Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Beard-A-Thon Update

$196 is the total that was raised during Round 1.  It will be matched prior to the start of the Caps series. That means the total donation stands at $392.

If you're interested in donating, all proceeds go the the Mario Lemieux Foundation and will be put to use in cancer research.

The Wife and I are still matching funds too.

You'll get a tax-deductible receipt from the website after you donate.

My profile is here.

Bring on the Caps!

The Hurricanes scored twice in the last 1:20 of regulation to beat the Devils. What an absolute choke job by the guys in New Jersey.

The loss by the Devils means the the Pens will face the Capitals instead of the Bruins. The Caps came roaring back in their series from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Rangers. That arena was deafening for Game 7.

The NHL has their dream playoff matchup - Crosby and Malkin versus Ovechkin.

It should be a great series.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

NBC, where QUALITY is job one

Or not. You'd think they'd be able to get this right after games on both weekends...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Penguins 5, Flyers 3

It is so gratifying to watch a team's stupidity aggressiveness work against them.

There is no doubt in my mind that this game turned on Daniel Carcillo's fight with Max Talbot.

The Flyers had the Pens right where they wanted them, up 3-0 with about 16 minutes remaining in the second period. The Pens had played well and had nothing to show for it. Worse yet, they were in a serious hole. It was looking like Game 7 was likely.

That's when Carcillo couldn't help himself, and fought Talbot. He plastered him pretty well too, but the Pens were the ones that delivered the knockout blow. They scored 14 seconds later and the momentum permanently shifted.

The Pens got their goals by going to the net. Fedotenko knocked a loose puck from under Biron's pads for the first. Eaton batted a puck out of mid-air past Biron for the second. Crosby batted a puck juggled by Biron for the third. Gonchar put the Pens into the lead for good. Sid added an empty-netter to finish things off.

Fleury was great after the fight. He got some help from his defense and the crossbar (on Giroux's shot in the third), and he made an amazing save on Lupul coming across the crease with 5 minutes to go.

The media must have been chanting "Crosby Sucks!" right along with the fans, because I'm not sure how he's not one of the three stars. He led all forwards in ice time, scored two goals, led all players with 7 shots. In short, he stepped up, big time, when his team needed it most.

Sid isn't the only one that rose to the occasion. Geno seemed to wake up after the fight. When the two best players in hockey are both going full steam, five unanswered goals isn't out of the conversation.

I don't blame Carcillo exclusively for the fight. I'd put more of the blame on the entire atmosphere of the arena. If that's a road game, I don't think Carcillo even thinks about fighting, but with the goons in the stands cheering like a bunch of apes, he was more than willing. I'm so glad he did.

Great, great win for the Pens. It's on to the second round and it's time to hit the links for the Flyers.

Next up: The second round - opponent yet to be determined (the only team left that cannot play the Pens are the Rangers).

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Flyers 3, Penguins 0

This was a missed opportunity. The good news about going into this game up 3-1 is that you get three opportunities.

The Pens came out with a strong first period. They dominated the play and nearly scored when TK missed on a wrap around attempt into an essentially open net. He's usually so patient, and one more second of that trademark patience likely scores there. Completely different game if that happens.

The Flyers turned the tide in the second, holding the Pens to just 5 shots and taking a 1-0 lead on a laser beam by Asham. It was probably a bad goal for Fleury to give up, but it was a great shot.

Malkin kicked a puck in, which was disallowed, and the Pens didn't do much after that.

The Flyers added two more in the third, but given that the Pens couldn't score, and really didn't generate much in the way of offense after the first period, I'm not sure the last two goal mattered.

Was benching Sykora a mistake? This team turned on Therrien...

Can you bring Sykora back now? I think you'll see Letang for sure - he was probably dinged up. I think given that Satan really didn't show much, you could bring Petr back into the lineup.

Missed opportunities hurt.

Next up: A special play-date back in the City of Brotherly Love on Saturday afternoon. Get ready - NBC is having a special event for charity - it's called the Mike Richards Love-a-thon, and it's being run by Pierre McGuire.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Penguins 3, Flyers 1

Marc-Andre Fleury was one of the biggest reasons the Pens lost Game 3.

