Sunday, September 20, 2009
PensBuzz is back!!!...Who are some new Pens?...Are the Leafs the new Flyers?
No the guy above is not Dan Onorato (future Governor of PA). It's camp invite Ryan Bayda. The name should ring a bell considering it was Bayda who elbowed Letang in the face at the end of game 2 in the East. Conf. finals this past spring. The game was a 7-4 smackdown by the Pens over the Canes and I will always remember the fight Satan had with Eaves shortly after that Letang melee. Satan looked like Donald Brashear and was wailing punches faster than you can say Stanley Cup.
Bayda has an excellent chance of making the Pens roster as the last forward. He plays with an edge and adds a lot of grit as well. The Canes hardly ever played their 4th line in the Pens series so it was hard to get a good assesment of his game. But coach Dan Bylsma has spoken very highly of Bayda the first couple weeks of training camp. He specifically likes his sound two-way game and ability to complement all 4 lines.
Several players have been very impressing during camp, most notably Eric Tangradi. Tangradi was acquired as the centerpiece of a deal along with Chris Kunitz, for Ryan Whitney in mid February. He played alongside Crosby Tuesday against the Jackets and he had two assists, a couple huge hits and was making something happen on every shift. At 6'4 and 220, there's not much to dislike about the potential of 22 yr old Tangradi. He is expected to start camp in WBS but if more impressive pre-season games start appearing he could fill in nicely for Max Talbot on the 2nd line. I doubt it will happen, but you never know.
The Pens strength going into the season will be at the forward position. Dupuis, Rupp, Godard, Bayda, Jeffrey, Adams will all compete for jobs on the 4th line, and that is great to see. The defense on the other hand isn't as strong as it has been in years past. There are no Sydor/Boucher esque veterans in the 7th/8th positions. Lovejoy has had a very weak camp so far and I don't think management wants Lovejoy playing minimal minutes in the big's. Send him to WBS for a little bit longer to perfect his skills. Gogo(alex goligoski) has had an excellent pre-season so far, as has Kris Letang. What the defense lacks in physicality and size they make up in speed and puck moving ability. Gogo, Letang, Gonchar are tremendous at it, and Mckee/Eaton aren't so bad either.
The story is simple, Phil Kessel wanted big money the Bruins weren't able to pay him without damaging the core of the team. Kessel didn't want to take less and instead the 40 goal scorer was shipped for a couple 1st round picks and a 2nd round pick to Toronto earlier this week. A couple hours later he signed a long term deal for $5.4 mil/yr. This is very odd that they traded him to a division rival team who's improved drastically over the offseason, but it's better to get something for him than to let him walk for free. Bruins GM Chiarelli also had the issue of re-signing Savard for next year once he becomes a UFA. Kessel won't be able to play until November because of shoulder surgery. But this will definetely give the Maple Leafs an elite offensive player they don't have and haven't had since well, Alexander Mogilny? HAHA, sad but maybe true.
The Leafs are packed with talented mid-tier wingers who have potential but no numbers to prove it. Kessel has a resume with his 20 goal then 40 goal seasons the past couple years. He's a sniper with speed, and wait he's only 21. Having a guy like Kessel will make the current Toronto wingers that much better. Grabovski, Kulemin, Hanson, and Tlusty are immensely talented but they've lacked the proper role models during their time in Toronto. Kessel is a winner and a gamer, the type of player GM Brian Burke loves. But he doesn't fight? It's ok neither did Selanne but Burke liked him.
Toronto has become a worse version of the Flyers as this pre-season has clearly showed. They are taking cheap shots, taking runs at players, fighting and providing no skill whatsoever. Sound familiar? Oh yeah those guys from Philly do a lot of that. But they actually have some skill in Carter, Richards, Briere, and even Hartnell to some extent. The Leafs don't have much skill, well unless you saw Niklas Hagman's moves last night you might disagree and I won't blame you.
But I looked at the box score for the Leafs/Flyers game last night and there were a combined 19 penalties (3 fighting majors) thru 1.5 periods of play. So apparently the strategy in hockey has now become one in which you win by going to the penalty box as much as possibe. Where's Bobby Clarke when you need him? He would approve of this hockey strategy.
Exelby and Laperriere got into a couple bloody affairs last night, Orr(above)/Cote as well, and even Leafs sniper Lee Stempniak of all people. But the point is, it's sad to see these teams just muck it up the whole time and play stupid Canadien hockey. Yes the Flyers improved their defense by adding Pronger, but they lost 51 goals in production from Lupul/Knuble and they have Emery starting in goal. Which means you don't know if he'll be Patrick Roy one night or Dany Sabourin the next. The Leafs did improve a lot on D, with Exelby/Komisarek/Beauchemin, but this team has a ways to go before it can be compared to the Ducks cup team Burke built a couple years ago.
How weird is it to see a Senators team without Danny Heatley on it. Instead they have Michalek, Cheechoo, and Alex Kovalev. Have they improved from last year? I think yes, they now have two deep scoring lines and if history tells us anything, it's that Kovy plays very well every other year, so we're due for a spectacular season from the man once called "Le Magnific" in Montreal. Boy oh boy do I miss Kovy from the Pens days, Kovy/Straka/Lang that was a sexy 2nd line. Comrie and Hilarry Duff is also sexy but we won't get into that.
The Pens face the Canadiens tomorrow night, the game will be on the NHL network and I will have a preview ready for that tomorrow afternoon.
It's good to be back.
-M to the Bizzle