Friday, March 31, 2006

Penguins 4, Islanders 0

This had to be one of the more boring shutouts I've ever watched. Maybe it's just me after a long week, but nobody really seemed to dictate the play. The Pens were opportunistic (and lucky) in the second, taking a three goal lead into the third. Caron stopped a penalty shot, and boom, that was pretty much the extent of it.

The positives were:
  • It WAS a boring game, which means the Pens played a great road game.
  • Caron played really well, making some key saves early on (he even stopped the Prince of Darkness himself on a short-handed attempt)
  • Gonchar put two up on the board - that can only be good for the team as they're looking to build some momentum
But... what kind of review would this be if I didn't nitpick something? My favorite pet peeve is the selection of the three stars. Deservedly, Caron and Gonchar were the top two. The third star? Rob Scuderi. Huh? I like Scuderi a lot, but I don't get it. Maybe he played the best game ever, or was matched up against Satan all night... but Crosby had three points (including a really nice goal) and Leclair had two. Scuderi had two shots and was even... maybe I just need to pay more attention to the games.

Anyway, next up are the Devils on Sunday, including another showdown with Mighty Mouse.

Let's go Pens!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Penguins response to Governor Rendell

It was basically just like Bill Lumbergh in Office Space saying "Yeah.... I'm going to have to ask you to go ahead and explain how this makes more sense."

As an insurance backup plan, I guess it's okay.

From a financial perspective, this is really frightening. Instead of collecting $290 million up front from a private business, they want to do a 30 year bond issue that would repay, in total, $556 million dollars, with $210 million coming from the 5% tax on slots revenue and $225 million coming from the slots license winner. Does that make sense to you?

I think Ken Sawyer was completely right in pointing out that it would be spending $210 million of state money that would otherwise go to other things over 30 years.

I listened to Governor Rendell on Ellis Cannon's show tonight. Very interesting how he presented what criteria would determine the winner of the slots license. Up until now, everyone had been saying that whichever plan was best for Pittsburgh (and the surrounding area) would be chosen. Tonight Gov Rendell presented the criteria in the following order:
  1. Integrity of applicant
  2. Profitability of applicant
  3. Financial soundness of applicant
  4. Benefit to region
Sounds like some subtle shifting in the favor of the bigger Harrahs, no? Maybe I'm reading into things too much...

Penguins New Arena News

First off, here are the links to the stories that have been printed (that I found upon doing a quick search):
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
WPXI Television
WTAE Television
KDKA had nothing as of 1:00 pm...

It's really interesting if you read all of the articles to see what they choose to highlight. WTAE, for instance, when talking about Lynn Swann's endorsement of Pittsburgh First (and thus, Isle of Capri), seems to equate Swann's opinion with that of Franco Harris, who is simply involved as a financial participant in the Harrahs / Forest City plan (the Station Square group). I'm not sure those two opinions carry the same weight or objectiveness.

Anyway, here are the highlights, as best I can put them together:
The Governor's plan funds the new arena (in the same amount of $290 million) with a 30-year tax exempt bond. The bond would be repaid with annual debt payments in the amount of $18.56 million. That breaks down into the following annual amounts (and bear with me, this is where the numbers get a little fuzzy):
  • $7.5 million annual VOLUNTARY payment from the winner of the slots license
  • $7 million annual payment from the Gaming Economic Development and Tourism Fund (their money is raised from the 5% tax on slots revenue that will go to the state - Allegheny County's share is expected to be $100-$150 million, but the money was supposedly already allocated elsewhere)
  • $2.9 million annual lease payment from the Penguins
  • $1.1 million annual revenue from naming rights to the arena along with beverage sale profits
So that's the general idea. There are a few other things involved in terms of start-up costs (a one time payment of $8.5 million from the Penguins is required), a reserve fund and bond insurance are involved, but nothing earth-shattering.

What blows me away is that the Governor is proposing to take on 30 years worth of debt, with the total amount being repaid equaling $556.8 million dollars. Why on earth would you want to nearly double the amount of money you'd want to spend on this? I think this only strengthens the case for the Penguins, since this is Plan B. If someone else were to win the license, the state would have a tremendous amount of debt to look forward to!

Additionally, the key word on the contribution from the slots licensee is VOLUNTARY (I capitalized it earlier too). This debt payment is over 30 years!! What happens if things change in 5 or 10 years? What happens if slots peter out in that amount of time? What happens of they don't want to make the payments 15 years down the road? This means that the taxpayers will be stuck with the debt. Supposedly, Dan Onorato has met with the other two slots competitors, and they've VERBALLY agreed to a VOLUNTARY payment. Does this seem like a situation rife for abuse to anyone else?

Furthermore, what about using that slots revenue that was already earmarked for other things? Isn't that really just using public money?

In short, I can't see how this could really be considered an option when Isle of Capri is saying "Here's $290 million. We'll put it in an escrow account just as soon as we get the slots license." There's no timing issues... no voluntary payments... no diverting of slots revenue... if the slots license board sees what s**t will be hitting the fan as a direct result of choosing a slots group other than IOC, I can't imagine them thinking it will be what is best for the city, region and state.

