Friday, March 30, 2012

Pens on the right side of a 5-3 score tonight

The suddenly shaky Penguins went into Buffalo tonight to face the red hot Buffalo Sabres, a team on a 5 game winning streak and fighting for the 8th seed in the playoffs.  The Penguins started the game with Brent Johnson, who had not appeared since February 19th, and has been shaky this season.  Though Johnson started off shaky, letting in two goals in the first period,( the 2nd one to Ennis was awful), he got his game together, and was a big part of the Penguins victory tonight, making several key saves in the second and third period.  That should be a boost to his confidence, and may allow the Penguins to give Fleury another night off before we go into the post season.  The victory tonight runs the Penguins record to 48-24-6, good for 102 points and a four point cushion over the 5th place Flyers who come to town on Sunday. Sidney Crosby hit a milestone tonight, becoming the 7th fastest player in NHL history to record 600 points!  Can you imagine the points he would have had he not missed essentially an entire season between last year and this one?  Crosby rebounded from a poor showing to net 1 goal and 3 assists tonight.  Also, James Neal scored his 38th goal of the season, and extended his league leading power play goal total to 17 when he scored in the second period tonight.  Pascal Dupuis continued his hot streak adding 2 assists to extend his scoring streak to 13 games.  It is the longest scoring streak in the NHL this season. Steve Sullivan had a three point night tonight, with a goal and two assists, running his point total on the season to 46 points.  Also, Evgeni Malkin had a goal tonight to reach a new career high of 48 goals.  He also added an assist to run his league leading point total to 102 points, with 4 games remaining for Geno.  He leads Stamkos by 11 points, with Stammer having 5 games left to play.  Stamkos would need to average better than 2 points per game to catch Geno even if Geno does not score another point.  Also, interesting orgnaizational note is the fact that all three teams in the organization have clinched playoff spots including Pittsburgh, Wilkes Barre, and Wheeling.  The Wilkes Barre team has now been in the AHL playoffs for 10 straight seasons, the longest current streak in the AHL.  The game summary is as follows.

First Period

At 3:50 of the first period, the Penguins struck first on the power play, with Evgeni Malkin collecting his 48th goal of the season, assisted by Steve Sullivan (30) and Sidney Crosby (22).   The Penguins took a 1-0 lead.  Moments later at the 6:25 mark, former Penguin, Jordan Leopold tied the game at 1-1 with an even strength goal.  There was a scrum in the blue paint, and Johnson was clearly interfered with, but unlike Kunitz all season, the Sabres get a pass, and the goal stands.  At 12:52 Sidney Crosby put the Penguins back in the lead when he scored his 5th goal of the season, assisted by Steve Sullivan (31) and Pascal Dupuis (29).  The Penguins are now up 2-1.  Late in the first period, Tyler Ennis tied it back up on a bad goal for Johnson at the 15:45.  In the waning seconds, Pascal Dupuis prevents a goal, making a save for a prone Johnson during a net front scramble.  The period ended in a 2-2 tie.

Second Period

At 11:43 of the second period, the suddenly hot Pittsburgh power play struck for the second time tonight, when James Neal scored his 38th goal of the season and 17th power play goal.  He was assisted by Crosby (23) and Evgeni Malkin (54). The cross ice feed from Crosby to Neal was a thing of beauty, and Neal's release is just plain fun to watch!  The Penguins were up 3-2.  Then at 15:06, Steve Sullivan struck to give the Penguins a two goal lead when he scored his 15th goal of the year, assisted by Pascal Dupuis (30) and Sidney Crosby (24).   The Penguins take a 4-2 lead.  At 16:59  Thomas Vanek pulled the Sabres to within one goal to set up a frantic third period.  The goal came off of a crazy bounce off the partition and left Vanek all alone right in front of Johnson.

Third Period

The Penguins weathered a frantic charge by the desperate Sabres, including a late power play by Buffalo when Evgeni Malkin was penalized at 2:21 for delay of game.  Johnson made a couple of key saves, and finally with 5 seconds left in the game, Jordan Staal iced it for Pittsburgh scoring his 25th goal of the year into an empty net, assisted by Brooks Orpik (16).  The Penguins win 5-3.  A couple of final notes from tonight.  I like this team a lot better with Matt Niskanen in the lineup, he is second on the team among defensemen in shots, and third in hits.  He plays a solid game in all three zones.  I also like Vitale in the lineup much better than Eric Tangradi.  So, if the Flyers win tomorrow against Toronto, they can come into Pittsburgh Sunday with a chance to tie the Penguins with a regulation victory.  The race is heating up!  I will behind the Penguins bench for my annual birthday gift Sunday!  LETS GO PENS!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

And again, the Penguins lose 5-3 to the Islanders

The Penguins who probably thought they would get 4 out of 4 points against the Islanders, have now lost 4 out of 4 points to the Islanders, along with any real shot at winning the Division/Conference.  Their grip on 4th place is now a lot looser as well.  They have given up 5 or more goals in three of their past 4 games.  They are playing like they have have sucked a bag of dicks right now.  After weeks of planning the parade, many Penguins fans are now looking to abandon ship, and predict an early exit from the post season.  The sky is falling!  Frankly, when you look at the above, and factor in the fact that their once potent power play has become impotent, and their PK which was once the number PK in the league, killing penalties at more than a 90% clip has now given up 8 goals out of the past 22 penalties, an alarmingly low kill rate of 63.6%.  Listen, Stanley Cups are won with defense, goaltending and special teams, so a suddenly impotent PP, porous defense, and unreliable PK is not exactly the recipe that gets you to June in the NHL, but I still feel good about this team.  Yeah, right now I want to kick someone in the face after watching the game, and frankly I am more than disappointed at the effort given after being embarrassed Tuesday night.  However, I still look at the run the Penguins have gone on since early January, and believe that this team is more like the one that made that run, than the team that lost 6 in a row before it, and that has lost 3 of 4 in embarrassing fashion right now.  They still have a top 9 upfront that should leave most teams unable to match up over the long run, a world class goaltender, a gritty fourth line, and an organization and team that knows what it takes to win the Cup.  Their weak link(s) to me are the fact that despite the investment made in Paul Martin and Zybnek Michalek to give the Penguins two shutdown pairings on the blue line, they are major disappointments, especially Martin.  Their power play concerns me as well, as I get the feeling that the Penguins are married to Crosby and Malkin being on the same PP, despite the lengthy track record of poor PP performance when they are together. I would split them, with the PP unit that was once 5th in the NHL being one unit, and giving Crosby his own unit, a 1b.  You solve the fact that unit one gets 3/4 of a two minute shift by alternating which unit is the top unit penalty by penalty or you stick with a hot hand.  With Neal, Malkin and Crosby out there together, the puck is passed too much, and prime scoring chances sacrificed in the name of the perfect play.   Sometimes gathering the top talent is not as effective as having well defined roles for each member of the unit.  At the end of the day, the Penguins have a tough path to follow, almost assuredly drawing the Flyers in round one, and maybe even losing home ice in the process.  Here is my take on that issue.  When the Penguins are not "getting to their game" as they are currently, it won't matter who they play other than maybe Florida, they are gone early.  However, if they are "getting to their game" and playing "Pittsburgh Penguins Ice Hockey" as Dan Bylsma loves to say, they are more than capable of winning any series, with any team in the league, regardless of home ice advantage. To me, the last 5 games are more about getting healthy (Letang and Niskanen), and staying healthy(rest of the core) and getting back to getting the puck deep, cycling down low, taking the body, and generating offense of the transition game than it is about seeding.  This is my take for what it is worth.  As far as the game tonight, I am again going to be a punk and not bother to detail evey goal and every move in what was another ugly game for Pittsburgh.  I will note that Pascal Dupuis remained hot, netting his 24th goal of the year, and running his point scoring streak to 12 games, which is the longest streak for the Penguins in 2 years other than the 25 goal streak by Crosby.  Jordan Staal also netted  his 24th goal of the season tonight. In other news, as the photo above suggests, Vladimir Malkin, like me, is an ASS MAN!   Finally, Evgeni Malkin matched his career high with 47 goals and became the first player in the NHL this year to hit 100 points.  The power play was 0 for 4 and gave up a short handed goal tonight.  The penalty kill also gave up a goal on 4 chances.  In an odd numbers game, Matt Cooke has 19 goals, 19 assists, and 19 penalties on the year.  The Penguins face a red hot Buffalo team tomorrow on the road, the Flyers at home Saturday, then a road game with Boston, before two home games with the New York Rangers, then finally the Flyers to close out the regular season.  Time for the Pens to right this ship!  LETS GO PENS!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pens fall to Islanders 5-3

Well, that was ugly.....real ugly, at least defensively for Pittsburgh.  You can hear people looking to jump off the bandwagon after another poor performance defensively for Pittsburgh.  They have had an extraordinary run for an extended period of time, and now they have played like, well, shit in two of the past three games defensively.  Brooks Orpik was quoted after the game as saying that the Pens are trying to outscore teams instead of play defense right now.  It shows.  I cannot recall so many odd man breaks, and forwards getting in behind our defense as I have seen in the past few games.  Normally, when it does happen, Fleury is bailing us out.  Tonight Fleury played a very rare bad game, and he did not make the ten bell saves we have gotten used to that would have kept Pittsburgh in this game.  And we lost.  Period. Am I a little concerned about the defensive lapses lately?  Yes.  Should we be panicking?  Absolutely not.  Are we as good as some have said we are?  Probably not.  Are we good enough to be skating away with the hardware in June?  Yes, yes we are, IF we remember that our offense is best when we play sound in our defensive zone and generate offense off the rush in the TRANSITION game. The defensive corps was built to minimize zone time in the defensive zone, and to quickly transition to offense, but only after you have done your job in your zone.  I think that this team will learn from the past couple of games, and get back to the solid three zone play we enjoyed since the early days of January.  They have the talent, coaching and leadership to do so.  I will make the summary tonight short.  In losing to the Islanders, the Penguins missed a chance to keep pace with the Rangers who beat Minnsesota tonight, but instead fall back to 3 points behind them for the conference lead.  They also lost a chance to really put the pressure on the Flyers by taking a six point lead with both teams having six games left. They will survive.  I don't get paid for this shit, so I will be damned if I take the time to recap this kind of game, so I will leave you with some statistics and summary information.  Tyler Kennedy scored his 10th goal tonight, making him the 8th Penguins player to hit double digits in goals this season.   Brian Strait got his first NHL point tonight.  Dupuis's assist on the goal extended his scoring streak to 11 games, scoring 8 goals and 6 assists in the span.  Evgeni Malkin had two helpers tonight, running his point total for the season to 99 points, and extending his lead on Stamkos for the Art Ross to 11 points.  The Real Deal, James Neal scored his 36th and 37th goals of the season, one of which is his 16th power play goal of the season, tying him with Scott Hartnell for the league lead.  Simon Despres played a strong game tonight, and got involved offensively several times on the rush. He played with poise throughout the game, and I look forward to seeing Simon on this team for good next season. The Penguins 10 game home winning streak and 13 game home winning streak came to an end tonight.  At any rate, several Penguins players have admitted to the focus being too much on outscoring the other team as opposed to keep the puck out of their own net.  As they say, the first step in fixing a problem is to admit that you have one.  I look for Pittsburgh to fix that issue and get themselves back on track here in time for a pretty tough six game close to the season.  GO PENS!!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Pens beat Devils 5-2

Tonight's game was an important one for your Penguins.  Yeah, they have a playoff spot clinched, and would be unlikely to fare any worse than the 5th seed barring a meltdown of epic proportions. They are most likely to face the Flyers either with or without home ice advantage regardless.  Yet, it was interesting to see how the Penguins would respond against a good team, when coming off of an ugly performance on the second night of a back to back. And, the Penguins answered the bell.  I would not call it a pretty win, as the defense still had several lapses that were covered by stellar play in the net by Fleury.  An ugly turnover in front of the net by Crosby was buried by Parise, and the Penguins lost another defenseman early in the game(Lovejoy) and played most of the night with only 5 D.  They overcame all of that to beat NJ by a convincing 5-2 score. The game was marred by the garage league bullshit officiating we have come to expect.  It was like watching 1990's hockey, and apparently the assfucks that try to ruin the best game on earth with their stupidity are going to let the game be played like this despite all of the rule changes in place to FUCKING PREVENT IT!  Anyway, there were a couple of trends coming into the game that I wanted to see play out, including the fact that Jordan Staal, despite consistently getting an assist most nights had not been putting the puck in the net. He, in fact had scored 0 goals in his past 8 games and only one in his past 13.  Also, Pascal Dupuis had a nine game scoring streak (7G-4A) coming into tonight's action.  It is the longest streak of his career, and the longest active streak in the NHL.  As you will see in the game summary, both men answered the bell tonight!

Period One

A consistent theme was carried out again tonight, with the Penguins scoring early in the tilt when Chris Kunitz scored his 23rd of the season assisted by Evgeni Malkin (51).  The goal came when Martin Broduer mishandled a puck behind the net, was pickpocketed by Malkin, who set up Kunitz for an easy 1-0 Penguins lead.  The goal came at 1:04 of the first.  In the spirit of stars giving away points tonight, Sidney Crosby made a horrible decision passing the puck in front of the Penguins net, in an effort to find an unsuspecting Deryk Engelland.  Instead, Zach Parise picked it off and put it into an empty Penguins net at 5:50 to tie the game at 1-1.  Then, late in the period at the 19:04 mark, Jordan Staal scored his 23rd goal of the night, off a beautiful feed from Cooke (18), who found a loose puck created by a Craig Adams hit to give the Penguins a 2-1 lead late in the period.  The play highlighted the little plays guys like Craig Adams make that might not hit the scoresheet, but help teams to win.  Scoring early and late in periods does not hurt either. The goal also highlighted the goal scoring abilities of Staal.  It was good to see him back on the board. The period ended with Pittsburgh winning 2-1.

Period Two

At the 15:34 mark of the period, Super Duper pounced on a Craig Adams rebound to score his 23rd goal of the season, extending his scoring streak to 10 games in the process.  Sidney Crosby (21) and Craig Adams (11) assisted on the play.  The Penguins took a 3-1 lead on the play.  The period ended that way.

Period Three

At the 3:37 mark Ilya Kovalchuk outworked the Penguins defense and hammered a puck past Fleury to make it a game at 3-2 with most of the period left to play.  However, that did not last long, as Sidney Crosby took a pass from Zybnek Michalek, poked it past Marek Zidlicky, then beat Brodeur on a breakaway to score his 4th goal of the year, and restore a 2 goal Penguins lead at the 4:55 mark.   Michalek got his 8th assist of the year on the play, and Dupuis got his 27th assist of the year, and second point of the night on the play.  The Penguins led 4-2.  After some sloppy play in their zone, and some great saves by Fleury, and missed opportunities by the Devils, Evgeni Malkin sealed the deal with an empty netter as he got his 46th goal of the season, assisted by Staal (21) and Kunitz (30).  The game would end in a 5-2 Penguins victory. 

Don't let the score fool you, this was not an easy win for Pittsburgh.  Fleury made some key saves or this might have had a different outcome for the Pens.  And the Penguins took advantage of their chances and took a big 2 points tonight.  The victory ran the Penguins record to 47-22-6, giving them 100 points for the third consecutive season, a franchise first.  The Penguins have 7 games remaining, 2 with the Islanders this week, one with Buffalo, one with Boston, one with the Rangers, and two with the Flyers.  Those final 3 divisional games the last week of April will likely determine playoff seeding.  The victory tonight was Fleury's 41st win of the year, a career high for him, and also leaves him only one shy of the Penguins franchise record of 226 wins held by Tom Barasshole.  It was a signature Fleury win, where he was overshadowed by some of the great plays made by his peers who play the center position, but trust me, Fleury has been as critical as Geno to the team's success during this run. The win was the Penguins' 10th straight at  home, and left them only one point behind the Ranger for first in the conference, and 4 ahead of the Flyers for fourth place and home ice advantage.  The Penguins had five players with a goal and an assist tonight with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz each notching one of each.  Dupuis got the game winner tonight, his 8th GWG of the year, and extend is point streak to 10 games, and now has a career high 50 points on the season with 7 game left.  Geno's two points left him with 97 on the year, and he now has a 10 point lead on Steven Stamkos for the Art Ross Trophy with 7 games left  He also needs two goals in those 7 games to reach a career high of 48, and 4 goals to hit the 50 goal mark.  The Penguins have scored 5 or more goals in 7 of their 12 games in March.   Finally, the Penguins have scored 39 goals in their past 8 games, a remarkable offensive outburst.   Tuesday night marks the first of two in a row against the Islanders.  LETS GO PENS!

National Anthems butchered before Senators/Penguins game - 3/24/2012

Sometimes the Bear gets you

Not much in the mood today for a long recap of last nights game in Ottawa.  Let's not make too much of it.  The Penguins were pretty much putrid last night, but that has been a rarity this season.  After a long stretch of punishing other teams for every mistake they make, the tables were flipped on the Penguins last night in an 8-4 loss.  So I will be very brief in the interest of looking forward to tonight's game.  The good included Matt Cooke scoring two goals AGAIN, improving his career high total to 19.   Sidney Crosby broke his overhyped goal scoring drought last night, and had a beautiful behind the back pass to Cooke, setting up his second goal of the evening.  Pascal Dupuis continued his hot hand and scoring streak adding an assist in the game last night.  And Deryk Engelland somehow in that mess remained a plus player for the evening, continuing to be rock steady for Pittsburgh on the blue line.  The bad included a porous defense and a particularly poor showing by Brooks Orpik and Zybnek Michalek.  Also, Brad Thiessen, though hung out to dry a few times, looked totally overwhelmed and out of place in the net.  The top line was not a factor, a rarithy this season.  There were more two on ones allowed than a day on PornHub.  Steve Sullivan had an undisclosed injury in the second period.  Okay, that is enough of that shit!  Tonight, brings in what seems to be my annual birthday trip to the arena to see the Penguins play the Devils.  I am hoping to like my gift today.  I am asking for a victory, no doubt.  If I may be so bold, I would like to see Staal get a goal, Cooke get his 20th, Crosby get a goal, and Geno rack up at least 3 points.  I may be a little greedy, but it does not hurt to ask! GO PENS!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Pittsburgh Penguins: In the Room - Episode 7

Deryk Engelland Hit On Andrei Kostitsyn 3/22/12

Pens beat Predators 5-1

In a match up some called a preview of the Stanley Cup Finals, and boasting the battle of the league's two top goaltenders in terms of wins, the Penguins skated away with another victory.  The win stretched the current win streak at the CEC to nine games, and the overall unbeaten streak to 14 games.  The team has scored four or more goals in 7 of those 14 wins, scoring 58 goals in the process.  The Penguins are now 25-4-2 in their last 31 games, the best record in the NHL during that span.  The Penguins are now 13-2-3 v the western conference this season.  The Penguins have gone 15-1 in their past 16 home games, they have outscored their opponents in that span 65-35.  That would make home ice advantage worth fighting for down the stretch!  Marc Andre Fleury secured his second 40 win season, (06-07 the other), currently leads the NHL with 40 wins, and has gone 21-2-2 in his past 25 starts dating back to January 13th in Florida.  Another interesting fact is that the Penguins lead the NHL in goal scoring despite significant lost time by Letang and Staal, and the fact that Sidney Crosby has only appeared in 13 games this season. That my friends, is what you call scoring depth!  Finally, the victory secured a ticket to the playoffs for Pittsburgh.  As for the game, the scoring summary is as follows:

Period One

Early in the game at 1:23 of the period, Evgeni Malkin rips a shot off the glove of Pekka Rinne and into the net for his 44th goal of the season to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead.  He was assisted on the play by James Neal (38) and Kris Letang (26).  That is a goal that Rinne would like to have back no doubt.  Then at 4:06 Pascal Dupuis added to his career totals by deflecting a Kris Letang shot past Rinne for his 22nd goal of the campaign!  He was assisted by Letang (27) and Steve Sullivan (27).  The goal gave the Pens a 2-0 lead.  The period would end with Pittsburgh leading 2-0.

Period Two

Again, keeping with a recent theme, the Penguins strike early in the period when James Neal intercepts a pass from Boullion along the boards, drives to the crease and flips a pass to Matt Cooke who chips it in over Rinne to give the Penguins a 3-0 lead.  The goal was Cooke's 17th of the season, and Neal collected his 39th assist on the play.  What struck me on the play was how it highlights some of Neal's "other" skills besides goal scoring.  On a tremendous forecheck Neal creates the turnover, drives the net, and as Rinne is focused on the potential for a lethal Neal wrister, he calmly drops the puck on Cooke's stick in the paint, and it is in the back of the net.  A play that shows that James Neal is truly the Real Deal.  Then, minutes later, Chris Kunitz takes a shot that looks like a shot/pass to Crosby who is crashing the net, and it goes in off of the defenseman's skate to give the Penguins a commanding 4-0 lead! The goal was Kunitz' 22nd of the year, while Neal collected his 40th assist and third point of the night and Brooks Orpik got his 15th assist of the season.  At 12:01 Radulov ruined Fleury's shot at breaking the franchise record for shutouts by scoring his 1st goal in 4 years in the NHL cleaning up a Hal Gill shot. It was now 4-1 Pens.  That is how the period ended.

Period Three

The Penguins continue to show their killer instinct scoring early in the period at the 2:03 mark when Evgeni Malkin ripped his 45th goal of the season past Rinne, going top shelf to give the Penguins an insurmountable 5-1 advantage.  James Neal collected his 41st assist of the season, and 4th point of the night on the play, giving the LW consecutive 4 points nights, and leaving him tied for 4th with Phil Kessel with 76 points in the NHL scoring race.  The goal gave Malkin 95 points on the season, and a commanding 10 point lead in the race for the Art Ross trophy.  Chris Kunitz also collected his 29th assist on the play, and second point of the night.  The game ended with Pittsburgh winning 5-1.

This victory ran the Penguins record to 46-21-6, good for 98 points, only one point behind conference leading New York, and 4 points ahead of Phildadelphia with a game in hand on the Flyers.  The Penguins have now scored at least 5 goals in 5 of their past 6 games, all against quality opponents.  The Penguins are vying to lead the NHL in goals for the first time since they did it in back to back season in 1996-97(285) and 1995-96 (362).  They average 3.22 goals per game, while Boston is second with 3.14. The Penguins not only have the conference lead in their sights, but they are only three points behind St. Louis for the Presidents Trophy and have two games in hand on the Blues. The Penguins have Evgeni Malkin with 50 goals in sight, and James Neal with 40 in sight, along with Dupuis, Kunitz, and Staal with over 20 goals and Cooke with 17.   While we are on that subject, Pascal Dupuis, a man I call the best value in the NHL has 22G and 25A for 47 points and a +17 rating.  His 20 even strength goals tie him for second on the team.   Add his versatility and PK prowess to the mix, and I again say that there is simply no better value in the NHL than Duper.  Fleury has been stellar as well, as noted by the blurb in the opening paragraph of this post.  The team right now is looking like a true contender in the post season, let's hope they can keep it going through June!  Matt Niskanen suffered an upper body injury in a second period collision with Jordan TooToo and is listed as day to day.  Look for the Reverend Ben Lovejoy to take his place in the lineup on Saturday night in Ottawa.  LETS GO PENS!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Penguins rebound to hammer Jets 8-4

The game tonight left a lot of room for commentary, and added up to a lot of milestones worth discussion.  First off, it gave the Penguins a 45-21-6 record, good for 96 points and second in the conference, only one point behind the Rangers again.  It also opened up a four point lead on Philadelphia who lost to Florida tonight.  The Penguins have a game in hand on Philly also.  It was second straight game that the Penguins hung 8 goals on the Jets this season.  The win also marked the 8th straight for Pittsburgh at the Consol Energy Center, the longest winning streak in the new building.  Kennedy who had been held goal less in 18 games, scored two goals tonight.  Matt  Cooke had 2 assists tonight, giving him 4 goals and 2 assists in 4 games with Crosby.   Not too bad!  Also Pascal Dupuis, or should I say Super Duper scored his career high 21st goal of the season, extending his career high scoring streak to 7 games (6G-3A), and giving him 8 goals in his past 12 games.  Brad Thiessen who turned 26 yesterday is now 3-0 in his 3 NHL starts, but tonight was not a good night for him.  Evgeni Malkin scored his 200th career NHL goal tonight as well, while recording 5 points (2G-3A), on the way to his 20th multi-point game of the season, and fourth 5 point game.  Malkin's 4th 5 point game makes him the first player to record that many since Lemieux (6) and Forsberg (4) in the 1995-1996 season!  James Neal scored his second career hat trick tonight, and had a career high four points.  It was also Neal's 18th multi-point game of the year this season.  In addition, Sidney Crosby had four assists tonight, giving him 19A in 12 games played, to go with 2 goals.  However, his 11 games without a goal is the longest goalless streak of his career.   To emphasize how important Crosby has been to the Penguins since his return, he has assisted on 9 of the 20 goals the Penguins have scored since his return, and 7 of those are primary assists.  Cooke and Kennedy are suddenly piling up points playing with Crosby.  For those who were worried the return of Crosby would hurt Malkin, chew on this.  Malkin has 9 points including 5G and 4A since Crosby returned.  Jordan Staal had an assist tonight as well, giving him 11A in his past 12 games.  The five points for Malkin tonight gives him 93 points for the season, a 9 point lead on Steven Stamkos and Claude Giroux for the Art Ross Trophy.  Malkin, Crosby, and Neal combined for 13 points tonight!  As for the game it was a quick paced up and down game for both teams. 

Scoring Summary:
At 2:04 of the first period, Tyler Kennedy scored his 7th goal of the season after Crosby fed him from behind the net.  Crosby got his 16th assist as did Cooke on the play.  The Penguins were up 1-0.  A little over a minute and a half later the Jets tied the game when a puck went off of Slaters skate and behind Thiessen to tie the game at 1-1. After an inadvertant high stick by Malkin resulting in a four minute minor, Bryan Little gave the Jets the lead at 12:51 scoring a power play goal to give the Jets a 2-1 lead.  The Penguins tied the game at 16:44 on the power play when James Neal scored his 33rd of the year assisted by Malkin (48) and Crosby (17) on a great tic tac toe play.  The goal was Neal's 15 PPG of the season, giving a tie with Hartnell atop the NHL in power play goals.  The period ended 2-2. 

At 1:15 of the second period, James Neal scored his 34th goal of the season from Evgeni Malkin (49) to give the Penguins a 3-2 lead.  It was a great of example of not quittig on a play.  Malkin got his own rebound from behind the net, and found Neal who hammered it home.  Then at 3:54 of the period, Little tied the game again at 3-3.  Then at 6:55 of the period Crosby fed Tyler Kennedy in front of the net and Kennedy scored his 8th of the season, while Crosby (18) and Cooke (17) collected assists on the play.  The Penguins retake the lead at 4-3.  At 11:31 of the period, Malkin scored his 42nd goal of the year, assisted by Crosby (19) and Martin (22).   The goal was the 200th of Malkin's career and a power play goal.  The Penguins are now up 5-3.  At 14:39 Stapleton drew the Jets to within one goal at 5-4.  The Penguins answered again however, as James Neal collects his hat trick and 35th goal of the year off a great feed by Malkin (50) and Orpik (14) at 17:39.  Neal hammered this puck from a tough angle to restore a 2 goal bulge at 6-4.  The period ended with the Penguins up 6-4.

Then again, early in the period, Evgeni Malkin put one in behind Mason banking it off of him for his 43rd goal of the season, assisted by Kunitz (28)  and Neal (37) to give the Penguins a 7-4 lead on the night.  Then at 13:27 Pascal Dupuis scored his career high 21st goal, assisted by Jordan Staal (19) and Steve Sullivan (26).  The Penguins were up 8-4, and that is how the game ended.   

Hey, it was not the best game defensively for Pittsburgh tonight.  Paul Martin seemed to regress to the Paul Martin we saw earlier in the season, as he was on the ice for all four Jets goals, and played a big part in 3 of them.  Thiessen was so so in the net.  However, the firepower and scoring depth provided by the addition of Crosby, and the corresponding goal scorig by Cooke and Kennedy is impressive.  Especially when you consider the fact that the Malkin/Neal/Kunitz line is the top line in hockey and the Staal/Sullivan/Dupuis line features two twenty plus goal scorers.   Adding the consistent scoring from the Crosby/Cooke/Kennedy line give opponents plenty to think about.    The Penguins face a red hot Nashville team who features the best goaltender in hockey, a strong defense, and probably the return of Alexander Radulov from the KHL.  This match up is a possible Stanley Cup Finals preview that should be entertaining for all to see.  LETS GO PENS!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Monday, March 19, 2012

Pittsburgh Penguins 2008-2009 Playoff Tribute: Part 4: Requiem of a Dream

2009 Playoffs Closing Montage

We are less than a month from the greatest show on earth!  The battles that will be fought from mid April until mid June will be epic!  The team that gets to skate with that Cup in mid June will have endured an emotional roller coaster ride like none other, and survived a war of attrition that comes from winning four best of seven playoff rounds.  The mental and physical toughness required to come out of that tournament on top is deserving of the utmost respect.  There is nothing like this in all of sports!  LETS GO PENS!

Ryan Carter vs. Stu Bickel / Cam Janssen vs Brandon Prust / Eric Boulton...

Love is in the AIR!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Pens lose thriller to Flyers 3-2 in OT

The Penguins left a valuable point on the table in Philadelphia today.  At the end of two periods, they seemed comfortably ahead of a tough Philadelphia squad 2-0, leading them in shots on goal at the end of the second period 27-10, and holding a potent offense shotless for an 18 minute stretch of the second period.  Then with about 30 seconds remaining, Michalek took a penalty that would prove most costly, as it led to a power play goal early in the third period by Kimo Timonen that led to the comeback win for Philadelphia.  Crosby, a Flyer killer had more than 17 and a half minutes of ice time, but was unable to get on the scoresheet today, ending his scoring streak, and running a goal less streak to 10 games.  Jordan Staal's career high 10 game scoring streak came to an end today as well.  The OT loss left the Penguins only one point behind conference leading New York, and two points ahead of Philadelphia for fourth place with a game in hand.  Despite the frustration I felt when Fartsmell buried a puck behind Fleury with only .9 seconds left in OT, you have to keep it in perspective.  The Penguins are 11-0-1 in the past 12 games, and just came back from a three game road trip against the best the conference has to offer with 5 of a possible six points in hand.  The power play today was 0-2, and the PK gave up an unusual goal killing 3 of 4 Philadelphia penalties.  The Penguins were goaded into several post whistle scrums, and took some bad penalties, leading to the eventual loss today.  A recap of the scoring is as follows.  Craig Adams scored his 5th goal of the season, with a brilliant deflection of a Kris Letang shot to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead.  Letang collected his 24th assist of the season, and Pascal Dupuis his 25th.  Then late in the second period at 19:07 Evgeni Malkin got his 41st goal of the season, bring a puck out of the corner, and getting Bryzgalov to commit, while Geno tucked the puck under his skate on the backhand.  He was assisted by Kris Letang (25), and Craig Adams (10).  The Penguins were up 2-0.  Then early in the third Timonen scored a power play goal at :31 to give the Flyers life.  Then Scott Hartnell tied the game at 4:47 with his first of two goals today.  The game ended in a 2-2, and ALMOST of all of OT expired when Hartnell scored his 35th goal of the season, and second goal of the game to give the Flyers a big win on home ice.  Briere hit Hartnell trailing the play late, and he made no mistake.  It was a frustrating play to watch that late in the OT, as Pittsburgh is a very strong shootout team, and had the game gone that route, Pittsburgh had a great chance to tie the Rangers for the conference lead.  In the long run, I hope this is a loss that will get the team re-focused.  I don't like everyone calling them the best team in the league, and perhaps getting beat in the manner that they had will remind them that whether you are the best or not, you need to be focused and disciplined to beat good teams right now.  Tuesday is a new day, and hopefully the beginning of a new win streak for the Pens.  Lets Go Pens!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pens crush Devils for 11th straight win

The game today was an example of how good the Penguins can  be when they are clicking.  The pretty easily beat NJ today 5-2, and outshot them 41-14 in doing so.  The win ran their winning streak to 11 games, the longest win streak in the NHL this season.  Their record is now 44-21-5, good for 93 points and they are only 2 points behind the Rangers who play Colorado tonight.  The win was the 1500th win for the franchise, and oddly enough it made the Penguins the 11th franchise in history to record 1500 wins.  11's were wild today!  Some interesting numbers from today's game. Staal extended his scoring streak to 10 straight games with an assist today, while Fleury recorded his 10th straight win, and his 39th on the season, tying him with Rinne of Nashville in wins.  Sidney Crosby recorded 3 assists today, giving him 3 three point games in the 10 that he has played this year.  In fact, Crosby 17 points in the 10 games he has played this year, and if you take the 51 games he has played since the start of last season, he is averaging 1.63 points per game, which projects to 134 points in a full season.  Crosby has 5 assists in his two games back, and linemate Matt Cooke now has back to back 2 goal games, and a career high 16 goals on the season.  Cooke has more points than penalty minutes for the first time in his career. That Crosby, Kennedy, Cooke line has 4 goals and 9 assists in the past two games, with Cooke collecting all four of the goals!  Red hot Pascal Dupuis also tied a career high with his 20th of the season today.  On to the game today.  At 1:55 of the first period Chris Kuntiz was hauled down on the way to the net, and was awarded a penalty shot as a result of the play. Brodeur stopped Kunitz, and it seemed like maybe the Devils would get some momentum from that play.  However, just four seconds later at 1:59, James Neal ripped his 32nd goal of the season over Brodeur's shoulder off a face off win by Malkin(47).  That is the third time this year the two of them have made that play.  Pens lead 1-0.  They held that lead until the 16:57 mark when Andy Greene tied it for New Jersey at 1-1.  The period ended that way.  The score held until mid-way through the second period, when Pascal Dupuis scored his 20th of the year, tying a career high, assisted by Jordan Staal (18), and Matt Niskanen (17).   The goal occurred on the rush, with Niskanen hitting Staal at center ice, who gained the zone and dropped a pass to Dupuis who ripped it past Brodeur.  It also came after a time out called by Byslma, when this same group had just finished an exhausting end to end shift.   The Penguins retake the lead at 2-1.   Then at 11:44, Matt Cooke scored his 15th of the year, assisted by Sidney Crosby (13) and Tyler Kennedy (19).  The goal came as Crosby made a great backhand pass from the corner to Cooke driving to the net.  The puck went off of Cooke's skate and behind Brodeur.  The Penguins now lead 3-1.  A great set up by Crosby.  They did not wait long to add to the lead.  At 12:42, on the POWER PLAY, Malkin scored his 40th of the year on a beatiful cross ice pass from Crosby that he Malkin RIPPED a one timer  past Brodeur.  The assist was Crosby's 14th of the season, and Chris Kunitz picked up his 27th assist on the year.  The Penguins lead 4-1 now.  The period ended with Penguins leading 4-1.  Early in the third period, Peetr Sykora got the Devils back in the game with his 16th goal of the season.  Penguins now led 4-2.  But the Penguins answered quickly when Matt Cooke scored his 16th goal of the season, taking a loose puck off of Kennedy's stick in front of the net and hammered it home.  It was another goal off the rush, with Crosby collecting his 15th assist, and Kennedy got his 20th.  Though Kennedy has not scored a goal in 21 games, he has been collecting assists of late!  The game ended with Penguins winning 5-2!  The win has Pittsburgh as noted, only 2 points behind the Rangers, and the Penguins have a game in hand.  It also has Pittsburgh 3 points ahead of Philadelphia for the fourth seed, but the Flyers and Penguins clash in a matinee in Philly tomorrow at 12:30.   The Penguins have a chance to take a 5 point lead with a game in hand if they can win in regulation tomorrow.  The win also gives the Pens a 6 point lead over New Jersey with 2 games in hand.  Malkin's 2 points gave him 87 points on the season, and a three point lead over Steven Stamkos in the league scoring race.  Two big factors in the Penguins success include a red hot PK, which is first in the NHL at 89.6%, and secondary scoring.  Remember when only the top line was scoring?  Not the case now, with Pascal Dupuis netting 5 goals in his past 7 games, and Matt Cooke getting 4 in the last two.  The Penguins are now second in the NHL in goals per game at 3.14, closing the gap on league leading Philadelphia who is scoring 3.17 goals per game.  The Penguins also boast 2 players with 30+ goals, Malkin having 40, and a total of five players with 20 or more including Geno at 40, Neal at 32, Staal at 22, Kunitz at 21, and Duper at 20.  This is the first time since 2000-2001 the Penguins have boasted 5 players with 20+ goals.  Add Sid to the mix of 30+ projected out and you can see the balance in the Penguins attack.  Next up, the other top team in the East, another big divisional battle tomorrow!  Let's Go Pens!

Jets fans Chanting "CROSBY'S BETTER"

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Pens knock off Rangers 5-2

The Penguins went into Madison Square Garden and knocked off the Broadway Blueshirts 5-2 for their second straight convincing victory against the Rags in their building.  The win helped the Penguins close the gap to 4 points for the Division and Conference lead.  The Atlantic Division is good enough that the Penguins 10 game win streak still has not allowed them to shake a very hot Philadelphia team, who trails Pittsburgh by only 2 points, and the Devils are only 4 points behind.  The fourth place team in the Atlantic Divsion would be in first place in either of the other two divisions in the Eastern Conference.  The red hot Penguins are 22-4-1 since the beginning of the year, a remarkable record, and they had their full complement of players for the first time in a long while.  In fact, in the past 157 games, playoffs included, Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Letang, and Fleury have only been on the ice 6 times together.  The Penguins lead the NHL with 322 man games lost this season, yet they are within 4 points of the Conference lead!  This 10 game winning streak is only the fourth 10 game win streak in the history of the Penguins franchise.  Marc Andre Fleury won his 8th straight start, and ran his record this season to 38-14-3. On to the game.  The game got off to a pretty fast start, Crosby took the ice for his first shift of the night to a chorus of boos from the MSG faithful, and just like that at 17:06 the Penguins get on the board when Tyler Kennedy got a puck from the left wing corner, and found Matt Cooke in the slot.  Cooke put a wrister on Biron, and after a fortuitous bounce, it went behind Biron and the Penguins took a 1-0 lead.  The goal was Cooke's 13th of the season.  But at 6:24 of the period, Hagelin ties it for the Rangers.  The period ended with the game tied 1-1.  The Penguins started the second period quickly when James Neal forced a Ryan McDonagh turnover, and found Malkin wide open in front of the net.  Geno went from forehand to backhand, beating Biron, and giving the Penguins a 2-1 lead.  Shortly thereafter Matt Cooke scored his 14th goal of the season at 17:15 from Staal and Kennedy, giving Pittsburgh a 3-1 lead.  Staal's assist extended his career high point scoring streak to nine games, and the assist was Kennedy's second of the evening.  At 5:28 Marian Gaborik took advantage of poor gap control between the Penguins defense and forwards to score his 35th goal of the year to get the Rangers back to within one goal at 3-2.  The period ended with that score.  Early in third period Crosby made his presence felt on the scoreboard when he controlled the puck behind the net, and found Chris Kunitz in the left circle.  Kunitz buried his 21st goal of the season off of that pass to put the Penguins in front by a score of 4-2 at 16:59.  Then Pascal Dupuis ended any doubt when netted his 19th goal of the season by putting home a rebound off a Kris Letang shot to ice the win at 5-2 for Pittsburgh.  Letang and Martin each earned assists on the goal.  In Letang's first game back from a 5 game layoff, he winds u +5, with one assist and 22:30 TOI.  Sidney Crosby played 16 minutes and chipped an assist and a 52% night in the faceoff circle.  Tyler Kennedy had two assists tonight, and Geno Malkin's 39th goal of the year gives him 85 points, and restored his 1 point lead over Steven Stamkos in the scoring race.  This weekend will be big for the East Conference playoff seedings, as Pittsburgh plays New Jersey on Saturday, and Philadelphia on Sunday.  Let's Go Pens!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Crosby coming back Thursday

HC Dan Bylsma announced the return of Crosby will be Thursday evening in NY against the Rangers.  He further noted that Crosby will center the Kennedy/Cooke line.  I am sure that is a very temporary decision based more on ice time expectations than anticipated linemates over the long run.  Of equal importance it was announced that Letang never suffered a concussion, and his return is imminent, if not also on Thursday.  Big news all around!

Random Ramblings

With several days between games, and me in need of a break from some of the BS at work right now, I figured it might be time for some commentary so my vast following is not disappointed.  I have two topics on my mind right now.  The first of which is the pending return of one Sidney Crosby to the Penguins lineup, and the oddly negative reaction from many yinzers related to same.  There seems to be an odd resentment to the fact that Crosby has taken his good old time getting back to the lineup in an effort to not be drooling oatmeal into a cup by the age of 30.  Imagine the nerve of that guy!  You hear that Sid's done, he can't come back from those concussions......Well folks, the most recent opponent, the Boston Bruins have two players that accentuate why the yinzers might just be wrong. Exhibit A. Marc Savard, whose career was effectively ended by multiple concussions in his prime is an example of what the outcome can be if you rush back from these injuries.  I follow Savard on Twitter, and be assured, the thought of playing is not an issue as much as the thought of just having a string of normal days without headaches, dizziness or some other symptoms.  Exhibit B.  Patrice Bergeron, who sat out the better part of two seasons due to concussion symptoms only to return to be one of the more valuable components of the Stanley Cup run for Boston, and according to NESN broadcaster Jack Edwards, the MVP of the Bruins this season.  So, yinzer nation, take a breath and have some faith that Crosby/Shero and crew know what they are doing, and stop reacting to Crosby as if he is some sort of wimp.  I also hear consistently that they don't need him because of how well Geno is doing.  So, young male Pittsburghers, if Brooklyn Decker wanted to have a threesome with you and, say, Megan Fox, would you say no, because you already have Megan?  Listen, Malkin is the MVP of the league, and he has stepped up to cover for the loss of Crosby on more than one long stretch. In fact, the Penguins are now 60-32-9 in their last 101 games without Crosby.  But don't kid yourself, the Penguins are not likely to win the Cup without 87 in the lineup, and if you want to argue that, then you cannot argue that they are much MORE likely to do so WITH him in the lineup.  Malkin won the Conn Smythe during the 2009 Cup run, but Crosby had only one less point, and Crosby was huge in the Flyers series, and pretty much won the Capitals series. The playoffs are the classic war of attrition, and you want all hands on deck for that run!  Crosby's presence will present some tough personnel decisions, but those are generally good problems to have.  Knowing that this could change a lot based on situation, I would have my base four lines as follows upon Crosby's return.  Top line is Malkin centering Kunitz and Neal.  Why mess with success?  Second line is Crosby centering Sullivan and Dupuis. Dupuis and Crosby were 2/3 of the best line in hockey before Sid's concussion, and Sullivan is a nifty playmaker that should mesh with Crosby. The third line is Staal centering Cooke and Kennedy.  This line could be a difference maker match up wise.  You could also mix and match adding Staal to either of the top two lines to get a different look during the game, and dropping either Duper or Sully.  The fouth line to me is Vitale centering Adams and Asham.  Adams can play wing or center, and I like the grind level of Vitale.  The Defense is Letang, Martin, Orpik, Michalek, Engelland and Niskanen, with Lovejoy as the seventh.  The power play causes many issues, and I would personally keep the top unit intact, as it had been running 5th in the league, and create a solid two unit, even if I rotated which unit was one and which was two before I would change the chemistry and established roles on the top unit, but that will not happen, so no use talking about it.  Make no mistake, if the Penguins get Letang and Crosby back for the playoffs and they stay healthy, there is no team better equipped to win the Cup.  Nobody.

My second rambling involves another good issue which is what Jack Edwards from NESN called the Penguins "institutional depth," which is most apparent on the blue line.  The Penguins have 12 defensemen in the system who have played NHL level hockey with some degree of success, and two stud top 4 level prospects in Despres, who will be on the big club next year, and Harrington, likely to be ready the year after.  They also have three more steady bottom pairing NHL caliber prospects with upside who are NHL ready in Bortuzzo, Strait and Sneep.  They have Picard and Valabik who have played significant NHL games in other organizations, as well as Phil Samuellson and Alex Grant who is making a case that he can play at the top level.  You also have two players who make the most money on the blue line in Zybnek Michalek and Paul Martin who have underachieved most of the season.  That fact, along with pending contract needs for Staal and Crosby, along with a deep AHL field of defensemen led me to believe that Martin would be gone at the trade deadline.  I was wrong. Imagine that. Once Bylsma split the pairing of Martin and Michalek, the whole blue line has stabilized, and right now is a strength of the team.  I was still thinking that the NHL readiness of Strait and Despres would mean that Martin would likely be moved in the offseason to create cap space for other signings, and allowing Despres and or Strait to make the NHL team.  Upon further review, I think it might be Matt Niskanen who is the odd man out.  His development has been impressive for the Penguins, as he has rebounded from a poor year to log some of the most consistent minutes for Pittsburgh this year. He has for the most part been steady in his own end, and has added some offense as well.  Nisky has chipped in 4 goals and 16 assists, and played to a plus 9, giving him the third most points of any Penguins blue liner( only 2 less than Martin who is a minus player).  Niskanen is an RFA this year, making 1.5M per year, and there is no way he is looking to play for less than 2 to 3M, and the market for defenseman means he should be a valuable commodity.  A team like Pittsburgh, who is likely to be a favorite for the Cup again next year is not likely to trust younger players like Despres to a top 4 role, and they are loaded with young defenseman with more cap friendly deals, so Niskanen could be a guy who is expendable to give the Penguins one more year with experience in their top 4 (Orpik, Letang, Martin, Michelek), while making room for young, less expensive players like Despres, Strait, and Lovejoy.  I don't mention Engo, because at 560K for the next two years, and the physicla prescence to go along with steady play, he is in the bottom pairing either way.  By the end of next year, the Penguins would likey be ready to give Despres a shot at the top 4 if he is what they think he is, and they will likely need to make room for Scott Harrington at that point, making Martin very valuable trade bait to help restock the pond for the future, or to add some scoring up front.  If Niskanen is big down the stretch, and in the playoffs, big enough to earn top four confidence, then Martin could be sent in a deal to create cap space, moving Niskanen to the top four, and making room for Strait and Despres.  Lovejoy has also shown himself to be a strong 6th defensman, and at 525K could be an interesting piece to trade depending upon the organizations view of Strait and Bortuzzo.  The Penguins have Strait, Niskanen, Picard, Bortuzzo, and Valabik as RFA this offseason, all of whom will be looking for a chance in the next year or two to play at the NHL level.  This glut of talent on the blue line will allow Shero to keep the core together by infusing the lineup with entry level contracts each of the next two years to reduce the cap hit on the blue line, while not giving up quality.  I cannot wait to see how he uses that group to keep this team together and a legitimate threat to win the Cup for next several years to come.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Pneguins In The Room Series

Episodes 4. 5, and 6

Pens take 9th straight beating Boston 5-2

The Penguins ninth straight victory today ran their record to 42-21-5, good for 89 points and only two points off of the division lead.  The Rangers play tonight, and could restore a 4 point bulge with a victory.  The Penguins came out today fast and physical, jumping on a Boston team who had to play yesterday afternoon with a furious forecheck that resulted in 3 goals on the first ten shots today.  The third goal chased Thomas in favor of Marty Turco.  With 3 assists today, Geno is again atop the league with 84 points, or 2 more than Steven Stamkos.  He also got his 500th point today.  James Neal with a goal and 2 assists earned his 200th point, 14th power play goal and broke a long goal scoring drought.  Jordan Staal extended his scoring streak to 8 games with an assist today.  Marc Andre Fleury earned his 37th victory to take his record to 37-14-3, his seventh straight victory as a starter.  Fleury made 34 saves today on his way to a 18-2-1 record in his past 21 starts.  The penalty kill came up big again today, killing both penalties it had to, making it 21 straight, and 54 of the past 56.  The Penguins blue line stood up at the blue line today, and gave Boston trouble getting to its forecheck.  Finally, after a two game sabbatical, the top line was dominant today, combining for 2 goals and 5 assists on the day.  Now for the game.  As noted the Penguins started fast and physical today.  It did not take long for big game player Arron Asham to cash in on his 4th goal of the season, assisted by Lovejoy (4) and Adams (9) at 3:24.  Asham who was big for the Flyers in their run to the Finals two years ago, and the Penguins top goal scorer in their one round of playoffs last year, is again heating up at the right time.  Pens lead 1-0.  After the Pens killed a very questionable interference call, the Penguins struck again at 7:12, when Matt Niskanen scored his 4th goal, assisted by Malkin (44) and Neal (33).  The assist was Malkin's 500th career point.  This makes Geno only the 17th Russian born player to hit this plateau.  Pens lead 2-0.  Neal's assist was his 200th career point, a milestone for him as well!  At this point I have to just express my desire to stick my foot right up Edzo's candy ass until he is burping Reebok rubber.  At any rate, after a couple of Boston penalties, the Penguins finally cashed in on a power play without Kris Letang, when the Real Deal James Neal scored his 14th power play goal 5 on 3 at 18:48 of the period, his 31st goal of the year assisted by Evgeni Malkin (45).  The Pens go up 3-0.   The period ended that way. Early in the second period, the Penguins made a mistake which gave life to Boston.  A falling Brooks Orpik turned the puck over in the neutral zone, Tyler Seguin hit a streaking David Krejci who blew by Ben Lovejoy and burned  Fleury over his left shoulder at 1:56 of the period.  Penguins lead 3-1.  But at 4:27 Chris Kunitz answered with his 20th goal of the season, assisted by Neal (34) and Malkin (46).  This restored the 3 goal lead at 4-1.  At 10:01 Krejci got the Bruins back on the board to make it 4-2 Pittsburgh.  Despite sloppy play the rest of the period, the Penguins ended the period up 4-2.  The third period felt like a lifetime, and at times it really felt like the Pens were holding on by the skin of their teeth, but at 16:07 Pascal Dupuis ended all doubt, by poking the puck past Milan Lucic at the top of the slot after settling a pass from Jordan Staal.  Duper used his speed to bear down on Turco before flipping a backhander past the netminder to secure the 5-2 Penguins victory.  The goal was Duper's 18th of the season, assisted by Jordan Staal (16) and Deryk Engelland (12).   The Penguins out muscled the Bruins today, getting under their skin and creating situations where the Bruins were taking frustration penalties. There were several more that could have been called as well.  It was not a great game in some ways for Pittsburgh as the second period and part of the third were marred by sloppy play, but the Pens did what they had to to put away a tired Boston team with an impressive physical display.  It was another game where Simon Despres looked right at home on the big stage.  Also Eric Tangradi was a plus 2 and added a physical edge to the game for the Penguins.  Pascal Dupuis has 18 goals this season, and makes 1.5 million per year.  He also adds great intangibles and a tremendous penalty killing element to this Pittsburgh team.  Contrast that to another 18 goal man, Alexander Semin, who earns 6.7 million per year, adds nothing positive in terms of intangibles and plays as soft as a baby's ass.  The Penguins are now 21-4-1 since January 13th, the game they beat Florida after the team wore fake C's in a show of solidarity for injured captain Sidney Crosby.  The Penguins are 24-8-2 now at home this season.  Another intersting statistic is the fact that the Penguins are 23-0-2 when leading after two periods. The Penguins top line has scored 77 points in their past 22 home games with Kunitz getting 7G and 9A, Neal getting 7G and 16A, and Evgeni Malkin getting 18G and 20A!  Finally, the Penguins are now 60-32-9 in their last 101 games without Sidney Crosby.  A Rangers loss will make Thursday night's tilt possibly a battle for Eastern Conference supremacy!  The game could mark the return of Sidney Crosby as well.  Let's Go Pens!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Matt Cooke's reformation proves change is possible - Michael Farber -

Matt Cooke's reformation proves change is possible - Michael Farber -

Pengunis win 8th straight in a 2-1 over Florida

Yaaaawwwwnnnnnn!  Watching tonight's game was a bit like watching paint dry, but it is two points we will gladly take.  These two points, combined with the loss by the Rangers has the Penguins only 4 points behind the Rangers for top spot in the Eastern Conference.  With two head to head games left, the race for the conference lead could get very interesting.  I thought tonight's game was another solid performance for Brian Strait, as well as for Simon Despres.  Marc Andre Fleury was spectacular again tonight, giving up only one goal in regulation, making 28 saves in regulation, plus two in the shootout.  As noted in the pre-game post, the victory makes the Penguins 20-4-1 in their past 25 games, marking the first time in club history that they have won 20 games out of any 25 game stretch.  Amazingly, during their 11 victories in the past 12 games at home, they have fallen behind by two goals in 7 of them, and came back to win them all.  Jordan Staal got an assist tonight to extend his point scoring streak to 7 games, a career high.  His line also carried the team for the second straight game, making up for a top line that has suddenly gone cold.  It is great to see the defensive depth of this club come into play, as the Penguins are missing Letang, Engelland, and Martin or half of their top 6, and they don't miss a beat.  The penalty kill was a perfect two for two tonight, while the power play was 0 for 3, and now 0 for 14 without Letang.  Yet the Penguins keep marching on!  As for the game, not much to say here, it was kind of a snoozer as noted.  The first period ened with the team in a 0-0 tie.  At the 7:17 mark of the second period, Tomas Fleischman gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead, scoring his 21st goal of the year while taking advantage of a bad bounce off the boards.  The period ended with the Cats holding a 1-0 lead.  However, the Penguins lead the league in 3rd period comebacks, and sure enough at the 2:56 mark of the third, Pascal Dupuis hopped on a turnover, got the puck to Staal, who made a great pass to Sullivan, which Sully put behind Theodore for his 14th goal of the season, assisted by Jordan Staal (15) and Pascal Dupuis (24).  Tie game!  Later in the period, Pascal Dupuis had a goal taken off the board, adding to what has to be a league leading total of disallowed goals.  The game ended 1-1 in regulation, and remained that way after the overtime period.  We went to a shootout, and James Neal and Evgeni Malkin did what they do, burying the first two shootout attempts, while Fleury blanked the Cats, giving the Penguins their 8th straight victory.  Malkin will have to wait for his 500th point at least one more game.  The win gives the Penguins 87 points........interesting number given the possibility that 87 will return on Sunday against the Bruins.  Let's Go Pens!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Pens Pre-Game v Florida-Game 67

The Penguins play their third game in a four game homestand tonight against the Florida Panthers.  They will be seeking their 8th straight win.  How well are they playing right now you ask?   A win tonight would mark the first time in franchise history that they would have won 8 straight twice in the same season, and the first time that they would have won 20 out of any 25 game stretch in any season.  They are also only 6 points behind the league leading New York Rangers.  Some other notes include:
The Penguins PK is running at 89.2%, which would be tied with the highest season PK percent in the NHL since 1997.  The Penguins have a number of players who are in the midst of droughts on the power play with Steve Sullivan only have one power play goal in his past 30 games, Kunitz having only one power play goal in his past 28 games, and Neal with only one in his past 22 games.  Tyler Kennedy has only one goal of any sort in his past 18 games.  Geno did not get a point in the game Wednesday night, and has not been held pointless in two straight home games since 11/27 and 12/2 of last season.  Jordan Staal is +10 in his past 10 games, and a point tonight would give him a career high point scoring streak of 7 games.  Neither Matt Niskanen or Paul Martin have scored a goal for the Penguins on home ice.  Marc Andre Fleury has won his past 6 starts, is 16-2-1 in his past 19 games with a 2.22 GAA and .923 save percentage.  Fleury has 22 career shutouts, and 74 career one goal games.   Finally, Simon Despres is likely to replace Paul Martin due to illness tonight, while Brian Strait is replacing Deryk Engelland, Ben Lovejoy is in for Kris Letang. The blue line is looking like the black and blue line right now. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Pens win 7th in a row

Tonight the Penguins extended their current winning streak to 7 games in a row, and ran their record in the last 24 games to 19-4-1 by erasing a 2-0 deficit to beat Toronto 3-2.  The win gives the Penguins 85 points, the second most in the conference, and 15 more points than 9th place Washington.  Tonight was a night for the second line, as the top unit has cooled a bit, with Malkin's point streak ending tonight, and Neal has now gone 8 games without a goal.  No matter as Staal, Sullivan and Pascal Dupuis were dominant tonight as the second unit.  Incidentally, tonight was career game 300 for James Neal, and he is just one point shy of 200 career points.  At any rate, on to the game.  The first period was dominated by Pittsburgh, who outshot Toronto 11-3, but could not beat Gustavson and the period ended 0-0.  Then at 1:00 of the second period Phil Kessel gives Toronto a 1-0 lead after Tyler Bozak ran over Brad Thiessen, and Phil Kessel pounced on the rebound to give Toronto the lead.  Bozak may have been pushed into Thiessen, but given the similar goals Pittsburgh has had disallowed, that one bothered me.  Toronto up 1-0. At 7:36 the Leafs scored again to take a 2-0 lead. Then, at 9:25 of the period Pascal Dupuis scored his 16th goal of the season, assisted by Matt Niskanen (16) and Jordan Staal (14).  It is now 2-1 Toronto, and the period ended that way.   Early in the third, red hot Jordan Staal tied the game for Pittsburgh when he deflected a shot behind Gustavson for his 22nd goal of the season to tie the game at 2-2.  He was assisted by Brooks Orpik (13) and Pascal Dupuis (23).  After the goal, Jordan Staal has now scored 15 points in the 12 games since he returned from a knee injury, and he has never looked more dominant in all three zones.  He also won 13 of 18 faceoffs, to complete a dominant hockey game.  Anyway at 4:10 of the third period, the hero of the evening Pascal Dupuis scored his 17th goal of the season, assisted by Steve Sullivan (25) and Ben Lovejoy (3).  The Penguins were up 3-2, a lead they would not relinquish, giving Brad Thiessen his second career win in as many starts.  The second line carried the mail tonight wtih Staal having a goal and an assist, Sullivan an assist, and Dupuis with 2 goals and an assist.  The penalty kill was a perfect 4 for 4 and has now killed 51 of 53 penalties since February 1st.  Conversely, without Letang the power play is 0 for 13.  Brian Strait had another solid game in a call up role, and Ben Lovejoy was solid again for that matter.   The important thing is that  the Penguins keep finding ways to win.  Friday night brings the Florida Panthers.  Go Pens!!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Jordan Staal House Tour

Steve's Commercial

Coyotes @ Penguins 3/5/12 Michalek!!!! Chant Live

Last night's game marked the sixth victory in a row for Pittsburgh, and their 10th victory on home ice in their last 11 games when they knocked off Phoenix 2-1 in an exciting game, that featured skating, hitting, and fast paced hockey.  Goaltending was the difference in the game, as Fleury stopped 36 of 37 shots, and improved to 16-2-1 over his last 19 starts. Fleury also earned his 35th win of the season, and the games number one star designation.  Fleury has now won at least 35 games in each of the past 4 seasons.  Finally, Fleury is rocking a .970 save percentage in the past five games, stopping 163 of the last 168 shots he has faced!  The Penguins, who hold the second best record in the Eastern Conference are now 39-21-5, and hold a four point lead over the Flyers for the fourth seed in the conference, though the Flyers do have a game in hand.  The game also showcased the much improved play of Zybnek Michalek, who was the game's number two star, he had a goal, three blocked shots, and led the team in ice time at 25:09.   Brian  Strait looked solid in his call up, logging 12:59 TOI and adding a team high 4 blocked shots, and 4 hits.  He also had a great one timer that almost scored in the second period when he blasted a set up from Steve Sullivan that had goaltender Mike Smith handcuffed.  The Penguins gave up a lot of shots, but in fairness were missing both Kris Letang and Deryk Engelland last night.  Also of note, the Penguins did not score on their only power play chance last night, making their power play 0 for 9 in Kris Letang's absence.  Tyler Kennedy made his return to the lineup last night, playing 14:20, and adding 3 shots on goal while playing with Matt Cooke and Joe Vitale.  As for the game, the Penguins got all of their scoring in the first period, starting with a goal by Zybnek Michalek (2) at 11:44 off a nice play by Jordan who had Coyotes defenseman Ekman-Larsson backing in, before dropping a pass to the trailing Michalek who put the puck behind Smith.  The assist was Staal's 13th, and extended his assist streak to 5 games, tying a career high set in 2009.  The Penguins were up 1-0.  Then at 14:45 of the first, Chris Kunitz scored his 19th goal of the season, assisted by Evgeni Malkin (43) and Paul Martin (21).  The assist gave Geno 35 points in his last 19 HOME games, averaging 1.84 points per game at home, and giving him 81 points on the year, one ahead of Steven Stamkos.  The 2-0 score held up until Ray Whitney scored at 1:27 of the third period, but neither team tickled the twine after that, and the Penguins skate away with the victory.  This morning, Sidney Crosby was cleared for contact, and Kris Letang completed a light workout off the ice, both bits of good news for Pittsburgh!  Wednesday evening brings the Toronto Maple Leafs and new head coach Randy Carlyle. GO PENS!     

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Pens beat Avalanche 5-1

The Penguins completed their 2 game road trip to the west with a very workmanlike victory in Colorade last night.  This gave the Pens 4 of 4 possible points on the trip, and a 4 point lead going into today's action for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, and 2nd most points in the conference, behind only New York.   The Penguins' 81 points are not only good for fourth in the Eastern Conference, but it represents the sixth highest point total in the whole league, despite having the most man games lost in the league.  New York, Vancouver, Detroit, St. Louis, and Nashville are the only teams with more points in the league. 

As for the game last night, as noted it was very workmanlike and efficient. The game started with the Penguins weathering a storm as Colorado took the first seven shots of the game, but a razor sharp Fleury kept the Avs off the board until the Penguins could get their legs.  At 7:55 of the period, Arron Asham put the Penguins on the board, netting his 3rd goal of the season with a cannon of a slap shot, assisted by Craig Adams (8) and Brooks Orpik (11).  The goal was Asham's first in 21 games.  The Penguins were up 1-0.  Less than a minute and a half later, the Penguins got a goal from another guy more noted for his fists, than his scoring touch when Deryk Engelland tipped in his 4th goal of the season on a beautiful give and go from Jordan Staal (12), and Steve Sullivan (24). The Penguins were up 2-0, and the assist gave Steve Sullivan a 79 game scoring streak.  The period also featured a fight between Asham and McLeod, which was more wrestling than punching, but the nod went to AA Enforcer in that bout.  The period ened with the Penguins up 2-0.  In the second period, we heard from the current version of the two headed monster when Evgeni Malkin banged home a rebound for his 38th goal of the season, while Neal collected his 32 assist when Geno put his rebound off the crossbar behind the Avalanche netminder for a 3-0 Penguins lead at 5:30 of the second period.  Then at 9:03 Richard Park scored his sixth goal of the year as he took a great pass from Zybnek Michalek as he came out of the penalty box and beat Giguere on a breakaway to give the Penguins a 4-0 lead in the game.   The period ended with the Penguins up 4-0.  At 8:58 of the third, Hunwick broke Fleury's shutout bid when he put one behind the Pens netminder.  At 18:38 of the third, Steve Sullivan scored his 13th goal of the year into an empty net from Paul Martin (20), and Brooks Orpik (12).  The goal closed out the scoring at 5-1, and gave Sullivan his 11th point in the past seven games, and second point of the night, and it gave Brooks Orpik his second point of the night as well.  The victory was Fleury's 34th of the year, giving him a 34-14-3 record, and a 15-2-1 record in his last 18 starts.  He is behind only Pekka Rinne (35) in victories.  Fleury made 35 saves in tonights victory.  The power play was 0-3 tonight, and 0 for 8 on the trip with Letang on the shelf.  The penalty kill was 4 for 4.  The defense looked solid again, and the team got goals from several secondary sources.  Next up for Pittsburgh is red hot Phoenix at home on Monday.  They are 8-1-1 in their past 10 games.  The rest of the season pits the Penguins against the top teams in the East for much of the remaining 18 games, so we will see what the Penguins are made of down the stretch.  Monday also marks the debut of the Root Sports commercial filmed at my home, and set for a minimum of 40 plays between now and the end of the season.  It will play at 6:30 during the pre-game show, a few times during the game and on the post game show.  It will also be on the Jumbotron during the second intermission of the game.  Go Pens!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Pens win thriller in shootout 4-3

It was a great game and a great win tonight in Dallas for the Penguins.  Hopefully, not at the price of their playoff run given the injury to Letang.  If he suffered his second concussion in two months, we have some serious issues here.  Let's hope that is not the case.  The heroes for Pittsburgh were many tonight, as they took on a team who had won 4 straight, and played them all game with 5 defensemen, and half the game with 11 forwards.  Add to that, the importance of Letang to all facets of the Penguins' game, especially the power play, and Sullivan's PP contributions, and coming away from this game with a win was going to be a tall order.  To make matters worse, we had to watch the game while listening to the worst coach in Penguins history call the game.  Edzo, we hardly missed ya!  Anyway, to the game.
Jamie Benn opened the scoring at 15:25 of the first period to give Dallas a 1-0 lead.  A little more than 3 minutes later, Steve Sullivan tied the game with his 12th goal of the season, assisted by Duper (22) and Orpik (10).  Score tied at 1-1.  The second period, though entertaining, was scoreless until Sheldon Souray scored at 19:47 of the period to give the Stars a 2-1 lead with 13 seconds left in the period. Giving up a go ahead goal that late in a period is usually an ominous enough sign, but add to that the fact that the Stars had not lost a game where they were leading after two periods since 10/31/09, and the Pens had a tall order in front of them. It did not take them long to get to work in the third.  Craig Adams scored his 4th of the year deflecting a shot from Jordan Staal (11) after he took the puck from the wall and wristed a shot towards Lehtonen to tie the game at 2-2.   Just 47 seconds later, Chris Kunitz deflected a Paul Martin shot behind Lehtonen for his 18th goal of the season to give Pittsburgh its first lead of the night. He was assisted by Martin (18) and Malkin (42).   3-2 Penguins.  At 7:23 Michael Ryder tied it for the Stars.  The game went into OT with the Stars having nearly 2 minutes of 4 on 3 PP time and a chance to win it.  The Penguins held on to force a shootout.  In the shootout, Neal put the Penguins in front with a wicked wrist shot, but Ericsson countered to tie.  Malkin and Ribeiro were denied.  Kunitz buries a wicked wrister, but Benn counters to again tie the shootout, and force it to a fourth round.  Pascal Dupuis beats Lehtonen, and Michael Ryder cannot counter, so the Penguins win 4-3.  Fleury is now 6-0-0 v Dallas in his career.  The Penguins now have 79 points and sole possession of 4th place in the Eastern Conference.   The shootout winner was the 3rd this year for Duper.  Kunitz came up big with a goal and a shootout goal.   Steve Ott is a pussy.  After running around and banging on Malkina and Michalek, he turned down a clear invite from Asham to answer the bell. Ott the Twat.  JR, Tocchet and Kelly Chase think Letang was not hit in the head.  Hmmmmmm.......due to respect for Tocchet, I will not comment on ridiculous that is.  You might debate the intent, but not the point of contract here.  JR is a world class tool. Penguins show their grit and heart in a great game that had everything from hitting, to goal scoring, to GREAT goaltending, to a 4 round shootout that included 5 goals between the two teams.  Next up is Colorado on Friday.  Go Pens!