Monday, December 31, 2007

Game #39 - Winter Classic - at Buffalo Sabres

Pittsburgh Penguins (20-16-2, 42 pts) at Buffalo Sabres (19-16-2, 40 pts)

Sid needs to put on a show for the national audience.

Miller needs to stand tall if Buffalo is to stop their 3 game losing streak.

This game is a showcase of hockey for North America, or at least the part of it that is sick of college bowl games. The game is at 2:00, which will put it up against the Capital One Bowl (Michigan / Florida) and the Gator Bowl (Texas Tech / Virginia). The competition isn't too stiff, eh? Maybe they'll jump over at halftime and see some of the first period and get hooked.

The other big factor for this game, outside of the teams, is the weather.

Oh the weather outside is frightful...

It's possible the game could be delayed if there's enough snow, but I'm guessing they'll do whatever is necessary to play. The chance is there for some big snow, but that will just make for better TV viewing.

On the ice, this one should be simple for the Pens. Don't get too caught up in the hype, keep it simple, and drink some of whatever you had prior to the 2-0 win over the Sabres on Saturday. Take the play to the Sabres and stay aggressive.

The game will be on NBC at 1:00. I'll be watching. You should too. [Edit - the game is at 1:00 - I previously had said 2:00 by mistake]

Let's Go Pens!

WWGRD - Minister - Part 2

Here's another look at the life Gary Roberts might have had if he were a minister instead of a hockey player. This clip appears to be from the Daily Show. Witness the power of his coat!

Still looking for volunteers for the lightning rod...

NHL Picks - 12-31-07

Record last night: 0-1
Record this month: 25-21
Record this season: 63-55

Last night the Kings provided the latest sign of the apocalypse, winning a second consecutive game on the road, in Chicago. Can they keep it up? Probably not, but at least it's entertaining.

Eight games today on Ice Bowl Eve. I'm picking two.

Nashville at Dallas - Nashville has struggled away from home. That's not good going into Dallas. Go Stars.

St Louis at Detroit - The Red Wings are pulling away (heck, they're sprinting away) from everyone else. They're unstoppable right now. Go Wings.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Penguins 2, Sabres 0

This was a great tightly-played game. The goal scored by the Pens was pretty lucky (prior to the empty net goal at the end), but they had lots of good scoring chances. Here are the highlights (if you're reading this via RSS, you may not be able to see these - you'll have to click through onto the site). If you pause the video, you can see how the pass from Crosby to Army went just under the right skate of the Sabres defenseman, who was laid out flat on the ice.

The teams were pretty even in their effort for the evening, though I'd say the Pens had the higher quality scoring chances. Ryan Miller could easily have been one of the stars of the game.

Ty Conklin played well. He didn't have to make any spectacular saves, but he made all of the saves he should have. I think the best save of the night was made by Daryl Sydor on a puck that was trickling towards the goal line. It is in the highlights.

The fact that he didn't need acrobatics speaks volumes about the quality of the play in front of him. The Pens, as a unit, were very thorough in their defensive responsibilities. They were better than we've seen them in some time.

They were also very good on the penalty kill, though I think some of that is because they match up well with a team like the Sabres, who like to play more of a puck control, finesse type of game.

Gary Roberts broke his leg on a rather innocent collision with Connolly. He'll be out for quite a bit.

I still think teams are shooting high on Conklin on purpose. He's handling it pretty well, but he does give up some nice rebounds on those shots. So far, he's been able to cover them up...

Overall, this was a nice warm-up for the outdoor game on Tuesday. The Pens will need to continue their solid team play to win that one.

Next up: The aforementioned Winter Classic on Tuesday afternoon.

NHL Picks - 12-30-07

Record last night: 2-2
Record this month: 25-20
Record this season: 63-54

Last night, the Avs and Sens both lost at home to the Kings and Caps respectively. How bad is that? That's why picking NHL games is tough - when you have what might be the two best teams at home in the NHL lose to two teams that might be the worst in the league... ugh...

Just four games on the schedule today. I'm picking just one.

Los Angeles at Chicago - I don't think the Kings can do the road win thing twice in a row. Go Blackhawks.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

NHL Picks - 12-29-07

Record last night: 0-0
Record this month: 23-18
Record this season: 61-52

No picks last night. Montreal went in and killed Florida, which is never an easy task in the Sunshine state.

Heavy schedule tonight, with 13 games on the slate.

Washington at Ottawa - I know the Caps are playing better, but the Sens won't be as bad as the Pens were on Thursday. Go Sens.

Los Angeles at Colorado - Great home team (Avs) against really bad team (Kings). Go Avs.

Edmonton at Minnesota - The Oilers are slumping, and Minnesota is great at home. Go Wild.

Detroit at Phoenix - This one makes me a bit nervous, as Bryzgalov can win the game by himself, but Detroit has been a machine lately. Go Wings.

Game #38 - vs Buffalo Sabres

Buffalo Sabres (19-15-2, 40 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (19-16-2, 40 pts)

The Pens and Sabres are both teams that had disappointing starts and have recovered.

The Sabres low water mark was on November 15th, when they lost to the Senators to drop to 6-10-1. Since that game, they're 13-5-1. They're still really streaky, and they've lost two in a row, so with any luck, the losing will continue tonight and Tuesday.

The Pens hit the bottom of the barrel at almost the same time. On November 21st, they were 8-11-2 after losing to Jersey. Since then, they're 11-5-0, and they've won two straight.

Both teams are involved in a four-way tie for the last four playoff spots in the East.

The Pens power play has goals in three straight games. The PK hasn't allowed one over the same span (after their amazingly bad streak of 11 goals allowed in 32 chances over the previous 5 games).

Let's Go Pens!

Friday, December 28, 2007

NHL Picks - 12-28-07

Record last night: 3-0
Record this month: 23-18
Record this season: 61-52

Wow. I'm on quite a roll. 11-2 since picking all 8 games on December 23rd. I'm a season-high 9 games over .500 (I think it's a season high, at least). Maybe I should stop now... naah! This is for fun anyway.

I am going to stop for the day, however. There are only four games on the schedule tonight, and I don't like any of them.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Penguins 4, Capitals 3 (OT)

First, here are the video highlights for the game.

Take a look especially at how wide open the net is for Gonchar on the OT game winning goal. It's because Sid was walking out in front of the net and Kolzig slid to his right with his glove on the ice. Not sure if he tripped or was just expecting Sid to shoot, but great pass by Crosby either way.

If I'm a Caps writer / blogger, I'm lamenting the fact that the Caps let the Pens off the hook tonight. They had the Pens on the ropes big time. If not for the dumb roughing penalty that Morrison took on Malkin late in the third, the Pens are probably wondering how they lost to the Caps at home tonight.

However, I'm a Pens blogger, so I'm glad they managed to get two points they really didn't deserve. They were really pretty fortunate.

The Pens took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission, and when they came back out, it was like they couldn't do anything right. They suddenly couldn't get the puck up the ice consistently. They couldn't even exit their own zone much of the time, and they were starting from a stationary breakout. It was really pretty bad.

I can't remember the last time I've seen a team successfully pressure the Pens as much as the Caps did tonight. It seemed that every time the Pens went to make that second and third pass out of their own end, there was a Caps player right there in their face.

The Caps dominated the game by shutting down the Pens from the second period until late in the third. They scored twice to take a 3-2 lead, and it was only because they're not very good or deep offensively that they weren't able to add more to their lead.

Late in the third, as I mentioned, Morrison took a totally unnecessary roughing penalty (on Malkin, I believe). Dumb play, to say the least. The Pens top power play seemed to wake up and threw everything and the kitchen sink at Kolzig. He stoned them. When they left the ice with 10 seconds left on the penalty and the second power play unit took the face off, I thought sure the game was over. However, Sydor threw a relatively harmless slap shot at the net. It appeared to deflect off of a Capital and in it went. The Igloo went nuts (myself included).

In OT, the Pens controlled the puck pretty much from the beginning until Gonchar scored the game winner. Craziness ensued.

Thanks to Hoss for the dinner at the Sonoma Grill before the game. The Wife and I had never been there. I'd recommend it.

Thanks to the Pittsburgh Pirates for continuing their losing ways and forcing me to buy tickets to a hockey game (due to losing a bet with Hoss).

Next up: the Sabres come to town Saturday night in the warm up for the Ice Bowl on New Year's Day.

NHL Picks - 12-27-07

Record last night: 2-0
Record this month: 20-18
Record this season: 58-52

Last night continued the improbable comeback in my record for the season. I'm also now over .500 for December. There has to be a way to mess this up... :)

There are 10 games scheduled tonight. I'm going with three:

Washington at Pittsburgh - I'll be at this game, so I'm picking the Pens to win. Go Pens!

Tampa Bay at Montreal - The Bolts have been El Sucko recently. They should have trouble with the Habs. Go Canadiens.

Islanders at Ottawa - It's the Sens, and they're at home. The Isles have been struggling to score. Go Sens.

Game #37 - vs Washington Capitals

Washington Capitals (14-19-4, 32 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (18-16-2, 38 pts)

The Pens get back to it tonight at the Igloo against the Caps. The Caps have been struggling, losing four of the past six. The only two games they won in that span were a pair of 3-2 wins against Tampa Bay. The Dolts are the only team in the east that might be worse than the Caps.

Having said that, the Caps are just 6 points out of the 8th playoff spot. The Eastern conference is a land of mediocrity this year, with only the Sens and Devils being more than 7 games over .500 (the top 5 in the West are at least 7 games over).

This is a game the Pens need. They need to get back over .500 at home. They desperately need the two points, especially since they don't seem to be able to win against anyone in their own division. They also need to get their special teams going in the right direction, and the Caps are a good opponent to do that against.

I'll be at the game tonight, hopefully with my camera.

Let's Go Pens!

Mark Eaton - Torn ACL

According to the Post-Gazette, Mark Eaton is out indefinitely with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

This will open up a spot for Brooks Orpik, and someone will likely be recalled from Wilkes-Barre. We could hope for a chance to see Golgowski or Lannon, but most likely it would be the old standby, Alain Nasreddine.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

NHL Picks - 12-26-07

Record Sunday: 6-2
Record this month: 18-18
Record this season: 56-52

Wow - a 6-2 record for the day. That's pretty nice. Maybe I should pick all of the games every day... okay - probably not. Let's stick to the current formula.

There are nine games on the schedule tonight. I'm going with two:

Nashville at Chicago - The Hawks are playing well. I think that will continue tonight. Go Hawks.

San Jose at Los Angeles - The Sharks are tough, and the Kin

Monday, December 24, 2007

Penguins 4, Bruins 2

Not a great game, but a good one.

The Pens did what they had to do to win the game. They came back, despite allowing the first goal, and took a 3-1 lead with two quick goals in the second period.

The game was typified by the work turned in by the line of Roberts, Laraque and Christensen. They weren't flashy. They got the puck down low and out-worked the Bruins, maintaining possession. Then they took their chances and converted them. That was the difference in this game - the Pens converted on their chances.

A few notes:
  • Eaton was hurt again on a cheap slu-foot (or is it slew-foot?) move by Marco Sturm. Someone needs to have a conversation with Mr. Sturm the next time the Pens play the Bruins.
  • The Bruins were shooting high on Conklin early, and it paid off on their first goal. Ty seems to have some trouble on the high shots to his body, and he was giving up rebounds. I wonder why he doesn't catch the puck instead of letting it hit him?
  • The Pens took the lead on a much-needed power play goal. Finally, a power play goal at an important time.
Next up: The Caps come to the Igloo. I'll be in attendance. Woo hoo!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

NHL Picks - 12-23-07

Record last night: 1-2
Record this month: 12-16
Record this season: 50-50

Well, I hit the 50 win mark. The only downside is that I hit the 50 loss mark at the same time. Here at Igloo Dreams, the glass is half full (until I finish my Vanilla Coke, and then things are bleak).

It's a busy Sunday in the NHL, mainly because there are no games until Wednesday. I'm delivering a special Christmas gift and picking EVERY game today. Please note, this is a gift only if you're following this for entertainment value only. If you're using it for advice, I'm not sure gift is the term I'd use to describe these picks.

Boston at Pittsburgh - I have to go with the Pens, of course. They're the subject of this blog.

Nashville at Columbus - Nashville has won 10 straight over the Jackets. I think that changes today. Go Blue Jackets.

Atlanta at St Louis - yeah, the Thrashers have won four straight. They're due for a letdown, right? Go Blues.

Edmonton at Chicago - Chicago, on the other hand, will ride the momentum of a road win in Ottawa to a win over the Oilers. Go Hawks.

Ottawa at New York Rangers - The Sens have another little losing streak going. MSG is a good place to rectify that. Go Sens.

New Jersey at Calgary - The Flames have won only 7 out of 19 at home (7-7-5). Go Devils.

Montreal at Dallas - The Stars are too tough at home. Go Stars.

Vancouver at Colorado - The Canucks are good on the road, but the Avs are better at home. Go Avalanche.

There you have it. Eight games, eight picks.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Game #36 - vs Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins(18-13-4, 40 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins(17-16-2, 36 pts)

Zdeno Chara barely fit onto this card - he's that tall

Crusher has goals in two straight games.

The Pens get a chance to prove they can beat the Bruins without being spotted a four goal lead. They also get a chance to avoid a losing streak, thanks to their home loss to the Isles on Friday night.

The Pens now have a losing record at home (7-8-2). This needs to change - the Igloo should be a place where it's tough to play for the opposition, not for the home team.

One major aspect that needs to change is their physicality. They got credit for 14 hits against the Isles on Friday, but I don't know where more than three of those happened. They weren't finishing their checks in the offensive zone. It was a poor display.

The power play also needs to get better. They are just 2-25 over the past five games, and had more than one power play goal in a game only twice since Halloween.

Let's Go Pens!

NHL Picks - 12-22-07

Record Thursday: 1-1
Record this month: 11-14
Record this season: 49-48

Just hanging over the edge of the .500 mark still. I need to get back to even for the month of December, and there's not much time left. Let's pick a few games.

Busy night tonight in the NHL - 11 games. I'm not crazy about many, but I'll pick three.

Toronto at Florida - Kitty Cats roar at home. The Leafs have been inconsistent at best this year. Go Panthers.

Los Angeles at Nashville - The Kings are my new favorite whipping boys. Go Predators.

Chicago at Ottawa - Yeah, it's the Sens. The Hawks will be hurting. Go Sens.

Islander 4, Penguins 2

Let's play the blame game, specifically about those four goals the Pens allowed last night.

I'm putting the first two squarely on the shoulders of Dany Sabourin. I know the D backed off on Satan (who wouldn't back off of the Dark Lord), but you need the goaltender to make that save. Hilbert's goal is certainly on Sabourin. I know it was a 3-on-2, but it wasn't a tap in, it was a wrister from 15-20 feet.

The third goal, though it was a bad angle, was certainly on the defense. When you have Hilbert in front of Sabourin and Comeau with a straight look at the net, something's wrong. No one got in front of the unfortunately named Blake Comeau, and no one bothered to move Hilbert. Not good.

The fourth one was dumb luck, and wasn't the fault of anyone in particular.

All of this is to say that there was no reason for the Pens to lose that game. They only managed 5 shots in the third period, which again is troubling, but they had a 2-1 lead and it was 2-2 going into the third. Ugh.

Next up: Sunday afternoon for the first time this season as those wonderful Bruins visit the Igloo.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Game #35 - vs New York Islanders

New York Islanders (15-15-2, 32 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (17-15-2, 36 pts)

The Pens are coming off of a road win in Boston where they were fortunate to escape with two points. The Islanders have been anything but fortunate lately.

The Isles' high water mark for the season was when they beat Ottawa on 11-28 to go to 13-8-1. Since that time, they're 2-7-1. They're still struggling to put pucks in the net. They haven't notched more than two power play goals in a game since October. They've allowed 34+ shots in five of their past six games.

All of this goes to say that the Pens should win this game. They need to win this game. They have to get some victories within the Atlantic division.

The next 7 games are critical for the Pens. They play six at home (the one that's not is the New Years Day game against the Sabres) against some weaker competition (including Washington and Florida). Time to earn some points!

Let's Go Pens!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Penguins 5, Bruins 4 (OT - SO - 2-0)

I think the Pens just don't know how to play with a lead right now. They took what should have been a commanding lead, 4-0, halfway through the second period. They couldn't hold it for 30 minutes... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

First off, does anyone else think Andy Ferrence looks like Mini-Me next to Zdeno Chara?

The Pens came out with some effort in the first and it paid off. Malkin and Crosby were reunited (and it felt so good), and it paid immediate dividends with three first period goals. Conklin made the saves he needed to make and the Pens had a 3-0 lead.

During that period, Chara and Laraque got into a fight. They each threw one punch and fell to the ice. The refs were in an insulting mood and only called it Delay of Game. Not sure how it's delay of game when they both throw a punch, but whatever. They both get out of the box and go for round 2, and the same thing happens (one punch and down they go). This time, it's 5 for fighting. I guess the refs were the only ones not wanting to see round 3.

In the second, Crosby dropped the gloves for the first time in his career and fought Andrew Ferrence. He did pretty well too, making sure that Ferrence lost his helmet and throwing some rights. I'm not sure either play connected with any punches, but Sid did okay. He also threw more punches than Chara and Laraque did in both of their fights combined.

The Pens built a 4-0 lead which the Bruins had cut to 4-2 with two goal in the last 5 minutes of the period. You'd think that might inspire the Pens to ramp it back up a few notches in the third, but they were out shot 17-4. That's pretty bad. The Bruins came all the way back and tied it.

Not much happened in OT, and in the shootout, the Pens were dominant. Christensen and Letang made Thomas look like a flopping fish, with both of them going over the goalie to score (Letang's goal was especially impressive). The way these guys are handling the shootout, the Pens have a serious advantage.

Random notes:
  • Crosby had the Gordie Howe hat trick (goal, assist and fight).
  • Army had three assists and was +4.
  • Christensen scored in the game and in the shootout, but most impressively, played over a minute on the penalty kill! Maybe he's finally turned the corner and is ready for a bigger role...
Next up: at home Friday night against the Islanders

NHL Picks - 12-20-07

Record last night: 1-0
Record this month: 10-13
Record this season: 48-47

Those Red Wings have been good to me the last few times I've picked them. I think I can forgive them losing at home to Edmonton.

Tonight there are 9 games. I'm going with two:

Ottawa at Atlanta - The Thrashers have been struggling since their turnaround. The Senators are still great. Go Sens.

Toronto at Tampa Bay - Toronto has been dominant over the Bolts, but I'm going with the upset. Go Lightning.

Game #34 - at Boston Bruins

Pittsburgh Penguins (16-15-2, 34 pts) at Boston Bruins(18-12-3, 39 pts)

The Bruins have been inconsistent lately, which is a familiar story to Pen's fans. They're also second from the bottom in killing penalties (though the Pens are trying hard to catch them).

The Penguins, for their part, have been unable to put the puck in the net with any kind of regularity. They've scored more than three just once in the month of December. When they get good play from between the pipes, that's okay. When Sabourin struggles, things get ugly in a hurry. Lately they've been ugly.

The Pens need a better effort than the one they showed on Tuesday in New York. I'm betting they'll come through.

Let's Go Pens!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

NHL Picks - 12-19-07

Record Monday: 1-0
Record this month: 9-13
Record this season: 47-47

Back to .500 for the year. That's a good start. Time to get back over that mark.

Just picking one game tonight.

Los Angeles at Detroit - The league's closest equivalent to a sure thing lately, the Wings should dominate the Kings. The Wings haven't been quite so smooth at home lately, losing to Edmonton and needing a shootout to beat Washington. That changes tonight. Go Wings.

Rangers 4, Penguins 0

Two periods. Five shots. One loss.

The Pens need to work on their consistency.

They also need to decide if Sabourin is the answer for the next few months.

They also need Dave Molinari to quit writing about them. Dave had this to say in the Post-Gazette about this loss:
it established a new level of ineptitude against which the Penguins' most wretched showings for the rest of this season can be measured.
What's up with that?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Game #33 - at New York Rangers

Pittsburgh Penguins (16-14-2, 34 pts) at New York Rangers (16-13-3, 35 pts)

The Rangers are struggling right now, there's no doubt. They've lost five of their past six games, three of those at home, to drop to 16-13-3 overall. Where they were once dominant at home this season, they're now just okay (10-7). Their power play is struggling, and their PK is erratic. Heck, even Lundqvist has been uneven lately.

This is all to say that the Pens have an opportunity tonight to pick up some lost points on the road against a division opponent. Given their record against divisional opponents so far, they could use them.

Let's Go Pens!

NHL Picks - 12-17-07

Record last Thursday: 1-2
Record this month: 8-13
Record this season: 46-47

Last time I did any picks (last Thursday), I had a few that I thought were pretty strong. Then Detroit lost at home to Edmonton and St Louis lost at home to Florida. Blech. It's been a tough run for picking games lately.

There are two games on the schedule tonight. I'm really liking one of them:

Washington at Detroit - Maybe I didn't give the Oilers enough credit last week. If the Caps win tonight, I'll be shocked. Or at least surprised. Go Wings.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Penguins 3, Islanders 2

The Pens had this game, allowed the Isles to tie it, took the lead again and then tried to give it away while playing most of the last five minutes on the power play.

The Pens peppered DiPietro with 40 shots, which is a great way to win a road game.

Tyler Kennedy with a 3 point night.

Connor James saw his first action after being called up from Wilkes-Barre.

All three of the Pens / Islanders games have ended 3-2. The Pens have been on the right end of that score twice.

Next up: off to New York to play the Rangers on Tuesday.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Game #32 - at New York Islanders

Pittsburgh Penguins (15-14-2, 32 pts) at New York Islanders (15-13-2, 32 pts)

The Islanders can't score, and the Pens haven't been able to stop teams from scoring. Immovable object and irresistible force? Nah. Just two struggling teams trying to break of of their collective funk.

The Pens are having a rough time for the past few games. Sabourin has allowed 8 goals in the past 50 shots he has faced. On top of that, the Pens have lost 4 in a row on Long Island.

The Isles, on the other hand, are having all kinds of problems scoring goals.

Let's hope the Pens can get back on the right track tonight.

Let's Go Pens!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Senators 4, Penguins 1

Completely missed this one. I'd recommend going to one of the fine Penguin blogs on the right side of the page to get the lowdown. I know I will.

The Pens need to be careful that this doesn't turn into a slump after getting the season turned around.

Next up: at Long Island on Saturday night.

NHL Picks - 12-13-07

Record last night: 1-1
Record this month: 7-11
Record this season: 45-45

Last night in the NHL:
Mark Recchi scored twice for Atlanta. It didn't matter - they still lost.

I wasn't going to do any picks tonight, but there are a few games I can't pass up:

Edmonton at Detroit - Can you say David vs Goliath? Go Wings.

Florida at St Louis - Kitty Cats don't play well away from home. Go Blues.

Los Angeles at Dallas - The Stars are tough at home, and hey, they're the Kings, right? Go Stars.

Game #31 - vs Ottawa Senators

Ottawa Senators (19-7-3, 41 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins(15-13-2, 32 pts)

No mini-jersey or cards today. Just a shot of the Senators heading for the bus after practice:

The Sens are back on a roll after their recent 7 game losing streak. They've won three games in a row, all on the road. Ray Emery was the starter for all three games, but he was hurt last night in Carolina, so we'll probably see Martin Gerber, who stopped all the shots he faced in relief of Emery last night.

The Pens get the chance to show that their debacle on Tuesday was an aberration. Winning the game tonight would be a great way to make that point.

Fleury is out for 6-8 weeks, and Talbot is also out for an extended period (2-4 weeks, I think).

That's all I have time for right now.

Let's Go Pens!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

NHL Picks - 12-12-07

Record last night: 0-2
Record this month: 6-10
Record this season: 44-44

Last night in the NHL:
  • Both of my picks lost in a shootout. Blech.
  • Ben Eager still won't fight Georges Laraque.
There are seven games tonight, and I'm not going to let the recent picking struggles hold me back. Onward with the losing! (or not losing, hopefully)

Boston at Atlanta - The Bruins are due for a letdown, because Auld just isn't that good. Atlanta is bound to be ticked after losing the Washington. Go Thrashers.

Los Angeles at Chicago - The Hawks have been struggling. They've lost four in a row. The Kings are the perfect antidote. Go Blackhawks.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Flyers 8, Penguins 2

The Flyers handed the Penguins their worst defeat of the season tonight. The Pens didn't take defeat lying down.

Five Penguins received game misconduct penalties, mainly because they continued to take shots at the Flyers. Some were bright, some... not so much (like Laraque's safe call at second base in taking out Martin Biron)

I'm not even going to talk about the actual game, because that was over by the end of the second period. What I would like to talk about is the location of Ben Eager for the last 17 minutes of the third period.

Eager really rocketed the funny business into high gear with a blatant elbow into the face of Georges Laraque, though the refs amazingly lost their whistles and were unable to call him for a penalty. Laraque reacted and dropped the gloves, but Eager, the tough guy that he is, kept his gloves on.

Eager wasn't going to get off the hook, however, and before he could leave the ice, Gary Roberts intercepted and enacted a bit of revenge. After some well-televised exchanges between Laraque and Eager in the penalty box, I was psyched to see Laraque use Eager as a human punching bag (because, if Roberts could beat him pretty thoroughly, what would Laraque do?)

So what happened then? The Tough Guy Flyers, who have been warned by the league to cut down on the cheap shots, were unable to handle things man to man, and didn't put Eager back on the ice for the rest of the game. What a complete wuss-out of a move. Eager was probably hiding under the bench. That's the only reason I can think of not to put him back out there.

It's probably good for little Ben that he wasn't back out there - Laraque had gone psycho by that point (for the first time in his Penguins career). He broke his stick over Rory Fitzpatrick on a cross-checking penalty, and then repaid Mary Biron for gesturing to Crosby to come and fight by taking his legs out. Not very bright, but I think it was kind of like Nuke Lalooshe hitting the mascot in Bull Durham - you never know what Georges is going to do next.

Remember the feeling that 8 games are too many against divisional opponents? Scratch that. I want the Flyers back soon. The end of January is too long to wait. Maybe they can schedule an exhibition, like they do in soccer. In soccer, they're called a Friendly. In our relevant nomenclature, we can call it a Bloody.

Man, do I hate the Flyers.

Next up: The Pens better keep the bad mood - the Sens are coming to the Igloo on Thursday.

NHL Picks - 12-11-07

Record last night: 2-1
Record this month: 6-8
Record this season: 44-42

Last night in the NHL:
  • Vancouver decided to start Curtis Sanford and paid for it with a loss.
  • Toronto killed Tampa Bay.
  • Dallas went to OT to beat Edmonton.
There are five games tonight. I'm picking two:

Edmonton at St Louis - The Oilers lost last night, why not pick them to lose tonight? Go Blues.

Tampa Bay at Montreal - See the previous game for my rationale. Go Habs.

Game #30 - at Philadelphia Flyers

Pittsburgh Penguins (15-12-2, 32 pts) at Philadelphia Flyers (15-10-2, 32 pts)

Don't look now, but the Pens are within three points of first place New Jersey in the Atlantic. The dangerous thing is that they're closer to the bottom of the division than they are to the top. The Islanders are sitting with 30 points in last place. The Atlantic is currently the most competitive division in hockey.

The Flyers opened the season 6-0 at home, but are 0-3-2 since then, and Biron has been shaky in those games. The weakness appears to be that the Flyers allow a bunch of shots. That's how Biron can have an excellent save percentage (.924) and a not quite as excellent GAA (2.61).

For my part, I'm just hoping the Pens can get the win tonight so none of those Flyers fans can go through the holiday season holding out hope of a revenge sweep on the part of the Flyers.

The game is on Versus, which is to say, the announcers will likely be poor and the camera work will likely be worse.

Flyers blog - eager to go psycho
There aren't many Flyers blogs out there, so I'll point you at this one. Kristin is looking forward to booing Sid. I'm looking forward to missing Hatcher (he's not playing, right?)

Let's Go Pens!

Monday, December 10, 2007

WWGRD as a minister?

If Gary Roberts were a minister, he might operate something like this... (the video is about two minutes long). There is sound on this, but it's probably SFW.

Someone want to hold the lightning rod?

NHL Picks - 12-10-07

Record Saturday: 0-2
Record this month: 4-7
Record this season: 42-41

It's been a bad month so far. I'm within one game of the .500 mark for the season. Ouch. Let's see if I can do better today.

Edmonton at Dallas - The Oilers had been playing better until they ran into the Penguins last week. Dallas has lost two in a row at home. It won't go to three games at home. Go Stars.

Tampa Bay at Toronto - The Leafs are usually quite successful against the Bolts, who really struggle away from home. Go Leafs.

Vancouver at Los Angeles - The Kings have lost 6 out of their past 8 at home. The Canucks are playing well. Go Canucks.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Penguins 2, Canucks 1 (OT - SO - 2-1)

This was another terrific, exciting hockey game. The Western Conference really knows how to play hockey. They skate, use speed and keep the play going. Play tends to be more up and down, rather than the grinding, clog the neutral zone stuff that we usually see in the East (like the Isles, Devils, Caps and Lightning).

The game was 1-1 at the end of regulation. Sykora had a great goal off of a nice saucer backhand feed from Laraque. Not an easy goal to pull off, but they managed to get it past Luongo. For the Canucks, Kesler had a great individual effort to score.

There were two reasons the game was tied going into the shootout:
  • The goalies were incredible. Both matched each other. Luongo probably made the better saves, but Sabu played really well. Luongo stopped Crosby on a penalty shot in OT, mainly because Sid couldn't get the puck up on his backhand attempt.
  • Neither power play could score, despite numerous chances.
In the shootout, Crusher was back in the lineup and calmly resumed making goalies look stupid. Trevor Linden knotted it at 1 for the Canucks, using what had to be Old Man Magic. That set the stage for the hero from the Calgary game, Kris Letang. This guy is for real. He made Luongo look pretty bad and used a nice forehand move, sliding the puck just under Roberto's glove. That was the ball game.

Orpik and Hall were the scratches. Nice to see Therrien keeps rotating the scratches around for now. I know it's probably situational, but it helps to keep everyone involved, IMHO.

Next up: at Philly on Tuesday

Saturday, December 08, 2007

NHL Picks - 12-08-07

Record last night: 0-0
Record this month: 4-5
Record this season: 42-39

Last night in the NHL:
  • San Jose is hot, winning their fourth straight, including three tough road games (Colorado, Dallas and Phoenix).
  • Florida beat the slumping Islanders.
  • The other NY team is bad lately too. They lost to Atlanta.
There are 9 games on the schedule tonight.

New York Islanders at Tampa Bay - The Isles are struggling. Tampa Bay is dominant at home this year. Go Lightning.

Buffalo at San Jose - The Sharks have won four in a row. Buffalo has been destroyed on this road trip. Go Sharks.

Mark Recchi claimed by Thrashers

Mark Recchi was claimed off of waivers by the Atlanta Thrashers.

The 50% off sale was successful. The Pens will be responsible for half of Recchi's salary for the remainder of the season.

I hope Recchi is successful. Just not against the Pens.

Game #29 - at Vancouver Canucks

Pittsburgh Penguins (14-12-2, 30 pts) at Vancouver Canucks (16-10-2, 34 pts)

The Canucks are on a decent hot streak. After their last home loss in regulation on November 1st, they were sitting at 5-8 and couldn't win at home to save their lives. Since then, they are 11-2-2 and haven't lost in regulation at home (they do have two losses in OT and the SO).

How have the Canucks been winning? Mainly through good play by Luongo. He had three consecutive shutouts in his previous three home games. That's about as good as it gets.

If there's a silver lining to the recent gaudy numbers put up by the Canucks, it's that they are just 1-2 against the Eastern Conference. They also aren't an offensive powerhouse. They've only reached 30 shots in a game three times all season.

The Pens have been pretty hot in their own right. They're 7-2-1 in their past 10 games. They've also reached two games over .500, which is their high-water mark for the year. If they can win this one, they'll have a 3-0 west coast trip, which would also be terrific.

To beat the Canucks, the Pens need to take advantage of their chances. The Canucks don't take many penalties, but their PK is weak by Western Conference standards. When the Pens get onto the power play, they need to convert.

Canucks blog - Canucks Hockey Blog
See their game day preview and some local links about Crosby coming to Vancouver.

Let's Go Pens!

Friday, December 07, 2007

NHL Picks - 12-7-07

Record last night: 0-2
Record this month: 4-5
Record this season: 42-39

Last night in the NHL:
Boy, did I have a bad night. Both of my picks were smoked. Buffalo lost 8-2. Yikes!

I'm abstaining from making any picks for tonight. It's too close to game time, and I'm still smarting from last night. I should have some courage for Saturday's games.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Penguins 3, Flames 2 (OT - SO - 2-1)

I think this is what hockey is supposed to look like. The third period and overtime were fast, well played and exciting. Each team had some great chances, there was some big hitting and some great goal tending.

It's a good thing the Pens and Flames don't play regularly, because I think Gary Roberts and Dion Phaneuf would wipe each other out, with the resulting explosion wiping out several city blocks.

The Flames had the lead, 1-0, after one period. Malkin tied the game on a wicked wrist shot in the second period on the power play. Iginla got his second of the game on the power play to give the Flames the lead, 2-1, going into the third.

The only reason this game made it to OT was because Ryan Malone, with the Pens on the PK, won a battle along the boards with one guy, chipped it past a second and blew past a third on his way to a breakaway goal against Kiprusoff.

OT was exciting, but uneventful, in that no goals were scored.

In the SO, Sykora puts a nasty move on Kiprusoff and roofs the puck. Let's hope this can kick-start his play in regulation. The guy can't buy a goal right now.

With the score tied 1-1 in the SO, Letang had the chance to win it. He used a sick move and flipped the puck off the back hand over the right leg of Kiprusoff. If you haven't seen the goal, you need to watch the highlights on when they're posted. It's worth your time.

  • Fleury started, but was hurt during the game. No word on him yet.
  • Orpik's minutes are really down with the Pens dressing 7 defensemen again.
  • Iginla played over 26 minutes! That's big for a forward.
Next up: one more stop out west, in Vancouver on Saturday night. It's a late start, eh?

More Recchi Madness!

So Mark Recchi was assigned to Wilkes-Barre. He'll be put on re-entry waivers on Friday, according to the Trib.

If someone claims him on re-entry waivers, they'll be responsible for half of his salary, which is $1.75 million. Ostensibly, they'd also be responsible for half of his $250,000 performance bonuses as well, should he achieve them.

If no one claims him on re-entry, I can't imagine the Pens keeping him. He'll likely be cut outright.

The articles in the local papers (Trib, Post-Gazette) have a few significant differences. Here's what jumped out:
  • The Trib has the information on the re-entry waivers on Friday, but they have a clueless headline writer. The article on the website was titled "Pens assign Recchi to AHL, but will he go?" What the heck? The point was never to actually send Recchi to the minors, right? This is just the 50% off sale.
  • The Post-Gazette continues to mention that this is Therrien's fault, according to Recchi's agent, in their Penguins Notebook. The Trib hasn't said word one about it that I can find. I can't decide why this is, except that the Trib seems to have a closer relationship with the team.
  • Finally, I'm not sure why no one will come out and say what is happening: the Pens are dumping Recchi. He most likely won't play with the team again. The day they put him on waivers sealed his fate. It's a pretty straightforward procedure from this point. See the top of this post if you're unsure on how it goes.

NHL Picks - 12-6-07

Record last night: 2-1
Record this month: 4-3
Record this season: 42-37

Last night in the NHL:
Anaheim decided maybe they do want to play and beat Buffalo at home.
Phoenix and Ottawa broke their losing streaks.
Philly pulled off an impressive win in Minnesota.

There are six games tonight. I'm picking two:

Toronto at New York Rangers - The Leafs have been playing better, but the Rangers are tough at home. Go Rangers.

Buffalo at Los Angeles - They both lost last night. Buffalo is the better team, by far. Go Sabres.

Game #28 - at Calgary Flames

Pittsburgh Penguins (13-12-2, 28 pts) at Calgary Flames (11-13-4, 26 pts)

The Pens stay on the West Coast for a game tonight against Calgary. They've finally managed to get back over .500 and are now 6-2-1 in their last 9 games. That's something to build on.

The Flames have been inconsistent this year. They've run off two different periods of impressive play, a 6-1-2 run and a 4-2 run, but they've also had a three, four and five game losing streak. They just snapped their four game losing streak by beating St Louis.

The Flames are the worst penalty-killing team in the Western Conference. They've tried to fix that by taking fewer penalties, which is a great idea. In their last three games, they've only had to kill 6 power play chances. They only killed four successfully. Not a great percentage, but not as big an impact.

I'd imagine we'll still see Fleury tonight, after Sabourin floundered in Toronto on Saturday (at least, I hope so - Fleury is playing well).

Flames blog - Five Hole Fanatics
Check out the review of the recent win over the Blues, which was more lopsided that the score would indicate.

Let's Go Pens!

Penguins 4, Oilers 2

These late games are too much for me. I only watched the first period or so, so I missed all of the good stuff in the third period, but that's what the highlights on are for, right?

From what I saw, the Pens played a better offensive game last night. During the first, they were able to generate quality scoring chances multiple times at even strength. If you give the Pens enough chances, they'll burn you eventually, which is exactly what happened last night.

The Pens finally broke through in the third, scoring four times to win the game in comeback fashion.

With Gonchar returning from injury, the Pens went with 7 defense, and only 11 forwards. The end results was one of the more balanced games I've ever seen in terms of ice time. No one played less than 12 minutes (okay, Crusher was at 11:59). That's probably the best the Pens have done recently. Normally, there are a few guys that play between 3-6 minutes, especially on the fourth line (usually Laraque, Ruutu or Christensen). That's really important for the Pens going into the game tonight against Calgary - they're not completely over-used.

Nice win on the road against a team that had been playing well. Let's hope they keep it up.

Next up: Another one that's past my bedtime. At Calgary on Thursday.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

NHL Picks - 12-5-07

Record last night: 0-0
Record this month: 2-2
Record this season: 40-36

Last night in the NHL:
Ottawa doesn't have a goalie right now. Both Gerber and Emery are losing.
Detroit won in Montreal in surprisingly easy fashion. Hasek only had to make 15 saves (he allowed one goal)

Big night tonight - there are 12 games scheduled.

Ottawa at Florida - The Sens will break their streak tonight with a win over the inconsistent Kitty Cats. Go Sens.

Philadelphia at Minnesota - The Wild are too tough at home. I'm not sure the Flyers are for real yet. Go Wild.

Los Angeles at Phoenix - The Coyotes come back from a miserable road trip. You know what they say about the first game back after a long road trip? Neither do I. It's the Kings - they're pretty bad lately. Go Coyotes.

Recchi clears waivers

Mark Recchi has cleared waivers. I'd expect that the Pens will assign him to Wilkes-Barre and then recall him, thus enabling the 50% off holiday sale. No one wanted him at his full cost ($1.75 million), but on re-entry waivers, he can be had for about $900,000. What a deal!

The interesting part is that in the Post-Gazette article this morning, Dave Molinari leaves no doubt that Recchi's agent (Rick Curran) places the blame for this on Michel Therrien. Curran says that Therrien has been excluding Recchi from the lineup and wasn't going to give him a chance to play.

The Trib article doesn't even mention Therrien.

Is it because the Trib has a much closer relationship with the Pens? Or is the Post-Gazette blowing things out of proportion?

Either way, this is just about over. The only question yet to be determined is how much of Recchi's contract the Pens will be responsible for.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Game #27 - at Edmonton Oilers

Pittsburgh Penguins (12-12-2, 26 pts) at Edmonton Oilers (13-14-1, 27 pts)


I decided to go Old School with the cards for this game. If anyone doesn't know why I chose Sittler, you need to get with the program!

The Pens are starting to roll. What a time to go on a road trip to the far reaches of the western time zones. That means late nights are coming up.

The Oilers have been able to get their act together lately. They've won three in a row, and five of their past 6 games. Their power play is the worst in the NHL, though they have managed at least one in each of the last three games.

After hearing about the great ice in Edmonton on the telecast on Monday, it will be interesting to see just how good it is. The Pens have the speed to skate with the Oilers, that's for sure.

Oilers blog - Black Dog Hates Skunks
I picked this one based completely on the dog photo that accompanies each post. The writing is good too, but the dog puts it over the top for me.

Let's Go Pens!

NHL Picks - 12-4-07

Record last night: 1-0
Record this month: 2-2
Record this season: 40-36

Last night in the NHL:
  • The Pens came through with a nice 3-1 home win.
  • Every other road team won last night, including Carolina over the Rangers and San Jose over Colorado!
There are four games tonight. I'm not touching them, though I am tempted by both Detroit and Ottawa. Picks will be back tomorrow.

Mark Recchi on waivers

According to TSN, the Pens have placed Mark Recchi on waivers.

At this point, it's all about trying to get some other team to claim him and pick up some or all of his salary. I can't imagine he'll actually play for Wilkes-Barre.

If someone claims him on this round of waivers, they claiming team will be responsible for his salary.

If no one claims him, he can be assigned to Wilkes-Barre. Should that happen, he would likely be recalled immediately and have to go through re-entry waivers. During that phase, the claiming team would only be responsible for 50% of his salary.

If no one claims him on either set of waivers, the Pens will likely cut him, much like they did with John Leclair last year.

It's a shame his career has to wind down this way. I always like to see guys go out on their own terms. The Pens have to do what's right for them, however, and Ray Shero is making his feeling known pretty clearly at this point.

I think the emergence of Tyler Kennedy as a viable player has helped to speed this along.

Hopefully someone will pick up Recchi and play him.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Penguins 3, Coyotes 1

I thought this was going to turn into a game from 03-04, with the Coyotes playing the role of the Penguins.

The Coyotes are clearly challenged offensively, especially on the power play. They managed only nine shots through the first two periods, and 18 for the game. They managed to finally get a power play goal, but they were unable to generate any kind of sustained pressure throughout the entire game.

The Pens, for their part, were unable to convert on numerous power play chances during the first two periods. The thing is, they weren't unable to score because of their own play. I think it was largely the play of Bryzgalov. He was really good tonight. I'm surprised he wasn't one of the three stars.

The Pens finally did break through on the power play in the third period to break a 1-1 tie. Crosby faked a shot, freezing just about everyone in the building, and threw a pass across to Letang. The most impressive part about the shot by Letang was that he didn't try to one-time the puck. He took a split second to settle the hard pass before firing it into the empty cage (Bryzgalov got a stick on it anyway, amazingly).

Great win for the Pens. They stuck with their system and kept working. They received scoring from three guys that aren't counted on to score. They also received some great goal tending. Most of all, they received a win.

Next up: To the West Coast! The Pens play Edmonton on Wednesday night.

NHL Picks - 12-3-07

Record Saturday - 1-2
Record this month: 1-2
Record this season: 39-36

Over the weekend in the NHL:
  • How did Anaheim get shut out AT HOME by Edmonton?
  • The Isles picked the wrong time to sit DiPietro. Why not rest him on the tail end of a back-to-back last Thursday in MSG? If I were an Isles ticket holder, I'd be unhappy. Paying big money to see your backup goalie give up 4 in the first on Saturday night isn't a good time.
  • The Sens have lost six in a row. Looks like they're not as good as everyone thought, eh?
There are six games tonight. I'm only taking one:

Phoenix at Pittsburgh - I still wouldn't normally pick the Pens, but I feel pretty good about this one. Fleury returns to the net, and the Pens win.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Game #25 - vs Phoenix Coyotes

Phoenix Coyotes (11-13-0, 22 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (11-12-2, 24 pts)

Last year, the Pens (11-10-4) played the Coyotes in game #25, in Phoenix, crushing them 7-2. This year, under similar circumstances, the Pens hope to replicate the results.

The Coyotes got a nice bump from picking up Bryzgalov off of waivers, winning four games in a row. That surge appears to be over, as they've lost three in a row since then. They have been a decent road team so far this year, but all three of the recent losses were on the road.

The Pens will try to get back on track after a poor effort in Toronto on Saturday. I'd expect to see Fleury back in net for the Flightless Birds. He's been solid lately.

I'm wondering when we'll see a resolution to the Mark Recchi situation. You can't imagine they'll keep scratching the guy. Shero seems to have more respect for his players than that. Just look at the way he handled the John Leclair situation last year. Something will happen soon, I think.

I'm also wondering when we'll see Sergei Gonchar back in the lineup. I'm thinking that with all of these games packed in tight, they'll take their time with him. You don't want him to be hurt worse than he is now, and 4 games in 6 nights doesn't lend itself to a good groin recovery (not that I'm an expert on groins or anything...).

Coyote blog - One Fan's Perspective
Check out their preview of tonight's game. PB says tonight is a must-win for the Coyotes to have a nice finish to their poor road trip.

Let's Go Pens!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Maple Leafs 4, Penguins 2

I'm sitting here watching Pitt try to hang on against West Virginia, and I'm thinking the Pens could take a lesson from the game tape. Pitt is playing with the desperation that was lacking from the Pens' effort tonight.

Quick note - as I'm watching, the refs are doing their best to give the game to WVU. There were two completely phantom holding calls on Turner at critical times. It's actually embarrassing.

Back to the Pens - they just didn't seem to have the desire for the first two and a half periods tonight. They showed a bit late in the third, but it wasn't nearly good enough.

Toskala played a solid game, but he also didn't know where the puck was several times. I think he was beatable, though the Pens had some great chances. There was Malkin and Malone with excellent chances in the third before the Pens managed to score their first one.

The Pens were out shot in all three periods. It's troubling that they'd be out shot in the third when they're fighting to come back. If the Leafs are going to be that aggressive, the Pens need to find ways to take advantage of that. They didn't do that tonight.

Pitt just won. Nice to see someone was able to do something tonight.

Next up: Against Phoenix at home on Monday

NHL Picks - 12-1-07

Record last night: 3-0
Record in November: 24-23
Record this season: 38-34

I finished November with a flourish (or some blind luck...), going 3-0 on the last night to pull over .500 for the month. On the season so far, I'm 4 games over .500. I think that's pretty disappointing, but I've never tried picking hockey games, so I'm not sure what the usual success rate is. We'll see how it turns out.

There are 12 games on the schedule tonight. I'm picking three.

Phoenix at Detroit - I don't care if Bryzgalov is playing well - I don't see any way the Coyotes can sneak one out in Detroit. Go Red Wings.

Atlanta at New York Islanders - The Thrashers have lost three straight after battling back from a horrible start. The Isles are good at home, especially DiPietro. Go Isles.

Washington at Florida - The Kitty Cats have been roaring lately, especially when Vokoun plays. They're 7-1-1 in their last 9 at home against the Caps, who have been floundering. Go Panthers.

Game #24 - at Toronto Maple Leafs

Pittsburgh Penguins (11-11-2, 24 pts) at Toronto Maple Leafs (9-11-6, 24 pts)

The Leafs and Pens have split two games this year. Each team won on the road. The Pens will look to continue that trend tonight. If they win, they'll be over .500 for the first time since they were 7-6-1 back on November 5th.

The Leafs were in a big skid until Thursday when they won in Atlanta. Even with that win, they've lost 7 of their past 9. They've been really inconsistent recently, both offensively and defensively. It looks as though they're allowing the opposition to dictate the style of play, and they're paying for it. Look at their shot totals in the last 5 games, four of which they lost - 32, 19, 26, 46, 25. The only game they won was the last one.

No time to put up a link to a Leafs blog this time. One more game this year against our friends to the North, so I'll catch them then.

Let's Go Pens!

Penguins 4, Stars 1

I keep missing most of these games. I guess I'll have to avoid watching since they're winning right now...

Gonchar had a strained groin, so Sydor got the start and had an assist.

Orpik had NINE hits on the night. Great work by Brooks.

Crosby scored twice, Malkin once. Army is really clicking since his return to the lineup. He has 5 points in 4 games and is a +6 over that span. The Pens are also 3-1 in that span. Coincidence?

Great game all around.

Next up: Saturday night in Toronto. Fun time.