Sunday, December 31, 2006

Confluence Road Trip, to a Pens home game for a change...

Home sweet home.

At least the home back here in VA Beach, that is.

Aaah, there is nothing like the wonderful experience of driving 500 miles in holiday traffic on I-95 and the PA Turnpike, it doesn't get much better than that.

Nice little vacation back in the haunts of NW Pennsylvania to visit the family, and of course, partake in some Penguins hockey.

Started Friday off in the afternoon by hitting the Strip District for a new hours. As I've said, I'm not what you would call a Pittsburgh expert, my experience has really been the 20 or so times that I've been there for games. We liked the variety of stores and vendors down there. Geez, if I'd known about the quantity of Steeler/Penguin stuff down there, I would just've grabbed it there instead of scrambling online. Got my son a "Malkin 71" hoodie and a couple of T-shirts, as well as some seafood that the old lady was salivating over.

A couple of hours before gametime we did the required visitation of hitting Primanti's restaurant in the Strip. I inhaled a capicola and cheese, while I have to give my son props for almost eating his entire sandwich, and the old lady gave it a college try, but couldn't quite dust off her fish sandwich. I think she was intimidated by the whole fries and coleslaw thing.

On our way down I-79 Friday afternoon, I passed numerous cars with Ontario plates, so I knew that this would be a similar game like last year with a few thousand Leaf fans in attendance. And I was right, the SRO crowd had quite a throng of loud and boisterous Leaf fans. It made for great atmosphere. I'll speak about this sometime in the next couple of days, but count me among those who would have no problem with the NHL's proposed realignment. I would welcome the opportunity to have the Leafs as a common opponent as opposed to the snoozers of the Islanders and Devils.

The towel giveaway seemed to initially be a ho-hum promotion when I first saw it a few weeks ago, but combined with the Leaf fans in attendance, it really gave the Igloo a playoff atmosphere. I mentioned to my buddy there that considering the way that place was rocking Friday night, it must've really been something during the Cup years.

Even the dual National Anthems pumped the crowd up. It's unfortunate nowadays that you don't hear American crowds sing their anthem like you used to, but the Pens fans Friday night sure did, kudos to them.

Because of my tardiness in posting, I won't get into that much detail about the game, but here are some notes;
  • After watching the game this morning on TIVO, I didn't realize how badly Ruutu kicked Ondrus' ass, but he sure as hell did. Ruutu got several solid shots in.
  • Mark Recchi tossed a couple of pucks into the crowd in our section before the game. His second toss I believe was intended for a young fan who made a sign, but Mark's toss was a little too strong, and it landed a few rows back, where the fan who grabbed it seemed oblivious to that fact, despite the heated pleas of the youngster's father.
  • I continue to be shutout on the lifetime scoreboard of getting a T-shirt from those damn giveaways from the cheerleaders, or whatever the hell they're called. I did come close, one tipped off of my fingertips, I mistimed the jump. I would have had that damn shirt 5 years ago, I tell ya.
  • As some of my colleagues in the Pens' blogosphere have already noted, there was a tussle in the stands behind the Leaf's penalty box immediately prior to the Ruutu/Ondrus fight, coincidence ???
  • Prior to the 2nd intermission, Glenn Healy walked passed us in A5 on the way to his location between the benches (I'm assuming it was for TSN, DirectTV showed the Pens' feed). Lots of cheers from the Leaf fans, but one guy right in front of us went right to the glass and gave Healy a thumbs down. Healy just grunted and continued walking. Hilarious.
  • Still no word on Ekman's injury, other than he'll get an MRI early next week. Doesn't look good for Nils. Even though he hasn't lit up the lamp nearly as much as expected, how much more has to happen before the Pens get some help in the wings for Sid and Geno ?
  • But until that happens, Therrien should keep Sid and Geno on the same line. Hardly anyone else on this team is scoring, they need to keep that one potent line together to generate SOME offense.
  • OK, someone please try to find out the NHL record for most "too many men on the ice" penalties in one season. The one assessed during Ekman's injury was understandable, but not the second one. Come on boys, this is getting ridiculous.
  • With about 4 minutes left, a good chunk of the crowd was chanting "67", in reference to the last Cup for the Leafs in 1967. Couldn't hear it very well on the TV feed, but it was loud and clear in person.
  • For some reason, when I think of Erik Christensen, I think of Cris Carter. "All he does is score goals".

And finally, for my buddy Pojo Risin, everyone in NW PA said hello back.

The Canes are next for the Pens on Tuesday at the Igloo.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Happy Holidays from The Confluence

Hope you and your families have a happy and safe Christmas holiday.

I probably will only have a few posts in the next week, I'm heading back to PA to visit my family. So unless you REALLY need a post from me describing how exciting the PA Turnpike is this time around, there won't be much from me until the weekend.

The highlight, besides visiting the family of course, will be Friday when we hit The 'Burgh for a little shopping Friday afternoon in the Strip District, then hit the Igloo Friday night for Leafs/Pens about 5 rows from the ice.

My son will be the one with the Crosby jersey (hehehehe)...

Friday, December 22, 2006

And let the posturing begin...

It's almost like Mario's statement on Thursday has done nothing but fuel even more speculation and posturing among all of the respective parties involved with the Penguins' current situation.

Dan Onorato reiterated his support for Plan B today, saying a new arena was his top priority and he hoped to be able to achieve it in six to eight weeks.

I give Onorato props since the slots license decision was handed down on Wednesday. He's been on several interviews since then, and has consistently been calm, explaining the situation very clearly to those not well-informed (and that's a lot of people, judging by some of the Internet articles).

And, as has been said several times before, progress is continuing to be made on the new arena's future site. The SEA (Sports & Exhibition Authority) authorized $1.7 million in contracts to clear asbestos from buildings to be demolished to make way for a new arena and to prevent work stoppages during construction.

Demolition will begin in January, agreement in place or not.

And finally, Jim Balsillie tossed his hat back in the ring. You can imagine this was coming, especially since the selling price will now be about 40 million less.

The inaccurate reporting of the Pens' situation gets more ridiculous every day. One of the biggest misconceptions is the statement that Plan B will involve taxpayers money. That is completely false, there is zero money coming from taxpayers. Specifically, in the portion that some are calling "taxpayer money", 7 million dollars per year for 30 years will be coming from a slots-backed state economic development fund.

We'll probably see the official statement die down for a little bit, until the Pens officially release from the IOC. Until then, the status won't change.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Thrashers 4, Pens 3 (SO); We'll take the one point..

It certainly didn't look good for most of the game.

Hitting posts left and right.

Goals coming courtesy of Jocelyn Rebound.

Looked like it just wasn't in the cards.

But give them credit, the Pens got a couple of garbage goals in the 3rd period, the last one coming with 15 seconds left it the game by Sid, and got a point out of the 4-3 shootout loss.

Speaking of the shootout, I know I'm sounding like a broken record (showing my age), but the Pens in the shootout is just getting depressing.

Is it just me, or do the opposing players appear to put the puck in the net with so much ease, while the Pens have a helluva time just getting the puck to the goalie.

That vaunted Penguins powerplay was 0 for 7. Something needs to be done, they have too many weapons to be that poor on the power play.

The Pens are off now until the 26th, when they're at New Jersey.

I'll be back home in PA next week, including 5 rows from the ice on the 29th against the Leafs.

Pens gameday; I'm concerned for these guys....

The events of the past two days have been pretty damn dramatic.

And not the good type of dramatic, that's for sure.

You've been hearing interviews with the Pens in the months leading up to the awarding of the slots license, and all of them have said that pretty much that's something that's out of their control.

And those are true statements, of course.

But now, first with the IOC losing the slots license on Wednesday, and today with Mario issuing a terse statement that for the first time used the word "Relocation", combined with the Pens' comments on those two, I have to admit, I'm concerned that the situation with the ownership and the arena is going to start affecting the Pens on the ice.

Maybe not during the game, naturally I don't think they'll be thinking about Plan B while trying not to get hit by Hatcher.

But I think, subconsciously, this might cause the Pens to take a turn downward in the conference standings.

Now I could be completely off of my rocker on this one, I sure hope I'm dead wrong.

Tonight's game will be an immediate test on that psyche. I'm sure that the Thrashers are gonna come out strong after losing to the Pens last week.

And if the Pens come out flat again tonight, with the Thrashers firepower, this could be a blowout quickly.

So let's hope that the boys have their head on straight, not only tonight, but for the future. Let the politicians duke it out over the arena, you guys just worry about hockey.


That Lemieux fella is one smart cookie, I tell ya....

Mario, Mario, Mario.

