Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Thibault Clears Waivers

Things played out as expected Wednesday afternoon as Jocelyn Thibault cleared waivers. The team will now try to trade him or assign him to Wilkes Barre-Scranton. He could also be added back to the active roster, at which time he would have to clear re-entry waivers. It is during this period that I think he will attract some teams, since they would only be on the hook for half of his salary.

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette reported today that Thibault was asked to take a rehab assignment in the AHL by General Manager Craig Patrick. Thibault refused the assignment, forcing the team to place him on waivers. The team still believes in Thibault, but thinks that he needs to work on getting his timing back, something that you they just cannot afford to do on a nightly basis in the NHL. The hope is that he can go to the Baby Pens and play a lot of games, hopefully getting him back on track.

In the meantime, Marc Andre Fleury made the start for the Penguins last night against Buffalo. The team lost 3-2 as Fleury let in a game winning goal that Coach Eddie Olczyk called "soft." Marc Andre played well for most of the evening, making several very tough stops and is looking to have a better outing next time.

The team in general seemed to play a much better game against Buffalo. They only allowed 26 shots on net, which is great in comparison to the 45 they regularly allow. There were still several lapses in judgment and too many penalties, but there was some improvement. The Penguins missed scoring on several great opportunities early in the game, including a 2 on 1 break in which Sidney Crosby couldn't finish off a pass from Ziggy Palffy. Palffy also rang a shot off the post in the second period. The Penguins knotted the game up early in the third, but couldn't hold Buffalo off of the board.

The Pens face off against the New York Rangers tomorrow night.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

What Next? Pens Waive Thibault?

Now that Marc Andre Fleury has been recalled, what is next? In all likelihood the team is planning to do something with one of it's other goaltenders. ESPN radio in Pittsburgh is reporting that Jocelyn Thibault has been officially placed on waivers. The move could save the team $1.5 million. Is another team willing to pick up that much salary? I don't think so. A more likely scenario is probably passing him through waivers twice and having some team claim him with the Pens picking up half the tab. Thibault has shown some glimmers in the last 5 or 6 games that could cause a team to take a chance on him. I could actually see him dealt for another underachieving player who makes slightly less money.

Some whispers had the team shopping Ziggy Palffy or Sergei Gonchar. I can't see them moving Palffy at this point. He has begun to produce on a line with youngsters Sidney Crosby and Eric Christensen. Gonchar on the other hand is valuable, not for defense so much as his break out passes. If someone could afford his $5 million price tag he would be a nice addition to a team with young quick forwards. The more likely commodity to move is probably Dick Tarnstrom. He has good offensive ability and is much cheaper. He has recently returned from a knee injury and depending on his play, could be auditioning for a new team.

Unfortunately, the team has hampered itself with some players that are going to be very hard to move. The Poapsts, Odeleins and LeClairs of the world really do not have much value right now. The Penguins may have to admit their mistakes and sleep in the bed that they have made for themselves.

Penguins Recall Marc Andre Fleury

The Pittsburgh Penguins have finally called up Marc Andre Fleury. It seems that losing their last two games and falling to 13th place in the conference forced their hand a bit. Fleury, who has been one of the best goaltenders in the AHL this season, posted a 10-0-2-0 record, 1.57 gaa and .939 s% while leading the Wilkes Barre-Scranton Baby Penguins to their best start in franchise history.

Fleury is expected to start in goal against the Buffalo Sabres tonight.

The burning question is now whether they are going to keep him in the NHL. The team has gone on record as saying that they will not do anything to cause additional revenue loss. Adding Fleury and his beefed up contract to the mix would seem to bring with it some fiscal bloat. The team is most likely investigating personnel moves to free up the cash necessary to fit Marc Andre into the budget comfortably.

Mario Lemieux missed the game in Tampa Bay Sunday due to a stomach ailment. It was thought that he would be out tonight as well, but will decide after skating this morning if he will be in the line-up.

This will be Fleury's second appearance against the Buffalo Sabres. He stopped 38 of 41 shots in a 3-2 overtime loss October 10.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Pens Re-assign Michel Ouellet to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton

Ouellet appeared in 3 games for the Penguins. The leading scorer in the AHL at the time of his recall, did not post any points during his stint in the NHL.

I would speculate that his roster spot will be taken by Andre Roy, who has been close to returning from a broken orbital bone.

Correction: Ouellet has not been re-assigned. The Penguins official site had reported this earlier today, but is now stating that he has been injured and will stay on the NHL roster.

Florida No Vacation For Pens

The Penguins trip through Florida ended up like so many before, as they dropped games against the Panthers and Lightning by a combined score of 10-4.

The game against the Panthers started horribly. Sebastian Caron allowed 3 goals on the first 7 shots he faced, and got hooked in favor of Jocelyn Thibault. Thibault proceeded to allow a short handed goal on the first shot he faced, and became the goaltender of record when the Pens scored their 3rd goal, giving him the loss. The Panther game also provided one of the most frightening moments of the season. Sidney Crosby was struck on the ankle by a shot and had to leave the contest. It was feared that the ankle was broken. X-rays were negative.

Sid was able to suit up for the Tampa Bay game yesterday but was held off the score sheet. He did ring a shot off the post on a short handed breakaway. The team played a great first period, but still found themselves down 1-0 entering the intermission. Then the penalty bug bit them hard. The team could not fight off the Lightning's formidable offense and fell 4-1. Maxime Talbot scored a late goal to break goaltender John Grahame's shut out bid.

