Thursday, November 30, 2006
The writing was certainly on the wall for both Leclair and Roy. The fact that Roy has already passed through waivers should be a red flag to all "enforcers"; You'd better have some offensive skills, or have some speed if you're a D-man, 'cause if you don't have any of those requisite skills, you're days are numbered in the NHL.
I also wouldn't be surprised if Leclair gets nabbed by the Flyers, for old times sake. Tim Panaccio's column confirms as much.
Of course, these roster moves are making wild speculation on the Ray Shero's next move. Is it simply to make room for Ryan Malone when he returns in about a week ? Is there a trade brewing (read: Naslund, Markus) ?? Another WBS callup (Filewich) ??
I suppose we shall see in the coming days.
Some of these are quite understandable, some are pretty surprising...
- While players like Sid (+11) and Recchi (+9) are having much better +/- years as compared to last year, it may be surprising to some of you that Nils Ekman is actually a -9 so far this year.
- Sid is currently #4 in the NHL points race at 32 points, 5 behind Jags, with 5 less games played of course. He's 5th in assists at 22, 3 behind Jags.
- In what is a pretty good indication of the Pens propensity for not shooting the puck, the Pens' leader in shots is the one that didn't play the first 4 games of the year. Geno leads the Pens with 72 SOG, but that's only good enough for #43 in the NHL. And if you're wondering, Sid is currently ranked #151 with only 49 SOG. 49 shots in 20 games played, that stat is an eye opener.
- Gonchar is ranked 10th in the NHL in ice time per game with a little over 26 minutes a game. Whitney is ranked 16th at over 25 per game. Where's Sid you may ask ?? #116 at over 20 minutes a game. Malkin is #126 with about the same time per game as well.
- Wanna take a guess who leads the Pens in faceoff percentage ?? It's not Sid, it's not Malkin, it's Dominic Moore. He's ranked #40 in the NHL with a 51.7% faceoff winning percentage. Crosby is 46th at 51.1%.
A look around the Pens blogosphere this morning shows our buddies at The Pensblog working on a Q&A session with Joe Starkey of the Trib (hmmm, maybe I can throw a quick email to Trenni). Also scroll down a bit and check out the Top 10 goals in Penguins History. Really brings back some great memories.
Also, if you're game, head on over to The Sidney Crosby Show check out the bizarre video that features Sid.
And a hearty welcome aboard (LOL, like I'm a salty blog veteran myself) to Cory at A New Pirates Generation. Cory tells me he's working on a Pirates blog project that he asked me to participate in, of course I gladly accepted.
After all, there's always a PLETHORA of topics to be pissed off at the Pirates about, and therefore to vent on our blogs. You guys ain't seen nothing yet in reference to my anger towards the Bucs, I'm pacing myself, it'll be unleashed in the springtime.
Lastly, today is my two month anniversary on the Blogosphere, and just as I'm typing this, we just went over 2000 hits. 2000 hits is chump change compared to some of the established blogs, so I'm keeping it in perspective. While it's difficult to predict how popular or unpopular The Confluence turns out to be, let me once again thank all of those who've helped me out with formats, links, and comments. It's much appreciated.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
- The Buccos are hot on the trail of a free agent pitcher. Jason Schmidt ?? Yeah, right. Barry Zito ?? Don't even try it. Uh, try Tomo Ohka. Excuse me if don't show the least bit of interest in that one.
- There are whispers that the Buccos are talking with Jeff Suppan again. After his postseason performance last year ?? I mean, why would they even try ?? Do they enjoy the rejection ??
- Pretty harsh (but justified) article about Dave Littlefield on CBS Sportsline. Wow, the first sentence says it all; "The Pittsburgh Pirates might be one of baseball's two or three franchises truly beyond resuscitation, and I can tell you why in three words: Dave Motherbleepin' Littlefield."
- Am I the only one that is completely skipping reading articles on what's wrong with the Steelers ??
- Isn't it freakin' amazing, at game 12, that there are already articles talking about who the Super Bowl Champion Steelers should take in next year's NFL Draft??
- Condolences to the Bettis family, as Jerome's father passed away after suffering a heart attack yesterday.
- 3 weeks from today, for the City of Pittsburgh slots license decision by the PA Gaming Board. Let the mudslinging begin, I fully expect this to get nasty, LOTS of cash at stake.
- Good commentary by KDKA's John Steigerwald on Sidney Crosby, and his feeling that Crosby could be the best player in the world, even at age 19.
- Might have been just me, but damn if that Fleury bobblehead wasn't a dead ringer.
- Gary Bettman estimated that the Pens sale to Jim Balsillie should be final in 2-3 weeks. Blackberry's for everyone !! [[ Trust me fellas, I work with Blackberry's for a living, they're frickin' addicting, they don't call them Crackberry's for nothin'. ]]
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Sid set up Armstrong for both his 1st and 2nd goals of the year, and combined with a fortunate bounce off of DiPietro's skate, got a much-needed 3-2 win over the Islanders.
It was pretty clear, Sid wasn't 100%, but let's be honest, a 90% Sidney Crosby is better than most NHL players anyway.
The passes were quicker, crisper, and although they only had 2 power plays, Crosby's presence made a distinct difference.
The Pens even got fortunate at their own goal, as the puck which was moving steadily towards the goalline, was knocked back out with only about 10% of the puck not over the line.
The game was quite chippy, no doubt a product of the frequent matchups the NHL scheduled. Nice to see Geno getting in a couple of nice hits on Brendan Witt.
So now it's a couple days of practice, then down the NJ turnpike to Exit 16W on Friday night vs. the Devils.
You can't keep these kids off the ice for too long, you just knew it.
Sid makes his return tonight (with the 7PM start time, by the way) as the redundant NHL schedule has the Pens facing the Islanders again tonight.
Of course, after the Pens play in the Jersey swamp Friday night, then guess who comes to the Igloo on Saturday night ??
That's right, it's the Islanders once again. And this is supposed to be good for the NHL ??
It's not too much of a bold prediction that the Pens will have some extra giddyup tonight with Sid coming back, but most especially in the power play. Of course, that doesn't mean that they'll have 3 or 4 power play goals, you still have to put the puck in the net, but at least their scoring chances should increase.
Christensen gets his chance on wing tonight. I really like this move. Therrien needs all of the snipers he can get on his wings, and Erik is definitely one of those.
Forgive me if I don't shed a tear that Yashin will be out from 2-4 weeks.
Latest All-Star voting is in, and that line of Malkin/Crosby/Ovechkin is looking REAL good, in fact those three youngin's are 1-2-3 in voting. In addition, MAF is leading the way for Eastern Conference goalies. This looks to be a special night in Dallas later on this year.
Latest from the Rumor Mill; Eklund reports that the Pens are among the teams that are making offers for former Penguin Markus Naslund. Wow, that brings a lot of questions rushing up into my old head. Just how much would the Pens have to give up ?? How many draft picks ? Who would be the obligatory throw-ins ??? I'd love for the Pens to get Naslund back, as one of those trades that we all wish never would have happened in the first place.
Let me say this about Eklund, it's obvious the man has a lot of good connections around the NHL, that's certainly enviable. I just think that people get kinda turned off by the whole anonymity thing. I mean come on, this is not Paul and Gene from KISS walking around Hollywood with bandanas to hide from the photographers. Or maybe it's just that I'm jaded because he never returns my emails (I'm waiting, Ek).
Supposedly, good 'ol Gary Bettman is in the 'Burgh tonight. Wonder what he's there for. Anyone else think he just wanted a couple of sandwiches at Primanti Bros. ??
Remember, early 7PM start tonight.
LET'S GO PENS !!!
Monday, November 27, 2006
But then again, the '05-'06 Pens at this same point were 7-9-6, compared to 10-8-4 this year. So for as pitiful as last year Pens' team was, their record is not too much worse than this year's much improved group.
So let's take a gander at my half-assed attempt at grading the Pens so far this year.
