Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Other Penguins Blogs

I've been remiss in not updating the sidebar with other Penguins blogs. There are several new ones this year. Have a look - they're well written and entertaining.

Here's what I added:

Penguins Blogs:
The Pensblog
The Confluence
Shots from the Point

Hockey Blogs:
Fauxrumors (faux is a frequent commenter on this blog)

Player updates - Orpik, Cairns, Petrovicky

Eric Cairns returned from his rehab stint in Wilkes-Barre and is with the team, but they're unsure of when he might play.

Ronald Petrovicky is practicing with the team as well, but there is no timetable set for his return.

Brooks Orpik has most of the strength back in his injured right hand, and he is accompanying the team on their west coast trip.

All three of these guys figure to be on the roster in the near future. This would mean that guys like Welch or Talbot could lose their spots, unless Shero has some trades up his sleeve.

Source - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Monday, October 30, 2006

Jordan Staal to stay - Kristopher Letang to go

Jordan Staal will be a Penguin for a while longer this season. According to this article on TSN, Staal will remain with the Pens.

This is great news for this season. The team is 6-3 through the first 9 games, and looks to have a shot to make some noise about getting into the playoffs. Staal will be a big part of that.

As expected, Kris Letang is being returned to juniors. I'm excited about what he could do for this team in the coming years. He'll be a good one, and now the Pens have him under contract.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Penguins 8, Flyers 2

Kick 'em when they're down. That's what those nasty Flyers would do to the Penguins if the situation were reversed. That's also just what the Penguins did tonight.

Sidney had his first hat trick (hard to believe he didn't have one of those yet), and Evgeni continued his goal scoring streak. In fact, pretty much everyone got in on the act (when you score 8 times, everyone does something good, I think).

Max Talbot continues to show that he doesn't want to return to Wilkes-Barre... ever!

Boy, the Flyers were b-a-d tonight. Watching Forsberg and Gagne collide pretty much explains how their season has been in a microcosm.

The Pens will now embark on a difficult three game West Coast trip, playing the Kings, Sharks and (don't call them Mighty) Ducks. If they can somehow come out of these three games with 3 points, I'll be willing to think they're for real.

Next up: at Los Angeles on Wednesday.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Game #9 - at Philadelphia Flyers

Really quick preview - I'm currently on vacation :)

I'm going to agree with Will from the comments - I think tonight will be a "stick up for each other" night for the Flyers, who will be looking to avenge the game that got them off on the wrong foot, the 4-0 drubbing in the opener. The Pens will need to play tough and have their heads on a swivel, especially if the game isn't close.

The Devils took back first place the other night, and the Pens have a chance to reclaim it tonight with a win and a Devils loss.

Oh, and Karl Stewart and Eric Cairns are gone - Stewart was claimed off of waivers and Cairns was sent to Wilkes-Barre.

Let's Go Pens!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Penguins 4, Devils 2

I asked you to practice the phrase... now say it with me:

Sole Possession of First Place

Wow - being that it's eight games into the season, that's a nice thing to be able to say. Granted, it IS only eight games in, so this really means nothing in the long run, but it's nice to have.

Anyway, the game last night was great. The Penguins are learning how to win. They allowed only 22 shots to the Devils, which was HUGE for them. That shot total is the lowest of the season, and quite amazing, considering the only other game where they were under 34 was the Detroit game.

What can be said about Malkin's goal? It was a highlight reel goal, and perhaps more importantly, it came at a critical time. The Pens were only up one goal when Malkin took an outlet pass from Crosby, split two defenders, waited for Brodeur to go down and scored on one of those reach-back-across backhand shots in close. Take a look at it for yourself on ESPN - quite worth the time to see. I think the best part is that the happiest guy in the building, besides Evgeni himself, is Sidney Crosby. That's really great to see.

Other random thoughts:
  • Crosby, Staal and Malkin scored goals. This is what we were hoping for - all of the young guys on the team contributing. Fleury had 20 saves on 22 shots.
  • The arena attendence seems to be down this year. They were only at a little over 13,000 last night.
  • Max Talbot played on a line with Ruutu and Thorburn. Nice to see Max back in Pittsburgh.
  • Will Jordan Staal stay in the NHL? He only has one more game until he would have to be returned to junior. I think you have to keep him.
Next up: In Philadelpha on Saturday.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Penguins recall Noah Welch

The Pens have promoted Noah Welch from Wilkes-Barre to take the place of the injured Ryan Malone.

The D is about to get really crowded with Welch here, and Orpik and Cairns ready to return. According to the Post-Gazette, Kris Letang is going to get a few games off while Welch is here. This isn't a bad idea, since Letang can only play 9 games before being sent back to juniors, but they don't have to be the first 9 games of the season. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Pens make some moves in the near future here to clear some space on the D, and if I were them, I'd likely try to keep the pieces in the air as long as possible until I knew what I was doing.

Game #8 - vs New Jersey Devils

New Jersey Devils (4-3-1) at Pittsburgh Penguins (4-3-0)

How many different ways can you say "sole possession of first place"? Because that's exactly where the Pens will be with a win in regulation tonight. They'll also move into the #3 seed in the conference, by virtue of the fact that they'd be leading the division.

Hey, I know it's WAAAYYYY too early to be talking about this stuff, but the Pens weren't in first place for a single day last year. We have to take the highs where we can get them.

A victory is certainly not assured. The Devils just beat the Pens at home not six days ago, and the Pens didn't show anything then that would make me think that this game is a lock. Martin Brodeur allowed 6 goals on just 26 shots the other night against Ottawa, so expect him to be unhappy. In fact, the Devils have lost three of their last four games (their lone victory coming against the Pens), and their power play has been sputtering. Their PK has been struggling too, allowing three goals in the last two games.

The Pens will need to duplicate the effort from last week, but with more precision on offense. Getting tons of shots is good - being able to finish the great chances you get, instead of being just a little bit off on the perfect pass, is what hurt the team last week. I think if they can get one or two goals in the first, that will go a long way towards solving that problem.

Just practice the phrase - "sole possession of first place" - and hope that they can get the job done.

Lets Go Pens!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Ryan Malone injury

Ryan Malone broke his wrist in the game against the Blue Jackets. He's out for six weeks.

This may be a blessing in disguise, as it would seem to improve the chances of Jordan Staal staying on this team.

Penguins 5, Blue Jackets 3

This one was a great game for the Pens. They scored all of their goals in special teams. Jordan Staal continued to make a case for staying with the team, a case that will be strengthened with the injury to Ryan Malone (he broke a bone in his wrist). The Pens also improved to 4-3 and have a winning record!!

The few troubling spots (just so we don't have unabated glee around here):
  • The Pens allowed two goals on the PK
  • They also had to defend 11 power plays by Columbus
  • Ryan Malone broke his wrist and is out about 6 weeks
  • Kris Letang continues to look more like a power play specialist, playing only about 4-5 minutes at even strength (pretty low for a defensemen)
  • The Pens are relying pretty heavily on a small group of players. Nils Eckman, in particular, has seen his playing time begin to drift downwards.
All in all, it was a great game that was fun to watch. Malkin had a nice goal, and Staal's penalty shot was one you don't see every day (it rang off the post, bounced off the goalie twice and went across the goal line - the ref initially waived it off and then, with replay, the allowed the goal).

Next up: another shot at New Jersey on Tuesday at the Igloo.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Game #7 - vs Columbus Blue Jackets

Columbus Blue Jackets (2-2-1) at Pittsburgh Penguins (3-3-0)

The first thing that jumps out about the Blue Jackets is that they haven't allowed many shots (30 or less in all their games other than their opener). Some of that is probably a function of them losing their last two games by a combined 9-2 (meaning, the other team shut it down early), but it's something the Pens will have to be conscious of, especially considering that Leclaire's save percentage isn't all that good (about 88%).

Columbus does have a strong power play, but they're 0-10 in their last two games. That should also be a point of emphasis for the Pens, who have been lights out in some games and inconsistent in others.

For the Pens, the plan should be simple - keep the momentum going, and stay focused for 60 minutes; no lapses, no stupid penalties. Just play solid two way hockey. The offense will be there, and they'll get their chances against Columbus.

The most interesting stat so far this season? The Pens are 1-3 at home, despite their promising start. This needs to change, and tonight is a good time to change it.

Let's Go Pens!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Friday fun - what makes Mark Recchi say these things?

Here is an article from last week in the Trib where Recchi is talking about Malkin. He starts out by talking about how Malkin is similar to Lemieux:
"He's really good. He's going to be scary good," Recchi said Tuesday. "I hate to bring up this comparison, but I don't think we've seen anybody with his size who can skate like him and do as much as him. He's as close to Mario as we're going to see for a long time."
I can buy that one - Malkin's size and abilities are much closer to Lemieux than Crosby's are. He does remind you of Lemieux when he's on the ice to some extent.

Mark then seems to take a subtle dig at Sidney:
"Obviously, some people have tried to pass that torch along to other people, but the way he skates and sees the ice, he's the whole package," Recchi said.
I'm not sure why he needs to say that they've tried to pass the torch to other people... who else could he be talking about but Sid? Maybe I'm reading it all wrong, and if that's the case, then I'm sorry. It just doesn't make much sense to me.

Sidney, for his part, praises Malkin up and down in the same interview:
"I'm thinking selfishly, but I can't wait to play with him," Crosby said. "When you get a chance to play with someone like that, it's like it was with Mario - you don't know what's going to happen, but you know you're going to create something. With a creative mind like that, you don't know what to expect and it makes for an element of surprise."
Sid always seems to take the high road when the public light is shining. Good for him.

Penguins 4, Islanders 3 (OT)

Another game for Evgeni Malkin leads to another win for the Pittsburgh Penguins. I'd like to see this trend continue!

This is another game that the Pens would have lost last year. The Pens were trailing 3-2 going into the third period. According to the guys on the radio, the team didn't win a single game last year when trailing going into the third. It's nice to see that the players are learning how to win these games. They're also now 2-0 on the road, which bodes well if they can keep the good stuff going.

Malkin had a goal and an assist, and his goal was the game tying goal in the third period. It was created by a great effort on the part of he and Crosby. Sid the Kid had three assists. Nils Eckman had a goal and an assist, but took some bad penalties. Sarge had the game winner, which was great to see. Getting Gonchar going has to be a priority for this team.

Now onto the (slight) controversy - we have another whining coach:

"I think for a world class player, for a guy of his caliber, he's diving every time someone touches him," Islanders coach Ted Nolan said. "No question in my mind, he should have been called for a slash before Yashin had a chance to hook him.

"I'm not saying Yashin's wasn't a penalty, I'm just saying there should have been a penalty before. If Yashin maybe acted like Crosby and dove, maybe he would have gotten that call."

