Sunday, November 29, 2009

Crosby, Pens Embarrass Avery and Co. 8-3

Sean Avery and the rest of his band of Rangers weren't ready for the storm that hit them last night at the Igloo. Although the score did get close twice in this game, the Pens were confident and you could sense a win was coming. It helped to get back a couple key offensive D-men : Letang and Goligoski. Each had a pair of assists and were visible throughout the night.

Crosby was the star of the night. He had a hat trick and 2 assists. Two of the goals Rangers backup Valiquette could've stopped but he was terrible. Eaton had a huge goal at the end of the 2nd period with .02 ticks left. He just wristed a shot from the point and after hitting a couple bodies it jumped past Valiquette. The Rangers cut the deficit to 1 again in the first couple minutes of the 3rd period when Rozsival scored, 4-3 Pens. But then the parade of goals came for our good 'ole Penguinos.

Sid scored, then Dupuis scored a weak goal from the point which Vally shoulda had, then Sid scored his 3rd, and then Kennedy tipped a Letang shot in. The game got outta hand in the 3rd after Matt Cooke dealt a high (and late) hit to Anisimov of the Rangers. Avery and Brashear started yapping and Brashear went after Cooke. He got a 4 min. penalty and the Pens scored 2 PP goals. Cooke then fought Callahan in a fairly drawn middleweight fight. I was impressed to see Cooke throw some nice punches in there, unfortunately he'll be suspended for the next 2 games for that high hit.

How does Cooke get suspended for that hit and Richards (flyers) doesn't get suspended for the hit on Booth a couple weeks back. That was much more vicious and Booth had to leave the game on a stretcher. Last week Ovechkin dealt a nasty hit from behind on Kaleta and only received a misconduct. Do you see a pattern? Players with bad reputations seem to be the ones constantly suspended rather than the stars of the NHL. There has to be a line drawn and Bettman's gotta be the one drawin' it.

Avery was at his ultimate best tonight. Only it wasn't helping the Rangers but hurting them. Avery tried headshotting Crosby early in the 3rd and thankfully Sid dodged it. His ultimate blowup occurred when he attacked Feds from behind. A defenseless Feds LOL. Avery is a joke and at least he didn't cheapshot Feds to the head. Bylsma was smart to put Godard on the ice for the final 6 minutes with either Sid or Geno. Rupp was also mixed in there.

Monday night's affair will be a much heated as the agitators and goon's will be back at it and this time you can expect Godard and Brashear to square off. How will the Rangers respond to the bashing they took? Should be interesting. If this Rangers team is to have success, Lundqvist and Gaborik have to shine. Gabby has 19 goals on the year and he's been an absolute beast. NY's defense isn't as steady as it has been in year's past so King Henrik will have to save the day. Great to see Mad Max get his first goal of the season on a nifty move in the 1st.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Isles Give a Solid 60 Minute Effort and Beat Pens 3-2

Call it the Thanksgiving Day hangover or an afternoon game, or blame it on dinner at Billy Guerin's house last night. But do not call it a good effort. At least from the Pens side. The Isles came to play hard, sound, smart hockey for 60 minutes. Something they've failed to do against the Pens the past season and a half. All 4 lines were contributing with physical play and disrupting the flow of the game from the Pens.

It isn't often the Pens are outshot in a game, but the Isles mustered 37 shots on backup Johnson to the Pens 22. Not good enough. The Pens did have some good shifts, but they couldn't establish momentum. It was especially hard for the Dmen to move the puck out of their own zone. The puck was bouncing off sticks, guys were falling, etc. Geno's 1st goal which tied it at 1 was lucky. Somehow the puck had eyes and snuck in through Roloson. Give credit to Geno for getting it on net.

Cooke scored the 2nd goal and gave the Pens a 2-1 lead. Staal originally shot it and a huge rebound came right to Cooke who shot it into the empty net. Yes the Pens were up 2-1 but they weren't dictating play, outshooting the Isles, or playing their game. They seemed to be playing Devils hockey only their wasn't any "Trap." The Isles had no problem crossing the blue line and cycling down low. Near the end of the 2nd period, the Pens had a 5 on 3 for a minute, and 5 minutes of PP time, result: no goal. They couldn't generate anything, and it seemed to actually take away from any momentum the Pens had.

The Pens were 11-1 when leading after 2 periods, unsurprisingly that all changed. Bergenheim fired a nice wrister past Johnson to tie the game at 2 and Tavares put in a rebound to make it 3-2 late in the 3rd. The Isles were 0 for 3 on the PP while the Pens were 0 for 5. No one on the Pens looked interested in this game. There was a lot of sleepy, sloppy and effortless play. They had chances but even when they were up 2-1 it was a matter of luck and not because they were outplaying the Isles.

As good as Tavares is I thought Okposo was tremendous tonight. He's a big strong kid so it's hard to knock him off the puck, plus he's got some soft hands. Think Rick Nash but smaller. Roloson didn't give the Pens many rebounds and it helps when you don't face many shots either. Johnson was solid again tonight for the Penguinos (Spanish) but the defense provided little to no help. On Tavares's goal both Tavares and Moulson were standing right next to Fleury while Engelland and Eaton were fishing 5 ft away.

A couple positives: Nice to see Engelland drop the mits tonight against Jackman. We haven't had many Dmen over the years who like to fight and nice to see Staal standup for Skoula after he was hit from behind. The Pens rarely get beat at their own game but these things happen. You respond by refocusing and getting ready for the next game: tomorrow night against the Rangers. They are currently getting crushed by the Lightning in Tampa so we'll see a couple desperate hockey clubs manana (Spanish again) at the Igloo.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pens stage Another Panther Comeback, Win 3-2 in OT Thanks to Sid

-Deja Vu much? No not the terrible movie with Denzel Washington, but the real life version of it against the Panthers. A trend that started on a road trip last year has continued into this season. The Pens just pound the Panthers with shots (averaging nearly 40 shots per game) until eventually the deadly cats suffocate into a state of nothingness. Granted they did get a point tonight, but just barely.

-The Pens weren't playing textbook hockey the first 2 periods, but they were getting their fair share of chances on goalie Vokoun, who made 42 saves on 45 shots. The 1st period featured 3 lazy minor penalties by the Pens and it eventually lead to a Panthers PP goal by Horton. In the 2nd period, the Pens were still feeling the 'Cats out. Trying to pick their spots to attack rather than try and attack continuously. This strategy ended up costing the Pens a goal when Frolik made a sexy pass to a streaking Ballard from the backside.

-Yes it was 2-0 heading into the 3rd, yes Vokoun was on his game, but the Pens still had a lot left in the tank. The bees began to swarm the Panthers nest early in the 3rd when a newly formed line of Rupp-Talbot-Dupuis began cycling down low and after a Skoula from the point, Dupuis (5th of season) shot it and it slowly found its way over the shoulder of Vokoun for a 2-1 Pens deficit. Dupuis was flying again tonight and putting him on a line with a couple grinders wasn't such a bad idea.

-With 4 minutes left another line was created with Adams centering Geno and Rupp. They held the puck in the Panthers zone, playing keep away if you will, for a good 2 minutes. The Panthers were sluggish and slow and it was Mike Rupp who potted his 6th of the year on a feed from Geno from behind the net. The puck got to Rupp who poked it 5 hole on Vokoun for a 2-2 game. Earlier in the game Rupp showed his rough and tumble side when he stood up for Geno and fought Bryan Allen after Allen hit Geno hard.

-In OT, one of the weirdest things happened. After a whistle 2 min. into the OT, a linesman called a 4 min penalty on Horton for high-sticking, not the main ref. Everyone was confused, especially Steigy and Errey. The Pens caught a break and an almost automatic 4 on 3 PP goal was scored. Gonch and Geno looked like ballerina's at the point and after a couple good scoring chances, it was this guy named Crosby who buried a Geno rebound past Vokoun, 3-2 Pens.

-Ben Lovejoy has been getting more and more playing time and there have been a bunch of teams scouting him. The Stars, Canes, and Leafs have been involved in some trade talks with GM Shero. We'll see what this all means. Being down 2-0 after 2 against offense absent teams means nothing. The Panthers just hope and pray everytime they play the Pens. They got a few chances tonight and they capitalized. If not for Vokoun, the score coulda been much worse. Granted the Cats were 8-3-2 before tonight and they're without their best player David Booth. One guy who was a hitting machine tonight was Orpik. He had 6 hits and made a couple great defensive plays, once on a Dvorak breakaway.

-Laraque and Gill will be coming to town on Wends. night for a Canadiens tilt, see you then.


Monday, November 23, 2009

School-uhh Steals the Show in Hot-Lanta as Pens edge Thrashers 3-2

On a night that featured 4-5 elite offensive machines, it was Marty Skoula, a "7th defenseman" if you will, who scored 2 goals in leading the Pens to their first road win in 4 games. In the midst of half our defense being depleted due to injury, Skoula has made himself the most noticeable defender both offensively and defensively. It is fantastic to see another D-men who constantly gets the puck on net and can create scoring chances.

Skoula's first goal was off a wrist shot that hit some Penguins back and past Hedberg. And his 2nd goal was off a pretty Cooke feed as he caught Skoula storming down the left side, wide open, and Skoula lined it up and ripped a slapper short side past the Moose. The Thrashers did narrow the score, but the 2nd goal came with 18 secs. left in the game.

One thing this game proved: the Thrashers are a much better team than they were last year. They now have weapons not named Kovalchuk. Afinigonov was flying all over the ice, and had it not been for Fleury, he coulda had a couple goals. Antropov was also effective. He's a big kid who can skate and wins faceoffs. My favorite player from that Senators team (2 years ago when they beat the Pens) was Christoph Schubert. He was hitting the Pens hard again tonight, but his defensive skills are limited.

Other Thrashers who looked good included Peverley and rookie Kane who got in a fight with Engelland near the end of the 2nd period. The Pens played textbook Penguins/Bylsma hockey. Get to the offensive zone, cycle the puck, play physical and prevent the Thrashers guns from getting quality chances. Sounds like every team does that, right? Well sure some do, but not all have the players who can actually execute as well as the Pens do.

Rupp had a couple glorious chances while playing with Sid on a shift and then Bylsma put him with Geno and he lugged the puck up ice before giving it to Geno who wristed it past Hedberg (former Pen), for a 3-0 lead. Hedberg was phenomenol for the Thrashers. The final score could've been 7 or 8-2, Dupuis, Staal, Rupp, Geno, Sid, and Talbot were all stoned on numerous plays. Dupuis has to be the most improved Pens forward with the way he's playing. He's actually holding onto the puck for longer than say 3 seconds.

The Thrashers are much improved but they still need help on D. Hainsey was bad, Schubert was slow, Enstrom is tiny and weak. Only Bogosian seemed to standout. In the 3rd period, Cooke and Kovy got into a fight and Cooke got the best of him, although Kovy was assesed a 4 minute instigator and game miscondunct. Not sure what happened because the camera view on the play was terrible, thank you Fox Sports. Bourque had another good game. Sadly he still hasn't found a way to get his first goal as a Pen.

The Pens play the bipolar Florida Panthers tomorrow night in Sunrise, FL.

See you then.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Phillips, Sens Lay the Smackdown on the Pens 6-2

-For me there were a few highlights from this game: Godard vs. Neil fight, Cooke's hit on Donovan, and Geno's PP goal. All three were nice things to see, but they came at a time when the game was basically over. The Pens went 1 for 5 on the PP and instead of invigorating the offense, the PP seemed to take away the momentum from the Pens. They managed very few shots on those 5 chances and because of how solid Ottawa was playing, winning the special teams battle would've given the Pens a chance in this game.

-After the Staal goal (1-0 Pens) off a Dupuis feed, the Sens stormed back to score 6 unanswered goals and take command of the game. Unlike the Pens, the Sens got contributions from their secondary players. Carkner, Kelly, Phillips (2g), all had big goals. And last time the Pens visited Ottawa, Kovy and Alffy were invisible, tonight they were on their game. Kovy was swirving around as best Kovy can do, and his linemates Fisher and Foligno seemed to feed off his play. Michalek also added a goal.
-The Pens had their chances in the 1st period with three 2 on 1s where they couldn't even generate a shot. The Sens had much better puck possession and were creating positive shifts lines 1-4. Kelly scored a very important 3rd goal midway through the 3rd and the Pens never seemed to recover after that. Much to the dismay of Sens' fans, Cooke's hit on Donovan was legal and it wasn't dirty. Sens coach Clouston was arguing but the refs knew it was just Cooke being Cooke. "Steigy, Cooke's not gonna stop, you kidding me," Errey.

-The Godard and Neil heavyweight tilt was one of the best fights in a long time. They were both landing some punches until Godard unleashed a right hook which caught Neil on the face and lead to some blood. Fleury was not sharp tonight, Both of Phillips's goals were soft as was the Cheechoo goal. Expect to see a more focused Fleury Saturday night in Atlanta. On a night when the offense struggled to generate any momentum, the PP and Fleury failed to bail the Pens out. It happens. Lovejoy looked good on D, especially on the point on the PP. If Lovejoy's play keeps improving, could that make Letang expendable? Or maybe this is a nice showcase for Lovejoy, who knows.

-Look for tomorrow night's preview against the Russian national team(aka Atlanta)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Talbot, Gonch Return to Lineup as Pens face the Sens in Canadia

-Superstar Max Talbot will make his season debut tonight and he will no doubt add some much needed energy/spark to the Pens lineup. The last time Max had a goal it turned out to be the game winner of game 7 of the Cup final. Mckee and Eaton unfortunately will be out for tonight's game, Mckee is expected to miss 2-4 weeks after being injured in the Anaheim game on Monday. Gonch thankfully, will be returning.

-In the absence of Eaton, the Pens called up their 4th d-men from the minors, Chris Lee. Lee leads all Baby Pens d-men with 7 points in 15 games. The injury ridden defense will consist of Gonch, Guenin, Engelland, Lovejoy, Lee, and Skoula tonight. Can you spell awful? But really Engelland and Skoula have been playing very well the past couple games and the PP will get a HUGE boost with Gonch being in the lineup.

-Geno will stick alongside Sid and Feds on the top unit. Max will play with Adams and Cooke on the 3rd line and the rest of the lines will remain the same. Can Chris Bourque finally get a goal? It seems like he misses an empty net attempt every game, it's about time he comes through. Former Pen Alexei Kovalev will play tonight's game before leaving for Russia tomorrow for personal reasons. He has struggled this season as has newcomer Cheechoo.

-The Pens beat the Sens in Ottawa last month 4-1 in dominating fashion. The game did have a bunch of bounces that didn't go the Sens way and Milan Michalek was a force all night for the quiet Sens. It was one of the few games I've seen where Alfreddsson did nothing against the Pens. He'll be looking for a stronger effort tonight. The Sens are 9-6-3 on the season thanks to consistent goaltending from Pascal Leclaire. Mike Fisher, Ruutu, and Foligno have also been playing well for them.

-The Pens need to continue this offensive onslaught mode they're currently in. They've scored 11 goals the past two games, and funny enough Geno has played in both. He is such a unique force and dominating player that he can take over games by himself. He did so when Sid was injured a couple seasons ago, and don't tell me it was cuz Malone and Sykora were playing with him. He made an old and slow Sykora look good, granted Malone is an excellent grinder.

-Scotiabank Place has been a tough place to play in for the Pens but they still seem to find ways to win games there. Expect the Pens to answer the physicality of Neil, Ruutu, Donovan with their own set of energizers: Max, Cooke, Rupp, and Adams. It will be physical and the inexperienced Pens D will look to limit turnovers if the Pens are to win tonight.

Pens (14-7-0) vs. Sens (9-6-3)

Fleury vs. Leclaire

Lines: Fedotenko Crosby Malkin
Dupuis Staal Guerin
Cooke Talbot Adams
Bourque Rupp Godard

Gonchar - Skoula
Engelland - Lovejoy
Lee - Guenin

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Dupuis and Guerin Play Big Roles in Thrilling OT Victory...Pens 6-5 over the Bruins

If you thought hockey couldn't get anymore exciting, well it just gosh darn did. Thanks to a little birdy named Geno Malkin the Pens were an offensive machine in this crazy win over the injury ridden Bruins. The Pens without Gonch, Orpik, Letang, Talbot, TK, and Kunitz were in for a long night, especially on the defensive side. Minor leaguers Engelland and Lovejoy looked better than they did in the Devils game but they still have much to learn. How about that Pascal Dupuis character? He had 2 goals in this contest including the game winner.

Dupuis is getting more ice time and is scoring clutch goals from different parts of the ice. What a difference Geno makes to the Pens lineup. He swifts so gingerly with the puck even at 80% health. And we can all thank Patrice Bergeron for breaking his stick with 5 seconds left, Geno steals it on a 3 on 2 with Sid and Guerin and off a spicy saucer feed from Geno, Guerin rips a wrister glove side over Thomas with 0.4 seconds left in the game. Talk about karma. Billy G has been held scoreless for the past 11 games and he finally came through.

Johnson wasn't impressive and there were several sloppy and soft goals scored by the Bruins tonight. Kreijci who's been battling the swine flu had a goal tonight, and even without Savard/Lucic/Kobasew on the PP, the Bruins were still a threat with big Chara and the shifty Wideman at the points. It was nice to see the Pens defense jumping into the play on several occassions and leading to 3 Pens goals. Eaton and Gogo jumped in, and then Mckee went all Mike Rupp on Thomas with a beautiful move for the Pens first goal.

In OT, Staal finally did something effective and stole the puck from Thomas and then dished it to Dupuis for a wide open net, game set match. This could be one of those games that turns the season around for the Pens. Their never say die attitude was in play once again even with all those key guys being out to injury. It was fun to see Geno turn his game up 10 notches in OT, he and Sid were running a clinic in the offensive zone for a couple minutes there.

Tonight the Pens will face the Anaheim Ducks. They beat the Ducks 6-3 a couple weeks ago and they'll be looking for a similar type game tonight. Gonch has been cleared to practice and he should be in the lineup Sat. night against the Thrashers. Gogo on the other hand will be out 2-3 wks and d-men Nate Guenin was called up from the minors today to take his place. I like what I see from Engelland so far, he's physical, likes to drop the gloves, and can skate fairly well. We'll see what Guenin's got tonight against a physical and fast Ducks team.

Hopefully Chris Bourque can finally light the lamp tonight on the 2nd line.
Lines for tonight:

Cooke-Letestu-Dupuis Rupp-Adams-Godard


Fleury vs. Hiller in net.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pens Face Scuderi and The Kings Tonight!...Defeat Ducks 4-3 on Tuesday

-Pascal Dupuis has a nasty slap shot coming down the wing, well his slapper from the point is just as disgusting. The Ducks game was very weird in that the Pens went 0-5 on the PP but still managed to score 4 goals. All 4 goals were scored a good distance away from goalie Jonas Hiller, who struggled mightily. He should've stopped the Rupp shot, Letang's goal had plenty of traffic, as did Gogo's and Dupuis' goal. Niedermayer was very quiet in this game and I think age is starting to catch up to the future hall-of-famer.

-Corey Perry on the other hand was dynamite in the contest. He's big, has soft hands, and is excellent around the net, a la Ryan Smyth/Malone. He had 2 goals and even Crosby praised Perry's play after the game. Perry is under strong consideration to make Team Canada, his 17 pts (10g/7a) will only help his cause. Perry's linemates Ryan and Getzlaff were just as dangerous in the offensive zone. Both are big bodies who can skate, pass, and shoot better than any line in the NHL. The Pens were running around their zone the last couple minutes and it was all because of this line's incredible cycling.

-Lupul didn't play as well as he usually does against the Pens ( he played for Philly last couple seasons). But his linemate Koivu was a pain in the ass. On his goal he cross-checked Orpik and no penalty was called. But later he was robbed by Fleury. Selanne was quiet tonight, after all he is 39. Among good Pens were Gogo, Rupp, Crosby, TK, and Cooke. TK made his return and his hustle and tenacity created several good scoring chances and lead to the Gogo goal.

-Tonight the Pens will face an old friend named Rob Scuderi. Scuds left the Pens for better weather and bigger money. No one blamed him. He made an extra $2mil by stopping Franzen's shots in Game 6 of the Cup Finals last year. Must be nice. The Kings are 9-4-2 and are in 4th place in Western Conf. They are young, big, and offensively talented. Veteran Ryan Smyth leads the group of young forwards who include Doughty, Kopitar, Brown, Johnson, Simmonds, and Frolov. Kopitar has been the hottest King thus far with 24 pts (11g, 13a) and Smyth's 8 goals have also been a nice addition.

-Smyth was acquired from the Avs over the off-season for Quincey and both players have benefited from new environments. Enigmatic Russian forward Frolov is always a scoring threat, if he shows up. He's known to have off nights which has lead to him being a healthy scratch for a couple games this season. The Kings have a dynamic defense and Doughty is one of the best PP quarterbacks and he can hit. Crosby's close friend Jack Johnson also plays physical as does veteran O'Donnell.

-Although the Pens top 2 lines might be weaker in terms of talent right now, the Pens 3rd/4th lines have a clear edge to the Kings 3rd/4th lines. Rupp has 4 goals, TK has 5 goals, Dupuis has 3, etc. Our 3rd/4th lines can skate, hit, and score. The Kings have Stoll and Handzus for some type of offensive flair and their not all that great. Quick has been solid in goal for the Kings and the Pens will have to crash the net and create traffic just as they did in Anaheim.

-Rupp needs more ice time IMO. His role for the Pens is much different from what it was for the Devils. He was counted on to be an enforcer, in Pittsburgh that's Godard's job. For a 6'5 guy he can skate fabulously. He finishes checks and creates a lot of space for himself with his big frame. Bourque has gotten better each and every game but with Talbot and Geno coming back soon there's not much room for him on the roster.

-See you at 10pm on FSN, Penguins Fans First!

-Lineup will be same for Pens tonight, Fleury in goal vs. Quick

Pens (12-3-0) 1st in East Conf. vs. Kings (9-4-2) 4th in West. Conf.