Thursday, January 31, 2008

This somehow passes for journalism

Courtesy of The Canadian Press, via TSN:
Kovalchuk was levelled by Ruutu 3:21 into the second period. The collision left Kovalchuk laying on the ice in obvious pain in front of Atlanta's bench before he limped to the locker room.
Levelled? Did the writer even see the "hit" in question? That's just dumb.

Here's a clip that shows just how Ruutu "levelled" Kovalchuk:

I don't know how these articles are written, but TSN has "The Canadian Press" as the byline, while an article containing the exact same text is credited to "Charles Odum, AP Sports Writer" in the article carried on Yahoo.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Thrashers 4, Penguins 1 - Video Highlights

Here are the video highlights from the Pens loss to Atlanta.

You can read the review here.

Thrashers 4, Penguins 1

This was one of those games you just don't feel like writing about. The Pens had a ton of chances. None of them were amazing, but there were lots of quality opportunities. Nothing they did went in the goal until it was too late (I'm not counting Smith's possible kick).

About the only thing that was remotely entertaining was seeing Kovalchuk gesture at the Penguins bench after scoring and later leaving the game with knee injury. You never like to see a guy get hurt, but I can't think of another player who likes to show up his opponents more than Ilya does. He sure doesn't watch My Name is Earl, or he'd know about the power of karma.

Nothing else I really want to say about this one. That's the benefit of being a blogger - there's no requirement to continue!

Next up: The Hurricanes visit the Igloo on Saturday night.

Penguins 4, Devils 2 - Video Highlights

Here are the video highlights from the Pens excellent road win over the Devils.

You can read the full review here.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Game #51 - at Atlanta Thrashers

Pittsburgh Penguins (28-18-4, 60 pts) at Atlanta Thrashers (23-25-4, 50 pts)

I'm too lazy for pictures for this one.

The wheels are just about off of the wagon for the Thrashers. They've lost five in a row going into the All Star weekend. This is the first game after the weekend break. They're sitting with just 50 points. They're only four points out of the 8th spot, but almost all of the teams ahead of them have games in hand. They have to get their act together and do it right now.

Fortunately for the Thrashers, the Pens have struggled in Atlanta since the lockout ended. They have only a single win in Atlanta in the last five games.

Unfortunately for the Thrashers, the Pens are coming off of a great road win in New Jersey and have shown some ability to spread the scoring without Sidney Crosby. Maybe now Kovalchuk will have to point at himself without Sid in the lineup.

Let's Go Pens!

Penguins 4, Devils 2

Great game tonight. The Pens put together a solid road effort.

Early on, Orpik looks like he's going to kill someone while playing wing. He's trying to line people up, and they seem to want no part of that.

Steigy no sooner tells us that Mike Rupp doesn't have a point in 57 games, than Mike Rupp scores. Thanks, Steigy. Of course, as soon as Rupp scores, Steigy tells us that it's his first goal in 36 games. Um... if he doesn't have a point in 57 games, how did he score.... never mind (Steigy would correct himself between the first and second periods).

Both Staal and Rupp manage completely lucky goals. Staal touches a puck near Brodeur that bounces off a few Devils and into the net. Rupp gets his second when he shoots the puck off of the body of Letang and into the net.

Crusher took a turnover and made Brodeur look stupid, alertly going forehand / backhand and tapping the puck past a hopeless Brodeur (check this one in the video highlights once they're available).

Less that two minutes later, the Pens work from behind the net again with Sykora handing a nice dish right out to Malone, who buried the chance.

Funny scene when Gionta boarded Taffe (that part wasn't funny) and was immediately surrounded by Orpik and Laraque. It looked pretty bad for Mighty Mouse at that moment. He was lucky they only wanted to chat. He was also lucky that Gary Roberts is hurt.

Going to the third, Steigy and Errey let us know the Pens are 20-1-1 when leading going into the third. Those things usually come back to bite us (see: Mike Rupp), but they didn't tonight.
The Pens add a power play goal in the third when Malone bats the puck in on his backhand, seemingly out of mid-air.

Errey gives us a phrase I've never heard before, when talking about Scuderi stopping a chance for Madden in front of the net, he said "he read that like a cheap book"

Not much else in the third. The Pens did what the Devils usually do - gum up the works and put the other team in the sleeper hold. It worked, and the Devils didn't generate any kind of serious offense.

  • Conklin didn't have to make many spectacular saves. He stopped the shots he needed to and gave the team a chance to win the game.
  • Malone, Crusher, Talbot and Sykora all with two points tonight.
  • Orpik played almost 7 minutes at left wing. He didn't look bad, and it was nice to see someone finishing a check in the offensive zone.
  • Malone and Malkin both played about 24 minutes! Hope this doesn't come back to bite them tomorrow night.
  • Nathan Smith didn't look out of place
  • Malkin was bad a faceoffs - winning just 7 of 22
Next up: A return to Atlanta tomorrow night.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Game #50 - at New Jersey Devils

Pittsburgh Penguins (27-18-4, 58 pts) at New Jersey Devils (28-18-3, 59 pts)

Mighty Mouse has only 5 goals in his first 22 home games.

Sydor has been solid the past few months.

The Devils didn't have a very nice welcome back from the All Star break. Their coach (Sutter) was very unhappy with their effort. Here's the quote:
"I'm disappointed in the whole team and its commitment to win. Their play was brutal. They already had their plans to head to (Las) Vegas or wherever the hell they're going before the game was half over. It's totally unacceptable. Everything it takes to win a hockey game, we didn't do. It was a total lack of effort from everyone."

"It tells you that this is not a mentally strong hockey team."
The Pens, for their part, have been slumping. They've lost four of the past six games, including the past two going into the break. They need to right the ship and do it quickly. That's not an easy task in Jersey, though the Pens have won three straight in the state to the east, shelling Brodeur in the process.

Army is out for this one. The Pens recalled Nasreddine and Smith from Wilkes-Barre. According to PSI, Kris Beech is tied up with visa issues and won't play in this one.

Let's Go Pens!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Flyers 4, Penguins 3 - Video Highlights

Here are the video highlights from the Flyers win over the Pens.

There is no full review, as I didn't get to see the game.

If you're reading this is a feed reader, you'll need to click through onto the site to see the highlights.

Flyers 4, Penguins 3

Missed this one. Pretty glad I did, considering the final score. I'll have video highlights up once they become available.

Next up: Sarge and Geno's Excellent Adventure at the All Star Weekend

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Game #49 - at Philadelphia Flyers

Pittsburgh Penguins (27-17-4, 58 pts) at Philadelphia Flyers (26-16-5, 57 pts)

Geno has been the man since Sid went out.

Biron has owned the Pens this year (1.67 GAA, .938 Save %)

This is one game I'd really like to see the Pens win. The last time these two teams met, the result wasn't pretty. The Pens owe a bit of payback, and they're very capable of delivering.

The Flyers are hot, hot, hot right now. Despite their loss at home to Jersey on Tuesday, the Flyers have won 10 of their past 13 games. Their power play has been absolutely smoking. They have put up an astronomical 15 power play goals in their last 7 games, in just 43 chances. That's a 35% success rate! The Pens will need to shut them down. Unfortunately, they kill penalties at a rate of just 78% on the road (fourth worst in the NHL).

The Pens did manage three power play goals against the Caps, and the Flyers allowed FIVE in their loss to the Devils... maybe there's something to work with there.

Ben Eager isn't on the roster anymore, but the Flyers still have plenty of thugs, including Steve Downie.

If this one gets out of control on the score board, it could get ugly.

Let's Go Pens!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Ovechkin attempted hit on Malkin

Check out the attempted hit on Malkin by Ovechkin. Alex took the worse end of this, basically pin balling off of Geno and crashing into the boards. Evgeni looks like someone tapped his shoulder.

Capitals 6, Penguins 5 (OT - SO - 2-1) - Video Highlights

Here are the video highlights from the Caps victory over the Pens.

Check out the full review here.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Capitals 6, Penguins 5 (OT - SO - 2-1)

This was much like an old-fashioned shoot out. You have to go back to December 11th to find a game with this much scoring (and that was the 8-2 loss to Philly).

Much of the game was defined by the efforts of Malkin against Ovechkin. Each had two goals and an assist. Ovechkin tried to kill Geno with a vicious, Armstrong-like hit. Malkin saw him at the last second, and Alex received the worse end of that deal. Check out the video highlights after I post them - I'm SURE that hit will be in there. Each player had one good rush at the end of the third. They were consecutive - Malkin first and Ovechkin second.

Disappointing to lose this one in the shoot out. Kozlov was stopped by Conklin using a poke-check. It seems like Ovechkin and Semin saw that and used it against him, dangling the puck out there until he reached for it. It was like taking candy from a baby, and they both made him look bad. The Pens magic combo of Crusher and Letang were shut down, which also was unlucky (Letang hit the post).

There are two main reasons the Pens lost this one:
  • They took two dumb penalties (three if you count Malkin's trip on Ovechkin) in the third. They killed off the first two, but the Caps came through on the third one. You can't do that when protecting a lead.
  • They were unable to score in the OT despite about three minutes on the power play, nearly two minutes of which was with a two man advantage. You have to be able to score in that situation.
Having said that, the Pens showed great tenacity in finding ways to score goals. The power play scored three different times (although, as noted previously, not in OT).

Other notes -
  • Dany Sabourin is not good at home this year. He has one win in 6 games (5 starts). Hopefully we're back to seeing Conklin for awhile.
  • Malkin is the real deal. He seems fully cognizant of the load on his shoulders and he's living up to it.
  • The three new guys (Minard, Brent and Filewich) played on a line together. They didn't play much, but they didn't look lost either.
  • Staal continues to rack up the hits - he was credited with another 6 tonight. I don't really see him crunching guys, but I guess with his frame all you need to do is run into them.
Next up: a trip back to the last high scoring game - Philadelphia - on Thursday.

NHL Picks - 1-21-08

Record last night: 3-2
Record this month: 22-14
Record this season: 85-71

Back on the winning side yesterday as January continues to be my most successful month. There's still time for it to go horribly wrong, so let's see what happens.

Five games for MLK Day. I'm not crazy about any of them, but I'm going to do the unusual and pick the Pens game.

Washington at Pittsburgh - Did you really think I could pick against the Pens? Go Pens!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Game #48 - vs Washington Capitals

Washington Capitals (21-21-5, 47 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (27-17-3, 57 pts)

Semin hasn't lived up to expectations so far this season.

Whitney's point production is down from last year.

The Caps are hot. They have a three game winning streak and have won seven of their past 9 games. Even with the win streak, they're still allowing goals. They've had to score four or more to win all but one of their games. They've allowed two or fewer in just three of the nine games.

The Pens are running a medical ward. Take a look at the list of injured players:
  • Sidney Crosby
  • Gary Roberts
  • Marc-Andre Fleury
  • Colby Armstrong
  • Adam Hall
  • Tyler Kennedy
Obviously missing Sid is hard enough, but much of their grit and depth is sitting on the bench. There were three new guys called up (Filewich, Brent and Minard) to help if Army, Hall or Kennedy should miss any significant time.

This is another trap game, like last Friday against the Lightning. The Pens need to get off fast and control the play. If they get behind, I'm not sure they have the firepower and depth to come back.

Let's Go Pens!

NHL Picks - 1-20-08

Record Thursday: 2-1
Record this month: 19-12
Record this season: 82-69

No picks since Thursday. I'm back in the game today. As I type this, the Rangers and Bruins are underway, so I won't pick that game. I will, however, pick the other five contests:

Edmonton at Atlanta - This game is at 2 PM EST, which is awfully early for the Oilers. They've also lost three in a row. Go Thrashers.

Anaheim at Dallas - The Stars have had trouble scoring, but I think they'll do enough to beat the Ducks at home. Go Stars.

Toronto at New Jersey - The Devils are turning their new building into a tough place to play. The Leafs have won three in a row while the Devils have lost two. It won't matter. Go Devils.

Columbus at Colorado- The Avs have been floundering - I think they'll still have enough to beat the Jackets. Go Avalanche.

Ottawa at Philadelphia - Philly is 9-1-1 in their past 11. The Sens have lost three of four games, including losing yesterday to Tampa Bay at home. I think they'll be ticked. Go Sens.

Penguins 2, Canadiens 0 - Video Highlights

Here are the video highlights from the Pens' impressive victory in Montreal.

Check here for the full review.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Penguins 2, Canadiens 0

Tonight was a coming out party for the Penguins as a team. They showed that they can win without Sid, which is something they haven't been able to do in the prior two seasons.

Dany Sabourin played a great game, making several key saves and stopping 31 shots for the shut out.

The Pens got some scoring from the fourth line again, as Laraque found Taffe in the first period. There wasn't another goal until Malkin scored the empty netter with just 13 seconds left.

Great win for the Pens.

A few interesting notes:
  • Two more forwards left the game during / after the first and didn't return - Colby Armstrong and Adam Hall.
  • Because of that, several of the other forwards played big minutes. They included Malkin, Sykora, Talbot and Malone all over the 20 minute mark. That's not unusual for Geno, but it sure is for the other three guys. Even Ruutu played just about 15 minutes.
  • We barely saw Orpik and Letang in the third when the team was protecting the lead. Gonchar played over 11 minutes, which was huge.
  • One of my big pet peeves - the wonderful people in Montreal somehow gave two of the top three stars to the team that was shut out. Talk about dumb - that's just stupid.
I suppose it's now Sabourin's turn to shine. We'll probably see him on Monday against the Caps (as well we should). It will be interesting to see if they call anyone up from the Baby Pens, with both Army and Hall potentially being hurt. They can't lose too many more guys.

Next up: The Caps come to town on Monday night.

Game #47 - at Montreal Canadiens

Pittsburgh Penguins (26-17-3, 55 pts) at Montreal Canadiens (24-14-8, 56 pts)

Geno needs to carry the load. Time to show why you were the #2 overall pick.

Huet has been hot lately, and he owns the Pens - 3-0-0, 1.46 GAA

The Habs are hot. They're 7-1-2 in their past 10 games. The Pens have their work cut out for them.

Without Sidney Crosby, the Pens are just 0-2-2 and have managed only 7 goals in those four games. Malkin will obviously need to be able to score without Crosby to set him up. Other players will need to fill in as well. I'd expect to see Christensen back in the lineup, as the Pens could really use his offensive talents.

Not sure who will be in goal. The Post-Gazette and the Trib are split (Trib says Sabu, while the Post-Gazette says Conklin), which means that there is no definitive answer - the writers are playing coach again.

Time to see if the Pens can step up and play as a team without their leader. I say they can.

Let's Go Pens!

Sidney Crosby - high ankle sprain

Sidney Crosby will be out indefinitely with a high ankle sprain, suffered during the first period of a 3-0 loss to the Lightning. He'll be evaluated by the doctors on Saturday in Pittsburgh.

Here's the video of the injury - it's at the tail end of the 18 second clip.

Lightning 3, Penguins 0 - Video Highlights

Here are the video highlights from the Pens loss at home against the Lightning.

Check out the full review here.

Lightning 3, Penguins 0

The Pens lost the game and also lost Sidney Crosby with a high ankle sprain. As bad as the injury looked, the Pens looked worse without Crosby.

The fourth line of the Bolts did all of the damage in this one. Andre Roy managed to beat on the Pens for three points and was the #1 star in the game.

Conklin played pretty well. He kept the Pens in the game early with some nice saves on breakaway attempts. Only one of those goals he allowed might be considered soft (the Gratton goal).

There were a few things that were pretty troubling:
  • The Pens were out shot 14-7 in the third period. They were only trailing 2-0 at the beginning of the third.
  • The Lightning, early on especially, were exploiting the slow foot speed of some of the Pens defense to earn breakaway attempts (St Louis had two, and I think Richards had one).
  • No one could score without Sid in the lineup. The quality chances just weren't there. There was some nice puck possession, but unless you can turn that into goals, it doesn't mean much.
So now the Pens have to bear down as a team. They still have lots of offensive talent. It's time for everyone to start to contribute.

Next up: The Pens are thrown right into the fire with a game tonight against the Habs, in Montreal.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Game #46 - vs Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning (17-24-5, 39 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (26-16-3, 55 pts)

Lundin has played in every game as a rookie. He's a +1 with 5 assists on a bad team.

Yeah, I'm going back to the well with the Crosby card again. Sid is the real deal.

This is a trap game for the Pens. Consider these factors:
  • The Lightning really stink this year, but they're usually good against the Pens. They're 6-0 in their last 6 games in Pittsburgh
  • The Bolts are just 5-14-3 on the road but have won their previous two away from home.
  • They have a few players who are pretty bad in +/-, but their big guns (Lecavalier and St Louis) are either even or positive. Heck, Michel Ouellet is a +6!
In short, this team can beat the Pens if they come out flat.

The thing that scares me is the Pens have been off since Monday. That's an unusually long break for this time of year. I think we can count on Michel Therrien keeping their heads in the right place.

Malkin now has 12 goals in the past 12 games. Crosby is tied (as of Thursday night) for the league lead in scoring with 63 points. The team is tied for first place in the Atlantic. Ty Conklin is unbelievable right now. What could go wrong? If the Pens do their job, we won't have to answer that question.

Let's Go Pens!

NHL Picks - 1-17-08

Record last night: 1-1
Record this month: 17-11
Record this season: 80-68

Just sliding right along. My record recently hasn't been very good, but that won't stop my from trying.

Last night, Minnesota lost on a shoot out at home, while Philly beat Florida.

8 games tonight in the NHL. I'm going with three:

Vancouver at Detroit - The Wings are struggling. They've lost three in a row, two of those were at home to Minnesota and Atlanta (ouch). Their power play is just 3-30 over their recent games, and here come the Canucks, who usually play well on the road. You know what that means? Business as usual. Go Red Wings.

Carolina at Ottawa - The Canes are really struggling lately. The Sens just lost to the Caps (again). Go Sens.

Columbus at Phoenix - Look out for the Coyotes as a team no one wants to play if they make the playoffs. Bryzgalov coming over from Anaheim really jump-started this team. Go Coyotes.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

NHL Picks - 1-16-08

Record last night: 0-3
Record this month: 16-10
Record this season: 79-67

You just knew a day like this was coming. Three picks, three losses. The Wings lost at home to Atlanta. The Kings won in Edmonton. The Sens were swept in their season series against the Caps. Ugh.

Five games on the schedule tonight. I'm going with two of them.

Calgary at Minnesota - The Flames are slumping, and going to Minnesota is the wrong place for that kind of streak. Go Wild.

Florida at Philadelphia - The Panthers have been playing better, but Philly is playing well right now. Go Flyers.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

NHL Picks - 1-15-08

Record Sunday: 1-1
Record this month: 16-7
Record this season: 79-64

Only one game yesterday. It was the Pens, and I don't normally pick games that involve the Pens (I could never pick against them).

Ten games tonight. I like three.

Atlanta at Detroit - The Thrashers just won in a shoot out over the Pens. They won't win in Detroit. Go Wings.

Ottawa at Washington - The Sens have lost all three games against the Caps so far this year. If they lose tonight, the Caps will have swept the series. They won't lose. Go Sens.

Los Angeles at Edmonton - The Oilers are hot right now. The Kings are too, but come on - they're the Kings... Go Oilers.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Penguins 4, Rangers 1 - Video Highlights

These are the video highlight from the Pens win over the Rangers.

Check out the full review here.

Penguins 4, Rangers 1

Ty Conklin is unbelievable.

There really isn't any better way to put that. He has stopped everything that you'd expect and then some. Tonight he stopped 43 shots, allowing only a power play goal to Jagr (it's good to let Jaromir score when in Pittsburgh - that way he doesn't try to end it all in his despair).

Malkin had the hat trick tonight, his second of the season and second of his career.

The Pens jumped out to a big lead and then let the Rangers keep coming at them. They were badly out shot, especially in the second period (17-2). The Rangers, though, couldn't do anything with all of those shots, mainly because of the aforementioned Conklin. I'd like to see the Pens be able to put the foot on the throat and open up a four, five or six goal lead. Keep pouring it on and let teams know that once they get down, they're not coming back.

The power play broke out tonight as well, with two goals. That's actually significant, as they haven't managed a multi-goal game from the PP since December 11th. They've managed it only three times (as of tonight) since October.

If the power play can get rolling (as it has the ability to do), this winning streak can continue. You have to expect that Conklin is going to come back to earth sometime (though he can take his time about it as far as I'm concerned). Having the offensive guns going when he does would be a huge boost.

Great win in the division (yeah!) for the Pens.

Next up: A well deserved rest until Friday when those lovely Lightning come to town.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Game #45 - vs New York Rangers

New York Rangers (21-19-5, 47 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (25-16-3, 53 pts)

Jaromir tries to fall on his stick to end the dying inside.

Geno should be ticked at being snubbed for the All Star Game.

The Pens had their winning streak snapped on Saturday night in Atlanta. They now are saddled with a measly point streak, just like last year. Sucks to be successful.

The Rangers have been anything but successful of late. They managed to win on Saturday at home to snap a five game losing streak. They had a high-water mark of 15-9-2 this season on December 1st. Since then, they're just 6-10-3 with no real periods of sustained success.

The fellows from New York have been cranking up the offense lately. They've managed 41 shots each of the past two games. Their PK has been quite poor over their last 7 games, killing only 29 of 39 chances.

This is a game the Pens must take advantage of. They've lost all three games against the Rangers this year. This is a great chance to actually win a division game against an opponent who is having a rough time.

Let's Go Pens!

NHL Picks - 1-13-08

Record last night: 0-0
Record this month: 15-6
Record this season: 78-63

Back for some picks in what has been my best month this season.

It's a heavy Sunday for the NHL, with 8 games on the schedule. I like two.

Islanders at Ottawa - Is a letdown possible after beating Detroit last night? Sure. Is it going to happen? Nope. Go Sens.

Phoenix at Minnesota - Bryzgalov is struggling, thought the Coyotes aren't. I think they'll have a tough time in Minnesota. Go Wild.

Thrashers 3, Penguins 2 - Video Highlights

Here are the video highlights from the Pens' loss to the Thrashers.

Check here for the full review.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

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

Tonight, the Pens received a piece of mail, express delivered to their locker room. It was read by Michel Therrien. We've exclusively obtained the letter:

I think it's almost a good thing the Pens took one on the chin tonight, because they didn't play their best game. They seemed to be a step slow, especially in the third when they were out shot 14-6.

One player who was at his best still was Ty Conklin. This could easily have been a loss in regulation if not for several amazing saves made by Ty. He stopped everyone but Mark Recchi in the shootout. You can't be upset with a goalie for stopping all three of the regulation shooters. One of the Pens needs to score in that circumstance.

The Thrashers were only credited with 9 hits, but it sure seemed like more than that. They were finishing off their checks the entire game, and made the Pens pay for taking penalties with two power play goals.

After tonight, the Pens will need to regroup a bit. They did lose, but they also earned a point to have a 2-0-1 southern road trip. That's not bad.

Next up: A chance to win a game in the Atlantic against the Rangers on Monday.

NHL Picks - 1-12-08

Record Thursday: 0-0
Record this month: 15-6
Record this season: 78-63

Still no games I like, so I'm not picking any. There is a premier matchup tonight when Detroit visits Ottawa - that one should be fun.

I'll make at least one pick tomorrow. I promise.

Game #44 - at Atlanta Thrashers

Pittsburgh Penguins (25-16-2, 52 pts) at Atlanta Thrashers (21-22-2, 44 pts)

No cards today. Just a quick preview.

Atlanta is struggling. They've lost 6 of their past 9, including the last two. Mark Recchi has 15 points in 16 games, though he is a -3. Kovalchuk is hot with 14 points (7+7) in his last 14 games.

For the Pens, Jordan Staal broke out with three points against the Lightning. Conklin remains hot, and the Pens continue to put the game away with timely scoring late in the third period.

Let's Go Pens!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Penguins 4, Lightning 1 - Video Highlights

Missed this one entirely. Check out the highlights for the goals that were scored. Good to see the Pens get a win to keep the streak going.

NHL Picks - 1-10-08

Record last night: 1-0
Record this month: 15-6
Record this season: 78-63

No picks tonight. There's only one game I like at all (Detroit plays Minnesota at home), but I'm not going to pick it.

I'll be back tomorrow with some more picks.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Game #43 - at Tampa Bay Lightning

Pittsburgh Penguins (24-16-2, 50 pts) at Tampa Bay Lightning (16-22-5, 37 pts)

18 Goals, 41 Assists, 59 Points

28 Goals, 35 Assists, 63 Points

This is a game with some interesting and opposing numbers. Check these out:
  • The Pens are on a seven game winning streak and are 16-5 in their last 21 games.
  • The Lightning are 3-12 in their last 15 games.
  • The Lightning, despite being 12-8-2 at home this year are just 1-5-1 in their past 7 at home.
  • The Pens have lost TWELVE straight against the Lightning. The last time the Pens beat the Bolts was January of 2003.
  • Vinny has 13 goals in his past 13 games against the Pens.
So something has to give, right? I'm hoping that it's the Bolts that give in to the Pens. It would be nice to finally beat them, especially in Tampa Bay.

Let's Go Pens!

NHL Picks - 1-9-08

Record last night: 4-1
Record this month: 14-6
Record this season: 77-63

Wow - I can do no wrong lately. I'm not going to get too excited - I'm sure it will all come to a screeching halt sooner rather than later. Only the Rangers let me down last night, losing at home to the Lightning. How bad are the Rangers right now?

Light schedule tonight - just three games on the slate. I'm picking one.

Toronto at Anaheim - Just because the Leafs can't seem to win without Toskala, and the Ducks can't seem to lose right now. Go Ducks.

Penguins 3, Panthers 1 - Video Highlights

Here are the video highlights from the Penguins 3-1 win over the Panthers.

Check out the full review here.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Penguins 3, Panthers 1

The biggest news from the game tonight was that Conklin wasn't able to get the shutout. There really wasn't much else going on, which is to say the Pens played a great road game.

It wasn't looking good early, when the Pens had two power plays early in the first period and managed a total of two shots. I was afraid the Panthers would build some momentum off of that and bring the fight to the Pens. That never happened until the game was decided.

The best scoring chance during the first was a nice redirect by Brooks Orpik that Vokoun kept out of the net.

The Pens used the power play to get things going in the second period, with a nice bad-angle goal by Sykora. They added two more in the next 3:06.

Crosby scored on a self-created breakaway. I say "self-created" because when he took the puck at his own blue line, he had two defense men between him and Vokoun. He used his speed and was skating in all alone when he put the puck past the left skate of the goalie.

Laraque added his third of the year to cap the scoring for the Pens. They dominated the second period, out shooting the Panthers 15-4.

Conklin again made the save he needed to make. The Panthers didn't throw tons of pressure at him, and he was able to handle what the saw.

The Pens tried to make things interesting by allowing a short-handed goal with under 5:00 left in the third, but the Panthers would have none of it, with Montador tripping Crosby to send the Pens back on the power play with 2:48 remaining. The Pens looked quite a bit more decisive this time, and there were no short handed chances.

Good road win in a place that's traditionally tough for the Pens to play.

Next up: The southern trip continues on over to Tampa Bay on Thursday.

NHL Picks - 1-8-08

Record last night: 1-0
Record this month: 10-5
Record this season: 73-62

Still hitting on all cylinders, the hot streak continues. I'm not sure how long it will last, but it's fun for now!

Busy night in the NHL with 11 games on the schedule. I'm going heavy on the picks today, with five games.

Tampa Bay at Rangers - First home game after a bad west coast swing for the Rangers. Am I taking the upset? Come on - it's the Dolts Bolts. Go Rangers.

Colorado at Detroit - The Avs are fearsome at home, but not so much on the road. The Red Wings just had three guys voted as starters in the All Star game. They're just plain fearsome. Go Wings.

Chicago at Montreal - The Blackhawks aren't the same without Toews. The Habs aren't all that great at home, but I think they can beat the slumping Hawks. Go Canadiens.

Columbus at St Louis - Important divisional game for the Blues, who need to put up some points so they can add some distance in their division. The Jackets are going to have a hard time without Leclaire. Go Blues.

Islanders at Vancouver - Vancouver is on fire at home (11-0-2 in their past 13). Go Canucks.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Game #42 - at Florida Panthers

Pittsburgh Penguins (23-16-2, 48 pts) at Florida Panthers (19-20-3, 41 pts)

Sid has 14 points in his last 8 games.

Olli has 14 goals in just 20 home games. Watch out for him.

It's a rematch between the Pens and Kitty Cats. The Pens just handed the Panthers a shutout loss on Saturday afternoon. The Panthers will be looking for revenge.

The Pens recalled two guys - Ryan Lannon and Ryan Stone. Therrien said he can't promise they're going to play, but I wouldn't be surprised to see either or both should the Pens lose a game on this road trip (especially if they lose against Florida.

Not much else to say - it's the back side of a home and home series.

Let's Go Pens!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

07-08 Midseason Review

The Pens have reached the midpoint of the season. Things weren't looking good early on, but the Pens have turned it around lately. I think they'll keep it going through the second half and right on into the playoffs.

I'm providing some basic numbers, followed by my MVP, biggest surprise and biggest disappointment.

Facts about the halfway point:
Record - 23-16-2
Points - 48
OT Wins - 6 (5 in the shoot out)

In 2006-07, the same data:
Record - 18-16-7
Points - 43
OT Wins - 4

The team has managed far better in OT, and with fewer appearances. They were 4-7 in OT last year at the midpoint, whereas this year they are 6-2. Getting the two points in regulation, along with having some finishers to take care of business in the shootout is one of the biggest changes.

Team MVP - Sidney Crosby
This one is so obvious it's almost not worth writing about. Ty Conklin has played like Patrick Roy of late, but Sid is the heart and soul, hands down.

Biggest Surprise - Ty Conklin, Kris Letang and Tyler Kennedy

Conklin - Ty was signed to provide depth in the system, which became needed when Fleury went down and Sabourin struggled. He's riding a great hot streak right now. He'll probably come down to earth, but it's great while it lasts.

Letang - Getting the call up during his first professional season after not making the team out of camp, Kris has been everything the Pens could hope for from a rookie defenseman. He's absolutely lights out on the shoot out (4-4), and maybe bigger yet, he's even (in +/-) through 23 games while playing 18 minutes per night.

Kennedy - Aside from the fact that Steigerwald keeps referring to him as the "Little Tiger" or any other term that makes him sound like he's 12, Tyler has made most people forget about Mark Recchi. He's earned some time on the power play and a regular spot on the second or third line. He's chipped in with 8 goals so far, and provides a much-needed right handed shot.

Honorable Mention - Colby Armstrong
Army has re-established himself on the top line and managed to stay there for an extended stretch. Not sure if that's where he'll remain for the rest of the year (especially with the way Therrien likes to flip lines), but he's doing the job right now. Good with puck-possession and has good instincts with Sid.

Biggest Disappointment - Jordan Staal
I know this choice won't be popular, but the numbers don't lie. Jordan is a -11 on the year. That's the worst on the team. He has only 10 points so far. I'm not surprised the goal scoring dropped off, but the -11 is the really troubling number. He needs to turn it around, at least with the defensive responsibility. He's also a key part of the PK unit that has struggled to be consistent.

Honorable Mention - Top Heavy Scoring
The team as a whole has only three players with more than 10 goals (Crosby, Malkin and Sykora). They've been getting some better balance lately, and that needs to continue. The top line can't carry them forever, especially against the other top competition in the East when the playoffs get here. Fortunately, Kennedy, Malone and Armstrong all show signs of chipping in every now and then. If they can ever get Sykora going, things could get interesting.

NHL Picks - 1-7-08

Record Saturday: 3-1
Record this month: 9-5
Record this season: 72-62

Wow. I'm up to a season-high 10 games over .500... I know things can turn on a dime, as they did earlier in the season, so I'm not getting too excited.

Three games on Monday. I'm only going with one:

Nashville at Anaheim - The Ducks are showing they might be mighty again. They've won three straight at home and are a season-high 4 games over .500. Go Ducks.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Penguins 3, Panthers 0 - Video Highlights

Here are the highlights from the victory over the Panthers. Check out the full review of the game.

Penguins 3, Panthers 0

The Pens came through with a solid effort at home today against the Panthers. They didn't do anything really flashy or extraordinary, but they managed to come away with the win.

Ty Conklin wasn't spectacular for most of the game, but he again made a few really nice saves and did everything else he needed to. The Panthers put 35 shots on him, but that was misleading, as many of those were slappers from a good distance away with little or no traffic in front of Ty.

I don't think the Pens have yet put together a complete game. In this one, they allowed the Panthers to gain some steam and keep coming at them during the latter part of the second period. It very nearly resulted in a goal, and I think would have changed the momentum of the game permanently. You'd like to see the Pens be able to apply the knockout punch when it's available, though you really can't argue with 15-5 in the past 20 games.

In short, good game, good effort. Nice to see a good win at home, because they're going on the road for three straight.

Next up: a rematch with the Panthers in Florida on Tuesday.

NHL Picks - 1-5-08

Record last night: 2-0
Record this month: 6-4
Record this season: 69-61

Last night, both Jersey and Anaheim won at home. That puts me into winning territory for January so far. Let's see if I can stay there.

Busy schedule today, with 13 games. I'm picking four.

Washington at Montreal - The Habs have struggled at home. I think that changes today. Go Canadiens.

Tampa Bay at Ottawa - The Bolts have been losing regularly. That won't change today. Go Sens.

Islanders at Colorado - The Avs are missing Smyth and Sakic. They'll still beat the Isles at home to remain unbeaten against the East. Go Avs.

Columbus at San Jose - The Jackets aren't good away from home and the Sharks are just chomping at the bit to play the Jackets (lifetime record - 11-0-1). Go Sharks.

Game #41 - vs Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers (19-19-3, 41 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (22-16-2, 46 pts)

Olli is a Penguin killer.

Sarge had two points in the win over the Leafs.

If you asked a room full of reasonable people if the Pens were markedly better than the Panthers, you'd probably get a majority of affirmative answers. Unfortunately, the numbers don't work out that way. The Panthers are just 5 points behind the Pens in the standings in the jumbled Eastern Conference.

One of the big reasons for the good numbers from the Panthers has been their play on the road. On November 17th, they lost in Carolina to fall to 2-8-1 on the road. Since that time, they're 8-2 with their only losses coming in Detroit and New Jersey. In short, this won't be an easy game for the Pens.

During their five game win streak, the Pens have managed to out shoot their opponent just once. They've also managed just three power play goals during that span. So what is the difference? It's Ty Conklin. He's playing as well as we've seen a goalie play this season for the Pens. The D was keeping the number of shots down, but the last two games they've allowed over 35. This can't continue, as Conklin won't stay hot forever.

Let's hope the Pens can get some scoring on the power play and limit Florida's chances.

Let's Go Pens!

Friday, January 04, 2008

NHL Picks - 1-4-08

Record last night: 0-0
Record this month: 4-4
Record this season: 67-61

No picks last night.

The East is insane. The current 6 seed (the Bruins) are just four points ahead of the 13 seed (Toronto). Heck, only 7 points separate the Leafs from the Devils, who sit at #2. It's way too bunched up. The East could use a few teams that are more dominant and consistent.

Four games tonight. I'm going with two of them.

Philadelphia at New Jersey - The Devils are one of the teams that has been good recently. They're certainly capable of starting to distance themselves from the rest of the East. Go Devils.

Chicago at Anaheim - The Ducks are continuing to play well. The Blackhawks are a bit inconsistent still. Go Ducks.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Penguins 6, Maple Leafs 2

Missed this one. Had to catch the highlights.

The Pens avoided a trap tonight and used three goals in 48 seconds early in the third period to blow the game wide open.

It was a tight game for the first 20 minutes, and the Pens needed Conklin playing well to keep it that way. He made a few great saves that kept the deficit at 1-0 going into the second.

Malkin exploded tonight for his first career hat trick, and Jarkko Ruutu was the #3 star with two assists and a fight to his credit.

Here are the highlights for you to check it out yourself. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to click through to the site to see them.

Next up: Kitty Cat invasion of Pittsburgh on Saturday, as the Panthers visit the Igloo and the Jaguars go to Heinz Field.

NHL Picks - 1-3-08

Record last night: 2-2
Record this month: 2-2
Record this season: 67-61

Sort of treading water here. It's a skill, I tell you! The Avs continue to struggle at home lately, having lost three in a row now. The Blues can't beat Edmonton and Anaheim continues their recovery.

No picks tonight. I'm not enamored with any of the games, so I'm sitting it out for the evening. More picks tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Game #40 - vs Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs (16-16-8, 40 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins (21-16-2, 44 pts)

Alex Steen skates really hard.

Gary, we will miss you. Come back soon, or at least go preach.

The Leafs come into the Igloo Thursday night having won just twice since December 14th. Unfortunately for the Pens, one of those wins was the last game they played. Another unfortunate factoid, the Leafs are still 8-2 in their last 10 games in Pittsburgh.

The Pens need to guard against a letdown after an exhilarating win on national television against the Buffalo Sabres. They also need to get used to being able to move the puck normally again after the snow drifts on the ice on Tuesday.

One thing that needs to improve is the power play. Listening to Stan Savran tonight, he was of the opinion that you need to get Peter Sykora on the first power play, at the expense of Jordan Staal. I say if you're going to do that, you consider putting Malkin in front of the net. He certainly has some size. I know you'd be giving up his play making ability, but it's something to try.

Let's see if the Pens can keep up the winning with a good effort at home against the Leafs.

Let's Go Pens!

Winter Classic video highlights

In case you missed it, here are the video highlights of the Winter Classic, courtesy of the NHL.

NHL Picks - 1-2-08

Record last night: 2-2
Record this month: 2-2
Record this season: 65-59

Last night, the Kings continued to defy the odds and won again. The Sens still can't figure out the Capitals, and the Pens won in the snow.

There are seven games tonight. I'm going with four.

Florida at New Jersey - The Devils usually kick around the Panthers. That will continue tonight. Go Devils.

Edmonton at St Louis - The Oilers are the new Kings, now that those guys in LA have started winning. Go Blues.

Columbus at Anaheim - The Ducks aren't bad enough to lose at home to the Jackets, are they? Nah. Go Ducks.

Atlanta at Carolina - The Hurricanes will win against the slumping Thrashers. Go Canes.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

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

Wow. What a game. This was a great way to showcase everything that the NHL has to offer, despite the poor conditions.

The first period went really well for the Pens. They dominated the play, pretty much from the drop of the puck. They managed to get one past Ryan Miller early on, and that was fortunate, because Miller was tough today. The Pens did manage to hit the crossbar at least twice during the first.

For the second period, things were completely reversed. The Pens couldn't get anything going. They couldn't keep the puck on their sticks, and they couldn't get it in deep. They were caught on a bad change that led directly to the Sabres goal.

Third period was back and forth, with both teams getting great chances. Neither one could take advantage, and were were about to go to overtime when Colby was called for hooking. The national announcers saying the call was "questionable" translates in real English to "total horse crap". Fortunately, the Pens were up to the challenge and killed off the penalty.

In the shootout, Kotalik scored on the first attempt for the Sabres, and Crusher missed for the Pens. I thought that was it, because Crusher couldn't move the puck like he usually does, and that's what Letang is all about. My fears were unfounded, though, because Letang did his forehand / backhand move and flipped the puck right over the leg of Miller. Afinogenov missed for the Sabres, and Sid had a chance to win it, which he did by going five-hole when Miller reached out for the poke check.

I can't say enough about how well Ty Conklin played. He kept the Pens in the game late, especially in OT when the Sabres were blasting the puck from all angles on the power play. He also made two great saves in shootout.

Sid took the opportunity today to step up and show why he's the best in the league. He played really well, working hard and making it pay off in the shoot out when it mattered most.

Great game to watch. Great win for the Pens. They need to build off of this momentum and keep rolling.

Next up: The Maple Leafs visit the Igloo on Thursday.

NHL Picks - 1-1-08

Record last night: 0-2
Record for December: 25-23
Record this season: 63-57

Well, I finished December with a winning record, making that three straight months of just over .500 predictions. If you were a betting person, you'd want to do the opposite of what I say, since I usually pick heavy favorites.

Slim schedule today, with only four games, but I'm starting the new year right and picking them all! I'm going with three road teams, which is something you might not see ever again.

Pittsburgh at Buffalo - It's the Ice Bowl / Winter Classic. I wouldn't be a very good Penguins blogger if I didn't pick the Pens... Go Pens!

Ottawa at Washington - The Sens will be unhappy at allowing 8 goals to Washington the other day. The Caps have had some success against the Sens, but I think that stops today. Go Sens.

Tampa Bay at Toronto - Boy, the Dolts are bad. The Leafs aren't much better, but the edge in this one goes to the Leafs. Go Maple Leafs.

Chicago at Los Angeles - First home game back for the Kings after a stretch of games (5 of 6) on the road. Hey, they're still the Kings. Go Hawks.