Thursday, February 28, 2013

Penguins Game 21 Recap - Hurricanes 4, Penguins 1

-This was very similar to the kind of game they played in Florida only this time the Penguins PK was able to hold their opposition off the board but still were down 4-1. This time the Penguins weren't able to make any kind of comeback and the Hurricanes really took them to task and earned a really strong two points from the Penguins. The Penguins lost back-to-back games for the third time this season. Sad times. -The Penguins showed some flashes of solid play but for much of the game they looked out of their element and seemed as if they had their sights on something else other than the hockey game. Carolina was physical with the Penguins defense, especially Kris Letang, and it looked like it made the Penguins a little tentative on the backend and could have forced them into a few pretty brutal turnovers. -Speaking of Mr. Letang he looked pretty lost for much of the game. Letang has been on a sort of roller coaster ride so far this season and tonight was one of those down games, especially on the power play. As I said above Letang was getting hit pretty hard and he looked like it bothered him a bit as the game went on. On the power play he just doesn't look comfortable. It looks like he is trying to force himself to be a puck distributer rather than just letting his talent play. Not really sure how you fix that but the power play hasn't been the same since Evgeni Malkin went out with his concussion. That is a pretty small sample size but there weren't many good chances created the last couple of games. -Simon Despres needs to be back in the lineup. Nothing more really needs to be said there. -One of the lone bright spots on the night was the Chris Kunitz goal. The feed from Sidney Crosby was filthy and Kunitz was there to finish the job. Honestly when Bing was coming down the far wall I knew he was going to try the cross rink pass and I thought to myself "no way he gets that pass through." All Crosby did was get the pass through in a perfect spot for Kunitz to burry it. Ho hum. -Marc-Andre Fleury was really good tonight. Sure, he gave up four goals on 29 shots but he was very good all game. The defense was brutal in front of him and off the top of my head MAYBE one of the goals he really should have stopped but just in the first period he saved about four goals. Did the best he could in a bad situation. -The Penguins hit a total of three posts. James Neal missed a wide open net late. I know it seems like I say things like "it's just one of those nights" but tonight it was just one of them nights. The effort wasn't there for the complete game but in the NHL today it is going to take a solid effort and some luck here and there. By no means did they deserve to win this game tonight but it would have been nice for one of those goals to go in to make the game more interesting.

-Have I said the power play was really bad tonight? Yikes.

-The Penguins are now 13-8-0 and stuck on 26 points with a really tough game in Montreal on Saturday night. While things aren't ideal right now for our favorite team things could be a lot worse. The Penguins have some obvious problems with consistency but pretending like they are the only team in the league with problems would be way off base. Do I think they Penguins have to play better if they want to have a chance to win the Stanley Cup? Yea. Do I think that this isn't a playoff team even if they drop their game on Saturday to Montreal? No. Maybe I am just way too optimistic but the team will go through their ups and down and just as sure as they won five of six games a week ago they will lose multiple games in a row. It happens.

Penguins Game 21 Preview - @ Carolina Hurricanes

Carolina Hurricanes

7:00 p.m., PNC Arena, Raleigh, North Carolina

The Last Penguins Game: February 26, 2013 - Florida 6, Pittsburgh 4 [Recap]

After suffering a pretty bad loss in Florida the Penguins have a couple of pretty tough road games starting with the game tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes. There might be some reason this game is a kinda big deal for Penguins fans but I just can't put my finger on it.



Oh. Right.

But yea, Jordan Staal is going to be playing his first game against the Penguins since that draft that sent him to play in Carolina and sign a pretty significant contract. I am sure this is going to get beat in the ground all the way to China but if you want to know what I think about Staal you can read about what I said way back in June. It has been weird to see Staal in another jersey when you are watching highlights but I think it will be even more weird when we see him lined up on the other side of Sidney Crosby trying to shut him down.

On the flip side Brandon Sutter will be going back to Carolina. If you remember from when the trade happened he was pretty caught off guard by the situation and you could tell back then that he really loved playing for the Hurricanes and really wanted to help them turn things around. I am sure it is going to be a little bit more emotional night for him since he is going back to Carolina for the game but I would assume that Staal is going to get much more of the talk leading up to the game.

Outside of the obvious story lines the Penguins could really use a win here. The loss in Florida was brutally bad and now the Penguins are going to play in an emotional game on the road and then have to travel up to Canada Saturday night for a game against Montreal, which is never easy.

