Archive for the ‘Marc Andre Fleury’ Category

Game 7 from a Pens fan perspective

June 12, 2009

Since the Penguins’ two Cup wins were before my time (I think I was more focused on professional wrestling and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” than hockey in those days), this is probably the biggest hockey game of my existence. It might even be safe to say that this is the biggest game in franchise history, as it is the first SCF Game 7 the Penguins have ever seen.

An irritating-to-painful sickness has dulled some of the nerves of the last week of this series, but tonight could be quite different.

That actually is the question, though: will tonight be different?

As Mirtle (and others) point out, this series has been a “homer” series if there’s ever been one. Beyond undeniably relevant intangibles like “home cooking” and the rush of playing in front of your own crowd there are big pros to being at the Joe: faceoff advantages for an expert team in the circle, the last change for a series defined by matchups and those crazy pinball boards that have given MAF fits.

If Game 5 repeats itself, the NHL will face the disappointment of a marquee matchup with a flat ending. No doubt about it; the league must hope that tonight’s game will be very different even if the winner is the same.

There are a lot of reasons to be negative. Sidney Crosby has been largely nullified, even at times at home. Chris Osgood is making a strong case for a Conn Smythe trophy and although his HoF credentials are a debate for another day, his sub-$2 million contract is probably a HoF bargain. Fleury is schizophrenic in net … going from bad to spectacular to atrocious to adequate seemingly every other game. Worst yet, Evgeni Malkin has been relatively quiet the last couple games.

But the positive thing is: they only need to be different for one game.

In the event that Crosby and Malkin find a way to transcend their seemingly hopeless matchups – or their linemates decide to finally bury the occasional golden opportunities set up by the dynamic duo – then whatever struggles (perceived or legitimate) will wash away in the boozy suds of the Stanley Cup. There’s that fear that maybe the two will assume that, after getting here two years in a row at such a young age, that they’ll make it to this stage again someday. All they need to do is ask Jaromir Jagr if that’s a safe assumption.

It might not matter if the Penguins play “with desperation.” The Red Wings are an incredible collection of talent and are nearly unbeatable at home. Few could doubt Crosby’s hustle, Malkin’s two-way genius and creativity. Those factors still haven’t added up to much for the Penguins in Hockeytown.

But one night can change everything. Or nothing.

What’s it going to be, eh?

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Almost time to panic, but not quite

June 2, 2009

I’ll be honest, my only real exposure to “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” was half-watching the movie in a drunken stupor. (It seemed OK … Mos Def is amusing and it has pre-Jim/protoJim/Tim from the British Office in it.) Let’s face it, though, it’s the first thing that came up in a Google Image search.

ANNNNYWAY, with the SCF under way (and Jesus lord let’s hope it’s not halfway done) and the NBA Finals about to start, it dawned on me that I’m pretty fucked in about two weeks. Baseball is not my sport, unless I’m drunk in the shade with an avalanche of peanut shells at my feet. The shade at home doesn’t count.

(Shit, maybe I might need to panic, not the Penguins.)

Just to illustrate the depth of badness, I watched “About Last Night” because there was nothing better on my X-Box Netflix queue. Even though my hatred for Jim Belushi rages beyond Chris Osgoodian proportions.

Good God I can’t believe I watched this movie.

(To be fair, there was a shocking amount of pre-ruined by Bruce Willis and Ashton Kutcher-Demi Moore boobs in that movie. Remember kids: small boobs need love too.)

So, the Penguins are in a lot of trouble right now. Being down 0-2 to Detroit is a problem. I’d compare the difference between overcoming the Red Wings versus the Capitals as the jump from hopping a suburban fence to scaling the Great Wall of China.

(Sorry, 80’s movies breed hyperbole. Re-read that sentence as “the Red Wings are tougher than the Capitals”, please.)

This post really isn’t going anywhere, so I’ll leave you with two goats and two semi-heroes.

(For the Penguins, that is.)

From far away that foot behind that goat looks like something … else. Don’t judge me.

Goat #1: Marc Andre Fleury

Sorry, he’s been awful.

Goat #2: Bill Guerin

For some reason, I constantly overreact to Guerin’s struggles. Maybe it’s his “Just for Men” beard. Either way, he had two wide open chances you have to bury and he came up dry. Dammit, Bill.

Semi-Hero #1: Jordan Staal

In true Jordan Staal fashion, he’s been awesome without putting up any points. Joe and I have discussed the fact that the Penguins might be better off spending $4 million on a winger, but I must admit the last two and a half rounds have made me feel better. Staal might not have his elder brother’s finishing touch, but he’s shown some serious balls. He might just be a gamer going forward.

(Besides, he won’t “fail to earn” his contract until next year. Right now, he’s a genuine bargain.)

Semi-Hero #2: Rob Scuderi

It’s going to be hard to stomach watching Brooks Orpik cough up pucks at $3.7 million next year if it means that the Penguins cannot retain Scuderi. While playing against Detroit hasn’t made him look qute so impressive, he’s still the kind of defensive defenseman the Penguins need to be competitive.

Let’s hope they can sign him to a reasonable deal.

Playoff Pet Peeves

May 15, 2009

1. “He must be injured or out of shape.”

Am I the only hockey fan who’s tired of Lazy Announcer Crutch #4,056: assuming that a player is struggling because of a mysterious injury or unable to bounce back from the fatigue of a longer season? The most recent example is Mike Green. That’s not to say he wasn’t playing hurt, but it’s just so tired to assume that is what is happening.

Could it be that a young player simply isn’t used to playing in the playoffs? Maybe they are on a slump because all that open regular season ice has been strangled away by better defense, familiarity and higher stakes (more shot blocking, stricter matchups, better competition since you don’t get any more easy games against Tampa-like teams).

While the usual “list of previously undisclosed injuries” is always an interesting read, let’s give the opposition’s shut down forwards, top D and coaches a little credit, OK?

2. Diving (and complaining about diving)

It’s hard to say what’s worse: players acting like they were run over by a Buick from a light tap of a stick or the people who constantly bitch about flopping. I’m all for people making Crosby diving jokes, as long as they’re funny. But after watching Alex Ovechkin flop with equal vigor, let’s leave that out of next year’s round of “Ovechkin= totally better” columns, mmmkay?

2b. Excessive penalty bitching

Man, that Caps-Pens series really tried my patience after a while. To some (not all by any means) Washington fans, the refs beat the Capitals, not the Penguins. Even though the Penguins played better team D, blocked more shots, took more shots, enjoyed superior puck possession and actually showed up to Game 7.

Earl Sleek’s (relative) stoicism toward penalties as a Ducks fan showed me a lot. Whiny, losing teams let penalties derail their focus; winning teams persevere.

Want a compelling case of corrupt officiating? Watch the NBA.

3. Marc Andre Fleury handling the puck

We anoint thee “Bizarro Hextall” as you are both jolly while Hextall was grumpy and a train wreck playing the puck while Hextall was an artiste.

You still have the mouth of Gary Busey, though.

4. No more Anaheim Calling, Hockey Blog Adventure or Storming the Crease

Thanks again, everyone. Your contributions made a crazy thought turn into a reason to check CLS a few times a day. The door’s always open.

5. A nearly inevitable Red Wings repeat

Shit.

Salary Cap Outlook: Pittsburgh Penguins

March 21, 2009

Pittsburgh Penguins
Current cap for 2009-10: $47.3 million
Current starters under contract: 10 forwards, four defensemen and one goalie
Best contract: Tyler Kennedy ($725,000 through 2010-11)
Superstar contracts: Sidney Crosby ($8.7 million through 2012-13); Evgeni Malkin ($8.7 million through 13-14)
Worst contracts: Chris Kunitz ($3.75 million through 11-12)
Wildcard contracts: Jordan Staal ($4 million through 12-13); Marc Andre Fleury ($5 million through 14-15)

The outlook for the Penguins improved greatly when they traded away Ryan Whitney for Chris Kunitz. Although both players are probably ultimately overpaid, Kunitz gives the Penguins another young top-6 forward who brings grit and hustle to the table. Though Whitney may some day make good on his considerable potential, the Penguins have plenty of promising young offensive defensemen.

If Pittsburgh can convince Petr Sykora to take another below market value deal to finish his career alongside Malkin, the team would be pretty set on forwards. With the salary cap future in question, GM Ray Shero‘s model of keeping a core group together while rotating in veteran bargains will probably have to continue for quite some time. Perhaps Bill Guerin would be willing to take a pay cut to re-live his gravy days with a Joe Thornton-level playmaker too.

This might seem strange considering the fact that the Penguins employ two of the league’s best players, but the future of the Penguins rests on the play of Jordan Staal and Marc Andre Fleury. Barring injury, Crosby and Malkin should be among the best in the league for the duration of their contracts.

It’s Staal and Fleury that should make the difference from this team scratching and clawing to make the playoffs or rocking the hockey world.

At first, the $4 million salary cap hit from Staal was difficult to accept. On some level, it still is a bit unsettling. But it’s easy to forget how young JS is. Keep in mind the fact that his brother Eric had his “Staal trophy” breakout year at the same age Jordan will be when he enters next season. If Jordan can blossom into a 60-70 point producer (along with maintaining his smart, gritty two-way style), his contract would be a welcome steal.

Fleury’s contract is scary for a goalie of his fragility. Still, as that multiple OT masterpiece against the Red Wings suggested, Fleury can be among the elite goaltenders when he is healthy and on his game. The $5 million could either be an albatross if he flops or a steal if he frequently dominates like he’s been doing on the Penguins’ current red hot run.

It will be interesting to see if the Penguins can sign Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski to reasonable deals, along with the aforementioned Sykora.

The Penguins do not get the mind blowing steals of a team like Detroit, but they have quite a few players who were willing to take less money to keep a promising team together. It’s not crazy to think that Crosby-Malkin should be a $20 million pairing so getting them for less than $18 million – and long term – makes their contracts moderate bargains.

Time will tell, though, if Pittsburgh would need to trade Staal or Brooks Orpik to simply meet what could be a drastically cut salary cap in the 2010-11 season (and beyond). But for now, the Penguins seem to be doing a fairly solid job with their cap.

Penguins’ probable targets in free agency: A cheap top 6 winger (especially if they cannot retain Sykora); a dependable backup goalie; veteran free agent bargains at all levels