Friday, April 30, 2010

Penguins Playoff Game Day 7 - Conference Semifinals vs. Montreal Canadians

Montreal Canadians

7:00 PM, Mellon Arena, Pittsburgh, PA

Well here we finally are. After a while off the Penguins are back in action in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. A few days ago you were getting ready to hear the Bruins fans get their false hope up because Marc Savard and his 100 concussions was coming back. Then the Canadians just pretty much put the smackdown on the Caps.

While watching the Capitals fail miserably was awesome there is also a flip side to that. The Penguins will have to beat the red hot Jaroslav Halak in goal for the Habs. Dude basically won games five, six AND seven for the Canadians so he will be a force. You have to think how he is going to hold up. I know it has been talked about that he loves to face a lot of rubber but you can't win consistently giving up 50+ shots on net a game. No two ways about that.

Can Halak steal two series himself? Sure he can, but that is highly unlikely, in my humble opinion. The Penguins bring a much different style of game than do the Capitals. The Penguins are not afraid to cause some traffic and work hard in the corners for the puck, the Capitals do not do those things, so this will be a totally different series.

USS will be huge for Montreal. Can he shut down Bing like he did OV? I guess we will see.

Looks like Kunitz will be back for the Penguins after missing some practice time. Should be around the same lineup for the Penguins. Not sure if TK is going to be in the lineup but if he is not then I fully expect Conner to be in his place. Conner did a nice job in the finale of the Ottawa series, he will be fine.

The first game will be huge, as will the "home ice advantage." Home ice has meant nothing so far in the NHL playoffs and the Habs won three of four games in the Verizon Center. If the Penguins can come out and take game one it will kind of send the message to Montreal that this isn't going to be like Washington and probably put that doubt in an undermanned team.

PK is going to have to come up huge. The Montreal PP is as good as it gets. Second best in the NHL if I am remembering right during the regular season and that is how they got to Washington. They got early PP goals in the first period and built off that. The Pens PK has been pretty solid so that will be a huge match up. If the Penguins stay disciplined against Ottawa so if they continue that they will be fine.

My prediction: Pens in five.

Do it.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Penguins Post Season Schedule

The Penguins advanced to the second round of the NHL playoffs last Saturday. They will open up that round of play against the Montreal Canadians. Here is the full schedule:

Friday, April 30 at Pittsburgh, 7:00 PM, VS
Sunday, May 2 at Pittsburgh, 2:00 PM, NBC
Tuesday, May 4 at Montreal, 7:00 PM, VS, FSN
Thursday, May 6 at Montreal, 7:00 PM, VS
Saturday, May 8 at Pittsburgh, 7:00 PM, VS
Monday, May 10 at Montreal, 7:00 PM, VS, FSN
Wednesday, May 12 at Pittsburgh, TBD, VS, FSN

Halak better bring his big boy jock this series

Caps Suck, Bring it Montreal

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Pirates Season So Far...In a Video

I will be in Milwaukee tonight, at Miller Park for the Pirates game. They will win tonight. Mark it down. Despite going 0-4 and being outscored like 108-3 in those four games I have a feeling.

Karstens is starting tonight from what I gather. Christ.

I don't care. Ryan Braun is going to know who I am by the end of the night (depending on seating).

Follow my twitter here for pictures and updates. Also if you haven't done so yet get on the live blog that Brian from Raise The Jolly Roger does for every game. It is a great time.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Steelers Draft Results

Well the draft is over and the Pittsburgh Steelers made a move and took some picks (some questioned), but all in all it was a good day to be from the black and gold. Before we talk about any of the picks lets take a look who exactly the Steelers took in the 75th NFL draft in New York.

Round (overall number) - Player, position, school

1(18) - Maurkice Pouncey, C, Floirda

2(52) - Jason Worilds, OLB, Virginia Tech

3(82) - Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Southen Methodist

4(116) - Thaddeus Gibson, OLB, Ohio State

5(151) - Chris Scott, OG, Tennessee

5(164) - Crezdon Butler, DB, Clemson

5(166) - Stevenson Sylvester, OLB, Utah

6(188) - Jonathan Dwyer, RB, Georgia Tech

6(195) - Antonio Brown, WR, Central Michigan

7(242) - Doug Worthington, DE, Ohio State

Most people had the Steelers projected to take Pouncey in the first round and it wasn't much of a dilemma when it came down to it. Pouncey is very athletic and I really wouldn't be surprised, based on all the talk, if he is in the starting lineup in week one of the season. Pouncey will not be the starting center, the Steelers have already said they are going to move him to a guard position to start the season. This would be a great way to get him into the game. The center position is very demanding with all the line calls and everything that he will have to do. This will be a learning experience to get in there and play guard, see what goes on and learn and when Hartwig is gone after this year or next them Pouncey can move over to center and be there for the long hall. The scouts rave about his foot agility and general athletic ability so it should be exciting to see him play.

The next couple of rounds the Steelers went in another direction than most of us who follow the Steelers closely thought they would go. In the second round they went with the the outside linebacker from Virginia Tech, Jason Worilds. The Steelers also grabbed OLB help in the fourth and fifth round. Now everyone knows that the Steelers have two Pro Bowlers in Lamarr Woodley and James Harrison so why even think about spending so many picks when there were other needs (defensive back) that the Steelers needed? Although Woodley is young, and a freak, Harrison is no spring chicken and behind them is really nobody outside of Fox who saw some limited time. My thoughts on this was that the Steelers were doing a good thing here. Sure we have a ton of pass rusheres now but brining in good talent can never hurt. Players that come in and can push to play are only going to make the players around them better. It will make our offensive line better (by going against good second team talent) and it will really give the Steelers some much needed depth in the lineback core. Last year depth was a really big problems with linebackers and Kevin Colbert is making sure that is not going to be an issue getting some young talent in there.

Now around the fifth round people were wondering what the hell were the Steelers goign to do in their defensive backfield. The corners last year were the biggest liability that the Steelers had and without Ben for at least four games, maybe more, the Steelers defense was going to have to step up. Signing back Larry Foote was going to help, but he couldn't go out on an island and cover WR's. That is when it happened. Kevin Colbert struck.

The Steelers traded away their fifth round pick (155th overall) to the Arizona Cardinals for Bryant McFadden and the Cardinals sixth round pick. Wow. McFadden is a former Steeler and left the team to sign with the Arizona Cardinals when the Steelers couldn't pay him. Bryant failed to pick off a pass in his one year in Arizona in 16 games and was picked on a good bit and didn't have a steller year. No clue as to why the Cardinals go him, but he was not going to be a starter for them next year. He is due $5 million and the Cardinals did not want to pay that to a nickle back.

Reading over some Cardinals message boards they are pretty happy to see BMac gone. They claim he just couldn't cover anyone and was a liablility on the field. From waht I can remember when he was with us he was a great compliment to Ike Taylor and can more than hold up his end of the bargin in the secondary. He is an immediate upgreade to a secondary that was about as effective as squirt gun in World War II. Granted, McFadden isn't a shut down corner, and he might have played bad in Arizone but I feel that with a healthy Troy and Ike Taylor on the other side of the field that he will be a very key player for us. Troy and Ike make Bryant 10 times better than he is.

The rest of the draft brought us a WR in the third round in Emmanuel Sanders. Not really sure about this pick. Sanders is a slot receiver with speed to burn. He is under 6'0 (as is half the Steelers WR) and can really stretch the field. We will see if guys like this and the Steelers sixth round pick, Antonio Brown, spell the end for Limas Sweed.

The Steelers also went with another lineman in the fifth round, Chris Scott from Tennessee. Scott is big, 6'5, 350 and from what I have been reading is really strong. People are talking that the Steelers made a really nice selection here and that he can be moved into the interior and make a difference for the Steelers down the road.

One of the last picks that the Steelers made was for Georgia Tech running back Jonathan Dwyer. Dwyer was picked by some to go in the second to third round range and slipped all the way to pick 188 in the sixth round. Dwyer is a big back that is known for punishing defenders and runs between the tackles. For the value this might be one of the best picks for the Steelers in this years draft. There was concern over Dwyers fitness at the combine, which was partially the reason for him falling so far off the board.

Overall I really like the Steelers three days here, especially after the trade for McFadden. The Steelers had a lot of picks to use this year and Cobert knew he could go out and get BMac so he didn't need to waste those early picks and reach for conerbacks. What he did was get some young depth in the linebacker core and in special teams. What hasn't been said yet is that the Steelers special teams were dreadful last season. They gave up big play after big play and for these drafted players to make it they are first goign to have to work on speical teams and show the coaches they have what it takes. Like I said the competition will make them better and in turn really help out the Steelers struggling special teams unit.

In Colbert we trust.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Ottawa Senators

7:00 PM, Scotiabank Place, Ottawa

Well unfortunatly the Penguins are back to Scotiabank Place for a game six. The friendly confinds of the Mellon Arena hasn't been to friendly in closing games of a series in the past couple of years. I think it was said that the Penguins have closed the last seven series they have won on the road. I guess we hope to make that eight.

What happened on Thursday sucked, a lot but there is nothign to dwell about. Like I said they have closed the series on the road before in more hostile places so I am not really worried. Time to get your mind right.

Looks like all indications are that Chris Conner is going to get the nod in favor of Ruslan Fedotenko. No real surprise there. Tenko has struggled for most of the year and in his limited time on the big club Conner has brought a lot to the table. With TK not making the trip you have to think that conner is going to be inserted onto the third line with Staal and Cooke.

Here is what most think the lines will look like:






Some interesting news is that Bing actually got credit for another assist in the Penguins 3 OT loss on Thursday. On Letang's goal it seems as if Guerin totally wiffed on the puck and never touched it so he would not get the assist, giving the secondary assist to Crosby. If you are counting at home that is 14 points this round and at least two points in each contest. The record for the Penguins is 17 points in a season by Sir Buries it.

End it here.

Do it.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Penguins Playoff Game Day 5 - Conference Quarterfinals vs. Ottawa Senators

Ottawa Senators

7:00 PM, Mellon Arena, Pittsburgh, PA

After the Penguins lost game one there were more than a few people that were ready to jump off the bridge and said that the Penguins should just brush off the golf clubs now because that was it. They played a bad game, were dominated for great stretches of play and just didn't have it.

Oh how times have changed. The Penguins flipped that switch and since that 5-4 loss the Penguins have played very good defensive hockey while also being able to lite up starting goaltender Brian Elliot to give the Penguins a 3-1 series lead headed into the Mellon Arena tonight.

Now, Mr. Elliot will not be in the lineup tonight, his head is still ringing from the four goals on 19 shots that the Penguins poured on him Tuesday night. Pascal Leclaire will start for the Sens tonight, good thing he gave up three goals on 20 shots. Oh my.

TK is going to be out of the lineup tonight with a "lower body" injury and Ruslan Fedotenko will be in the lineup and skating on the third line with Staal and Cooke. Seth from Empty Netters give us a look at the line combinations:


Chris Kunitz-Sidney Crosby-Bill Guerin

Alexei Ponikarovsky-Evgeni Malkin-Pascal Dupuis

Matt Cooke-Jordan Staal-Ruslan Fedotenko

Mike Rupp-Max Talbot-Craig Adams


Nick Foligno-Jason Spezza-Peter Regin

Mike Fisher-Matt Cullen-Daniel Alfredsson

Jarkko Ruutu-Chris Kelly-Chris Neil

Shean Donavan-Zack Smith-Jesse Winchester

I honestly can't see the Senators winning this game in front of the Whiteout crowd at Mellon Arena.

I hate Chris Neil more than any hockey player. Even more than AO. What a douchebag. There was nothing better on Tuesday night than seeing this picture:

Geno had this to say about that moment: "He (Neil) yelled something, I didn't understnad it. I think it was something bad. Don't think he congratulated me."

Neil is a joke.

Since this could be the last game ever for the Senators in the 2009-10 season I have to play this:

Ben Sits, Steelers Shouldn't Trade

As I am sure you all already know the QB we most affectionately know as "Big Ben" will be sitting down for anywhere from 4-6 games as handed down from Commissioner Roger Goodell. The suspension will be contingent on Ben completing some sort of "treatment". If he complies with what Mr. Goodell says then he will only sit four games, which will bring him back against the Cleveland Browns on week six, after the Steelers bye week in week five.

Now make no mistake, what Ben did was extremely stupid and something that he probably should have thought a second time about before he went into that bathroom where anything can happen. Nobody knows for sure what happened in that bathroom. The only two people who know what happened are that 20-year old girl and Ben. Nobody else has any idea no matter what the police report says. Anything could have been said in that police report and from what I have been seeing most people are taking that as Gospel. But that is whatever.

Everything in that police report was very tough to hear and has made the fans of Pittsburgh really turn on Ben and a lot of them are throwing away their jerseys and saying they will never root for him again. Fair enough. A lot of people want Ben traded to keep up the high regards that the NFL, and it seems everyone, has for the Steelers organization. Some points that people are saying are very valid, but I just don't see it.

I think I am one of the select few who thinks it would be rediculous if the Steelers traded Ben. I listen to ESPN 1250 everyday and from what I am hearing I am probably in the 15% of people that think we need to keep the big guy. Now I know the people that call 1250 isn't the end all be all of what the city of Pittsburgh thinks, but when I have listened to the show for two straight weeks and hearing all the callers from both shows (Stan, Guy, Chris and The Drive) then I feel I can get a little sense of what is going on.

Trading Ben puts this team back a minimum of three years. It is very clear that the Steelers are unable to move up into the draft to get the number one pick overall, which is held by the St. Louis Rams, so you can't think they are going to get that "franchise QB" in a top ten pick. The Rams are almost certain to take Sam Bradford, who the Steelers are very, very high on and think he can be that Big Ben type of guy in the NFL. The Steelers at best are going to get maybe an eighth overall pick in the draft. They can take that number eight pick and get the franchise lineman on the board, but that isn't going to get the Steelers to the Super Bowl. Dennis Dixon, Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwhich is on the roster now. None of those players are leading the Steelers to the Super Bowl in the next three years.

