Monday, February 28, 2011
Games: vs. SJ (L 3-2 OT), @ CAR (L 4-1), @ TOR (W 6-5 SO)
-3 of 6 possible points. Despite the fact that the punchless Penguins could be considered to be slumping, they continue to scratch out points here and there. Give credit to Coach Dan Bylsma. There are a lot of "moving parts" right now, so to speak. Keeping everyone on the same page and with the appropriate level of focus is not an easy task. Currently there are 18 games left, with 36 points on the line. If you accept the assumption that they can win half of these games, they would finish with 98 points. If they play below .500 the rest of the way, there is still a chance of missing the playoffs. I don't think it's likely given that injured players will keep returning to the lineup, but it is something to consider.
-GM Ray Shero pulled the trigger on the a deal to bring RW Alexei Kovalev back. He was acquired from the Senators for a conditional draft pick (either a 6th or a 7th round). Despite his flaws, it is good to add an NHL caliber player to the lineup. We saw both the good and the bad of his game already. He had a goal against Toronto (good), scored the shootout winner in the same game (good), and managed to rack up 8 PIMs in his 2 games (bad). He is wearing #72.
At the time this was written, the trade deadline had officially passed. The Penguins did not make any more moves, appearing to be happy to stay put with the additions of D Matt Niskanen, LW James Neal, and RW Kovalev. Overall, the trade deadline was relatively calm around the league. The main deadline day deals went to Vancouver, Los Angeles, and Washington. Despite the Penguins and Capitals recent moves, they still appear to be chasing Philadelphia and Boston in the conference. As of this moment, I would consider Philadelphia and Vancouver to be the favorites, with Boston and Detroit just behind them. Other teams that I believe could make an impact would be Washington, San Jose, and Los Angeles (as a sleeper pick).
-RW Craig Adams played a particularly inspired game against San Jose. He finished the game with 4 blocked shots and was doing the little things you need done in a tight game.
-LW Tyler Kennedy continued his excellent play with 2 goals against the Sharks, his 13th and 14th. His 2nd goal of the game tied the score at 2 with 50 seconds left while the goalie was pulled.
-PK was 10 of 14 during this stretch. First time in a long time where the Penalty Killing Unit could be considered a lowlight.
-C Sidney Crosby has now missed 23 games due to recurring concussion symptoms. At the advice of medical experts and several former afflicted players (including Eric Lindros), the team and Sid are not proceeding with workouts until he is symptom free. Unfortunately, the current rumor is that he has not been able to remain without headaches for more than a few days. Even though it will mean the team has no real shot at a lengthy playoff run, as a fan and season ticket holder I support the team if Crosby is unable to return this season.
-The team was not very focused in the defensive end during the Toronto game. If G Marc-Andre Fleury has cooled off, they are going to have to be all about defense down the stretch to keep the point a game pace they should need to comfortable qualify for the playoffs.
-Nice to see an awakening of some forgotten forwards in the past 2 games. Pascal Dupuis scored his 11th against the Hurricanes, and against the Toronto we were treated to goals by Maxime Talbot (7th, SHG) and Mike Rupp (6th)
-C Dustin Jeffrey returned to the lineup against Carolina and scored his 5th goal against Toronto. GM Ray Shero also indicated that we can expect Jeffery to remain with the team for the duration of the season. He had previously been shuttling between the AHL affiliate Wilkes-Barre Scranton and Pittsburgh to save space under the salary cap.
-C Mark Letestu returned to the lineup against Toronto. He scored his 11th goal of the season and chipped in an assist.
-Brooks Orpik suffered a break to his finger/hand while blocking a shot against the Sharks. He is expected to miss 4-6 weeks, but is also expected to return this season.
-Paul Martin was able to complete a full practice with the team. He is expected to return to the lineup soon.
-Ben Lovejoy had an assist against Toronto.
-Marc-Andre Fleury did not have a strong stretch. He played very well against the Sharks, with 35 saves. He was pulled about halfway through the game against Carolina, and gave up 5 goals against Toronto. If MAF is coming back to earth after his strong play in the past month, the team will continue to find it difficult to gain points.
-Brent Johnson stopped 9 of the 10 shots he faced in relief of Fleury against Carolina.
-LW Patrick Marleau scored 2 goals, including the GWG with 4 seconds left in OT. These goals were his 23rd and 24th of the season.
-G Antti Niemi had 24 saves in the win. Niemi is in his first season with the Sharks after leading Chicago to the Stanley Cup Championship last season.
-Captain and C Eric Staal left the game after a check by D Matt Niskanen.
-LW Erik Cole scored a goal (18) and added an assist.
-G Cam Ward had 33 saves in the win.
-RW and former Penguin Colby Armstrong scored his 8th game of the season.
-RW Phil Kessel had 2 assists.
-Rookie G James Reimer had 35 saves in the loss. He has the Toronto media and fans abuzz over the possibility that he was become the team's #1 goalie. Since the Leafs are carrying 3 goalies, he appears to be getting his chance to stake a clain to that top spot.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Games: @ NYR (L 5-3), @ COL (W 3-2 OT), @ CHI (L 3-2 SO), vs. WAS (L 1-0)
-3 of 8 possible points. Each point takes on a greater importance with the injury situation. Depending on how thing's shake out at the trade deadline, we could be hanging on for dear life the rest of the way. Being able to keep a sniff of the home ice advantage, and hopefully securing it, is a nice goal to shoot for.
-As I've been saying since the inception of the blog, the Penguins figure to move one of their defenseman this season in attempt to land a top 6 winger. D Alex Goligoski was traded February 21st to the Dallas Stars. In return, the Penguins get LW James Neal (pictured above) and D Matt Niskanen. Neal provides a scoring touch, netting 21 goals this season. Niskanen is a former 1st round pick of the Stars. He hasn't had a very strong season, but he will likely be in the mix for the #6 D spot on the team if he is not moved again prior to the trade deadline. Both guys have 1 year on their contracts past this season. Welcome to Pittsburgh, guys. Also, I would like to thank Gogo for his time here and his contributions to the team. Best of luck in Dallas!
-LW Brett Sterling has 3 goals in his time up this season, including 2 in this stretch. He may be earning himself a shot in the NHL for a longer look. If not here, somewhere. He had a 5 game scoring streak snapped against Washington.
-Even Tyler Kennedy has been playing what many consider to be his best hockey ever. He's making the most of the ample oppurtunity for ice time. He's also seeing time on the Power Play, scoring the game winner in OT in Denver. In Chicago, there was a chance for a second consectutive gamer winner on the PP in OT, but it just sailed past the net. This stretch for Kennedy may be saving him in the eyes of management for the future. Surely they are keeping a close watch on who has stepped up in the absence of so many of the team's top forwards.
-C Jordan Staal played a very strong game against the Avs. His 6th goal of the season answered an Avs score right away. Staal typically just plays his game and doesn't let the circumstances or surroundings affect him. In the Chicago game, he put on his power forward hat and drove the net, causing space for a Brett Sterling goal. That is why Jordo succeeds. He keeps it simple and within his means.
-Make sure you are sitting down as you read this next sentence. I commend the Power Play of their performance in the Colorado game. Yes, you read that correctly. I've spent a lot of time earlier in the season discussing how timely goals are just as, if not more important than, a high conversion percentage. The extra point was on the line in OT and the PP Unit converted.
-The Penguins forwards controlled the tempo and pace for most of the Capitals game. Unfortunately there just wasn't enough punch to get a lead at any point.
-C Jordan Staal did not return to the bench after being struck by a Kris Letang slap shot. It appear to catch him in the neck area, so both his collarbone or jaw could be concerns. Hopefully he is alright.
-The Ranger game was pretty ugly for the team performance wise. In fact, this whole trip to New York City didn't go so well. There was the joke of a game on Long Island, of course. When the team went to practice outdoors at Central Park, the bus was in a traffic accident. Then there was the performance in this game. A forgettable trip to the Big Apple, to say the least.
-If something goes wrong in the defensive end, I'm not always able to fully identify who is at fault. One thing is for certain, lately there have been many lapses in judgment in the Pens D zone. There's been a lot patting the organization patting itself on the back because they force the minor league team to play the same system/strategy as the NHL club. Again, I can't be 100% of the cause, but there seem to be examples of any reason you can think of from the Rangers game.
Pascal Dupuis was forced to take a faceoff to the left of Marc-Andre Fleury. The Rangers won the draw back to the line, and each forward went out. This left Vinny Prospal open at the side of the net, where he cashed in on his 2nd of the year. It's very possible that guys are having trouble knowing where to be with so many different guys around.
There also may be the possibility that the Penguins just can't keep up currently. Theer are so many AHL players in the lineup that it seems likely that at certain times, we are just going to get outgunned.
Wearing the guys so think also seemed to affect the PK in the Rangers game. D Paul Martin failed to move a guy out from in front of the next...next thing you know Ryan Callahan has his 14th of the season.
On Artem Anisimov's 12the goal of the season, he was allowed to float right on down the slot as if he he were one of the cabs taking players to practice.
The Avs 2nd goal was a disgrace from a defensive standpoint. If you watch the ice level replay, D Cameron Gaunce
Even when the team has been in games such as the Avs and Hawks games, there have been many instances of wide open play
-C Maxime Talbot maybe be seeing his final games in a Penguins uniform. It seems absolutely certain he will not be re-signed. You typically don't look for Talbo to be a big numbers guy, but you'd like for him to step up and chip some in with the situation currently. AHLers are scoring more consistently than Max. That is a problem since Talbot has shown flashes of offensive ability.
-Hall of Fame Co-Owner Mario Lemieux relased a statement regarding the Islanders game. It can be viewed here. While I do not want to spend much time going over this in detail, there are two items I would like to cite as lowlights.
First, I don't think I've criticized Mr. Lemieux more than twice in my entire life, so this is foreign territory to me. I'll just disclose that I've always considered him my favorite player, and something more than that. In my youth, he was able to do something that my other sports heroes were not...win. The Steelers and Pirates of the time (and for many, many years to come) did not and could not win when it counted most. When the Pens lifted the Cup that first time, it was the best feeling in the world for me. I certainly could not consider myself a popular kid, but in the Penguins and avid fandom of hockey I had an identity. Them winning, meant that by extension, I could soak in some of that glow. So having said that, please know that aside from treason, I don't think I have it in me to be highly critical of Lemieux.
At any rate, I cannot take issue with anything that Lemieux said. He is, at worst, the 3rd best player ever to play the sport. He he taken training a bit more seriously and not be sidelined with such grave injuries, perhaps the NHL record books would take on a different shape today. Even without that though, Lemieux is allowed to speak out on whatever he likes or dislikes about the sport. He is even allowed to threaten to take his ball and go home, as some has suggested he did with this statement. I believe that his main flaw is in his lack of action. Lemieux, by most accounts, has maintained a lassiez faire attitude towards his involvement in attending and influencing NHL rules and policy. This is a grave mistake. Lemieux can be extremely influential here. Just because you are "hands on" doesn't mean you are automatically a jackass like Mark Cuban. I would strongly urge Lemieux to reconsider his role in policy development. Not because he owes it to me, or any of you reading this, but because he owes it to the sport he loves.
Secondly, I would take great umbrage with those in the media that have made this about the Penguins team having the most fighting majors and employing Matt Cooke. I would especially like to chastize the Canadian medie for their reaction to this. For you guys and gals to lose sight of the cheap ugliness that went on during the Islanders game as the main issue of contention is disappointing. Americans are supposed to not "get it" when it comes to hockey. What is your excuse? You know damn well this isn't about fighting. Do you really want to watch a sideshow at the NHL level? Really? I find both the notion and the media response to this both quite hard to believe and stomach.
-Matt Cooke returned from his 4 game suspension against the Blackhawks and chipped in a goal. He played a decent game with 20:22 TOI and manged to keep himself out of trouble. Many will be watching Cooke's conduct very closely the rest of the way, including the league and referees. Make no mistake though, Cooke can play the game without resorting to cheap shots. A great example is him drawing a penalty on RW Marian Hossa in the closing 35 seconds of the 3rd period. Hossa got the call because he used his stick to the body as a means of battling for a puck. Cooke kept his skates moving even as he slipped to the ice. Good hard work there by Cookie. Here's to hoping that he keeps his nose clean from here on out.
-Congrats to St. Louis, MO born Joe Vitale for scoring his 1st NHL goal against the Avalanche.
-LW Pascal Dupuis has also gone missing. He has 10 goals on the seasons, which actually seems about right for him relative to his talent level and lack of hands. Unfortunately for the team, they have had to rely on Dupuis as a top line player. Even when guys are healthy, this is sketchy. Dupuis is best suited for a 3rd line type role. In case you think I'm just beating up on the guy, I really do like what he brings to the team. It just ends up being miscast due to the lack of depth of skill guys at forward.
-Brooks Orpik defened a 3-on-1 against the Rangers about as well as could ever be expected. He kept the puck and the pressure to the outside, which allowed for an easy save.
-Kris Letang had a missed pinch at the Offensive end during the Ranger game. A 2-on-1 came back the other way, and Pascal Dupuis was forced to take a penalty. I'm not sure if the team is looking to have the Dmen be so agressive currently, though it may be the only hope of generating a capable offense with the injured players out of the lineup.
-Ben Lovejoy was in the lineup against the Capitals. He did well defensively but looked a little out of rhythm on offense. Perhaps a result of sitting for so many games.
-Brian Strait was called up from Wilkes Barre-Scranton for the Capitals game. This was his 1st NHL game. He blocked 1 shot and registered 13:02 TOI. He was paired with Ben Lovejoy most of the evening.
-Mark-Andre Fleury was off against the Rangers. Another case of who to blame to be certain, but with all the injuries, Fleury has to be counted on to keep teams to 2 or less goals if there's going to be a realistic chance to win or take it to OT. Conversely, he played very well in the Avs, Hawks, and Caps games. The team let up a lot of open chances in the Avs and Hawks games. Fleury stood tall and had a large part in the 3 points gained in these games.
-New York Rangers
-G Henrik Lundqvist overcame a poor start to stop 26 out of 29 saves in the win.
-RW Marian Gaborik had only scored in 9 games for the Rangers this season (as of this game).
-D Cameron Gaunce scored his 1st NHL goal. Congrats to him.
-RW Chris Stewart scored his 12th of year. After this game, he and young D Kevin Shattenkirk were traded to St. Louis. I'm a bit baffled by the move to be honest. To me, these are guys the Avs could build around. Obviously, their GM disagrees...and also gets paid a much better salary to disagree with me.
-C Peter Forsberg ended his 2 game comeback attempt, citing that the health of his foot would not let him play at the level he would want/expect for himself.
Forsberg leaves the game having scored 249 goals and 885 points in 708 regular season NHL games. He also played in 151 NHL playoff games , lifting the Cup with Avs twice (after the 1995-96 and 2000-01 seasons).
"Foppa" is also one of the most decorated International players as well. He played in over 200 games for the famed MoDo squad of the Swedish Elite League. In addition to multiple World Championship tournaments and a World Cup of Hockey appearance, Peter played in 4 Winter Olympics: 1994, 1998, 2006, 2010. Sweden won Olympic Gold in 1994 and 2006. The 1994 Games produced one of the most memorable moments for Forsberg, as his shootout goal against G Corey Hirsch helped win it and also became a stamp in his homeland.
On his legacy, he is quoted as saying "I hope people remember me, that when I went out on the rink, I gave everything." I know I sure will Peter. Congratulations on an excellent career in hockey. Best of luck in whatever avenues you pursue worldwide.
-Rookie G Corey Crawford stopped 24 of 26 shots and stopped all players he faced in the shootout. With the Blackhawks struggles this season, it seems that Crawford is being given a chance to play his win in to a prominant role for the future.
-C Patrick Sharp scored his 31st goal of the season.
-Former Penguin RW Marian Hossa's season has been plagued by injury and lack of production. He has 12 goals in 42 games.
-Captain Alexander Ovechkin scored his 24th goal of the season on the Power Play. It was his 8th game winning goal of the season.
-G Michal Neuvirth stopped all 39 shots he faced to earn his second consecutive shutout against the Penguins.
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Games: @ WAS (L 3-0), vs. CBJ (L 4-1 ), vs. LA (W 2-1 OT), @ NYI (L 9-3)
-2 of 8 possible points. Not exactly a highlight, but 1) I don't feel like moving the points from this spot and 2) considering the lineup that's heading out there, any points are a plus.
-F Tim Wallace (6'1", 207 lbs) made the most of his call up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton by engaging a much bigger (6-5'', 222 lbs) David Steckel (The Capital that hit Sidney Crosby at the Winter Classic, which may have caused a concussion). Wallace has proven to be unafraid of going up against other team's giants. Last season he fought Boston's Milan Lucic (6'3", 228 lbs).
-Even a person like me has to be impressed with the Kings game win. Inserted in to the lineup were minor leaguers Ryan Craig, Nick Johnson, Brett Sterling (scored a goal), and Joe Vitale. Combine that with the fact that we've also seen Mark Letestu, Dustin Jeffery, Chris Conner, Tim Wallace, and Eric Tangradi fill spots during the season and the Penguins record is all the more impressive. I'm beginning to be convinced of what I thought all along this season: we aren't going to have the scoring depth to make a deep run. Even though I believe that, I'm fully prepared to cheer on the guys for as long as the run takes us. Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.
-Congrats to Coach Dan Bylsma. The win against Los Angeles was his 100th NHL win. FSN Pittsburgh also did a nice job of featuring Assistant Coach Tony Granato during that game. He played 6 season for the Kings.
-Chris Kunitz's last minute scratch before the Columbus game made an already depleted team look lighter. The forward group was spread thin, as evidenced by all forwards but Eric Tangradi and Eric Goddard having more than 10 mins of ice time.
-The team "toughness" that gets heralded when the team is winning doesn't seem to be doing much for the offense. Fighting majors aren't goals...hockey is still about scoring more than the other team. That is something the Pens are clearly incapable of right now. (I'd actually like to note that I wrote this prior to the Islanders game...which makes it even more prophetic)
-LW Matt Cooke basically made a mockery out of the first two games of this stretch. He took a run at Ovie, could have killed Fedor Tyutin, and received a 4 game suspension for his troubles at a time when the team needs every healthy body possible. Coach Bylsma even defended him on both counts. Is this just a case of finger pointing at mislabelled agitator or a player that deserves every game of his suspenstion? Let's break it down...
Alexander Ovechkin has a reputation for hitting guys dirty. Some would say that he charges on the majority of his hits. He also has been accused of attempting to hurt players via knee on knee contact (see Sergei Gonchar's injury in the last Cup year, or his suspenstion for a similar hit). Some would also say that Ovie probably has brought dirty hits on himself because of this. While I wouldn't disagree with any of that, I would also state that this should have been worthy of a suspension on its own. Just like when we were kids, two wrongs do not make a right. There was clear intent to injure in my opinion. Just because the result wasn't what Cooke desired doesn't make it any less cheap.
Cooke has a clear resume of questionable plays (just google "Matt Cooke cheap shots"). I'm sorry if that offends any Pens fans, but it is what it is. As I've said before, Cooke is veteran, and he knows damn well what he is doing. Look at someone like Boston's Marc Savard. His career now may be over due to one of these questionable hits.
Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau was quoted as follows (from the Washington Post online): "It was Matt Cooke. Need we say more? It's not like it's his first rodeo."
Bylsma (from the same WP online): "I didn't think much contact was made. Maybe their skates get wound up together. Buy you know, Ovechkin was out on the ensuing power play."
Coach Dan Bylsma not only is wrong on that point, but his logic is flawed. For example, if a player took a baseball style swing at someone's head with a stick and didn't connect...would that mean it wasn't dirty? I think not.
Disco Dan is also wrong about the Tyutin hit, in my opinion. According to prohockeytalk.nbcsports.com he stated, "(Tyutin) makes sure that he keeps his numbers (on the back of the jersey) towards him." The debate over what role a player has in avoiding injury is a long one, and most likely a post of its own (one that I"ll try to take up during the summer). I just think is nothing more than a Coach sticking up for his player, but I consider that a disservice to the league when it's such a questionable group of plays.
Tyutin is entitled to make a play along the back wall in his defensive end to move the puck without potential paralysis. Cooke can still apply pressure without blasting him from behind in to the glass. This was not a situation where the victim turned at the last second to embellish. He was establishing position in case of a scrum at his feet for the puck, and preparing to move the puck.
As I've said a few times this season, Cooke's saving grace is that he is able to chip in goals and kills penalties well. At this point though, is he really any different than Jarkko Ruutu or Sean Avery? I find both of them to be buffoons that find ways to constantly hinder their team due to their reputations and actions. For my money, Cooke deserves every game of this suspension and I hope that there isn't another one.
-As of Friday night about at 7pm, I figured that my detailed piece for this segment would be on the Cooke fiasco(s). I had everything written up for the first three games, and whatever the Islanders game added would be a minor add on. Have you ever heard the bad joke that somebody went to a fight and a hockey game broke out? Well, that's what happened as Reggie Dunlop and the boys from "Slapshot" snuck in to the Islanders dressing room. Now there are 2 "features" for the recap in this segment. I feel pretty passionately about this, so it's going to shoot from the hip. Just my heated opinions.
At any rate, I believe that pregame speech went a little something like this:
Reggie Dunlop: I am personally placing a hundred-dollar bounty on the head of Max Talbot. He's the head coach and chief punk on that Pittsburgh team.
Islanders players in unison: A bounty? Hundred-dollars!? That's more than twice our entire franchise and arena are valued at!
Reggie Dunlop: Yeah, a hundred bucks of my own money for the first guy that really nails that creep.
I'd like to state again, for the millionth time, that I have no problem with fighting in the sport of hockey. It certainly isn't the be all, end all to me...but I think it belongs. With that being said, I feel the need to define that as a clean fight, between two particpants that are willing.
One of the problems with the boxing match between the Islanders and the Penguins was that the referees were clearly unable to handle everything that was going, let alone sort it out. There was too much focus on "evening things up" as opposed to getting the offenders penalized in a way that would keep the game under control. I'm not sure what role any off ice officials have with the on ice crew, but there may need to be consideration for a contingency plan and cooperation from the off ice officials in these rare situations where all hell breaks loose. I find it incredibly hard to believe that there were only two instigator penalties out of 65 penalites (183 PIM for NY, 163 PIM for Pit) and 15 fighting majors. Even crazier is that these occurred for Islanders that fought Deryk Engelland and Eric Goddard. Come on. Those guys are willing combatants. I see plenty of guys on both teams that don't necessarily want to go, but did because of the circumstances. The refs failed by not assessing more instigators.
Another travesty that is sure to come out of this game is the debate of whether or not the NHL should ban fighting altogether. No. NO. NO. NO. Most of the NHLs conduct penalties are not called properly by the officials. If you enforce your rule book, this becomes less of a problem. Plus, don't lose sight of the fact that this is an isolated incident. Rather than restate all the rules, just go here and take a look at 46.4, 46.5, and 46.12. There was a lot of lollygagging when it was time to get off the ice because players knew the on ice officials couldn't get everyone. Also, there was a lot of fighting under 5 minutes left in the game. My hope is that suspension will follow for any player from either time found to have violated these rules.
A lot of people will feel that the Islanders were out of line. If they conducted themselves within the rules, they would not be out of line. I can understand that they want to stick up for their teammates, as they indicated in post-game interviews. There is no real issue with a million fights in a game, if they are done to a player's face and with willing combatants. This isn't football, there is still plenty of room for men to be men. But that's the thing, men don't act like punks and attack players from behind. Unfortunately, Islanders LW Matt Martin didn't believe in fighing like a man. He dropped his gloves and tried to attack/sucker punch C Maxime Talbot from behind. This was an awful moment. No defense for it. Being born in 1989, maybe Martin is too young to remember the Todd Bertuzzi assault of Steve Moore. That assault took place during a hockey game (after Matt Cooke had already fought Moore earlier) and broke Moore's neck. I call it an assault because it was done from behind. The court system in British Columbia also called it an asault, charging Bertuzzi with a crime in June 2004. It was a gutless move that has no place in society, let alone sports. We weren't far from having another giant black eye on the sport, just like the video below.
There were other ugly cheap shots in this game one both sides. RW Eric Goddard elbowed an Islander, which resulted in a concussion from what I've read. D Brooks Orpik took a few liberties with RW Michael Grabner. Believe me just because these are Penguins doesn't mean I consider them immune to punishment. They deserve anything they get.
The ugliest incident of the night came when Isles LW Trevor Gillies delivered a headshot on Eric Tangradi, causing contact with his elbow to the head, and thus the head to the glass. Tangradi was injured and was on the ice for quite some time. In a total classless move, Gillies refused to go to the locker room, instead stood in the runway and taunted an injured Tangradi in one of the more disgusting things I've ever witnessed in this sport. Gillies has played in 47 NHL games, logging 1 game in 2005-06, then returning in 2009-10. In between he spent his time re-uniting with The Village People, resuming his role as "The Biker".
Eric Goddard also left the bench to intervene with the fight between G Brent Johnson and C Michael Haley. I give Johnson credit. He said that he felt responsible for much of went on during this game. It's not required of him to have dropped the gloves there, but surely his thinking was that if went with Haley, the Islanders would have what they truly wanted, a shot at him. Goddard will face a minimum 10 game suspension for his actions. This is wrong according to the rules, and he deserves what he gets here. I won't criticize him though. To expect a guy whose job it is to protect players to sit by during this nonsense is foolish. Goddard felt this was what he needed to do, much like the Isles guys feel that their actions were merely their way of being a good teammate.
I hope that NHL takes strong and decisive action against the cheap shots that went on during this game from both sides. I think If there's anything positive to come out of this, it's the word from TSN's Darren Dregger reported via his Twitter:
"NHL has a lot to digest. "Unacceptable" is how one high ranking official views last night. Fines and suspensions may not be decided on today about 3 hours ago via Twitter for BlackBerry® "
Reggie Dunlop photo courtesy of dryden.eastmanhouse.orgForward Recaps:
-Evgeni Malkin had knee surgery to repair the damage done to his MCL and ACL. He is expected to be out for 6 months.
-Despite the rumors, there is still no word that Sidney Crosby is done for the season. While the length of this injury has been longer than expected, they team is hoping for a March return for the team's Captain. While Sid himself could not rule out the possibility that he could be done, in his words: "I expect to play".
-Dustin Jeffery joins the list of Penguins players on IR with a "lower body injury". He cannot return until after the Colorado game at the earlierest. No word on the severity of whatever is wrong with him, so that may or may not be an option.
-Brooks Orpik let Columbus RW Rick Nash get behind him near the faceoff circle and a split second later the puck was in the net. Nash is simply too good of a sniper to allow him an uncontested one-timer.
-Zbynek Michalek made multiple saves in the crease during the Kings game, which helped the Pens overcome the Kings in a tight game.
-Kris Letang had some bad turnovers at both ends of the ice during the Islanders game. Not to pick on him, because nobody played well, but just merely pointing out that it happens to him as well. Just like Goligoski, he is a young defenseman and is still learing his craft.
-Mark-Andre Fleury had a rough game against Columbus. You could argue that the team also played lousy in front of him, but considering the fact that a lot of media types such as Dan Potash (in an interview on 93.7 The Fan) spent time crowing about Fleury's excellent play since his early season troubles, I'll suggest that this was a game that the team needed Fleury to keep them in. With so much offense out of the lineup, they're going to need a lot of that unless they like the idea of being a 6, 7, or 8 seed in the conference.
-Brent Johnson was very unimpressive against the Islanders, but I give him credit for tossing off the gloves and mask (again) in an attempt to calm the storm of fights that overtook the game.
-G Michal Neuvirth stopped all 22 shots he faced for the shutout.
-RW Mike Knuble tallied an empty netter, his 13th of the season. I believe this was the 11th consecutive game against the Penguins in which he has scored a goal.
-LW Brooks Laich's 11th of year served as the game winner.
-RW Rick Nash scored his 24th goal and added an assist.
-LW R.J. Umberger added 2 assists in his first game at the Consol Energy Center. R.J. is a native of Plum and was drafted 16th overall in the 2001 draft by Vancouver.
-Columbus entered the game in 13th place in the Western Conference, yet only 5 points out of the 8th spot (the last playoff spot).
-The Kings will spend 10 games on the road in February becuase of the NBA All-Star Game and Grammy Awards.
-D Drew Doughty is a stud on the Kings' blue line. He has it all. Plays good D and can absolutely blow by a guy with skill or speed when he has the puck.
-D Rob Scuderi played in his first game in Pittsburgh since leaving as a free agent after the Stanley Cup win. He must have been chanelling Game 6, because he stopped a Jordan Staal goal at the buzzer. That earned the Kings one point by making it to Overtime.
-New York Islanders
-I rescind any support I've previously offered for this franchise to stay on Long Island or the New York area.
-The Islanders are last in the league attendance wise, averaging 9,893.
-Quebec City and the Provincial Government have agreed to funding on a $400 million arena project. This will be completed for the fall of 2015. The NHL had previously stated that Quebec City had to have a new arena before they would be considered for NHL expansion or relocation.
-Kansas City still has a very new, empty arena. Surely they would throw their hat in to the ring for the Islanders as well.
Saturday, February 5, 2011
Games: @ NYR (W 4-3), vs. NYI (W 3-0 ), vs. BUF (W 3-2)
-6 of 6 possible points without Sid and Geno again (mostly). A lot is made by media types and people like me about the Penguins lack of depth and skill on the wings. One thing goes without question: this group knows what it takes to grind out games and get wins. The key thing for the team long-term is for these role guys to continue to step up and take control of games as they have without the stars in the lineup. When they are in the lineup, there is too much of a tendency to watch them work and wait for them to save the day as opposed to taking control themselves.
-The PK unit killed 10 of 11 chances during this stretch. Ryan Callahan's PPG for the Rangers was the first goal given up by the PK in 22 chances.
-Even though it's not from this stretch, D Kris Letang had 2 goals in the All-Star Game. He also has a nickname in case you haven't heard: Cinco Ocho.
-The injury bug continues to rear its ugly head. Sid has now missed 12 games due to his concussion and has returned to his home province of Nova Scotia to work out with his trainer. Evgeni Malkin returned to the lineup against Buffalo and went right back out in the second period after an awkward looking tweek of his leg/knee. An MRI is scheduled to see if anything is wrong. He was not on the ice for practice Saturday (Feb 5). Mark Letestu injured his knee at practice, has had surgery and will miss 4-6 weeks.Lastly, Arron Asham left the Ranger game with what is thought to be a shoulder injury.
EDIT: Coach Bylsma has confirmed that Evgeni tore his MCL and ACL in last night's game. Sorry to hear that. Best of luck in recovery.
-PP was 2 for 13 during this stretch. I'm thinking of just giving this feature a rest until the playoffs. Broken record...
-C Jordan Staal was kicked out of the Ranger game, after punching LW Brandon Prust. Prust had a fight earlier in the evening, looks to have taken a severe dive on this play. At first glance, it looked like this could be an ugly incident, possibly even the type that the NHL is trying to clamp down on.
When I stop and watch what happens during this sequence, it really makes me sick. Prust elbows Staal in the face as he approachs the scrum. Staal hits hit with a closed left fist with his glove on. The stick was not in the left hand. Prust reacts as if he was shot from a grassy knoll nearby, tumbling to the ice and waiting for the trainer. Jordo is sent to the box, and then sent to the locker room as it is determined that he committed a "match" penalty (intent to injure) and given a game misconduct.
The match penalty aspect is what disgusts me. Jordan Staal committed a penalty, possibly even a double minor worthy penalty if Prust gets 2 mins for roughing at the same time. There was speculation that Jordan received the match penalty because of the brace on his hand. That would be an incorrect assessment because the brace is on his right hand, and as mentioned before he did not use his stick as a brass knuckle type device to strengthen the punch. He also did not strike a player from behind, or blindly from the side. Prust drew the first contact, so I would have to assume that he was expecting a potential strike from Staal
Other have said that this was a blatant cheap shot, and a head shot. This is where I may come off as hypocritical, but I do not believe a punch to someones face a head shot or a cheap shot if delivered properly. If someone disagrees with that, it is time to remove scrums and espeically fighting from the game of hockey (which I do not support). Each fight would allow for a potential "intent to injure" and it would be irresponsible of a league, and us as fans, to support that. I do believe fighting has a place in hockey, though I also believe that it is not as important as many would claim.
On the subject of Prust's actions, I can only express disgust and sadness. Prust really tarnished his reputation with a severe dive and embellishment of a punch to the face. If you don't agree that this was a dive, ask yourself how you react if Sidney Crosby hit the ice in this manner (which you may feel he already has). Chances are if this was Sid, you'd still be talking about it during the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Luckily, the league assessed the situation the next day and rescended the automatic 1 game suspension and match penalty from Staal's record. He was able to play against the Islanders and aside from some disgust with officiating, nobody was worse for the wear.
photo courtesy of thepuckdoctors.com
-Eric Goddard was in the lineup for the Ranger and Islanders games, returning from a facial fracture suffered in a fight against Ottawa. He logged 7:07 and 4:24 worth of ice time and was an even rating with 1 shot on goal.
-Dustin Jeffrey scored 2 goals in this stretch (3 in his last 5 games), and had the shootout winner against the Rangers. He figures to stick around for a bit due to the Letestu injury. This could be a defining period for DJ with Sid and Malkin out. Jeffrey has not looked out of place with anyone in the lineup, so seeing top 6 duty could be his chance to show where his long-term future is with this team.
-If you'd never watched a hockey game before the Buffalo game, you'd still come away with a pretty good sense of all things Matt Cooke. He was invloved in a game long battle with D Tyler Myers. There was a pretty long post-whistle match with F Tyler Ennis in which Cooke came away with a cut on his nose and it appeared that he was mouthing the words "you f'n bit me" to Ennis. After all this agitation of the Sabres, he then chipped in a goal...the game winner. The goal was Cooke's 10th of the season.
-I've Brooks Orpik delivered a shoulder to head of chief punk on that Rangers team, Sean Avery. This was a moment where I was torn, because I loathe Avery. At the end of the day, I say this was wrong. Even head shots against creeps are not acceptable in the NHL today.
-Zbynek Michalek was initially thought to have his 1st goal as Penguin in the Ranger game, but it was discovered that Chris Kunitz tipped it. Z will have to wait another few days before he scores his first with the team.
-Alex Goligoski had a terrible 1st period against the Sabres. There were multiple defensive zone turnovers, one which lead directly to a goal. I've talked about his upside and this clearly is his downside.
-Mark-Andre Fleury had 2 wins during this stretch. The Buffalo game started off rough, but the team bailed him out. He had 26 saves and a strong shootout performance in the Ranger win. He also mopped up the final 16 seconds of the Islander game.
-Brent Johnson was about to have a shutout against the Islanders, but he took exception to Rick DiPietro clotheslining F Matt Cooke and the other end. You likely know what happened, but in case you have been comatose for the past week, Johnny skated on down and engaged DiPi in a fight. A one punch fight. A one punch fight that ended up causing facial fractures and knee swelling in the oft-inured DiPietro, who will miss 4-6 weeks. As long as BJ doesn't do anything that directly costs the Penguins a Championship, his legacy in the city of Pittsburgh will be forever cemented: the badass goalie that turned the end of an unevenful game on a cold, windy night in February in to something that anyone that watched it will always remember. Nice work Johnny!
-New York Rangers
-C Artem Anisimov scored his 11th goal of the season by batting a puck out of mid-air a la a baseball player.
-Aside from scoring a 9.0 in the diving competition of the evening, Prust had a fight and a nice goal, his 8th of the season. That's what makes the dive all the more disturbing to me, there is no need for him to tarnish himself like that. He seems like a decent player that can handle him. Very puzzling.
-American born Ryan Callahan scored his 11th of the season.
-New York Islanders
-G Rick DiPietro has got to be disappointed in himself and frustrated. It's one thing to lose a fight, that happens. It's a completely separate issue for a goalie that has missed countless games since signing a giant contract to be injured in a fight. One also wonders what role his little post-shootout celebration in December played in this.
-C Zenon Konopka fought again. This time we went with F Mike Rupp.
-C Paul Gaustad scored his 6th goal of the season just 0:17 in to the 1st period.
-RW Mike Grier scored his 3rd goal of the season.
-D Mike Weber is from Cranberry Township. He was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2006 draft.