Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Pens blow 3 goal lead to Sabres, Lose 4-3...What's Goin On?

You read the title right, the Pens blew a 3 goal lead!!! Defense, goaltending, and a team effort were 3 key components that were missing from the Pens this game. Where's Max "Superstar" Talbot? Dupuis? Adams? The secondary players need to start producing or at least making their presence felt. Adams tried to engage himself physically but it ended up being a penalty.

After the Pens were just playing lights out and on their way to an easy 2 points, Drew Stafford's penalty shot goal turned the game around. Kunitz had just buried a shot to make it 3-0 Pens, a minute and change later Mckee sat on a frozen puck in the crease and Stafford beat Fleury five hole. MAF has not been himself the past couple games. He went for a poke check on Stafford and completely missed and Stafford blew it by him.

The Pens were playing with passion and worked hard till the bitter end. Patty Lalime came in relief of Miller after the 3rd Pens goal and he was dynamite, again. This time he ended up on the winning side. He stopped all 27 shots the Pens fired and the Pens outshot the Sabres 38 to 24 overall in the game. 18 second period shots were fired on Lalime and in the 3rd period the Pens seemed gassed and a bit frustrated.

Geno was flying like a mad horse again and he almost tied the game late. I thought Gogo had a better game offensively and it was interesting to see that Bylsma paired him with Gonch. Letang is having a hard time getting the puck to the net, as are most of the Pens d-men the past three weeks. After the Stafford penalty shot goal, the Sabres began playing their game, using size and speed. They made the simple plays their good at making and they were in the face of MAF all night.

Hecht, Gaustad, Kennedy, and Vanek were in the face of Fleury on every opp. they could get. Lines 1-4 for the Sabres were all playing with jam and fire. The team has a lot of big, skilled guys who know how to use their size and strength. Reminds me a bit of Washington's big players: Steckel, Laich, Gordon, and now Chimera.

Momentum is a funny thing in hockey and over the years Pens fans should know better than anyone that a game is never over. Leads like this are blown and the Pens went from being completely in control to being down by 1. Pominville's goal to make it 4-3 was a beauty as he lifted it upstairs and Fleury had no chance. Stafford was phenomenal in this game. He was a healthy scratch the last game so he had something to prove to Coach Ruff.

TK was also scratched the last game and he played a spirited game and used his speed which he's so good at doing. He helped create Staal's goal to make it 1-0 Pens in the 1st. But the Pens need to begin playing as a team. They need passion and a 60 minute effort. Skill alone from guys named Sid, Geno, Gonch, and usually Fleury will allow them to be in games, but winning will take everyone.

As Bob Errey mentioned it will be a very quiet plane ride to New Jersey tonight and the Pens will need to regroup and be ready to ride Johnson tomorrow in net. Feds will most likely be in and Godard a scratch. The Pens chased one of the 3 best goalies in the league and still lost the game, figures.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Statement Game for Pens...Geno Records Hat Trick as Pens Roll 8-2 Past Sens

It was only this morning that the Post Gazette featured a column about Geno's struggles of late. The sun goes down, the Sens come in, and BOOM Geno light's the lamp 3 times and it coulda been 5 or 6 the way he was playin' tonight at the Igloo. His new linemates Guerin and Kunitz, had themselves a 4 point night to add to the demolition of the feisty Sens.

What a weird game. The 1st period was as dominant as any team has ever been against the Pens in the Bylsma era. The Sens outshot the Pens 24-9. 24 shots! That's a legit amount for a game already. The Pens PP was terrific. Scoring 3 goals on 6 chances, and boy has it been awhile since the PP lit the lamp this often and looked this dangerous.

On the 1st Pens goal Leclaire was scattering back and forth for a good minute before Sid found a wide open Geno for the old backdoor play. Remember Ryan Whitney 2 years ago? Yeah he used to be decent at it, but that was all he could do. One of the guy's acquired for him had his best night of the year, Mr. Kunitz. He was forechecking, making nice passes, and driving hard to the net. 'Atta boy Chris.

If Kovalev scores on the wide open net chance he had in the 1st, the game changes completely. What seemed to change the flow was Adams's hit on Alfredsson in the 1st. Alfy has been the heart and soul of the Sens franchise for so many years and the Sens really felt his absence in this game. Not to mention Spezza was injured as well.

