Saturday, October 31, 2009

Cardiac Kids Stage Another Amazing Comeback...Win 4-3 in SO...Wild Visit Tonight

-This whole comeback thing started way back when for our good 'ole Pens. It was 2 years ago on Thanksgiving Day when Jarko Ruutu scored the SO winner in Ottawa to cap off a 2 goal deficit. Since then the Pens have lead the NHL in comebacks, most happening in the 3rd period. Last night in Columbus was no different. Steigy and Bob were resigned to a Columbus defeat somewhere at the 5 minute mark of the 3rd, but all of a sudden the newly formed 2nd line (Bourque-Staal-Fedotenko) came out with one of the best shifts in the game.

-On the shift, Skoula had a couple quality shots from the point until the puck took a crazy carum off the boards and went to a wide open Feds who buried it into the open cage. 3-2 Jackets was now the score. 39 seconds later the Crosby unit came out and was just as determined and spirited as the Staal line. Crosby was behind the net and he found Gogo alone in the middle of the Columbus zone and Gogo took his time waited for goalie Mason to move to the right and he snapped it top shelf to the left, unstoppable.

-From my girlfriend falling asleep to me screaming in the middle of a dorm lounge, this game just got real exciting. It was Deja Vu all over again for the Jackets who witnessed a Pens comeback from a 3-goal 3rd period deficit last year. This one was a lot sexier though. The Pens loooked down and out but they kept plugging away even while being down by 2. Each line came out hitting and causing a tenacious forecheck. Guys like Rupp, Adams, Cooke, Staal, Dupuis were all pounding the Columbus D-men with vicious hits.

-Bylsma constantly talks about investing in the 3rd period and wearing teams down. This was exactly that. The Pens kept plugging away with quality shift after shift. Even without Geno, TK, Gonch, and Talbot the Pens still stole 2 pts from the Columbus on Mischief Night. This Mischief Night thankfully didn't involve my rearview mirror getting broken or my car getting egged. Under Hitchcock the Jackets seemed to retreat and trap with a lead, rather than do what Bylsma/Babcock/Torts do and that's attack. It's not easy to hold down the Stanley Cup Champs, even with 3 minutes left in a game.

-The game was kinda funny because there were several bad penalty calls by the Refs and a bunch of bounces that weren't going the Pens way. Kunitz had his 2nd straight game with a goal and he almost had another had it not been for an unlucky bounce. Crosby had 2 assists and was all over the ice. His shootout goal was stopped by Mason but the puck kept trickling past him and for some reason he didn't put his glove down to stop it. Johnson is 6 for 6 on the season in stopping SO attempts. It helps that both Vermette and Nash nailed the glass instead of getting a decent shot off.

-Tonight the Pens welcome some old buds into town. Wild head coach Todd Richards used to be head coach down at WBS before he got the asst. coach gig down at San Jose. And Petr Sykora used to be a game 5 Stanley Cup hero in Detroit before he learned how to break his stick on every shot attempted and skate slower than Hal Gill. Skyora will play but Bouchard and Johnsoon will not. Havlat is still not at 100% and the Wild have been struggling mightily. They are 4-9 on the season, but they did have a nice 3-2 win over the Rangers last night.

-Scoring is an issue for this team, not goaltending. Backstrom is as solid as they come but if Belanger and Koivu are your best players, that's a little bit sad. Wild GM Chuck Fletcher was an asst. GM to Ray Shero the past couple seasons. All in all, this should be a fun game and one that the Pens should win. It's Halloween, the Wild played last night as well, and there WILL be a tango tonight between the Boogeyman (Boogard) and Godard (Godzilla).

-Pens (11-2-0) vs. Wild (4-9) at 7:38 pm at Mellon Arena

-Fleury will start vs. Backstrom

-Kennedy will play tonight, Conner will sit
as will Geno, Talbot, TK, and Gonch.



Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Gill and Company Visit Pens at the Mellon...Kennedy out? Bourque in?

-Hal Gill didn't want to leave the Pens this summer. And Frankly the Pens didn't want him outta town either. But money has its way with things and Gill couldn't turn down the 2 yr/$2.25 mil a yr deal the Habs offered him. Gill got his Stanley Cup, now time for a handsome paycheck. Besides Gill, the Habs have some other newcomers who joined the party over this summers player overhaul. Cammalleri, Gomez, Gionta, Moen, Mara, and Spacek make up a core piece of this team. Gomez is sick (flu symptoms) and he will be a game-time decision. Spacek has been playing well and Moen has been a key part of the PK.

-The Habs have won 4 in a row and Jaroslav Halak will look to continue his hot streak in net. Fleury will start in net for the Pens. Kennedy has been hampered by an undisclosed injury the past couple days and he will be out tonight. Kennedy leads the team with 5 goals and is part of an all-important Pens 3rd line. Bourque will step in and play with Geno and Feds on the 2nd line. Dupuis has been sick with the flu the past couple days but he will be in the lineup. He practiced this morning and should be fine.

-Historically Carey Price has played well against the Pens but fortunately we won't be seeing him tonight. The Habs are much bigger (but slower) on defense with Mara/Gill and much faster upfront with Gionta/Cammy/Gomez. Although the offense is faster, many of those guys are small. Even Plekanec, Pacioretty, and Kostiystn aren't necessarily the biggest of players. The Pens have played well against the Habs the last couple seasons and they'll have continue that tonight. This is a game they should win but they can't be sloppy or fall asleep as they have in previous games this season.

-The French Canadien contingent will come out strong tonight. Dupuis, Fleury, Sid, and Letang included. Geno has been red hot as has Gogo. The Habs have guys who will take stupid penalties: Lapierre and Moen. So the PP chances should come aplenty tonight. The Habs no longer have offensive wizards such as Kovy, Koivu, Lang, or Tanguay. And no real offensive D-men threat such as the injured Andrei Markov.

-LOL at Marion Gaborik being injured for the Rangers. The man is as scary as they come when healthy, but it's hard to see the scariness when he's always on the shelf.

Habs (6-5-0) vs.
Pens (9-2-0)

Tonight's lines:

Kunitz- Crosby-Guerin

Fedotenko- Malkin - Bourque

Cooke- Staal- Adams

Dupuis - Rupp- Godard

Defense pairings
will be the same as last time:

Gogo-Orpik, Letang-Eaton, Mckee-Skoula (uh- oh)


Monday, October 26, 2009

Pens Lose to Devils 4-1....NHL News and Notes

-I was at a Bo Burnham concert on Sat. night and unfortunately missed the game. I did Tivo it, but I already found out the score and didn't really have time to watch them lose anyways. From the replays it looked like the Pens were outhitting and outshooting the Devils but Brodeur was very strong, Fleury let in some stoppable pucks and the team looked fatigued. Which is fine. The Pens won 7 in a row and playing on back to back nights against the Devils is a tough task. You can't win all the games but you can try to build winning streaks and that should be the Pens main goal.

NHL news:

-Mike Richards was not suspended for his head shot on Panthers forward David Booth on Sat. night. Booth was caught with his head down and Richards nailed him. Booth had to be taken off on a stretcher. I do NOT agree with the NHL not suspending Richards based on the result of the play. A hit to the head should be a suspendable offense even though it isn't in the rules, twice now the Flyers have been let of the leash with suspensions. Hartnell could've got one for biting Letang a couple weeks back and now Richards for this high hit.

