Friday, January 31, 2014

...and A.J. Burnett

This is tough for me to really figure out. There were many months when we heard nothing from A.J. Burnett and we heard nothing from the Pirates. Burnett had made remarks that he wanted to pitch for the Pirates or he was going to retire and mostly what I think happened is that the media ran with this and fans took it a little too literally. I know I did.

What followed was Burnett not getting a $14.1M qualifying offer from the Pirates letting him become a free agent without any compensation. Actually that is about all we know about this situation, that the Pirates didn't hedge their bets of possibly losing Burnett by guaranteeing getting a draft pick if he left.

Actually as much was said by Rich over at TiGO when he gave us the only two things we know about this whole situation:

This is basically what we know.
A.J. Burnett was not extended a Qualifying Offer.
A.J. Burnett is talking to other teams.

That is it. One of those things, the qualifying offer, we knew about a while back and the other, him talking to other teams, we learned about this week.

This caused a pretty major stir among a lot of people of all walks of life who follow the Pirates. There were people who were saying this was all on the Pirates and then there were people who put most of the blame on Burnett. I fall somewhere in the middle on this. I think you can blame both parties and to be honest with you I am not even sure if I have a strong feeling either way for if he comes back or not.

This really isn't about being right or wrong, because that is pretty much impossible based on what we know. As Rich stated we don't know what the two sides have talked about or even if they have talked about numbers. I am sure they have talked back and forth because it seems like genuinely likes the city of Pittsburgh and from what we have heard Pittsburgh might actually give him the best chance to compete in 2014.

I found myself taking sides with both ends of this. I can see the point about the Pirates not bringing Burnett back because of the cost and what that might mean later in the season in terms of the trade deadline as Pat talked about at WHYGAVS but at the same time I also agree with people like Charlie over at Bucs Dugout when he thinks that the Pirates should just get Burnett here because they can get him for the going rate for someone of his talent level. This isn't meant to say that Pat and Charlie disagree about the endpoint, because I don't think they do and have said as much, but I think it just goes to show that there are multiple justifications no matter what happens and I think that many of them can be proven true.

I think on the surface most people are boiling this down to the fact that the Pirates didn't offer Burnett a qualifying offer. I think this is really two-fold in that the Pirates honestly don't want to spend around 18% of their payroll on one player and in the other sense I don't think that Burnett wanted to be offered it and have to turn it down. As I said before Burnett has said before that he loves Pittsburgh and gave the fans and media a perceived indication that if he was going to pitch again it would probably be for the black and gold. The fact of the matter is that what Burnett wants, if he really wanted to test the market, is that he wants to get the top value. If he signed a qualifying offer then there would be a draft pick compensation associated with his signing and that would [possibly] significantly hider his bargaining value. The Rays are rumored to be interested in Burnett. I can almost guarantee that if they would have to pay Burnett AND give up a draft pick to the Pirates then they would be out of the running. Like some of the other posts above I linked to I don't think it was as a slam dunk that Burnett would have signed the qualifying offer.

I think the underlying point in the situation is that Burnett didn't want to turn down a qualifying offer, if he was given one. The city loves Burnett. The way he pitches, his emotion, the way he doesn't care about anything else, the city and the fans love it. If Burnett wanted to try and get one more big way, which I have no idea if he did or not, then he wouldn't want to turn down the qualifying offer and look like the bad guy. I am not sure it would make any difference but I think Burnett likes being the "good guy" and might get a little extra pressure on the organization if the Pirates are taking the heat.

This isn't a knock on Burnett but baseball is a business. Sure, he probably wants to pitch for the Pirates but if someone like Baltimore is willing to give him $3M more then I am sure that would factor in to his decision.

What we also know, besides what Rich outlined above, is that the Pirate could resign Burnett. I am a little more optimistic than some others on this but I do think Burnett is back. Granted, I have no real hard proof to that, just more of a gut feeling. But it must be noted that this is a possibility. If Burnett signs with the Pirates in two weeks then all of this has been a lot of wasted emotion for a lot of people for nothing.

Back to having Burnett back. I really don't think I care one way more than the other. Last season Burnett led the National League in K/9 (9.85) and in ground ball rate (56.5%) and tossed 191 innings. That is nothing to sneeze at, especially since Burnett finished with a 3.30 ERA and had a 4.0 fWAR (21st in MLB). That being said Burnett is 37 years old and while he has been pretty fantastic for the Pirates over the last two seasons I think the Pirates would be OK if he wasn't in the rotation next season.

The Pirates are going to get a full year of Gerrit Cole next season and are going to get Wandy Rodriguez back after he missed nearly the entire 2013 season with an elbow injury. I was a little skeptical on Rodriguez last season and am still pretty on the fence about him not needing surgery but if he comes back then a full season of him and a half season more of Cole can go a long way into replacing the lost innings that Burnett could provide. Cole and Rodriguez team up with Charlie Morton, Francisco Liriano, and newly acquired Edison Volquez and you have five starting pitches.

I am not overly high on Volquez but I can't imagine that the Pirates are paying him $5M to pitch in the pen. It is true that Morton and Rodriguez are no locks to stay healthy for an entire year and Liriano has had problems putting together full years so that has to be taken into account. You can't deny that putting Burnett in the middle of the Pirates rotation would be a good thing but I don't think that is something they have to do. I think the Pirates can still have a damn good rotation with what they have now and if they have Burnett I think they will still have a damn good rotation.

The thing that people need to understand is that there are a ton of unknowns. We have no idea what is going on behind the scenes and for all we know things are going to work out in the end. The bottom line is that I can't get all that worked up about the situation because I think the Pirates will be fine either way.

Penguins Game 54 Recap - Pittsburgh 4, Los Angeles 1

The West is a much better conference than the East is. The Penguins went into the STAPLES Center last night and really took it to the Kings, one of the best teams in the league in the last five years, and they made it look fairly easy. They scored three goals in the first 12 minutes and chased Jonathan Quick after one period of play and Jeff Zatkoff paired with a great defensive effort to not give up another goal after a first period power play goal from Anze Kopitar.

This was all about the second line. Evgeni Malkin might have played his best game of the season and Jussi Jokinen had three points including the third goal. I am not sure how he knew where Malkin was on the first goal of the night, just 57 seconds into the game, but he made a no look, behind the back pass right onto the tape of Malkin and he slid it into the empty net. Not much more was needed as a statement than that.

The Penguins really put it away about halfway through the period thanks to Malkin. As he was taking the puck along the blue line he drew two penalties at the same time. The first was a slash from Dustin Brown and the second was a hook from Jarret Stoll. Honestly these pentalties happened at the same time. No idea how the officials saw both of them, but they did.

Here is the play thanks to [The Pensblog]:



All of this is great but Jokinen has really been outstanding this season. His 16 goals so far this season are the most since he had 19 in the 2010-11 season and his 39 points are the most since the 2011-12 season when he finished with 46. Actually outside of scoring 30 goals in 2009-10 he hasn't scored more than 19 in a season. With a bunch of games still left on the schedule I think he has a pretty good chance of hitting that mark. Really nice to have him on the team and to have Carolina paying half of his salary while he plays with Malkin and James Neal. Good stuff.

That gave the Penguins a 5-on-3 and they didn't mess around. To start they sent out five forwards and scored 45 seconds into it as Chris Kunitz got a pass from behind the net from Jokinen and beat Quick and then Jokinen scored with 18 seconds left on the second penalty. It is really fun to watch this power play. I know people get worked up from time-to-time about the Penguins relying too much on the power play but I don't really care. Goals are goals and while you would like to carry the play when you are 5-on-5 but the Penguins still score a ton of goals in those situations.

Tanner Glass scored a pretty sick goal halfway through the second period to really put the icing on the cake. Glass hasn't been overly good this year but the past three or four games he has played some better hockey. I am not sure we can bank on Glass playing this well (relatively speaking) for any long stretches but it is good to see him picking his game up and making teams start to respect him when he is on the ice.

The Penguins PK unit gave up a goal on the first Kings power play of the night to tie the game. After that they shut them down on the next three attempts including two in the third period. A three goal lead is pretty safe in the third period but the Kings went on the power play twice in the first half of the period and they got nothing. All it took was for one goal to go in on that first power play and it might give them some confidence and then a bad bounce on the other makes it a one goal game with nine minutes to go and all of a sudden it's a game. That didn't happen. The PK has been outstanding all season and despite the goal early last night it was again.

Zatkoff has been pretty damn good this season. In his first two starts of the season he gave up 10 goals on 55 shots. That is not very good. His next 10 starts he's given up 21 goals. So far this month he has only a .909 save percentage which isn't great but he has played pretty well since those first two and the Penguins are 9-0-1 in those 10 games with the only loss coming in overtime. Marc-Andre Fleury has been carrying the weight a good bit this season and hasn't been playing overly well but it is nice to have a guy like Zatkoff who can come in and give him a couple days off.

You can really talk all you want about how Sidney Crosby is the reason that Kunitz is playing so well but at some point you have to just give him some credit for being a pretty outstanding player. He now has a career high in goals with 27 (in only 54 games) and after last season when he scored 22 goals in 48 games I think you can say that he is about as dangerous as anyone on the ice. Sure, Crosby is going to help him a bunch but man has he been locked in. His career high for points is 60 and right now he has 55 with a bulk of the season left. That'll do Chris, that'll do.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Penguins Game 54 Preview - @ Los Angeles Kings


Los Angeles Kings

 10:30 p.m., Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA

The Last Penguins Game
January 27, 2013 - Pittsburgh 3, Buffalo 0


The Probables

Pittsburgh (37-14-2) (via Dailyfaceoff)

Forwards
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Brian Gibbons
Jussi Jokinen - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Jayson Megna - Brandon Sutter - Tanner Glass
Taylor Pyass - Craig Adams - Deryk Engelland

Defense
Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin
Rob Scuderi - Kris Letang
Olli Maatta - Matt Niskanen

Goaltender
Jeff Zatkoff

Los Angeles (30-19-6) (via Dailyfaceoff)\

Forwards
Dwight King - Anze Kopitar - Jeff Carter
Trevor Lewis - Mike Richards - Justin Williams
Kyle Clifford - Jarret Stoll - Dustin Brown
Jordan Nolan - Colin Fraser - Tyler Toffoli

Defense
Jake Muzzin - Drew Doughty
Robyn Regehr - Slava Voynov
Willie Mitchell - Matt Greene

Goaltender
Jonathan Quick

Stats

Monday, January 27, 2014

Penguins Game 53 Preview - vs. Buffalo Sabres


Buffalo Sabres

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

The Last Penguins Game
January 26, 2014 - Dallas 3, Pittsburgh 0 [Recap]


Probables

Pittsburgh (36-14-2) (via Penguins website)

Forwards
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Brian Gibbons
Jussi Jokinen - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Jayson Megna - Brandon Sutter - Tanner Glass
Taylor Pyass - Craig Adams - Deryk Engelland

