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Friday, March 5, 2010

New TMCG unlock

1979 Jeff Daniels, I mean Tom Murphy

You know the funny part about this one?  Of all the millions of cards I could have gotten, I actually have this one.  I quit collecting baseball cards over 15 years ago only to somewhat start again...and I get a card I have.  Neat!

The Collective Troll was card jacked

My worst fear I have always had about my collection unfortunately came true for another collecting friend. 

The Collective Troll was robbed.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ice Time: Pens vs. Rangers

 (Kuni and Rusty celebrate Gogo's game tying goal in the third period)

I caught the game tonight into the second period because even though I knew the game was on, I didn't realize that VS. had the "bonus" coverage (that Bill Patrick kept eluding to) of the game.  It was 3-2 Blue Shirts when I started watching. 

The Pens looked like they were trying too hard.  I know that is a cliche'd term that really has no meaning or explanation but I think everyone knows what that looks like.  Every possible scoring chance seemed to get either blocked or never made it to the net.  Fleury played for the first time since Feb. 14, despite being on Team Canada.  He gave up 4 goals on 12 shots and was pulled with 7:11 left in the 2nd after Brandon Dubinsky banked a shot off his back.  Brent Johnson came in and I figured it was going to get out of control.

I figured wrong.  The Pens forechecking was something of legend tonight.  They allowed only 4 shots on goal from that point on and only 1 in the entire third period.  The ended the game with 55 shots on goal.  55!!!  Lundqvist played amazingly well and if he had any semblance of a defensive team in front of him, should have easily got the win.  However, 3 goals that bounced off his own teammates and an OT blast from Malkin were too much.  Oh, did I mention the Pens had 55 shots on goal?  55!!

That performance was also without Bill Guerin in the lineup and they still have yet to introduce Poni into the lineup because apparently he can't get his citizenship papers or something.  On the flip side, the Rangers were without their biggest offensive weapon in Marian Gaborik.  He was also injured during the Olympics although I don't recall anyone talking about it prior to tonight.

That extra point puts the Pens back on top of the Atlantic with 80 points and 14 behind the Capitals for the lead in the East.  I don't think, barring a miracle, anyone is going to catch Washington but if the Pens can get everyone healthy and get the power play rolling, I think we have a serious shot at a repeat.  As for the Rangers, that 1 point for the regulation tie gets them knotted up with the Thrashers who are shocking the hell out of everyone, and Montreal.  It is going to come down to the final week again this year and I love it.

The Aftermath of the Trade Deadline

With the final move ( I think) of the scramble for quality upgrades yesterday, the Penguins picked up a 2010 6th round pick from the Leafs.  All it took to get that...defenseman Chris Peluso.  Who you say?  I know of no such Peluso fellow, you say? 

That's because he was drafted in the 7th round in the 2004 Entry Draft.  Peluso plays college hockey for Bemidji State of College Hockey America.  He has tallied 7 assists and has a +4 rating in 24 games.

Since I really know nothing other than that about this guy, I would have to say it is an upgrade.  Any time you can turn a 7th round pick into a 6th round pick is an upgrade, right?  Who knows.  Either way, it shows that Shero wasn't just concerned with this year...primarily yes, but not entirely.  The Pens now have 8 picks in the draft with a 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, (3x) 6th, and a 7th.

How about the rest of the league?  How did your team fair?  What was left on the table?  Yesterday's mad dash for victory was saw the most transactions of any trade deadline to date.  55 players changed hands (some multiple times) in the whirlwind of trading before 3PM Eastern Time yesterday. 

I'm pretty happy with the outcome of the Pens deals.  They addressed the scoring winger problem with Poni and didn't have to get rid of very much for him.  They also switched a 7th rounder for a 6th rounder which was an upgrade.  I will be interested to see how the Jordan Leopold deal pays off down the stretch. 

The overall consensus pick for the winner here in most arenas has been the Devils.  Obviously, Kovalchuk gives them probably the best offensive player they have ever had and puts them in a position to compete right now.  They are a far cry from the best in the NHL but will most likely make a name for themselves come playoff time.  The only problem is that he may only become a rental player and in that case, they will still have issues down the road.

On the opposite side is the team that dumped Ilya.  The Thrashers did nothing to replace their star player.  They made no moves to solidify a scorer or protect their net.  Vishnevsky is no replacement for Lehtonen, even though he hadn't played this year.  The signing of Chris Chelios just baffles me and the Clarke MacArthur trade to Buffalo was just a waste of draft picks.  I'm guessing Atlanta will be out of the playoffs.

I also think the Leafs helped themselves for some future playoff appearances.  With Phaneuf and Giguere, they have added that star talent they needed to push them back up to the playoff caliber type team.  They also did really well moving draft picks and young talent between Pittsburgh, Anaheim, Calgary, Phoenix, and New Jersey.  Calgary got the raw end of the deal with Phaneuf considering they received nothing to build a team around, let alone a solid line.  Toskala has been relegated to backup duties and may stay there permanently.  Curtis McElhinney would have eventually been a #1. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Pens Poni-up

I am not sure if I would call Ray Shero a evil genius just yet but his is sure making his case.  After trading to get a rental deal for Hossa back in 2007, the Pens immediately were in cup contention.  Last year, pulling Chris Kunitz from the Ducks and Bill Guerin from the Islanders pushed the Pens over that hump and won them a cup.  Now, after wheeling and dealing with the Leafs, Alexei Ponikarovsky is a Penguin.

For anyone that doesn't know, Poni is just one goal short of tallying his 4th consecutive 20 goal season and is positioned to be a big time scoring winger for the Pens playoff run (my prediction is at least 17 points).  Poni is a solid winger at 6'4" 220lbs.  The only downfall here is with an upgrade on the wing position, we are probably going to see less of Max Talbot and Pascal Dupuis.  I love Max as a player and all around nice guy but I can now see both of them potentially becoming expendable after this season.  But nonetheless, I am happy with this move.  In fact, I am a little bit giddy.  Don't worry though.  I will control myself.

So what did they give up in return. I have mixed feelings on this one.  Martin Skoula was the back half of the deal which had to include a defenseman since the Pens brought on Florida's Jordan Leopold (who by the way, was paired with GoGo last night against Buffalo).  Frankly, Leafs can have Skoula.  He hasn't played much and didn't really fit in with the Pens defensive scheme.  The front half of the deal leaves me a bit skeptical.  Luca Caputi, the highly regarded draft pick, is sent packing along with his 80+ predicted point scoring potential.  I can't say that I ever saw him becoming that big of a scorer in the Pens organization but I did see big potential for a supporting cast roll. 

In the Leafs lineup, he has THAT scoring potential.  Maybe not 80 points but definitely in the 65-70 range.  I think the upside for him will be in the short term there on one of their top lines but long term could be an issue.  I am betting he will make the Leafs roster and probably play out the rest of the season with them.  But as well all know, prospect predicting is just like gambling.

While the trade with Florida for Leopold was more of a B- trade, this one is definitely (at least in the short term on paper) a B+/A-.  There has to be at least one more in the works, I just don't know yet.

***In an unrelated story, at the Pens/Sabres game last night, Ryan Miller got more cheers from the crowd than Sidney Crosby.  Go figure.  An opposing team goaltender that didn't even play gets applauded more than your superstar/team captain/gold medal winning/Stanley Cup champion/all around nice guy leading center.  Maybe people really do care about hockey?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Trade Deadlines = More Stress

Now that my Olympic Hockey hangover is almost gone, it's time to get back to the reality of the NHL.  With the trade deadline looming, it always stresses me out because I never know when one of my favorite players might get cherry picked to another team.


The Pens started things off with the acquisition of now former Florida Panther Jordan Leopold.  They traded their 2010 second round pick to get him.  Is this a good thing, you ask?  I don't know.  If you ask me it is the sign of something bigger on the horizon.  But nonetheless, Leopold is a solid, sturdy defenseman that adds more depth.

Leopold spent most of his career split between the Flames and Avs.  He has played 61 games this year and netted 7 goals, 11 assists, and 22 PIM.  Jordan played for the Golden Gophers and won the Hobey Baker award in 2001-02.

Leopold makes the 8th defenseman on the roster.  Up until this point in the year, everyone has been fairly healthy.  The only lingering Olympic injuries could effect Orpik or Gonchar but that is all left to be seen.  Fedotenko is a UFA after this season (as is Leopold) and dumping him may not necessarily be popular but the potential of a couple picks or another scoring winger could off set that.  The wing positions are where we are hurting the most.

Goligoski is also a name I don't think is safe.  Gogo is a great young player, and together with Letang, has a much better upside than Fedotenko.  The problem is that he has bounced around lines and been used too infrequently, which has caused his play to decline.  At this point though, I don't think he would get a top line scorer without something else to sweeten the deal.  Playoff rental players aren't an answer either.

Letang is by far and away the franchise choice for the future model of the Pens defense.  He has all the skills and abilities but without the size.  I think he may be the only untouchable one here. 

I won't be surprised if another package deal comes out of this.  Without that winger, I don't think the Champs have much of a chance at repeating.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Congrats to our neighbors to the North

Congratulations to the Canadian Hockey Team for their gold medal win today.  Also some accolades go out to the USA team who never backed down from the challenge, tieing the game late and taking into overtime.

All I know is, this was what hockey was all about.  Great game.  Sidney Crosby, once again, became the hero of the nation as he scored the game winning goal in overtime.  I can't tell you how many text messages I got right after that goal from various friends of mine who aren't hockey fans telling me how much Ryan Miller was horrible.  Problem is, I have seen Sid do this 1000 times against every goalie in hockey.  Ryan Miller played the game of his life.  He was almost unflappable.  Despite the score, he was the best goal tender on the ice.  If there is one thing that a team learns quickly is that you don't leave Sidney alone anywhere near the net or he will make you pay.  That's exactly what he did.

I was kind of torn at the end.  The initial reaction of the goal was an immediate urge to throw something through the TV.  However, after realizing it was Sidney Crosby who scored, I then felt some redemption.  After all, he is a Penguin.  Still, it was a tough loss after watching Team USA through the entire tournament get better game by game.  Eventhough I have always been inclined to view second place as the first loser, in the Olympics, there is no loser.  I'll take a Silver medal anyday.

Congratulations Canada!!!