Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Confluence turns one month old; Thanks to everyone

I wasn't so sure this time around when I revamped The Confluence, but I gotta say, I'm enjoying the hell out of this.

Nothing like spewing your guts about your favorite teams to no one in particular. :-)

So after one month, looks like we'll pass 1000 hits either today or tomorrow.

That blows my mind.

But it also shows the value of networking.

Thanks to all of those who corresponded to me and linked to my blog, that was a huge lift, very much appreciated.

But I'm not so quick to be satisfied after only one month.

I'd appreciate your comments, recommendations, suggestions, questions, bitches, moans (OK, forget that one), and complaints to me at theconfluence@cox.net.

Suggestions on things to add to the blog (remember, I'm still a blog-rookie) ??

Topics you'd like me to jump on the soapbox (I've got some warming up in the bullpen) ??

Topics you think I should just shut the hell up over ??

Anyway, you catch my drift, once again, appreciate your input.

Blogger's Note: I made a boo-boo (no Halloween pun intended)

My Pens' post yesterday referenced the upcoming recalling of Brooks Orpik, and what possible moves the Pens would have to make as a result of it.

Well, I flat-out screwed that one up.

The Pens have a slot available on their roster, so Orpik's recall will not require any subtractions to the roster.

[[ Hey, I could've just edited the original post and acted like I never said it in the first place, give me a little credit for that. ]]

Happy Halloween to everyone and their families.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Staal stays, Letang goes home; Cairns recalled

Not too much suspense by this time, ya know ??

As had been unofficially reported for a few days now, and speculated for over a week now, the Pens made it official today, announcing that Jordan Staal would remain with the Pens for the remainder of the year.

In addition, the club also did the expected in returning Kris Letang back to Juniors. Letang is going to be an excellent D-man for the Pens, as early as next year, but I think it was becoming apparent that he still needs a little seasoning before playing in the NHL full-time.

The Pens also filled the vacancy left after Letang's departure by recalling Eric Cairns, who had been in WBS on a conditioning assignment.

Now that Cairns is back, that leaves the return of Brooks Orpik as an interesting decision that the Pens must make.

Should the Pens;
  • Send Noah Welch back to WBS ?
  • Send Max Talbot back to WBS ?
  • Or the more radical approach, release someone or is a trade a-brewin' ??

I would really hate it if they sent Welch back down, they need to give this guy more than a few games to prove himself at the NHL level, especially while pylons like Cairns are still here.

I don't see them sending Talbot back down either. He's already proved that his presence on the 4th line makes them a much more balanced offense.

So, to me anyway, that leaves either someone getting release (read: Andre Roy) or a trade going down. As I'm sure most of the Pens fans have read recently, there have been rumblings about a trade between the Bruins and Pens, involving some combination of Malone/Christensen/Thibault, and Boyes/Murray/Thomas. I wouldn't doubt it at all, if it came to fruition. I can already see that Shero is an excellent talent evaluator, and I can definitely see him moving Malone. I think it's fair to say that Malone has not lived up to his expectations.

I'm sure we'll find out soon, perhaps by Tuesday, when the Pens fly to L.A.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Raiders 20, Steelers 13; Embarrassing to be a fan of this team right now

I've just about run out of negative adjectives to describe this 2006 edition of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Ya know, the ones that are supposed to be the defending Super Bowl champions.




And as it looks right now, a non-playoff team.

I don't even know where to start.

Let's see, what's Cowher going to say this time, after 3 more unsportsmanlike conduct and personal fouls are called.

Maybe, "it will never happen again THIS time !!"

The Raiders had 98 total yards.

Let me repeat that.

The Raiders had 98 total yards.

It's just incomprehensible that the defense could totally dominate the line of scrimmage (when they weren't taunting or bitching to the officials that is), and still lose the game.

I can just imagine the armchair quarterbacks on Monday, "I told ya that Batch should've played".

To be sure, Ben's INT's have become a major concern.

The first one, on the long pass, he's thrown about 4 of those same types of INT's this year, thrown into double coverage.

The second one was a fluke on the tip, just so happens with the Steelers' crappy luck this year, was INT'd and ran back for a TD.

The third one came on 4th down, when the Steelers were yet again making another unsuccessful drive in Oakland territory.

And finally, the 4th INT was on the goal line, and again, taken back for a TD.

Four red zone opportunities, ZERO TD's, and 2 FG's.

But this wasn't ALL on Ben, the offensive line, once again this year, did not give Ben a lot of time. Ben did A LOT of scrambling today.

And finally, I don't even need to see the postgame press conference. I just know what Cowher's going to say.

Gotta give Oakland credit (although for what, I have no frickin' clue).

We're just struggling right now.

We've dug a hole for ourselves.

He'll say everything other than what he should be saying.

Like he's gonna take some major money from all of those players who've had those incredibly stupid unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

Like he's gonna bench some players who aren't earning their keep.

Like he's disgusted with the way that his team is playing.

Well, if Bill won't, I sure as hell will.

This team is an absolute embarrassment right now.

They should feel damn lucky there isn't a provision in the NFL bylaws that has the Super Bowl champ to turn in their rings if they don't play like champions the next year, 'cause there would be a big truck headed back to the jewelers right now.

Sunday tidbits at The Confluence

  • The Cardinals won the World Series Friday night, despite the prognositications all of those "experts", who basically said the Cards were even lucky to make the playoffs. Perhaps this is a good time for ESPN to take a step back and see how their once-formidable sports coverage has turned into tabloid journalism. Their top stories, rather than substantive issues of the sports world, are nothing more than a sports version of Hard Copy. If that wasn't bad enough, then you combine that with a slew of ex-mediocre athlete blowhards (sub-medicore if you include Sean Salisbury) that constantly preach to us, as if their opinions are not opinions, but rather facts, and must be heeded as such. Want my advice ESPN (silly question, I know) ?? Cut WAY down on the over-analyzation and the lousy prognostications, and get back to what once buttered your bread, that being good, substantive sports news.
  • And while we're on the subject of the World Series, don't you think it's time American sports leagues stopped referring to their respective champions as "World Champions" ?? The Cardinals did not play the Japanese champion, or the Korean champion, or the Venezuelan champion. I've always been kind of irritated at that arrogance for some reason.
  • Hey, did you notice how MLB snuck that new Collective Bargaining Agreement in on us ?? Gene Collier from the 'Burgh PG writes an excellent column today on how Kevin McClatchy's tune has shockingly changed over the past year. I guess now that the '06 All-Star game is over, and he and his cronies got a nice profit this year after 1.8 million Pirate fans came for constant bombardment of bobbleheads and fireworks, that he's content with the new CBA. Don't worry of course about the on-field product, you know, the one that lost 95 games this year. I'm sure their will be more Jeremy Burnitz' and Joe Randa's floating around this offseason.
  • USC finally came back to Earth last night, losing to that PAC-10 juggernaut Oregon State 33-31. You're blind as a bat if you didn't see this coming. Barely winning against Washington St., Washington, and Arizona St. in the three weeks before yesterday, it was just a matter of time.
  • Speaking of coming back down to Earth, the Buffalo Sabres finally lost a game last night, in a shootout to the much improved Atlanta Thrashers. Atlanta reminds me a lot of the Penguins, with their improved defense a major reason for their upswing. But back to Buffalo, I can't wait until the Sabres and Penguins play this year, that should be some exciting hockey.
  • For as much as I would love to piss some more on the Flyers' grave that they're digging, I have give some props to Bobby Clarke (I know, he wants to be called Bob now, screw him). He had the courage to fall on his sword, stating that he was burned out, and that the new NHL had passed him by.
  • In what eventually is going to be one of the most awkward moments in sports heirarchy, I'm interested in seeing how the Wayne Gretzky SNAFU is going to end up in Phoenix. As a part owner of the Coyotes, it's not like anyone in the organization is going to tell Wayne to pack sand. But one thing's for sure, as great a player as Wayne was, he's nowhere near that level of an NHL coach.
  • This just in, ESPN just reported that Tony Romo took a dump at Cowboys practice, and Drew Bledsoe was not happy at all about how long he took, nor the smell he left in the bathroom afterwards. [[ Just a bit cynical, but you'd think there's nothing else going on in the NFL nowadays by the way this crap is top story material. ]]
  • I for one won't be surprised in the least if Jake Plummer pulls another one of his choke jobs today at home vs. Peyton Manning and the Colts.
  • The Steelers are the biggest enigma in the NFL today. I can't figure these guys out. One thing I know for sure, they lose today in Oakland, they better start planning for next year.
  • Condolences today for the family of Red Auerbach, who passed away yesterday at the age of 89. All those championships. That cigar. The one thing that really struck me as I was watching his accomplishments the last day was the deal he made before the 1980 NBA draft. The Celtics owned the first overall pick, he engineered a blockbuster trade that traded his No. 1 pick and a later 1980 first-round pick to the Golden State Warriors in exchange for the No. 3 overall pick and a young center named Robert Parish. Then at the #3 pick, he grabbed Kevin Mchale. Wow, now that's a draft.
  • That's about the extent of NBA posting you'll see me do, the playground NBA of today completely bores me.

Until tomorrow.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Pens blast Flyers 8-2; Oh how sweet it is !!!

I'll be honest, if I would have had time today, I would have posted that the Penguins need to be careful tonight in Philly.

Ya know, new coach, new GM, one game winning streak, playing at home, playing against that damn Sidney Crosby, loving to smack around the new Rooskie, lots of reasons to be cautious.

And for sure, the Pens did not play very good hockey in the first period of tonight's game. In what was a frightening flashback to the '05 Pens, Ryan Whitney's giveaway led to the opening goal of the game. They had relatively no offense in that period in addition to that. Crosby's goal on the 2-on-1 and Talbot's shorthanded goal were nearly the only shots on goal for the entire first period.

But boy did that change in the 2nd period. The Pens used their team speed and combined it with the Flyers pylon-like defense to quickly build that lead to 4-1, which sent Nittimaki to the showers. The second period not only included the completion of the 1st hat trick of Sidney Crosby's young career, but also extended Evgeni Malkin's goal scoring streak to 5 games as he begins his NHL career. Malkin's goal, in what is quickly becoming average for this guy, came on a one timer from an extremely difficult angle.

There was another guy who used to play for the Pens who used to make those impossible angle shots, what was his name again ?? :-)

The 3rd period, in all honesty, was not what I expected. I really thought that the Flyers would start throwing the elbows and send their thugs out. That really didn't happen at all. The Pens, not wanting to rub salt in the Flyer wounds, played their top line sparingly. The Pens did score two more goals in the 3rd period, the 1st of the year from both Mark Recchi and Dominic Moore.

And finally, in what Pens fans had to sound like music in their ears, the Flyer fans roundly booed their hometown team upon their exit.

So now, the Pens have played their 9th game, which may or may not be Jordan Staal's final game of the year for the Pens.

I for one will be shocked if he is sent down. As Paul Steigerwald said very well tonight, the Pens are a better team with Staal as the 2nd line center, and are a better team with Talbot (rather than Staal) as their 4th line center.

By the way, anyone else notice on the "CW" feed how many couples were in attendance, with Penguins fan guys and hot Flyer fan girlfriends ??

What's up with that ??

Thursday, October 26, 2006

So what are the Pens doing right ??

The easy answer to the question, at least to the NHL layman, would be "Crosby and Malkin, silly".

OK, you'd be blind if that at least weren't a significant reason for the Pens' 5-3 start.

But if you're looking for the complete answer, there are many other pieces to the puzzle.

In order (my .02 anyways);

[[ Highly recommend the revamped NHL.COM, the stats section is outstanding ]]

1. Goaltending - Marc-Andre Fleury has been having an excellent season to date. His 2.65 GAA is ranked 17th among goalies, and his save percentage of .923 is ranked 10th. He's not constantly flailing out of position, allowing the easy tip-ins. He's not dropping to the butterfly so quickly. His rebounds, while still giving up a bit too many, are being deflected away to the boards, as opposed to directly in front of the net.

2. Defense - On what has been the main problem with the Pens for the last several years, the Pens defense so far has allowed 2.75 goals per game, good enough for 12th in the league. The amount of times that the aforementioned tap-ins occur is dramatically down. They're still giving up 32.5 shots per game, but that average is coming down.

3. Special Teams - Dramatic improvements in both special teams, some would say, is the biggest improvement for the Pens. The power play is now ranked 4th in the league, and the penalty kill is up to the 11th best. In my opinion, the penalty kill is looking outstanding, so much so that I'd predict that this unit will be among the top 10 for the year. That's an amazing turnaround in one year.

And yeah, sure, the terror twins of Crosby and Malkin are pretty good too.

The Pens embark on what turns out to be an important 4 game road trip starting Saturday night in Philly. I'm not concerned about the Pens coming out sharp, the Flyer fans will take care of that by themselves. Look for some serious hitting that night, as I'm sure the Flyers will attempt to get under the skin of Sid and Geno.

It's the next 3 games after the Flyers game that concerns me. The Pens have rarely played well out West. Combine that with the fact that 2 out of the 3 games out there will come against among the best teams in the NHL in San Jose and Anaheim.

This road trip will be a true test where this team really is.


Karl Stewart was placed on waivers and claimed by the Blackhawks. No big loss to me, I've liked the energy that Thorburn has been showing on the 4th line. The only unfortunate thing to me was that they placed Saborin on waivers to make room for Stewart, and now he's gone too.


Eric Cairns is on his way to WBS for a conditioning assignment. His situation is very interesting. You've got Cairns probably playing in WBS for maybe two weeks. Brooks Oprik is already beginning to practice with the Pens, albeit lightly practicing. If Orpik comes back, say prior to the West Coast games begin, Letang will be on his way home. However, when Cairns is ready, what will the Pens do then ?? Scuderi/Melichar trade ?? Cairns trade ??

We shall see....

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Ladies and Gentlemen, introducing your 1st place Pittsburgh Penguins

OK, OK, so it may only last a day or two.

This may only last until the Devils host Florida on Thursday night.

But dammit Pens fans, let's gloat while we have a chance, whatcha say ??

In another complete team effort, the Pens defeated the Devils 4-2 and overtook the Devils for 1st place in the Atlantic (I almost called it the Patrick) Division and because of that, 3rd place in the Eastern Conference.

And, as if that weren't enough, if anyone has happened to check out the various hockey websites and talk radio stations today, the talk of the NHL without a doubt is the absolutely SICK goal by Geno in the 3rd period against Brodeur.

I've watched it about 30 times since last night, and I'm still shaking my head. The moves against the D-men were outstanding enough, but it was pulling the puck back to the backhand and somehow getting it past Marty was the incredible part in my mind.

Also, I just have to keep mentioning this, the chemistry factor between Crosby and Malkin is just uncanny. The pass from Malkin to Crosby for the one-timer, the two-line pass from Crosby to Malkin for the aforementioned undressing of the Devils, it's getting to be a regular occurence, isn't it ??

But I would be remiss if I didn't give props as well to the 2nd line, who contributed 2 big goals as well. Staal didn't look out of place at all centering that 2nd line. The big decisions on Staal and Letang should be made sometime after the Philly game, and before the Pens head out West for their 3 game road trip. My guess, and it's no shocker, Staal stays, Letang goes home.

Good to see the Pens getting some love around the hockey world. It's not '91-'92 revisited just yet, but the Igloo is starting to get that electric atmosphere, at least it seems that way to me.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Pens 4, Devils 2; Wow, just wow....

If you watched the game tonight, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Until tomorrow.

Pens gameday; It's pop quiz day

OK boys, let's see what you've learned.

You've gotten some chemistry flowing between your two top players, now that they're finally together.

Your special teams are clicking at some impressive rates so far, the power play is ranked #1 in the NHL right now, and the penalty kill is ranked 14th (5th at home).

You've won two in a row, and while sure, it's early, you win tonight, and as the Atlantic Division leader, you're ranked 3rd in the Eastern Conference.

But this is no simple quiz, you've got to do some studying to pass this.

First and foremost, you've got to put some serious pressure on Marty Brodeur. Maybe if the refs have it in their hearts to call more than one damn penalty will accomplish that.

Secondly, you've got to take advantage of the pairing of Malkin and Crosby on the 1st line. John Madden will definitely be watching Crosby like a hawk, and Crosby needs to recognize that and dish that puck to Malkin to work his magic.

Third, there's gotta be starting to get some production from the bottom 3 lines.

Simple, huh ??

We shall see on "Versus" at 7PM.

Max Talbot was recalled today as the 4th line center, since Staal was moved to the 2nd line center. To be frank, I've never been on the Talbot bandwagon. I think he's a sparkplug, and a decent penalty killer, but I just don't see him as being such a huge asset, especially since the addition of Dominic Moore, and especially if Jordan Staal stays.

Various reports have the initial hearing on the Malkin case in U.S. District Court in New York on November 9th.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Malkin up to the 1st line, at least for now; Staal up to 2nd line

Various reports have the Pens practicing today with Crosby centering the 1st line with Armstrong and Malkin on his wings. Jordan Staal was moved up to center the 2nd line with Ekman and Recchi.

I definitely believe that this is a temporary measure, maybe even for the Devils game only tomorrow. I think it's quite possible that they'll have Malkin and Crosby on the 1st line together only to counteract the defensive pressure that John Madden applies on Crosby, as evidenced last week.

Noah Welch was called up today. This could be the beginning of the end for Kris Letang, at least for this year.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Falcons 41, Steelers 38 (OT); Make your January vacation plans, you guys ain't going nowhere

I really hate it when I'm right.

Just to refresh your memory, as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago in my post called "Now where did I put that panic button" following the San Diego loss, for all of the praise heaped upon the Steelers' defense, that pass defense has been rated towards the bottom of the NFL for several years now.

This game amplifies that fact, and then some.

This secondary makes Michael Vick look like Dan Fouts.

Makes Philip Rivers look like Joe Montana.

You get my point.

Vick hadn't thrown more than TWO touchdown passes in a game in his six year NFL career.

Of course, this secondary gives up 4 TD's to him.

This just in, the Steelers just fumbled again.

Even with the aforementioned pourous pass defense, the Steelers STILL win this game, and the Bengals game, if they would just hold on to the damn ball.

Turnovers have absolutely killed the Steelers' season.

For as explosive a returner as he is, Santonio Holmes is quickly becoming a liability on special teams.

If you can't hold onto the ball, you just can't keep putting him out there.

And, just as the Steelers luck is running this year, Ben was having another very strong game, until he got his bell rung.

I'll give Charlie Batch credit, he made some great throws (and a couple of duds). The long TD to Hines Ward was outstanding.

So, here the Steelers are, at 2-4. The Bengals pulled out the win at home vs. Carolina, they're now 4-2. Baltimore is already 4-2 with the bye this week.

Nothing's impossible in today's NFL, that's for sure, especially with the Steelers still needing to play seven more divisional games.

But unless the pass defense and special teams tighten it the hell up, might as well start mailing it in, 'cause it ain't gonna make a difference.

Pens top Blue Jackets 5-3; Power play is getting scary good

Well, once again, the Pens didn't exactly put a nail in the Blue Jackets coffin until late in the game, but a win is a win is a win.

And now that the Pens aren't playing teams that aren't ranked in the top 5 in the entire NHL, they're doing what good teams do, they're winning.

Special teams once again were the key, the PK did a great job again, considering that the refs had their whistles bolted to their lips (for both teams that is).

But the power play, specifically the first unit, is becoming, well, scary good.

You can tell the chemistry that Crosby and Malkin are quickly developing is making that unit absolutely lethal.

Just read their comments about each other from last night's game;

"As soon as I crossed the blue line, I saw him," Crosby said of Malkin. "It was just a matter of waiting for him to come over and get open. He made a great shot. Quick and accurate."

"He's the best player," Malkin said. "I knew this pass was coming."

Now that Malkin is here, Sid has slid up higher in the slot, and as a result is shooting a lot more, which is never a bad thing. Even if Sid is not shooting, then Gonchar is getting the puck on net (or in the net), and that is leaving Sid and Geno to go to the net for the rebounds.

And how about that Jordan Staal ??

If I'm Ray Shero, I've gotta be pulling my hair out deciding whether to send this kid back to Junior.

However, Shero may have had his decision made a little easier when the Pens' version of Gerry Cooney, that being Ryan Malone, appeared to have broken his wrist in his scrum last night. Malone is expected to be out six weeks.

Forgive me for sounding sympathetic, but can you say blessing in disguise ??

Now Staal's other teammate that is awaiting his fate, Kristopher Letang, in my opinion, should be on his way back to Juniors. While his being right-handed is a bonus, it should be a pre-requisite to staying with the big club. I believe Kris will be headed home after the next two games, and either Oprik will be activated, or Noah Welch will be recalled. Let's not forget also that Eric Cairns is close to be coming back as well.

Now that the Pens have won a couple games in row, let's see if they've learned anything. The Devils quickly return back to the Igloo on Tuesday. Hopefully the Pens will recognize their lackadaisical play from their previous meeting and will come out flying.

Steelers gameday; Contain, Contain, Contain

There are some games during an NFL season when having a fast, aggressive defense has the potential to bite a team in the ass.

For the Steelers, today's game in Atlanta is exactly one of them.

There are two huge counteracts to a defense like the Steelers', those being a good cutback running back, and the other is a scrambling quarterback.

And there isn't a better scrambling quarterback, arguably in the history of the NHL, than Michael Vick.

It's easier said than done, but if the Steelers don't contain Vick, and if he and Warrick Dunn rush for their average of 200 yards today, this could bring the Steelers right back down to Earth after their big win vs. the Chiefs last week.

The blueprint better be; Contain Vick, and let him throw like Kordell Stewart all day long = Steelers win

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Nolan jumps on the Crosby diving bandwagon; Give me a frickin' break

Ya know, this crap is getting ridiculous.

First, Ken Hitchcock last year starts the carousel by calling Sidney Crosby a diver. Not mentioning, of course, that his goon defenseman, Darien Hatcher, in the meantime was chipping three of his teeth, and cutting his lip bad enough to get stitches, and no frickin' penalties being called. By the way, that didn't stop Sid from scoring in OT to beat the Flyers yet again.

Now, the latest whiner to jump on the "Crosby is a diver" bandwagon is born-again NHL coach Ted Nolan. So after the Pens beat the Isles 4-3 in OT on Thursday, Nolan chose to go the diving route, rather than acknowledge that his defensemen were routinely getting beat by Crosby's speed and playmaking ability, and their only recourse was to either hook or trip him.

I'll grant him this much; Yes, I wouldn't have been surprised if Crosby was called for a slash in OT on Yashin, even though I will say that it was a one-handed attempt.

But for Nolan to jump on his soapbox and proclaim that not only does Crosby not get the calls against him, but he's ALSO a diver is complete bush-league.

You can't have it both ways, Teddy.

So let me get this straight. First, the NHL refs watch Crosby like a hawk because he's always whining to them, at least according to all of those hockey "experts" out there. NOW, all of that is forgotten, and NOW the refs are giving him preferential treatment ?!?!?

I've got an idea, Teddy. Why don't you spend your time concentrating on finding ways to defend Crosby and Malkin, rather than sucking your thumb and crying "he's a diver, he's a diver".

'Cause it's getting old.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Pens' start is encouraging, but let's not fool ourselves

I mentally had to tell myself tonight that I can't start doing daily blog entries on how great Malkin and Crosby look.

Not that it would be libelous, mind you.

First of all, the subject matter would quickly become boring.

Secondly, I'm just not that damn articulate enough to keep thinking up more adjectives to describe these guys !!

And most importantly, it's because the Pens would be fooling themselves, as would Pens' fans, if they thought for one minute that the wizardry of Sid and Geno all of a sudden is curing all of the Pens' problems on the ice.

The Pens offense, obviously, immediately went up a couple of notches when Malkin took the ice. Even someone who doesn't watch the Pens on a regular basis could easily see that. Not only have the shots on goals increased dramatically the last two games, but as a result many more scoring opportunities, and that has to be attributed to the addition of Malkin as the 2nd line center, to compliment Sid on the 1st line.

But the so-called "scoring" wingers are quickly starting to be a cause for concern. Here are the scoring stats for those in question;

Malone - 0 points
Leclair - 0 points
Armstrong - 0 goals, 3 assists
Recchi - 0 goals, 3 assists

I have to say in defense of Recchi, that little guy gives 110% every night, and he's getting some decent shots on net. I'd say it's just of matter of time with him.

Malone, even with reports that he lost some weight and gained some speed in the offseason, is not even remotely pulling his weight, no matter what line you put him on. There is no way, in this guy's opinion, that he should be anywhere near the 1st line. Some Pens' bloggers out there are even claiming that Malone could be part of a trade for former Pen Glen Murray with the Bruins.

Armstrong, to me anyway, just doesn't seem to be finishing his plays as well as he did with Sid last year. Some Pens' pundits on the blogosphere are questioning early this year why Sid hasn't lit the lamp too many times in the Pens' first 5 games. Well, I believe that one reason is that Armstrong for some reason is not on top of his game just yet.

And Leclair, well, I'll give him the respect he deserves as a long-time NHL star. I will say that he also has done an admirable job of forechecking and mucking along the boards, something that some of his teammates should take note of. But Leclair no longer has the legs to keep up with these youngsters in today's NHL.

But overall, yes most definitely, the offense is a much more formidable unit after the addition of young Mr. Malkin.

But just like you can't blame Big Ben when the pass defense gives 15 yards of cushion all night long, the combination of Crosby/Malkin does relatively nothing to diminish the Pens' achilles heel the past several years, and that's their defense.

I don't know how many tap-ins the Pens need to see with the D-men just standing there.

Special teams (both of them) will most likely be the make-or-break aspect of this Penguins team.

The power play, quickly becoming one of the best in the league, so far through 6 games is ranked 6th in the league with a nearly 23% success rate.

The penalty killing has been much better thus far. The PK overall is 18th in the league at 84%, and at home so far is 4th in the league at 95.4%.

So the signs are there, Pens fans, but let's all recognize that there are several aspects of this team that need to improve before we can realstically start making more lofty goals.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Hey, that kid's not bad !!

Well, it was the start of a new Penguins regime, and I sure as hell liked what I saw last night.

Except for that damn Brodeur, that is.

As was said several times during last night's broadcast and post-game shows, there was no doubt about it, for at least last night's game, Evgeni Malkin was the best player on the ice.

And I see that as a GREAT thing for the Penguins as a team. Sid's competitive juices will not tolerate him to be outdone, and the combination of Sid and Geno pushing each other will quickly make the Pens a lethal team, offensively at least.

Malkin did nothing to disappoint the 17,000 plus standing room only crowd, who most of which originally bought tickets for the Crosby bobblehead night.

Amazing stickhandling, pinpoint passes, and great speed highlighted the otherwise-disappointing night for the Pens in their 2-1 loss.

And the best part of the night ?? Well, to me anyway, was when Devils winger Cam Janssens "tried" to throw a check into Malkin. Janssens quickly found out that it's easier said than done to put Malkin on his butt. In fact, Malkin dropped Janssens on HIS butt, and did it with his injured shoulder !!

The few times that he and Crosby were on the ice together were downright magical. Somehow, the refs only called one penalty against the Devils, but that one power play created some great scoring chances. That power play will only get better, and should eventually become one of the best in the league.

Tough to start his career vs. the Devils, with great defenders like John Madden, and of course Martin Brodeur, but as the Pens have done just about every minute of the season so far, they could most definitely have won it. They couldn't say that for most of the year last year.

Also have to give props to Patrick Elias, who gave some friendly advice in the 2nd intermission that he'd "better keep his head up", because he likes to go over the middle so much.

So it's off to Long Island tonight. As a side note, if Direct TV intends to show the Isles' feed (no idea), let's hope that Deb Kaufman and her Eddie Money-ish side-mouth talking are out there.

Let's Go Pens !!!!!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Malkin gets 1st NHL goal, but Devils nip Pens, 2-1

Someone remind me next time not to bet against Brodeur.

More on Malkin's debut tomorrow.

Malkin debut is here; Props to XM 204; Rooskies file lawsuit

Plenty of kind words coming from Jersey mouths on the eve of tonight's game;

"No question," Elias said after Tuesday's practice at South Mountain Arena. "For his size, he's got unbelievable hands. He has great hockey sense. I was playing with him and [Sykora] and every time the other team started getting more physical, he was right in there. He never backed off. That was a good sign for him. He has a great scoring touch. He's a great playmaker, a great skater. He's got talent." "He loves the game. You can see that in him," Elias said. "He's sometimes too hard on himself, but that's OK. Every good player does that. That pushes you, I think."

Of he and Crosby, "It's going to be exciting having those two players on that team," Elias said.

And Marty Brodeur says "He's just an exciting player who wants to be successful like Ovechkin," Brodeur said. "For a long time Russians had that perception that they just played to play. These guys want to be successful. I think he's going to be great."

By the way, gotta give a thumbs up to Home Ice, XM 204. They did a funny skit this afternoon on Malkin. The XM receiver showed "Welcome to Evgeni Malkin from XM 204". Then they had a woman speak some Russian and broken English, "Evgeni, shoot de puck, shoot de puck".

And finally, the expected finally happened today, as Malkin's Russian team filed suit in U.S. Court.

Should be an exciting night. May be a foolish thing for me to do, but I'm gonna go out on a limb and predict a win for the Pens tonight, yes even against Brodeur.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Army apologizes to Letowski; Class move

Colby Armstrong called Trevor Letowski on Monday after his explosive hit on Saturday night.

"I talked to him for a good 10 minutes," Letowski said. "I thought it was a classy move on his part. He's not that type of player to go out and intentionally hurt someone."

Army goes up a couple of notches in my book. Not that Brooks Orpik doesn't, I think the entire soap opera back and forth between himself and Erik Cole has gotten ridiculous.

I'll be in Raleigh on Nov. 11th six rows from the ice, along with my son and my good friend from The Pojo Dojo. The return of Orpik, plus now the Armstrong hit, plus the regular 3,000 or so Pens fans that are always there, it promises to be a raucous night !!!

Come on Steeler fans, don't break out the bubbly just yet

You had to love that execution, didn't ya ??

Offense, defense, special teams (OK, OK, couple of muffs).

Ben, with all the time in the world, throwing on target to wide-open wide receivers.

Parker and Davenport running through gaping holes.

Larry Johnson might as well have taken the day off, he had absolutely nowhere to run.

Even the beleaguered pass defense had a good day, until of course they played prevent defense for the entire second half of the game.

But, let's be honest Steeler fans, not all is well just yet.

Having Kansas City coming into town with the Steelers at 1-3 was probably the most fortunate scheduling advantage they could have asked for. That defense was so lousy, you could have thrown Tyler Palko and Pitt out there.

But combine the Steelers' win with the overrated Ravens' and Bungles' losses, and we've got a whole new ballgame. One game of separation with 11 games to go is a piece of cake.

In my view, the REAL test is going to come this week in Atlanta. We all remember the '02 game, don't we ?? Steelers blow a 17 point lead in the second half, only to have the game end in a tie, after Plaxico caught the Hail Mary and was downed on the 1 yard line.

This game, with Atlanta playing at home, on turf with Michael Vick running his ass off, is potentially an extreme TRAP game.

Win in Atlanta, in Oakland, then home to Denver and New Orleans, before away games at Cleveland and Baltimore, and the Steelers could easily be 7-3 or 8-3 in 6 weeks.

But if they fall back with those same demons rearing their ugly heads, they could be 6-5 or 5-6.

One thing's for sure, if they play like they did against K.C., they'll once again become a very tough team to beat.

Monday, October 16, 2006

It's official; Malkin to return Wednesday vs. Devils

Well, we've known now for about a week that it was imminent, but now that it's official, it still feels real good.

Fellow Pens fans, the day is finally here.

Evgeni Malkin will make his NHL debut on Wednesday at home vs. Marty Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils.

Just happens to be Sidney Crosby bobblehead night as well.

The place will be packed, and sure to be energized.

Look for that crowd energy to translate to a pumped-up Pens team, especially after that ultra-flat home performance against the Canes on Saturday.

And as I've been saying for a while now, the addition of Malkin specifically doesn't make the Pens so much better, it's the shuffling of the lines due to Malkin's addition that makes them better.

Putting Malkin at 2nd line center gets Ryan Malone the hell out of there, and over to wing where he is much more of an asset to the team.

And, at least according to Black and Gold Insider, the line shuffle will put the quickly aging John Leclair down to the 4th line. According to BGI, the lines will look like this;

1st Line: Ekman - Crosby - Armstrong
2nd Line: Recchi - Malkin - Malone
3rd Line: Ruutu - Moore - Ouellet
4th Line: Thorburn - Staal - LeClair

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Lethargic Pens fall to Canes, 5-1; 'Burghers see this stuff too often




Ya know, the more I think of it, the more the Steelers and Penguins have similar mentalities when it comes to playing at home.

When the NFL playoff started last year, and the Steelers snuck in with their #6 seed, I told my good buddies at The Roth Army that this was the best position for the Steelers to be in. The Steelers, for at least the last several years have been playing in Heinz Field/Three Rivers with an incredible sense of perceived invincibility and quite often playing lackadaisically (it's a word, I looked it up). The opponents jump on loose balls quicker, hit the holes faster, and are tighter on defense a lot of the time. Don't believe me ? They almost lost to freakin' Miami to start the year because of it, and came that close to being winless so far.

So the Steelers go on the road, and granted, they get a fortunate twist of the knee by Carson Palmer, but soundly defeat the Bungles, completely dominate the Colts, and easily defeat the Broncos on the way to Super Bowl XL. Those Steelers teams went into those hostile environments completely focused, hitting everything that moved on defense, and executed their gameplans nearly flawlessly.

And that leads us to the Pens.

Don't you see a similar pattern developing ?? I've said for quite a few years now, probably going back to when Mario came back in '00, probably even earlier than that, the Pens at home just play too damn cutesy, too fancy.

Too many damn times that instead of driving hard to the net, they widen the ice on a 2-1 to make that pretty saucer pass for the one timer, that most often fails.

Too many times that they're trying to make that perfect pass on the power play, only to get it intercepted and tossed back down ice.

Too many times that the opponents, in last night's case the Canes, get to nearly EVERY loose puck first.

Compare that to the effort they did in MSG against the Rangers. Great checking against Jagr's line, excellent hustle along the boards and grabbing loose pucks, and getting good shots on net.

Coach Therrien described it best, in his broken English, as "immature" (OK, he said unmature, I'm helping him out here).

The Pens start overall has been encouraging, especially considering that only a few of the offensive starters are contributing anything at all (read: Recchi, Malone, Leclair, Armstrong, Ekman). Malkin's arrival hopefully next week should improve that. But this team is nowhere near the caliber team that is going to take the ice and come out of a ho-hum game with a win.

Something tells me that Therrien's next 3 days of practice before the Devils' game on Wednesday will reinforce that statement.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Staal/Letang: Staying or going ?; Malkin, "days" away ?; Hamilton arena ties are cut

With the recent article in the Trib concerning sending Jordan Staal and Kristopher Letang back to their Junior teams, it made it seem almost a formality that they'll eventually go back.

On my way home tonight listening to XM204, they interviewed Bob McKenzie from TSN. McKenzie spoke to Ray Shero the day after that story broke, and stated that Shero was upset at the way that his comments were taken out of context.

He went on to state that Shero had to have conversations with both players, telling both of them that NO decision had been made as of yet.

And with both of them scoring their 1st NHL goals last night, it sure is making that decision harder every day.

On the Malkin front, Dave Molinari from the PG reports that Malkin could make his NHL debut in a "matter of days". That info is conflicting with Mark Madden's opinion, stating is re-eval is to be pushed back another week, but what else is new.

And finally, the hush-hush exclusivity deal for the Copps Coliseum in Hamilton has been cancelled, a deal that reportedly was made by Jim Balsillie.

The reasonings by the Canadian pundits for the Pens to move has been whittled away by one.

Let's hope that on December 20th, the final nail in that coffin will be hammered home with the IOC wins that slots license.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Pens nip Rangers 6-5 on Sid's deflection goal !!!!; Malkin re-evaluation tomorrow ?

Wow, what a hockey game.

On a goal by Sid that seemingly only the great ones get, with 3 seconds left in the game to boot, the Pens moved to 2-1 on the year after beating the Rangers 6-5.

Cap it off with the 1st NHL goals by both Jordan Staal (short-handed) and Kristopher Letang (power play), and it was an excellent road win for the Pens.

The power play finally starts to click for the Pens, going 4 for 9. While the penalty kill did give up a couple of goals tonight, overall the special teams did well again.

MAF gave up 5 goals, but in this guy's opinion, most of them he couldn't do much with. There was only one goal that I really considered soft, that being the dribbler that got behind him. He's still playing outstanding.

By the way, in addition to Bob Errey's pregame comment concerning Malkin being back in 7-10 days, the MSG announcers stated that Malkin's reevaluation is being moved up to tomorrow, and they repeated the contention that he'd be back in 7-10 days. So, we shall see.

Errey: Malkin back in 7-10 days ??

Pens commentator Bob Errey on tonight's pregame report on Sportsbeat stated that, in solely his opinion, that Malkin would be back in a "week to 10 days". He also said that the Pens have a timetable for his return, but they are keeping that super secret.

Pens Gameday; Wrecking Ball on 1st line, for now

Pens at Rangers, 7PM Thursday...

It's looking like the Pens will again go with Mark Recchi on the 1st line with Sid and Colby for now.

I may be wrong, but it sure looks like they're biding their time until Malkin comes back, at which time the top two lines will have much more of a punch.

At first glance, that may be a slam at Leclair, and while I don't want it to sound like a slam, I mean, let's face it. Johnny's on his last legs. I'll say this, he's one of only a few Pens that actually realizes how to dump the puck and go for the forecheck to get scoring opportunities. The quicker Malone realizes that, and stops trying to weave through both D-men at the same time, the more scoring chances they'll get. But other than that, Johnny just doesn't have the legs anymore to keep up with the pace of this hockey nowadays. Leclair' game today, one that might have been considered blasphemous only a few years ago, really seems to be suited to the 3rd line now. He can still lay good checks, and combine with Moore and Ruutu for a decent amount of scoring opportunities for the 3rd line.

Anyway, let's hope for a good showing tonight in the Garden.

Let's Go Pens !!!!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Whew !!! Close call for Sid; Malkin miscellaneous

Come on Sid, I know it's been a long layoff after the first couple games of the season, but we don't need headlines THAT BAD.

Sid was doing his Ronnie Paulino impression apparently in practice on Tuesday, and nearly broke his hand. Thankfully, it turned out only to be a bruise, and he should be fine for tomorrow night's game in New Yawk.

Read a couple of interesting notes on Malkin, and to be honest, I don't know if they contradict each other or not.

According to this post at LGP, taken from Phil Bourque's interview with Tim Benz from Fox Sports Radio in the 'Burgh, they are taking Malkin's re-eval back a week, and to expect his 1st game to be on the West Coast trip beginning in L.A. on November 1st.

And then there's this tidbit from LGP, from ESPN Radio's Mark Madden, who states that Malkin took part in a full practice today.

Well, whenever he gets back, it won't be too soon. Not necessarily solely for him, but what his inclusion will mean for the Pens' lineup.

Specifically, it provides the opportunity to get Ryan Malone the hell off of center.

Sorry Ryan, I've heard you came into camp in great shape and we look for a better year, but you my friend are no center.

So let's get Malkin back centering the 2nd line, with Malone and Recchi as his wings. Throw Leclair back to the 3rd line where he belongs at this stage of his career, and Ekman back up to Sid's line (although if he's not pulling his weight pretty soon, I wouldn't doubt Recchi moving up there permanently).

I'm interested to see the intensity that the Pens bring when they hit the ice at the Garden. And as they did last year, I'm sure the Ranger fans (like the Flyer fans) will unknowingly pump Sid up.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Financial Group report; IOC now predicted to win slots license

With about two months to go before the awarding of the slots license for Pittsburgh, the Isle of Capri is now the front-runner to win the license, at least according to Equity Research Gaming published by the Susquehanna Financial Group.

So, take it with a grain of salt, we're all gonna read a bunch of articles pro-IOC and pro-Harrah's in the coming weeks.

In addition, the following detail was copied with courtesy of LGP poster "Ott";

We have updated our current odds on the applicants to operate a stand-alone casino in Pittsburgh in the wake of the recent buy-out offer for Harrah’s and the new ownership of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Recall that there are three bidders for the license to operate a casino in the city of Pittsburgh – Isle of Capri, PITG Gaming (Don Barden), and Station Square Gaming (HET/Forest City). In this report, we increase the odds for the ISLE bid and decrease the odds for the HET/Forest City bid. In our view, the ISLE bid is now the front runner for the Pittsburgh license. The PA Gaming Board is currently expected to announce the winner on December 20 in Harrisburg. The Harrah’s/Forest City and Isle of Capri licensing hearings are both scheduled for November 20, and PITG Gaming is scheduled for November 21.

• Updated odds. We have decreased our current odds on the Harrah’s/Forest City proposal to 3-to-2 (40%) from 4-to-5 (55%). We believe the current offer for the company creates uncertainty surrounding the bid. We are increasing our odds on the Isle bid to 4-to-5 (55%) from 3-to-2 (40%), and the bid is now our favorite to win the license. The Isle bid, which includes the full build-out of a new arena for the Penguins at $290 mln, appears to be gaining steam in the wake of the new owners of the Penguins and the uncertainty raised by the HET LBO bid. We reiterate our odds on PITG Gaming at 19-to-1 (5%), as we still see it as a long shot given its lack of a strong brand name like Harrah’s, or the added kicker of the arena build-out contained in the ISLE bid.
• Private equity offer for Harrah’s. We think the recent offer by private equity firms Apollo Management and Texas Pacific Group to take HET private may hurt the HET/Forest City bid for the Station Square proposal. We think questions about the eventual ownership of Harrah’s and concerns that the amount of debt required to take HET private may curtail Harrah’s future capex spending may make awarding a license to HET riskier in the eyes of the regulators than it was previously.
• The Penguins and Plan B. The central issue from day one in the Pittsburgh race is building a hockey arena for the Penguins. The Penguins have publicly threatened from the beginning to move the team from the city if the Isle bid was not chosen. Plan B is a plan formulated by Governor Edward G. Rendell (D) in the event the Isle bid is not the chosen as the winner. The plan is a combination of funding from the Penguins, the chosen gaming operator, and the Gaming Economic Development and Tourism Fund. The way the plan works is the gaming operator contributes $7.5 mln annually over a 30-year period, which would fund a bond for the proposed $290 mln arena.
• Pittsburgh market opportunity. There will only be one Category II (stand-alone)
facility in the downtown section of the city. The Meadows Racetrack, which received a conditional gaming license on September 27, is about a half-hour drive southwest of the city. When we evaluate the large population of the city and compare it with similarly populated regional markets elsewhere in the U.S., we believe the market is very favorable. We expect the facility with 3,000 slot machines could do $375 in win per day per machine, which at margins of 25% could produce $100 mln in EBITDA to the chosen operator. We should note that we do not include the assumption that the November 7 referendum in Ohio is successful.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Buccigross: You wanna be a journalist or draft a monologue ??

More ridiculous banter on the Pens' arena situation, this one from none other than former Pittsburgher John Buccigross (OK, to be fair, born in Pittsburgh, raised in Indiana, PA).

Eleven paragraphs of punch lines, but no reasoning nor justifications to back up his opinions.

You wanna write a constructive article stating why the Pens will move John, great, join the party.

But in the mean time, quit trying to act like the literary George Carlin in attempting to get your point across.

And, as I emailed to you, I will be eagerly awaiting your column in which you apologize to Penguins fans everywhere when you're wrong.

Bolts 23, Steelers 13; Now where did I put that panic button...


So when does everyone start calling these games "must win", I didn't get the memo on that.

If the residents of Steelertown aren't pretty damn concerned by now, let me give you a bit of friendly advice, you'd better start.

'Cause this team's got some serious issues.

First and foremost, when did the Steelers secondary start playing virtual prevent defense ?? For as much smack talking and chest pumping Ike Taylor and Deshea Townsend do, you'd think these guys were the second coming of Deion Sanders back there. They made Philip Rivers look like Joe Montana (or last year's Big Ben) in the second half last night. The Bolts were completing passes with the receivers easily having a good five yards cushion on a regular basis.

The run defense, as is usually the case, did it's job admirally, basically shutting down LT all night long.

Onto the offense, this is where it gets ugly.

Willie Parker and the running game did alright, and they even mixed in Najeh Davenport for the first time. Gotta love that 32 yard screen pass, with the outstanding stiff arm.

The offensive line, at least in this guy's opinion, was quite mediocre. Parker had very little running room on the majority of his runs and Ben was running for his life on the majority of his dropbacks.

Ben, well, how long can we honestly say, "it's just rust".

I'll give him the benefit of the doubt on the flea flicker INT, he took a shot downfield, and although it was into double coverage, was nothing more than a good punt downed at the 9 yard line.

But that 2nd INT was downright Bledsoe-esque. What the hell was that ?? Across his body, no receiver around, come on Ben, you're better than that.

So, as I said previously, the Ravens will soon start showing their real colors, I bet that will start tonight in Denver.

So we're really looking at a 2 game deficit if that holds true. The Steelers schedule lightens up a little at this point in the season, with Kansas City and Oakland, and a game in Atlanta in between.

Time to panic ?? That may be too harsh a term, but the Steelers better start playing Steeler football before it's too late to push the panic button.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Steelers gameday: OK boys, time to wake up

For as much as I can't stand Michael Irvin, I can't agree more with what he just said;

The Steelers need to get it into their heads of what kind of atmosphere and adrenaline their opponents feel this year, it's even more than what teams normally feel when their playing the hated Steelers.

Just look at what Cincinnati did. They go into Pittsburgh, fired up beyond belief, and come out of it with a win (they oughta send Colclough and Haynes new cars for their timely fumbles in the 4th quarter). Then they come HOME, and get their asses handed to them by New England.

Same with Jacksonville this year.

But onto tonight's same in San Diago (with my Ron Burgurdy reference of course).

Philip Rivers should be running for his life tonight, if I know by now how Dick Lebeau is going to gameplan for him. And that goes for LT as well.

Look for Ben to play much better tonight. He's been a victim of dropped passes and poorly ran routes as much as throwing bad passes.

Steelers 27, Bolts 17.

Sunday tidbits at the Confluence

  • Is it just me, or does the sun a little brighter the morning after the Yankees are eliminated ??
  • Joe Torre is rumored to be given the pink slip today, with Lou Pinella given another shot in the Bronx. Anyone else think it won't work ??
  • I don't care what anyone says, if you think all of the Yankees' problems are A-Rod's fault, you don't know much about baseball.
  • I am so happy for Jim Leyland and his relocated Pirates coaching staff of Lemont, Slaught, Belliard, Van Slyke, and McClendon.
  • I am eagerly awaiting to see how crude, lude, and rude the Eagles fans will be towards T.O. today. Nothing they do surprise me.
  • By the way, the Mets closed out the Dodgers last night, if anyone could filter out the Yankee coverage on ESPN.
  • Word is that Culpepper is gonna sit today vs. the Pats. New England's already 9 1/2 point favorites, are we looking at double digits now, Vegas ??
  • Indy favored by 18 1/2 at home today over Tennessee. Wow, I'm sorry, but that's a lot of points.
  • Call me a Steelers homer (and you'd be right), but if you're jumping on the Ravens bandwagon after THOSE first four games, don't whine to me when they come back to Earth.
  • After the first few games of the NHL regular season, the Sabres seem to have "IT".
  • It took 13 rounds of the shootout before the Rangers beat the Flyers last night. It took until the 6th Flyer before they put Forsberg in there, and he said it was because he didn't trust his sticks. Huh ??
  • The Stanley Cup champion Hurricanes are 0-2-1 after 3 games. Those injuries on the blueline may start to put them in a hole for later in the year.

Awestruck Pens blanked by Red Wings, 2-0

OK, so the Pens won't go 82-0.

But as I was afraid of, the Pens had absolutely zero intensity, at least for the first two periods, during their loss last night.

It was painfully obvious that they were on their heels most of the night.

MAF played well again, although this time he couldn't prevent the tap-in due to the defensive enigma that is Rob Scuderi, who along with his compadre Joe Melichar, just stump the hell out of me why they still have jobs. The second goal, with just over a minute left to play, was a laser to the top shelf.

The most pressing concern to me is the lack of offense generated, with 24 shots on goal, that's a total for both games so far. That's an average total for one game, much less two games.

I just hope that they aren't getting Jan Hrdina disease, 'cause they damn sure ain't shooting the puck.

I think the Pens will rebound Thursday in New York vs. the Rangers, another hated rival who they won't feel awestruck by. Follow that up with games against the Canes and Erik Cole, and the Devils, and I think the Pens will be alright.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Please excuse the housecleaning, and thanks

I'm trying to spruce the place up a little bit, add some colleague's links, sponsor some stuff, add some templates, ya know, all of the blogger stuff.

Thanks to all of those with the kind words on my one week anniversary, LOL !!!

Canucks, my friends, you are out of control

Ya know, I understand it in a patriotic point of view, I guess.

You saw franchises move fairly recently in Quebec City and Winnipeg, and you believe that just about any major city in Canada would be considered a hockey hotbed that could support a NHL team.

Sure, that's understandable, and some would way, is not an incorrect statement.

But the slant towards the chances of the Penguins moving, in a ultra-optimistic view from the Canadian hockey media, is getting absolutely ridiculous. In some media circles, you'd think the team moving is a probability, rather than a possibility.

The Montreal Gazette reports in it's article Sale of Pens could send club North that "For the time being, it's good news for hockey fans in the Steel City, but it might prove to be even better news for fans in Canada."

TSN's Darren Dreger even throws Las Vegas as a possibility in his commentary, "If we're willing to accept the notion that Canadian cell phone magnate Jim Balsillie stands a chance of relocating the Pittsburgh Penguins to Southern Ontario".

And Nick Kypreos obviously has been hit too many times in the head over his NHL career. On Sportsnet last night, the manner in which he quickly dismissed the opportunity for the Pens to get a new arena in Pittsburgh was as if the primary option was to indeed move the team !!! To be fair, I'm paraphrasing here, but he immediately states that "you know that Balsillie wants to move that team". Then, amazingly, he actually has the gall to claim that Mario Lemieux has no intention of having any future connection with the Penguins. Did he actually watch the press conference, or does he simply have those Canadian hockey media blinders on so tight that he only sees what he WANTS to see.

The Canadian hockey media reminds me of Jimmy Fallon in "Fever Pitch" when he's in the restaurant eating lobster, and when the other couple starts talking about the Red Sox game, he covers his ears and yells out with his "la, la, la, la, la".

Isle of Capri slots license chances ?? "la, la, la, la, la"

Plan B ?? "la, la, la, la, la"

Move the team to Hamilton ?? "NOW WE'RE TALKING !!!!"

Perhaps you should gain some knowledge about Plan B, and read Bob Smizik's column in the Post-Gazette this morning. That'll give you plenty of material to study up on, for the next time you want to claim so proudly that the Pens are on the move.

Your passion for hockey in Canada is certainly admirable. Hell, I wish that the U.S. had one-tenth the passion for hockey that Canada. THAT conversation is for another time, as I give ESPN a piece of my mind.

But you guys need tighten up the journalistic integrity belt, my friends.

Oh yeah, the Pens play tonight.

Let's hope the Pens come out firing on all cylinders like they did Thursday night. Certainly, Detroit will pounce on chances they're given if the intensity is lacking.

The penalties will definitely have to be on the decline tonight. I don't see the same result if the Pens give the Red Wings 10 power plays.

And on our end, a power play goal or two would be nice.

Let's Go Pens !!!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Instant dividends, Pens blank Flyers 4-0; Malkin - 2 more weeks

What a night for Pens fans !!

OK, I have to say honestly, it could have started a little better.

The pregame ceremonies were, for the most part, and sorry to say, dull.

The first ceremony of course, bowing to his wishes, was the re-retirement of Mario's jersey. Always a class act, he requested that the ceremony for him was to be kept low key, with just a short video containing some highlight clips and a tribute narrated by Sid. Well done on that front.

Then came the sometimes long, drawn out, and sometimes boring videos that led up to the player introductions. The best part ?? Why of course, it was the real penguins walking out on the ice.

The biggest problem I had with the pregame ceremonies came when the players that weren't dressed for the game did not at least come out onto the carpet and wave to the crowd. Malkin got a nice ovation from the crowd when he was introduced, but if he would have come out on the ice, it would have been twice as nice.

By the way, word comes this afternoon officially from the Pens that Malkin is at least two more weeks away from coming back.

Hey, they keep playing like they did last night, they can afford to let him heal, right ??

First of all, like I had optimistically predicted, the Pens came out hitting, and hitting hard. They were checking so well that the Flyers message boards were whining that the Pens had singled out Forsberg and Gagne. What a reversal !!

And what an outstanding TKO by Colby on former Pen Nolan Baumgartner. That uppercut that Colby threw was solid, and jerked Baumgartner's head way back.

Michel Ouellet, for as much criticism that he receives on the Pens' boards, continues to have one of the quickest releases around. Esche should have made that save, sure, but Ouellet sneaked it by him for that ultra-important first goal of the game.

Combine that Jarkko Ruutu's tap-in to make it 2-0, and Pens fans felt awfully good after one period. It plainly obvious that Ruutu will QUICKLY become a big fan favorite in the Igloo.

Into the second period, and Sid told everyone where to stick your sophomore slump when he beat Esche on the short side to make it 3-0.

And just to make sure we all knew that things were going the Pens' way, that scoring machine Josef Melichar ended the scoring for a 4-0 win.

But really, the stars of the game were the penalty killers and Marc-Andre Fleury. The PK went 10 for 10, including two kills on 5-on-3's. What an immediate difference, those guys played fantastic. MAF, while I don't think he had to make any "standing on his head" types of saves, stopped all 40 that were thrown at him. It should be a great confidence booster heading into the Red Wings game on Saturday night.

The press conference at the 1st intermission was pretty interesting to say the least. Jim Balsillie appeared pretty excited. Of course, the Canadian media kept badgering him on whether the Pens would move. Can they ignore everyone's statements any more than they already have ?? Those of us who've paid attention to the process from the beginning realize that NO Pens representative is going to say ANYTHING but related to the Isle of Capri issue is resolved, for good or bad. If IOC doesn't get the slots license, there is NO DOUBT in my mind that the Pens will jump onboard with Plan B, tweek the details, and break ground on a new stadium by next summer.

On a funnier note, did everyone else catch Jim B. drop the "Holy shit!" bomb while he was in the booth with Steigy and Errey ?? Hilarious !!!

So now, it's onto to Saturday night vs. the Red Wings. I'm fearful of the letdown after the big win last night. Detroit is even older than they used to be, but they are still a very dangerous team, especially after losing their opener last night to Vancouver.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Opening night, and I'm a little ticked off

Opening night is finally here, let's hope '06-'07 gets off to a better start than last year.

Before I get to the big story of course relating to the Pens, as I mentioned yesterday as being probable, the Pens did indeed call up Noah Welch today.

Now to the news.

As has been widely reported for about 24 hours now, the Penguins officially announced that Jim Balsillie, CEO of Research in Motion (or RIM, as the industry calls them) has signed a purchase agreement to buy the Pens.

Just as a personal note, I do regular business with RIM and know a lot of people employed by them, both in Canada and in the States. Let me just say this, if Mr. Balsillie runs the Pens like he runs RIM, we have nothing to worry about.

And that's running the Pens in Pittsburgh, for those of you who might want to slant the story north of the border.

And here's the part of the story that's really irritated me all day.

Let's see, ever since the story broke last night that Balsillie would be purchasing the Pens, the vast majority of the Canadian hockey media has continously slanted the story towards the possibility of the Pens moving to Hamilton, even after TSN, ESPN, the Penguins, and even Mr. Balsillie himself confirmed today that his intention is to keep the team in Pittsburgh.

Now, is there still that possibility of the Pens moving ?? Absolutely, after so many years of the Pittsburgh politicians dicking around with new arena plans, you can never be sure of that fact until the groundbreaking ceremony.

So how about some journalistic integrity, Canada ?? The man himself said he wants to keep the team in Pittsburgh, so how about we stop with the fan polls that are asking "should the Pens stay or should they go" ??

And let's be realistic here, take off your naivety blinders and acknowledge that Mario Lemieux would NEVER sell the Pittsburgh Penguins to someone whose PRIMARY intent was to move the team.

Much less announce it on opening night.

OK, off of the soapbox for now.

Let's go Pens, let's get physical in the Flyers face all night and come out of it with an opening night win.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

24 hours and counting !! Orpik out for a month; Pens sale imminent ?

Aaaah, it's finally here. It's hockey time, boys and girls.

Good games tonight so far, Buffalo and Carolina, along with Ottawa and Toronto.

I gotta say this about those Caniacs, those are some great fans. I've had the pleasure to go down there about six times, mostly for Pens/Canes games, and every time I go down there, I have a great time.

And as is the case in a lot of major cities around the U.S., there are a lot of transplanted Pittsburghers there. Usually, I'd say in a soldout crowd of approx. 20,000, there have got to be about 3,000 Pens fans.

Brooks Orpik is gonna be out of the lineup for about a month after surgery with a cracked bone in his right hand. I haven't seen any callups from WBS yet, but I would think it would be Noah Welch. I hope he's back before the Nov. 11th game in Raleigh, that's the 1st game in Raleigh since Orpik nailed Erik Cole, that should be a wild game. And I'll be there, 6 rows from the ice.

Speculation is flying around that the Pens will announce tomorrow that an agreement in principal has been reached with Mr. Blackberry, Jim Balsillie, to buy the Pens.

According to this story by Andy Conte from the Trib, who was on Sportsbeat tonight with Stan, the announcement will most likely be made tomorrow to coincide with opening night. Also, and most importantly, Andy indicated that according to their sources, as long as their is a viable plan for an arena, Balsillie will NOT attempt to move the club.

I think this is gonna be great news. No way that the Pens make an announcement of a new owner on opening night with an intention to move the team.

MLB Playoffs; Someone give me a shake when they're over

Pretty sorry comment, considering I've been a baseball fanatic for about 36 years now.

You know, watching the Yankees, with that lineup, easily beat the Tigers in Game one. What the hell would anyone else expect ??

My interest in playoff baseball has faded dramatically in the last, oh I don't know, 14 years or so. Coincidence ??

OK, OK, I'll give ya who I'm rooting for.

In the American League, do damn well know I'm rooting for Jimmy Leyland, although I think they're in over their head against the Yankees.

For the National League, geez I don't know, let's say the Padres. No superstars, just a decent ballclub.

In the World Series, anybody but the Yankees.

How's that ??

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Pens grab Thorburn from Sabres

Another agitator for the bottom 2 lines for the Pens, and I like it...

According to the Pens, they've claimed forward Chris Thorburn, who was placed on waivers.

After watching him during last Saturday's preseason game between the Pens and Sabres, Thorburn looks like the perfect fit for the Ray Shero-led Penguins roster of 2006. Gritty, decent speed, and gets under the skin of his opponents.

To make room for Thorburn, Dany Sabourin was optioned to WBS, although he does have to clear waivers.

Don't be surprised if he's grabbed, he had a decent preseason.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Pens annual golf tourney; A possible Malkin update ??

Let me say right off of the bat, I'm a big Stan Savran fan.

I strongly disagree with those that claim Stan is a Steeler/Pirate apologist, yadda, yadda, yadda. That's utter bovine feces (read: B.S.). I find that he never has a problem saying if he believes a player and/or coach is doing lousy. And he also isn't one of those broadcasters who thinks they're Mr. Rumor Mill, like some others in Pittsburgh do (even though they don't step one foot in a locker room, hmmm).

Anyway, I digress.

Stan broadcast Sportsbeat tonight at the Pens' annual golf tournament. Some interesting items of note;
  • Malkin and Gonchar on the putting green, apparently "Gino" (I guess that's Malkin's nickname from the team, since Evgeny is Eugene in Russian) had never played golf before.
  • Interviewed six players, including Crosby, Staal, Moore, Leclair, Armstrong, and Fleury. All of them gave glowing reviews to the experience at West Point.
  • The interview with Coach Therrien might have given a possible hint at when Malkin may return. He said he definitely won't be playing the first two games of the season, and they'll take it from there. Hmmm, maybe the 12OCT game in New York ?? They did show video of him at practice today, he seemed fine to me. We'll just have to see when he can take a hit on that shoulder.
  • Also interviewed Steigy and Errey. Errey seemed quite disappointed that Talbot and Welch were sent down to WBS. Personally, I concur with the team in sending Talbot down, but I would have liked to see Welch stay with the big boys, and take a chance on getting either Melichar or Scuderi (flip a coin for the hell of it) through waivers to send down to WBS.
I really doubt that Staal will stay with the team the entire season, but I believe Letang is here for the long haul, just my .02.

Three days until the Flyers dive into town. Hell, I can't wait until Wednesday to watch Sabres-Canes.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Freddy grabs the NL Batting Crown

Congrats to Freddy Sanchez, who went 2 for 4 today to finish the season with a .344 batting average, and the National League batting crown. Miguel Cabrera went 0 for 2 before being taken out of the game for the Marlins.

It was also the 25th batting crown for the Buccos, the first since Mad Dog Madlock in '83.

Steelers bye week; Everyone chill out

Not all is lost.

It's not time to jump off of the Clemente Bridge (I'm not well versed on the aggregate of Pittsburgh bridges, forgive me if there's a more preferred bridge nowadays).

The Steelers have played only three games, and while some would like for the bye week to occur later in the year, it seems as though this is the perfect time to take the week off, take a step back, and reflect.

They've played mediocre football, no doubt about it, but let's also say that they're not that far away from where they were last year.

And that turned out OK, didn't it ?? Remember how you felt when they were 7-5 last year ??

Ben's been shaky, definitely, but let's take a closer look at him. Take the Bengals game, many fans point to the deep ball he through that got intercepted. But did most of you also see that he stepped on a lineman's foot while he was throwing ?? How about the interception intended for Santonio in the Jags game ?? Are you also accounting for Santonio running the wrong route ??

The offensive line was pretty piss poor the first couple games of the year, but they more than redeemed themselves vs. the Bengals.

I'd still like to see the pass defense tighten up some more, they're still giving up too many 3rd down successes.

I believe that Coach Lebeau will throw everything but the kitchen sink at Philip Rivers next Monday night in San Diego.

And we'll all start feeling better.

Gee whiz, 14 seasons on the books

Today marks the end of the regular season for the Buccos, and the end of the 14th consecutive losing season as well.

My son turns 13 next week, he's an All-Star baseball player in his own right, and of course, is a Bucco fan (read: brainwashed).

He's never seen the Buccos even as a decent team, much less a Division champ during the early 90's. He comes over while I'm watching a Buccos game, shrugs his shoulders, and simply states, "they suck Dad". And you know what, I can't argue with him !!

But hey, let's hope Freddy gets at least one hit today, I think that should be enough to keep him on top to win the batting crown.

I'll get back up on my Buccos soapbox in the coming weeks for what their offseason should look like, and what it most likely will look like. Something as convoluted as administering the roster of the Pittsburgh Pirates takes time.

After all, after reading today's article from Dejan about McClatchy, sounds like he's not going anywhere. Combine that with the statement earlier last month that Littlefield is staying as well.

What's it going to take to smack some sense into this organization ??