-The Colorado Avalanche and the LA Kings are the two surprise teams in the West. Conference. They are 1st and 2nd in the conf. respectively and they are as young and talented as anybody. The Avs snagged Craig Anderson from free agency to try and strengthen their goalie problems and he has been dynamite. #3 overall pick in the '09 draft Matt Duchene is quicker than lightning and he is starting to pick his game up. Rookie Ryan O'Reilly has 2 goals and 8 assists. But it's the Avs vets such as Wolski, Stastny, and Hejduk who are leading the charge. Wolski and Stastny are still young but they are playing like wiley vets and leading this team to success.

-Kyle Quincey has been a huge offensive addition to the Avs backend and Ryan Smyth has been an excellent part of the Kings success. Kopitar is scoring in bunches (he has 10 goals/11 assists), Brown is producing, Quick has been solid in net, and Doughty is also playing suberb hockey. Even enigmatic forward Alex Frolov came back last night after being a healthy scratch and scored 2 goals. He is very talented and is a sniper but like some Russian players, he takes some nights off. If Frolov can stay focused the Kings will be competitive all season long.

-Not surprising but the Pens and the Caps are atop the East. Conf. standings. Ovechkin is on fire as usual and Semin (6 goals) is lighting the lamp for a change instead of the glass. Backstrom, Knuble, and Laich have also been contributors. Knuble is the first real net presence that team has had in a long time but I still think the defense is sub-par. Jurcina, Morrisonn, Schultz, and Pothier are nothing special. Pothier is young and has the most potential but developing takes time. The problem with this team has always been defense the past couple seasons.

-The Sabres are 3rd in the conference and have been a nice surprise. They added
several tough players over the summer in Grier, Montador, and McCormick. In addition they have their old core of players in Pominville, Roy, and Connolly. Don't forget all-star goalie Ryan Miller. The Rangers are also red-hot and the Euro's on the team are buying into Tortorella's offensive system. Kotalik, Prospal, and Gaborik are coming up big every night. Brandon Dubinsky is slowly becoming the leader and invetibaly the future captain of this team.

-The Pens don't play again until Wednesday vs. the struggling Canadiens.

-I'll be updating with a look back the Pens team so far.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Crosby and Johnson Lead the Pens to 7th Straight Win, 3-2 in SO...Devils in Town Tonight

-It wasn't a picture perfect victory tonight at the Igloo. But some players just happened to turn it on like no other. They include goalie Johnson, Crosby, Geno, and Kunitz. Johnson was playing out of his mind. He had 27 saves on 29 shots and just like in the Phoenix game a couple weeks back, he gave the Pens a chance to win or squeak out a point. Booth was stoned on a breakaway early in the game, Dvorak had a breakaway graze Johnson's jersey, Booth had a couple other good chances, etc. The greatest save of all was one that wouldn't have counted. Johnson was out of position and just stuck his glove out to rob Horton of a goal.

-The Pens were sleeping in the 1st period and could only generate 8 shots on goal. Most of those shots were easily snagged by Vokoun, who had 41 saves himself in the contest. The Panthers did an excellent job of clogging the neutral zone for the first period and a little and the Pens couldn't generate anything offensively. Bourque was in the lineup in place of Godard and he created something every shift whether it be a couple shots or hits. Reinprecht scored the first 2 goals for the Panthers and it was simply because of desire. The Panthers were winning loose puck battles and charging the net to get rebounds.

-It could've easily been 4-0 in the 1st if not for Johnson standing tall in net. In the 2nd the wheels began turning and the Pens turned it up a couple notches. Kunitz began the period with a huge hit on Leopold and the momentum seemed to come from one big shift in the game. Kunitz, Sid, and Guerin were hacking away around the net and the puck was just rolling off their sticks and they couldn't capatilize. But Kunitz was exchanging cross-checks with Ballard and then both decided to tango and Kunitz threw some good punches in their against the tough d-men. The crowd seemed to wake up and the team started skating faster.

-But it was the 3rd period and the magnificent play of Geno and Sid which really won the game for the Pens. A couple minutes into the 3rd, on a Pens PP, Geno lost the puck then dove and saved it from exiting the zone and it went from Gogo to Sid and past Vokoun for a 2-1 Panthers lead. With a little under 4 minutes to go Orpik was called for interference so Bylsma decided to put the two-headed monster on the PK. Geno was storming the whole period and he came around the net in Jagr-esque fashion and found Sid wide open and BOOM, it was 2-2. The Pens outshot the Panthers 15-6 in the 3rd.

-The OT didn't create much excitement but in the SO Johnson was huge again. He stopped SO specialist Ville Koistenen, Reinprecht, and Horton. And of course, Sid the Kid was the only who scored for the Pens to win the game. He made a nice forehand to backhand move then back to forehand and it was a goal. Letang didn't try anything but shoot on his attempt, and Guerin tried to go five hole again and failed. Marty Skoula played well this game but at times the defense was confused and sloppy. Feds and Gogo ran into each other and Skoula's speed was an issue on a couple plays as well. Johnson was terrific and if a backup goalie can play like this the rest of the season it will be huge for the Pens.

-The Pens faceoff against division foe's the NJ Devils tonight. Brodeur will be looking to tie Terry Sawchuk's shutout record tonight, good luck doing that. Fatigue will be an issue as the Pens seemed to exert so much energy last night to beat the Panthers but there are no excuses. Fleury will start and he will be fresh and the Devils are missing Elias, so we're in good shape. Look for Godard to start tonight because Peters is likely to play for NJ. They have a new coach Jacques Lemaire who coached them to a Cup in '95. He has a defensive approach to the game, the "trap", but the team still has some nice offensive weapons: Parise, Zajac, Langenbrunner, and Zubrus.

-Pens vs. Devils at Mellon arena at 7:38 pm....Goin for 8 in a row


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Panthers at Pens PREVIEW....Gonchar injured 4-6 wks, who comes in now?

-Sergei Gonchar will unfortunately will be sidelined for 4-6 weeks with a broken wrist. He suffered it on a David Backes check against the Blues on Monday. Gonchar's calming presence on the lockerroom and his unique offensive skill will be missed dearly. But, before the season started Mr. Ray Shero was savvy enough to pickup veteran D-men Martin Skoula. Skoula won a Stanley Cup with Colorado early in his career and has been bounced around a good amount ever since. He is a very solid two-way player who moves the puck better and plays better defense than say a Phillipe Boucher.

-Don't get me wrong, Marty Skoula is no Gonchar, but then again, who is? Lidstrom yes and maybe now Green. Tonight will be the Pens first test without Gonch and with some key player being out because of injury. Last year Gonch. was injured for a good portion of the season and the team struggled mightily. But, this is a new season and the team is playing under a different offensive system. Fleury is playing the best hockey of his career and all 4 lines are rolling so hot they make Matt Cooke's teeth look like an Aspen Dental commercial.

-The Florida Panthers, if you remember, were the team the Pens were competing with for those final playoff spots. They had two big wins against the Panthers down the playoff stretch but they weren't easy. Vokoun is an excellent goalie and those Panther role players are extremely dangerous. MSU grad David Booth had 31 goals last season but has only 2 pts this season through 7 games. Vokoun's GAA is an unimpressive 3.68 and their leader in goals is Steve Reinprecht (he's a 4th line veteran scrub). Frolik is another sneaky young player for them and he leads the team with a meager 5 pts.

-When healthy, the Panthers backend can be lethal. A
lthough it's clear they're missing Jay Bouwmeester, guys like Ballard, McCabe, Allen, and Seidenberg can play some sound 2-way hockey. Allen was injured all of last season and now he's returned, and don't forget that hipcheck Ballard threw into Geno last year in Sunrise, FL. Crosby stepped in and fought Ballard afterwards. The problem with the Panthers is scoring goals and they will have an even harder time tonight against the Pens who are not going to give away any softies. Fleury isn't in the mood and neither is the rest of the team.

-Backup goalie Brent Johnson will start in goal for the Pens. It will be his 2nd start and 1st since the 3-0 loss he suffered to the Coyotes a few weeks back. That loss wasn't his fault, it was the Pens for looking ahead to Philly the next night instead of focusing on the task at hand.
Tomorrow the Pens will host division foe's (Devils) so Johnson will get the start against the "easier" team tonight.

The D- pairings will be: Mckee - Skoula, Letang- Eaton, Orpik - Gogo

Don't be surprised to see Bourque in the lineup in place of Godard.

Don't be surprised to see Mckee block 20 shots tonight.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pens Stomp All Over the Blues in 5-1 Win...Gonchar hurt

-"I gotta feeling that tonight's gonna be a good night," was the song of the summer and still roams radio waves and bar scenes now. I think it's also what every Pens player listens to before they arrive at the rink. You can't stop the frake train that's coming down the hill at 300 mph, you just can't. Every forward, defensemen, and goalie (Fleury) is giving it 100% each shift. The Versus commentator pointed it out at 5-1 in the 3rd how Kunitz was diving to clear a puck out of the zone. How Rupp was finishing his checks hard on the glass and how Dupuis was backchecking and stealing pucks. This is desire, this is will, and this is fun, at least for the hometown Pens.

-The game was 0-0 11 minutes into the first until TK rifled a slapper from the left circle top shelf on goalie Mason. Kennedy leads the Pens with 5 goals and he has been a machine so far this season. Mckee jumped into the play and made a nice behind the back pass to a wide open TK. A minute and some later on the PP, Geno had 4 shots on goal until he finally wristed a shot past Mason for a 2-0 lead. In the 2nd period, Pens got another PP goal from the man who needed one badly, Fedotenko. Feds snapped a beauty of a wrist top shelf to the right of Mason for a 3-0 lead, wow was that disgusting. Feds might be coming out of his shell and that's scary if we see any sign of the playoff Feds.

-While the 3rd goal was being announced, Letang shot it on goal and it was deflected by grinder Matt Cooke for his 2nd goal of the year and the Pens 4th goal of the game. A little bit later that period Kariya deflected a shot past Fleury for 4-1, an ugly goal. There were a bunch of people screening Fleury and the puck took a weird bounce on the deflection, nothing you can do as a goalie. I was in the car during the announcement of the 5th goal by Gogo and Mike Lange said "You can buy Sam a drink and get his dog one too!" Amazing quote, i was dying. First of all who the hell is Sam and why is his dog drinking.? Gogo's goal was stoppable but new goalie Conklin (former Pen) looked rusty as the Blues already terrible night continued.

-The Pens outshot the Blues 20-3 in the 1st period. And 43 to 23 for the game. That's dominance. This is inspiring because the Pens haven't really been outshooting their opponents by wide margins like they did under Bylsma at the end of last year. They also haven't been scoring many PP goals, 20th in the league. But tonight they went 2 fot 4 on the PP and had some beautiful shots by Feds and Geno. Geno was on his game tonight, he had 12 shots and at least 3 of them could've been goals. Brian Engblom talked in the post game on Versus about puck persistence and how Geno and Sid hunt the puck and want it more than anyone else. Maybe that's why they're 2 of the 3 best players in the world? hmm, yeah maybe.

-Fleury wasn't tested much tonight but when he had to be he was there to save some quality chances. His rebound control is particularly impressive. He is scrambling to loose pucks so they don't come out, he is coming back to play pucks banged around the boards, and he is rushing the play when he can help his offense. Scoring depth, solid D, and superb goaltending were the story once again tonight. Good to see Feds, the PP, and TK get on the board. The black and gold have won 6 in a row and will be going for 7 when they face the Panthers Friday night at Mellon Arena.

-The bad news for the Pens has to do with Sergei Gonchar. Gonch left the game after the 2nd period and did not return. There are rumors that he has a broken wrist, fml. If that's the case he could be out for 4-6 weeks or 6-8 weeks like the Blues Alex Steen. Gonch is such a key player to the offense and the PP obviously. But with the way Tanger and Gogo have been playing, it wouldn't be as bad of a loss. Gogo stepped up in the absence of Gonch last season and he could do it again. Look for Skoula to be inserted into the lineup if Gonch's injury is as serious as it sounds. BTW, how bad was Sydor tonight for the Blues? He cleared that one puck right at Geno, a couple seconds, goal.

-Brian Engblom you have terrible hair again, Edzo you have a small double chin, and Keith Jones you've lost some weight, lookin' good.


Blues Roll Into Town For Tuesday Night Fight!!!

-Tonight on Versus, your Pittsburgh Penguins will face a young and dangerous team in the St. Louis Blues. They are no longer Paul Kariya's or Keith Tkachuk's team. Although vets such as these contribute significantly to the teams success the last couple years, they fail to tell the whole story. The team is built around emerging stars David Perron, Patrick Berglund, David Backes, T.J. Oshie, and Brad Boyes. Boyes is a 30-40 goal scorer, Berglund is big and strong, and Backes has been compared to Eric Lindros. Last season the Blues broke out and made the playoffs before getting swept by the Canucks. This year, coach Murray and company are out for redemption and ultimately some wins in the playoffs.

-The bad news for the Blues is that they're playing a Pens team who are winners of 6 in a row and playing as well as they ever have, ever. Fleury is particularly playing the best hockey of his career and is keeping the Pens in games where the score could be completely lopsided. The Carolina and Ottawa games come to mind. Geno and Sid are racking up their points, but its the lower tier guys such as Kennedy, Cooke, Adams, and Rupp who are coming up with goals, assists, and hits. Opposing teams are trying to play very physical against the speed and skill of the Pens, but this only leads to penalties. And eventually more goals for the black and gold.

-The Blues are 3-2-1 on the year and they are playing some good but not great hockey. Coach Murray has done an excellent job of turning this franchise around and getting the youth to buy into his system. Some under the radar guys who can be dangerous for the Blues include Colaiacovo, Mclemment, and Steen. Colaicovo and Steen were sent packing by the Leafs in the middle of last year and they have increased their level of play significantly ever since. Looking at the Pens, Feds and Kunitz need to get going offensively. It's inevitable that you get some points playing alongside Geno and Sid. Sure they're doing the "little things" and whatever else commentators want to call it, but they also need to capitalize on scoring chances when they do have them.

-Look for Eric Godard to start tonight as Blues enforcer Cam Janssen will likely play. The Chris Bourque experiment has been very weird and will be even more interesting when Max Talbot comes back. On top of that, there has been trade talk involving Fabian Brunstromm of the Stars and possibly Alex Frolov of the Kings. Ben Lovejoy would be involved in either of these deals as he's the only asset the Pens can trade at the moment, unless you consider Pascal Dupuis an asset, then you're wrong. Look for Mckee to have another solid game tonight on D, he is playing his former team.

PENS vs. BLUES at 7 pm VERSUS, see you there.



Saturday, October 17, 2009

Pens win 5th in a row, beat Lightning 4-1

-Sorry guys, I am away visiting friends at another university dawn saahhth. But I got to watch a streamed version of the 3rd period and boy did the Pens look scary, again. Mike Rupp had his second straight game with a goal, off a Crosby feed. Fleury just made an insane acrobatic save a few moments before and before you know it the Pens were off to the races and BOOM, the puck was shot past Nittymaki for a 4-1 lead late in the 3rd.

-Gogo, Letang, and Mckee were all playing very well. Mckee had 7 blocks, Eaton blocked a shot in his chest, Adams blocked several shots, etc. The team is sacrificing and getting contributions from everyone in the lineup. Gonch had two blistering slap shot goals (one was deflected by Duper) in this game and Guerin added one as well. Before his firing in February of last year, former Pens coach Michel Therrien taught the Pens some important things: accountability on defense and the ability to play with everyone. The 2nd is referring to how many times Therrien would switch up the lines when the team was losing or even winning.

-Even Byslma mixes his lines up a lot and Godard/Rupp are seen with Crosby some games, Rupp with Geno, Adams with TK and Staal, and so on. This Pens team isn't just about Sid, Geno, and Fleury although some nights we just can't help but call them the stars of the night. But last year's playoff run and this year's 7-1 start are attributed to a team mentality. Every defenseman and every forward lines 1-4 is contributing each and every game. Rupp and Mckee were considered to be mediocore additions before the season got off. Now they're being praised everytime they hit the ice. Mckee leads the NHL with 28 blocked shots and Rupp hits and skates better than most 6'5 guys.

-The Lightning are a better team defensively than they were last year. Adding guys like Walker, Ohlund, Veileux, Miller, and Tanguay can only help your team. But the chemistry and gelling process still takes time. Tonight they were victims of too many stupid penalties. Hooking, slashing, and holding are all caused by laziness and lack of speed. They commited 7 minor penalties overall but the Pens only scored on one of those.

-The St. Louis Blues and their unique young core of talent roll into town on Tuesday night. The game will be on Versus therefore I will go jump off a bridge because DirecTV doesn't carry that channel. Amazing.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Kunitz Wins it For Pens in the SO, 3-2 Over the Canes

-Chris Kunitz didn't exactly end his scoring funk tonight, but he did give the Pens an extra point and maybe boosted his self-confidence a bit as well. Kunitz has scored just one goal in the past 30 games (including the playoffs) and zero in six games this season. But as the 6th shooter chosen in the shootout, Kunitz faked Cam Ward and sniped it 5-hole to keep the Pens a perfect 4-0 on the road.

-All was merry in Penguin land thru two periods of play, but one shot by P
ens killer Ray Whitney seemed to turn the tide midway into the 3rd. The Canes were surging for good parts of this game, but it was Fleury and the Pens defense who were helping the door stay shut. Whitney tipped a Tuomo Ruutu thru the legs of Fleury and in. The building went wild and the Canes gained some much needed momentum. The Pens didn't stop moving their feet and a couple minutes later Guerin got absolutely robbed by Ward. Crosby stopped up and passed it thru the legs of Gleason to Kunitz who went to Guerin who had a wide open cage but shot it right at Ward's glove, still 2-1 Pens.

-The Canes came surging back once again after this huge save. On an overskated puck by Crosby, Gleason shot it at the net and Whitney tipped a beautiful shot over the glove of Fleury, and so it was 2-2. The Pens had several good chances after that but the period came to a close and the Canes who looked completely out of this game now had all the momentum. In OT the Pens had the edge with the 4 on 4 play. Geno/Sid connected on a pretty play where Geno was robbed by Ward's nasty glove. Ward was dominant tonight in stopping 36 saves.

-Once it got to the SO, it was the "Fins" of the Canes against the "Hands" of the Pens. Shootout specialist Jussi Jokinen dipsy dangled and scored a sexy goal on Fleury on the 2nd Canes attempt. Crosby responded by burying a backhand sky high on Ward. And then Fleury stoned 4 more shooters until Kunitz was called upon to save the Pens, he didn't dissapoint. Kunitz was the first shooter to shoot 5 hole on Ward and it worked. All the others were going backhand and failing (besides Sid). Fleury was huge in the shootout against some very tough shooters: Ruutu, Cullen, Staal, and Samsonov.

-Some key parts of the game I haven't even mentioned were the Pens first 2 goals. After Ruutu absolutely nailed Letang in the corner midway thru the 1st, the Canes brokedown defensively and Mike Rupp scored his first as a Pen on a spectacular backhand goal to give the Pens a 1-0 lead. Ward couldn't believe a 4th line scrapper just scored that goal. Asst. coach Tony Granato wanted to french kiss Rupp he was so ecstatic. In the 2nd period Geno had a ridiculous goal as promised tonig
ht. Dupuis almost lost it but quickly passed it over to Geno who sniped it glove side on Ward from an insane angle, impossible to save.

-As Kunitz mentioned in the post-game interview, the Pens still have room for improvement. Only one game has been a 60 minute effort. That's a scary statement considering the Pens are 6-1 and averaging 4 goals a game in those wins. Geno had a goal and an assist, Gogo was skating very well tonight, and Kennedy had some excellent chances once aga
in. Maybe that slapper streaming down the right side is his new signature shot.

-Props to Fleury for holding the fort against several Cane onslaughts tonight, but no props to the PP, who couldn't capatlize for the 2nd straight game and went o-4. Bourque got the nod in place of Godard tonight and he had some good shifts with Sid and then Staal/Cooke. He seems to fall down a lot and get knocked off the puck, but he's got potential and he's only 23.

-Congrats Pens for a perfect 4-0 road trip..Saturday night Ryan Malone and the Lightning come to town.


Pens Clash with the 'Canes in an East. Conf. Finals Rematch

The Picture above should be somewhat familiar, eh? This is Scott Walker of Carolina getting ready to sucker punch Aaron Ward of the Bruins. Now the two are teammates and "friends," on a Canes team that saw a bit of re-tooling this off-season with regard to defense and forward depth. The Pens meanwhile are riding high atop the Atlantic division with a 5-1-0 record. They have one 3 in a row and are a perfect 4-0 on the road. And they are winning behind superb goaltending, scoring from all 4 lines, and solid defense lead by Jay Mckee's 20 blocks (tops in the NHL).

Like several of the Pens previous opponents this year (Toronto, Philly) the Canes have added a number of physical/nasty players in order to go up against Geno/Sid/Ovie, and so on. Aaron Ward and Andrew Alberts have been added on D while Tom Kostopoulos (former Pen) and Stephane Yelle complete the forward additions for the Canes. Last year the Canes had to basically run 3 lines with the 4th being extremely weak. Ryan/Bayda/Conboy and some others would play on that 4th line but do nothing effective. Kostopoulos and Yelle are excellent role players who are clearly an upgrade over the old guys. Fortunately Brooks Orpik's best friend Erik Cole will be out for 6 weeks because of injury.

Ward and Alberts are effective and can lay out some big hits but they're also prone to taking stupid penalties. If they play reckless tonight against the Pens they'll get scored on and lose. The Canes are 2-3-0 this season and they'll be looking for a big night from Erik Staal (who has just two points) and Cam Ward. Jussi Jokinen leads the team with 5 pts (2g 3a), and this is not surprising considering he scored 3 game winning goals in the playoffs last spring. The Canes are a team full of solid role players, and one superstar in Eric Staal. Samsonov, Walker, Cullen, and Ruutu can all be dangerous so the Pens will have to watch out.

Quite frankly, I don't think the Pens care who's new on the Canes or how physical they may now be. Cooke, Rupp, Orpik, Adams, Kennedy, and Kunitz can all lay the body. They can also contribute offensively, at least Cooke, Kennedy, and Adams can. Last year it was Seidenberg and Gleason's duty to shut down Geno and Sid. Look for Ward and Alberts to get matched up against the deadly duo tonight. Ward/Pitkanen? Corvo/Alberts? Those may be the likely pairings. Look for Geno to have a big game tonight based on what he did to the Canes during the playoffs and because he had an off night in Ottawa on Monday. Sid will be hungry as well so this should get exciting. Remember the nasty backhand goal by Geno (above)? Let's see it again tonight!!!

LETS GO PENS, Canes vs. Pens at 7:30 pm in Raleigh, NC....lineups same as last game


Monday, October 12, 2009

Kennedy Scores 2 as Pens Beat Sens 4-1

-Tyler Kennedy doesn't have to be playing with Geno to score goals. He can score just as easily alongside Cooke/Adams or Staal when he's up there. TK had 2 goals tonight including a rifling slap shot that completely flew by Sens goalie Pascal Leclaire. The Sens didn't play too bad in this game. Leclaire kept them in there during the first period and a half with some good saves. He was promising, but Kovy and Alfredsson (argubly their two best players) were nowhere to be seen. Kovy turned it over a couple times, slashed Letang which lead to a Pens PP goal, and was very sloppy the whole night.

-It was surprising to see Alfy quiet, as he usually plays well against the Pens. But newly acquired Cheechoo and Michalek played well as did Spezza who had a bunch of chances to score but just couldn't capatilize. Michalek scored a beautiful goal off a nice pass from Cheech and his blazing speed was very noticeable throughout this contest. The Pens did not get the start they wanted, but for the millionth (it seems like) time this road trip, the Pens scored on the next shift or shortly after the opposition scores. Guerin lifted a bouncing puck past Leclaire, Sens D-men Phillips had no idea where the puck was and Pens were up 1-0.

-The Pens have now won 4 in a row and are 4-0 on the road. Fleury made 30 saves and was outstanding again. There were several loose puck scrums around him and he stayed composed and the defense was able to clear the puck in time or he would shut the door. The Sens hit the glass on numerous occassions, Mckee blocked a bunch, and some posts were binked as well. The Sens were unlucky but the Pens created their luck. Guerin's 1st goal, Kennedy's 1st goal, and Staal's goal could've been avoided. Rupp was skating super hard tonight, he also had some booming hits. Speaking of hits, Kunitz can bring it like no other.

-Geno was sleepy tonight and Sid wasn't exactly on his game, but the Pens still got production from their other lines. Cooke/Adams/Kennedy continue to be very effective on the forecheck. All that hitting is causing defenses to turn the puck over which is leading to more goals. I personally want to thank Alex Kovalev for sleeping during tonight's game, Spezza for hitting the glass on several occassions, and Alfredsson for being invisible as well.
Jordan Staal has now scored a goal in each of the past 3 games, Fleury is 5-0, and Kennedy has 4 goals. Congrats to Mckee and Rupp for their first points as Pens.


Pens vs. Sens (7:08 pm) Preview...Hello Kovy!

-Tonight at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, the Pens (4-1-0) will face-off against the Sens (3-1-0). The Sens sit atop the Northeast division and are currently riding a 3 game win streak. The Pens are also division leaders (Atlantic) and they'll look for their 3rd straight win and 4th straight on the road. The Pens did not fair well last year against the Sens in going 1-3 and they have lost 6 out of the last 7 meetings.

-What to look for with the Sens: Physical and speedy play. The Pens got their first taste of this team in the 1st rd . of the playoffs two years ago. The Sens, behind Volchenkov, Alfredsson, and Neil literally ran us over. A year later we destroyed them in the playoffs but last season wasn't as succesful. Although Jason Smith, Schubert, and Bass are gone, the Sens can still bring it physically. The Sens have a legit goaltender now in Pascal Leclaire. If he isn't injured, he can be dangerous. They may have finally found their goaltender of the future.

-Some familiar faces from some some oh so close places: Alex Kovalev and Jarko Ruutu. Kovy had his first goal as a Sen over the weekend and he is playing alongside Alfy and Fisher on the 1st line. Spezza is playing on the 2nd line with Cheechoo and Michalek. The Sens scoring will have to be and has been spread out so far this season. With the departure of Heatley, guys like Kovy/Spezza/Cheech/Michalek will be counted on to produce. The Pens have the edge in the 3rd/4th lines but Neil, Ruutu, and Donovan are some tough cookies. Neil will fight anyone, Ruutu is an excellent agitator, and Donovan has scored some big goals against the Pens the last couple years.

-Keys to succes tonight: limit penalties, initiate/don't retaliate. Scotiabank hasn't been a friendly place for the Pens the last couple seasons. But this specific group of Pens is poised and focused to play a very strong game tonight. Fleury is on his A game, Geno is racking up the points, Sid is scoring, and the Pens are hitting. Everything that made the Pens so dangerous in the playoffs, has been working again the past couple games. Last game the Pens were physical but they also didn't take many penalties. Ottawa will come out hitting and it's up to Orpik, Cooke, Adams, and Rupp to set the tone physically for the Pens.

Who's in and Who's out?

: Godard will be in, Skoula/Bourque are healthy scratches

Ryan Shannon, Jesse Winchester, Flip Kuba will be out b.c of injuries


Let's See How Far We've Come: 5 things we know about the Pens

5 games and 5 things we know about the Pens

1. Fleury is 4-0

It's been a tough road to the top for one Marc-Andre Fleury. Being scrutinized in his first couple years then getting injured then choking and so on. Fleury has lead the Pens to two straight Cup runs and one won Cup, shutting the critiques up for good. This year he has looked as sharp as he has in a long time. His rebound control has been exceptional as have his game-changing saves. He did that in almsot every playoff game last year and he is continuing where he left off, making big saves when the Pens need it the most.

2. Jordan Staal looks sexy alongside Geno

Two years ago we saw 18 year old Jordan Staal net 29 goals, including 8 shorthanded. Oh and by the way one of his linemates that year was one Geno Malkin. Staal looks like a monster on the ice and he's building off his terrific playoffs with even bigger strides now. He's forechecking harder, winning more faceoffs, making tough plays to score goals, and giving Bylsma another scoring option to work with. Teams will have an even tougher time stopping our top 2 lines if Staal can continue his great play with Geno and Feds/Dupuis.

3. Jay Mckee is a shot-blocking Machine

Ray Shero knew what he was doing when he brought in vet. d-men Mckee in the off-season. He didn't fit into the Blues plans so how in the world was he going to start for the Pens? He has done just fine. He's averaging nearly 5-6 blocks per game and doing a good job of exiting the puck out of the zone with no problems. Mckee has been a perfect complement to youngster Goligoski (Gogo) who is playing some terrific two-way hockey himself. Mckee has also showed us what a great teammate he can be when he stepped up to fight the Isles Brendan Witt last weekend after Witt put a punishing hit on Fedotenko.

4. Crosby is becoming more of a scorer

During the summer Sid the Kid spent a good portion of his time practicing his shot, he said he wanted to score more goals this year. Guess what? He's doing just that. He leads the team with 4 goals and instead of passing as much as he used to, he's trying to shoot it from wherever he can, a la Tyler Kennedy. Crosby scored a bunch of goals in the playoffs last year around the net. He had a couple in Toronto last night in the same area to the right of the goalie.

5. TK/Cooke/Adams are hard-nosed pests

The NHL already knows what a pest Matt Cooke has been over his career, but TK and Adams are two different types of pests. TK handles and controls the puck as good as anyone in the league, not exaggerating. The little guy can skate, hit, shoot from any angle and goes all out on every shift. Craig Adams was once on waivers and a couple months later he's on the ice for the last seconds of game 7 vs. Detroit. Adams is converting to center and has been winning over 50% of his faceoffs in each of the 5 games. Adams like Cooke and TK, loves to hit and punish people with checks, he can even check Chris Pronger, OMG. Together the three pests, comprise a very effective 3rd line that will be a pain in the ass to play against for several months to come.

NOTE: Geno is the Pens points leader with 7 and 2nd on the team with 16 PIM. Stop hooking people Geno.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Pens Torment Toronto in 5-2 win...Colton who?

-Brian Burke did a lot of re-modeling for the Leafs over the off-season, and none of those acquisitions really made a difference tonight in Toronto. Komisarek, Beauchemin, and Orr were only mentioned when it came to fights or some post-whistle skirmishes. Sid and Geno were dominant and the whole Pens team seemed to play inspired hockey tonight on Hockey Night in Canada. They were forechecking, creating turnovers, blocking shots, playing physical, and taking advantage of stupid Toronto penalties by going 3 for 3 on the PP.

-The last time the Pens played at Air Canada during the reg. season they lost 6-2 and coach Michel Therrien was fired the next day. The tables have turned as the Pens play a much more aggressive system now under coach Bylsma. The Pens can easily roll 4 lines and not be afraid to get scored against. Even Godard can somewhat handle the puck. The Flyers 4th line the other night was terrible and Toronto's can only cheapshot or spear people (Letang).

-The Pens played their most complete game of the season by limiting the number of penalties: 1. And taking advantage of their power play opps. Sid had a nice rebound goal in the 2nd and a nice deflection goal off Geno's slapper to give the Pens a 4-1 lead after 2. Cooke added his 100th career goal in the 1st, congrats. And Geno with his stick on the ice hunted down Ian White, stole the puck, and quickly dished it to Staal who roofed it top shelf for a 5-1 lead in the 3rd. Geno and Staal are finding that chemistry they had only two years ago when Staal netted 29 goals. With the way Craig Adams is playing alongside Cooke and TK, putting Staal back up to the 2nd line isn't such a bad idea.

-In the post-game interviews, the Leafs mentioned it was the composure that cost them the game. 4 penalties isn't too bad boys, you just have no one on your team who can create offense consistently. Grabovski, Hagman, Poni, are all skilled guys but in spurts. Pens killer Jason Blake was invisible as was Stajan. Nice to see Orpik running around nailing people left and right, especially Luke Schenn. Funniest clip was of Brian Burke watching the Anaheim (his old team)/Boston game from his box. I think he was wondering how he can get a Getzlaff, Perry, Ryan, or Selanne over to Toronto somehow.

-Sure Toronto is a tough team to play if you can't score goals when you have PPs. If you wanna drop the fisticuffs, the Pens can do it. Adams, Godard, and Rupp all had fights tonight. Rupp's was awful against Rosehill. Rosehill speared Tanger earlier in the game and cross-checked Gonch as well. How did the Pens respond? By scoring a PP goal, :). Toskala was not sharp tonight, the defense was quite stingy and the offense was non-existent for Toronto, maybe that's why they're 0-4 on the season.

-Watching this game made me think of all the useless players the Pens had 2 years ago: Christensen, Oullet, Petrovicky, Recchi, Taffe, and Sydor. A couple of those guys were decent at times, but not as consistently effective as this group of Penguins, think about it. The Pens were 1-4 against Toronto last year, it's nice to set a different tone for this year's series against the "new look" Leafs.

Stats of da night:

-Jay Mckee had a game-high 7 blocked shots

-The Pens were 54% (34-29) on the faceoffs tonight

-Crosby was 64% (17-25) on faceoffs

-Gogo lead the Pens with 23:08 of ice time

-Day-off tomorrow then another gritty affair against the Senators will await us on Monday night. Kovy scored his first as a Sen tonight, uh oh?


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Rd. 1 of Battle of Pennsylvania goes to Pens, 5-4...Hartnell bit Letang's finger?

-The Flyers thought they got tougher when they added Chris Pronger, Ray Emery, and Ian Laperriere. Well yeah I mean those guys can fight, but were they at all visible in this game? No. Emery was awful and the key to beating him is moving him from side to side and getting him to bite. This happened on the Staal goal, Geno almost had one like that, Guerin went 5 hole, and so on. Pronger wasn't physical at all and the only time you heard his name was when he slashed Geno (a non-penalty) and then he was holding Kunitz by the neck at the end of the game.

-The Pens needed to bounce back from yesterday's sleepy and unspirited performance against the Yotes. They did an excellent job of doing just that in Orange Country. Every line was flying and tenaciously pounding the Philly D-men. The 5th goal (by TK) was caused by a Craig Adams hit on Coburn. Cooke was hitting everything in sight, and how good did Staal look alongside Geno? It was only a couple years ago when Staal had 29 goals playing with Geno/Oullet/Sykora. Staal made a spectacular move on the 2nd goal (18 secs after Philly goal) to really give the Pens an extra boost when you thought the Flyers were gonna storm right back.

-Too many penalties were taken by Pens players once again in this contest. Geno had 3 minor's, Crosby had one, as did Staal and Orpik. Giving the Flyers 6 PP opportunity isn't gonna lead to many victories, fortunately in this game it did and the Pens won the special teams battle. Little Danny Briere had a good game for Philly tonight. He found himself in the right place on several occassions and made use of it in scoring 2 goals. Coburn also had a good goal for the Pens LOL. God knows how that puck snuck in through Emery, but it wasn't their night.

-The Flyers got Pronger over the summer to help solidify 2 defensive pairings to shut down Geno's line and Sid's line. What about the 3rd/4th lines for the Pens? Ok Godard doesn't count but the Philly 3rd/4th lines were terrible in this game. The 3rd goal by Guerin was scored because the 4th line for Philly was on the ice and they couldn't change in time so Guerin had a breakaway from the blue line in, easy game. The grinders: Rupp/Adams/Dupuis/TK/Cooke all had terrific games. Cote/Powe/Carcillo/Laperriere, not so much.

-Did Scotty Hartnell bite Letang's finger? Perhaps. Something weird did happen while Letang and Hartnell were rolling around. Letang accussed Hartnell of biting his finger after the game. Mike Richards is a leader yes, but he is also a cheap little scrub. He went at Fleury full throttle with no intention of slowing down and thankfully hit the goal post instead of Fleury. Then he sprawled across the ice as if he was injured, typical Flyers hockey. Richards could get a suspension for charging the goalie because it was during the last minute of the game, and Hartnell should get a suspension otherwise I'm sending Mark Wahlberg (Shooter) to track down Gary Bettman.

-I haven't even mentioned how well Geno played tonight. After a sluggish game last night, he was flying around like a wild horse tonight. He beat Ryan Parent on a sick move through the legs but then the missed the goal and he had a rifling slapper to give the Pens a 1-0 lead in the 1st period. On D, I thought Goligoski had his best all-around game as Pen. He had a goal and an assist, and made several nice plays when the Flyers forwards were applying pressure. Not gonna lie, Jay Mckee can block shots but he might lose to Hal Gill in a skating competition, he's that slow. Same old Emery from his last year in Ottawa.

-Toronto is coming up Saturday night, more fisticuffs? Hellz Yes.


Coyotes shut down Pens offense and silence the crowd in 3-0 win...WTF happened?

-If this hockey game had a theme song, it might just be the "Sound of Silence". It wasn't Brent Johnson's fault the Pens lost 3-0, and frankly the defense wasn't all that bad either in this game, but the number of penalties taken and the lack of composure on the Pens side was unacceptable. The Pens had 10 minor penalties in the game, 2 of which resulted in goals for the Coyotes. The newly coached 'Yotes were much tougher to face tonight under Tippett. Because this team doesn't have too many stars, a more defensive approach (for now at least) is the way to go, and this Coyotes team did that to a T.

-The script for this game had been written many times before when the Pens would be down 1 or 2 heading into the 3rd, and I told my friend (Rishi) that we were gonna come back and steal this one, nuh uh. The Pens 3rd period was just as scary to watch as the previous 2. The Yotes D, as well as forwards, were doing an excellent job of clogging the neutral zone and making it very tough for the Pens to gain the offensive zone or even the red line. And the Pens didn't try dumping it in enough behind the Coyotes D in this game, and even when they did their speed wasn't good enough to get to the puck first.

-Brent Johnson did a solid job tonight in stopping 22 of 24 shots faced. At 1-0 Phoenix, Johnson stoned Shane Doan on a point blank opportunity, which ended up being the highlight of the night for the Pens. The other highlight was Rupp crushing some scrub Phoenix player named Lepisto into the boards, rightfully so it was the "Subway sandwich of the game." The Coyotes simply outworked the Pens and were the more disciplined team. Every time the Pens had some sort of attack going, Crosby/Cooke/Orpik would take some stupid penalty and kill any momentum we had. There were 2 or 3 plays in the whole game where the Pens had possession of the puck in the offensive zone for long stretches of the time.

-On one of the positive Off. zone shifts, the Pens had a goal called off when Cooke ended up cross-checking a guy in the back. Were the Pens tired? Or did the Coyotes play that well that the Pens couldn't do anything? I believe it was a little bit of both. The Pens legs were not visible in this game, and usually their speed and forecheck is the perfect recipe for success. Jovo was physical tonight for Phoenix and Pens killer Petr Prucha scored the 2nd goal of the game while sitting on the ice, amazing. The Pens had maybe one odd-man rush, and it came on a 3 on 1 with TK, Feds, and Geno and Jim Vandermeer ended up making a great play to prevent a goal. Other D-men such as Yandle, Aucoin, Michalek, all had effective games. 'Yotes goalie Bryzgalov was very solid tonight in stopping all 24 shots. Former Pen Robert Lang, wasn't all too bad himself. Looked like the Lang of old when he had the puck on the half wall of the PP.

-Chris Bourque did get the nod in place of Eric Godard and he played pretty well although again, it's hard to see any player (especially a young one) get into a groove when there's a penalty being called every 3-5 min. No one was visible tonight offensively. The team was sluggish and it was as if they wanted to conserve as much energy as they could for tonight's game against Philly. I boy as hell hope they saved some energy, because they'll need it. There are 82 games during the regular season and these games happen, even to Stanley Cup champions. Give credit to Phoenix for displaying a disciplined, defensive masterpiece tonight against the Pens. Remember the Devils "trap," well that was kind of it.

-Expect to see Eric Godard or Godzilla in the lineup against Philly and the Pens can't blame fatigue on a loss against Chris Pronger and company because not much was exerted against the 'Yotes. Fleury will be in net, the juices will be flowing, and oh yeah some gloves might be dropped...just sayin'

- Pens/Flyers preview will be up in the afternoon


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Penguins vs. Coyotes (7:30pm) PREVIEW...Bourque in? Fleury out?

-Tonight the Pens (2-0-0) will face-off against one of the more controversial and frankly worst teams in the NHL, the Phoenix Coyotes (1-0-0). The Yotes haven't made the playoffs since 2003 and they're on the verge of being moved from Phoenix and back into some Canadian city. Blackberry CEO Jim Balsille hopes that city can be Hamilton, ON. Throughout the summer Balsille would meet with Bettman in court in hopes of relocating the team, every attempt failed.

-Former coach Wayne Gretzky stepped down last week and the team hired former Stars coach and Pens player, Dave Tippett. Tippett brings a much different approach to the game than Gretzky so we should expect a much harder playing team tonight than in year's past. The Yotes have an abundance of young talent: Boedker, Hanzal, Mueller, and Yandle. All 4 are coming off solid seasons last year, but they're looking to improve. The team is also lead by some accomplished veterans: Shane Doan, Ed Jovanovski, and Robert Lang (former Pen). Doan is an excellent leader and captain, and a player who Crosby really looks up to.

-Some other familiar faces to Pens fans might be Scottie Upshall, Petr Prucha, and Paul Bissonnette. Biz Nasty, who was picked up by Phoenix off waivers last week, will not play in tonight's game. Prucha underachieved/didn't get enough playing time in New York, Upshall played well in Philly and was used as a salary dump for Philly when they acquired Carcillo. And I haven't even mentioned the centerpiece of last year's Jokinen to CAL deal, mr. Matthew Lombardi. He was a point per game player in his time as a Yote, and the speedy winger will be noticeable tonight.

-Brent Johnson will start in goal tonight for the Pens. The backup will make his Pens debut as Fleury will get the nod in tomorrow's showdown in Philly. Ilya Bryzgalov will start for Phoenix. Chris Bourque might be in the lineup tonight in place of Godard/Dupuis, but Bylsma mentioned it will be a game-time decision on whether he plays or not. The Pens will be up against some good d-men in Michalek, Jovo, and Yandle and some solid forwards in Doan, Lombardi, and Mueller. Look for Matt Cooke to notch his 100th career goal tonight.


In Ray Shero we trust...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Pens Finish Weekend with 2 big wins...Fleury Looking Sharp

-Mr. Kennedy had a big first game against the Rangers on Friday night in scoring a game winner and being a speedy force all over the ice. The night began about 20 minutes before the drop of the puck when the banner was raised and the players watched as the 08-09 banner made its way up into the rafters. It was very emotional, even for me as a hockey fan, I almost cried. Comedian Dennis Miller (former MNF announcer) was the voice over for a jumbotron special which recounted the story of Dan Bylsma and the historic run into the finals.

-The Rangers looked much better than they did last year in this game. They have a couple fantastic young puck moving D-men in Michael Del Zotto (19) and Matt Gilroy (25). Gilroy was flying around the Off. zone like a forward the majority of the game, pretty scary to watch. Speaking of flying, newly signed forward Marion Gaborik was also fun to watch. He had a breakaway that would've tied the game but luckily it went thru Fleury's padding and out. He did manage to score a goal, and he looked very good on a line with Dubinsky and Prospal.

-The 9 new players on the Rangers roster all played fairly well besides maybe Kotalik. Interesting to see so many soft Europeons on one team but what the hell. Highlights of the game included Fleury making an incredible save on Prospal on a 2 on 1 earlier in the 2nd. Brashear and Godard squared off in a heavyweight tilt a couple minutes into the game. It was a great fight with Brashear getting Godard early but then taking some beatings himself as the fight prolonged. Mike Rupp played well on a 4th line with Godzilla and Adams. The two towers of death had a couple great scoring chances and a couple post whistle scrums as well.

-The Pens offense suffocated the Rangers D for 2/3 of the game and it looked like the Pens team of last year's playoff run. All 4 lines were cycling the puck and creating scoring chances. Geno and Sid had great games, Letang looked sharp, Gogo was tremendous on the PP, Fleury was stellar, etc. The Rangers had a chance to get back in the game because of how well their top 2 lines were playing: Drury/Callahan/Higgins, Dubs/Gabby/Prospal. But fleury stood tall and the defense/penalty kill was strong the whole night.
The Pens prevailed 3-2.

-On Saturday night, it was time for the Pens to meet the #1 overall pick in this year's draft, John Tavares. Tavares had a beautiful backhand goal and an assist in this game but it was the Pens behind two shootout goals (both 5 hole) by Letang and Crosby, who would eventually win this game. The Pens have dominated the Isles the last couple years, but every game has been super competitive and very hard to win. Steigy and Bob pointed that out during the broadcast. The Isles defense is now healthy with the likes of Streit, Witt, Sutton, Gervais, and Martinek. All 5 spent much of last year on the IR but they were noticeable in this one. Especially Mr. Witt.

-Brendan Witt loves taking liberties on Pens players over the years. He caught Feds crossing the blue line but thankfully Ruslan saw the hit coming and didn't get hurt too badly. Shortly after this hit the game turned in the Isles favor. Geno pushed Witt, then Dupuis, and then newcomer Jay Mckee flew in and started fighting Witt who's a very tough customer. Mckee got a game misconduct, but in the third period he entered the game again, very weird set of events. Bob Errey was confused. Shortly before the Witt hit, other newcomer Rupp fought Tim Jackman. So slowly but surely, the game was getting very physical.

-During the first 2 periods the Pens seemed to play into the Isles hands. They were sitting back and waiting for them to make mistakes rather than initiate the attack themselves. The Pens were a little tired from playing on Friday night and the Isles on the other hand were fully energized for their home opener. The question was, how long could they keep up this type of play? Answer: not very long. In the last 5 min. of the 2nd period and the whole the 3rd period, the Pens dominated play. Feds came back into the game and scored another huge goal to tie it at 3-3 late in the 3rd. He's had a knack for scoring big goals in his short career as a Pen. Think back to game 5 last year against Washington in Rd. 2.

-After the Pens tied the game the first time at 2-2, Trent Hunter (Pens killer) responded on the next shift with a one timer goal from a pretty pass from 20 yr old Josh Bailey. But after the Feds goal, it was 3-3 heading into the SO. Tanger and Crosby helped ice the deal against goalie Dwayne Roloson, who was terrific in this game. The Pens outshot the Isles 18-5 in the 3rd, and 42-28 for the game. It took 2 periods until the Pens really got their mojo going. And it was eventually going to happen, knowing our Pens. Cooke, Kunitz, Staal, Feds, Geno, and Sid were all bringing 100% on each shift. Kunitz had a crunching hit on Martinek in the 2nd which I had dreams about last night it was so beautiful.

-In conclusion, the Isles are a much tougher team to play against this season with all their D healthy and with the young talent that they have: Okposo, Bailey, Tavares, Moulson, and Tambellini. I haven't even heard of Moulson and he was very effective on the 1st line tonight. Tavares will be a stud in this league, he showed it tonight. He could've had a couple goals in this one had it not been for some bad ice or opening night nerves. It's good to see people in the stands in Long Island, I think they'll be there to stay after seeing #91 (no not Sergei Federov).

-Hopefully nothing is wrong with Feds or Jay Mckee and don't be surprised to see Chris Bourque start Wednesday against the Coyotes. Godard will need some knuckle resting with the Flyers coming up on Thursday..... : )

-Quote of the day: "Marion Gaborik saw one 2 on 1 every couple weeks playing in Minnesota." -Steigy on FSN.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Pens Opening Night PREVIEW....Gametime Baby!!!

- Sometime after 7:30 pm, the Pens will begin their march for a Stanley Cup repeat, when they face off against Marion Gaborik and the "new look" New York Rangers. The championship banner will be raised tonight as well, and Rangers coach Tortorella wants the players to sit on the bench during the presentation in hopes of acquiring some motivation for the game, and the season as well.

- Fleury's save on Lidstrom in the winding seconds of game 7 still sticks in mind when I think of a Pens game. Tonight though, a new season will start, with some new faces sprinkled in thru the lineup. But the core of the team, Staal/Geno/Sid/Fleury/Gonch, they're all still here.
The Rangers on the other hand, have completely revamped themselves in the off-season, particularly with the forwards. They managed to trade Scott Gomez and his ridiculous $10 mil/yr contract and get some value in return, with young forward Chris Higgins. They signed flashy forward Marion Gaborik, who if healthy can put up 40-50 goals this year in an up-tempo offensive system.

- The Rangers also brought in Vinny Prospal, Ales Kotalik, and Donald Brashear. Ranger fans still haven't accepted Brashear into the community quite yet after his nasty hit on Betts last year in the playoffs. The Rangers now have a ton of offensive talent to be able to play in a Tortorella type system. But their strength remains on the backend with Girardi, Staal, and Redden.

- Enough of the Rangers, let's talk about those Pens. Crosby will be in the lineup although he's not 100% healthy. He's been hampered by a groin problem he suffered in a pre-season game against the Blue Jackets. Talbot will also be out for the contest, in fact he'll be injured until the beginning of November. Unfortunately Chris Bourque will not make his Pens debut tonight, but more likely tomorrow against the Isles. Godard's enforcing presence will be needed because Brashear will be playing for the Rangers. The NHL's top pest, Mr. Sean Avery, will also sit this game out with an injury.

The Lineup looks like this: