Thursday, May 29, 2008

Penguins Off Life Support!

The Pittsburgh Penguins have been taken off life support and are well on the way to recovery, with their series turning game 3 win.

The Penguins and Red Wings provided the viewing public and the millions at home, the most exciting game of this season's Stanley Cup playoffs. This was the type of game, that everyone had expected from these two teams going into the series.

Sidney Crosby put on a clinic, punctuated by his 2 goal performance. He put the team on his shoulders and shook life back into this series. He looked like a man possessed, with the sole mission of proving he's still the best player in the world. He also continued his ever developing chemistry with Marian Hossa, who has been a two way fiend in these playoffs and assisted on both Crosby goals.

The Penguins physically abused the Wings, lead by the ever scary and intensity driven Gary Roberts. The Penguins took their cue from Roberts and pounded the Wings in the corners and all over the ice. Brooks Orpik, alone made 4 bone crushing hits in one of the most physical performances I have ever seen.

The physical play displayed by the Penguins might have delivered a server blow to the Red Wings hopes, with perennial crease disturber Tomas Holmstrom, leaving the game with an undisclosed lower body injury. He spent the whole night battling with 6 foot 7 Hal Gill, taking several cross checks to the back in the process. If he is to miss any significant time, this would be a crushing blow for the Red Wings.

Marc-Andre Fleury rebounded from two mediocre performances and backstopped the Penguins with the poise that the Pens had become reliant upon through the first three rounds.

The Red Wings will take consolation out of this game, that they played well enough to have a legitimate claim that they could have won this game. They rallied twice in this game and hit a post at the end that could have tied the game up. The Red Wings were not dominated, like the Penguins were in the first two games, which just goes to show how great of a team they truly are.

This series is far from over, with a win on Saturday the Penguins will tie the series 2-2 and will have taken all momentum away for the once unbeatable looking Red Wings. The Penguins will go into game 5 in Detroit with the belief they can beat them. However, if the Pens were to lose on Saturday, the Penguins will surely start believing that this just isn't their year. I for one believe the Penguins will win game 4 and make this series one of the best in NHL history.

On a solemn note.....

Promising Vancouver Canucks defenseman Luc Bourdon, was tragically killed today, whilst riding his Motorcycle in his native New Brunswick Canada. Luc and the Penguins own Kristopher Letang played together for Val-d'Or and Canada during their Junior careers and formed a formidable duo.

This 21 year old young man, will be sorely missed by anyone who watched him develop into one of NHL brightest prospects. My thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family. I hope the Canucks will find a suitable way to celebrate Luc's life. I suggest doing what the Penguins did and retire his number to the rafters.

R.I.P Luc Bourdon 2/16/1987 - 5/29/2008

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Are the Penguins Dead?

The Pittsburgh Penguins again were taken to task by the Detroit Red Wings, in Monday night's Stanley Cup Final's game two. Again, the Pens were outclassed and outplayed by the veteran Wings team that are sitting pretty with half their job done. But, this series is far from over and anyone who thinks a sweep is a foregone conclusion, is setting themselves up for a rude awakening.

The Red Wings have without a doubt have received the lion's share of the calls, this is likely to change in Pittsburgh. The home team usually gets the benefit of the doubt from the referees and that should continue as the Pens head home.

Pens coach Michel Therrien during last night's post game press conference, called attention to the obstruction and interference perpetrated by the Wings in game two. This is the type of gamesmanship that normally results in more positive calls being made by the refs.

You have to take some hope out of the fact the players didn't go down quietly. At the end of the 3rd period the Penguins look like they have finally had enough. You may not condone the cheap shots that Gary Roberts and Max Talbot took on the recently returned Johan Franzen, but it sure shows that they aren't going to just go down without a fight.

The Pens players in their post game comments singled out Niklas Kronwall and Chris Osgood for their underhand tactics. Kronwall has been taking liberties, by leaving his feet on his open ice checks. His actions should be resulting in charging calls, but none seem imminent. Chris Osgood has been flopping around the ice and took a Olympics worthy dive in the dying minutes of the game, in a classless attempt to get call in a game that was already over and done with.

Lets put the manner of how the Wings schooled the Penguins in the first two games aside. The Red Wings in essence have only held serve and it is generally expected, that the home teams should win at home. However, usually the team that wins the Stanley Cup, is the first team to win on the road and we haven't seen that yet.

The Penguins need to come out in game 3 with the same intensity they had at the end of game 2 and really physically punish the Red Wings, who up until now, have not seen any kind of pressure from the Pens. The Pens if they are to win this series, quite simply have to win both games at home, otherwise they will be watching Lidstrom and Co. drinking from the cup.

That may seem like a tall order, for a team that has been owned in the first two games, but lets not forget the Penguins haven't lost a home game since February. If the Penguins can pull off what right now seems an impossible task and win both home games, the series will be wiped clean and the cup will be decided by a new best of 3 series. The Penguins will have the momentum going in and the pressure would be squarely on the Red Wings shoulders.

The hope may be fading but the hope is still there and if the Penguins can win game 3 that will go a long way to given the confidence they are sorely lacking coming out of game 2.

If experience tells us anything, an angry Pittsburgh team is a dangerous team, just ask the Philadelphia Flyers and Derian Hatcher and no one should doubt that the Penguins are one pissed off team right now.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Pens Schooled by Experienced Wings!

The display the Pittsburgh Penguins put on last night in game one of the Stanley Cup Finals, can be summed up with one word, disgraceful. But that would make for a short blog, so I will attempt to dissect their awful performance. Lets not take anything away from the master class the veteran Detroit Red Wings put on last night, but the Penguins didn't make it difficult on them either.

The Pens defense was overwhelmed by the fast forechecking Wings' forwards, who were continually winning the battles to the puck. A perfect example of this lead to the 2nd goal, when Hal Gill was out muscled by wings crease invader Tomas Holmstrom.

The Pens offense was nonexistent, they were pressured all night long by Lidstrom and Co. and were turning the puck over like it was going out of fashion. The Pens stars took the night off, from Crosby and Malkin being virtually invisible, to Jordan Staal uncharacteristically turning the puck over and going for an inopportune line change, that directly lead to the game's opening goal.

The game was put out of reach when the Red Wings scored their third goal early in the 3rd period, killing any possible comeback by the Penguins, not that they showed much sign of it anyway.

The only saving grace for the Penguins was the continued excellent two way performance of impending free agent, Marian Hossa. He has been a beast for the Penguins in the playoffs and with every passing performance, inching closer to persuading Penguins GM Ray Shero to pony up the cash, to re-sign him in the summer.

No one should be surprised by this performance, as the Penguins have made a habit of under performing in games ones of these playoffs. However, in the past they have gotten away with it, because the opposition were of lesser caliber. The Red Wings are on the same level as the Penguins and rightly punished them for their lackluster performance.

If the Penguins are going to compete for the Cup they must turn things around and come out firing on all cylinders in game two. It may be the homer in me, but I believe they will win game two and go on to win the series in 6. I believe although the Red Wings have the experience, over the long haul of the series, the Penguins have too much firepower and youthful exuberance for the aging Red wings and Chris Osgood to withstand.

Return From Blogosphere Oblivion!

After a long hiatus from blogging I am returning with a bang. I've updated the look of my page and decided to focus primarily on my beloved Pittsburgh Penguins.

After spending my time searching for a good Penguins blog, I found that they are slim and far between. So I decided I would try and fill that void.

I will continue to make comments on the odd non-Penguins development, but my main focus will be on Penguins' trades, rumours, news and all things Black and Gold.

I hope you guys like my new format and enjoy what I have to share with you all. Feel free to comment and join in.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Line Rotation The Good, The Bad and The Ugly!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket After the Pittsburgh Penguins lost tonight versus the Toronto Maple Leafs, there are many fans questioning the merits of constantly shuffling lines from one game to the next. Especially after coming off a winning streak that included a shutout.

There are two camps concerning the merits of regular line rotation, those who live by it and those who are vehemently opposed to it. I will examine the pros and cons of this philosophy and in the end give my personal take on it.

The Good:

Regular shuffling of the pack, can shake up a team when in a slump. You promote players who have been working hard up to a higher line and demote a player to a lower line to motivate them to improve their play. If this psychological motivation works, it should result in all players working harder.

Having most players getting a taste of playing with each other enables you to throw any combination out onto the ice and they will have some semblance of chemistry together and makes adjustments easier when injuries occur.

Line shuffling enables the coach to adjust his lines to match the needs for each specific game. So, if your top line needs a little more size for a particular game, you can throw a checking line player with some scoring ability onto it.

Finally, line shuffling will keep the opposition guessing as to what combinations they are going to have to defend against and how to plan ahead to defend it.

The Bad:

Constant line shuffling can be counter productive to building team chemistry; sometimes players need more than a couple of games to gel.

Shuffling lines can result in players that are on a hot streak going cold, because of a lack of continuity. It can also be very demoralizing for a player who is playing well to be demoted for the sake of shaking up other players.

If everyone is kept on the same lines for the majority of the games, not only does it build continuity, but it also doesn't ask anyone to play in situations they are not normally comfortable with.

You shouldn't shuffle lines if it's going to result in asking players to do things that doesn't play to their talents, especially if it results in a one way offensive talent, being asked to take a defensive role on a checking line.

The Ugly:

Michael Therrien the head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins is a huge advocate of line shuffling, but his decision to dramatically shuffle his lines on Thursday, was a poor one.

The penguins were carrying a winning streak into the game and a shutout against the New York Rangers in their most recent game. This was not the time to have a complete overhaul of the lines. It was also not in the best interest of the team to ask Petr Sykora one of the Penguins most offensive stars to play a third line checking role.

The result of this line tinkering, was a disjointed team effort that included a -3 for Sykora and a humiliating 5-2 loss to the Leafs. Not only did it not produce the extra offense wanted, it also ended any chance of the Penguins building on their nice little winning streak.

My View:

Line shuffling should have a place in every coach's strategy book. However, there is a time and a place to use it. It should not be used when a team is on a winning streak, just to try and tweak a little more offense out of a team that is already winning and should never result in asking an offensive star to play a checking role, when that player shouldn't be anywhere near a checking line.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Are The Rangers Down and Out?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket The New York Rangers made the biggest splash in free agency, by signing premier free agents Scott Gomez and Chris Drury to a combined whopping $86.75 million. The problem is the Rangers have won only 2 out of their 8 games and only scored 13 goals in the process.

There is a complete lack of chemistry on this team and the constant line shuffling isn't helping the situation either. How can a team that was predicted to win the Atlantic and challenge for the Stanley Cup have such a horrible start?

Well, I'm here to speculate as to why the Rangers are so bad and who is to blame...

The simplest answer is the top two lines are just not gelling and the constant line juggling, is being counter productive to building any chemistry between the players. There is the suggestion that line shuffling is done to jump start the players, but I don't buy into that theory. I believe players who haven't played together before, need to be given more than one game together to try and build chemistry.

The sub-par performance of Jaromir Jagr is a huge part of the Rangers' dismal start. If Jagr isn't firing on all cylinders then the Rangers' offense is greatly weakened.

There was much heated debate whether the Rangers were wrong to let Michael Nylander leave via free agency and now it is looking like it might have been the wrong decision.

Jaromir Jagr is a prima donna and he openly criticized the decision to not re-sign Nylander. There is a reason teams have always catered to Jagr's demands, to have his friends like Kip Miller signed. The reason teams have given into Jagr's demands is, an unhappy Jagr can be a cancer in the locker room, but a happy Jagr can be one of the best players in the NHL.

Glen Sather's career, seems to have followed a very troubling pattern. Sather has had his greatest success while working with a limited budget, but when he has money to burn, he just cannot put a winning team together.

While with the Edmonton Oilers he couldn't put a foot wrong, because he didn't have the spending power to sign anyone he wanted. But when he first took over the Rangers he signed big name free agents and shelled out big contract and it blew up in his face.

Then came Sather's saving grace, the lockout which produced the salary cap. The first two years post lockout, Sather had a tight budget and had to work his magic to put together a winning team and did so successfully. However, this year he had money to burn and boy did he spend it and spend it big. The troubling thing for Rangers' fans is yet again it's looking like big names and big money can't bring the Rangers a winning team.

The Rangers' defense was pinpointed as their main weakness going into the season. They were called soft and lacking in top 4 talent. However, their defense has been very good this year, having only given up 17 goals, which is good enough for sixth in the NHL.

The play of Henrik Lundqvist has been stellar and he truly is one of the best goalies in the league. The Rangers' forwards, should be embarrassed that they are wasting the efforts of such a talented goalie.

So the question is, is this just a blip on a long season or are they going to continue this play and miss the playoffs altogether?

The Rangers have far too much talent and their defense is playing too well with Lundqvist standing on his head, for them to not to right the boat and make the playoffs.

The one thing I don't see happening anymore, is the Rangers winning the Atlantic. The Pittsburgh Penguins started slow but look to be the cream of the crop in the Atlantic and the Flyers are off to a hot start also. The Rangers are going to have a tough time beating out both these teams to win the division.

The Calder is Calling Early!

It may be early, but boy did I get one of my predictions oh so wrong. I had Brett Sterling winning the Calder Trophy while playing with Ilya Kovalchuk. Well, Sterling is no longer playing with Kovalchuk and so far isn't even showing he's worth a roster spot.

I call a mulligan on this one and have to jump on the bandwagon of two sensational rookies in Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. To say they have been good is an understatement, their play this year has simply been phenomenal.

They are only teenagers, but they are fast forwarding the Chicago Blackhawks into a new era. These kids aren't just playing a regular shift , they are running the powerplay and playing over 18 minutes a night and scoring at a rate of over a point a game.

The Blackhawks organization and fans must be rubbing their hands with glee over these two kids, because if they build around these two players, the sky's the limit.

So down to the nitty gritty, who do I think will win the Calder Trophy now I've had a chance to see all the rookies play?

The answer is... Jonathan Toews. The kid is just sensational, he is a future team captain, who's defensive game is only surpassed by his offensive potential. His stickhandling while at top speed is just plain sick, right up there with the best in the league.

I'd be the first to admit I wasn't sure how good this kid would be, but he sure has made a believer of me. If you have any doubt that Toews will win the Calder you only have to look at his goal against the Colorado Avalanche and marvel at this sure fire goal of the year.