And to think I liked Ted Nolan. This is the first game he's coached against Crosby, and he's already crying. Hopefully the Pens can beat the Isles the next 7 times with Crosby diving each game.

The power play was 3-8, which was nice to see. The PK allowed two goals in the span of 1:09. In fact, all of the Islanders goals game in a 3 minute time frame in the second period. The Pens have to avoid lapses like that. They also have to work on not allowing 37 shots.

Anyway, good win on the road.

Next up: Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday at home

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Game #6 - at New York Islanders

Pittsburgh Penguins (2-3-0) at New York Islanders (2-3-1)

The Pens are coming off of a tough loss last night at home against New Jersey. The Islanders have been sitting at home with three days since their shootout loss to Nashville.

In fact, since starting 0-3, the Islanders are 2-0-1 in their last three games, including a shootout win at Anaheim. Mike Dunham has been the story for the Isles. His save percentage is over 95%. Clearly this will not be easy if Dunham is in net.

The Pens really just need to keep doing more of the same from last night. Keep the shots coming early, because that will lead to some sustained offensive pressure. Keep skating and working hard. Focus on cutting down the opponent's chances and making life easier for the goalie (especially if it's Thibault tonight, as is expected).

I'm looking for some offense and a nice win.

Let's Go Pens!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Devils 2, Penguins 1

Read the live blog for a better review. Malkin is as advertised and the Pens couldn't beat Brodeur. Fleury played really well too. Crosby was fairly limited, largely due to have John Madden draped all over him all night.

Pens vs Devils - live blog

This is the post for the live blog for the Pens game against the Devils.

10:05 - Game over. The Pens simply can't generate the offense against Brodeur in the last 48 seconds.

10:02 - Fleury out of the net. The Pens get Brodeur to freeze the puck. The Pens will take their timeout and get something set up. I'll make it simple for them - get the puck to the net and crash.

10:01 - Pens kill penalty. Time to put up or shut up.

9:59 - Bad penalty by Eckman - Pens will have 1:35 left on the backside until the end of the game.

9:57 - 4 minutes left - the Pens need to get some offense going if they're going to have a hope of tying the game.

9:55 - Line at the end of the PK - Crosby and Malkin out there.

9:54 - If the Pens can kill this power play, look for another Super Line on the ice at the end of the PK.

9:53 - Moore takes a penalty - Devils are playing with the puck in an effort to kill time.

9:48 - Now there's a delay to replace the glass... maybe I have another cold beer in the fridge.

9:47 - Malkin just let one rip for the first time - a slapshot from out high, and he broke the glass behind the net. Huge booming shot.

9:44 - Pens are continuing to get some good chances. They're generating offense around the net now, instead of long range shots, and it's coming from several different lines. If they keep this up, they'll tie the game (I hope).

9:41 - Mark Eaton saves a goal with a great heads-up play. The Devils come back on another rush and score.

9:40 - No goal on the PP, but the Pens generate some nice chances.

9:38 - Brodeur robs Crosby on the doorstep.

9:37 - We've heard for the 171st time that Malkin understands more English than we give him credit for. He (Malkin) also just drew a penalty. First power play.

9:35 - Pens starting to apply some offensive pressure. The line of Armstrong-Crosby-Malone seems to be working well in the third.

9:32 - Gonchar just put together a nice one-man rush and fed Staal, who had a great shot, only to be robbed by Brodeur.

9:30 - Therrien is mixing up the lines still, but I'm guessing that it's more because they're trying to get good matchups with the lines the Devils are deploying. Smart move by Therrien if you ask me.

9:26 - Start of the third. Crosby doesn't have a shot yet tonight, and only 9 in 4 games so far. He's having a tough time tonight with Madden on him.

9:10 - The Devils had the advantage in the second period - they applied more consistent pressure for the whole period. However, the Pens got a great PK towards the end of the period, and Therrien used that chance to put Malkin and Crosby out together. It eventually pays off with Malkin scoring and the Pens tying the game. The Pens don't have a power play yet. To get one, they're going to need to drive to the net and force the Devils to haul them down.

9:08 - End of second period - score tied 1-1. Pens get a late goal in the second period, which is HUGE!

9:05 - Malkin gets his first goal in the NHL!! Evgeni pokes at the puck when Brodeur seems to have it frozen. Brodeur really should have had the whistle.

9:04 - Pens kill their third penalty, and almost get some offensive pressure going.

9:03 - Pens on PK again, but on a delay of game penalty against Moore. Probably not a bad more by Moore - Eaton and Fleury were without sticks.

8:55 - Janssen tries to line up Malkin... and winds up on the ice after Evgeni sees him coming.

8:49 - Penguins kill another penalty. Their PK looks strong.

8:45 - Crosby takes a mystery penalty. I'm not sure what he did, even after watching the replay...

8:44 - Crosby, Malkin and Eckman on the ice together after a TV timeout.

8:41 - Therrien seems to be mixing up the lines a bit during the game. He just had Recchi with Moore and Ruutu. I'm not sure if that's deliberate, or a function of when they can get a change, since it is the second period and the benches are further away...

8:35 - Devils get first goal. Pens allowing way too many good shots up close.

8:34 - Devils starting to apply some consistent pressure. Fleury still playing strong.

8:30 - Beginning of second period - Errey notes that 7 of the Pens 11 shots in the first were from lines 3 and 4. That's good, but the Pens need some offense from their top two lines.

8:22 - First period was pretty even. The Pens did get more shots on Brodeur - you can tell they're making a concerted effort to shoot more. They're not generating consistent pressure yet. They need to get their shots when they have some guys around to handle the rebounds. It's kind of like basketball when you shoot with no one under the boards to rebound. Fleury has been big when needed so far, making a few great saves and all of the normal ones.

8:17 - Ryan Malone, being interviewed by Dan Potash, makes what could be the understatement of the century. He says that putting Crosby, Malkin and Recchi on a line together at times is "a pretty good idea". You could take Crosby, Malkin and my late Grandma, and they'd score every night.

8:13 - End of the first period. No score yet.

8:10 - Brodeur robs Ouellet at point-blank range. Ouellet didn't have much room to shoot, in fairness.

8:07 - Moore makes a great move short-handed when he recognizes that Lagenbrunner (a forward) is the man that's back. He (Moore) just lost the edge on his skate.

8:04 - Malkin barely misses a deflection goal and the Pens (Whitney) take a penalty about a minute later. Blech.

7:55 - mmmm.... Vocellis....

7:49 - Pizza's here. Less type - more eat.

7:41 - Scuderi just got crunched against the boards. Had the wind knocked out of him. E & S (Errey and Steigy) announce they're not talking about shoulders

7:38 - Malkin, Crosby and Recchi was the opening line. Nice surprise, and maybe an "as-needed" Super Line, ala Lemieux and Jagr.

7:37 - Huge line for student rush. Empty blue seats. Ugh.

7:34 - They're showing the Crosby bobble-head doll. It looks nothing like him. These things are pretty useless, eh?

7:31 - Bob Errey and Steigy are falling over themselves to pump up Malkin, not that I blame them. The wife thinks that Errey is "a cutie".

7:29 - Game starts shortly. Pizza is on it's way. I haven't figured out how I'm going to type and eat at the same time...

Game #5 - vs New Jersey Devils

New Jersey Devils (3-2-0) at Pittsburgh Penguins (2-2-0)

I'll be live-blogging the game tonight, just to try something different. Come and join in on the fun! The comments thread will be wide open.

The Devils are coming off of a loss on the road to the Rangers. The amazing thing is that in two of their last three games, they've only been on the penalty kill ONCE. Either this is the cleanest team in hockey, or the refs were letting things go a little bit.

The Devils are led by Martin Brodeur who, aside from one 7-6 win earlier this season, is in good form. Offensively, they're led by Brian Gionta (Mighty Mouse), Scotty Gomez, Patrick Elias, Brian Rafalski, et al. The real Penguin killer, though, is John Madden. Keep an eye on him, especially on the penalty kill (assuming the Devils actually take a penalty tonight).

For the Pens, the game plan should be quite simple - out work the Devils and get the puck to the net. Start out early with some grit and determination and establish the tempo. Don't let the Devils get a two or three goal lead, because they'll fall back into that defensive system and suffocate you.

We'll see Malkin skate tonight between Recchi and Malone, and more interestingly, on the power play with Crosby and Armstrong. Having Sid and Evgeni on the same PP unit should be great to watch. The other lineup changes are that Eckman goes back to the first line, and Leclair is working with Staal and whoever isn't scratched (between Stewart, Thorburn and Roy) on the fourth line.

Marc-Andre Fleury is the starter in goal for the Pens.

Let's Go Pens!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Evgeni Malkin debut

Malkin will make his NHL debut on Wednesday night at home against the New Jersey Devils. He's been cleared to play by the Penguins medical staff.

I, for one, can't wait to watch him play. The Pens sure could use him.

What do you think this will do to the lines? Malkin obviously goes to center on the #2 line. Do you think Malone stays down on the 4th line, leaving Eckman and Leclair on the 2nd line with Malkin, or does Therrien do a reset and go back to the original Eckman-Crosby-Armstrong, Recchi-Malkin-Malone lineup? It will be interesting to say the least.

Source - PittsburghPenguins.com

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Hurricanes 5, Penguins 1







Just out.

The Pens didn't have it from the get-go tonight against the defending Stanley Cup champions. That's going to happen to this team from time to time. What really stinks is that they couldn't generate enough offense to score more than once on their 8 or 9 power play chances. I know that Ward was playing well, but still... this team just isn't on track yet with the offense. They weren't on track with much of anything tonight. I'm not sure what else to say about it.

Wasted opportunity.

Malkin to play next week?

According to Michel Therrien (via the Post-Gazette), Evgeni Malkin took some light contact in game situation drills yesterday in practice. Next up for the rookie is full contact, with the doctor's permission. Therrien is optimistic that we could see Malkin on the ice as early as Wednesday at home against New Jersey.

Therrien has to be a nightmare for the team with his straight-forward injury news. He's also been not entirely correct in the recent past (see Brooks Orpik). Let's hope he's absolutely correct on this one, and we'll see Malkin for the first time on Wednesday.

Game #4 - vs Carolina Hurricanes

Carolina Hurricanes (1-3-1) at Pittsburgh Penguins (2-1-0)

The Hurricanes are coming off of their first win of the season last night in Atlanta. They won on a last second tip-in, similar to how the Penguins won on Thursday night. The Canes jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period, and Atlanta came back to tie the score with 5 minutes remaining in the third, before the tip-in to give the win to the Canes.

To say that things have not gone very well this season for the Hurricanes would be an understatement. They've frequently been out-hit and out-shot. Their power play is only 3-34 so far. Cam Ward hasn't played very well so far either. The Canes have allowed more than 30 shots in every game. About the only thing they have going for them right now is the penalty kill is pretty decent, stopping 25 of 29 opportunities.

The Penguins need to come out and jump all over the Canes if they can. They might not be able to control the scoreboard, but they can certainly have more energy. They can hit more and work harder than the Canes. They can get more shots on goal - since the Canes have allowed at least 30 per game, and the Pens have yet to crack 22, something has to give.

Other interesting match ups tonight include:
  • Mark Recchi playing against the team he just won the Stanley Cup with.
  • Jordan Staal playing his first game in the NHL against his brother Eric.
If the Pens are going to really make some noise this year, this is a game that they need. It's at home, against a good team that is struggling.

Let's Go Pens!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Penguins 6, Rangers 5

Sidney Crosby had the game winner with 3.3 seconds left in the game. It deflected off the skate of a Rangers defenseman. I don't need to tell you, but this is the exact kind of game the team would have lost last year, or they would have gone to OT and come away with one point. To have a one-goal win on the road at this early point in the season in dramatic fashion is tremendous, and will be a huge boost to the team as the season goes on. This is the kind of win you can build on.

Jordan Staal and Kris Letang both had their first NHL goals. Jordan had his short-handed, and Kris, appropriately enough, had his on the power play. Ryan Whitney added two and Michel Ouellet scored one.

The Pens broke through on the power play for four goals in nine chances. They allowed three goals themselves on the PK. You'd expect the PK to break down at some point and let in a few - they've been playing so well. The same could be said of the power play, but in reverse. The test will be over the next few games to see how it evens out.

Something that is slightly troubling is the Pens lack of shots on goal - there were only 22 tonight to the Rangers 42. That's a disturbing number. It's something that the team is going to have to work on. Sergei Gonchar had only one shot, despite 10 minutes of power play time. That's not enough.

All things considered, this was a great win.

Next up: Carolina on Saturday.

Eckman and Recchi switch places

The Penguins top line is now Recchi-Crosby-Armstrong. Nils Eckman is now on the second line, which is Eckman-Malone-Leclair.

Eckman has some tightness in his hamstring. Let's hope that it's nothing that lingers.

Source - Post-Gazette

Evgeni Malkin - yet another injury update

Malkin was able to discard the red medical jersey he'd been wearing for practice for the regular black one. In the words of Michel Therrien:
"He's close to being ready. We want to be cautious with him, but we're really pleased with his progress."
Let's hope he's ready soon. The power play could use some help.

Source - Post-Gazette

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

What does Sidney control?

Check out the new Reebok commercial with Sidney Crosby. It's pretty cool. Go to www.rbkhockey.com (link).

We'll probably see lots more of this kind of stuff as the years roll on. It's nice to see good things happening for Sid.

Game #3 - at Rangers

Pittsburgh Penguins (1-1-0) at New York Rangers (2-1-0)

The Rangers lost their most recent game, to the Flyers. The won the two to open the season previous to that. Brendan Shanahan has been a hit so far in the Big Apple, with three goals on 21 shots in the first three games. The Rangers also have several alumni of the Penguins, including Straka, Rosival, Kasper, and most notably, Jagr. We won't see Kasper, but everyone else should be playing.

The major weak point of the Rangers so far is that they're just 1-17 on the power play so far. Add that to the Penguins recent success on the penalty kill, and that's a good sign for the Flightless Birds.

I am hating the Rangers less these days, mainly because of the salary cap. I think the Flyers are taking over the #1 spot on the hate-o-meter. However, there is still enough left for those overpriced blue-coated bums from the Garden, especially when the signing of Shanahan just feels like something the Rangers of old would have done.

The first road game of the young season will be a good barometer to see how the team responds to a loss, as well as how they play away from the friendly confines of the Igloo. You have to wonder if the bright lights of the big city will have Staal and Letang looking like a deer in the headlights. Let's hope not.

Let's Go Pens!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Slow day article roundup

The Pens played on Saturday night. It's now Monday, and they don't play again until Thursday. That means that it's time for some articles about the individual players. The Trib, Post-Gazette and Penguins home page all oblige.

First up is PittsburghPenguins.com with an article about Dominic Moore.

Next is the Trib, writing about fan favorite (already), Jarkko Ruutu.

Finally, the Post-Gazette talks about how Ryan Malone should be a 30 goal scorer.

UPDATE - including article contributed by ees in the comments, over on ESPN. It's John Buccigross talking about why the Pens are sooo out of Pittsburgh (thanks, ees!)

None of it is earth shattering journalism, but when you have only two games under your belt, what else are you going to write about?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Evgeni Malkin injury update

According to pittsburghpenguins.com, Evgeni Malkin will be re-evaluated in two weeks. He's still doing his rehab.

Looking at the team's schedule, I'd say that we're likely to see Evgeni play for the first time either on October 21st against the Blue Jackets, or on October 24th against the Devils (just in time for Mighty Mouse!)

Here's hoping he makes a complete recovery and can get back into uniform soon!

Photos from the opener

Here are the photos the wife and I snapped while we were at the Penguins opener against the Flyers last Thursday. I've provided a small amount of commentary as a caption to the pics :-)

The atmosphere was great - here are a few pics of one of the entrance gates, from above, with the free t-shirt they were handing out:

The next few are photos from warm-ups, including Andre Roy proving that he does indeed have an idea of how to shoot the puck, much as he might try to convince us otherwise...

This was during the National Anthem. Forsberg is still a punk. Did you know that over on letsgopens.com, his nickname is Floppa? I'm sure you can guess why...

Some random game action, including a nice photo of Army getting off a backhand shot. You'll see several shots of faceoffs - they're the easiest thing to snap a photo of - everyone is standing still!

Colby's fight with Baumgartner. Most interesting here is that Hatcher has no idea what it is that they're doing, so he's on the left of the pic discussing it with the refs.

The refs are sympathetic to Hatcher, who needs an extended explantion. Seems all Derian knows how to do is hit people in the face with his stick and pick on little guys. He's more prone to conversation when confronted with something he doesn't understand (or Andre Roy).

Game over - the last players off of the ice are Crosby (who was further up, but stopped and waited to talk to Recchi or Therrien), along with Fleury and Thibault. Nice to see Thibault congratulating Fleury.

The three stars of the game:

Third star - Jarkko Ruutu

Second star - Sidney Crosby

First star - Marc-Andre Fleury

Hope you liked the pics. With any luck, I'll get down there a few more times this year.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Red Wings 2, Penguins 0

Tonight the Penguins ran into a superior team.

The Pens had their chances, but they were few and far between. They only managed 13 shots, including only one shot on goal in the second period. To make matters worse, when they did get a quality scoring chance, they just couldn't convert. To that end, it wouldn't matter who they were - if you don't convert your chances against a team like the Wings, you're not going to have a chance to win.

Marc-Andre Fleury played another great game, and the Pens did a great job of staying out of the box, as well as killing the penalties when they had to.

Unfortunately, they couldn't score on the power play themselves, which relates back to the aforementioned chances (and their lack of conversion of said chances).

Speaking of chances, the Pens will get another one, but not until Thursday night in New York against the Rangers.

Between now and then (hopefully Sunday) I'll get some of my pics from the opener up here on the blog.

Game #2 - vs Detroit Red Wings

Detroit Red Wings (0-1-0) at Pittsburgh Penguins (1-0-0)

This season is different than last in that the games against the Western Conference teams are spread out through the schedule, as opposed to being in blocks like they were last year. I'm not sure which one I like better... but tonight is the opener against the west.

Detroit is coming off of a loss at home against Vancouver to open the season. Hasek started the game in goal, and gave up three goals by the 5 minute mark of the second period. He only faced 17 shots total, but don't let that fool you - the Canucks scored their third goal at 5:41 of the third, giving them a three goal lead, and effectively shut it down. They only managed two shots in the third while protecting a two goal lead.

Detroit's loss, of course, doesn't bode well for the Penguins. The Red Wings will be quite unhappy at losing their opener at home and will be looking to take it out on our flightless birds. Here's hoping they don't.

The Pens, for their part, need to play the same game they did on Thursday, with FAR fewer penalties. Even though the Red Wings have lost a few guys (like Shanahan and Yzerman), they still have a highly potent offense. The best bet for the Pens is to keep the Wings off of the PP as much as possible.

The other key ingredient for the Pens is to get their own power play going. Thursday night saw the first two goals by the third line - that's not going to happen with any regularity. They need to get some scoring from their power play, along with the first AND second lines.

Look for Therrien to be somewhat more careful with some of his young guys tonight, especially Letang.

I'm looking for another win so we can start talking about the Pens as playoff contenders! Okay - maybe that's a bit premature... but it sure is better than last year!!

Let's Go Pens!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Penguins 4, Flyers 0


I think that's all I can say. Let me try again...


Maybe I can get some other thoughts out...


Okay. I think I'm better now.

The Pens won what will likely be remembered as one of their more memorable victories tonight. This game had a bit of everything. The stars played well, including Crosby, Armstrong and Gonchar. The grinders played REALLY well, especially Ruutu. The kids played great - both Staal and Letang showed that they belonged (for at least one night). Fleury absolutely answered some questions by making 40 saves and standing on his head at times. The power play wasn't needed, but did generate some pressure. The penalty kill was exceptional.

This game showed a small sampling of the work of Ray Shero in the off season. You could absolutely tell the difference made by having players like Mark Eaton, Dominic Moore and Jarkko Ruutu.

After dumping all of these superlatives on the team, let me just make a few quick points:
  • The Pens took WAY too many penalties. If they don't play more disciplined, they'll be heading down the same dark road they were on last year.
  • The Flyers were not all that sharp, especially for a team that had almost 20 minutes of power play time. They had their chances, but it seemed they could never quite make that perfect setup pass they were trying for.
  • Mark Recchi took two penalties in the first period when the game was still very much in doubt. Your leaders can't do that.
  • It's just one game.
  • Forsberg is a punk (as is Hatcher)

Having said those few things, this was a high-energy, hustling performance that bodes quite well for the rest of the season.

I took a bunch of pictures, though I'm not sure how many will turn out. I'll get some of those up tomorrow, I think.

Next up: Detroit on Saturday.

Lines for the opener

Here are the lines and defensive pairing for the opening game tonight against the Flyers, via the Post-Gazette:

  1. Nils Ekman-Sidney Crosby-Colby Armstrong
  2. John LeClair-Ryan Malone-Mark Recchi
  3. Jarkko Ruutu-Dominic Moore-Michel Ouellet
  4. Andre Roy/Karl Stewart-Jordan Staal-Chris Thorburn

  1. Sergei Gonchar-Mark Eaton
  2. Ryan Whitney-Josef Melichar
  3. Rob Scuderi-Kristopher Letang
Brooks Orpik, according to Therrien, will be out 3-4 weeks (though the team says that no timetable has been set)

Recchi and Crosby will be alternate captains for every game, with Leclair wearing the third A on the road and Gonchar wearing it at home.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Game #1 - vs Philadelphia Flyers

Philadelphia Flyers at Pittsburgh Penguins

The Flyers come to the Igloo Thursday night looking to get their season off on the right foot. The Penguins are trying to make sure they start off better than last season, when they started 0-4-5. It will be a tall order, to say the least.

Last year, both teams were terrible on the penalty kill, near the bottom of the league. Both were better on the power play, with the Pens being quite good (the Flyers were about average). Special teams should be the key to the game - with Orpik out (broken hand), the Pens will need to convert on their power play opportunities, while improving their much maligned PK unit from last year. Both tasks are feasible with the carryover offensive talent and the new additions (Moore, Eaton, etc) on the PK.

I'm looking for a narrow Pens victory with Fleury standing up and making some big saves down the stretch. Of course, I'm also looking for an early retirement with about $4 million in the bank... I'm not sure which is more likely at this point.

I'll be at the game, sitting in section C16, so I should have some good pictures to put up on Friday.

It's opening night at the Igloo!

Let's Go Pens!

Before I forget...

The latest Sign of the Apocalypse comes to us courtesy of Barry Melrose of ESPN who said "The Penguins are going to make the playoffs".

Of course, in the next sentence, he said the biggest surprise team in the East would be Atlanta making the playoffs.

Now correct me if I'm mistaken, but wouldn't you think that Pittsburgh making the playoffs might be a wee-bit bigger of a surprise than Atlanta?

Sabourin claimed, Orpik hurt

Brooks Orpik has a broken bone in his hand and will miss the opener. It's not known how long he'll be out.

Dany Sabourin was claimed by Vancouver, and will backup Roberto Luongo.

Source - Post-Gazette

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Dany Sabourin sent to Wilkes-Barre

Dany Sabourn has been demoted to Wilkes-Barre to make room for Chris Thorburn. Sabourin will have to clear waivers. It would be crappy to lose him - I'm not sure how much of an NHL prospect he is, but he's certainly a good AHL goalie with some hope of playing in the NHL.

Penguins claim Chris Thorburn

The Penguins have claimed Chris Thorburn off of waivers from the Buffalo Sabres.

Thorburn is a right-handed center. This would most likely be the primary reason for the Pens claiming him. He's also still young (only 23) and had a decent year in the minors last year, with 50 points (23+27) in 77 games.

I didn't see anything saying where he'd report to, but I'm guessing the Pens will have to keep him on the NHL roster. This will either put Malkin onto the IR (he would be eligible to come off anytime), or mean that Ouellet or Stewart will be demoted to Wilkes-Barre. Sabourin being sent down is another possibility.

What a difference a year makes...

Just for fun, here's how the 06-07 Pens compare with the 05-06 Pens:

First and Second lines:
  • Nils Eckman - Sidney Crosby - Colby Armstrong
  • John Leclair - Ryan Malone - Mark Recchi
  • John LeClair-Sidney Crosby-Mark Recchi
  • Ryan Malone-Mario Lemieux-Ziggy Palffy

Third Line:
  • Jarkko Ruutu - Dominic Moore - Karl Stewart
  • Matt Murley-Lasse Pirjeta-Konstantin Koltsov

Fourth Line:
  • Michel Ouellet - Jordan Staal - Andre Roy
  • Rico Fata-Maxime Talbot-Ryan VandenBussche

  • Sergei Gonchar - Mark Eaton
  • Ryan Whitney - Brooks Orpik
  • Josef Melichar - Kris Letang
  • Rob Scuderi
  • Josef Melichar - Sergei Gonchar
  • Dick Tarnstrom - Ric Jackman
  • Brooks Orpik - Rob Scuderi
  • Steve Poapst - Lyle Odelein

A few notes:
  • I think we have less firepower in our top two lines this year than we did last year. Anytime you replace two guys named Lemieux and Palffy with two guys names Armstrong and Eckman, you have to be losing something. That's not to take away anything from Army or Eckman - I think they're both capable of 25-30 goals this year.
  • The biggest thing that strikes me is that only 8 of the 20 players listed from last year are still on the team. One more (Talbot) is in the minors.
  • That third line sure does look better, doesn't it? There are players there that can score a bit, like Moore and Leclair (once he rejoins the third line).
  • The fourth line seems a little bit slow to me, with Roy and Ouellet. I'm guessing they don't get much time, which is a shame, because Staal needs some ice time. I'm guessing that Therrien will still find a place for Ouellet on the power play, probably on the second unit.
  • I'm much more comfortable with the D this year. They seem to have much more stability. Orpik, Eaton and Melichar can be the reliable stay at home type of guys, while Gonchar, Whitney and Letang can do their offensive thing. Did you know Melichar was only a -2 for the season last year? That's pretty remarkable.

Penguins 2006-2007 Roster

The official roster for the Penguins is located at their site - www.pittsburghpenguins.com

I'm going to reproduce it here for posterity (and so I can find it easily at mid season, the end of the year and next season), along with what the lines could look like to start the year.

