Monthly Archives: May 2009

Pens 1 Red Wings 3

image from postgazette.com

image from postgazette.com

Game Recap

Ouch.  We played hard tonight.  We got some pressure on the Wings defense.  I can’t pick out much more that we can do better.  But we still lost.  Fleury was surprised by the lively boards at the Joe twice.  That can’t happen.  He’s played there once this year and three times last year.  He knows what to expect by now.  But that’s an easy fix.  Osgood responded to me saying he lets in some soft goals by making me eat my words.  He played terrific last night.  If he can do that consistently, we’re in trouble.  I just don’t think he can do that consistently.  That shot that landed on his back?  That’s as sure of a sign as any that he’s just having a good night.  We had a lot of missed opportunities last night.  The two penalties in the first period in a game where whistles were rare.  Malkin’s breakaway.  You can go on and on.  Those will start to go our way eventually.  Bottom line: stay the course.  Nobody said this was going to be easy, but if we keep playing like we did last night, good things will come our way.  Quick turnaround until game 2, but that’s ok.  I’m sure our guys are chomping at the bit to get another chance at them.  If we can steal one tonight, we’re still in great shape going back to the ‘Burgh.

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How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria(n)?

image from bleacherreport.com
image from bleacherreport.com

Yeah.  I just made a Sound of Music reference.  What can I say?  I’m secure with my masculinity.  Ha!  But, anyway, back to sports.  The obvious storyline is Marian Hossa.  He played for the Pens last time.  He’s wearing Red this time.  He left on shaky terms.  You might have heard about it.  Now, there is a lot of debate in Pittsburgh over whether or not to boo him.  Besides the mind numbingly dumb comments like “I’m going to boo him cuz he’s a traitor” or “I’m going to clap for him because he played well for us and I’m classy…..or at least want to appear that way”, there are two arguments that have been driving me up the wall (one from each side).  I’m going to go over those arguments and why I think they’re not valid, and then I’m going to give my own take on the whole situation.  All in all, it should be a good time.  Plus, putting Marian Hossa’s name in a post a bunch of times with the words Penguins and Red Wings will get a lot of cheap hits for the site.  Hossa.  Red Wings.  Penguins.  Hossa.  Pens.  Hossa.  There.  Now we can continue.

Argument #1:

We should boo Marian because he’s not doing things the right way.  If you’re the runner up for the Stanley Cup and want to win it next time, the cheap way to do it is by switching sides.  The honorable way to do it is to figure out what you didn’t do right, fix it, and beat them next time.

This sounds logical.  Plus, it really hits a  nerve in a blue collar town like Pittsburgh.   We work hard and earn what we get.  But it doesn’t really hold in hockey.  There are a lot of areas in hockey like scrums in the corners and willingness to block shots where desire can trump raw talent.  This means the better team doesn’t always win (as evidenced by the fact that neither team in the finals was the #1 seed in their conference).  It’s also why winning the cup is one of the biggest accomplishments in sports.  It takes heart, desire and determination along with skill to win a cup.  You can join the defending champs, but you still have to earn the title again and it’s still not easy.  Even if the absolute best players in the game all decided to take pay cuts to play together on an all star team, they would still have to earn the cup.  It would be much easier for them than the other teams, and it would be awful for the sport of hockey, but you can’t say that they didn’t deserve the title.  They would, in that case, be the best hockey team in the world.  Bottom line is that there is no dishonorable way to win the Stanley Cup (save blatantly cheating).

Argument #2:

People who call Marian Hossa a traitor are hypocrites because they’re the same ones who blast players for only caring about money.  Here’s a guy who took winning over money, and people still don’t like it.

This is a blatant twist of words.  Yes, people blast athletes for only being concerned with money (which I don’t agree with, but that’s for another rant).  But I’ve never heard anyone say they want players to be only concerned with winning.  Or they didn’t mean it if they did.  Fans are only concerned with their own self-interest.  What they want isn’t a player who’s concerned with winning, it’s a player who’s concerned with loyalty.  Specifically, loyalty to THEIR team.  If their team is winning, they may disguise the argument as asking a player to take winning titles over money, but the basic request is still loyalty.  A fan who is mad at any player who leaves is upset because a player is not serving their best interests (staying and helping their team win).  So Pens fans aren’t hypocritical for hating Hossa.  They’re still making the same basic complaint.  It’s just not a very good complaint.

