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Monday, February 11, 2008

Hello World, I'm Back

It's been a week since the last post and there's a very good reason for it. No it wasn't writer's block or lack of time. I went into hiding this week and have finally left my hiding place to return to society.

As you probably know from the last post, I am a Patriots fan. I also live near New York City and unless you've been under a rock for the last week like me, you know that the New York Giants beat my Patriots in one of the greatest upsets in Super Bowl history.

This faced me with a brutal situation. This town hates anyone wearing anything with a New England sports team logo on it. As an example, I wore my Boston Red Sox hat to work one day. Now I have to park several blocks from my building. Within four city blocks, two guys sitting on porches decided to rip into me.

Man #1: "Are you F%#@ing proud of yourself for wearing that &^%$ hat?!"

I'll admit, if I was back home in New England and saw someone wearing a Yankees hat or shirt and I was in the comfort of my own home, or in a place where I knew the person wouldn't come after me, I would have said something similar to this fine gentleman's splendid use of the English language.

Man #2 two blocks later: "You've got a lot of balls wearing that crap around here boy."

At this point I picked up the pace and speed walked to work.

Anyway, I knew the day would come when a NY team would win something in some sport and I would have to see everyone and their brother sporting the team's colors. I had never thought about how I would deal with such a thing so I kind of made it up on the fly this week.

I decided to entirely block out of my mind anything that happened last week. The Pats didn't lose because they didn't play the game. There was no Super Bowl. Didn't happen. You can try to convince me otherwise by even showing me the blog I wrote about it.

Here's the thing, I don't care. I've seen more Giants jerseys and jackets and hats this week than I have ever seen in my life. So rather than ponder how many of these people are actual fans and the ones who are bandwagon ones, I decided to just immerse myself back in hockey and specifically the Penguins.

I honestly don't know how a team so plagued by injuries this season is currently in first place in the Atlantic Division by three points over New Jersey. It's remarkable to see guys like Jeff Taffe and Nathan Smith stepping into the league and playing as well as they are.

Not to mention Evgeni Malkin who now has 21 points in the 10 games that Sidney Crosby has missed due to the high ankle sprain. I have never seen Malkin look this good. The kid is thriving off being the go-to man and being back at his natural center position.

As a Pens supporter, I was praying for them to just stay in the hunt until guys like Crosby, Gary Roberts and Marc-Andre Fleury came back from injuries. All of them could be back in the coming weeks. The question then becomes what to do with them?

Here's what you do.

You keep the line of Malkin, Ryan Malone and Peter Sykora together. How can you not? The line is simply on fire and they obviously have great chemistry.

When Sidney returns you can put him on a line with Jordan Staal and Erik Christensen. Staal and Christensen have been playing together for the last couple games with Maxime Talbot and have been getting some very good chances and have put up a couple goals.

When Roberts returns you put him with Colby Armstrong and Talbot. Seems like a bit of an odd combo doesn't it? All three of these guys are grinders and guys that will knock opponents off their game. They pound people in the corners and make defensemen nervous to move the puck.

When Fleury returns you try to send Sabourin to the minors. He has a one-way deal, so he would have to clear waivers. The Pens tried this last year and Vancouver pounced on him. Ty Conklin has been unreal since being called up and I think he has earned a spot on the team. For as much smack as I talk about him, I have been very pleased and surprised with how well he has played.

They finally got a win against Philly in their fifth try of the season after going 8-0-0 against them last season. Granted Philly has gotten much better with the signings and trades in the off-season, but the Pens were just awful against the Atlantic Division for the first half of the season.

Things seem to be turning around for the Pens right now and hopefully it continues, but no one will want to play them in the playoffs when this team starts to get healthy.

Stay tuned for the next post which will detail how the NHL needs to re-evaluate how teams qualify for the playoffs. Here's a clue. As of this very moment, the Washington Capitals are the #3 seed with 59 points. The #9 seeded Buffalo Sabres have 60 points and are on the outside looking in. I've got a solution and it will be explained soon.

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