In order to be successful again the Steelers would probably have to find that QB through the draft or find a young guy to mold. The Steelers aren't the kind of team to go out and buy the big name QB when they become free agents, that is just the way it is. All of you want the Steelers to be the model franchise and keep things the way they are, well if they are going to stay the way they are then they are not going to go out and buy the big name guy. That means through the draft. For those of you that think you can just go out and get a QB and he comes in and does what Ben or Joe Flacco did then you have another thing coming. Those were special situations that don't happen every year. To develop a QB and be a legit contender that will take at least three years.

Lets not forget this is a Steelers team that is ready to win, right now. They resigned a lot of their verteran players and they are a team that has always played for right now. Trading Ben throws that out the window. I truely feel that Ben has another great five years and would not be surprised if the Steelers could win two more Super Bowls in that time frame. Ben is a very special player, one of a kind, and he has grown into this Steelers system. Hell, he has redefined the Steelers offense and put up passing numbers that have never been seen before and everyone wants to throw him away because he made a mistake, albeit a bad one, a mistake.

Ben was not arrested, he was not charged, nothing. Is he guilty of bad judgement? Hell yea. Is it reprehensible that he took a 20-yaer old girl back to a club bathroom to do God knows what? Hell yea. Does he deserve the chance to change as a person and show everyone that he can turn a new leaf? You bet your ass.

This takes a much different look because Ben is the franchise QB of one of the best football teams in the NFL. Just sit back a second and think if this was you. You go out and do something dumb and someone says something about it. All the things that person said were not true, some were, and some things were half true, but exagerated. You know you were wrong and all you wanted to do was move on. Would it be ok for everyone to write you off and throw you out of your apartment onto the street because you made a mistake? Wouldn't you want people to give you the chance to show you that you made a mistake and that you can bounce back. Wouldn't you feel that you had something to prove to people that one instance shouldn't define your whole entire life? I know I would want that chance.

I have made mistakes, I have had second and third chances and I have changed for the better. Lets not rush to judgement on Ben because he likes to go out and party. He is 28 years old and single. Now, that being said, should he stop going out and chill out a little bit? He better. Not he better, he has to. He has to realize what is at stake.

Remember when Kobe was actually put on trial for raping a women in Colorado? He got through that and now people don't even remember that. The charges were droped and he is still winning championships and people in LA love him.

Trading Ben is just bad all around. He is our franchise QB and I will bet this. When the Steelers are playing in late December and are fighting for a possible division title and there is two minutes left against the Bengals down by four do you think Heinz Field is going to be booing him every time he converts a third and six? Get your mind right people. Football is a business and the pay off is winning.

Like I said, Ben is guilty of bad decision making. So are a lot of people. The Steelers pay him to win football games. I watch him to see him do waht he is paid to do, win football games. Do I watch the game and cheer for him and the team to see him interact nicely with his teammates? No. Again I know some people will read this and think that it is ok what he did in Georgia, it is not. I do not agree with what Ben did there and think it is terrible. He was not charged though. We need to move on and keep him as the QB of this franchise.

Thoughts? Hit me up in the comments, I am interested to see what people think.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Penguins Playoff Game Day 4 - Conference Quarterfinals @ Ottawa Senators

Ottawa Senators

7:00 PM, Scotiabank Place, Ottawa

The Penguins look to take a strangle hold on the series tonight when they once again visit Scotiabank Place for game four of the best of seven series. The Sens are gonna be coming out full force tonight as this pretty much their playoffs tonight. If the Sens lose tonight you can bet your bottom dollar the white clad Penguins fans will not let them get out alive on Thursday night.

These are the types of games you have to get out, weather the strom and then put your foot down on the throat of the opponent and make it known you are not going to take anything less than a dominant performance.

Some joke writer in Ottawa said that Mike Fisher should shaddow Sidney Crosby tonight for the game. Does this dude realize you can't clutch and grab like you could in 1990? Great, shadow Sid. Throw Staal and Malkin out there with him. Good luck with that. As Phillips and Vonchenkov how shutting down Sid has been.

Andy your thoughts?

Suck it.

The Penguins should roll out with the exact same lineup. Interesting to see if Mad Max can score some time with Geno. They were lights out last year and Max is starting to turn it on.

Jon Cheechoo will be in for the Sens tonight. Remember when EVERYONE wanted him on the Penguins. Talk about one year wonder.

This is it. Lets start the process of finishing this thing off.

Do it.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Penguins Are Experts, Pens Win

Oh man what a great game this was. This was a direct pick up off of game two where the Penguins were dominate the entire game, but they could only win by one goal. The difference tonight? They won by more than one goal. This was another dominating performance and the Senators were frustrated all game and what showed this the most was in the third period, the Sens were down 4-1, Fleury makes a save, Neil tries to be a douche (well he doesn't have to try) and Mark Eaton and Jarrko Ruutu get tangled up. Ruutu wants to go and what does Eaton do? Laugh in his face and skate away, that is all that needed to be done.

There is no doubt that the Penguins are in the Senators heads. The third period was Ottawa taking a ton of cheap shots and trying to get the Penguins to bite and start something to hopefully spark their team to win. You know what happened? The Penguins literally just laughed in the faces of the likes of thugs like Ruutu and Neil. The Penguins are in the Senators heads and if they can get a win on Tuesday this series will be over in five games.

The Penguins jumped out early in the first period, less than a few minutes in. Poni finally showed up and beat Elliot short side, for the like 15th time, and gave the Penguins the early lead in the game. The first goal is always important but especially on the road in a tied series. The Sens got a goal late in the period but it was disallowed as Regin kicked the puck into the net. Nice job Pele.

The defense has been nothing less than great in games two and three. Game one was a terrible game and basically it had people wondering if they were ever going to be able to fix it for the playoffs. The last two games have shown that the Penguins have worked on their defensive system. The Penguins are not letting the Sens get the puck up the middle and they are rubbing everyone to the outside and forcing shots that MAF can see and easily direct to backchecking forwards. They look good and if they keep improving this is going to be a tough team to beat.

Alex Goligoski has been a different player, just the the whole unit has. He is doing a nice job staying in his zone and that was very evident tonight. He has is very much improved on the power play. Sure, the power play didn't look great tonight but Gogo did a nice job at the left point, keeping pucks in and picking his spots to pinch.

How would Brian Elliot respond to playoff hockey? Well tonight he gave up, at one point, four goals in 16 shots. 25% of the Penguins shots were going in midway through the third period. Some goaltending.

Coming into the playoffs a lot was being made of Geno's nact for taking bad penalties and sometimes retaliating and costing his team a power play or two. Geno has done none of the sort so far this playoff series. Chris Neil came after Geno all night and what did Geno do? Nothing. It was perfect. When Geno realized that he drew a penalty he just skated a way. That is what I am talking about.

