Penguins.  Maybe they just had a bit of a hangover from the emotions of the game Monday night, but boy there are some habits that need broken from tonight's game.  Generally the team was too fancy, making passes that were not there, forcing pucks to 87, passing on shots, and just overall sloppy play.  Crosby took 3 penalties, 2 of which were real and needs to be more disciplined, and he knows it......and he will be as a result, I have no doubt.  Someone needs to surgically repair the current situation wherein Tanger has his head planted so far up his own ass!  He has Norris abilities, but needs to settle down and use his head consistently.  Paul Martin.......not sure what to say here.  I  know how good he has been at times, but man he is having a HORRID season.  I am not sure what you do here, but at some point he needs to get his act together.  Geno had a nice night tonight with 2 points and a 70% in the faceoff circle.  Fleury was outstanding, and Orpik was passing out the free candy tonight.  44 had 8 blocked shots and 9 official hits, including one where he took out two Blues on the same hit.  In short, tough to lose that late in OT, after surviving a horrible game during regulation but they did steal a point that they had no business taking.  I expect that we will see a much  better ready to play team on Friday.  GO PENS!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bruce Boudreau Discusses 24/7

wow, please do not fire this fat piece of shit! he is a big reason the Craps NEVER win when it counts!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Crosby 2nd Goal

Crosby Goal and X crew

Pardon the language!

After 320 days and 61 games, Crosby returns

Sidney Crosby returned to action last night for the Pens as they smoke the New York Islanders 5-0, and Crosby dazzles with a goal on his first shot/third shift of the night.  By the end of the evening, Crosby had piled up 4 points, with 2 goals and 2 assists, delighting the crowd who had come to revel in the thought of this team actually playing a game or two with a full line up.  The highlights of the evening were many.  Obviously the fact that Crosby not only came back, but made it look like Kessel was merely keeping his seat at the top of the scoring race warm topped the list, but there were others.  How about Marc Andre Fleury posting a shutout, and looking sharp between the pipes?  What about unsung hero Pascal Dupuis piling up 3 assists to give him 17 points, tied for second on the team with Letang, behind team leader James Neal?  How about Z-man making his return after missing 10 games, and playing a very solid game on the blue line?  What about the balanced attack with 2 goals by Crosby, and goals by Malkin, Sullivan, and Orpik?  Or the fact that Chris Kunitz again showed his value even when he does not hit the scoresheet with his speed, puck retrieval skills and tenacious forecheck?  It was a great night for the city, the team, and of course for 87!  On a personal note, the night was great for us has taken a season and a quarter, but the Consol Energy Center is starting to feel quite a bit more like home, as Old Lady Mellon used to.  We had our own little party last night, and the Consol Energy Center now has an evening that will stand out in my spank bank of hockey nights, like some of our Mellon Arena nights.  Some of our favorite nights prior to last night included the Lemieux 5 points, 5 ways game, the opening game in the 1991-92 Finals where 66 buried it late to cap a furious comeback win, Games 4 and 6 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals, the come back game to open the second round of the 2007-08 semi-Finals against the Rangers, and various other playoff games in the four seasons that the Pens have gone to the Finals.  I consider last night to be the first "signature" night for our family in the new building, and I am sure we will experience many more!  I hope that tomorrow night is one of them.  Go Pens!

A great piece by Stoosh of TPB

.. Nov 22 09:58AM Tuesdays With Stoosh 11.22.2011 Written by Stoosh


In which we've never been so happy to be lost for words.

I’m not even sure what to write after that game.

As sports go, this is an age where hyperbole is passed out like Orpik hands out hits and candy, and it’s still tough to put into words just how good the Pens looked tonight.

I guess it was JUST the Islanders, who are either an up-and-coming team in a tailspin or a team that has regressed a full year in the last 15 games. Yes, they threw some rookie goaltender to the wolves tonight in part because DiPietro can’t walk from here to the end of the block without injuring himself. So maybe we reserve complete judgment until a few weeks from now, once this all settles in and they’ve worked up better than a 60-minute sample as a healthy team. It’s a long season. Not too high, not too low.

But, still…

As Pens fans, we’ve been incredibly blessed, sometimes more than we realize and that’s probably why so many fans of opposing teams hate us. Some fans have had just a couple years’ flirtation with a game-changing superstar – Pavel Bure in Florida, for instance. Other fans’ teams have been defined by 35+ years of Maybes and Almosts and What Might Have Beens (mostly directed at our friends down the Beltway, but I’ve long been a fan of the Canucks as well as the Pens, and this one is heartbreakingly familiar).

Instead, the last 25 years have given Pens fans three Cups and a library of games in which we get to cheer on someone who is so much better than everyone else on the ice some nights, it’s almost not fair. Lemieux has shelves of games like that. I saw Jagr in that playoff series in ’99 against New Jersey, when he was playing at 50%, maybe 60% and was STILL the best player on the ice. Sid against Washington in 2009. Geno against Carolina. Sid against Ottawa in 2010.

Crosby has emerged as the best player in the NHL because he has evolved. There isn’t an elite player who is better in all three zones. He quickly worked his way into dominance in the faceoff circle – no small feat for a player of his age. Remember the old “overhyped Adam Oates” tag? That went away in 2009 when he realized he was pretty good at this goal-scoring game, too.

Then came last year, when he was on pace for 132 points and what would’ve been the best post-lockout season to date. He was making a mockery of the NHL scoring race when he was lost for the year to the concussion. Chalk up another What Might Have Been, this one the most heart-rendering of all, especially for player and team.

Thoughts of “What could Sid do this year” turned to “We just hope there’s a Sid to watch this year.” Cleared to practice. Cleared for contact. And while I think everyone tempered expectations, you couldn’t help but watch him at camp or in the footage of his practices, listen to those who saw him each day at practice, especially guys like Bourque and Errey – guys who know these things – and wonder if he was really going to be that dominant. Could he really top last year?

After tonight?

(NSFW, just in case.)

Go back and watch that reaction to his first goal scored last night.

Get beyond the expletive-laced reaction – the one that you probably repeated when you jumped out of your seat at Consol, off your stool at the bar or out of your couch at home.

That was a primal scream – a spontaneous combustion of nearly a year of frustration, confusion, anger and finally relief.

Go back to the numerous shots of him on the bench, or especially to the one that most stood out most – the extra few seconds he lingered on the ice, raising both hands and cracking a very noticeable & appreciative grin to the crowd after being named the game’s first star. The last time I remembered seeing a player react so genuinely to such an ovation was Lemieux’s farewell tour in 1997, when Mario soaked in the final ovations in his last regular season game and playoff game at home, knowing it was about to end.

Obviously, circumstances aren't quite the same with Crosby. But between the "eff yeah", the shots of him on the bench and the way he reacted to the crowd at the end, there seemed something beyond just savoring that moment. There was an appreciation for what he lost last year, perhaps very much fueled by the realization that he, like we, once took his career for granted.

If those reactions were any indication, we may be watching a Sidney Crosby that's no longer just pushing to improve some facet of his game like someone working on a project. We may now be watching a Sidney Crosby driven to play his best game for the most basic of reasons - the notion that something he loves, something that he has made such a defining part of him was nearly taken away.

We may be watching a player who is truly playing every game, every shift as if it were his last. And there may be no greater motivation for Crosby.

And that, friends, is a very frightening proposition for the rest of the NHL