The Pens are carrying 23 players, with 2 on the injured reserve (Cairns and Petro). The breakdown is as follows:

Forwards (13)
  • Nils Eckman - Sidney Crosby - Colby Armstrong
  • John Leclair - Ryan Malone - Mark Recchi
  • Jarkko Ruutu - Dominic Moore - Karl Stewart
  • Michel Ouellet - Jordan Staal - Andre Roy
  • Evgeni Malkin (injured)

Defensemen (7)
  • Sergei Gonchar - Mark Eaton
  • Ryan Whitney - Brooks Orpik
  • Josef Melichar - Kris Letang
  • Rob Scuderi (scratch)

Goalies (3)
  • Marc-Andre Fleury
  • Jocelyn Thibault
  • Dany Sabourin

Injured Reserve
  • Ronald Petrovicky
  • Eric Cairns

When Malkin returns, expect to see Ouellet, Roy or Stewart get scratched. Malkin would center the second line, and things would likely shape up like this:
Ryan Malone - Evgeni Malkin - Mark Recchi
Jarkko Ruutu - Dominic Moore - John Leclair
Michel Ouellet - Jordan Staal - Andre Roy (or Karl Stewart)

Monday, October 02, 2006

Pens sign Jordan Staal and Kristopher Letang

The Penguins have signed Jordan Staal and Kristopher Letang. Both will be on the roster for opening night. Both are aware that they may only be here for 9 games. Hopefully both stick longer, because that means that the Pens will be confident enough to carry them on the roster all year. I think, however, that both will be back in juniors in a few weeks.

Let's enjoy watching them while they're here.

Roster cuts are official

The Post-Gazette has confirmed the earlier report by BlackAndGoldInsider.com.
  • Staal and Letang made the team (assuming they sign contracts by 5:00 pm today). Both can be returned to juniors before playing their 10th game.
  • Welch, Talbot, Carcillo, Pivko and Stone go to Wilkes-Barre.
  • 3 goalies make the roster - Fleury (who will start the opener), Thibault and Sabourin.
I can't imagine them keeping three goalies longer term. If Letang doesn't stick, expect to see Welch back in Pittsburgh, though it's probably not bad for him to be the #1 defensemen in Wilkes-Barre for a little while.

A break in the action for some comedy...

In the middle of the roster moves and signings and season opening preparations, let's take a break for some silly questions with Ryan Malone and Marc-Andre Fleury. Here are the links: Fleury, Malone.

Malone's isn't nearly as entertaining as Fleury's is. Here are some excerpts from MAF's questions:

1) What opponent do you least like playing against?

Can I say (teammate) John LeClair? I never know where he's going to shoot (in practice), and he doesn't either, so that's a problem, I think.

3) While playing a round of golf, what three famous people would you want to complete your foursome?

Tough one. If I say any hot girls, then I look like a pervert! So I will say Adam Sandler. I love him, he's a funny guy. I think he will be a good one. (Teammate) Andre Roy, he always makes me laugh. He's so stupid. And, I don't know, just a pretty girl. I just want to play with a pretty girl.

So, John Leclair has no idea where he's shooting, and Andre Roy is so stupid. Oh, and let's not forget - Fleury just wants to play with a pretty girl (okay - that was taken SLIGHTLY out of context).

Read them for yourself - they're entertaining.

Rumored Roster Cuts

According to BlackAndGoldInsider.com, the Penguins have sent down the following players:
  • Talbot
  • Stone
  • Pivko
  • Carcillo
  • Welch

This means that Jordan Staal has made the team, though B&GI is saying that it's only until Malkin returns. It also means that Kristopher Letang has made the improbable journey from juniors, through rookie camp and regular camp onto the NHL roster.

Others to make it would include Stewart and Ouellet.

We'll see if these prove to be true later today when official word comes from the Pens.

Evgeni Malkin injury update

Dave Molinari has an article in the Post-Gazette this morning about Sidney Crosby. In the notes at the bottom, he has the following:
General manager Ray Shero said he has a timetable for Evgeni Malkin's return from a dislocated left shoulder "in the back of my mind, but I don't want to hold anyone to it." He hopes to have more definitive word on how long Malkin will be out sometime this week.
So, I guess that we can hold out hope that he'll be available for the opener, but I'd rather not see him until he's 100%.

Final cuts to be announced today

According to Karen Price in the Trib, the final cuts will be announced today.

They could be more severe than what I discussed in a prior post - the Post-Gazette had a throwaway line at the end of an article yesterday. According to Ray Shero:
"[Carrying 23] wouldn't be my choice," he said. "We only have nine games in October. My preference would be 22, plus IR, or maybe 21, plus IR, quite honestly. Maybe we'll just carry one extra guy to start. I want to be smart about it."
If they have Cairns and maybe Petrovicky on the IR, that means they'll carry 13 forwards (one extra since Malkin is hurt, and he'd be one of the 13), 7 defense (I think Welch has the team made) and 2 goalies.

I'd love to see them keep Letang, but that might just be irrational on my part. He's only 19, and needs to work on his game. Shero has indicated that both Letang and Staal will be signed this year, if not now, then later in the season. I just hope they can get him (Letang) signed. If it were me, I'd be tempted to keep him on the Pens for the 9 or 10 games, just so he'll sign the contract and the team can get a good look at how he does with the big boys. The only way I can see this changing is if they decide to dump Scuderi. Then they might keep Letang and Welch.

For the forwards, it looks like there are three spots to be had between these guys:
  • Pivko
  • Staal
  • Stone
  • Ouellet
  • Talbot
  • Carcillo
  • Stewart
If it's me, I keep Talbot, Ouellet and Pivko. Stone needs more playing time than he'll get on the fourth line in Pittsburgh. Staal probably should go back to juniors, and Carcillo and Stewart are more in the same mold as Ruutu, Moore and Petrovicky.

We'll see how it shapes up later today. Should be interesting, to say the least.