Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pens clinch playoff spot with win over Flyers...Face Leafs today

-What started out very badly for the Pens, ended up being a decisive 4-1 victory over the cross-state rival Flyers. After a bad angle goal just minutes into the game by Asham, the Flyers gained some clear momentum. All four lines were rolling and dictating play in the Pens zone. A couple stupid penalties later by the Flyers and the Pens decided to take control of the off. zone. And with under a minute left, Leopold's shot hit the right pad of goalie Backlund and came right to Kunitz for the easy goal, 1-1 after one period.

-After what looked to be a 2-1 Flyers lead off a Simon Gagne goal, became a 2-1 Pens lead off a Dupuis goal, his 18th of the year. Leino clearly ran into Fleury as the goal was scored and a ref from the otherside of the ice saw the play and after a group of refs got together to discuss, it was clear the goal should be disallowed. Nice. The Flyers continued to take stupid penalties, mostly by Scotty Hartnell. And the Pens entered the 3rd up 2-1 with a ton of momentum.

-Hartnell proceeded to take a couple more penalties, one resulting in a Fedotenko goal and another by Cooke. The Pens went on to win 4-1 after getting outplayed the first half of the 1st period. What happened? All 4 lines were creating some type of offense. Adams was banging, Talbot was getting his nose dirty, and same goes for Rupp. Staal has been playing some spirited hockey the last couple games, he was paired with Kunitz and Guerin.

-Low and behold, Ruslan Fedotenko might be starting his springtime ritual of heating up. He made a nifty assist on the Cooke goal and went hard to the net on his own goal.
Poni had a very strong game. Was hitting and creating space for the two speedsters on his line, Dupuis and Crosby. Fleury didn't need to make too many big saves, but he was there when he needed to be. The Flyers are in big trouble with Leighton and Carter out, and with Richards playing heartless hockey it'll be even tougher.

-The Pens face the Leafs at 5pm today. Luca Caputi returns and Poni will play his first game against his former team. The Leafs played spoiler to the Rangers and won last night. They have been red hot since the trade deadline. With Gigure in net, Phaneuf on the backend, and some talented youngsters named Bozak, Stahlberg, and Kulemin upfront the Pens better watch out.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Can the Pens Ride Poni' to A Cup Repeat?...Deadline Winners and Losers

-For the 4th straight trade deadline, Pens GM Ray Shero found a way to improve his team. The 1st deadline it was enforcer Laraque and veteran Gary Roberts who came to town poised to give the Pens the veteran depth they needed for the playoffs. Then came Marian Hossa, and yes he was damn good. Then last year it was Kunitz and Guerin, who aren't close to the player Hossa is but they filled in pretty nicely and gave the Pens that Stanley Cup.

-This time around, Shero addressed their needs once again: acquiring a steady "shutdown" type defenseman and a top-6 winger. Everyone on TSN thinks Ponikorovsky will be put with Crosby, nice try. For the first time in years the first line is actually playing well. Sid's having a career year and 39-yr old Guerin has 17 goals, what more can you ask for? Poni will be put on the 2nd line with Geno and either Feds/Dupuis. Dupuis has had a terrific season thus far and his speed/defensive prowess would make him a great complement to Geno/Poni.

-Poni was one of the best forwards available at the deadline and if Burke's asking price was Luca Caputi, by all means please take him. At 21 Caputi is still a youngster and could potentially be an effective 3rd/2nd line winger one day, but the Pens are poised to repeat and Caputi wasn't a significant part of the future. Not dealing Gogo, Letang, Tangradi, or Lovejoy made this deal all so sweet. At 6'4 220 lbs, Poni is an empowering figure on the ice. Goes to the net hard, has soft hands, likes to hit, and has 19 goals on the year to show for it.

-The other deal was for veteran D-men Jordan Leopold. The Pens only gave up a 2nd rd pick for a guy who's made it to the Cup finals with Calgary in '04 and been on some good Colorado teams under asst. coach Granato. Shero also mentioned the fact that Leopold was matched up against Ovechkin the past couple times the Panthers played the Caps. Hmm, interesting. At 6'1 200 lbs, Leopold isn't necessarily a Hal Gill or Andrew Alberts but he gets the job done. He's good on the PK and has an excellent first pass out of the zone, something Gill didn't have.

-So, are the Pens poised for another Cup run? Hellz yes. If the Pens could be the 4th best team in East Conf. without Geno performing at his best and with Fleury playing so-so, then they will clearly be better with the additions of Leopold and Poni. With Kunitz and Talbot getting close to 100% and there's still a lot left in Geno's tank, the Pens can only look ahead for another deep run.

-What did the Pens competition do? Well the Caps made several moves today in adding Belanger, Walker, Corvo, and they re-acquired Jurcina. Belanger is nothing special, solid PK guy but that's it. Corvo has slick hands and good off. skills but he's not Kaberle or Sutton if you're significantly looking to improve your defense. Walker is way past his prime and was on Carolina's 4th line or a healthy scratch for much of this season. I still think goaltending in the playoffs is a concern for the Caps, will Theodore or Neuwirth cut it? Will Huet or Niemi cut it for Chicago? And LOL at Leighton leading the Flyers to victory. Emery is out for the season and they made no effort to improve their goaltending.

-Trade deadline winners: Pens, Ducks, and Coyotes. The Ducks added Visnovsky on D in a trade for former Pen Ryan Whitney. And they added the physical veteran Aaron Ward from Carolina. The Coyotes meanwhile, in buying mode for the first time in centuries, added Stempniak from Toronto, Wolski from Colorado, Schneider from Vancouver, and Morris from Boston. Not superstar players, but Stempniak and Wolski are legit top 6 forwards and Schneider is a nice veteran presence to have on the backend.

-Trade deadline losers: Flyers, Bruins, and Hawks. Both the Flyers and Hawks failed to address their goaltending situation and the Bruins failed to add a top 6 forward. They were looking at Tkachuk but nothing came about.

-Poni is having Visa issues so he likely won't be in the lineup tomorrow at the Rangers game but will play Saturday against the Stars.