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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...