Add to Technorati Favorites

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Western Conference 2008-09 Breakdown

With the full North American NHL season about to open up later this week, it’s about time to continue the predictions and breakdowns. Let’s just jump right into the Western Conference.

Central Division

#1 – Detroit Red Wings – If it was possible for this team to get better than the team that dominated its way to the Stanley Cup last season, they found a way. Marian “Judas” Hossa turned down a long-term deal with the Penguins to sign a one-year deal with the Red Wings.

Sounds like a guy desperate for a ring to me, but that’s his own prerogative.

Also new to the mix is the backup goaltender from the runner-up Pens in Ty Conklin. I don’t necessarily agree with this move. The Wings have a great young goaltender in the farm who is probably ready to at least be a backup in Jimmy Howard.

The absence of the now once again retired Dominik Hasek freed up a roster spot for Conklin who can expect to get between 15-20 starts behind the aging Chris Osgood. If Osgood gets hurt and the load falls on Conklin and Howard, the Red Wings might be vulnerable. Outside of that, expect another near wire to wire division title and long playoff run.

#2 Chicago Blackhawks – I’m surprising myself with this one too. However, with the young core on this team and a solid goalie in net this doesn’t seem too farfetched.

Sensations, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp are back to terrorize the league. The Hawks signed Cristobal Huet in the free agent market and have placed last season’s starter Nikolai Khabibulin on waivers. Expect him to be moved or bought out soon.

They also brought in free agent defenseman Brian Campbell who decided to take the money and run from the Sharks.

Young teams are dangerous in the new NHL and in this incredibly weak division, Chicago fans may once again be reminded of what hockey is.

#3 – Nashville Predators – There are a lot of question marks with this team this year. Alexander Radulov is gone. So are Marek Zidlicky, Martin Gelinas, Darcy Hordichuk, Jan Hlavac and goaltender Chris Mason.

What they were able to do is lock up Shea Weber and Ryan Suter who will now patrol the blue line for years to come. Not a bad move, but can this team rebound with the loss of all the guys listed above?

Dan Ellis will be the main man in goal this season and if something happens to him, rookie Pekka Rinne will have to step up.

The Preds shocked me last year by making the playoffs with a depleted roster, but I don’t think we’re going to be experiencing déjà vu this Spring.

#4 – Columbus Blue Jackets – The Jackets made a ton of offseason moves and on paper have a much improved team over last year’s squad.

The problem here is the guys they landed aren’t exactly A-quality players. The best move they made was acquiring Raffi Torres from the Oilers.

The also added Christian Backman, Fedor Tyutin, Mike Commodor, R.J. Umberger and Kristian Huselius.

The Rangers won’t lose sleep over the loss of Tyutin, but Backman could be a very solid physical defenseman. Commodore is another good signing and Umberger and Huselius will need to prove that their success wasn’t just a fluke due to the lines they were on in Philadelphia and Calgary respectively.

The other question I’m having trouble with is about goaltender Pascal Leclaire. He put on a very good show last season and was a surprisingly good fantasy pickup for GAA and save percentage. Is he for real? Are the new acquisitions for real? Could this be the season that the Jackets make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history?

These guys could challenge for a playoff spot, but there will be no playoff hockey for the Jackets this year.

#5 - St. Louis Blues – Woof. It does not look good for the Blues at all this season. There is a youth movement going on and with any youth movement, there’s a learning curve of a couple seasons before you see results.

Welcome to the beginning of the youth movement in St. Louis.

Blues fans will have to wait another season to see defenseman Erik Johnson again, who tore two ligaments in his right knee in a freak golf accident.

The Blues were able to go out and sign Steve Bernier away from the Canucks and he should help contribute on the offensive side of things.

For this team to have any success whatsoever, Bernier, Keith Tkachuk and Paul Kariya are going to have to take the team under their wings. Don’t expect much in St. Louis this year, but looking down the road a couple years should make Blues fans smile.

Northwest Division

#1 – Vancouver Canucks – Is this the year the underachieving Canucks finally take a run at the Cup? Not sure, but I do see them winning this wide open division.

The major knock against this team was the lack of offense they had. Basically if you scored 3 goals and some could argue even 2, you would win against these guys.

They are going to be without Markus Naslund who left for Broadway, Brendan Morrison and Trevor Linden.

At the draft they snagged Kyle Wellwood away from Toronto in a brilliant move. This kid is going to be a stud in the league for years to come. They also added veteran Pavol Demitra to the mix. If Demitra can stay healthy, he’s a proven scorer and could ignite some more guys to get in on the act.

The best aspect of this team is their defense and especially in net with Roberto Luongo. Look, Luongo is a fantastic goalie, but he needs help. If the Canucks can find the back of the net, Luongo can lead them to the promised land.

#2 – Edmonton Oilers – This was one of the busiest teams in the league during the summer. They acquired a major threat on the blue line in Lubomir Visnovsky from the Kings. To make room for Visnovsky, the Oilers shipped Joni Pitkanen to Carolina for Erik Cole and sent Torres was sent to Columbus for Brule.

They are returning with a young core of guys including Dustin Penner and Ales Hemsky who will need to continue to put up big numbers.

Sheldon Souray is returning from an injury plagued season and I would think he would play with Visnovsky. I’d be afraid to skate into the zone with those two on the ice. Seriously, keep your head up.

A lot of people are taking these guys to win the division. I’m not totally sold yet, but I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen so far.

#3 – Calgary Flames – I’m not so sure about the moves they made this summer. They allowed guys like Eric Godard, Owen Nolan and Alex Tanguay to get away.

They then went out and got Mike Cammalleri Curtis Glencross nd Rene Bourque. I like those acquisitions for the most part and thought they were on a war path to the division title.

They follow this up by adding in glassjaw Andre Roy and inexplicably go out and sign Todd Bertuzzi. I don’t understand the Bertuzzi move at all considering we are only a few years removed from one of the most horrific moments in NHL history, which ironically happened between two teams in this division. Now he’s back in the division with a different squad.

Anyway, the Flames do have one of the better goaltenders in the league in Miikka Kiprusoff. However, Kipper has looked a little old over the last couple seasons. Maybe it’s the lack of consistency the team has shown that’s getting to him, but we’ll see.

It will be up to Jarome Iginla to spark the team and if the new guys step up and produce, this is another team that could win the division.

#4 Minnesota Wild – This is kind of low for a playoff team from last season, I know. However, these guys lost some very key guys and are on the verge of losing another.

Gone are forwards Brian Rolston and Demitra. Mark Parrish is also gone after being bought out. The one guy who may be on his way out? Marian Gaborik. The Wild and Gaborik are trying to get a long-term extension worked out and if that doesn’t happen expect a blockbuster trade to happen sooner than later.

If Gaborik leaves town, that would mean the entire top line from last year is gone and a big chunk of the second line is gone as well.

The new additions of Nolan and Antti Miettinen from Dallas will help, but they’re not Demitra, Rolston and Gaborik.

This is shaping up to be a bad season for the Wild, but I didn’t expect them to do as well as they did last year either. Maybe they’ll do it again, but it’s going to be very tough.

#5 Colorado Avalanche – This is a team that just keeps getting older and as a result it’s going to be a long year in Denver.

Joe Sakic has returned and the team brought in Darcy Tucker from Toronto. They also locked up defenseman John-Michael Liles to a long-term deal. Those moves are solid and all, but what did they do to help the biggest weakness being goaltending?

Not a whole lot.

Peter Budaj will be the number one guy and he’s either on or he’s not. They lost Jose Theodore to the Capitals and replaced him with Andrew Raycroft. Razor was basically exiled from Toronto after his sub-par play with his big contract and is looking for another fresh start. I wouldn’t expect to see these guys in the playoffs, but stranger things have happened I suppose.

Pacific Division

#1 – Dallas Stars – Fresh off a Western Conference Finals appearance, the Stars are back and are poised to make another deep playoff run.

The Stars made a somewhat peculiar move in letting Miettinen walk and replaced him with super agitator Sean Avery.

Brad Richards was acquired at the trade deadline for goaltender Mike Smith and was a pleasant surprise during the stretch run and playoffs for Dallas. Now that he’s had a chance to play with the club and get used to his new surroundings, look for a big year out of Richards.

Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen are another year older, but bring a veteran presence that you can’t put a price tag on. This division is the polar opposite of the Northwest, which is wide open due to mediocrity. The Pacific is wide open because there are 3 powerhouse teams and any one of them is deserving of this No. 1 spot.

#2 – San Jose Sharks – I don’t think any team improved its defense more than the Sharks this summer. I’m still in awe of what they were able to get.

They had Campbell who they got at the trade deadline. I was a bit puzzled to see the Sharks just let him leave town and not lock him up. Then they go out and land veteran Rob Blake from the Kings.

In addition to Blake, the Sharks made a trade and landed fantasy stud Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowich from the Lightning. That’s 3 guys who will vastly improve this defense and could very well shake the playoff curse that hangs over the Shark Tank.

Evgeni Nabokov proved he is a workhorse last season starting 77 out of 82 games last season and winning 46 of them. Maybe this time around the Sharks will tone his load back a little to keep him fresh for the playoffs.

Should that happen and Joe Thornton continue to light the way for the Sharks, this could be the year they give Stanley a tan.

#3 – Anaheim Ducks – At face value, this is the exact same team as last year’s roster. The only major acquisition was Morrison from the Canucks.

However, last season both Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer delayed retirement and joined the team late in the season. This time around, both are signed and ready to go on opening night. They’ll have their skating legs under them and regardless of what they have in the tank still, you know they will produce.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere is once again the main guy between the pipes and I must say, a very solid fantasy choice. He finished last season with 35 wins in 58 games with a 2.12 GAA and .922 save percentage. You’d be crazy not to pick him in your drafts.

Either way, the Ducks have a ton of young talent with Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and former number-two draft pick Bobby Ryan. Ryan should be on the opening night roster and if the hype about him is correct, he could make a huge impact.

#4 – Phoenix Coyotes – The Fighting Gretzky’s just missed out on the playoffs last season and could very well be in the hunt again this year. The biggest problem for them is that they’re in a division with the Stars, Sharks and Ducks.

The Coyotes improved by subtraction this offseason. Gone are defensemen Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton, both dealt to Florida for Olli Jokinen.

I absolutely loved this move. Jokinen figures to be a top line player and they unloaded two defensemen, who are average at best. Yes, they’re physical guys but I would have done the same thing to get Jokinen.

The other move that could end up looking more brilliant than it was last season, is the signing of goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov who will need to be solid once again for this team to have a shot.

#5 Los Angeles Kings – Well, the good? Anze Kopitar, Alexander Frolov, Patrick O’Sullivan and Dustin Brown are a very nice core to have. Defensemen Jack Johnson is also a nice commodity to have on you team, even with how young he is.

The bad? That’s about all that’s on this team. Rob Blake and Visnovsky are gone from the top defense pairing, another scoring threat in Cammalleri is also gone and they have no goaltending to speak of. Jonathan Bernier is still a year away or so, but unless he gets a defense to play in front of him, it will be a rough go of it.

Jason Labarbera and Erik Ersberg may not be bad goaltenders on paper. However, there’s a saying that a goalie is only as good as his defense. In this case, these guys are in trouble.

Baring a miracle of Biblical proportions, the only thing the Kings will be battling for in the Spring is the No. 1 draft pick.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Eastern Conference 2008-09 Breakdown

Well a new season is upon us finally. As you all know, I’m a Penguins fan so that’s why you haven’t heard from me in a couple months.

I spent the summer in seclusion searching for answers on how to get over the sting of seeing the Stanley Cup paraded around on our home ice. What I came up with is that NHL 09 is the greatest hockey game ever created. Seriously, if you haven’t played it yet go get it.

Until that came out I did my very best to avoid all things hockey to try and forget that series with Detroit even happened. The girlfriend tried to offer condolences, but there’s not much worse of a feeling than seeing your team come that close only to come up short.

Now that the season officially begins this weekend and with the pain almost fully subsided, it’s time to look ahead and see how this season may turn out. I’m going to try something different this year and go by each division and rank the teams in the division.

Let’s start in the Eastern Conference:

Northeast Division

#1 Montreal Canadiens – The defending regular season Eastern Conference champs are back with some new toys. The Habs were able to bring in very solid scorers in Alex Tanguay and Robert Lang. They also added tough guy Georges Laraque in a move I as a Pens fan wish would not have happened.

In net, Carey Price returns as the number one guy after taking a stranglehold on the job last year. They also have a capable backup in Jaroslav Halak so there shouldn’t be as many question marks in net this season.

With a playoff run under Price’s belt there’s no question the Habs are the favorite to win this division.

#2 Ottawa Senators – This might be a sucker’s bet considering how well they’ve done over the past couple seasons. The vicious cycle may once again repeat, but when you have guys like Dany Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza in a weak conference, it’s not a bad pick.

One thing that has changed with Ottawa is the defense corps. Jason Smith comes to town to fill the void left by Wade Redden who bolted to Broadway. Also new to the team are Filip Kuba and Alexandre Picard. I must say, I’m still not shaking in my boots about that defense and it still leaves a lot of questions to be answered.

The goaltending situation is still a bit of a mystery as well. Martin Gerber will no doubt be the number one guy, but with Ray Emery out of the picture Gerber might actually be able to focus on playing net and not worrying about Emery’s shenanigans. That can only be a good thing for a streaky goalie like Gerber.

#3 Buffalo Sabres – Yes, I’m serious. This team could very well turn heads this season. They have a very strong core of guys with Maxim Afinogenov, Thomas Vanek, Steve Bernier, Derek Roy and Jason Pomminville.

They brought in Craig Rivet and re-signed Teppo Numminen who is out to prove he’s still capable of playing at this level.

NEWSFLASH: The Sabres retained a highly valued free agent for once. Ryan Miller is locked up for another five years. Rejoice Sabres fans, things may be changing in Buffalo.

This is a team that missed the playoffs last season by four points. With a pretty solid defense corps and a maturing offense, this team could very well make the playoffs this season.

#4 Boston Bruins – Ok ok, I know they made the playoffs last season as the 8-seed and almost knocked off Montreal in the first round. It was a valiant effort. Really, it was. However, what did these guys do to improve the weakest areas of their team?


Their defense is still atrocious and their goaltending situation isn’t much better. Granted Manny Fernandez is back, but if history repeats itself he’ll be out for the season by the end of October and the load will fall squarely on the sometimes broad shoulders of Tim Thomas.

Zdeno Chara is a great asset to have on offense, but he’s a major liability against the rush. He is a great player don’t get me wrong, but there’s other guys I would rather have who can actually skate.

A positive for this team though is who they did bring in. Michael Ryder has been an absolute stud in Montreal and will no doubt be productive in Boston. Another positive for the Bruins is that Patrice Bergeron is back and ready to go for opening night. His return will provide an emotional lift which could take this team places. Especially if they decide to bring in a top tier defenseman.

#5 Toronto Maple Leafs – Sorry Cheech, but even you know this is a forgone conclusion. As of right now, Mats Sundin still hasn’t decided if he wants to return for another season. My guess is if he needs the money, he’ll be back. If not, he’s heading home.

The Leafs do have a lot of young raw talent, but like the Penguins a few years back, it’s largely under developed. The next couple of seasons will be rough in Toronto, but the future is quite bright.

One positive is that Vesa Toskala is patrolling the crease. Don’t let his mediocre numbers from last season fool you. He has the ability to be an elite goalie in this league. He just needs a half decent team in front of him to do so. Seeing Bryan McCabe leave can’t help matters even though he’s been criticized for his defensive play and sometimes categorized as only an offensive defenseman.

Of all the decisions I had to make with this division this was the easiest by far.

Atlantic Division

#1 – Pittsburgh Penguins – Is this a homer pick? Of course there will be people out there who say that, but that’s fine. If you look at this team even with the injuries to two of our top defensemen in Ryan Whitney (foot surgery, out until at least December) and Sergei Gonchar (shoulder surgery, out just as long if not longer), they are still arguably the best team in the Eastern Conference.

I won’t go into particulars here because I just spent a ton of time working on a full season preview for the Pens for a couple different sites. You can find that article here.

#2 – New York Rangers – This one was a bit tougher for me to pick. The Rangers added some more offensive weapons, but in my mind they still need some solid defensemen. The addition of Wade Redden is nice, but he’s more offensive minded. Marc Staal is a solid young player, but it just seems to me that defense should have been a priority.

The defense was instantly improved with the departure of Marek Malik who was much maligned during his tenure in New York. (Just ask Gopher, he’ll tell you. In fact here’s a direct quote: “We would’ve been better if he was playing defense for the opponent during our power play... that way when he centered the puck in the defensive zone we could’ve benefitted.”

Goaltending may be an issue here and I highly stress the word “may.” I’ve been hearing and reading rumors that Henrik Lundqvist may have an undisclosed knee injury that may require surgery. According to Eklund, the Rangers may be in talks with the Blackhawks to acquire Nikolai Khabibulin who has just been placed on waivers. Stay tuned and hold your breath Ranger fans.

#3 –Philadelphia Flyers – If this team didn’t have as many injuries as they did last year, they could have easily finished second or third in the division. They are fresh off an Eastern Conference finals loss to the Penguins so you know these guys are not the laughing stock they were two years ago.

On defense Mike Rathje and Derian Hatcher are both on the long term injury list. That alone makes the defense corps better. The brought in Ossi Vaananen which can only help out as well.

Their offense should still be very productive and if Simon Gagne can stay healthy, these guys could be fighting for the division title.

The major question is whether or not Martin Biron is the real deal or not. I tend to think he is, which is why he’s also on the fantasy roster this season.

#4 New Jersey Devils – The major knock against this team last season was a lack of offense. So what did the Devils do in the offseason? Not much. They went out and brought back former New Jersey cup winners Brian Rolston and Bobby Holik.

Holik is coming off a 34 point (15G 19A) season and yes he played all 82 games. Granted it was with Atlanta, but I’m pretty sure they have Ilya Kovalchuk and had a guy named Marian “Judas” Hossa until the Pens landed him at the deadline.

The other factor I weighed in this decision is that Martin Brodeur is another year older. If you watch his games closely over the past couple years, you can see a change in his play. He’s still probably the best puck moving goalie in the league, but shots from the point seem to find twine more often now. He seems to be losing pucks in crowds more than he used to and you can see him get visibly rattled at times, which you never saw before.

They may still fight for a playoff spot despite this low ranking because I still feel that this is the best division in the Eastern Conference.

#5 New York Islanders – This team could turn heads. Could. Should the young core of players they have, led by Kyly Okposo, learn quickly and mesh together this group could fight for a playoff spot.

They added defenseman Mark Streit, which is a brilliant pick up. They also added gritty veteran Doug Weight to join Bill Guerin. The biggest problem for this team is that they lost one of their best scorers and one of their best two-way players in Miroslav Satan and Ruslan Fedotenko. Both went to Pittsburgh to play with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

The other question will be the health of goalie Rick DiPietro, who’s signed until the next century. DiPietro had hip surgery, again, and all eyes will be on him. If he can stay healthy, he has shown signs that he can carry a team.

There is a youth movement happening on the Island, but I still think they are a couple years away from contending.

Southeast Division

#1 Washington Capitals – The Caps are fresh off a playoff appearance and a division title. The first of many I’m sure for young Alexander the Great. They pushed the Flyers to seven games before bowing out in front of their own fans. There is a buzz in D.C. now about hockey that hasn’t been there for many many years.

As far as offseason moves go, the Caps didn’t do a whole lot. They locked up some of their younger players and core players to keep the team intact. The move that puzzles me the most is the goaltending situation.

At the trade deadline, the Caps dealt for Cristobal Huet from the Habs. This gave them two very capable goalies as Olaf Kolzig was already in town. For some reason unknown to me, both Huet and Kolzig left the nation’s capital and the Caps brought in Jose Theodore. Personally, I would have kept Huet as Theodore hasn’t been himself since he left Montreal.

The Caps on paper are the clear favorite to win this division again and the Penguins proved that a little playoff experience can go a long way. If Theodore returns to form, the Caps could be raising some big silver trophy in June.

#2 Carolina Hurricanes – This division is still the weakest in the East and might even be the weakest in all of the NHL. That said, the Hurricanes are not going to forget the collapse they suffered last season when they missed out on the playoffs by two points.

The Canes blue line will look a lot different this season as Glen Wesley and Bret Hedican are gone. They shipped Erik Cole to Edmonton for defenseman Joni Pitkanen and signed Josef Melichar and Anton Babchuk.

They also locked up Eric Staal long-term (not as long as the lifetime deal DiPietro signed, but long enough).

The Canes are very capable of winning this division, don’t get me wrong and it could come down to goaltending. Cam Ward returns and if he plays anything like he did during the Canes Stanley Cup championship run, it could very well happen.

#3 Tampa Bay Lightning – This team had a major overhaul this offseason. New coach, plethora of new faces and the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft.

Starting with the coach, Barry Melrose gave up his cushy 1 hour a week of on-camera work at ESPN to return behind the bench as a coach in the NHL. I am very happy to see him back and will miss his insight on the off-chance ESPN remembers that hockey exists.

As for the new faces, three Cup runner ups from this past season migrated south. Ryan Malone, Gary Roberts and Adam Hall. I think the Bolts overpaid for Roberts and Malone, but more power to them. All three of those guys will fit in well, but I still don’t see these guys making the playoffs this season.

Steven Stamkos will make his NHL debut against the Rangers in the NHL’s tour d’Europe to start the season. This kid is electric and very well could make a lot of fantasy owners cringe that they passed him up.

Goaltending remains a concern as Mike Smith will be the main man with Kolzig backing him up. Smith is more than capable, but he’s never been the starting guy. If he passes the test the Bolts will be the most improved team in the league. Shouldn’t be hard after an NHL worst 31 wins and 71 points.

#4 – Florida Panthers – Where to begin with this mess? How about the departure of captain Olli Jokinen who was sent to the Coyotes for Nick Boynton and Keith Ballard. The Panthers also brought in McCabe to help out the blue line.

They may have one of the best blue line corps in the division, but depth up front might be an issues. Stephen Weiss and Nathan Horton will be the focal point of the offense now with Jokinen gone and I don’t think those guys are ready to carry a team yet.

In goal Tomas Vokoun will be a rock like usual. Don’t expect a monster win total, but his GAA and save percentage should be nice for a backup fantasy goalie. The Panthers are still a couple years away, but they do have a solid core to build around and could become a force in this weak division soon.

#5 Atlanta Thrashers – Oh boy. Outside of Kovalchuk what is there on this team? I feel bad for Erik Christensen and Colby Armstrong who were traded for “Judas” Hossa. The Thrashers brought in Jason Williams and Marty Reasoner, but outside of those guys who can score?

Tobias Enstrom was a pleasant surprise on the blue line last year and can only get better. This team is in shambles right now with no depth to speak of and seeing star after star leave town by trade or free agency.

In goal Kari Lehtonen is a solid choice and will keep his team in games, but any goalie facing upwards of 40 shots a night can only do so much. There’s not much to say about this team other than, I hope there’s a lot of fan giveaway nights in Atlanta or else there’s going to be a lot of empty seats in the Philips Arena this year.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

2 Days In And Feeling A Bit Frustrated

Well these past two days have been rather uneventful for Pens nation. Unless you count the mass exodus that is going on as eventful, but I don't exactly find myself looking for my party hat as much as I am looking for the missing hair on my head and wondering why a bottle of tequila is empty.

Here I am a couple days from my vacation from work and instead of focusing on this joyous trip, I'm wondering what the Pens have in mind by letting all these guys go.

As I write this we've lost: Marian Hossa, Ty Conklin, Adam Hall, Ryan Malone, Gary Roberts and Jarkko Ruutu.

We've re-signed Brooks Orpik, which I'm very happy about. We've also given Malkin a 5-year extension, which is also nice.

In addition to those two, we've re-signed Pascal Dupuis and Mark Eaton. Again, guys I have liked for some time even before they came to Pitt.

So to recap, we've lost six guys so far and have brought in one.

Oh, I didn't mention the one guy we brought in? Perhaps you've heard of the greatest player in the NHL? Eric Godard!

(If you can't tell the immense sarcasm in that last statement without having to read this explanation, stop watching hockey.)

Now I haven't gone into total panic mode yet even with every other team in the division being active already. There's still plenty of great players left on the free agent list and I really hope we are in talks with some of them.

In a previous post I mentioned wanting Miroslav Satan and Markus Naslund. That still stands, but I'm going to expand the list a little.

We need forwards to fill the holes left by those mentioned above. At this point I'd be willing to take someone who has a history of injuries like Pavol Demitra. If healthy he could put up some big numbers alongside Sid or Malkin.

Other guys I'd like to see come over are Martin Straka, though his NHL status is unknown at this time, and Jason Williams.

I have a bad feeling that we will end up signing Ladislav Nagy from the Kings. Nagy hasn't been the same since he got injured in Phoenix during what would have been a career year. Since that day he's had a problem with contact and confrontation and gets panicky when in the corners.

Could he regain his scoring touch in Pittsburgh? It's possible, but I really don't want to be on here writing about how much I am frustrated with him after every game this year.

I've also read that there may be some interest in bringing Jaromir Jagr back to Pittsburgh. To that I say, YIPPIE!


Do you really think this guy will be welcomed back by the fans after how he left in the first place? The guy is already relentlessly booed every time he touches the puck at the Igloo. The second he starts to slump the fans would be all over him again and questioning management as to why we brought him back in the first place.

It's not a good situation and doesn't have many positives so I don't really think this will happen.

I guess I'm more disappointed than anything right now. I've woken up the last two days with a giddy feeling expecting to see a headline of "Penguins sign......" but it hasn't happened yet. Maybe tomorrow will bring happier news.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Malone, Roberts Bid Farewell To Pittsburgh

Well this was a mild surprise at best. Ray Shero sent the rights to Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts to the Tampa Bay Lightning for a 2009 4th round pick. Should Malone sign, this would become a 3rd rounder in 2009.

I am a little sad to see Malone go and a little angry from a fan's perspective that this deal didn't happen sooner. Here's why.

Since Malone's sophomore campaign in the NHL the Penguins have stuck by him and rejected countless trade offers for him. My guess is that they knew that he could be the type of player he was for us in 2007-08. That much makes sense to me.

Now all of a sudden he's gone and I'm left with an empty feeling with him and Roberts going for sure and the very real possibility that Marian Hossa will also be gone. That's three big holes to fill for next season, so I hope Shero has some grand plan up his sleeve to ease this nagging pain in my stomach. I thought that feeling would have subsided after the season ended, apparently I was wrong.

As for Roberts leaving, I was really hoping he would just retire so that I could go buy a jersey and put his name on it. During the playoffs I wrote about how I compared this guy to Chuck Norris. Click Here To Check It Out

This guy is a warrior in every way possible. I hold nothing against him at all and wish him nothing but the best for the remainder of his career. For a42-year-old guy to keep playing the way he did when he was just starting his career some 20 years ago, is incredible. He's fearless and will eat your young.

The problem I have with this entire situation is that we're losing two huge character guys on this team and I'm not sure who will step in and fill their shoes. There could be some players out there who could bring some grit and passion to the line-up, but I haven't really looked so I'm open to your thoughts about who's available to fill that kind of role.

Already I don't see us signing both Jarkko Ruutu and Georges Laraque after big Georges was scratched for most of the Stanley Cup Finals. If you're doing the math that's three of four guys we need to replace.

The farm may help fill the void with guys like Jeff Taffe and Tim Brent, but we're going to need to bring some guys in during free agency. Plain and simple.

At least the core of the team will remain the same.....hopefully.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Orpik Declines, Straka Heads Home

I'm a firm believer that things happen in groups of threes, for better or worse. I'm probably even tempting fate by writing this, but as far as I'm concerned we just got dealt two blows today.

Brooks Orpik has declined the Penguins first offer and former Penguin Martin Straka is heading home to play for his Czech team.

Both of these may not be as big a deal in the end, but it's still a blow nonetheless.

The first one I can't say I'm surprised by. In any negotiation who takes the first offer? Let's say you get a new job. Do you accept the first rate of pay that the employer offers? Most likely not, because you and the employer know it's just a formality.

The first offer in any deal is like the Fox News channel. Just a bunch of one-sided fluff that means nothing.

It's just a bunch of unsubstantiated drivel where both sides know it's just a starting point and the effort now shifts to finding a middle ground.

Supposedly both sides will sit down again to try and work out a deal, so this may not be a dead deal just yet.

As for Straka leaving, I have been secretly hoping for years that Straka would return to Pittsburgh after being one of countless salary dumps by Craig Patrick. After refreshing my memory, I don't blame Straka for heading home and not returning to Pittsburgh as many rumors had him doing.

Check out these two trades he was involved in as a Penguin:

Apr 7, 1995: Pittsburgh Penguins traded Martin Straka to the Ottawa Senators for Troy Murray and Norm Maciver.

Nov 30, 2003: Pittsburgh Penguins traded Martin Straka to the Los Angeles Kings for Sergei Anshakov and Martin Strbak.

My head hurts from trying to even process that information. No wonder he went home. Would we end up trading Straka at the deadline for Rico Fata?

Wait we traded for Fata once already? Really? Who'd we give up for him? Kovalev?! You're joking? Ugh.

You should have seen me in my dorm room in college when that deal went down. My roommate refused to talk to me until the swelling in my hand subsided after punching the floor until it went numb.

I spent the better part of two years cursing out Fata every time he hit the ice after that deal. Mainly it was due to the fact that everyone knew that trade was a salary dump and the NHL almost rejected it as such. The first time I traveled to Pittsburgh to see a game at the igloo was shortly after that deal. Mario set him up countless times on the back post and he somehow managed to suffer a stroke every time the puck came to him.

Anyway, back to Straka. How can you not like this guy? I think he would have been a good fit on this young team and could help out with the lack of veteran presence that we're going to have heading into next season. I'm convinced the city of Pittsburgh would have welcomed him back with open arms.

I hesitate to end this post knowing full well that something else has to happen to complete the negative trifecta.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Change Of Heart For Orpik?

I'm a little perplexed right now about what to think with this scenario. First I hear that Brooks Orpik doesn't like Michael Therrien. Now all of a sudden according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Orpik and the Penguins are sitting down in serious contract talks.

Let me explain my side of this.

Brooks Orpik is and has been one of my favorite Penguins players for quite some time now and not just because he went to Boston College. The profile may say New Jersey, but I'm a Boston boy by birthright.

As a Penguins fan how can you not like the style of play he brings? Has he taken a couple cheap shots? Yes and a couple guys got injured that didn't need to. Here's the thing though, I don't get the impression from other people that they think he's a cheap shot artist.

He's a hard nosed, physical defenseman who will put you through the boards so you can enjoy little Timmy's popcorn and soda in the front row.

Now it's pretty well known that Orpik doesn't like Therrien but according to This Article Orpik wants to stay in Pittsburgh and would be willing to sign for less than he could get elsewhere if we sign him long term.

Why wouldn't we do this? He played the latter part of the season on the top defensive pairing with Sergei Gonchar. He's not going to put up points, but hes the only real physical defenseman the Pens have.

(Side note: Yes Hal Gill could be considered a physical presence. That's about all he is. He's great on the PK, but did anyone see how awful he looked in the Finals against Detroit? In Game 1 alone he cost the Pens two goals. The second of which he gets taken to town by Mikael Samuelsson who's giving up about seven inches and 60 pounds. I did not like this deal when we made it and had a sinking feeling that it would come back and bite us eventually. I'm not saying that Gill is the sole reason we lost the Cup, but he looked lost and helpless against the speedy Red Wings.)

I'm going to tread on thin ice as it were and say this. As a fan and strictly a fan, te Devils are the one team I would love to see never win another Stanley Cup. Doesn't seem like this fits in with the rest of this post right? Before you jump all on me Devil fans let me explain.

From a hockey observer's standpoint the Devils have found a successful way to win for many years and proved that even with a mass exodus over the past few years, the system rewards players who buy into it. Is the system a fun brand of hockey to watch? I don't think so and I enjoy 1-0 games more than the 5-4 games. The difference here is that the Devils play a boring pace of hockey that wins. Plain and simple.

Chew on that for a second.

Now, who was the anchor for those Cup winning Devils teams? Brodeur? Rafalski? No.

Scott Stevens.

I can see the lightbulbs turning on in your heads.

Is Brooks Orpik like a younger Scott Stevens? Not necessarily, but there are similarities in their play styles. Personally, I think some of the hits Stevens unleashed were riding the thin line of clean and cheap, but no one can question the tenacity he played with.

Orpik has that kind of warrior tenacity. The one shift that will live on forever in Penguins lore is when he took 4 different Red Wings to the ice in all of 45 seconds. That may have been the greatest shift of the playoffs by any player on any team.

Now here's the other common thread between the two. If you'll recall, Stevens suffered a concussion in an early season game against the Penguins during the 2003-04 season.

Who's the man who dropped the hammer down on Stevens and effectively ended his career?

Yep. Brooks Orpik.

Granted Stevens was all cleared and healthy to play in the 2004-05 seaso, but never got the chance due to a little thing called a lockout. I don't know much about that either, but it can't be good. That whole year was one big blur and I may or may not have been in a self-induced coma.

Anyway, with the hopes of Ryan Malone and Marian Hossa returning slowly spiraling downward, we need to sign Orpik right now.

When it comes down to it, you have to ask yourself a very simple question.

Do you want to play for a city that loves you and a very good chance of winning the Stanley Cup?


Do you want to play for a paycheck and like the coach?

I think we all know the answer to that question.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Free Agency Wishlist

After cooling off from yesterday's rant, I decided to come up with a wishlist of players I would like to see come to Pittsburgh. This is just meant to be something fun, since you all know you do the same thing with your own teams. Due to the number of guys that I'd like to see signed, I narrowed it down to 5. NOTE: These aren't in any particular order.

#5 John-Michael Liles

Liles will be one of the most sought after defensemen in this FA class and with good reason. He is coming off his 4th NHL season and in 313 career games he's gone for 44 goals and 115 assists. I'd gladly take a guy with 159 points in just over 300 games, but it's not just the offensive upside with Liles. He's a smart hockey player. Period.

He's only got 122 penalty minutes for his career. Fairly certain a guy named Sergei Gonchar has more than that in one less season with the Penguins. In fact just to be sure, I looked it up and crunched the numbers. In his three seasons with the Penguins, Gonchar has amassed 238 PIMs and still finds a way to put up the offensive numbers he does.

Figure this with Liles though. The kid hasn't hit his prime yet. Put him on this young Pens team and watch his flourish. Do we need more defensive types on the team, no question but Liles is a talent that can be taught how to play a more defensive style. If Therrien can get Gonchar to change his style, surely he can get a younger guy like Liles tobuy into the system.

#4 Brian Rolston

This may be my favorite player in the league that doesn't wear a Penguins jersey. How can you not like the guy? I'm a little biased because his second half resurgence this season was an integral part of my fantasy hockey championship, but still I love the way this guy plays the game.

Should Ryan Malone end up leaving and as I stated yesterday, it sure looks like that will happen, Rolston could be the guy to step in and fill the void. The guy is putting up nearly 70 points a season with the likes of Gaborik, Demitra and Bouchard. Don't even try to tell me he couldn't put up at least those same numbers with Crosby and Malkin feeding him all day long.

From what I can tell, the guy just goes out and plays the game. You never really hear his name in connection with players unhappy with management or the coaching staff. He just goes out and plays the game the way it's supposed to be played. He ended up with 31 goals this past season and has been around the league for a while. He would bring in a much needed veteran presence to the locker room, especially if Gary Roberts decides to go somewhere else. Last I heard on Roberts was that he would not be retiring and would be looking to play somewhere else next season.

If Pens management or someone with some pull in the Pens organization somehow sees this. GET ROLSTON! Aside from the offense he can bring, he brings all the intangibles that you want in a player. He's a team guy through and through. At one point this season Rolston was bouncing back and forth between the second and third line due to his struggles. Never heard a peep out of him. I was cursing the Wild for doing this because it was killing my fantasy team, but it all worked out in the end. Regardless of where he ends up, I plan on taking him in the draft again this year.

#3 Darcy Tucker

I might take some heat for this because some of you may not have seen the report that the Leafs are going to buy him out shortly. Should this turn into a reality and there's nothing telling me it won't, I want him in Pittsburgh.

This guy is like another Gary Roberts. Both play a gritty style of play that wins fans over. Roberts is an all-time warrior and I will respect the man forever even if he does play for another team next season.

Does he have some injury issues, sure but so did Roberts. Tucker will bring that grit and determination that this team needs. Not to mention he, like Robets, is capable of putting pucks in the back of the net. I'm not sure how my buddy Cheech will take the news of Tucker's exit from Toronto, but my guess is he will be indifferent or ecstatic.

Plus you can't tell me that Tucker wouldn't love to play against some of the teams that hate him the most in the Islanders and Flyers for nearly a quarter of a season with potential playoff matchups with the Flyers. (Sorry Isles fans, it's too easy to take shots like that. Quick coaching tip, you need to score goals to win games. Just in case you didn't know already.)

#2 Miroslav Satan

What makes this even more believable is that I've read rumors on various sites about the Pens being interested in this guy. I was talking with an Isles blogger about the prospect of Satan coming to Pittsburgh and his response was simply "You should."

Imagine him alongside Crosby on the top line? Is he as good as Hossa? Of course not. Is he a solid replacement? No question.

The guy hasn't had any major injury issues and typically plays about 80 games a season. He somehow found a way to put up 41 points on an Islanders team that scored about 50 goals all season. (Again, sorry Islanders fans. Your team makes it too easy some times. Start scoring and I'll retract this.) In his time in Buffalo he was normally around the 70 point mark, which I'd take in a heartbeat.

The guy can skate and keep up with Crosby and Dupuis. The only downside is that he's not exactly got the defensive mindset. As with the Liles comments above, I think Therrien can get Satan to buy into a defensive system that allows him to showcase his talents in the offensive end. Even if he doesn't play with Crosby, put him with Malkin. See if I care. It's not like you're demoting the guy by having him play with Geno over Sid.

I would imagine there will be some pretty decent interest in Satan, but after having played against the Pens for 20 some games over the past three seasons I'm sure he knows just how good this team can be. Plus, how many years does he have left in him to get that elusive Stanley Cup ring. Come to Pittsburgh Satan, you know you want to.

#1 Markus Naslund

Ahh the sentimental pick of the lot. For those of you who may not recall, Markus Naslund was once property of the Pittsburgh Penguins way back in early 90's. In fact we even drafted him in 1991 with the 16th overall pick.

This could be a great pickup should Ray Shero and Co. get it done. He once put up over 100 points in a season and has also hit 90. By no means would I expect him to hit those numbers again, but there's no reason he shouldn't be able to put up 60-70.

Notice how there's basically a common theme here with these picks? Veteran leadership (excluding Liles). This is one area that we're going to need help with if Roberts leaves. Sure these guys a little bit older, but look at the rest of the team already. Some can't even grow hair on their chins yet and we already made it to the Stanley Cup Finals. Not exactly a bad thing right?

His coming back to Pittsburgh could end up as the greatest script ever written. Picture it. After being traded at the deadline in '96, Naslund returns to the team he broke into the league with and wins the Stanley Cup.

Hello? Hollywood? Yeah, I've got your next summer blockbuster movie idea.

Already calling dibs on that, so don't go getting any ideas here.

I'd also like to take a second here at the end to congratulate Barry "Mullet Man" Melrose for getting the coaching job in Tampa Bay. I know I'm going to miss his insightful analysis of all things hockey. Michael Wilbon on ESPN's Pardon The Interruption actually said Melrose may be the best analyst in any sport. I don't know if I would go that far, but he's definitely at or near the top of the hockey world. I never really understood why he hadn't gotten a coaching job after being let go by the Kings. Either way, after watching as much hockey as he has over the past 13 years, he should have a firm grip on how to win in this league.

Welcome back Barry. We missed you.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Pens Moving On After Finals...Maybe

Ok, I'm back. It took a little longer than anticipated to get over the loss in the Stanley Cup Finals, but I think I'm alright now. Every time I thought I was over it, something would happen or I'd see a highlight from the series and it just prolonged the entire healing process. Anyway, the draft is over and now free agency begins on July 1.

That being said, I've read some stories in the last couple of days that have perturbed me slightly. Namely that Ryan Malone will probably not be back in Steeltown this fall.

I don't really blame Malone for looking to go elsewhere after being strung along by the Pens. I may be way off here, but what I don't get is how for the last three years he's been the target of trade rumors and the like. Every year when these rumors came up I defended him and said to anyone who would listen that he'd come around and we shouldn't deal him away. Every year the deadline passed and he was still on the team and I could breathe a little easier. Then it happened.

He finally evolved into the player we and the Penguins thought he could be. He was named an alternate captain and his production went nuts when he was put on a line with Sykora and Malkin. No one can question his will to win after playing with a broken nose during the playoffs, only to see that nose take a rocket shot from Hal Gill in the Finals. We all saw it. My heart sank when I saw Malone drop to the ice with the blood pouring out of his face. I actually said right then and there "Well that's probably it for him in this series and our chances just got even smaller." Then out of nowhere, he's back on the bench with gauze up his nose looking like he just got mugged in a dark alley somewhere. He only missed a couple of shifts and was back and ready to go for the start of the third period of the marathon Game 5 in Detroit.

You can't put a price tag on character and Ryan Malone has more intangibles than a lot of guys on the team. Now I understand that the Pens told him they wouldn't negotiate with anyone until July 1. That was code for "we're not going to negotiate with anyone until we figure out what we're going to do with Marian Hossa."

I get that, fine. It makes sense to give priority to someone who you paid a pretty penny for during the season to get. For the most part it was looking like Hossa was a lock to re-sign in Pittsburgh and would even consider taking a pay cut to return. For 24 hours I was walking around with a huge grin on my face thinking that we could possibly do what NHL 2K8 for the Xbox 360 allowed me to do and bring back the entire team and be under the cap. By no means am I saying that I'm basing this entire post about what I was able to do in a video game. Just merely stating a point of how obsessed I can get with this team.

Then the news comes out that the Pens have broken off talks with Hossa because he wants to test the free agent market. Wonderful. Oh, but wait! Hossa might still return to the Penguins afterall, but he just wants to be sure. Really? If you don't follow the logic going through his head right now let me see if I can clarify this by using a situation we've all had some encounter with. Maybe you haven't had it happen to you, but you definitely know someone in this situation.

Let's say your buddy is dating this extremely attractive woman who you all know is perfect for him and he should just settle down and marry the girl. However, your buddy was dropped on his head as a child and always has to second guess his gut feeling. He goes out one day and buys the engagement ring with all the intentions of popping the question and everyone else is all happy for him. Then as he's leaving the store, he sees another beautiful woman. Decides he just wants to be sure he's making the right move so he goes woos this woman and has a meaningless 3-4 year relationship with this other girl. All the while he knows he should have just settled down for the long haul with the girl he bought that silver ring for. The same ring he etched his name into.

The Penguins are the girl waiting for the engagement ring in this case, but if Hossa wants a ring of his own he needs to sign a deal ASAP. His delaying of the process here is why Malone is going to bail. His delaying of the process here is delaying the signing of other guys like Orpik, Ruutu, Hall, Dupuis, and oh yeah some guys named Malkin and Fleury. Whoever they are.

Something needs to happen and soon or else we're going to lose both Malone and Hossa and when that happens I can't imagine any Penguins fans being overly thrilled about it.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Season Over, Empty Feeling Inside

I have been unable to bring myself to write anything about the last couple games or anything really and even as I sit here right now, I know that I'm still not ready. My main reasoning for even doing this right now is strictly therapeutic so bear with me.

I won't stand to see or hear anyone even try and blame this loss on Marc-Andre Fleury. Does he probably want those 2 soft goals back? No question, but he's got a free pass for life as far as I'm concerned with how he played down the stretch in the regular season and how he played in the playoffs. His performance in Game 5 was nothing short of legendary. That clinic he put on will make it's way to instructional DVDs in no time.

I can't remember the last time I was this jacked up about this team. That triple overtime win, despite the circumstances of staving off elimination may have been the pinnacle of my fanhood this season. I sat alone at work, hands shaking, stomach turning. I've never been that nervous in my life and then it happened. Max Talbot saves the day to send it to overtime and Petr Sykora calls his shot to send me into a state of euphoria. It was amazing is all I can say. Fleury was brilliant between the pipes and I really thought we would be sending it back to Detroit for a Game 7 at that point. Obviously that didn't happen and an immense sense of sadness and an empty feeling has crept over me.

For the last two weeks, I've been having dreams of hearing "The Penguins are Stanley Cup Champions!" I woke up with a smile every day. There will be no smile tomorrow morning, not yet. I'm always sad to see the hockey season end, but to see it end with my boys hanging their heads and seeing the opposition hoist the Cup on our home ice will take a few days to get over.

By no means am I trying to take anything away from the Red Wings. They are a phenomenal squad and deserved very much to win the Cup. For as much as I wanted the Pens to win, I never really expected to win like I had for previous series. What I wanted was if we didn't win, to at least make Detroit earn it. It is my firm belief that we accomplished that. We may not have shown up much or were just not ready for what the Finals brought in Games 1 and 2, but for the last 4 games of the series, we gave Detroit everything we had and the better team prevailed in the end. Simple as that. There was even a small glimmer of hope at the very end that Hossa had tied it with under a second left in the third period only to see that hope squashed by the oncoming rush of Red Wings players from the bench.

Eventually I will get over this and so will the guys on the team and realize the bigger picture. Five years prior this team was in shambles and going nowhere. Last in the league in standings, major stars heading for the hills and it all started to turn around last year. I didn't expect them to even make the playoffs last season and they surprised me and did exactly what I expected against Ottawa. Nothing, but we gained the experience needed to make a strong Cup run.

Flash ahead to this season. Crosby and Fleury go down and the hopes of Pens nation rested squarely on the once shaky shoulders of Ty Conklin. Out of nowhere he has a career resurgence and Evgeni Malkin goes on a tear and suddenly we're fighting for the conference lead in the standings without 2 key components.

We then get healthy and get Marian Hossa and the pieces for a championship run began to fall into place. They rip Ottawa a new one in the first round, dispatch the Rangers quickly, send our hated cross-state rivals home in 5 games and all of a sudden I'm sitting on top of the world. All the suffering over the past few years was actually worth it to get to this point. We sat just 4 wins from immortality and just got flat out beat by a much more experienced team who nobody was going to beat this year.

Eventually I'll be ok with what just transpired over the last few days. Maybe I'll feel better later this week when I've had a few days to digest this and realize how great the accomplishments these kids attained this season really are. Maybe I'll feel better knowing that we have an excellent chance to get back here again very soon and actually win it, now that we know what it feels like to be on the losing end. Maybe I'll feel better when I see this team back on the ice next season with a new attitude. Not a cocky one, but a confident one that expects nothing less than to win it all. You could see it in their eyes this season that it was going to be different this time around. Maybe I'll feel better when we figure out what to do with Hossa and Ryan Malone and establish our roster for next season. By then the sting will have worn off and the excited giddy side of me will return. Until then I'm going to go shave off my playoff beard.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Gary Roberts Is The NHL Version Of Chuck Norris

Let me explain this. Before Game 3 I was talking to Gopher. During the intro of the NBC coverage they showed a group of Pens fans standing outside the igloo waving signs that simply read "WWGRD."

I immediately started cracking up. Gary Roberts is by far one of my favorite players on the team. How can you not get excited about a 42-year-old guy totally destroying opposing defenders? It got me to thinking about other older guys who can still bring the pain and the first guy that popped into mind was Chuck Norris. I made the comment to Gopher "Gary Roberts is the NHL version of Chuck Norris," at that time.

It seemed innocent enough and we shared a chuckle. Then it happened. There was a commercial featuring Mr. Norris during one of the commercial breaks. In my severely altered state of consciousness it started to make sense. As if I needed even further evidence of the above title, Roberts delivered.

In the third period with a 2-1 lead, Tyler Kennedy got smoked in the corner making an outlet pass. The Pens dump the puck into the corner and who else but Roberts comes flying into the play out of nowhere and absolutely kills Andreas Lilja. I start freaking out and yelling "GO CHUCK NORRIS!" Then, Adam Hall picks up the loose puck and banks it into the net from behind the goalline to give us a 3-1 lead. I went nuts and now I want one of those WWGRD signs for my basement collection of Penguins stuff.

For further proof of this idea taking off and becoming something bigger, go to youtube and search for "WWGRD," kick back and enjoy what you see. There's even one of a few Roberts fights with the "Walker Texas Ranger" theme playing in the background and a video description saying exactly the title of this post.

As for the game, who called Darryl Sydor being inserted into the lineup? Me. I wish Hal Gill was the one taken out of the lineup instead of Kris Letang, but I'll live for now. Once again Gill was atrocious, taking 2 stupid penalties and getting away with two other stupid ones.

For the most part I was happy with how we played. The first 15 minutes were nothing to write home about and i think both the Pens and the fans were very tentative to see how it would play out. Then Brad Stuart makes an awful turnover that led to Sid the Kid scoring the first Pens goal of the series and all of a sudden you could see something change. The Pens had life, the fans had life and they started to play their game.

Pucks got deep, we used our cycle to generate the best chances we've had all series. If it wasn't for the horrible sound of iron I wouldn't have had to chew my nails down to the cuticle in the third period. Now we have a chance on Saturday to tie this series up and make it a best of three. Detroit has blown a 2-0 lead once already in the playoffs against Nashville and almost blew a 3-0 lead against Dallas. It would not be surprising to see the Penguins head back to Detroit tied 2-2. The only way that happens is to play with confidence like they did in Game 3. If they come out hitting and playing their game, they will get their chances and have a shot to tie it up. If they allow Detroit to dictate the play and pace of the game as they did in Games 1 and 2, this series is all but over. Simple as that.

One final note: The only good thing that may have come out of Gill's stupidity is that it appeared as if Tomas Holmstrom re-aggravated a nagging back injury. He did not play another shift after the incident late in the third. Time will tell if he's good to go for Game 4. My guess is that he will suit up because the man is a warrior. I have a couple words of advice for Holmstrom should he come across this post. Ask yourself this Mr. Holmstrom, "What Would Gary Roberts Do?"

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Could This Get Any Worse? I Don't Think So

I haven't felt up to posting anything on this series so far because there's not enough space on this entire site for me to write about everything that has annoyed me in this series.

Basically it boils down to this. The Wings are getting all the bounces and the Pens are simply not.

Let's go back to Game 1 in the first period. The Pens had 2 pucks lying in the crease behind Osgood and just couldn't slam it home. Another puck took a nice hop off the endboards, hit Crosby in the chest and bounced behind Osgood who had to reach back quickly to keep it out of the net. By my count, that would have made it 3-0 if we were catching bounces and there's no way we lose after that.

Plus, let me bring this back up again because I'm feeling vindictive. Back at the trade deadline I spoke out about the Hal Gill trade. For the most part he's actually been very good and a pleasant surprise. It seemed too good to be true and guess what? It was.

Have you seen how pathetic he's looked against the lightning quick Detroit forwards? It's sickening. Not to mention, how does he get rocked by Samuelsson which led to the Wings 2nd goal in Game 1?

Are you kidding me?

Big, bad, giant Hal Gill gets taken out of the play by a midget by comparison and the puck ends up in the net. I knew this was a bad deal and that it would come back to bite us eventually and it completely has. Here's what you do with him now. BENCH HIM. We have Darryl Sydor who we're paying a disgusting amount of money to be a professional bench warmer by my last check. Was he awful during the season for us? Yes, but can it possibly get any worse than Gill? At least Sydor has experience against these Wings and being in the Finals.

Let's also look at something so fundamental it's disgusting that I am sitting here typing this.


For the first 14 games of the playoffs the Pens had no trouble dumping and chasing and crashing the net. They also threw everything on net all the time. All of a sudden they get into the Finals and continually try to make cute and fancy passes through the neutral zone. I'm fairly certain you could count on one hand the number of times the Pens have dumped the puck in and gone in after it. Just like you can count on one hand how many shots on goal they've gotten while playing 5 on 5.

Did I expect Pittsburgh to win this series. Not really. Did I hope they would? Of course, so why am I so angered by how they've played thus far? Simple. I expected them to compete and at least give the Wings a run for it. They still could I suppose, but it's going to take a lot of changes and some bounces to start going our way for that to happen.

Side note: what was the NHL thinking having a 3 day gap between Games 3 and 4? Really? Why is Game 3 on Wednesday and not Thursday? Give the teams an extra travel day. Now if the Penguins do win Game 3, any momentum they generated will be dead by the time Game 4 gets underway. Way to go Gary Bettman, just another folly for a list that's already a mile long.

I haven't totally given up hope, but I'm on the brink. Like I have said before. I'm a Red Sox fan, so I've seen worse situations turn into glory. The only good thing is that we head home for the next two games. If we somehow win the next two games, I may have cause to start believing once again, but we need to put a puck in the net.

Write this down. If the Pens get a quick goal in the first period tomorrow and lead after the first, we're at least going back to Detroit for a Game 5.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Stanley Cup Finals Analysis

The day of reckoning is upon us. It's time for one team to become immortalized in silver and for the other team to go home wondering what might have been.

That thought alone is what kept me up most of the evening last night and why I'm sitting here typing through bloodshot eyes.

I would have gotten this up sooner, but I was trying to fully wrap my head around what the Penguins have done this season. I still haven't done it fully, but Game 1 starts in a few hours so I need to get this done.

I've read a lot of trash talking from Red Wings fans on various message boards about how this is going to be a four or five game series and that the Cup is all but won already. I chuckle at this and wonder how these people are allowed outside their homes legally. In most cases ignorance is not bliss.

Let's take a closer look at this series shall we?

The Pittsburgh Penguins have proven throughout the playoffs that they can win tight, low scoring, one goal games. They're also shown they can win in shootouts like Game 1 against the Rangers. (Sorry Gopher...keep razzing me about rooting for Detroit and this is what you get.)

When I look at Detroit, I see a team that looks to be virtually impenetrable, but since I saw Indiana Jones last night I have a keen eye and notice the two small chinks in the armor.

First, aside from Game 5 against Dallas in which they played scared and lost as a result, the other three losses have one thing in common. The opposition got out and skated and took the game to Detroit.

The Predators' wins in Game 3 and 4 on home ice are where the Penguins need to look for how to beat this team. Those two games were some of the most exciting hockey I'd seen all season. The pace was ridiculous and Detroit's older d-men couldn't keep up and were caught out of position leaving their even older (not counting Chelios here) goaltender to try and make insane saves.

Pittsburgh can easily take advantage of this and has a much better defensive system than the Preds did.

Flaw number two is simply this. Osgood has been good, he hasn't had to be great. Don't get me wrong, he's played well in these playoffs and may have swung the tide in one or two games, but for the most part he has not been tested. Was he tested in Games 5 and 6 against Nashville? No. Was he tested at all against Colorado? No. His first test was Game 4 and 5 against Dallas, both losses.

The Penguins will need to play how they did in Game 5 against Philly to take advantage of this. Game 5 was the first time I was actually not yelling at the screen for them to put the puck on net. You have to get pucks to the net at this time of year. Pretty plays don't work often as is and certainly the success rate drops even more in the playoffs. Guys are going to need to crash the net like crazy, get in Osgood's face, rattle him.

I'm not saying Pittsburgh is the perfect machine here at all, just pointing out what they need to do to win.

What sticks out in my mind that could hurt them is if Hal Gill and Rob Scuderi are paired up together. Compound that with the realistic possibility that they will at some point be on the ice against the Zetterberg/Datsyuk line and it could pose a very serious problem for Pittsburgh.

The stars are going to have to step up in this series as they have during this run, but the guy who's probably been the most underappreciated guy this postseason is Jordan Staal. This kid continues to impress me every day. It's not often that you see someone this young and know he's going to be an elite two-way player in a couple years.

Staal does everything and never takes a shift off.

Now I'm not going to make a prediction as to who is going to win this and here's why. If you go back and check out the full predictions I made before the playoffs started, I said the Pens would lose to the Sharks in the Finals. I was half right in that Pittsburgh would make it this far. However, every time I've picked against Detroit they've won and I don't want to jinx this thing because I'm already shaking and there's six hours to puck drop.

Here's what I will predict. This series is going seven games and should be a showcase of just how good hockey can be. These are two highly talented teams and should be a lot of fun to watch for those of you who aren't a fan of either side. For me, this is going to be torture and if it goes seven games check your local newspapers or online for the headline "24-year-old Pens Fans Dies From Heart Attack During Game 7."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Pens Head To The Cup Finals

OK, let me explain why there was no immediate post yesterday after we blew out Philly 6-0 and advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1991-92.

It's pretty simple really. I nearly broke down in disbelief. That's about it. I was sitting at my desk at work watching the final seconds tick down when the enormity of the situation hit me. All of the suffering over the last few years has finally culminated in a Stanley Cup berth. Several hours after the game when I got into the car with my girlfriend to drive home, I was still shaking and laughing like an idiot.

She must have asked me about 30 times on the ride home about what I was laughing at. No I'm not joking.

I was forced to listen to the first period in the car on the ride into work and was able to hear the first goal scored by Ryan Malone on a slap pass from Sidney Crosby. I should seriously get in my car and drive around while the Pens are playing more often. At last count, the Pens had scored seven goals in the three or four periods I've been in the car during these playoffs.

As we were entering a tunnel we lost the radio feed for about 10 minutes. Gotta love traffic, but her mother called and didn't even ask to speak to her. Instead she wanted to update me that Malkin had just stuffed one behind Martin Biron and we had a 2-0 lead. I went nuts. The walk up to work is a blur and everything since the final horn went off and the players met at center ice to shake hands is a blur.

I still cannot believe how well the Penguins are playing right now and just how excited I am about seeing them back in the Finals. I was about 8 years old the last time the Pens made it this far. I was still too young to fully comprehend anything that was going on or get this into the playoffs. Ahh the innocence of youth.

I remember going to bed not knowing the results of the games, waking up and putting on SportsCenter to find out if the Pens won or not. Do you seriously think I could do that ever again? I sure don't. I have a hard enough time trying to fall asleep without the thought of a Penguins game being played.

I know I'm rambling and it's with good reason I think. When I woke up this morning I checked the usual suspects online to just confirm that the Penguins had actually won the Eastern Conference. I still don't really believe it, but I'm very pumped to get this thing going and take a shot at the Stanley Cup. Heard a rumor that Game 1 is on Saturday and if that's the case, I'm going to be home for it. I'll actually get to see Game 1 of a series for the first time in these playoffs and I'll be at home for the entire game. This is turning out to be a good Spring. Let's just hope the success continues.

Once I stop shaking, I'll look at this series a little more in depth and come up with some predictions like I have for every other series so far. Until next time, GO PENS!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Pens Put Flyers On Brink Of Elimination

When the game ended tonight, I was talking with Gopher and a very strange feeling came over me. I was happy and very excited obviously, but there was something very different about tonight and I'm not entirely sure why.

I was nervous as usual for the entire third period until Ryan Malone scored to put us up 3-1 and then I started to breathe just a little easier. I couldn't get too excited though since I was at work listening on a 2 minute delay over the web and was tied up with a bunch of stuff relating to the West Virginia Primary tonight.

As I was posting the story about the Penguins to our sites the feeling hit me. The nerves were mysteriously gone in quick fashion for the first time in months.

I was numb.

That's about as best I can describe it. As I wrote the headline "Pens Take Commanding 3-0 Lead Over Flyers" the magnitude of it all hit me.

We're one win away from being in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 91-92 when I was still parading around the house in my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pajamas. Yeah, I had them, what of it? You know you did too.

Now by no means am I saying this series is over, but for the third time in this postseason we have a 3-0 lead. I'll repeat that because even I don't believe I even just typed that and it's true.

The Penguins have a 3-0 lead for the third time this postseason.

I asked for a split and I've at least gotten it. I would much rather have won Game 3 to go up 3-0 like we did than give Philly fans an added edge to get riled up for Game 4 with a chance to tie the series on home ice. You could almost hear the air get sucked out of the building when Malone tucked the puck behind Martin Biron to put the Pens up 3-1. It was almost like when Marian Hossa skated up the middle of the ice and made about 3 guys look stupid and caught Biron off-guard to put us up 2-0 early in the first.

Of course like a little kid, I'm greedy and now want to see us break out the brooms and get rid of Philadelphia quickly. I never thought that I'd see the Pens ever go on a run like they are on right now.

This is like watching the results of my latest Stanley Cup run in NHL 2K8 coming to life. After tonight's game, we are now 11-1 in the playoffs. That doesn't even look right and my head is starting to hurt from trying to wrap my brain around that thought.

Also, Sid the Kid is now the league leader in points for the playoffs. Let's not forget how impressive that is seeing as how he's played in fewer games than any of the other guys near the top of the leader-board. If you'll also notice that Malkin is only one point behind Sid.

Pavel Datsyuk (17) and Henrik Zetterberg (18) are close to Sid who's got 19, but they have both played in 1 more game so far.

Like I said, I'm just numb right now. I don't want to get too excited about being one game from the Stanley Cup Finals since I've been on the good end of a 3-0 series lead being blown. (Thanks Yankees for giving us Sox fans the ultimate bragging rights for all eternity until you guys do the same to us.)

Game 4 is on Thursday and by then we may know who the Western Conference representative will be since Dallas has been awful against Detroit who also leads 3-0.

It's kind of funny how the best series of the playoffs were in the first round when the seeding was much more lopsided. We had three Game 7s in the first round and since then we've had one Game 6 and might not even see a Game 5 in the conference finals. Didn't think that would be the case, but yet here we are.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Pens Lead 2-0, I Should Go Away More Often

Ok, the title bears a little explanation I know. This past weekend I was sunning it up in Cancun, Mexico. Jealous? I am and I was just there. As a result of the trip I missed all of Game 1 and most of Game 2. I returned home in time to see Evgeni Malkin make a terrible pass that got picked off by Mike Richards who then scored shorthanded.

My timing is impeccable.

Before you start saying "Oh poor baby. Missed two hockey games because he was in paradise," think about this. There was no way for me to even know the score of Game 1. None. We got ESPN in the room, but it was ESPN Latin America or something. I watched 90 minutes of SportsCenter in Spanish for nothing. Even the bottom line failed to show anything about the NHL, but I saw enough NBA highlights to think I was still in the States.

Anyway, I got the score of Game 1 from the girlfriend's brother who was able to check it on his phone. Gotta love technology.

I didn't think this whole thing through either. In my head when we planned this trip I was all pumped to go. Then I realized that it would be playoff time and the further the Penguins advanced the more I realized I screwed myself. If you go back and look at a recent post about how you know you love your team too much, you'll see why I was amped up and fidgety this entire weekend.

I must say, if you've never been to Cancun...GET ON A PLANE AND GO RIGHT NOW. You won't get many travel tips from me, but this was an amazing trip and I can't wait to go back someday.

Now back to hockey.

I can't really say much about Game 1 other than that I'm happy we won. All I saw of it were the highlights and I was laughing hysterically at Malkin's shorthanded breakaway goal. He pulled his best Zdeno Chara penalty shot impression and put the game away.

As for Game 2. There was some controversy in the first period when a shot by Gonchar deflected off a bunch of things and appeared to cross the goal-line with Sid hacking away on the doorstep. Video replay was inconclusive and the Pens remained up 1-0. In my humble opinion and since I played goalie for some time, that puck was in the net. No question. I'm just glad this didn't come back and bite us later in the game.

I was not impressed at all with how they played in this game. They were real sloppy and at times lacked focus, yet somehow we found a way to win with of all people but Max Talbot.

Here's what I'm hoping for. The Penguins need to lock Talbot up for a few years and I'll have a new jersey. We named our cat Max because of Talbot. (The girlfriend refuses to admit this, but while she was suggesting names for the cat I waited for her to pick one that had a Pens player's name. As soon as she called out Max, I pounced.) He's by far one of my favorite guys on the team because of his work ethic and the energy he brings to the lineup.

Let's not forget that this whole thing was set up because of a Philly turnover at their own blueline and somehow they couldn't get the puck away from Georges Laraque who dumped it down to Gary Roberts in the corner. Roberts then makes a brilliant no-look pass to a wide open Talbot in the slot who made me jump out of my chair and scare my own little Max.

From that moment on, the Pens looked like the team that has gotten to this point. They absolutely shut the Flyers down for the last 10 minutes of the game and only surrendered one good chance. This new weapon in their arsenal is something I haven't seen out of this team forever. The discipline this team has at this age is what frustrates the daylights out of me when I see stupid penalties being taken. We have the guys to shut a game down like we did in Game 2 and that alone has been a huge factor in their success to this point.

Marc-Andre Fleury was great once again, as was Martin Biron. I was thinking about this earlier today. Biron hasn't played poorly in this series. Did anyone see the sprawling save he made on Crosby after a failed clearing attempt left him in no-man's land? I was half out of my chair dancing around when my jaw hit the floor to see Biron's glove snag that puck.

What has hurt Philly to this point is their turnovers. You can't turn the puck over against a team like Pittsburgh and expect to get away with it. The elite players the Pens have will kill you if you just cough it up to them. Look at Detroit for another example of this.

In any event, we head back to Philly up 2-0 with Game 3 tonight. Of course I'd love to sweep them out of the playoffs, who wouldn't? Again, I don't think we sweep this. All I'm really looking for out of these next two games is another split like we got against the Rangers in the last round. If we head back to Pittsburgh up 3-1 for Game 5 I'll feel pretty good about our chances.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Conferece Finals Predictions

The conference finals are upon us and we're left with 2 teams everyone expected to see and 2 teams that are raising eyebrows.

Most people expected the Red Wings and Penguins to reach the conference finals, while the Stars and Flyers were question marks to get this far.

I didn't expect to see either the Stars or Flyers make it this far. Philly has completely surprised me after how poorly they played with all the injuries they had. They had to fight just to make it into the playoffs and would have been the 8-seed had they not beaten Pittsburgh on the final day of the regular season to jump up to 6th.

The Dallas Stars were my post-trade deadline favorites to come out of the West after landing Brad Richards. Then they were one of the worst teams down the stretch and turned it on against the Ducks and Sharks and now sit one step away from the Stanley Cup Finals.

Let's do this shall we?

Let's start in the East.

Eastern Conference Finals

#2 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #6 Philadelphia Flyers

Well I said before the playoffs started that I was glad we didn't draw the Flyers in the first round because we finished the regular season with two games against them, which would have potentially set up for nine straight games against the same team. I don't care who you are, neither team would have made it out of the second round after playing nine straight games against each other in one of the most heated rivalries in all of hockey.

The Flyers do not get enough credit for how fast they are. When people think of the Flyers one of the first things that comes to mind is, dirty. Yes, they had a ton of suspensions this year and were even warned by the league office about it. Fine. That's never going to change while Bobby Clarke has anything to say about it.

They play a physical style that not many teams can compete with, but guys like Jeff Carter, Daniel Briere, Mike Richards and even R.J. Umberger can all skate pretty well. Umberger has been unbelievable during these playoffs and likes to play against his hometown Penguins.

Another big reason why the Flyers are in the conference finals is the play of goaltender Martin Biron. I can remember watching a couple games of the last series with Montreal and how Biron singlehandedly stole two games by standing on his head.

The big question mark for Philly is can they contain the big three from Pittsburgh in Marian Hossa, Evgeni Malkin and of course Sidney Crosby.

The Canadiens and Penguins are very similar. Both like to get out and skate and have exceptionally skilled players on offense. The biggest difference between the two teams is that the Penguins have Marc-Andre Fleury and not Carey Price.

I said before the playoffs even started that Price would be the reason the Habs would lose if they indeed did get knocked out. I'd like to see anyone try and argue with me that Price wasn't the reason the Habs lost in that series. Price got yanked twice, benched once and shelled in Game 5. He's going to be a great goalie in this league for many years to come and the lessons he learned from being abused in this series will go a long way. Have faith Montreal.

Now I'm not saying Fleury has a ton more experience than Price, but he's been in the league much longer and at least got a taste of playoff hockey last year so he knows what to expect. That experience alone and probably giving up his trademark yellow pads and gloves have carried the Penguins so far. With a 7-1 record with a 1.76 GAA and .936 save percentage are a big reason why the Flyers need to be concerned.

Montreal showed that Biron was capable of giving up goals and the Penguins have shown that they can win shootouts and tight games. Just look at the series against the Rangers as proof.

The Penguins defense has been unbelievable down the stretch and into the playoffs as well as the penalty kill. I hate to admit this, but the addition of Hal Gill has been a big (no pun intended) reason for this.

Two quick danger notes.

For the Penguins, watch out when Gill and Rob Scuderi are on the ice together. Both are great defensive defensemen who love to block shots. The problem is that they aren't exactly fast skaters. The Flyers could exploit this and force Michel Therrien to change it up a little.

For the Flyers, one of their best defensemen is most likely out for the playoffs after blood clots were discovered in his left foot. This is a HUGE loss for the Flyers. If there was one position besides in net that they could not afford to lose someone, it would be on defense.

Bottom Line This is going to get nasty and very quick. This could very well come down to who can keep their emotions in check. Special teams will be huge and the Penguins have the edge. Pittsburgh's PP is 4th in the playoffs clicking at 23.4%, while Philly is clicking at 24%.

The difference is that Philly is the most penalized team in the playoffs and has been shorthanded 57 times whereas Pittsburgh has only been shorthanded 38 and has killed off nearly 90% of them.

Penguins win in 6.

Western Conference

#1 Detroit Red Wings vs. #5 Dallas Stars

Can we say a classic battle of offense against defense? Let's throw another cliche out there. Defense wins championships.

I'm not saying that Detroit can't play defense, but their offense has been the story so far in these playoffs, especially Johan Franzen who has 15 goals in the playoffs including Game 1 against the Stars. (Yes, I'm aware this is a little late being posted, but if you knew the week I had, you'd understand.)

Marty Turco has been a big reason that one of the best defensive teams in the West has made it this far. They took out two of the most dominant teams in the conference in San Jose and Anaheim. I'm shocked really.

Brendan Morrow has been fantastic in these playoffs including ending the best game of the playoffs so far in Game 6 against San Jose to send the Stars into the finals. This team is coming together at just the right time and living up to the potential they have on paper to be one of the most suffocating teams in the entire league.

Detroit on the other hand, has cruised through the playoffs so far. The main reason for this is because they haven't played a team that has been able to force the issue and force them to skate.

Nashville did it for two games on home ice and won both. The problem was that their goaltending was suspect the rest of the time and Detroit pounced. The Stars might not have enough speed to be able to exploit this weakness, but if you look ahead to the Stanley Cup Finals, you can see where I'm going with this.

What the Stars should be able to do is clog up the ice and keep Detroit to the outsides and capitalize on turnovers. I still don't trust Chris Osgood and Dominik Hasek with their AARP card memberships in the mail. Yes, Ozzie has played well so far while filling in for Hasek. I just don't trust his body holding up.

Bottom Line: If Dallas can stay out of the box and play the way they have against a high powered Anaheim team, they can pull off the upset here. Seriously. Marty Turco is finally playing like a playoff goalie coming off last season's great seven game series with the Canucks. That was not his fault at all, but he seems to have learned how to win in the playoffs. If the Stars align, it could be onto the Stanley Cup Finals.

Stars win in 7.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Ways You Know You Love Your Team Too Much

OK, so after Game 5 of the Penguins/Rangers series I was talking to Gopher. I decided to wait a little bit to rub it in as he's a Rangers fan and I'm obviously not. About 2 hours after Marian Hossa scored, I still had some nervous breathing going on. You know how you get when you nearly get into a car accident and your hole body shakes and you think you might have a reversal of fortune of your meals that day? We concluded that still feeling that way that long after the game might be a little much. The rest of the conversation became about ways you know you might love your NHL team too much.

These are in no particular order mind you. This is just meant to be something fun for me to do and for you all to read and see just how nuts I actually am.

#1 You Grow Your Own Playoff Beard

Yep, doing it right now. I've been toying with the idea of growing out a beard for a while now anyway so I figured, why not make it for the playoffs? I normally sport the goatee, so this playoff beard is off to a bad start seeing as how the goatee has been groomed for years and this "thing" has only been around for a month.

My girlfriend looked at me like I was nuts when I said I was doing this. I got that head cocked to the side half rolling eyes look as she walked away saying "You never cease to amaze me."

The things I do for my team.

Don't think I'm the only one either. Gopher never even blinked when I told him I was doing this. Apparently he's done it in the past and I must say, he put most of the NHL guys to shame. Check It Out Here!

I don't care who you are, that's an awesome playoff beard.

#2 You Have Sacred Pre-Game Rituals

Again, I'm guilty. I won't even go into details on this because you might make a couple calls and have the men in white coats come pick me up. I always wanted padded walls in my room. Mainly because we used to have knee hockey wars and the only way it could possibly get better would be to institute checking.

Here's how this works and I'm sure you all have your own. When I say pre-game I don't mean from the time you sit in your favorite chair and turn on the tv. Not at all. What I'm talking about is this.

From the time the final buzzer sounds in the previous game until the puck drops in the next game, you do the same things the same way every time as if your life depended on it. You celebrate a win or get over a loss the same way. Your daily routine stays the same. You go all out walking on egg shells as if one minor slip up such as dropping a spoon en route to the sink doesn't throw the universe out of whack and thus rendering your team dead. (Yes this happened before Game 4 against the Rangers, that's all I'm going to say.)

In most cases this lasts for 24-48 hours and every minute that goes by is a painful mindgame that keeps you awake at night with the voice in your head combing over your every move that day and you don't sleep at all if you screwed something up.

#2a. You Have Sacred Rituals During The Game

This is obviously a continuation of the above, but it must be mentioned.

This is probably the most crucial time for you as a fan. It's funny how one little body movement that results in something negative happening to your team will change how you watch the game.

You'll end up looking like you're playing twister by the end of the game if you've got a cold or a rash or anything else that doesn't let your health be at 100%. What happens when you make the slightest movement and it results in a goal? You apologize to the team through the television as if you've got a microphone on and everyone on the team has an earpiece to hear you.

You will risk bodily harm by not making a bathroom break until intermission even if the call of nature comes with 19:59 on the clock in the period. In your mind you are the center of the universe and anything you say and or do during a game has a massive impact on how the game turns out. The things you do and more importantly, don't do during the game would make and OCD patient look completely normal.

#3 Anything Can Become A Projectile

This should be self explanatory, but it's true. You get soo wrapped up in the game and think you're the coach of General Manager and whatever happens to be within an arms length is at risk. One example of a massive flip out had nothing to do with hockey.

2003 ALCS Game 7. Aaron Boone walk-off homer sends the Red Sox packing after they blew a big lead. I walked back into my dorm room entirely infuriated and bumped into my dresser with my upper thigh. I forgot I stil had keys in my pocket and they jabbed me in the leg ever so slightly. I reached into my pocket grabbed the keys and chucked it at the wall faster than Tim Wakefield has ever thrown in his life. I'm surprised I didn't lose an eye with the flying shrapnel that came off the key ring as a couple key chains disintegrated upon contact. The holes in the wall were still there 3 years later when we moved out.

Normally the remote takes all the abuse. It's the serf of electronics really. It always serves and never asks for anything but new batteries so it can perform its duties efficiently and we end up throwing it against the floor, wall or in some cases not my own, the television. What did the remote ever do? Oh and forget it if the batteries die at the exact instant you want to change the channel due to being so disgusted with how your team is playing. Get the kids out of the room and hide the women as that sucker might break the sound barrier as it leaves your hand.

#4 You Construct A Shrine For Your Team Somewhere In Your House

My entire basement would fall into this category. Have no fear though, I got full approval from the girlfriend to construct this room. I had to concede that I wouldn't make it look tacky or go too nuts with it, so in order to make her happy I enlisted her help. It's reached a point where we are both happy with how it looks and I'm OK with it.

The walls have pictures of various Penguin greats as well as most of the young guns I've enjoyed watching over the past couple years. Some of it is autographed, some of it just looked cool so I bought it.

Here's the thing with the shrine. You are never quite done adding to it. You'll always find space for that new item no matter how big or small it is. I've still got about 3 more framed pictures to put up and I don't know where I'm going to put it. I just might have to annex the shrine to another room and slowly take over our whole place. If you read this dear, I need your help measuring out the walls in the bedroom.

#5 You Will Risk Getting Some Disease For Your Team

I'm not talking something entirely disgusting here. Just simply wearing the same shirt or clothes for every game while your team is on a winning streak in the playoffs.

I haven't quite pulled this off during this year's playoffs as I've had to work for some of the games and that would just put off some people. That said, during last year's ALCS and first couple games of the World Series I refused to wash my Red Sox shirt I wore during Game 5 against Cleveland. We were on vacation in Florida at the time and wasted 4 evenings watching baseball, while the odor in the room grew with every pitch.

When we returned home from our trip I refused to wash the shirt until the series was over. My girlfriend tried to wash it without me knowing, but I caught her and got the rolled eye thing I noted above. It's the look I get when she knows I'm doing something crazy or beyond her understanding of how involved I get with a team.