Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Big Hair?

Before I forget to mention it any longer, I was on the Big Hair Hockey Talk Show this past Sunday, talking about the Pens, Flyers and Alex Ovechkin.  You can listen to the show here.

No, I don't have big hair.  Neither does the Wife.  I did enjoy being on the show, however.

Penguins 2, Flames 0

Remember last April and May?  It seems like a distant memory.  Tonight we were treated to our best reminder of what the games will look like in a few weeks.

Tonight was a tough, physical game with lots of action.  The Pens controlled play along the end boards in the offensive zone and were able to generate scoring chances from it.  I think that's the first time we've seen them be able to do that with any kind of consistency in quite some time.

Fleury was stellar, making all the saves in earning his fourth shutout of the season.

The D was excellent, both on the PK and in providing the scoring (the USS Gill goal is the latest sign of the Apocalypse).

Heck, even Olli Frickin' Jokinen didn't hurt the Pens tonight.

The bad news is that the Canes won again, staying one point ahead of the Pens.  The good news is that the Pens have a game in hand over the Canes, so they have the chance to earn the 5th spot if they win out.  The Rangers can tie the Pens, but I think the Pens would take the higher seed in tiebreakers.

Sure would be nice to get to that 4th spot and earn home ice in the first round... especially given how the team has responded on this home stand.

Next up:  Nothing is easy - the Blueshirts invade the Igloo on Saturday afternoon.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Flyers 3, Penguins 1

The Pens weren't going to win all of their remaining games. They had a great streak, but it wasn't going to continue forever.

There were a few very specific items about today's game that led directly to the loss:
  • Martin Biron made a few huge, key saves. He did just about everything right, and when he didn't, his D was there to bail him out (I'm thinking of Parent making a save on a puck that had gone through Biron).
  • The Flyers converted on their power play chances. This was a combination of good bounces and a bad kill.
  • The Flyers controlled their emotions. This was huge, and maybe the biggest warning sign for the Pens heading into a potential first round matchup with the Flyers. If you had said before the game that Gonchar would have a double-minor for roughing and Scottie Hartnell wouldn't have any penalty minutes, I might have said you were crazy.
So, all told, the Pens have played their way into the playoffs. They can stay there by playing reasonably well. They don't have to win every game, and it's okay that they didn't win this one. Still sucks to lose to Philly.

Next up: Only two games in the next 9 days, starting with the Flames visiting the Igloo on Wednesday. Big game.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Penguins 4, Kings 1

I didn't watch this game. There was something far more important to do - the finale of Battlestar Galactica!

If it had been the Flyers or Caps as the opponent, I might feel differently (probably not), but this took a complete back seat.

Here are the video highlights, so that I'll know as much about the game as you do:

Next up: Flyers. Sunday. Need I say more?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Vince Lascheid died

Vince was the guy that played the organ for Pittsburgh sporting events, including the Pirates, Penguins and Steelers.

Here's the link to the Post-Gazette page - check out the incredibly long fingers this guy had.

I wasn't the biggest fan of the organ music at a Pirates game. Vince's take at PNC on "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" was frequently out of time with the bouncing dot on the scoreboard, mainly because of the embellishments he would throw in.

On the plus side, there were frequently clever songs played for visiting players when they were coming up to the plate. It was stuff you probably wouldn't get away with playing the actual song... but a line or two of a melody from the organ? No problem (and most people probably didn't even realize it was happening).

Vince was a Pittsburgh tradition and will be missed. He was 85 years old.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Penguins 6, Thrashers 2

Good old-fashioned domination.  The Thrashers aren't a playoff team.  They were hot coming into the game, but despite scoring the first goal, they had their hats handed to them tonight at the Igloo.

The Pens did exactly what they were supposed to do.  They kicked the crap out of a team they were supposed to beat.

The power play had it's second straight game with multiple goals.  That only happened one other time this season, and that was in October.

Geno went off with a big night, tying a career high with 5 points and cracking the 100 point barrier.  As Geno said in the post game interview with Dan Potash, "Tonight is good luck for me."

Great all-around effort.  The power play is really encouraging right now.  If they can get that rolling, there's no telling where they can go in the post-season.

Next up:  A nice break for this time of the year - the Pens get an extra day off and play the Kings on Friday night at the Igloo.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Penguins 6, Bruins 4

This was a nice win against the top team in the East. The game was completely up for grabs, essentially until Staal iced it with an empty net goal.

The line of Guerin, Kunitz and Crosby combined for 9 points (3 + 6). That's great, because it gives Crosby a chance to work with guys who are showing that they can finish when they're on the ice with him. Guerin's goal especially stood out, as Bill moved to the center slot area, took a nice pass from Sid and beat Thomas. If you remember Guerin's first game, there was almost the exact same play and Bill wasn't ready for the pass.

Kunitz didn't stop trying to hit Chara all game long. He did manage to put Chara on his wallet once, but I think he just made Zdeno angry, because Chris was roadkill shortly thereafter at the hands of the giant.

Kunitz is also a class individual - he was credited with a hat trick originally, but he said the second goal he "scored" never touched him, and he told the official scorer that. The goal was changed to Gonchar and Kunitz lost the hat trick. He said it was more about being honest than anything else. Lots of credit to Mr Kunitz for that classy move.

On the negative side, Garon played like a goalie that was very rusty. That's never a good sign from your backup - you need him to come in and play well.

On the positive side, the Pens were able to muster enough offense to cover up for their shaky goaltender.

To Garon's credit, he made some key saves late in the game to help preserve the lead and earn the two points.

Speaking of those two points, the Pens are now standing all alone in the 5th spot, though they've played 1-2 more games than anyone else around them (except Carolina).

Next up: The Thrashers, who are hot right now, come to the Igloo on Tuesday.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Senators 4, Penguins 3 (OT - SO - 2-1)

Another two goal third period lead... gone.  This time it cost the Pens a point.

Here's the good news:
The Sens aren't in the playoff race.
The Pens are tied for 5th with Montreal.  Each have 80 points.

Here's the not-so-good news:
The Habs have a game in hand on the Pens.
The Panthers are in the 9th spot with 78 points.

The Pens have to keep earning points.  Specifically, they need TWO points.  Finding a way to close out these games when they have a lead in the third is critical.  They just don't have that down yet.

Next up:  The #1 team in the East comes to the Igloo when the Bruins visit the Igloo tomorrow.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Blue Jackets 4, Penguins 3 (OT - SO - 1-0)

The Pens had to lose a game at some point. This was as good a game as any. They didn't give the points to an Eastern Conference foe, and they were able to come back from a three goal deficit to earn a point.

That's a great comeback, and a great point to earn. It keeps the team solidly in the 6th spot. They're just three points behind Philly and one behind Montreal.

It was an exciting game to watch, at least once the Pens got rolling in the third.

Kunitz just about ended it when he hit the post behind Mason when the score was 3-3.

Fleury made an amazing save on Peca with less than 20 seconds remaining in regulation.

Letang didn't fare well in his shootout attempt - he seems to struggle against goalies that catch with their right hands - his backhand move isn't as effective going the other way.

That's all I've got for this one. I'm still miserable after watching Pitt go down to those hillbillies from WVU...

Next up: A huge chance to earn points this weekend against the Sens and Bruins. The Sens are out of the playoffs and the Bruins have been struggling. Four points sure would be nice...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Penguins 4, Panther 3 (OT - SO - 2-0)

Missed most of this game.  I only saw the third from the point where the Pens tied the game.  It looked like both teams were protecting their point during the later stages of the third.  Both teams had power play chances later in the third but couldn't make anything of them (largely thanks to the goalies, because both teams had good chances).

OT was pretty slow and things went to a shootout.  Vokoun wasn't up to the challenge on the SO and Fleury was.  Letang and Malkin both pulled of great moves to make Vokoun look bad.

The Pens are currently in the 6th spot.  They need to keep it going.

Next up:  A short trip into Ohio to play the Blue Jackets.  Did I mention they need to keep it going?

Sunday, March 08, 2009

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

So here are the important things to remember from today's win over the Caps:
  • The Pens are back in the playoffs (if the season were to end today) in a three-way tie for the sixth spot.
  • With today's win, the Pens control their own destiny in the playoff race. That's a really important piece of info - there is no longer a need for other teams to lose in order for the Pens to make the playoffs. They have things entirely in their own hands.
  • On the Caps broadcast, they call Ovechkin "The Great Eight", which sounds like "The Great Ape".
That reminds me of this guy:

Pretty striking likeness, no?

The game itself was a high intensity classic. The Pens built a 3-1 lead after two and squandered it (sound familiar?) If this were a playoff game, I'm not sure the visitors would have prevailed. Fortunately for us, this was decided by the shootout. Sid personally bested O-Face by scoring in the shootout. Alex couldn't score on his chance when his team needed him.

Other than a few brief breakdowns, the Pens played a solid road game. The Caps opened the third with two goals in the first 80 seconds, but things settled down a bit after that. The Caps were never able to take the lead, and that's a credit to the Pens ability to right the ship after things went wrong early in the third. Once they reached the 5:00 mark of the third, it was more about making sure you earn a point.

Just to show their luck lately, the Pens earned two.

Next up: The Panthers come to the Igloo for a huge showdown on Tuesday

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Let's help Ovechkin!

It's a Saturday when the Pens aren't playing. They have the Caps tomorrow in a huge game, and while we don't want to see Ovechkin score a goal, if he does, maybe we can help him with his over the top celebrations.

Here are the top 10 "funniest" goal celebrations. I put funniest in quotes because several of them aren't really funny, but they are classic.

I'd recommend the Palffy celebration for Alex. Maybe with Semin.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Penguins 4, Panthers 1

The game tonight was a great example of what the Penguins are capable of when they're on their game. The Panthers simply don't have the firepower to match up with the Pens when all the signals are set to green.

It looked like Vokoun might steal the game for the Panthers for the first two periods. The only gaffe was the breakaway by Crosby. Then the third period arrived. The first Kennedy goal and the Letang goal were both shots that Vokoun had a good look at. Unfortunately he was down a bit early, and maybe a bit off of his angle, and both were able to pick the top corner. That's great shooting by the Pens, but also not the best goaltending by Vokoun.

Fleury had to withstand an early storm and then make a few key saves. He was able to keep things scoreless and then keep the Pens in the lead in the third.

The most encouraging thing that we saw tonight was the explosion of speed that Sid showed when he split the (slow) defense and beat Vokoun just 24 seconds after the Panthers had notched the first goal of the night.

I know that Guerin had 5 shots, but I didn't really notice him all that much, except for the Crosby pass he clearly wasn't ready for in the first period. I think that will come with time as he adjusts to playing with Sid. A guy like Guerin has to be salivating at the thought of getting the puck delivered to him in prime scoring areas.

The other encouraging thing to take from tonight was that the third period didn't turn into a shooting gallery like the Pens have been allowing. They had to withstand a few decent stretches by the Panthers, but largely they controlled the play. That, to me, is the biggest step they'll have to make to be successful going into the playoffs (especially against the better teams that have more firepower).

Great to see the Pens earn two big points on the road. They have 74 points, along with the Panthers and Rangers. The Habs have 75 and the Flyers have 78. Don't look now, but the 4th spot isn't out of the question if they team keeps playing well!

Next up: A few days off to ponder how much it sucks to see O-Face celebrate the birth of his first child every time he scores a goal. It's the Caps on Sunday.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Penguins roster for the playoff push

So what does the team look like now that the dust has settled?  Here's the breakdown:


Right wing

Left wing



So I'm seeing the following lines:
Kunitz - Crosby - Guerin
Fedotenko - Malkin - Sykora
Cooke - Staal - Kennedy
Dupuis - Talbot - Adams

I like this lineup better than any I've seen so far this year from the Pens.  They can mix in Godard when they play the Flyers and bring guys up from Wilkes-Barre in case of injury.

I'm excited to see where things go from here.  This looks much more like a team well-positioned for a nice playoff run.  

Great job by Ray Shero!

Pens acquire RW Bill Guerin

The Pens traded a conditional draft pick to the Islanders for RW Bill Guerin.

Guerin had 36 points (16 g, 20 a) with the Isles this year and was the second leading scorer on the team.  He has good size (6'2", 220 lbs) and could be a fixture on the power play.

Guerin can step right in as a top 6 forward for the Pens.  He is a shoots right-handed, and better yet, he shoots frequently (he led the Isles with 181 shots).  He immediately becomes second on the Pens in shots, behind just Geno.

The deal with the draft pick, in case you haven't read it elsewhere, is that it's a 5th round pick.  If the Pens make the playoffs, it becomes a 4th round pick.  If they make it out of the first round, it tops out at a 3rd round pick.

Guerin has a big salary cap number (4.5 million) which will be prorated for the remainder of the season.  The Pens are right at the cap limit.

I like the acquisition.  I'm looking forward to seeing Sid skate with guys who are good finishers.

Pens claim RW Craig Adams

The Pens claimed winger Craig Adams on waivers from the Chicago Blackhawks.  His salary cap number for the season is 600 K, so there's no real damage there.  He's a UFA after this season.

Adams will add grit to the third and fourth line.  He has some size (6'0", 200 lbs) and plays tough.

He wasn't playing many minutes in Chicago, but he was killing penalties.  Another piece for the PK is always a good idea, even if it just gives IHCDB more flexibility.

Nice addition for the stretch run, especially at the price.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Penguins 3, Lightning 1

You know they can't keep this up.

The Pens, thanks largely to Chris Kunitz, had a two goal lead after two periods again.

The third period turned into a bit of a shooting gallery for the Lightning, who put together several extended stretches in the offensive zone. Though the Dolts didn't have a huge number of shots, they did have some really good pressure. With a few bounces, this would easily have been a completely different hockey game.

That's the biggest thing I worry about. They Pens are hot right now, there's no doubt. The problem is that they've been unable to put games away (with the exception of the Dallas win). They also let teams come at them in the third period, which makes things more exciting than they need to be (and also won't hold up in the playoffs).

The hope is that they're learning how to play aggressively and how to pace themselves.

The fear is that they're going to run into a team where they cannot build a lead and get into trouble.

Fleury played well, as did the defense around him, I thought. The most encouraging part is that despite being under siege in their own zone for extended stretches, they didn't panic and didn't take a penalty (or ice the puck, for that matter). They stayed composed and kept working. That's a great sign of maturity for this team.

Great to earn two points tonight on the road in what could have been a trap game.

Next up: On to the Panthers' Den on Thursday night. Huge game.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Penguins 4, Stars 1

This was actually a pretty boring game. There were only 44 shots for the entire game, and it didn't feel like there were that many.

The good news is that the Pens were able to get two points out of the deal and move into the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference. That's a great turnaround for this team, given where they looked to be headed not too long ago.

The biggest thing to be happy about in this one is that the Pens did not come close to blowing a lead. They had a 2-0 lead after the first and added to that in the second. Granted, the Stars are not an offensive power house, but given the way the Pens have been blowing leads lately, I'll take it.

Staal, Letang, Satan and Malkin were the goal scorers for the Pens. Malkin played a tremendous game - much better than in Chicago on Friday night.

Fleury made a few great saves and stopped everything he should have.

Great to be back in a playoff spot. Time to build on success. The Pens are 7-3-1 since their dramatic comeback win over Tampa Bay. Let's see if they can keep it going.

Next up: Off to the Sunshine state to face the Lightning on Tuesday and those nasty Kitty Cats on Thursday.