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Monday, November 15, 2010

Pittburgh Penguins Winter Classic Jerseys

Pittsburgh Penguins Winter Classic jerseys are now onsale. You can find the jerseys and other merchandise and gifts at my store. Just follow this link to my Amazon store to preview and buy! Thanks!

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Some Penguins notes and other stuff from the NHL 11-15-10

Here's a few notes from the Penguins and a couple from around the league...

  • Tyler Kennedy has come down with flu like symptoms. This bug has been going around the locker room and Kennedy is the latest. He will miss tonights game. 
  • Sidney Crosby was named the NHL's 2nd star of the week . He played 3 games last week and recorded multiple points in each. He finished with 3 goals and 5 assists. This pulled him to 2nd place in the scoring race, 1 point behind Steven Stamkos with 27. 
  • NHL all start voting has started today. The Penguins have 4 eligible players..Malkin, Fleury, Martin, and Crosby. I have to wonder who picks which players are eligible. Kris Letang is not on the ballot. You can vote at
  • The Islanders have fired their coach, Scott Gordon. The Islanders have been floundering are 0-9-1 in their last 10. Gordon will be replaced by AHL coach, Jack Capuano. Isles GM, Garth Snow, has not indicated on whether his replacement will finish the season. His only response was, "We're just concerned about Wednesday".
  • There is some interesting stuff going on about NHL vice president of operations, Colin Cambell. Among other duties, Cambell is in charge of handing down discipline to players who violate rules and regulations of the game. Apparently there were some emails that Cambell sent to NHL execs that were made public by blogger Tyler Dellow. How does this relate to the Penguins? There are growing conspiracy theories that Matt Cooke did not receive any discipline for the Marc Savard hit last year because Collin Cambell is not a fan of Marc Savard. You can read the article here. It goes into much more detail than I care to post right now!
  • The Pittsburgh Penguins Winter Classic Jerseys are now onsale. You can preview and purchase jerseys at my Pitt Pens Store 

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

A little prouder to be a Pittsburgh Penguins fan

PITTSBURGH - NOVEMBER 12: Marc-Andre Fleury  of the Pittsburgh Penguins salutes the fans after being named the games number one start after defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning at Consol Energy Center on November 12, 2010 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Penguins defeated the Lightning 5-1. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

I rarely go on message boards. If I did, I would think that Marc Andre Fleury was washed up and the worst thing to ever happen to Pittsburgh. If I did, I would think the Pittsburgh Penguins should trade Evgeni Malkin and get rid of half the team. If I did, I would think that the Penguins have no chance at ever winning a game again. No offense to the people who post on these things, but message boards are always filled with knee jerk reaction, pessimism, and spammers who like to create controversy.

Luckily, the Consol Energy Center was filled with a different type of fan last night vs the Tampa Bay Lightning. These fans were the forgiving type. The supportive type. The give the guy a chance type. The I havent forgotten what you have done for me type. And this made me proud to be a Pittsburgh Penguin fan

Before the National Anthem even started, the chants of FLEUR-E...FLEUR-E started. It would have been easy to start the mock chants, but no, these fans were here to support their guy. They were there to support their goaltender on to victory. They were there to see Marc Andre Fleury become the 7th youngest goaltender, at 25, to record his 150th win.

The cheers didnt end at the Anthem either, these fans were behind Fleury's every move. The show of support was strong and the players took note as well.
"Maybe I heard maybe a couple tough things [before], but the crowd tonight behind me right from the start cheering," Fleury said. "It was a good feeling. It was awesome."

"I'd like to give some props to the fans," Talbot said. "It was pretty good what they did at the start of the game. I'm sure that gave him a little extra jump, screaming his name.
“It was great from our fans,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “You could tell they were standing in the goal with him.”

This could have been just what the doctor ordered for Fleury, who has appeared to lack confidence this season. Let's hope last night was the beginning of something special and if so, there were 18,275 fans that can pat themselves on the back.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Pittsburgh Penguins vs Tampa Bay Lightning Pros and Cons 11-12-10

LAS VEGAS - JUNE 23: (R-L) Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning pose for a portrait with the Maurice Richard Trophy during the 2010 NHL Awards at the Palms Casino Resort on June 23, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Pittsburgh Penguins are back at it tonight at the Consol Energy Center. They play host to the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7PM. I view this game as pivotal for the Pens. Coming off a humiliating 3rd period against Boston on Wednesday, have the Penguins had enough? Do they have the desire, passion, and heart to bounce back? Is this really a mediocre team or is it a top tier hockey club? Can they make the effort last 60 minutes? I think some of these questions will be answered tonight. How the Penguins bounce back will shed some light on the make up of this team. This is as close as it comes to must win at this point of the season.

Tampa comes into the game with an 8-5-2 record which places them 2nd place in the Southeast division and 4th in the Eastern conference. They are playing their 2nd game in as many nights, coming off a loss to Washington last night, 6-3. Led by sniper and NHL goals and points leader, Steven Stamkos, the Lightning are 8th in the league in goals per game with 3.1 while they are 5th with a 23.8% power play. They do give up some goals, at 3.0 per game(20th in league) but have the 4th best penalty kill at 89.2%.

The Penguins loss Wednesday has dropped them to 7-8-1 which is 3rd in the Atlantic division and 10th in the conference. They are 12th in the league with 2.9 goals per game and 19th with a 14.3% power play. They are giving up 2.9 goals per game(18th in league) and have a 86.6% penalty kill, good for 8th in the league.

These teams last played October 27 with Tampa Bay winning 5-3. The Penguins scored 2 shorthanded goals on the same power play in that game only to be watch their lead evaporate led by Penguin killer Martin St Louis' 2 goals and an assist. Although I dont like to see injuries, the Pens are catching a break as another Penguin killer, Vincent Lecavalier broke his hand in last nights game. He will be out 3-4 weeks.

Although goalies for both teams have not been confirmed, it looks likely that Fleury will start for Pittsburgh while Dan Ellis will go for Tampa Bay. Lets take a look at the Pros and Cons for tonight.


  • The Penguins have a lot of issues. They are coming off a humiliating loss that showed off their many problems. If this team has any will, I expect them to come out flying. They have a lot to prove and if they can channel that energy, they may just be good enough to pull out a win
  • Vincent Lecavalier is out with a broken hand. This is good news for the Pens. Lecavalier has 39 points in 44 career games vs the Pens. This includes 25 goals. Now if they can just figure out a way to stop Martin St Louis!


  • As mentioned, the Penguins have a lot of issues. Questions surround this team. Can Fleury, if he starts, put together a solid start for the 1st time this season? Will the defense play smarter and not allow too many odd man breaks? Will the power play be able to score against one of the better penalty kills? Will the Penguins put together 60 minutes of effort? These are all legitimate questions that will be answered tonight.
  • Martin St. Louis has averaged a point a game against the Pens in 38 games including 16 goals. The Pens gotta keep an eye on this guy. At 35, this guy still has speed and knows how to use it. He's a crafty player and has a knack for finding open ice. 
  • The Pens held Steven Stamkos without a goal in the last meeting but he did register 3 assists. He is the real deal and has a lethal shot. He is a force anytime he is on the ice. 

It doesnt get any easier for the Pens. This will be a tough matchup. I expect the Penguins to come out trying to prove a point. Hopefully they dont get caught up in that too much as Tampa Bay has the talent to exploit mistakes. It's probably an overused cliche, but the Penguins need to simplify their game and play smart hockey. If they can do this, they have the talent to win. If not, it may be another long night.

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Have the Pittsburgh Penguins hit bottom?

Just when I thought the Pittsburgh Penguins got it going, they fell flat on their face. The Penguins lost Wednesday night to the Boston Bruins 7-4. They had a 4-2 advantage going into the 3rd period only to have the Bruins score 5 unanswered goals on its way to victory. Could this be the bottoming out for the Pens?

Through 2 periods, the Penguins were doing it all. A power play goal, zone pressure, scoring 4 goals on a red hot goaltender that has barely been giving up a goal per game. They had crisp passes, good defensive coverage. Then what happened? The 3rd period rolled around and the team fell apart. The defense took too many risks. Alex Goligoski is singled out as making some horrible decisions. Ben Lovejoy, playing for the first time in a few games, finished a -3. The other red hot goalie, Brent Johnson, deflated. It was, in my opinion, the lowest point in the season. As Sidney Crosby said, the Penguins didnt give up a ton of chances, but the ones they did, Boston took advantage of. Thats what good teams do.

As bad and depressing this season has been so far, the Penguins arent out. They dont have the amount of problems as, say, New Jersey. They can turn this around. They are currently 3rd in the Atlantic division and 10th in the Eastern Conference. They are only 3 points out of 4th in the conference. But in order to right the ship they have to gain consistency and they have to start it now. I'm not suggesting some players are lazy, but the effort, at times, seems weak. This league is too good and too even right now to take a period off. They saw that last night.

One of the areas that needs shored up is goaltending. I posted my thoughts on this earlier. I really like Brent Johnson but to ask him keep up his early season success is unrealistic. He has been a backup for a reason. Marc Andre Fleury needs to get in there, take his lumps, and move on. He has to be the number 1 goalie on this team and the coach has to give him that chance. Let him work through his slump. The defense also needs to play smarter. There is no excuse for getting caught pinching with a 2 goal lead. There is no excuse for allowing Mark Recchi, who is 42, to outwork your supposed big time free agent defensemen(Michalek). Dan Byslma has to take control of this situation and instill discipline in this team. He talks about this system in nearly every interview. Where was the system last night in the 3rd period? Players ultimately decide the wins and losses but the coach has to put them in the position to win and hold players accountable.

The Penguins have issues. It extends from goaltending to defense to coaching. The more I see things, the more I am beginning to put more of this on the coach. The team and the coach have 2 days to prepare before playing back to back Friday and Saturday. If the team drops these 2 games, I think Dan Byslma may be on the hot seat.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pittsburgh Penguins vs Boston Bruins Game Time!

Tonight the Pittsburgh Penguins return home to play the Boston Bruins. Game time is 7PM. Boston comes into the game having lost its last 2 games. This has dropped their record to 7-3-1, still good for 3rd place in the Northeast division despite playing 4 games less than the 2 teams ahead of them(Ottawa and Montreal). Boston has a good mix of scoring and defense. They are 7th in the league scoring 3.0 goals per game. They have been riding Tim Thomas's remarkable goaltending and only allowing 1.7 goals against, good for 2nd in NHL. They kill 92.9% of penalties which is tops in the league. Their power play is also going good at 21.4% which is 9th in the league.

Boston is dealing with several key injuries. Marc Savard is still dealing with post concussion symptoms from Matt Cookes hit last season. First Line Center Marc Krejci is also now out with a concussion. The Penguins are relatively healthy with the exception, of course, of Jordan Staal. They did recall Chris Conner today in the event that Mike Comrie can not go. Comrie has been dealing with a bout of the flu.

Boston plays a defense first style. They kinda model the New Jersey Devils of old--trap, trap, trap, and pounce on turnovers. They are going to give the Pens a very tough challenge. Tim Thomas will be in goal for the Bruins. He has been lights out on the year posting a 7-0 record and 1.07GAA. On the flip side, Brent Johnson will start in goal for the Penguins. He too has been red hot, posting a 6-1-1 record and 1.63GAA.

The Pittsburgh-Boston games of late have really taken on an intense rivalry. Things only got nastier after Matt Cooke took out Marc Savard. I expect nothing less than the same intensity tonight. Usually I do a pro's and con's for each game, but I'm short on time today. Should be a good game!

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Has Marc Andre Fleury really lost it?

We are all well aware of Marc Andre Fleury's struggles this year. We also know his backup, Brent Johnson, has been almost lights out in net. So what should the Penguins do with their "franchise" and big money goaltender? This isnt a question easily answered. Coach Byslma tried getting Fleury some playing time by starting him back to back last weekend. That ended in a loss for one game and Fleury getting pulled after 7 minutes the next game. So has Fleury really became the worst goaltender in the league over the summer? His numbers indicate that. A 1-6 record, a 3.55 GAA which is 36th in the league, a .853 save percentage which is dead last in the NHL.  Not good! So what is the deal with Fleury and how should Coach Byslma handle the goalie situation? Here is my take...Play him!

Obviously you dont want to give up on the season. You dont want to waste points trying to resurrect a player.  You don't want a red hot goalie(Johnson) sitting on the bench while another goalie(Fleury) loses games time after time. However, Fleury has proven himself before. He has been a big game goaltender. He has a penchant for giving up soft goals, but he also has stood on his head and makes some unbelievable saves. He has a career record of 149-112-2. His playoff record is 38-24. He has won a Stanley Cup. This preseason he went 3-0 with a 1.80 GAA. The guy has it in him. He is simply going through the worst stretch in his career. 

Martin Brodeur once said "My belief is goalies won't have slumps if they play every single game. The game isn't that hard. You will get one good game to get your confidence back if you are playing all of the time." This was an excerpt from a great article in the USAToday

This is true. Sometimes you gotta work through your problems and like Brodeur said, all it takes 
sometimes is one good game. Right now, Fleury is losing his confidence and the confidence of the coach. One person who has not given up on Fleury is Captain Sidney Crosby. He also is of the belief Fleury needs to be in there. In the Tribune Review today, there is an article that talks about Crosby's and Coach Bylsma's different philosophy on this. Crosby is quoted in the story as saying "He's going to have good games. It's not like he can change overnight. He's going to put strings of games together, and he can't do that with one game. So, you've got to be patient, too, and let him get back there.With a goalie, you've got to give him time. He's got to play four or five games maybe to prove that, but to sit here and question his psyche doesn't really give him a chance." I think Crosby knows what he is talking about. 

So while we are all frustrated and tired of the first or second opponents shot getting past Fleury, I believe he still has a ton of talent and will be the goaltender who leads this team by seasons end. Will he let an easy shot in here or there? Sure. But will he also stop an Alexander Ovechkin breakaway in a game 7 of the playoffs? You damn right he will. We need to stick with this guy and let him work through this. We will all be better off if this happens. 

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Pittsburgh Penguins practice and notes 11-08-2010

The Penguins were back on the practice ice today at Southpoint. According to the Pens official page, Brent Johnson did not participate and Malkin left early. Dan Byslma spoke with the media after practice and downplayed both. Malkin still has some discomfort in his knee and Johnson was sick. Nothing appears serious enough to cause either one to miss time.

Also according to the reports is that the Penguins worked hard on their defensive zone coverage today. There have been lapses all year despite the Pens only giving up 26.6 shots per game. They have given up tons of odd man breaks. Their defense has been aggressive in the offensive zone but frequently get trapped getting back. Goligoski played perhaps his worst game against Phoenix and Martin continues to make costly errors. The coverage has got to get better and hopefully this is a step in that direction.

After practice, several Penguins painted shoes that will be auctioned off for Max Talbots charity, The Max Talbot Foundation. The goal is to build an orphanage in Haiti.

Coach Tony Granato was not at practice today. He was excused so he could join his sister at the Hockey Hall of Fame. Cammi Granato and Angela James are the first women to join the exclusive club. Granato was one of the founding members of the US Olympic hockey team. She captained the US to gold in the 1998 games.

Michel Therrien's name has been flying around as a possible return to the NHL coaching ranks. There are rumors the Devils, Sabres, and the Flames are considering a change and Therrien would be in the mix.

Well, not a whole lot of news out there.  When I have more time I still plan on getting a few opinions out there on the goaltending and coaching situations. Stay tuned

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pittsburgh Penguins roster 5 years ago

With free agency in sports, players often come and go. There is very little loyalty from players or from teams. Sometimes when you look back, even if it was only 5 years ago, you see some names that makes you say, "Oh yeah, I remember him!". I decided to look back at the November 1, 2005 Pittsburgh Penguins roster. There are only 3 regulars left from that team. They are Crosby, Talbot, and Brooks Orpik. So here is the lineup the Penguins rolled out on that day vs. the New Jersey Devils. By the way, the Penguins won this game on an overtime goal by Sergei Gonchar.

Eric Christensen
Sidney Crosby
Rico Fata
Konstantin Koltsov
John Leclair
Sergei Gonchar
Matt Murley
Mario Lemieux
Ryan Malone
Brooks Orpik
Ziggy Palffy
Lyle Odelein
Lasse Pirjeta
Steve Poapst
Mark Recchi
Rob Scuderi
Max Talbot
Ryan Whitney

The starting goalie was Sabastion Caron. He was backed up by Jocelyn Thibault.

Theres a few name in there that bring back some memories. This was Sidney Crosby's rookie year and Mario Lemieux's last. The team was coached by Eddy Olczyk and finished with a 22-46-14 record. It was November 28 of 2005 that Fleury came to the Pens for good and established himself as the starting goaltender.

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Pittsburgh Penguins vs Phoenix Coyotes quick hits

Well, the Pittsburgh Penguins came away with 2 points last night in Phoenix but it didnt come easy. Coach Dan Bylsma made 1 decision that looked pretty bad and 1 that made him look genious. Here are some quick hits on my thoughts from the game

  • If you read my Pros and Cons preview yesterday, you saw I had Brent Johnson in goal. Well, Coach Bylsma threw us a wrench and started Marc Andre Fleury. I understand why he did it. Fleury is used to taking a heavy load and Byslma wanted to get him going. I have no problem with the decision to start Fleury. However Fleury did not take advantage of it. He gave up 2 goals on 7 shots in the first 7 minutes of play. Brent Johnson entered the game and rebounded from his last start to save 22 of 23 shots plus made 2 great saves in the shootout(the 3rd shot missed the net). This is going to further fuel the Fleury haters and further lessen the trust the team has in Fleury right now. There is no quick fix to this. The franchise goalie is not playing well and the backup is standing on his head. I'm sure there are a lot of opinions posted out there right now. And I will get to mine sometime in the next day or two.
  • Another wrench that was thrown into my Pros and Cons post was the injury and illnesses of 2 of the Coyotes main players. Captain Shane Doan was hurt Friday night and is now listed as week to week with a lower body injury. Long time Defensemen and Penguin killer Ed Jovanovski was also not in the lineup due to having the flu. Who knows how the game would have turned out if they were in there, but I think the Pens caught a break. 

  • How about that 5-3 power play for the Pens? They didnt score but ended up getting a goal by Kunitz on the insuing 5-4. Seeing Malkin tee it up time after time was great! Any time Malkin unleashes that wicked shot, things are going to happen. None of those shots went in but they created chances and scrambles. I hope that is signs to come and the players start to realize that chances come by shooting the puck and who else better than Malkin to set the tone?
  • Crosby's goal was classic. That was another break the Penguins needed to get going. Sure the Coyotes defensemen had the puck slip off his stick and land right on Crosby's, but Crosby was in the right place and showed off those quick hands and decision making.
  • The desicion of coach Bylsma to go with Letestu as the 3rd shooter made him look genious. I read in one article(sorry, forget which one) that it was actually Tony Granato that persuaded Bylsma to call Letestu's number. Either way, Letestu came through and got the winner. Congrats to the kid. That was his first shootout attempt in the NHL. 
  • So if you take out the 2nd period against Anaheim and the 1st period last night, the Penguins have outplayed, out physicalled, and out skilled the opponents in the last 4 out of 6 periods. Could it finally be turning around? Consistency is an issue with the team but it is good to see the appeared effort level going up. The NHL is too good and teams are matched up too evenly to take periods off. It doesnt matter how much skill a team has, the effort has to be there every night or the opponent will take advantage of it. I dont know if effort truly has been the Penguins troubles early on but it is good to see the level of play rising up. 
The Penguins have today off before resuming practice Monday in preparation for Wednesdays matchup against Boston. Boston is a good team and riding a very hot goaltender. They will need everything they got once again to get past them. I will have a couple more articles out the next couple days that breakdown my views on the goaltending situation and some Coach Byslma opinions.

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