Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Final Day Of The Civic (Mellon) Arena

Today was a pretty sad day for fans of the Pittsburgh Penguins. If you ever have gone to a Penguins game before the CONSOL Energy Center you hold the Civic (Mellon) Arena dear to your heart. I will never forget the great times I had going to the old barn and while it was time for a new arena in Pittsburgh it doesn't make it any easier to see the pictures of it coming down.

With that being said here are a few pictures and a video of the arena going down. Thanks to KDKA for the video.




@carnpro6207



Post Gazette


TRBB 2012 NL Central Podcast Preview - Pittsburgh Pirates with @whygavs

As I have been talking about for the past couple of weeks I have put together a little podcast series to kick off baseball season. While here at Three Rivers Burgh Blog I usually talk a ton about the Pirates I don't typically get a chance to get more in depth with any other teams that they play their games against.

This is where this series is going to go. I was lucky enough to get a blogger from each of the NL Central team's to sit down with me and talk about their teams as they prepare for the 2012 season. Every day this week there will be a new podcast up that last anywhere from 40-50 minutes where we touch on everything about our rival teams. We hear about the story lines of spring training, the minor league system and a more in depth look on what each team is working with for 2012.

The podcast's will be released in reverse order by where each respective team finished in the 2011 season with the exception of the Pittsburgh Pirates which I will be throwing out last. Today we finish the series with your Pittsburgh Pirates. Joining me on the podcast will be Pat from the WHYGAVS.

I want to just say thanks to Pat for coming on and talking about the Bucs. Make sure you are following him on twitter and checking out the site for all the information you need on the Pirates. Pat is easily one of the best Pirates bloggers out there and if you don't at least go to his site once a day then you just aren't doing it right.

Make sure that after you listen to Pat and I banter on about the Pirates you go back on to the site and listen to the other five NL Central teams. It is well worth your time.

As always you can find all the TRBB Podcast's (including this series) on iTunes. All you need to do is type in "Three Rivers Burgh Blog Podcast" and sign up to have them downloaded to your iPhone, iPad, iPod automatically so you never miss out on the goings on.

So with all that being said here is the TRBB NL Central Podcast Preview series with the Pittsburgh Pirates:


Friday, March 30, 2012

Penguins Game 78 Recap - Penguins 5, Sabres 3

The Penguins got back in the win column with a 5-3 win over arguably the hottest team in the NHL, the Buffalo Sabres. Coming in the Sabres earned their way into a tie for the final playoff spot with a ridiculous streak of hockey but the Pens were able to come in and outwork the hot team and snap their five game winning streak.

The game was really back and forth for the entire game and it only got better as the game went on. The first period was really, really, sloppy and you didn’t really know what was going on. Ryan Miller and Brent Johnson were really bad and it looked like a game where it was going to be the first team to 10 was going to win. The second period got a little better and the third period was unreal back and forth action. It was really playoff style atmosphere the third period and you were on the edge of your seat with every shot and every breakout. The goaltender got better as the game went on and both guys made huge saves to keep their respective teams in it.

The Penguins never trailed in the game and held the lead pretty much throughout. Evgeni Malkin (power play) and Sidney Crosby scored go ahead goals (at the time) while the Sabres responded with (weak) goals from Jordan Leopold and Tyler Ennis. A pair of goals in the second period really put the Pens ahead for good. James Neal (power play) and Steve Sullivan scored less than four minutes apart to give them a two goal lead that would hold. Thomas Vanek scored on a really fluky goal to cut the lead to one just before the end of the second period but that was it for the scoring for the night.

One of the best chances the Sabres had came at the end of the game. Malkin went off after throwing the puck out of play which gave Buffalo a power play for pretty much the final two minutes of the game. Johnson and the PK put their collective balls on the line and thwarted some big time chances and give the Penguins the much needed two points.

Johnson started off the game really bad. I mean really bad. The second goal he gave up was pretty embarrassing but he really rebounded well in the latter half of the second period and third period to get a huge win and two points. Truth be told this was probably the last time that Beej will see the ice baring an injury to MAF but it was good to be able to give MAF an entire night off to regroup. Any points you can get with your backup goaltender, especially with how bad said backup goaltender has played this year, is huge. Big props to Beej. When the team needed him he stepped up. Much respect.

For as much as people talked about how bad the five forward power play has been it stepped up in a big way and scored two power play goals in three attempts and that is pretty much the reason for the win tonight along with Beej. Granted the power play did give up a few short handed chances with the five forwards but it did not surrender any shorthanded goals. The five forward power play is not idea but I will take a pair of power play goals any day of the week even if it means you give up a chance or two. That is when you need your goaltender to step up.




Jordan Staal was pretty good from the faceoff circle tonight. He won 11-of-19 attempts and he was taking some of the biggest faceoff’s of the game on the PK. That is part of the game that he has improved on this year and he really has been a complete player.

After having a pair of subpar games Sidney Crosby really stepped up and had an outstanding game tonight. He ended the night with four points which gives him 601 points for his career and makes him the seventh fastest player in NHL history to reach the 600 point plateau.



The most impressive part of the night was the passing. He made some ridiculous passes that set up a pair of goals and those are passes that not many players can make. It is truly special to watch him play and he has been getting better since his return and I am thinking he will be more than ready when he gets into the playoffs.

Oh yea, Crosby can score goals too.



The Penguins now don’t play until Sunday when they take on the Flyers. This is going to be the first round playoff matchup and with home ice still on the line it will most likely be a playoff atmosphere at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins magic number to clinch home ice in the first round is now seven.

The last thought of the night is that the Penguins absolutely own Ryan Miller.

Penguins Game Day 78 - @ Buffalo Sabres

Buffalo Sabres

7:30 p.m., First Niagara Center, Buffalo, New York


Another pretty brutal loss last night to the Islanders put the Penguins pretty much out of the race for the top spot in the Eastern Conference but that doesn't mean that there isn't a ton yet to play for in the last five games of the season. The Penguins only have a two point edge on the Flyers as they only have five games to play and if it came down to a tie breaker the Flyers would win out based on more wins in regulation and overtime.

The Sabres are one of the hottest teams in the league right now and it all started with the 6-2 drubbing the Sabres put on the Penguins back in February. Since that time Buffalo has gone 14-2-3 and are tied for the eighth spot in the conference with the Washington Capitals. They are backed by Ryan Miller who has really turned around his game after playing some pretty bad hockey for much of the season. In Miller's last five contests he has only allowed six goals and posted a .962 save percentage. For a Penguins team that has really been shut down by the Islanders goals might be at a premium. In two games this year against the Penguins Miller has allowed seven goals and in 19 career games against the Penguins he has let up 53 goals (40 even strength) and has a pedestrian .881 save percentage.

No idea what the deal is going to be with the Penguins tonight. Brent Johnson should get the start in the net and they looked really sloppy last night. Lines were being changed up a good bit and the team looked to try way too hard to play defensive hockey and they never really got a good offensive flow going. Granted this has only been two games so I am not too concerned.

It will be interesting to watch how both teams come out in this game. The Sabres are playing for everything right now. While they have played unreal hockey they are still nowhere near close to getting into the playoffs as they are only in now because they have a game in hand on the Capitals with the same amount of points. The Penguins are already in the playoffs and while they need to keep winning to maintain home ice advantage they are more concerned with getting everything right for the playoff run. The Sabres are going to be the much more desperate team and the Penguins have looked out of sorts and even somewhat disinterested in the last couple of games against the Islanders.


The season series (Buffalo leads 2-1):

October 15, 2011 - Buffalo 3, Pittsburgh 2



December 17, 2011 - Pittsburgh 8, Buffalo 3



February 19, 2012 - Buffalo 6, Pittsburgh 2




The Penguins probables (via Empty Netters):

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

Defense
Brooks Orpik - Zbynek Michalek
Matt Niskanen - Paul Martin
Simon Despres - Deryk Engelland

Goaltender
Brent Johnson


The Sabres probables (via Empty Netters):

Forwards
Ville Leino - Derek Roy - Jason Pominville
Corey Tropp - Cody Hodgson - Thomas Vanek
Marcus Foligno - Tyler Ennis - Drew Stafford
Cody McCormick - Brad Boyes - Patrick Kaleta

Defense
Jordan Leopold - Tyler Myers
Robyn Regehr - Andrej Sekera
Mike Weber - Alexander Sulzer

Goaltender
Ryan Miller


The stats:




Pirates Roundtable Podcast Episode 9

Once again I was lucky enough to be asked back on a podcast that was hosted by Jon at McEffect along with Brian at Raise the Jolly Roger and Jim at Northside Notch to talk some Pirates stuff that is going on.

Another great episode of the roundtable podcast. This is going to be the last podcast before the start of the season and it was a good one. We started it off talking about Pedro Alvarez and spent a good bit of time talking about what needed to happen with him. We then turned out attention to the pitching staff where we talked about how worried each of us should be with Charlie Morton and James McDonald as they both had a bad start in teh last week. We also touched on Erik Bedard and how concerned we should be that his velocity is down. Last week we gave our predictions on the hitters and this time we go through the starting five. Now that I think about it the podcast was very pitcher heavy. We wrap up the podcast giving our prediction (again). It was some really good stuff and you should give it a listen if you have a spare hour. Thanks again to all those guys for including me.

TRBB 2012 NL Central Podcast Preview - Milwaukee Brewers with @RyanTopp

As I have been talking about for the past couple of weeks I have put together a little podcast series to kick off baseball season. While here at Three Rivers Burgh Blog I usually talk a ton about the Pirates I don't typically get a chance to get more in depth with any other teams that they play their games against.

This is where this series is going to go. I was lucky enough to get a blogger from each of the NL Central team's to sit down with me and talk about their teams as they prepare for the 2012 season. Every day this week there will be a new podcast up that last anywhere from 40-50 minutes where we touch on everything about our rival teams. We hear about the story lines of spring training, the minor league system and a more in depth look on what each team is working with for 2012.

The podcast's will be released in reverse order by where each respective team finished in the 2011 season with the exception of the Pittsburgh Pirates which I will be throwing out last. Today we continue the series with the Milwaukee Brewers. Joining me on the podcast will be Ryan from the Disciples of Uecker.

I want to just say thanks to Ryan for coming on and talking about the Brewers. Make sure you are following him on twitter and checking out the site for all the information you need on the Brewers. Those guys do a top notch job with everything.

Make sure you check back every day this week for more NL Central team previews. Tomorrow we will be sitting down with a blogger from YOUR Pittsburgh Pirates to wrap up the series.

As always you can find all the TRBB Podcast's (including this series) on iTunes. All you need to do is type in "Three Rivers Burgh Blog Podcast" and sign up to have them downloaded to your iPhone, iPad, iPod automatically so you never miss out on the goings on.

So with all that being said here is the TRBB NL Central Podcast Preview series with the Milwaukee Brewers:


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Penguins Game 77 Recap - Islanders 4, Penguins 2

No, the world is not over and no the Penguins are not going to miss the playoffs but the Penguins did drop the second game in three days to the New York Islanders, this time in New York. It was a pretty weird game that seemed like the Penguins could find no rhythm and was kind of like a chicken with its head cut off. So is life. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and sometimes, well, you lose two games in a row.

This was just another shitty game from the Penguins. The whole first period just seemed like the team was trying way too hard to be defensive and it ended up with them only have one shot through the first nine or 10 minutes of the game. The Islanders got on the board first and while the Penguins were able to tie it up with a Pascal Dupuis goal it just fell apart from there. Just ugly, but ugly games happen. I know I said that on Tuesday night but truth be told this isn’t the first time the Penguins will lose back-to-back games and it won’t be the last time.

There are no excuses for this loss, not even the fact that for the second game in a row they were missing two of the defensive centerpieces for the team in Kris Letang and Matt Niskanen. The power play looked really shoddy and gave up a shorthanded goal that made it 3-1 Islanders. That is the risk you take when you throw out a power play with five forwards and the Penguins had James Neal and Evgeni Malkin caught back at the points and that just isn’t an ideal situation.

There isn’t much to say. The Penguins obviously need to tighten up the defensive end but let’s not act like this is the beginning of the end for the Penguins. Tonight was the first time the Penguins lost back-to-back games since February 5th and 7th to New Jersey and Montreal and the first time they lost back-to-back games in regulations since January 10th and 11th to Ottawa and Washington. These losses sting and clearly put the Penguins out of any chance to catch the Rangers but so be it. Remember when the Penguins were going to miss the playoffs when they had a six game losing streak? How did that work out? The Penguins will be alright and they still have a handful of games to work some kinks out before the playoffs.

Penguins Game Day 77 - @ New York Islanders

New York Islanders

7:00 p.m., Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Uniondale, New York


The Penguins will need a bounce back after they were beat down on Tuesday night against the Islanders. It was only the ninth time the Penguins have lost on home ice in regulation this season and the score of 5-3 was closer than the game really was. Marc Andre Fleury played one of his worst games of the season and the defense was nowhere to be found for much of the night.

MAF will get his chance to bounce back as he is back in net tonight. Interesting choice to have MAF in net tonight as the Penguins play tomorrow in Buffalo against a red hot Sabres team before they come back to Pittsburgh to play against the Flyers in a huge match up on Sunday night. You wouldn't think that the Penguins would throw Fleury out there for all three games so I can only assume that Johnson gets the start tomorrow night, but who knows.

While the Penguins now trail the Rangers by five points for the top spot and have a game in hand I really think this is probably over for them getting the top spot. Sure they still have a game against each other but I would assume that the Penguins would need to win out to have that shot and with games left against the Sabres, Bruins as well as a pair of games against the Flyers that would be a lot to expect. You also have to figure the Penguins are going to play Johnson in one of these games this weekend and if the 'Guins don't tighten up the defense it could get ugly.

Evidently at practice yesterday Dan Bylsma laid into the team for not playing sound defensive hockey. His voice was loud enough for anyone in attendance to hear and work is that some of the words he used would not be repeatable at work. Maybe it is the wake up call the team needs because the defensive responsibility has been non-existent over the past week or so. Brooks Orpik and a few others even acknowledged that the team has been focusing too much on the offensive talent they have and have lacked in their defensive game. Hopefully this is fixed up. Soon.



The season series (Pittsburgh leads 4-1):


October 25, 2011 - Pittsburgh 3, New York 0



October 27, 2011 - Pittsburgh 3, New York 2 (SO)



November 21, 2011 - Pittsburgh 5, New York 0



December 10, 2012 - Pittsburgh 6, New York 3



March 27, 2012 - New York 5, Pittsburgh 3




The Penguins probables (via Empty Netters):

Forwards
Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Matt Cooke - Jordan Staal - Tyler Kennedy
Steve Sullivan - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Richard Park - Craig Adams - Arron Asham

Defense
Brooks Orpik - Zbynek Michalek
Simon Despres - Deryk Engelland
Brian Strait - Paul Martin

Goaltender
Marc Andre Fleury


The Islanders probables (via Empty Netters):

Forwards
Matt Moulson - John Tavares - P.A. Parenteau
Joshua Bailey - Frans Neilsen - Kyle Okposo
Michael Grabner - Casey Cizikas - Nino Niederreiter
Matt Martin - Marty Reasoner - Jay Pandolfo

Defense
Mark Streit - Dylan Reese
Travis Hamonic - Andrew MacDonald
Milan Jurcina - Steve Staios

Goaltender
Al Montoya


The stats:




TRBB 2012 NL Central Podcast Preview - St. Louis Cardinals with @PitchersHit8th

As I have been talking about for the past couple of weeks I have put together a little podcast series to kick off baseball season. While here at Three Rivers Burgh Blog I usually talk a ton about the Pirates I don't typically get a chance to get more in depth with any other teams that they play their games against.

This is where this series is going to go. I was lucky enough to get a blogger from each of the NL Central team's to sit down with me and talk about their teams as they prepare for the 2012 season. Every day this week there will be a new podcast up that last anywhere from 40-50 minutes where we touch on everything about our rival teams. We hear about the story lines of spring training, the minor league system and a more in depth look on what each team is working with for 2012.

The podcast's will be released in reverse order by where each respective team finished in the 2011 season with the exception of the Pittsburgh Pirates which I will be throwing out last. Today we continue the series with the Chicago Cubs. Joining me on the podcast will be Nick from the Pitchers Hit Eighth.

I want to just say thanks to Nick for coming on and talking about the Cardinals. Make sure you are following him on twitter and checking out the site for all the information you need on the Cardinals. Those guys do a top notch job with everything.

Make sure you check back every day this week for more NL Central team previews. Tomorrow we will be sitting down with a Milwaukee Brewers blogger.

As always you can find all the TRBB Podcast's (including this series) on iTunes. All you need to do is type in "Three Rivers Burgh Blog Podcast" and sign up to have them downloaded to your iPhone, iPad, iPod automatically so you never miss out on the goings on.

So with all that being said here is the TRBB NL Central Podcast Preview series with the St. Louis Cardinals:


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

TRBB 2012 NL Central Podcast Preview: Cincinnati Reds with @RedReporter

As I have been talking about for the past couple of weeks I have put together a little podcast series to kick off baseball season. While here at Three Rivers Burgh Blog I usually talk a ton about the Pirates I don't typically get a chance to get more in depth with any other teams that they play their games against.

This is where this series is going to go. I was lucky enough to get a blogger from each of the NL Central team's to sit down with me and talk about their teams as they prepare for the 2012 season. Every day this week there will be a new podcast up that last anywhere from 40-50 minutes where we touch on everything about our rival teams. We hear about the story lines of spring training, the minor league system and a more in depth look on what each team is working with for 2012.

The podcast's will be released in reverse order by where each respective team finished in the 2011 season with the exception of the Pittsburgh Pirates which I will be throwing out last. Today we continue the series with the Chicago Cubs. Joining me on the podcast will be Josh from the Red Reporter.

I want to just say thanks to Josh for coming on and talking about the Reds. Make sure you are following him on twitter and checking out the site for all the information you need on the Reds. Those guys do a top notch job with everything.

Make sure you check back every day this week for more NL Central team previews. Tomorrow we will be sitting down with a St. Louis Cardinals blogger.

As always you can find all the TRBB Podcast's (including this series) on iTunes. All you need to do is type in "Three Rivers Burgh Blog Podcast" and sign up to have them downloaded to your iPhone, iPad, iPod automatically so you never miss out on the goings on.

So with all that being said here is the TRBB NL Central Podcast Preview series with the Cincinnati Reds:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Penguins Game 76 Recap - Islanders 5, Penguins 3

Well, that could have gone better. Remember in the preview when I said that it is very hard to sweep a season series from a division rival in hockey? Well that turned out to be true as the Islanders dropped the Penguins 5-3 at the CONSOL and earned their first victory over the Penguins in five tries this year and snapped the Penguins 10 game home winning streak. Also stopped tonight was the Penguins 13 game home winning streak against the Islanders.

For as much as I glow about Marc Andre Fleury (and I do that a lot) he was pretty bad tonight. It has been few and far between for bad games from MAF but he just wasn’t on point tonight. There were a few goals that you could consider soft and when your team only buries a couple of chances you need to make those saves to give it to your team. It happens. Fleury has been so good this year that he is bound to have a bad game and unfortunately that happened tonight.

Let’s give some credit where credit is due, the Islanders made the plays and withstood a shooting gallery that the Penguins put on tonight. The Penguins pelted a pair of Islanders goaltender with 54 shots and there wasn’t much more they could do in terms of putting shots on net. It isn’t like these were mindless shots on net either, the Penguins really came full force and the tandem of Evgeni Nabokov (who left after the second period due to an injury) and Al Montoya made some big time saves. Montoya withstood a pretty fierce Penguins comeback late in the game and robbed both Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal.

The Penguins actually showed good fight in the game. They found themselves down 2-0 after one period of play but were able to fight back and tie the game in the second period. In the first 4:10 of the second period they netted a pair of goals and I have a good feeling that if they got that next goal it might have been a rout. Instead the Islanders came back and scored three goals to answer the pair of Penguins goals and took a 5-2 lead through two periods and while the Penguins were applying the pressure it was too steep of a mountain to overcome.

James Neal had a pretty solid game. He scored a pair of goals, both on one-timers, and was pretty active in front of the net. He now has 37 on the season and there is a pretty good bet that he will get to 40. Neal also threw 12 shots on goal and had two other missed shots. That is a lot of rubber. It is really good to see him aggressive like that.

The defense was not very good tonight and this time MAF wasn’t there to bail them out. Like I said I think this is more of a bad game thing as I don’t really think the Penguins played a good overall game. The defense has been much improved the second half of the season so I will give them a pass. They have been a little up and down the past week or so but I think that will work itself out.

It seems like once a year the Islanders really have the Penguins number and beat them down. While the Penguins did a nice job of applying pressure in the offensive zone the Islanders were able to withstand it and take advantages of the chances they were getting. There were some bad bounces that aided the Islanders but that wasn’t why the Penguins lost, you can just kinda said it was “one of those” games. The Penguins will get their chance on Thursday when they match up again.

Penguins Game Day 76 - vs. New York Islanders

New York Islanders


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

Some of the most fun regular season games to watch, in any sport, is the week or so leading up to the playoffs. If you are lucky enough to be a fan of a team that is in the hunt for a playoff spot or a fan of a team that is fighting for said playoff positioning then this is the real stretch run (and let's be honest when your league takes half of the teams to the playoffs you can pretty much assure you are one of these people). While the Penguins wrapped up a playoff spot last week they are still playing for a lot. They are three points back of the Rangers who have played one more game than the Pens and the Penguins are still in the hunt for the top team in the league. Furthermore tonight the Penguins can clinch no worse than the fifth seed with a win. The Islanders are not really playing for anything.

The Penguins will play a home-and-home with the Islanders starting tonight and currently the Penguins have won all four match ups with the Islanders this year. While you look at these games and think they should be victories I would remind you that it is very difficult to sweep a team in the NHL when they play in your division. That is six games and it doesn't happen all that often so these are no gimmes.

While the Islanders are struggling they still have a few players that can make some plays. John Tavares is also a threat with the puck and P.A. Parenteau has been really strong this season as he has factored in on 36% of the Islanders goals (forget who tweeted that out). Evgeni Nabokov resigned with the Islanders a few weeks ago and has played some pretty good hockey in net. Without him the Islanders would be much worse than they already are.

A few Penguins notes today we learned that Ben Lovejoy is going to miss the next 3-4 weeks as he will need to undergo some knee surgery. You would have to think this pretty much ends his year. Also found out that Kris Letang didn't take part in the morning skate but luckily it is being listed as a lower body injury and NOT a head injury. You will remember that Letang was sort of ran into the boards in the New Jersey game and while he did finish the contest it seems that there might be something minor wrong. Ray Shero said that it wasn't serious and Disco said that he was just day-to-day so I won't worry too much.



The season series (Penguins lead 4-0):

October 25, 2011 - Pittsburgh 3, New York 0



October 27, 2011 - Pittsburgh 3, New York 2 (SO)



November 21, 2011 - Pittsburgh 5, New York 0



December 10, 2012 - Pittsburgh 6, New York 3




The Penguins probables (via Empty Netters):

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

Defense
Zbynek Michalek - Brooks Orpik
Brian Strait - Paul Martin
Simon Despres - Deryk Engelland

Goaltender
Marc Andre Fleury


The Islanders probables (via Empty Netters):

Forwards
Matt Moulson - John Tavares - P.A. Parenteau
Joshua Bailey - Frans Neilsen - Kyle Okposo
Michael Grabner - Casey Cizikas - David Ullstrom
Matt Martin - Marty Reasoner - Jay Pandolfo

Defense
Mark Streit - Dylan Reese
Travis Hamonic - Andrew MacDonald
Milan Jurcina - Steve Staios

Goaltender
Evgeni Nabokov



The stats:




TRBB 2012 NL Central Podcast Preview: Chicago Cubs with @BleacherNation

As I have been talking about for the past couple of weeks I have put together a little podcast series to kick off baseball season. While here at Three Rivers Burgh Blog I usually talk a ton about the Pirates I don't typically get a chance to get more in depth with any other teams that they play their games against.

This is where this series is going to go. I was lucky enough to get a blogger from each of the NL Central team's to sit down with me and talk about their teams as they prepare for the 2012 season. Every day this week there will be a new podcast up that last anywhere from 40-50 minutes where we touch on everything about our rival teams. We hear about the story lines of spring training, the minor league system and a more in depth look on what each team is working with for 2012.

The podcast's will be released in reverse order by where each respective team finished in the 2011 season with the exception of the Pittsburgh Pirates which I will be throwing out last. Today we continue the series with the Chicago Cubs. Joining me on the podcast will be Brett from the Bleacher Nation.

I want to just say thanks to Brett for coming on and talking about the Cubs. Make sure you are following him on twitter and checking out the site for all the information you need on the Cubs. Those guys do a top notch job with everything.

Make sure you check back every day this week for more NL Central team previews. Tomorrow we will be sitting down with a Cincinnati Reds blogger.

As always you can find all the TRBB Podcast's (including this series) on iTunes. All you need to do is type in "Three Rivers Burgh Blog Podcast" and sign up to have them downloaded to your iPhone, iPad, iPod automatically so you never miss out on the goings on.

So with all that being said here is the TRBB NL Central Podcast Preview series with the Chicago Cubs:

Monday, March 26, 2012

TRBB 2012 NL Central Podcast Preview: Houston Astros with @crawfishboxes

As I have been talking about for the past couple of weeks I have put together a little podcast series to kick off baseball season. While here at Three Rivers Burgh Blog I usually talk a ton about the Pirates I don't typically get a chance to get more in depth with any other teams that they play their games against.

This is where this series is going to go. I was lucky enough to get a blogger from each of the NL Central team's to sit down with me and talk about their teams as they prepare for the 2012 season. Every day this week there will be a new podcast up that last anywhere from 40-50 minutes where we touch on everything about our rival teams. We hear about the story lines of spring training, the minor league system and a more in depth look on what each team is working with for 2012.

The podcast's will be released in reverse order by where each respective team finished in the 2011 season with the exception of the Pittsburgh Pirates which I will be throwing out last. Today we kick off the series with the Houston Astros. Joining me on the podcast will be Tim from the Crawfish Boxes.

I want to just say thanks to Tim for coming on and talking about the Astros. Make sure you are following him on twitter and checking out the site for all the information you need on the Astros. Those guys do a top notch job with everything.

Make sure you check back every day this week for more NL Central team previews. Tomorrow we will be sitting down with a Chicago Cubs blogger.

As always you can find all the TRBB Podcast's (including this series) on iTunes. All you need to do is type in "Three Rivers Burgh Blog" and sign up to have them downloaded to your iPhone, iPad, iPod automatically so you never miss out on the goings on.

So with all that being said here is the TRBB NL Central Podcast Preview series with the Houston Astros:


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Penguins Game 75 Recap - Penguins 5, Devils 2

The best way to get over a tough loss is to get right back out on to the ice the next night and take care of business. That is exactly what the Penguins did. After getting beat down in Ottawa last night the Penguins bounced back with a 5-2 win over New Jersey to even the season series with the Devils at three games each.

After dropping three straight games to the Devils earlier in the year the Penguins bounced back strong with a pair of 5-2 wins in a little over a week’s time. While the Penguins didn’t start off so hot they used timely scoring and never trailed the Devils in the game. The defensive unit was pretty much like slices of swiss cheese and were giving up mucho chances but unlike the other night Marc Andre Fleury was there to make some flashy saves and keep the Penguins in the game.

In a pretty rare feat three different Penguins netted their 23rd goals of the season. Chris Kunitz scored the first followed by Jordan Staal, also in the first period, while Pascal Dupuis scored his 23rd in the second period. Pretty remarkable for a number of reasons. First reason is that it’s pretty cool that all of them scored that goal on the same night. No idea what the chances of that are but it can’t be too likely. The other is that those are some players that you might not expect to put up big goal totals, let alone all in the same year. Couple that with James Neal and Evgeni Malkin and you have five guys with 20 or more goals and you have Matt Cooke with 19 goals and could be the sixth player to net 20 goals or more in the same season. That is impressive.

I know last night wasn’t all Brad Thiessen’s fault and the defense really hung him out to dry but tonight is why you have so many people saying that Marc Andre Fleury should get Vezina consideration. Last night when the defense broke down and the Penguins needed a huge save from their goalie they didn’t get it. Tonight they got that save three or four different times. I know Thiessen is never going to be Fleury but I think that kind of illustrates the importance of MAF and how much he means to this team. Impressive performance tonight. I know that MAF isn’t going to throw up the gaudy stats but game in and game out he gives the team a chance to win by rarely giving up more than two or three goals a night. That is big time goaltending.

Sidney Crosby is pretty close to being back. Crosby had his best offensive night since coming back and while he only had two points he was all over the ice and found the back of the net on a sick individual play.



Sid was also 63% (12-of-19) from the faceoff dot and played almost 20 minutes of action. Oh yea, he also got crushed into the boards and bounced right back up and got into the play. Sid has been getting back into the flow a little bit slower than the last time, which is to be expected, but he seems to be finally turning it back around. If this is what we can expect from him in the offensive end it’s going to be scary for opposing goaltenders. It feels weird to say this but I think I needed to see Sid get crushed one time and have him bounce back up. I think everyone needed that.

Kris Letang had a pretty tough game. He just didn’t seem all together tonight and was beaten up pretty bad on a couple of hits. He took a semi shot to the face and went off for a few shifts but was able to come back. He then was pushed into the boards on pretty dirty play by Ryan Carter and is pretty lucky that he didn’t have a broken ankle or leg. Lucky for the Penguins everything was all right.

Jordan Staal was all over the ice tonight. He had a pretty amazing game although you might not really hear about it because he is just so consistent that if flies under the radar. He is a stabilizing force on the on the penalty kill and his goal scoring prowess has really been an asset this year despite missing a bunch of games with a knee injury earlier in the season. Not too bad to have someone like Staal as your third best center.

The Penguins have been on a scoring spree since Crosby came back and even the game before that. Since playing Boston on March 11th the Penguins have scored five or more goals six times in eight games. The only game the Penguins didn’t score five or more goals were both losses. I would say that is being productive and while they have two losses (one in overtime) in that eight game span I will take those kind of statistics any day of the week.

The Penguins are back on it on Tuesday when they take on the Islanders in the first game of a home-and-home while the Rangers take on Minnesota on Tuesday and Winnipeg on Wednesday. Buckle up.

TRBB NL Central Podcast Preview Series

I hope everyone had a nice weekend and is taking advantage of the last few hours of freedom before they have to get back to work during this beautiful weather we are having. Well, when you get to the office tomorrow, and the rest of the week, you will have something to look forward to as I have been working hard for the better part of the last two weeks to get a nice baseball podcast preview series. You want to know about it you say? Well, let me fill you in.

With baseball season coming up there is a lot going on and for the most part I think there has been a good bit of Pirates coverage on the site, especially with the roundtable broadcast that gets on the site every week where I get together with the guys from McEffect, Northside Notch and Raise the Jolly Roger. Well, with all the coverage that I try to get you about the Pirates (live blog's, recaps, a few original pieces, twitter talk) we all usually don't talk too much about the other five teams in the division. With how many times we play every other team it seems kind of foolish that I don't spend a little more time breaking stuff down in general in the NL Central, but having a real job doesn't always give me that much time.

With that being said I thought this year I would try to fix that at least for the beginning of the season. Over the past few weeks I have been taking some time to talk to a blogger from every NL Central team (even the Pirates!) and have them tell us all about their respective team's and what they expect this season.

Over the course of the podcast (which can last anywhere from 40-55 minutes) we take a look back at last season, get some of the main story lines from spring training, talk about the minor league system, get some in depth analysis of what to expect in 2012 and get some general thoughts about what other team's bloggers think of the Pirates.

Like I said I am going to be putting on of these out a day starting tomorrow and here is how it is going to transpire throughout the week as we go in reverse order of how the team's finished in the NL Central in 2011, with the exception of the Pirates who will be brought out last.

To prepare you for the madness these are the blogs that we had the honor of talking to:

Monday - Houston Astros - Crawfish Boxes
Tuesday - Chicago Cubs - Bleacher Nation
Wednesday - Cincinnati Reds - Red Reporter
Thursday - St. Louis Cardinals - Pitcher Hit Eighth
Friday - Milwaukee Brewers - Disciples of Uecker
Saturday - Pittsburgh Pirates - Wouldn't you like to know? It's a SURPRISE

Like I said I hope this is something everyone enjoys. Be on the look out starting tomorrow morning.

Let's go Bucs.

Penguins Game Day 75 - vs. New Jersey Devils

New Jersey Devils

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



The season series (Devils lead 3-2):

October 22, 2011 - Pittsburgh 4, New Jersey 1



December 31, 2011 - New Jersey 3, Pittsburgh 1



January 7, 2012 - New Jersey 3, Pittsburgh 1



February 5, 2012 - New Jersey 5, Pittsburgh 2




March 17, 2012 - Pittsburgh 5, New Jersey 2




The Penguins probables:

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

Defense
Kris Letang - Paul Martin
Brooks Orpik - Zbynek Michalek
Ben Lovejoy - Deryk Engelland

Goaltender
Marc Andre Fleury


The Devils probables (via Empty Netters):

Forwards
Zach Parise - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Travis Zajac - Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Adam Henrique - David Clarkson
Ryan Carter - Jacob Josefson - Steve Bernier

Defense
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador -Marek Zidlicky
Matt Taormina - Adam Larsson

Goaltender
Martin Brodeur


The stats:




Saturday, March 24, 2012

Game 74 Recap - Senators 8, Penguins 4



Yikes.

Whatever.

Devils in like three minutes.

Penguins Game Day 74 - @ Ottawa Senators

Ottawa Senators

7:00 p.m., Scotiabank Place, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

The Penguins are now in Ottawa to start the stretch run of the season. There are nine games left before the Stanley Cup playoffs start and now that we know the Penguins are in it (after the win over Nashville) so the only thing left is to figure out who they are going to play.

With a loss by the Rangers last night the Penguins are now in prime position to take the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers are sitting with 99 points and only eight games left while the Penguins have 98 points with nine games left. A win tonight doesn't mean that the Penguins take over that spot because the Rangers are playing the second of a back-to-back against Toronto Maple Leafs and if both teams win the Rangers will be one point ahead even though they will have played one more game. This is interesting though as it puts the Penguins in the driver seat for the top spot.

Ottawa has had a pretty good season and they are even only three points back of the Bruins for the second overall seed in the conference (they also have played two more games though). They will be going with Ben Bishop tonight in net as Craig Anderson doesn't seem ready to play yet as he is coming off an injury.

With as good as Ottawa has been they have been really struggling as of recent. They are currently on a three game losing streak and have lost five of their last six with the only winning coming in a shootout over Montreal. The last regulation win for the Sens was March 8 over the Rangers.

Brad Thiessen will be in net for the Penguins tonight which means that the Penguins will go with Marc Andre Fleury tomorrow against the Devils. Totally makes sense to set it up like this although Dan Bylsma usually uses MAF on the front end of back-to-back's but I think that we can all agree that New Jersey is a more dangerous opponent than Ottawa, no matter how Ottawa's season has gone and that they currently hold a 2-1 season advantage over the Pens.

Should be fun to watch Evgeni Malkin play as we now know that he has a chance to reach the 50 goal plateau and even an outside shot to catch Steve Stamkos (although very unlikely) for the Rocket Richard trophy. I think that Geno has already wrapped up the Hart trophy with a 10 point lead over the closest competition.

Should be a great one.



The season series (Ottawa leads 2-1):

November 25, 2011 - Pittsburgh 6, Ottawa 3



December 16, 2011 - Ottawa 6, Pittsburgh 4



January 10, 2012 - Ottawa 5, Pittsburgh 1




The Penguins probables (via Empty Netters):

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

Defense
Kris Letang - Paul Martin
Brooks Orpik - Zbynek Michalek
Ben Lovejoy - Deryk Engelland

Goaltender
Brad Thiessen



The Senators probables (via Empty Netters):

Forwards
Milan Michalek - Jason Spezza - Colin Greening
Zack Smith - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson
Nick Foligno - Jim O'Brien - Chris Neil
Rob Klinkhammer - Kasars Daugavins - Erik Condra

Defense
Erik Karlsson - Filip Kuba
Sergei Gonchar - Jared Cowen
Chris Phillips - Matt Carkner

Goaltender
Ben Bishop



The stats:




Pirates Hot Topics: Pedro Alvarez, Matt Hague

Today I was on TribLive Radio and I was talking Pirates baseball with Daniel Dudley and he asked me about two players that I knew he was going to bring up. Those players were Matt Hague and Pedro Alvarez. I know there is a pretty dead set opinion about both of these players, Hague should come north with the team and Alvarez should be sent down to AAA and pretty much labeled a bust. Now I know with the Alvarez assertion that might be going a little far for some but I have seen more than enough people use the b word when talking about Pedro.

I knew DD was going to ask me about Pedro so I had something things to bring up but there but I also had done some research on Hague thanks to a few tweets that Pat Lackey from WHYGAVS threw out on twitter one day. DD did ask me about Hague and if you listened to my interview on Trib Live then you know where I am going with this but in case you didn’t hear it I am going to break down that as well as some interesting information on Pedro that I got from Brewers blogger Ryan Topp while we were doing my NL Central Podcast Preview series that will be starting on Monday.

So let’s break down both of these situations. Let me begin by saying that I don’t have an answer for either player. I can’t sit here and tell you one way or the other with Hague or Alvarez but I think that there are different ways to look at it and this is just ONE of those ways and this is just the way I am looking at them. Both could turn out to be All-Star players for the next six years or they could both be out of baseball in the next 18 months. Who knows. Whatever.

Hit the jump for the rest of the post

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Penguins Game 73 Recap - Penguins 5, Predators 1

I mean, not really too much to say. The Nashville Predators came into the Steel City and were looking to move up in the standings and they were just stopped dead in their tracks. Don’t get it twisted, the Predators are a really good young talented hockey team but the Penguins are just playing that ridiculously good right now. It’s bordering on unfair right now and with the two points tonight it move the Penguins into the playoffs, officially. Good times.

I am not really sure if it is even up for discussion who is going to win the Hart Trophy for league MVP. I thought before tonight that things were pretty much wrapped up for Evgeni Malkin but after tonight I think it is signed, sealed and delivered. Malkin scored a pair of goals tonight, the second of which was an absolute laser, and was all over the ice. He now has 45 goals on the season with nine games left. I didn’t really think Malkin could get to 50 but with seven goals in the last five games he made that a pretty realistic option.





On the other side of the fence you had a guy like James Neal who is fresh off a hat trick against Winnipeg and has been known for his goal scoring ability. Well, he didn’t score a goal tonight but he did pick up four assists on the Penguins five goals. At the time I am writing this Neal is now tied for fourth in the league with 76 points. Not too bad for just a goal scorer and someone who couldn’t do anything right after the trade last year.

I am not really sure what Marc Andre Fleury has to do to get the recognition around the league but he has been one of the best of the year at his position. With the win tonight he now has 40 wins which is the second time in his career he has done so. Now, I know that shootout wins might skew the goaltender statistics when it comes to win but he has been just outstanding. Tonight he got a lot of goal support but still was still on top of his game and only gave up one goal on 30 shots. The goal he gave up there wasn’t much he could do about but he was in position and didn’t give Nashville a shot at all to get into the game. Just another good performance from a goaltender that will never get the recognition that he deserves.

The secondary scoring continues to come as Pascal Dupuis and Matt Cooke each tallied a goal. It was the 22nd for Dupuis and the 17th for Cooke. Remember when the Penguins were getting no secondary scoring? Now it seems like it is a competition to see who can score more goals, the secondary scoring or the primary scoring.

To be perfectly honest with everyone this game was a lot closer than the four goal differential. The Predators got off to a slow start but once they finally got it kicked in (after the Penguins were up 2-0) they were giving the Penguins all they could handle. The Predators actually missed a ton of open opportunities but you could definitely see that they are a talented hockey team that could make some noise in the Western Conference. Pekka Rinne wasn’t very good but he seems to be going through a little bit of a bad stretch. He will pick it back up.

The Penguins now lead the league in both goals scored and goal differential. Honest to God guys I am looking for things that the Penguins could improve on but I really am coming up blank. It has been a pretty long time since we have seen a team so keyed in and it is just so much fun to watch. Big pair of games this weekend. With the Rangers and Flyers continuing to win it is imperative that the Penguins continue to collect points. Going to be a fun stretch run.

Penguins Game Day 73 - vs. Nashville Predators

Nashville Predators

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


Most of the time when you see the Nashville Predators are on the schedule you pretty much think it is going to be a push over and that the game isn't going to be very exciting and if you had some laundry to do or if you had some house chores to take care of you could do that and not have to keep your full attention on the game. Not anymore.

The Predators are sitting at fifth in the Western Conference and are only one point behind Detroit for the fourth spot and home ice advantage. Not a bad team. It also doesn't hurt that the Predators are a pretty talented team with stud goaltender Pekke Rinne and defenseman Ryan Sutter and Shea Weber. While the sound of people talking about Nashville being good at hockey might seen foreign, it is real. This is a good team and they are going to make some noise in the playoffs.

The Penguins are looking to clinch a playoff berth as they only need one point to do so. That could come from a win or getting to overtime or a loss by Buffalo. The Pens are also still in a tough fight for first place in the conference with New Jersey who was able to grab an overtime victory last night over Detroit so they are not making it very easy.

The big news in this game is that it will be the return of Alexander Radulov to the Nashville lineup. Radulov was a part of the Nashville team many years ago but left to make a boatload of cash over in Russia for the last four seasons. He was still under contract for the Preds when he left for Russia so he still had time under his contract so he decided to come back and play out the rest of his rookie contract. He is a huge talent and pretty much dominated the KHL so it is going to be a huge offensive boost for a Nashville team that is led by Martin Erat with only 57 points.

Despite not having a player that is over 60 points the Predators have scored 209 goals this season so they are a team that can put the puck into the net. Should be a good time.




The last time they met:

October 21, 2010 - Pittsburgh 4, Nashville 3 (OT)




The Penguins probables (via Empty Netters):

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

Defense
Kris Letang - Paul Martin
Brooks Orpik - Zbynek Michalek
Matt Niskanen - Deryk Engelland

Goaltender
Marc Andre Fleury


The Predators probables (via Empty Netters):

Forwards
Alexander Radulov - David Legwand - Patric Hornqvist
Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Andrei Kostitsyn - Nick Spaling - Jordin Tootoo
Brandon Yip - Craig Smith - Matt Halischuk

Defense
Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Jack Hillen - Hal Gill
Francis Bouillon - Kevin Klein

Goaltender
Pekka Rinne



The stats:


Pirates Roundtable Podcast Episode 8

Once again I was lucky enough to be asked back on a podcast that was hosted by Jon at McEffect along with Brian at Raise the Jolly Roger and Jim at Northside Notch to talk some Pirates stuff that is going on.

Another great episode of the roundtable podcast. We started off the podcast talking about the NCAA Basketball Tournament and how our brackets are doing. We touched on a few of the pitchers who are coming off injuries in Evan Meek and AJ Burnett and how they are going to figure into the team. The big portion of the podcast we all talk about our predictions for the Pirates hitters for the  year at every position.
It was some really good stuff and you should give it a listen if you have a spare hour. Thanks again to all those guys for including me.

Click here to listen/download the podcast

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Penguins Game 72 Recap - Penguins 8, Jets 4

So, that was pretty fun tonight huh? The Penguins did what it should do against a team not in the playoffs and they buried that team. While they didn’t dominate from the onset they outscored the Jets 6-2 in the second and third period and rolled to a wild 8-4 win.

There is no reason for me to even go over all the goals. There were way too many of them. Basically what it boiled down to was the Penguins being the better team despite playing some shoddy defense for more than a period. The defense looked lost and left Brad Thiessen out to dry in the first period and let Winnipeg take a 2-1 lead before the Penguins tied it up. It wasn’t pretty but they got through a bad period with the score tied.

After the Jets tied the game at three just four minutes into the second period the Penguins scored three of the next four goals in the game and it was over. The Jets are fighting for a playoff spot and are a few games back and the Penguins are one point back of having the most points in the Eastern Conference. You could tell that these respective teams were in different positions. You could tell that one team had a high level of talent and the other team was fresh off a year where they were in Atlanta. This is to not say that the Jets are a terrible team or a bottom dweller but the Penguins are just on another level and playing the best hockey of any team in the league right now. It is awesome to watch.

Thoughts:

-So about what I said in the preview about James Neal. I guess we can just forget about that. In case you forgot what I wrote I just pointed out that Neal has only five goals since the new year and he was in a pretty bad slump and it would be nice if he broke out for a late season run. Well all he did tonight was score a hat trick, before the third period. Neal was scoring goals like he usually was, by bad angle shots and ripping pucks past helpless goaltenders. Before tonight he scored two goals in the previous four games so maybe he is getting into the groove again. It is great to see.



-So, all that talk about Evgeni Malkin not being the favorite for the Hart now is over, right? He now holds a nine point lead on Steve Stamkos with anywhere from 10-12 games left and I can’t imagine any way Stamkos catches him and with a pair of goals tonight there is a outside shot that he can get to 50 goals himself. He now has 43 goals on the year and would it really surprise you if he got to 50? This was Malkin’s fourth five point night of the year and he really just made it look easy tonight. Malkin's goal that made the game 5-3 also was his 200th of his career. What a player.



-Sidney Crosby might not be scoring goals but man is he setting them up. He had four helpers tonight, three of which were primaries. He is looking better and better each game and it was pretty awesome to see him, Malkin and Neal combine for 13 points and five goals. Secondary scoring has been carrying the Penguins a little more lately so it was good to see the big dogs come out and eat.

-While Brad Theissen wasn’t great he did enough to win tonight. Giving up four goals is never good but when you teammates can pick you up like they did it works out alright. Marc Andre Fleury got his rest and the Penguins got two points in regulation.

-For as much bashing as Tyler Kennedy takes he responded in a big way. A couple of goals and you could tell that a season’s worth of frustration came off his shoulders if only for one night. TK hasn’t been good, at all, for the entire year but if he can heat up a little bit maybe some part of his season can be salvaged.

-The Penguins were also very good in the faceoff circle tonight as they won 42-of-73 tries from the dot. Can’t complain about that. If they can consistently beat other teams in that aspect they are going to be even better, if that is even possible.

-While this was a great win it was just that, a win. It doesn’t matter if the Penguins scored 100 goals and won by 98 or if they scored two goals and won by one, a win is a win is a win. The Penguins need to get back on the saddle because they play a very good Nashville team on Thursday and while it is not an Eastern Conference team the points are still mucho important if the Penguins want to take over the top seed in the East. Oh yea, the Flyers lost in regulation tonight. Perfect.

Penguins Game Day 72 - vs. Winnipeg Jets

Winnipeg Jets

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


The Penguins are back in action after having their 11 game winning streak snapped via an overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday. It was a loss that happened in the final two seconds in overtime and it sucked. We all know that teams have losses and having an 11 game winning streak is amazing but no matter how many in a row you win you are always thirsting for more. Tonight they get a chance to get back into the win column when the Winnipeg Jets come to town.

The Jets are on the outside looking in on the playoff picture as they sit four points behind the eight seeded Washington Capitals for that final playoff spot. The Jets weren't thought to be in contention for a playoff spot but they are third in the Eastern Conference with 23 home victories and that has put them into a spot to play for the second season. The bad part is that the Jets are just dreadful on the road where they only have a 11-19-4 mark.

Because of tiebreakers the Penguins are not able to clinch a playoff spot tonight even though they basically did that weeks ago. The Rangers were the first team to clinch a spot in the playoffs as they have 97 points and before tonight the Penguins only have 94 points. They will be able to pull within one game of the Rangers with a win which would be nice. They are going to have to be pretty good down the stretch as it looks like the Rangers are starting to play some much better hockey lately and it will be interesting to see if the Penguins can keep up that same pace.

Something that has really been glossed over during the winning streak(s) that the Penguins have been on is the lack of goal scoring production from James Neal. Now, don't get me wrong I am not complaining about James Neal because one could argue that he is in the running for team MVP, but since the beginning of February Neal has only found the back of the net five times in 21 games after scoring six goals in the month of January alone. I am not sure what is going on but if the secondary scoring ever goes away anytime soon the Penguins are going to need Neal to fill the back of the net. He does have two goals in the last four games so maybe he is starting to come out of it and maybe I am expecting a little too much because of the pace he got off too. Whatever.



The season series (Pittsburgh leads 2-1):

October 17, 2011 - Winnipeg 2, Pittsburgh 1



December 23, 2011 - Pittsburgh 4, Winnipeg 1



February 11, 2012 - Pittsburgh 8, Winnipeg 5




The Penguins probables (via Penguins website):

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

Defense
Kris Letang - Paul Martin
Brooks Orpik - Zbynek Michalek
Matt Niskanen - Deryk Engelland

Goaltender
Brad Thiessen


The Jets probables (via Empty Netters):

Forwards
Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheelers
Evander Kane - Alexander Burmistrov - Kyle Wellwood
Tim Stapleton - Ben Maxwel - Antti Miettinen
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Spencer Machacek

Defense
Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien
Ron Hainsey - Zach Bogosian
Colin Stuart - Randy Jones

Goaltender
Ondrej Pavelec


The stats: