Sunday, October 16, 2011

Recap: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Florida Panthers (W 4-2) ; vs. Washington Capitals (L 3-2 OT) ; vs. Buffalo Sabres (L 3-2)

Arron Asham fights Jay Beagle (AP)


-James Neal scored 4 goals during this stretch. While they all were not highlight reel goals, he is doing a great job of getting the puck at the net and not overthinking it. His "garbage" goals seem to come with Malkin out of the lineup, but that is exactly what the Penguins need when he is out of the lineup.
-Evgeni Malkin played against the Washington Capitals, adding two assists. From what has been described, he is experiencing some pain from scar tissue in his surgically repaired knee. Some were amazed that he was able to play through that, but his heartfelt concern and sympathy for the victims of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane crash carried him through it. He was not going to miss the night where the focus was on that tragedy's victims and families.

-Arron Asham brought the early part of the season to life with his devastating knockout of Jay Beagle in the Capitals game. As he skated away he made a few gestures which he later described as "classless". The opponents of fighting in hockey have used this a chance to whine about children watching the game having to see such a thing, the fact that it was a "headshot", and anything else possible to compare hockey to Roman gladiators.

Respectfully, I tell these people to watch another sport. Please leave our sport alone. Seriously. If you are concerned about someone getting knocked out by a non-cheap shot then go watch a safe, civil sport like football where there is not any violence and the players are all upstanding citizens.

Fighting has a place in hockey, and hopefully it always will. Asham did not sucker punch Beagle. Until he was knocked out, Asham did not do anything wrong. He was standing up for his teammate, Kris Letang. The offer was put out for a fight and both parties willingly particpated. Beagle does not deserve any ridicule for his part in it, anyone can get tagged with a shot like that. Asham was sincere in his regret over mocking a fallen combatant. That is where it should end. Sometimes people make mistakes in judgment. Most of the people that are critical of Asham fail to mention how when he saw that Beagle was dropping to the ice he stopped from throwing a third right that undoubtedly would have done more damage.

The "holier than thou" attitude of commentators and members of the Capitals, especially Alexander Ovechkin, is what is uncalled for. Hockey has an always been a sport of honor. There have been countless acts that give the sport a bad image when it goes outside of that honor, but this incident was not one of them. Perhaps the WNBA is more your style if you can't handle some good old fashioned agression.
-Richard Park scored his 1st goal in the home opener against the Panthers, a shorthnaded goal. Oddly enough, in his first home opener for the Pens (Park played here to start his career) he had a shorthanded goal.
-Pascal Dupuis scored his 1st goal of the season against the Panthers. While not showing up in the goal column, he was played well.
-Same thing for Chris Kunitz, who still does not have a goal but has added a 2 year contract extension. His cap hit does not change, so you have to like this deal for both the player and team.

-Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek looked uncharacteristically bad against the Panthers. Too much flopping and allowing the puck by or behind them.
-Still no word on when Brooks Orpik will return to the lineup. While there's no reason to rush him, you do worry that he may struggle to return to his usual self.

-Marc-Andre Fleury made 32 saves against the Panters and 25 against the Sabres. He missed the Capitals game because of the flu and most likely was still bothered by it on some level against the Sabres. He did not have any noticable gaffes in goal. There was a save he made prior to the Gerbe goal that was very nice, but his momentum took him out of position for the follow up. Nothing he could do about that. At the end of the Florida game, with a 2 goal lead, he resumed his quest for a goal with the Panthers net vactated. Deryk Engelland got in the way so the puck was quickly turned over, but MAF made a nice save on the shot.
-Brent Johnson did not look particularly sharp against the Caps. He made 16 saves

-Matt Cooke continues to keep himself out of trouble on the ice. He also knocked in his 3rd goal of the season. Cooke appears to be well aware of keeping his elbows down and when to let up on a guy (as he's turning near the boards or too close to the boards). Hopefully he is able to continue this.
-Penguins achieved 3 of a possible 6 points during this stretch. If you checked in on this blog at all last year, you know that I will always tout that as a success. Getting 1 point a game in your tough stretches is much better than getting none.

-The PP failed at the end of the Sabres game in situational hockey. I beleive in winning situations much more than straight percentages. The Pens had a chance to tie with a PP and a faceoff in the Sabres zone with 21 seconds left. Jordan Staal lost the faceoff, then the puck was cleared and that was that for their chance to salvage a point.
-Many outlets are critical of the play of Mark Letestu, pointing out there when Malkin has been out, he starts on the top line. By the end of the game he is playing with the 4th liners, which is an indication that Dan Bylsma and Tony Granato are not seeing what they want from the 2nd year player.

Jose Theodore (AP)
-Marcel Goc and Tomas Fleischmann both scored their 1st goals of the season.
-Jose Theodore made 25 saves.

Alexander Ovechkin (AP)
-Alexander Ovechkin scored his 1st goal of the season. Recently he was called out by Coach Bruce Boudreau for his slow start to the season.
-Dennis Wideman scored the GWG on the PP in OT for the Caps. It was his 2nd of the season.
-Tomas Vokoun had a tough to start to the season, but this game settled him in to a groove it seems. He stopped 39 shots.
-Mike Knuble scored his 1st goal of the season. Without checking I blelieve this is at least the 7th straight game against the Penguins that he has scored a goal. Luckily, the 39 year old won't have too many more years left in the league to haunt us.

Jhonas Enroth (AP)

-Drew Stafford had a very nice shot for his 3rd goal of the season.

-Nathan Gerbe had a goal (1) and a very nice assist on the Stafford goal.

-Jhonas Enroth got the start in place of Ryan Miller, who usually has a tough go in Pittsburgh. Enroth made 29 saves.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Recap: Pittsburgh Penguins @ Vancouver Canucks (W 4-3 SO) ; @ Calgary Flames (W 5-3); @ Edmonton Oilers (L 2-1 SO)

photo: Kris Letang (AP)


-For all the fury directed at Matt Cooke at the end of last season and in this offseason (by myself too), he avoided any incidents and was a positive contributor to the team. Against the Canucks he lead the way with a PPG and a SHG.