The Penguins will respond today at 2:00. More to follow...

Tons of arena news...

Don't have time for a proper post now - I'll do one over lunch. The highlights are:

  1. Gov Rendell is announcing his Plan B today. From what I heard, it is a bond issue, backed up by revenue from slots profits, the Penguins and naming rights / concession sales.
  2. Lynn Swann (Republican candidate for governor) has formally backed the Isle of Capri plan.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Panthers 5, Penguins 3

For some reason, the Panther always takes care of the Penguin. Maybe it's because all the Penguin can manage is a slow waddle, and when there's no water in sight to hide in, the Panther devours the Penguin quickly and easily.

That's the way things seemed tonight. Fleury didn't have a good night, and no one really wanted to play in the first besides Sidney Crosby. After the Panthers jumped to a 4-0 lead in the second period, the tide began to turn. However, I think it largely began to turn because the Panthers started to stay back and force the Penguins to play perfect hockey in order to score.

Congratulations to John Leclair on scoring his 400th goal in the NHL, just the 7th American to score 400. When that happened, late in the second, it looked like the Penguins might be gearing up for another comeback. However, other than a few flashes by Sidney's line (Armstrong and Hilbert with him), most of the Penguin's shots were of the "fire from 40 feet" variety, and relatively easy for Luongo to stop. When the Pens did manage to get some traffic in front and get the puck to the front of the net, they were successful. That was how both Hilbert and Koltsov's goals were scored. Unfortunately, the Penguins were really never back into the game. If they had managed to pull within one, I felt like they might get the energy to get them over the hump. It didn't happen.

Same story, different day.

Noah Welch will most likely be headed back to Wilkes-Barre for the remainder of the season, since his callup was an emergency one to replace Cairns. He showed a ton while he was here, so hopefully he'll get the chance to prove he wasn't just a flash in the pan next year. Between he and Whitney, the Pens have a pair of great young defensemen who can fire the puck and play physical (in Welch's case) and carry the puck up the ice and dish it off with the best of them (in Whitney's case). The future's so bright...

Next up is a trip to Long Island and yet another matchup with the Dark Lord himself. Say a prayer for the players in white!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Canadiens 6, Penguins 5 - the REAL review

Okay, now that I have some time and my photos are uploaded, here is the review of the game:

First off, my general thoughts are that this is a game that the Pens probably should have won. They showed great character throughout the night. They came back from two goal defecits a few times. They outshot the Habs, but they couldn't get over the hump.

I feel compelled to comment on Sheldon Souray - I saw at least two times right in front of me when he finished off a check with the butt end of his stick and fists to the head of one of the Penguins. Malone challenged him to a fight (not one of Ryan's better ideas) and got beat down pretty good. Malone was on the ground, covering his head, and Souray was continuing to hit him in the back of his head! Totally cheap and classless, Mr Souray.

Let's go to some pictures:
Here are a few shots of the Pens during warmups...

Since I refuse to discuss my wife's strange attraction to hockey players (especially the European ones), I'll start with this photo of Crosby and Surovy stretching... just to say "Thanks!" for the nice seats we had (and yes, I did feel kind of dirty snapping a photo like this - the only other people doing so were giggling girls with big hair... and my hair is too short to pretend to fit in!!)

Here's a pic of Ouellet and a few others in warmups...

And one more - this is what Crosby must visualize when he's skating in on a breakaway...

Now, for some shots of some game action (or, more specifically, mostly faceoffs - it's the only time they're moving slowly enough to get a good picture!!)

Here's Welch and Melichar looking in on the play in the Montreal zone...

Here's a faceoff in the defensive zone...

And one at center ice to open the third...

What the heck?

During the game, Kovalev was nice enough to take a penalty, just so he could come and sit in front of us (I didn't have the heart to tell him about The Wife favoring the Euros).

Mr Kovalev, please report to the penalty box...

Please sit calmly with your hands inside the car throughout the ride...

Thank you for riding Take a Penalty and We Score. Please come back again...

Finally, the refs weren't all that great that night. The calls were kind of uneven, to say the least. At times, it looked like the refs were confused.

I know we were supposed to have someone in here...

You go and check by the benches, and I'll wait here...

Why were they checking the benches? Take a look at the scene between periods...

Still don't see why? I'll zoom in for you...

Aha! We have a sabotuer! Into the box with you...

And finally, just to show you the league officials that work the game down on the ice level...

Hope you liked the pictures!

So I'm a slug...

Didn't get a chance to get the post done last night. I'll have it up tonight, as I should be home during the evening.

One of the neat things is I got some decent shots of Iceburg (the mascot) since the guy sitting next to us was a personal friend of the guy inside the suit.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Canadiens 6, Penguins 5

Great game - sucks that they lost - longer post up tonight, with pictures, hopefully. Some of the pictures should be cool - we were sitting right behind the Montreal penalty box (as in, our feet were kicking the back wall behind the Habs when they were in the box).

One quick thought - Sheldon Souray is a punk.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Penguins 4, Islanders 3 (OT)

Didn't see too much of this one (again - darn NCAA tournament!)

I liked what I did see, for the most part. The OT goal was great. Crosby played it perfectly - he and Armstrong had a two on one. Martinek (the Islanders D) gave Crosby too much room to operate with the puck, choosing to way overplay the pass. This allowed Crosby to shift ever so slightly to the middle of the ice and fire a shot to the short side of DiPietro. The interesting thing was that he didn't really go upstairs all that much with the shot - I think it was just faster than DiPietro could get the leather out to catch it. When we saw the replay, it was kind of surprising that Rick didn't make the save. But it was nice to see the Pens get a win.

Noah Welch was the third star for the game, with his first NHL point. Sidney Crosby was named the first star for the first time in his career (surprising, no?) And since I rip the media in other cities when they do this, last night all three stars were Penguins. When you look at the stats, no one on the Islanders had more than one point, but come on - this was a 4-3 game - you mean that you couldn't throw a bone the way of the Isles? Not that it matters...

The interesting thing when you look at the minutes chart is the distribution of minutes. Colby Armstrong is quietly becoming a leader on this team. He led them in minutes played last night, mainly because he plays on the power play and on the penalty kill. Players that are receiving limited minutes include Rita (that was a quick experiment to play him on the top line, wasn't it?), Endicott, Roy, Boguniecki, Ouellet and Surovy. Personally, I'd rather see the young guys play lots of minutes so the team can figure out if they're going to be part of the squad next year. The older guys, like Roy and Boguniecki, I can understand. There are only so many minutes to go around.

Anyway, one last thing about last night. Take a look at ESPN's boxscore via this link - see who they have as the third star? Brings back memories... and not necessarily good ones.

I'll be in attendence at the game tomorrow night, with The Wife springing for some great seats (here's a hint - they're BLUE). I'll be taking the camera and will hopefully come back with some great pictures to share.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Noah Welch called up

Noah Welch has been called up to the Penguins and will be in uniform tonight when the Pens play the Islanders at the Igloo. has a nice article featuring Mr. Welch.

Noah will be paired tonight with Josef Melichar. He was called up on an emergency basis in place of Eric Cairns.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

For those who are dearly departed...

Let's take a look at the success (or lack thereof) of the players the Penguins recently traded, now that they've all had a chance to settle into their new cities and teams:

Mark Recchi - Carolina
7 Games
ZERO points
-4 +/-

He's not playing the big minutes anymore that he was used to in Pittsburgh, but his lack of production is mystifying, since he was coming on strong here in Pittsburgh when he was traded. However, the results for the Penguins have been good, in that the team has been playing better of late without Recchi. Maybe there really was something to the talk about the clubhouse being divided between young and old, with Recchi being the main cause of said division. Carolina as a team has also been struggling.

Dick Tarnstrom - Edmonton
9 Games
1 Goal
3 Assists
-2 +/-

Dick went over and got hurt, missing about a week of action before the Olympic break. His minutes have been sporadic, but he's been coming on a bit lately, scoring all 4 of his points in the last five games.

Ric Jackman - Florida
7 Games
1 Goal
1 Assist
+1 +/-

Ric is getting some time on the power play and playing a decent amount of minutes (though in his most recent game, his time at even-strength was way down). He has two points in his last two games, after notching none in his first five games. He'll likely continue to be something of an enigma as he was here in Pittsburgh, playing really well some nights and struggling to get minutes on others.

That's about it. I know we also unloaded Cory Cross, but he played relatively few games here, and his minutes in Detroit have been limited as well.

I'll have to do this again at the end of the regular season to see how these guys adjust to their teams.

Coming up in the near future - I'll take a look at how the new players we've acquired have performed (hint - keep your expectations low - these guys really haven't done very much).

News Roundup

The Post-Gazette has an article on Jani Rita. Basically, Dave Molinari says that Rita has great potential and tremendous physical skills, which is why he's on the top line with Crosby and Armstrong. He's still quite young (just 24), so it could take some time and patience to allow him to develop into a complete player that can contribute consistently. Fortunately, the Penguins are in a position to deliver both (time and patience). To me, he's a more talented version of Rico Fata, Max Talbot or Koltsov.

The Trib has an article on Alain Nasreddine, who I've really liked since he's been here. He seems to be a great stabilizing force on the blue line for the Pens. Alain is a +2 in six games (he hasn't been a minus in any game yet), and is playing a reasonable amount of minutes as well. Of course, this is mostly by necessity these days, since Ryan Whitney hasn't been playing, and Eric Cairns has a habit of getting kicked out of games. But if Nasreddine can continue his solid play, he can earn himself a spot on the team, I think. He and Rob Scuderi can fill the defensive defensemen type of role, while allowing Gonchar and Whitney to jump into the play more offensively. Orpik and Melichar, I guess, would fill the tough, physical guy role.

Overall, I like the defensive balance now a whole lot more than I did early in the year when we had Jackman, Tarnstrom, Whitney and Gonchar all on the blue line.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Senators 5, Penguins 2

I saw most of this one. It was the Pens season in a microcosm, especially during the second period.

Colby Armstrong makes a great play short-handed, knocking the puck loose. Ryan Malone gathers it, waits and makes a great pass back over to Colby for the short-handed goal to tie the game at 1-1. Cheers abound (at least in my house - the cats were running for cover). SEVENTEEN SECONDS later, the Pens allow a goal on the power play. It hit off of Koltsov's foot / stick and caromed over Caron's left shoulder. Bad luck for sure.

Later in the second, the Pens are on the power play. They get a second penalty called on the Senators. On the ensuing faceoff (when they have a two man advantage), they get called for hooking (a rather notorious "even-up" call if you ask me). This leaves them with a 4 on 3 advantage, with Alfredsson coming out of the box. As soon as that advantage expires (come on - everyone in the world knows what happens next - how the Pens didn't know is beyond me), the Sens have control of the puck and get it to Alfredsson, who has a breakaway. Caron stops the initial shot AND the rebound attempt. Remarkable. Alfredsson takes the puck behind the net and hits a trailer (forget who it was) who shoots the puck on the ice to the far side of Caron, scoring the goal. Unbelievable. To be able to make two great saves like that on Alfredsson and then not stop the follow-up shot... very frustrating. Of course, Gonchar didn't get anywhere near close enough to the shooter either.

Before you start thinking "at least the Pens didn't give up a shortie to those bastard Senators", let me correct you. On the power play late in the third, somehow (inexplicably) only down 4-2, with a chance to pull within one goal, Gonchar takes the puck in deep. He loses it, Crosby can't hold it and it's a race between the Sen's penalty killer and Ryan Malone (Ryan rotated back when Sarge went in deep). I like Ryan Malone. I really do. He's never going to win the World's Fastest Skater award. He might not even beat the tortise on some nights. Tonight was one of those nights. Breakaway... goal... Pens down 5-2... game over.

I did miss the funny business with the low hit on Crosby, but I saw that Surovy received a fighting major, which is yet another sign of the apocalypse. It makes me glad that Max Talbot is safely across the state, because if Surovy got a fighting major, Max probably would have been arrested for assualt and battery. Evidentally the hit was a cheap shot, but again, I didn't see it. Assuming it was, then I may have to add the Senators to my list of teams I love to hate. First Alfredsson opens his big yap and takes shots at Sidney Crosby, and then they take a cheap shot at him. A classy team would just go out and prove they're better on the ice. Maybe Alfredsson should take a page from Crosby's book, learn not to talk about other players and shut up for once. It might improve how hockey players are perceived.

Anyway, enough whining for tonight. Good effort for the most part (as usual)... bad result. Tomorrow is another day.

Game #69 - at Senators

Quick preview - not much time.

Sens are really good at home (25-6-1). They've scored more short-handed when playing against the Pens than the Pens have scored on the power play. I'm guessing the Pens will want to play even strength as much as possible.

Whitney might play - he aggravated his neck in practice yesterday.

Look for some pluck from Crosby tonight - Alfredsson is the player who talked about Ovechkin being tough and playing through the clutching and grabbing, "not like the other rookie, who starts crying". Here's hoping for a breakout performance from Sid - he has one point in his last two games.

Let's go Pens!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Maple Leafs 1, Penguins 0

One penalty shot. That was the difference in this game. Kilger goes short (stick) side on Fleury and beats him. You can't really fault Fleury for that one, but it sure would have been nice if he could stop it. Both goalies were great, making several huge saves and making them look easy.

Of course, there were several other weird occurances that made this game special. The Penguins missed taking a one goal lead after one period by about two tenths of a second when the period expired before the puck slipped under the goalie's pad and into the net.

Then there were the two power outages, which helped the Penguins kill off a five minute major taken by Eric Cairns. That was bizarre. Of course, the lovely Pittsburgh fans, who "wanted to beat the traffic" headed for the exits during the second power outage, which left only a large contingent of Toronto fans in the building. Sucks when you have to listen on TV to chants for the other team in your home arena.

Ryan Whitney was hurt and didn't play. No word on how serious his injury is. It's evidentally a strain in the neck area. Eric Cairns replaced him and took the major penalty, earning a game misconduct as well. This had the Pens playing with five D, which can't have helped their efforts to get a goal late.

Next up is a game on Tuesday at Ottawa. Should be loads of fun.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Penguins 5, Canadiens 4

This was a game that actually made me turn away from the NCAA tournament. Great end to end action, a great flukey game winner by Andre Roy, and a great high energy game.

First off, the latest sign that the apocalypse is upon us - Andre Roy scores a game winner in the third period. Armstrong made a great play to keep the puck in the zone and got the puck to Crosby. Sidney showed great vision and saw Roy coming down the slot and got him the puck. The weirdest thing about the goal is the only reason it went in was because Roy was hooked and never got to make a move on the puck. Aebischer moved to his left, anticipating the move / shot by Roy and the puck went in just inside of the post to his right.

The Pens were outshot badly, especially during the second period. They hung in there and played their game. It paid off. It helped, of course, that the Canadiens were squeezing their sticks and talking to themselves quite a bit, almost entirely due to the play of Marc-Andre Fleury.