He was the only reason the Pens won Game 4.

The Flyers were strong on the first period and were somehow outshot by the Pens 13-12.  They were stronger in the second and third, buoyed by seemingly endless power play chances.

It didn't matter.  Fleury was up to every challenge.  The only goal he allowed was immediately after being knocked into the net.

The game was tight late, and I think most of the Pens' faithful were anxious watching the last 5 minutes.  The Flyers no sooner pulled Biron than Adams got control of the puck in the defensive zone and calmly got it up to Talbot.  Max hit the empty net from just inside the red line.  That was game over.

The Flyers were still within two goals, so they didn't have the chance to goon it up.  They were exceedingly desperate as the game wound down, however.  It's like they knew this was the last chance.  Let's hope that's true.

My favorite part of the game was the Philly crowd booing the team in the early parts of the third period when the power play wasn't going their way.  Combine that with people heading for the exits once the Pens scored the EN, even though Philly had pulled their goalie and was only down by 2.

Next up:  The Pens can finish it at home on Thursday.  Let's hope they do, because you sure don't want to come back to Philly.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Flyers 6, Penguins 3

The Flyers went up early and had an answer for the Pens' counter punch.

After the Pens spotted the Flyers to a 2-0 lead, Geno scored at the very end of the first, and Scuderi scored at the beginning of the second. At that point, you were thinking this might turn out okay. You were thinking incorrectly.

Fleury didn't have his strongest game, to say the least, and the Pens weren't able to get the key goal on the power play despite numerous chances (they finally managed one in the third to cut the deficit to two goals). Worse yet, they allowed a critical short-handed goal on what I'd call sloppy play in their own zone.

The Flyers also deserve some credit - they executed at key times when they needed it most.

Game 4 is big, and it would be nice to have a split, but the Pens still have home-ice advantage no matter what happens on Tuesday.

One other thing - how pathetic is it that the Flyers' fans spend their time chanting against Crosby (as they did right after the start of the game) instead of cheering for their team? If I were a Flyer, I'd rather have them cheering FOR me.

Next up: Game 4 - Tuesday night in Philly.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Penguins 3, Flyers 2 (OT)

Instant playoff classic.

This one had a bit of everything, and the Boys of Winter did not disappoint.

The Flyers played a great game. They brought everything they left out of Game 1, and then some. They had a few moments that weren't what they needed them to be, and it cost them... big time.

The Pens were in a hole for much of the night. The Flyers, by withstanding the early charge, showed that this was different than Wednesday night. The Pens, to their credit, didn't stop coming (they had double-digit shots in every period).

The Flyers grabbed the early lead on a deflection power play goal by Hartnell. It was painful watching him celebrate. Fortunately, he wasn't much of a factor for the rest of the evening. He amazingly stayed out of the penalty box.

The Pens, just when it seemed they might never score, tied the game on a great goal by Bill Guerin late in the second period. Geno threw a great pass across, getting it past Gagne and over to Guerin, who beat Biron.

Sadly, the only thing that goal did was make the break between periods a bit more tolerable. As soon as the third started, Staal couldn't get much on a puck in front of a wide open net (he had a bad angle) and Darroll Powe (who?) scored coming down the wing to give the Flyers the lead.

The Flyers almost made it 3-1 when Fleury somehow stopped Carter from depositing the puck into a WIDE open cage. It was a save with what looked like the front of his skate blade. Unbelievable. The guy on Versus had it right - it was a great save, but Carter (a 46 goal scorer) HAS to score there. That was one of the two big mistakes the Flyers made tonight.

The Flyers did a great job of sitting on that lead, until a hooking call on Carter put the Pens on the power play with about four minutes left to play. It may have been a weak hook, but it was a power move by Staal. It was also karmic retribution from earlier in the game when Hartnell blatantly threw his stick at the puck, which should have been a penalty shot (nothing was called).

