Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pens Sign Goalie Brent Johnson ...Prospect Camp Begins!!!....Sykora goes off on Bylsma?

Finally some Pens News as former Washington Capitals goalie Brent Johnson has now signed a 1 year contract sought to be worth around $650k. The exact terms are not yet known but they're roughly in that range. The Pens were after goalie Curtis Samford before he signed with Montreal a couple days ago. Shero was also in talks with goalie Kevin Weekes but Johnson turned out to be the best option. Johnson will compete with rookie goalie Curry for the backup spot this fall and this was the plan all along.

It goes underlooked that Johnson posted a 12-6-2 record with a 2.81 gaa and .908 save percentage. Now 32, Johnson has been a backup throughout his NHL career (Phoenix, St. Louis, Washington) and he has done a great job at it. Fleury will be getting a lot of playing time as expected this year and Johnson is a very solid backup to have. He's not Dany Sabourin who was exported to Edmonten earlier in the year and then for some god awful reason the Bruins signed him a couple weeks ago. Remember now, the only good game Sabourin had last year was in Boston when he stoned the Bruins in a 2-1 victory and had like 42 saves.

The Penguins prospect camp started on Monday and it will run until Sunday July 26th. Highly anticipated prospect Eric Tangradi will be participating although his wrist is not quite 100%. Tangradi was acquired in the deal that sent Ryan Whitney to Anaheim and Chris Kunitz back to Pittsburgh. He is expected to have surgery next week per writer Brian Metzer. Several other Pens prospects are getting high remarks, including Brian Strait, Luca Caputi, Dustin Jeffrey, Eric Tangradi, and '09 first round pick Simon Despres.

Strait will likely start the year down at WBS, he's a BU grad and a terrific looking defenseman. Jeffrey will compete for a 4th line spot on the roster and one name getting a lot of recognition is Ben Hanowski. He's a 6'2 200 lbs 19 yr old from Minnesota, who had 74 goals in 35 games his senior year of high school, pretty ridiculous. A very promising future for the Pens in Caputi, Tangradi, Strait, Despres, Kevin Veilleux, Nathan Moon, and now this Hanowski kid.

Last week a Czech newspaper had an interview with former Pens forward Petr Sykora. Some may call him Petr Suckora, especially with the last third of the season that he had. But Petr Gun has always been a sniper and an important player throughout his NHL career. He still had 25 goals last season even though it seemed more atrocious than Satan's, at least it ended up worse. Sykora got burnt out and couldn't adjust to Bylsma's uptempo system. But Bylsma's system involves both aggressive offense and responsible defense, as well as forechecking. Sykora is a terrible defensive player and he doesn't forecheck well. He's much older than he was in his days of greatness as a New Jersey Devil.

But Sykora said in the interview that Bylsma was out to get him from day 1. Bylsma was a 4th liner for Anaheim while Sykora was a 1st liner on that team when they played together 2002-2003. This is a ridiculous statement if he really thinks this. The reason Sykora got benched in the playoffs was because he wasn't producing. He wasn't doing the things he's good at, aka scoring goals when Geno finds him wide open in the slot. I can hardly remember Sykora even getting a shot on goal in the Philly series or the last 33 games of the reg. season (in which he had 5 goals). Everytime he would shoot it, his stick would break, he would get crushed by a hit or the puck would get deflected in the stands. This is because he's slow, old, and his hands aren't as quick as they once were.

Even when Sykora was inserted back into the lineup in the Detroit series (game 6), he had a 3 on 2 chance midway through the game, and Crosby dished him a pass, he was wide open and of course the shot was deflected god knows where and his stick broke, again. He did have an important block in that game which ended up breaking his foot. Sykora was an important player for the Pens, especially on the power play. But the new NHL involves a lot of speed and the teams that succeed have players that can play well in both zones. Look at Detroit, Zetterberg and Datsyuk will go down as two of the best two-way players ever when it's all said and done. Even Franzen, Helm, Filipula, and Hudler are all solid defensive players. Satan replaced Sykora because he was able to do the little things we needed from a 4th line guy: forecheck, hit, dump it in, and score some timely goals. Mind you the breakaway goal in Game 1 vs. Carolina was a beauty and a goal I'll keep in mind for many years to come.

But I have this to say to our old buddy, Petr Sykora: Thank you for your Game 5 goal in 3 OT against Det. last year and thanks for being such a classy guy and friend of Geno and the rest of the team. You had a great playoff run last year but this season things changed. Youth and speed defeated veteran savyness and experience. Now stop sounding off on Bylsma, pack your bags and go to the KHL aka The Retirement League, where they'll pay you $3-$4mil for doing exactly what you did here: break sticks, shoot in the stands, and miss wide open opportunities.

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