Tag Archives: Sidney Crosby

A Couple of Toughies

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Pens 2 Rangers 3 (OT)

Pens 3 Predators 4 (SO)

The Pens had a kind of blah weekend to say the least, losing a pair of games, but managing a point out of each.  It’s not the best way to go into the long Olympic break, but, hey, it could be worse.  Also on the bright side, New Jersey is skidding like nobody’s business.  They’re only a point up with one game in hand.  That’s by no means an insurmountable total.  But it would have been nice to get that lead before the break.

The Rangers game was kind of mixed.  The Pens didn’t play very well at all, but thanks to a Crosby power play goal in the third period, the game went into overtime.  I had a good feeling at that point because I thought the Pens had dodged a bullet there.  It’s not often you can manage even a point out of the kind of game we played, and with the Rangers struggles on offense I thought a second point was a good possibility.  Well, it wasn’t because I forgot to factor in one thing: Olie Jokinen.  Olie’s been tormenting the Pens since his days in Florida (14 goals and 16 assists in 24 games against the Pens).  After a brief stint in the Western Conference, he was dealt to the Rangers a couple of weeks ago.  I guess he’s going to pick up right where he left off.  He torture the Pens by scoring a goal a minute into the overtime period.  I have no idea what Pittsburgh did to you, Olie, but we’re sorry.  I promise.

The pain continued on Sunday with a shootout loss to Nashville.  This was exactly the opposite of the New York game two days before.  The Pens played very well, but Danny Ellis had just a good enough day for the Preds.  Pittsburgh came out and dominated the first period, but then was handcuffed for most of the rest of the game due to penalties.  Thank goodness the penalty kill for the Pens came up big and kept Nashville to a 1 for 7 night.  I really thought that when Brooks Orpik scored around the 15 minute mark in the 3rd to give the Pens a 3-2 advantage, the game was in the bag.  Fleury hadn’t been playing poorly and I thought we’d stop taking chances which would dry up the penalties a bit.  But that’s not what happened.  With less than 10 minutes left, Shea Weber tickled the twine, and we were off to overtime.  Now, I mentioned that Ellis had a big day in net for the Predators, but the OT was when he really shined.  He came up with a huge save with about a minute left in the OT period, and absolutely stoned the Pens in the shootout.  So, hats off to him.  At least we got a point out of the deal.

I really wish the Pens had gone to the break on a high note, but I guess you have to look at the glass half full.  The Pens get a long break that they badly need, and Jersey seems to be coming back to them faster than they can catch up.  Both are good news.  Next game isn’t until March 2nd against the Sabres.

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Pens Sweep Back To Back

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Pens 2 Red Wings 1 (SO)

Pens 5 Sabres 4

In contrast with the ugly game by Pitt over the weekend, the Pens have been playing fantastic.  They started out the weekend with a perfect game for national TV on Sunday, and then came back against a very good Sabres team tonight.  Overall, it was a very impressive pair of games.  The Pens were skating, they were keeping dumb penalties to a minimum, and they were getting pucks on net.  You’re going to get a lot of good results if you do those three things.

The first game against Detroit was fantastic television.  The Red Wings aren’t the team that we saw the last time they were in Pittsburgh.  They’re in a very tough Western Conference, but they’re struggling pretty hard right now.  The Pens took advantage and completely tilted the ice on the Wings.  They led the shooting battle 47-24.  You usually deserve 2 points if you do that, but there was a problem.  Jimmy Howard, in his first real stint with the big boy club in Detroit, was standing on his head in net.  He came up with 46 saves on the night in a fantastic performance.  It was really special to watch, even from an opposing fan’s perspective.  Beyond that, it was an extremely clean game.  Not a lot of penalties or turnovers.  Just good hockey the way it was meant to be played.  With Howard kepping them in the game with key saves, the Wings were able to draw overtime and eventually a shootout.  Fleury came up big as he’s been doing in shootouts for a while now, and the Pens come out with the extra point (that they probably deserved anyway due to their play).  Just a fantastic hockey game.  I’m sure the NHL is thanking its lucky stars that that was on national TV.  That’s the kind of game that will bring in new fans.

The second game had a lot more offense to say the least.  The Pens jumped out with a real quick goal (as in first minute quick).  The Sabres answered with a pair of quick goals 5 minutes later and a third striaght to start the second period.  The Pens rounded out the second period with their own run of 4 straight goals, and then hung on for dear life in the third.  I’ll tell you the truth.  When we went down 3-1 I thought we were cooked.  Ryan Miller is a fantastic goalie, and even thought we’ve had good luck with him in the past I thought it just wasn’t meant to be.  That’s the Sabres game.  Jump out to a lead and choke you with their defense.  But, lo and behold, the Pens pulled it out.  This was a fairly physical back and forth game, but very entertaining to watch overall.  Sid had a hat trick, but I mostly liked that the Pens hustled throughout the entire game.  I have to admit that I was a bit worried about that coming off Sunday’s game.  You can’t ask for much more out of a team than what the Pens showed these past two days.  I’d love another quick game here to keep up the momentum, but the next game isn’t until Saturday against Montreal.  We’ll see how it goes.

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Pens 3 Capitals 6

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Game Recap

This one was a lot like the Pitt/Georgetown game last night.  Both featured teams from Pittsburgh and DC that are at the pinnacle of their sport.  Both games spent about 2/3rds of the contest in a tight battle being played at a very high level.  Both games saw the Pittsburgh team loose focus for a minute and not be able to come back.  The Pens and Caps were tied 3-3 after 2 periods, but the Capitals put in two goals at the beginning of the 3rd, and played defense until the horn blew.  Both teams played a fantastic games overall.  It’s just something you have to be thankful you got to witness, and then move on.  A lot was being made of this game because of the budding rivalry and whatnot.  I just didn’t see it.  It’s just another regular season game.  Yeah, it stinks to lose to the Caps.  It stinks to lose to anyone.  But this game was never the Pens goal.  That has always been to give some company to those Championship banners in the rafters (I think Ovechkin is pointing at them in that picture above.  I guess he doesn’t quite know what they are yet), and this game had little impact on that goal.

If you really cared about the star matchup, however, you weren’t disappointed.  Ovie had a pair of goals.  Crosby had one for himself, and Malkin had 3 assists.  Once again, I’m not sold on whole points race thing.  Yeah, I’m sure the guys are competitive about it and want to win, but once again it has nothing to do with the ultimate goal.  I’m sure Ovechkin would trade his scoring title last year for Sid’s Stanley Cup ring in a heartbeat.  But I guess it’s still a little fun to root for your guy in the good vs. evil battle.

Overall, I think we played well.  I’d even venture to say that we out-played the Caps for most of the game.  The difference is the 5 minutes in the third period where we blinked.  That’s all.  You can’t let up for a second against a good team like the Capitals, and we made that mistake.  It happens.  Next up is the Flyers on Sunday.  Yet another rivalry game.  They’re always fun.  But, still relatively meaningless in the regular season.  So we’ll see.  Philly’s really been turning their season around lately.  I’d love to stomp on their progress a bit.

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Pens 2 Western Canada 1

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Pens 3 Flames 1

Pens 3 Oilers 2

Pens 2 Canucks 6

Well, there’s only one way to describe this swing through western Canada: bi-polar.  The Pens entered the three games coming off a ‘taking care of business’ win in Toronto and an awful game in Minnesota.  Fleury continued his up and down play by following up one of his worst games against the Wild with one of his best against Calgary.  He played well enough to win in Edmonton, and was out in Vancouver (until it got out of hand).  But I just don’t understand where these lapses are coming from.  Some people seem to think it may be because he’s thinking too much about the next time he’ll be in Vancouver.  Others seem to think that he’s lost motivation after winning a cup.  I have no idea, but something is going on between his ears that’s taking away his consistency, and I’d love to know what it is.

Calgary was a classic game where Fleury stole it for us.  He faced 38 shots and stopped 37 of them.  The ice was heavily slanted in the Flames favor all night (we only got 27 shots ourselves).  We just continued the bad play from St. Paul.  I have no idea why.  The good news from this game is that the power play woke up a bit.  We actually went 1 for 5 in this game as opposed to 0 for 6 in Minnesota.  I know, I know.  Baby steps.  The only other notable thing in this game was how Sid continued his hot streak, putting in yet another goal.  Maybe he was just trying to impress the young lady in the crowd seen above.  Can we put her on the payroll?

We started out the game in Edmonton the same flat way as Calgary and Minnesota.  I think with the late night (stupid west coast games starting at 9:30) and the Pens down 2-0, a lot of Pittsburgh fans turned the game off.  It could have been much worse if Edmonton wasn’t such a bad team themselves.  You know how pitiful this game was?  There was 7 total shots by both teams in the first period (4 for Edmonton and 3 for the Pens).  I didn’t realize that that was possible.  I mean, with all the talent on our roster we should have one guy with 7 shots in a period.  Wow.  It wasn’t until Tyler Kennedy scored a few minutes into the 3rd period that we woke up.  The Pens scored 3 times in 7 minutes and came back to win, shoving it in the face of all those whose bedtime is 11:30 or so.

I was kind of hopeful that the momentum from the Oilers game would carry over into the Vancouver game, but unfortunately we ran into a brick wall.  That brick wall being our backup goaltender, John Curry.  Now, to be fair, Curry is a recent call up from the Baby Pens, and he’s only played in 3 career NHL games.  But, he just played awful.  Really really awful.  He let in 5 goals in 14 shots, and some of them were such bunnies that he would have benched even if he were still in Wilkes Barre.  It was so bad that it didn’t really matter how well the position players played, we just weren’t going to win that game.  Period.  The one bright spot is that Evgeni Malkin broke his streak without a goal.  He didn’t try to.  The puck just kind of bounced off his skate after a bad pass.  But I’m sure he’ll take it.  It goes to show what happens when you go to the net.  I’m just a little disappointed that he has to wait until Tuesday to try to build on that.

Overall, it was a miserable trip.  We were out-played for most of it.  We got some good and some bad goaltending.  The power play is still a mess, though we did try some new line combinations.  But there were some bright spots: Malkin broke his scoreless streak…..kinda.  Sid found some new people to give restraining orders to.  Fleury did have a good game in Calgary.  So, when all is said and done, getting 4 of 6 points out of this swing is not too bad.  It could have been much worse.  The Islanders are in town on Tuesday.  We’re not in bad shape in the conference standings, but it would be nice to get some things back working again against a bad team if we could.

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Pens 4 Avalanche 1

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Game Recap

Well, this one was a game where the stats didn’t nearly tell the story.  First of all, there was no way that this game should have ended with a 3 goal margin.  The Pens put in two empty netters at the end, but other than that this game was tight the whole way through.  Secondly, the shots don’t nearly tell the story in this one, either.  Pittsburgh out-shot the Avs 33-16 but it wasn’t nearly that bad.  The Pens threw a bunch of shots at the goal, but neither team could really get many quality looks.

The Avalanche played a really staunch defense.  All night we had trouble gaining the offensive zone and setting up plays.  All the credit in the world to them.  I think the one telling stat is the 13 giveaways by the Pens.  A lot more of those should have been takeaways because they were certainly forced a little bit.  Unfortunately for Colorado, they couldn’t turn their defense into much of an offense.  They made Fleury work about twice during the game, but other than that they didn’t apply much pressure at all on offense.  In fact, a vast majority of their time on offense was spend digging in the corners.

The long-term trends for the Pens are still holding true.  First, they are very physical and very good at finishing their checks.  We out-hit the Avalanche 38-28 tonight.  That’s a part of our game not many people are talking about yet.  Second, Sid continued his tear with 3 more points tonight.  I don’t know what got into him, but I hope it doesn’t leave.  Finally, our power play is terrible.  We did go 1 for 4 tonight, but for the majority of the night we could not get anything going at all.  We were even having trouble setting up a play for the first three power plays.  It was very discouraging to watch because we’re starting to get the full complement of players back, and it’s still not improving.  Oh, well.  As long as the wins keep coming all is well I guess.  Next up is Chicago coming to town on Saturday.  I think they’re bringing some guy named Hossa with them.  At least that’s what I hear.

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Huge Recap

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Well well.  My computer picked an awful bad week to just decide to crap out.  Every team I talk about had at least one game.  So I’m just going to run down my current thoughts on each, and then I can move forward like nothing happened.  Sound good?  Alright.  Let’s go.

Steelers

I’ll lead off with ‘dem Stillers cuz I know that’s what yinz guys like to hear about.  Unless you’ve been under a rock, you know that the world is ending for the Steelers.  We’ve lost 3 in a row for the first time in years.  We’ve got our quarterback and star receiver arguing.  We’re on the verge of missing out on the playoffs.  There is no doubt that the world is going to end tomorrow.  So.  Now that you’re caught up, how do we save the world (or just the Steelers)?  Well, first things first.  How do we get everyone to just get along?  I mean its bad enough that the Bengals took our division lead…did they have to give us their drama on the way?  C’mon!  For those that aren’t in Pittsburgh and/or haven’t been paying attention, Hines Ward said in an interview that he’s played hurt and insinuated that Ben should too.  Ben allegedly went through the locker room saying ‘good luck without me guys’ in a sarcastic tone.  That’s a very high level recap, but the actual details don’t matter.  What matters is  what happens on the field.  How do we cut this beef between Ben and Hines up, grill it up and eat it so that we can play better?  Well, the short answer is win.  There is no drama in a winning locker room because there is no blame in a winning locker room.  The long answer is that Ben and Hines need to sit down and talk about this.  It was an obvious misunderstanding.  Both were frustrated at the time of their incidents.  In fact, I’m fairly sure that they’ve already talked (being that they’re grown men and this is an obvious step to take for two people striving towards a common goal).  So, in short, I’m not worried and you shouldn’t be either.  So with that cleared up, what is wrong with this team on the field?  Well, besides the obvious injuries I mean.  The defense seems to be giving up a lot more ground (especially in the fourth quarter) than they ever have before.  I’m just stumped as to why.  It could be because they’re getting old and tired at the end of games.  It could be because we really miss Troy.  My personal guess is that it’s the cornerbacks.  These have been come from behind fourth quarter wins in the past 3 weeks.    That means the other team has been throwing a lot.  If a team is most successful coming back in the 4th because they’re throwing, and we usually step up our blitz when we’re ahead, the only thing left is the corners that need to step up.  Maybe if they just jam their receivers a bit more at the line to buy some time it would help.  But I really don’t know.  That’s just a guess.  The special teams has also been awful.  If it’s not a kickoff being returned for a touchdown, it was awful punt coverage against Baltimore.  We just can’t win.  But, unfortunately, you can’t do much with special teams beside get guys in who really want to be there.  The one thing you can’t say much about is the offense.  They’ve been fine.  The loss of Ben hurt last week, but hey, it happens.  We’re much more balanced lately which I love.  So, in conclusion, the secondary will hopefully improve with Troy coming back soon which I hope will shore up the defense, the offense looks good already, and we just have to cross our fingers and hope the special teams don’t cost us too many games.  Oakland comes into town next week, so that should be a great opportunity to get back on track (though I said the same thing about Kansas City a couple of weeks ago.  Gulp).

Pitt Football

Hmmm……well that was a fairly depressing recap I just finished, and it isn’t going to get much better here.  The loss to WVU was ugly.  We didn’t just play poorly.  WVU played poorly and we played even worse.  I hate to say it, but this one goes on Billy Stull.  Now, as Mike Tomlin would say: ‘he’s got some money in my emotional bank account’, so I’m going to dismiss this as one bad game and not get on him too bad.  However, he played awful and he’d admit it.  He was overthrowing and underthrowing everybody.  It makes me wonder if he just gets tired at the end of a season (remember: he was alright leading up to the Rutgers game last year, though not as good as this season).  His inability to pass made us completely one-dimensional.  That will lose you a game every time.  Now, usually, when a quarterback is struggling, he’ll go with a lot of dump-offs.  Just to get back in a rhythm.  I saw a couple of passes to Dickerson (which he dropped.  He also had a terrible game).  But I only saw 2 passes to Dion Lewis.  You’ve got to dump off to him a bit more in that situation just to get some completions.  It seemed like he was chucking it to Baldwin every time.  I understand that Baldwin probably had a mismatch, but you can’t keep trying something that doesn’t work (well, it finally did in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t worth the total effort and wasted downs).  But, lucky for us, this game didn’t matter.  We still win the Big East with a win on Saturday.  And no matter what people will tell you, there was no way the Gator Bowl was taking us even if we won.  Especially with Bowden crying for one last gasp of attention (he wants to play his last bowl game in Florida and furthermore against WVU if he can because he used to coach there).  This loss probably just dropped us from Charlotte to Birmingham/Toronto if we lose on Saturday.  So crappy bowl to crappier bowl.  Hmmm…..  Not that big of a loss.  But this is still a huge game on Saturday.  Who would have thought that the River City Rivalry would ever mean anything?

Penguins

The Pens have been the most busy of any team.  Since I last left you, they’ve gone 3-1 including a home and home sweep of the Rangers.  Now that we’ve got some guys returning from injury we’re really playing at a high level.  Sid really seems to be on a role, but I think that may have more to do with the Rangers opening the ice to the coast to coast game that he really excels at.  The power play is still my biggest concern, by far.  I have no idea why this team struggles so much, except to say that we look for the perfect shot way to much.  The power play is a time for decent shots, not great shots.  But, overall, you have to be pleased with the play of this team.  Overlooking a hickup on Long Island, we’ve really been controlling the puck well and doing an excellent job being physical and checking teams.  It’s a return to that great play we started the season off with, and I’m going to run out of ways to say ‘we’re awesome’ before too long.  But Colorado will be a tough test on Thursday.

Pitt Basketball

Pitt only had one game over the long weekend: a fairly easy one against Youngstown State.  The game story was that it was a close game for the first 30 minutes before Pitt finally out-lasted them in the final 10.  I think the general assumption is that we had superior depth compared to YSU, and that’s what eventually won us the game.  I noticed something, but I haven’t read it in any recaps yet, so here it goes: we finally figured out their zone with about 10 minutes left and that’s what lead to the turnaround.  YSU played a classic 2-3 zone from start to finish.  It was fairly obvious that Coach Dixon thought it was very slow on the rotation.  He was having the team do a lot of perimeter passing trying to pass the ball faster than the defense could react.  Either it will open up an open 3-point shot or it will open up a lane to pass the ball into the post.  Well, the defense was slow to rotate alright, but when we saw the open space we didn’t take the jumper, our eyes light up and we drove the lane…..right into the teeth of the defense.  We had a ton of turnovers that way.  The only reason we stayed in the game was that Youngstown had a horrible offense and absolutely no frontcourt presence.  We also crushed them on the glass which didn’t hurt.  With about 10 minutes left, we finally started to attack the zone the right way and take what the defense gave us.  It was like the light bulb finally went on that ‘Hey!  Coach Dixon might know what he’s talking about.  Maybe we should try his advice’.  And, what do you know?  It worked.  I hope that’s the last of our struggles against the 2-3 zone, because as I said before, that’s something we’ll see a lot this year.  Duquesne is up next in the city game and the last college b-ball game in the Mellon Civic Arena.  I think this will be a really hard test for Pitt.  Much harder than most people think.  I wouldn’t even be surprised to come out with a loss in this one.  But I sure hope I’m wrong.

Pirates

….still suck.  Actually, they signed some guys this week, but no one of consequence.  We’re going to trot out a AAA team again next year.

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Penguins 3 Panthers 2 (OT)

 

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Game Recap

Well, as has been said in many recaps already, this was a deja vu game.  Just like back in October we were trailing 2-0 after two periods, we tied the game up with less than 5 minutes to go and won in overtime off of Sid’s stick; though last time it was in a shoot out instead of overtime.  If you don’t believe me that Sid scored the winning goal, you can check out the excellent picture above.  While you do that, you can admire the Panthers 3rd jerseys that look suspiciously like our third jerseys.  Just saying.

Overall, though, we thoroughly outplayed Florida.  We had more shots, more hits, less turnovers and less penalties.  We absolutely deserved this game.  However, as is the case a lot in hockey, the goalie is the great equalizer.  In this case it was Tomas Vokoun.  The guy stood on his head last night.  He faced 45 shots and saved 42 of them.  You just kind of have to tip your cap to that kind of night.  You also have to feel fortunate facing that kind of performance and escaping with a ‘W’.

The story of the game (besides the eerie similarities to the first meeting) was the penalty call in overtime.  In case you didn’t watch the game, there was a high sticking call in overtime that drew blood (so it was a 4 minute penalty.  Pretty much the entire overtime).  Neither of the referees saw it, but a linesman caught it.  Therefore, at the next stoppage of play, the linesman alerted a referee and a penalty was called.  This is highly unusual in hockey, but it’s in the rulebook as legal to do.  I guess you don’t see it a lot because it takes a huge swallow of pride to admit you missed something, and it’s especially hard to do in overtime when you know you’ll take some heat for it, so kudos to the referees last night.  It basically gave us the game, and I know a lot of people are upset about it, but the basic fact is that it’s a procedure call that a ref is forced to call if he sees, and it was the correct call.  So there’s not much you can do about it.

Overall, I loved this game.  You can really see that we’re starting to play better as more and more guys get back and get used to playing again.  The one complaint I still have is that the power play is still only hovering around the 20% mark, and I think it should be a little bit higher with the talent we have.  However, it’s improving with Sarge back.  Also, we’re being much more physical around the net than we were at this time last year.  So, overall I’m very pleased.  I like this version of the team, and it’s good to start to see glimpses of it again.

 

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