The Pens scored 5, yes 5 unanswered goals in the 2nd after they couldn't even manage one goal on Monday night against the Devils. The Pens are now 2-1 against the Sens on the season and each game could've gone either way really. We have to give props to one of the best rebound goalies ever, Fleury. This wasn't a surprise. We have seen when he gets pulled or has a bad game in the playoffs or whenever, the next game is always a special one.

Fleury stopped 36 of 38 shots and the Sens were throwin the puck from all cylinders and he had to be sharp. Fisher, Kovy, Michalek, Kuba, etc. were all makin their presence felt. As was that Chris Neil guy. The man is a frake train headed for hell. He had about 4 to 5 bone crunching hits tonight and had a nice fight with Rupp as well. This was the best Rupp looked in a fight all year, nice job.

Billy G had a couple huge goals in this game. One was off a power move on the PP and the other on a 3 on 1 when Sid fed him for an easy goal. The Pens had much more life and passion in this game than they did against the Devils. They have to take this energy and use it against NJ next week. The whole team was involved in this game and every pass was tape to tape and very clean.

Congrats to Geno for shutting the critics up and having a special night while being watched by Team Russia's GM Tretiak. He came to see Geno, Kovy, Gonch, and Volchenkov and he got Kovy being fancy but ineffective, Geno being dynamite, Gonch being solid, and Volchenkov scoring a goal and then having a nice knee on knee hit on Geno. Is that a scary 1st line for Team Russia: Ovie, Geno, and Datsyuk?....Yeah I just got the shivers.

Have a safe Christmas my friends and see you on Sunday for a Preview of the Pens-Leafs game.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Silence Of The Pens...Brodeur Sets Shutout Record, Devs win 4-0

Congrats to the greatest goalie of all-time Marty Brodeur for setting the record for shutouts with 104. He passed Terry Sawchuk, who ironically got his 103rd shutout against the Pens, but that was way back when. Marty was sensational tonight as the Pens threw everything at him.

The wraparounds, shots to the pads, gloveside, top shelf. Fail fail fail. The Devils improved to 3-0 against the Pens on the season, scoring 4 goals in each of those games and not giving the Pens any chance to taste victory. What to do? Going into the playoffs this is not a good problem to have and Bylsma has failed to come up with a proper game plan against this type of team.

Under new coach Lemaire the Devils take the fewest penalties in the league, play smart offensive hockey and flawless defense. The key is scoring the first goal, but that didn't happen. Fleury lead in four softies but the sloppy defense wasn't doing much to help. Fleury shoulda been pulled after the 2nd goal by Bergfors because you know when Fleury starts letting in softies it becomes a snowball effect.

Granted, Fleury has been playing a lot of games against tough opponents and has performed spectacularly in all of them. Why not put Johnson in there while the game is not yet out of reach? Dean McCammond is seeing 1st line duties for the first time in his career. The former Sens forward was once headshotted by Steve Downie and now he's back and playing some spirited/rejuvenated hockey.

McCammond, Elias and Parise was the only threatening line for the Devils yet some of the other guys chipped in for goals. Brodeur's rebound control is a sight to see, as are his puck handling skills. There were no 2nd chance opps. and even though the Pens had 35 shots, they didn't seem like legit chances. Credit Marty and his defense.

What gets the Pens going in games is that emotion or hatred. They can't seem to find any of that when they play the Devils. They seem lethargic and unfocused. Clarkson wasn't in the lineup and I know he could've given the Pens some life but he's also an effective player, as is Zubrus and Martin who also sat out last night.

The Pens still got some good efforts from TK, Geno, Sid, Guerin, and Rupper but "snipers" like Fedotenko are still coming up empty. How long will Shero wait? Geno is very frustrated and it's because of the lack of a consistent scoring winger. Heck Sykora did better than Feds and he's the weakest player in NHL history. Ray Whitney, Brad Richards, and Mike Ribiero are guys Shero should target as the March 1st trade deadline approaches.

Staalsy took a puck to the nose and it was bleeding like non other. Great to see him play the 3rd period. TK looked good with Geno and Feds/Dupuis last night. He was cutting to the front and making his signature move but nothing to show for it unfortunately.

The Sens visit town Wednesday night and the Pens will definitely look to inject some fuel in the fire with scrappers Carkner, Ruutu, and Neil arriving.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Fleury Shines As Pens Down Sabres 2-1 In SO

They tried to run him over, get in his grill, and get him off his game. Everything but the last part worked last night in Buffalo. Gaustad (above) should throw himself off a bridge if he doesn't make the US Olympic team. Or maybe throw Brian Burke off? Either works. But he not only leads the league in faceoff % (64.3) but he's a big body, can skate well, has soft hands, and is defensively responsible.

Back to Fleury, he was dynamite yet again. And speaking of Olympics, with the way Flower is playing right now how do you not consider him the starting goalie of Canada? Well maybe because his competition is some guy named Marty Brodeur, yes true but still it's worth a look. You listening Stevie Y?

Fleury had a number of big saves that kept the game knotted at 1-1. Grier was stoned on a breakaway and then all three shootout participants were sent home packing. Fleury's poke check during the shootouts is a sight to see, he's always looking to disrupt the shooter and challenge him rather than sit back. Letang went to the backhand this time, he scored a forehand goal in Philly on Thursday, and the Pens improved to 6-0 on the shootouts for the season.

This game could've gone 3-1 either way. The Sabres and Pens both had numerous chances to take the lead on a PP but nothing could get done. Former Pens goalie, Patty Lalime was sensational. He's not Ryan Miller, but he was pretty close to it tonight. Geno seemed frustrated all night again and took a couple stupid penalties as a result. Where was Fedotenko? I swear you see this guy one game and it seems his scoring slump has ended but no, instead he dissappears again. Dupuis had the puck roll of his stick like 5 times, whatever.

Dear Santa, for Christmas can I please have another 1st line winger not named Kunitz and another 2nd line winger preferably not named Fedotenko? Pleaseee. And by Santa I of course mean Ray Shero, and usually when I'm thinkin somethin or your thinkin somethin, Ray's thinkin that exact same thing...or close to it.

The Pens have this confidence and swagger about them which was unseen the past couple seasons. Even when things aren't going too well, you know it's not over, and you're still confident that they'll win this game. This type of confidence and sometimes even cockiness can be seen down through the lineup. The Sabres have this pack mentality which made it very tough to create any room in the offensive zone. Even Kunitz's goal was a bit whacky and Lalime made a mistake.

Lindy Ruff will still be coaching the Sabres when we've all got grandkids and we're tellin them that the Sabres made it to the Finals one year ('98) believe it or not. As long as Cindy Crosby and Ovie rule the East, their won't be no Cup for the Sabres. Give Ruff credit the team has a lot of solid role players: Grier, Kennedy, and Ellis. And they play his system to a tee.

See ya tomorrow night as the Division rivals visit town, the New Jersey Diablos. Yes they're boring and Parise is on a cold streak but they've beaten us twice this year by a score of 4-1 and they still have Brodeur, oh yeah that guy, right. Talbot didn't look great in his return to the lineup, but it's better than what Godard can bring. Eaton was injured on a collision with Grier last night and he should be out a couple weeks. Marty School uhhhh will be back in.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pens Dominate Flyers, Win 6- 1

Watching the first 5 minutes of the game was like attending a boxing clinic taught by Mike Tyson, it was that intense. After Crosby scored the 1st goal of the game just a couple minutes in, 3 consecutive fights broke out 16 seconds apart. First it was Rupp vs. Asham, that was a pretty fair match. Asham took exception to a couple bone crunching hits Rupp put on Flyers D a couple shifts before. Then it was Cote vs. Godard, a true heavyweight tilt. Both had some good punches in there. But then Adams fought Carcillo and well Adams just got crushed.

I've never seen 3 fights on consecutive shifts, neither had any of the players, at least not at the NHL level. The fights set the tone for an intense game. Guerin scored the Pens 2nd goal on a puck Boucher couldn't cover. Carcillo scored the 1st Philly goal on the PP. And he looked pretty alive (unlike the rest of Philly) in this contest. He finished every check and had soccer been allowed in hockey, he could've had 2 goals.

The turning point in the game came after the Flyers cut the lead to 2-1 and they got on a power play, Staal stole the puck away and got a 2 on 1 break with Cooke. Staal held it and faked the pass and went top shelf on Boucher, 3-1 Pens. Getting a shorthanded goal like this took the energy out of the Flyers. In the 2nd period, Hartnell made yet another stupid play when instead of shooting a wide open look he tried a slap pass that ended up on an odd man break for the Pens. It went from Crosby to Letang to Staal for a wide open rebound goal. 4-1.

Pronger and Carle (their top d-men pairing) played a very poor game tonight. Pronger turned the puck over a couple times and it lead to some Pens goals. Boucher couldn't come up with the big save when he needed to. And Carter/Richards were invisible. When Carcillo is more noticeable offensively than either of those two, that's a problem. The Flyers were definitely gassed from the previous night but their 3rd/4th lines couldn't do anything positive for them.

Laperriere, Cote, Kalinski, and the others are very mediocore at best meanwhile the Pens had all 4 lines rolling consistently. Staal was an offensive monster all night and both Geno and Feds had goals and showed off some of the '09 playoff chemistry again. Geno was especially flying in the 3rd when he beat the Flyers team and was skating around like a ballerina, it's a scary site for opposing defenses.

The Flyers are playing with much less heart than they have in years past, and this game was evidence of that. Pronger's name is usually said a couple times a game after scrums or hits but he was silent all night. Expect the Flyers to be well rested and to come out with some passion on Thursday night. When you get abolished 6-1 the only way to go is up.

The newly formed PP with Geno rocking the left point and Kunitz/Guerin screening the goalie was quite effective in the 1st goal. They moved the puck around and Crosby had a wide open net to shoot at. The Flyers can fight but they didn't seem to bring that physical edge that helps them win games tonight. They wanted to play run and gun and it failed miserably.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Interstate Rivalry Part II: Pens vs. Flyers

To put it simply, the Pens and Flyers don't like each other very much. If they
were given the option of using guns/knives over sticks they would. This will only be the second meeting of the season between the two rivals but the first of back-to-backs (the second game is this Thursday in Philly).

The Flyers (15-15-1) currently sit in 10th place in the Eastern Conf. and many people are saying a major trade could be made in the next couple weeks if the slump they're in continues. Coach John Stevens was already fired on Dec. 4th and since then Peter Laviolette has had an all but impressive 2-4 record as the leading man. Their have also been problems in the lockerroom with leadership. Pronger and others are making their voices heard about the teams problems while Richards and Carter have kept it quiet.

But coming off a comeback win last night against the Bruins, the Flyers will have some confidence and they'll be seeking some revenge. Not only are they desperate for wins but they'll be facing the Pens, their biggest rival for the past couple seasons. Gagne, Coburn, and key role players Betts and Powe are injured and will not play tonight. The Flyers bottom six is very weak. And their top guns aren't being the leaders or clutch performers they are accustomed to being.

Bylsma played around with the Pens PP yesterday in practice with Cooke, Kunitz, and Guerin getting some playing time in front of the net. Cooke is a gritty guy who's scored a couple deflection goals already this year, interesting choice. Guerin has been the guy screening the goalie as far back as October but that hasn't resulted in much success.

The Pens beat the Flyers 5-4 in an exciting game in the first week of the season. Hartnell
supposedly bit Letang's finger at the end of that game. There will be more obnoxious behavior by some likely victims such as Carcillo, Laperriere, Pronger, and so on. If they wanna play rough we got the guys to match them. Talbot was the "game-breaker" during last season's playoff victory against the Flyers, will he play tonight? I think Godard will get the nod.

Fleury vs. Boucher will start.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Let's See How Far We've Come

The season is 33 games old for your Pittsburgh Penguins and as it stands now the Pens are 4th in the Eastern Conf. and 2nd in the uber competitive Atlantic Division. The Rangers and Flyers have been sub-par but the Isles and Devils are exceeding most expectations, especially those Isles. But the Pens are still dominating, even with the number of injuries they've had. Now they're as healthy as ever and with that has come a series of winning streaks.

What's been the formula for success thus far? Goaltending, depth scoring, Crosby, and a never say die attitude. The Pens always play till the last second of every period regardless if they're winning or not. Over the summer Shero was faced with the hard task of replacing Scuderi/Gill, the team's shutdown pairing in last year's playoff run. Gogo was promoted and Mckee was bought out from the Blues. He's currently one of the leading shot blockers in the NHL.

Mike Rupp was the other summer pickup but the team wasn't counting on him to have 9 goals by mid-December. But yes it helps. Rupp was supposed to be the Zigomanis replacement but with a much more physical and offensive edge. Who in their sane mind saw this type of offense coming from him? He's looked like Geno at times on the ice, has a nice wrister, and skates beautifully for a 6'5 guy. If need be, he can muck it up and stick up for his teammates, just pay attention to tomorrow night's game.

Dupuis has also been a pleasant surprise but he always had some offensive flair in him, right? Since his arrival from Atlanta in March of '08 Dupuis has played a lot of minutes on the top lines and when needed he can fill in on the 3rd or 4th line. His speed and defensive play was always superb, but now he can actually handle the puck. Hallelujah. How many times has Dupuis had the puck just role off his stick, or his shot go into the stands, or some other weird play. He's handling the puck more effectively and Bylsma has given him the green light to go go go.

The Pens lack another scoring threat on the top 2 lines. But what if Kunitz starts turning it up? What if Feds finally finds his mojo and begins scoring? Those are legit points but Kunitz hasn't performed all too well in a scoring role as a Pen. His physical play is evident but is that enough to win another cup? Time will tell. Geno's numbers (9 g 22a) aren't exactly Geno-esque but he's been injured this year and WILL find his stride. How scary is that for the rest of the league. Moreover, once the PP gets going there will be less 1 goal game victories, amen.

Secondary players are having career years for the Pens. Cooke with 6 go
als, Rupp with 9, and Dupuis with 9. Guys like Adams, Godard, and Talbot have also been contributors. They hit, make smart hockey plays, and don't put the team at risk when they're on the ice. Well ok maybe Godard can but his play has improved tremendously this year as well.

The Pens have a tough little stretch of games coming up: 2 vs. Philly, Buffalo, New Jersey and then Ottawa. The Flyers are hungry for wins and playing the Pens will only get their juices flowin' even more. I see the Pens continuing their current pace of wins and at the trade deadline look for the Holy one, the brains behind the train, and the genius that is Ray Shero to pull off a trade to put the Pens in a position to win another Cup. Names like Mueller, T. Ruutu, and Ponikorovsky will pop up and others will join the bunch as well.

Look for a Flyers preview tomorrow afternoon. And check out my friend Rishi was mentioned in this ESPN article:



Sunday, December 13, 2009

Geno Supreme-O Strikes Big in OT, Pens edge Cats 3-2

37 seconds into OT all those terrible PPs on display during the game were now an afterthought, thanks to Geno.
After Leopold went to the box for a hold on Staal, the 4 on 3 PP was bound to be an automatic goal, right? Not so fast considering the Pens were 1-6 on the PP tonight and 1-14 in the past four games.

Geno's top corner roofing was a thing of beauty. It helped to have Billy G standing in the crease providing a lovely screen, something he was doing all night in front of Vokoun. The Panthers are a hard working team. And they have to be with Booth out of the lineup and with no other real stars on their roster. It seems like Ballard plays the whole game for them and deservedly so. I'd love to have him on my team, can play in any situation. Not sure Crosby would like him though.

The Pens 2nd line came through tonight. Dupuis made a fancy dipsy dangle for his 9th of the year to tie at 1-1 in the 1st. Fedotenko was scoreless in the past 13 games until Geno fed him a nice pass in the 2nd. On the play Rupp took out two Panther D-men so Geno had some time to find Feds who was parked right in front of Vokoun. 2-1 Pens after 2 periods. But the Panthers wouldn't go away.

As the Pens PP just ended in the 3rd period, the Panthers leading scorer Stephen Weiss (14th)
scored an empty net goal after Johnson initially stopped McCabe on a breakaway. The Panthers pepppered an impressive 31 shots in this game, 29 of which backup Johnson stopped. He's been everything the Pens could ask for as the number 2 to Fleury. The defensive coverage wasn't good last night and the 1st Panthers goal was evidence of that. Reinprecht and Olecz were caught standing tall around Fleury instead of lying on the ice.

As usual the Pens mustered 40 shots against Vokoun AGAIN tonight, 37 he stopped. Without him in net they'd probably lose every other game 5-2 or 5-1. The Panthers play hard but they can't generate any off. zone time, can't hit, can't fight, and have no "passion" or energy type guys. Not sure what their GM is thinking. They could use a Ruutu, Talbot, Neil, or an Avery. They did have 31 shots which is impressive in itself considering I can't remember a single one (other than the goals).

The Pens outhit the Panthers 34 to 13, Wow. Numbers don't lie folks and I'm pretty sure 20 of those hits were registered on poor ole' Michael Frolik, hehe. Orpik absolutely crushed him in the 3rd on an open ice hit. Then he hit Dvorak pretty hard. Talbot and Adams were banging and crashing Ballard and so on. The physical play is all part of Bylsma's "investment" philosophy and wearing teams down as the game progresses. The Panthers can thank their solid d-men and Vokoun for earning them the point tonight.

Tuesday night we'll be seeing Scotty Hartnell and company make their first trip to the Mellon. 1-4 under Laviolette thus far, sheesh. That's what happens when 95% of your team is North American, they'll never learn.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

You, Me, and Dupuis scores GW, Pens beat Habs 3-2

It's something about being in your hometown, playing in front of a loud and passionate crowd that gets the juices of the French-Canadian players goin'. Pascal Dupuis was no exception tonight. Roughly 5 minutes left in the game and Orpik made a terrific bank pass off the boards right to a streaming Dupuis down the left side of the off. zone. You had to know what was comin' next, right? It was Pascal's signature slapper and instead of getting his shot deflected into the stands it came up high on goalie Price and slipped right past his glove.

The Pens were firing from all cylinders in the 1st period and they were playin' some good 'ole Pens hockey. Get the puck deep, cycle it, and intitiate a furious forecheck. The Pens outshot the Habs 11-7 in the 1st and were clearly the dominant team. Guerin found a wide open Gonch coming down the middle of the ice for the first goal of the game. Great to see Gonch and the other d-men jumping into the play on more than one occassion tonight.

The Habs top line began setting the tone for the Habs in the 2nd period. Plekanec, Kostitsyn, and Cammalleri were creating havoc in the Pens zone on numerous occassions. Plekanec got in the face of Geno that caused a post-whistle scrum and he was making some big hits as well. D'Agastani scored a beautiful 1st goal for the Habs and Hamrlik added the 2nd on the PP. Their PP was moving the puck very well and it's somethin' I'd like to see the Pens do.

The Pens tied it near the end of the 2nd on a deflection by Matty Cooke. The Pens 3rd line which was so key in the Cup run last year is starting to get their mojo back. Gonch wristed the puck on net and both Cooke and TK were causing traffic in front of Price and Cooke got credit for his 6th of the year. Staal was a beast as well in the 2nd and he had a nice breakaway opp. that lead to a PP. Even with the Habs outplaying the Pens in the 2nd, they were still outshot 15-8.

In the 3rd period the Pens got back to their game and the Habs looked a little tired. Three PP opps. came up and the Pens couldn't convert. Come playoff time the PP HAS to be addressed. It's been there MO the past three seasons especially in the playoffs late in games, the PP was clutch. They have to vary their plays and you saw the backdoor play used with Gogo tonight. The PP had some productive chances but you gotta find a way to score.

Bylsma wasn't putting Rupp on the ice much after Rupp took the 2 min boarding penalty in the 2nd. I don't agree with that. Every shift tonight Rupp was creating something and he was on the ice for Dupuis' (8th of year) game winner. The Pens caught a break in the 3rd when Fleury did NOT have the puck covered but the ref blew the whistle before Lapierre poked it into the net. Lucky break but we'll obviously take it.

It wasn't perfect but it wasn't the worst of games either. Fleury made some good saves
against a pesky and well coached Montreal team. Price was terrific in goal, stopping 38 of 41 shots. It was his glove side that turned out to be the difference. That same glove which haunted him during the '07 playoffs when the Flyers beat them in the 2nd rd. Geno passed up a nice shot late in the game but he hit the crossbar which was unfortunate. He's still looking for his stride and it's good to see Feds have another "spirited" (Errey) game. Although he ain't scoring, he's still being physical and making other things happen.

See ya on Saturday as the Pens take on Ballard and the Panthers


Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Return of Marian Hossa and a Stanley Cup Preview!

Remember that guy above? Well he's back as are about 6 other extremely talented and dangerous players. They include Toews, Kane, Sharp, Seabrook, Versteeg, and Keith. Last year if you remember Geno scored the GW goal at Chicago in OT to win the game. It was a very exciting back and forth game which featured Mr. Toews recording a hat trick. That was also Kunitz's first game in a Pens uni and he had a goal, unfortunately or fortunately he's not playin' tonight.

Hossa will be back in Pittsburgh for the first time since his Finals chokestry. How will he play? The boo birds will be out in full force and I can't wait. But he's not the whole team, the weapons mentioned above will be present as well. The Hawks lost 4-1 last night in Nashville so they'll be out for revenge tonight but they'll also be tired.

Crosby will not play tonight because of some groin complications. He said it's been bothering him the past 3 to 4 days. That's unfortunate. But you know who tends to play like an absolute monster when Sid's not in? That Geno guy. Look for him to erupt like a volcano and take the game over. He's been due for a big game the past couple weeks. He'll need guys like Feds and Dupuis to help though.

Mark Letestu was called up from WB/S and he'll be in the lineup tonight. He has 13 pts in 14 AHL games. Chris Bourque who was waived by the Pens yesterday was picked up by the Caps today, LOL. They're the team who originally released him a month ago. Bourque was unimpressive and he was easily outmuscled by opposing players. Good luck Chris maybe you'll find success with Ovie and Co.

On a good note, the Pens will get Cooke back in the lineup today. Cooke is done serving his 2 game suspension and he'll be a gritty addition to tonight's lineup. It's unfortunate that Sid will be out but the Pens can still handle the Hawks. Huet is supposed to start in net and part of the Hawks success has been in goal, he's 13-6-2 with a 2.24 gaa. Very good numbers for a historically inconsistent goalie.

The Pens D will have their hands full but I think they're up for the challenge. This Pens team is a lot more confident than they were when they first faced the Hawks last year. The defense is doing a superb job of taking time and space away. Orpik has been a hitting machine, Skoula has been a blessing, and overall the D is minimizing the number of mistakes they make. Watch out for some of the under the radar Hawks: Byfuglien, Brouwer, and Ladd. All three are big bodies who will be in Fleury's face all night, especially Byfuglien and Ladd.

No Crosby, no mercy. Let's go Pens!


Friday, December 4, 2009

Billy G Scores the GW as the Pens Stop the Avs in their tracks, 4-1

The Pens finally overcame their home struggles against the Avs in a very hard fought victory. Defense was the name of the game for two notoriously offensive minded teams. The Avs young players impressed me including Stastny, Duchene, O'Reilly, Galiardi, and Quincey. Galiardi should've had 2 goals in this game and it might've changed the final outcome but it was not to be. Thank you ref. for losing sight of the puck and blowing the whistle early.

For the first goal of the game the Avs scored via a redirect goal by Galiardi. Tucker was off to Fleury's left and just passed it off to the youngster who tipped it in, 1-0 Avs off a PP goal. Godard took a sloppy penalty in the off. zone and didn't have a great game tonight. The Pens ended up outshooting the Avs 14-6 in the 1st period but it was not indicative of the actual flow of the game. The Avs seemed to possess the puck more and the shots the Pens were getting were all outside the circle and nowhere near goalie Budaj.

But as the period was coming to a close, the two-headed monster of Geno and Sid took the ice along with newly turned sniper Rupp. Geno banked a pass off the boards up to Rupp who stormed past Foote and then had a 2 on 1 with Sid. It went tick-tack-toe back to Sid for the wide open net. 1-1 with 6 seconds left in the period, talk about timely goals.

The Pens were outshot 9-5 in the 2nd period as the Avs forwards and D-men did an excellent job of taking time and space away from the Pens. There were a lot of deflections, blocked shots (Avs lead league in blocked shots), and misdirected passes caused by this aggressive puck pursuit of the Avs. Adams had a nice middleweight fight with Hendricks of the Avs early in the period. And soon after the Pens had to kill off a couple Avs PPs. Hejduk was dangerous as he always is. Even at 34 he can still skate well and has tremendous hands.

In the 3rd period the wheels began turning for the Avs as they could no longer keep their high tempo offense and aggressive defense approach up any longer. Their two key defenders Foote and Clark took minor penalties and the Pens got a 5 on 3 PP, almost an automatic goal for this team. As the 1st penalty ended Sid passed it off to Guerin on the right side of Budaj and he buried an empty net, 2-1 Pens. As bad as Budaj was last year in a starting goalie role for the Avs, he was terrific in backing up Anderson tonight.

Budaj didn't give up any soft goals and his rebound control was also impressive. The game was evenly played by both teams the bottom tier players were used a lot. Stewart for the Avs was effective and Quincey was everything people have been saying he is, a beast. He's big, mobile, can shoot, hit and makes smart plays. That Ryan Smyth trade has worked out nicely for both the Kings and the Avs.

As good as the Avs D and forwards were the Pens' were just as impressive. Gonch did a wonderful job of shutting down Stastny and Duchene on the first line and Skoula was fantastic in doing the little things in his own zone. We know how he gets the puck on net and he's always been a big guy with not much physical jam to his game, but I think that's starting to come out. He had a couple hits and plays where he muscled the Avs out of the Pens off. zone. He also takes a lot of hits to make good plays, what a 7th d-men Shero found himself, eh? I thought Shero would sign him in early July, now you see why I was so high on this guy.

Geno had a solid game and drew the penalty that would result in the official game winning goal. Feds had 3 good scoring chances where he just missed the net, the man's obviously snakebitten, he'll bury his chances sometime soon, I hope. Staal scored the 3rd Pens goal on an empty net and Sid added his 2nd of the game (3rd pt of night) for a 4-1 Pens win. Geno also had 3 pts.

Give the Avs young guns credit. They played a tough game last night and were a little tired on the 2nd night of back to back games, but they didn't play fatigued hockey. The offense and goaltending (Anderson) is there, it's just gonna take a little while for the kids to develop. Look at the Pens. Amazing that the Avs are one of the best teams in the West in a year where they were picked last and in the middle of a "rebuilding" process. They sure ain't playin like a young and inexperienced team. Keep it up boys!


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Ruppin Dirty in MSG leads to a 5-2 Pens win

-On a night when at least a couple fights were expected to go down, 4th line center Mike Rupp ended up being the hero with a hat trick. Crosby added 2 for the Pens and Gaborik scored the Rangers only 2 goals. But Rupp scoring 3, really? He passed his career high for goals in a season (previously 6) and recorded his first hat trick of his career on his son Mason's birthday.

-Where were Avery and Brashear during this game? Avery was visible and he was being very effective on a line with Gabby and Prospal. Creating havoc around Fleury and leading to a couple good scoring chances in the 1st period. But he wasn't "trying to take himself out of the game" (Rupp) like he did on Saturday night. Maybe a Brashear/Godard fight could've got a fairly quiet MSG crowd rouded up, but it was not to be.

-Give the Rangers credit, they fought till the bitter end and to be realistic the game could've gone either way. The Rangers had several odd man breaks where Fleury was there to save us. The Pens on the other hand converted on their odd man breaks and the biggest one came off the stick of Rupp late in the 3rd. Rupp was hit from behind by Girardi and he looked injured, a couple minutes later he's back on the ice and went from one zone to the other and sniped it roof daddy on King Henrik.

-The most important goal of the game was the 1st for the Pens. The Rangers took the lead because of sloppy Pens defense and the inability to play physical on Gaborik. On the next shift, Crosby glides into the off. zone and backhands it top shelf on Lundqvist and the game is tied at 1 and the crowd shuts up. Huge goal.

-Geno wasn't at his best tonight, and I think Feds's below avg. play is hurting Geno. Feds isn't playing well enough for a 2nd line winger. Rupp on the other hand is. He has 8 goals on the season and with Feds's play diminishing, Bylsma will be putting Rupp with Geno in even more spots. Does Kunitz come on the 2nd line when he gets back from injury? We'll see.

-The Pens defense was sloppy the first 2 periods and once they got more physical in the 3rd their play picked up. I think Torts overplayed Gabby, Prospal and Drury and not enough ice time was given to the 3rd and 4th liners. Gabby is a sensational player but he needs more support and the Rangers need secondary scoring. Lundqvist didn't give up any softies tonight and gave the Rags a good chance to win, but Fleury was just a tad bit better.