No one can refer to you as a dumb jock, no siree.

Mario came out with another statement today, a day after the IOC failed to win the slots license.

And as you can imagine, this one was much more alarming for Penguin fans and the city/county officials.

Why ?? Because Mario threw the "R" word out there for the first time.

R for relocation, that is.

Here was Mario's statement from the Pens website;

"Recent developments, including Wednesday’s decision by the PGCB, and the recent termination of the purchase agreement by Jim Balsillie have convinced us that it is time to take control of our own destiny. Accordingly, starting Thursday, the team is off the market, and we will begin to explore relocation options in cities outside Pennsylvania. After seven years of trying to work out a new arena deal exclusively in Pittsburgh, we need to take into consideration the long-term viability of the team and begin discussions with other cities that may be interested in NHL teams.

As soon as we are no longer restricted by our agreement with Isle of Capri from negotiating an arena deal here, in the next few weeks, we will also begin discussions with local leaders about a viable Pittsburgh arena plan.

We will have no further comment at this time."

A couple of comments:

Did you notice that Mario did not put the more optimistic approach, that being towards Plan B, in the beginning of the article ?? He did the calculated, political approach towards his statement, he put the shock into those reading it right off the bat.

It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out what Mario's doing. The more that Mario and the Pens throw out the "R" word, the more that the Pens feel that the City and State will negotiate a better Plan B deal for the Pens new arena.

Also, just because Mario SAYS that the team is off the market doesn't mean that it's going to STAY off the market. Mario still wants to sell this team, believe that. And that includes a time when the asking price for the franchise will go down from 175 million to probably around 130 to 140 million because of the failure of IOC to win the license.

And lastly, as I said last night, a professional sports team paying X million dollars per year for a arena/stadium lease is PAR FOR THE COURSE. Right now Plan B has them paying 8.5 million up front, then 4.1 million per year. You can bet the house that those two figures are going to go down a bit for the Pens to sign the deal.

So, like I said, Mario is using the Pens position of strength to his advantage, so everyone's going to have to get used to these types of statements to the media.

And of course, all of those statements will have the "R" word.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

PITG wins slots license; It's just a bump in the road, people...

Wow, are there some pissed off Pens fans tonight.

Face it boys, that decision is over, there is no good gonna come out of stewing over it for days, weeks, or however long you plan on being pissed off.

The IOC bid for the slots license undoubtedly would have given the Pens an immediate answer to their future, that future being in Pittsburgh.

But while the PITG's win does still leave an amount of doubt into the Pens' future home, don't fall into the doom and gloom that the media is now portraying, along with the idiots that comment to those media articles.

There are two distinct, but joined, evolutions that will be going on in earnest in the coming weeks and months that will, in my view, ensure the Penguins remaining in Pittsburgh for a long, long time.

First of all, we have the ownership issue. All of the familiar names are coming up again. I'm not going to name them all again. Some people are already speculating that Mario is so pissed off now that he's going to sell to the highest bidder, and he's not going to care if that person wants to move the team.

That, my friends, is what General Norman Schwartzkoff referred to as "bovine feces".

And he's right, that is utter bullshit.

I don't care what everyone is saying, Mario Lemieux will not get this team moved if he has any say in it.

We may have even more prospective owners coming out of the woodwork now, due to the fact that the value of the selling price went down about 40 million clams, after the IOC failed to win the bid.

Which leads us to Plan B.

Plan B is not some diabolical scheme concocted by mad scientists.

Plan B is a relatively simple plan that, with a minimal amount of negotiations, can ensure the Pens' staying in the 'Burgh.

Now that the Pens can talk to the city and county again, I'm sure that we'll hear over the next few days that Plan B is viable, they'd be stupid not to say something to that effect.

The new owner will now have to pluck down about approx. 130 million over 30 years, which includes 8.5 million up front plus 4.1 million yearly, all of which is entirely negotiable with the state.

PITG has already formally agreed to 7.5 million for 30 years, plus 7 million annually will come from the State's development fund, which comes directly from slots revenue.

And there's your Plan B.

No city money, no county money, no tax money.

The property for the new arena has already been bought, demolition WILL commence in January.

So yes, boohoo, the Pens will have to kick in some money for the arena. They won't be getting a completely free arena, OK fine, join the party like every other NHL club has had to do.

So it will do everyone a helluva lot of good right now for the Pens to stop the "oh, I don't now about Plan B" talk.

It's a very good deal, and the sooner they start negotiating, either by the Lemieux group or whether they defer to the prospective owner, the quicker they'll have a deal.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Blues 4, Pens 1; Damn, I hate it when I'm right....

Worst effort of the year, just pitiful.

Don't even feel like talking about it.

Better hope that's not an omen for tomorrow.

Pens gameday; Distractions = Trap game

This "should" be a relatively easy one, if any game in the new NHL can be considered easy.

The St. Louis Blues have lost 11 straight games, just the sort of streak that a young team like the Pens could easily allow them to relax a bit.

And then there's that little discussion about the ownership.

If words around the Igloo are anything like they are around the 'Net, this could easily become a big distraction for the Pens tonight.

It's really easy to SAY that the slots decision won't be an issue when they get on the ice, but it's gotta be hard for them to totally get it out of their mind.

Looks like Dom Moore is the healthy scratch tonight, that's a curious one. Although he hasn't scored a goal in a while, he's been a good with the puckhandling.


Monday, December 18, 2006

Lemieux calls Balsillie's bluff, and he's keeping the dinero, too

Uh-0h, now you did it.

You done pissed Mario off.

Le Magnifique thought everything was peaches and cream between he and his golfing buddy Jimbo.

I mean really, what's 175 million clams between friends ??

Psyche !!

Well, today Mario basically said "aight", then informed today's press conference that the Penguins would be keeping Balsillie's deposit, believed to be approx. $10 million. The Pens believe that Balsillie's pullout consitutes a breach of contract.

And to top it off, despite public pronouncements over the weekend by Balsillie that he could still make a deal for the Pens, Lemieux squashed that notion, informing the press today that the deal with Balsillie is "dead".

Mario also stated that the Pens will now have no ownership discussions until after the Pittsburgh slots license is hopefully awarded on Wednesday in Harrisburg.

In the meantime though, you're beginning to hear the same familiar names as rearing their ugly heads once again pertaining to the possibility of owning the Pens.

Cuban. Murstein. Lemieux again.

And a new Canadian one, but this one's adamant that if he owns the Pens, in Pittsburgh they most definitely would stay.

Frank D'Angelo, whose company owns Steelback beer in Canada (never tried that one, someone let me know how that brewski tastes), has told anyone who wants to listen that he wants to buy the Pens and keep them in the 'Burgh. By the way, would that be poetic justice if the new owner of the PITTSBURGH Penguins owns STEELBACK Beer, or what.

I listened to him this afternoon on XM Home Ice 204 with Todd Lewis and Phil Esposito, a good friend of D'Angelo's. In fact, it's Espo who is attempting to set the meeting up between D'Angelo's team and Ken Sawyer and Mario. Some of his comments were quite surprising, albeit a good kind of surprising. I have even read tonight the possibility of D'Angelo building an arena with his own cash, where he could have naming rights and beer sales.

To be honest, I can't even think about any future possibilities with anyone right now, not until Wednesday.

I'm just trying to imagine just how in the hell ANYONE EXCEPT Isle of Capri could possibly win this license.

A state-of-the-art multi-purpose facility (we REALLY need to stop referring to this as simply a hockey arena) that's built with absolutely no taxpayer money.

That should be the kicker right there.

A slots casino location MUCH more accessible from the entire Pittsburgh metro area, as compared to the traffic cluster f%$k around the Station Square area.

What could POSSIBLY be any VALID reasons why Harrah's could win ??

This should be a slam dunk.

Will it ?? I have to think IOC is gonna win it, it's just clear in my mind.

But could they lose it ?? Sadly, this isn't about hockey, this is about politics. I've seen worse.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Sunday tidbits at The Confluence

  • 10 players were thrown out of last night's Denver/Knicks game after, you guessed it, a brawl erupted. Why should it not be surprising to anyone when these brawls continuously happen in a league in which 40% of the players have criminal records ??
  • One of those players ejected was NBA golden boy Carmelo Anthony, who connected squarely with a punch during the fight. Let's just see how many games he'll be suspended.
  • Will someone please take Allen Iverson ??
  • Another ho-hum showing for Kobe the other night, lighting up Houston for 53 points. For my money, Kobe Bryant is STILL the best player in the NBA.
  • Phil Kessel, impressive rookie for the Boston Bruins, confirmed this week that he had successful surgery for testicular cancer, which much like breast cancer for women, is one of those unspoken things that is so important for men to regularly check for.
  • For all of the hype given to the Crosby/Ovechkin matchup this past Monday, the TV rating for the broadcast on Versus was .2, or about 200,000 homes. As Larry Brooks states in his column today, "The NHL tired to promote the Crosby-Ovechkin showdown in its own way, but without access to ESPN, what exactly were the promotional platforms?". Hmmm, I wonder who just got on his soapbox recently and said basically the same thing ?? Oh, that's it, I remember now.
  • Sidney Crosby is without question the best player in the NHL right now, and he can't even buy an Iron City Beer in Pittsburgh at age 19. Maybe he can sneak in a glass of wine at Mario's house, since he has over 5,000 bottles in his collection.
  • Sidney may be the best overall player right now, but I gotta say, I just love to watch Alex Ovechkin play as well. Talk about explosive.
  • I've gotta take a hockey road trip to Montreal one of these days. What a wonderful atmosphere, or so it looks like it is anyway.
  • Why is it when I hear the French language, I immediately think back to Steve Martin's standup days, when he screws up ordering in French at a restaurant, orders a shoe with cheese on it, and tells them to force it down his throat.
  • Joey Porter blamed the media this past week after repeatedly calling Kellen Winslow Jr. a fag in his post-game comments. Funny, I didn't see anyone holding a 9MM to Joey's head forcing him to make those remarks.
  • Speaking of blaming the media, Jim Mora Jr. stuck his foot squarely in his mouth when he "seriously" said that he'd immediately leave the Falcons for the Univ. of Washington if that job were to open up. Then, curiously but not surprisingly, he gave the 'ol "just kidding" the next day. There should be some people that should not have the ability to speak to the media, ever.
  • Tank Johnson had what would be called a bad week. Cops raided his home and found 6 guns. Then after he apologized to the Bears and the public for his 3rd arrest in 18 months, he goes to a club Saturday night, gets involved in a fight, and his bodyguard is shot and killed.
  • Those in Steelerland who still have illusions of the playoffs may get plummeted back to Earth after this week's games. If Jacksonville and/or Cincinnatti wins today, it's all over.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Habs 6, Pens 3; Weary legs doom Pens....

They gave it their best shot for 20 minutes.

Malkin with the rebound tap-in.

Even Nasreddine chipped in with his 1st NHL goal with .2 seconds left in the 1st period to give the Pens a 2-1 lead.

And that was about all the Pens' collective legs had left in them.

The second period was a combination of hooking penalties due to being a step slow, and resulted in powerplay goals against tired penalty killers.

Yeah sure, the Pens had a few more chances, both Malkin and Sid hit the post, but overall, you could just see that the Pens really didn't have the energy tonight.

And let's not forget, the Habs are a pretty good defensive team, as well as excellent on both special teams.

A couple of other notes;

DirectTV had the CBC feed on for tonight's game as one of their Hockey Night in Canada games. The color commentary was done by Canadian cutie Cassie Campbell. I have be totally honest, I think she did a damn good job. She didn't do the normal boring sideline reporter job that most female sports reporters do. She provided excellent commentary and analysis, I was quite impressed.

And I don't know if you guys saw it on the FSN feed, but guess who was at the game ?? That's right, good 'ol Jimmy Balsillie. The fact that he was at that game 24 hours after pulling his bid for the Pens' ownership is really surprising.

Or is it ?? I'm telling ya, we haven't heard the last from Jimmy.

Also, they mentioned on the Satellite Hotstove that Mark Cuban has already made it known that he's interested in the Pens if it gets to that point.

So now the Pens get a couple days rest before hosting the Blues on Tuesday night.

Pens gameday; No motivation needed tonight

There are certain games during the course of the NHL regular season that don't need teammates to pump each other up. Certain games that you don't need to force yourself to get that extra jumpstart during pregame warmups.

Tonight would be one of those nights.

The Bell Centre should be rocking tonight as the NHL's hottest player invades Montreal (no, it's not Ryan Malone, although he's been surprisingly great these past couple of games). Sidney Crosby has been on one of those tears that's not seen very often, and the NHL schedule gurus finally got one right, as neither Sid nor the Pens could've asked for a bigger stage to continue his assault of the NHL scoring title.

Plus, with seemingly 90% of the Pens from the Montreal area, there are quite a few reasons that this is a big night for the black and gold.

A night away from the wild speculation concerning the Penguins ownership bid should be good for them, although for sure the mass Montreal hockey media won't let the Pens forget it, that's for sure.

Look at it this way, at least Sid can practice his French some more.


Balsilliegate; Not so quick with the bashing, this ain't over by a longshot

I really don't know where to start.

I've read so many views of the Pens' situation with prospective Jim Balsillie my head hurts. Usually it takes, oh I don't know, Christmas shopping to make it hurt this much.

But there's one predominant view that I believe everyone needs to take a step back and realize; This situation with Balsillie is not even close to being finished.

As a matter of fact, he may have never intended for the situation to BE finished.

Think about that.

Did anyone else notice the common demoninator in the comments from the NHL and the Penguins ?? That's right, the emphasis on the Isle of Capri winning the bid.

These are well-seasoned, smart businessmen. It's not an outlandish idea to suggest that this is a well-timed, public ploy by Balsillie and the Pens to exert enormous pressure on the PA Gaming Board to award the Pittsburgh slots license to the IOC.

In addition, according to Joe Starkey from the Trib, Balsillie stated Friday night "Right now, I'm not giving up on anything," said Balsillie, who was hosting a Christmas party last night at his home in Waterloo, Ontario. "I wish it could move forward."

There are a lot of Pens fans around the 'Net, the message boards and the blogs that are really slamming Balsillie this morning. Repeating their opinions towards Balsillie is unnecessary, I'm sure you guys can imagine their frustration and their anger. But in my view, this is a knee-jerk reaction, and those fans may not necessarily be looking at this in all points of view, and only that of a Penguins fan. And right now, you HAVE to look at this in the political point of view, because that is the predominant view that is driving this.

The primary question towards Balsillie's rejection of the deal is this; Did he pull out because he has ALWAYS had intentions on moving the team to Ontario, as has been speculated often (especially in the Canadian hockey media), or as I mentioned earlier, is this simply based on political motives calculated in cahoots with the Pens to exert that pressure upon the Gaming Board ??

During last night's Pens press conference during the 1st intermission, which basically was as useless as tits on a bull ("uh, you'd have to ask him" was the primary answer), Ken Sawyer stated that he spoke to Balsillie on Wednesday at the hearings in Harrisburg. And while he admitted that they were aware that Balsillie was having problems with the NHL, he had no indication that Balsillie would go as far as to pull the bid. So let me get this straight; Are you telling me that Balsillie would not tell Sawyer during face-to-face discussions that the possibility existed that he might pull his bid, but then goes ahead and does it two days later ?? As my Southern friends might say, that dog ain't huntin'.

Also, you have to put yourself in Balsillie's shoes as a businessman. Even if this is a political move, does he really want to sign an agreement that states that he will keep the Pens in Pittsburgh under ANY circumstances, AND that the NHL could take control of the franchise if the shit hits the fan, irregardless of his real intentions, that being to keep the team in Pittsburgh or not ??

Now, the focus shifts directly on the PA Gaming Board. Talk about pressure. They've already announced that they've moved the December 20th Board Meeting to a bigger venue, to accommodate the additional public interest. I'd say that interest just got ratched up a couple more notches. But this new development now raises new philosophical questions to the board. Do they actually have to take into account the ownership status of the Penguins in their discussions to award a slots license for the city of Pittsburgh ?? It's not like the Penguins don't have an owner now, it's just that the new prospective owner pulled his offer.

Balsillie's announcement also, of course, raises new possibilities concerning new and/or previous ownership bids for the Penguins. The main name I've read about 100 times since last night is Mark Cuban. Cuban freely admitted in October that he "screwed up" in not making a stronger bid for the Pens, especially after watching the Pens live against New Jersey, the game in which Malkin undressed the Devils' defense and Marty Brodeur.

But to me, it also re-raises this possibility; Assuming the IOC wins the slots license, does anyone believe that the Lemieux group could retain their ownership now, and simply acquire some additional investors, such as Cuban ?? I think there's a chance that this could be a possibility as well, but of course I have no way of knowing that.

Another person that has had his share of bashing in Pens' circles in the past is Gary Bettman. If the NHL's reported demands to Balsillie are accurate, Pens fans worldwide need to give one collective thank you to Bettman. Bettman and the NHL are clearly on the Pens' side on this one, and the Penguins fans need to acknowledge as much.

Mario must be one frustrated son of a bitch this morning. He probably just saw about 40 million clams leave his hands Friday (albeit probably temporarily). This ongoing soap opera, which has gone on now for about six years, looks like it's going to last a little while longer.

The real unfortunate part of this story is the Penguins themselves. The Pens are playing their best hockey since the Lemieux comeback season of '00-'01, in which they made it to the Eastern Conference finals. The attendance continues to be strong, despite Canadian media's continued bashing of a crowd of 12,000 for a Tuesday night game in December against the Panthers. Last night they had a sellout crowd of over 17,000 against the Islanders, who the NHL's scheduling gurus had decided to have the Pens play five times in under 60 days. They've got the two biggest up-and-coming stars in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but yet no one can discuss the Penguins without mentioning the ownership situation. Mark Recchi, who besides hometown boy Ryan Malone is the closest Pen to being a Pittsburgher, admitted last night that the situation is "scary".

We'll all see where this situation leads itself up to Wednesday, where I'm sure that there will be throngs of Pens fans on the edge of their seats.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Pens 7, Isles 4; Despite wild speculation, Pens focus on the ice...

Is this team fun to watch or what ??

Now if we could just get some damn closure with the ownership and the arena.

I'll tell ya right off of the bat, I'm gonna leave the ownership talk out of tonight's post. I need some time to read all of the different points of view, think about it, and then I'll throw my .02 in there.

Back to the ice, the Pens really showed some excellent pressure starting off the game, and were rewarded with a 3-1 lead after one period.

The thing about being aggressive is that you're getting off a lot of shots, and when they do that, you're going to get the lucky bounces that you weren't getting earlier in the season. That is exactly how Sid got his goal tonight, he got a shot on net, bounced it off of BOTH Isles D-men, and in the back of the net. But ya know what, in the box score, that was a laser shot.

The best scene of the night ??

Crosby's 4 more points ?? NO

Recchi's 800th assist ?? NO

Malone's hat trick ?? NO

The best scene of the night was Dan Potash's interview with the girlfriends of Fleury and Armstrong !! Holy bat shit, good work boys !!

What a scene as Sid juked Zhitnik out of his jock, then fed Malone for the hat trick. What a better night to have a ski hat giveaway, half of them ended up on the ice !!

I could be a scrooge and complain about the Pens getting WAAAAY too fancy on the power play, but I won't.

Let's just hope that the Pens haven't blown their collective loads the last two games, 'cause they're going to need another excellent effort going into Montreal Saturday night.

Balsille pulls Pens' bid; Let the politics begin...

What the f&$k is going on now.

Shockingly, the Penguins have announced that Jim Balsillie has withdrawn his offer to buy the Penguins after reaching a stalement with the NHL over last-minute demands by the league.

According to the Post-Gazette, "Those demands included a promise to keep the team in Pittsburgh under any circumstance and give the NHL the right to take control of the Penguins."

There are a lot of ways to look at this, in both the positive and negative.

The naysayer may look at it as in Balsille's intention right from the start was to move the team.

However, and this is the one I'm shooting for, optimists will say that his withdrawl is a political move aimed at the PA Gaming Board to ensure they give the IOC the Pittsburgh slots license.

Stan Savran will emcee a press conference at the end of the 1st period, where hopefully we will get more information.

That's all for now, I'm just pissed off that this is taking place now, 6 days before the license is awarded.

Pens gameday; Keep that "MO" going...

Momentum is a funny thing.

When used correctly, a team can ride it for quite a while.

But when a team abuses it, it causes them to crash down to earth quickly.

That brings us to Le Igloo tonight. The euphoria over the Flyers win, with Crosby's heroics, was an incredible night.

But one things for sure, if they walk out on the ice like the Steelers have done this year, i.e. "hey we're the Steelers, you bow down", they're gonna get blown out of the arena.

The Flyers' quickly tying up the game at 2 on Tuesday, after getting dominated early on, should be plenty of a wake up call for the Pens.

When they are relentless on the forecheck, and not back on their heels, this is a tough team to beat.

But when they're lollygagging around, like the 1st half of the Caps game, and during stages of the Flyers game, their liabilities are really highlighted, those being their mediocre defense (and that's putting it nicely).

The Isles have been playing good hockey for quite a while now, they're tied with the Pens with 33 points. A win for the Pens tonight vaults them in 7th, and possibly 6th place in the conference.

Thibault is in goal tonight, this guy needs to get off of the schnide big-time. I'm gonna go out on a limb and predict he gets win #1 tonight.

Dupont got sent back down to WBS today. While it's not entirely unexpected, and they needed to make room for Ekman, these guys sure do have quick trigger fingers when it comes to changing things up. In another surprise, Christensen (yeah, the one scoring the goals) is to be a healthy scratch tonight.

Oh well, we'll see how it plays out.

P.S., someone please deck Satan tonight !!!!


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Pens 8, Flyers 4; And the slaughter continues....

Where do I begin ?

Hey, this Crosby kid might turn out to be a decent player, don't ya think ??

Well, I have to be honest, for a great as Sid was last night, I am not among those that was so enthralled by the Pens' performance.

Let's face it, the Flyers really suck right now.

I mean, they REALLY suck right now.

Last night was one of those freaky games that combined a lousy defensive performance by the Flyers, along with every bounce going the Pens' way.

The result ?? That's right, an 8-4 shellacking.

But let's go back to the 1st period, where I believe if the Pens weren't playing the Flyers, they might have very well given this game away.

Two relatively soft goals by the Flyer tied the game up at 2, quickly after the Pens got a soft goal of their own that made it 2-0.

But like I said, it was just one of those nights, in a good way for the Pens, as Gonchar scored on what looked like it was tipped 32 times, made it 3-2, then Malone FINALLY scored on a flukey rebound that just happened to land on his tape to make it 4-2, and the route was on.

You could tell by the first goal of the game that it was going to be a good night, after Thorburn scored from about 20 feet on a wrist shot.

And to top it off, Staal did his best Malkin impression with 7 seconds left to beat Nittimaki, I'm sure Nittimaki just wanted to get the hell out of there.

So sure, it was a great win, possibly a historic win in terms of what we're witnessing with Sid's accomplishments.

Wasn't it interesting reading the dozens of articles today regarding whether Sid is the best player in the NHL now ?? And at 19 ??

Shoot, when I was 19, all I cared about was whether we could get some beer on the weekends.

Times change, huh ??

On to Friday, when we face the Islanders for the 73rd time this season.

And in case you've forgotten because of all the hysteria, the last time the Pens faced the Isles, they lost 5-3.

Might as well put the Flyers game out of your mind now while you got the chance.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Pens gameday; Keep your foot on the pedal, boys

Fresh off of their highly successful road trip, the Pens return home tonight to face the injury-depleted Flyers.

The Pens would be well advised to forget that tidbit, though.

Now is not the time to take the night off and get fancy.

The Pens need to keep their collective feet planted squarely on the Flyers' throats. There is absolutely no reason why the season series with the Flyers shouldn't end up at least 7-1.

Looks like Rob Scuderi will return tonight after battling the flu, and Micki Dupont will be scratched. To be honest, Micki didn't have the best game in Washington, so his scratching is probably worthy.

One week to go before the slots license is awarded. I'm sure the collective nerves are starting to build, I already know that's going to be one intense day in Penguinland.

So anyway, let's keep the momentum going tonight, and onto Friday at home AGAIN vs. the Islanders, and then in Montreal Saturday night.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Pens 5, Craps 4 (SO); Win of the Year....

I spent the first half of the 2nd period last night stewing about what the most negative adjectives were that I could think of for this post.

"Flat" - Nah, too generic.

"Uninspired" - Nah, not harsh enough.

My 13 year-old son tells me about halfway through, "the game's only half over Dad".

Grumble, grumble.

Then, that sniper Max Talbot sneaks one past Olly the Goalie. 4-1.

[[ "OK, at least they're not going to get frickin' shutout." ]]

Few minutes later, Erik Christensen rings one off the post and in. 4-2.

[[ "Hmmm, they're still two down. Don't get your hopes up just yet." ]]

About two seconds later (or so it seemed), Sid with the one-timer from the beauty feed from Geno. 4-3.

[[ "OK, NOW we've got a hockey game." ]]

From there, another Malkin-esque goal knotted the game at 4, and you know the rest.

A few items of interest from my seat at home;
  • Speaking of my seat, no frickin' thanks to the NHL for not putting any of the two Pens/Caps games in D.C. on weekends this year, 'cause my hairy ass would have been there. I enjoy D.C., I was stationed at the Pentagon from '91-'94, so I know the area, and the Verizon Center is in a nice section of town.
  • And what was another result of a Monday night game, even with Sid vs. Alex ?? Why, it was those thousands of empty seats that Versus did their best not to show. The announced attendance was around 13,000, and you can bet that at least 5,000 were Pens fans. They were good and vocal alright. I heard more than once "Let's Go Pens !!!". Pretty poor showing overall though, I'm sure neither the NHL nor Versus was too happy about that. Next time, schedule it for Saturday night, dunces.
  • How about those rally helmets ?? Of course, it should be no surprise that it was Army's idea. But the Pens have enough loonys (Talbot comes to mind) to join in, no doubt. I even saw Geno throw his on for a while, but I'm sure someone eventually had to bring him to the side, "Uh, you have to shoot, comrade".
  • LOVED the check by Orpik, clean as a whistle. I really don't know even now why Orpik was thrown out of the game, the Caps initiated the retaliation. But someone needs to tell Ruutu that it's much easier to fight with the jersey NOT over your head. And it can be argued that the fights were what turned the tide of momentum.
  • Is it just me, or is Sid being VERY hesitant in the shootouts ever since he juked Theodore out of his jock ?? I mean, I don't think he's made ONE move since that game. Entirely straight on, with a simple wrist shot.
  • Irregardless of the Pens comeback last night, if the Pens miss the playoffs this year, they need to look no further than the lack of intensity in the 1st periods that caused their downfall.
  • Speaking of bringing Geno to the side, I think someone needs to tell him that he can't throw elbows like Superfly Jimmy Snuka.
  • The Leclair situation is getting ugly, and quickly. I know Shero is being patient and respectful of Vermont's career, and deservedly so, but this soap opera needs an ending.

Great win, without a doubt the win of the year. Remember these two points in April.

Five points out of six on the three game road trip, I'll take that all day long.

Onto Wednesday night back at home vs. the Flyers. Keep the intensity up against a team with a boatload of injuries.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Pens gameday; Um, who's playing tonight ???

Little humor there, forgive me.

You couldn't build this one up anymore than it already has (unless it was on ESPN, but that was yesterday's topic, I digress).

Tonight's game at the Verizon Center in Chinatown, D.C. is just another example why I really wish the Caps were still in the same division as the Pens.

If you ask me, it's the Caps, and not the Flyers, who are the Pens' most hated rival nowadays. This isn't 1987 anymore. The Pens/Caps series over the last several years has been hard-hitting (borderline dirty), fast-paced, and has generated an excellent hatred between it's fans.

Versus is pulling out all the stops tonight. Mikes on both Sid and Alex, interviews with both coaches during the game, and pre-game interview with Geno, with Alex as his translator (that should be fun).

In terms of the game itself, I have to give Brian credit at The Pittsburgh Penguins Report, as well as a contributor to, 'cause he basically read my mind on this one.

I think that it's Malkin, and not Crosby, that could very well be the deciding factor in tonight's game. You'd have to know that Geno will be extremely pumped up to play against his buddy Ovechkin tonight for the first time. In addition, we should also see a continuation of Malkin's aggressiveness that he showed in Atlanta last Saturday.

I haven't seen anything indicating that the lines will be shuffled too much at all tonight, which should be a good thing. Perhaps we're seeing an indication of what Therrien believes will be the quasi-permanent lines for the team, unless injuries take their toll.

This should be a good one, I'll be interested to see how Versus pulls this off.


Sunday, December 10, 2006

Confluence Soapbox; You want better TV ratings, NHL? It's quite simple...

Lately, I've read with interest the columns concerning the miniscule TV ratings in the U.S.

[[ But ya can't blame Pittsburgh for this one Canada, FSN Pittsburgh ratings are up 40%, take that !!! ]]

Also a hot topic concerns the declining attendance at U.S. arenas.

However, in my view, boosting U.S. interest in NHL hockey isn't rocket science, folks, it really isn't.

You can spell it out in four letters;


It's that simple.

Like it or not Canada, ESPN is 100% dead-on target when it advertises itself as the "Worldwide Leader in Sports".

And, unfortunately, in the same respect, the NHL needs to take a step back and realize that OLN, or Versus, or whatever the network will call itself next year, will NEVER get to the level of exposure that ESPN does now.

You cannot compare what is being done on Versus right now to what ESPN can provide.

Regular game broadcasts on ESPN and ESPN2.

Resumption of regular shows such as "NHL2Night"

Increased highlights and commentary on "Sportscenter" and ESPNEWS.

Increased discussions and interviews on ESPN Radio.

Commencement of historic and "Instant Classic" NHL games on ESPN Classic.

Not to mention the additional millions of households that ESPN hits as compared to Versus.

Ever wonder why ESPN has all of those NBA highlights and shows and discussions on talk radio ??

Because they've got the NBA contract, stupid !!!

No contract, no talk, no exposure. ESPN is without a doubt the most powerful, most influential force in sports television, absolutely no doubt about it.

Now I'll say this right off the bat, I've been very critical lately of ESPN's performance over the last several years. ESPN has become the "self-proclaimed expert" network, and that has taken away from ESPN doing what it does best, promote and highlight the games themselves. They have propped up blowhards such as Sean Salisbury, Joe Theismann, Ron Jaworski, and Joe Morgan into know-it-alls.

In addition, their level of OVER-analysis is at an all-time high.

BUT, when you think about it, in the NHL's point of view, over-analysis is EXACTLY what the NHL needs.

Say what you will about them, as I often hear the Canadian hockey media boast about their own broadcasts in comparison to their U.S. counterparts (and rightly so, admittedly), but the NHL NEEDS people like Barry Melrose, John Buccigross, Bill Clement, and Keith Jones regularly talking on ESPN about Crosby, Malkin, Ovechkin, Phaneuf, and Iginla. And by "regularly", I don't mean the measly 10 minutes that ESPNEWS gives Melrose on Thursday's.

I don't want people to misunderstand me, I'm not saying that it necessarily needs to be Melrose and the bunch who're doing the talking. I don't care if it's the stickboy from The Igloo, but it needs to be SOMEONE on a regular basis.

I heard on XM Radio's Home Ice 204 recently (I believe it was with Bob McKenzie, but not 100% sure) that Versus' contract with the NHL is up after this season, with Versus having an option to renew it for another year if it wishes.

Without knowing the contractual implications of that deal, here's a helpful hint, Mr. Bettman;

It's like Tom Hagan telling Sonny Corleone to make the deal with Sollozzo after The Godfather gets shot.

I don't care how shitty any future deal would "initially" be with ESPN, YOU MAKE THAT DEAL.

I don't care if they're offering a three year deal for a bag of pucks, YOU MAKE THAT DEAL.

Take the hit for a few years on the contract Gary, you need the exposure it provides.

After you see the ratings go up, even a little, and you get those fringe fans that couldn't get Versus now all of a sudden watch the NHL all the time on ESPN, you'll be in a better negotiating position for the next contract.

So, until the NHL gets back on ESPN, the NHL in the U.S. will NEVER get above the lowly level that it is at right now.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Pens 4, Thrashers 3 (OT); A glimpse into the future...

Now THAT'S more like it.

Maybe the most complete game of the season for the Pens, certainly since the West Coast trip.

There was no doubt that the right buttons were pushed leading up to this game, especially the broken English to broken English talk between Therrien and Malkin on Friday. Malkin was dominant out there tonight, certainly up to the level of Sid, if not a notch above.

The thing to watch for now is whether Malkin can sustain that effort on a consistent basis, or settle back into his old routine.

But this was one of those games this year that showed the NHL what it's gonna be like having lines centered by Crosby and Malkin coming at them at a frenetic pace.

I have to give a tip of the hat to the defense as well, they really seemed to play a sound game, and yes, that includes my buddy Joe Melichar. That was his best game in a long time.

I'm not that concerned that MAF gave up three goals, the last two were fluky bounces, one off of Gonchar's shin pad, and the last off of a fortunate rebound.

Now it's onto Washington, where the NHL and Versus are doing some major advertising leading up to this game. I don't think either Sid nor Ovechkin nor Malkin will disappoint us, their competitive juices should have no trouble flowing Monday night.

Pens gameday; Lace those skates up tight, boys

I have a sneaking suspicion that this could be one helluva game.

Several factors lead me to that belief.

First and foremost, I mean, duh, the Pens need a win BADLY. They're not far away from getting over the hump, they're really not. A couple bounces that start to go their way, and those one goal losses start to turn into wins.

Secondly, irregardless of the any pregame comments by Sid you may hear that this is just another game, let's be honest, human nature itself tells you that no young man enjoys to be embarrassed in front of his peers, especially in front of 20,000 strangers. Make no mistake, Mr. Crosby has been thinking of NOTHING the last couple of days but that pussy Kovalchuk pointing at him in the penalty box last year. I expectly nothing less than an absolutely possessed effort from Sid tonight.

Thirdly (is that a word ?), speaking of possessed efforts, and as I've been commenting on the last several days, I believe we're going to see Geno take it up a couple of notches tonight. The expected happened Friday during practice in Atlanta, when Therrien had a long talk with Malkin, which I believe was long overdue. I think Geno needs to realize that he has the talent to take over games, very similar to what Sid does. He needs to take advantage of his physical skills, ones that I don't believe he's really done so far. That means forechecking, rather than taking one half-hearted stab then falling back. That means laying open ice hits, rather than just receiving them. Anyway, I think we're going to see a different Malkin tonight.

Fourthly (what the hell, I'll keep it going), the Thrashers got the dog piss smacked out of them Thursday night 8-0 by Tampa Bay. I'm sure that they had a brutal practice as well Friday.

So, combine those four elements, and you've got yourself one spirited hockey game on tap for tonight.

I believe that the lines for the most part will stay the same, which I must say is a rarity nowadays.


Bucs Winter Meeting report; Head to The Roundtable

I hate duplicating effort as much as the next guy.

So rather than forcing my brain to regurgitate all of my negative thoughts towards the boneheads known as the Pirates' management, please head on over to the Pittsburgh Pirates Roundtable, a great idea started up by Cory, also the owner of A New Pirates Generation.

So what Cory has done is gather together 14 of the biggest Pirate windbags, er, I mean bloggers, onto one site to get up on our collective soapboxes and discuss the various topics of day concerning the Buccos.

As you can see on the site, so far we've just started up by discussing our expectations heading into the winter meetings, the Pirates' current situation in the NL Central, and what we'd do if we were the GM.

Now that the winter meetings are over (and why did Littlefield even go down there), Cory will have a new series of questions that the group will input our comments on, and I believe Cory will be posting that onto the site on Monday, Dec. 11th.

This should be an excellent forum for those of us interested in the Pirates in the blogosphere, so come on over and join us.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Rangers 3, Pens 2 (SO); Pens play not to lose in 3rd, and lose

Hindsight is 20/20 and all that crap, I get it.

But I swear, immediately during the very 1st shift in the 3rd period, I just had THAT feeling.

You knew the Rangers would come out flying in the 3rd, that was a no-brainer. But what you were afraid of happened quickly, right during that 1st shift.

The Pens started playing on their heels, playing very conservative, and yes indeed, they were playing NOT TO LOSE.

And when you do that, with that dreaded 2 goal lead, you're gonna get your collective pee-pee's smacked.

Fortunate tip-in, 2-1.

Laser beam by Shanahan, 2-2.


I'll give the Pens credit, at least they didn't blow it in regulation and at least got one damn point.

And then the stinking shootout.

Why is it with two of the greatest world-class players in the world did I have absolutely no confidence when they started that shootout ??

And golly gee, was I right.

For all of the moves that Malkin has, he's awfully damn generic when it comes to the shootout. Denied.

Ekman goes basic 5 hole, denied.

Sid slows down to, oh, I don't know, Steve McKenna speed, and misses off of Lundquist's glove. Ballgame.

Outside of the final score, it wasn't all doom and gloom for the Pens though.

Sid scored on, how else can you describe it but a Sid goal. I've run out of adjectives. I guess I'll quote Sam Rosen on last night's broadcast after Sid's 2nd dash through the Rangers' D-men, but missed, "How does he do that ??" If this kid isn't the best offensive player in the NHL, I don't know who the hell is.

My concerns for Malkin are still there. And judging from Therrien's comments last night, I'm not the only one. Therrien said "Malkin's line has to give us a lot more," Therrien said. "We can't rely on Crosby's line every game. Evgeni's got to pick it up a little bit."

And what a revelation !! Was it just me, or was the power play a helluva lot smoother with a right-handed D-man in there ??

Let me rephrase, when the Pens were given a damn power play, that is.

I thought Dupont played a strong game, he's got a good hard shot, and played well in his own zone.

Malone played a strong game as well, he needs to be consistently that good for him to deserve to stay on the 1st line, though. In my opinion, anyway.

Nice physical game, probably the most physical the Pens have been in quite a long time. Orpik had a few excellent hits, his best game of the year in that respect.

The Pens will need to be that physical again Saturday night in Atlanta. They got the snot smacked out of them last night 8-0 to Tampa, so they'll be plenty pissed. And I'm sure having Kovalchuk's buddy Sidney Crosby come to town will pump them up even more.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Pens gameday; Therrien's musical lines continue

Here we go again.

Coach Therrien has shaken the lines for tonight's tilt against the Rangers up again, big time.

Malone and Armstrong have been swapped, with Malone now on the 1st line with Sid and Recchi.

Mistake, in my view. Malone is too slow, and his hands are not the greatest either.

Army is now on the 2nd line with Christensen and Malkin. Very impressed on how Christensen has stepped it up since his callup. One thing is for sure, Malkin needs a supporting cast. The defense just has one big bullseye on him, they could care less what the wingers are doing.

Staal is back in the lineup, and on the 3rd line with Talbot and Ruutu. Ekman has been demoted to the 4th line with Moore and Ouellet, who's finally back in the lineup.

Thorburn, Scuderi, and Petrovicky are reported to be the scratches tonight.

Yes, the Melichar infatuation continues.

On defense, Micki Dupont (I think I've been calling him Dumont on this blog, my bust bro) gets his first start. The other defensive enigma, Alain Nasreddine, starts again as well.

Therrien ran the hell out of the team in practice yesterday. That should result in quite a spirited effort.

Now just to get some of that spirit to actually put the puck in the damn net.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Who pissed in Darren Dreger's Wheaties ???

So I'm watching the Sens/Caps tonight on NHL Center Ice, and they're broadcasting the TSN feed.

The TSN boys are doing their thing during the 2nd intermission, which I've always enjoyed as compared to a U.S. broadcast.

They start discussing the shootout, how some like it, some don't, yadda, yadda.

Then they go into the topic of the schedule during the BOG meetings, and the example that the Western teams don't get to see Crosby and Ovechkin but every three years.

And what does Darren Dreger do ?? Immediately changes the subject and starts blasting the Penguins about only getting 12,000 through the turnstiles last night (yes we know Darren, even Tuesday night games in December against the Panthers still sell out the ACC, we frickin' get it). Calls it "unacceptable".

Bob McKenzie defends the Pens and Caps to a certain extent, saying they've been bad teams for a while now, they need to start winning in order to consistently sell tickets well. And what does Dreger respond with ?? "Well, then just let them leave"

And if Dreger had his way, surely that's exactly what he'd do.

Dreger has had a hard-on for the demise of the Penguins ever since Lemieux put the team up for sale. This guy must be getting a kickback for any future deal involving moving the Pens to Canada. EVERY commentary this guy makes slants the future of the Pens towards the possibility that Jim Balsillie "wants" to move the team, and QUICKLY dismisses the very real possibility that 1) the Isle of Capri wins the slots license, or that 2) Balsillie will actually negotiate a deal in support of Plan "B".

Darren, I fully expect to read your full and hearty congratulations to Balsillie and the Penguins on December 20th, when hopefully the Isle of Capri wins the slots license for the city of Pittsburgh.

And if the IOC doesn't win, why don't you practice some actual journalism for a change, rather than the same old boring Canadian-slanted hockey propaganda.

These Pens are a tough nut to crack

I honestly don't know where to start.

I've lost track how many times I've crept to the edge of my La-z-boy as the Pens make a nice rush up ice, only to have them blow it because of the pass was too cute, they missed the open net, or some other ridiculous reason.

The end result, by the way is the same for me, that being me falling back on the chair exclaiming "What the F%$k !?!?"

I honestly felt that the Pens played a pretty decent game of hockey Tuesday night. They moved the puck pretty well, and skated with plenty of zip. Even the power play, with two PP goals, looked better, but overall they're still falling into the same old ruts, those being the inability to bring the puck into the opponent's zone and not capitalizing on loose pucks around the net.

By the way, the Panthers had two of their goals that way. Although, with the way that the Pens are playing defense around their own net, it couldn't have been that difficult. Therrien's comments after the game last night promise to make some changes to the PK unit, so we'll see.

Can someone please tell me how long the leash is now for Joe Melichar ?? Just how bad can this guy be ??

We'll see who gets scratched in New York tomorrow when Dumont gets his chance to play.

Reading a lot of posts on the boards recently concerning Malkin's perceived lackadaisical efforts at times. I have to admit, some of those thoughts have crept into my head recently as well. For as good of a defender that he is, he really could do a better job of forechecking, and just plain checking.

Maybe a nice road trip is what this team needs. For sure, New York, Atlanta, and Washington are three teams that are not fond of Crosby and his buddies. I'm looking forward to the Atlanta game. Don't let Sid's comments that he's sure make before that game fool you, he's gonna remember that finger pointing incident by Kovalchuk very well. Look for a big game by Sid, that's easy money.

We're at the two week mark to go before the slots license award. Articles in the press now are surfacing claiming that Balsillie reportedly told Bettman recently that if the IOC doesn't get the license, it's "gonna be a war". While I think that remark is getting a little carried away, I'd like to think that this is a case of planting a few more seeds into the Gaming Board's minds. Ya know, the fear factor if the IOC doesn't win.

I'm optimistic, I really am. I can't wait until it hopefully happens, when I email all those experts (mostly Canadian press, yes I'm talking to you Darren Dreger) who were just so sure that the Pens were on their way to Canada.

Post-Gazette: LaRoche/Gonzalez deal pending Gonzo's physical

Well, it appears that Dave has blinked.

According to the Post-Gazette, the deal to send Adam LaRoche to the Bucs for Mike Gonzalez ispotentially a done deal, pending the Braves' physical of Gonzo's left elbow.

The Bucs shut Gonzo down in late August because of tendinitis in that elbow, and although interviews with him late in the season indicated that he felt good, the Bucs erred on the side of caution and did not pitch him for the remainder of the year. In fact, again per the PG, Gonzo was pitching in side sessions by late September.

There is no further word on the possible inclusion of Kyle Davies and Jose Castillo to the deal. If you ask me, they can have him too.

Besides the LaRoche/Gonzalez deal, we continue to hear about Ryan Church from the Nats, and new today is unconfirmed reports about the Bucs pursuing Adrian Beltre from Seattle. Beltre makes 12 million clams a year, not so sure about that rumor.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Pens gameday; Lots of Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Well, they aren't standing pat, that's for sure. The Pens have made several changes since their last game on Saturday.

As most everyone knows, Andre Roy is now back with the Lightning, as was pretty much expected.
Johnny Vermont is technically back with the Pens, but his status is still in limbo. Since no one even claimed him on re-entry waivers, eating only half of his salary, there's a chance he could retire, or be flat-out released. It's too bad it's ending this way, but there's really no graceful way to do this in the middle of the season.

Noah Welch has been sent back down to WBS. Some speculation on why he was really sent down, Therrien says it's because of his confidence was fading, I'd guess it was that as well, PLUS he's the only D-man on a 2 way contract.

In his place, and the other roster spots, Micki Dupont and Alain Nasreddine were called up. I like Dupont's callup, he's the right-handed D-man the Pens desparately need on the PP. He's no Lidstrom, but he's got a decent shot, so why not give him a chance.

As far as Nasreddine, I honestly don't know what Therrien's infatuation with this guy is. I've seen him play about 6 times for WBS, and he doesn't impress me much at all.

But anyway, for tonight's game, Ryan Malone will return from the broken arm. He'll be on the second like with Geno and Ekman.

Jordan Staal will be scratched for the first time tonight. I don't necessarily disagree with this, his ice time has been doing down lately. But having said that, I sure don't hope this gets to be a routine.

Michel Ouellet will continue to be scratched as well, although it's being reported that he's healthy enough to play now.

And that right-handed D-man ?? Uh, he'll be eating popcorn in the press box. Nasreddine somehow gets the start over Dumont tonight.

A lot of rumblings over the weekend concerning the tenure of Therrien should they lose tonight. Mark Madden reported recently that his job could be in jeopardy if the Pens fall again tonight. We've already seen that Shero makes moves a lot quicker than Craig Patrick did, so would I be surprised if he canned Therrien ?? A little bit, but not entirely.

Let's just hope that situation doesn't have a chance to happen.


Winter Meetings Update: Might as well go to Epcot, Dave

That's right, fellow Bucco faithful. You ain't missed a damn thing.

[[ By the way, thanks to the Bucco Blog for the pic, couldn't resist. ]]

And judging by the ranting of the thousands of self-appointed experts around the baseball blogosphere, ain't much going to be happening when these guys go back home later this week.

I will admit this right up front, if all of this "no trading" banter that's been reportedly coming out of the Bucs' camp is some type of reverse psychological B.S. and actually leads to a decent trade for the Bucs, I'll be the first one to raise my hand and give all the props in the world to Dave and the boys.

But until that actually happens, just what the hell is their mindset in these negotiations ??

You've been saying for a few months that you covet a power hitting 1B and RF, and a RHP.

OK, how do you expect to get ANYTHING decent if you supposedly WON'T trade any of your four starting pitchers, nor your closer ??

Has Humberto Cota suddenly become a hot trade commodity that we weren't aware of ??

I've really been trying to take all of these rumors and their supposed comments from the GM's with a grain of salt, but the more you hear of the same old song and dance, the more it ticks you off.

So anyway, I've heard about;
  • Hawpe for Maholm straight up (as part of a 3 way with the Cubs as well)
  • Hawpe for Maholm AND Gorzy (yeah, right)
  • LaRoche for Gonzo
  • LaRoche for Gonzo and Castillo
  • Negotiations with FA Trot Nixon
  • Gonzo or Torres to the Sox for ???

Sorry folks, the pessimism just continues for me.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Sunday tidbits at The Confluence

  • Didn't ya just love the 180 degree turn that Michael Strahan did this week ?? First he publically calls out Plaxico Burress (which I totally concurred with, any Steeler fan could've told you that). Then he tries to cover his ass and do what all big-mouth overpaid athletes do, BLAME THE MEDIA !! Yeah, that's it, I'll blame the media, it's all their fault. Give me a frickin' break.
  • Speaking of things I loved to see, wasn't it lovely seeing USC look past UCLA, thereby ruining their national championship shot. You guys made a helluva run, but perhaps you need to finally get off of your high (Trojan) horse.
  • Even though I don't agree with it, I'm starting to get a sneaking suspicion that the human voters are going to have Florida play OSU for the championship. The "no rematch" philosophy, plus having a 12-1 SEC Champion play OSU, rather than a runner-up Big 10 team, seems to be will be a common theme.
  • Baseball's winter meetings begin today in Orlando. Still quite a few marquee free agents out there, but I'll be on the lookout for the trade discussions, and just how ridiculous Dave Littlefield's demands are this time why they won't happen for the Pirates.
  • Bud Selig's going to retire in 3 years when his contract expires. Doesn't really matter, they'll just select whatever knucklehead that will keep the ridiculous MLB economic environment as is.
  • Ridiculous signing of the week; Randy Wolf, he of the 69-60 career record, signs with the Dodgers for one year, 8 million clams.
  • Alex Ovechkin rammed Daniel Briere into the boards face first last night at the Cap Centre/USAir Arena/MCI Center/Verizon Center. He was tossed out with a game misconduct last night. Very interested to see if and how games he'll be suspended. I've read a couple of comparisons on the hit to Brooks Orpik's hit on Erik Cole last year. We'll just see if the NHL has the cojones to suspend one of it's golden boys.
  • Johnny Vermont (Leclair) is now on re-entry waivers, meaning that any team that claims him now only is on the hook for half of his remaining salary. I've been reading that the Blackhawks may claim him, as well as Dallas. I hope he'll go to a situation that fits him, he's a consummate pro.
  • Andre Roy was claimed by Tampa Bay. Whatever. File this one under the "no impact at all" section. You just can't have guys like Andre filling up roster spots nowadays.
  • Anyone else tired of hearing how much tape Ron Jaworski is looking at ??
  • Steelers play Tampa Bay at 4:15 today, talk about an anti-climatic atmosphere. I can just imagine the scalpers up and down General Robinson. Can't imagine them getting much for those tickets.
  • I wouldn't have imagined this earlier in the year, but is it just me, or is Coach Cowher's body language saying "get me the hell out of here" ??
  • Nice to see that Shaun Alexander is back up and running, now that I'm frickin' eliminated from my fantasy football league.
  • Saturday, December 02, 2006

    Isles 5, Pens 3; Where's Hee Haw when you need it ??

    Gloom, despair, and agony on me

    Deep, dark depression, excessive misery

    If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all

    Gloom, despair, and agony on me

    If that doesn't describe the Pens performance last night vs. the Isles, I don't know what does.

    After missing about 3 completely open nets, hitting about 3 posts, and just missing about 3 tap-ins, the Isles converted those missed opportunities into goals, quite often directly in transition from the Pens' misfortunes.

    I really thought the Pens had quite a bit of jump in them last night, there were several times that they sped through the D-men with little effort.

    The problem was that several times during those rushes, their centering passes were nowhere near their target, thus resulting in 3-on-2's the other way.

    I read a lot of quotes this morning describing the Pens offensive performance as "too cute", and boy is that an accurate statement. How many games will it take for the Pens to not make that last pass before they attempt to put the puck on net ??

    The officiating was terribly inconsistent. How about the Isles player covering the puck with his hand in the crease ?? What the hell was that ??

    So now, the Pens have all of a sudden forced themselves into a crucial point of the season. Not only did the Pens get zero points the last two games against divisional opponents Jersey and NYI, but the Devils got four points (winning in OT vs. the Flyers last night), the Rangers got one in a shootout loss to Buffalo Friday night, and of course the Isles got two last night. They are 3 points behind the Isles, and 4 behind the Rangers and the Devils, as well as only 6 points ahead of Philly. The Pens cannot afford to get too far behind, if they have any aspirations at all for a playoff run.

    The Pens host Florida on Tuesday, then embark on a 3 game road trip to the Rangers, Thrashers, and the 1st trip of the year to visit Ovechkin and the Caps.

    Bucs at the Winter Meetings; Yawn....

    Sometimes I'm amazed that I have become so jaded as a Pirates fan.

    I mean, baseball has been a major part of my life since I was about five years old (that was 1969, for those of you scoring at home). I've played baseball or softball every year since then, including my 20 years in the Navy, up until about four years ago, when I hung up my spikes for good.

    That's why it irritates the hell out of me having to endure the incompetence and outright ignorance of the Pirates ownership group and management.

    I have to give some credit here where it's due. My anger for years now has been directed at MLB itself, as well as the evil empires of New York, Boston, and the other big spender teams. Granted, certainly, the economics of MLB does indeed give relatively little hope for small market teams every year. However, my good buddy Pojo Risin has been telling me for years now that I shouldn't be angry at the Yankees, per se, but rather at the dipshit-edness of the Pirates' leadership. Poj, I'm here to fall on my sword and finally admit that you are 100% correct.

    The Pirates have received tens of millions of dollars by the big spenders of MLB, in accordance with the Collective Bargaining Agreements' luxury tax and revenue sharing. It has been widely speculated, if not admitted by Kevin McClatchy, that the Pirates did NOT spend those millions of dollars on improving the product on the field, as they are supposed to be doing, per the CBA, but rather they've been using those millions on paying off debt.

    If that were not bad enough, a General Manager worth a crap could at least swing a decent trade or two each year and/or sign a decent free agent to fill the team's needs every year. Is that too much to ask, I should think not. Well, not in Pittsburgh, my friends. GM Dave Littlefield is now at the unenviable position that he is now the laughing stock of all aspects of the baseball world, that being the press (check out this blistering assessment from CBS Sportsline's Larry Dobrow), the Pirate fans, and most importantly, his peers around MLB.

    It has been common knowledge that Littlefield notoriously expects WAY too much during trade discussions, so much so that it has gotten to the point that GM's simply don't waste their time attempting to make a deal with Pittsburgh.

    And what of the free agents ?? If you're a decent MLB player, probably making between 5 and 10 million per year in this inflated MLB market, why would you possibly want to sign with a team whose ownership doesn't spend it's money on the on-field product (unless you count bobbleheads and fireworks) ??

    That leaves the fans. The Bucs got a gift from good 'ol Bud Selig when they awarded the '06 All-Star Game to the Bucs in PNC Park, even though Pittsburgh had just hosted the game 12 years earlier in '94 at Three Rivers. But let's not be naive. Everyone who has an ounce of common sense knows exactly what that was all about. McClatchy and his cohorts desperately needed a fanbase boost as their streak of losing seasons hit the decade mark. Of course, the Pirates parlayed the awarding of the All-Star Game into a much-needed marketing ploy for the purchasing of season tickets. You want All-Star tickets ?? You give us your money for season tickets. And of course, season tickets are those seats that are previously paid for, and always counted as attendance, even when those people don't actually go to the game.

    The '06 All-Star game was lauded as a great success, which I have to say, I have no reason to disagree with that, it looked as much. And the Pirates reap the rewards of not only the millions of dollars that come along with the hosting of the All-Star Game, but the thousands of season tickets that were bought to garner those All-Star Game tickets, tickets that probably would not have been sold otherwise.

    But now we're preparing for the '07 season. The '06 All-Star game is history. The season ticket purchase requirements have been fulfilled. No longer does Pirates ownership have the All-Star Game to use as a crutch for season tickets.

    So where does that leave them ??

    At the turnstile, I'm sure I'm not the only one who believes that the season attendance for the Bucs is definitely going to take a hit. There simply aren't enough bobblehead and firework nights, combined with the snowballing effect of now 14 straight losing years, to justify 30,000 fans coming to the ballpark night after night.

    Trades ?? Littlefield as recently said that "it's likely that we won't talk trade for any of those four starters", in reference to Duke/Snell/Maholm/Gorzelanny. So most likely you'll see a trade made to garner talent to the level of, oh I don't know, Tony Graffanino.

    Free agents ?? We've already beat that dead horse. All you need to do is look at the FA's that the Bucs signed last year (Randa, Burnitz) to get a snippet of what's to be expected this year. As was already stated, don't expect anyone that's going to make a difference to sign on the dotted line.

    You know what ?? After typing all of this, not I'm not so amazed that I'm so jaded.

    But you go get 'em in Orlando anyway, Dave. Bring back some Mickey Mouse ears.

    Friday, December 01, 2006

    Devils 5, Pens 2; Fleury flops...

    It happens to the best of 'em.

    All goalies have those types of nights. Doesn't matter who you are, there are just some nights that nothing is going right.

    However, one thing is for sure, you CANNOT have one of those games against Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils.

    And that is exactly what happened to Marc-Andre Fleury tonight.

    In a game completely filled with soft goals, the Pens turned out to be no match for Brodeur and the Devils, and lost 5-2.

    The Pens got the quick fluke goal by Christensen, but quickly gave up that lead on what else, a bad clearing pass by Talbot, resulting in a soft goal that knuckled through Fleury's pads. Then the defensive enigma known as Joe Melichar did what he does best, that being get in the way, to deflect the puck into his own net, and the Devils had a 2-1 lead after one perioid. The Pens had several good scoring opportunities in the first period, but Brodeur made some fantastic saves to preserve the Devils lead.

    The second period quickly deteriorated, and Fleury gave up yet another squibbler that got through him for another soft goal to make it 3-1, then a rebound off of Fleury resulted in a tap-in to make it 4-1, and was the end of the road for MAF.

    Thibault came in and gave up one goal, which really can't be faulted to him, rather the porous defense in front of him.

    And once again, the power play, even with Malkin and Crosby together, was non-existent. Let's put it this way, if you were to get points for passing it around the perimeter, the Pens would be excelling. But you have to put pucks on net, and once again they were being too cautious, which resulted in very few scoring opportunities.

    No time for the Pens to hang their heads, they've got to fly back to the 'Burgh and face the Isles tomorrow night (although I heard on the post-game that the Pens' flight may have to be postponed because of high winds in the NYC area).

    Pens gameday; Beware of the hungry Devils

    Tonight's game at the Meadowlands is one of those that is supposed to fall into one of hockey's categorical scenarios; That being it's difficult to win in the first home game after a West Coast trip. That scenario sure applied for the Pens, who lost to Tampa Bay 4-3 in OT after their recent trip out to the left coast.

    I don't know if any of those traditional thoughts would ever apply to the Devils, who are going to play their boring-ass system until the cows come home.

    The lines have been shaken up again, only this time it's on the 2nd line, where Geno gets two more different linemates, being Ekman and Christensen.

    Johnny Vermont has passed through waivers. From what was reported on FSN 'Burgh last night by Rob King, the most likely scenario now is that Johnny must physically drive to WBS, report there, and then go back on re-entry waivers, where most likely he will get plucked by another team.

    Andre Roy is reportedly already on re-entry waivers. Unsure whether anyone will grab him or not. While Leclair does have a little offensive ability left in the tank, Roy's repertoire is basically fighting, or nothing.

    Hopefully, Sid's groin has mostly healed, 'cause you just know that Madden and the rest of the boys will be targeting him as usual.

    Lots of talk in the NY/NJ papers concerning the lack of offense being generated by the Devils lately. Let's just hope that continues tonight.

    LET'S GO PENS !!!!