Something interesting that is going on right now might not seem significant to most but is really starting to become a head scratcher, and that is down at the third defensive pairing. Right now it looks as if the Penguins have been rolling with Robert Bortuzzo and Deryk Engelland and that is leaving Simon Despres up in the box and I am not really sure how I feel about that and the more I think about it the more I don't like it. This season Despres has made his fair share of mistakes but he has also looked really good in spots, which is what you expect out of a rookie, but I think I would like to see him come back in the lineup and play with Bortuzzo and see Engelland get some time up in the box. Now, I don't think Engelland has been as bad as some do but he hasn't been playing well enough to where I think she should be unable to be a healthy scratch.

Other than that Marc-Andre Fleury is back in net for the Penguins. He was supposed to get the day off on Tuesday but had to come on and play about half the game thanks to Tomas Vokoun vomiting all over himself in the crease in the loss. Good times guys.


The Probables:

Pittsburgh (13-7-0) (via Penguins Website)

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

Defense
Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin
Matt Niskanen - Kris Letang
Deryk Engelland - Robert Bortuzzo

Goaltender
Marc-Andre Fleury


Carolina (9-8-1) (via DailyFaceoff)

Forwards
Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Alexander Semin
Jeff Skinner - Jordan Staal - Chad LaRose
Jussi Jokinen - Riley Nash - Pat Dwyer
Drayson Bowman - Tim Brent - Tim Wallace

Defense
Jay Harrison - Justin Faulk
Joe Corvo - Jamie McBain
Tim Gleason - Bobby Sanguinetti

Goaltender
Cam Ward


The Last Time They Met:

January 17, 2012 - Pittsburgh 2, Carolina 1 (SO)

  The Stats:

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Penguins Game 20 Recap - Panthers 6, Penguins 4

-It was one of those games where if you told me the Penguins scored four goals then I would have told you that the Penguins would win but if you told me they lost I wouldn't be surprised. It was one of those games where the Penguins took unlimited penalties and it got them in a huge hole. They were able to get out of that hole and tie the game only to give up a goal after a power play expired. Ugh. -Tomas Vokoun didn't have a good game. He was yanked after a period and a half after giving up four goals and just didn't look good at all. He looked frustrated and out of his game and much like the game against the Flyers he just looked out to lunch. The defense wasn't good and all four goals came on the power play but a few of them he probably should have stopped and much like the game against the Flyers he wasn't able to get that bail out save. -The discipline was horribly bad again tonight. They gave the Panthers seven power plays and while the Florida power play has been pretty bad all season they got it working tonight as they scored four power play goals. One was on a five on three, if that even matters. It seems like once every five games or so the Penguins get into this funk where they try to take unlimited penalties and try to get behind. It worked tonight. -While the Penguins did their best to get run out of the arena they actually made a nice comeback effort in the second period. After the Panthers made it 4-1 at the 8:54 mark they bounced back with a goal just 57 seconds later. They then scored twice more before the period ended and tied the score. While the Penguins played a pretty bad hockey game by all accounts they were still in it. -They were able to get three straight goals to tie it up they couldn't finish it. As a Tomas Fleischmann penalty expired Kris Letang made a horrible pinch that led to a 2-on-1 where Matt Niskanen took away the pass and Fleischmann beat Marc-Andre Fleury above the blocker for a pretty nice goal. It was the game winner. Killer. -At the beginning of the year the penalty kill was about as automatic as it gets but recently it hasn't been good. They have been allowing teams to get in front of their goaltenders and it has directly led to goals. Now, there isn't much you can do on that when it is 5-on-3 but when you are only one man down they need to do a much better job of clearing the front of the net. Tomas Kopecky made a living in front of the crease tonight and he was rewarded with a pair of power play goals and picked up the hat trick with an empty net goal.

-The final stats says that the arena was 90.3% full. Yea, right.

Penguins Game 20 Preview - @ Florida Panthers

Florida Pathers

7:30 p.m., BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise, Florida

The Last Penguins Game:
February 24, 2013 - Pittsburgh 5, Tampa bay 3 [Recap]


The Penguins take on the Panthers for the second time in three games after they got a hard fought 3-1 win on Friday. This time they have to travel to Florida. Things are amazingly jumbled up in the East with the difference between first and seventh is only two points but the Penguins have been doing a pretty nice job of keeping up the pace as they have the most regulation wins in the conference with 12 (Toronto also has 12 but have played one more game than the Pens) which is going to help big time when tiebreakers come in at the end of the season.

As I said the Pens will be in Florida and that might be a good thing because the Penguins are 8-2-0 on the road this season and only Toronto can even match the Penguins number of wins on the road and that includes the Flyers who have played 12 road games but can only muster a 4-8-0 mark on the road.

On Friday the Penguins did a pretty nice job limiting the Panthers to only 23 shots and held them to only three shots in the first period of that game. On the other side the Penguins were able to throw 40 shots on goal and while the Penguins were behind 1-0 at the halfway point of the game they were able to finally take over in the third period with a pair of goals and put the game away. I would assume they would try to do the same thing as the Panthers are going to be without some of their top players. Stephen Weiss will miss tonight's contest due to a death in the family while Scottie Upshall and Kris Versteeg will still be out thanks to various injuries.

Jose Theodore is going to be in net for the Panthers for the first time since February 18 and before that he was just getting toasted. Including that start on the 18th Thoeodore has given up 15 goals in his last four starts with all of those starts coming in losses, although two of them did go to extra time. On the season he has a 3.37 GAA and a .893 save percentage in 12 games so he hasn't been lighting the world on fire and with the Panthers sending Jacob Markstrom back down to their AHL affiliate if the Penguins get to Theodore early there might not be much better to go to as Scott Clemmensen has been worse than Theodore this season.

Tomas Vokoun is back in net for the Penguins as Dan Bylsma is going to give the veteran netminder a chance to play against his former team on the road. Vokoun is coming off one of his worst games of the season against the Flyers where he gave up six goals, including a brutal game winner with only a minute and a half to go, but he has been pretty good this season so I am glad he is back out there to try and redeem himself from the last game out.

The Probables:

Pittsburgh (13-6-0) (via Penguins website)

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

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

Goaltender
Tomas Vokoun


Florida (5-9-4) (via Panthers Twitter)

Forwards
Jonathan Huberdeau - Drew Shore - Peter Mueller
Shawn Matthias - Scott Timmins - Tomas Kopecky
Tomas Fleischmann - Marcel Goc - Mike Santorelli
Jack Skille - Jerred Smithson - George Parros

Defense
Brian Campbell - Mike Weaver
Dmitry Kulikov - Erik Gudbranson
Tyson Strachan - Colby Robak

Goaltender
Jose Theodore


The Last Time They Met:

February 22, 2013 - Pittsburgh 3, Florida 1

The Stats:

Monday, February 25, 2013

Turns Out The Pirates Aren't A Terrible Franchise

While that headline might have caught your attention it might have been a little misleading. Maybe. Today Chris Jaffe over at The Hardball Times brought up a pretty interesting point in Pittsburgh Pirates history when 40,000 days ago today the Buccos used a doubleheader sweep over the Philadelphia Phillies to move their franchise record to .500. The Pirates have not gone under .500 as a franchise since that time. Chris goes on to tell you that the Pirates have 104 more wins than losses so they are pretty far away from being a .500 franchise over their existence.

This might be a "who gives a crap" piece of information but for a lot of the fan base they don't know the Pirates as anything but a complete and utter failure. Sure, the past 20 years have been brutally bad but that shouldn't take away from a ton of good years that the team has had and will hopefully have in the future.

Check the link out if you haven't already because there are a ton of "Day-versaries" and "Anniversaries" that Chris goes through including this day in 1999 when the Pirates traded Tony Womack to Arizona. Oh Tony Womack, you were the man.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Penguins Game 19 Recap - Penguins 5, Lightning 3

-The Penguins got off to a hot start and held off Tampa Bay. Sidney Crosby was doing Sidney Crosby things with a pair of goals in the first seven minutes and was far and away the best player on the ice the rest of the night. Just ridiculous. The pass he used to almost set up a Chris Kunitz goal that hit the pipe was something that you had to see and he also chipped in an assist on Beau Bennett's first career goal. Yay goals. -Bennett got the first of his career, as I already talked about. It was on a 5-on-3 power play and was set up by a beautiful play by Kris Letang to keep the puck in the zone. He then dished it to Bing who found Bennett who was standing all by himself. It looked like he really didn't get a lot on the shot but it found the back of the net. Whatever, I'll take it. Bennett seems to be getting more comfortable but I still think he is gripping the stick a little too tight. Hopefully this will loosen him up. -Paul Martin with a goal and an assist. Dude is just cash money this year. He was pretty good his first year and downright horrible last year and nothing short of great this year. What a wild ride. -Letang was really good tonight. He set up the Bennett goal and he prevented what would have been a short breakaway for Steven Stamkos by chasing him down and not letting him get a shot off. People always talk about what a good skater Letang is but this was a play that really showed it. -Joe Vitale won eight of his nine faceoff chances despite the Penguins losing the faceoff battle to Tampa Bay 36-32. Brandon Sutter was uncharacteristically bad only winning five of his 14 attempts.

