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Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Cool Ebay Pickup and Pens Update

Today's game was most definitely not a goaltenders paradise.  With only scoring 5 goals in the last four games, they took a step in the right direction to fixing the hole in the bucket today with a 6-5 shoot-out win over Toronto.  Toronto picked up a point on the Canes with the overtime extra (they have a game in hand too) and helped their cause a bit at making a playoff spot.  I said at the beginning of the season that I thought they would be in this year.  The Kaberle trade had me a bit worried by I still stick with my original statement for now.

The Pens get the two points they needed to stay put in the East but the bigger stories here are the impact of Kovalev in the game and the return of Mark Letestu.  Kovalev scored a goal and potted the game winner in the shoot-out.  He logged another 17+ minutes of ice time and picked up another 4 minutes in the box.  Mark Letestu came up big once again vs. Toronto, with a goal and an assist in his first game back from injury.  Letestu seems to bring his "A" game every time he faces the Leafs.  I think the best goal of the game was Maxie's sweet shortie that came off a foot race to a loose puck in the neutral zone.  I know it's only one game but the Pens need momentum from winning performances like this.

But enough about that.  I wanted to show off a few from the Bay that I picked up on the cheap...VERY CHEAP!  I have been pondering what direction to take some of my PC in.  One thing I realized is that I have very few autographed items.  Without counting my Penguin stuff, I think I have maybe a couple dozen autos.  That might seem like a lot to some but it is one area that I have never been really focused on expanding.  While perusing some soon to close auctions, I stumbled across a little gem that featured four autos with a bid price under $3.  Better yet, they are hard signed on-card.  Better still, they are Champs mini's from last year.

Check 'em out.

2009-10 Champ's Signatures James Sheppard - I like when a player puts his uniform number on his signature.  Especially when they have a signature like this.  Looks like it says IAe(something)e.  It still looks cool though.  Sheppard has been sidelined all season with a broken kneecap.  Just recently, he was cleared to begin practicing and has been participating in a few morning skates.  Even if he was ready to play, he is still suspended due to his ATV accident prior to training camp.  Reminds me of another idiot on a motorcycle.

2009-10 Champs Signatures Max Pacioretty - Max was a first round pick by the Canadiens in 2007.  So far this year, he has 20 points in 32 games, including a goal the other night against Toronto.  Once again, another signature that benefits from the uniform number being present.  That looks like MuAt.

2009-10 Champ's Signatures Mikkel Boedker - This signature is interesting because it has the elements of a good signature but then falls apart at the end.  You can make out the M, the Boe, and then there is some scribble the resembles a "J" with a swoosh.  Again, good thing for the uniform number.  Boedker has four assists in the Coyotes last three games.  He was called up to replace Ray Whitney and if he keeps this pace up, could have a spot in the lineup even after Ray comes back. 

2009-10 Champ's Signatures J.P. Dumont - My favorite one of the bunch, it's J.P. Dumont.  All we have here is a "J" and "P" with his uniform number.  Even without any semblance of a normal signature, as long as you are a hockey fan, you would know who this is.  That's what makes it cool.  I wouldn't be surprised to find J.P. on a new team real soon as his playing time has dwindled over the last couple years in favor of other Preds forwards.  With the pickup of Mike Fisher from Ottawa and the return of Marek Svatos from injury, I think his days are numbered.

Friday, February 25, 2011

AK II: The Second Coming

I'm not going to sugar coat this one with a bunch of fluff.  Let's just get right down to the nuts and bolts of it.  The Pens lost....again.  This time to the Hurricanes, 4-1.  It's beginning to turn bleak.

Kovalev played 19 shifts, logging 19 minutes of ice time.  To show for it, he had 4 penalty minutes.  Way to earn your keep their Kovy.  I'm half kidding though.  I didn't expect him to come in and go wild in his first game back in the Penguin uniform.  But it will happen in time.  (I just hope that time is soon)

As for the rest of the newbies, James Neal had 2 shots on goal and 2 hits, logging about 17 minutes of ice time.  Matt Niskanen also had 2 shots on goal, blocked a shot, and had 3 hits, including the one that put Eric Staal in a body bag.  I'm sure it will be reviewed by the league and it wouldn't surprise me if they suspend Nisky (I don't know if that's what they call him yet but it sounds good) or something just to add another player to the physically/mentally/legally ineligible to play list.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Just Hand Over The Cup Now

Don't flame me.  The title was kind of a joke.  Kind of.

The genius that is Ray Shero never ceases to amaze me.  This guy does nothing but make brilliant moves when it comes to positioning the team for a successful playoff run.  He already picked up James Neal and Matt Niskanen for Alex Goligoski, a guy that just never fit into the lineup in the right way.  Now, this...

Alex Kovalev is once again a Penguin!!

The Senators continued their fire sale by dumping the rest of the $1 Million contract of Kovalev and the Penguins were more than happy to oblige.  Especially after the news today that Brooksy is going to be out 4-6 weeks with a broken hand, after blocking a shot by Patrick Marleau the other night.  The part that excites me is that Alex waived his no trade clause so that he could go back to the Steel City.  That means he wants to play for Mario and the Penguins organization.  If nothing else, that should silence the critics that say he has no desire to win left in the tank.

Compensation, you ask?  How about a 7th round draft pick, conditional upon how deep they move in the playoffs.  Worst case scenario, it becomes a 6th round pick.  A SIXTH ROUND PICK!!  That is a steal in my book.  I don't care if Alex is pushing 40.  Even a half speed Kovalev is better than the injury mess the Penguins are facing right now and what they had to give up is nuts.

And Shero may not be done.  He was quoted as saying,
“I would like to add another forward if possible, but it depends on what is going to be available and the price is going to be,” Shero said. “This year I’m not into trading our first-round draft pick or something like that. That might take me out of some things, but if there is a right player, a rental, that makes sense for us [I'll be interested].”
Most definitely, I'll be interested as well.

Welcome back, Kovi!!  You have been missed.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Hopefully NOT Same Stuff, Different Day - Attempting A Live Game Post

The Pens host the Mighty Sharks of San Jose tonight at the CEC.  The Pens have lost their last three nationally televised games and they can't afford many more with the playoff race heating up.  The Sharks are 1 game out of first in the Pacific (3rd in the West) and are hungry to shut out their competition.

Enter the new blood.  Tonight is also the debut of James Neal and Matt Niskanen.  Neal is going to be playing on the top line with Jordan Staal and it should be interesting to see how he fits in.  I think I pointed out that this guy is big and isn't afraid of mixing it up when necessary.  But the best part...he can score.  Let's hope he has a great debut.

I figured I'd try to use this opportunity to do a pseudo-live blog post.  Here we go...

1st Period:

-Sharks in white...Pens in Baby Blues

14:26 - Only a couple shots on goal and kind of slow, but you can feel it brewing.

14:13 - Tyler Kennedy gets his 13th of the season with the clean up from a Derek Engelland blast from the corner.  Ian White, the newest edition to the Sharks, dumps a board pass behind the net to nobody where Engelland picked it up and put it on goal.  1-0 Pens

10:44 - Brooks Orpik is caught cheating and put in the box for hooking on Logan Couture.  Pens are #1 in the PK and lead the league.  They are #1 on the road and #3 at home.

8:44 - Penalty kill over.  Thats 1 for 1 and in case you were wondering, are still ranked #1

6:24 - Niemi came up huge with a monster shot from Vitale at point blank range

The head shot/concussion discussion that everyone is sick of hearing about rages on at about the 5 minute mark.

2:39 - The Pens get another player to reach the 100 penalty minute mark with Derek Engelland repeatedly cross-checking Mitchell in the back.  Keep racking them up, boys.  We could become the new Broad Street...I mean Fifth Avenue Bullies...that doesn't work.

:39 - Another one killed.  2 for 2.

End of First Period...1-0 Pens...Fleury looks good so far.

2nd Period

The lights went out...LITERALLY!!  There is a delay, obviously.

SharksTV, which is the feed VS is using, did a nice little vignette on the features and amenities in the new CEC.  Good stuff.  I've seen quite a few shots from inside the stadium and was following along as it was built.  It is the first LEED Gold certified "green" building in the fact any sport.  I guess it is so green, the lights even conserve their own energy, regardless of whether a game is going on.

8:45 Eastern Time and the game has still not resumed...why turning the lights on takes so long, I don't know.  Halogens take a few minutes to warm up but this is getting ridiculous.

8:48 Eastern Time and the puck finally drops

18:29 - deja vu...Craig Adams skates in on Kyle Wellwood and gets called for a hook.  Wellwood grabbed his stick and took a dive.  Apparently the lights aren't bright enough for the refs to notice.

18:04 - Letang almost put in a shortie.  In case you were wondering, he's a defenseman.

16:59 - Logan Couture is left to his own devices in front of the net and he drills one past Fleury.  His 25th of the year.  Penalty kill takes a hit.  2 for 3 isn't bad.  1-1 tie.

13:25 - Ben Lovejoy gets a turnover and tries the wrap around to no avail.  It was a good effort though.  The Pens are buzzing.  I can feel a goal coming.

12:35 - Couture almost pots #2 as Fleury loses track of the puck.  Dupuis's right skate saved a goal.

"Marc Edouard-Vlasic rimmed it too hard."  Not my words, theirs.

9:37 - Power play #1 for Pittsburgh, finally.  The Sharks couldn't get it out of their zone for 40-50 seconds and turned it over three times before crossing center ice.  Jumbo Joe goes in the box for 2:00.

8:55 - Letang and Vlasic almost go.  They were banging in the corner, cross-checking each other and pushing and shoving.  No glove drops though.

Pittsburgh 0-1 on power play.  I think they only got 2 shots on goal during that one.

I don't know about anyone else but I really like this line of Staal, Neal, and Conner.  They look like trees lined up for a faceoff.

5:40 - Niskanen gets his first shot on goal as a Penguin.  A blast from the face off circle.  18 seconds later he gets another chance but fans on it as he skates by the net.  4:27 - he gets his third shot on goal.

2:36 - Sharks go on the power play as Ben Eager is "tripped" by Niskanen.  I think he fell on the uneven ice surface.  Yeah, that's it.

Penguins kill of the penalty for the third time tonight...3 for 4.

End of the 2nd Period...1-1 tie...Pens are looking a bit shaky but I think they can still pull this one out.  It has been a streaky game with both teams getting momentum at different points.  The penalties aren't helping Pittsburgh's effort though.

And now the bad news...Orpik hasn't been back on the ice since taking a shot in the hand.  What next?  Isn't there a league limit on the number of players allowed on an injury report?

3rd Period

It starts out kind of quick both game speed and the fact that when the commercial ended, the game was in progress.  Way to go there, VS.

It's a bit chippy thus far.  Lots of hits and some "almost" fights.

16:36 - Big save by Fleury on Setoguchi, coming out of a 3 on 2.

15:57 - James Neal with a heavy, sweeping shot.  Niemi gets it in his big mitt and holds on.

14:56 - Another 3 on 2 for the Sharks as Fleury turns away a shot by Mitchell

14:32 - Patrick Marleau gets in behind the net, passes off the board to Heatley.  Heatley pops it back out to Marleau who sneaks it in behind Fleury.  Lovejoy just stands in the paint with a stunned look on his face.  2-1 Sharks.  This can't be good.

13:37 - The Sharks have the puck in deep and aren't letting up on the Pens.  Fleury makes a desperation save as he falls back into the goal post.

11:36 - The Pens have kept the pressure in the Sharks zone for a good 2 minutes.  Faceoff comes to center as Niskanen shoots it over the glass.

8:34 - Setoguchi gets caught cheating and holding the stick of Jordan Staal.  Power Play #2 for the Pens.  They rank #15 in the league.

8:14 - Jamal Mayers and Joe Pavelski almost take down the entire Pens team and score a shortie...ALMOST.  Fleury is a beast.

7:01 - Niemi ROBS!!! Letang on the glove side.  He comes 10 feet out of the net to keep it 2-1.  Nice save.  That was the only shot on the power play.  They just have no offensive firepower with all the injuries.

5:44 - Chris Conner crashes the net and almost scores but Niemi comes up again.  Conner pays for his transgressions as he gets mugged in the goal crease.

4:08 - Fleury takes a smattering of shots from all directions as the Pens defense takes a mid-game vacation.  He stands on his head like a true professional.

2:32 - Sharks go into the prevent defense.  It's just dump...line change...turn over...dump it again.

1:31 - Patrick Marleau scores his second goal...oh wait. No he didn't.  It was on the back of the goal.  That should be a penalty for goal faking.

:50 - PITTSBURGH TIES THE GAME!!!!!  Extra attacker on.  Boyle can't clear it, fans on it, gets clobbered, and Kennedy gets the bounce to go in.  That's number 2 of the game and 14 of the year!!!

We're going to OVERTIME!!!!  That was a crazy ending to regulation.  My heart is beating out of my chest right now.  I need a moment to compose myself.


4:50 - Neal tries to end it quick but his shot is turned away by Niemi.

4:27 - Dupuis puts one on net from the faceoff, another save by Niemi.

3:09 - Vlasic is flattened by Matt Cooke

2:40 - Staal takes on three guys by himself but gets it poked away by Niemi.

2:03 - Wallin gets the Sharks first shot on goal in OT but Fleury scoops it up.

1:02 - Thornton steals the puck at center ice and passes it up to Marleau.  It's One on One with Fleury....Fleury STONES HIM COLD!!!

:04 - Vlasic takes a booming shot on the net from the circle.  Marleau gets a lucky bounce in front and puts it behind Fleury as the rest of the Pens defense lies in a heap in front of the goal crease.


Alright, so the game is over.  My heart is still kind of pounding but now I have that sinking feeling.  That was kind of fun posting my thoughts as the game went on.  Although, I think there is a better way to do it, I just haven't figured that out yet.  You know, I hate when your team does so much to fight back and get into the game, only to lose with no time left on the clock.  It was most definitely a heartbreakerI'm over it, though.  When's the next game?

So here come the excuses.  Well, excuse; singular.  The Pens are injured.  Badly!!  Worse than any other team in the NHL if you look at it on paper.  If they can't get healthy, this season is doomed.  Shall I list them all for you?  Crosby, Malkin, Nick Johnson, Eric Tangradi, Chris Kunitz, Aaron Asham, Mark Letestu, Paul Martin, Mike Comrie, and Eric Godard.  Now, Brooks Orpik has a hand injury as he blocked a shot by Patrick Marleau.  Wilkes-Barre/Scranton should be able to count Pens games in their own record because 70% of the team is made up of minor league guys.  This is getting just plain stupid.

Crosby, I implore you to return and quit faking (as he is daily accused of on Red Wings blogs).  Take some Advil and suck it up.  We need help. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Tradewinds Finally Blow Through Pittsburgh

Well I have been speculating for a couple weeks about potential trades the Pens could do to strengthen their front line with all the injuries.  I figured after watching another hard fought game come down to a few bad bounces and a player out of position dictating another L at the hands of the Capitals was a good opportunity to make my opinions known about this trade.

First, I am sad to see Alex Goligoski leave the team.  However, from the standpoint of game impact, this was really the ONLY guy that was expendable.  As I've stated before, Gogo was the only player that really didn't fit in the defensive scheme of the team.  He was the guy that prior to last year, was bounced between the AHL Wilkes-Barre Scranton "baby" Pens team and the NHL squad.  After Gonchar left, there were some big shoes to be filled and he just didn't step it up enough.  With the emergence of Letang, the always solid play of Orpik, and the better than expected contributions from Michalek and Martin, Alex found himself relegated to PP and PK duties, as well as third and fourth line play.  Again, I'm sorry to see him go because I was a fan but it's not about fandom at this point.  It's about going deep in the playoffs.

In return, the Pens picked up from Dallas, James Neal and Matt Niskanen.  Wow!!  What a trade.  The Penguins finally get a guy that can score on wing.  I never thought I would live to see the day but here we are.  Neither of these guys were on my radar but I'm not complaining at this point.  A bit about Neal...he has size, strength, isn't afraid to fight, AND can score.  21 goals so far with 39 points isn't too shabby.  If he can duplicate last years 55 point performance, I think we will make out on this one.  Plus, he is only in his third season.  He's only 23.

As for Niskanen, he is 24, in his 4th season and is a scrappy, stay-at-home style defenseman.  Coming out of the University of Minnesota-Duluth, he wasn't necessarily known for his goal scoring prowess but he doesn't need to be.  He put up 35 in his best year so far.

For your viewing pleasure I give you a potential preview of the first day in the locker room...

Friday, February 18, 2011

More Pens Trade Deadline Speculation - In Card Form

As I have been frantically trying to find a topic to post about (well maybe not frantically) I can't help but keep coming back to the looming trade deadline in the NHL.  Especially since Trader Ray Shero has been pretty quiet up to this point about his intentions.  In fact, other than an occasion rant against the disciplinary committee by Super Mario, you don't hear much from the Penguins executive staff at all.  (really I'm just trying to find something to write about so that those god-awful Packer cards will go away from my main page)

Everyone knows the woes that the Pens have right now.  The injuries have caused them to call up practically their entire farm teams in both Wilkes-Barre Scranton and Wheeling-Johnstown.  They are a mere shell of themselves when it comes to the team that suited up back in October.  I think I may even go on LTIR with a head injury due to all the deep thinking I can't help but do about the potential disaster of a season this could turn out to be.  But still, Shero remains quiet and not much talk is coming out of the Penguin camp.

Never fear though.  I am here to raise eyebrows with my speculation and conjecture on how to fix the Penguins.

I have already mentioned a few of my predictions but the longer this goes on, the more available guys come off the board.  For example, not that the Pens would have been looking for a D-man at this point but Tomas Kaberle was just signed by the Bruins (they also picked up Rich Peverley).  Boston is trying to go deeper into the playoffs and doing a pretty good job of filling some holes in their lineup.  On the other hand, the Maple Leafs now have 37 first round picks and Brian Burke won't rest until he has 50.   The Sens and Avs have also switched goalies, not that either of those fine gentlemen would have been a good fit in Steeltown.  But worst of all, Jaromir Jagr has been traded to the Washington Capitals for their

head janitor,

skate sharpener,
and the guy that sells hot pretzels across the street.
Oh, wait.  That already happened 10 years ago.


Ko-va-lev...Ko-va-lev...Ko-va-lev.  Do you hear the chants?  That's what I'm thinking for the Pens.  You know the Senators want him out of there.  They have to be anxiously awaiting the removal of his salary off the books.  He would be a good fit in Pittsburgh for his second stint.  Plus, let's be realistic here.  Where else is he going to go?  I doubt he would get much interest from any other camps out there.  He played with Lemieux.  He played with Jagr.  He apparently has a no trade clause but why on earth wouldn't he waive that for a chance to play on a line with Crosby? 

Other possibilities to chew on...
Brad Richards from Dallas, maybe?  He's making almost $8 million this season and will no doubt be a rent-a-player.  Plus, he has hardware on the resume.  With Malkin hung out to dry, they can move money if they have to.

(Whoa, how did that get in there?) 

How about Jason Arnott?  He is only making $4.5 Million.  That would give them the big body on the line as well as a scoring threat.  Most certainly he could function as a set up guy for either Crosby or Staal.

Maybe Dustin Penner from Edmonton?  He's a big guy that can not only score goals but he has the ability to muck it up in front or behind the net.  Again, another guy with hardware in his resume.

Could there be a return of the "RUUUUUUUUTTUUUUUUUUU"?  I think they transferred the sound effect when the Pens moved into CEC this year.  Up until Thursday, I thought this was a possibility.  I guess there was only room for one pest on the team with Matt Cooke filling the roll of 5 guys on his own.

Stephen Weiss from Florida?  I know.  This isn't a card but I figured with the new "Thug-Life" attitude of the Pens that this was a better picture.  Weiss has been mentioned in a ton of talks but he has been more than vocal about his desire to stay in Florida.  Plus with all of his injury history, I think Trader Ray may be leary of adding Mr. Weiss.

And finally for my sleeper pick...maybe even RJ Umberger from Columbus?  Why not?  He grew up in Plum, a suburb outside of Pittsburgh.  He has great leadership abilities and is an asset in the locker room.  Plus in this case, the Pens wouldn't have to keep rotating rent-a-player wingers and could possibly get him locked down for future years.  I know its a stretch but this is my fantasy so stuff it!

The possibilities are endless here and my head is spinning with excitement.

Come on, Ray.  Let's get this thing rolling again.

Monday, February 14, 2011

There's A Hole In The Bucket - - Trade Deadline Posturing

The trade deadline is quickly approaching for the NHL with only 13 days, 6 hours, 15 minutes and some odd seconds left.  With that in mind, I figured I would take the time to give my impressions of what the Pens situation is, in my warped mind, and what they should or should not do at this point.

First, a comment.  I don't think that by any stretch of the imagination, that the Penguins season is over at this point.  No, really.  I don't.  I may say that it is getting bad or that I am losing faith but the reality of the matter is, we all [as fans] say those things but don't necessarily believe them.  So to that point, it ain't over yet.  As long as you have a group of guys in that locker room that aren't ready to give up, then I won't either.  The no-quit attitude that the Penguins have always had is still there and you can see it in the way guys prepare for games.  Practices are still as intense as ever and you are seeing guys work extra to keep the intensity up. 

All this, despite the fact that no one really knows the identity of the team at this point.  With Sid and Geno out of the lineup, as well as a host of other injured players, casual observers don't really recognize many sweaters out there on the ice.  But that is just the way I like it.  The less pressure to succeed, the better. The Penguins have quietly ranked in the top four in team defense and penalty killing all season.  Both of those statistics have taken numerous teams deep into the playoffs.  So if Tyler Kennedy has to be the leading goal scorer on the team (with 11 mind you) going into the playoffs, then so be it.  At least they will still be there.

Now for the trade deadline...I think this comes down to a few "what if" scenarios.  First, what if Crosby returns?  If that occurs, and he remains healthy with little to no side effects of the concussion, that brings back the scoring prowess that the Penguins currently are lacking.   He has already been quoted as saying he expects to play again this season so this is a likely scenario.  No impact on the trade deadline for his sake. 

However, the same cannot be said for Evgeni Malkin.  There is no what if here.  He is most definitely done for the season with an ACL/MCL injury.  This puts the Pens in a predicament that plays heavily on the first scenario.  If Crosby comes back healthy, I would expect Ray Shero to try and temporarily replace Malkin with a scoring forward so that the playoffs hope stays in reach.  If Crosby can't return, I really don't see Shero replacing both of them since the price may be too high but anything is possible.  A capable scoring center would be perfect but with the continuing struggle on the wings, picking up one or two would compliment the top three lines.

Bob McKenzie from TSN brought up the fact that the Senator's might be looking to unload Alex Kovalev and his $5 million contract.  That was interesting considering Alex had some of his best years, statistically, in Pittsburgh.  But, he's no spring chicken.  With Malkin on IR, they'd be more than capable of taking on his contract since he would be a rental until the end of the season.  Also in the conversation was PA Parenteau (funny considering recent events).  I wouldn't mind this one as much since he'd be bringing 32 points and would only incur a $600K hit to the cap.  Some other rumors include Devin Setoguchi, who I would love to see in a Pens uniform, Stephen Weiss from Florida, and Jason Arnott which would give them size at center but I'm not sure about the longevity.

I'm not excited about what they may have to give up though.  The rumor mill is churning with the possibility of the Pens having to wrap up a trade package that features a few draft picks, minor league players, and possibly a starter.  The name I am hearing is Alex Goligoski.  I will be crushed if he leaves the team as I think he is the future of the defense.  He just hasn't been able to break onto one of the top lines with the acquisition of Michalek and Martin last fall.  Orpik and Letang have been playing inspired hockey this year so Gogo has become somewhat expendable.  He would most definitely give half the teams in the league a boost on the PP and PK.

So to summarize my incoherent ramblings...Yes, I think they will be making some moves.  When it comes down to brass tacks, Trader Ray never disappoints.  I see at least one forward of significant credentials coming over, if not a wing and a center.  Either way, I think the hole in the bucket will be filled in only a few days.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Downward Spiral

No, not the 1994 album by Nine Inch Nails.  The current state of the Penguins.  This has been a brutal last couple weeks in the season for the Pens.  Injuries have turned the starting lineup into a glorified AHL team.  Crosby is still out, but skating in an undisclosed location away from the press.  You can check out a funny article/blog post here for more information on that one.  Malkin is pretty much done for the season.  Mark Letestu and now Dustin Jeffrey are now on IR as well.  And now, because of players like Matt Cooke and Eric Godard, the Penguins have a giant target on their back and have become public enemy #1. 

I will admit though that it is not totally one-sided when it comes to all of it.  The Penguins, for the first time in my feable memory, are leading the league in fights, penalty minutes, fighting majors, game misconducts, and is one of only four teams with a match penalty this year. If I didn't know any better, I would think I was talking about the Flyers or Bruins.  Matt Cooke is currently serving a 4 game suspension and Eric Godard was just issued a 10 game for leaving the bench Friday against the Islanders. 

I think Matt Cooke has been addressed here before and I know the discussion will continue, but I just wanted to reiterate my feelings.  I'm not a huge Matt Cooke fan.  I never have been.  But, I do like him.  He is not a horrible hockey player, despite the majority of North America's and Jeremy Roenick's feelings.  In fact, there have been countless coaches and GM's that have said they would gladly take him on their teams.  He's tenacious, gritty, and contributes offensively, three things coaches want.  He just has a penchant for occasionally hitting a guy that doesn't know he's going to be hit.  Is that so wrong?  (it is wrong, I was just being facetious) Enough about that.  Onward with my rant.

It didn't get any better today when the Pens took their prestigious statistical leads into MSG and took another beating at the hands of the Rangers.  New York hasn't had a +3 goal game since January 19th. They absolutely destroyed Marc-Andre Fleury today.  This whole New York trip has been a disaster.  Yesterday, before a "practice" session in Central Park, their bus was even in an accident and the players had to take taxis.  And Friday, well we all know what happened there.  

In all, that game featured 346 penalty minutes, 20 misconduct penalties, 15 fighting majors, and 10 ejections. The normally mild-mannered and soft-spoken owner of the Pens actually lashed out at the league for what he felt was only minimal punishments. Mario said in a press release...

“Hockey is a tough, physical game, and it always should be. But what happened Friday night on Long Island wasn’t hockey. It was a travesty.  It was painful to watch the game I love turn into a sideshow like that.”

“The NHL had a chance to send a clear and strong message that those kinds of actions are unacceptable and embarrassing to the sport. It failed,” he said. “We, as a league, must do a better job of protecting the integrity of the game and the safety of our players. We must make it clear that those kinds of actions will not be tolerated and will be met with meaningful disciplinary action.  If the events relating to Friday night reflect the state of the league, I need to rethink whether I want to be a part of it.”
Strong language from a normally quiet owner.  What's more interesting to me is all the criticism he is taking by various sources for his comments.  At best he is being lauded for his outspokenness.  At worst, he is being labeled a hypocrite for his poignant comments with no apparent responsibility taken for his own team.  Whatever side you are on when it comes to the rash of fighting, head-shots, and "intent-to-injure" hits, there is no denying the league is finally beginning to head down the right path.  If more former greats like Mario, or Gretzky, Howe, and Hull begin to speak up, I think this discipline process will move even faster to "fixing" what is perceived as broken.

I just hope the Pens get the message that their new found physical play has gone off the deep end and it's not too late to right this sinking ship.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Craziest Game I've Seen In Years

All I can say is that if you didn't get a chance to catch the Montreal vs. Boston game last night on either TSN or VS., you missed out.  If you are a fan of clean, skillfully played hockey though, good thing you missed it.

This was by far the craziest game I have seen in many years.  It was highly entertaining with countless fights, brawls, and melees, including ANOTHER GOALIE FIGHT!!! Sort of.  Plus, there were 7 goals scored in about 6 1/2 minutes during the 2nd period.  Final score was 8-6 with the B's knocking off the Canadiens for the first time this year.  But, let's look at what everyone wants to see.

Completely insane!!  All I know is that when these guys meet again, it's going to be a war zone.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Congratulations, Green Bay Packer Fans

Well that had to be one of the most entertaining Super Bowls in quite a while.  Congratulations to the Green Bay Packers, their franchise, their fans, and the city of Green Bay.  They deserve it.  They wanted it more, came out with intensity, and never let up.  Turnovers were the name of the game and the Packers maximized each and every opportunity they had.  When you can convert 21 points off turnovers, I think the odds of winning are about 92%.

I think the MVP award should be shared with Big Ben since he threw one of the TD passes plus another pick that they turned into 7.  No hard feelings though.  It's not like he is going to turn around a week later and jump to a new team for the largest quarterback contract to date. 

And the rest of the game?  It started off with 500 fans having their seats removed because of fire code violations.  Then Christina Aguilera screwed up the National Anthem (and up to this point I really had nothing against her).  That's a cardinal sin in my book.  The half-time show was dreadfully awful, especially the half-assed attempt at nostalgia with Slash arising out of the stage to accompany Fergie in a one off of Sweet Child O' Mine.  She blew it.  The commercials were less than funny, although there were three that gave me a chuckle, including the Budweiser "Tiny Dancer" ad.

I figured this would happen though and even predicted as much, although I had a much lower score.  Despite my fandom, I will admit that I bet against my boys because I didn't think they had a chance.  They proved me wrong though and played a good game (minus the turnovers).  At any rate, I don't want to take anything away from the Packers win so I'm doing what I said I would do and devote a post to Packer cards.  Enjoy my misery...



Happy Super Bowl

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Trade Post - - Baseball Set Help

Not too long ago, out of the blue, I got a comment from another collector offering up some set help.  Everybody's favorite Brewer fan, Thorzul, must have gotten bored one day and decided send some stuff my way for help with my sets.  I didn't know Thorzul collected hockey cards.

Oh wait a second.  That's right.  I do have some baseball sets that I was trying to put together.  Specifically, last years Bowman and Topps.  I got caught up in all the frenzy and mayhem when Bowman hit the streets last year and bought a bunch.  I also at some point decided it was a good idea to start trying to accumulate the base Topps set every year.  I don't know what I was thinking.  I've just been distracted with all the new sets for hockey, the garage collection, and other things that I forgot about baseball.  Sorry.

At any rate, a package from Milwaukee arrived despite the 30 inches of snow and the 4-5 ft. piles covering our neighborhood mailboxes.  Thorzul was kind enough to send 8 cards my way in the name of set help.  I thought I would take a moment and share my first baseball cards of 2011 that aren't 2011 Topps. 

2010 Bowman Chrome Neil Medchill

This guy was drafted by the Angels in 2005, the Mets in 2008, and the Yankees in 2009.  I really hate how Chrome scans.  Does anyone out there have a better way to get these to scan correctly?  They come out black when I scan them and I do an auto photo fix so you can at least see a little of the background.  I've tried doing the photo instead of scan thing but it just doesn't work out the way I want it.

 2010 Bowman Topps 100 Ivan DeJesus

2010 Bowman Topps 100 Simon Castro

2010 Bowman Topps 100 Zach McAllister

I decided to take on the Topps 100 set.  These are supposed to feature the top 100 rookies in baseball last year.  Although looking back, I don't know how many of these guys will actually be considered TOP.

2010 Topps Legendary Lineage Duke Snider/Andre Ethier

Quite a few collectors were not fans of these inserts.  I kind of like them but my only thing is in an album, you have to cock your head to the side to really see them.  Plus, I think where Topps dropped the ball was by placing different combinations of players on some of the cards that made no sense at all.  I get players on the same team, I even get players at the same position.  But there were some interesting pairings that left something to the imagination.

 2010 Topps More Tales Of the Game Intracity Sweep

2010 Topps More Tales of the Game Mile High Humidor

The interesting thing about these two is that I did need TOG-6 and TOG-8.  What I didn't know was that apparently in the Update set, they came out with a More Tales of the Game set.  These cards are MTOG-6 and MTOG-8.  So I needed these too, I just didn't know it yet.

And finally, one for my Pirates collection that I don't think I had:

2008 Topps Updates & Highlights Gold Doug Mientkiewicz #56/2008

Thanks again, Thorzul.  I always appreciate a little set help.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Blaster Box Break - - 2010-11 Donruss Hockey

I already have a ton of these and am down to three cards for a complete base set.  As for the Rated Rookies, well that's another story.  But the point is, I need more Donruss like I need a hole in the head.

Well I'm starting to think I have a hole in my head.  I just couldn't help myself.  I have already hit my Du-Point on Upper Deck and O-Pee-Chee and since the only other hockey on the shelf at the store was Certified, Donruss won out on the "calling my name" war.  In case you were wondering what's Du-Point...that's the temperature where water vapor condenses into water or in my case, the point in time when every box/pack/blaster etc. that I open is filled with nothing but duplicates and crap.  I don't know if I invented the term but I like the way it sounds.

So again, to recap.  I have a load of these now so if anyone else is collecting the base, let me know what you need and I may have it.  But hindsight is always 20/20 and I am glad I picked this one up.  The first reason is that I generally use the box logos to "decorate" the plain cardboard boxes that the larger sets are housed in.  It mixes it up from the standard sharpie writing that is usually found on these.  Since everything I had obtained up to this point was from rack packs, I had nothing to adhere to the box.  Second reason...this:

In case you may not be able to see the scan, this is a Die-Cut Gems Autograph redemption.  Why is this exciting?  These are supposed to be case hits.  Case hits in hobby boxes.  1 per case.  Did I mention this is a case hit?  I didn't know cases also included retail blasters.  I'm not complaining though.  Off to the interwebs to find out who exactly is Card #1 in this set is.

I already knew who it was in the regular base set but wasn't sure on the autos.  The Die Cut Gems Auto's are supposed to be numbered /25 and according to Panini's website (which I have been on way too much lately) there are 140 (maybe 141 if I miscounted) autos available. So my thoughts were confirmed.  This was a redemption for the true Great 8, the future Hall of Famer (in my opinion), The Finnish Flash...Teemu Selanne.

I haven't decided what I want to do with this one yet.  I checked Ebay for sales on the Die-Cut autos and it is a mixed bag on the finished auctions.  They have some that have gone for as little as $.99 and others that have pulled upward of $27 (Mike Modano) to $33 (Jonathan Toews).  My other option would be to scratch it and redeem it.  A Selanne autograph would be a very cool addition to the collection.  Although, I could use a few bucks in the PP account.  What to do, what to do?

At this point, it would be a little anti-climactic to talk about anything else that might have been in the box but since I committed to the break, I'll finish.  We have all already seen our fair share of the base cards.  Here are some now:

The rest of the box was typical of a normal retail blaster.  There are only 8 packs per box with 10 cards per pack (80 cards for the numerically declined).  The non-base cards come in about 1:2 packs.  I pulled 1 Rated Rookie and 3 inserts.  Here they are:

 Jay Miller - Tough Times

This is a 10 card set that features players known for their "extra grit" on the ice.  Also available in autographed version.  Most collector's seem to want this set so traders should be hard to come by.  I think I have only 3 or 4 so far.

 Pamela Anderson - Fans Of The Game

Another subset that I really see no need for.  I can't complain about this one but the purpose and idea of the set is kind of lame.  It's only 5 cards and can also be found in the autograph form.  Apparently Pam is a Canucks fan but that's to be expected since she is from B.C.  I have Willa Ford too from another pile I obtained at some point.  I don't know if she counts as a fan since she's married to a hockey player.  I'm still happy I have not obtained a Bieber.  Very happy.  If I get one, it gets burned.

 Jamie McBain - Rated Rookie

The "other" Hurricane rookie.  I'm not doing to well with any of the top 10-12 guys in this year's rookie class.  Maybe my luck will change soon.  There are 50 of these and unless you plan on picking up hobby boxes, good luck finding them from busting wax.  At one per blaster, you will need another mortgage on your house to afford them.  I'll get them eventually.

Braydon Coburn - The Ultimate Draft

Everyone hates these cards but I kind of like them.  It is sort of a rip-off of Upper Deck's Draft Day Gem set from last year but the design of these with the stats on the front and the color combination just seem to work for me.  I know, that's amazing considering my hate/hate relationship with Panini.

Again, if anyone needs some base for a set or two, let me know and I can check my piles.