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Saturday, February 20, 2010

USA Vs. Canada Tomorrow

While I'm not shocked by the United States being 2-0 in this tournament so far, I am shocked that Switzerland nearly knocked off Canada.

That game against the Swiss was probably the most exciting game I've seen since the Pens knocked off Detroit in Game 7 for the Stanley Cup.

Jonas Hiller was the Greek god of goaltending and has permanent bragging rights over Ducks teammate Ryan Getzlaf.

He not only stoned him in the shootout, he flat out pulled the greatest glove save in at least the last 10 years late in the third.

No words came out of my mouth as my jaw hung wide open. Simply incredible and Getzlaf was in desperate need of a long hug from your girlfriend.

Anyway, I still think that Team USA is screwed for tomorrow's showdown in Vancouver.

What's on the line is potentially a first round bye if they can force OT or get a win.

A win assures them of a top four seed, but with how the Group of Death (Group B) is playing out, one point in the standings could also get it done.

Here's my issue with the Americans right now.

In my predictions, I said that the inexperience of the young squad was concerning. That inexperience has shown up big time and if the USA would have played a top notch team in either of those openers, we're not sitting at 2-0.

I've completely lost count of how many odd-man rushes the Americans have given up so far. Keep in mind they were giving these up to the Swiss and the bastard child of Scandinavia in Norway.

If they continue to play fast and loose on defense, this will be an ugly game. Ryan Miller is a very good goaltender, but not even he will be able to shut down those odd-man rushes.

The way this game needs to go tonight if the United States wants to get a win is to play a very tight checking game.

If Canada puts up 4 goals, it's over. With Martin Brodeur in net, even getting three will be a challenge if they don't put bodies out in front of him. I can't stand the guy, but he stops what he sees and hates traffic.

David Backes should take a run at him early to get in his head and if anyone breathes on Marty, watch for him to start crying to the refs like he always does.

Some say he's the greatest of all-time and they're right. He's the greatest whiner of all-time.

Either way, if they get to overtime, the United States should get a first round bye, which is far more than any of us probably expected.

Puck drop is 7:40 p.m. Eastern.

Canada 5 USA 1
- write it down and take it to the bank.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tour Of The Consol Energy Center

(View of the Igloo from the new Consol Energy Center)

Yesterday, I was one of a lucky few members of the media to get a tour of the new home of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Consol Energy Center is going to be an amazing facility and it's amazing to see how far along the process is compared to the pile of dirt it used to be.

The tour was led by CEO Ken Sawyer and VP of Communications Tom McMillan. I must say, both are very nice guys and were very accommodating.

The tour started off by signing my life away since the building is very much an active construction zone.

We were then boarded onto shuttles and taken in the back entrance to the new building. Representatives from all the media outlets in Pittsburgh were in town and everyone was more than impressed with the building.

After a short walk through the back area of the arena, we emerged into the ice level area.

It took me a minute to realize where I was and what I was supposed to be doing. I was sent to take pictures for a slideshow on, but I couldn't pull the trigger.

The place is gorgeous. Workers were all over the building tending to their projects, forcing Sawyer to pretty much yell the entire time to explain what everything was.

I wasn't paying much attention to what Sawyer had to say about the building because one of our reporters was there to handle that, so I started to wander around a little bit and explore.

The concrete slab for the ice surface was brought in a few weeks ago and now the plywood base is being constructed.

It's a very weird/cool sight to see how a rink is constructed from nothing to what we all know one looks like.

There are no seats in place yet, but the concrete rows are already in place.

I took a moment to just stand there and imagine hearing the goal horn go off and here the building erupt and feel the concrete rumble to it's core.

Playoff time will be fantastic in the building, no question.

I couldn't help but stand at the one end of the ice, where Marc-Andre Fleury will be protecting his net, and stare out at the other end.

From the rink area, we moved into the locker room area and I don't think I've ever seen anything like it.

The Pens' locker room is shaped like a giant egg, with the lockers around the outer walls.

According to Sawyer the chalkboards and video boards will be at the one end and a team logo will be in the middle of the floor.

As the players enter the building they will have a special changing room. The purpose of the room will be to change out of their suits and street clothes. From there the walk to the actual locker room is all of a few feet through an enormous recreation room.

That room will have couches and recreational games for the players. Televisions and the whole nine yards will be in the room to help the players relax and kill some time between periods and before games.

The shower area is huge too and there's a new steam room in that area.

Without a doubt, the entire team will be able to fit in that steam room and be comfortable.

We also toured the new concession areas and concorses. All are much bigger and wider than the current amenities at the Mellon Arena.

There are conference rooms and party rooms at the new building. Pretty much whatever you want to do at this new building is available.

The conference rooms are all going to be hooked up with display screens and everything to assist in presentations.

The Consol Energy Center has it all.

The luxury suites are just plain disgusting too. The whole tour fit beyond comfortably in a mock suite that was already finished. Each had a couple rows of seats and offer great views of the ice.

Honestly, I don't think there will be a bad seat in the whole building.

We went up to the upper-deck and even from up there, the view was impressive. Sawyer said that there will not be an obstructed view seat in the entire building.

Anyone who has sat under the overhangs at Mellon Arena knows what that's like. I spent one game in the last row under an overhang up there. Had a great time, but was a little disappointed in the seats.

My favorite picture that I took is this one.

That's my feet planted at what will be center ice.

Needless to say, I got chills standing there and looking around again trying to imagine the seats filled to capacity with fans chanting "Let's Go Pens!!"

Only a few more months until that happens and hopefully the Pens can open the building in style with another Stanley Cup ceremony and banner raising.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Flyers Season Review

Well, well, it's been quite a while since I've had the pleasure of dissecting how the Flyers are throwing away a perfectly good season. Thankfully, they stormed into the break with two unexpected, and franky unbelievable come from behind wins against the Devils (remember in the 90's when the Devils were up by one goal in the third period and you just knew there was no point in watching the game anymore? I really, really don't miss those days), followed by a pair of victories over the Canadiens whom the Flyers are dueling for a lower half playoff spot.

Truth is, the Flyers have no excuse not to make the playoffs at this point. We started off well, then hit the lull. John Stevens was fired and replaced with Peter Laviolette, and I had no issue with it. I had issue with the way the team played for the next stretch under Peter, but I settled for chalking it up to "getting used to the new system". Well, they have had plenty of time to get used to his system, and the team is still marked by inconsistent play. Perhaps the wins over the devils will buttress their confidence, especially Simon Gagne, who's nose for the net seemed to have disappeared until he single-handedly won the second game in overtime. Perhaps the shellacking of the Canadiens 6-2 a day after nearly giving up, but holding on to a 3-0 lead will shake guys like Briere and Hartnell out of their funk.

It's hard to say what will happen from here on out. What I do know is that the Flyers have a lot more talent than most of the teams they are fighting for playoff spots with. The division isn't even out of the question if the Devils and Penguins stumble through the final quarter, but my sights are merely set on a playoff spot (and hopefully avoiding either the Caps or the Pens in the first round).

Moving on to player contributions. Defense first. Pronger has been a force in the back, as expected, even though it's quite obvious he's lost a step. He can be beat with speed to the outside, but he is still chewing up minutes like crazy and using his body very well. Everyone knows we signed him for the playoffs, and his impact will be most noticeable there. Timonen has been his usual self, not underrated in our eyes but perhaps still around the league. He doesn't have the big body, but he's one of the most positionally sound defensemen around, and quite the passer to boot. One of the main problems with the offense last year was the inability of our defensemen to make good first passes out of the zone, but Pronger and Timonen are leading the way for guys like Carle and Coburn, and that aspect of our game has truly improved under Laviolette's attacking system. Krajicek has filled in admirably on the third line since acquired, and I think we're all pretty pleased to not see OKT back there anymore. Tough luck on injuries for him, but he's Detroit's problem now. As for the others - Bartulis, and the injured Parent and Syvret, they've been average at best. Bartulis has been forced into extended action sooner than we anticipated, so I have no issues with his play (go Latvia!). Overall, the defense has absolutely been a strength of the team, allowing 2.63 goals per game (11th in the NHL), and 28.2 shots per game (4th). With Pronger leading the way, and a group of forwards who don't mind getting dirty, blocked shots are a regular theme.

On to the forwards. It feels like this group has traded slumps back and forth between them all season. We lost Knuble and Lupul in the offseason, but I don't think that's the real issue here. Maybe it's taking too much time for lines to mesh, maybe certain people (I'm looking directly at you Scott Hartnell) have forgotten how to put the puck in the net. Maybe we were expecting too much out of Giroux (who has looked elite at times in his puckhandling and passing) and van Riemsdyk (who has had a very good rookie year, but still drives us crazy when his slick skating and sweet shot disappear for stretches at a time). I'm certainly not putting blame on the latter two. JVR is a rook, he's still learning, and he's been great. Giroux has been shuffled around, like a lot of the guys, between Richards' line, down to play with JVR and Asham, and other combinations as well. When you've got a rookie and a grinder on your wings, it's not easy to shine. The fourth line has been excellent when healthy - Laperriere, Betts (who we recently re-signed to a 2 year deal at a very reasonable cap hit, pleasing me much), and Carcillo. Though Laviolette has now moved Carcillo onto the top line with Richie and Gags, so we'll see how long that lasts.

Let's face it, this group of forwards is built to spread scoring out. Carter isn't going to score 48 goals again this year, but that is okay. We didn't nab Kovalchuk, so we don't have that overwhelming star force. Richards and Carter are the offensive leaders, but they are also two-way players, and we are counting on more than just them to fuel us. Briere has been mediocre for his contract numbers, but perhaps the switch back to left wing and a hat trick against those Montreal fans that just love him so much will give him back his drive. Powerplay is sitting at 5th in the league at 22.2%, which is remarkable considering they have been faltering lately, but still proves that the Flyers are capable of putting pucks in the net at all times. Do we need to trade someone to shake up the offense? Maybe. But the only person I'd like to see go is Hartnell, and he has a no-movement clause, an inflated salary, and perhaps too strong of a connection to the other players. If he can curtail his boneheaded penalties and work off this epic cold streak, he can stay around.

I've been rambling for long enough and still have to cover the goaltenders, so I'm going to leave trade rumors for after the Olympics. Casey put up a nice Olympic preview there, check it out. And now, the epicenter of the Flyers struggles since Ron Hextall left - goaltenders.

Ray Emery looked like a reasonably solid pickup at the beginning of the season. He played well for the most part, flashing across the crease and making the saves he needed to. He seems to lose track of the puck sometimes and sits idle instead of scrambling back into the crease, but for the most part, he was decent, and better than a lot of people expected when they heckled the signing in the offseason. He hasn't blown up at anyone, punched any trainers in the face, or gotten himself in any trouble (that I know of). Boucher.. hasn't gotten much time at all. Sorry Boush, it looks like you are stuck as a backup, and possibly even third goalie if Emery comes back from injury. At this point, I don't think that would be a wise decision. A torn labrum for a goalie after abdominal surgery at 27? Rumors are floating around that this could be career-threatening for Emery - and if he needs surgery, why throw him back into the net? He relies on quickness and movement, and if he's not 100%, we shouldn't be playing him.

And besides, Michael Leighton has done everything we could ask of him to earn the starting job. I'm just as worried as the next guy that he's going to revert back to his career norm and start giving up softies every game instead of every once and a while. Is he the guy? Maybe. In 18 games he's put up some very impressive statistics - 12-3-2 with a .925 sv% and 2.19 GAA. If he qualified, those numbers would be in the top 10 in the league, easily. He says he's slightly adjusted his game by not challenging shooters quite as much, leading to better positioning. There are still rumors connecting Flyers to goaltenders on the market, such as Vokoun and Roloson, but with our cap situation very tight and our moveable pieces with no-trade clauses, I think we're going to have to ride Leighton to the end, and I'm okay with that. I don't want to move someone like Giroux or JVR out of panic, especially when Leighton has done everything to earn our trust. It's a sketchy situation, like always, and could yet again be the downfall of a Flyers season.

But here's one observer with some hope. Because when it comes to the Flyers, that's about all you can have.

Monday, February 15, 2010

2010 Olympic Predictions

After a huge glitch during the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, we're off to an exciting start.

The women's hockey tournament is already underway and I propose we just let Finland and Sweden play for bronze and let USA and Canada battle it out for gold.

Imagine how intense the rivalry between USA and Canada will be if they meet in the men's and women's tournament. They already met in the Juniors in one of the most thrilling games ever played, with the red white and blue stunning the Canadians....on their home ice.

Of course, there's no way the United States men make it to the gold medal game.

Ok ok, so there's a chance of it happening, but unless Ryan Miller is the second coming of Jim Craig ala 1980, they make it out of group play and that's about it.

I just think that this team is too young and inexperienced and I'm not just talking about at the international level. I'm talking about the NHL.

Guys like Patrick Kane, Bobby Ryan, Erik Johnson, Jack Johnson and Ryan Suter are all studs in the NHL for sure, but what have any of them played for that meant anything in their professional careers?

What pressure is there playing for Team USA for that matter? Has anyone really expected the United States to do anything in hockey at the Olympics....ever?

Now, teams like Canada, Russia, Sweden, etc., those guys grew up feeling the pressure of winning gold in the Olympics. That was the pinnacle of hockey in their minds.

Maybe that's another reason the United States' miracle in 1980 resonates to this day.

Don't get me wrong, I'll be rooting for our boys (and I stress, boys) in these Games, but I'm just not expecting much.

Not to mention the goaltending is atrocious.

Should something happen to Miller, this team is beyond screwed.

Tim Thomas is not a big game goaltender and has proven it over his career. When the big games come up in the playoffs, he folds like a lawn chair.

Jonathan Quick is a solid young talent, but that's the problem. He's too young and has only been the starter in Los Angeles for a short time.

He's still learning to deal with pressure and Thomas can't deal with pressure.

Anyway, let's break down the groups.

Group A


Clearly, the best teams in this group are Canada and the United States.

Here's how I see the standings after the round robin opening round.

Canada 3-0-0
USA 2-1-0
Switzerland 1-2-0
Norway 0-3-0

Canada gets a decisive 5-1 victory over the Americans in the final round-robin game to go undefeated and has no trouble with the other two teams.

USA gets a good fight from the Swiss, but ultimately get the win behind the play of Miller who steals one. USA 4 Swiss 2. USA also has no problems dispatching Norway.

Switzerland plays a close game against Norway, but Jonas Hiller stands tall in what will be their only win of the tournament before an early and expected exit. Swiss win that one 5-2.

Group B (The Group Of Death)

Czech Republic

Here's how I see this one going down after round-robin play.

Russia 3-0-0
Czech Republic 2-0-1
Slovakia 1-2-0
Latvia 0-3-0

While this may not be going out on a limb, I think the Slovaks actually put a scare into both the Czechs and Russians.

It also would not surprise me if they steal a game from one of those two teams either.

Jaroslav Halak has been playing very well for the Habs this season and seems to be coming out of his shell and their roster is littered with current and former NHL stars.

This would be my darkhorse in this tournament by far.

The Czechs and Russians have more pressure on them given history and recent success respectively, but the Slovaks scare me.

Anyway, Russia and the Czechs play to a draw through 60 minutes, but the Russians get it done in the extra frame with Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin on the ice.

The Czechs squeek by the Slovaks in regulation 3-2.

Latvia shows up and gets pounded like a two-dollar whore for three games.

Group C


Here's how I see the standings following round-robin play.

Finland 3-0-0
Sweden 2-1-0
Germany 1-2-0
Belarus 0-3-0

What I'd love to know is how Belarus even made this tournament, but whatever.

I don't have a good feeling about the defending gold medalists at all and I think it's because of their goaltending.

I respect Henrik Lundqvist a lot and think he's a hell of a goalie, but he hasn't been his normal self this season and I think that keeps them from repeating. If he can't do it, Jonas "The Monster" Gustavsson is the next choice followed by HV71's Stefan Liv.

Does that really scare anyone? Not me, that's for sure especially with the trio of goaltenders Finland is sporting.

Nick Backstrom, Antero Niittymaki and Miikka Kiprusoff. I'm not a fan of Nitty, but Backstrom and Kipper are clearly capable of putting this team on their shoulders.

Anyway, Finland drops Sweden 4-1.

Sweden has no trouble with Belarus and Germany.

Germany might give the Swedes or Finns a small scare as they always seem to play at least decently in these tournaments, but they down Belarus 4-2.

Belarus gives a valiant effort, but just gets out gunned all around.

Now, from here the top four teams get byes into the quarterfinals.

Based on this Canada, Russia and Finland are automatically in. I really think the fourth bye comes down to Sweden and Team USA.

However, based on the rankings and weaker division, I give the edge to Sweden, which means Team USA has to play one more game as the 5-seed against the 12 which should be Latvia or Norway.

If I'm ranking them, I think it comes out like this overall after the round-robin:

Czech Republic

Based on this, the 5 plays the 12, 6 vs 11, 7 vs 10 and 8 vs 9

Matchups come out as:

USA vs Latvia
Czech Republic vs Norway
Slovakia vs Belarus
Switzerland vs Germany

Advancing are:

USA 8-0
Czechs 6-1
Slovaks 6-0
Swiss 4-1

No surprises here.

Now we're left with the following in the quarterfinals.

Finland vs Switzerland
Canada vs Slovakia
Russia vs Czech Republic
Sweden vs USA

Who advances?

Finland 5-2
Canada 6-1
Russia 5-4 OT
USA 3-2

Matchups in the semifinals:

Finland vs USA
Canada vs. Russia

Moving on:

Finland 4-1
Canada 4-2

Bronze Medal Game

Russia 6

Gold Medal Game

Canada 4
Finland 1

On the medal stand:

Gold - Canada
Silver - Finland
Bronze - Russia

The tournament sets up well for the United States, but they ultimately don't have the firepower or experience to hold up with the big boys.

Finland's goaltending will get hot and carry them to silver.

Evgeni Nabokov will choke when it matters just like he does in the NHL playoffs and the Russians will have to settle for bronze.

Again, this is all hypothetical and I'm sure by tomorrow none of this will be relevant anymore.

Either way it was fun to do and I can't wait to watch the games.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Pens Fall 4-3 In Shootout

OK so I detailed out the whole game on earlier today, but obviously in a recap story there's things I can't say to remain as an objective journalist.

That's what this platform is for right?

So here we go.

For one, I am not happy at all with seeing the Pens blow the lead....again.

They did it against the Capitals last Sunday, they did it against the Rangers the other night and they did it not once, not twice, but THREE times today against the Predators.

Good Lord.

This has been a problem for months and if the Pens were as explosive as they are, I'm not so sure they're one point out of the Atlantic Division lead.

Crosby got his 42nd goal of the season to open the scoring and Brooks Orpik got his first goal in 112 games to break a 2-2 tie in the third.

Fleury made some nice saves throughout the game to keep the Pens in the game, but surrendered goals against Martin Erat and Cal O'Reilly in the shootout.

Kris Letang and Crosby were denied by Dan Ellis and that was that.

I'd go into more detail, but there's really no point.

The effort wasn't there for 60 minutes and the Pens are lucky to get a point.

Their next game isn't until March 2, due to the Olympic break.

Now, going back to the other day I meant to tell this gem of a story, but figured I'd save it.

On Friday, I took my wife down to the Mellon Arena to go get autographs after the morning skate.

It was freezing out there, but she was a trooper and went along to help out and use her charm to help score some more signatures.

I will go on the record and say, I do not sell these. I am purely a collector and am not just going down there to make a buck like some other people I see there.

Anyway, we get to the arena around 11 a.m. and the players start filing out shortly before noon.

For those doing the math, that's 45 minutes roughly and did I mention it was freezing out there and we were standing in a snowbank to be up near the front of the line? No? Well there you go.

Why is any of this relevant?

Some girl from south Florida was there gushing her Pens knowledge. I'm OK with hearing other stories from fans and such, but here's where I draw the line.

There's four types of fans in this world.

1- Bandwagon - No explanation needed.

2 - Casual - The follow the team and sport, but don't know stats and wouldn't recognize any of the players on the street if they bumped into them.

3 - Die Hard - I throw myself into this. We have rituals and routines and know more about the team than we probably should and for no good reason.

It's been documented on here before that I haven't changed clothes or shaved for a period of time because the team was winning.

During the playoffs I only shaved after every playoff round because of work and work alone.

I had a daily routine that somehow kept spreading to all facets of my life, down to what songs I would listen to and from which bands and in what order during the playoffs.

If this sounds like OCD, it probably is, but when I veered away from the plan the Pens lost. Every time. When I nailed my 24 hour routine, they won, 16 times and hoisted the Stanley Cup.

4 - Obsessive and Ignorant - These are the types of people who think the world revolves around them. They think their team will always win even when the team sucks and is in last place and out of contention.

These are also the same individuals who think they know everything about the player's personal lives.

Ladies and gentlemen, this woman outside the Igloo on Friday was No. 4 and had a voice that I would prefer Fran Drescher to.

My wife is more a hybrid of options two and three and it's only because of me. As such, she was even getting pissed at this girl.

This girl and her friend were chatting (non-stop) for the entire time we were there. I don't think she took a breath.

If that wasn't bad enough, she starts talking about rumors about some of the Pens in their personal lives.

I don't claim to know anything about the player's personal lives. I don't really care to know about their personal lives either.

As long as they're good citizens and being productive members of the team, I'm happy.

Not this girl.

One shining example was the topic of Marc-Andre Fleury and his supposed girlfriend. Again, I don't know if he has one, don't care either. I'm certainly not going to waste my time looking it up either to further illustrate the glaring differences between Fans of the third and fourth varieties.

This girl turns to her friend and says "I hear she's not even that pretty either."

I wish I had a picture of this girl to post on here to make this next line even more amusing.

If that wasn't calling the kettle black, I don't know what is.

I'm not trying to be mean, but when you're overweight and your face makes little kids run in fear, don't harp on athletes wives/girlfriends.

It's a known fact that 99% of NHL players have hot significant others. Mike Fisher is engaged to Carrie Underwood for crying out loud. The other one percent either have average looking mates or none at all.

Not trying to sound sexist or anything, but even women athletes bring home good looking guys too, so it goes both ways.

Anyway, the jealously oozing out of this girl was palpable and I'm pretty sure the snow pile around her was melting at an alarming rate anytime Fleury's name came up.

As for the friend, there's a lot of bridges in and around the city of Pittsburgh, but for a couple hours the bridge-keeping troll was not at her post.

So flash forward a little bit, every player that exits the building she's yelling at as they're getting in their cars to come over to us.

On top of that, she's telling anyone in earshot who is going to stop and who isn't. As if this sort of thing is done on a scheduled basis.

She had a sign she made that looked like a 2-year-old had drawn it up and was trying to get the whole team to sign it.

Finally I had enough and moved to the other side of the entrance/exit to the parking lot as Bill Guerin rolls up.

I go over and get his autograph despite the all-knowing psychic predicting that he wouldn't stop.

Again, the main reason I went was to get my Crosby jersey signed so that I could frame it and mount it on my wall.

As Sid pulls up and gets out of his car, she starts yelling "I came all the way from Florida, please sign my sign!!!!"

As Sid was signing my jersey I wanted to be kind and warn him of what he was about to encounter, but there were some other nice people on the other side that deserved a chance to get his signature.

It was also apparent that she thought she was friends with the players because of having met a few for 30 seconds while they signed her pathetic sign.

This girl is the real reason why I hate the obsessive fans as much as bandwagoners. Bandwagoners suck because when the team isn't on top they're jumping on the one who is.

These obsessive/ignorant fans think they know everything and are too blinded by their egos and inner fears of rejection to see things clearly.

Anyway, I hope she had a safe trip back to Florida and I also hope to not run into her again.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Crosby Gets #40, 41, Pens Lose 3-2 In OT

Sidney Crosby didn't disappoint in Friday's game against the Rangers, just hours after signing my jersey outside the Mellon Arena.

I was still pretty jacked up after that while watching the game and I'm fairly certain that Sid needs to sign some more of my items if he's going to get production like that.

Anyway, the Pens looked very good in the first period and I honestly think that had they gotten more pucks behind Henrik Lundqvist in the opening frame that the result would have differed greatly.

In the first period, Lundqvist looked shakier than a teenage boy getting intimate with a girl for the first time.

Watch The Highlights From Below

Despite all that, he somehow only allowed one goal on a rocket through the wickets from Crosby.

Everything looked to be going well for the Pens after the first. The energy was there, the commitment level was there and the Rangers looked lost.

Then, as has happened countless times this season, the Pens came out in the second and it was like watching a train wreck.

Pucks weren't getting to the net. Brent Johnson was digging pucks out his own net and then tweaked something forcing Marc-Andre Fleury to come in for the rest of the game.

After two periods, the Pens trailed 2-1.

In the third, it took a little coaxing but the Pens finally started to get back to their game.

On the power plan, a loose puck squirted back to Sergei Gonchar at the point. Gonch surveyed the situation and fired a slap-pass right onto Crosby's blade.

Sid did the rest as he redirected the puck past Lundqvist to tie the game at 2-2.

Neither team was able to light the lamp for the rest of regulation and so we head to overtime.

About a minute in, Olli Jokinen carries the puck over the Pens' line and launched a wrister over Fleury's shoulder to win the game.

I'm going to send an e-mail to PETA about Jokinen because he's an absolute Penguin killer and he needs to be stopped.

I knew my anger in reading the news that the Rangers had traded for him was justified from going back to his Florida Panther days. The Pens always struggled against the Panthers and it was mainly because of him.

As soon as he leaves, the Pens start getting wins over them. The worst part is that he's in the division now.

Great. Awesome. Splendid.

Anyway, at least the Pens got a point for their roughly 28 minute effort against the Rags last night.

Up next are the Nashville Predators at 1 p.m. Sunday. Look for the preview story on by me tomorrow morning.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Back To The Point Is Gearing Up For A Return

It's true.

After nearly a year absence, we are gearing up for a return. Many life-altering things happened to the authors, including myself, over the last year and now that things have calmed down we are planning to start updating this site again.

That being said, let's get right into it shall we?

The Pittsburgh Penguins are the defending Stanley Cup Champions and I couldn't be happier.

The Pens winning the Cup last season was the turning point of my year. I had just gotten laid off, bills were piling up and I had to take a job as a waiter at a Chili’s just to make ends meet.

On top of it all, my fiancée and I were planning our wedding.

The Pens were one of the only things that kept my mind of the tornado of suck that was draining me.

The longer the playoff run went, the more absorbed I became in it and the hope grew that things might turn around for me too.

After dispatching the Flyers (again), the Capitals (who didn't like seeing Alex Ovechkin cry?), and then sweeping the Canes under the rug, the rematch of the century was set.

Pens Vs. Wings Volume 2

Part of me felt all along that things would be different this time around and after the first two games, I still believed.

Games 3 and 4 went to the Pens and I was riding high.

Then, my hopes were nearly crushed when the Wings took a 3-2 lead in the series with a 5-0 drubbing.

I had to work at Chili’s during Game 6.

My shift ended right after the second period and there was no way I was driving home and missing any part of it.

I'm fairly certain there's still nail marks in the bar as I and the Pens held on for dear life in the final seconds.

Rob Scuderi made a couple saves while on his knees in the crease to preserve the 2-1 decision and to force a Game 7.

Around that time, I got a call from WBZ in Boston to come up and fill in part-time for a woman going out on maternity leave.

Why is that important?

My first day was the day of Game 7.

I left the office at 5 p.m. and got into my car in the middle of rush hour traffic in Beantown.

Of course that was probably dumb on my part, but I needed to get up to go visit my parents in Maine.

After I cleared the city limits, I floored it and made it to my parents' house with just enough time to change and turn on the game.

As stated before somewhere on this blog, my dad hates the Penguins and the rest of the family are all Bruins fans, so watching Game 7 at home was like being the road team.

Just like the Pens.

I'll never forget watching Talbot bury two goals and jumping off the couch fighting back tears after Marc-Andre Fleury robbed Nick Lidstrom as time expired.

A couple weeks later, I get a call from KDKA in Pittsburgh with a job offer.

Now I'm actually living in the same general area as the hockey team I have spent my entire life following.

It's beyond surreal to drive into the city every day and see the Igloo and know I work just blocks from the arena.

Even today, I froze my twins off outside the arena on the off-chance that Sidney Crosby would come out and sign the jersey I have been trying to get him to sign for 2 years.

He did too. Now I've got that to go along with my Marc-Andre Fleury signed jersey, also obtained outside the Igloo last year.

In any event, this season has been nuts so far and some of you may have seen me blogging on

I'll still be making cameo appearances on there while I work on carving out a niche over there, but I write a majority of the previews of Pens games. Just go to and look for any of the previews.

But tonight is a game-night and the Pens have a chance to get back into first place in the Atlantic Division with a win over the New York Rangers.

The Penguins have won all four previous meetings this season and have won seven straight games against the Rags overall.

Stay tuned for more on the Pens as we begin to get Back To The Point.

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