-Penguins are not atop the Eastern Conference. Still a tight race but better to be there than be out of the playoff picture like the Flyers and Rangers.

Penguins Game 19 Preview - vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning

7:30 p.m., CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The Last Penguins Game:
February 22, 2013 - Pittsburgh 3, Florida 1 [Recap]

The Penguins got back in the win column but suffered a pretty big loss in the process. They beat the Panthers 3-1 on Friday night but Evgeni Malkin got banged up in a pretty ugly play where he went back first into the end boards and his head whipped back and smacked off the boards. Pretty much anyone that is not a doctor thinks this is concussion city but evidently he hasn't experienced any symptoms but isn't going to play tonight and will be reevaluated.

A story ran yesterday that Malkin was experiencing some headaches and disorientation but this is what Dan Bylsma said today after the morning skate (via the Penguins website):

"(Malkin) will continue to be evaluated by our doctors tonight before the game," Bylsma said. "At this point in time we have not ruled out an concussion. I am happy to report that he has not been suffering from headaches or disorientation."

Oh.

With Geno out the lines are going to look a lot different for the game. James Neal is going to get bumped up to play with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz. Bennett finally gets to play on the second line but still gets to play with Brandon Sutter and now Pascal Dupuis. Dustin Jeffrey is in the lineup which is a good thing. Like what he brings to the table.

Marc Andre Fleury will be in net and he has been really good this month. In six of his last eight starts he has given up two or less goals and in the other two instances he has only given up three goals so things have been going really well for him. He will get a really good test against a pretty good Lightning team. Steve Stamkos has an excellent shot and can score any time he is on the ice while the second line boasts Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis who aren't really the players they used to be but can still make a difference.

The Lightning have scored a ton of goals this season. They have a league-best 66 goals and score almost four goals per game. The Penguins average the second most goals per game so if the goaltending isn't up to par in this game we could see a high scoring affair. What is interesting that while Tampa Bay scores a ton of goals they don't register a lot of shots. They rank 24th in the league only getting 27.5 shots per game and give up better than 31 a game. I guess that means their shots are accurate.

The Tampa Bay power play is pretty good clicking at 23.2% and when they do get the power play you have to pay attention to Stamkos on the half wall. Much like Alex Ovechkin he like to use the one time shot which is lethal.


Probables

Penguins (12-6-0) (via Penguins website)

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

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

Goaltender
Marc Andre Fleury


Lightning (9-7-1) (via Daily Faceoff)

Forwards
Cory Conacher - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Benoit Pouliot - Vincent Lecavalier - Martin St. Louis
Alex Killorn - Tom Pyatt - Nate Thompson
B.J. Crombeen - Brian Lee - Richard Panik

Defense
Eric Brewer - Matt Carle
Sami Salo - Victor Hedman
Keith Aulie - Marc-Andre Bergeron

Goaltender
Anders Lindback


The Last Time They Met:

February 25, 2012 - Pittsburgh 8, Tampa Bay 1

The Stats:

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Penguins Game 18 Recap - Penguins 3, Panthers 1


I didn't get to watch any of the game. Stupid real life job. Here are my observations:

-Evidently Evgeni Malkin got hurt. Hope he is OK.

-Chris Kunitz scored a goal. yay.

-Dustin Jeffrey scored a goal. Maybe he will get to play more hockey.

-The Penguins won. yay.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Penguins Game 18 Preview - vs. Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers

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

The Last Penguins Game:
February 20, 2013 - Philadelphia 6, Pittsburgh 5 [Recap]


The Penguins are back on the ice after taking part in one of the best regular season hockey games I can remember which they lost to the Flyers while the Pathers are back on the ice after routing the Flyers last night 5-2 at the Wells Fargo Center. We should note that the Panthers aren't a good hockey team at all. They have five wins so far this season and the win against Philadelphia snapped a five game losing skid where they were shut out in three of those games. Interesting though that in the other two losses they scored five goals and still lost. No idea what is going on in Florida but last night proved that if you look down on them, or don't come out focused, they can beat you. They scored three goals in a two minute span in the middle of the first period but were pretty quiet after that so I think as long as you don't give them goals in bunches the Penguins should be alright. Granted, you can say that about most teams but I think you get my point.

Jonathan Huberdeau is maybe the big name that you don't really hear about. He was drafted third overall in the 2011 entry draft and is only 19 years old. While he is a youngster he is leading the team in both goals (eight) and points (13). He had a pretty slick penalty shot goal last night and will be the focal point of the offense going forward for the Panthers.

The Panthers will go with Jacob Markstrom in net and this kid is huge. He stands at 6'6 and weighs just shy of 200 pounds so he is a big boy. He was the first round draft pick of the Panthers back in 2008 and this will be his ninth game of his carreer. He played in seven games last season and went 2-4-1 with a 2.66 goals against average and a .923 save percentage. Last season with AHL affiliate San Antonio Rampage he went 17-12-1 with a 2.32 GAA and a .927 save percentage.

Marc Andre Fleury is back in the net for the Penguins after getting a game off against the Flyers on Wednesday night. Fleury has been pretty outstanding this month and coming off a loss the Penguins are going to need a good goaltending effort to get two more points on the board for them. Hopefully the defense plays a little better than they did against Philadelphia.

The Probables:

Pittsburgh (11-6-0)

Forwards
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Matt Cooke - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Beau Bennett - 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


Florida (5-7-4)

Forwards
Tomas Kopecky - Stephen Weiss - Tomas Fleischmann
Jonathan Huberdeau - Drew Shore - Peter Mueller
Jack Skille - Marcel Goc - Shawn Matthias
Alex Kovalev - Jerred Smithson - George Parros

Defense
Brian Campbell - Dmitry Kulikov
Filip Kuba - Mike Weaver
Erik Gudbranson - Tyson Strachan

Goaltender
Jacob Markstrom


The Last Time They Met:
March 9, 2012 - Pittsburgh 2, Florida 1 (SO)

The Stats:

33 Years Ago Today, The Miracle On Ice

If you are any kind of hockey fan you know what the headline means. Even though I wasn't born yet I have watched replays of the game a few times, watched the highlights, actually got to talk to Craig Patrick about the game, and just thought about how awesome it must have been during that time period to do what that USA team did. I get chills watching it and hearing the call. What a moment to be alive.

Anyways, here are a few videos of it. Just awesome.

First, the final minute:



Here is an extended version of the last few minutes:



Here is a slick video of all the goals and finish. No embedded version so you need to click the link. It is worth it though.

Here is a condensed version of all the goals:





USA-USA-USA

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Penguins/Flyers and Great Regular Season Hockey Games

Hockey is a great game, hockey is entertainment, hockey is a release. All of those things and more are why people watch the game. I know I am a Penguins fan and I write about them on this blog and I am pretty passionate about them when I watch them but really when I watch games it is for a release. I want the Penguins to win every game but if they lose you hope the game is entertaining and fun to watch to at least make it worth it. When you sit down to watch a game you don't have to worry about what type of day you had or what you have to do tomorrow or all the things that went wrong. For about two and a half hours you get to lose yourself into a game where you don't have to worry about anything.

Last night was one of those times where you just lost touch with reality as you were watching a game. As you watched the Penguins and Flyers play a hockey game you probably couldn't tell the person sitting next to you what day tomorrow was, you were fixed on the TV because if you blinked you might have missed the play that changed the game. It is what is so great about sports and why hockey is one of the best sports in the world.

Last night the Penguins lost. That sucks. They lost to the Flyers. That sucks even more. If you can get beyond the fact that the Penguins lost and you were looking at it as any other hockey fan that turned on to NBCSN last night you have to be pretty pleased with how the game went. If you can't get past the fact that the Penguins lost then just think of those times where you turn on a game where you have no vested interest in. Maybe it's a Sharks/Stars game or a Kings/Blues game but when you are watching that game you want all the aspects of the game to show up and you want to see excitement. That is what last night was. Just awesome hockey.

I mean even though it sucks to watch how can't you watch the highlights of the game and get chills when Brandon Sutter wraps around and ties the game at five? You might knock the CONSOL Energy Center for not being loud enough but that place was absolutely rocking last night.

Now I am talking about regular season games. Playoff games are always going to carry a little bit more weight because you aren't guaranteed another game after game four, in some instances, so those games by nature are going to be more memorable. Typically, in non lockout seasons, there are 82 games so they blend together a little more. To have a regular season game be remembered it has to be pretty amazing.

This got me thinking about how many regular season Penguins games that you look back on and say "wow, that was an amazing game." Sure you might say that after your run of the mill win but a game where you actually recall that win for years to come. I am not sure if last night is going to be one of those wins but it is sure up there for me. What other games do I remember? Well, thanks for asking.  

The first game that comes to my mind, and a game that I think was really similar to last night, came November 11, 2008 when the Penguins visited Detroit for their first meeting with the Red Wings after losing in the finals a year before:

  

This was pretty much a Jordan Staal coming out party where the Penguins made numerous comebacks and finally had Staal scoring the game winner in overtime when he Paval Datsyuk'd Pavel Datsyuk. I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when that happened and it was awesome. Another game that you can remember what you were doing was when the Penguins beat the Bruins 6-5 in overtime when Bill Guerin scored with 0.4 seconds left in the game to send it into overtime before Pascal Dupuis won it.

 

What a game. Jay McKee and Mark Eaton scored in the same game. Like, you can't make that stuff up.

So while I was able to whip up a few regular season games that really stand out it isn't something that happens all the time. Last night was one of those games, I think. It was truly outstanding and I couldn't even watch any of the other hockey games later that night because it wouldn't be able to match up.

The Penguins lost, but enjoy what you saw that night. It was that good.

What are some of your memorable regular season game? Leave them in the comments.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Penguins Game 17 Recap - Flyers 6, Penguins 5

-If you were looking for an exciting hockey game then you got all of that plus a ton more. The first and second period might not have been the best but the third period was non-stop action where both teams looked dominant at points and overall if you are a fan of hockey at all you went away from this game saying "damn, that was a GREAT game to watch." Does it suck that the Penguins lost? Yea, it does, but the Penguins are going to lose games and if their losses are going to be as exciting as that they I can't really be all that mad. -To be honest the Penguins really had no business even being in this game. They started off strong with a pair of goals to take a 2-0 lead but fell back into a lull and gave up the next four goals with a combination of turnovers, bad defense, and bad goaltending. It was really a small miracle that they were even still in the game after the Flyers scored their fifth goal to make it 5-3 with under 13 minutes left to play. -The Penguins continue to let the Flyers get under their skin. While I don't really think you can take a ton from just a singular game the lack of discipline is really starting to become a problem (if it already wasn't). James Neal and Evgeni Malkin each took a couple of horrible penalties and Deryk Engelland allowed himself to follow around Zach Rinaldo because he was getting under his skin. Just stuff you can't do. This is probably more of a Dan Bylsma problem but I am not sure how you really attack it. When you are in the heat of the game you can tell the guys as much as you want to stay composed but when they get on the ice it is on them. What are you going to do, bench Neal or Malkin? Make no mistake this is one starts with Disco but I am not sure there is a clear answer, but it needs to change. Like, now. -This probably was the worst game of the season for Brooks Orpik. He has been money with Paul Martin on the backend this season but today he was routinely out of position. Orpik has been known to get out of position to go for the body but it doesn't typically last for the entire game but this is one of those games that you build a wall around and just forget if you are Orpik. -The defense was pretty bad a whole tonight and while you probably didn't need to hear that I feel like I need to say it before I start my next sentence. While the defense wasn't good, neither was Tomas Vokoun. This was easily the worst he has looked all season and while he wasn't responsible for all the goals I don't think he ever really was able to bail out his defense. Vokoun hasn't played in ten days and I am sure that was part of the problem but what has impressed me about him this season was that he always looked so cool, calm, and collected in the net but tonight he looked very uneasy and was fighting the puck on pretty much ever save. I would imagine he is going to get another start soon to shake this off and I feel pretty good about him going forward but just not his night tonight. -On the positive end, Sidney Crosby. He only picked up a lone assist tonight but he logged 27 (!!!!) minutes on the ice and was a ridiculous 21-of-28 from the faceoff circle. That is pretty unreal from a forward on the minutes and anytime you are going to win that many faceoffs you have putting your team in a great position. Crosby did make some mistakes as he looked more to pass today, even with a 2-on-1 where he basically threw the puck away trying to make a perfect pass and even passed up a drive to the net to drop a pass to Robert Bortuzzo. I mean Bortuzzo is a NHL caliber defenseman but I don't think Crosby should be dropping him a ton of passes.

-The Penguins also won 41-of-61 faceoffs. Wow.

-The power play is lethally good. The power play has been pretty good over the past few years but I don't think you ever got the feeling that they were a threat to score every time they are on the ice, they are now. They notched a pair of power play goals and went 2-of-7 and pretty much every single one of those power plays had extended periods of time where the penalty kill was just praying the Penguins would make a mistake. So much fun to watch.

-The bottom line is that the Penguins let their emotions get the best of them. They did a really nice job of staying away from the garbage in the first game against Philadelphia and came away with a 3-1 win but at the first sign of adversity tonight all the Flyers had to do was look at the Penguins players the wrong way and the Flyers could play them like a puppet.

-At the end of the day all teams lose games. Even to their rivals. A loss to the Flyers doesn't count any more or any less than a loss to the Jets or the Bruins. Sure it is a division game so it might mean a little more but at the end of the day a loss is a loss. The Penguins are 11-6-0 on the season through 17 games. That  means that they are winning about double the games they are losing. That is pretty good to me. Of those six losses it doesn't saying that the Penguins lost to the Flyers but it just says the Penguins lost. Nothing more, nothing less. The way they lost sucked but they did have some positives. Win on Friday and we start to forget about this.

Penguins Game 17 Preview - vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Philadelphia Flyers

7:30 p.m., CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The Last Penguins Game:
February 17, 2013 - Pittsburgh 4, Buffalo 3 [Recap]

After a rare two day break the Penguins are back in action and what better way to get them back in action than to have the Philadelphia Flyers come to the CONSOL Energy Center for a game. Doesn't get much better than that. It will be a nationally televised game and Claude "the best player in the world" Giroux will be going against the average Sidney Crosby. That's how that works, right?

Not too much about this game though, really. Scott Hartnell will be out of the game as he has been on IR for some time with a bummed foot so that will take some of the luster out of the scoring attack but the Flyers busted out in a huge way with a 7-0 win over the Isladers a few days ago. Jakub Voracek and Matt Read pretty much lead the team as Voracek has a team-best 15 points while Read leads the team in goals. The Flyers as a team are only averaging about 2.5 goals per game so it has been difficult for them to score as they have 11 games this season where they have scored two or fewer goals. They have only played 17 games so that is not a good ratio of goal scoring to have.

For the Penguins Tomas Vokoun gets his first start in about a week and it was a pretty curious play coming off a two day rest. Marc Andre Fleury has been playing some pretty good hockey but he has been going pretty much every game so I guess it isn't all that bad that he is getting back in net. I just thought with Florida (his former team) coming up on Friday he would get that start and I can't imagine Fleury sitting for a week so that is why it caught me off guard. Whatever.

THe Penguins have been playing some pretty good hockey lately and in a shortened season every game against a division rival is that much bigger. The Penguins are sitting in a good spot but I don't think they want to give the Flyers any thought that they can get back into the division race. Right now the Penguins hold a game in hand on the Flyers and they are seven points ahead of them. To be able to push that number to nine and still hold a game advantage of them would be huge.


The Probables:

Penguins (11-5-0) (via Penguins website)

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

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

Goaltender
Tomas Vokoun


Flyers (7-9-1) (via Empty Netters)

Forwards
Matt Read - Claude Giroux - Jakub Voracek
Daniel Briere - Brayden Schenn - Wayne Simmonds
Maxime Talbot - Sean Couturier - Mike Knuble
Harry Zolnierczyk - Ruslan Fedotenko - Zac Rinaldo

Defense
Kimmo Timonen - Luke Schenn
Braydon Coburn - Bruno Gervais
Nicklas Grossman - Erik Gustafsson

Goaltender
Ilya Bryzgalov



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

January 19, 2013 - Pittsburgh 3, Philadelphia 1

The Stats:

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Penguins Game 16 Recap - Penguins 4, Sabres 3

-Huge win. Penguins got up by two in the first minute and a half and pretty much did what they have been doing all year which is suck in the second period. They let the Sabres get back into it and eventually take a 3-2 lead five minutes into the third when Steve Ott scored a goal. All the Penguins did was bounce back and get a Pascal Dupuis goal to tie it. Paul Martin's money shot with just over two minutes left won it. -The Penguins have effectively folded in similar situation this season but it really showed a lot about the team to bounce back and get the tying goal minutes after it seemed that all the wind was out of their sails. -Martin has been just straight cash this year. The puck was on edge and Ryan Miller couldn't see anything as he beat him for the game winning goal. He was great on the defensive end and so far this season he has had some nice contributions on offense. We thought he would be able to give the team some of that when he was signed but the way he has run the power play has been outstanding. -Kris Letang's pass to set up the tying goal should be hung at the White House. Just filthy. -Sidney Crosby with a ho hum day. Three points with a goal and is now only one point behind Thomas Vanek (who scored a goal today) in the scoring lead. He made some mistakes (taking a terrible penalty) but he was clearly the best play on the ice today (and usually is). He is so strong with the puck and while he has had some turnover problems this year his good plays far outweigh his bad ones. -The Penguins have to be more diciplined. Have to. Crosby took a horrible cross check penalty that led to a Buffalo goal and then Chris Kunitz took a horrible slashing penalty that luckily didn't lead to a goal. Stuff like that has to stop. -Evgeni Malkin has been struggling. Nobody can deny that but the Penguins are still winning so it probably isn't being brought up a lot which is OK. If the Penguins can get some wins and points while he is "struggling" then imagine how good it is going to be when he eventually turns it on (because you know he will). -Marc Andre Fleury looked alright. He wasn't as good as he had been recently but he stopped 30-of-33 shots so it wasn't all that bad. The Penguins don't play until Wednesday so he will get some rest but it will be interesting to see who plays in net on Wednesday. It is a game against Philadelphia and then the Penguins play against Florida so you might think that Dan Bylsma would want to play Vokoun against Florida but he hasn't played since February 10 so you would think he needs to get in there but if Disco wants to play Vokoun against his former team (which he likes to do) do you give Vokoun back-to-back starts and not play MAF in a week? Will be interesting to see how it plays out.

-The Penguins lead the Atlantic and have the most points in the East. Not really sure how much you can look into that as most teams have multiple games in hand on the Penguins with the Bruins having four games in hand. You have to think that will even out come next weekend with the Penguins playing on two games between tomorrow and Saturday but tough to see where they really stand with some many games still out there.

Penguins Game 16 Preview - @ Buffalo Sabres

Buffalo Sabres

12:30 p.m., First Niagara Center, Buffalo, New York

The Penguins Last Game:
February 15, 2013 - Pittsburgh 3, Winnipeg 1 [Recap]

The Penguins are on a mini roll after a couple of big wins over team that they probably should have beat. I guess I say that because the Penguins have a notion of losing games to teams they should beat and every time you think they should probably get two points against a lesser team they manage to get zero points and put themselves behind the eight ball. Well things went pretty well last night even though the Penguins didn't even play. The Devils lost a game to the Islanders and the Flyers got worked by Montreal and anytime division teams lose on days off it is huge.

The Sabres might not be regarded as a top level team but they do have one of the most prolific scorers this season on their roster in Thomas Vanek who is leading the league in both points (24) and goals (11). The team really runs through Vanek as he is really a top notch player in the league but the Sabres also have some other pieces on the offensive end that can make things happen. Guys like Cody Hodgson, Jason Pominville, and Tyler Ennis might not come to your mind as some of the best in the game but they are more than capable of making things happen if you take them for granted.

Not sure how this game is going to turn out but there will be plenty of offense on the ice as four of the top-15 point scorers and the top two goal scorers in the league will be on the ice. Interesting that while Vanek is this top point getter in the league this year he only has an average ice time of 19:30 which is 48th best amongst league forwards. You have to imagine that Dan Byslma is going to do his best to get the Paul Martin/Brooks Orpik combination on the ice against the Vanek line.

In goal for the Sabres is Ryan Miller who is usually noted as one of the best in the game. This season he has been about average with a 2.82 goals against average and a .916 save percentage so this isn't like a Craig Anderson they are going against. In his last four games he has give up only eight games and has faced more than 30 shots in each game so he is perfectly capable of earning a win for Buffalo if the Penguins offense isn't up to task.

Marc Andre Fleury is getting the start in net again for the Penguins. He has been simply outstanding during the month to the tune of a 1.84 goals against average and a .930 save percentage while starting in six of the Penguins eight games. There was talk a little while ago about if the Penguins should turn to Tomas Vokoun to get the majority of the starts in the net but MAF has answered that nothing less than great performances and having the Penguins as a contender for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

Robert Bortuzzo will also be back in the lineup as Simon Despres will be a healthy scratch. Bylsma said that this decision came down to Bortuzzo being the more physical of the defensemen and that is what he wanted in the lineup for the game in Buffalo.

The Probables:

Penguins (10-5-0)

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

Defense
Matt Niskanen - Kris Letang
Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin
Robert Bortuzzo - Deryk Engelland

Goaltender
Marc Andre Fleury


Sabres (6-8-1) (via Daily Faceoff)

Forwards
Thomas Vanek - Cody Hodgson - Jason Pominville
Marcus Foligno - Tyler Ennis - Drew Stafford
Nathan Gerbe - Mikhail Grigorenko - Steve Ott
John Scott - Jochen Hecht - Patrick Kaleta

Defense
Robyn Regehr - Tyler Myers
Andrej Sekera - Christian Ehrhoff
Jordan Leopold - Mike Weber

Goaltender
Ryan Miller


The Last Time They Met:

March 30, 2012 - Pittsburgh 5, Buffalo 3

The Stats: