The Curious Case of Zbynek Michalek

I have said that the Penguins would be wise to trade Zbynek Michalek this offseason. Others disagree with me. But I think there are a lot of mitigating factors that get in the way of what Big Z means to the Penguins compared to what he could mean to other teams.

I’m not saying this because I don’t like Z or because I don’t think he’s a good player. I don’t think that of Paul Martin either, I think they both got paid fair market contracts for what they are capable of doing and what role they could have on a given team. I mean it’s a cold hard fact that Michalek was one of my absolute favorite defensemen when he played in Phoenix, and I literally had heart palpitations when I heard that Ray Shero had worked a little magic and brought him to Pittsburgh. What it boils down to though is that Michalek does not play well in front of Marc Andre Fleury. Get the “More” after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Little Bit About Trading Jordan Staal

Well I said last week that I didn’t really want to deal with team turnover until we got closer to the NHL draft and maybe even closer to the July 1 free agency period. Unfortunately the professional hockey media has decided to change my plans for me and start talking about it already. So we’ll just take a look at a couple things. Check it out after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »


Gameday – Quarterfinal Round #4 – Flyers

Wells-Fargo Center, Philadelphia

As you undoubtedly know, the Penguins won last night 10-3. They’re now down 3 games to 1, but the series is coming back to Pittsburgh Friday night. I don’t feel the need to recap the game exhaustively, and even if I wanted to, I didn’t get the chance to record my thoughts last night, and I missed the second period from about 5 minutes left until the third period with about 5 minutes left. Anyway, I’m still going to deliver some thoughts.

How about Jordan Staal? After becoming the unwitting focal point of the Penguins’ “locker room troubles” when Alan Robinson tweeted that he was unhappy in Pittsburgh and wanted out, he responds with a huge hat trick, the first of which ended up being the game winner. I’ll say this, if Staal does leave, whether it be this offseason, next offseason, at the trade deadline next year, or after another several years, I certainly won’t blame him. He is a class act and a great leader. It’s obvious that he could be a number one or number two center on pretty much any team in the league, he put up a new career high in points despite missing 20 games this year, essentially entirely because he got to play top line minutes. Beyond that though is his leadership potential. Not only could he be a top line center, he could be a captain on pretty much any team in the league. The way that he responded to that criticism is just great. I would be really really sad to see him go, but I would likely always be a fan (unless he went to an Atlantic Division team, just being honest).

Geno getting on track. I’ve said it before, but this really is Evgeni Malkin’s team this year. Sid looks healthy and fit, but still, Malkin is primary target number one for opposing teams to stop. The Flyers have made that perfectly clear by constantly matching their top checking line against him all series. Malkin finally broke out a little bit yesterday getting 2 goals. Now that we’re going back home for a game, Malkin should get some more favorable matchups, especially if the Penguins continue to role with seven defensemen, rather than keying on Malkin coming out with his normal linemates he’ll get more some time with other matchups as well, which could get him away from Couturier, who looked surprisingly like a rookie for the first time last night. Let’s just sit back and watch.

Marc Andre Fleury is the root of all evil. Yes last night’s game could have hardly started worse for MAF as he got torched for another 3 power play goals, but then there really seemed to be a calm that settled over the Flower. The Pens played well defensively, they did a good job of insulating, and once the Pens adjusted to the way the refs were calling the game, the Flyers really weren’t a huge threat. But even then they got some chances and this time Fleury stood his ground. When people say that Fleury isn’t a “clutch goalie” I think they’re crazy. That’s what he is. It’s the fact that he often struggles when a situation isn’t “clutch” that can be irritating. Clutch goalie play down the stretch in this series might be the goalie who can limit the other team to three goals. For my money, I’m betting on Fleury.

Big Dog with a big game. Eric Tangradi got to play in his first postseason game of 2012 last night, and it was in his hometown of Philadelphia. I don’t know his TOI but he seemed to play well when he was out there. He got the primary assist on Staal’s game winner and really made it possible to get a goal out of the situation. If that had been Tyler Kennedy in front of the net hacking at the puck, he would have gotten knocked down and the Flyers likely would have broken out on a 3-on-2 or something like that. Instead it was the Big Dog, and he just stood his ground. I don’t know that he’ll ever be the top six guy that we’ve dreamt of, but he is learning to play strong in front of the net, and that’s never a bad thing. Again, I’m an admitted Tangradi apologist, but if you ask me, he’s a guy that should be playing, at least in this series. He backed up those claims last night.

How much do these coaches hate each other? The answer is at least, “a lot.” Obviously going back to Laviolette in the “gutless” game, Laviolette in the first game of this series yelling at the Penguins bench again, Bylsma letting his team goon it up in the third game, and even more with this game last night, these coaches might hate each other more than any of the players on the teams. Bylsma calling a timeout in the second period with his team up 8-3 was incredible and so asinine. Laviolette allowing Rinaldo to do what he did was just vicious. It’s amusing, you just hope that Disco will have it under control for the rest of the series.

Seven defensemen: and it worked. The Pens went with seven defensemen last night, including Brian Strait and Simon Despres. They both played admirably, and this was the perfect opportunity to get them some real, NHL playoff experience. They got to experience the tribulations of the first period, the ups and downs of playoff hockey, but then they were really able to settle in and soak up some minutes late in the game. This was of course a famous strategy that Bylsma employed in the 09 campaign. It seems to be working again. I hope the Pens will stick with it, but it also will be really hard to do so. Obviously Neal and Adams will be in the lineup tomorrow night, but then who comes out to make room for them? My estimation is that Vitale and Tangradi will sit, the Pens will continue with 7 d-men and Richard Park will continue to play, but only time will tell.

One game at a time. The Penguins had the perfect mentality for last night’s game. As per usual, nobody could have said it better than Sid himself,

It’s a terrible situation being down 3-0. But we all believe we can come back, and I think this is the time you lean on your fans the most.

The Pens as a team, and especially us as fans need to remember to continue to take this series, and however many games may be left for the Penguins this year, one game at a time. I know the temptation is there to say, well hey we delivered a much bigger blowout than anything the Flyers have done. But we’re still definitely the team that’s up against ropes. We’re still the team on the verge of elimination. We need to go three for three down the stretch. They just need to win one game. Don’t look past Friday night. Wherever you may be, whether it’s in Consol, on the lawn, at your house, at a bar, or a thousand miles away, just remember that we need to win one game.

Bottom Line. The Pens get to play at least one more time. We as fans got to see the Pens play “Penguins hockey” one more time this year. It was glorious. We as fans need to deliver the same love and support again on Friday. From there, who knows what will happen.


Gameday – Quarterfinal Round #1 – Flyers

Home game.

Super quick recap because I finally finished my homework and I don’t want to still be thinking about this game come tomorrow, so I’m just going to say my peace now. Also if you didn’t watch tonight, there is something wrong with you.

First Period:

Guaranteed that you couldn’t even dream that things would start so well. Consol was loud. The Flyers looked inexperienced. The Pens were in their game.

Literally before you knew it, it was 3-0. Crosby and Dupuis are scary good.

Of course unfortunately, then we had to learn a hard lesson about the overall length of the game.

Second Period:

The Pens were looking for the knockout blow. Started getting a little careless, especially at neutral ice.

Pens got the first power play. As soon as it ended, Philly nearly scored. The Pens moved the puck well on this PP, but you could just see that Bryzy was starting to see a little better now.

Then it happened. The Danny Briere Offside Goal(c). If the Pens lose this series everything will come back to this play. It really wasn’t that close, but then again, if you really think this was the difference in the game, you’ve got to wake up man.

The rest of the period wasn’t horrible. But the Pens also failed to capitalize on two more PP chances which would still have driven the nail home, at least for this game.

Third Period:

Let’s not make any bones about it. The Pens played one of the worst periods they’ve played all year. You can say, “Don’t get down on them after one game in a best of seven.” But this was bad, all the Pens needed to do was control the puck. Instead they just kept on attempting ill-conceived passes through center that would constantly get intercepted and lead to an odd man chance for the Flyers.

I mean let’s face it. That’s how the Flyers scored both of their third period goals. You can’t do that.

Really tough break for Sid on that second goal. Thought he had it, all he really ended up doing was screening MAF.

I will say this. I’m fine with the penalty being issued to Brooks Orpik for his hit on Briere. What I can’t stand is the way Steigy and Bob handled it. They kept saying that it was a hit “with the intent to hurt.” Just as it was when Vitale smoked him at center a couple games ago, the fact that Briere can’t keep his head up does not mean that people are attempting to hurt him. He had to have known that Orpik was coming, and in Orpik’s defense, the puck was sitting up against the back edge of the cage, coming like he was, with his view blocked by Fleury and the net, it probably looked the puck was still on Briere’s stick, too bad it wasn’t.

Overtime:

The only thing worse than the Penguins third period effort was their overtime effort. I don’t know how it took Philly 7 minutes to score…

Voracek with his 30th of the postseason against the Pens.

GAME.

A couple of thoughts:

Trust me, I believe in this Penguins team. They have every position covered. I’m really disappointed in the way this game ended but that doesn’t mean that the season is over.

The Pens really need to simplify the game. So many time you saw just way too many passes, especially in the defensive zone or between the blue lines. When you have a two goal lead, please just dump and chase, make the Flyers go the full 200 feet.

Again, yes the first Briere goal was a really bad bounce for the Pens, but if you really believe that the Pens could have held off the Flyers, given how they played in the third, just not happening. No use crying over it.

This happened:

Defense is the Key: we know about the big offensive names, for the Flyers it’s Giroux, Double J, Hartnell, for the Pens it’s Crosby, Malkin, Neal. We know about the goalies, we’ve already discussed Bryzgalov and if you don’t know about Fleury, there’s nothing I can do for you. The key is the defense. IF the Pens defense plays the way we’ve seen for a lot of the last two years, great. If they don’t, and they play like they played in the last 10 games of the season this year, it could be a bit of an uphill battle. Pretty much the same can be said for the Flyers. Their actual defensemen aren’t overwhelming, they need to get good defensive zone play from their forwards, if they start to dominate on the forecheck, they’ll be right where they want to be. The Pens need to not let that happen.

We ride again on Friday. Gotta get back to even.


2012 Playoff Preview

Well let’s spend some time with the matchups in the first round of the Playoffs. I don’t want to make predictions, especially not for the Pens themselves, but I’ll give it a go with the other fifteen teams who stand a chance of winning the ultimate prize. Read the rest of this entry »


It’s Garbage

 

I honestly don’t know what I would do with myself if people who should know better would suddenly stop saying stupid things. The latest in the long list of people speaking out against the Penguins is John Tortorella. He also was subsequently fined, this time an impressive $20,000 for his remarks made during his post-game press conference following his Ranger’s uninspired 5-2 loss to the Pens on Thursday.

I’ll say this. I think Orpik should have received at the very least a fine. Really he probably should have had a one or two game suspension. I mean, Orpik is what he is, he’s a big hitter. He’s not a dangerous hitter, he has no reputation as a dirty player. Nonetheless, he did deserve some punishment. I’m disappointed in the NHL for not prosecuting on this issue. It’s true that the NHL didn’t prosecute against the Rangers and Mike Rupp earlier in the season after a similar incidental, but still dirty, hit on Jordan Staal that took him out of the lineup for several weeks. I mean it could be an “even-up” decision like we see in games, a questionable call for one team gets answered with an equally questionable one for the other team to keep things equal. Still, I wish they had done something with this hit just to shut the rest of the league up.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s fascinating to see Tortellini and Peter Laviolette fined for being the ultimate hypocrites. Complaining about the “whiny” Pittsburgh Penguins in the only way they know how—whining. I’m also really happy to see Dan Bylsma keeping his nose clean from these shenanigans or as Sid awesomely described it yesterday, “Garbage.”

Further, all I can say is that the more those coaches decide to pick on Sid and Geno, the more likely it becomes that they’re just going to piss them off. Given that Sid is still averaging more points per game (1.7) than we’ve seen in the league in a decade and a half, and Geno has absolutely embarrassed his scoring race competition (including Philly’s own Claude Giroux) despite playing half a dozen fewer games, it really seems like playing with fire to me. I mean I guess this is a calculated risk that these coaches need to take. But I just don’t buy it.

Call me old-fashioned, but I want to see the game played, and won or lost, on the ice. I have no problem with gamesmanship and I love the way the Pens handle it. By his own admission Crosby is big into participating in that, so is Matt Cooke, and Chris Kunitz and probably half a dozen other guys on the team. The same can be said of a bunch of guys who play for the Rangers and the Flyers. But that’s just it. It really should be left on the ice. Nothing says “whiny” more than taking your message and shoving it down the throat of everyone in your post-game comments. Just save it for the ice.

Also this is an interesting tidbit. In the entire history of the NHL there are only 5 American-born coaches who have ever won the Stanley Cup. The first was a guy named Bill Russell who won it in 1938. There was not another American to win it until “Badger” Bob Johnson with the Pens in 1991. From there you have to look forward to 2004 when none other than John Tortorella won it with the Lightning. 2006 saw Peter Laviolette become the 4th with the Carolina Hurricanes. The 5th is of course Dan Bylsma. In other words, there are only three American coaches currently living, and currently coaching, who have won the Stanley Cup. They all coach teams in the same division. These are the three best teams in the Eastern Conference this year. We’re only two years away from the 2014 Winter Olympics. All of these guys will likely be considered for the head coaching role for team USA, and they will all likely be considered to serve as assistants to whoever does get picked. Can you imagine what those planning sessions would be like? Wow. They would likely kill one another.