So that basically gives away my position, but I’ll state it here for one and all.  Marian had an offer from the Pens, an offer from the Wings, and a few other offers.  He took into account the quality of the team, the pay, how much he liked the coaches, and an infinite amount of other factors, and he chose the Wings.  That’s his prerogative.  I have no interest in who he is or what his motivation is for being there are.  My concern is not his past, but the fact that he’s wearing a red sweater.  If I were in the Mellon Arena, I wouldn’t boo him, and I wouldn’t cheer him.  I would treat him like every other Wings player: more or less with disinterest.  However, if the Pens were to win the series, and Marian’s choice turned out to backfire, I would definitely have a smirk on my face thinking about it.

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Weekly Beer Recommendation 5/28/09

image from thegazz.com

image from thegazz.com

So for this week’s beer recommendation, I’m going with a true Irish stout.  Something I don’t think I’ve touched on much.  Now, when someone here in the states thinks Irish stout, they think Guinness.  Plain and simple.  It’s creamy, it’s found at almost every bar around, and it does that really cool thing with the head as you pour it.  But, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: there are other Irish stouts, and most of them do the same thing when you pour them.  The big three right now are Guinness, Murphy’s, and Beamish.  O’Hara’s Irish Stout is fairly new to the game, but is also an excellent choice.

So what I’m going to say will make a few jaws drop, but here goes: Guinness is probably one of the worst true Irish stouts you can get in America (which is a little like saying it’s the worst hitter in the Yankees lineup).  Beamish is my personal favorite and I’ll tell you why.  Guinness is straightforward.  It’s bland.  It’s got a solid roasted malt base and some coffee/chocolate taste underneath.  It’s exactly what you’d expect from a stout.  Beamish does all that, but goes out on a limb a bit.  They add just a touch of hops which you can taste in the aftertaste.  It’s not a lot.  It’s not enough to make you spit it back.  It’s just enough to make it interesting.  I like it.  But, as I’ve pointed out before, I’m a sucker for hops.  So that could be it, too.  I will make one warning, though.  I’ve had Beamish in both can and tap form.  You might need to go to the local Irish pub for this, but go with the tap.  The can leaves a metallic taste in the beer that’s not very pleasant.  You’ve been warned.  So, until next time: cheers!

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Pirates/Cubs Recap

image from espn.com

image from espn.com

Pirates 10 Cubs 8

Pirates 1 Cubs 6

Pirates 2 Cubs 5

You can’t help but look at this series and see a big wasted opportunity.  The Cubs were about as vulnerable as they get.  They were on a losing streak.  They were starting to show short tempers.  This is a talented team that opened the door for a rare series win on its home turf.  This was the blood in the water that good teams take advantage of.  The Pirates, unfortunately, are not a good team.

Game one was a pitchers duel.  As in both pitchers shot themselves in the foot.  Neither Ryan Dempster nor Paul Maholm made it to the 5th inning.  Fortunately, our bullpen held it together by limiting the exposure.  Gorzo continued to pitch really nicely despite giving up a run in two innings.  Then we proceeded to go through 5 pitchers in 3 innings, but made it work.  The Cubbies pen gave up 4 runs in a great choke job and the Buccos barely held on.  The big news of the game was Sanchez going 6-6.  He sure looks like the Pirates rep in the All Star game right now.

Game two was a wet one.  They only managed to get in 5 and a half, with the Cubs winning 6 to 1.  Neither team had to go to the pen which is a good thing considering the night before.  Ian Snell went schizophrenic as usual.  People have been calling for his demotion.  Management’s response is that there’s no one in the minors to promote.  In other words the decision came down to taking Snell’s mostly bad pitching over someone else’s totally bad pitching.  Reassuring, right?  I can’t help but think that maybe going the full game could have done it for us.  The way we shelled the Cubs bullpen Monday, we might have had a shot.  5 runs is a big hole, though.  Oh, well.  That’s baseball.

Game three will be remembered for one thing and one thing only: Carlos Zambrano’s meltdown.  Bang bang play at the plate (after HIS wild pitch, mind you), and he loses it.  He bumps the ump, throws things, gets a 6 game suspension, and proves…..absolutely nothing.  This is the frustration level of the team we’re dealing with, and we drop 2 of 3 to them (barely getting the one).  The bats again go MIA.  8 hits.  8 K’s.  25 left on base.  Ouch.

So, on that disappointing note, it’s finally back home.  Final record from the road trip is 5 and 5.  Could have been worse.  If you’re a team gunning for a .500 record, going .500 on the road is a great place to start.  Astros are in town this weekend.  But no one cares since the Stanley Cup is also on this weekend.

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Pens 4 Canes 1

image from espn.com

image from espn.com

Game Recap

Well, the Pens outplayed the Canes for the first three games, why not make it four, right?  Carolina came out with a much different game plan tonight.  They were wildly aggressive defensively, and it created some chances at the other end.  For us, that is.  It was a desperate tactic by a desperate team and it backfired.

Cam Ward and Eric Staal both finally showed up today.  It helped, but not enough.  Staal opened the scoring and played like a wild man all day.  It looked like he really wanted to make up for his lack of scoring in the first three games.  I have never seen someone play with that kind of intensity and effort before.  Even though he plays for the other guys, you’ve got to admire that.  Ward made some absolutely brilliant saves.  The Fedotenko goal was his defense not picking up a man.  The Talbot goal was a fluke that wouldn’t happen again in a million years.  And the Guerin goal was the Hurricanes playing desperate and risky and getting bit.  None of them were totally his fault, and you have to feel for him.  That’s 20 goals in 4 games for the Pens.  He has to be shouldering a lot of the blame right now.

So I guess its now ok to look across to the Western Conference to see the match-up in the finals.  And well, well, well, if it isn’t our old buddies the Red Wings.  Now, I’m going to assume Detroit finishes the Blackhawks off, but if they don’t I can’t see Chicago posing much of a problem.  They’re us from last year.  A good young nucleus with a solid goalie and little to no playoff experience.  They’ll be a formidable foe soon enough, but right now they’re getting their ears wet.  So Detroit it is.  They’re almost exactly the same squad that beat us last year.  They play the same style.  They have mostly the same roster (with one exception that will be pounded to no end).  We’re the ones that have changed.  We have a new coach, new system, new role players, new everything.  I’d like to think that the new way to play is better, but there’s no way to tell.  We’ve faced Detroit twice this year, but Bylsma wasn’t behind the bench for either.  I think we’ll have better luck for two reasons: one is the faster pace we now play at, and the other is the experience we gained last year.  There is a big step up in intensity from the regular season to the playoffs.  We learned that two years ago against Ottawa and haven’t made the same mistake again.  Last year we learned that there’s another step up in intensity in the Finals.  Detroit was ready and crushed us in the first two games.  We got our sea legs back and took 2 of the next 4 games, but the damage had already been done.  We know what to expect this time, and the chances of us getting shut out for games 1 and 2 again are slim and none.  I also think that our style matches up better against the Red Wings this year.  Detroit is a skilled team that plays a puck possession game and is tremendous in transition.  Sounds awfully familiar, right?  Last year we played into their hands.  We were patient and slow on offense and focused on defense.  What happened last year was that we didn’t get set up enough on offense to score, and before we could get the clamps on defensively, they had already run down the ice and scored.   This year we’re going to match their style of play almost exactly.  It’ll be a lot more fun to watch, and will open up a lot more chances for us.  I still don’t think Chris Osgood is as good as his reputation.  He lets in some softies.  We just didn’t get enough pucks on net last year to test him.  It should be a fun series.  Assuming it happens, that is.  For now, I’m going to put my feet up and hope the Western teams go 7 and beat the tar out of each other.

Oh, and by the way: the lucky jersey/hat combo has now worked for 11 straight games.  I’m getting frightened.

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Long Overdue Post

image from idiomsbykids.com

image from idiomsbykids.com

So, a big apology to all yinz guys aht there n’at.  Due to some technical problems over here, I haven’t been able to update in quite a few days.  So I’m just going to put all the Pirates and Pens stuff I missed in one big gigantic post to catch up again.

The Buccos won 3 out of 4 down in Washington.  Our starting pitching looked really good.  Our bullpen…..not so much.  Fortunately, the Nats bullpen was worse.  They currently have the highest combined ERA in the history of major league baseball.  Not the highest ERA so far this year.  Not the highest ERA in the past 10 years.  The highest ERA in the HISTORY of the game.  Ouch.  So that got us the 5-2 record that I was looking for in the Colorado/Washington series.  It also put us 2 games under .500.  Not too shabby.  We then proceeded to go to Chicago and loose all that momentum.  We were shut out for two straight games.  We almost got swept, but a rare 2-run inning against Bobby Jenks in the top of the 9th gave us a win in game 3.  We’re sticking around in the windy city for another series against the Cubs.  Lets hope that momentum carries over.

The Pens have been playing out of their minds lately.  And by Pens, I mean Geno Malkin.  The guy has 5 goals in the past 2 days.  It’s incredible.  This is why the Pens are so dangerous.  We always have someone stepping up.  Be it Sid, Malkin, Staal, Fleury, or someone else.  One superstar does not have to shoulder the burden.  Plus, we get some random scoring from the role players to put us over the top.  Another developing trend is 3rd period scoring.  We’ve put 6 3rd period goals in against Carolina in the past two games.  I know two of them are empty netters, but that’s definitely showing that the Pens depth is becoming an issue for Carolina.  They’re getting worn down at the end of games.  They play a good style to neutralize us.  They forecheck extremely well, they’re physical on the boards, and they’re extremely quick.  We’re not getting quite the puck possession advantage we did in the first two series (though we still definitely have an advantage).  However, that’s a high bar to keep up with.  As I said before the series: Carolina will go as Cam Ward goes.  And he’s not going very well right now.

So that about raps it up for now.  I guess the next post will be Tuesday night after the Pens game.  See yinz then.

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Pens 3 Canes 2

image from espn.com

image from espn.com

Game Recap

Wow.  That was fun.  After some intense fast paced games against Washington, we get…..an intense fast paced game against Carolina.  Anyone else feel like more stressful games could constitute as cruel and unusual punishment?  Wow.  Fleury came up huge today.  23 saves with a few highlight reel ones thrown in.  Cam Ward was his usual self.  Satan undressed him on a breakaway which would have happened to anyone with the wicked fake Miro put out.  Malkin snuck in a goal in the perfect spot.  He couldn’t do that again if you gave him 10 chances.  Boucher got the only real soft goal.  But Ward came up huge a few times.  I’m telling you, he’s the key to this series.

Carolina was very good at winning the battles along the boards.  It really did a number on the time of possession.  We’ve been getting used to hogging the puck against Washington and Philly for over half the game.  This one was different.  Carolina doesn’t have the finishers, though.  They’re smart, they set each other up well, and they score dirty goals on the rebound.  But you won’t see them break down a defender one on one too much.  I’m convinced that their play in the scrums is also why they’re so good on the penalty kill.  You’ll notice that they don’t get in passing lanes too much: they just physically take the puck away from you.  We’ve got to use the man advantage better because we can out-man them in the battles.

I like the way we played.  It was fast and entertaining and that kind of game favors us every time.  There’s a long break before the next game on Thursday (thank you Bruce Springsteen).  That’s bad news for the Pens.  Carolina had a pair of really bad injuries to Tuomo Ruutu and Erik Cole that now have an extra day to rest.  Those are two key players for the Canes, and if they’re without them, they don’t have much depth.  That could spell trouble.

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