Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bruins 5, Penguins 2

If you had to pick an adjective for the overall performance of the team tonight, what would it be? Mine would be "listless".

They had decent hop through the first two periods. They played with the Bruins and were only down one goal going into the third. Then they allowed a short-handed goal, and the team just seemed to quit. You still had a few good individual efforts, but no one really seemed to be into it.

Tim Wallace showed that he still cared. He fought Lucic, giving up three inches in height and almost 15 pounds. He acquitted himself well, I thought.

Therrien must not have been happy - when the Pens got a power play chance with just 3 minutes left in the game, they could still have made it interesting. A quick goal on the PP, followed by pulling the goalie, and you never know what might happen. Instead, HCMT sent out Dustin Jeffrey, Ruslan Fedotenko and Petr Sykora. Nothing against those guys, but you'd expect to see Sid and Geno on the ice. They had come off the ice recently, but they weren't on it for the fight or the aftermath. They were certainly available. Little statement by HCMT perhaps?

Right now the Pens are taking the punches from the opposition and have been unable to counter. They'll need to figure this out, and do it soon. It's a long season.

Congratulations to Dustin Jeffrey on his first point in the NHL.

Next up: A chance for redemption against the Bruins on New Years Day.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Canadiens 3, Penguins 2

Quick writeup today:

The Pens put forth a good effort. They had the better of the shots, scoring chances, faceoffs and hits. They were better by every measure, except the one that matters.

We also have a new name to go with the list of relative nobody players that burn the Pens: Andrei Kostitsyn. He's a bit more accomplished than some of the previous players on the list (hello Mike Rupp), but still...

All three goals by the Habs were preventable. The first two were scored because no one tied up the stick of Kostitsyn when the puck came out from behind Fleury. The last one was a bad goal allowed by Flower.

The team did everything possible to tie the score. They managed 17 shots in the third and had several golden chances. They just couldn't beat Price, and they didn't hit the net in a few critical spots (Malkin late, specifically).

If this effort continues, this team will be fine.

Next up: Home and home with the Bruins, starting on Tuesday.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Penguins 1, Devils 0

Can you feel it?

The wind is starting to shift, just ever so slightly.

The dark malaise that crept over the Pittsburgh hockey landscape has begun to pull back.

There is more daylight with each passing week.

The Pens were on the beneficial side of a few bounces for once, and they used those bounces to earn a 1-0 victory over the Devils.

Fleury was great, but his blue line teammates were even better, with Mark Eaton especially noted for kicking a puck out of the net at the last possible second before it crossed the goal line.

Whoever hexed Langenbrunner also did a great job.

The Devils badly out shot the Pens, and also had the far better chances, but when it mattered most, Mighty Mouse turned into Goofy. The Devils were the beneficiaries of Ryan Whitney not realizing his stick was broken and playing the puck with it, earning a penalty with just 1:04 remaining (as a side note, you almost never see Playing with a Broken Stick called). That put them up to a 6 on 4 advantage, with a great shot to tie the game. Gionta (Mighty Mouse / Goofy) turned momentarily STUPID and used a completely obvious two handed whack down on Orpik's stick with the puck nowhere nearby. It was unneeded, unnecessary, and completely awesome. My favorite moment of the game, no doubt.

This was a surprisingly exciting game. See what happens when the Devils don't get the first goal? You get exciting and intense hockey. New mandate from Commish Bettman - the Devils start every game with a 1-0 defecit.

So the Pens were able to earn a few bounces, get a timely goal on a great pass from Malkin to Fedotenko, and steal two points in Jersey.

Things are looking up.

Next up: Off to Montreal, where the fans may be leaping from the upper deck if their beloved Habs aren't able to win the game. Start time tomorrow night is 7:00.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Hope everyone has a very joyous Christmas!

What are you doing on the internet? Go spend time with your family and friends!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Lightning 2, Penguins 0


Is there anything else we can say right now?

Remember that this team went through bad stretches in each of the past two years. This is not the end of the world. We're just used to seeing the bad stretch at the beginning of the season. They waited a little longer to crap out this year.

Hope the team has a nice Christmas break. They're going to need it.

Next up: The Devils on Friday, followed by the Habs on Saturday. Oh yeah - then a home and home with the Bruins next week. Sheesh!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Penguins 4, Sabres 3 (OT)

This was not one of the better games played by the Pens. It was good enough.

The credit for this win should go to one place - the penalty kill for the Pens. The Sabres had six chances on the power play and the Pens killed them all. That's a great effort for a group that has allowed eight goals in the last three games.

The Versus broadcast was poor, to say the least. They never did put the first penalty up on the screen, so we had no idea how much time was left. They also had horrible camera work on three of the four second period goals. We didn't get to see the lead-up to the goal, as they were either busy with a close up, or lost track of the puck.

Fleury didn't have his best game, but he did enough to keep the team in the game. He was having a hard time with rebound control, but the defense was there to help him out most of the time and he was able to shut the door on his own for the rest.

The team was out shot 35 - 22 and still was able to tie the game on their only power play of the night to earn a point. They earned their second point when Crosby deflected a Malkin knuckle-puck past Ryan Miller. Sid's stick may have been above the crossbar when he deflected it, but the War Room in Toronto didn't see enough evidence of that.

This was the kind of win the Pens badly needed. They didn't have their best night and yet found a way to earn two points.

Next up: Build on success when Pittsburgh South (Tampa) comes to town. Welcome back to Ryan Malone, among others.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Maple Leafs 7, Penguins 3

Maybe the Pens can stop playing on Saturday. This is the third Saturday in a row where they lost the game.

Forty shots allowed to the Leafs. Fleury allowed several goals from at least 20 feet out, most of them softies. He certainly struggled, but his team didn't help him out much either.

Low water mark? Can they sink further? How long until a blood vessel bursts in the cranium of HCMT?


Friday, December 19, 2008

Penguins 6, Thrashers 3

One of these days, I'll get to watch an entire game again. Last night was the wife's Christmas party, so while I was enjoying the middling food of the Spaghetti Warehouse and seeing just who won that pet-themed gift basket, the Pens were doing something really exciting and putting up 5 through the first two period on the Thrashers.

Just for the record - there's nothing wrong with a somewhat cheesy Christmas party.

Anyway, the most I saw of the first two periods was Errey and Steigy showing me what I missed before the third.
  • I saw some sick saves by Fleury, who looked great in his return to the net.
  • I saw another fantastic move by Satan to undress Hedberg. Miro seems to find these great moves every once in awhile and then goes back to being invisible for a few games. You have to think if he became more physical and more assertive in the offensive zone, he could have some really nice results. He has the size to do it.

During the third, I saw the Pens do enough to keep HCMT's head spinning. The play in their own end was frequently sloppy. Against a better team, they would have been in real trouble in the third. Pucks didn't always get deep like they needed to, and turnovers occurred at bad places on the ice (say Thank You, Colby Armstrong, for that wonderful pass from Miro Satan)

The important thing is the Pens beat a team they were supposed to beat and got an encouraging performance from Fleury in his first game back.

Next up: Maple Leafs on Saturday night

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Flyers 6, Penguins 3

Yeah, totally missed this one. After I saw the score, I can't say I went looking for any highlights.

Just someone tell me - did Godard at least get in a few good shots on Hartnell during their fight in the third? That might have some redeeming value.

Friday, December 12, 2008


What better way to get ready for a Flyers game than a brilliantly edited compilation of inspirational scenes and speeches from the movies?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Penguins 9, Islanders 2

Days like today don't come around very often. The Pens last scored 9 goals in 2001 against the Flyers. Their all-time record in a single game is 12 (twice). It was nice to see.

Both Sykora and Dupuis had the hat trick. Sykora's was the best, only because he's never had one and he's scored two goals in one game 44 times prior to tonight. It's great to see him get one.

Dupuis needs to play with the same ferocity all the time that he displayed while trying to get the third goal. He was great. The fact that the Islanders had stopped playing hockey and were just taking potshots at the Pens probably made things a bit easier. If you allow Matt Cooke to feather the cross ice pass on the two-on-one, you're probably not trying as hard as you could (not that there's anything wrong with Cooke - he's just not someone you'd expect to make a brilliant pass).

This game was over when the Isles scored to make it 2-1, and the Pens scored 11 seconds later to make it 3-1. MacDonald was done after he allowed Boucher's goal near the end of the first. He didn't return to the pipes for the second.

Not much else to say about this except that you should watch the highlights if you haven't already.

Next up: Keep that happy feeling - those clowns from Philly are up next, in Philly on Saturday afternoon. Hartnell had the hat trick tonight. He'll be insufferable.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Devils 4, Penguins 1

The Pens are in a bit of a funk right now, there's no doubt about it. The hockey they're playing doesn't seem bad, but they're just missing things by a hair.

There were chances early on tonight for the Pens to get the first goal. They hit the post or crossbar three times, with the biggest chance missed by Sid early in the second period. None of those went in and the Devils got the first goal on a fluke bounce off of the end boards.

The Zebras, who truly were clueless tonight, missed the Devils being offside by at least a foot when they scored their second goal, and missed a pretty blatant tripping call when they scored their third (which was on a nice redirect by Parise - he's surpassed all expectations).

You can't hang this one on Sabu. You'd like him to make some of those saves to keep the game closer, but I'm not sure I blame him on any of those.

The other thing at play here is the Pens have dipped pretty far into their farm system to get some replacement parts for injuries. Playing in the game tonight were:
  • Lovejoy
  • Minard
  • Taffe
  • Wallace
It's a lot to ask these guys to come in and play at a high level. You need the Sykoras and Satans to step up and play better hockey, and that didn't happen tonight. Sid and Geno can only get you so far sometimes.

This game was surprisingly exciting for a game against New Jersey. Too bad there wasn't anyone in their arena to see it. Seriously - how do they keep the franchise operating out there? Their attendence always seems to be horrid.

Jersey was especially annoying tonight, for the following reasons:
  • That goal horn may have taken over the top spot as the league's most annoying (from Florida).
  • Bobby Holik is a um... (family blog here... ) big mean jerk. Bringing the one-hander down on Letang when he was already on the ice was especially cheap. I hope to see someone catch him cold one day soon.
  • They just have that smug attitude after they score. You'd just love to see the Pens wipe those grins off of their faces.
Ah well... just one more game in a bad streak for the Pens. Can't win them all, right?

Next up: Right back at it tomorrow night at the Igloo against the Isles.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

No! You're the Poopy-head!

I know this will come as a huge shock, but an NHL referee was accused of using profanity in a comment to Ryan Miller in the second period of the game at the Igloo on Monday.

I'm not sure why this even matters, but it's weird enough that it's worth mentioning.  Besides, it's pretty entertaining.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Sabres 4, Penguins 3

Tonight was all about missed opportunities. The Pens had some great scoring chances, but Miller was able to make the saves when it mattered. These are tough losses to stomach lately.

First period:

Goligoski wakes everyone up early in the first by ringing the puck off of the crossbar.

Malkin setup two Fedotenko goals with some absolutely ridiculous moves and passes. If you didn't see them, make sure you watch the highlights.

The Sabres got on the board when a bad (really bad) Orpik pass was picked off by Derek Roy, who went the other way on a two-on-one. Roy blasted the puck past Sabu.

Pretty exciting period with end-to-end action and lots of chances.

Second period:

The Pens had an extended 5-on-3 power play as soon as the period started when Goligoski was tripped. Letang made them pay, scoring on a one-timer off of a pass from Crosby. Nice play, and great to see Letang finally get that goal. 3-1 Pens.

The Sabres got their second goal on another bad turnover in their own zone. You could feel the steam coming out of Therrien's ears through the television. 3-2 Pens.

Vanek takes an offensive zone interference call and someone on the Sabres bench allowed their tears to dribble on the ice too much, getting an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. the Pens had a two minute 5-on-3.

The Pens had some great chances on the two man advantage. They did everything except score. You had to hope that wasn't a turning point of the game for the Sabres, because you know the Zebras were going to even things up as the game went on.

A bad neutral zone turnover by Miro Satan led to the tying goal by the Sabres. Watching it, you had to wonder how the heck they were still in this game. 3-3 tie.

Things got a bit chippy after that, with Geno getting involved and helping defend Lovejoy. Somehow, the Pens got the extra minor. Not sure that happened, but if you happened to be mumbling "Even Up Call", you wouldn't be far off.

The Pens spent the last 1:38 in their own zone defending on the penalty kill. Somehow, they kept the Sabres out of the net. It was a great effort.

Third period:

The Sabres nearly cashed in at the beginning of the third just after their power play expired.

Satan answered the pressure when he almost scored on the other end. Great chance for Miro - better save by Miller.

The Sabres scored the go-ahead goal when the Pens screwed up in their own zone... again. This time, it was Sid, Max and Brooks turning up ice when they assumed they had the puck. They were sadly mistaken and left Letang to defend a two-on-one. Needless to say, it didn't go well. 4-3 Sabres.

Faster than you can say "even-up again", the Sabres are put back on the power play on what really looked like incidental contact. It didn't matter as the Pens killed off the penalty.

The Pens used the momentum and went on the power play themselves. Didn't help when the Sabres killed it off.

The Pens received yet another chance on the power play on an obvious high stick. Nothing doing for the first minute, so Therrien calls timeout. Given that there are just over 5:00 left in the game, it's clear that Therrien thinks this may be the game. You had to hope it wasn't, because the Pens didn't score.

The Pens applied the pressure in a furious finish, but they couldn't get the game tying goal.

  • Is Fedotenko still underachieving? He's now on pace for 23 goals, which would be about all anyone could have expected, I think.
  • Letang is going to be a #1 defenseman one of these days.
  • Vanek sure did take some dumb penalties tonight, didn't he?

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Senators 3, Penguins 2

Can you feel the hatred of the Sens rising? It'll take a bit before they reach the level of the Flyers (and I don't know that anyone can), but they might be #2 on the most reviled list by now. This game only reinforced that.

Not much confusion about how they Pens lost this one. Jason Spezza did them in all on his own. Sabu probably wants the wrap-around back, because he didn't need to follow Spezza so far out of his crease. Other than that, the game winner was a lucky bounce off of Letang that somehow found it's way past Sabourin.

The Pens were not able to generate anything resembling consistent offensive pressure. When they did get the puck in the zone, they couldn't get much towards Auld (they only managed 19 shots for the game).

The three stars for the game were Heatley, Alfredsson and Spezza. That's a joke. That line played well, but Malkin and Crosby did too. I know it means nothing, but it does make it easier to dislike Ottawa.

The Pens are really missing Ziggo, Kennedy and Boucher. They miss Fleury too, but Sabu is not the reason for losing two of the past three games. Lack of consistent offense did the trick today.

Next up: Four games in six days, starting Monday at home against the Sabres. I may even get around to writing previews again.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Penguins 5, Hurricanes 2

This was a fun game to watch. The Pens handed it to the Canes tonight with some opportunistic scoring and good goaltending.

The three keys to the victory tonight were:
  1. Great play by Dany Sabourin, making several ridiculous saves and all of the routine ones.
  2. The Pens took advantage of two bad turnovers by the Canes in their own end, quickly converting them into scores.
  3. The power play came up HUGE with two goals, punishing the Canes for taking dumb penalties (I'm looking at you, Ruutu).
The Canes had the better of the chances, and certainly out shot the Pens, but there was no need to press when the chances were being handed to the Pens.

It also helped that Leighton didn't have his best game, to say the least.

Nice road win for the Pens.

Next up: Off to Ottawa for a Saturday afternoon game.

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

Completely missed this one. Only saw the highlights online, but I can't say I'm upset at missing it - it would have been frustrating.

Good to see Eaton put one in the net, but not good to see Sabu give up goals to all three guys in the SO. I went back to look for the last time all three guys scored on the shoot out in a Pens game. It wasn't recent.

No rest for the Pens either - they play in Carolina tonight.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Penguins 4, Devils 1

Nice bounce-back win for the Pens tonight.

No doubt that the Devils were a depleted team. They were missing Brodeur (obviously), Rolston, Holik and Greene. Madden sat out of the game with a sore foot as well. Those losses will take something out of every team.

This game, however, was really the Sidney Crosby Show.

He fired a spin-o-rama backhand shot that somehow found it's way in early in the first period. To me, that was just a bad goal by Clemmensen more than it was a spectacular goal by Sid, but it looked good.

In the second, Sid tossed a saucer pass over the stick of Mighty Mouse where Sykora could just tap it into the open net. He also took a rebound of a diving effort by Geno and deposited it behind the Jersey netminder.

He finished things off with an empty net goal for the hat trick.

The Devils weren't all that competitive in this one. They did manage some pressure in the third, but Sabu stopped 29 of 30 shots and wasn't one of the three stars for the night (still a good game for Sabu).

Nice home win over a divisional opponent. Especially nice that it was in regulation. Those types seem to be scarce for the Pens this year.

Next up: Off until Wednesday, and then it's three road games in four nights, starting at MSG.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Sabres 4, Penguins 3

This was a back and forth game, and the Pens just didn't have it in the third period.

They started the last 20 minutes with a one goal lead on a two-man advantage. They managed one or two decent shots on that power play, and the Sabres fed off of the momentum of the kill, never looking back.

The Sabres earned their luck in the third with hard work and determination. The Pens had no answer.

That, and Paul Frickin Gaustad scored his only two goals of the season tonight. That's like Mike Rupp scoring against the Pens for the Flyers (I'm typing this solely from memory, but I seem to remember him contributing). It shouldn't happen, but the Sabres flat out beat the Pens in the third.

Nice goals up to that point from Sid and Kennedy. Curry was pretty good too, but you can only say so much about a goalie that allows four goals in a game. The loss wasn't his fault, but he didn't win the game either.

Next up: Another game tomorrow night against the Devils. As much fun as the game tonight was, get ready for sleeper-ville tomorrow... sometimes the Devils make the Wild look exciting.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Penguins 5, Islanders 3

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! Quick recap, seeing as how most people are with their friends and family today, pigging out.

The Pens gave us an early holiday treat last night with five unanswered goals to earn the two points against the Islanders.

The Islanders jumped out to a 3-0 lead, with the Pens not having much jump of any kind. The early power play did look improved, but there were no results as the Isles dominated the early play.

The Pens broke through at the end of the second with a lucky deflection of a Brooks Orpik shot, which appeared to deflect off of the skate of Doug Weight.

In the third, Geno set up Sid for goal #2 and then finished things off himself with the natural hat trick.

Once the freight train started rolling, it wasn't even close. This was a game dominated by Sid and Geno playing on a line together in the third.

Next up: The Sabres on Friday night.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Canucks 3, Penguins 1

Not much to say on this one. I watched it yesterday, but couldn't bring myself to write about it.

Not sure what was going on with the Zebras, but they certainly were on their game yesterday, weren't they?
  • Matt Cooke given a game misconduct for getting jumped the the third man in on the fight.
  • Three pretty blatant non-calls when Crosby, Orpik and Goligoski are all tripped, cross-checked or held near the end of the third period.
  • Van Massenhoven deciding, according to the broadcast, to get things under control by handing out minor penalties to Talbot and O'Brien for talking to each other.
Throwing Cooke out of the game was absolute crap.

That's not why the Pens lost the game, however. They simply could not score. 19 shots on net isn't going to cut it. The power play, while it looked good early, just did not produce. The Pens had 13 shots that missed the net (including a post in the first period on one of the good power plays), and the Canucks blocked another 16 shots. The Pens need to find a way to get those shots on net.

Any way you look at it, this one wasn't a big deal. No team can go 82-0, and losing a game like this probably isn't significant.

Next up: A break until Wednesday when the Pens travel to Long Island.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Penguins 3, Thrashers 2

Great road win tonight against an Atlanta team that's better at home than people give them credit for.

The atmosphere was strange tonight. Consider the following:
  • There had to be more offside calls on the end where the Pens shoot twice than I've seen in any game in recent memory. Not sure who the linesman was, but I've never seen two teams be so sloppy entering the offensive zone ONLY on one end of the ice, which is my way of saying the linesman had to be smoking something.
  • Did anyone else hear the announcement of the 50/50 raffle in the third period? I wasn't sure if I was watching a hockey game or a telecast of the local Parish Festival! Who does a raffle that's announced over the PA at a hockey game?
  • There was NO ONE at that game. The end where the Pens shot twice had more empty seats near the ice than filled seats. That's pretty sad.
  • FSN named Sabu the "Player of the Game" before the game was over! That's bad Ju-Ju to me.
  • John Curry (backup goalie) was shown on camera near the end of the game. He looked to be about 15 years old.
The Pens started the game thinking that they're still playing the Wild. They were out of sorts, with several offside calls and no real pressure on Pavelec.

The Pens yielded a power play goal in the first period to Kozlov. The PK hasn't been doing the job recently.

Satan evened the score with some nice hand-eye coordination. He took a hard Dupuis pass on his backhand, turned it to the forehand and punched it behind Pavelec.

Matt Cooke plastered Kozlov, which was excellent. The only problem? Kovalchuk was also nearby. I wish Ilya had been the target.

The Pens had a two man advantage near the midway point of the second. The Pens turned that 1:18 into a shooting gallery, but couldn't beat Pavelec or the goal post.

As soon as the extended power play was over, the Thrashers were the beneficiaries of a tripping call against Boucher. You had the sense of it being a complete game changer if they could score.

The Pens were able to kill the penalty, and less than 30 seconds later, the Pens cashed in. Crosby took a pass from Kennedy and deposited it behind Pavelec while falling down.

About a minute later, Slater took a puck from behind the net, fell down and blindly swept the puck towards the net, taking everyone by surprise and beating Sabu. He wasn't even looking at the net when he shoveled it, but it went in.

The early part of the third was notable for the Pens' game of "Whack a White". In succession, Orpik gave White a good solid check, followed up by Letang absolutely plastering White near the boards. White tried to get up, but wasn't sure what planet he was on. The Thrashers finally decided to come after Letang, and the next shift Kris was on the ice also showcased Eric Godard (just by coincidence, I'm sure).

The intensity picked up a bit after the hit, but the boost was temporary... until Goligoski tried to kill Army with the hip check. He mostly missed, but both teams again picked things up.

The midway portion of the third had some nice end-to-end action with both teams getting decent chances. The spirited play took a brief break for a Thrashers power play.

Sabu was standing tall late in the third when the Thrashers turned up the heat.

The Pens got a late power play chance, which you just knew would make something happen. It almost gave the Thrashers the lead when Reasoner had a breakaway which Sabourin denied.

The Pens got the elusive road power play goal when Sykora tipped a Crosby shot past Pavelec. Great effort by the Pens to finally break through with only two minutes left.

The Thrashers never really threatened in the last two minutes.

Next up: Back to the Igloo for the rare Saturday afternoon game against Vancouver.

Game #19 - at Atlanta Thrashers

Pittsburgh Penguins (11-4-3, 25 pts) at Atlanta Thrashers (7-8-2, 16 pts)

At first glance, it would seem this one heavily favors the Pens. The Thrashers suck this year, right? As Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast, my friend." These teams are more similar (lately) than they would appear.
  • Both had extended winning streaks snapped in their most recent game.
  • Both managed to fill the net pretty well during their winning streak.
  • Both average about the same number of shots and goals.
Here's where the differences come into play:
  • Atlanta is much worse defensively. They don't allow many more shots than the Pens, but they sure do allow more goals (3.59 average vs 2.67 average).
  • The Pens power play is horrendous on the road, clicking at just 9.4% - that has to change.
  • The Thrashers have a doofus for a superstar in Ilya Kovalchuk. Said doofus is having a sub par season so far, with just 6 goals in 17 games.
It's a match up of the backups in net, with the Moose for Atlanta and Sabu for the Pens. That a big advantage for the Pens, because Hedberg hasn't been playing well this year.