Defense
Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin
Rob Scuderi - Kris Letang
Olli Maatta - Matt Niskanen

Goaltender
Marc-Andre Fleury

Buffalo (14-29-7) (via Dailyfaceoff)

Forwards
Matt Moulson - Tyler Ennis - Ville Leino
Steve Ott - Cody Hodgson - Zemgus Girgensons
Marcus Foligno - Brian Flynn - Phil Varone
Linus Omark - Zenon Konopka - Matt Ellis

Defense
Henrik Tallinder - Tyler Myers
Christian Ehrhoff - Chad Ruhwedel
Jamie McBain - Mike Weber

Goaltender
Ryan Miller


Season Series (Pittsburgh leads 1-0)

October 5, 2013 - Pittsburgh 4, Buffalo 1




Stats

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Penguins Game 52 Recap - Stars 3, Penguins 0

This was the complete opposite of the previous few games for the Penguins. Against Montreal the Penguins dominated the game. Against the Islanders the Penguins weren't perfect but they won a 6-4 shootout. Last night the Penguins were taken behind the woodshed and they were beaten. Badly.

The Penguins were beaten in every aspect of the game. They were held to only 24 shots and even when they finally started to get some good looks later in the game, after they were already down 3-0, Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen was there to make the save and really make a three goal comeback feel like a 10 goal comeback.

The Penguins had nine giveaways and the Stars eight takeaways. This has been a problem all year. Nothing shocking here.

The guys over at [The Pensblog] had some really good stuff on the intro of their recap, namely talking about how top heavy the Penguins are and how Brooks Orpik hasn't been that good. I don't necessarily agree with them about the Penguins scoring too many of their goals on the power play but I think that is a much smaller issue. The Penguins score plenty of even strength goals and while they score a ton on the power play that is as bad as it seems to be on the surface.

The Penguins had a stretch where they played like one game in nine days and now they are playing a good bit of games. Tomorrow they play against Buffalo which will be four games in six days before getting a few days off. Buffalo is a pretty bad hockey team so hopefully they can get back into the win column and regroup.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Penguins Game 52 Preview - @ Dallas Stars

Dallas Stars

8:00 p.m., American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas

The Last Penguins Game
January 23, 2014 - Pittsburgh 6, New York 4 [Recap]


Probables

Pittsburgh (36-13-2) (via Penguins website)

Forwards
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Chuck Kobasew
Jussi Jokinen - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Taylor Pyatt - Brandon Sutter - Tanner Glass
Craig Adams - Jayson Megna - Deryk Engelland

Defense
Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin
Rob Scuderi - Kris Letang
Olli Maatta - Matt Niskanen

Goaltender
Marc-Andre Fleury


Dallas (23-20-8) (via Dailyfaceoff)

Forwards
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Valeri Nichushkin
Antoine Roussel - Cody Eakin - Ryan Garbutt
Erik Cole - Vernon Fiddler - Ray Whitney
Rich Peverley - Shawn Horcoff - Alex Chiasson

Defense
Alex Goligoski - Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn - Brenden Dillon
Aaron Rome - Sergei Gonchar

Goaltender
Kari Lehtonen


Stats

Playing the Super Bowl in the Elements? Not a Big Deal.

So here we are. My last Steelers post was some time ago and after the way the season ended and after the way the season started I would have probably been better off just trying not to think about football. But, again, here we are.

The Super Bowl (two words people) has been getting a lot of attention this year, well more than normal, because of where it is being played. It will be at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Typically the Super Bowl has been either played in a warm weather client or in a dome. The main reason was that they want the playing field to be level for both teams and have a clean game. I am here to say, why?

That is somewhat of a rhetorical question, but if you feel the need to answer I have an idea of what you are going to say. Nobody wants to play in the cold and you don’t want a snow day ruining the Super Bowl and if these are supposed to be the two best teams in the league then you want as little outside influence as possible when determining that winner.

I am here to say that if you believe in the rest of the NFL playoffs then you are doing it wrong. Basic premise point here: why is it OK to determine those two teams playing in the Super Bowl by playing in every kid of weather imaginable and then completely flipping the script and nearly taking the outside elements out of the game? It’s a valid question that I don’t really think that anyone has answered it. Well, as far as I have seen.

I know the media are pushing the agenda that this is going to be a terrible Super Bowl if it is cold or if it snows but why is that any different than Seattle and Denver playing in horrible rain this year in the division rounds? Or what about Green Bay and San Francisco playing in sub-zero wind chills in the wild card round? What about the tuck rule game between Oakland and New England back in 2001 in the divisional round?

I am all for seeing good football but I don’t think that means it has to be played in warm weather.

Before we get into anything else lets take look at the weather conditions for every playoff game (sans Super Bowl) since the 2009 season. All weather reports are taken from the official NFL.com game book. I gave the temperature and cloud cover/rain/snow/etc. I also gave wind conditions when they were in the upper teens. When I could I included the outside temperature for retractable roof games just to give an idea about what the outside weather was like. I choose to go back to 2009 just to give a small snapshot into the games.

2013

Wild Card
Kansas City at Indianapolis - Roof closed. 36 outside
San Diego at Cincinnati - 42 and cloudy
San Francisco at Green Bay - 5 and mostly cloudy and wind chill of (-10)
New Orleans at Philadelphia - 25 and clear

Divisional
Indianapolis at New England - 57 and rain and 18 mph wind with 29 mph gusts
San Diego at Denver - 41 and partly cloudy with 17 mph wind
New Orleans at Seattle - 48 and rain with 20 mph wind
San Francisco at Carolina - 54 and sunny

Conference Championship
New England at Denver - 63 and sunny
San Francisco at Seattle - 43 and cloudy

2012

Wild Card
Cincinnati at Texas - 46 and showers
Indianapolis at Baltimore - 49 and cloudy
Seattle at Washington - 52 and cloudy
Minnesota at Green Bay - 29 and cloudy

Divisional
Baltimore at Denver - 13 and partly cloudy
Texas at New England - 51 and cloudy
Green Bay at San Francisco - 48 and cloudy
Seattle at Atlanta - Dome

Conference Championship
Baltimore at New England - 41 and clear
San Francisco at Atlanta - Dome

2011

Wild Card
Cincinnati at Texas - 75 and fair
Pittsburgh at Denver - 40 and sunny
Atlanta at New York - 44 and partly cloudy
Detroit at New Orleans - Dome

Divisional
Texas at Baltimore - 31 and sunny
Denver at New England - 24 and partly cloudy and 20 mph winds
New Orleans at San Francisco - 62 and sunny
New York at Green Bay - 31 and sunny and 20 mph winds

Conference Championship
Baltimore at New England - 29 and cloudy
New York at San Francisco - 52 and rain and 15 mph winds

2010

Wild Card
Baltimore at Kansas City - 26 and cloudy and 15 mph winds
New York at Indianapolis - Roof closed. 15 and cloudy outside
Green Bay at Philadelphia - 30 and sunny and 18 mph winds
New Orleans at Seattle - 40 and cloudy

Divisional
Baltimore at Pittsburgh - 36 and cloudy and 17 mph winds
New York at New England - 30 and clear and 14 mph winds
Seattle at Chicago - 24 and cloudy
Green Bay at Atlanta - Dome

Conference Championship
New York at Pittsburgh - 17 and partly cloudy
Green Bay at Chicago - 20 and partly cloudy and 14 mph winds

2009

Wild Card
New York at Cincinnati - 21 and cloudy
Baltimore at New England - 20 and sunny
Philadelphia at Dallas - Roof closed. 34 outside
Green Bay at Arizona - Roof closed.

Divisional
Baltimore at Indianapolis - Roof closed. 34 and cloudy outside
New York at San Diego - 63 and sunny
Arizona at New Orleans - Dome
Dallas at Minnesota - Dome

Conference Championship
New York at Indianapolis - Roof closed. 50 outside
Minnesota at New Orleans - Dome


Super Bowls (Years are in the season where the regular season took place. So 2012 would be last years Super Bowl)

2012 - Dome
2011 - Retractable Roof
2010 - Retractable Roof
2009 - 61
2008 - 53
2007 - Retractable Roof
2006 - 66 and rain
2005 - Dome
2004 - 55
2003 - 72
2002 - 67
2001 - Dome
2000 - 57

This was actually pretty interesting to me. Going in I actually anticipated that there would be more cold weather games but for the most part you can see that playoff games were played to a mix of temperatures. Of the 50 games that I have highlighted above 17 of them were played in temperatures that were below 40 degrees with a handful of games being played where the temperatures was exactly 40 degrees.

Typically for a dome or retractable roof game the temperatures inside is about 65 or 70 degrees. We will take the low end on that and give you the average for the Super Bowl since the Year 2000. The average temperature of the past 13 Super Bowls is just a shade over 63 degrees. With that being said 28 of the 50 playoff games were played with temperatures below 50 degrees.

So again I am going to ask, why is it OK for the supposed two best teams to be determined by playing in the elements but everything is done to play this game with no weather. I get it, there are actual problems. If there is snow in New Jersey for the Super Bowl this season it could make it very hard for people to get to the game and that isn’t good. But that is an auxiliary problem. On the field we have teams that have played through rain and snow to get there and now we are going to continue to do that through the big game.

I get the reason people don’t want this played in open aired stadiums in the North but lets try to calm down on the outrage that it somehow taints the result of the game. This is how the entire season is determined so, why change now? I know this isn't an easy answer and there really is no answer but what happens if say a cold weather Packers or Bears or Steelers or Giants team goes through the back half of the regular season and the playoffs playing in rain and snow and cold and then get to the Super Bowl where it is 75? Why shouldn't there at least be a chance that it could be in a cold weather venue? Or should the playoffs all be played in warm climates? Who knows.

I don't know what I want but I want the end to the complaining about this being the wrong way to play the Super Bowl. Nobody had any problems until now about it.

The forecast, as of right now, for the Super Bowl in New Jersey has the high of 35 with a chance of some snow. The wind is going to be around 8 mph. Is that really all that horrible? To me, it’s not. This should be a fun Super Bowl to watch despite the weather and if the snow games during the regular season were any indication then it should make it extra interesting. If you are the best team shouldn’t you win regardless?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Penguins Game 51 Recap - Penguins 6, Islanders 4

Last night I wondered out loud whether the [dominating] win over Montreal was just an aberration of the last couple weeks or if they were really coming out of their funk. I said that if they could come out and put up a performance like they did last night it would go a little ways in telling us that. I am not totally sure what happened tonight though. The Penguins dominated for long stretches of the game but much of the third period was a one goal game.

The Islanders got out to a 2-0 lead at the 8:21 mark and the Penguins looked like a tired team that was pretty lost. There didn't seem to be much of any urgency but goals by Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby pulled things even at the intermission and I would probably consider that a win considering how badly the Penguins were for the first eight minutes or so.

What I think I am still getting used to is the Islanders being a pretty good, and fun, hockey team to watch. Their top line of Kyle Okposo, John Tavares, Thomas Vanek are about as fun of a line to watch in hockey. Oh yea, they are pretty good too. Guys like Michael Grabner give them depth and despite being pretty shaky in goal they can play hockey, just like the Penguins found out in last years playoffs.

Maybe the game defining moment was a late 5-on-3 power play the Islanders got with about six minutes to go. It wasn't a full 5-on-3 as Kris Letang took a penalty then Tanner Glass took another penalty with 50 seconds left on the Letang minor. The Penguins PK, which was a perfect 3-for-3, needed to step up and step up they did. Jeff Zatkoff made an unreal save where Frans Nielsen had a sure goal but Zatkoff went post-to-post to make the left pad save. Zatkoff wasn't overly good tonight but he was good when he needed to be.

Crosby has been mildly quiet over the last few games but tonight he was really good. A goal and two more assists and his line which included Kunitz and whomever else wanted to play were having their way with whatever line that the Islanders wanted to have on the ice. He's the best player in the world and you have to think he was pumped about played against a player with Tavares' skill set and he came out and showed why he is still the class of the NHL.

But man oh man, how good is Olli Maatta. Defensively he has been a lot better than I expected and tonight he scored a highlight reel goal. I mean just look at this:


(via Pensburg)

This kid is only 19 years old. NINETEEN!!!!

As I said above the Islanders are good. They had a really brutal start to the year but they are a team I wouldn't want to play in the playoffs. They have this thing about getting behind and coming back. They got the game to 4-3 and then Evgeni Malkin took a sick feed from James Neal to make it 5-3 with about 14 minutes left but the Islanders just kept plugging away and damn near tied the game up on numerous occasions. I am sure the Penguins don't care how they get wins and are glad they are just out of New York with a win.

Penguins Game 51 Preview - @ New York Islanders

New York Islanders

7:30 p.m., Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Uniondale, New York

The Last Penguins Game
January 22, 2014 - Pittsburgh 5, Montreal 1 [Recap]


Probables

Pittsburgh (35-13-2) (via Dailyfaceoff)

Forwards
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Chuck Kobasew
Jussi Jokinen - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Taylor Pyatt - Brandon Sutter - Tanner Glass
Craig Adams - Jayson Megna - Deryk Engelland

Defense
Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin
Rob Scuderi - Kris Letang
Olli Maatta - Matt Niskanen

Goaltender
Jeff Zatkoff

New York (21-24-7) (via Dailyfaceoff)

Forwards
Thomas Vanek - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo
Peter Regin - Frans Nielsen - Josh Bailey
Michael Grabner - Brock Nelson - Cal Clutterbuck
Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Colin McDonald

Defense
Brian Strait - Andrew MacDonald
Calvin de Haan - Matt Donovan
Radek Martinek - Thomas Hickey

Goaltender
Kevin Poulin


Season Series (Pittsburgh leads 2-1)

December 3, 2013 - Pittsburgh 3, New York 2 (OT)



November 22, 2013 - Pittsburgh 4, New York 3



October 25, 2013 - New York 4, Pittsburgh 3




Stats

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Penguins Game 50 Recap - Penguins 5, Canadiens 1

This game was the polar opposite of what happened the other night against the Panthers. Against Florida the Penguins were sluggish and seemed disinterred for long stretches of the game which resulted in a lopsided loss. Tonight the Penguins went up against a much better Montreal team and took them behind the woodshed. From start to finish the Penguins had their foot on the gas and it resulted in a 5-1 win.

For the second consecutive game Evgeni Malkin was just out of his mind. He single handily dominated the entire first period and while he didn't pick up his goal until later in the second period he could have had three in the first period. Whether it was the choice of the Canadiens or it was the Penguins being able to have last change the Malkin line was matched up with P.K. Subban and Malkin took his lunch on numerous occasions. He was beating him and forcing him into taking penalties and it was really just a dominating performance by Malkin.

A byproduct of Malkin being so good is Jussi Jokinen being able to capitalize. This guy is still "getting paid" by the Hurricanes and all he has done is put the puck in the back of the net and played really great hockey every day he has been in the black and gold. He found the back of the net twice tonight which put him up to 15 on the year. He has really made a name for himself on the second line and while he is playing with some highly talented players that doesn't always mean automatic production as we've seen in the past.

Interesting stat from the night is that each of the Penguins six defensemen (not including Deryk Engelland who was a forward tonight) recorded an assist. Now, none of them scored but they accounted for seven points with Matt Niskanen having two assists. You expect this kinda stuff from Kris Letang and Paul Martin but the other guys being able to move the puck and set up in the offensive zone is just huge. I mean the Niskanen-Olli Maatta pair is a third pairing. That is pretty sweet.

Much of the talk in terms of Marc-Andre Fleury is going to be what happened with about five minutes left in the game (which I will touch on later) but he really had a solid game in net. The Habs were only able to get off 24 shots but Fleury saved 23 of them and while Montreal was having a tough time getting shots off in the first he allowed the Penguins to pad the lead He gave up a goal late in the first period to cut the Penguins lead to 2-1 but after that he was a brick wall. He always gets jazzed up to play Montreal and sometimes he can get lost in that emotion, but not tonight.

The special teams were outstanding tonight. Montreal has a good power play and a good penalty kill and the Penguins won both of those battles tonight. The Penguins first power play was a bit of a mess as they got one below average shot off and had a really hard time getting in the zone and setting up shop. The second power play started that way but a Niskanen shot was redirected in by Taylor Pyatt and that opened it up. The Penguins third power play resulted in a sick shot pass from Letang on the stick of Sidney Crosby who scored from a ridiculously tough angle. All told the power play was 2-for-5 on the night. Montreal failed to score on any of their three power play chances. That is pretty much what won the game.

I talked about it earlier but with five minutes left in the game there was a skirmish around the Penguins net. Brooks Orpik was leveled into Fleury which resulted in a penalty. A dustup followed with everyone on the ice kinda bear hugging each other while Orpik then got sucker punched in the face. That was whatever but as Fleury was off to the side he kept looking at the other end of the ice. He then pointed and before you know it he was skating down the ice. Canadiens goaltender Peter Budaj (who relieved Carey Price) threw up his arms and asked Fleury if he wanted to go and they skated towards each other. The linemen were able to step in and stop it from ever happening.

Good on the officials for stepping in and not letting that happen. I know that fighting is the cool thing to do in hockey and a goaltender fight is the highlight of that but there really wasn't any reason for that to happen. It was a 5-1 game and nothing but bad things could happen for MAF if he goes down there and fights. I probably feel a little stronger about this since I don't think there should be fighting in the NHL but if the officials didn't step in it could have been really bad. Entertaining? Sure? Do I want Jeff Zatkoff possibly goaltending every one of the next 20 games? No way. The NHL needs to clean this stuff up and hopefully the officials tonight were a glimpse into that.

Anyways, this was a pretty big matchup for the Penguins. They haven't been playing well over the past couple of weeks but this was a big time performance. They are back in action tomorrow and another good performance would go a long way in telling me that this was just a two week bad stretch and not something we should overly worry about.

Penguins Game 50 Preview - vs. Montreal Canadiens

Montreal Canadiens

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

The Last Penguins Game
January 20, 2014 - Florida 5, Pittsburgh 1 [Recap]


Probables

Pittsburgh (34-13-2) (via Penguins website)

Forwards
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Chuck Kobasew
Jussi Jokinen - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Taylor Pyatt - Brandon Sutter - Tanner Glass
Craig Adams - Zach Sill - Deryk Engelland

Defense
Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin
Rob Scuderi - Kris Letang
Olli Maatta - Matt Niskanen

Goaltender
Marc-Andre Fleury

Montreal (27-17-5) (via Dailyfaceoff)

Forwards
Max Pacioretty- David Desharnais - Brendan Gallagher
Lars Eller - Tomas Plekanec - Brian Gionta
Rene Bourque - Danny Briere - Brandon Prust
Louis Leblanc - Michael Bournival - Travis Moen

Defense
Andrei Markov - P.K. Subban
Nathan Beaulieu - Josh Gorges
Douglas Murray - Francis Bouillon

Goaltender
Carey Price


Season Series (Montreal leads 1-0)

November 23, 2013 - Montreal 3, Pittsburgh 2




Stats

Monday, January 20, 2014

Penguins Game 49 Recap - Florida 5, Pittsburgh 1

Woof. That was a rough game. The Penguins haven't played since last Wednesday and all the time off seems to have not really been that good for them. They were largely inconsistent tonight with some good stretches and much longer bad stretches. The Panthers are not a good team but used some really solid goaltending in order to get their first win in Pittsburgh since 2009.

I guess the good thing about the game today was that the Penguins got a lot of bodies back. Paul Marin, Chuck Kobasew, Jayson Megna, and James Neal were all back in the lineup. That is good. Martin and Megna have missed some extended time so you expected a little rust out of them but overall it looked like everyone on the ice hasn't played in some time. Just kinda ugly.

The best player on the ice was probably Evgeni Malkin. That is not really saying a whole lot since a lot of other players were pretty bad but in the early going Malkin was on fire but it was Scott Clemmensen who stole the show today as he stopped 35 of the 36 shots the Penguins threw at him.

James Neal was pretty good also, but again Clemmensen is better. Neal got some point blank looks earlier and when he gets as many good looks as he did tonight he usually buries at least one of them. Not tonight.

Matt Niskanen said it best though:



Back at it Wednesday.

Penguins Game 49 Preview - vs. Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers

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

The Last Penguins Game
January 15, 2014 - Pittsburgh 4, Washington 3


Probables

Pittsburgh (34-12-2) (via Penguins website)

Forwards
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Chuck Kobasew
Jussi Jokinen - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Taylor Pyatt - Brandon Sutter - Tanner Glass
Craig Adams - Zach Sill - Jayson Megna

Defense
Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin
Rob Scuderi - Kris Letang
Olli Maatta - Matt Niskanen

Goaltender
Marc-Andre Fleury

Florida (18-23-7) (via Dailyfaceoff)

Forwards
Tomas Fleischmann - Nick Bjugstad - Scottie Upshall
Sean Bergenheim - Aleksander Barkov - Brad Boyes
Jonathan Huberdeau - Marcel Goc - Tomas Kopecky
Shawn Matthias - Drew Shore - Krys Barch

Defense
Brian Campbell - Tom Gilbert
Erik Gudbranson - Ed Jovanovski
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver

Goaltender
Scott Clemmensen


Season Series (Tied 1-1)

November 30, 2013 - Pittsburgh 5, Florida 1



October 11, 2013 - Florida 6, Pittsburgh 3




Stats

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Penguins Game 48 Preview - vs. Washington Capitals

Washington Capitals

8:00 p.m., CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Last Penguins Game
January 11, 2013 - Pittsburgh 2, Calgary 1


Probables

Pittsburgh (33-12-2) (via Penguins website)

Forwards
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Brandon Sutter
Jussi Jokinen- Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Tanner Glass - Nick Drazenovic - Craig Adams
Taylor Pyatt - Zach Sill - Deryk Engelland

Defense
Brooks Orpik - Simon Despres
Rob Scuderi - Kris Letang
Olli Maatta - Matt Niskanen

Goaltender
Marc-Andre Fleury

Washington (22-16-8) (via Dailyfaceoff)

Forwards
Eric Fehr - Mikhail Grabovski - Alex Ovechkin
Brooks Laich - Nicklas Backstrom - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera Marcus Johansson - Joel Ward
Aaron Volpatti Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson

Defense
Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Dmitri Orlov - Mike Green
John Erskine - Connor Carrick

Goaltender
Michal Neuvirth


Season Series (Pittsburgh leads 1-0)

November 20, 2013 - Pittsburgh 4, Washington 0




Stats

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Penguins Game 47 Preview - @ Calgary Flames

Calgary Flames

10:00 p.m., Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary, Alberta

The Last Penguins Game
January 10, 2013 - Edmonton 4, Pittsburgh 3 (OT) [Recap]


Probables

Pittsburgh (32-12-2)

Forwards
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Brian Gibbons
Jussi Jokinen - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Tanner Glass - Brandon Sutter - Taylor Pyatt
Craig Adams - Joe Vitale - Deryk Engelland

Defense
Brooks Orpik - Simon Despres
Rob Scuderi - Kris Letang
Olli Maatta - Matt Niskanen

Goaltender
Marc-Andre Fleury

Calgary (15-23-6) (via Dailyfaceoff)

Forwards
Michael Cammalleri - Mikael Backlund - Paul Byron
Paul Byron - Sean Monahan - Jiri Hudler
Lance Bouma - Matt Stajan - T.J. Galiardi
Kevin Westgarth - Joe Colborne - Brian McGrattan

Defense
T.J. Brodie - Mark Giordano
Ladislav Smid - Dennis Wideman
Chris Butler - Shane O'Brien

Goaltender
Reto Berra


Season Series (Pittsburgh leads 1-0)

December 21, 2013 - Pittsburgh 4, Calgary 3




Stats

Penguins Game 46 Recap - Edmonton 4, Pittsburgh 3 (OT)

Well hello there. It has been some time since I have been able to get on and give a recap but here we are. Over the break the Penguins have been winning hockey games and while they haven't always been good they are still winning and really that is all you can ask for at this juncture. Last night the Penguins weren't able to overcome some overall sloppy play and it led to a loss to a pretty bad Edmonton team.

The Penguins really only played one good period of hockey. Typically they have been able to win games with only one good period but not tonight. The second period was really good for the Penguins when they scored two of their three goals and really made Edmonton look as bad as their 14-27-5 record.

Alas the Penguins had to play 60+ minutes of hockey and when you only play 20 minutes you aren't going to win most games. Overall in the game the Penguins had 15 giveaways (yikes) and while this isn't something that is surprising if you watch the Penguins when you don't have your best offensive game that will kill you. While the Oilers are bad team they still have talent in Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and they made the Penguins play.

There were some good things that went on. They were few though. Sidney Crosby scored a goal and assisted on another and crossed off Edmonton on his list of teams that he hasn't scored a goal on. He now has 67 points on the season which gives him 13 more than anyone else in the league. He has been so good this year that if he stays healthy it will be a runaway for MVP. With all the injuries he has kept this team going.

When James Neal is giving cheap shots and getting suspended he has been as good as it gets. He scored the first goal of the night and it was an absolute snipe. He has 17 goals in only 26 games played and right now he is on pace for a 41 goal season. Just think about that. He is on pace to play only 62 games but still on pace to put up 41. Jesus. If he can keep his head on scoring goals he is as big of an asset as anyone else on the Penguins and the goal he scored last night is exactly why.

Kris Letang is just a weird player. The talent and athleticism he has is really close to unmatched in the league but sometimes he just can't control his emotions and that can turn all that good into something really bad. Letang has actually been really good the past few games, especially in Vancouver with maybe his best game of the year while last night he scored the Penguins third goal with a little over six minutes left that probably should have been the game winner. Letang has some blips last night but what he brings to the table outweighs that for me. He has been getting beat up on some borderline calls and he's handled that pretty well. He was called for a pretty fringy penalty at the end of the first period but was able to come back with a solid game including the goal. Solid game from Tanger.

Everything else was relatively awful. If you have come here and read my stuff at all you know I am one of the biggest supporters of "it's just one game" and "losses happen". That is exactly what this is but there are trends that are still going on. The turnovers are a huge problem. The lack of depth in the bottom six forwards is still a problem. The Penguins were winning in spite of it but when you lose it becomes evident.

In the past three games the Penguins have given up 13 goals. Thirteen.

Jeff Zatkoff was off last night. I don't really know what it was last night but he looked like he wasn't tracking the puck very well. He was going down into the butterfly really early, even when there wasn't much traffic in front of him. Zatkoff has been pretty good all year and by no means am I saying this is on him because it was much more than that last night. However, Zatkoff wasn't very good last night and really the Penguins are lucky they were able to get a point out of this game. If the Oilers were able to hit the net they could have probably had six goals or so.

The big talk after the game was in overtime. The Penguins were on the penalty kill at the end of the game and the Pens sent out Craig Adams, Brooks Orpik, and Tanner Glass were the PK guys. Now Dan Bylsma knows a lot more than me but this just seems like a pretty tough matchup for them. Granted a 4-on-3 against some of the talent that the Oilers had on the ice would have been really hard for anyone on the Penguins but I would have to think you want to have at least one guy on the ice that could skate. Who knows though, it shouldn't have even got to overtime.

The Penguins have blown a few leads of late. They gave up a two goal lead in the third period and then another lead after the Letang goal. In Vancouver they needed a frantic comeback after giving up four straight goals. Now this stuff happens but when you are as good as the Penguins are you need to be able to protect a one goal lead with under five minutes left in the third period.

All told the Penguins got a point which is good. They didn't deserve a point, but they got one. Sure a win would be great but they have only lost four games (three in regulation) since the beginning of December. The Penguins are up by eight points in the East (they have also played two more games than Boston) and they are up 16 points in the Metro Division (they have played two more games than Philadelphia and Washington). That is not bad. Things could be a lot worse. A lot.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Penguins Game 46 Preview - @ Edmonton Oilers


Edmonton Oilers


10:00 p.m., Rexall Place, Edmonton, Alberta

The Last Penguins Game
January 7, 2013 - Pittsburgh 5, Vancouver 4 (SO)


Probables

Pittsburgh (32-12-1) (via Penguins website)

Forwards
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Brian Gibbons
Jussi Jokinen - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Tanner Glass - Brandon Sutter - Taylor Pyatt
Craig Adams - Joe Vitale - Deryk Engelland

Defense
Brooks Orpik - Simon Despres
Rob Scuderi - Kris Letang
Olli Maatta - Matt Niskanen

Goaltender
Jeff Zatkoff

Edmonton (14-27-5) (via Dailyfaceoff)

Forwards
Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Sam Gagner
Nail Yakupov - Mark Arcobello - Jordan Eberle
David Perron - Boyd Gordon - Ales Hemsky
Luke Gazdic - Ryan Smyth - Ryan Jones

Defense
Andrew Ference - Justin Schultz
Nick Schultz - Anton Belov
Jeff Petry - Martin Marincin

Goaltender
Devan Dubnyk


Season Series (Pittsburgh leads 1-0)

October 15, 2013 - Pittsburgh 3, Edmonton 2




Stats

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Penguins Game 45 Preview - @ Vancouver Canucks


Vancouver Canucks



10:00 p.m., Rogers Arena, Vancouver, B.C.


The Last Penguins Game
January 5, 2013 - Pittsburgh 6, Winnipeg 5


Probables

Pittsburgh (31-12-1) (via Penguins website)

Forwards
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Brian Gibbons
Jussi Jokinen - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Tanner Glass - Brandon Sutter - Taylor Pyatt
Craig Adams - Joe Vitale - Deryk Engelland

Defense
Brooks Orpik - Simon Despres
Rob Scuderi - Kris Letang
Olli Maatta - Matt Niskanen

Goaltender
Marc-Andre Fleury

Vancouver (23-13-8) (via Dailyfaceoff)

Forwards
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Mike Santorelli
Chris Higgins - Ryan Kesler - Zack Kassian
David Booth - Brad Richardson - Jannik Hansen
Tom Sestito - Zac Dalpe - Darren Archibald

Defense
Chris Tanev - Dan Hamhuis
Kevin Bieksa - Frank Corrado
Jason Garrison - Yannick Weber

Goaltender
Eddie Lack


Season Series (Pittsburgh leads 1-0)

October 19, 2013 - Pittsburgh 4, Vancouver 3 (SO)




Stats

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Penguins Game 44 Preview - vs. Winnipeg Jets

Winnipeg Jets

1:00 p.m., CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The Last Penguins Game
January 3, 2013 - Pittsburgh 5, New York 2


Probables

Pittsburgh (30-12-1) (via Dailyfaceoff)

Forward
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - James Neal
Jussi Jokinen - Brandon Sutter - Brian Gibbons
Taylor Pyatt - Joe Vitale - Craig Adams
Tanner Glass - Zach Sill - Deryk Engelland

Defense
Olli Maatta - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Simon Despres
Robert Bortuzzo - Rob Scuderi

Goaltender
Marc-Andre Fleury

Winnipeg (19-20-5) (via Dailyfaceoff)

Forwards
Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane - Mark Scheifele - Michael Frolik
Chris Thorburn - Olli Jokinen - Devin Setoguchi
Eric Tangradi - James Wright - Anthony Peluso

Defense
Dustin Byfuglien - Keaton Ellerby
Jacob Trouba - Tobias Enstrom
Mark Stuart - Zach Bogosian

Goaltender
Ondrej Pavelec


Stats

Friday, January 3, 2014

Penguins Game 43 Preview - vs. New York Rangers

New York Rangers

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

The Last Penguins Game
December 31, 2013 - New Jersey 2, Pittsburgh 1


The Probables

Pittsburgh (29-12-1) (via Penguins website)

Forwards
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - James Neal
Jussi Jokinen - Brandon Sutter - Brian Gibbons
Taylor Pyatt - Joe Vitale - Craig Adams
Tanner Glass - Zach Sill - Chuck Kobasew

Defense
Brooks Orpik - Simone Despres
Rob Scuderi - Robert Bortuzzo
Olli Maatta - Matt Niskanen

Goaltender
Marc-Andre Fleury

New York (20-19-2) (via Dailyfaceoff)

Forwards
Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Rick Nash
Brad Richards - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello
Carl Hagelin - Benoit Pouliot - Ryan Callahan
Brian Boyle - Dominic Moore - Derek Dorsett

Defense
Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
John Moore - Anton Stralman
Conor Allen - Marc Staal

Goaltender
Henrik Lundqvist


Season Series (Rangers lead 1-0-1)

December 18, 2013 - Pittsburgh 4, New York 3 (SO)



November 6, 2013 - New York 5, Pittsburgh 1




The Stats