Thursday, January 31, 2013

Penguins Game 7 Recap - Penguins 3, Rangers 0

It is all good at MSG. Honestly if the Penguins could play like, every game at MSG then I think the Penguins might never lose again. All jokes aside (was that really a joke though?) the Penguins didn't play a great game overall but they did what they had to do to get the two points in regulation and did so against a big time division rival. The power play wasn't great (but it was better) the Penguins passed up a lot of shots (probably not as many as people will tell you though) the secondary scoring really didn't come through (again) but it was enough and I am more than OK with that.

I would be willing to bet if you asked every coach in the league when the worst time to give up a goal is all of them would start by saying 'anytime.' After the laughter would subside they would probably tell you either in the first two minutes or last two minutes of the period. It can really make you feel terrible to just be getting your legs under you for the period and be down a goal or have bad mojo going into the intermission break by giving up a late one. Well the Penguins first two goals of the game were scored in the first two minutes of a period and while MSG was dead to begin with it never really got a chance to get going. Evgeni Malkin scored a goal that beat Henrik Lundqvist short side, where only God knows how he fit the puck in the small space, just 1:24 into the game and then James Neal redirected a Sidney Crosby pass for a power play goal just 28 seconds into the third. Just brutal goals to give up so early in the period. It was awesome.

The Penguins third goal came via Simon Depres who took a pass from Pascal Dupuis after he came out of the penalty box and beat Lundqvist with a backhand that was sick nasty. Really this goal goes to Dupuis as he worked his ass off to fight for the puck and find Despres open in the middle of the ice. The goal essentially was game over with just under half the third period remaining.

The Penguins defense was pretty up and down over the last couple of games but it really looked like it was focused on not giving up anything to the Rangers and they were outstanding at it. They got 28 shots on net but as I was watching the game I can only really think of maybe a couple of really solid scoring chances but everyone from Paul Martin to Robert Bortuzzo were pretty much outstanding. Martin has been just so solid this season which is a complete 180 from what he was like last year. He looks confident and is making pretty much all the right plays. For me it was good to not hear Bortuzzo's name. As I talked about in the preview when you don't hear the name of the bottom defensive pair that is usually good. Make the plays you need to and don't make any glaring mistakes. Even if Lovejoy is healthy I would much rather see Bortuzzo on the ice. Brooks Orpik was a guy that I thought was done after last year but it seems as if the offseason (including lockout) has really given him a chance to get healthy and he is playing some outstanding shutdown hockey being paired with Martin.

Another positive is Dustin Jeffrey. He only had just over ten minutes of ice time but of anyone on the roster that has been trotted out there with Malkin and Neal is he the one who has shown the most upside and was pretty good the past couple of games. He looked pretty comfortable with Malkin and seemed to be finding the open spots in the zone and at least create scoring opportunities. I know he isn't a favorite of Disco's but I would love to continue seeing him on the ice.

Tomas Vokoun earned his 49th career shutout tonight as he stopped all 28 shots and really looked good doing it. There is just something about Vokoun in net that makes everyone clam. He doesn't seem to ever get rattled and to be honest after facing like 73 shots a night in Florida I am not really sure what it feels like to face less than 30 a night on a team with competent defense. While the Rangers didn't have a lot of great chances Vokoun was rock solid when he needed to be. He did get beat twice but the post saved him on both occasions and I am OK with that. I am sure that a lot of people are going to be saying that Vokoun should be getting the majority of the stars but I kinda like what the Penguins have going with the one-two combination of Mark Andre Fleury. People are going to clammer one way or the other but it has been seven games. Vokoun is playing some good hockey and to be honest Fleury has been playing some pretty good hockey himself. This is a very good thing going forward.

The power play was pretty up and down tonight. Coming in it was pretty horrid but the Penguins went back to the setup they used last season with Malkin on the point and used an umbrella to create chances and for the first two power plays they did that. The other few power plays weren't good but they scored on one of those bad power plays so who really knows. Kris Letang really doesn't look all that good at the point. He was pretty good there last year but has regressed so far this season and is passing up on a ton of good looks and missing the net when he is taking a rare shot. I am not sure what it is with him but it really seems to be a confidence thing with him. I am the last person that is yelling "shoot" but Letang passed up on a ton of shots. Sidney Crosby and Malkin passed up their fair share of shots today too. No idea what is going on.

Not sure if Brad Richards is still on the Rangers or if he was just a healthy scratch tonight. Nowhere to be found. The Rangers just looked like total mud. Lundqvist has to be so pissed right now.

Penguins Game 7 Preview - @ New York Rangers

New York Rangers

7:00 p.m., Madison Square Garden, New York, New York

Last Penguins Game:
January 29, 2013 - Islanders 4, Penguins 1 [Recap]

The Penguins are looking to get back on track after what has been a pretty rocky start to the season. After winning the first two games of the year at Philadelphia and at New York (Rangers) the Penguins are only 1-3 and have only scored seven goals and has gone 1-of-14 on the power play. There has been no secondary scoring and while the defense has been fairly good to start the year we are still seeing some significant lapses in play that aren't fun to watch.

Not really sure if it is good that the Penguins are going to MSG tonight. They have played pretty well on the road, which is where all three of their wins have come, but with a team like the Rangers if you turn the puck over that first line is absolutely going to kill you.

The Penguins had a pretty good time of it last time they were at MSG and got some secondary scoring and a solid game from netminder Tomas Vokoun and Disco is going to go back to that tonight as he will get the start in net over Marc Andre Fleury. A good thing for the Penguins is that captain Ryan Callahan will miss the game with a busted up shoulder so that will really limit the Rangers offense to only one line, but like I said earlier that line is more than good enough to win a game all by itself and if the Penguins aren't on their game defensively they will.

The Penguins made a move today to try and get some more offense by grabbing Zach Boychuk off waivers from Carolina. Boychuk is a former first round pick of the Canes back in 2008 but has been compared to Eric Tangradi in terms of why the Canes exposed him on the wire. He is a fast skater that isn't exactly the best defensively but has been known for a good shot so why not take a flyer and see if it works out. Disco referenced that he would be playing with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal but I can't imagine that happening tonight.

Robert Bortuzzo is going to be getting his first playing time of the season tonight. I am pretty excited for this as I think he is a better option than Ben Lovejoy so it will be interesting to see if we hear his name called tonight. Hopefully we don't. Not hearing a bottom pair defensemen's name means that he is doing his job and that is all the Penguins need from him.


The Probables:

Pittsburgh (3-3-0) (via Penguins website)

Forwards
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Dustin Jeffrey - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Matt Cooke - Brandon Sutter - Tyler Kennedy
Tanner Glass - Joe Vitale - Craig Adams

Defense
Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin
Simon Despres - Kris Letang
Deryk Engelland - Robert Bortuzzo

Goaltender
Tomas Vokoun


New York (3-3-0) (via Blueshirt Banter)

Forwards
Marian Gaborik - Brad Richards - Rick Nash
Carl Hagelin - Derek Stepan - Taylor Pyatt
Mike Rupp - Brian Boyle - Benn Ferriero
Arron Asham - Jeff Halpern - Stu Bickel

Defense
Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Michael Del Zotto
Anton Stralman - Matt Gilroy

Goaltender
Henrik Lundqvist


The Season Series (Penguins lead 1-0-0)

January 20, 2013 - Pittsburgh 6, New York 3

The Stats:

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Penguins Game 6 Recap - Islanders 4, Penguins 1


Yep. That about sums it up. This game was close until the Islanders scored their first goal and even before that you kinda had that feeling. Nothing went well. It was pretty much all bad.

The Penguins lines were changing about every other shift and nothing was working. While the defense and goaltending has been good for the first five games they were dreadful in both aspects leaving Fleury to get pulled to start the third period and the defense really making some brutal turnovers that led directly to Islanders goals.

The Islanders are a much better team that most want to give them credit for. They are fast and have actually have some good talent in Michael Grabner and John Tavares. You could argue that the Penguins have more talent but that talent looked lost while the New York talent looked like they were the veteran group the Penguins should be.

I have been talking about the Penguins power play being bad so far this season and they went up against a penalty kill unit that has only given up one power play goal all season. The Penguins could barely get the puck into the zone and when they did they could barely keep it in. Ugly. After the Penguins were down 4-0 they actually got a break when they got a five minute power play where they could effectively score as many goals in that five minutes as they want but they managed only three shots on that power play and had only one good looked that was snuffed out.

It was just a brutal game. That is all from me.

Penguins Game 6 Preview - vs. New York Islanders

New York Islanders


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


The Last Penguins Game:
Penguins 2, Senators 1 (SO) [Recap]

Matt Niskanen is out for the next 2-4 weeks with a "lower body injury" but I think I remember hearing it was an ankle injury and not a knee. Obviously that could have been worse but certainly not good for the Penguins.

Long day for me so instead of trying to rush typing stuff out I will give you this:

The Probables: Penguins (3-2-0) (via Penguins website) Forward Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis Tyler Kennedy - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal Matt Cooke - Brandon Sutter - Tanner Glass Eric Tangradi - Joe Vitale - Craig Adams Defense Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin Simon Despres - Kris Letang Deryk Engelland - Ben Lovejoy Goaltender Marc Andre Fleury Islanders (2-2-1) (via Islanders website) Forwards Matt Moulson - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo Michael Grabner - Frans Nielsen - Brad Boyes David Ullstrom - Keith Aucoin - Colin McDonald Matt Martin - Marty Reasoner - Casey Cizikas Defensemen Mark Streit - Brian Strait Andrew MacDonald - Joe Finley Thomas Hickey - Matt Carkner Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov Last Time They Met: March 29, 2013 - Islanders 5, Penguins 3 The Stats:

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Penguins Game 5 Recap - Penguins 2, Senators 1 (SO)

It wasn't pretty but the Penguins finished with more goals than their opponent even though it took a great performance from goaltender Marc Andre Fleury and a shootout but as they like to say a win is a win. The game wasn't that pretty and the play wasn't that great for the most part but the Penguins got two points on a night where the Flyers got worked by the Lightning and the the Devils took an overtime loss in Montreal.

Overall the Penguins really struggled in the game. It was sort of just like the past couple games this season where they would start off playing a good first period then really falling off as the game goes on. They were turning the puck over and the power play wasn't good (again) but this time they were really able to tighten it up defensively and thankfully it didn't cost them any points in the standings.

This game was all about Marc Andre Fleury. If it wasn't for him today the Penguins would not have got the win in the shootout. They would have not earned a point by getting the game to overtime. They would have not had a chance. The defense was pretty good, and much better than the last two games, but MAF was bailing the team out on point blank chances and he earned the win. His counterpart Craig Anderson played just as well as MAF but just couldn't get the win in the shootout. Not that anyone should take any stock in the three stars after the game as voted on by the media but they gave Anderson the number one star over MAF. Keep being homers Canadian media.

Overall MAF made 31 saves and on more than one occasion he was one-on-one with a puck handler maybe ten feet away and making huge saves. He looked as confident as I can remember over the past couple years and his angles were very good and wasn't afraid to come outside of the crease to cut angles and not gives shooters a lot of room.

Paul Martin continues to be good and collectively the defense did their job. Matt Niskanen missed a vast majority of the game after getting only 6:39 of ice time due to a lower body injury and the Penguins rolled with only five dmen much like they did a few games ago. Not something you want to have to do often but the defense stepped up in a huge way. If Nisky is lost for any amount of time the Penguins are going to be in a lot of trouble so hopefully that is not the case. Maybe this will be the time we get to see Robert Bortuzzo and you have to assume that Simon Despres is going to be back if Nisky can't go. The job was done tonight but going forward it will take an even more consistent effort if Nisky can't go as he is one of the top four guys on the backend.

A guy we need to give some credit to is Eric Tangradi. While he only got just over eight minutes of ice time he was a key part in scoring the Penguins only regulation goal by James Neal and held his own as he was juggled between the second and fourth lines. This should earn him a little more playing time and maybe some more time on the second line but for as much I have beat him down he showed up today and played his best game of this young season.

The Penguins still turned the puck over a ton with nine and the Senators had 12 takeaways so there is still a bunch of work to do. Evgeni Malkin wasn't good again and just seems off and while the secondary scoring was good for the first two games of the season (both wins) it really hasn't given much to the Penguins since.

Not much more to say. The Penguins will take two points and not ask any questions, nor should they. They return to the CONSOL Energy Center for only the second time this season on Tuesday for a game against the Islanders before a huge stretch of games against the Rangers (Thursday), Devils (Saturday), and Capitals (Sunday). The only home game of that bunch is against the Devils and four of the next seven are on the road after four of their first five were on the road.

Penguins Game 5 Preview - @ Ottawa Senators

Ottawa Senators

5:00 p.m., Scotiabank Place, Ottawa, Ontario

Last Penguins Game:
January 25, 2013 - Winnipeg 4, Pittsburgh 2 [Recap]

For a Sunday game a 5:00 p.m. start is sort of weird. As a person that lives in the Central Time Zone this will come as a 4:00 p.m. start for me so it will be a little more like a 3:00 p.m EST start but still I think it is going to be a little different. Like when the puck finally drops at 5:15 or so it will kinda feel like we are all in no mans land of the day and a hockey game is just going to bust out of nowhere. I guess that is just the way it is. Whatever.

The Penguins need a win in a big way. After winning two huge Atlantic Division games to open the season the Penguins have been less than average in two losses including games to Toronto and Winnipeg. The Senators on the other hand have been playing some pretty good hockey, albeit over some average teams, on their way to a 3-1-0 mark with a pair of wins over Florida and a win over Winnipeg. They dropped their only contest of the season to Tampa Bay.

Last season Ottawa just owned Pittsburgh winning three of the four games and scored 22 goals in those four games while giving up 15. It was a high scoring series last year and with offensive weapons like Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza we could be in store for a some more games like this this season.

Craig Anderson should be in net for Ottawa today (tonight?) and has been nothing short of outstanding this season with a 0.67 goals against average and a .976 save percentage. That is pretty good and considering he has stopped 85-of-87 shots in three games coming into the game I think the Penguins are going to have to work damn hard to find the back of the net. Luckily they have the offensive firepower to do so.

Maybe a good thing for the Penguins is that Sidney Crosby might be starting to find that groove. He has three goals in the last two games and while none of the three have been spectacular goals he is still finding the back of the net. He still doesn't seem to be all the way back but when he does get back, yikes.

The power play has been converting at a decent clip but really hasn't looked good at all, especially against Winnipeg in their only chance. Crosby has been turning the puck over, a ton, and nobody really looks in sync. I am sure the Penguins will get a few extra man advantages today and will need to convert.

Marc Andre Fleury is going to be in goal tonight and he doesn't have much success playing in Ottawa. I am not really sure what that means since I am not a fan of records against specific teams since you never really play the same teams with the same players year over year but if that is your vice then there ya go.

Not sure that anyone has done this yet but I am sure some are thinking this way even if they haven't said it yet. This isn't a must win game. Not by a long shot. New Jersey hasn't lost yet and has six points while the rest of the division has four points. It would be a good win for the Penguins to get it but not a must win.


The Probables:

Penguins (2-2-0) (via dailyfaceoff)

Forwards
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Tyler Kennedy - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Matt Cooke - Brandon Sutter - Tanner Glass
Eric Tangradi - Joe Vitale - Craig Adams

Defense
Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin
Matt Niskanen - Kris Letang
Deryk Engelland - Ben Lovejoy

Goaltender
Marc Andre Fleury


Senators (3-1-0) (via daily faceoff)

Forwards
Milan Michalek - Jason Spezza - Jakob Silfverberg
Zack Smith - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson
Colin Greening - Peter Regin - Chris Neil
Kaspars Daugavins - Jim O'Brien - Erik Condra

Defense
Marc Methot - Erik Karlsson
Chris Phillips - Sergei Gonchar
Patrick Wiercioch - Andre Benoit

Goaltender
Craig Anderson


The Last Time They Met:
March 24, 2012 - Ottawa 8, Pittsburgh 4




The Stats

Friday, January 25, 2013

Penguins Game 4 Recap - Jets 4, Penguins 2

Before getting into anything about this game it has to be said that regardless of result that was an outstanding game of hockey to watch. These are the types of games you can get into no matter if you are cheering for a team or not. This is what hockey is supposed to be about. The game flew by with few penalties and great pace and while the Penguins didn't come out on the winning side I can say that this was an extremely enjoyable game to watch.

Now, onto the game. For the first period it looked like the Penguins were going to roll this game. They were fast and all over the place and took a two goal lead thanks solely to a pair of Sidney Crosby goals. Bing was all over the place, creating turnovers and while his shots looked harmless they found the back of the net. This were good, real good. Then came the second period.

The second period was all Jets all the time. They scored three goals and really tightened down on the defense and made it incredibly tough for the Penguins to get anything going offensively. They forced the Penguins into being careless with the puck and then in the third period they built a wall in front of goaltender Ondrej Pavelec.

Pavelec was the number one star in my book after the game. While the defense was good and the Jets offense got the job done it was only due to the fact that it wasn't a bigger deficit. Pavelec absolutely robbed Evgeni Malkin at least twice when the Penguins were up and was able to stand tall after looking generally ordinary at best in the first period.

The biggest problem with the Penguins play tonight was just the general carelessness of the puck carriers. The stat sheet is only going to show nine giveaways but if that would have said 15 or 17 I wouldn't have even thought about it. I actually think nine is a little low for how nonchalant they were with the puck and it absolutely cost them the game.

The Penguins had 35 shots but had another 17 blocked by a wide variety of players. I talked about the Jets overall team defense above and shot blocking is a huge part of that. The Penguins defense combined for four shots and while I don't have specific numbers in front of me they had a lot of their chances blocked. That is huge if you are Pavelec and another big reason the Penguins were unable to get things done in teh second or third.

Tomas Vokoun was good again for the Penguins. Sure he is going to take the loss but the defense really didn't do him any good on a few of those goals, none were worse than the last one which was a game winner. After Malkin turned the puck over at his own blue line the Penguins were OK defensively but a cross ice pass to Andrew Ladd from Bryan Little found the back of the net due to the fact that Ben Lovejoy completely ignored Ladd who was his responsibility leaving him wide open for what turned out to basically be a tap in. On the game tying goal it was a turnover by Chris Kunitz that led to a goal where Kris Letang was flat footed, not that it really mattered, I don't think.

Dustin Byfuglien might get made fun of for his large stature but dude played a big time game today. He was up in Malkin's grill all night. He wasn't perfect against Malkin but his ability to get physical against him down low was key and while his defensive game was pretty good it was hit bomb of a shot that tied the game on the power play. Dude just crushes the puck when he shoots it.

Joe Vitale was a welcome bright spot for the Penguins. He is getting fourth line minutes which is around ten or 11 a night but he is a huge spark plug and every time he was on the ice he was doing something to get me to pay attention to him. While you can't expect you use your fourth line 15 minutes a night it would be nice to see a little more of Vitale because he has brought something the past few nights.

This was Tyler Kennedy's first night on the second line and it was a little hit or miss for me. He did some good things, including drawing a penalty for the Penguins only power play, and he seemed to be out of his league at other points. He did a much better job than Eric Tangradi in that roll so it will be to see how he meshing going forward. I am still not convinced that this is a permanent solution because as it improves the second line a little bit it hurts the third line which was doing WORK the first three games of the season.

Speaking of the third line, Brandon Sutter is getting chances, but he just hasn't been able to find the back of the net. He has a point blank chance in the middle of the game and the puck just rolled off his stick. It happens though. What was more worrisome was that Sutter was only 3-of-13 in the faceoff dot which isn't good when you are going to be relied on to win big time faceoffs. Not overly worried about it though.

That sucked. It was a great game to watch but the Penguins losing sucks. They are now 2-2 after four games of a 48 game season. It is funny because after the two wins last weekend I actually thought that there are going to be games this season where the Penguins were just going to get worked and then there were going to be one goal games that the Penguins were going to fall short. Those games happen to every team every year but it just sucks that both of these scenarios happened back-to-back.

Penguins take on Ottawa Sunday afternoon. Winning then would be fun.

Penguins Game 4 Preview - @ Winnipeg Jets

Winnipeg Jets

8:00 p.m., MTS Centre, Winnipeg, Manitoba

The last Penguins game
January 23, 2013 - Toronto 5, Pittsburgh 2 [Recap]

The Penguins are coming off their first loss and while they have had a pretty good start to the season when I looked at the standings to begin the day I realized that while the Penguins, Flyers, and Rangers were supposed to headline the Atlantic Division the latter two were both 1-3-0 while the Penguins are tied in points with both the Devils and Islanders. Sure, it is only three or four games into the season but still kinda weird to see.

Last season the Penguins took the season series from the Jets 3-1 with the Jets lone win coming in the first game of the series. In that four game series the Penguins scored 21 goals including a pair of eight goal games. I will tell you this that I hope that Penguins team comes to play tonight.

There are a few changes, which you will see in the line pairings, but it seems as if the Eric Tangradi experiment has been put on hold as Tyler Kennedy is going to be throw on the second like with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal. I am not sure if that will stick as Dan Bylsma said that there might be some different players up there but the Tangradi move really isn't that surprising. The other move is that Simon Despres is going to be a healthy scratch with Ben Lovejoy getting his first start of the season.

I guess you need to get Lovejoy out there becuase I would be shocked if a dman didn't go down at some point in the season so you want him to have some playing time but I am not a really big fan of Lovejoy. For the most part he does a decent job but makes a few too many mistakes for my liking, but as a seventh defenseman you could do a lot worse. While Bylsma said that Despres is doing some good things but has also been inconsistent so he wants to get Lovejoy into the game.

Tomas Vokoun will get the start in net after Marc Andre Fleury gave up a five spot on Wednesday and according to Disco MAF will get the start in Ottawa on Sunday afternoon. Part of the reason for setting out the goaltending duties that way was because of " Vokoun's 5-12 career record against the Senators as one of the reasons he will play tonight" according to the Penguins website via Disco.


The Probables:

Pittsburgh (2-1-0) (via Penguins website)

Forwards
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Tyler Kennedy - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Matt Cooke - Brandon Sutter - Tanner Glass
Eric Tangradi - Joe Vitale - Craig Adams

Defense
Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin
Matt Niskanen - Kris Letang
Deryk Engelland - Ben Lovejoy

Goaltender
Tomas Voukoun

Winnipeg (1-1-1) (via Penguins website)

Forwards
Andrew Ladd - Nik Antropov - Bryan Little
Evander Kane - Olli Jokinen - Blake Wheeler
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Alexander Burmistrov - Kyle Wellwood
James Wright - Jim Slater - Chris Thorburn

Defense
Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien
Mark Stuart - Ron Hainsey
Grant Clitsome - Paul Postma

Goaltender
Ondrej Pavelec


The last time they met:
March 20, 2012 - Pittsburgh 8, Winnipeg 4




The Stats:



2013 Penguins Opening Video

Today the Penguins posted the opening video that they used for the home opener on Wednesday against Toronto. As always it is solid stuff:

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Penguins Game 3 Recap - Maple Leafs 5, Penguins 2

For as good as the Penguins were on the road in the first two games of the season they were just as bad for their home opener against the Leafs and I could probably come here and spew a bunch of stuff about how certain things in the game looked good and you could take something away from it but that just isn't the case. The Penguins looked sluggish and never could get anything going and the Leafs forwards were able to create a lot of opportunities with their speedy forwards and while the Penguins fought back they just didn't have it tonight.

There were a bunch of stuff that didn't look good about the Penguins tonight and I don't really know even how to describe the game. They got on the board late in the first with a pretty soft goal on the power play by Evgeni Malkin and then after giving up a pair of goals Sidney Crosby tied the game with a semi breakaway goal in the second period but it wouldn't last.

I know some people are going to throw out the "they weren't trying" or a "they didn't care" card but I hate when that gets said about athletes, especially professional athletes. While they look like they might not be trying that really just isn't the case. These guys are out there playing for a paycheck and poor performances put you on the bench, just as Eric Tangradi. So while it might look like they weren't trying, they were, it just wasn't there for some reason tonight. It is really too bad because I really thought the Penguins might go 48-0-0 this season.

While the entire team didn't look particularly good the power play was just awful tonight. Sure, they scored a power play goal early but with Crosby, Malkin, James Neal and Kris Letang on the ice you would think that they would create unlimited chances. They didn't. Hell, when they are on the ice in 5-on-5 situations they create unlimited chances but on the power play they looked discombobulated and really didn't know where they wanted to go with the puck. The Leafs did a really nice job of pressuring the points and pressuring the puck handler and that seemed to really frustrate the Penguins and make them uncomfortable which in turn forced them to turn the puck over.

In turn, on a positive, the Penguins penalty kill was absolutely outstanding. They were faced with a 50 second 5-on-3 and they didn't give the Leafs any room and even when the Leafs has the run of the mill 5-on-4 power play they couldn't do anything. The Leafs ended up getting a power play goal on a full two minute 5-on-3 but they couldn't complete the full two minute job. The Leafs only went 1-of-8 on the power play and while the Penguins have given up a pair of power play goals this season they were both while two men down and

Malkin really wasn't good tonight and he really wasn't bad, he was just a little up and down all night. He was his usual self as he was flying around the zone but just didn't have it. His most careless mistake came when he took the puck in his own end and passed it to James van Riemsdyk with about five minutes left in the second where van Riemsdyk just buried it past Fleury. Literally looked like Malkin thought he was on the Leafs and he was trying to set up van Riemsdyk. It happens. Whatever. He's still one of the top players in the world and while games like this happen they happen fewer and far between for players like Malkin.

Tangradi was just brutal tonight. Again. After a turnover that led to a Leafs goal he didn't see the ice again and finished the game with only six shifts for 4:27. Yikes.

Fleury was good tonight at times and wasn't good tonight at times but I think he was much better than his stats will indicate. There was the brutal giveaway by Malkin and another time he was virtually taken out of the play by his own player. By no means was Fleury good but, like I feel like I have been talking about it for a billion times, he wasn't the worst on the ice. He was firmly in the middle with 99% of the Penguins related things that were just meh.

The Penguins penalty kill was great all night but that turns to another problem: they took way too many penalties. They gave the Leafs eight power play attempts and while the Leafs were awful on the power play you can't give another team eight power play chances and expect to win. While the Penguins are usually Crosby on the penalty kill there are guys who don't play on the PK, including Malkin. For nearly a full period worth of time the Penguins were on the PK so that is 16 minutes that Malkin wasn't on the ice. That decreases your chances of winning.

The Leafs actually played a really good hockey game. They came in and forced the Penguins hand. van Riemsdyk was outstanding with a pair of goals and an assist while goaltender James Reimer was great in net stopping 28-of-30 shots. Reimer robbed Malkin at one point and looked really poised for a Leafs team that might literally kill for a competent goaltender. The Penguins were bad but the Leafs were good too as they utilized their speedy forwards to create chances that finally found the back of the net in the second and third period after a scoreless first.

Overall it was a shitty game. Shitty games happen. It was the home opener and I am sure the Penguins were flying high after a hot start and this game slapped them in the face and let them know that they aren't just going to be able to roll. They only get a day to think about this before they are back on the ice on Friday when they travel to Winnipeg to play the Jets.

Penguins Game 3 Preview - vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs


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


Penguins last game:
January 20, 2013 - Penguins 6, Rangers 3 [Recap]

The Penguins are back on the ice after not playing since Sunday (gasp!) and while it has only been a few days it seems like forever ago since there have been unlimited hockey games on TV (which has been awesome). Nevertheless luckily the Penguins aren't going to into the game without a win (cough Flyers cough) and while the Penguins haven't been perfect in their first two contests they did go to New York and Philadelphia and came out with four points.

Today the Penguins come back to the CONSOL Energy Center to play the Leafs who have just been brutal over the last number of years and they just got done firing General Manager Brian Burke just days before the season. While the Leafs are without any substained success they do have some talent on the roster with defenseman Dion Phaneuf and wingers Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul.

While the Penguins have started the season 2-0-0 they are looking to win their first three games for the first time since the 1994-95 season which seems pretty hard to believe with some of the success the Penguins have had between then and now but another win tonight, in a shortened season, would be huge.

Not too much change with the lineup as expected as they will roll with the same grouping of forwards and defenseman with Marc Andre Fleury starting in goal.


The last time they met:
March 7, 2012 - Penguins 3, Leafs 2





The Probables:

Pittsburgh (2-0-0) (via Penguins website)

Forwards
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Eric Tangradi - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Matt Cooke - Brandon Sutter - Tyler Kennedy
Tanner Glass - Joe Vitale - Craig Adams

Defense
Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin
Matt Niskanen - Kris Letang
Simon Despres - Deryk Engelland

Goaltender
Marc Andre Fleury


Toronto (1-1-0) (via Toronto Maple Leafs website)

Forwards
Clarke MacArthur - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Joffrey Lupul - Nazem Kadri - Leo Komarov
James van Riemsdyk - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin
Mike Brown - Jay McClement - Colton Orr

Defense
Michael Kostka - Dion Phaneuf
John-Michael Liles - Cody Franson
Mark Fraser - Carl Gunnarson

Goaltender
James Reimer


The Stats:


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Penguins Game 2 Recap - Penguins 6, Rangers 3

You really couldn't have asked for a better start of the season if you are a fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins. First they go on the road to a place they were tortured in the playoffs last season and get a close win and the next night they travel to New York and play a Rangers team that many picked to win the East and they went in their barn and just dominated play from start to wins en route to a 6-3 win. Thanks to a Rangers loss yesterday and a Flyers loss earlier today the Penguins are now four points up on both teams after only two games. While it is only two games and a lot of things can happen in a condensed schedule any time you can get a pair of road wins against the top two division opponents you take it and run. Really there wasn't much to be upset about if you are a Penguins fan. They came out and took a 1-0 lead on a James Neal power play goal just under two minutes in for the second straight fast start in as many games. The Rangers did get their own power play goal on a 5-on-3 about halfway through the period and then played some good puck possession hockey for a few minutes but after that it was all Penguins. Tyler Kennedy found the back of the net at the 15 minute mark and then almost four minutes later Matt Niskanen scored for a two goal leading heading into the intermission.  The second period was all Pens all the time. It was the most dominating period of hockey that I have seen by the Penguins in some time and if they kept a time of possession statistic I don't think I would be out of line by saying the Pens controlled play for about 75-80% of the period. They added another power play goal off the stick of Pascal Dupuis and it was really over at that point. James Neal got on the board (again) at the start of the third period and while the Rangers got the deficit to two with just over five minutes left I don't think they ever really had a chance. Kris Letang finished the game with an empty netter. Tomas Vokoun got the start tonight and was pretty good despite giving up three goals. As I have said a few times before he missed a good chunk of last season due to a torn groin so this was his first playing time in about ten months. He is a big guy in net and is a lot different than Marc Andre Fleury as he is much more of a standup goaltender but made some really big saves. The best part of the game for him came right after the Rangers tied the game at one. The Rangers brought a lot of pressure but you would have never known as Vokes was calm and made big save after big save and his offense rewarded him. He saved 12-of-13 shots in the first and then only faced nine shots in the second and by the time the third rolled around it was all over.  I talked in my preseason preview about how if the Penguins really wanted to make a run at the cup they were going to need some roll players to step up and supplement the scoring. That happened yesterday and it happened today as Dupuis and Kennedy played really good hockey again and they scored the goal that really gave the Penguins a nice cushion. Kennedy continued his strong play from yesterday and while he only got around 13 minutes of ice time he scored a goal and looked really strong on his skates. If you look at the score sheet you are going to see that Sidney Crosby only had one assist and won only 6-of-21 faceoffs but he really had a pretty nice game. He was making solid passes and his vision is just off the chains. It is hard to really put into words why I thought Crosby was good tonight but if you watched the game then I think you know what I am talking about. He draws a lot of attention and he makes everyone else around him better. and that won't show up on the score sheet. You can tell Crosby is ready to break out and when he does watch out. How good is Neal? Ray Shero should be thrown a parade for getting Neal from the Stars for Alex Goligoski and also getting Niskanen as a throw in. Neal's release is just ridiculously good and when you talk about gifted shooters you have to include Neal as one of the best. He now has three goals and while you are going to hear a lot of Crosby/Evgeni Malkin/Claude Giroux/etc. for the case of MVP you might want to keep Neal in mind. He doesn't get quite the attention but he is coming off a 40 goal year and is off to a really hot start. He gets power play time and when teams focus on Malkin and Crosby that is going to let Neal settle in the soft spots and just pick his spots. You didn't really hear Malkin's name too much and some might say he had a quiet night but he assisted on three goals and was labeled the number two star of the game. It is pretty funny when you can say that. The defense did another outstanding job tonight and Paul Martin was really good again. He had a few turnovers early but settled down and is playing really well with Brooks Orpik as the shutdown pair. Speaking of Orpik, he is playing so noticeably better this season you have to wonder if getting the lockout time to rest really helped him. The past couple years he has had a few hernia surgeries and it looked as if he was on his way out but the first two games we've seen the old Orpik where he is stepping up and giving some crushing hits and playing good defensive hockey. Love to see it. A guy that is really interesting to watch is Simon Despres. He is young and is kind of being thrown to the fire and you can tell. He doesn't look quite that comfortable and he most certainly has his ups and downs but he is learning. He is going to be really good when he figures it out he is going to be a huge asset for the Penguins. He had the third lowest minutes on the team with 10:41 of ice time. If the Penguins aren't going to give him regular minutes I would rather them maybe dress seven defensemen but maybe this was just a beginning of the year thing to get him comfortable. The Penguins were not very good in the faceoff circle either. They did a really nice job against the Flyers but tonight they won only 27-of-63 faceoffs. As I said Crosby didn't have a good night and Joe Vitale and Brandon Sutter were the only two Penguins over 50% on draws. One good game and one bad game aren't anything to hang your hat on and I am sure it will stabilize but while it didn't hurt the Penguins tonight because of the fast offensive start it will kill them if they can't win draws. I don't expect them to be bad because I can't imagine Crosby only winning 29% of his chances all season.

Same song as last night. It is very early in the season. The Rangers had a good bit of turnover from last season and with only a little bit over the week to work you really saw that tonight and last night with the New York team. The Penguins are pretty much the same team from last year and I think that is helping them early. I expect the Rangers to be much, much, better as the season goes on but getting this win is something the Penguins needed. The Pens only play one division game in the final nine games of the season so a lot of the division games are going to come early. If there is a tight race they aren't going to be able to gain four points in one game so when they have these games they need to win as many of the points now so they don't have to worry about it later. Wins on the road in Philadelphia and New York aren't easy to do, especially in back-to-back nights, but that is waht this team did and that is good.

It is still an extremely small sample size but the Penguins are 2-0-0 and that is pretty awesome.

Penguins Game 2 Preview - @ New York Rangers

New York Rangers

7:00 p.m., Madison Square Garden, New York, New York

Last Penguins Game: January 19, 2013 - Penguins 3, Flyers 1 [Recap]

The Penguins got off to a fast start yesterday against the Flyers and completely dominated the first period of play while taking a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.The Penguins then got a little sloppy as the game went on and the offense wasn't the same the rest of the game but the defensive unit led by Paul Martin and Marc Andre Fleury held the fort and got the Pens the big win.

Things aren't easier today as they face off at MSG where if you are watching on TV will have the lighting of an average 1920's house with blind spots like you are driving a 1997 SUV. Fact of the matter is that for most people the Penguins and Rangers are two of the best three or four teams in the league and a matchup this early isn't going to decided the fate for the year but it can set the tone. The Rangers need to get back on track after falling to the Bruins last night and the Penguins are looking to continue the momentum after the win yesterday. Like I said winning this game isn't going to decide the season but the Penguins could have unreal confidence with a regular season win.

The Rangers are an unreal talented team as they were last year but they went and made a big move and acquired Rick Nash from the Blue Jackets for Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, and defensive prospect Tim Erixon. Dubinsky was a tool but Anisimov was a gritty forward that always seemed to score big goals. I am not a huge Nash fan and thing that he isn't all he is cracked up to be but I can't deny that he is a goal scoring talent to go along with the likes of Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik, and Ryan Callahan. They are able to put the puck in the net at any time so the defense is going to have to step up. Lord knows I don't want to listen to that God awful goal song that MSG plays.

The defense is just as good with Marc Staal and Michael Del Zotto so it isn't going to be easy for Crosby and company to get good looks but they have had success before. The real star of the show for the Rangers is goaltender Henrik Lundqvist as he might be considered the best in the game. Last season against the Penguins Lundqvist made four starts and posted an impressive 2.28 GAA and a .931 save percentage.

Tomas Vokoun is going to get his first start as a Penguin tonight. Before the season it was pretty much expected that he was going to get 15-20 starts and with the shortened season it looks like a great move by Ray Shero to bring in Vokoun. Should be interesting to see how he looks as he missed a large portion of the end of last season with a torn groin and then obviously hasn't played because of the lockout.

The Penguins are going to need to do the same thing they did yesterday. Keep things simple and make the smart play. I would anticipate that things are still going to be sloppy as teams are trying to get a feel back for the game so getting shots on net should be the game plan. The perfect passes just aren't going to be there yet so just throw pucks at the net and try to clean up the garbage if there is a rebound and get out of MSG with two points.

Interesting to note that the Penguins are 109-109-23-8 (OTL) against the Rangers in 249 games. That is pretty even, no?

The probables:

Penguins (1-0-0) (via Penguins website)

Forwards
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Eric Tangradi - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Matt Cooke - Brandon Sutter - Tyler Kennedy
Tanner Glass - Joe Vitale - Craig Adams

Defense
Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin
Kris Letang - Matt Niskanen
Simon Despres - Deryk Engelland

Goaltender
Tomas Voukoun

Rangers (0-1-0) (via Daily Faceoff)

Forwards
Rick Nash - Brad Richards - Carl Hagelin
Marian Gaborik - Derek Stepan - Ryan Callahan
Chris Kreider - Brian Boyle - Taylor Pyatt
Mike Rupp - Jeff Halpern - Arron Asham

Defense
Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Anton Stralman
Michael Del Zotto - Stu Bickel

Goaltender
Henrik Lundqvist

The last time they met:

April 5, 2012 - Pittsburgh 5, New York 2



The Stats:

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Penguins Game 1 Recap - Penguins 3, Flyers 1

During the first game of the season after the lockout I really didn't expect for either team to play very well. Although a lot of players skated during the lockout and some even played overseas I just didn't imagine that there was going to be a ton of continuity and sharpness in the game. Well, I was pretty much right today as both teams were a little sloppy with the puck but if you expected a high scoring game then you were in for a huge surprise as the Penguins skated away with a 3-1 win and one of those goals was an empty netter with only a handful of seconds left. The defense was there (for the most part) the goaltending was good and it was physical. All told it was a great hockey game to watch and there wasn't even a fight!

The best period of hockey the entire game by either team was the first period for the Penguins. They were all over the Flyers and held an 11-6 advantage in shots and those six shots included three power play opportunities for the Flyers It was as dominating of a period as you could have asked for.

If you guessed that Paul Martin was going to open the scoring for the Penguins then you were one of the few that weren't being sarcastic. Martin got the scoring started on the Penguins first power play of the season at the 4:40 mark. Broad Street Hockey got a clutch gif of the goal as it was originally credited to Tyler Kennedy but was switched at the second intermission.



The Penguins second goal was about as vintage as it gets. I guess you can call it the James Neal play as Evgeni Malkin won the face off and got it back to Neal in the deep slot and he beat Ilya Bryzgalov for a 2-0 lead that would turn out to be the game winning goal. The Penguins didn't score the rest of the game but the defense was able to shut the door.

Claude Giroux got a goal in the first couple of minutes of the second period and if that didn't give you an amazing uneasy feeling then you didn't watch the Penguins at the end of last year or in the playoffs. It is so nice sitting back and reflecting on teh game that the Penguins were able to hold on in a tight game as the view of the Penguins going into the season was the goaltending and defense was shoddy at best.

Here are some thoughts:

-There were a lot of good things in the game but I think it all starts and ends with Martin. He wasn't named a star after the game but I would imagine if you asked anyone they would say that Martin was the number one star in the game. In his two years with the Penguins he has been very up and down. He was pretty good in his first year with the Penguins before just having a brutal season last year. Although this was the first game of the season he looked comfortable and in charge which gave him a two point day. I guess he is in the running for the scoring race.

-The loss of Jordan Staal was a tough one but everything that I have seen from Brandon Sutter has been nothing less than outstanding. He was a huge part of the Penguins PK going a perfect 5-for-5 and he was just a pest in the Flyers side all day long. He won't show up on the score sheet with any points but he logged over 17 minutes of ice time going against the top line of the Flyers (when possible). It is going to be fun to watch him play this season. He isn't Jordan Staal but he showed that he can get the job done just as well, so far.

-Another whipping boy for Penguins fans over the last few years has been Kennedy. I am not a huge fan of him but he played an outstanding game today. He was getting into the corners fight for pucks and even threw some pretty big hits in open ice which was pretty surprising to see. He looked quick on the ice. Hopefully he can keep that energy up because that third line is already good and if Kennedy can play better hockey than last year it can be a dangerous line.

-Marc Andre Fleury was worlds better than he was last season. He only faced six shots in the first period and looked a little stiff but as the game went on MAF only got better. He did give up a goal to Giroux that was a pretty nice play thanks to pretty bad plays by Brooks Orpik and Chris Kunitz but after that Fleury was on point. In the last seven minutes of action the Flyers got two power play chances and Flower was there to shut the door both times. There were some nervous moments in those power plays but Fleury doesn't make those saves at the end of last year.

-For as much as we expected from Malkin it was really a scattered game from him. He was all over the ice for the first half of the game creating turnovers and making things happen but he wasn't as good as the game went on. Granted, the Flyers did a really nice job of locking him up but as one of the best players in the world it would have been great to see a few more scoring opportunities. This really isn't a criticism as much as me building up what he was going to do in the first game.

-The first period was outstanding but the second period wasn't very good for the Penguins. They got a little careless with the puck and turned it over giving the Flyers some opportunities but the defense, and MAF, was there to bail them out. They were much tighter in the third period but it was a little bit of an up and down game. This was the first game of the season with some new players on the team and only a handful of practices so I guess I am not really sure if this is something that is going to continue going forward or not. I guess we will see.

-Eric Tangradi was bad. Like, really bad. When he was around the puck things just didn't happen. He wasn't particularly able to keep up with the pace of play on the second line and a few times he was on the ice with Crosby and it just made him look slower. I know I have hated on Tangradi in the past but he hasn't shown me anything that has proved that he should be in the lineup on a consistent basis.

-One thing that was a breath of fresh air was the Penguins got back to winning faceoffs. Overall the Penguins won 35-of-62 of them and each of Crosby, Malkin and Sutter were over 50%. That was a problem down the stretch where the Penguins were getting a lot less possessions but that wasn't the case today. With offensive zone faceoffs you want to control the puck and give yourself scoring opportunities and the Penguins did that. Sutter was pretty good on faceoffs today and with him being in a PK/shutdown roll winning faceoffs is a huge advantage.

-Last thing is while I have talked about all the good things (and some bad) that went on today you have to keep things in perspective. This was only the first of 48 games and when you talk about small sample sizes there isn't much more small sample size than one game. Martin could go out and play the worst game of his career tomorrow and Tangradi can go out and net four goals so while we are high/low on those scenarios today they could totally flip tomorrow. With the shortened season it is more of a sprint but things still need to be put in perspective.

Feels great getting a win. With the Penguins not playing many divisional games over the last 15 games getting division wins now is very important. Going on the road in Philadelphia and getting two points is really big. Don't sit on it for long though because the Penguins get the Rangers in like ten minutes.

Benstonium's 2013 Pittsburgh Penguins Hype Video

Outstanding video for the start of the season by Benstonium

Penguins Game Day 1 - @ Philadelphia Flyers


Philadelphia Flyers


3:00 p.m., Wells Fargo Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

When the lockout got lifted a few weeks ago I really thought the season would get here quick. It didn't. It feels like months ago that we should have been watching hockey and, well, it should have been but boy will it be nice to flick on the TV and see some hockey on TV starting at 3 p.m. and going throughout the day.

The first game of the season shapes up as the end of the season did last year. Penguins and Flyers. This will be the eighth straight game between the two teams through the playoffs and the end of the regular season. There has been love love loss and there will be no second guessing when these teams get off the ice.

The Penguins are coming off a brutal drubbing to the Flyers in the playoffs where they were just flat embarrassed. The series ended with the Penguins winning two of six games but that doesn't do justice to what the Flyers did to them throughout the series. The Flyers, and their fans, have bragging rights right now and there would be no better way to calm that than with an opening night victory in their own barn.

While not much about the defense has changed the team should be much better for the wear as everyone is healthy. Granted the Penguins are going to need Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang, Marc Andre Fleury, and the rest of the defensive core to be better but the Penguins are returning two of the best players in the world in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Man, how great is that to say. Offense shouldn't be a problem and if the defense could tighten up a little bit then things could be much different in this game.

The Flyers are going to be missing Danny Briere but they still have a stacked lineup with newly minted captain Claude Giroux along with Scott Hartnell and Sean Couturier. The Flyers will most likely try the same game plan they did in the playoffs which was to just beat the hell out of the Penguins and break their will. The Flyers will dump the puck deep and hit the defense as they go back to retrieve it and they will punish the forwards through the neutral zone, especially Crosby, Malkin, and Neal. The Penguins are going to be ready for it because they have to be.

Gonna be a ton of fun to watch. Buckle up.

The Probables (via NBC):

Pittsburgh (0-0-0)

Forwards
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Eric Tangradi - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Matt Cooke - Brandon Sutter - Tyler Kennedy
Tanner Glass - Joe Vitale - Craig Adams

Defense
Matt Niskanen - Kris Letang
Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin
Simon Despres - Deryk Engelland

Goaltender
Marc Andre Fleury


Philadelphia (0-0-0)

Forwards
Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Brayden Schenn
Max Talbot - Sean Couturier - Jakub Voracek
Wayne Simmonds - Scott Laughton - Matt Read
Ruslan Fedotenko - Eric Wellwood - Zac Rinaldo

Defense
Braydon Coburn - Nicklas Grossman
Kimmo Timonen - Luke Schenn
Andrej Meszaros - Kurtis Foster

Goaltender
Ilya Bryzgalov


Last time they met:

April 22, 2012 - Philadelphia 5, Pittsburgh 1 - Game 6 Eastern Conference First Round



Yuck.