-Evgeni Malkin looked very strong in the legs against Vancouver, even if he was "trying too hard" as everyone seems to say. In that game, he scored the shootout winning goal.  Bad penalties seems to be an early theme for him, including a really bad elbowing penalty against Calgary. He also got a bit fiesty with Curtis Glencross, dropping the gloves, landing a few shots, and having his untied jersey pulled over his head. Al this happened with a linesman jumping in between them very quickly so instead of him being kicked out for the failure to tie his jersey down, he was only assessed a roughing minor. He did not play the third period of that game or against Edmonton, seeming to having some type of leg injury. Coach Bylsma said that this is not realted to the surgery he had (that doesn't mean it isn't a knee though), and the general opinion is that it will not be a long term injury. The Tribune Review's Dejan Kovacevic indicated that he was told the injury could be traced to a slew-foot incident with Curtis Glencross. In between all of that, Malkin also had a PPG.

-James Neal looked great against the Canucks, though there was one instance where he had the puck at the back of the slot and chose to pass it.

-Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis have been playing well, but so far do not have a goal to show for it.

-Mark Letestu has not looked particularly inspired. I am not really feeling his game, but the coaches seem to love him. I thought Richard Park could get in at his expense, but it did not really play out that way since Malkin and Arron Asham were scratched against Edmonton.

-New brawler Steve MacIntyre suited up against his old team, the Oilers.


-Cannot say enough positive things about the play of fan favorite/dreamboat Kris Letang. Against the Oilers he logged nearly 30 minutes on ice! He is currently leading the team in points and has been everything you hope he can consistently be. The challenge for Tang will be lasting in to the 2nd half of the season at such a high level.

-Let's give credit to the end of last season's frequent whipping-boy, Matt Niskanen. He played  a really good game against the Flames and knocked in a PPG. There was also a goal scored with him and Ben Lovejoy taking the guys without the puck in that game. It was the right move. They left the guy with the puck (Alex Tanguay) for Marc-Andre Fleury. He made a great shot-pass that Rene Borque directed in to the net. While Niskanen and Lovejoy did not execute, the choice was right.

-Ben Lovejoy looked pretty good when he was matched up against Taylor Hall one on one. He had a really nice hit on him as well.

-Brooks Orpik has not played yet this season since he is still recovering from off-season abdominal surgery.


-Hate to start it before the team has lost in regulation, but Marc-Andre Fleury gave up two flub goals against Vancouver and Calgary. In the end, it didn't cost the team so this is not a call for him to be benched or traded or anything crazy like that. But the fact remains that the team probably would have had a lot less to worry about if these two softies were not let in.

-Brent Johnson played 55 superb minutes against Edmonton. The youthful Oilers managed to knock one by Johnnie to take it to OT. BJ probably deserved a better fate in this game, but them's the breaks as they say.


-You have to be excited about getting the Western Canada trip out of the way early, but especially when it produces 5 points.

-The team looks like it did not miss a beat with their forecheck and forward activity. Great pressue on the puck and excellent cycling from multiple guys.


-Overall, an area of concern going forward will be the team's play with leads. They lead in each of these 3 games. Getting 5 out of 6 points shows that they were able to pull 2 of the 3 games out, but each of these games  were closer than they needed to be. Each game saw the opponent mount some type of comeback spurred by 3rd period goal.

-I really would like to spend less time this season harping on the Power Play. Really. After two great games though, the PP failed big time when it counted against the Oilers. They had a 5 minute major to work with under 5 minutes left in the third. Even if the PP is clicking at a 75% rate, if they can't score a goal when it's really needed then the Penguins will be a worse team because of it. Situational hockey is what's important, not the overall numbers. With any luck, the team will be closer to the first two games.

-There were definitely some defensive lapses here and there, especially noticable during the Canuck game (Keith Ballard goal especially).  Don't take that to mean that its on the defensemen, depending on who is responsible for certain players it could also be forwards. That kind of thing should get worked out as the season moves along though.

Vancouver Canucks

Photo: Roberto Luongo (AP)

-Roberto Luongo did not have a particularly good game, letting in some shaky goals That certainly is not what he or the Canucks fans wanted. You almost have to feel bad for him at this point...almost.

-Daniel Sedin scored his 1st goal of the season, a pretty nice one too.

-Henrik Sedin had 2 assists.

Calgary Flames

Photo: Jarome Iginla (AP)

-Curtis Glencross had a goal and an altercation with Evgeni Malkin.

-Olli Jokinen scored a goal courtesy of a Marc-Andre Fleury whiff on a puck behind the net.

-Miikka Kiprusoff had 32 saves for the Flames.

Edmonton Oilers

Photo: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (AP)

-Ladislav Smid seemed to be everywhere for the Oilers in the defensive zone. He took a beating to the lower legs and knees on his blocks. Credit to him for having the deciation to do that in October.

-2011 #1 Overall Draft Pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored his 1st NHL goal.

-Taylor Hall had an assist on the Nugent-Hopkins goal. He also looked great in his first game since missing

-Devan Dubnyk stopped 33 of the Penguins shots in the win.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

2011-2012 Season "Preview*"

Welcome back my friends to the blog that never ends (except for the summer). It was an awful offseason for the hockey family. We lost Derek Boogard, Rick Rypien, Wade Belak, and the entire team and staff of Yaroslavl Lokomotiv from the KHL. I dedicate this innaugural post of the 2011-2012 season to each of their memories. Hockey has often been an escape for me, and I'm sure many other people feel that way as well. Each of those gone will be remembered for the memories they created on the ice. My sincerest condolences to those closest to these deaths.

With that said, we move forward to what will hopefully be another great season on the ice. Last season did not end anywhere close to how Pens fans would have liked, but that did not make the playoffs any less incredible. The action was intense from the start of the playoffs until the last fire was extinguished in Vancouver. After the smoke cleared (literally), the Boston Bruins and former Penguin Mark Recchi were the Stanley Cup Champions.

Locally, the season was filled with incredible highs with the opening of the Consol Energy Center and a Winter Classic that all the rain in the world couldn't dampen. Unfortunately, shortly after the Winter Classic we got a big dose of lows with injuries to Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and just about anyone else that could wear a Pens sweater and skate backwards.

If you know what a hockey puck is, chances are you know about the Sid saga...I won't be recapping that here. All you need to know if that the team is back and looking good and Sid will be at some point as well. I decided against doing team previews this year because there are plenty of great ones out there (go to Puck Daddy or The Pensblog for example) and I am too excited for the puck to drop to comb over the offseason.

We'll cover the minute details here from here on out, so if you keep coming back there will be more content than a season preview every could give you.

The Penguins start the season in Vancouver Thursday, October 6th. My personal excitement level is immeasurable and I just have one question for you...

I will be attempting to Tweet during most Penguins games. You can check that out @shootinthepuck but there MAY be some strong language.

Special thanks to Shaquille O'Neal for being awesome enough to be Shaq. Even though this is a hockey blog, he will be missed beyond words (he retired if you do not follow basketball).

*"Preview" should not be not taken literally. The term is used only to avoid litigation from the hockey bloggers guild.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Pittsburgh Penguins release official statement on Sidney Crosby's concussion progress

Head over to Bleacher Report for my take on the official statement on Sidney Crosby's concussion progress. If you still check this blog, stay tuned. Starting in September, we will ramp it back up again for my mildly popular brand of Penguins analysis. Try to contain yourselves...

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Sticking with the Program

Today's sports fan is afforded a mind-boggling array of information and tools to get news, stats, and deliver their opinion (like this blog!). With broadband internet and specialized channels, like NHL Network, hockey die-hards can devote more attention to the game we love. Its great most of the time, but this instant access also brings expectations of rapid gratification. Fans always want the player, coach, or prospect that may push them to the next level (whether it be just being respectable to competing/winning a tittle annually). Right now, the Pens are in the latter category. We feel (rightfully so) that we should win it all or be in the mix annually. Every year, free agency comes along and all have our eyes on the player(s) that will push us over into another level.

Just like about 99% of Pens fans, I would consider losing out on Jagr the way we did to be upsetting, disguising, etc. If you were to go back to last evening and lets hypothetically say you met some time traveling person (?) that said to you "I went a day into the future and Jagr fucked the Pens and signed with PHILLY! Knowing this information, would you still want him on the Pens team this season?" My response, without hesitation, is yes. Although he is slowing down, Jagr is still a first-ballot hall-of-fame legend. Yes, he is a petulant mercenary prick. Yes, he would be a pain in the ass. But the facts are (1) its all about winning, and (2) do you really think a cup-champion locker room is going to be intimated by a fading legend? I say no. But this talk is all mental masturbation anyhow. Hes gone, along with any hope of repairing his hockey legacy in Pittsburgh. I know I'll still tell tales of Jagr's sub-human feats to newer generations of Pens fans (the torn groin epic Game 6 vs NJ, the game I saw him score a natural hat trick in the first 8 minutes of the game) along with the other side (which we got a good slice of today). He's not "dead to me"...he's just a bad human being that is an excellent hockey player.

So what is the expectation now that we lost out on Jagr? That Ray Shero goes out and makes some type of big splash and gets a big name in free agency. Similar to how the jolted lover goes and gets laid to "rebound". But what I am learning is that this is not the Penguins style...from ownership down to the players. There is no panic, there is no compromising the plan. Now, I realize this sounds hokey..."the plan". All teams have a plan, right? Yes. However, actually carrying on and seeing that plan through is harder said than done. Stop and think for a bit. Think about the franchises that are a success every single year (save for a bad season or two here and there). The Steelers, The Red Wings, The Packers (off the top of my head). These teams generally operate their entire organization, top to bottom, in a way that simply breeds success. They carry on the plan. Its why the Steelers always seem to pull star LB's out of nowhere, its why the Wings find project players and develop them into the Henrik Zetterberg's of the NHL. They are smart enough to know who the cornerstones are and realize those players make those around them better. How many average defenseman has Lidstrom helped mold into good ones?

This is what the Penguins seem to be after. So we lost out on Jagr? What does the organization do? Goes out and signs Steve Sullivan to a fair deal. The Pens didn't go up against the cap overpaying for potentially good players that would probably underachieve. They went out and got a player that fits our system. Is he an injury risk? Big time. Can he still score goals? We'll see...I think he has a better chance to do that with Sid or Geno than David Legwand, don't you? They went out and got a winner in every sense of the word. You have to be a winner to be 5'9 and be a good NHL player. You have to be a winner to overcome major back issues and win the Masterson Trophy for perseverance and commitment to the sport. Winners WIN CUPS. Sullivan doesn't have his yet. Don't you think he'd skate through a brick wall to get it this spring, if his body allows it? In short, we got a Penguin. A guy that fits.

Also, Shero left the Pens with wiggle room to bring someone on board during the season or at the trade deadline should we have a rash of injuries, or the worst case scenario, Sid is not okay. Its inevitable that some team that needed its instant gratification for its fans and its owners will not do well. This team will then look to shed that error to a contender....enter Ray Shero.

I'm proud the Pens are following the plan. If you aren't...perhaps consider when Eddie O. was basically letting the team play shinny and Craig Patrick was doing nothing about it. That organization would have offered some of those ridiculous contracts you saw today. Stick. With. The. Plan.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

2 Penguins Draft Recap Pieces over at

Again, as we kill time until we have some games...head over to for a piece I did on 1st round pick Joe Morrow and a brief recap of all 5 draft picks. Man, I can't wait for the season to start again. Literally chomping at the bit.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

NHL Draft: 7 picks the Pens Would Love to Have in the 1st Round

Head over to bleacher report to see the piece on 7 picks the Penguins would love to nab in the 1st round. Can't wait to have games start again...I miss breaking it down.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Free Agency: 12 Guys the Pens Should Target

I did an article over at about the Penguins potential shopping list. Hope this tides you over until some real Penguins news hits.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sid, Jordo, Talbo, and Paul Martin at The Cannes Film Festival

I'm not one for blogging about players, personal lives but I find this too cool, odd, and fascinating so I wanted to put a link to The Steel City Sports Fan's pictures of this. Sid, Jordan Staal, Maxime Talbot, and Paul Martin were guests of billionaire co-owner Ron Burkle. The pictures are them hob-nobbing on some yacht. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Player Recaps: Guys That Played In 61-82 Games (Including Fleury, Letang,

As promised, I now complete the recap of each player that got in to 61-82 games for the Penguins this year. These are the guys that avoided injury and had the weight of the team on their shoulders time and time again. Again, I'm not doing anything incredibly in depth. If you want to see their detailed stats and things of that nature just go to the Penguins website or something. My template will cover the basics: games played, the highs, the lows, additional comments, and the future. All photos are courtesy of Yahoo! Sports or Getty Images.

Name: Brooks Orpik
Position: D
Games Played: 63

The Highs: Blocked 94 shots and registered 194 hits. A great skating defenseman and knows his role, playing it perfectly both at even strength and on the penalty kill.

The Lows: Had his hand broken while blocking a shot against the Sharks 2/23/2011

Additional Comments: I may be in the minority in this opinion, but I believe that Brooksie is the Captain of this team. No disrespect to Sid intended, but because of Sid's image and endorsements he can't say certain things in the media. Orpik has never shied away from saying those things.

The Future: Orpik will be handing out "free candy" for the next 3 seasons. That should make teammates sleep well at night.

Name: Deryk Engelland
Position: D
Games Played: 63

The Highs: Literally fought his way on to the team, and with his stable defense earned a 3 year contract extension. Had some highlight reel knock-outs of opposing players in his fights.

The Lows: Did not see much time after the arrival of Matt Niskanen.

Additional Comments: Has become regarded as one of the new heavyweights of the NHL when it comes to fighting.

The Future: Should stick around with the team because of his defensive-mindedness. The team's depth at the lower levels is more of the puck moving defenseman types.

Name: Mark Letestu
Position: C
Games Played: 64

The Highs: Letestu had a great training camp and earned his way on to the team. Excelled at 3rd and 4th line duties, and also turned up on the score sheet most during those times.

The Lows: Did not have a strong showing late in the season with the skilled players left in the lineup, especially when serviing as the "#1" center. As he moved up the depth chart, he became the embodiment of "the Peter principle".

Additional Comments: Expect a bounce back type performance from him when he is back down to the 3rd and 4th lines.

The Future: Letestu has 2 more years on the extension he signed. I believe that he will be a solid contributor to the team in a proper role.

Name: Marc-Andre Fleury
Position: G
Games Played: 65

The Highs: Despite slow start, managed 36 wins. When he is "on", he is aggressive, plays angles well, and uses his poke check as an extra defender. Has a personality that allows for a bad game to be laughed off, which is crucial for a goalie.

The Lows: Fleury was awful to start the season, and for a time was benched in favor of Brent Johnson. Had a .900 save percentage in the playoffs. Being beaten for a second year in a row by a lesser goalie is a strong concern. When he is "off", he is down on the ice way too much. Is terrible at side to side puck recognition when the play originates behind the net.

Additional Comments: Is one of the most polarizing athletes in Pittsburgh. Perhaps only Ben Roethlisberger draws more scrutinity on his every play. It was suggested that management told him in no uncertain terms thathe must play better in the next season (this past one). He had a great bounce-back in the regular season, but at times in the playoffs just did not rise to the level of a dominant goaltender.

The Future: His contract has 4 more years at a $5m cap hit. Even if the team wanted to deal him, it would not be easy to find a partner with the league wide trend moving towards cheaper goalies. In all of my hockey experience, I've never witnessed a franchise goalie blossom from start to finish, so I will say that with the proper level of consistency, Fleury is still a valuable piece of this team and its plans for the future.

Name: Chris Kunitz
Position: LW
Games Played: 66

The Highs: Netted 23 goals.

The Lows: Had a difficult stretch run and playoffs.

Additional Comments: I spent most of this season thinking he was gonig to be UFA, when he actually has 1 more year left on his deal. Kunitz played well most of the time without a contract on the line. Hopefully he will do so next season with a potential big deal on the line.

The Future: Kunitz is a $3.75m cap hit in his final season. He plays well with Sidney Crosby. I'm not sure the Penguins are going to break the bank to sign Kunnie no matter he does next season. They will have a price in mind, as will he, and if they sides can't meet somewhere in between then they part company.

Name: Matt Cooke
Position: LW
Games Played: 67

The Highs: His value as a penalty killer was never more obvious than during his suspension at the end of the season.

The Lows: Multiple suspensions and the reputation as being the "dirtiest player in hockey".

Additional Comments: Sources indicate that Cooke sought "help" for some issues he was dealing with and that there may have been a situation with his family during the season.

The Future: Ray Shero seems committed to giving Cooke another chance here. If Cooke can remove the stupidness from his game, he is a valuable asset. If not, he is a liability of the worst kind.

Name: Zbynek Michalek
Position: D
Games Played: 73

The Highs:

The Lows:

Additional Comments:

The Future:

Name: Paul Martin
Position: D
Games Played: 77

The Highs:

The Lows:

Additional Comments:

The Future:

Name: Tyler Kennedy
Position: LW
Games Played: 80

The Highs:

The Lows:

Additional Comments:

The Future:

Name: Craig Adams
Position: RW
Games Played: 80

The Highs:

The Lows:

Additional Comments:

The Future:

Name: Pascal Dupuis
Position: LW
Games Played: 81

The Highs:

The Lows:

Additional Comments:

The Future:

Name: Mike Rupp
Position: C
Games Played: 81

The Highs:

The Lows:

Additional Comments:

The Future:

Name: Kris Letang
Position: D
Games Played: 82

The Highs:

The Lows:

Additional Comments:

The Future:

Name: Max Talbot
Position: C
Games Played: 82

The Highs:

The Lows:

Additional Comments:

The Future:

Monday, May 9, 2011

Player Recaps: Guys That Played In 21-60 Games (Including Sid, Malkin, and Staal)

As promised, I continue the recap of each player that got in to 21-60 games for the Penguins this year. These are the guys that were affected most by injury and/or were the people that carried the majority of the weight in place of the injury list through spot duty. Again, I'm not doing anything incredibly in depth. If you want to see their detailed stats and things of that nature just go to the Penguins website or something. My template will cover the basics: games played, the highs, the lows, additional comments, and the future. All photos are courtesy of Yahoo! Sports or Getty Images.

Name: Mike Comrie
Position: C
Games Played: 21

The Highs: Comrie scored the last goal of the season, in to an empty net against Atlanta. This was largely symbolic, but you could tell the guys on the ice wanted to get the puck to him.

The Lows: A hip injury and eventual surgery robbed Comrie of any chance at continuity early in the season.

Additional Comments: Comrie is married to actress/singer Hillary Duff still and comes from a rich family. By all accounts, he's still way ahead of the rest of us.

The Future: Comrie will be a UFA July 1, so he is free to go wherever he chooses. Demand will not likely be high, including from the Penguins. He may have to sign a 2-way deal to get a situation he really wants (winning team or location such as Los Angeles).

Name: Brent Johnson
Position: G
Games Played: 23

The Highs: Posted the same save percentage as Marc-Andre Fleury (.920) and had a lower goals against average (2.17).

The Lows: At times, can look off his angles and tends to give up goals in bunches when he's "off".

Additional Comments: Will forever be remembered in Pittsburgh sports history for his "fight" with Islanders G Rick DiPietro.

The Future: Johnson is under conract for the 2011-12 season, so he will serve as the #2 guy once again. A solid backup who can start and win when called upon. A bargain at a $600k cap hit.

Name: Dustin Jeffrey
Position: C
Games Played: 25

The Highs: Only scored 7 goals on the season, but some were timely such as his goal 2 goal effort agaisnt Boston 3/5/2011.

The Lows: Season was effectively ended by a knee injury in late March.

Additional Comments: Spent much time bouncing back and forth between Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Showed an incredible work ethic and "whatever it takes" attitude in his situation.

The Future: Dustin is a RFA so the Penguins will most likely be able to retain his services. It seems likely he will make the NHL club out of camp next season, and probably won't be on a 2-way contract as he was this past season.

Name: Sidney Crosby
Position: C
Games Played: 41

The Highs: Early season scoring pace (including a 25game scoring streak) with had hockey writers seriously debating whether this was the greatest season in terms of scoring in NHL history.

The Lows: Back to back blows to the head January 1st and 5th turned in to a "mild concussion". Crosby never returned to the lineup. He skated during the playoffs, but later admitted to a recurrance of "symptoms" near the end of those workouts.

Additional Comments: Despite missing half the season, was the teams leader point scorer (66).

The Future: Anyone pretending to know is an asshole. Quote me on that. Crosby will return if he remains symptom free. If not, he waits. When/if he returns to the lineup, this could never happen again, or he could become the next Marc Savard. The NHL rules committee does not seem likely to ban hits to the head, so it's anybody's guess if we will see Sid's career cut short.

Name: Jordan Staal
Position: C
Games Played: 42

The Highs: 11 goals and 19 assists in his brief time this season.

The Lows: Seemed "snakebitten" at times, with setback after setback delaying the start of his season until the Winter Classic.

Additional Comments: Continues to go through ups and downs offensively as a young player. He has a power move to the net that comes out when he is confident and is quite difficult to stop.

The Future: One would think with the emergency of guys like Dustin Jeffrey and Mark Letestu, the plan will be to have Staal paired with Evgeni Malkin and either Chris Kunitz or James Neal.

Name: Evgeni Malkin
Position: C/RW
Games Played: 43

The Highs: Had a 5 game scoring steak 12/14/2010-12/23/2010

The Lows: Season was ended against Buffalo 2/4/2011 during a freak knee injury.

Additional Comments: Was a minus player and was not consistently producing for a good bit of his season. Showed dedication to the team by apologizing to GM Ray Shero and rehabbing hard. He said if the team would have made it to the 3rd round, he would have been ready to play.

The Future: Malkin did not overwhelm this past season. While he has not had the luxury of anything resembling quality wingers, the fact remains that at an $8.7m cap hit he will have to produce for this team to be successful.

Name: Arron Asham
Position: RW
Games Played: 44

The Highs: Lead the team in playoff goal scoring with 3.

The Lows: Missed large chunks of time due to injury including a concussion.

Additional Comments: Turned out to be a pretty good pickup. Did not take stupid penalties as I feared at the start of the season.

The Future: UFA status clouds where he will play, but you can't rule out a reutrn to Pittsburgh. Whoever gets him will have a gritty player that seems to step his game up in the playoffs.

Name: Ben Lovejoy
Position: D
Games Played: 47

The Highs: Played with high confidence after the trade of Alex Goligoski. A switch flipped in his game when he received steady playing time.

The Lows: The puck to the face against Florida 12/22/2010 may have marred the game he scored his first NHL goal in, but it was forever caputres in the "Penguins/Capitals 24/7" series on HBO.

Additional Comments: "Girls love" - Evgeni Malkin on the scarring to Lovejoy's face after taking that puck. Truth be told, a large majority of the hits this website receives, is because of a picture of his facial swelling in the aftermath.

The Future: Has a high ceiling. Could develop in to a power play type defenseman with patience. Also could be expendable in a trade due to high ceiling, low salary, and the eventual need to move junior D-man Simon Despres in to the lineup.

Name: Alex Goligoski
Position: D
Games Played: 60

The Highs: Gogo continued to show high potential in the offensive zone, scoring 9 goals and 22 assists.

The Lows: Assumed the "whipping boy" position that was vacated by Sergei Gonchar's departure.

Additional Comments: Was traded to Dallas at the trade deadline. There were times where the criticism of him went way overboard. Goligoski still can be a top flight defenseman in the NHL. While his ups were not as high as Kris Letang, they were similar in many ways. I've felt that Goligoski was more consistent than Tang, but if the choice was to trade one or the other...Shero made the right move.

The Future: Goligoski fits in to the plans with the Dallas Stars, and made the most of his increased role there. He scored 5 goals, 10 assists in 23 games.

Name: Chris Conner
Position: RW
Games Played: 60

The Highs: Conner showed incredible hustle and cycling ability.

The Lows: His size at 5'8", 180 lbs makes him a long shot for extended success.

Additional Comments: Does not stop skating, which is exactly the quality you want in a grinder type like him. Does his best to keep his legs moving and not let the size issue limit him.

The Future: UFA that may not return, but if he does it will be to compete for a spot on the 3rd or 4th line. His return will largely depend on who leaves via free agency.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Player Recaps: Guys That Played In 1-20 Games (including Kovalev and Neal)

As promised, I am now going to start the recap of each player that got in to at least 1 game for the Penguins this year. The nice part of this season was that the team got a chance to see what was in the cupboard with so much injury time. I"m not doing anything incredibly in depth. If you want to see their detailed stats and things of that nature just go to the Penguins website or something. My template will cover the basics: games played, the highs, the lows, additional comments, and the future. All photos are courtesy of Yahoo! Sports or Getty Images.

Name: Corey Potter
Position: D
Games Played: 1

The Highs: Corey made it back to the NHL, playing in his 9th career game.

The Lows: Played in only 1 game, which surely disappointed him.

Additional Comments: Potter showed a strong fire in preseason camp. He leveled a forward in a team scrimmage I was at. I can't remember who it was, but it was an NHLer. This is risky because you don't want to hurt your own guys, but he was demonstrating his willingness to do what it takes.

The Future: Potter is 27, so the fact that he hasn't caught on at the NHL level is a concern. He won't get his break here as the team has a glut of defenseman at both the pro and minor league levels. Hopefully he will get his shot. If not, there's no real shame in earning a living in the AHL or any other hockey league around the world. He is capable of playing for pay somewhere.

Name: Brian Strait
Position: D
Games Played: 3

The Highs: Strait saw his first NHL action after 2 season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

The Lows: Strait looked a bit nervous here and there, but can hardly be blamed.

Additional Comments: Strait had a successful career with Boston University previous to joining the Penguins organization.

The Future: Strait has the potential to be a Ben Lovejoy type. He will likely need some roster movement to get that chance here. Personally, I would keep him in the fold of defenseman at the minor league level for as long as possible in case he is needed.

Name: Nick Johnson
Position: RW
Games Played: 4

The Highs: Had a goal and 2 assists in his time with the Pens.

The Lows: Suffered a concussion and went on IR 2/18/2011.

Additional Comments: Johnson has decent size at 6'2", 202 lbs

The Future: With the potential departure of so many forwards this off season, Johnson may have a shot at a roster spot next season IF he works his tail off and proves a willingness to do what it takes to make the club.

Name: Andrew Hutchinson
Position: D
Games Played: 5

The Highs: Saw his first NHL action since the 2008-09 season.

The Lows: Wasn't particularly much so that I forgot he saw action.

Additional Comments: Has played in 140 career games.

The Future: Hutchinson is 31 so it is likely his shot at NHL regularity has passed him by. I wish him the best in whatever chances he gets though.

Name: Ryan Craig
Position: C
Games Played: 6

The Highs: Had 12 PIMs against the New York Islanders in the brawl game.

The Lows: Didn't seem to handle the defensive responsibilities well with a -3.

Additional Comments: Was willing to drop the mitts on more than one instance.

The Future: He's played in 190 career NHL games, so his limiatations are pretty well known at this point. Will continue to be a fringe guy unless he catches on with a team that is need of a player of this mold.

Name: Brett Sterling
Position: LW
Games Played: 7

The Highs: Had a 5 game point scoring streak from 2/10 to 2/20. Also had 12 PIMs vs the Islanders in the brawl game.

The Lows: His size at 5'7".

Additional Comments: Has played in 26 career NHL games.

The Future: He has the desire, but his size likely limits his chances. He handled himself well in his time with the Pens.

Name: Tim Wallace
Position: RW
Games Played: 7

The Highs: Stepped up to fight then Washington Capital David Steckel to stand up for the somewhat questionable hit on Sidney Crosby in the Winter Classic.

The Lows: Didn't fare well on the score sheet.

Additional Comments: He is from Anchorage, Alaska.

The Future: I have a bias towards Wallace, I love the intangibles he brings to the table (does not back down ever). If there is a mass exodus of forwards, would like to see him compete for a spot near the bottom of the lineup.

Name: Joe Vitale
Position: C
Games Played: 9

The Highs: Scored 1st NHL goal 2/16 at Colorado.

The Lows: Hard to cite anything in particular, but it is evident why he did not make the pros until now.

Additional Comments: Is a native of St. Louis, Missouri

The Future: Management was impressed with Vitale's work ethic by all accounts. He will likely get a shot as a 4th liner somewhere in this league based on his time up this past season.

Name: Eric Tangradi
Position: RW
Games Played: 15

The Highs: Created a screen of Tampa G Dwayne Roloson on the Pens only Power Play Goal of the playoffs.

The Lows: Suffered a concussion at the hands of the construction worker from the Village People in the Islander brawl game.

Additional Comments: Scoring only 1 goal in the regular season is a real concern.

The Future: Tangradi has the size at 6'4", 221lbs. He has the ability and desire to be around the net. The question mark will be his hands. Hate to put too much pressure on the guy, but in theory if he's not a 20 goal guy next season, it may be time to worry. Some have already suggest that if another team calls about him, GM Ray Shero should not hesitate to make a move if it serves the Pens needs.

Name: Matt Niskanen
Position: D
Games Played: 18 (with Pittsburgh)

The Highs: Played exceptionally well 3/2 against Toronto with 1 goal and 1 assist.

The Lows: Nearly every shift he took was a turnover or anxious moment late in the season.

Additional Comments: Has already developed the nickname "Riskanen" due to his substandard play.

The Future: He is a $1.5 million cap hit so if he is around he will see some form of playing time. The team is hoping he can live up to his status as a former 1st round draft pick. To do that, Niskanen has to be confident in his handling of the puck and possibly pared with a steadier partner than Ben Lovejoy. It may do him well to be with a Brooks Orpik or Zbynek Michalek.

Name: Eric Goddard
Position: RW
Games Played: 19

The Highs: Goddard will be remembered as one of the best enforcers in Penguins history. Unlike Georges Laraque, he didn't take no for an answer. Ever.

The Lows: Served an automatic 10 game suspenstion for leaving the bench to come to the aid of G Brent Johnson during the Islander brawl game.

Additional Comments: Was held in high esteem by teammates by all accounts. Wore outlandish suits and generally helped keep the mood light when not in the lineup. Will be missed by anyone that "knows" the game.

The Future: Will almost certainly not be retained after free agency starts July 1. KHL teams have already expressed interested, at the very least.

Name: Alexei Kovalev
Position: RW
Games Played: 20 (with Pittsburgh)

The Highs: He scored his 1,000th point in the NHL this season (while with Ottawa), becoming the 3rd Russian born player to reach that milestone.

The Lows: 5 minor penalties and a -3 in the playoffs.

Additional Comments: Looked like a shell of himself. I had taken to calling him "Ghost of Kovalev", which is a play off of a nickname I had for another former Russian star at the end of his career, Sergei Fedorov.

The Future:  All signs point to Kovy returning to Russia to play in the KHL. I do thank him for his time here in the past. It just didn't work the 2nd time around.

Name: James Neal
Position: LW
Games Played: 20 (with Pittsburgh)

The Highs: Scored in the 2nd OT of Game 4 against Tampa to give the Penguins a 3-1 series lead.

The Lows: His scoring drought lead some to call him "James Ponikarovsky".

Additional Comments: Often times he was counted on to carry the puck too much. This does not appear to be his strength.

The Future: Hopefully will get to be paired with Malkin or Crosby, and he can just get to an open spot on the ice and use his lethal shot to score goals instead of hitting goalies in the logo.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What is missing from the Detroit Red Wings right now?

I spent the first 25 years of my life living in Pittsburgh so even when I moved to Detroit, I remained a Penguins fan even though it brings on an onslaught of criticism from the locals. Even though I still rep the Pens, I suppose that there could be worse hockey cities in which to live and over the past few years, I’ve watched the Red Wings play some great hockey including the back to back Stanley Cup Finals appearances against the Penguins.

This post season began with the Red Wings coasting through the Phoenix Coyotes and the 4 quick wins were a result of very solid, very consistent team efforts as they scored 18 goals and allowed just 10. However, as the Wings entered the second round against the San Jose Sharks, things have been a great deal more difficult – scoring only 2 goals in the first two games and allowing 4 – resulting in two quick losses. So what is going wrong for the perennial powerhouse from the Motor City?

If you look back at the strongest Detroit teams from the past decade along with most other championship contenders you have at least one of these two constants -

1. - a player or two who stands out above all others and literally takes over the series

2. - a stellar, unbeatable goaltender

Let’s start with goaltending as that is and always has been one of Detroit’s lesser problems. Even though the Wings haven’t always had a game-changing goaltender like Patrick Roy or Martin Brodeur, they’ve gotten strong performances from guys like Chris Osgood and Dominic Hasek - both of which many will argue belong in the discussions with Roy and Brodeur (especially in Detroit). Both of those players have gotten into those series’ where they were simply unbeatable - like the 2008-2009 finals against the Pens where Osgood posted two shutouts and only allowed 3 goals in the Wings’ 4 wins en route to winning the cup. Even in their more successful seasons in the modern era when their goaltending hasn’t been unbeatable, this is a team that has won by getting “good enough goaltending” while winning by simply overpowering their opponents offensively.

Jimmy Howard wasn’t stellar last year and they lost to the Sharks in 5 games and while he has been strong this year – he hasn’t been strong enough. The 2nd (and winning) goal scored by San Jose in game 2 this past Sunday is probably the worst goal of Howard’s NHL career and maybe his entire hockey career – and it couldn’t have come at a worse time. I am not one to quickly put the blame on a goaltender (having been a goaltender myself) but for a goaltender playing in the NHL playoffs to simply flub a shot like that and cost his team the game is inexcusable. Game 2 was back and forth at 1-0 and their perfectly-executed powerplay goal in the third should have forced an overtime if not for Howard misplaying a pretty routine save. However, even in allowing that embarrassing goal the fault still can’t be wholly placed on the young netminder because for the second game in a row, the Red Wings only managed to score one goal.

Why aren’t the Red Wings scoring? It seems to me that with this year’s team, they don’t have “that guy” who is controlling the play and setting the pace for the rest of the team. When the Wings are firing on all cylinders they have at least one guy who seems to always be making the big play or who is always around the puck. Before they retired or went elsewhere, the Wings had guys like Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan and Sergei Fedorov…guys who seemed to always be on the ice and when they were on the ice – they seemed to control the play. When the Wings have found ways to win it has been because of one or two guys who gave the other team no choice but to worry about them every time they touched the ice. Right now, none of the Wings are stepping up and being that guy who is a constant concern to the Sharks. It doesn’t need to be the superstars, as even when high profile guys like Datsyuk or Zetterberg were slowed down in the past, “role players” like Valtteri Filppula or Johan Franzen stepped up and took over the games while the “stars” were slowed by the opposing defense. A fine example of that happening is the 2008-2009 Stanely Cup Finals where those two created a seemingly constant headache for the Penguins, even though the Pens eventually won that series.

The Red Wings have gotten a very consistent effort out of every player on every line this season but in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, that isn’t enough. The Wings head back to the friendly confines of Joe Louis Arena tonight and the Wings face what should be looked at as a must-win game. Whether they get their first line or fourth line taking over – they need someone to step up and become the line that has the Sharks scrambling to figure out a new defensive plan. The Red Wings best chance to win this series is to put up bigger numbers against a Sharks defense that has been very strong throughout the first two games but when you look at the fact that San Jose gave up 20 goals in 6 games against the Kings in round 1, the Sharks can be scored against…now the Wings just need to do it. That is easier said than done but with the Wings’ precise execution of the power play late in Game 2, a little more powerplay time for Detroit and the support of the home team crowd could spur the Red Wings offense to do what the home crowd expects – score a ton of goals in fantastic fashion and run the Sharks out of town with a 2-2 series tie.

The other option is for Jimmy Howard to show the rest of the league that he deserves a place among the best in the history of the playoffs and take over the series on his own. Howard absolutely has to spring back from his struggles in the last game if the Wings are to have a chance – even though he only allowed two goals for the second time in a row. Unless the Wings can get their offense going similar to what they did in the first round against Phoenix, they are going to have no choice but to fall into a goalie dual and right now, San Jose has the advantage as Anti Niemi has been the hotter or the two goaltenders.

The Red Wings and Sharks faceoff at 8pm Wednesday night and you can catch the action on Versus.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Recap: Pens-Ning Games 6 and 7 (See Yinz Next Season)

Game 6: L 4-2, Game 7: L 1-0 (Ning win series 4-3)

Notable Highlights:

-When you blow a 3-1 series lead and lose in game 7 at home, there isn't much positive. The guys fought hard. That's about all I can say good about it. Since I'm not feeling the positive vibes, I'm going to toot my own horn by recapping my keys to victory as typed here a few weeks back:

-To win against the 'Ning, the Pens must:

-Activate the forwards: Get the puck in deep. Punish the Lighnting defenseman to cause turnovers or hesitance.Without the puck, get 2 in on the forecheck and force their guys to move the puck efficiently. The Pens had trouble gaining the line all series. When they dumped the puck in, they were sporadic in their ability to gain it back.

-Follow Coach Bylsma's philosophy: Coach believes that each series is going to 7 games. You can lose 3 times. In fact, you can play like complete trash 3 times if you win 4 games. They followed this theory, maybe a bit too losely since they lost 3 straight to close the series out.

-Sidney who?: Don't get caught up in the distractions of whether Sid is going to play, what the plan is with him, what type of cereal he likes, etc. As Coach says, "it's not about who's not here, it's about who is in this room." If the team did not get caught up in this, it's a good thing they didn't. In the goodbye interviews at Consol, Sid dropped a bomb in his confirmation that he had experienced symptoms again after his hardest workouts. This forced him to shut it back down. He is not "worried" about difficulty returning next season, but if you're a Penguin fan reading his comments are certainly chilling in the potential for additional missed time due to symptoms. 

-Convert on the Power Play. This could be the difference. 1 for 35. That's certainly a difference. Just not the kind we wanted.

-Capitalize on mistakes: The Lightning have less experience. Make them think instead of play. Despite the outcome, I feel like the Pens did a great job of this. To their credit, the Lightning minimized their mistakes. They paid for the ones the made, especially goalie Dwayne Roloson's puckhandling gaffes.

-Watch Martin St. Louis At All Times: A lot of focus will be on other players, but St. Louis fits the mold of a "Penguin killer". He's slippery and knows how to score talented and garbage goals. See, sometimes I really do know what I'm talking about...

-To win against the Pens, the Lighnting must:

-Be disciplined: Stay in their assigned spots in the 1-3-1 system. The Penguins believe in taking the attack to the other team. They are going to do that. Being overly aggressive won't help matters. Be where you're supposed to be. The 1-3-1 worked to near perfection. The Penguins had trouble navigating the neutral zone, gaining the line, and recovering the puck.

-Keep it simple in the defensive zone: As mentioned, the Pens will look to be in the offensive zone a lot. When you get control of the puck, don't be fancy. Looking for the rush could put you in a bad situation. Make the simple pass or play off the wall to make sure the puck clears the zone. The Ning Dmen did their best to keep the puck out of the zone, and also kept bodies away from Rollie the goalie.

-Avoid Turnovers: Turning the puck over can lead to extra chances in the defensive end or odd man rushes coming back. Execution with the puck is crucial against a team as aggressive as the Penguins. Except for Roloson, there aren't many turnovers that stand out to me as being costly, so another win for team Tampa.

-Bring Spucoli Back: Steven Stamkos only had 4 goals down the stretch. To move forward (and avoid extreme criticism) he will need to get back on the score sheet. He is a very talented player. Stamkos didn't have a big series, but he showed up in the game 5 rout. That game certainly turned the series looking back on it.

-Avoid Stirring Things Up: Take a page from the Detroit Red Wings. Don't go out of your way for scrums. The Penguins team is mid-level in terms of forward skill, but aggressive. Frustrate them by skating away after whistles early and often and you may find yourself on a few Power Plays. This wasn't a scrummy series by any means, but Ryan Malone sure stirred his share of shit up. I do believe the Pens forward group would have fared better in a chippier series, as opposed to a series about technical play and positioning.

-Be Cautious on the PP, Hack The Pens: The Pens had the #1 PK Unit and scored 13 shorthanded goals. Special teams can really swing a series. Until the Penguins prove otherwise, don't be afraid to take penalties when a good scoring chance presents itself. If they can't convert, it isn't penalizing you. Tampa won the special teams battles. Their power play was dominant. They also showed a disregard for the Penguins power play, which is great coaching. "If they can't convert, it isn't penalizing you".

-Remember That This Is A 7 Game Series: Even down 3-1, they kept this in mind. Now the play Washington in the 2nd round. Congratulations to them on a well played series.

Ghastly Lowlights:

-Not interested it beating the guys up. The power play stunk. So did the penality killing. The offense was not there, and I wasn't really thrilled with Fleury or the defense if I"m being honest...but what did you expect this group to do? They gave it their all. It wasn't good enough.

-I would have liked some lineup changes, so I do think Coach Bylsma got a little bit stubborn towards the end of the series. Would it have made the difference needed to squeak out 1 win in 3 games? Possibly. Possibly not. But even if we won...we'd likely be getting killed by Washington right now...and I sure as hell don't ever want that. Go 'Ning!

-Free agency is just around the corner (starting July 1) so that means a list of Penguins will not return. It's been real Max Talbot! Thank you for Game 7 in Detroit. You'll likely get paid somewhere else next season, as could guys like Pascal Dupuis, Mike Rupp, Arron Asham, Chris Conner, and Craig Adams. We've seen the last of the ghost of Alexei Kovalev and Eric Goddard will take his fists elsewhere. It always sucks to see guys go after you develop an affinity for them, but thems the breaks in sports. Head over to for more information on the Penguins situation or more information on league wide free agency.

-This update itself is a lowlight. I know when I've not done my best work. I'm not gonna bullshit you. It's not really my favorite thing to sit here and eulogize the guys season, so I went light on it. I am proud of this blog though. There's a small segment of you out there that actually enjoy it, to you I raise my stick. I vowed that no matter what I would make it one full season and see where things stand. At this point in time, I see no reason to stop. This isn't exactly the most viewed website on the internet, but that was never what this is about to me. I live for this sport, and specifically the Pittsburgh Penguins. In the next few weeks, I hope to the get up some short recaps for every guy that played in at least one game. After that we'll prep for free agency, and I also will be trying my hand at some broad topics in the sport (not to step on co-bloggers toes, just to keep at it). Again, no matter what team you root for or what country you're from, thank you and keep coming back. It's been a great innaugural season at Shootin' the Puck!

Tampa Bay:

-Coach Guy Boucher's system worked perfectly and he never let his guys get rattled. GM Steve Yzerman made a hell of a pick. Tampa has defiinitely turned a corner in their rebuild and may be a force in the East before we know it.

-G Dwayne Roloson stopped 243 out of 256 shots for a .949 save percentage. Many said that Martin St. Louis was the player of the series. I'm not taking away his performance, but most people that favored the Penguins believe that a 41 year old goalie would falter sooner or later. didn't happen. Even in the losses, he didn't play terrible. I must admit, I am starting to wonder the true value of high priced goalies.