Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Years and 2011 Thoughts

I was planning on doing some sort of 2011 review where we look back at the sports year and talk briefly about what happened with all the sports teams in the city but I got sidetracked (by a nap and Penguins game) and here a few minutes before I am walking out to ring in 2012 with some friends (and beverages) I figured I should at least put something up as I have been majorly slacking the last couple of weeks with posts with any substance to them. So here is a quick cap of some of the highligths, good and bad.

-It was a miserable year for the Penguins organization. It all started last year at the Winter Classic with Sidney Crosby and since that time he has only played in nine games (I count the Tampa game) and the Penguins were bounced out of the playoffs in the first round by the Lightning. The injury bug was unreal over the calender year and it isn't getting any better. The Penguins are at the top of the league in man games missed this year but through all of that Dan Byslma has got this team playing pretty good hockey and if they can ever get healthy for more than a few games this is going to be a scary good team. Hell, they are already good.

-You can't go the miserable route without talking about the two big colleges in the area which are Pitt and Penn State. I think we all know what is going on with Penn State as that will be in the news for a long time and we haven't even heard half of what has gone on. At Pitt the football program has another sub par year and the coach that just came in 10 months ago is now gone and Pitt is on its like fourth coaching hire in the last year. Really bad time for the Panthers.

-Talk about bad time for the Panthers do you wonder if Jamie Dixon and that team can ever get over the hump and be the true national contender that Pitt has thought they could be. This year they were bounced by a Butler team that went on to the Final Four in the worst way possible. A gut punch of a loss that still hurts to think about. In 2011 the Panthers have struggled and are coming off back-to-back losses to Wagner and Notre Dame coupled with the loss of its top recruit because he wasn't getting enough playing time. Jamie Dixon is one of the best coaches in the land so the last thing I am is worried about where the program is going. The regular season was amazing for the Panthers last year but they tailed off at the end and it wasn't a fitting end for what was a pretty damn good team.

-The NFL and NBA really threw things for a loop in 2011 with both lockouts. These were bitter lockouts that pushed into the preseason for football and for the regular season for basketball and it wasn't pretty. You knew they were going to come back but I think we all learned a little something about the business portion of the sports world. When people were saying that these athletes were being paid to play a game they love that is true, but this is also their career and they fought for what they thought they deserved.

-The Steelers were the Steelers in 2011. They started 2-2 and everyone was saying they might not make the playoffs but they went through the 2011 calender year 11-4 and can earn a first round bye. Ben Roethlisberger is having the best year of his career (arguably) and the young talent that is on this team is going to be fun to have around in the future. The city is spoiled with the success on this team and nothing short of a Super Bowl is considered a good season. While I sometimes get uptight about that kind of stuff I like that people expect a Super Bowl every year. It's a great thing to be a part of.

-In other Steelers news it has gone a tad under the radar but Hines Ward might not play another regular season game for the Steelers after the game tomorrow. Ward's play has totally fallen off the cliff this year but his career as a whole has been outstanding. He is in the Steelers record books all over the place and he is one of the best overall receivers in the game and is looking at a HOF career. Don't let the disappointing 2011 season overshadow what he has meant to this franchise.

-The story in Pittsburgh over 2011 could easily be Sidney Crosby but you can't discount what the Pittsburgh Pirates did. They were in first place after the All-Star break and baseball was back in Pittsburgh. Hell, just thinking about the Mike McKenry home run walk off is giving me chills right now. The Pirates didn't have a ton of talent on that team but they gave the city the first bit of winning they haven't seen in some time. Sure, they went into a major tailspin to end the year and that sucked, really bad, but you weren't expecting them to get into the playoffs or even contend for anything. It caught everyone by surprise and it was one of those times where the entire city was "living in the moment". I am a huge baseball fan and watch them regardless but that feeling you got when they were rolling and you were getting ready to watch them play, looking forward to the games, was something that a lot of the younger fans have never seen. The Pirates aren't going to contend in 2012 (if they do I would be surprised) but you can't discount what they did for this city for the few early months this year.

I just want to wish everyone a Happy New Year. If you are going out please be safe and if you drink please call AAA for a ride in the Pittsburgh area. I want to thank all of you who read the blog and follow me on twitter. You guys are what makes this so enjoyable and while I don't always agree with everyone that is what makes this so rewarding. We get to watch some incredible sports teams in this city and while 2011 wasn't a great one overall for our sports teams a lot of cities would say this was one of their best years. We are spoiled and it is awesome.

Be safe everyone and please feel free to put some of your best moments of 2011 in the comments section.

Penguins Game Day 38 - @ New Jersey Devils

New Jersey Devils

3:00 p.m., Prudential Center, Newark, New Jersey

One of the best YouTube's ever:

Zach Parise is still my favorite non-Penguins player.

You know Petr Sykora is going to score today.

Marty Brodeur is going to give up an unreal soft goal today and may melt down. It will be awesome.

The season series (Penguins lead 1-0):

October 22, 2011 - Pittsburgh 4, New Jersey 1

The Penguins probables:

Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Pascal Dupuis - Jordan Staal - Tyler Kennedy
Matt Cooke - Joe Vitale - Steve Sullivan
Arron Asham - Craig Adams - Steve MacIntyre

Brooks Orpik - Matt Niskanen
Simon Despres - Zbynek Michalek
Deryk Engelland - Ben Lovejoy

Marc Andre Fleury

The Devils probables:

Zach Parise - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrick Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Mattias Tedenby - Travis Zajac - David Clarkson
Eric Boulton - Tim Sestito - Cam Janssen

Henrik Tallinder - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Adam Larsson
Anton Volchenkov - Kurtis Foster

Martin Brodeur

The stats:

Friday, December 30, 2011

Steelers Game Day 16 - @ Cleveland Browns

It almost seems like yesterday that people were wondering if there was going to be a full NFL season. The owners were being dicks and the players were bitching on twitter that they weren’t getting their fair shake. It was bad times. Then they finally signed a new CBA that most people still are asking questions about and we were back on it. The season started and nobody knew what was going on and how it was going to happen. How were the Steelers going to get under the cap? How would the Steelers answer after losing in the Super Bowl? Are the Steelers too old? Why didn’t the Steelers draft a lineman?

All the Steelers did was answer with an 11-4 season going into the last game. Ho hum. A lot of good times and a lot of bad times this season with injuries in between. With all that being said the Steelers are in the hunt for a first round bye and a possible top seed in the AFC if a few chips fall for them on Sunday. While some people thought the season was over when they were 2-2 this is a football team that is going to the playoffs, again, no lower than the five seed with a possible 12 wins. Just an unreal ride.

Wouldn’t it be fitting if the Steelers and Ravens were playing for a chance to win the AFC North on the last day of the regular season? Hell yea that would be awesome. Too bad the Steelers and Ravens played both their games against each other before either team played the Bengals or Browns. Terrible job by the NFL scheduling committee or whoever does that.

Instead the Steelers will be playing the Browns and the Ravens will be playing the Bengals and the AFC North will be decided after both of those games. But enough about that. Just a few weeks ago the Steelers were able to squeak out a win over the Browns when Ben Roethlisberger got hurt and many thought he would be done for the season.

This shouldn’t be very interesting game as the Browns are a pretty bad football team with little to play for a week after almost beating the Ravens. I can’t imagine their spirits are very high but they are competitors and beating the Steelers would be one of the highlights of a dismal season. The Steelers need to come in, take care of business and then see where it goes from there.

Let’s get to the statistics:

Last Week:

Pittsburgh 27, St. Louis 0
Passing: Batch - 15/22, 208 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Mendenhall - 18 carries, 116 yards, 1 TD
Receiving: Wallace - 4 rec, 82 yards, 0 TD

Baltimore 20, Cleveland 14
Passing: Wallace - 19/33, 147 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Hillis - 24 carries, 112 yards, 0 TD
Receiving: Little - 4 rec, 40 yards, 0 TD

All-Time Record vs. Cleveland: 63-56 (2-0 Playoffs)

Dec. 8, 2011 - Pittsburgh 14, Cleveland 3
Jan. 2, 2011 - Pittsburgh 41, Cleveland 9
Oct. 17, 2010 - Pittsburgh 28, Cleveland 10
Dec. 10, 2009 - Cleveland 13, Pittsburgh 6
Oct. 18, 2009 - Pittsburgh 27, Cleveland 14

Offense (rank in NFL)

Total Offense
Pittsburgh: 373.1 yards/game (11th)
Cleveland: 292.1 yards/game (29th)

Pittsburgh: 257.0 yards/game (9th)
Cleveland: 194.8 yards/game (23rd)

Pittsburgh: 116.1 yards/game (16th)
Cleveland: 97.3 yards/game (28th)

Pittsburgh: 20.8 points/game (20th)
Cleveland: 13.9 points/game (30th)


Total Defense
Pittsburgh: 273.9 yards/game (1st)
Cleveland: 330.5 yards/game (10th)

Pittsburgh: 172.2 yards/game (1st)
Cleveland: 184.0 yards/game (t-2nd)

Pittsburgh: 101.7 yards/game (9th)
Cleveland: 146.5 yards/game (30th)

Pittsburgh: 14.5 points/game (2nd)
Cleveland: 19.6 points/game (6th)

Hit the jump for a closer look at the Cleveland Browns

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Penguins Game Day 37 - vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Philadelphia Flyers

7:00 p.m., CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

For a lot of people this has been a game that has been circled on the calender (both figuratively and literally) since the schedule came out before the season. If you are looking for tickets then you better be willing to vastly overpay to see one of the best Penguins of all time, Jaromir Jagr, and a key piece to the Penguins 2009 Stanley Cup run, Max Talbot, return to Pittsburgh for the first time since joining the Philadelphia Flyers over the off season.

If you follow me on twitter (which, why wouldn't you?) you probably know how I feel about these two guys returning to Pittsburgh tonight. While I expect there to be a massive amount of booing (for at least Jagr) that is something I wouldn't be doing. Talbot was a staple of this Penguins team for some time and if it wasn't his gritty play on the ice it was the funny (albeit sometimes sick) stories of him partying on the Southside. He got offered a boatload of money by the Flyers and he took it. He was overpaid for a job that he wasn't very good at for the most part but I can't get mad at a guy who took the money, even if it was to play for Philadelphia. It was a business decision and I can respect that as I would not expect him to be mad at me for moving to a rival company if they doubled my pay. As I said before the rivalry thing is brought into the Talbot situation and he was viewed as a traitor. I have said it a few times but rivalries are much more important to the fans than they are to players. If it was that important to the players then Talbot wouldn't have signed there just like Asham wouldn't have signed with the Penguins.

When talking about Jagr it is really murky. He didn't leave Pittsburgh on the best terms when he went to Washington and was hated when he came back to the Mellon Arena as a Ranger he was booed every time he touched the puck. After he played in Europe for a few years Penguins fans really got back on his bandwagon to get him back to the Burgh and Jagr made it seem like he wanted to be back. You all know how things went this off season and that brought back a ton of hate.

First let me tell you that I don't have a problem with people booing. You bought the ticket and you can do what you want but I will not agree with it. Jagr is probably the second best player to put on a Penguins sweater. Ever. He has done so much for this city that it is hard to put into words. Would it had been nice to have JJ back this year? Hell yea, but again he was a free agent and thought he had a better chance in Philadelphia. Also during the whole time where there was #jagrwatch and the media largely blew it out of proportion like Jagr was definitely coming to Pittsburgh and when he didn't the anger was already in place. Not for me though. I don't think anything could happen where I would boo Jagr, but that is just me. When people think of Jagr they think of him as a Penguins player. I still think of the times I got to see him growing up and watching the highlights of the stuff I was too young to remember.

All in all I would rather the booing be for the Flyers and not just for Max and Jags. This game is much more than those two, this is against the Flyers and they are ahead of the Penguins in the standings and a win is more important than anything else. Eff the Flyers. Lets Go Pens.

The Flyers can be a scary good team even without Chris Pronger. They score a ton of goals and while their top goaltender, Ilya Bryzgalov, hasn't been playing well they will start Sergei Bobrovsky who plays very well in Pittsburgh and overall holds a 2.17 GAA and a .926 save percentage in five games.

Claude Giroux is an absolute monster for the Flyers and is one of the best players in the game right now. He is paired on a line with Jagr who has been very good all year. It is going to take a great game from the defense and Marc Andre Fleury.

The Penguins have been playing well winning the last four games while the Flyers are 7-3-0 in the last 10 games. Evgeni Malkin is hot as he has 18 points (6+12) in his last eight games where he has registered a point in each of those games. James Neil also has an eight game streak where he has 11 points (7+4) and has scored in his last four.

The season series (Philadelphia leads 1-0):

December 8, 2011 - Philadelphia 3, Pittsburgh 1

No idea why a single highlight of the game isn't on YouTube.

The Penguins probables:

Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Pascal Dupuis - Jordan Staal - Tyler Kennedy
Matt Cooke - Joe Vitale - Steve Sullivan
Arron Asham - Craig Adams - Jason Williams

Brooks Orpik - Matt Niskanen
Simon Despres - Zbynek Michalek
Alexandre Picard - Ben Lovejoy

Marc Andre Fleury

The Flyers probables:

Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Matt Read - Daniel Briere - Wayne Simmond
James van Riemsdyk - Maxime Talb - Jakub Voracek
Brayden Schenn - Sean Couturier - Harry Zolnierczyk

Kimmo Timonen - Braydon Coburn
Matt Carle - Marc-Andre Bourdon
Andreas Lilja - Andrew Meszaros

Sergei Bobrovsky

The stats:

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

@Benstonium Steelers Renegade Video

Benson from came out with a really nice video (as always) of the Styx's classic Renegade that is used in the second half at Heinz Field to pump up the crowd. If you have no idea what Renegade is all about then you need to read the primer I did back in August of 2010 about it.

Anyways after you read that you can then check out the clip that Benson did. It is truly one of the best Renegades video on the internet and you won't be disappointed that you watched it. It is exclusive to the Facebook page so just click this link and like the page (which you should have done already) and then watch the video. Good stuff as always.

Here We Go Steelers.

Five Steelers Named To Pro Bowl

The Steelers were honored last night with five selections to the 2012 AFC Pro Bowl squad which is going to be back in Hawaii after not having the game there last season. The Pro Bowl is going to be played January 29th although I would doubt that a ton of people are going to be watching, especially if the Steelers make the Super Bowl and none of the players will be joining.

The five Steelers representatives are Troy Polamalu, Ben Roethlisberger, Maurkice Pouncey, Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown. It is interesting to note that Antonio Brown was voted to the team as a kick returner while Pouncey, Polamalu and Wallace will be starters in the game. James Harrison, Ryan Clark and LaMarr Woodley are alternates for the game and if the Steelers don’t make the Super Bowl I would expect that all three of them would be in the game with drop outs and injuries.

Here is the release from the Steelers with the complete breakdown of each of the players that will be in the Pro Bowl.

None of this was too much of a surprise for me except for maybe Antonio Brown. While he was very deserving to get into the Pro Bowl I just didn’t think he had enough to get in as a wide receiver as Wes Welker, A.J. Green and Brandon Marshall deserved to be in the game ahead of Brown. Brown finished third in the league with a 27.7 kick return average and was ninth in punt returns with a 10.8 average but I think that his receiving stats helped him get into the game.

If there was a snub for the Steelers it would be on the defensive side of the ball. The Steelers, while they are not nearly as dominant but still a very good defense, only has one representative while teams like the Patriots have two defensive reps. Give me a break. I think Ryan Clark probably deserved to be in the game as he has had a great year but if there is one player that should be in the game it’s Ike Taylor. Someone broke the stat out on twitter last night, and I forget who it was so please forgive me, but Taylor is getting thrown at a little over two times a game and only gives up about 30 yards to the receiver he is covering. Taylor covers the top receiver each game and shadows them. He doesn’t get the love he deserves because he doesn’t intercept passes but his job is to keep the best receivers on the other team from catching passes and that is exactly what he does.

Overall a nice pull for the Steelers. Hopefully they don’t play.

Here is the full AFC and NFC Pro Bowl rosters.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Steelers Game Day 36 - vs. Carolina Hurricanes

Carolina Hurricanes

7:00 p.m., CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Cam Ward scored a goal last night. True story.

The Penguins haven't played in like 18 weeks. The Pens are riding a three game winning streak.

The season series (Tied 1-1):

November 12 - Carolina 5, Pittsburgh 3

December 3 - Pittsburgh 3, Carolina 2

The Penguins probables:

Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Pascal Dupuis - Jordan Staal - Tyler Kennedy
Matt Cooke - Joe Vitale - Steve Sullivan
Arron Asham - Craig Adams - Jason Williams

Brooks Orpik - Matt Niskanen
Simon Despres - Zbynek Michalek
Alexandre Picard - Ben Lovejoy

Marc Andre Fleury

The Hurricanes probables:

Drayson Bowman - Eric Staal - Chad LaRose
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Jussi Jokinen - Tuomo Ruutu
Jiri Tlusty - Brandon Sutter - Patrick Dwyer-*
Andreas Nodl - Tim Brent - Anthony Stewart

Tim Gleason - Jamie McBain
Jay Harrison - Justin Faulk
Jaroslav Spacek - Bryan Allen

Justin Peters

The stats:

Monday, December 26, 2011

Steelers Game 15 Recap - Steelers 27, Rams 0

As I talked about in the preview this game really shouldn’t have been close and even without numerous Pro Bowl players the Rams just weren’t very good and that is exactly what it was in a pretty easy 27-0 win over the Rams on Christmas Eve at Heinz Field. I was fortunate enough to be at the game and if I saw the same thing you did on TV then it was pretty easy to see that the Rams are in bad shape and probably will not win next week when they play the 49ers.

Since it is the holiday weekend here are a few quick points from the game:

-Charlie Batch was called on to start for Ben Roethlisberger and did a pretty nice job overall. I know Ben said that he was going to play and wanted to play but it was more than the right call to sit him for this game and they should sit him again next week. Batch is the “game manager” of the backup quarterbacks and did just that. He was an efficient 15-of-22 for 208 yards but was not able to throw a touchdown pass. He did throw a pick but I am not really sure how much you can blame that on Batch as Antonio Brown slipped and fell down leaving the defensive back as the only person in the area to catch the ball. Other than that Batch was elusive and broke out of a few would be sacks and even hit Mike Wallace for 46 yards that was ruled down at the one yard line.

-While Batch was pretty efficient he wasn’t as good converting third down opportunities as you would like him to be. The Steelers were only 1-of-7 on third down and that is not going to win you very many football games. It didn’t hurt the Steelers in the end and was sort of masked by a great running game and great red zone play (3-of-4) so I guess we can look past it.

-Speaking of the running the game the Steelers got it done again on the ground. They only ran the ball 28 times but went for 169 yards good for a 6.0 yard per carry average. Over the last four games the Steelers have gone for 130 yards or more. Not too shabby for a team that couldn’t run the football. Rashard Mendenhall continues to run the ball well. It seems like I say this every preview and ever recap that he has been running the ball hard the past month, but it has been the truth. He ran the ball 18 times for 116 yards and scored a touchdown which included a 52 yard scamper to set up a touchdown while also catching a 35 yard pass to set up a field goal. He looks confident and poised so I would keep feeding him the ball next week. Ike Redman was pretty good also with 35 yards on eight carries and John Clay got his first professional carry that resulted in a 10 yard touchdown.

-The defense pitched the shutout but it really wasn’t anything too impressive. They did not force a turnover and for the first time in a few games they were able to be run on. While the Rams couldn’t throw the football to save their lives they were able to get the ground game going thanks to Steven Jackson. Jackson ran the ball 24 times for 103 yards while the Rams ran for 164 yards total on the day. Only Ray Rice and Arian Foster have ran for over 100 yards against the Steelers this year and those were both in wins so I guess the idea that the Steelers got a shutout win makes this a little easier to swallow.

-Like I said before the defense didn’t force any turnovers and this was only a shutout because Josh Brown missed two field goals. The Black and Gold did get to Kellen Clemens three times but it would be really great to the Steelers to get a couple of picks or force a few fumbles. As we get ready for the playoffs the Steelers are going to see some good football teams and if they want to get past the Ravens or Patriots the defense is going to need to get on that next level. We have seen them play takeaway before this season so we know they can do that but a strong defensive finish would be huge against the Browns.

-Overall Kellen Clemens was as bad as we thought he was going to be. I think it was a little bit of the Steelers and a little bit of Clemens but it was bad. He only completed nine passes for 91 yards on 24 attempts. If you are pulling out the calculator that is a 3.8 yard per attempt average. That is terrible. Clemens gave the Rams really no chance and if the Steven Jackson wasn’t as good as he was then this could have been much worse. The secondary played a pretty nice game and that is in stark contrast to the way they were looked at last year and even at the beginning of this year.

-The Steelers have the Browns in the final week of the season. It was originally scheduled for a 1:00 p.m. start but has been flexed to a 4:15 p.m. start. Please change your plans accordingly. Right now the worst the Steelers can finish is in the fifth spot of the playoff race. If the Ravens lose to the Bengals and the Steelers win then they can earn a first round bye by being the number two seed. There is a scenario where the Steelers can be the top seed in the AFC but they would need a Ravens loss and a New England loss (against Buffalo) coupled with a Steelers win. Not saying that these scenarios can’t happen but those are the three spots the Steelers will be able to occupy as the playoffs.

The Steelers are now 11-4 and have had a pretty nice season. The Browns aren’t a great team so we should be looking at a 12-4 team when some people thought this wasn’t even a playoff team coming out of the lockout. Should be a wild finish for playoff seeding and hopefully the Steelers can get some help to win the AFC North and get the Wild Card weekend off.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Holidays From TRBB

Just wanted to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and happy holidays. I hope everyone has a great time with their families and loved ones. Thank you all for the continued support and visiting the site. Also I know I say this a lot but thank you to all the troops who make holidays like this so safe and possible for the country.

Now go watch A Christmas Story and Christmas Vacation all day and eat as much ham as possible.

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas

Friday, December 23, 2011

Penguins Game Day 35 - @ Winnipeg Jets

Winnipeg Jets

8:30 p.m., MTS Centre, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Seriously no idea who's playing tonight. Evidently Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek might be back in the line up but nobody really knows.

Canada sucks.

The season series (Winnipeg leads 1-0):

October 17, 2011 - Winnipeg 2, Pittsburgh 1

The Penguins probables (seriously, no idea):

Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Matt Cooke - Jordan Staal - Tyaler Kennedy
Steve Sullivan - Joe Vitales - Pascal Dupuis
Jason Williams - Craig Adams - Arron Asham

Matt Niskanen - Brooks Orpik
Simon Despres - Alexandre Picard
Ben Lovejoy - Brian Strait

Marc Andre Fleury

The Jets probables:

Evander Kane - Alexander Burmistrov - Blake Wheeler
Andrew Ladd - Nik Antropov - Kyle Wellwood
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Antti Miettinen
Tim Stapleton - Chris Thorburn - Eric Fehr

Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien
Mark Stuart - Zach Bogosian
Johnny Oduya - Ron Hainsey

Ondrej Pavelec

The stats:

Steelers Game Day 15 - vs. St Louis Rams

After a tough loss the Steelers are back in action quickly as they take on the Rams at Heinz Field. Nothing like some football to kick off the Christmas holiday and from the looks of things this should be a game that the Steelers can win on their home field.

The Rams come in with two wins on the season with one of them coming over the high powered New Orleans Saints earlier in the season. While they did beat the Saints they have struggled pretty badly over the recent past, losing to the Bengals last week.

St. Louis doesn’t have much of an offense and its defense is pretty average so there isn’t too much to be scared at but in this league any team can truly win against any other. One more loss for the Steelers will put them out of the running for a first round bye so they need to take care of business.

Let’s look at the stats.

Last Week:

San Francisco 20, Pittsburgh 3
Passing: Roethlisberger - 25/44, 330 yards, 0 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Mendenhall - 15 carries, 64 yards, 0 TD
Receiving: Cotchery - 5 rec, 93 yards, 0 TD

Cincinnati 20, St. Louis 13
Passing: Clemens - 25/36, 229 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
Rushing: Jackson - 18 carries, 71 yards, 0 TD
Receiving: Jackson - 9 rec, 72 yards, 0 TD

All-Time Record vs. St. Louis: 7-15-2 (1-0 Playoffs) (2-1 while they were in St. Louis, 0-2-1 as the Cleveland Rams and 5-12-1 as the LA Rams)

Last Five Meetings

Dec. 20, 2007 - Pittsburgh 41, St. Louis 24
Oct. 26, 2003 - St. Louis 33, Pittsburgh 21
Nov. 3, 1996 - Pittsburgh 42, St. Louis 6
Sept. 12, 1993 - LA Rams 27, Pittsburgh 0
Oct. 29, 1990 - Pittsburgh 41, LA Rams 10
Team Stats

Offense (rank in NFL)

Total Offense
Pittsburgh: 372.9 yards/game (12th)
St. Louis: 285.3 yards/game (30th)

Pittsburgh: 260.5 yards/game (8th)
St. Louis: 185.9 yards/game (27th)

Pittsburgh: 112.4 yards/game (17th)
St. Louis: 99.4 yards/game (26th)

Pittsburgh: 20.4 points/game (22nd)
St. Louis: 11.9 points/game (32nd)


Total Defense
Pittsburgh: 276.9 yards/game (1st)
St. Louis: 359.7 yards/game (21st)

Pittsburgh: 179.6 yards/game (1st)
St. Louis: 206.3 yards/game (8th)

Pittsburgh: 97.2 yards/game (6th)
St. Louis: 153.4 yards/game (32nd)

Pittsburgh: 15.6 points/game (2nd)
St. Louis: 24.7 points/game (25th)

Hit the jump for a closer look at the St. Louis Rams

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Game 34 Recap - Penguins 3, Blackhawks 2

The Penguins welcomed a really good Chicago Blackhawks team to the CONSOL Energy Center and came out with mostly great performance earning two points in regulation against a team that led the NHL with 46 points and are loaded with talent. The win broke the Hawks five game winning streak as they came in 8-1-1 in their last 10 before this game.

The first two periods were all Penguins all the time. They built up a 3-0 lead with goals from Chris Kunitz (power play), James Neal and Tyler Kennedy. All three goals were set up by Evgeni Malkin and they looked like they were going to cruise to victory. Too bad nobody told the Blackhawks they were supposed to lay back. The Blackhawks took it to another level in the third period and dominated that period, scoring two goals and ringing two pipes. They were brining it and had a two man advantage after pulling the goalie and getting a power play on a Neal trip but Marc Andre Fleury decided he wanted to be a big deal again and shut the door.

MAF was pretty outstanding tonight. He made 36 saves on the night but saved his best for the third period when the Hawks came out buzzing when they were leading out an extra forward on the breaks and beating the Penguins into the zone and getting great chances. They put two past him but he was a brick wall the last half of the third period. MAF hasn’t been overly great recently but he really snapped back to form.

Chris Kunitz continues to be outstanding. He scored a huge power play goal to open up the scoring and just continues to play great hockey. Much the same can be said for Pascal Dupuis and Matt Cooke but these are the kind of guys who are pushing the Penguins to wins and when teams are putting all their energy to stop Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal and James Neal these are the guys who are coming through with big plays to get the team points.

Speaking of Malkin how good has this guy been? After tonight he is now the leader in the league in points and is averaging 1.44 points per game. Malkin has had multiple point games in 9 of his last 14 and collected 25 points in those games. While he didn’t have a goal tonight he set up all three and made an unreal pass on the Kunitz goal. Those that were saying that Malkin just isn’t the same player is just dead wrong right now.

Deryk Engelland might be the next Penguins defenseman to miss some time but not because of injury. He gave a hit to a Blackhawks player and his forearm/elbow made contact with the head and you could argue that he left his feet. I would imagine he will be suspended a game or two.

I do not get into the hits stat too much because in a regular season game it really doesn’t mean much but the Penguins outhit the Hawks 30-11. Pretty physical for the game. The Penguins also won 37-of-60 faceoffs including one with 2.5 seconds left in the third period in the defensive zone. It was a huge advantage tonight.

Game again on Friday against the Jets.

Penguins Game Day 34 - vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago Blackhawks

7:00 p.m., CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Maybe the best Lange call ever:


The last time they met:

February 20, 2011 - Chicago 3, Pittsburgh 2

The Penguins probables (according to Seth over at Empty Netters):

Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Matt Cooke - Jordan Staal - Tyler Kennedy
Steve Sullivan - Joe Vitale - Pascal Dupuis
Eric Tangradi - Craig Adams - Arron Asham

Brooks Orpik - Matt Niskanen
Simon Despres - Deryk Engelland
Alexandre Picard - Ben Lovejoy

Marc Andre Fleury

The Blackhawks probables:

Jeremy Morin - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Kane
Patrick Sharp - Marcus Kruger - Marian Hossa
Michal Frolik - Dave Bolland - Bryan Bickell
Andrew Brunette - Jamal Mayers - Viktor Stalberg

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Niklas Hjalmarsson
John Scott - Steve Montador

Ray Emery

The stats:

Steelers Game 14 - 49ers 20, Steelers 3

Losing 20-3 on Monday Night Football on a week where if you win you basically clinch the top seed for the entirety of the AFC playoffs is not fun. The Steelers were manhandled at Candlestick Park last night and while Candlestick had its own problems the Steelers were worse. Now, I might sound a little down but this wasn’t a case of the Steelers just not showing up, this was an outstanding performance by the 49ers and they are no scrubs, they are now 11-3 and holding one of the top spots in the NFC. This recap will be brief. Short week and there really isn’t much to say.

-A lot of people are going to be playing doctor today as Ben Roethlisberger had noticeable pain in his left ankle and that pain probably did not help in the three interceptions that he threw. ESPN Next Level also brought out a stat after the game that showed that Ben was only 4-of-14 throwing the ball down the field 15 yards or more and he threw all three of his interceptions in that zone. What was pretty key in that is the transfer of weight in his throw and not following the whole way through. He was 21-of-30 in throws under 15 yards so he was affective but it just wasn’t enough. I thought that if Ben was able to go he should play last night. Obviously in hindsight that was a bad decision but I am still sticking with my gut that he should have been in there. Maybe he shouldn’t have been in there down 17 late in the game when it was over, but that is another story. Right now, and before the game last night, I thought they should sit down Ben the next two weeks and get that ankle as healthy as possible before the playoffs. He wasn’t great overall last night but he did make some really tough throws and battled the entire game. You can blame him, but I’m not going to.

-The Steelers offense as a whole really wasn’t terrible last night. They converted 8-of-14 third downs and gained almost 400 yards of total offense and rushed for 4.4 yards per carry. All of that is pretty solid against one of the best defenses in the league. The problem was twofold for the Steelers: 1) turnovers and 2) field position. The Steelers moved the ball pretty well in the early going but the two interceptions by Roethlisberger were just brutal for the Steelers flow of the game and they led to six points for the 49ers. The field position game was terribly lost by the Steelers and this was because of 49ers punter Andy Lee. He is one of the best in the game and averaged almost 48 yards per punt and pinned the Steelers inside the 20 four times last night. It is hard to go 90 yards and score in the NFL and the Steelers had to do it all night.

-The offensive line was pretty decent at the beginning of the night but really fell apart late. San Francisco’s stud outside linebacker Aldon Smith brutalized Max Starks and put Ben in the turf. He also had seven, SEVEN, quarterback hits. Unreal.

-Stopping the run is what the 49ers are good at but the Steelers actually did a pretty nice job running the football. As a team they ran for 84 yards but that was only on 19 carries. It seems a little curious that they only ran the ball 19 times despite the success but they are the coaches and they know way better than I. Rashard Mendenhall continues to play really good football as he ran 15 times for 64 yards. I don’t know what happened five weeks ago but those last five games he has really ran with passion and ran hard. A lot of people think he dances too much and doesn’t like contact but last night he was putting his shoulder down and trying to get that extra yard. I like what I saw from him and the running game as a whole.

-One thing that I am kind of used to is when the game is over Steelers fans always talking about what the Steelers did and not what the other team did well. Sometimes it is the Steelers fault that they lose games more than it is the other team but that was not the case last night. The 49ers defense is tops in the league in sacks, turnover margin and scoring defense and they were on top of their game even without stud linebacker Patrick Willis. While Roethlisberger threw the three picks and fumbled once it was more of a product of the 49ers defense forcing the turnovers. San Francisco has an outstanding special teams unit and they pinned the Steelers deep and made them drive on that great defense to score. They are going to win that battle more often than not. The Steelers played some sloppy football which included, but was not limited to, nine penalties for 72 yards, but last night was more the 49ers winning than the Steelers losing.

-On the flip side the Steelers defense was good, but not great, last night. They held the 49ers to only 287 yards and 4-of-13 on third downs but they didn’t register a single sack and only one quarterback hit. Alex Smith didn’t make a ton happen but he dinked and dunked the hell out of the Steelers defense. The Steelers will let you do that and wait for you to make a mistake but Smith didn’t make that mistake which led to the final result. You got to have pass rush and not having James Harrison and having LaMarr Woodley still not playing full games because of the hamstring was an uphill battle.

-This loss is not the end of the season. The Steelers are now 10-4, the same with the Baltimore Ravens. The Steelers play the Rams and Browns while the Ravens play the Browns and Bengals. Baltimore is a pretty bad road team and has to travel to Cincinnati the final game of the season. The division title is not out of question. I know some people last night told me that the Ravens wouldn’t lose to the Bengals but I assume those are the same people that said the Ravens wouldn’t lose to Tennessee, Seattle or Jacksonville. A lot of time left in the season. The Steelers are playing two pretty bad teams to finish it out and will probably finish 12-4. At the beginning of the year I told you 12-4 would be how the Steelers went would you give a shit if they lost to the 49ers on the road? No. They are in the playoffs and at worst will have to travel to Denver to play the Broncos. It could be a lot worse.

-I will say right now that I don’t think Ben or LaMarr should play the rest of the regular season. The Steelers will probably play in the wildcard weekend so get them two good weeks of rest and try to be as healthy as possible for when the games really matter. They should be able to beat both of those teams.

-It wasn’t pretty last night but losses happen. Is it frustrating that they lost the way they did? Hell yea. Is the season over or is this team not one of the best ones in the AFC? No. The Texans are playing with its third string quarterback, the Patriots have one of the worst defenses I have ever seen and you saw who the Ravens lost to this year. Why wouldn’t the Steelers be right there? They lost to the Ravens twice (supposedly one of the best teams in the AFC), the 49ers (currently the number two seed in the NFC) and the Texans at full strength (again, top team, right). Pardon me if I still think the Steelers are right there in the AFC.

Short week. Go take a nap and get ready for the Rams.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Steelers Clinch Playoff Spot

While the Steelers didn’t play yet this week they were able to clinch a playoff berth with some losses by AFC teams around the league. At 10-3 the Steelers are the second team in the AFC to clinch a spot in the post season as Houston won the AFC South last week.

The Steelers had a few different scenarios to capture a playoff berth but they got in with a loss by Tennessee. The Titans were taken down by the Colts for Indianapolis’ first win of the season.

The Steelers are still in a situation where they can win the AFC North but they will need to win out the rest of their games and have the Ravens lose one more contest. The Steelers play at San Francisco, vs. St. Louis and at Cleveland to end the year while the Ravens are at San Diego, vs. Cleveland and at Cincinnati to finish the year. It is going to be up in the air but it should be a wild finish.

With one more win, or a Jets loss, the Steelers will at least be the number five seed with one the loss by Tennessee. This is a pretty big thing as it might set up the Steelers a little better in the divisional round if they are the five seed rather than the six seed as well as letting them play whoever wins the AFC West which it seems as if nobody wants to do.

Baltimore and New England can also clinch playoff spots with wins today or a combination of losses from other teams but as of now it is only the Steelers and Texans in the playoffs as of right now. It’s a great place to be.

This is the 27th playoff appearance for the Steelers and the eighth time since 2001 that they will be in the playoffs.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Penguins Game Day 33 - vs. Buffalo Sabres

Buffalo Sabres

7:00 p.m., CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Honestly, it's getting bad and hard to watch. The Penguins called up Carl Sneep and Jason Williams from the AHL. Sneep has never played in the NHL. Unreal. I didn't get to watch the game but I guess Paul Martin was banged up. This is getting out of hand.

Who knows if there will be a recap. You guess is as good as mine.

Season Series (Buffalo Leads 1-0):

October 15, 2011 - Buffalo 3, Pittsburgh 2

The Penguins probables:

Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Matt Cooke - Pascal Dupuis - Tyler Kennedy
Steve Sullivan - Joe Vitale - Arron Asham
Steve MacIntyre - Craig Adams - Eric Tangradi

Paul Martin - Deryk Engelland
Matt Niskanen - Brooks Orpik
Simon Despres - Alexandre Picard

Marc Andre Fleury

The Sabres probables:

ForwardsThomas Vanek - Paul Szczechura - Jason Pominville
Tyler Ennis - Derek Roy - Drew Stafford
Luke Adam - Paul Gaustad - Zack Kassian
Cody McCormick - Matt Ellis - Marc-Andre Gragnani-*

Robyn Regehr - Andrej Sekera
Christian Ehrhoff - Jordan Leopold
Brayden McNabb - Mike Weber

Jhonas Enroth

The stats:

Steelers Game Day 14 - @ San Francisco 49ers

Monday Night Football. James Farrier was on Rome is Burning on Thursday afternoon and was asked if after all this time in the NFL if he still gets fired up playing in prime time and he went on for a few minutes talking about how he, and the team, still gets unreal pumped for prime time games. The whole nation is watching you and you are the only game on TV. The Steelers haven’t played since last Thursday and I am sure they are chomping at the bit to get back on the field.

Coming into the season if I told you that the 10-3 Steelers would be going to San Francisco to play the 10-3 49ers what would you have said? You probably would have bet me a ton of money that the 49ers weren’t going to be this good and that this game might have just been the first step of a Steelers trip to the top of the AFC and clinching up the AFC North. Fact is that the Steelers are going to need some help to win the AFC North and they will have to win out while the 49ers are fighting for home field advantage after already winning the NFC West. There are usually a few teams each year which come out and surprise you and this year it is the 49ers.

It should be a fun game to watch because not too often over the past couple of years can we play an NFC team this late in the season that was actually good and already in the playoffs. I would imagine that the 49ers are going to be geeked up for this game after the loss to the Cardinals and the 49ers are calling for a Red Out for the game tomorrow. You know there are going to be some terrible towels flying around and hopefully they can be heard on the TV.

Let’s get to the stats.

Last Week:

Pittsburgh 14, Cleveland 3
Passing: Roethlisberger - 16/21, 280 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Mendenhall - 18 carries, 76 yards, 0 TD
Receiving: Brown - 5 rec, 151 yards, 1 TD

Arizona 21, San Francisco 19
Passing: Smith - 18/37, 175 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
Rushing: Gore - 10 carries, 72 yards, 1 TD
Receiving: Crabtree - 7 rec, 63 yards, 0 TD

All-Time Record vs. San Francisco: 9-10 (0-0 Playoffs)

Last Five Meetings

Sept. 23, 2007 - Pittsburgh 37, San Francisco 16
Nov. 17, 2003 - San Francisco 30, Pittsburgh 14
Nov. 7, 1999 - Pittsburgh 27, San Francisco 6
Dec. 15, 1996 - San Francisco 25, Pittsburgh 15
Sept. 5, 1993 - San Francisco 24. Pittsburgh 13

Team Stats

Offense (rank in NFL)

Total Offense
Pittsburgh: 371.6 yards/game (11th)
San Francisco: 309.0 yards/game (26th)

Pittsburgh: 257.1 yards/game (9th)
San Francisco: 182.1 yards/game (29th)

Pittsburgh: 114.5 yards/game (17th)
San Francisco: 126.9 yards/game (7th)

Pittsburgh: 21.7 points/game (19th)
San Francisco: 23.6 points/game (12th)


Total Defense
Pittsburgh: 276.1 yards/game (2nd)
San Francisco: 305.1 yards/game (5th)

Pittsburgh: 179.1 yards/game (1st)
San Francisco: 234.5 yards/game (18th)

Pittsburgh: 97.0 yards/game (6th)
San Francisco: 70.5 yards/game (1st)

Pittsburgh: 15.2 points/game (2nd)
San Francisco: 14.0 points/game (1st)

Hit the jump for a closer look at the San Francisco 49ers

Friday, December 16, 2011

Penguins Game Day 32 - @ Ottawa Senators

Ottawa Senators

7:30 p.m., Scotiabank Place, Ottawa, Ontario

Honestly no idea on who is going to play for the Penguins. Everyone is hurt. No Gonchar for the Sens tonight along with no Milan Michalek (tied for league lead in goals scored) the Sens will also be short handed. Eric Tangradi will probably get into the lineup tonight.

The Sens are only a .500 ball club but the Penguins themselves are only 5-4-1 in the last 10 contests and have fallen behind the Rangers and red hot Flyers (9-1-0 in last 10). I have said it many times before but it's only December and as long as they are around the hunt for a division championship in March I can't complain. They are struggling but every team struggles at some point in the year. Hell, look at the Bruins to start the year. They were brutal before not losing a game in like two months.

Also interesting to note that Chris Pronger has been ruled out for the rest of the season AND the playoffs for the Flyers. He has severe post concussion symptoms and while this is not related to this game it is related to the overall view of concussions now in hockey. If you could put together a team of players that were out with concussions or head injuries you would win the cup. Tough times for the NHL and it will be interesting to see how they try and fix this going forward. You can't have all your top players sitting out for long periods of time. Changes probably need to be made. I am not sure what those are but I would hope that the NHLPA and the league are getting started on those internal discussions now.

The season series (Penguins lead 1-0):

November 25 - Pittsburgh 6, Ottawa 3

The Penguins probables:

Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Pascal Dupuis - Jordan Staal - Tyler Kennedy
Steve Sullivan - Joe Vitale - Matt Cooke
Eric Tangradi - Craig Adams - Arron Asham

Paul Martin - Deryk Engelland
Brook Orpik - Matt Niskanen
Alexander Picard - Simon Despres

Brent Johnson

The Senators probables:

Colin Greening - Jason Spezza - Daniel Alfredsson
Nick Foligno - Peter Regin - Chris Neil
Kaspars Daugavins - Zack Smith - Erik Condra
Zenon Konopka - Jesse Winchester - Bobby Butler

Chris Phillips - Brian Lee
Jared Cowen - Erik Karlsson
David Rundblad - Matt Carkner

Alex Auld

The stats:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Todd Graham Leaves Pitt

As you know here at the TRBB I don't do a ton of Pitt stuff but from time to time I will put something together about the program and today is one of those times as a story broke earlier this morning that head football coach Todd Graham was leaving Pitt and heading to Arizona State University.

On the surface this shouldn't shock a lot of people. Coaching turnover in college football is part of the DNA of the sport and we see a lot of times where coaches go to a place in order to get to some other job that they really want to be at. Todd Graham has done this throughout his whole career and that makes it even more of a less shocker that he is gone after one year. Coaching changes happen and Graham said that this was what was best for his family and I think this is a job that he has wanted for some time. Should I, or anyone else, tell him what he should and shouldn't like or what job he should take? I don't think so. I wouldn't want someone telling me where I have to work and that I have to be happy in that job. If this was the only thing we were dealing with than that would be one thing, but it isn't.

When you leave a job or you move to another city there is a respectable way to do it and then there is a way that makes you look like a jackass. Todd Graham took the latter and decided it was the best way to go. Earlier in the year in a team meeting he told the student-athletes that he was going to be here and that he, and the staff, had a five year contract and that they were going to be here. Good, that is what people like to hear, someone that will honor the contract they signed and start to build something here at Pitt. Instead Graham sent an e-mail to the director of football operations today and told him to forward a message onto his players. The players found out they will be playing for a new coach via text message. Technology everyone. This is a pretty embarrassing way to leave a program and you have to feel back for the kids in this situation and if you follow any of them on twitter you really see what they are going through. Sad to see.

Graham brought a "high octane" offense to Pitt this year which was completely radical from the pro style offense the team ran the year before and needless to say it was a rough year. Pitt went 6-6 and two of those wins were against teams that me, you and 18 other guys would be able beat. It wasn't impressive but he didn't have the kids to run the system he wanted to. Not saying the Panther players didn't play great this year, they did, but they just aren't the typical players you might find in a run and gun system like Graham wanted to run.

A lot of people during the season were not happy with Graham and how he ran the team and the results on the field. I was willing to look past that as it was only one year with a totally different system. I knew it was going to be a few years before we really got a good look at what Pitt could be in this system, but we won't have to wait very long. Most people look at this and might see it as a good thing that Graham is gone and maybe they can get back to the basics on the field but this goes way beyond the on the field stuff.

What really is going to be interesting is off the field stuff, in my eyes. The Panthers have a pretty decent recruiting class coming in and how many of those kids are going to be willing to commit to a school with no coach and a school where they had four head coaching announcements since 2010. I am sure Graham recruited for his system so those kids have to be wondering what they are going to be getting themselves into. Hopefully Pitt can keep as many of these kids as possible but this has to be one of the main headlines from this announcement today.

Another nugget that is being talked about is if athletic director Steve Pederson is going to survive the latest coaching blunder. Like I said this is the fourth coach in the last few years for the Panthers and you have to wonder if Pederson is able to hire a quality coach after all of this. While this situation is different I wouldn't be shocked to see this cost him his job. While a lot of people are slamming on Pederson for the Graham departure this can hardly be pinned on him. When you hire a guy and give him a five year contract you expect him to be here for five years. I can bet that nobody expected Graham to leave after nine months and this can hardly be put on anyone. For those looking to get rid of Pederson you have to look at the big picture. I read a lot of people saying that Jamie Dixon is a big fan of Pederson and he might be one of the reasons that Dixon is still at Pitt. Not saying they should keep Pederson for that reason but there is always different angles to look at.

Overall I really don't have a problem with Graham leaving. As things come up about how he treated players and his overall attitude at times I think we can say that this may be a blessing in disguise but that doesn't mean it won't kill the program in the short term. He said this was a family decision and I can't really bag him for that. Maybe he is lying (it wouldn't be the first time) but if it really is the best for him and his family then how can you knock that. Coaching changes happen all the time and this isn't the first, or the last, of this type. If he didn't like it here then it wasn't going to be for the long term anyhow. Word is now coming out that he was putting feelers out at Kansas and Texas A&M so he probably wasn't going to be here much longer the way this was going. I can't tell a person to love their job but I am a person that would try to honor the five year commitment I made. That's just me though.

I do have a problem with HOW he left the program though. Be a man and get in front of your kids and tell them you aren't coming back because there is something better. You told them you were going to be back and you jet a little while later they at least deserve to hear that from you. It was a chicken shit way to duck out on the team you coached and jumping from school to school like this. No idea how you answer a recruit when they look you in the eye and asks you how you can speak on commitment when you as the coach can't do the same thing.

Pitt fans are mad and frustrated. I am frustrated. Having four coaches in a few years isn't fun but it is what it is. You might not want to hear this but Pitt probably isn't the most desirable place to coach football. The team constantly gets thrown over the coals and you are lucky to get a half full stadium. Couple that with a conference move and it is going to be hard to get that big time coach that a lot of people want. Like I said before this stuff happens and Pitt will overcome it. They have a lot of important decisions to be made and the 2012 season will go on.

There are a lot of ways you can go with the next coach. I have see people talk Tom Bradley and Jim Tressel but I don't think either is a great option. At a time where you have struggled to find the right guy the last thing you want to do is bring in someone with baggage. Bradley is more than qualified but he is still in the middle of the PSU investigations and Tressel has his own problems. Would you want to hire Bradley and then find out six months down the road he had a part in all of this? What a nightmare. I am not saying that I think Bradley was a part of it but what if he was? I am sure they will look at local guys and national guys but I would expect Pitt to go a little off the radar to hire the next guy, I would.

This has certainly been a shock to a lot but life moves on. This might be a good thing in the end. Only time will tell. Hail to Pitt.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Game 31 Recap - Red Wings 4, Penguins 1

What started off pretty well for the Penguins ended pretty bad for them as they fell to the Red Wings 4-1 at CONSOL. It wasn’t a bad game by the Penguins but it just wasn’t good enough as the Red Wings just waited for their opportunity and pounced on the Penguins.

The Penguins dominated for a great part of the first two periods of play as they held the Wings to only 13 shots on goal and frustrated them by clogging up the neutral zone and limiting their chances. It only lasted a little while as the Wings took the final lead of the game on a power play goal from Johan Franzen five minutes into the third and then it was put away by a good two on one from Daniel Clearly with under five minutes left. Just not good times.

The Penguins had some chances but rather than putting the puck into the net they were hitting the iron. Evgeni Malkin was the best Penguin on the ice tonight and he registered nine shots on goal and scored the Penguins first goal with just over four seconds left in the first period. After missing the morning skate we didn’t know if he was going to play tonight but it was obvious that he was fine as he was all over the ice tonight. Really great display from Geno and when I talk about the pipes that were hit he accounted for two of those. With the score 2-1 he came down the right wing and clanged one off the far post which could have given the Penguins a ton of life. He also had a chance to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead on the power play but as the puck trickled by Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard and hit the far post and stayed out of the net. Just frustrating.

The Wings were really good tonight though and you can’t take that away from them. Pavel Datsyuk was really good tonight and scored a pretty sick backhander to tie the game at one off a turnover and then assisted on the power play goal to give the Wings the lead for good as he blocked a Matt Cooke clearing pass and got the puck to Franzen.

The Wings then continued their game and just didn’t the Penguins much of a chance. The Pens had a few power plays where they looked really good but Jimmy Howard was up to the task and so was the Red Wings defense. Just frustrating. That being said it is only December and there is a lot of season to go. The Penguins have struggled recently and could really use a few game winning streak to get things back on track. They are still in good shape with the great start they had so I am not overly worried.

The final thing I will talk about is ROOT Sports. During the baseball season I wasn’t a huge fan of everything they did but I understood all of it from their standpoint. During hockey season they haven’t been very good, missing face offs and having the camera leave the puck to watch players on the bench and miss scoring chances. It isn’t good but I don’t really complain much. Tonight they missed a goal. Nobody who was watching ROOT got to see the Franzen goal because ROOT decided to go to commercial instead of sticking with the live play. It was pretty embarrassing. What made it worse was pretending like it didn’t happen and not apologizing or even acknowledging the mistake. Acknowledging it and making a brief statement would have went a long way because mistakes do happen. Just not sure how you run a live event and let that happen. Whatever.

Penguins are back on the ice Friday against the Senators. Hopefully they can get back on the winning track.

Penguins Game Day 31 - vs. Detroit Red Wings

Detroit Red Wings

7:00 p.m., CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The Pens got on the winning track with a big win against the Islanders but the injury news has not been good since then. Since that time the Penguins have annoucned that Sidney Crosby has had some problems come up and he will be "out indefinitely" while we learned today that both Jordan Staal and Evgeni Malkin will be game time decisions. Staal is a "lower body injury" as he has been in the past so I expect him to play and Malkin actually missed the morning skate today and nobody is really sure what is wrong.

Other than that the Wings are in town so that should be fun. Hopefully MAF can bounce back after a shaky performance against the Islanders with a strong one against the Wings and bring hom a win.

The last time they met:

March 21, 2011 - Penguins 5, Red Wings 4 (SO)

The Penguins probables:

Chris Kunitz - Jordan Staal - James Neal
Matt Cooke - Pascal Dupuis - Tyler Kennedy
Steve Sullivan - Joe Vitale - Arron Asham
Jason Williams - Craig Adams - Steve MacIntyre

Paul Martin - Deryk Engelland
Brooks Orpik - Matt Niskanen
Alexandre Picard - Simon Despres

Marc Andre Fleury

The Wings probables:

Johan Franzen - Pavel Datsyuk - Todd Bertuzzi
Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Dan Cleary - Darren Helm - Chris Conner
Drew Miller - Justin Abdelkader - Tomas Holmstrom

Nicklas Lidstrom - Ian White
Niklas Kronwall - Jonathan Ericsson
Jakub Kindl - Brad Stuart

Jimmy Howard

The stats:

Monday, December 12, 2011

Pirates Trade Jose Veras, Get Casey McGehee

In a bit of a surprising turn of events the Pirates made a trade just hours before they had to announce which players they were going tender when they shipped Jose Veras to the Milwaukee Brewers for third baseman Casey McGehee.

To be honest this is pretty much a swap of potential non tender guys as the Pirates were thought to not want to tender Veras and with the Brewers signing Aramis Ramirez they were most likely not going to tender McGehee.

I was a pretty big fan of Veras last year and despite what the regular Pirates fan would tell you he was one of the best arms in the league. It was often joked that you never knew who you were going to get “good Veras” or “bad Veras”. Most of the time it was good Veras to the tune of a 1.23 WHIP and 79 appearances. Most will point to the 30 earned runs he gave up but he was much better than that. With the Brewers losing a few guys in the pen it was a smart move for them to bring him in.

On the other side of this the Pirates got the contingency plan for Pedro Alvarez and a possible option for first base. While McGehee plays primarily third base there were a few teams looking at him playing first base even though he has only played a handful of games there in his major league career.

McGehee was a very good in the 2009 and 2010 season but really had a terrible season last year. In 2009 he hit for a .301/.360/.499 line in 116 games and 394 at bats and then continued strong play with a .285/.337/.464 line in 157 games and 670 at bats in 2010. He had a .367 wOBA in 2009 and .346 in 2010. In 2011 it was a little different as he dipped to a .223/.280/.346 line in 600 at bats and was barely a replacement level players. The bright spot about this was that last season McGehee’s BABIP was .249 which was well below his career average of .293 so if that comes up a little bit his play will improve.

I think overall this is a pretty solid swap of players for the Pirates. He doesn’t strike out a ton (16.6% career) and he isn’t old by any means as he still has three years of team control left when he is eligible for arbitration after the 2012 season. I am not a huge McGehee fan but being that they weren’t going to tender Veras you might as well get a guy that has had success in the majors and still have three years of team control. Another option this might give the Pirates is to move Pedro to first base and give the third base job to McGehee but I don’t really see that happening at this point.

Here are McGehee’s career numbers:

4 Seasons4371689153517540783452242129281.265.320.426.7469965451
162 Game Avg.16262656965151311199048104.265.320.426.7469924219
MIL (3 yrs)4281664151117440382452237129273.267.322.430.75210164950
CHC (1 yr)9252414100508.
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 12/12/2011.