Friday, September 30, 2011

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Steelers survive Colts 23-20

I am not sure what to say other than a W is a W, and great teams find ways to win these ugly games. It is a bit early to dub this team as great for sure though. Some of the bigger issues to work on for the Steelers include the following:

They simply cannot run the football. Period. Oddly, they seem to move the ball better with either Redman or Moore over Mendenhall, but all in, they cannot run the

football....Mendenhall seems to be running too upright, and with very little power. I think it said a lot that Mewelde Moore got the nod with the game on the line;

They cannot seem to protect Ben, and their tackles especially Jonathan Scott are horrible. Scott was just eaten alive tonight, it was almost sad;

Big Ben remains a turnover machine, losing two fumbles and throwing a pick tonight. His second fumble was more on the O line, but Ben has to protect the ball better, period;

Until late in the 4th quarter of their third game, the Steelers star studded defense had not created a single turnover. When they did, it was a big one with Polamalu scooping a fumble forced by Harrison to score a go ahead touchdown late in the 4th quarter. Unfortunately, the defense let a nno name QB drive the field to tie the game very quickly thereafter, ala the 2009 Paper Curtain;

William Gay is to the cornerback position as Jonathan Scott is to the Tackle position;

Any quarterback with skills and decent wideouts has to be licking their chops looking at this secondary;

The outside pass rush was supposed to help mask this weakness and for the most part it has not;

The Steelers defense continues to even look vulnerable to the run with Addai averaging more than 5 yards per carry last night;

Despite all of that, with the game on the line, the Steelers came through with a clutch drive and clutch kick to win an UGLY game. Ugly wins are still wins though, so we will take it. Let's hope that the Steelers can fix the turnover issue, the offensive line, and get McFadden back. Yeah, it is that bad that getting McFadden back is a big deal! It has also been a joy to watch Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown blossom into a very dangerous tandem;

Next week, they have a very strong passing game and last years leading rusher, Arian Foster on the schedule, which will be a big challenge for the defense;

So enjoy the win, pray for help up front, and get that pass rush going again to help hide the WEAK secondary.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Pens beat Wild 4-1

Keep reminding yourself that this is only preseason......because it is......but allow yourself to get a little bit excited about the way Geno is playing, and what that could mean for this Penguins team. Malkin had a goal and 2 assists today, and was all over the ice, AGAIN. It is pure joy to see this Geno again! Another player who was just outstanding today was Kris Letang, he was confident in taking his shots, his shots were on net, and he had 2 assists tonight while playing a strong game on both ends of the ice. At what point do the Penguins have to consider the 10 game allowance that they have to evaluate junior eligible players with Joe Morrow. Morrow again looked like he could belong in this league sooner than later with a power play goal and an assist tonight. Morrow has 3 points in two games, and just looks goddamn COMFORTABLE out there logging big minutes and playing both the power play and penalty kill. This pick was criticized in some circles here this summer due to the Penguins' defenesive depth. Sorry folks, this pick is a winner, and that depth will lead to a deal to bring in that winger everyone is looking for. This kid just carries himself like a professional, and his confidence is quite impressive. On the note of the Penguins young defensive depth, Brian Strait also looked comfortable out there today, and added a goal for himself as well. Matt Niskanen has looked solid, and played very well today. Another guy that keeps making an impression is Joe Vitale. I think the Penguins need to keep Vitale on the big club as the fourth line center over Richard Park. Park is a 37 y/o solid PK player, but Vitale has played as well, and I like the youth and longer window Vitale brings to the Penguins. The play of Brad Thiessen in net has also been very impressive. He would not scare me if he had to come up for some games due to an injury to either Fleury or Johnson during the year. Some other statistics from today had the Pens' power play going for 4 for 6, while the PK unit killed 9 power plays from the Wild. It is SO early, but this Penguins team is just deep, talented, well organized, and well coached. There are a lot of talented teams in the Eastern Conference, so it it will not be a cakewalk, but I like what this team has shown us this year.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pens beat Hawks 4-1

After a pedestrian two periods, the Pens explode in the third to capture a 4-1 win against a mostly AHL Blackhawks team. Staal led the way with 2 goals on 4 shots, while Tyler Kennedy added a goal and two assists, and Matt Cooke also scored a goal. The old "third line" players scored all of the Penguins goals tonight, and all three looked very very good. Another player who made an impression tonight was Nick Johnson. He had two assists and played solid hockey after a strong camp. Deryk Engelland to me stood out on the Penguins blue line. He played a very physical game, an element that the Penguins blue line does not have in abundance, and he made very smart plays moving the puck all night long. Lovejoy also played a solid game, and to me he and Engo look like the third pairing, with Niskanen and Picard fighting for that 7th spot. A player that I keep hoping makes a big move to claim a roster spot is Eric Tangradi. He shows some flashes of skill that make you realize what he COULD be, such as the play behind the net where he won the puck battle and very QUICKLY turned and almost stuffed the puck behind Ray Emery. He just does not seem to make enough of those plays to earn that roster spot. You can see all of the tools that could make him a productive net front prescence for the Pens, but he has to make MORE plays, and get some finish! 2011 second round pick Scott Harrington did not look at all out of place tonight either. He showed his ability to skate, and move the puck on several occasions tonight. He is a few years away I think, but you can tell he has the skills. The Penguins blue line is DEEEEPPP. On another note, Brandon Saad looks like a player, and it was great to see another western Pennsylvania kid on an NHL rink. In a surprise move the Penguins sent top prospect Simon Despres to Wilkes Barre today without a look in a preseason game. The move seemed surprising, as Despres almost shocked everyone by making the club out of camp last season, and this year, he did not even get a look. After hearing Disco speak post game, teh move makes more sense. They have seen Simon play at this level, and he might have a shot at making the sixth or seventh defenseman position for the Penguins, but certainly not higher than that. Sending him to WBS as early as possible to get him ready for his first pro season will help him more in the long run. Despres is slated to get top pairing minutes in WBS and that will do more for his career in the long run than getting 8-12 minutes per game in Pittsburgh. Given those facts, it makes sense to get him as ready as possible for his first pro season Wilkes Barre. With the likes of Despres, Bortuzzo, Sneep, Morrow, Hutchinson, Samuelsson, and Strait in the system, the Pens should have a wealth of blue line options for years to come.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Joseph Morrow

Penguins beat Detroit in preseason opener 3-2

Yeah, Yeah, a preseason game, and frankly it does not mean shit. Both lineups were littered with AHL players, and they played quite sloppy at times, as you would expect. But there were some things that I took away from this game that were encouraging at this early juncture:

First, Evgeni Malkin was a standout all game long in both ends of the rink......Yeah, but it is only preseason.......EXACTLY! I was impressed to see the effort by 71 in a game of this "magnitude" and he plays best when he is working both ends of the ice. He had speed, heart and determination all night long. He looked at times like the Malkin of the 2009 campaign, who was defintitely in the conversation as one of the top 3 players in the game. Getting THAT Malkin back would put the Penguins on a different level;

James Neal did not get a point tonight, but his forecheck helped create the Kunitz goal, and he had 4 shots on goal. I still think it is only a matter of time for Neal;

Richard Park was an absolute pest and an asset on the penalty kill......just as I remember him tormenting the Pens as a member of the New York Islanders;

Joe Vitale was also a force on the PK, and was 10 for 16 in the faceoff circle;

I had no idea who 38 was (Colin McDonald) before tonight, but he stood out at times with his size, tenacity, and participation in some scoring chances;

The Penguins first round draft pick this summer, 18 year old Joe Morrow played a veteran game, making smart plays, staying calm under fire, and generally looking like the smooth skating, poised blue liner they said he would be.......I just did not expect that in his first pro game. He looks like ananother gem on the Penguins deep blue line in the organization. On that note, I thought Kris Letang also looked sharp tonight. I can't wait to get a glimpse of Despres tomorrow night, along with Staal, Kennedy, and Cooke.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Steelers shut out hapless Hawks 24-0

Despite my ugliness last week due to the stomping the Steelers endured at the hands of the Ravens, any real football fan knows that getting blown out in a game like the Steelers did last week does not ruin your season, as long as you bounce back. The Steelers did that today, in impressive fashion, blanking the Seahawks at Heinz Field. But remember, just as getting spanked last week was not the end of the world, let's not pick the parade route yet either after beating a very mediocre Seahawks team today. Let's not act like Baltimorons and gloat over a win in September, when the team you beat last week ended your past two seasons in the playoffs, and has played in 3 of the past 6 Super Bowls, winning two of them, while your last appearance was 11 years ago! Sounds a bit like the football fans are almost as ridiculous as most of the hockey fans in that area, but not QUITE, as the Raven have at least won the big game, albeit more than a decade ago. I digress! Today's victory was fun to watch, as it was total domination in all three phases of the game. Despite at times throwing way high, and missing open targets, Big Ben STILL wound up 22/30 for 298 yards and a touchdown with no picks and no fumbles! Pretty gaudy numbers for a guy who missed some wide open targets today! On top of that the rushing game was solid, with Mendenhall rushing for 66 yards, but a somewhat pedestrian 3.5 yards per carry, and Redman 49 more on 10 carries and a very impressive touchdown run. HIs 4.9 yards per carry average was impressive, and I like how he seems to run downhill right away. Mike Wallace had another 100 yard plus game, now having 16 catches for 233 yards in the first two games of the season. In addition, Antonio Brown had 4 catches for 67 yards, and a dazzling 41 yard punt return that set up the first Steelers touchdown. I love the speed and depth of this WR corps. Also, the defense that the bloated Warren Sapp called and slow, held Seattle to only 164 total yards, recorded 5 sacks, and did not allow Seattle to make a snap on their side of the field until midway through the 4th quarter recorded its first shutout of the season. Hey Warren, stick to soemthing you know like cheesecake, cheesefries, and cheeseballs you cheesedick! Anyway, you also had to be impressed with an offensive line that played an above average game despite having rookie Marcus Gilbert start for Willie Colon, who is lost for the season, and Ramon Foster start for Chris Kempoeatu. The more I think of the leadership and overall skills of Maurkice Pouncey, the more I think of rocking a 53 jersey for the Black and Gold. Some things I did not like today, though minor, include the failure to score on 4th and 1 in the first quarter, with two Steelers missing the safety who made the touchdown saving tackle. This team needs to be better at getting that one yard when they need it. Suisham missing his second FG attempt this season already makes me worrya about him too. Finally, I don't get Big Ben staying in the game for the last drive or two given the comfortable lead, and his banged up knee. That said, the Steelers did what I had hoped and expected that they would to. They responded to a horrible showing, with a workmanlike dismantling of an inferior team. Champions beat the teams they should beat with regularity, and win the games they have to against quality opponents, which the Steelers have done with reguarity for my entire life. I expect more of the same in 2011, and today was a good start! And those "Super Bowl Champions 2012 Ravens, " well they lost today, and are the same 1-1 we are.

Friday, September 16, 2011

MOTIVATION - The Pittsburgh Penguins - A BEAUTIFUL Season 2010 - 2011

Pittsburgh Penguins 2010-2011: Nothing Else Matters

Pittsburgh Penguins - Run This Town

Pittsburgh Penguins 2012: "Ain't No Grave"

Pittsburgh Penguins 2011-12 Hype Preview

The smell of vulcanized rubber is in the air!

Penguins training camp, then the first preseason game next Wednesday night! Cannot wait for hockey to start. First, the big news on the big two stars for the Penguins. First, Sidney Crosby has been cleared to participate in non-contact drills in camp. I guess that is a positive sign. Until he is cleared for contact, I cannot get too excited, but this is better than not being cleared. As for Evgeni Malkin, I have heard all summer about his renewed work ethic, and his desire to regain his form as a 100+ point player, and a top five player in the league. He is coming off of ACL surgery, but many said he could have played in the playoffs last summer if the Pens had made the Finals. That said, he came out today and said that his knee was at 90% right now. I was figuring at this point he was 100%, so that worries me a bit, but all in all I am really expecting a big year for Geno, because to me it is all about desire for Geno, and I think he has that back. I am hearing that the long term plan is for Neal and Kunitz to flank Crosby, but with Crosby out they are splitting their top two wingers between Geno and Staal. I heard that the plan is for Neal and Sullivan to flank Geno, while Kunitz and Kennedy will flank Jordan Staal. A third line of Cooke, Letestu and Duper has been mentioned as well. That would leave Adams and Asham for the fourth line, maybe with Jason Williams? You also cannot discount the Tangradi factor, and he could find himself a role in the top 9, as could Dustin Jeffrey at some point. I don't know what I think of that. I liked Steve Sullivan years ago as a pesky winger with some finish, but at 37 years old, his injury history and dimunitive frame, I think the Penguins are banking too much on him if they have him on the top line. Expect Duper back up there before too long into the season.

Defensively, Penguins insiders say that the Penguins think that Alexandre Picard could challenge Matt Niskanen for the 7th defenseman spot due to his ability to contribute a bit on the power play. Picard has six PP goals for Ottawa in the 08-09 campaign, and has a hard accurate shot from the blue line. He is a left handed shot as well. Two other defenesmen who could factor in at some point this season are Simon Despres and Robert Bortuzzo. Bortuzzo brings a net clearing prescence that the Penguins are lacking, along with some size, but his recent injury could set him back at least to start the season. Despres, by most accounts should challenge for and could attain a roster spot, but the Penguins will likely elect to let him play top 2 minutes in the AHL as opposed to bottom pairing minutes at the NHL level for development purposes. I could see the continued development of both of these players ultimately leading to the trade of a Paul Martin to free up cap space for more upfront firepower, and the infusion of youth into the defensive corps. For now, a top six defensive group that includes Orpik, Letang, Martin, Michalek, will be as good as any in the league. The third pairing will likely be Engelland and Lovejoy, with Picard, Niskanen, Bortuzzo, and Despres as the top contenders to round out the group.

IF the KID comes back by mid-season in any kind of form, this team would have to be a Stanley Cup favorite. A top six group that starts with Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Kunitz, and Neal, with guys like Kennedy, Tangradi, and Sullivan fighting to get that sixth spot would be a very intriguing group to balance a very solid bottom six, excellent defense corps and strong goaltending. Lets Go Pens!!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Steelers stomped by dirty birds

Well, today was one of those days.......the Steelers looked just like the Squeelers the Ravens fans call them today. Big Ben, well he was as bad as he was the last time the Steelers played a meaningful game. His three interceptions, two deep in Ravens territory, and lost fumbles pretty much killed ANY chance that the Steelers had of winning this game. Trust me, they all pretty much sucked balls today. Ray Rice ran for two scores and 107 yards, and Joe Flacco disected the Steelers "defense" faster than Emeril Lagasse chops a celery stick. The Ravens defense stuffed the Steelers running attack and created 7 overall turnovers. The Steelers impressive pre-season is the creamy stuffing of pretty much a shit sandwich. The Steelers turnovers and porous pass defense helped the Packers win Super Bowl 45, and the same thing today allowed them to be EMBARRASSED by the HATED Ravens. Big Ben was a Big Dud in both of those games, and a turnover machine. I do think that the leftover baggage containing 53 hearts, 106 testicles, and the eyes and brain of a quarterback found in a sack labelled RAVENSBITCHES at Pittsburgh International much belong to dem Stillers.

Saturday, September 3, 2011