I keep saying it and I am not sure why I have to repeat myself but some people still don't understand that Sidney Crosby is the best player not just in the NHL, but in the entire world. What he did to score the third goal of the game today was just a thing of beauty. He is the best play in the game all around. What is shockingly amazing (to some) about his game is how hard it is to knock him off the puck. He is so strong with the puck and if you can get it off of him in a one on one situation you know you have done something right.

VS was a whole lot of fail tonight. Take a look at this picture, this was after the second period:

In case you can't make out my grainy Blackberry camera picture here is one from Damian over at Pens Universe:

I can't imagine that someone let this go on the air. First off you have the wrong logo for the Penguins AND the Senators and if you notice this is the end of the second period, and the score is wrong. What a bunch of fail.

I will stick up for VS though. NBC would never air an original game (Penguins/Senators) and then pick up the other two games after the original game was over. Going to more hockey after the Penguins game is nice because you get what you want. The Blackhawks/Preds game was on and then the San Jose/Colorado game was on right after that. Very nice job by VS, and they let the Penguins to have the big screen. VS > NBC, by a lot.

The last thing I will talk about is how terrible the Senators fans were tonight. According to them the Sens did not commit a single penalty tonight.

I thought Philadelphia fans would be at their game against the Devils, not posing as Ottawa fans in Canada's capital. Also I guess it was refreshing how they booed Sidney Crosby. Seriously when are teams going to learn that just fuels his fire. Speaking of Sid it is pretty sweet that Volchenkov and Phillips have been on the ice for six of Bing's seven points in the series. Some shutdown pair.

Thank God Campbell didn't suspend Sutton. What a liability.

Sidney Crosby is an expert Andy.

woooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo 2-1, suck it.

Penguins Playoff Game Day 3 - Conference Quarterfinals @ Ottawa Senators

Ottawa Senators

6:30 PM, Scotiabank Place, Ottawa

The series now shifts from the friendly confinds of the Igloo to the hostile enviorment which is known as Scotiabank Place in Ottawa. The Penguins have given up home ice advantage to the Senators who know how three of the next five games (if needed) will be at Scotiabank. I doubt that makes a difference. The Penguins can win on the road. The Penguins had the second most road wins (22) in the Eastern Conference this year so going on the road should be no sweat.

I am not sure, I am no expert:


Jordan Leopold will not be making the trip as Disco said they knew he wasn't going to play in either game so they will just keep in him Pittsburgh for observation. I like that move a lot.

Jay McKee will take the place of Leopold tonight, but that is not a long term solution possibly. The Penguins called up Ben Lovejoy and McKee is playing tonight for his roster spot the rest of the postseason. Lovejoy will not play in part because the Penguins want him to get a few practices in, so the heat is really on McKee. I think that will work to help McKee, give him something to play for.

Not sure if we will see the 300 intro from 2007, but it was pretty decent:

We will also most definatly get a very good anthem:

Dude is no Jimmerson, but he is good. Also love how the crowd basically sings it. Legit.

I am sure the lines will be similar. A good start would be awesome, but if the Penguins play like they did on Friday then we should have nothing to worry about.

Do it.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Bouncin Back, Pens Win

If you thought the Penguins weren't going to bounce back then you were high. Flower is the king of bounce back games and tonight was no different. Fleury didn't have to make a ton of saves, but he made the big ones in crunch time. That is what he does.

How good was the Penguins defense tonight? With Jordan Leopold out for a majority of the game after a hit to the head, I mean "clean hit", the Penguins rolled with five defensemen and they know what they had to do, and they did it.

The Penguins also played some amazing physical hockey tonight. They dished out 52 hits, 21 in the first period alone. Chris Kunitz was an absolute monster with the body again tonight and he looks great after coming off the DL from his shoulder injury. He is just all over the place.

Speaking of Kunitz he was pretty much the the whole reason for Bing's goal in the first period. Kune got the turnover in the offensive zone and held the puck and saw that Bing was slicing down the slot and just threw a shot on net. Rebound. Goal. Great heads up play by Kunitz to not try and be too cute, just get the puck on net and good things are going to happen.

The game didn't look like it was goign to be very good at the start when the Sens got off to a 1-0 lead just 18 seconds into the contest. Spezza found Peter Regin at the left point and beat Flower with a laser over the glove hand. Not to be outdone Fleury shut the door the rest of the game and gave his team a chance to win and he was rewarded.

As much as we want to talk about Fleury and his bounce back abilities it was Bing who had a highlight real game. He scored the game tying goal, saved a potential go ahead goal for Ottawa and then set up the game winning goal with a beautiful set up behind the net.

We already talked about the first goal of the game for Bing, but good Lord what a set up he had for Letangs game winner. You know when you watch those And 1 basketball tapes and some dude breaks a defenders ankles and they throw the ball off the court and walk off and the game is over?

(click to 22 second mark)

Bing did not less than own Jason Spezza before setting up the game winning goal. Spezza just should have went to the locker room and taken a shower. He was made to look a fool. I guess that is what you get when you try to deliver an elbow shot to Sid in game one. Douche.

Can I ask you to argue with me if you don't think that Letang goal reminds you of the one he scored in game three of the Caps series last year in OT? Letang scores big goals. Although this was not overtime it was very clear starting the third period that the first goal of the period was going to win.

Not only does Bing figure in on both goals but he also saved one. Volchenov took a shot from the slot, it slipped past Fleury and was sliding towards the net until Bing dives and knocks it out of the crease. Who says he isn't the best player in hockey? For real. OV isn't even 50 feet close enough to make that play. What a gamer.

One of the best games the Penguins have played in a while. Lets just hope it rolls over. Great win though.

1 down. 15 to go.

Penguins Playoff Game Day 2 - Conference Quarterfinals vs. Ottawa Senators

Ottawa Senators

7:00 PM, Mellon Arena, Pittsburgh, PA

Well that first game didn't really go as planned now did it? Lucky for us it is not a one game series but a seven game series. Hell even in a three game series I would like our chances. If some of you thought the Penguins would go 16-0 through the playoffs you are kidding youselves. You know almost every series is going to be a six or seven game series. There are just a lot of good teams out there.

Even Bing knows this:

"We didn’t come in here expecting to win four straight. It’s going to be a tough series. If anything, last game should motivate us even more. We hadn’t played Ottawa for a long time. We have a history with them in the playoffs, and I don’t think that the element of not liking them was really there enough because of the long period that it has been since we played them. That’s definitely there now."

MAF had a really tough outting in game one, but you think he is shakin?

"It is just something I try to do. It is never fun to play a tough game. I think I learned early in my career that you have to forget about those as quickly as possible. The next day is a new day or a new game so you start all fresh."

That was MAF on the Pens website. He will be ok. I think he has been here before.

Looks like Mike Rupp is going to be in for Tenk, but that really hasn't been confirmed.

Do it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

No Panic Here, Pens Lose

There are about 20 different ways you can go about looking at the horrific game one which was the Penguins and the Ottawa Senators at the Igloo for game one of the playoffs.

There is no better picture of this game of what this game was than when the Penguins went down 3-1 off the terrible bounce off the end boards right to Chris Kelly's stick when MAF went out to play it around the boards. Kelly deposited the puck into an empty net and if you were like me you got that sick feeling in your stomach. The feeling that makes you say out loud "This is going to be a long night". It was a long night.

Every single time the Penguins go the margin within one the Senators came right back. The big key to the win tonight is the secondary scoring that Ottawa got. Peter Regin, Chris Neil, Kelly and Jarkko Ruutu all scored for the Sens. Not Spezza and not Alfredsson, flippin Chris Neil.

The Bad:

Marc Andre Fleury - Granted the defense wasn't the best tonight but MAF really wasn't on his A game. It was more like his C- game or his D game at best. They Penguins were clawing back into this game the Sens came back with goals. Flower only stopped 21 of 26 shots and never looked "in the game". Good thing this is only game one.

Taking terrible penalties - Good Lord did the Penguins take some terrible penalties tonight. This is bad habit the Pens have been getting into this latter part of the year. Every time there was some momentum the Penguins would take a penalty and the Sens power play would cash in. Kunitz took a bad one, Letang took a bad one and they both led to a momentum shift that really affected the game.

Puck possession - If there was a TOP stat in the game then the Sens would have shown a very big advantage. It just seemed like they always had the puck. After the Penguins scored their fourth goal to make the score 5-4 with a little over two minutes to play the Sens held the puck in the Pittsburgh zone for over a minute. Pretty dominating.

The Good:

The power play - At times the popwer play didn't look so how but any time you can snap in two power play goals you are doing something right. The Senators have a pretty good PK unit and I thought the power play was pretty good in that aspect. Keep that up and we will be ok.

Brian Elliot (in a good way for Pittsburgh) - Listen this was Elliot's first playoff game and it showed. The Penguins only got 21 shots on net, but four of them found the back. Get more pucks on net and this game goes a totally different series. Elliot is going to be suspect and the Penguins are going to have their chances.

Only losing by a goal - I mean lets be serious. Outside of the first six minutes of the game the Penguins were all out of sorts and they only lost by a goal. Can you imagine if the Penguins even played a half decent game? Yea, that is what I thought.

This is only game one - If this were a one game playoff series I would be worried. It is best of seven. Bing is pissed.

Pens in 5. Book it.

Penguins Playoff Game Day 1 - Conference Quarterfinals vs. Ottawa Senators

Ottawa Senators

7:00 PM, Mellon Arena, Pittsburgh, PA

Playoffs baby...


Long days starting a new job this week. Mud preview, if you call it that.

Penguins lines:




Thank god this isn't on NBC. You know what that means...


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Holmes, Gone

In a complete and utter shocker the Steelers shipped off Super Bowl MVP Santio Holmes to the New York Jets for what is reported to be a fifth round pick.

[New York Jets Site]

[Peter King Twitter]


I guess we can look at this as inevitable. The Steelers were not going to sign Holmes, as he will be a Free Agent this year, and Holmes is already suspended for four games right off the bat.

Maybe there is some new evidence that the public does not know about for the case that is against him in Florida that will tack on some games. Games might get tacked on regardless because as we well know this isn't strike one against Tone.

Is a fifth round pick enough for his talent? No. But looking at all the facts makes more sense. This is a 12 game rental at most for the New York Jets. The Steelers were not going to sign him so they got what they felt what they could for them BEFORE THE DRAFT.

The draft board is much more wide open, hello Dez Bryant.

I trust the Rooneys. They are ballers.

More to come as we find shit out.

Here We Go.

Penguins Game Day 82 - @ New York Islanders

New York Islanders

5:00 PM, Nassau Coliseum, Long Island, NY

The Penguins are now locked into the fourth slot after a tough 1-0 loss in Atlanta last night so this game is basically meaningless. Whatever, a win would be nice. The Islanders have given up a touchdown in each of their last two games. Hopefully Toast starts for New York tonight.

The lines for the Pens from the Penguins website:





The Pens site said Fleury will start in goal but I am not really sold on that. I would almost expect to see Beej.

This is the final time these teams will meet. The Penguins have won four of the first five match ups.

March 8:

February 10:

January 19:

November 27:

October 3:

Team Comparisons:

Do It.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Penguins Game Day 81 - @ Atlana Thrashers

Atlanta Thrashers

7:00 PM, Philips Arena, Atlanta, GA

The Penguins are back at it after a convincing 7-3 win over the New York Islanders in the final regular season game at the Mellon Arena. The Penguins are still up for the two seed and an Atlantic Division title as they need to earn one more point than the Devils with each team having two games left. Needless to say it is pretty important to win the final two games.

Here are the lines thanks to Seth from Empty Netters:




The Penguins look to sweep the Atlanta Thrashers after three straight wins over them this season so far. The last win was on April 4:

Pittsburgh took the last meeting January 5th when the Pens grabbed a 5-2 win on the back of Brent Johnson:

The Penguins won the first meeting 3-2 on November 21

The stat comparison:

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Penguins Game Day 80 - The Final Ride

The Penguins play the Islanders today at the Igloo and it will be the final regular season game at the Mellon Arena.

There will be no preview Just a lot of this:

Jump it

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Pens/Caps Post Game (Caps 6, Pens 3)

Last night was quite possibly my last game at Mellon Arena, ever. I will most likely not be back for the playoffs, although there is still some hope. That being said it was a bitter sweet game last night, not only for me, but for most of the people in attendance who cared to stay the whole game.

The Washington Capitals once again went 4-0 against the Penguins in the regular season for the second straight year and pushed their unbeaten streak to 10 regular season games against the Black and Gold.

Just some general notes I saw from the F balcony last night:

- MAF wasn't good at all. I don't put that first goal on him, although it was a savable shot, but the next two he gave up were pretty tough to watch. They were even harder to watch because they were directly after the Penguins had cut the lead to one goal, something they did three times last night. MAF has been pretty solid as of late and has been logging a lot of minutes. Those of you who legit think he should sit for the playoffs need to turn in your bandwagon fan card and go root for the Flyers or Caps.

- This was the 8th time that MAF was pulled this season compared to only four times last season. Not really sure what that means, just thought it was different.

- I always knew that the Caps were deep and unbelievably talented but they have a ton of people with like 30 goals. Everyone knows that Ovechkin leads the team in points, 106 after his two goals last night, but Backstrom now has 31 goals and 98 points and Alex Semin has 39 goals and 80 points this season. Scary good.

- The Penguins are now 0-10 against the Caps and Devils this season. That is most likely the top two seeds out of the East this season and they will probably have to beat one of them in the post season. This is kind of bothersome (ok more than kin of) but I am not ready to jump off a bridge.

- I think it is probably time to get Jordan Leopold on the first power play unit. GoGo just doesn't look comfortable on the point and looks unsure and that is a place that Leopold has played before and he has look good of late. Ride the hot hand.

- That being said I can't even explain how utterly ridiculous it was to listen to people bitch at the game about GoGo. There were people who I thought were only there to bash GoGo and the entire team for EVERY mistake they made. Am I saying that Alex has been playing great hockey, because he has not, but come on. This is only his first full season playing hockey. This reminds me of when people wanted Mark Eaton cut or traded for pucks and he turned out to be alright. That being said he does need to step up for the Penguins to go deep.

- Geno being scratched just took everything out of the arena last night when scratches were announced. Listening to the scratches before the game it wasn't real surprising to hear Mike Green was scratched, as he was the night before, but it was just a total shock to hear about Malkin and it took a toll on the fans in the arena. I heard it was just an illness so I hope he is back Thursday.

- I was honestly embarrassed last night with a wide majority of the fans. The arena was empty with about three minutes to go in the game. I have been to some of the worst losses in that arena (see Florida 6-1 waxing last year) and I would never think of leaving a game early. Most people last night must think we play in the RBC Center for a team that hasn't made the playoffs, let alone been to the Cup Finals the past two season. Get in or get out, and stay out.

- There were actually some jokes calling the post game wrap up on the X and said that Disco was disrespecting Sid by pulling Beej and "letting" AO score the empty net goal. Are you kidding me? This just wasn't one person, it was three and I only listened for about 40 min. What jokes. I am not talking about the empty net goal because I don't give a shit.

- The Penguins will most likely get to play the Sens in the playoffs. Bring it.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Penguins Game Day 79 - vs. Washington Capitals

Washington Capitals

7:30 PM, Mellon Arena, Pittsburgh, PA

The Penguins lines per their website:




Varlomov will start tonight for the Caps. What a joke. Isn't he supposed to be some kind of savior? Remember the last time the Pens played against him:

Like I said, joke.

This will be the fourth, and final, meeting between the Pens and the Caps this season with the Capitals winning all of the previous three contests.

The Penguins used a come from behind approach to record a point in a shootout loss to the Caps on March 24:

The Caps battled back from a big deficit and won 5-4 in OT on February 21

The Penguins dropped the first game of the series, at the Igloo, 6-3 on January 21:

Here are the comparisons:

Do it.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

2010 Pittsburgh Pirates Preview: Predictions

So you might be asking me a question as such: How do you think the Pirates will do this season? That is pretty easy, I don’t think they are going to be a great team. Over the last five seasons they have only averaged 66 wins a season over the last five seasons. I do not think they will break their consecutive losing seasons streak and I think the best guess for a win amount will be around 70. The offense for this team isn’t going to be pretty and with the loss of Jack Wilson/Freddy Sanchez/Adam LaRoche is going to take its toll on what once was the best defense in major league baseball.

The reason this season is different than all others is that this team is going to be plugging in pieces for the future. They have already started that with Andrew McCutchen in centerfield and will be more on that path when Tabata, Lincoln and Alverez make their major league debuts later this season. I have said before that this season is a wash and finally we have a true “rebuilding” process going. Those guys can get their feet wet in the majors and maybe we can start to see some improvement for next year. If things go well and they can win some games I would be more than happy with that, but I really don’t expect it.

When was the last time as a Pirates fan that you can remember since the Bonds era that you could talk about more than one prospect in the system that was looking to make a major impact on the big club? We finally have that this year and it is very reassuring to know that management ahs got something back for the pieces (or team) we traded away when we blew the entire club up.

That being said this is the most excited I have been for a Pirates season in a really long time. The Pirates finally have some young talent that they are developing and that people are actually talking about. I know people are still complaining about this administration and how they haven’t won yet but just going out and spending tons on money on free agents isn’t how it is done. Ask the New York Mets. I like the direction the Pirates are in and I am along for the ride, no matter what direction it takes me.

Lets Go Bucs.

2010 Pittsburgh Pirates Preview: Outfield

The Pirates season is approaching fast and furious and if you are like me then you are ready and pumped for this year of Pirates baseball. This is going to be a turnaround year for the Pirates, we hope, in the quest for becoming a contender in a low market situation. Going into this season there isn’t too many question marks for the Pirates team in terms of position players and pitching staff. What is the real unknown is how these players will take to a full season in the major leagues and how they can segway into players such as Tabata, Alverez and Lincoln. Here is a little preview I have put together for the Pirates season and the third part will focus on the outfield and how will the youth develop and be the probable strong suit of the team.

The starting outfield is set for the Pirates for the beginning of the season and there really is no argument about who it is going to be. Lastings Milledge will man left field, Andrew McCutchen will patrol center field and Garrett Jones will handle the short porch in right field.

The Pirates got Milledge when they traded Cy Young and Willie Mays, I mean Sean Burnett and Nyger Morgan, to the Nationals last season. Milledge was labeled as a problem child during her terms with the Mets and the Nationals. That was the big knock. All Milledge has done for the Pirates is show that he has the potential to be a very good player. Last season Milledge hit .291 for the Pirates, and while he did not show the power numbers that some may like from a corner outfielder (4 bombs in 220 at bats) that is the least of my worries. I would rather have Milledge hit .300 and only hit 10-15 home runs than have him hit .250 and hit 25 home runs. Maybe I am in the minority but I would rather him get on base. Milledge will only be 25 this season and he still has a lot of room for improvement, which is good because he could be a part of this team for a while and be a very valuable asset.

Andrew McCutchen is the future of this team. You can talk about Pedro and Brad Lincoln all you want but McCutchen is the best baseball player to come through the Pirates system in like 15 years. This kid has all five tools and he could be a superstar. McCutchen was the 11th overall pick in the 2005 draft and came to the Pirates about half way through the season last year. After 49 games at AAA Cutch was called up after Nate McLouth was traded to the Braves. He did not disappoint. Cutch got 433 at bats and hit .286 with 12 homeruns, 54 RBI, 22 stolen bases and nine triples and he didn’t even play a full season. Cutch was batting out of the leadoff spot but he has flashes of power, see August 1, 2009. McCutchen is scary good at the plate and is no slouch in the field either. He has speed to burn and it translates into getting to a ton of balls in the gap and rarely letting balls hit the turf behind him. What do you expect from McCutchen this year? Hard to say. If we can get what we got from him last season then I would be more than happy with that. He was more than I expected last season and really wouldn’t be surprised if he took a little dip in some production this season. That is not saying that I don’t have faith in McCutchen but it is just that there will be growing pains and when you are learning to be a full time guy at the major league level you are going to have some struggles. It is normal. If I had money to burn I would buy his jersey. Just sayin.

Garrett Jones will man right field, to start, for the Pirates in the 2010 season. Last season Jones was a monster. In his rookie season at the age of 28 Jones just blew up. In only 314 at bats Jones hit 21 home runs and drove in 44 runs. Jones was in the Twins minor league system for 11 seasons, five at the AAA level before he was basically given to the Pirates and he made the most of his opportunities. Would it be realistic to think that Jones is going to swat 35 balls out of the park this season? Probably not, but a solid 20-25 home runs should silence the critics who say that he was just a one hit wonder. Jones doesn’t have the defense that you aspire out of a right fielder but that could change if Jones is moved to first base.

Off the bench the Pirates have Ryan Church who should be a nice addition to the outfield. The Pirates signed him as a free agent after splitting time between the Mets and the Braves. All told Church played in 111 games last season and hit .273 with four homeruns and 40 RBI. Church is a very serviceable outfielder that will be a great addition off the bench for the Pirates. As I stated above I can see the Pirates moving Garrett Jones to first base and that opens the door for Church to play some ball in right field. John Raynor was picked up as a rule five pick this season and will come off the bench also. Raynor has no MLB experience and hit only .257 last season for AAA New Orleans in the Marlins farm system.

Another option for the Pirates this season is going to be calling up Jose Tabata part way through the season. The Pirates got Tabata from the Yankees when they sent Marte and Nady to over there. Tabata is a highly touted prospect that fell out of favor in New York but he supported a .293 average last season between AA and AAA. I am very high on Tabata and he will play right field when he comes up to the Pirates this season.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

2010 Pittsburgh Pirates Preview: Infield

The Pirates season is approaching fast and furious and if you are like me then you are ready and pumped for this year of Pirates baseball. This is going to be a turnaround year for the Pirates, we hope, in the quest for becoming a contender in a low market situation. Going into this season there isn’t too many question marks for the Pirates team in terms of position players and pitching staff. What is the real unknown is how these players will take to a full season in the major leagues and how they can segway into players such as Tabata, Alverez and Lincoln. Here is a little preview I have put together for the Pirates season and the second part will focus on the infield and how they will look to be just as strong as they were last season for the Pirates in 2010.

This years infield is going to be drastically different than the unit that started last season. The Pirates lost second baseman Freddy Sanches, shortstop Jack Wilson and first baseman Adam LaRoche for a team that finished first in the majors in fielding. Tack on the fact that catcher Ryan Doumit only played in 75 games last season. The only mainstay that is going to be back in the Pirates infield is going to be Andy LaRoche. It should be an interesting transition for the Pirates this year as they brought in both youth and vets to fill in those gaps.

Lets first start with the catching position. As it was noted before Doumit is a huge liability when it comes to staying healthy, he has only played in more than 100 games one time in the last five years. When you are looking at a 162 game schedule only playing in maybe half of those isn’t good. In 2008 Doumit was excellent hitting .318 in 465 plate appearances with 15 home runs and 69 RBI. If Doumit can stay healthy for 110-120 games he is going to be a very productive player. He is a good hitter, but only brings average catching skills so if he is not hitting then he does not bring much to the table. Hopefully Doumit can stay healthy because he will be mostly hitting out of the four or five hole in the lineup and the Pirates are going to need him to drive home some runs after Cutch gets on base.

Jason Jaramillo will serve as Doumit’s backup again this season after having a pretty solid 2009 campaign. As a rookie in 2009 Jaramillo hit .252 with 26 RBI in 63 games played, but more importantly he brought defensive stability to the backstop position. Jaramillo is a career .271 hitter in the minor leagues so don’t expect him to break out and go on fire this season but he is a nice asset to have with his defense. He is a capable hitter that will get the job done and should fit in nicely in the back up role with Doumit.

I think it is fair to expect the Pirates catchers to fair pretty average. If Doumit can get in 110 games like he did in 2008 then I think Pirate fans might be happy with his production. My only concern is that Doumit probably will be out of his element in the four spot. He is probably a good six hitter but he is forced to play bigger in the lineup that he really should be. Who else are you going to put in the four spot? Clement? In the present lineup I guess it could be a lot worse. Jaramillo will be a very good backup and we have already seen that he can fill in for Doumit when he goes down so that is somewhat comforting to know going into the season.

The corner infield spots for the Pirates are really going to be make or break for the infield as a whole this season. Andy LaRoche currently holds down the third base position for the Pirates to start the season. Some would categorize LaRoche as a bust so far in his stint with the Pirates. I am really not ready get that deep into it, but this year is going to be the big one for LaRoche. Last season LaRoche played in 150 games for the Black and Gold and hit a pedestrian .258 with 12 bombs and 64 RBI. The upside in LaRoche was that he was a better than average player in the final months of the season last year and was actually one of the best defensive third baseman in the league last season. Most of baseball is focused on offense nowadays but LaRoche brings a lot of defense after a very sloppy start to the 08 season. When Pedro Alvarez arrives in July to the Pirates lineup that will spell the end for LaRoche at third base and he will most likely have to find a different position to occupy if he wants everyday at bats. That could very well be second base, but only time will tell. If LaRoche shows up and can hit around .285 or so then it would help the Pirates and let Pedro sit a little more in AAA to refine his skills and not be forced to bring him up because LaRoche isn’t up to snuff.

The first base spot is really a crap shoot. Right now Jeff Clement is pretty much guaranteed the start at first base for the start of the season. Not really sure why that was determined but when you look at the Pirates infield players then you really understand that the Pirates hands were tied. We really don’t want to see Steve Pearce there any more than the rest of you. Clement can be best described as an unwritten book (how lame is that). He only has 75 major league games of experience and .237 average, seven home runs and 26 RBI to show for those games. Not really what you would call guaranteed starter numbers. Clement is going to have to really step up because Garrett Jones has played some first base for the Pirates and with outfielder Jose Tabata ready to come up into the majors that is going to mean that there will be four starting outfielders for three spots. Jones to first base is very likely unless he can play well enough to stay on the roster.

The middle infield is basically going to be a three way juggling act between new comer Akinori Iwamura, Bobby Crosby and Ronny Cedeno. Iwamura will most likely have the second base job wrapped in the bag. Iwamura was brought over from Tampa Bay when the Pirates sent over Jesse Chavez to the Rays. Iwamura will be an immediate upgrade from last year on the defensive end and it will give the Pirates a top of the order guy that they really haven’t had in a long time. In his three years with Tampa Bay he averaged .281 and he should be a very nice addition to the Pirates.

The shortstop position will be between Cedeno and Crosby and for the start of the season will be primarily be held by Cedeno. After Jack Wilson left the Pirates last season Cedno was the primary option at shortstop and did a fairly decent job and showed some good power. In 46 games for the Pirates last season he went deep five times and knocked in 21 runs. Althought he will not put up Derek Jeter numbers he is 27 years old so he is not a wash out by any means and with absolutely nobody in the system that is going to be the long term answer at short stop there should be no pressure on him to produce anything spectacular.

Crosby was awarded the American League Rookie of the Year in 2004 with the Oakland Athletics and comes to the Pirates after seven major league season. Crosby was signed to give some competition to Cedeno at the shortstop position and he should get every opportunity to earn some playing time. If Crosby wears #87 then he is easily the fan favorite and probably wins a starting spot for his clutch goal scoring. Right?

Lurking in the weeds is Pedro Alverez. Alverez will be a Pittsburgh Pirate at some point this season. Most of this will depend on how he handles AAA, but he should be alright considering how well he preformed when he went from A to AA. He will most likely play third base, which will really shake up the infield. I have had the idea in my mind that if Andy LaRoche can perform then he can move to a middle infield spot (2B) for the long term if they choose not to keep Iwamura. That might not happen but I guess only time will tell.

Penguins Game Day 78 - vs. Atlanta Thrashers

Atlanta Thrashers

1:00 PM, Mellon Arena, Pittsburgh, PA

The lines from the Penguins website:





Pittsburgh took the last meeting January 5th when the Pens grabbed a 5-2 win on the back of Brent Johnson:

The Penguins won the first meeting 3-2 on November 21

The comparison:

Do it.

Friday, April 2, 2010

2010 Pittsburgh Pirates Preview: Pitching

The Pirates season is approaching fast and furious and if you are like me then you are ready and pumped for this year of Pirates baseball. This is going to be a turnaround year for the Pirates, we hope, in the quest for becoming a contender in a low market situation. Going into this season there isn’t too many question marks for the Pirates team in terms of position players and pitching staff. What is the real unknown is how these players will take to a full season in the major leagues and how they can segway into players such as Tabata, Alverez and Lincoln. Here is a little preview I have put together for the Pirates season and this starts with the pitchers, both starters and bullpen for the Pirates in the 2010 season.

The Pirates will undoubtedly be led by Zach Duke and Paul Maholm at the top of the rotation. This will be the Pirates 1-2 punch and will be looked upon to continue from a good 2009 campaign. Last season Duke recorded 11 wins, tied with Ross Ohlendorf for tops on the team. Duke also recorded a 4.06 ERA in 213 innings pitched. He was tops among starters with 2.16 SO/BB ratio, which is what he has to do. Zach Duke is not going to get you 500 strikeouts in a season or throw a 98 MPH fastball like Randy Johnson used to. He understands what his limitations are and he can work the corners and hit his spots, which makes him a good pitcher. Duke’s downfall is giving up home runs, 23 of them last year, but that is what you get if you miss when you only throw in the high 80’s. Whatever the deal Duke is probably a number three pitcher that is forced into a number one role so he needs to produce for this staff to be productive.

Paul Maholm is Duke’s partner at the top of the staff as another reliable lefty at the top of the rotation. Maholm finished a subpar 2009 season with a 4.44 ERA in a little over 194 innings pitched after a 2008 season where he blew up with a 3.71 ERA and anchoring the starting staff and accounted for nine wins after winning 10 in 2007. If Maholm can pitch like he is capable the Pirates can have a pretty solid base of the rotation. Like Duke he is not going to overpower anyone so he must by methodical and hit his spots and not worry about striking batters out. Maholm has averaged over five strikeouts per nine innings in the past five season so he can get the punch out, but working the zone and letting hitters put the ball in play is going to be his strength. I feel it should be a good season for both Duke and Maholm and if they can both secure double digit wins then they can push some confidence in the rest of the rotation to pick up the slack and get some wins.

The rest of the Pirates rotation should consist of Ross Ohlendorf, Charlie Morton, Kevin Hart and/or Daniel McCutchen. Ohlendorf is the best of the rest when looking at the rotation and should pick up from a very solid end to the 2009 season. Ross came to the Pirates from the Yankees in the Marte/Nady trade and racked up a sub-4.00 ERA last season while grabbing 11 wins, tops on the team with Zach Duke. Along with the strong numbers Ross put up as a starter last year he was also an intern with the U.S. department of agriculture so he is also one smart cookie. Being smart and intelligent could be the biggest asset that a pitcher can have, and Ohlendof has that.

The last two spots of the rotation will be taken up by Morton, Hart and McCutchen. Morton is thought to have the spot locked up and right now it looks as if McCutchen has the inside track on the fifth spot. The Pirates got Morton from the Braves for Ted Williams, I mean Nate McLouth, and only pitched in 18 games for the Pirates, starting all 18. He picked up five wins and supported a 4.55 ERA. Morton actually had a decent year, albeit short with the Pirates, and if he can cut his walk ratio of 3.7 per nine innings pitched he will be successful in the four spot for the Bucs. Kevin Hart has been downright shitty in the spring so Danny McCutchen should get the fifth spot. Last season McCutchen appeared in six games and gave up 17 runs in over 36 innings pitched. That was the first McCutchen has pitched in the big leagues so we can assume he will be better this season but there will be growing pains. He will struggle this year but this is the fifth spot in the rotation so you can’t expect 19 wins, although it would be nice wouldn’t it?

The rotation only got 30 wins last season so it wouldn’t be too much trouble to expect more wins than that out of the rotoation. I see bigger and better things and if Duke, Ohlendorf and Maholm can continue to build off their strong performances it will be a better season. Not a playoff season, but a step in the right directions.

The pen is a whole new territory for the Pirates. It was nothing less than terrible last season with blown save after blown lead during the season. There are the returners including Even Meek, Joel Hanrahan to join newcomers Brendan Donnelly, Jose Ascanio, Octavio Dotel, Chris Jakubauskas and Javier Lopez for a much stronger bullpen than last year, at least on paper.

Octovio Dotel will be the Pirates closer this season after being with the Chicago White Sox for the past two seasons. Dotel was a closer last in the 2007 season when he was with the Royals and was in more of a set up role with the Sox most recently. Dotel posted a 3.55 ERA and averaged 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings and only 65 batters in 167 innings pitched over the past two seasons. He will be back in the closers rold and it will be interesting to see what goes on from a closers roll. He will defiantly pick up more than 11 saves he had for the Royals in the 2007 season, pending health.

Joel Hanrahan will be the Pirates set up man even though he has been hurt much of spring training on the DL with an arm problem (go figure right). After coming over from Washington he supported a 1.72 ERA in 33 games pitched. He is by far one of the more exciting pitchers in the Pirates bullpen with a lot of potential. Imagine what a change of venue. In 34 innings with Washington last season Joel put up a 7.71 ERA and was much better in the Steel City.

The rest of the pen will be shouldered on newcomer Brendan Donnelly who has been as steady as it comes out of the pen. In his eight years in the big leagues he has posted under a 4 ERA in seven of those years with the exception coming in 2008 after a comeback from Tommy John surgery. He will be solid this season, it is in the numbers.

Meek, Ascanio and Lopez should also be big parts of the bullpen. Meek will mainly work some middle and long relief for the Pirates after a 3.45 ERA last season in 41 appearances. Meek can gas it up but can be all over the place. It will be interesting to see his development. Ascanio is a hard thrower that has pitched in 35 career games with a 4.99 ERA, while Lopez had a terrible 2009 season (9.26 ERA) so it will be interesting how much work he gets early for the Pirates.

The pitching staff should fair better than last year but you never know. I could give you all the stats in the world but that doesn’t mean anything. If the Pirates can throw strikes and not walk hitters then they can be successful. If they walk batters and throw balls down the middle of the plate then it is going to be a long year for a team that can’t rely on the three-run home run.

Uh Oh

They're baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack