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.