Game time is 7:00.

Let's Go Pens!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

OT: Monty Python!

After the terribly boring game against the Wild, we could all use something to enliven us.

If you're a fan of Monty Python, then check out this video announcing that much of their content will be available in high quality on YouTube! The site is here.

I'll pick out a few to post here on off days for entertainment.

Wild 2, Penguins 1 (OT - SO - 1-0)

So I sat down to write about this right after the game, but every time I thought about it, I just got bored. This had to be one of the worst hockey games to watch in regulation. When you get excited over Dupuis or Staal coming down the wing and wristing a shot to the net, then you know things are slow.

Overall, Sabourin played a good game. The complete fluke of a Minnesota goal in regulation was unfortunate. Even more so in that it cost the Pens the game. I think the Wild had about three legitimate scoring chances all night. The Pens didn't have many more than that.

The OT, however, was a bit more exciting with more end-to-end action. That's how regulation should be played in the new NHL. If I had to watch the Wild stacking up at the blue line to force the other team to dump the puck 82 times per year, I might gouge my eyes out.

Either way, not a good home loss for the Pens. Nice that they got a point, but not good.

Did anyone else think Staal was going to get killed getting into a fight? Fortunately, the guy he fought wasn't very good. Eric Reitz has fought a few times per season, but not very often. Staal landed the only three punches and both guys went down quickly.

Let's just put this snooze fest behind us.

Next up: The Pens go south to face Atlanta on Thursday night.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Game #18 - vs Minnesota Wild

Minnesota Wild (10-4-1, 21 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (11-4-2, 24 pts)

The club from Minnesota has the least appropriate name in the NHL. There's nothing "Wild" about the way they play. Now, if they called them Zzzzzzz, or mentioned that Insomniacs Anonymous meets at their games (because that's the only way they can finally get some sleep! Ha!), then we'd be onto something.

The Wild scored more goals in the first three games of the season (14) than they did the rest of the month of October (12 goals in 6 games). Their power play is hit or miss (0-10 against Montreal, but four game with more than one PP goal) and their PK is excellent. They've yielded just 4 goals on the PK all year.

For the Pens, Fleury will miss the game. That means Sabu is between the pipes, and John Curry is one injury away from his NHL debut. Sid, Geno and Jordan will all try to remain hot and the Pens will try to keep the goals flowing.

Immovable object meets irresistable force?

Pretty close.

Let's Go Pens!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Penguins acquire D Philippe Boucher

The Pens traded Daryl Sydor back to Dallas today for his third go-round with the Stars.

In return, they acquired Philippe Boucher.

I think this is a fantastic addition for the Pens. I know they're crowded on the blue line, and will become even more so when Whit and Sarge return, but Boucher is pretty good.

Philippe has some size (6'3"), is a year younger than Sydor and can put the puck in the net. He was hurt for much of last season, but he had 35 goals combined in two seasons prior to last year. He's also very familiar with the power play and is used to playing 20:00 per night.

This may take away some playing time from Kris Letang, the other resident right-handed defensemen, or Alex Goligoski, but I think it's an upgrade for the club as it stands today.

Nice move by Ray Shero.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Penguins 5, Sabres 2

The Pittsburgh Penguins overcame a slow start to defeat the Buffalo Sabres. They were down by one goal twice during the game, but used four third period goals to beat the visitors. Another great come from behind win. The Pens have to be feeling good about their chances in any game when they enter the third.


Not much doing in the first period.

The Pens went on the power play, and Steigy proceeded to remind us that the Sabres were amazing on the penalty kill (they had only allowed ONE power play goal on the road so far this season). The Pens acted like they knew it, as the Sabres jumped all over anyone with the puck on the side boards. The Pens were unable to work the puck around and make the Sabres chase (which, in my opinion, would loosen them up a bit).

The Sabres struck first with a rebound goal by Pommenville, who was left all alone to the left of Marc-Andre. He was able to lift the puck over Fleury's left shoulder from a bad angle.

The Pens looked much better on their next power play chance at the end of the first / beginning of the second. This time, they were able to work the puck from high to low and get some movement in the offensive zone. It didn't pay off, but it did set the tone for the next power play.

On their next power play, the Pens did a great job of puck possession. It paid off when Malkin took a pass from Goligoski and blew a one-timer past Miller. Okay, maybe that's a bit of an overstatement - Miller managed to get an arm on the shot, but it went through and trickled over the goal line for a power play goal.

Late in the second, the Sabres went on the power play. Vanek pushed off on Eaton and took a cross-crease pass, depositing it behind Fleury in one smooth motion. Nice hand-eye coordination, cheap push off.

Early in the third, Godard had a great chance in front of Miller, but couldn't quite get all of the puck and Miller was able to make a nice save.

From that point, things slowed down a bit (as much as end-to-end hockey can ever really slow down).

Sid and Geno teamed up about halfway through the third and generated a quality scoring chance with Sid setting up Fedotenko for a nice chance. Unfortunately it didn't pay off.

Satan drew a penalty and put the Pens on the power play.

Just 30 seconds into the power play, Miller speared Staal right between the legs after a frozen puck. No call by the Clueless Zebras.

It didn't matter, as the Pens ran the "Whitney Play" for the first time this season, with the role of Ryan Whitney played by Alex Goligoski. Sid threw the cross ice pass to Alex who buried the puck into a nearly open net. Tie game.

The third line scored the third goal, giving the Penguins the lead. Cooke took the puck behind the net and sent it out to Staal, who found the back of the net. 3-2 Pens!

Just a few minutes later, Malkin leads a three-on-two break, staring at Sykora all the way. At the last second, he found Fedotenko, who beat Miller. 4-2 Pens!

Staal finished things off with an empty netter.

  • Great effort from the third line tonight. They were everywhere.
  • You could feel Lindy Ruff's pulse increasing as the Pens tied the game and put the Sabres out of their misery.
  • Nice to see a multi-goal game from the power play. That's just the third time this season.
  • Four goals in the last 10 minutes of the game. Wow.
Next up: Things get Wild at the Igloo on Tuesday night. Last home game before the Pens play 9 out of 13 on the road.

Game #17 - vs Buffalo Sabres

Buffalo Sabres (9-4-3, 21 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (10-4-2, 22 pts)

What more could you ask for? This is a Saturday night contest between two of the top teams in the East. Both teams like to get up and down the ice and play an entertaining brand of hockey.

Expect Michel Therrien to be emphasizing consistency. The Pens have one of the weakest five game winning streaks in recent memory. Each of the last four games have involved either coming back from multiple goal deficits (Detroit, New York) or blowing big leads (Edmonton, Philly). The power play hasn't been much help lately either.

The Sabres are also struggling, despite their decent record. They've lost three of the past four, including a bad home loss to Columbus last night. Their power play has also vanished over the last three games, and Ryan Miller has been inconsistent. During a recent four game stretch, he allowed 5 goals in the first and last game and recorded two shutouts in the middle two.

Oh yeah - there's some powder blue jersey thing going on tonight as well.

Let's Go Pens!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Penguins 5, Flyers 4 (OT - SO - 1-0)

The Flyers are dumb. They continue to get Crosby fired up, and Sid continues to burn them. He scored two goals tonight, including the game-tying goal late in the third. You'd think those smart guys would know to leave Sid well enough alone.

The Pens had a 3-0 lead and the Flyers scored four straight to take the lead. I was thinking the Pens may be done at that point, but they found a way to get the two points in the shootout.

Early in the game there wasn't much going on. Both teams feeling each other out. Neither one could do much on the power play.

The line of Kennedy, Staal and Cooke played really well, and it paid off with a nice wrist shot by Cooke that found the back of the net. We also have to give thanks to Biron for sliding off of his angle.

Prior to the start of the second period, Steigy gets back to talking about Tyler Kennedy. I quote:
"That's maybe the one thing we don't give Tyler Kennedy enough credit for. He is a... He's got a lot of little skills. He can move the puck...."
Yes, that's right - it's another reference to "little" with Tyler Kennedy. Take a drink!

Just 1:11 into the second, Geno made the score 2-0 after an extended shift. Fedotenko, Sykora and Malkin had been on for an extended shift and they stayed on as the puck headed towards the offensive zone. It could have backfired had they been caught up ice. The puck, however, wound up being buried.

Just a few minutes later, the Flyers started a penalty parade. The Pens took advantage when Sid went high on the backhand over Biron's left shoulder. Great goal, and great lead. 3-0 Pens.

The Flyers decided to play hockey again when (and it pains me to say this) Jeff Carter had a nice deflection to make the score 3-1.

The Pens went on the power play when Scott Hartnell continued his fine tradition of absolutely STUPID penalties. That turned out to be part of the Flyers secret strategy, as the Gagne blocked a Goligoski shot and beat both Alex and Geno down the ice. Flower went for the poke check on Simon, but missed. 3-2 Pens after Gagne buried it on the backhand.

Max Talbot took a penalty, but I don't think we were ever told what he did. the Flyers power play seemed to last forever. The Pens did an excellent job killing the penalty.

Max came out of the box and had a near-breakaway, drawing the penalty. He did get a shot off behind his back with the stick between his own legs. Pretty amazing shot.

Coburn used the free hand on Malkin during the power play. The Zebras didn't want to put the Pens on the two-man advantage, so there was no call. Just a bit later, Gagne notched another shorty.

Two short-handed goals allowed in one period is pretty sad. HCMT had to be burning up inside.

Eaton took a penalty with only a minute left in the period (Upshall earned a 9.7 for his tumbling skills) and Carle promptly hit the crossbar. Lucky (for the Pens).

The Flyers cashed in when the puck deflected and floated over Fleury. The Flyers had come all the way back and taken the lead. Horrible second period to be certain. The good news is that it was only a one goal game going to the third.

Fleury was yanked to start the third period. Therrien was looking to shake things up in my opinion, because while Fleury could have stopped Gagne's second goal, but I can't see that the other ones were his fault.

The third period started out kind of sleepy. Things were gummed up, and the Flyers were (mostly) on good behavior.

HCMT tried to get things goin near the halfway point by pairing up Sid and Geno again. Didn't help.

Therrien continued to shorted the bench, putting Staal with Sykora and Satan.

Carter took a cheap hit on Malkin near the boards. Geno's leg bent awkwardly underneath him. Carter's head needs to be bent awkwardly.

Lupul took a penalty, putting the Pens on the power play with about 8:00 remaining.

The Pens were screwing around with the puck too much on the power play. Patience is good, but at some point you have to get the puck to the net. Biron is not that good, but he'll be amazing if you don't shoot.

Is anyone else getting really tired of seeing the obstruction that occurs when one defense has the puck and the other one wanders in front of the pursuing forward like a member of a grazing herd of cattle? The Flyers are annoyingly professional at it. Of course, it might not be that much of an act since many of their defensemen are slower than molasses.

Sid took advantage of a fortunate bounce from behind the net and blew the puck past Biron. Tie game!

The game was going to overtime.

Did I mention the Flyers are morons?

Sid almost brought the house down on a rush up the left side, blowing past Carle and nearly beating Biron, who made a nice save.

Geno almost did the same with a nifty deflection that didn't get past Biron.

In the last minute, Carle coughed up the puck deep in his own corner, Malkin took advantage and again nearly beat Biron.

Richards almost scored with less than 10 seconds left in OT, but he hit the side of the net.

It was time for the shootout.

Biron has allowed goals on both shootout attempts he faced this season.

Sykora was up first. Biron broke his streak of allowing goals.

Sabu poke-checked Gagne, which was lucky since he (Sabu) was in the process of falling over.

Letang also missed.

Sabu again looked bad, falling over, but reached back to make an insane save on Richards.

Crosby had the puck fall off of his stick.

Carter couldn't do it either.

Malkin tried the backhand and just couldn't get the puck on the net.

Timmonen hit the post.

Satan had Biron beat, but Marty was able to do the last-chance poke-check.

Lupul tried five-hole and Sabu said no.

Goligoski tried his first shootout in the NHL, and he beat Biron. Great move by Goligoski.

Hartnell never had a chance, but his comical game-losing attempt was significant in that it's the only one that I've ever seen where the skater (Scotty-not-so-hottie) ran over the goalie. It was typical, but it didn't matter, as the Pens had won the game.

Great job getting the late goal and winning in the shootout.

Next up: Third jersey time on Saturday night against the Sabres.

Game #16 - vs Philadelphia Flyers

Philadelphia Flyers (5-6-3, 13 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (9-4-2, 20 pts)

For my money, this is a bigger game than the matchup against Detroit on Tuesday. Here's why:
  • The Flyers are the Pens' biggest rival.
  • It's a divisional game, so the effect of the points is magnified.
  • You just love to see a cheap team lose, and you really hate it if they win.
The Flyers have been able to score goals this year, and their power play is strong. Sadly, as good as they are in those areas, their defense is just a porous. They're Goals Against and PK are both 24th in the league. The Pens need to take advantage of that.

It won't matter who is in net for our friends from across the state, because neither one has been very good this year. You have to wonder who will go for the Pens in net. Will Therrien put Flower right back in there to show that allowing 6 goals isn't the norm, or will he give Marc-Andre a break and let Sabu and his 1.90 GAA get a shot?

Any way you look at it, this will be a good game, full of intensity and not so nice trash talking. I'm looking forward to it.

Let's Go Pens!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Penguins 7, Red Wings 6 (OT)

Wow.  Just wow.

What else can you say about the way this game ended?

This is the kind of action and environment that can revitalize the NHL.

The Pens were down 5-2 after Zetterberg scored with about 15 minutes left in the game.  From that point forward, the Pens simply kept on coming.

Malkin kicked things off by managing the Pens' only goal on the power play (the Wings scored three).  That made the score 5-3.

Staal scored his first to cut it to 5-4, but then Hudler blasted one past Flower to make it 6-4.  At that point, I was thinking that it was a nice comeback, but they were probably done.

I was completely wrong.

Jordan Staal scored twice more in the third, the last one with 23 seconds left to tie the game and send it to OT.

At that point, I was grateful the Pens managed to get a point out of this after being down 5-2 in the third.

The Pens were done yet, and even though they couldn't score on a power play through almost the first two minutes of the OT, they were able to get the game winner when Fedotenko buried it past a sprawling Osgood.  The assist?  Yep - Jordan Staal.

Wow - you can't say much more about a game like this one, at least with the third period and OT.

How nice is it to look at the box score and see that the Red Wings' superstars were all at least a -2?  That includes Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Rafalski, Franzen, Lidstrom and... oh yeah... some guy named Hossa.

Makes you a bit anxious to see the rematch at the Igloo, no?  That will take place on Sunday, February 8th.

Great win for Pens tonight.  Will be nice to see if this propels them to better hockey.

Next up:  Those lovely boys from Philly come to town again on Thursday night.  Can't afford a letdown!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Game #15 - at Detroit Red Wings

Pittsburgh Penguins (8-4-2, 18 pts) at Detroit Red Wings (9-2-2, 20 pts)

Forget the hype. This will be a good hockey game.

Detroit is a well rounded team this season. They have the top power play in the NHL right now, at just over 30%. They really don't draw that many penalties (they're 26th in the NHL in overall power play chances), but even with that, they lead the NHL in shots. That tells me that they're effective at generating offense at even strength.

For the Pens, their power play has largely deserted them in recent weeks. At the same time, the PK has stepped up and done the job. That will be tough against the Red Wings.

Much has been made of Hossa going to Detroit. Marian has picked it up even more this year. He has 17 points (8 + 9) and is a +9. That's solid.

Ty Conklin has also played well as the #2 goalie. If When Osgood gets hurt, Ty can fill in, as we saw here last year.

Franzen has been hurt. He's looking to return for this one. Lovely.

The Pens will need to play a disciplined road game. Don't take dumb penalties and keep the shots to the outside. If they let the Red Wings play their possession game, the Pens will be in trouble.

Let's Go Pens!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Penguins 4, Islanders 3 (OT - SO - 1-0)

The Pens were very lucky to get out of Long Island with one point, much less two.

A few things right off of the bat:
  1. The ice was horrible at the Coliseum. I saw more pucks jump over sticks and more players wipe out in ruts (especially in the third) than I can remember in any other game recently.
  2. The last save on the shootout by Sabu was another weird one - the puck was inside of his left pad, near the knee. This was the only part of him that didn't wind up in the net. Great work by Sabu.
  3. The Islanders had this game won, and they blew it in the third by being out shot 18-1 (and it wasn't that close)
The Islanders were the better and sharper team through two periods. The Pens were the victim of their own incompetence in allowing the Isles to score twice in the second, especially considering they had four power play chances.

The main reasons the Pens were still in the game going to the third were Kennedy, Staal and Sabu. TK teamed up with Ziggo on a nice passing play, putting the puck into an empty net. Staal had a great individual effort, taking advantage of bad ice. Sabu made several key saves to keep the score close.

Once the third period arrived, the Pens turned the Islanders zone into a shooting gallery, notching 18 shots and finally managing to tie the game on a nice Kennedy redirect of a Goligoski shot.

The shootout was all Sykora and Sabu. Sykora beat MacDonald with a similar move to what Staal had done earlier (last second backhand, put up high). Sabu made three key saves and won it for the Pens.

Malkin took a shot off of the hand / wrist and didn't come back until 5:00 had gone by in the second period. Hope he's okay. He did play the remainder of the game.

Next up: It's a biggie - at Detroit on Tuesday.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Malkin is much older than we thought!

They can't afford the proofreaders north of the border, eh?

Here's the original article, written by the Calgary Herald.

I may have a post coming about said article, which talks about the new injury policy in the NHL. It's a bit on the whiny side, but it's classic for the way they structured the story. Basically, they had Jason Arnott call Adrian Aucoin a "retard".

Game #14 - at New York Islanders

Pittsburgh Penguins (7-4-2, 16 pts) at New York Islanders (4-8-1, 9 pts)

Let's get one thing out in the open: the Islanders suck right now. They're tied with Florida for the fewest points in the East. They have a nice road win over the Rangers, but other than that, the nicest thing you can say is that the last five games were one-goal affairs.

The Pens aren't exactly firing on all cylinders these days either. After a fairly miserable road trip where they dropped three out of four, they returned home and almost squandered a five-goal lead. They need to get the consistency back in their game.

The Islanders take more penalties than the Pens do currently, but they've also scored 6 shorties in the first 13 games. That's something to watch out for after Souray put a shorty behind Flower on Thursday.

DiPietro and Witt are both hurt and won't play. I won't miss Witt in the least. Doug Weight is also listed as day-to-day. On the Pens' side, Sid might miss the game, as he left practice early on Friday. My gut says he'll play, but you never know - he might want to be ready for the big Tuesday showdown with the Red Wings.

The Pens need to win these road games against weaker opponents.

Let's Go Pens!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Satan's double five hole goal

This is Miroslav's first goal from the game against the Oilers. It's not the easiest to see at this angle, but if you watch closely, you can see him take the puck between his legs and then beat Garon between the legs of the goalie (hence the double five hole name)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Penguins 5, Oilers 4

This would have qualified as the Loss of the Year had the Oilers completed their comeback.  Fortunately for us, they didn't.

The Pens built a 5-0 lead on some timely scoring and excellent goaltending.  The Oilers fell behind largely due to Garon's inability to keep the puck out of the net.  He left with the Oilers trailing 5-0.  The Oilers brought in their backup of the night, Drouin-Deslauriers (possibly the longest last name of any goalie), who proceeded to shut the door.

The Oilers got one goal late in the second to make it 5-1 going to the third period.  The next three goals in the third were all either great individual efforts (Hemsky), fluky plays (Gilbert), or both (Souray).  Other than the Hemsky goal, I'm not sure we can fault Fleury for them.

The good news is that even though the Pens had a big lead in the third, and the Oilers were coming back on them, the Pens still managed to out shoot the Oilers.  Of course, when you have 7 minutes of power play time, including two minutes of a two-man advantage, you should register more shots than your opponent.

Most of this game was pretty strange.  It's a good thing the Pens will be able to look back and see a "W".

One last thing - make sure you check out the Satan goal in the highlights.  If I remember I'll post it here.  It was sick.

Next up:  A visit to Long Island on Saturday night

Game #13 - vs Edmonton Oilers

Edmonton Oilers (6-5-1, 13 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (6-4-2, 14 pts)

The Pens were able to put some pucks in the net last Saturday (doesn't that seem like months ago?)  Defensively, they held St Louis to just 22 shots.  You would think that for them to win consistently, they need to hold teams to 30 shots or less each night.  At least it would help keep Flower from going nuts due to seeing 40 shots every night.

The Oilers have managed to add some offense as well, notching nine goals in the past two games.  They've also allowed the same number over the same period.  Probably not what they're looking for.

The Oilers have played twice since the Pens last played, and they're in the middle of a seven game road trip.  This is one that the Pens should win, even though the Oilers aren't bad so far this year.

One of my favorite players to hate, Sheldon Souray, plays for the Oilers.  He has a nasty shot, and has a propensity to deliver borderline hits.  Keep your head up, Geno!

Let's Go Pens!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Big Day - 11/4/08

No matter your political persuasion, make sure you get out and vote on Election Day!

Penguins 6, Blues 3

Just a placeholder. I only saw the third period, but it was exciting.

The good news is that all of the real life activities that have been taking up my time are over, so I'll be back to a more timely posting routine.

The Pens are off until Thursday when Edmonton comes to town.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Game #12 - at St Louis Blues

Pittsburgh Penguins (5-4-2, 12 pts) at St Louis Blues (5-4-0, 10 pts)

Both of these teams are struggling right now.  The Pens have lost three in a row, while the Blues have lost three of the past four.

The formula to stopping the Blues this year is pretty simple - keep their power play in check.  When they score two or more on the power play, they are 4-1.  When they score fewer than two, they are 1-3.

Stopping them will not be easy.  The Pens' PK is improved over last year to this point (86% kill rate), but the Blues are insane on the power play so far this year, with a 31% scoring rate.

Keeping the Blues off of the power play is paramount this evening.  That's not good news for the Pens, because they have been taking some penalties while out on the road.

No word on whether Sid is going to play - it will depend on the morning skate.  That in and of itself is a good sign, because if the injury was severe, they wouldn't be considering it.

Looking forward to seeing a better effort tonight.  Heck, I'm looking forward to actually seeing an entire game...

Let's Go Pens!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Coyotes 4, Penguins 1

These late games are killing me.

This is another one I saw very little of, but the numbers show the maddening inconsistency:
  • First period: 2 shots
  • Second period: 18 shots
  • Third period: 8 shots (trailing)
The Pens had a 5 on 3 for over a minute in the third, trailing by one, and couldn't get one home.  That's the ballgame right there.

Therrien has to be losing a bit of patience.  He was quoted after the game as saying: 
"The system's only 50 percent of the game, after that, the players have to play hard. It's an excuse."
Sid was hurt with five minutes remaining in the second.  He's listed as day-to-day currently.

Next up:  a Saturday night fiesta in St Louis, who have an insane power play.  If the penalty killers aren't ready to go, it'll be a long night.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Game #11 - at Phoenix Coyotes

Pittsburgh Penguins (5-3-2, 12 pts) at Phoenix Coyotes (3-4-0, 6 pts)

The Coyotes have been among the havenots in the league for several years running, despite the presence of Wayne Gretzky.  The young Coyotes have played better in limited action at home (2-1), and Bryzgalov is still an excellent goalie.

Sid and Geno are being split up to generate a more balanced attack across all lines.  The interesting thing is that Staal is being used as a center as well, on the third line.  I'm anxious to see how the ice time is divided up.

Olli Jokinen has been a Penguins killer in the past.  The Coyotes have not done the same, losing the last three to the Pens.

Let's Go Pens!

Sharks 2, Penguins 1

Just a placeholder post.  I didn't see the game, and honestly all I know about it is that the Pens showed no offense.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Game #10 - at San Jose Sharks

Pittsburgh Penguins (5-2-2, 12 pts) at San Jose Sharks (7-2-0, 14 pts)

Quick preview tonight.  

The Sharks are tough at home so far this year, which is in direct contrast to last year when they struggled mightily early in the season.

The Pens are decent on the road so far this year, the kick in the nuts over the weekend at MSG notwithstanding.

The only problem with these West Coast games is that they're past my bedtime.

As a side note, if you're looking to put some money on the Pens, it's not often that you'll get them at +150...

Let's Go Pens!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Rangers 3, Penguins 2 (OT - SO, 1-0)

The Pens blew a two goal lead in the third period. That's the bottom line of this game. They built a 2-0 lead, only to allow the Rangers to turn the third period into an offensive onslaught. Not good for the Pens.

The Pens withstood an early charge from the Rangers, who had the first several shots of the game. They didn't make any noise offensively until the midway point of the period when they started to change the momentum.

The only other thing of consequence was the goal that was credited to Sydor. It was a Pinball Wizard shot that bounced off of both Rosival and Kalinen behind King Henrik.

The Pens power play didn't look good at all tonight. Sydor's goal was right after a power play ended, but those two minutes were pretty bad.

The Pens did kill off a full two minutes of 5-on-3 power play during the second, which was huge. The Rangers had several good chances but Fleury was up to the challenge, and the penalty killers did an excellent job.

The Rangers turned the third period into a shooting gallery. They got an early power play goal from Naslund to start things up in the third. The Pens almost weathered the storm, but Zherdev blasted a puck high on the short side past Fleury. The thing that troubled me about the Zherdev goal was that the Pens didn't have a good defensive presence when the game-tying goal was scored. Crosby had missed the open net, and the Rangers somehow wound up with a three-on-two. That's what you call a defensive breakdown.

The Pens were able to turn it back on for OT, which is pretty unusual. They had the far better chances, but Lundqvist was up to the challenge.

The shootout was pretty simple. Crosby couldn't beat Lundqvist to keep things alive. King Henry was just better than Fleury in the shootout.

  • Nice game by Ziggy specifically, and the fourth line in general. I like Bissonnette, but I think Cooke is a better player right now. It was no accident that Cooke and Ziggy were out there with Talbot with two minutes left in the game.
  • If I saw the replay correctly, the refs absolutely blew the call in the third when Fleury was called for touching the puck in the restricted area.
  • Boy, the ice seemed pretty bad. In the shootout, the Rangers didn't try to deke much with the puck.
  • Fleury was really good. Without him, this game could have ended much ealier.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Game #9 - at New York Rangers

Pittsburgh Penguins (5-2-1, 11 pts) at New York Rangers (7-2-1, 15 pts)

Biggest game of the year so far for the Pens tonight.  The Pens and Rangers are two of the top four in the east right now, the Sabres and Habs being the other two.  It's certainly the game of the night in the NHL on a busy Saturday.

The Pens struggled at MSG during the regular season last year, but certainly didn't have trouble dispatching the Rangers in the playoffs.

The strength of both teams so far this year has been the goaltending.  The Rangers don't allow as many shots, but both Fleury and Lundqvist are on equal footing this year in terms of the stats.

The Pens need to take advantage of their chances tonight against the Rangers, because they likely won't get too many of them.

Both teams have been inconsistent with the offense, but the Rangers have struggled even more lately, with just 6 goals in their past 4 games.  Their power play has also been pretty poor so far.

The Pens can take care of business by scoring on special teams and keeping the pressure on offensively.  The Red Wings torched the Rangers with 45 shots last Saturday, so it can be done.

Let's Go Pens!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Penguins 4, Hurricanes 1

The Pens were a bit slow of foot in the first period.  Paul Bissonnette tried to get them fired up, fighting Dan LaCouture pretty effectively, but the Pens were missing that spark.

The Canes took advantage of a flubbed pass by Brooks Orpik, allowing the latest in the Sutter family (Brandon) to walk in alone and flip a backhand shot past MAF.

That goal was the only gaffe by Fleury on the night.  He did mishandle the puck one or two times, but none led to a goal.

The Pens woke up in the later half of the second period with two amazing shifts of puck possession in the offensive zone.  They out shot the Canes 13-6 in the second and generally dominated the period, but had nothing to show for it going to the third down 1-0.

It's a testament to the mental state of the team that they came up and kept up the pressure in the third.  Malkin put on a dazzling display of puck possession, though he was probably trying to do too much and wound up losing the puck and taking a hooking penalty.  That was the Canes only power play, and the Pens killed it off.

Just a few minutes later Malkin was hooked, sending the Pens on their second power play chance of the night.  Malkin fired a puck that Sid somehow tipped past Leighton, the Carolina goaltender who had stood on his head until that point in the game.

The Pens, playing with renewed confidence quickly added two more goals, one by Fedotenko just 32 seconds later, and one by Talbot three minutes after that.  They were the first goals of the year by those players, and they were much needed.

Malkin added an empty netter after Fleury had missed an attempt to score when the Canes pulled Leighton.

Great win for the Pens.  They kept working and never gave up.  Tonight, it paid off.

Next up:  Out on the road for the start of a four game trip on Saturday at MSG.  Big game.

Game #8 - vs Carolina Hurricanes

Carolina Hurricanes (3-1-1, 7 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (4-2-1, 9 pts)

The Hurricanes are an enigma so far this year.  They have a decent record, but the three teams they beat have a combined 6 wins in 17 games (Tampa, Florida and Anaheim).

Cam Ward continues to be one of the most overrated goalies in the NHL.  Yes, he won the playoff MVP in his rookie year, and yes, his stats have improved each year.  He also plays a TON of minutes.  Here's the bad part for Ward:  in his 2 full seasons, he hasn't been in the top 30 in goals against average OR save percentage.  That's not good.

The Pens seem to have the ship going in the right direction lately.  They dispatched a bad Leafs team and had great goaltending from Sabu to win in Boston against a very tough Bruins squad.

The bad news for the Pens is that the Canes always seem to give them trouble.  Let's hope that can change tonight.

This is the last home game for a few weeks for the Pens, who go out on the road for four games after tonight.

Let's Go Pens!

Monday, October 20, 2008

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

Tough road game tonight for the Pens.  They matched the intensity of the Bruins and didn't get flustered over some early penalty calls that went against them.  The Bruins, as expected, came out with a purpose.  They were punishing the Pens every time they had the chance.  The Pens took some bad penalties (three of them) during the first, and Boston had the better of the scoring chances early on.

The story of the night, however, was Dany Sabourin.  He turned away the Bruins early push, and almost every other push they would muster on the night.  He made an insane save in the third on Marc Savard's blast from the slot.  Sabu couldn't have seen the shot - he just guessed where the puck was going and got a piece of it with his glove.

The shootout was a bit on the tense side, especially when the opposition shoots second.  Sykora scored in the initial three shooters, as did Kessel, but no one else was able to score until Geno put the Pens up.  Savard couldn't get one past Sabu, which ended the game.

  • Godard really showed a few things tonight with his speed and forechecking game.  I know BGL had good hands, but I think Godard's speed and tenacity will be a bigger benefit to the Pens.
  • Can the Pens survive long term with a fourth line that barely plays?  Godard got more time tonight (a bit over 6 minutes), but Bissonnette played less than four.  I think in the long run, Therrien needs to be able to roll four lines.
  • I know they're a long way off, but what do you do when Whitney and (eventually) Gonchar return?  Sydor is already sitting - who else do you pull from the lineup?
  • Boston seemed a bit on the cheap side, especially Aaron Ward, who reminds of Brendan Witt a bit.
Next up:  The Pens play Carolina at the Igloo on Thursday before heading out on the road.

Game #7 - at Boston Bruins

Pittsburgh Penguins (3-2-1, 7 pts) at Boston Bruins (2-1-1, 5 pts)

This one has a bad feeling to it.  The Bruins are finally getting their home opener, just in time for the Pens first North American foray outside of the Igloo.

The Pens haven't managed to put together a complete game yet, and Boston is always a tough place for them to play (Boston is 6-1-1 against the Pens at home since the end of the lockout).

Wagerline has Boston as the favorite, but the public consensus is on the Pens at over 56%.  The bookies don't like to be wrong, so that is usually a recipe for trouble (road underdog being the public favorite).

The Bruins have two good goalies in Thomas and Fernandez, but they've had some trouble stopping pucks so far this year.

If the Pens can play solidly on the defensive front, they should be able to get some good chances on the Bruins.  The key will be to weather the storm in the home opener - the Bruins are sure to be charged up.

Let's Go Pens!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Penguins 4, Maple Leafs 1

The Pens, while they made the game interesting for two period, really had too much offense for the Leafs tonight.

It was a night of both team and individual achievements:
  • Sid notched point #300, goal #100 and assist #200
  • Geno managed his 200th point
  • The team won a game they were supposed to win
  • Jason Blake didn't win the game by himself
All of these things were worthwhile, and when you add to that the Pens getting two points out of the deal, it was a successful night.

The Pens did allow the Leafs too many decent chances late in the second and early in the third, but Fleury was there to shut the door even when the Leafs did break through.  It looked like whenever the Pens' forwards thought the puck was heading out of the zone, they'd take off without making sure it actually *did* leave the zone.  That led to a few odd-man chances that Fleury and his D had to stop.  Both were up to the challenge.

Nice win for the Pens.  They were supposed to get two points, and they did.

Next up:  The first trip away from home in North America, to Boston on Monday night.

Game #6 - vs Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs (1-1-2, 4 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (2-2-1, 5 pts)

The Leafs have struggled early this season.  They won their season opener against Detroit and have lost three straight since then.  The silver lining tonight for the Leafs is that they're playing a much more defensive style on the road.  In two road games, they've allowed just three goals total, compared to 11 in two home games.

The Leafs need to play that defensive style away from home, because they're a bit weak on the offense.  They have just 8 goals through four games, including just two on the power play.

The Pens have their own issues, with Michel Therrien trying to get their attention early this season.  After the bad loss to the Caps, HCMT called the team "immature" and labeled their performance as "unacceptable".

This is a team the Pens should beat, given their respective positions.  The Leafs are rebuilding, while the Pens should be stepping up.  Look for a solid performance tonight, or look for some extra pain for the Flightless Birds on Sunday.

Let's Go Pens!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Capitals 4, Penguins 3

Bad loss for the Pens. They jumped out to an early advantage, leading 3-0 early in the second. The Caps started to chip away, and before you could say "badly outshot", they were losing the game.

The Pens sat back too early and weren't able to ramp it up when they needed to.

Someone really needs to kill Ovechkin. He's turning into a real pecker.

First period:

Just 30 seconds into the game, Crosby decides to demonstrate that he's still better than O-Face by taking a puck through two defensemen and nearly beating Theodore.

Ovechkin quickly got back to his man-crush on Malkin by trying to kill him again. I'd say that Alex should let sleeping dogs lie, but Malkin hasn't shown very much yet this year.

I no sooner wrote that than Malkin took a bad hooking penalty. Blech.

Nothing doing on the early power plays for each team. The Caps had some decent chances. The Pens? Not so much.

Early on, Bissonnette is trying to use his size and dish out some punishment on the forecheck. Not much luck catching anyone so far, but he should keep trying.

Wow - Godard gets no respect. He was called for icing when he deflected the puck from just behind the red line. Usually on those calls, if the player can even see the red line, they let it go.

The Pens went back on the power play. Malkin blasted a shot that deflected off of the end boards right to Goligoski. Alex tried to settle the puck, fanned on an attempted shot and then whipped it at the net from a bad angle. It somehow found it's way behind Theodore. 1-0 Pens.

Pens back on the power play to close out the first period. Sure would be nice to get two PP goals in the first...

Ask and ye shall receive. Malkin ripped a shot off of Jurcina that found it's way behind Theodore. 2-0 Pens.

Great first period. Fleury made a few big saves and the Pens got some timely scoring on the power play.

Second period:

The Pens start the second period on the power play, thanks to the lack of focus on the part of the Caps - they took a Too Many Men penalty with under a minute left in the first. Not smart.

The Caps, trying to kill the penalty, flip the puck over the boards. Their heads really aren't in this so far tonight. Five on three for the Pens. If they can score here, it's a knockout punch.

Malkin shot the puck to the net and the Pens crashed the net. Satan finished things off. 3-0 Pens.

Godard took a dumb slashing penalty. I'm not sure that gets called if the Pens hadn't had 37 power play chances in a row.

Steigy did his best to deliver the kiss of death by letting us know the Pens have killed 11 straight penalties.

Nothing can seem to hurt the Pens right now, and they killed the penalty pretty easily.

The Pens couldn't clear the puck - Satan didn't get it out and the Caps jumped on it. 3-1 Pens.

Paul Bissonnette decided things were not going to continue in a sloppy fashion. He and former Penguin Matt Bradley squared off, and Bissonnette absolutely destroyed Bradley. Matt was bloody and dazed. Total domination by Paul.

Ovechkin was still trying to kill Malkin with several attempted hits on Geno. Someone needs to catch O-Face with his head down and send him in to the middle of next week.

Malkin took a boarding penalty when he hit Semin. Ovechkin immediately skated over to Malkin - you thought he was going to drop the gloves, but someone slowed down O-Face (wisely). Big PK for the Pens.

No problem on the PK. Penalty over, no dice for the Caps.

Gill got between Crosby and Semin and somehow took the only penalty. Errey volunteered that it was an even-up call. Nice job, Clueless Zebras.

Green hooked Letang when Kris was trying to clear the zone, and to their credit, the refs actually made the call. Way to go, refs!

The Pens had a backside power play after the Gill penalty expired.

O-Face just tried to kill Malkin... again. Will someone from the Pens step up and knock O-Face on his butt? He's taking runs at Malkin, and it's actually getting kind of cheap. Respect-o-meter is dropping, O-Face...

Third period:

Probably important to slog things up a bit early in the third. The Pens can't let the Caps get any early momentum. A goal would be nice, but just shutting down the Caps defensively would be good.

Annnndddd... the Pens lost a defensive zone faceoff and Semin ripped a wrister past Fleury. 3-2 Pens.

Slog slog slog... not much happening as the midway point of the third period approached.

UNTIL the Caps break in 3-on-2 and have a nice tic-tac-toe passing play with Nylander finishing things off. 3-3 tie.

Fedo lost his stick, and the next 90 seconds looked like a Caps power play. The Pens have lost it, and the Caps have it right now. The Pens have to weather the storm.

Kennedy and Talbot ignite a bit of fire under the Penguins with some hustle. Malkin gets on the ice and the Pens keep it in the offensive zone for awhile. That's a good start, but they can't be content to keep it on the outside - they need shots.

Gill got hit in the face with a stick with no call. The Caps took the puck down on a 2-on-1 with Gordon ripping the puck over Fleury. 4-3 Caps.

The last four minutes started to tick away quickly with continuous play. Fleury was off and the Pens were trying to get things setup. Ovechkin made the really selfish play of shooting for the open net from his own zone, giving the Pens an offensive zone faceoff. The Pens couldn't make them pay for that.