Fleury was absolutely incredible, especially during the third period, making huge save after huge save. He has really grown up this week, and tonight topped it off. In the past, where we've seen Fleury give up the late goal at a crucial time, tonight, we saw him find a way to make the saves that were needed to win the game. He was the #1 star, and deservedly so.

One last thing - I'd like to congratulate the Canadiens media who vote on the three stars - all three were Penguins. I think in a 5-4 game, the media in Philly or New York would have found a reason to make the home team have two of the three stars. I know it's really unimportant, but it's one of my pet peeves...

Quick turnaround - game tomorrow at home against the Leafs. Preview up tomorrow, if I can get to it before the Pitt game at 12:10... :)

Game #67 - at Canadiens

Pittsburgh Penguins at Montreal Canadiens

Pittsburgh - 16-38-12 - 44 pts - Last in NHL (7 pts behind)
Montreal - 31-25-9 - 71 pts - 8th in East

Is anyone paying attention to the NHL right now? What about in Pittsburgh? I'm guessing not too many people are... with the Yinzers just getting over their Super Bowl hangovers, and Pitt in the NCAA tournament (with a real chance to make the Sweet 16, thanks to Bradley knocking off Kansas), there isn't much room to spare for the Pens right now. But that's okay - we'll persevere.

Tonight, the Pens take on the Habs, who are struggling to hold onto the final playoff spot. The Thrashers are breathing down their necks, as are the Islanders and Maple Leafs to a lesser degree. They've lost two straight games at home, including most recently to the Hurricanes, who they would face in the first round if the season were ending today.

The Canadiens are led by Alex Kovalev, who the Penguins tried to sign before the season started. See this article by Dave Molinari in the Post-Gazette. The headline is a little bit deceiving - if you read the article, it basically says that Kovalev was getting ready to sign with Montreal and the Pens asked what he was looking for. He replied, and the Pens were unable to match that, so Kovie signed with the Habs. When you look at it, it was a smarter move for the Pens. They signed Ziggy Palffy instead at $3.5M for three years, instead of the $4.5M Kovalev wanted. Had Palffy not retired, he would certainly be ahead of Kovalev in scoring, and I'd argue that Ziggy was better at minding his own zone that Kovie, who I remember as usually being quite uninterested in back-checking.

Anyway, Marc-Andre Fluery will face the opposing goalie from his first NHL start a few seasons ago, Huet. The ironic thing is in that game (versus the LA Kings), the Pens allowed 47 shots while only mustering 11 of their own. Sound familiar? Let's hope there's no repeat tonight...

Let's Go Pens!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Devils 2, Penguins 1

14 shots. What else is there to say? 14 shots!!! Ugh. That's really not good. I didn't get a chance to see much of this game, but I did catch bits and pieces. Fleury seemed to be playing well. Crosby seemed to get beat up pretty badly, with the refs doing nothing, of course. You wouldn't want to protect the future of the NHL, would you? Sometimes the lack of vision of the zebras is astounding, both on the ice and in the bigger picture. Last night I saw Crosby take a knee to the head and an elbow to the head - no call either time. Kind of disappointing. Would be interesting to see how much penalties are being called now versus earlier in the season, and see how the rate of change compares with other seasons.

Anyway, the Pens still had a chance to win (or at least tie) this game, but just couldn't get things going. They had tired players on the ice at the end of the game, and couldn't get the clock stopped to call timeout. They never really threatened once they pulled Fleury.

Next up are the Habs on Saturday, followed by Toronto on Sunday.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Game #66 - at Devils

I haven't been doing previews as much lately, mainly due to time constraints. However, when I noticed that this was game #66, how could I pass it up?

Tonight, the Penguins go for three in a row. They couldn't have picked a worse goalie to go against. Brodeur has been chased from two straight games, by the Pens and Islanders. He's going to be ticked. He's the best goalie in the world. I'd love to see the Pens beat him tonight, but I'm thinking it's more likely we'll see the Brodeur we saw in the first game of the season. To get some past him, the Pens will have to do it the ugly way - get lots of shots with traffic and put in some cheap rebounds.

The Devils as a team are slumping a bit right now. They've lost three of four games against non-playoff teams. They're not going to be much fun to play tonight. Of course, the key is always to stop Mighty Mouse!!

For the Pens, Colby Armstrong will try to continue his point streak. It's currently at 8 games (5 goals, 7 assists). Leclair and Malone will try to get back on the board after having their point streaks stopped in the win over the Flyers.

The Pens haven't won three in a row all year. They're picking a good time to play better - not only are they building momentum for next season, but they're also not really gaining ground on the Caps or the Blues for the fewest points in the league - both teams have earned some points recently, with the Blues going 6-1-3 in their past 10 games. Best of both worlds if you ask me (though nobody did...)

Let's Go Pens!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Rendell has arena plan?

According to KDKA Radio, Gov Rendell said that there is a plan he hopes to announce within a few weeks. Of course, this would involve public money in the form of tax dollars, which is something that would not be required under the Isle of Capri plan.

Looks like hearing people chant "Let's go Pens!" each time he comes to Pittsburgh is starting to help him understand the quandary of giving a slots license away to repay political favors. What will be interesing will be the fallout from any plan that is proposed. My biggest question for the Governor would be "why are you proposing to build an arena with public money when the issue of the slots license hasn't even been decided yet?"

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Penguins 2, Flyers 0

The Penguins played their best game of the season tonight, in my opinion.

The team took advantage of the chances they had, got some great play from Marc-Andre Fleury, were the beneficiaries of a little bit of luck, and killed the penalties they had to kill.

Both goals by the Pens were in close to Esche. The first one, scored by Armstrong, was a rebound that he stuffed in. He was in the right place at the right time and took advantage of his chance. The second one was a result of a poke check steal by Rita. He poked the puck away from the D (Pitkanen, I think), raced down the right side and handed the puck off the Crosby. Sid waited and found Armstrong trailing the play. He passed the puck to Armstrong, who buried the shot on the far side of Esche. Great steal, great pass, great goal.

The Pens then killed off a minor + major penalty with about 10 minutes left in the third. Andre Roy was the recepient of a cheap shot by Dimitrakos and immediately retaliated the only way he knew how - by attempting to bludgeon the Flyers defensemen with his fists. Needless to say, this was not popular with the skating zebras, and Roy was given two for roughing and five for fighting ("It's not easy... to be... me" - bonus points to anyone that gets that reference). The Pens not only killed off seven straight minutes of short-handed hockey, but I think the Flyers only had a handful of shots the entire time.

Anyway, it's great to see the Pens playing well. They've won two in a row, and appear to be building some momentum in playing their system. I'm kind of conflicted about that right now, however. I'm not sure I wouldn't rather see them finish last and have the best shot at the top pick. I guess there's nothing like winning, however, so we should be happy while we have it.

Next game is Thursday against the Devils, who I'm sure will be oh-so-happy to see the Pens again. I'm not sure yet how much I'll see of this game - it is the opening night of the NCAA tourney... though Pitt doesn't play until Friday (boy - did they get rooked with a #5 seed, or what?)

Penguins 6, Devils 3

I saw a graphic during the game that said that this was the first time the Penguins have won two games at home against the Devils in the same season since 93-94. That goes to show you how bizarre statistics can be.

I didn't see much of this game - I was busy developing my ulcer watching Pitt lose to Syracuse. I did get to see some of the beginning (up until the Pens were up 3-1) and a few other assorted parts.

The new guys played tonight - Hilbert, Nordgren and Nasreddine (just called up from Wilkes-Barre). Nordgren didn't play all that much, but Hilbert stepped right in and played over 15 minutes. He contributed too, earning the second star for the night and two points.

The Pens continue to build for next season too, getting goals from Crosby (2), Malone, Ouellet and Armstrong. Even Surovy chipped in two assists. Gonchar continued his improved play with two helpers of his own. All of this bodes well for next season, in my opinion.

The only really telling statistic is that the second leading scorer on the team is still Palffy, and for the season, it will likely be Gonchar. The Pens have some big time scoring problems with their forwards, and that will need to be addressed. Hopefully Ouellet and Armstrong can turn into solid players (not sure what to think of Surovy yet), and the arrival of Malkin will get things going in the right direction. I just can't help but think that this team could really use a few veteran wingers that can score. Unfortunately, the Pens have either traded them or had them retire. The off-season will be interesting to be sure.

Tonight the Pens play the Flyers in the second half of a rare home-based back to back.

Let's go Pens!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Trades, Trades Everywhere!

Ya know, I come home and make dinner, and the next thing I know, two more trades were announced (thanks, Will for pointing that out in the comments). Here are the deals:

Ric Jackman to the Florida Panthers for center Petr Taticek.

Cory Cross to Detroit for a fourth round draft choice.

Neither of these trades are significant for what they bring back. Looking at Taticek, he is a former first round choice (9th overall) who has never done much. He's still young, but I'm going to guess that he will be in Wilkes-Barre for some time to see if he can turn into something.

The trades are significant for what they send out. The Penguins roster for defensemen currently looks like this:

They didn't trade for any D, and we haven't seen Cairns play more than eight or nine minutes all year. What does this mean? I'm going to guess that we're going to see Noah Welch here in Pittsburgh. Looking at the roster for the Baby Pens, I'm not sure who else would be coming up. You'd think they have to recall at least one D, maybe two.

Mark Recchi traded

The Penguins traded Mark Recchi to the Carolina Hurricanes today for two players and a draft pick. Before I say anything about who the Pens received in return, I do have to say that it's disappointing to see a player like Recchi be traded. He was producing and playing at a fairly high level, and apparently wanted to be here in Pittsburgh. They won't be able to replace him easily. (Thanks to Will for the heads-up in the comments!)

In exchange, the Pens received 26 year old winger Niklas Nordgren, 24 year old center Krystofer Kolanos, and a second round pick in 2007.

Nordgren just came over to America this season, starting in the AHL and making his way to the NHL. He's a little bit older for a rookie (26), but he did just come over from what I'm guessing was the Sweedish Elite League. More importantly, he has good offensive skills and is a right handed shot, something the Pens are a bit short on lately.

Kolanos is a story we've all heard before (it's quite familiar to the Pens) - former first round pick that hasn't panned out. He's been in the league for four seasons (and he's just 24) with Phoenix and Edmonton. His playing time and productivity have trended downward since his rookie season. He has good size, but simply hasn't been playing many minutes. He'll go into the mess the Penguins have at center behind Crosby and Malkin.

You have to wonder how the organization feels about Erik Christensen, given that the team has traded for a center in Kolanos and picked up a second center via waivers in Andy Hilbert from Chicago.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Capitals 6, Penguins 3

First off, I'm sitting here watching Pitt kick the stuffing out of Louisville in the first round of the Big East Tournament. Go Panthers!

Okay, now about the Pens game...

The game was entertaining, and the Pens certainly made a contest out of it. However, they were thwarted by themselves too many times. Caron made several big saves, but also allowed several softies, including maybe the softest goal I've ever seen. When Ivan Majesky took the puck on the penalty kill in his own zone and heaved it up into the Penguins zone, it rolled and bounced towards the net. Caron, instead of coming out and playing the puck, stayed back and waited for it to come to him. What could happen did happen and Caron was eaten up by the bouncing grounder (it rolled gently to his left and into the goal). It was incredible, and not in a good way.

Couple the goaltending woes with the tendency to take minor (meaning dumb) penalties, and the Caps were able to win the day. The Pens were able to stay in the game and compete pretty well (I thought) despite being outshot by 41-25.

Other positives I saw included:
  • Shane Endicott winning 9 out of 10 faceoffs... but still only playing 7:35. I think he's still skating around on one leg. Next year is when his time will come.
  • Jani Rita is showing signs that he can be the next speedster to play for the Pens, following in the proud tradition of Rico Fata and Koltsov. The puck seems to stick to him a little bit better.
  • Speaking of Koltsov, can someone work with him on his skating and puck control this summer? He has world class speed and seemingly unlimited energy, but he can't stay on his skates or keep the puck on his stick. He was called for diving tonight, when he was really just skating normally. By the way, how can you have a trip AND a dive? If it was a trip, then it wasn't a dive, right? And vice versa, one would assume. More great intelligent work from the incredible braintrust that are the NHL referees.
Did I mention Go Panthers? Back to the second half in hoops. Next Pens game is Saturday, I believe.

Game #63 - at Capitals

Pittsburgh Penguins at Washington Capitals

Pittsburgh - 14-36-12 - 40 pts - Last in East
Washington - 21-33-6 - 48 pts - 14th in East

The Penguins have a chance tonight to sweep the season series against the Capitals. They've won each of the three previous times, kicking around Ollie the Goalie in the process.

The Caps, on the other hand, look to continue their decent play of late - they're 2-1-1 since the Olympic break.

Of course, the real reason to watch this game is to see Ovechkin vs Crosby. The matchups thus far this season have proven to be quite good (for the Pens), and any questioning I had about Crosby hitting the rookie wall is gone after last night's performance. Let's see if he can put up two in a row.

Let's go Pens!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Erik Christensen sent down

Yesterday, the Pens sent Erik Christensen back down to Wilkes-Barre.

It's probably better for him to get some more experience in the minors so he can develop consistency and confidence. I think he could be a good offensive player in the NHL, especially with the puck handling skills he's displayed and the shot he has. Hopefully he keeps building on that and returns to Pittsburgh next season ready to win a job.

Shane Endicott was in the lineup tonight in Christensen's place.

Lightning 5, Penguins 4 (SO 2-0)

This was the third straight game where the Pens were down early and had to come roaring back in the third period. Tonight they were down 4-1 and scored three to send the game to overtime, where they finally lost in a shootout. They had several nice chances throughout OT to try to put the game away, but could not do it.

Why was Jani Rita the first shooter in the shootout? Was Therrien trying to catch lightning in a bottle or something?

Did anyone see the play that Sidney Crosby made late in the third? The Lightning were threatening and Fleury was caught out of position, so Crosby came flying in behind Fleury and stacked the pads against the goal pipe behind Fleury. Turns out that the shot hit the outside of the net, but maybe it hit the outside of the net because the shooter tried to say a little wider with Crosby sliding across. No matter - it was inspiring to see. It tells me that this team (or at least Sidney Crosby) still has heart.

The Pens play again tomorrow night in Washington. There's been nothing like those Capitals to cheer the Pens out of a slump this season... will tomorrow be the same?

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Hurricanes 7, Penguins 5






Other than that, it was a great game! Of course, that's like saying that if not for those pesky atomic bombs, the Japanese came out of WWII in great shape.

Nice to see Recchi get the hat trick. Also nice to see the offense generate some consistent pressure.

