Gameday #4: @ Winnipeg Jets




MTS Centre, 8:00PM, Root Sports

You may have heard this at some point in the last two years, but it gets cold in Winnipeg in the winter.

The Pens have made two significant changes to the lineup. Tyler Kennedy will be skating with Malkin-Neal (with Tanner Glass moving to the third line and Eric Tangradi moving down to the fourth line), and Ben Lovejoy is in the lineup in place of Simon Despres. Further, Tomas Vokoun will be in the net for the Pens. Get more info here. 

Last year the Penguins went 3-1-0 against the newly constituted Jets, and in two of those games the Pens posted 8 goals. Generally speaking this is a team that the Pens have had good success against and see no reason why that should change this year.

Winnipeg’s fans still seem to be just as ravenous as they were last year.

My bold prediction is that this (and the one other time the Pens come to Winnipeg) will be the farthest west the Pens will travel all year, or in other words, if the Pens make it to the SCF, I think they’re going to play someone from the Central Division (personally I think it will be Chicago). In some ways I hope this becomes a reality and in some ways I hope not (as in the Penguins never play anyone from the Western Conference this year).

The Jets have had an uninspired season so far but they did pick up their first win on Wednesday against the much maligned Capitals. The future of the Jets revolves around Evander Kane he’s pretty good so the Pens defense will need to show up and keep him off the scoresheet.

Time to get back on track. Go Pens.


Gameday #2: New York Rangers



Madison Square Garden

Game Time: 7:00PM, Root Sports

One game in the books and although it feels great to get a conclusive victory over the Flyers, this is no time for rest. The Pens are right back at it, and no matter what you want to believe, the Rangers are a bigger threat to the Penguins this year than the Flyers are.

Unlike the Flyers who, delusionally, got rid of their second scoring line (and it showed yesterday), the Rangers are basically mortgaging some of their studly young defensemen for a deep playoff push THIS YEAR. And if we’re honest, they have a complete team: no fewer than three elite scorers, Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik, and now Rick Nash, some skilled checking forwards like Ryan Callahan and Brian Boyle, a full complement of big imposing defensemen, Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Michael Del Zotto, and company, and perhaps most important THE BEST goalie in the game today, Henrik Lundqvist.

The Rangers didn’t get off to a great start yesterday dropping their opener against Boston 3-1. And the New York media is already really tweaked about it. But their follow up will be back at home in the friendly confines of Madison Square Garden. The crowd will definitely be ready for war.

  • According to the article above, the Rangers didn’t offer open practices or any kind of inter-squad scrimmage so this will literally be the first time the fans will get to celebrate hockey’s return.
  • Unlike the Flyers, the Pens will have to square off against the Rangers 5 times, 3 of which will be on the road. As such Rangers games are going to be a little more essential to the Pens’ postseason aspirations than the Flyers games.

With that said today will be the debut of Tomas Vokoun in a Penguins jersey. Bylsma has basically indicated that Vokoun could see action in up to 20 games or almost every other start. Also, as per Josh Yohe, Joe Vitale will play in place of Dustin Jeffrey today. We thought DJ looked good yesterday so this has probably been planned from the outset.

Keep Rollin’. Go Pens.

Hockey is Back! (We Think)

From Some seriously funny local yinzers...

From Some seriously funny local yinzers…

We’re not going to dwell on the lockout today. Be sure that this is the stupidest lockout in the history of professional sports. But way more importantly it seems that it is officially over and we couldn’t be more stoked. There will be a time to dissect the petty, childish antics of both sides, there will be time to examine how everyone lost in this lockout, and there will be time to examine how this lockout has permanently altered our fanhood across all sports. But today is not that day. Today we celebrate the return of the highest form of competition for the greatest sport in the world: the NHL.

But we can’t get ahead of ourselves. There might be better breakdowns out there but this is the one that I read first and I trust Katie Strang with my life (at least until the Pens play the Rangers). Unless you’ve never experienced a single day of real work in your life you’ll know from that article that there is still quite a bit of work to finish before the real hockey can get under way.

First and foremost, the league needs to figure out if it is going to play 50 games or 48. From what I’ve seen, 50 games would mean 5 games apiece against the division (Rangers, Flyers, Devils, and Islanders, don’t worry I forgot too) and then 3 games apiece against the rest of the Eastern Conference. The 48 game schedule would be literally insane: 7 games apiece against the division and 2 games against the other 10 conference teams. As a Pens fan I’m hoping for the 50 game schedule. Yes I love the heated rivalry games against the Rangers and the Flyers but I’d rather deal with them in the playoffs and get more gimme games against the other, considerably weaker, divisions during the regular season. Last year the Penguins were a combined 13-11 (13-10-1 if you want to be specific) against the Atlantic Division, which isn’t overly impressive if we’re honest. And realistically speaking that has to deal with the top to bottom competitiveness of the Atlantic—don’t forget that of the 8 playoff teams from the East, four of them came from the Atlantic while the Northeast and Southeast only contributed 2 apiece. And nothing is really going to be different this year, the Devils may be down with the loss of their captain Zach Parise (yeah that happened too) but they’re still a stout defensive team with plenty of explosive offensive talent. The Flyers lost two of their top-6 wingers, Jagr and van Riemsdyk, but they got even better on defense in the process, and the best regular season team in the East, the Rangers just added more offensive talent (in Rick Nash) without trading away any of their defense. Hell, this might officially be the year when the Islanders start to show the potential of their frequent lottery picks from the last few years, as such I would like to minimize the games against those teams and maximize games against Buffalo, Toronto, and the entirety of the Southeast.

We’ll be back early in the week to take a look at the Pens’ roster and to see what potential moves could be on the horizon (hint: the reacquisition of Sergei Gonchar is near the top of that list for this guy). Until then, Tonight we Dance for Tomorrow they unleash the Dogs!

Oh and here is some MJ because this is the happiest song I could think of:

P.S. This is our 100th post. Thank you to everyone who has ever given us a look. Hopefully we have literally hundreds more to go before all is said and done!!!

Don Fehr’s Letter to the Players’

Found this courtesy of Pierre Lebrun from ESPN, this is the actual letter that Don Fehr sent to the PA after their counter-offers were summarily rejected by the Owners on Thursday. Please do read it hear [ESPN]. The numbers are truly staggering.

Essentially, the worst case scenario plan, as outlined in the Players’ proposals will see the Owners save just under $800 million over the next 5 seasons. That’s $26.5 million per team over that stretch of time. Even in the early years of the plan where the savings are less dramatic you’re talking about an extra $2 million per team per season in savings, what should be more than enough to pay arena employees and relieve some of the pressure that small market teams have been feeling. If the league were to continue to grow at its current historical rate of 7.2% you’re looking at well over a BILLION DOLLARS in savings for the Owners over a 5-year period, that’s an extra $10 million per team ($36.6 million per team in savings), and another $2 million per year. And just think, all but like the ten worst attended teams in the league made money this past season.

The second plan, which calls for even faster salary reductions, would save the Owners even more money, a minimum of $854 million over the same stretch of time. If the league were to continue to grow at 7.2% it would actually cost the league a little bit more money because the reductions were so steep, only netting $1.06 billion. I admit that I’m still clueless as to how the third plan actually works, but I think it was merely a radical departure from the previous versions.

Now I personally am not afraid to throw support to the Players, and there’s one really important reason why: they’re the ones I care about. And that’s really hard to say because no matter where Sid and/or Geno finish in the record books, they’ll probably never be more important to the Pens than Mario Lemieux, and they shouldn’t be. He is the Penguins and the Penguins are him. His hockey ability and mere presence brought the team out of bankruptcy in the mid-80s, he won the Cups in the early 90s, and he bought the team in 99 and by 04 had rescued it from bankruptcy yet again. He delivered the Cup in ’09 and secured the franchise’s long-term future in Pittsburgh with the new arena deal. There’s literally nothing that has happened with the Penguins that Mario hasn’t been part of. But I don’t write this blog about him, I write it about the guys on the team now.

And you may be tempted to say “well I’m not picking sides in this because it’s millionaires arguing with billionaires,” but then again who made the player’s into millionaires? Was it their great inventive talent, or was it us fans who have been turning out in record numbers all across the US and Canada in order to watch these guys play? We the fans who have been buying as many jerseys as the league can turn out in a year? We the fans who gripe about ticket and concession prices yet have sold out Lady Mellon and CEC for 5 straight seasons? And that’s why I care about the guys in the sweaters more than the ones in the suits.

And from there you may say, “well it’s about the game, not the players,” but then why is it that when you look at the AHL or the CHL or any other kind of hockey, you always see scores of empty seats, despite smaller arenas and reasonable ticket prices? Why is it that the KHL or the Swedish Elite League or any other league in Europe is unable to pay the contracts that we see in the NHL? There is something unique about the NHL. And it is for that exact reason that unlike in other job markets the players in the NHL do have a say in negotiating their own collective bargaining agreement. They provide unique and irreplaceable skills that make the NHL’s product one of a kind.

So maybe it is true that you and I can’t walk in and talk to our bosses and make demands like the Players have been, but then again, you and I aren’t unique. We’re just cogs of the machine that can easily be replaced. The same can’t be said about the guys in the NHL, so when they come forward with greatly innovative and possibly even more effective strategies than what the Owners themselves seem capable of reasoning, they deserve to be heard.

I’m not about to go out and calculate the difference between the NHL’s proposed 50-50 split and the PA’s plan, but when you talk about the hypocrisy of rich get richer, there will be no shortage of that in the NHL, whatever CBA decision they should reach.

NHLPA Comes Back with a Counter-Proposal, SOB Rears his Ugly Mug

Hey, d’you see what I did there, it says “NO”?!?!

Wow this all really sucks. On Tuesday there was as much excitement about hockey as there has been since the Kings lifted the Cup back in mid-June. Now in the last two days it’s pretty much all been erased again. On Thursday the NHLPA came back with three distinct variations on the proposal that the Owners made, and to quote Sidney Crosby,

When you make three proposals and get shut down in 10 minutes, it’s hard to think the other side really wants to negotiate.

Guess I’m going to go play in Europe now…

The Same-Old-Bettman, or Bitchman (as he’ll probably go down in history) summarily dismissed the PA’s proposals as “a step backwards.” And Bill Daly said that somehow the Players “misrepresented their 50-50 split.” What all of it means is that we’re probably further from seeing actual NHL hockey than any time before this. Links from [THN] and [PHT] to summarize the day’s proceedings.

A bunch more crap after the break. Read the rest of this entry »

NHL Announces a New CBA Proposal, Calls for 50-50 Split

Sorry we’ve been dead to the world over the last two weeks. The good news is that I (Andrew) just finished my last ever set of undergraduate midterms. And to that extent, I know that Mike is really busy being an adult, and also just doesn’t even want to talk about the lockout. I really don’t blame him.

I literally don’t understand this at all? That’s why I picked it?

Anyway the big story of the day is that the Owners have come back with a new CBA proposal, the first actual proposal since before the lockout began. The lockout began more than a month ago. As the title of this post says the league’s new proposal calls for an even 50-50 split. On its surface that sounds really good.

So that’s the good part, but before I say anything else, please read this post from Pensblog: WHY THE NHLPA WILL LIKELY REJECT THIS OFFER & THE LOCKOUT WILL CONTINUE. Did you read it? Did you? Okay this is where the “more” button goes, see more after that. Read the rest of this entry »

Everybody Talks (The Lockout is in its Third Week)

So the PA and the NHL talked from Friday through Sunday basically nonstop. That’s good news. The bad news is that both sides continue to refuse to acknowledge the presence of an enormous white elephant in the room called collective bargaining. If you want to know how secondary these discussions were, neither Bettman nor Donald Fehr could be bothered to be there, instead they were probably out golfing.

Hey, d’you see what I did there, it says “NO”?!?!

Get more stuff by clicking the bolded text.  Read the rest of this entry »