Center - This is probably the easiest one (I know, no shit Tony.) With Crosby, Malkin and Staal, they're set for at least a decade (unless free agency rears it's fugly head). It appears that, before the groin injury, Sid was shooting the puck more frequently, and his temper seems to have calmed down some, resulting in fewer penalty minutes. Malkin, with all fairness, is still getting used to the NHL, so I can't honestly judge him too harshly just yet. I would like to see him lay some more checks, though, especially considering that D-men are starting to target him a lot. Also, you can't ask for more production than Staal has given them. He's an excellent penalty killer, and his long reach makes for outstanding puck possessions. Speaking of surprises, the signing of Dominic Moore looks to be a great one. He may not be lighting the lamp very often, but his maneuverability and penalty kill skills are a valuable asset on this team, an asset that was sorely needed. The two 4th line centers, Talbot and Thorburn, are both contributing doing what they do best, agitate the hell out of the opposition.
Wingers - These guys are doing a decent job, but there is much improvement to be done. Recchi has been hot lately, and his constant hussle is setting the example for the younger players to follow. Army needs to get off the schnide, it's that simple. He's played better the last few games, both with his shots on goal (but none have gone in) and his puck possessions. Ouellet has pretty much duplicated his '05 effort, specializing in power play sniping, however he needs to be more consistent. Petrovicky is another Shero signing that looks to be paying off immediately, an excellent checker/agitator with pretty good hands. Malone has only played in a handful of games so far this year due to his broken arm, but in those few games he really wasn't making any worthy contributions to the team as of yet. He may be trade bait once we get closer to the trade deadline. Ekman has done a decent job while he's been flipflopping on Therrien's lines. He's one of the few wingers that actually puts a lot of shots on net so far. Leclair seems to acknowledge what his role is at this point in his career, that being a pest in front of the net and to provide sound veteran leadership. Ruutu performs his agitator role very well, but the Pens need more wingers that can actually put the puck in the net. Finally, Roy has been a scratch in the majority of the Pens' games so far, I'd be surprised if he makes it past the trading deadline also.
Defensemen - With reference to the constant harassing of the D-men group on the blogosphere, I'd have to say that overall, this group's performance has made a significant improvement. Yes, the bad outlet passes still happen, the turnovers still happen, and they still screen the goaltenders, but those errors, relatively speaking, are not happening as frequently as they did in past years. Eaton's injury, at first glance, didn't seem that it would cause such as drastic change in their performance, but it's clear as day now. His solid defensive play, and most importantly, his shot blocking have proved invaluable, and now that he's out until probably the January timeframe, his absence is highly noticeable. Gonchar has done a decent job, at least he didn't get off to the horrendous start that he did last year. He needs to cut down on the "2 minutes for hooking" penalties. I believe Scuderi has improved his game quite a lot in the last year. Sorry to say, I don't think the same applies to Melichar. I'm not sure how long he lasts if the Pens ever get off of their ass and get a righty D-man. Orpik of course missed the first chunk of the season because of his wrist injury, and he still looks to be in training camp with some of those breakout passes he's made. In reference to Whitney, I'm not one of those guys who'll say he's having a good year because of his offensive stats. For as good as he's been in the opponent's zone, he's been easily as poor in his own end. Welch has done pretty well since his callup, and sorry to say, is one of the few Penguins D-men who actually throw checks well. Last, and least, how long does Eric Cairns take up a roster spot on this team ?? The Pens have plenty of agitators who can drop the gloves AND do other things as well. He's another one who shouldn't be a Penguins at the trading deadline.
Goaltending - I think it's fair to say that MAF has won the Pens a handful of games already this year. If he isn't listed among the top goalies in the league now, he's damn close. Yes, he still allows those big rebounds, and it has cost him a few times already, but overall he has played outstanding. Thibault hasn't had the best luck so far this year, although he's had a few occasions where his play behind the net has cost some goals. He's also given his fair share of soft goals.
Coaching - I can understand the need to attempt to get the lines flowing as smooth as possible, but I don't see that happening based on how quickly Therrien is changing his lineups. In the same respect though, it appears that the Pens are really bought into Therrien's system. It has resulted in an improved defense, and they now have several players that are flexible to multiple areas on the ice.
Special Teams - The powerplay has been pretty decent this year, up until the time that Sid was injured anyway. However, they're still relying too much on Gonchar's slapshots, and not enough passes inside. The penalty kill has been maybe the biggest improvement on this year's team. Penalty killers such as Moore, Staal, and Talbot make the Pens quite a dangerous PK unit.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Saturday, November 25, 2006
And while Marty Straka's OT goal with 2.2 seconds left just kicked all of us in the gut, it's not like the Pens didn't have plenty of opportunities to win the game.
And, let's not forget, the Pens got an absolute gift in the 1st period on the no-goal call. Geez, that puck was CLEARLY in the net by a wide margin, but somehow the refs did not allow the proper amount of time to get all of the replays before the resumption of play.
The Pens finally got a power play goal by Geno, but that was only after another failed 5-on-3. Overall, the Pens were 1-for-6 with the man advantage, with yet again more perimeter passing and very little shooting.
Quick question, just how many "too many men on the ice" penalties is the norm before it gets corrected ??
Jordan Staal had the chance to win the game in OT with a penalty shot, but the puck rolled off his stick as he went to his backhand.
And as expected, no Sid again. I guess they're thinking to give him a couple more days rest before their next game on Tuesday.
Islanders are up next at home on Tuesday night.
Their power play is absolutely non-existent, their shots on goal are very low percentage, and they're lacking the ability to possess the puck for relatively long periods in the opponents' zone.
Well, if you're going to believe today's report on
Friday, November 24, 2006
but rather had his bell rung.
If accurate, that's a big relief.
Doesn't make me forget about the lack of any retribution for the hit, though.
This IS still hockey, right ???
Such was the case today on Long Island, where the Pens, despite getting 37 shots on goal, played very mediocre offensively in losing to the Islanders 3-1.
37 shots to a team that quite often struggles getting pucks on net, when looking at the stat sheet at face value, looks to be a decent offensive effort.
Not so fast.
Much like shooting 3o footers on the basketball court, the vast majority of shots that the Pens even got credit for were quite the low-percentage variety.
Even the goal scored by Geno in the 3rd period was one that DiPietro probably should have had.
It could be argued that the best shot on goal was the one that Geno threw in. By the way, rumor has it that Malkin will join the Pirates after the Penguins' season ends, only to be traded at the deadline by Dave Littlefield for Bobby Hill and a player to be named later.
However, Geno went directly to the locker room after getting nailed on a clean hit by Brendan Witt directly on his left (previously injured) shoulder. However, it didn't appear that his shoulder was hanging down much at all, so let's just hope that he'll be alright for tomorrow night's game.
But surely, his Penguins teammates stuck up for him. Uh, disregard that, absolutely no one came to his defense. Great comraderie boys, just great.
And how about that power play, huh ?? Zero for nine, well you guys are consistent, I'll give ya that much. But are you guys actually aiming for the D-men's feet ???
We all know that Sid is an amazing playmaker, that's a given. But the inability to even get the puck in the opponent's end on a man advantage is getting ridiculous.
The Pens had a frickin' 6-on-3 power play in the 3rd period, let me repeat that, a 6-on-3 power play, and got off absolutely zero shots.
I also attribute that to the Pens, once again, trying to make the perfect pass, rather than getting the pucks on net and pouncing on the rebounds.
Well, no rest for the weary. The Rangers come to town on Saturday night, surely still remembering the loss they took to the Pens one week ago. I'm sure they'll have absolutely no sympathy if Sid or Geno, or both, are not able to go.
Maybe play around with the links section a little, I say to myself.
Of course, I get my Pens Gameday posted, check.
And I'm looking through the blog hits, ya know, see who's visiting The Confluence.
I check out my Referrals section, to see who's accessing the site directly, i.e. having the site as a Favorite in their IE browser, or someone who's accessed the blog via a link on one of my colleague's website/blog.
And I come across someone this morning who accessed the site through the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Huh ?? What the hell ??
Well sure enough, The Confluence has made the bigtime my friends. Apparently, I made it way back on October 30th (my birthday BTW, coincidence ??) in the "Blog 'n' Gold" section of the Steelers section of the PG. And I quote;
- The Confluence absolutely reams them: "This team is an absolute embarrassment right now. They should feel ... 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.
Needless to say, what a pleasant surprise. Nice to see that I'm not entirely wasting my time.
Thanks again to the visitors to The Confluence, it really is much appreciated.
But let's face facts, the absence of Sidney Crosby in a hockey game, even this early in his NHL career, looks to never be normal, the Pens simply cannot compensate for the loss of his world-class talent, as hard as they may try.
So the question as to whether Sid will dress at today's 2PM start on the Island is the primary focus in the hours leading up to the game.
The tone during yesterday's practice did not sound too optimistic, I'm sorry to say. I sure hope that I'm wrong on that, but they made statements like this;
- "It's a possibility, but if he's not 100 percent he's not going to play," Therrien said. "It's one of those injuries you have to be really careful with."
- He skated for about 20 minutes before his teammates practiced and reported that his groin felt "better than [Wednesday]," but Crosby acknowledged that "it's still not where it needs to be."
So, I wouldn't be surprised to see Geno back out there centering the first line today, which obviously isn't as good as if Sid were back, but Geno ain't chopped liver, ya know. Let's not forget, Geno is still a pup in this league, he's still getting his feet wet as to the nuances that the North American game brings. But you can tell, he's not far away from being quite a dominant force in the league. He pretty much took over the Boston game in the third period and overtime.
We shall also see how the Quiji Board known as NHL Center Ice determines what TV feed they're showing today. These guys' selection process is more of a mystery than the JFK assassination. Well, if they do show the Isles' feed, we'll all get to get another glimpse of the lovely but talented Deb Kaufmann. I just love her Eddie Money-ish slanted talk.
LET'S GO PENS !!!!!
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
The Pens absolutely shot themselves in the foot, nearly laying a goose egg on nine power plays, but came away with a point that didn't seem likely after about 50 minutes of play.
Geno's goal coming out of the penalty box, coming after another great save by MAF, brought the Pens back to 3-2 with about half of the 3rd period to go. The Pens finally scored on the power play in the final minute of regulation, when MAF was pulled for a 6-to-4 advantage. Recchi's 2nd goal of the game, on a nice backhanded pass from Geno, tied the game at 3. The overtime solved nothing, although both teams had chances to win it, including Malkin from point-blank range.
Someone needs to explain to me how Gonchar gets on the top 3 of the shootout over Ekman and Christensen. And did anyone besides me wonder why both Ouellet and Malkin shot so far from the net during the shootout ??
The absence of Sid on the power play was easily noticeable, the Pens had very few scoring opportunities with the man advantage. Not only that, but the majority of the time they weren't even getting the puck on net, which is unfortunately becoming too common.
I did like Erik Christensen's 2006 debut with the Pens. Just as he's always done, he got off some good shots.
So now it's onto Long Island for a 2PM start against the Islanders on Friday. Hopefully, #87 will be in uniform.
They're a part of every sport.
In terms of team sports, one of the things that separates good teams from also-rans is how they overcome them.
And that brings us to tonight.
The Pens have decided on the safe play and sit Sid out tonight. There is no doubt that Sid could have played if he absolutely needed to, but I think common sense dictated that Sid give his groin a couple more days of rest. The injury comes at fortunate time, as if any injury comes at a good time. Sit Sid tonight, versus a non-divisional opponent, then have him relatively healthy for Friday and Saturday against divisional foes the Isles and Rangers.
So that puts Geno as the 1st line center. Gonna be interesting how he plays knowing that Crosby is out, whether he plays at even a higher level. They've got Recchi on the 1st line with him, and those two look to have some good chemistry going together.
In addition to Sid, another injury (said to be post-concussion related) has landed Eric Cairns back on the injured reserve, and has resulted in another callup for Erik Christensen. I really hope this kid gets a fair shot this time. The Pens need forwards with good hands, snipers if you will. However, this is yet again another time to mention the roster logjam that will be created once Ryan Malone comes back in a couple more weeks.
Also, Nils Ekman took a puck above the eye in practice today, courtesy of an errant shot off the post by Gonchar. His status is unknown right now for the game.
I think the Pens may surprise some people by how they compensate for the loss of Sid tonight, let's hope so anyway.
LET'S GO PENS !!!!
Monday, November 20, 2006
A quick start left the Flyers in the dust Monday night in the Pens' 5-3 win. The Pens' excellent puck movement took advantage of the Flyers' defensive liabilities, and quickly countered each Flyers goal with one of their own.
The main story to come out of the game, of course, was the strained groin suffered by Sid. Although he's considered day-to-day, and it is isn't expected that he'll miss any time, groin injuries are nothing to underestimate. Let's just hope that they're cautious and not putting Sid on the ice unless they're fairly sure that he won't aggravate it.
Therrien looked like a genius Saturday by scratching Leclair. He definitely looked like he had a extra giddyup last night. Steigy and Errey made a good point in that this may the time in his career when a day off every now and then may be a good idea.
And where's that signup sheet for the Ron Petrovicky fan club !!! I love this guy's game. Good hands, and throws some outstanding checks. The Pens really are assembling a great group of 3rd and 4th liners. Quick, tough, and disruptive.
It may very well be that he's just not comfortable with NHL play yet, but I'd sure like to see Malkin throw some checks every now and then. We all know that he can dish some serious hits, we saw that in the Olympics, and the couple of occasions that opposing D-men have tried to lay him out, the only ones that hit the ice were the D-men.
And finally, I'm sorry to say it, but Marshall Harris on FSN 'Burgh is terrible, just terrible. And for those of you that want to throw the race card out, trust me, it's not that. He's just not a very good reporter.
Next up, the Bruins on Wednesday night.
Depending on who you believe, either John Leclair is in the lineup or will be the infamous "game-time decision". I'm sure he's not the kind who's gonna bitch about his benching on Saturday night. Leclair's no dummy, but I'm sure he's beginning to see the writing on the wall. But as I said previously, the Pens' roster needs to improve it's depth. The return (or shall I say arrival) of Petrovicky was a pleasant surprise, for one game anyway. Ryan Malone is due back in a few weeks, after getting his ass handed to him yet again in a fight. Who knows, Malone's return may pull the trigger on the trade that's been rumored for quite a few months now. But just having Malone return won't be enough. The Pens have had Cairns and Roy in the press box for the majority of the year so far, and there is nothing to suggest that their situation is going to change. Unfortunately, the trading of either of them isn't exactly going to bring back anything substantive. In order to get either a scoring winger or a decent right-handed defenseman, you're going to have to part with a decent young forward (Malone/Ouellet/Christensen) and possibly a draft pick, and then, and only then, may you be lucky enough to get one of those needed commodities.
I've read some places that Sid is going through a slump, I imagine to them because he's not gathering so many of the top headlines in his 2nd go-round in the league. Yeah, they must be right. He's 4 points out of the NHL scoring lead, with either 3 or 4 less games than those above him. And I have to repeat, just imagine what this kid's gonna do when he actually has someone who can put the puck in the net regularly.
We are at the T-minus one month mark for the awarding of the slots license in Pittsburgh. Today is the day that the IOC and Forest City (Harrah's) make their final sales pitches to the Gaming Board. I have to admit, I am nothing close to being an expert on the city of Pittsburgh itself. However, one of the big issues I'm reading is talking about the locations of the two main casinos-to-be. To me, in my amateurish point of view, this is a no-brainer. Everytime I've drove over to Station Square, it's always been a royal pain in my buttocks. However, I have NEVER had a problem driving in the IOC location, whether that's right around the Igloo, or down towards the Sports Museum. Easy access to 79/279 and elsewhere. Throw in the new arena freebie, and what's the discussion ??? I just hope that politics doesn't rear it's ugly head in the discussions in the next month. Let's hope we get an early XMAS present on Dec. 20th.
Nice article in the Trib concerning Jordan Stall shacking up with Mark Recchi in his guest house. That's gotta be a pretty sweet deal. Get a good home-cooked meal from Mark's wife, and have a private place to crash (and invite the honeys). Compare that to Sid, who still lives in "Maison Lemieux", and Geno, who lives with Gonchar. You can tell by Geno's comments that he's itching to get his own place, English speaking or not. I do know enough about Pittsburgh that there are plenty of Russians there.
Gotta pat myself on the ass a little for my prediction on the Colts losing their first game yesterday. They've been winning by the skin of their frickin' teeth for a lot of the year, it just caught up to them in Dallas yesterday.
And finally, thanks to Dan Patrick for bringing the fact that Bo Derek turns 50 today. Yes, that makes me feel older as well. But damn, any of you seen her lately ?? She is still quite a gorgeous woman. Those of you in my age group revere "10" as one of the classic hot chick flicks of all time.
And yes, for those of you wondering, IN A HEARTBEAT.
LET'S GO PENS !!!!!
Sunday, November 19, 2006
- Can't say much more about OSU-Michigan, 42-39, wow. Doesn't come very often that the game lives up to the hype, but that game sure as hell did. I'd have to credit the great offenses, because they really made their opposing defenses look average, which they certainly are not.
- Count me in as one of those who wouldn't mind seeing a rematch for the national championship. Those are the two best teams in the country, and they should play again to prove that. USC has made a surprisingly good run, and certainly, if they beat ND and UCLA, they'll make a case themselves for #2. To be honest, I'd feel stronger for a Notre Dame case, if they beat USC, because I think they've played a harder schedule, but since Michigan waxed their ass earlier in the year, that just makes my case for a OSU-Michigan rematch that much stronger.
- Gotta give a few props at least for Pitt. They looked damn good, in the first half anyway, against West Virginia. That included maybe the play of the year, with the block of the year, on that punt return. But Pitt's defense has WAY too many holes for a great running team like WVU.
- And hey, how about those GM meetings, Bucs fans !!!!! What a crock of bovine feces. Bob Smizik of the PG writes an excellent article this morning about the sorry state of affairs in the cash grab known as the Pirates front office. Here was the kicker, word came out from the meetings that the Marlins were interesting in trading promising Mike Jacobs to the Bucs for Chris Duffy. But of course, our GM-extraordinaire Dave Littlefield said that the Bucs have no plans to trade him. So let me get this straight, if you won't trade Duffy, just who would you trade ?? What a joke this team has become.
- The Red Sox paid $51 million JUST TO TALK to Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, who isn't even guaranteed to be a #1 starter !?!? And you're telling me that all is well in Major League Baseball ???
- More ridiculous signings for ridiculously average players; 2B Mark Derosa - 3 years, $13 Million with the Cubs; 3B Wes Helms - 2 years, $5.45 Million with the Marlins; 2B Jose Valentin - 1 year, $3.8 Million with the Mets.
- Surprise, surprise, Randy Moss wants out of Oakland.
- Normally, I wouldn't think twice about the Steelers heading to Cleveland today and walking out with a win, but with the way things have went this year, I'm not surprised at anything that happens with that team.
- Bold prediction time; Dallas puts loss #1 on the Colts today. Just a hunch.
- I think the Ottawa Senators need to submit a request to the NHL to play Buffalo for the rest of the year, after beating them for the second time in as many meetings last night.
- It's still about 40 days away, but I can't wait until my family and I head to the Igloo on Dec. 29th for Leafs/Pens. Home for the holidays, sold-out crowd, great atmosphere with a couple thousand Leaf fans sure to attend, and five rows from the ice, you can't beat that.
- He might be getting long in the tooth, but Brendan Shanahan still has a pretty potent shot.
- The NHL is debutting the "Rail Cam", that will run on a small rail system situated just above the glass on one side of the arena. Now that will be interesting to see. The one problem that I can see with it is that the height of the glass is not uniform in all NHL arenas, nor is the height of the glass the same at all locations around the boards. For instance, the glass height near the goal is higher that closer to center ice. So we'll see how it goes, but I applaud the NHL for taking some steps to make the television product more attractive to potential NHL fans.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
The Rangers committed 12 penalties, resulting in three separate 5-on-3 power plays, in the Pens' 3-1 win tonight.
Let's not say "all is well" though.
The Pens were still woeful on the power play for the majority of the time with the man advantage going 2 for 11. It is definitely an area that they're going to have to devote more practice time on. This team has too many great playmakers not to be absolutely lethal on the power play.
The most interesting aspect of this game, to me anyway, is the fact that Ron Petrovicky made his Penguins debut tonight, and he did it by way of making John Leclair a healthy scratch. I have to give Petro props, he did quite a decent job tonight, and created a few good scoring opportunities.
I will be very curious to see if there are going to be any roster changes upcoming. I can't see the Pens continuously scratching Cairns and Roy, it leaves the Pens devout of any type of depth.
Jagr didn't really even come close tonight in his bid for #600. The Pens did an excellent job defending he and his line tonight.
It was getting ridiculous how many turnovers Whitney had tonight. I know nothing drastic will be done with him, but his play is starting to make those commercials that he's in look pretty silly.
Overall, good win, the Pens will sure as hell take it.
You know, the legs are a little rubbery, passes aren't as sharp, yadda, yadda.
I don't think tonight's game vs. the Rangers falls under that category.
If I was a betting man, and I am, I'd bet that last night's loss to the Sabres has left the Pens with quite the shitty taste in their mouth.
I don't think that it'd be a stretch to suggest that the Pens absolutely gave that game to Buffalo last night.
It was obvious if you read Mark Recchi's comments, there were some pissed off people in that locker room that were not happy with some of the Pens' efforts (read: the defense). Mark said, "We didn't have everybody going, playing with enough desperation in certain areas. You come on the road against a team like this, you need 20 guys to play hard and do the right things, and it didn't happen."
And so, they now have to come right back tonight vs. a spirited rival in the New York Rangers (no, I'm not going to say "hated rival", that's reserved for the Flyers, or if the day ever comes that the Patrick Division is revived, I'll present that title to the Caps).
The Rangers' presence will present just enough extra energy that the Pens will need tonight. In addition, you just KNOW that the Pens do NOT want to give up goal #600 to Jags.
However, I will say this, if Jags does get #600 tonight, I would hope that the Pens fans are respectful to his accomplishments while in a Pens uniform and give him the ovation he deserves.
A couple of other items of interest:
Is it time to get Army off of the 1st line ?? It may be strictly coincidental, but Army has not been the same since the Letowski hit. He's not as aggressive, he's not checking anywhere near like he used to, and he's making bad decisions with the puck.
The power play needs to get back to basics, i.e. just start getting pucks on net and do what that type of power play does best, knock in the rebounds. It doesn't take an Al Macinnis-type of D-man to launch shot from the points on PP's. You've already got Malkin in the slot, where he could order a pizza with the lack of activity he's seeing. Sid and Geno are outstanding at "garbage goals", which the last time I checked, count as much as regular goals.
LET'S GO PENS !!!!
Friday, November 17, 2006
Well, rather, the offense could have done a little more tonight.
But we Penguins fans, for all of the heap praised upon the team the first few weeks of the season, need to temper all of that with the following;
Until the Penguins make changes to their defensive roster, changes that must include a couple of right-handed shooters, they will be NO BETTER than a mediocre team.
A decent defensive team would have held Buffalo to one goal tonight.
Let me correct that, a decent defensive team would not have Josef Melichar boarding a Sabres player while already short-handed.
Let me correct that again, a decent defensive team wouldn't have Josef Melichar on the team.
I won't totally absolve Thibault. The man gives up A LOT of rebounds. So while the defense is certainly as porous as it ever has, Thibault has to be smothering a lot more of those shots.
The power play was absolutely non-existent tonight. It sure as hell seemed that the majority of the time they haven't even been getting the power play set up at all.
The Pens did not play a bad game at all, to include 36 shots n goal.
But as I said, we might as well get used to it, because this defense will be the downfall of this team until management decides to do something about it.
Let's not get carried way with tonight's game between the Pens and Sabres. It's certainly not on the level of OSU-Michigan (by the way, check out The Pojo Dojo for some outstanding commentary on tomorrow's game, especially in light of Bo Schembechler's death today).
It even isn't that important a game in terms of the 82 game regular season schedule, meaning, it's a non-divisional game.
But make no mistake, this game will be an early indication on whether the Pens will be contenders or pretenders in this year's run to the Stanley Cup playoffs.
In my view, one of the biggest indicators that the Pens are growing as a team is if they come into games versus the best teams in NHL and compete aggressively.
If the Pens come out hesitant, play on their heels, and play reactive rather than play proactive, like they did vs. Detroit and Ottawa, mark my words, they will be blown off the ice.
But, if the Pens come out aggressive, and use that great speed, they'll be in this game from the very start.
Assuming of course, we have decent goaltending tonight. It will NOT be MAF tonight, Thibault gets the start tonight, and MAF will be between the pipes vs. the Rangers on Saturday night.
That's an interesting decision, but an understandable one. Therrien wants to go with his #1 goalie vs. the Divisional opponent, I can see that. It's just a difficult situation that you have to go with your backup goalie vs. the NHL' best team.
I will also be curious to see if their is any noticeable difference in Malkin's play, now that the court litigation is for the most part resolved.
Remember, 8PM EST faceoff in Buffalo.
LET'S GO PENS !!!
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
So tired of all of these Bob Knight apologists, "that's just Bobby".
How many more passes does this guy get ??
How many more players will Knight get away with kicking in the shins, choking around the neck, and knocking in the chin ??
How many more tantrums where he launches a vase almost hitting his secretary or throws a chair across a basketball court ??
Let's get this out of the way right now, for those of you who claim that he only "nudged" Michael Prince's chin the other night, you're out of your frickin' mind. Prince's head doesn't jerk back after a "nudge".
Allow me to say it, plain and simple.
That, my friends, is called assault.
You think a similar incident off of a sports court wouldn't be called assault ??
If that were my son, and I was courtside, I just might have gone after Knight right there.
No, I'm no Internet tough guy, neither behind the keyboard nor in real life.
But when it comes to my sons, the rules are different, and I react differently.
And yup, you guessed right, I'd sue that son of a bitch for everything he's worth. Let HIM pay for my sons' college education.
Bigtime props to SI.com's Phil Taylor and ESPN's Doug Gottlieb for saying what the other "experts" don't have the balls to say.
Keep your hands off of your players.
A U.S. District court in New York today told the Russian, in so many words, "fuhgetaboutit".
I mean really, does anyone honestly think that a U.S. Court would rule in favor of a Russian sports team that coerced a contract for one of their players, besides the fact that they retained his passport ??
Good to know that this page in Evgeni's adventures looks to be mostly over, unless the Russians are foolish enough to appeal.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
That's the first thing that came to mind (yes, with Dr. Evil and Mini-me holding up the quote signs) when Malkin slapped that frozen rope to the top shelf to win the game for the Pens last night.
"That was a frickin' laser !!!"
But last night's win was much more than than just one slapshot. The Pens played a much better overall game. They moved the puck, finished their checks, and mostly kept the loose pucks away from MAF.
And whoa !!! 39 shots on goal ?? You guys feeling alright ??
To be fair, with any kind of luck, this one could have been 6-3 or so. I think we need to call the league office in Toronto, because I believe Ryan Whitney broke the all-time record for most open nets missed in one game. Throw in a couple of shots to the posts, and it could have been a much bigger win, but hey, we'll take a 3-2 win, in regulation.
Speaking of records, the Pens are good for a handful of goals by putting pucks in their own net every year. Am I the only one that only sees that from the Pens ??
Sid has got to be in some pain today after taking that slapper from Gagne in the chest late in the game. Thank goodness that it wasn't in the head, that could have been disastrous.
Good to see Jordan Staal pulling out of his slump. I could have easily used the aforementioned "laser" reference for his one-timer as well, but since Malkin's was for the game-winner, his gets the nod.
Having said that however, I'd like to see Jordan use his size a bit more physically. Now that I think of it, there are a lot of Pens that do not check like they could. Gonchar is another one. Sergei can lay some leather when he wants to, but most of the time he just gives love taps. Throw Whitney and Leclair in that boat as well. I really don't see why the Pens don't throw their weight like they could, especially considering their opponents certainly aren't holding back.
Well, it's 3 days of practices before the Pens fly to Buffalo. This could be one high-flying ballgame. Speed, speed, and more speed. Set your TIVO's boys.
Monday, November 13, 2006
Let's not kid ourselves boys, things could've been a helluva lot worse after 15 games.
And while I completely disagree with the "puck possession teams" argument, I will concur that the Pens' opponents these first 15 games have been mostly those of the higher ranked teams in the NHL.
So everyone needs to relax just a bit.
The REAL test, in this blogger's opinion anyway, is the next 12games. The next 12 ames go against mostly lower ranked teams in the Eastern Conference, or those who the Pens have beaten already.
- Tonight vs. Philly
- Friday at Buffalo (if the Pens play like they did early on, this will be an outstanding game)
- Saturday vs. Rangers
- Nov. 20 at Philly
- Nov. 22 vs. Boston
- Nov. 24 at Isles
- Nov. 25 vs. Rangers
- Nov. 28 vs. Isles
- Dec. 1 at Devils
- Dec. 2 vs. Isles
- Dec. 5 vs. Panthers
- Dec. 7 at Rangers
Count me as one who does NOT subscribe to the notion that Michel Therrien's job is in jeopardy. You cannot have a team this young and not have peaks and valleys. Now I will say this, they had better correct their defensive liabilities, and that may have to be corrected via a trade.
Tonight's game is dangerous, in the sense that the Pens, even though they've played terribly the last few games, could possibly come out flat, thinking that this game will be much easier compared to the previous few. That will be recipe to a blowout. I don't care what their record is, you come out flat vs. Forsberg and Gagne, and they will eat you alive.
Let's hope the veterans recognize that, come out strong, and capitalize on their defensive weaknesses.
LET'S GO PENS !!!!!
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Well, we enjoyed ourselves once again during our Raleigh road trip, but watching this current version of the Penguins should make no one wonder why my hair will quickly be turning from salt-and-pepper to Bob Barker-ish.
First of all, I'd like to thank the Hockey Gods for forcing me to drive 200 miles through a torrential downpour to get back to Virginia Beach this morning. I'm positive that it's just a continuance from last night's hellish performance.
Prior to the game, of course we had to get there prior to the pregame skate. The usual throng of Pens fans, as compared to previous Pens/Canes games in Raleigh, was not as huge. I'd say a couple of thousand fans. I think it'd be a pretty good bet that a bunch of others have probably jumped on Canes bandwagon after the Cup championship last year. Like a woman I met on the concourse, who'd grew up in Pittsburgh but lives in Raleigh now, she tells me "I'm a Canes fan now".
What kind of shit is that ?
The Pens took the ice for the pregame, and Roy and Cairns were feigning dropping the gloves, and giving each other hard shots to the boards. I guess I'm not describing it very well, but it was funny as hell.
Cairns spent most of the pregame jawing with Mike Commodore, skating up and down the center ice stripe. Turned out that both Cairns and Roy were scratched.
As the Pens were doing their pregame, and we were right on the rail next to the Pens locker room, Michel Therrien stood right next to us, watching his team.
Here's what I never seem to understand about NHL teams. Why don't they make more of an effort to interact just a little bit with the fans ?? I don't mean signing autographs before the games, I mean how about some high fives with the fans as they enter and leave the locker room ?? Would that be so much trouble, boys ?? I'm not talking about me, I'm past that stage, I'm referring to the kids. Don't you guys realize that you're trying to win the fans back ??
Anyway, onto the game.
The Orpik/Cole matchup was absolutely nothing to it, not a damn bit. They bumped one time, and that was about it. In fact, Orpik, in my view, was timid the majority of the night. He laid one decent check along the boards, but other than that, he was lustily booed every time he touched the puck, and it really appeared to me that he didn't want to give the refs or the Canes any reason to target him.
We had outstanding seats, five rows from the ice, three rows directly behind the Canes penalty box. However, the problem with having seats THAT close to the ice is that while you see the speed of the game up close (read: Crosby/Malkin), it's kinda hard to see as much as you do on the TV feed.
The first period was filled with more of the same for the Pens, leaving Canes forwards wide open in front of the net, plenty of penalties, and the like, resulting in a 2-0 Pens deficit. It also featured the fight between Thorburn and Commodore. Now, I understand the layman hockey fan, who sees the opponent fall down and the home guy punch him on the way down, look like he knocked the opponent on his ass. But c'mon Canes fans, is that all you were looking at ?? Thorburn got the majority of clean shots in the tilt, and he is quickly rising up in my book. His combination of scrappiness and decent offensive ability are just what the Pens need.
After the second period saw yet another Canes goal from a wide-open Brindamour, the Pens finally woke up, one goal coming on an excuse-me goal from Leclair, and the other from a nice slap shot from Recchi. I saw Recchi messing around with Ward during the pregame skate, playfully lofting pucks at him, and he gave Ward a nice friendly smirk after his goal to make it 3-2 Canes after two periods.
The third period is where the game's momentum shifted for the last time. At around the 15:30 mark or so, the Pens put one of their few offensive assaults towards Ward, an it really appeared that Nils Ekman tapped the puck over the line to tie up the game. I, to be honest, didn't get a good luck at the puck, but my buddy Pojo Risin was incensed, he basically said Ward was in the net himself and the puck was over the net. Ekman's comments, courtesy of the Trib, were "It was a goal, for sure. I will bet anything on it. The puck was turning up on an edge. The whole puck was over the line, by a lot. There's no doubt about it. I had a pretty good view. I was by that post. I can't explain it." If that weren't enough, check out the Raleigh News-Observer's own photo gallery from the game, specifically shot #16, which shows the puck crossing the red line, and BEFORE LaRose even touches it to hit it back into play. We were about 10 feet from the refs, as they were on the phone with the officials in the booth, and obviously with the NHL offices in Toronto. You could clearly see that the refs were telling Leclair, after they ruled no goal, that they couldn't get a clear shot of the puck going over the red line.
After yet another decision to go against the Pens, that was pretty much the ballgame.
Soft goal against Thibault to make it 4-2.
Couple hundred more penalties against the Pens.
Even when they got a damn power play, then pulled Thibault to get a two-man advantage, they still gave up two short handed goals, one with an empty net, another one on yet another soft goal in the last couple of minutes of the game.
I really don't like crying over spilled milk, but just what the hell is happening when the Pittsburgh Penguins take the ice nowadays ??
Are you to tell me that the Pens are THAT undisciplined, such as last night in Raleigh when they took 14 frickin' penalties ??
Are you also to tell me that every Pens opponent is THAT disciplined ??
I'm not foolish enough to suggest any type of conspiracy against the young Penguins, but it sure as hell appears that the Penguins get absolutely no benefit of the doubt when it comes to calling penalties AGAINST them, and their opponents, most often older and more experienced, seem to get away with similar actions with no penalty call.
Then you get calls like the no-goal last night. How can so many people see that puck cross the goal line, but four referees can't ??
1. Malkin - He's just as advertised when you see him in person. Big. Strong. Fast.
2. After watching the game today on TIVO, I heard yet again Paul Steigerwald talk about how the Canes are such a good "puck possession team". I'm sorry Paul, but I'm tired of hearing that. Let's call the kettle black, the Pens opponents are such good puck possession teams because the Pens are such a poor defensive team, 'nuff said.
3. Anyone else tired of hearing nightly references by Bob Errey about Peterborough ??
4. Vintage Pens jerseys spotted (other than the more recent Lemieux/Jagr/Straka); 3 Tocchet's, Ulf Samuellson, and a Nedved.
Flyers are up next on Monday night back at the Igloo, just what the doctor ordered ??
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Pojo Risin and head to the RBC Center for the long-awaited matchup between Brooks Orpik and Erik Cole, and oh yeah, the rest of the Pens and Canes will be there as well. Five rows from center ice, just to the right of the Canes' penalty box (which should be well occupied tonight).
To their credit, both teams are downplaying the "revenge factor", the Canes stressing discipline, the Pens desiring just to get it over with.
Give me a frickin' break.
Anyone who has watched hockey for any amount of time knows that this is going to be one very rough game. The Canes fans alone are treating this like it's Ali-Frazier. Not only for Orpik/Cole, but let's not forget that bruising hit that Armstrong put on Letowski.
But I have a feeling that Orpik won't be much of a fighter tonight. He's still very sore from his broken wrist, so while I don't think he'll do the 'ol turtle routine, its not like he's going to be throwing haymakers though. I'm sure that Thierren will put Cairns and Roy in the lineup for those matters. Maybe even some other muckers will jump in the frays, like Armstrong or Talbot. It definitely appears to be a very entertaining night.
The game most assuredly will be a sellout, granted mind you, with up to 5,000 Pens fans. The Raleigh-Charlotte area, much like the D.C. region, is filled with transplanted 'Burghers, and us Pens fans always make our presence felt there. One good barometer that I see when I go there, and I think this is the 6th Pens/Canes game I've been down there, is the huge crowd that surrounds the Pens entrance to the ice before their pre-game skate. Other than that, the Canes fans have always been very hospitable towards "the enemy fans".
Not like when I attended Game 7 of the 2003 playoff series between Philly and Toronto in Philly, when taking a leak between periods, I saw Flyer fans pummelling unsuspecting Leaf fans with Sundin jerseys, who were actively pissing, in the back of the head.
I'll give everyone a full report on Sunday.
Let's Go Pens !!!!
Friday, November 10, 2006
Or, should I say, this is starting to look familiar.
44 more shots on goal by Ottawa, with only 17 shots for the Pens.
So much for that struggling Sens team, huh ??
This was a tailor-made game to break the Sens 5-game losing streak. Just put shots on goal from every angle possible, which won't be that hard since the Pens defense has quickly reverted to '05-'06 form, that form being absolutely terrible.
I would never think when the season started that the loss of Mark Eaton would be such a crippling blow. But when the majority of the remainder of the defense is playing that poorly, especially Ryan Whitney (you know, the one that's in all of those "evolution" commercials), it becomes nothing more than a shooting gallery.
Combine that porous defense with a couple of very soft goals by MAF, and you've got yourselves a blowout.
And how many scoring opportunities were blown THIS GAME by trying to make the pretty pass ??
This Penguins ship needs righted, and quick.
And now that they feel good and dejected, why not get on a plane and visit the Stanley Cup Champs ??
I sure hope they know what they're walking into Saturday night, that's going to be one very rough game.
Let's ensure that Cairns gets in the game to get his ass kicked again.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
And what you say am I, a U.S. Navy retiree, doing on Veteran's Day ??
That's right, I'll be frickin' painting. Fortunately, it's only one room, so it shouldn't take too long.
I mean, I've got a hockey game to watch at 7:30, so let's not get crazy now.
Anyway, back to the Pens.
As I mentioned in my title, the Pens could be very well have come out of the past two games with goose eggs. The fact that they got two points out of two games that were played quite sluggishly, to put it politely, is something that previous versions of Penguins teams wouldn't come close to achieving.
Without above average performance from Thibault in Anaheim and Fleury back at home, both of those games could easily have been blowouts.
In reference to last night's overtime loss to the Bolts, I don't believe they were as jetlagged as I feared, but I definitely believe that they were not sharp at all. One player that definitely fell into that category was Malkin. I'm not saying the kid had a "bad" game, but it was apparent that he was a little off last night.
And, I'd like to give myself a little pat on the back for recommending to get Ekman back on the 1st line. Although I will say this, Ekman's hat trick is the penultimate example that those who are on Sid's line have the opportunity to get some SICK point totals if they've got any hands at all.
Once addition, the shots on goal was very mediocre, only 20, counting the 3 goals. I know I remember yelling at the screen at Moore to "Shoot the F#$%ing puck !!!"
You know what else I was thinking of last night while I was cursing at the screen ?? Remember Hans Gruber from "Die Hard" ??
Hans and his blond German buddy are on the floor, John McLean is on the other side of the room hiding...
"Shoot the glass" !!!
OK, maybe that was just me thinking of that.
They've got to get the offense flowing again, the schedule doesn't get any easier. Up next Friday night is Ottawa, who of course have lost five in a row. The Hockey Gods seemingly love to send the Penguins teams when they're hungry for a win, don't they ??
After that, it's Saturday night in Raleigh, where I'll be 6 rows from the ice. Be on the lookout for my first edition posting of "Road Trip, Confluence Style".
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Something's gotta give.
The Pens return home tonight after what seemed like a two month road trip to face Tampa Bay, who themselves are on the last game of a 4-game road trip.
Historically speaking, we all know that the first game back home after a long road trip is usually not a successful one. The Pens at least are talking a good game, several of them mentioning making sure that they put the extra effort into the first period.
Thorburn is still up with the big dogs on the 1st line. I don't have anything negative to say about Chris at all, I'm just not sold yet. He's got good speed, is a very good checker, and seems to have decent shot.
I expect to see Sid shooting pucks on net from the frickin' locker room. Three straight games without even a shot on goal ?? That's gotta change, and soon.
Defensively, the Pens've gotta stop the trio of Lecavalier, St. Louis, and Richards. They've certainly had the Pens' number over the last few years.
So this could be an ugly game if both teams are sluggish. Personally, a sluggish game resulting in a Pens win is fine by me.
Lastly, I wanted to throw some props to Adam and the boys over at The Pensblog. This guy drafts some entertaining stuff, a nice mix of humor and hockey material. If you haven't done so already, check it out.
Let's Go Pens !!!!
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Doesn't matter whether it's baseball, football, basketball, hockey, or shuffleboard.
If you don't score points, you can't win.
And you don't score if you don't generate offense.
So you can attribute the 17 shots on goal last night in Anaheim to the Ducks' defensive pressure on Crosby/Malkin, or the fact that they were 1) on the PK so many times and 2) on the PP so few times, or simply that the Pens continue to desire for that perfect feed for the one-timer, and are very hesitant to puck the puck on net from the blueline and pounce on the rebounds.
Admirable effort from Thibault last night, although I won't go as far as to describe his performance as "heroic", as was stated online on some of the websites. He got caught early for the first goal, but settled down and played a very respectable game for the remainder. The OT goal by Selanne, from a beautiful feed from Niedermayer, can't be faulted to T-bo, it's tough enough on a 4-on-3 penalty kill.
Which leads me to the penalties. I won't kick and scream like I've been reading this morning, but you can't seriously tell me that the Ducks were playing that game last night with as much discipline as resulting in only three non-scrum penalties.
I'm not sold on Thorburn on the 1st line with Sid/Geno. Matter of fact, I'm not sold on pretty much anyone at this point. I will say this though, Ekman has impressed me much more than he was the first several games of the year, maybe it's time he got his old job back.
So it turns out that the Pens got 5 out of a possible 8 points on this road trip. I would confidently say that if you asked knowledgeable Pens fans, aware of their past failures on West Coast swings, they'd take those 5 points at the drop of a hat.
Monday, November 06, 2006
They suffered a tough defeat Saturday night in San Jose, one that was certainly winnable, but also one that I believe they would certainly acknowledge that was not their best effort.
Pens beat writer reports over the last couple of days indicate that the young Pens were pissed off after their performance against the Sharks. That's a good sign, to me at least it is. They're not content with a decent showing, only to come out on the losing end. They don't have blinders on, they can see that they have something special a-brewin'.
So to that respect, I expect to see the Pens coming out flying. They know they've up against arguably the best crew of D-men in the league. Let's see if the Pens' speed counteracts that defensive pressure.
Thibault gets his first actual start of the season tonight. He did come in for about half the game at home vs. the Canes when MAF got his bell rung. Let's hope that he's gotten the rust out.
Oprik also gets his first start tonight, albeit not the best of circumstances due to the impending wrist surgery of Mark Eaton. Eaton could be gone for quite a while. I'm sure that Brooks will make a few bonecrushing checks just to get the juices flowing.
And finally, Army got bumped WAAY down to the 4th line, playing alongside of Ruutu and Talbot. For as much as that's unfortunate for Army, that's one excellent 4th line. The Ducks better keep their heads up when that motley crew is on the ice. Ouellet was inserted to the 1st line again to play alongside of Sid and Geno, and Thorburn was moved up to the 3rd line with Leclair and Moore.
So let's hope for the Pens to be clicking on all cylinders, and give the Ducks their 1st regulation loss of the year.
Let's Go Pens !!!!!
Sunday, November 05, 2006
So based on that, I believe I'm fairly qualified to say that I've never seen a team as self-destructive as the 2006 Pittsburgh Steelers.
SIX more turnovers today, four of them unbelievably inside the Denver 10 yard line.
Well, that's it for me.
I'm not going to sit here trying to think up different types of adjectives to describe how the special teams suck, how the pass defense is incredibly overrated, and how the entire team is still hungover from the Super Bowl parties.
So unless something earthshattering happens between now and training camp in Latrobe, I'd rather write about our sorry-ass Pirates than about this group of underachievers.
Just one of those games that the puck wasn't bouncing their way.
One of those games where those tape-to-tape passes that were near-perfectly executed in the first 10 games of the season were just off last night.
The Pens gave it their best shot, but it just wasn't meant to be as the Sharks prevailed with a 3-2 win.
But give the Sharks the credit they deserve, they just provided the NHL a blueprint on how to slow down the Crosby/Malkin machine.
You hit 'em every time they've got the puck, or at least try to.
Malkin especially got the physical treatment, he took several good checks along the boards.
What is quickly becoming one of the biggest concerns to this Penguins team are the early goals being given up starting periods. After only 11 games into the season, the Pens have given up eight goals within the first 3 minutes to start a period. It happened twice in L.A., and it happened twice more in San Jose last night. I don't know whether you attribute that to lack of focus, concentration or whatever is lacking, but you could tell that when Mike Grier (who made me look silly for sure) scored on that shot early in the 3rd period (arguably it sure looked like MAF wasn't prepared for that shot), it immediately made it a very difficult task to overcome.
I lost track on the amount of open nets the Pens failed to capitalize on. What was it, five, six ? As I mentioned before, those pucks were bouncing right on their sticks to poke it into the net the first 10 games, but last night, that dog wasn't huntin'.
Offensively, I don't believe the forwards played that badly at all. They had numerous good rushes, but the majority of those centering passes were just not connecting. Give the Sharks defense credit, they took away a lot of those passing lanes.
I can't say the same for the Pens' defense. Those guys appeared a step slow last night, they did a poor job on loose pucks, and did not do a very good job with their outlet passes, many times having the Sharks intercept the puck before the blue line. Have to say, a lot of those times, it was coming from Ryan Whitney, it most definitely wasn't one of Ryan's better games.
But for all of the things going wrong for the Pens last night, they were one shot away from tying the game up for the majority of the 3rd period.
I really thought that the pressure they applied in the last two minutes of the game had a real good chance to score that tying goal, they had several good scoring opportunities, but once again, just couldn't get the finishing touch to get the game knotted up.
So it's onto Anaheim, where I'm sure Pronger and Neidermeyer were taking plenty of notes last night. Here's to hoping that the Pens come out with a boot in their ass and finish the road trip strong, rather than on a sour note.
Saturday, November 04, 2006
Very cool man, very friendly and made small talk with everyone. Taking pictures and all that stuff (I forgot ours, and would live to regret it, I'll explain later).
40 bucks a pop for autographs, plus whatever you buy for him to sign.
I bought a mini helmet, and he signs it with a gold Sharpie as follows:
To Domenic (my youngest son's name)
Go Steelers !
[[ Rocky Bleier ]]
SB IX X XIII XIV
That would have been good enough for me, then the kicker;
He's got all 4 of his Super Bowl rings there with him, AND IS LETTING EVERYONE PUT THE RINGS ON THEIR FINGERS !!!!!
You guys should have seen the grin on my face when I had those rings on my fingers.
Big, HUGE frickin' rings.
The kid in front of us dropped one of his rings on the cement floor.
Rocky didn't seem to be too upset with that, I'm sure they've been dropped before.
I told him that he looked about 6'5" when he caught that TD pass against the Cowboys in the Super Bowl.
Malkin is getting plenty of headlines, seemingly taking them away from his linemate Sid, although I'm sure Sid will be the first one to gladly let someone else grab the spotlight.
San Jose is shaking things up, although somewhat curiously. According to TSN (via the Contra Costa Times), the Sharks have Forward Mike Grier moved up to a line with Joe Thornton and Milan Michalek, Jonathan Cheechoo dropped to the third line with Marcel Goc and Patrick Rissmiller.
Mike Grier isn't what I would have thought of as a 1st line winger, but whatever floats your boat, fellas.
On the Pens front, Coach Therrien stated that he's reluctant to shake up his D-men, at least right now, to get Brooks Orpik back on the ice. That's a strange one, neither Melichar nor Scuderi are not ones that are the model of consistency in my book.
It also appears that Armstrong will be back on the 1st line with Sid and Geno, after Ouellet was moved up there during the Kings game Tuesday night. Any game now that you'd like to score is fine Army, really.
Oh well, that's about it, we'll see what shakes out at 10:30 tonight.
For me, it's over to a local mall tonight for my son and I to meet and get autographs from Rocky Bleier. I'm gonna see if he can fly up to Pittsburgh in time for tomorrow's game and suit up, the Steelers need all the help they can.
Friday, November 03, 2006
Would it be too far-fetched to imagine Malkin, Armstrong, and Talbot cruising down the Sunset Strip on a Friday night in Hollywood ??
Ya know, checking out the honeys, listening to some good tunes, that sort of thing.
I'll be honest with you, I had the opportunity to cruise around L.A. for the first time in over 20 years this past June. As you have seen if you glanced at my profile, I am what you would call a Classic Van Halen fanatic. And for those of you uninitiated, Classic Van Halen has absolutely nothing to do with Sammy Hagar or Gary Cherone, it's 100% David Lee Roth-led Van Halen, rock and roll at it's very best. If you're close to my age, that is in your early 40's, you know EXACTLY what I'm talking about. Anyway, when I cruised the Sunset Strip that day, and I came upon the Whiskey A Go-Go, it brought a big smile to my face. Van Halen ruled that bar (hell, the whole damn town) during the early to mid '70's, their tenure there is absolutely legendary. Strong rumors of a Roth-led Van Halen reunion in 2007, check out my good friends at The Roth Army for some great features, especially in the forums sections.
Anyway, back to hockey.
[[ It's my blog, dammit... ]]
Love the quote by Mike Cammalleri of the Kings, "We had to be ready because we knew none of those guys were out in the bars [Tuesday] night. They aren't old enough to get in."
As the season winds along, more and more press precede the Pens' arrival into new towns. A good article written by Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle pretty much tells it the way it is, i.e. you better see the Pens now, 'cause the way the schedule is nowadays, you may not get the chance for a few more years.
Excellent gesture by the Pens recently, who invited some Marines recently back from Iraq to the bowels of the Igloo for a meet and greet. The video shows the Devil Dogs meeting several Pens, such as Malone, Armstrong, and Crosby. Sid also made a surprise cellphone call to one Marine's girlfriend. The topper was #66 himself meeting the troops and posing for pictures.
I'll be a blubbering idiot if the day ever comes that I meet Mario, and I hope it does, not only for me, but for my sons as well.
Finally, props to Todd at Sportsblogs.org for giving me some tips about RSS feeds. I'm still playing around with the template, but I think I've got things setup now for that stuff. Pretty amazing the numerous configurations that can be done with a simple blog. As always, if you've got a suggestion, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
You know, if the Pens could ever hit the ice running, so to speak, there wouldn't nearly be so much trepidation later in the game.
The Pens gave up goals early in both the 1st and 2nd periods, got a fortunate carom off of a D-man's skate in the 3rd period, got a fortunate tripping call in OT, and came out of it with a 4-3 win in OT for the Pens' 5th win in a row.
But ya know, good teams win games like this. Penguins teams as recent as last year would have easily lost games like this.
The Pens are 4-0 now on the road, once not so long ago was a near sure loss. And in California ?? Puhleeze.
Oh yeah, that Malkin kid scored two more goals. I'm gonna go out on a limb and predict this kid's got decent NHL potential. He was also selected as NHL Rookie of the Month. I can hear the pundits crying fix now, just as they did when Sid was selected last October.
And as some other of my fellow Pens bloggers noticed last night, Army was moved off of the 1st line down to the 3rd line, as Michel Ouellet was moved to the 1st line with Sid and Geno. I'm not sure about Ouellet up there right now. Although he is indeed a sniper, and for sure will get plenty of feeds from Malkin and Crosby, I just don't know if he's going to be able to keep up their speed.
However, having said that, both of those guys simply make the defense gravitate towards them, almost to the point that they're playing a zone defense. That in itself will allow Ouellet to get to the net. So, maybe this will turn into another great coaching move. One thing's for sure, with those two guys up there, the situation is nowhere close to being a dire one, it's simply a complimentary one.
Also, I think that Army may really enjoy that 3rd line. It may relax him a little bit, and enable him to use the physical aspect of his game more than he has been.
And in addition, I'd like to personally thank Jordan Staal for making my prediction come true. He did come out strong last night, and his goal very early in the 1st period reaffirmed that.
So it's onto San Jose on Saturday night. I don't know how many times the Pens have to be burned with early goals to get the light bulb to come on in their collective heads. One thing's for sure, if they do that vs. the Sharks and Ducks on Monday night, the final outcome probably won't be as rosy.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
The Pens may have been considered great, good, bad or terrible, but headed out to Cali has been a disaster for the last several years.
Since the '01-02 season, the Pens are a combined 2-11-0-1 against the teams they're going up against on their California swing (1-3 against Anaheim, 0-4-0-1 against the Kings, and 1-4 against San Jose).
The Pens are saying the right things at least. Matching the intensity. Coming out strong. Working hard. Finishing their checks.
But they're really going to have to guard against several factors tonight, including soaking in too much California sunshine (and the eye candy as well), playing down to a Kings team that is not playing very well at all, reading too many press clippings about their surprising start, and just a general complacency after the long trip.
Reading some articles today concerning Army's lack of scoring any goals yet. Let's throw some good karma out to the Left Coast, Army gets his first tonight.
It should also be interesting to see the intensity of Jordan Staal tonight. Not that I think that he'd dog it now that he's staying with the Pens, mind you, but just the opposite, I think he's going to make a concerted effort on this trip to show the team that they made the right decision.
Let's Go Pens !!!!