A few other things that jumped out at me:
  • Ryan Malone really is starting to play better. He just seems so much faster on the ice now than he did earlier in the season. His development really bodes well for the Penguins for the future.
  • Cam Ward really isn't terribly good yet, is he? I know he kept the Pens off the board early in the first, but he also allowed several softies that got the Pens back into the game.
  • Speaking of softies, neither Fleury or Caron was ready to go last night, but I don't think Caron should have been yanked after allowing the two power play goals in the first. Neither one was really a bad goal.
  • Crosby doesn't seem like the same player right now. Maybe he's hitting the rookie wall a little bit.

This game really spoke to the lack of consistency shown on a regular basis by this team (at least they're consistent about something). Hopefully this is something that will come with time.

Up next is a game on Tuesday against the Lightning.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Game #61 - vs Hurricanes

Carolina Hurricanes at Pittsburgh Penguins

Carolina - 41-14-4 - 86 pts - First in East
Pittsburgh - 14-35-11 - 39 pts - Last in East

At first glance, this would look like a huge mismatch. The Hurricanes should stomp the Pens, right? Except that the Penguins went into Carolina and beat the Canes just before the Olympic break. Plus, the Hurricanes could be a little bit overrated. They are tremendous at home (26-5), but of their remaining 23 games, just 9 are at home. Their road record is much more human (15-9). This is a team that will need to prove it can win on the road. They'll be looking to do that beginning tonight in Pittsburgh.

You should watch the game tonight, if only for a chance to see two of the best young players in the game in Sidney Crosby (of course) and Eric Staal of the Hurricanes. Should be exciting.

Let's go Pens!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Senators 4, Penguins 3

Wow - this one was exhilirating, yet frustrating. To summarize somewhat quickly (since this is being posted late):
  • The Pens spot the Senators a four goal lead going into the third, only to come roaring back, thanks to... Andre Roy and Jani Rita? I can honestly say that's a sentence I never thought I'd write.
  • The Pens outshot the Sens 30-26, though how many shots do you need to take when leading by four goals?
  • The Pens didn't take many penalties - they faced just four short-handed situations. They allowed goals on two of the four. Not cool.

Overall, it was an exciting third period to watch. You could feel the energy the team was playing with and sense that they had the momentum. Why can't the produce like that for an entire game? When they figure out how to put it all together, they could be scary.

As for the lateness of my post, work is nutty. Clearly, I need to rethink my priorities if work is getting in the way of posting on the blog...

Next up are the Canes on Saturday night.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

New arena plan proposed

According to this article in the Post-Gazette, the Allegheny Institute has come up with a plan, supposedly, to fund an arena with private money. Check out the article, but basically it goes like this:

1. Gather private investor money either through partners or incorporating and issuing shares. Add this with naming rights and get $100-150 million.
2. The remaning $150-200 million needed "could be generated through the sale of seat licenses, luxury box rentals, concessions, in-arena advertising and event fees".

Not to sound harsh, but did someone really get paid a salary to come up with this?

The Penguins, to their credit, are basically saying "look, our plan is with Isle of Capri, and it doesn't use public taxpayer money", which is what they should be saying.

Myself, I have no such illusions of nobility, so I'll take issue with a few things:
  • Where the heck were all of these plans when the Pens were telling anyone who would listen that they need help with this? All they were told was "There is no public money". There was no impetus to work on other private arrangements. Now that they're in an exclusive agreement with IOC (Isle of Capri), every Tom, Dick and Harry (replace with Dan and Ed as needed) has a "great idea".
  • Naming rights, accoring to the article, won't really generate much. Last time, Mellon paid $18 million for 10 years. Assuming they can get that again (which is a big assumption since hockey isn't what it was back then), they still would need $80-130 million in private investment funds. Easier said than done.
  • Even dumber (if that's possible) is the suggestion to use all of the things that would make the team financially stable and competitive to pay for an arena.
It's getting tiresome watching all of the local figures and organziations cover their butts on a regular basis, just so they can say "We tried to keep the team here, but they just wouldn't talk to us. We did everything possible."

Oh - forgot to mention - I did a bit of investigating on my own about the concerts at the Chevrolet Amphitheatre. I have a bit more to do, but I'll have a post up in the next day or so about it.

Game #60 - vs Senators

Ottawa Senators at Pittsburgh Penguins

Ottawa - 37-14-5 - 79 pts - Second in East
Pittsburgh - 14-34-11 - 39 pts - Last in East

The last time the Pens played the Sens, it was obvious just how wide the gulf was between one of the best teams in the league and one of the worst. Tonight, we get to see how much difference a month (almost) makes. I'm guessing the difference won't be much.

The Pens are at full strength for the most part, with no significant injuries, and Michel Ouellet returning after missing a few games. Erik Christensen will also be with the team.

For the Senators, the big news is the injury to Dominik Hasek. The Pens will face Ray Emery tonight in net. The Senators also had seven other players in Turin, so they may be a little tired.

The Pens start their final stretch of games - they have 23 remaining. Last year, the team went 12-5-3 in their last 20 games. Is there a similar stretch coming this year? I wouldn't be surprised, but then again, I've been guilty of unfounded optimism in the past...

Let's go Pens!