Friday, December 29, 2006

Penguins 4, Leafs 1

Now that was a hockey game. It had a bit of everything - end to end action, timely scoring, terrific goal tending and a great fight. Most importantly, it was a convincing win for the Penguins.

The Pens opened the scoring late in the first with a power play goal by Christensen, who somehow slipped the puck under the arm of Aubin on the short side. It literally went right under his armpit. Maybe Aubin giggled a little bit after being tickled by the puck. I know Christensen was laughing.

Ruutu got in a fight with Ondrus. Um... wait - let me clarify. First they skated around for what seemed to be 30 seconds waving their fists at each other. The linesmen would have broken it up, but they had fallen asleep watching. After that, Ruutu proceeded to use Ondrus as a punching bag, landing several right hands solidly. In typical Pittsburgh announcer fashion, Steigy and Errey said something about Ondrus doing a nice job and landing some punches later on in the fight, but I'm not sure what they were looking at. Ruutu kicked his butt.

My favorite quote of the night, however, came during that fight. Ruutu and Ondrus were jawing at each other. Steigy said that Ruutu likes to talk and they were wondering what language Jarkko might be speaking in. Steigy said "Finglish". Maybe that was funnier on the telecast. Maybe I was just giddy the Pens had a lead...

After that, in the second, there was some great end to end action, with both goalies making some amazing saves. Fleury allowed a nice rebound, and the old cranky man, Mats Sundin was there to clean up the garbage.

There was a bad penalty taken at the end of the second period by Bryan McCabe at the 20:00 mark, so the Pens opened the third on the power play, and after Sundin took another penalty 16 seconds into the third, the Pens converted on the power play with Gonchar scoring on a shot from the middle of the ice, out near the blue line.

The Pens added two more goals, one on a great slap-pass from Gonchar to Malkin, who directed the puck into an open net, and the other on a wonderful individual effort by Staal, who went to the far side of Aubin on his wrap-around attempt.

Nils Eckman went off with an elbow injury that looked pretty bad. He went down in the corner and when he got up, he went straight off the ice at the door to the locker room - while the game was going on. Hopefully he's okay, but it doesn't look good.

The Pens get a little break again, with no games until next Tuesday. This was a great win. Let's hope the Pens can keep it going.

Next up: vs Carolina at the Igloo on Tuesday.

Game #37 - vs Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs (17-16-5, 39 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (15-15-6, 36 pts)

This is a big one for the Pens. They badly need to get two points. They also need to win the game in regulation - Toronto is one of the teams they'll be trying to pass as we head down the stretch.

The Leafs just broke their own three game losing streak, though they did lose Michael Peca for up to four months with a broken leg.

It's no secret how to beat the Leafs lately - keep them under two goals on the power play. Since before Thanksgiving, every game they score two or more PP goals, they win. Every game they score less than two, they lose. Unfortunately for the Pens, their PK has been wildly inconsistent, even though they've only allowed one REAL power play goal in the last two games (Holik's EN goal the other night was technically a power play goal, but I don't really count that).

Keep the special teams in order and the Pens should win the game. I think it's just that simple.

Leafs Blog - check out Battle Of Ontario, a blog about the Leafs and Sens. They're predicting a 5-4 win for the Leafs tonight.

I'm looking for a big win at home tonight. Crosby scores and the Pens win.

Let's Go Pens!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Thrashers 4, Penguins 2

When you look at the game tonight, you wonder how it was that the Penguins lost the game. What was it that made the difference?

The Thrashers scored their three main goals (not counting the empty net goal at the end) on really nice shots that Fleury really had no chance to do anything about. The Pens did battle back and tied the score at 2 in the first minute of the third period. They nearly took the lead or tied it again several times, but just couldn't do it. Crosby hit the side of the net on a wide open cage in the third.

What is it that makes the difference for a team? What makes these close contests start turning from losses into wins on a consistent basis?

I'm going to go with Michel Therrien's opinion. After the game, he basically answered the question for me, saying that the team is young and inexperienced. A game like this, facing adversity and giving it all you have (and he was satisfied with the team's effort) builds for the future, and THAT will turn these narrow losses into victories.

Let's hope he's right.

Next up: vs Toronto on Friday at the Igloo. Mats Sundin is a Penguin killer.

Game #36 - vs Atlanta Thrashers

Atlanta Thrashers (22-10-6, 50 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (15-14-6, 36 pts)

The Pens return home tonight to play the Thrashers for the third time in the past three weeks. The Thrashers are a lot like the Pens in that they're quite streaky. They're different in that their hot streaks are longer and more frequent than the Pens.

Right now, the Thrashers are hot. They've won 4 in a row, and done so largely without the assistance of their fearsome power play. Except for their win against the Pens last Thursday, they haven't scored a power play goal on their win streak.

The Penguins are on the other side of the tracks right now, having been thumped pretty badly in three of their last four games. Their power play has been non-existent, and their PK hasn't been much better (I'm not counting the games against the Devils and Blues - the PP on those teams isn't anything to write home about), allowing NINE goals in three recent games against the Isles, Canadiens and Thrashers.

Expect this one to be anything but a snoozer like last night. This should be up tempo, with lots of speed and end to end action.

According to, Fleury will be in goal (good) with Moore and Petro being the healthy scratches. Christensen gets another chance on the second line with Malkin and Army.

Thrashers Blog - Try Do The Thrashers Have Large Talons? - this guy is in Pittsburgh tonight with a shirt showing Kovalchuk pointing the glove. If you see him at the game, be sure to be polite (and protect him from any drunken yinzers who are distraught over their beloved Stillers).

The Pens are back home, so the PK should be much better (even sans Moore). I'm hoping for a win to turn things around.

Let's Go Pens!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Devils 3, Penguins 0

In a game that was much closer than the final score, the Devils played their system and the Pens couldn't find a way to beat it.

The Flightless Birds had their chances, and managed to ring two off of the crossbar behind Brodeur, including one by Malone that looked identical to the goals from the night of his hat trick.

The bounces just didn't go the way of the Penguins tonight, however. They couldn't generate any kind of sustained attack (and no attack at all in the first period). They needed a counter punch to the chances the Devils weren't able to convert, but it never developed.

Malkin played what had to be the best -3 game ever, as he was clearly visible playing both ways and back checking in his own end.

This night will just be added to the long list of struggles for the Pens against the Devils since the end of the lockout.

Next up - vs Atlanta at the Igloo tomorrow night. No rest for the weary!

Game #35 - at New Jersey Devils

Pittsburgh Penguins (15-13-6, 36 pts) at New Jersey Devils (19-13-3, 41 pts)

The Eastern Conference is really bunched up right now. The Pens are third from the bottom of the conference (currently tied for 12th). However, they're also just three points out of the playoffs, and five points behind the division leader, who they happen to play tonight. They really need to rattle off a nice run as they head into the midway point of the season.

Unfortunately for the Pens, who aren't a bad road team, the Devils are the best team at home in the East. They are 11-3-2 overall.

Fortunately for the Pens, the Devils are 0-2-1 in their last three games at home.

The Pens are 1-2 against the Devils so far this year, and didn't look very good in the two losses. The game in New Jersey, which is the most recent, was the worst by far.

Devils blog - check out In Lou We Trust, which looks pretty similar in style to this blog.

I'm looking for a good road effort tonight, with the Pens managing to eek out (yes, that's a technical term) a slim victory. Army scores and the Pens win.

Let's Go Pens!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

To everyone out there on the internet, we here at Igloo Dreams wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas!!

Now get some sleep - Santa will be out soon.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Thrashers 4, Penguins 3 (OT - SO, 2-0)

It's good to earn a point out of this one.

The Pens were in the hole 2-0 before Jordan Staal made a great play while the Pens were short-handed. He stole the puck and beat Lehtonen before he could set up.

Of course, then Thibault allows a relative softie, and the Pens are down 3-1. I thought that the way things have been going for this team the last few games, that it was over right there.

Ryan Malone makes it 3-2 in the third with a garbage goal (I'm sure he'll take it) and Sid ties it with 16 seconds left.

The only shame is that they couldn't find a way to get the win.

Thibault was beaten on both attempts for the Thrashers in the shootout, and Christensen and Crosby couldn't do anything for the Pens. I didn't even get a chance to think evil thoughts about Kovalchuk!

Anyway, it's good to get a point.

Next up: the Pens are off for Christmas. They play next Tuesday at New Jersey.

Lemieux takes team off the market

In a statement released today, Mario Lemieux said that:
  1. The team is not for sale any longer.
  2. The Pens will begin looking at other cities.
  3. As soon as they are able, they'll begin talking with Pittsburgh about a viable arena plan.
Here's what I'm taking away from this -
  • He didn't mention the words "Plan B", while using the word "viable". That says all you need to know about the Pens opinion of Plan B.
  • It's good that the team is off the market, though I've always thought that anything is for sale, given the right price.
  • I hope the officials around here don't think that the statement about negotiating with other cities is an idle threat. I fully believe that the Pens will move if it suits their needs. I think Lemieux is tired of being yanked around by politicians. You know what? I'm tired of it too.

Game #34 - at Atlanta Thrashers

Pittsburgh Penguins (15-13-5, 35 pts) at Atlanta Thrashers (19-10-6, 44 pts)

The Penguins return to the scene of the crime in an attempt to duplicate the start of their recent hot streak that ended so abruptly against Montreal and St Louis.

The Thrashers are trying to get on a roll themselves, having won in New Jersey in a shoot out. Prior to that win, the Thrashers had lost 5 in a row, three of them at home.

The special teams for the Thrashers have been struggling big time lately. They have just three power play goals in 28 chances, spanning six games. They've also allowed 9 goals in 28 chances over that same span on the penalty kill. That's obviously not very good.

Having said that, the Pens will have to shake off the negative vibes coming from the slots license award yesterday, as well as avoid falling into another prolonged losing streak. Only one other time this season have they gone three games without earning a point, so let's hope they can avoid that fate tonight.

Thrashers blog - Same as last time - the Blueland blog. Are you in Atlanta? Then you can win free tickets to the game tonight if you act fast! Check out the lead post on the blog.

I'm looking for a solid effort from the Pens tonight, earning at least one point. Hopefully they'll come out hopping to shake off any of those negative vibes from yesterday.

Let's Go Pens!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

PITG Gaming awarded license

This would be filed under "You have got to be kidding me!"

Don Barden's group was awarded the slots license. This is one that no one ever saw coming.

Update: Welcome to everyone from the excellent Casino Journal on the Post-Gazette website. If you like the Penguins, stop back throughout the season. Things are only going to get more interesting from here!

Slots license update

On KDKA Radio, they just reported (at 10:30 AM) that the Gaming Control Board meeting is just getting under way. They agenda was handed out and the issuance of the licenses is at the end of the agenda, so it's "going to be a while" before we hear anything.

I just hope they get to it today.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Tomorrow could be the big day

The decision could be made tomorrow about the casino slots license. I'll put something up here as soon as I hear anything. This may be one of the few days I actually listen to the radio!

I guess when it comes right down to it, I'm not sure how you can argue with $290 million up front without any strings. However, I have enough faith in PA politics that I'm sure someone can find a way to line their pockets, er, I mean, make that argument.

Pens acquire Wade Brookbank

The Pens have acquired defenseman Wade Brookbank from the Boston Bruins for "future considerations". He's another enforcer type that will fill a Dennis Bonvie type of role at Wilkes-Barre. I imagine the Pens are stockpiling a few of these guys since they got rid of Andre Roy.

Blues 4, Penguins 1

Totally crappy. Those are the only words I can use to describe the game.

I don't know how you can go down 3-0 to a team like St Louis. I'm not sure how you allow that 4th goal after you've scored to make it 3-1. I guess this team doesn't have things figured out just yet. Hopefully we aren't waiting too long before they start to figure it out.

We're really seeing some growing pains in watching this team try to mature. It's not been an easy process - when they're on fire, they're unstoppable. When their confidence is shaken, they can't score.

The Pens need to regroup - they have to go to Atlanta to play a tough game on Thursday night.

Next up: at Atlanta on Thursday

Game #33 - vs St Louis Blues

St Louis Blues (7-19-6, 20 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (15-12-5, 35 pts)

The Blues are bad. How bad? Really bad. Consider these pieces of information:
  • They've lost 11 in a row (3 in OT or SO).
  • During that 11 game streak, they've scored more than 2 goals only twice.
  • On the season, they've scored more than three only 8 times, and more than four only once.
  • On the season, they've more than one power play goal only three times, none since October 30th.
  • They've yielded a power play goal in seven straight games.
  • None of their goalies have a save percentage over 90%.
Simply put, this is a game the Penguins should win. It comes at the right time for the Pens, as they were just knocked off of their hot streak by the Habs on Saturday night. The penalty kill should get a chance to have some success against a weak Blues power play. Provided they can continue to put the puck in the net, the Pens should have their way with the Blues.

Blues Blog - Well, there's the Blue Note Blog, but there's not really anything up there in the way of a preview of tonight's game, so I'll link to the game day thread off of The majority of the opinion so far seems to be that the Blues will get spanked. Optimism is great!

I'm looking for a hard-working, hard-skating effort from the Pens tonight with goals from Malkin and Whitney (let's go out on a limb). Nothing less than a Pens victory will suffice.

Let's Go Pens!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Canadiens 6, Penguins 3

This one can be described quite succinctly - penalties and penalty killing.

The Habs struck for FOUR power play goals. That's the difference in the game, right there in a nutshell. Take a penalty and the Canadiens were making the Penguins pay for it. The Pens, for their part, couldn't take advantage of their numerous power play opportunities in the first period and third period, especially when it would have made a difference in the game.

The encouraging thing is that other than the PK, the team looked quite strong, I thought. They played well at even strength and that bodes well for the future. They really need to get better on the PK, though, and stop taking so many penalties. I know they were being out skated by the Habs, and that led to some of the penalties, but they have to find some way to avoid the sin bin.

Next up: vs St Louis at the Igloo. This one is a SHOULD win game.

Game #32 - at Montreal Canadiens

Pittsburgh Penguins (15-11-5, 35 pts) at Montreal Canadiens (18-8-4, 41 pts)

No time to type a proper preview - suffice it to say that it's a big game against a good team. The Pens are hot right now and need to keep it that way. Fleury will be in goal and hopefully Christensen won't be scratched again.

Let's Go Pens!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Jim Balsillie withdraws bid to buy Penguins

The Pens released a statement about the ownership situation, located here.

Basically, Balsillie is out. I can see this being for one or two reasons (or both):
  1. He found out that he really can't move the team as easily as he thought he might be able to.
  2. He found out that IOC will lose the casino license next week, and doesn't want to get caught in the nightmare of PA politics and / or spend the money to keep the team here, as he would be pressured to do under Plan B (where the B stands for Bad).
Either way, as long as the Pens get a new arena (preferably via IOC) and an owner who can and will spend money keeping this team intact, I don't care.

Penguins 7, Islanders 4

This was a great game for most of the time. All of the time, in fact, except for about three minutes in the third period... but I'm getting ahead of myself. First, the positive:

The goal onslaught continues. Sidney Crosby continues to be on fire as he's playing with a winger that is showing the ability to finish. That winger isn't named Recchi, Malkin or Armstrong - it's Malone. Ryan had the hat trick tonight, but since it was ski cap night at the arena the ice was littered.

The Pens put the throttle down early and didn't let up until it was 6-1 with 10 minutes remaining in the third period. That's when my negative comments come into play.

First, the Pens seemed to go to sleep a bit. They took some bad penalties (though crappy calls, to be honest) and couldn't kill the penalties. This was due in large part to my biggest frustration of the evening - Jocelyn Thibault's total inability to prevent a stupid rebound. All three of those goals were shots straight in on him that rebounded right out in front of him. I know the Pens D should take care of that, but on the PK, that might not be possible. The Pens needed Thibault to be their best penalty killer, and he was killing them instead.

Anyway, enough harping. The Pens won. The PK needs to be better, but I don't think all of those goals go in if Fleury is in net.

Congrats to Malone on the hat trick, Recchi for his 800th assist, Crosby for crossing 50 points for the season and Thibault for his first win of the year.

Next up: at Montreal tomorrow night.

John Leclair no longer a Penguin

I'm a little late in posting this one, but John Leclair is gone. He was given his unconditional release. This means he is an unrestricted free agent, free to sign with anyone. The Penguins will not have to pay him the remaining portion of his $1.5 million contract for this year.

He will count $1.8 million against the salary cap for this season, though I can't see that being an issue as the Pens are nowhere near the cap, and even if they add salary through trades, they still won't get that close.

I hope John lands on his feet. He wants to play in the NHL this season. Hopefully he catches on somewhere.

Game #31 - vs New York Islanders

New York Islanders (15-11-3, 33 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (14-11-5, 33 pts)

If the playoffs began today, the Penguins would be one of five teams with 33 pts. Two of those five would make the playoffs. That's quite a turnaround from last week when the Pens were sinking to the bottom of the conference, though the Lightning have 30 points and are the third worst, so the margin of error is small.

The Pens have won three straight games. Tonight they try to make it four in a row. They need to keep winning to stay in the playoff hunt.

The Islanders are somewhat similar to the Penguins in that they're fairly inconsistent. They've had a few hot streaks, but have been unable to avoid losing multiple games in a row a few different times this season. They've allowed the second lowest amount of goals in the Eastern Conference, but this is deceiving. The Isles have allowed at least three goals in seven straight games. The key to beating them lately is to keep their offense in check. The Pens were able to do that a few weeks back when Marc-Andre Fleury stood on his head and got the win. He'll need to do something similar tonight.

The Pens need to keep the hot streak rolling and earn points. The power play has been especially hot lately, while the Isles PK has been especially weak lately. This needs to be exploited tonight.

I'm also hoping that someone manages to get Satan to actually fight instead of lining up a cheap hit, getting into a confrontation and then holding on for dear life instead of fighting.

Islanders blog - there really isn't a decent Islanders blog that I can find in my quick look around. It's really kind of sad. I guess the closest I can find is the blog on the official site, written by the players and coach. It really doesn't say anything. If anyone knows of a good Islanders blog, I'll put it in my preview when the Pens play the Isles again.

I'm looking for a strong effort tonight from the Pens and a home victory. These teams match up well in that they both are good at even strength, and erratic on the power play. Whichever team executes better on special teams is likely to win the game. I think it'll be the Pens.

Let's Go Pens!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Penguins 8, Flyers 4

Dear Flyers,

I just wanted to drop you a quick note to say how much I appreciate you. I've never seen a team so completely self destruct and shoot themselves in the foot, and I watched the Penguins do it quite a bit last year!

You opened the game allowing two quick goals, one on a great shot by Chris Thorburn (that would have been hard to stop, even if it was the Penguins 4th line) and the other one by Derian Hatcher, who so nicely deflected the puck past a perplexed Nittymaki. Just to make Derian feel right at home, the goal went to Sidney Crosby.

Once things settled down, you battled back into the game and actually tied the score at 2, even though this is the kind of game that those in attendance will deny the score was ever close when they tell their children and grandchildren about watching Crosby score 6 points in a game.

However, your good efforts were for naught, as Todd Fedoruk decided to show us that Derian Hatcher might not be deserving as the sole target of Pittsburgh derision by taking the first of his four penalties on the night. Pittsburgh put you out of your misery within the minute and the rout was on.

The shame of the evening is that this game didn't have to be out of reach for you. If you hadn't taken all of those STUPID penalties, this might have been a much closer game, and for that, I thank you.

Your bestest friend,

Igloo Dreams

p.s. - wasn't Jordan Staal's short handed goal with less than 10 seconds left in the game awesome?

p.p.s - I'll really miss you - I won't get to see you for a whole MONTH... January 13th in Philly

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Game #30 - vs Philadelphia Flyers

Philadelphia Flyers (8-18-4, 20 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (13-11-5, 31 pts)

The Penguins were waiting in Pittsburgh as the Flyers lost to the Rangers last night. Let's hope the lovely friends from Philly are nice and tired when they get here, especially those big, slow D guys like Hatcher. Speaking of Hatcher, did you see the hit he delivered to Jagr last night? Looked like the elbows were up a little bit...

The Pens are coming off of a thrilling comeback win over the Caps in Washington on Monday night. They showed great tenacity in coming back from a 4-0 deficit over an improved Capital team.

The Pens have faced the Flyers 4 times already this year, going 4-0 against them. They beat Esche once and Nittymaki three times.

The Flyers haven't been especially hot on either the power play or the penalty kill. They have three PP goals in the last two games, but have also allowed several PK goals recently. Their PK was really good earlier this year, but has come back down to earth a little bit (though not nearly as much as the Penguins, who are back to levels that are near last season).

Flyers blog - Check out Flyers Fan Central for a well written Flyers blog.

It seems to be a nice thing to play Philly this season, and I'll take it while I can get it. I'm looking for a convincing home victory for the Pens to continue the momentum they gathered on their road trip. Malone scores and the Pens win.

Let's Go Pens!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Penguins 5, Capitals 4 (OT - SO 2-1)

Wow. This is the kind of game that can turn a season on it's end. The Pens have been struggling of late, but now have earned 5 points on a three game road trip, punctuated by a HUGE comeback win tonight in Washington.

All you need to know about the early part of the game is that the Pens were down 4-0 by the early part of the second period. They had allowed a power play goal, by Kris Beech no less, and a short-handed goal. These were sandwiched around two goals by Chris Clark.

First, the Penguins got a grinding goal by Max Talbot. Then, Christensen and Crosby scored just 35 second apart (Thank you Mr. Ollie the Goalie). Malkin scored 3:20 into the third period to tie the game and it went to OT.

Malkin took a bad, bad, bad (did I mention bad?) elbowing penalty with 2.3 seconds remaining in the third period, so the Pens had to kill off 2 minutes of 4 on 3 hockey. They did it, had a few chances and got the game to the shoot out.

In the shootout, Christensen led off and made Ollie look really bad. Green couldn't score for the Caps and Crosby failed wide for the Pens (he doesn't seem to use any speed when he's taking penalty shots... and I don't know why). Ovechkin scored a great goal for the Caps to knot things up at 1-1 and I developed a sick feeling in my stomach. That ill feeling was for naught, however, when Malkin became the second Penguin to embarrass Kolzig in the shootout, putting the Penguins up 2-1. Chris Clark, he of the two goals in regulation, basically shot the puck straight into Fleury's glove, and the Pens won the game.

Like I said at the start, this was a TREMENDOUS comeback from a 4 goal deficit. I'm hoping we're looking back on this road trip (and this game in particular) as the time when the season turned around for the Pens and propelled them into the playoffs.

Next up: vs Philadelphia at the Igloo on Wednesday. Nothing like the "Flyers Suck!" chant to welcome a team home after a three game road trip. I'll be watching. Will you?

Game #29 - at Washington Capitals

Pittsburgh Penguins (12-11-5, 29 pts) at Washington Capitals (13-10-6, 32 pts)

The Caps are one of the teams the Pens will have to get past if they want to continue their march towards the playoffs. What better way to help their cause than by earning two points while holding the Caps to NO points? I think it's about time for a win in regulation.

The Caps are somewhat similar to the Pens in that they're amazingly good when scoring four or more and amazingly bad when scoring three or less. When scoring four or more, their record is 12-1-0, and when scoring three or less, it is 1-9-6. The key to beating the Caps, therefore, is to keep them from putting up 4, which is something the Pens should be able to do - they've allowed more than three goals only three times in the past 10 games (and one of those was in a SO loss).

At the same time, the Pens need to keep the momentum they garnered on Saturday night against Atlanta. They need to have the same intensity and work ethic on a nightly basis. One thing is likely - the arena won't be nearly as crowded in Washington as it was in Atlanta - the Caps have drawn under 12,500 for four of their past six home games.

Caps Blog - Those Washington bloggers are on the ball! There are not one, but two game previews up on Caps blogs. On the Caps blog on the MVN network, Gregg Kramer warms my heart with tales of past Penguin success (though I'm not sure he's trying to make us feel better in Pittsburgh). Over at Jasper's rink, JP seems to think this is a "should win" for the Caps. Not sure I agree, but then, I wouldn't, would I?

I'm looking for another good road effort where the Pens don't allow a tying goal late in regulation.

Let's Go Pens!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Penguins 4, Thrashers 3 (OT)

Great win for the Pens tonight. Malkin and Crosby both score. The team gets a goal from the defense (Ryan Whitney) and Army nets the winner in OT. Can't get much much better than that.

The Pens were kicking the stuffing out of the Thrashers, but could never build more than a one goal lead. Considering how things went the other night, that's probably not a bad thing, eh?

A few positive signs:
  • The Pens out shot the Thrashers 43-23. That's great against an offensive team like Atlanta.
  • Army, Crosby, Malkin, Christensen and Ouellet all had four or more shots.
  • Dupont, Gonchar and Whitney combined for 12 shots. That's a great number from the blue line.
  • The Pens showed great resiliency in not folding on the road against a tough team - these are hard won points that bode quite well for the future.

One last thing - my favorite pet peeve. If you've read this blog for a while, you know what's coming. Somehow, the local media in Atlanta thought that the Thrashers players deserved the #1 and #2 stars (Malkin was third). I'm not quite sure how that is, considering the home team got thoroughly dominated, and was only in the game because of some timely scoring. However, I'll trade the victory for giving away all three star positions any day of the week.

Next up: at Washington on Monday. Should be another tough one.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Game #28 - at Atlanta Thrashers

Pittsburgh Penguins (11-11-5, 27 pts) at Atlanta Thrashers (18-8-4, 40 pts)

First order of business against the Thrashers - remember the past! Last year, the Pens went into a home and home with Atlanta with the chance to really turn the season around. Instead, this and this happened. It pretty much put the Pens season on ice (as if it wasn't already at that point). The first game was the telling one with Kovalchuk pointing at Crosby in the penalty box after Kovalchuk had scored. No one did anything except for Max Talbot at the end of the game, as I remember, and no one did anything to Kovalchuk. Someone please tag him tonight.

Anyway, more to the point of tonight's game - the Thrashers can flat out score. They are 4th in the NHL in goals scored. However, they also have allowed more goals than the Pens. If the Pens can play a decent defensive game and shut down the big guns from the Thrashers (namely the aforementioned Kovalchuk and Hossa), they have a shot.

The Thrashers have taken more penalties than the Pens have, and allowed just as many power play goals. From what I'm seeing, the Thrashers will give up some goals, but hope to out score their opponents. That plays well into the Penguins strengths of controlling tempo and flow (when they're on their game).

Rob Scuderi won't play tonight again. He wasn't a healthy scratch - he has a virus that has caused him to lose 10 pounds! Sounds like a nasty stomach flu if you ask me.

Thrashers blog - today we'll go with the Blueland Blog, which is on the official team site of the Atlanta Thrashers. In the entry for this morning, we see that Bob Hartley doesn't expect any trouble from last season. Easy to say when your guy got away with the trash talking. We'll see how the Pens feel about it tonight.

I'm looking for another strong road effort, with a few more goals against the less disciplined Thrashers. Malkin and Malon both score and the Pens win.

Let's Go Pens!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Rangers 3, Penguins 2 (OT - SO)

The Pens played the perfect road game for over two periods. Then they allow a short-handed goal, and you can guess the rest. Michel Therrien seemed to think the shortie was the fault of Eric Christensen, because he really didn't play at all after the Rangers got the goal.

Say it with me - the most dangerous thing in hockey is the two goal lead. You'd rather be up by one or three. Two is a problem.

It seems everything is a problem for the Flightless Birds lately. They also couldn't get a goal in the shootout, despite three attempts (by Crosby, Malkin and Eckman).

I'm not ready to get all that upset by this one. The Pens did some great things tonight (including another fantastic Crosby goal - he's really stepping up). I'm going to hold judgment until I see how they play on Saturday against Atlanta - I know - that's so nice of me, isn't it? (sarcasm alert)

The Pens did earn a point on the road, and hopefully got themselves back into a good track of playing decent hockey.

Next up: in Atlanta to play that pointing punk Kovalchuk (I hope someone decks him)

Game #27 - at New York Rangers

Pittsburgh Penguins (11-11-4, 26 pts) at New York Rangers (13-10-4, 30 pts)

The Rangers are struggling. They've lost 4 straight since their OT victory against the Pens last week (though three of the four losses were in OT). They've been allowing a bunch of goals and Lundqvist asked to be pulled from Sunday's game against the Islanders. Struggling, for sure.

We all know how nice the Penguins are to teams that are struggling, right? If you need a reminder, just think back two nights ago to the game at the Igloo against Florida.

The key to beating the Rangers remains the same. Keep them off of the power play, shut down the chances they get with the man-advantage and take advantage of your own opportunities. This won't be easy - the Pens have been sputtering on the PK lately, and the Rangers have scored 6 PP goals in the last three games.

Jordan Staal will play tonight. Micki Dupont will play as well. Michel Ouellet will return to the lineup. According to, the scratches will be Scuderi, Petrovicky and Thorburn. If these are true, I'm kind of surprised. The team will be much less physical with only Ruutu in the enforcer category. Who is going to be the back man on the 5 on 3 PK? I'm so used to seeing Scuderi with his stick on the ice back there...

Rangers blog - there are a bunch of these, but for today we'll go with Rangers Report, since they're the only one I've found that says much of anything about the game tonight. Most of them are buzzing about Jarkko Immonen getting his shot tonight for the Rangers, centering the second line. Supposedly, he's a bit slow of skate, which should play well for the Pens with their team speed.

I'm looking for a good road game tonight with a close win. The Pens need to get on the other side of the "almost there" hump like they were early in the season. This road trip is crucial - there could be real trouble for the season (and Therrien) if it goes poorly.

Let's Go Pens!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Panthers 3, Penguins 2

This game, to me, boils down to two things:
  1. The Penguins showed tremendous effort in the third period in coming back to tie the score and almost take the lead. Sidney Crosby (and Malkin to a lesser extent) simply would not be denied. My question is: where was this effort all game long? I know it's a tremendous amount of energy to expend, but why not come out working like this? Malkin missing on the breakaway just after Crosby tied the score was probably the turning point of the game. They needed that one to go in.
  2. Thibault allowed a goal on a slapshot from near the blue line with 5 minutes remaining, giving Florida the winning goal. Yes, the Panthers were on the power play, and yes, he was screened, but he was also down on his knees and not out far enough to prevent the screen. It was a huge goal that the Pens needed him to keep out. He couldn't do it.
I'm not sure what else to say. The Pens didn't play a bad game. They had a few unfortunate bounces go against them, such as with Roberts first goal - he played the puck with a high stick, and it was totally missed by the clueless zebras (and yes, they were clueless tonight, but that's not why the Pens lost). They generated lots of pressure on Auld, but kept missing the cage with their shots. If I were Therrien, I'd tell those guys to aim for the middle of the cage every time until they start getting shots on net, especially on shots from the point.

The rumor was that Therrien's job was on the line if the Pens fell tonight. It's no secret that Ray Shero wasn't allowed to bring in his own guy when he was hired. If he was looking for a good time to make a move, this would be it. The Pens are sliding fast, and can't afford to slide anymore if they have any hope of slipping into the playoffs. Looks like that fast start might be the worst thing that happened this year.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Crosby's game tying goal. It was a fantastic individual effort, adn the culmination of his dominating play over several shifts. We need to see more of that kind of play out of the Dynamic Duo.

Next up: at the Rangers on Thursday, starting a three game road trip.

Game #26 - vs Florida Panthers - UPDATE

Ryan Malone will play.

Jordan Staal will be a healthy scratch, though he could still be sick with the flu.

Alain Nasreddine will play.

Micki Dupont will not.

Thibault gets the start in goal.

Not sure why they recalled Dupont if they're not going to play him, especially since he has a skill they need, namely the right-handed shot from the point on the power play.

I don't like scratching Staal, but maybe he needs a break.

Hopefully Malone will be able to contribute. He'll likely play on the second line.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Game #26 - vs Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers (8-15-5, 21 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (11-10-4, 26 pts)

The Panthers have scored only one goal in the last four games. They've lost six straight. Their power play has not converted in it's last 17 chances. Do these all sound like reasons the Penguins should win this game? I think so.

The Panthers have the second ranked power play unit in the East, at 20.2%. Their penalty kill has stopped 15 of 17 chances in their last 4 games. The Panthers have out shot their opponents in 5 of their last 6 games. Do these all sound like things that will give the Penguins trouble in this game? Yep - I think so again.

The Pens should win this one at home.

The Pens NEED to win this one at home.

The lineup has gone through some shakeups over the last few days:
  • Andre Roy is gone.
  • Noah Welch is back in Wilkes-Barre.
  • Micki Dupont and Alain Nasreddine are with the big club.
  • Ryan Malone is likely to play (as of this writing).
  • Either Melichar, Scuderi or Orpik is likely to be a healthy scratch, as the Pens have 7 defensemen, and they're not likely to bring the new guys up here to scratch them.
In other words, Ray Shero and Michel Therrien are trying to get the attention of the team. They're starting to slide, and shy of doing anything totally crazy, this is a nice way of telling the team to pick it up.

Now I'm going to introduce a Brand New Feature here at Igloo Dreams - it's a featured blog from the opponent! Wow! I can barely contain the excitement! Anyway... it's sometimes interesting to see how other teams perceive the Pens, or the current situation of their team.

Florida Panthers Blog - On Frozen Pond
This is a blog published by the Miami Herald, so I'm not so sure about honest reactions (just like listening to the Steelers' apologists here in Pittsburgh), but he does note that Auld will start in goal against the Pens and Nieuwendyk won't make the trip.

I'm looking for a convincing home win for the Pens with multiple point nights from Crosby, Malkin and Eckman.

Let's Go Pens!

Pens demote Welch, call up two

The Penguins have sent Noah Welch to Wilkes-Barre. They recalled Micki Dupont and Alain Nasreddine, both defensemen, from Wilkes-Barre.

I'm disappointed to see Welch go down, but he was averaging less ice time than any other D, and he was a -4 in his past 5 games. I think he has a big future here in the NHL, and hopefully he'll be back soon.

Dupont is here for one reason - the Pens want and need a right-handed shot on the power play. He'll be stationed out there to deliver just that. Remember early in the year how Letang could change the PP a bit with his shot? I'm thinking we'll see similar things out of Dupont, only Micki probably won't look as out of place as Letang did.

Nasreddine is, like Ouellet, a favorite of Therrien from his days in Wilkes-Barre. He's a solid D guy that probably won't be here very long. I'd count on him to be a stabilizing force while he's here.

Hat tip to Will for pointing this out in the comments!

Source - Tribune Review

Andre Roy claimed by Tampa Bay

Since I forgot to mention it earlier...

The Tampa Bay Lightning have claimed Andre Roy off of waivers from the Penguins.

He was claimed off of re-entry waivers, which makes the Pens responsible for half of his remaining salary and half of his salary next year (about $375,000 this year and $500,000 next year).

Remember when the Pens played the Lightning earlier this year and their coach (Tortelli) was bemoaning the loss of Roy? Now he has him back.

Source -

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Islanders 5, Penguins 3

Didn't see the entire game - only parts of it. I think I'm going to add Satan to my most despised list - he likes to deliver big / cheap hits and then won't take the resulting fight like a man. He looks all tough and then just holds on for dear life, even against someone like Mark Recchi last night. I really would have liked to see Welch get a few good swings in on him last week - he would have pummeled Satan.

Anyway, Pens lose. Close game. Need to win. Blah blah blah - this song is getting old.

I saw a stat in the Post-Gazette today that said the team was 4-7-4 in their last 15 games. That won't get it done. Maybe they were a flash in the pan earlier in the year. Maybe they really miss Mark Eaton. I don't care - they really need to get a few wins consecutively.

Next up: vs Florida at the Igloo. The Panthers are stuggling BIG time - the Pens have to get a win.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Devils 5, Penguins 2

This was a typical game against the Devils. The Penguins struggled to get anything going offensively. You thought they might have a chance when Evgeni Malkin snuck a cheap on past Martin Brodeur, but then the Devils turned on their typical trap (even more so after they took the lead 3-2), and the Pens were not only flightless, they were helpless. They did manage a few good chances, but Brodeur was up to the challenge.

Why is it I just don't feel like the Pens are in the game when they play the Devils? I just expect the Devils to kick their butt. I think it goes back to last season's opener, when Brodeur stoned the Pens early and the Devils went on the kick their butt (similar theme).

Tomorrow doesn't get any easier. If their flight is able to take off from New Jersey, the Pens come home to play the Isles, who are waiting in Pittsburgh for them. Is it really home ice advantage if the visitors are sitting in your city waiting for you to return? This post will most likely serve as the preview for tomorrow's game as well, unless I get a whole lot more time tomorrow than I think I'll have. It'll be a good rematch with the Isles, who have to be unhappy after their loss earlier in the week on Marc-Andre Fleury Day. Hopefully the Pens will be able to take out some of their frustration on the Isles.

Let's Go Pens!

Leclair clears waivers - Roy to WBS

John Leclair has cleared waivers. He can now be sent to Wilkes-Barre and recalled on re-entry waivers. The benefit to this is that anyone claiming him on re-entry waivers isn't responsible for as much of his $1.5 million salary - they only have to pick up half, I believe.

Andre Roy was assigned to Wilkes-Barre. According to the article, he is on re-entry waivers.

The Pens are essentially trying to give these guys away right now, with other teams paying half of their salary if they claim them off of re-entry waivers. From the Pens standpoint, it's better than cutting them outright, since they'd be responsible for the entire salary (as opposed to half).

Source - TSN

Game #24 - at New Jersey Devils

Pittsburgh Penguins (11-8-4, 26 pts) at New Jersey Devils (12-9-2, 26 pts)

The Penguins and Devils are tied for third place in the Atlantic Division, three points behind the Rangers. The Devils are coming off of a 0-3-1 West Coast swing, and they're trying to avoid losing 5 straight for the first time in 6 years. So, the question is, are the Penguins catching them at the right time? I'm leaning towards "NO!", since the Devils have been off since Monday, and because they have Mighty Mouse on their side. You just know he'd love to save the day.

The Devils actually took a few penalties on the road. They allowed six power play chances in two of their last three games (against Anaheim and LA). Both of those teams have great team speed. If the Pens can use their speed to their advantage, they might be able to draw a few penalties. To do that, though, they're going to have to get shots on Brodeur and go to the net.

One other really surprising thing - the Devils are just bad at even strength this year. Elias is a -14!! Rafalski is a -11!! The Pens need to find a way to get to Brodeur tonight. They should have their chances.

I'm looking for a good Pens road victory.

Let's Go Pens!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Pens waive Andre Roy

Andre Roy has cleared waivers as of today. This means the Pens can send him to Wilkes-Barre, keep him on the team, or release him.

I think with the Pens waiving Leclair and Roy, we're seeing a small roster shake-up. If nothing else, the team will be much faster than they are with those two guys in the lineup.

Source - TSN

Penguins waive John Leclair

There doesn't appear to be any official word yet, but the Pens have waived John Leclair.

He likely has little trade value, so once he clears waivers, he could still remain with the team. He could also be sent to Wilkes-Barre. He could also be released from the team, though I'm not sure they'd do that.

Let's hope that someone picks him up and that he has the chance to go out on his own terms.

Hat tip to Faux for the heads-up. Thanks!

Quarter Season Report

Since we're just past the first quarter of the season, I thought it would be a good time to take a look at where the team is so far, and where they seem to be headed.

Record: 11-8-4, 26 points

The Pens have 26 points through 23 games. Over an 82 game season, that projects to 92 points. We know from last season that will just barely put the Pens in line for the #8 spot in the playoffs. Last season, it took 92 points in the East and 95 in the West. The Pens are close, but they'll need to improve their play to get there.

Even Strength:
Goals Scored: 43
Goals Allowed: 42

The Pens have been a decent team at 5 on 5 hockey. They have the ability to possess the puck, and their third and fourth lines have done a decent job of keeping the puck in the offensive zone. The hidden stat here is that the Pens have yet to score a goal in a 4 on 4 situation, while allowing 5.

Power Play:
Goals Scored: 22 in 140 chances - 15.7%
Goals Allowed: 3 (1 short-handed, 2 empty net)

I'd have to say the power play is the biggest area of disappointment for me so far this season. The team is ranked 18th on the power play, at 15.7%. They are ranked #8 in the NHL with 140 chances in 23 games. To me, this is the biggest reason they've been unable to maintain a pace that would put them in the playoffs. They need some consistent scoring from the power play. You can see that they've clearly worked on some things - just watch Gonchar or Whitney at the point take the puck and skate laterally to change the shooting and passing angles. They didn't do that as much last year. Results are what counts, however, and the team simply isn't getting any right now.

Penalty Kill:
Goals Scored: 4
Goals Allowed: 24 in 140 chances - 82.9%

This has been another area of improvement over last year, but they are a different team at home versus on the road. At the Igloo, the team kills just over 90% of their penalties, while on the road, they kill just 74%. To put it another way, at home, the Pens are #4 in the NHL on the PK. On the road, the Pens are #27 on the PK. They (obviously) need to improve away from the friendly confines of the Mellon Arena. Shero's acquisitions have made a huge difference here, as Moore and Eaton (before he got hurt) especially have stepped right into prominent roles on the PK. This has also been Jordan Staal's biggest area of impact.

Overall, this is a very important part of the season for the Pens. They have 14 games coming up in December, and earning points now is critical. This isn't a team that has been in the playoff chase before, so I'd say their chances of making it are far better if they're on the inside looking out at the teams chasing them.

I think they can do it. Do you?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Penguins 3, Islanders 2

Wow. When I suggested that Colby would score his first of the year from Sid, I didn't expect it to happen just 1:34 into the game. Not that I'm complaining... quite the contrary! It was great to see the Pens get on the board early.

Of course, they couldn't score on the power play, but that's a minor complaint tonight.

Tonight was all about Flower Power. It was Marc-Andre Fleury's birthday. It was Marc-Andre Fleury bobble head night. It was Marc-Andre Fleury's night to shine, and shine he did. He shined the most during the third period, when the Penguins desperately needed him to shine. This is one of those games that the Pens would have found a way to lose last year. This year, Fleury practically stood on his head and kept the puck out of the net. It was great to see him step up like that on a big night.

The only disappointment I have from tonight is that someone didn't plaster Satan for his cheap hit and subsequent trash talking last Wednesday. I guess I can live with two points for the Pens and zero for the Isles as a worthwhile alternative.

Army almost had the hat trick, but he was hooked while going for an empty net goal. If the ref would have signaled penalty shot, he would have the goal automatically, but he only gave Poti a hooking minor. Someone threw their hat on the ice anyway. I was really happy for Armstrong to see him get his first two goals of the year.

Next up: at New Jersey on Friday and then back home against the Isles (again!) on Saturday.

Game #23 - vs New York Islanders

New York Islanders (12-7-3, 27 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (10-8-4, 24 pts)

The Pens and Isles are teams going in different directions, and it's starting to show in the standings. The Pens have lost three straight (2 on OT), while the Isles have won 4 straight and 6 of 8. They have 13 out of 16 possible points in their last 8 games.

The story for the Isles is still DiPietro. He has been stopping everything that is thrown at him recently, including last Wednesday against the Penguins.

The Isles will be without Alexi Yashin, while Sidney Crosby will return for the Penguins. This is huge for the Pens, who have only managed 5 goals in the three games that Sidney has missed.

I'm looking for a nice home victory tonight with Army finally breaking through for a much needed goal on a nice setup from Sid.

Let's Go Pens!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Rangers 2, Penguins 1 (OT)

Wow. Talk about a kick in the gut. That's what the end of the game was if you were watching it. Malkin almost wins the game with a fluky chip shot in OT. Staal can't convert on a penalty shot in OT. The Rangers then get the winning goal with 2.2 seconds remaining in the OT. Kick in the gut. Ugh.

This one was all about the third period. The Pens were protecting a 1-0 lead and got a bit too conservative. The Rangers out shot the Pens 12-4 in the third period. When Jagr caught a lucky bounce, he buried it into the empty cage to the right of Fleury. There was nothing that Flower could have done. Recchi had been shadowing Jagr, but lost track of him, which allowed Jaromir to slip free.

The Pens could have had this one be out of reach if they had been able to convert on a few more power play chances, especially during their two man advantage in the first period. Thankfully, that's exactly when they converted during the second period.

Therrien has been riding Recchi and Malkin really hard in terms of minutes played. It will be good when Sidney returns to have someone else share some of the heavy lifting. Geno really looked tired during parts of the late third period and OT.

One other thing - Nils Eckman was really flying tonight, and was second on the team with 5 shots. That's good to see. Would be nice if some of his teammates might go to the net for any rebounds off of his shots. Nils always looks like he'd teetering on the edge of his skates when he's going full speed - it's kinda funny.

Next up: a rematch with the Isles on Tuesday at the Igloo.

Game #22 - vs New York Rangers

New York Rangers (12-9-1, 25 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (10-8-3, 23 pts)

The Rangers make their second consecutive Saturday night appearance at the Igloo. Hopefully the game yields the same result as last week.

Tonight, the Penguins need to find a way to put the puck in the net, especially on the power play. We were saying the same thing the last time these teams met, and it took two 5 on 3 chances for them to score on the power play. I wouldn't count on getting too many 5 on 3 chances each night.

Scoring tonight will be tough - Lundqvist has been tough since losing to the Pens last Saturday - he stopped 61 of 62 shots over two games for two Ranger victories. The Penguins have been able to get to him twice previously this season, winning each game.

According to Michel Therrien, Evgeni Malkin is okay and should play tonight. That's great news. Now if Sidney Crosby would also suit up (which wouldn't surprise me - he was skating in warm ups yesterday), there could be some rockin' going on at the Igloo.

Colby Armstrong ALMOST had his first goal a few times last night, so I'm going to go out on a limb and say that tonight's the night.

I'm looking for a much needed win at home for the Pens, pulling them into a tie with the Rangers in the Atlantic.

Let's Go Pens!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Islanders 3, Penguins 1

This one was simple - the Pens were setup to play the perfect road game. They were generating lots of offense, shooting the puck a lot and dominating the play at even strength. They forgot one thing - you have to put the puck in the net.

I guess we can call this progress because a few weeks back, all we were talking about was the abject lack of shooting. Now we're seeing the shots come, but they're not really making it into the net. Honestly, this is where the Penguins lack of talent on the wings is starting to shine through. They don't have a prime time finisher that can bury the puck. They don't really have a sniper for that matter. Malkin shows signs of being one, as does Ouellet (and I'm still holding out hope for Christensen), but no one has become a great goal scorer. That's really the missing piece for this team right now.

Thibault played reasonably well, though he did misplay the puck that led to the first goal for the Isles. He stopped pretty much all he was supposed to stop.

The other gaping area of weakness right now is the lack of offense on the power play. The Pens simply aren't able to score. Let's hope that changes, and quick. If they are able to get even one or two on the power play today, especially early, it's a totally different game.

Malkin left the game after taking a big hit on his bad shoulder with about 3:00 left in the third period. It was a clean hit, and Evgeni went immediately down the runway. Let's hope that he's okay.

No rest for the weary, as the Pens come back and play at home tomorrow night.

Next up: vs the Rangers at the Igloo.

Game #21 - at New York Islanders

Pittsburgh Penguins (10-7-3, 23 pts) at New York Islanders (10-7-3, 23 pts)

The Islanders have been playing quite well of late. They returned from a five game road trip, where they went 3-1-1 (and won in Dallas), to kick the stuffing out of Carolina, out shooting them 48-15 and winning 4-2. They've been winning their games largely due to Rick DiPietro and their play at even strength. Prior to the Wednesday win over the Hurricanes, the Isles had allowed at least 33 shots in each game for their 5 game road trip.

Their special teams have also been nothing special. Their power play is only 2-31 over their last eight games, and went through a two game stretch where they only drew one penalty. Their PK isn't much better, stopping only 30 of 39 chances over the same time frame.

For the Pens to win, they need to win the battles at even strength, which is something they've been pretty decent at this year. They'll also need to start scoring some power play goals. The biggest thing they have in their favor is their record against the Atlantic division - they're 8-1, including a win earlier this season at Long Island.

No word yet on whether Crosby will play.

I'm still looking for a Pens victory, with the first goal of the year from Colby Armstrong!

Let's Go Pens!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

Everyone have a happy and safe Thanksgiving Day!

Bruins 4, Penguins 3 (OT - SO)

The Penguins got to a shootout for the first time this season. It didn't go very well. The combination of Michel Ouellet, Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar couldn't get a goal behind Tim Thomas. Ouellet and Malkin both fired off wrist shots, trying to catch Thomas early. Gonchar tried about a million dekes with the puck, but Thomas didn't seem very concerned and easily stopped the shot attempt.

Prior to the shootout, this game was defined by two main points:
  1. The Penguins are having a horrible time on the power play lately. They had only one goal in 9 chances tonight. This game could have been won in regulation if they could just convert a few more of those chances.
  2. Evgeni Malkin showed signs in the third period of being able to take over a game. He was dominant late in the contest. That's something the Pens need to see more of from him. We know Sidney has that instinct - for Geno to have it too would be a huge plus.

It was nice to see the team come back and get a point out of this one, but it only feels like a shallow victory. I guess that's the difference between this year and last year.

Next up: at the Islanders on Friday afternoon.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Sidney Crosby to miss game against Boston Bruins

Crosby injured his groin on Monday against the Flyers. He'll miss tonight's game at home against Boston and is questionable for Friday and Saturday.

Faux - I think you're right - Malkin will be the #1 center and the team will rally around this to play well without him. I look for a rough and tumble game with Armstrong stepping up (like you said earlier, Will).

Hat tip to Will for pointing this out.

Source - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Game #20 - vs Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins (8-8-2, 18 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (10-7-2, 22 pts)

Are the Penguins ready to take the next step? Are they ready to beat the teams they "should" beat? I hope so, because this is one of those games. They should beat the Bruins.

The Bruins have an odd schedule this year - they opened with five straight games on the road, and then played 11 out of 13 games at home. Before their loss to Florida on Monday, they'd won four straight at home (one in OT and two in a shootout), so they're playing a little bit better. The Bruins are one of those teams that the Pens could be competing against for the last playoff spot, so it would be nice to make sure they come away from tonight's game with zero points.

On the road, the Bruins are only 2-4-1. They are tied for the second worst PK in the league at 75.9%, and have allowed 14 goals in 48 chances on the road. This means they're averaging almost 7 short-handed situations per game on the road. Certainly the Penguins should be able to take advantage of this.

The Pens need to toughen up their PK. They started out the season really well, but are starting to slip back to number similar to last year. Right now, they're at an 82% efficiency rate on the PK, and that won't bode well for long term success. They allowed three PP goals by the Flyers on Monday night.

The Pens also seem to have a "magic formula" - they haven't lost this season when they've scored at least four goals. In fact, their record when scoring 3 or less is 2-7-2, and when scoring 4 or more is 8-0-0. Crank up the offense!

Let's hope that Sidney's groin isn't serious, and that Army can net his first goal tonight - he was close the other night a few times.

Let's Go Pens!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Penguins 5, Flyers 3

Tonight's game was the prototype for how the Penguins should play. The offensive guys displayed some great skills. The goalie was solid. The role players did their job in terrific fashion, especially in the third period.

I'm not sure who the three stars are for tonight, but I'm nominating the role players. Specifically, I'm putting up Talbot, Thorburn, Ruutu and especially Petrovicky. When I looked and saw that Petro only played a little over 8 minutes, I was shocked. You really noticed when he was on the ice - he made his presence felt. Let's go back to the quote he provided before the season started, because I think it was exemplified by his play tonight:
"They want to make a new statement and bring young blood into the team and organization - to spark it up," he said. "I want us to be tough to play against - teams coming in have us on their minds a little bit. They won't be happy to play against us because we will be tough to play against and make them pay the price for the length of the hockey game."
I couldn't have said it better myself, Ronald. Here's hoping he can keep it going - the Pens will be better for it.

Sidney Crosby has some mystery injury and didn't play in the third period, though the Pens had a three goal lead that was never really threatened, so they may have just rested him. He had gone to the locker room, come back out and played on the power play, and then gone right back to the locker room. There has been no news yet as to what happened to him.

It goes without saying that the best thing about tonight is that the Pens are now 4-0 against the Flyers.

UPDATE - The Wife has informed me that they really should have Sidney Crosby wear a shirt when they interview him about his injury. I'm going to have to get revenge by watching the episode of Lost with Evangeline Lilly crawling in and out of her cage. Oh, and Sidney's injury is a groin issue. He'll see how it's feeling over the next few days.

Next up: vs Boston on Wednesday.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Game #19 - at Philadelphia Flyers

Pittsburgh Penguins (9-7-2, 20 pts) at Philadelphia Flyers (5-13-2, 12 pts)

sssshhhhh! Don't look now, but the Flyers have been playing better of late (except for their hiccup in San Jose on Saturday night). They went through the same 3 game West Coast swing that the Penguins did, except that the Flyers won in Anaheim and Los Angeles. Admittedly, Anaheim has been coming back to earth a bit, but anytime an East Coast team can go on a three game road trip to Anaheim, LA and San Jose and come out with two wins, they're playing pretty decently.

Add to this mess the fact that the Penguins historically struggle in Philadelphia, and you have a recipe for disaster. I'm hoping the Penguins can avoid the quagmire and step up their game. They are over .500 at home, and Philly is 2-5-2 at home.

For the Pens, the formula is as simple as it has been recently. Take advantage of the man-advantage and play even the rest of the time. Easier said than done, I know, especially against a strong PK like Philly, but no one ever said this would be easy.

One other thing - the Pens need to keep their noses above the nonsense. Unless, that is, someone (like Thorburn or Roy) can get that wimp Hatcher to fight. Then they should go for it with aplomb.

I'm looking for a tough road win, with Colby Armstrong's first goal of the year.

Let's Go Pens!

Penguins 3, Rangers 1

Didn't get to see this one - but it's nice to see that the power play actually converted two 5 on 3 chances, and then put the Rangers away with a late goal.

Mark Recchi scored twice, and Jordan Staal was in the right place at the right time on the power play to get his 7th goal of the year.

Last night was the Penguins debut of Ronald Petrovicky, who we should all be able to enjoy watching, especially when on a line with Ruutu and Thorburn.

Noah Welch, for the second time in three games, played less than 10 minutes. I think when Mark Eaton returns, you're going to see Noah get sent back to Wilkes-Barre (barring some kind of trade).

Here's what Will had to say in the comments from the game preview (hope you don't mind me highlighting your comment, Will!)
Turned out to be a great defensive game for the Pens. The only big mistakes I saw were by Whitney. He had a few turnovers, one that turned into the Rags sole goal, and another that would have been a goal but Fleury was ready. Besides that they looked really good. Petro impressed me and made me miss Eaton all that much more. Surprised to see LeClair as a scratch but can't say I disagree. PP was 2/139 or something but at least they had a few goals.
Great win for the Pens.

Next up: at Philadelphia on Monday, kicking off a busy Thanksgiving week.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Game #18 - vs New York Rangers

New York Rangers (10-8-1, 21 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (8-7-2, 18 pts)

The plan tonight should be simple - the Rangers will take their share of penalties. The Penguins need to:
  1. Score on the power play (very important)
  2. Minimize the Rangers chances by not taking stupid penalties
  3. Avoid the shootout (Lundqvist is perfect in shootouts this year, in that he hasn't allowed a single goal)

Other than that, Jagr is going for goal #600. Much as I like Jaromir, I'd rather see him get it somewhere else.

Let's Go Pens!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Sabres 4, Penguins 2

Tonight's game was very winnable. In fact, if the Pens would have done one thing extra, I think they would have come away with at least one point. What is that one thing? SCORE ON THE POWER PLAY!!

This one was there for the taking. The Sabres played well, but so did Thibault. The Pens managed 36 shots on Biron, but he was also quite good in net. They couldn't get that critical goal that would have put them back into the game prior to the scramble at the end. I'm not sure what's wrong with the power play right now, except that all they can seem to manage is to pass the puck around the perimeter, with no one looking to be aggressive. Malkin was lined up in the slot for one of the opportunities I saw tonight, and he never touched the puck. Either shoot the one-timer from the point, or have someone on the sideboards make a move to try to create some space.

Anyway, the special teams were pretty much the story of the game. The Sabres notch two PP goals, the Pens can't get anything on their chances.

Next up: the Rangers at home, tomorrow night. Jagr is going for goal #600. If he gets it, we can all die a little inside. Preview up tomorrow.

Game #17 - at Buffalo Sabres

Pittsburgh Penguins (8-6-2, 18 pts) at Buffalo Sabres (15-2-1, 31 pts)

Time for the hurting to begin.

Tonight, the Pens play the Buffalo Sabres, who are the #1 team in the NHL with 31 points. The only silver lining to this right off of the bat is that the Sabres are only 5-2-1 at home (as opposed to 10-0-0 on the road). Unfortunately, they just lost at home to Ottawa, so they're likely to be angry.

The Sabres are the #1 team in goal scoring (by far) this season, with 82 goals in just 18 games. With the way the Penguins allow shots, it could get ugly. The Pens are also likely to play Jocelyn Thibault in goal. The Sabres, feeling charitable, are going to start Martin Biron - he of the .886 save percentage. The Pens need lots of shots tonight!

On special teams, the Sabres are just about even with the Pens - their power play is maybe a little better, while their PK is a little worse. The only difference is that they get more PP chances while taking far fewer penalties. The Pens can't afford to spend the evening in the penalty box.

If the Pens play a tight road game, skate well, and stay out of the box, they have a chance for this to be a close one. If they come unraveled on any of those aforementioned items, the Sabres will lower the boom.

I'm hoping for at least a point out of the game (if not two), and the first goal from Colby Armstrong!!

Let's Go Pens!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Malkin preliminary injunction denied

The preliminary injunction sought by Metallurg Magnitogorsk to prevent Evgeni Malkin from playing in the NHL has been denied. He is free to continue playing while his case is being settled.

I think the technical term we're looking for here is "No duh!"

Source -

Monday, November 13, 2006

Penguins 3, Flyers 2

So I guess we call this the Thrill of Victory, eh?

The Pens came out smoking in the first two periods, out shooting the Flyers 31-10. They couldn't get more than 2 past Nittymaki, however, and the Flyers tied the game in the third on a BSFNOW goal (Blind Squirrel Finds a Nut Once in a While) goal. Richards threw the puck to the net, and Sanderson batted it into the net when it deflected off of Melichar's skate. Sanderson didn't even know he had a goal.

This was a game the Pens needed badly. They did most things right tonight, and to lose this one (or to even go to OT) could have been bad for the psyche of this young team. They kept at it, and Malkin netted the game winner with little more than two minutes remaining in the third.

My question of the night is as follows: late in the third, Meyer hit Army near the boards. It was clearly interference and Army was down briefly. Whitney, in a great show of support, went right after Meyer and was locked up with him. King Goon, er, I mean Hatcher, comes barrelling over, and showing no respect of the unwritten rule about being the third man in, grabs Whitney from behind and tries to fight him. Never mind that Hatcher is too much of a wimp to do more than talk with Andre Roy on opening night. Anyway, back to my rant, already in progress. Anyway, when it's all sorted out by the CZs (Clueless Zebras), Meyer gets two minutes for charging (could have been a major, given how close they were to the boards, but I digress), Whitney gets two for INSTIGATING (?!?!?!?) and five for fighting, and Hatcher gets just 5 for fighting.

What the heck?? How does King Goon come lumbering as the third man in and only get a fighting major? I'd say it was immaterial, but the Flyers almost tied the game as a direct result of the CZs making sure the Flyers weren't any more short-handed. I was pretty disgusted with that one...

Before I sign off, did anyone see the tremendous effort put in by Crosby on the last scrum at the end of the game? He was hit by the shot from the point and went down, stunned. He then got back up and managed to have the strength to get to the front of the cage and mix it up with the Flyers (and throw in a nice slash for good measure).

Man, do I hate the Flyers. I'm so glad the Pens pulled this one out.

Next up: at Buffalo on Friday. Talk about a litmus test...

Game #16 - vs Philadelphia Flyers

Philadelphia Flyers (3-11-2, 8 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (7-6-2, 16 pts)

Tonight will be either the Thrill of Victory or the Agony of Defeat, as they used to say on ABC's Wide World of Sports. I can think of no better team to beat to break out of a slump than the Flyers (though the Rangers are a close second), and I can think of no worse team to lose to under the current circumstances than the Flyers. It will either be very, very good, or very, very bad.

Maybe the Pens can use tonight as a way to go back to how they were playing at the beginning of the year, kind of like a reset button. Let's hope so, because they've been unable to generate any kind of offense since the last time they played Philly. In their last four games, it has been especially bad, with the Pens managing just 18.5 shots per game. That simply won't get it done.

The Flyers almost beat Buffalo at home on Saturday night, and they've been playing a bit better of late. The score doesn't show it, but they had out shot their opponents in eight straight games before Saturday night. Their penalty kill has also been excellent. Of course, most of what you need to know about the Flyers special teams comes from the following fact - the Flyers have allowed more power play goals than they've scored, and their PK has been excellent this year.

So, tonight the Pens badly need to break the losing streak, and not just because they need the points. Ask yourself: would you want to be off until Friday with an upset Michel Therrien just waiting to "explain" things to you all week long? Me either...

Let's Go Pens!