Archive for the ‘Pittsburgh Penguins’ Category

Instant (and brief) analysis

May 31, 2009
  • Naturally, this might stem from my Penguins fanboy status … but I think the Penguins generally outplayed the Red Wings tonight. Especially in the second period.

Obviously, Pittsburgh was pulverized in the faceoff circle (not surprising since the Penguins are below average in that area while Detroit is THE faceoff team), but overall it seemed to me they carried the play during long stretches of the game.

  • During the first half of the game, I braced myself for penalty whining. The Penguins did, indeed, get away with some penalties (particularly on Evgeni Malkin‘s failed breakaway).

Still, the no-call on Henrik Zetterberg (who, when looking through black-and-gold colored glasses, clearly closed his hand on the puck) should more than make up for whatever other discrepancies.

  • Chris Kunitz was a force on the forecheck. Darren Helm is a star in the making. If Niklas Kronwall was an NFL team, he’d be the San Diego Chargers. (Seriously, do officials need to wait until he injures Malkin while leaving his feet before they finally call a charge on him? Pens fans were [rightly] complaining about this last year.)
  • Marc Andre Fleury wasn’t awful but he still needs to be better for the Penguins to win this series. In broken play situations, he seems to go flat to the ice surface far too easily, giving up a ton of net in the process. That, and his penchant for playing the puck poorly, are two potentially fatal flaws in his game.
  • The Penguins will probably find themselves in the same 0-2 hole as last year, but what’s more frustrating is that for at least one game, the Pens seemed like they belonged this year. As a fan, though, that almost makes this loss tougher to swallow.

No, it definitely makes it harder to deal with.

Fuck.

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Dissecting the most interesting/obnoxious Cup Finals storylines

May 30, 2009

Update: Check out this very interesting (and odd) SCF preview from Alexander Dubcek.

Let’s take a look at the big storylines of this Finals re-match.

Hossa-gate

Somehow this was the only Pensblog Hossa Photoshop I could find. Arrrrrgh.

Anyone who discounts this as “just a media creation” is totally nuts. When a free agent signing causes people to create Two-Face Photoshops, there is obviously plenty of relevance to the situation.

However, I’m one of those Penguins fans who was happy to see him leave (although strictly from a salary cap stand point). Simply put, Hoser is a great player who is not worth $7 million. We can gnash our teeth debating that point, but there are only a few players who can justify a cap-busting contract. Can you say that Crosby-Malkin-Hossa would be worth having awful depth for the next five years?

Surely, the guy’s face kind of pisses me off. Will I scream to the heavens if Brooks Orpik knocks the shit out of him in the slot? Absolutely.

But Hossa didn’t come to Pittsburgh by choice, he was traded there. People act like Hossa was a long time teammate but he came to the team toward the end of the season, barely played any regular season games and then had a fantastic run in the post-season. It was great to see Sidney Crosby have a great winger for once, but let’s face it: losing Ryan Malone was more of an “emotional” blow than Hossa ever was.

The Penguins: favorites???

Going in to the series, it seemed obvious to me that the Red Wings should be the favorite.

1. They have home ice

2. Let’s face it, they fucking creamed the Penguins last year.

3. Don’t forget, Johan Franzen wasn’t healthy for much of the SCF. So the Red Wings basically are going into this series with the team that beat Pittsburgh plus Marian Hossa AND Johan Franzen.

Yet, a surprising amount of people are predicting the Penguins. I will root relentlessly for Pittsburgh and be depressed if they lose, but if I had to put my (future, imaginary, candy-based) house on the line my pick would be the Red Wings. (Sigh)

Chris Osgood

Penguins fans really don’t like Osgood. I’m on record for calling him a queef.

That being said, watching NHL on the Fly’s press conference coverage Friday night made me realize that Osgood probably has to answer the same goddamn tired questions over and over and over again. Seriously, if you were him, wouldn’t you start douching every one just out of the monotony of the “are you the weak link?” line of questioning?

Jesus I better stop or I’ll start empathizing with the Keebler Elf/non-Blue Smurf looking motherfucker.

(Oh, and PLEASE stop calling him a Hall of Famer. If you barely hold onto a starting goaltending job against Ty fucking Conklin, you’re not worthy of being in the HoF. Sorry, brah.)

The Health Factor

One of the bullet points MSM members have been using is the relative “health advantage” the Penguins have going into this series. I find this to be a heavily overrated idea.

Nicklas Lidstrom isn’t 100 percent but Sergei Gonchar is pretty banged up too. The Hurricanes weren’t able to take advantage of Gonchar’s bum knee, but it was obvious that the Russian veteran couldn’t skate quite as swiftly in a few odd man rush/broken play situations.

Obviously, the Red Wings have some depth guys who are banged up, but teams that make it this deep into the playoffs are almost inevitably beat up. Considering the fact that the Penguin vigorously block shots, we can assume they have some guys playing hurt too.

Don’t get me wrong, the Penguins might be a bit healthier but it’s a tremendously exaggerated advantage.

Star Power

After watching almost every second of the Penguins’ playoff run, I can say that the Penguins have some nice support players who show the ability to maintain a high level of play throughout a game. That being said, when it comes to scoring goals, the team is highly dependent on their two super-duper-stars.

In the salary cap era, that is far from shocking. But the Red Wings can go into this series thinking “if we can hold Malkin-Crosby to a draw, we have a bunch of depth players who can steal a game.”

Hopefully, Sid and Geno have shown skeptical hockey fans that they are worthy of the immense hype they’ve received. Annoying message board people will never go away unless they win a Cup, but the Penguins showed me plenty. Even if they have to settle for the Prince of Wales trophy for a second straight year.

Sadly, Red Wings have defense and team play like no team the Penguins have seen in the playoffs.

Again.

Judging Jordan (and other playoff nuggets)

May 27, 2009

Be careful what you wish for?

Maybe. If you would have told Penguins fans they’d make the SCF in February, most would have looked at you funny and mocked your turtleneck. Yet here they are after a resounding sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes.

Some scattered thoughts from the playoffs:

  • It’s not fair to blame Cam Ward and Eric Staal for the series loss. Both had some low moments (Staal being held to a mere sprinkling of points; Ward allowing that ugly Max Talbot goal), but they need some help. Ray Whitney was abysmal. The Hurricanes’ D couldn’t handle Malkin or Crosby. Media members always want storylines, but a lot of times one team is just deeper, meaner and more talented.

The Hurricanes should seriously consider going after a quality offensive free agent to ease some of the burden off of Staal.

  • After witnessing Rob Scuderi limiting Alex Ovechkin toward the end of their second round series and playing very well against the Hurricanes, I was prompted to check his contract status. Rut roh: he’s an unrestricted free agent for 2009-10. Could this be a problem for the Penguins?
  • Rudy Kelly rightly pointed out that the Penguins might have been wrong when they passed up talents like Jonathan Toews and Phil Kessel to draft Jordan Staal. Still, Kessel is injury-prone and Toews might be too great to keep under contract (or as the third banana). Staal’s lack of finishing touch can be really frustrating, but he’s still an extremely impressive player who’s willing to play a lesser role alongside the Penguins other blue chip centers.

His size and defensive instincts give you the impression that he could be an amazing asset going forward. It’s hard to say, really. Would it be better to put a Todd Marchant-type cheaper veteran in Staal’s spot and put the $4 million toward a younger winger who could finish all the great opportunities created by Crosby or Malkin? Or could Staal continue to blossom into a player who could allow the Penguins to more or less roll three great lines all game long?

  • This year’s Penguins team is more of an adventure than last year’s runner-up. Last year, they didn’t even go to a game 6 (until the Red Wings claimed the Cup on Mellon Ice, the bastards). Yet this year’s scrappy bunch almost missed the playoffs, went down 0-2 to the Capitals and won a Game 7 on the road.

This team has really grown on me. Even to the point that I think I like this team more than last year’s version. In 08-09, Ryan Malone played with marshmallows sticking out of his nose, showing an undeniably endearing amount of grit.

This time around, it seems like everyone is willing to put it on the line. Even Miroslav fucking Satan looks like he’s expending energy out on the ice each game. They’re also less “stacked” without Hossa and some other solid supporting players, making them about as close to an underdog as a team with Crosby and Malkin can be.

Will some extra sand paper and an extra year of experience be enough to overcome (probable opponent) Detroit? Probably not. But either way this Penguins team is special.

Staal vs. Staal vs. tired storylines (and other Conference Finals nuggets)

May 18, 2009

  • The Staal brothers clash being a generic storyline has … become a generic storyline. You’ve got to love the way the Internet deep fries cliches. Lazy throwaway crutches get trotted out and then everyone makes fun of those crutches. When calling something a cliche jumps the shark*, then we’ve officially gone a little bit insane.

That being said, the interesting thing is that Staal vs. Staal might be a more “legitimate” matchup than Ovechkin-Crosby for a simple reason: there’s the fairly solid chance that Jordan will actually be given the task of shutting down his big brother’s line. After all, Staal-Matt CookeTyler Kennedy was the forward combination thrown out against Alex Ovechkin.

Could it be that the mainstream media’s cliched headline act might actually decide the series? My head hurts now.

  • Will it even matter who wins Canes-Penguins?

It’s the opinion of myself (and many others) that the team with the best chance of knocking off the defending champions was the Anaheim Ducks. The Blackhawks are a team with a nice combination for a playoff run: young legs, a couple veterans and key contract year performers. But after Sunday’s game, it’s pretty obvious they’ll need more than a couple lucky bounces to make the Red Wings worry.

The only place the remaining three teams can look to for hope is the Red Wings’ penalty kill. The Ducks’ PP outscored the Wings’ PP despite having less chances. The Blackhawks went 1/1 on Sunday, one of the few bright spots in a game Chicago was fortunate to have tied going into the third period.

  • Many people (rightly) complained that Evgeni Malkin has often been unfairly overlooked in all the Crosby-Ovechkin hoopla, but despite a nice 10-point effort, Geno was rightly overshadowed in the second round.

Could Geno have a big round three? The odds are in his favor: home ice, a nice break between rounds and another Southeast Division opponent. That being said, the Carolina Hurricanes seem to be quite a bit scrappier than their division neighbors.

While the Capitals seemed quite sleepy at home, the Canes fed off their rabid fans (and … Bill Cowher) to take some upset victories. Few were impressed by Washington’s unconvincing win against the Rangers in game 7; we don’t need to tell you about their performance against the Pens. Yet on the opposite end of the spectrum, Carolina shocked the Devils in the last minute in Newark, NJ and then managed to out-hustle the Bruins to an OT win.

  • It’s hard to imagine the Penguins taking a playoff foe lightly.

Just look at last year’s playoffs: they finished their Eastern rivals off in 5 games or less, never taking a game off. This year’s edition has had to battle quite a bit more (about to enter their 14th game of the playoffs, which was all they – amazingly – needed to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals last year), but they are lead by the relentlessness of Sidney Crosby and a nice group of character players.

That being said, it also wouldn’t be outrageous if there is a BIT of letdown after the super-hyped second round matchup.

Of course, the Hurricanes might end up being flat-out better than the Penguins …

  • There’s a simple reason that Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane saw only about 15 minutes of ice time in Game 1: they were awful. Kane, in particular, produced very little beyond turnovers.

Perhaps this comes from missing most of their games, but my impression is that the Hawks’ dynamic duo tends to feed off of advantageous matchups at home. Don’t be surprised if they struggle in Game 2 and then “magically” find their fire** back in the Windy City.

But please don’t make this just about experience. The Red Wings have Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, Johan Franzen and a soul crushingly deep group of quality players to torment any team young, old, hairy or whatever.

It’s fun to make something “the factor” in a playoff series, but sometimes one team just grossly out-classes another.

* – I actually prefer using “Jump the Cheeseburger,” an ode to the seminal Canadian TV comedy “Trailer Park Boys” but feel the reference will be too obscure. Sadly.

** “Find the fire” = “Get a more favorable matchup.”

The Final Countdown

May 13, 2009

Not much to say about Game 7 of Penguins-Capitals that hasn’t been said yet. I’ll (unfortunately) be watching the game on a two to three hour delay so obviously there’s no sense starting a liveblog tradition tonight. Here’s a big collection of links about the game that will start in less than an hour (and stop many hearts).

Rudy Kelly’s sweet, sweet hate

May 2, 2009

Rudy Kelly breaks down everything (and everyone and every reason) to hate about Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and more in the Capitals-Penguins series. Click on the beefcake photo (or right here) to read it. Here’s a couple highlights:

Hate Marc-Andre Fleury… because his name is Marc-Andre Fleury. Don’t you have a joust to get to or some peasants to beat, you landed fuck?

Hate Sergei Fedorov… because he has boned Anna Kournikova and now he looks like he has AIDS or tuberculosis.

Hate Jordan Staal… because people are lazy and say, “Crosby, Malkin and Staal” when it should be, “Crosby, Malkin… and then that one weird albino with the pinhead.” Also, hate him because Penguins fans refuse to admit they made a mistake drafting him instead of Jonathan Toews or Phil Kessel because he plays defense, which is like saying, “Yeah, I’m glad I went blind because now I have a good sense of touch.” Wait, it’s not like that at all. Moving on…

Round 2: Who’s under pressure?

April 30, 2009

With the second round set to begin in Vancouver tonight, the stakes are rising for the remaining 8 teams. Still, expectations and future outlooks play a huge role in how a team’s playoff run is evaluated. Taking that into account, which teams have the most to lose (and gain)? Are there any teams “playing with house money”? Let’s take a look.

1. Boston vs. 6. Carolina

Both teams defied expectations this season. For the Bruins, that came early, as Boston went from being a nice little 8th seed last year to a squad good enough to make people wonder if they could go toe-to-toe with San Jose and Detroit. In Carolina, the Hurricanes went through most of the regular season looking like their typical selves (limping through stretches, remaining thoroughly mediocre … the ultimate bubble team) and then all of a sudden became arguably the hottest team in the NHL.

Hockey fans will probably remember the Canes stunning two goals in 1:20 to shock the Devils for years to come. At this point, Carolina is the perfect foil for a number one seed: they’re playing their best hockey of the year and just seem to have everything falling in place. If they lose, no sweat, really. Right?

One thing that stands out for Boston is that they have some tough salary cap decisions to make. David Krejci and Phil Kessel are RFAs this summer. Marc Savard only has one year left on his contract and will certainly command a bigger cap hit than his current $5 million.

The B’s are a nice story, but the startling depth that made them such a juggernaut won’t last forever.

Bruins have way, way WAY more to lose than the Hurricanes.

2. Detroit vs. 8. Anaheim

The second of two “behemoth vs. Cinderella” match-ups, although the Ducks have more to lose than the Hurricanes (and the Red Wings are probably yawning at the pressure of being heavy favorites).

Anaheim will have a lot of questions to answer this off-season, particularly when it comes to Scott Niedermayer. Could this be the last year of the Norris brothers?

Still, the Ducks can’t sweat it too much when they look at their young forward trifecta: Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan make up quite the nice group of sub-25 threats. With Getzlaf and Perry wrapped up for a long time at a low cap hit, Anaheim isn’t crazy to wonder if the sky is the limit.

And if they get bounced, it will at least make Jonas Hiller easier to re-sign.

It’s difficult, however, to muster much fervor for the Red Wings. Yes, it would be a letdown if Detroit blows this series but they won the Cup last year. They have a mountain of talent wrapped up for below market value prices. If they screw up this year, they’ll be a top-3 seed for the next decade anyway.

Ugh.

Detroit has more to lose than Anaheim, but they both have bright futures.

2. Washington vs. 4. Pittsburgh

No doubt about it, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin have a lot to lose in this series. They are the two faces of the league and will suffer from harsh Photoshops, mouth-breathers in comments and a predictable “I TOLD YOU SO!!!!!11” mentality. Evgeni Malkin can obviously swoop in and show that perhaps he should be the Hart trophy winner instead of Ovechkin.

Hell, even Alex Semin has plenty to prove after his “Kane over Crosby” comments from earlier this year.

If you had to choose, the slight edge in pressure might go to the Capitals. They are the higher seed with home ice advantage. After barely beating the Rangers in a 7-game series – and getting, honestly, severely out-played at times in that decisive game – the Capitals need to show that they’re not just a weak willed collection of gorgeously talented Europeans.

The Penguins have “been there” before, putting up a cute little fight against the Red Wings in the SCF last year. In some ways, that means that they have quite a bit to lose, as they don’t have the excuse of inexperience.

The Capitals and Penguins face extreme pressure to deliver on all the media hype, with a slight bit more on the Caps’ shoulders. Either way, someone’s getting flamed in a message board before this one is done.

3. Vancouver vs. 4. Chicago

The Canucks are an odd story this season. On one hand, you have disappointments like Mats Sundin and the hot button issue of re-signing the Sedin twins. There’s also the oddness of Roberto Luongo being the first goalie to be a team captain since the railroad industry was thriving.

That being said, there’s the “aha!” season of Alex Burrows and the assorted flavors of hard scrabble two-way forwards this team provides. Will Kyle Wellwood make you pay for that fat joke? Shall Ryan Kesler show us why he’s a Selke finalist? Lots of sneaky good guys on this team.

One story I promise to beat to the ground is that the Chicago Blackhawks shouldn’t be so loosey goosey this year. Everyone seems to think that the BLACKHAWKS ARE A TEAM OF THE FUTURE. While that would be great, it might not be so easy.

Martin Havlat and Nik Bulin are all but gone, barring some crazy hypnosis-based contract signings. As I wrote before, the team might have a devil of a time re-signing its talented trio of Kane-Toews-Keith between now and the 2010 summer.

Yes, the Hawks are still in their cliched “losing to learn how to win” season, but they might want to think about skipping that process altogether. Things might get a lot tougher for this team in the future.

The Canucks are under more pressure, but the Blackhawks are under more pressure than you’d think.

Rudy on Pens-Flyers Game 2

April 18, 2009

Good stuff from Rudy Kelly on last night’s exciting Pens-Flyers OT game. Rudy discusses the possibility that the Flyers may, in fact, be the better 5-on-5 team … and how that might be rendered irrelevant if they keep taking bad penalties.

Penguins-Flyers Blog

Five Questions: Pittsburgh v Philadelphia

April 15, 2009

To kick off our satellite blogs in style, we enlisted some of our favorite team bloggers to answer five questions about their teams (and the series ahead).

While we weren’t able to get/are still waiting on a Flyers contribution, Frank D from Pensburgh gave us the Pittsburgh side of the coin. Check out this selected passage:

“In all honesty the Pens need to stay strong on the PP and not allow guys like Mike Richards to pester them when THEY have the man advantage. He is dangerous on the PK and needs to be contained and/or avoided all together. Pitt also can’t afford to take stupid penalties that in turn allows Philly to put their PP out there. Way too many guns in the Philly lineup.”

Our take on the Battle of Pennsylvania.

Hockey Orphan: the Puck Huffers on the Pittsburgh Penguins

April 12, 2009