The power play showed up when Geno deflected a Letang shot off of his knee and behind Biron. HUGE goal late in the game.

In OT, things were going pretty well until the last 5 minutes of the period. Gill decided that Briere, who was on his knees, didn't really need to get up, and applied a crosscheck to him. That earned the USS Gill two minutes in dry dock.

The Pens killed most of the penalty, but Mike Knuble must have felt sorry for Gill sitting over in the penalty box, because he applied a pretty dumb crosscheck of his own, right to the back of Brooks Orpik while both were standing in front of Fleury. REALLY dumb - there was no need.

30 seconds later, Claude Giroux slashed Kunitz's stick, breaking it on a rush into the offensive zone, breaking it. There was no choice for the refs there - that's an automatic call. You almost felt bad for Giroux... almost.

The Pens had the two man advantage for 1:30. They only needed 1:04. Gonchar worked the puck down low to Guerin, who waited patiently for Biron to slide ever so slightly off of his post. As soon as Marty started moving, Guerin made the only move that counted, notching his second goal of the game and giving the Pens the victory.

A few notes:
  • A really great game by both teams. There was some nastiness, but none of the stupidity that was present on Wednesday.
  • Brooks Orpik - 14 hits (that's not a typo).
  • The Pens fourth line was a strategic strength. Bylsma was able to use them more than Stevens was able to use his. I think that contributed to fresher legs in the OT for the big guns, who had an extended shift on the 5-on-3.
  • Sunday will be HUGE.
Next up: A Sunday afternoon showdown in Philly.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

NHL says "sending a message" not permitted, but they don't really mean it

Are you listening, Coach Stevens?

TSN has a story about Daniel Carcillo meeting with the league today at 3:00 to discuss his "incident" with Max Talbot at the end of regulation.

TSN doesn't state what happened, but here's exactly what happened:

Carcillo was on the ice to take a faceoff with 7 seconds left in the game. He had his left hand low on the stick and the right hand all the way at the top. He swung through the faceoff with his left, and followed through with his right, punching Talbot with his right fist / butt end of the stick.

The biggest problem with this is that Carcillo was put on the ice by Coach Stevens. Do you know how many faceoffs young Daniel has taken as a Flyer? I checked. The answer is TWO. This was the third.

The bigger issue here is that the NHL made a point of saying they weren't going to permit "message sending", as noted in the TSN article:
Prior to the start of the playoffs, the NHL told all coaches and general managers there was to be "no message sending" late in games where the score had been decided. Carcillo's presence on the ice at that stage of the contest combined with the contact with Talbot could be considered "message sending."
So, my question is, why isn't the NHL talking to John Stevens? Anyone watching the end of the game last night saw that the Flyers were CLEARLY trying to "send a message". You don't take three minor penalties, along with Carcillo's punch and the two-handed slash by Coburn that started his little scrap with Guerin in the last few minutes of a game unless you're trying to "send a message".

If the NHL really wants to clean up the crap, suspend Stevens for a game or two. He's the one putting these guys on the ice. He's the one who put Carcillo in that position.

My guess is the NHL doesn't want to make the effort - they just want to get credit for saying "let's all play nice now".

UPDATED - The NHL has suspended Carcillo for one game and fined Coach Stevens $10,000.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Penguins 4, Flyers 1

The Pittsburgh Penguins completely dominated the Philadelphia Flyers. The summary of this game could be as simple as that.

To be fair, the Flyers had a few chances and hit a few posts. If some of those went in, it may have been a tighter game. They didn't, and it wasn't.

Here's a quick statistical summary of the domination:
Flyers -35 penalty minutes (16 by Hartnell)
Faceoffs - 38-21 Pens
Shots - 33-27 Pens
Takeaways - 7-0 Pens
Giveaways - 6 by the Flyers, 1 by the Pens.
Goals - 4-1

We saw this from the Pens last year in the playoffs. They seemingly flipped a switch and were ready to go. They've been playing well, but nothing I saw made me expect this type of game from them. They were focused and intense.

Biron simply wasn't very good tonight. He made a few nice saves, but he also allowed a few bad goals. On the other side, Fleury was really good, and his friend the post was there to help him.

The playing time was balanced across all four lines. Adams had the least playing time, and he played almost 10 minutes. Sid and Geno only played 17 minutes each. Rolling four lines is key to going deep into the playoffs. Having three lines that are a consistent threat, as the Pens do, is also huge.

If I were a Penguins player, I'd be really amped to get right back on the ice after the crap the goons from Philly were pulling at the end of the game. The final straw was putting Daniel Carcillo on to take the last faceoff against Max Talbot. When he took this one, he punched Talbot right in the face, possibly using the butt-end of his stick (it was hard to tell from the one replay). I think this one will require a separate post. It was just STUPID, and hockey doesn't need it.

The good news is that none of the thuggery mattered. The Pens won the game. They can continue to stick the Flyers collective noses in it by winning again on Friday night.

The only thing to remember is that we can't get too far ahead of ourselves. The Pens played really well, and the Flyers played about as poorly as they could have. Things will shift dramatically if the Flyers win Game 2.

Next up: Game 2 on Friday night at the Igloo.

Beard-A-Thon! Now with matching donations!

I'm doing the Beard-A-Thon this year for the Lemieux Foundation.

Check out my profile at beardathon.com/penguins/pat-beard/profile.aspx or click this link.

I'll be updating the pictures every few days.

The Wife and I are matching all donations up to a grand total of $500 (to start with). That means that your donations are doubly valuable to the really important area of cancer research.

Donate now!

Let's Go Pens!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Make this guy go CRAZY!!

One of the keys to the series against the Flyers has to be the penalties. The object of the game is to get the Flyers to take dumb extra penalties. With that in mind, here are a few Scott Hartnell videos to enjoy.

The first one is the cheap hit he put on Alberts from the Bruins last year.

The second one is the dumb "throwing the glove" penalty he took trying to stop a Ryan Malone breakaway this season against Tampa Bay.

I'm telling you - the stupidity is there - it only needs to be massaged to the surface.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Penguins 3, Canadiens 1

The regular season is over.  The playoffs are coming.

With their victory tonight, the Pens set their sights on Philadelphia as their first round opponent.  If Philly loses their game tomorrow, the Pens get home ice.  If Philly earns at least one point, then Philly has home ice.

Tonight the Pens unleashed the offense, but Carey Price kept the Habs in the game until the third.

Price made some really good saves, but my problem (and I know this is meaningless, but hey, it's my blog) is that Price was named the #1 star for the night.  I'm not sure how you can be the #1 star when you lose the game... but whatever.  The Pens won, they could still earn home ice, and the suicide hot line workers in Montreal will get some overtime tonight.

Malkin earned the scoring title tonight when Ovechkin didn't score enough to take it away.  Congrats to Geno for the effort.

Next up:  The playoffs start on either Wednesday or Thursday against the Flyers, location to be determined.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Playoff Scenarios

The Pens will finish either 4th, 5th or 6th.

If the Pens win on Saturday and the Hurricanes lose, the Pens will finish ahead of the Canes.

If the Pens lose on Saturday, they'll finish no higher than 5th (Carolina would have more wins).

If the Pens finish tied with Philly, they'll win the tiebreaker and finish ahead of the Flyers.

The Flyers have two games remaining. The Hurricanes have one, as do the Pens.

All three teams are tied with 97 points.

Penguins 6, Islanders 1

What was a tight, close game early turned into a blowout late.

This was a great game to use as a tune-up going into the playoffs. Everyone except Godard (the Player's Player) had at least 10 minutes of ice time. Sid and Geno were able to play under 17 minutes.

The Isles certainly made it interesting for the first two periods. They had two extended 5-on-3 advantages and hit the post or crossbar another three or four times. Any turn of luck towards the Isles, and this may have been a completely different game.

Geno earned two points tonight while Ovechkin's name changed to 0vechkin for an evening.

The Flyers and Carolina also lost tonight. I'll throw up a separate post on the playoff scenarios.

Next up: Ending the regular season in style with those fantastic people in Montreal. At least they clinched a playoff birth tonight, so they can take the barricades off of the bridges.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Penguins 6, Lightning 4

The Pens have clinched a spot in the playoffs. That is the most important piece of information from last night.

Yes, they also almost blew a 4-0 lead in the third. While that is troubling, I don't see it as a big deal. They were playing a team that had nothing to lose. Things will be different in a week when they're playing games that matter.

Another good sign is that Crosby and Malkin both had two points, with the power play notching two goals. Getting both of those guys (and the power play) going heading into the playoffs will be invaluable.

The only thing the Pens need to be careful of when playing the Isles on Thursday is injury. Konopka attempted to kill Geno in the third (Geno's stick went about 30 feet into the air) and Koci left his skates to deliver a check on Max Talbot. You don't want to lose a starter because some scrub is trying to "make a name for himself" by doing dumb stuff.

Two points. Ticket to playoffs punched. It was a good night.

Next up: Take the shirts off of their backs! The Isles visit the Igloo on Thursday for the last home game.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Hurricanes 3, Penguins 2 (OT)

Psst! Hey! Want to see a playoff game before the playoffs start? This one was one of those!

Sadly the Pens were only able to get one point tonight. The good news is that if they continue to play this way (the OT notwithstanding) they'll be in great shape no matter who they face in the playoffs.

The action was tremendous, especially in the first period. Both teams traded great chances all night, with the Pens getting more good scoring chances and Cam Ward getting more good saves.

Ward was really the story of this game. He did just about everything right. There were several point blank shots he stopped, along with a breakaway by Sid and a penalty shot by Geno.

The only problem came in OT. The Canes turned it into a frantic scramble in the Pens' zone, and the puck never came out.

All told, this was fun (though stressful) to watch. Makes it fun to think about the playoffs (assuming they make it), right?

Next up: Another tough game tomorrow, though the opponent isn't as hot as the Canes have been recently. It's the Panthers in Florida at 5:00.

Time to push!

Eight Days.

Five Games.

Four on the road.

Everything the Pens have worked for this season comes down to these last few games. It is still possible for them to miss the playoffs with an ill-timed swoon.

I don't think that's going to happen.

They play three teams in the playoff hunt - the Canes (tonight), the Panthers and the Habs.

The Flyers are two points ahead of the Pens and both teams have five games left. The Flyers will have the last word, given that they play last.

I think if the Pens earn 8 or more of the possible 10 points, they'll have the fourth seed. Right now, that's looking like a match up with Carolina or Philly.

Let's Go Pens!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Penguins 6, Devils 1

It was a great all-around effort that led the Pens to victory tonight. They were helped, no doubt, by the absence of Patrick Elias, but I'm not sure he would have changed things measurably.

The game showed signs of being a blowout early. The Pens failed on their first power play, but nearly right after it was over, the makeshift line of 24, 25 and 26 got the puck behind Brodeur. I wonder how often three consecutive numbers are on the ice together...

The Pens struck quickly for a second goal with Bill Guerin scoring his 20th of the season. I think his shot was opened up by Crosby streaking to the far post ahead of the D. Brodeur had to respect the pass, but in doing so he gave up the shot to Guerin.

The Devils made it a one goal game and nearly tied it when Gionta (I think) hit the post behind Fleury. If that had gone in, it may have been a very different hockey game. That's the difference between the Pens and Devils right now. The Pens are getting the bounces and the Devils aren't.

The Pens did something unusual and added to their lead over the remainder of the game. They managed two just 13 seconds apart in the second, and Kunitz scored the final goal in the third.

The most encouraging part was that they had a consistency to their effort. There were double-digit shots in all three periods, and the Devils only managed 25 shots for the game. That's a formula for success.

The scoring was also balanced. No one had more than two points on the night, and there were six different goal scorers.

Fleury was good early when he needed to make a few big saves, and he thanked his goal post on more than one occasion.

Next up: A Southern trip with three games in four days gets underway on Saturday in Carolina. Must win.