It was reported by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that the team is investigating ways to work Marc Andre Fleury's contract into the NHL. That would require some personnel movement, because Fleury's contract would pay between $4 and $5 million if all bonuses were achieved. The Post Gazette piece quoted team Captain and Owner, Mario Lemieux as saying: "We're not going to take that loss, we're losing $7 million already. We're not going to lose $12 [million]. It's not good business." Fleury who is regarded as the best goaltender in the AHL this season would look to stabilize the shaky goaltending situation in Pittsburgh. Lemieux went on to say in the Post Gazette: "I think he's shown in the past that he can win big games. He faced [47] shots in Philly and did pretty well."

Dick Tarnstrom returned the the line-up Friday night, after missing about a month with a knee injury. No telling if his return will spark additional trade talk. Tarnstrom was rumored to be involved in a deal with the Edmonton Oilers prior to his injury.

Mario Lemieux missed the game in Tampa Bay with a stomach virus. Lemieux missed a game two weeks ago with the same ailment.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Weekend Preview

The Pittsburgh Penguins come into their two game road trip through Florida trying to build upon the momentum they generated Tuesday night; a 5-4 win against the Washington Capitals and Alexander Ovechkin.

They will face off against the Florida Panthers tonight, the same Panthers that have lost their previous 12 games. However the match-up will not be as easy as it appears, the Penguins have not beaten the Panthers since Alex Kovalev's overtime wrist shot hit the twine on 03/05/02, a span of 10 straight games. Not to mention that the teams sensational goaltender, Roberto Luongo, does some of his best work against Pittsburgh. The Panthers are also trying to avoid tying the franchise record for futility. Losing 13 straight games.

It doesn't get any easier as the Penguins head into Tampa Bay for a clash with the Lightning on Sunday. Tampa Bay has been streaking and have won their past 4 games, raising their record to 12-9-3. They have also turned the tables on the Penguins, who had made easy work of them during their early years. They now find ways to regularly beat Pittsburgh. Vincent Lecavalier has played some of his best hockey against the team and tends to score goals, lots of them. The Pens suspect defense will have to step up their game against the entire Tampa Line-up, even the defensemen. Dan Boyle has posted 9 points ( 4 G 5 A) in his last 6 games.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Pens Top Washington, Ovechkin 5-4

Sidney Crosby claimed that he didn't have any additional motivation in this game, even though it was the first match-up of the new NHL's brightest young stars. Alexander Ovechkin and his Washington Capitals were passing through for a Tuesday evening match-up and Sid the Kid seemed up to the task.

After the Penguins took an early 2-0 lead on goals by Rick Jackman and Ziggy Palffy, Sidney took things into his own hands. He took a pass from Palffy and carried the puck into the zone 1 on 2. Sid made a series of moves to get past defensemen Brendan Witt and Steve Eminger, before beating Ollie Kolzig with a slick backhand shot that sent his water bottle flying. Crosby was creating opportunities for himself and his line-mates every time he hit the ice.

Ovechkin was impressive as well. He was very strong on his skates and showed off his stick handling ability by walking around Penguin defensemen several times. What wasn't impressive was the fact that he celebrated 2 goals that he didn't score during the second period. He had an opportunity at an empty net, shot wide, and threw his hands up in celebration. At first I thought it was in disgust, until it happened a second time. Alex the Great, moved behind the Penguins D and had a mini break away in front of goaltender Sebastian Caron. He made his move, shot and threw his hands up in celebration as Caron proceeded to cover the puck for a face off. Once was forgivable, twice was arrogant.

After Washington scored two quick goals in the second period to cut the lead to 4-2, the Penguins seemed to be suffering another of their late game breakdowns. Sidney Crosby was not going to let that happen. He came out flying in the third period and set up Ziggy Palffy for his second goal of the game. The two entered the Washington zone on an odd man break. The defenseman played Sidney and thought he broke the play up. As Crosby was being tied up, he spun himself 360 degrees and threw a perfect no look, backhand pass right to the stick of Palffy, who knocked it home for the Penguins 5th goal.

Washington threw everything that they had at the Penguins in the third period, but they were able to withstand the flurry.

The game was very entertaining overall. If it was any indication of things to come with this rivalry, we are all in for quite a show. Though Sidney got the better of Alex this time, Ovechkin could just have easily scored several goals. These two young men showed that the hype around them is legit and are doing everything they can to live up to it. As the years go by, this will be very exciting for anyone who considers themselves a hockey fan.

This game marked the debut of Michel Ouellet and Matt Hussey, who were called up by the Penguins yesterday. Hussey skated on a line with Mario Lemieux and Mark Recchi. Ouellet, who was second in the AHL scoring race, skated with John LeClair and Lasse Pirjeta.

The win was only the 3rd on home ice for the Penguins. Their record stands at 7-9-6.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Koltsov, Fata and Scuderi...

...Have cleared waivers and have been reassigned to Wilkes Barre-Scranton of the American Hockey League.

Shake Up?

The Penguins finally made some personnel moves, are they the ones that many thought were on the horizon? No. When the team waived 4 players over the past week, Lasse Pirjeta, Rico Fata, Konstantin Koltsov and Rob Scuderi, the thought was that Craig Patrick may be pulling the trigger on something. One of the roster spots was used to allow Shane Endicott to play one game and re-injure himself. The others are being used for the return of Defenseman Sergei Gonchar and the call up of two long time Baby Penguins: Michel Ouellet and Matt Hussey. Both have had some success in the AHL this year but will it translate into anything in the NHL?

The knock on Michel Ouellet has always been poor skating, but he has developed a nice goal scoring touch around the net. I am not certain that the he can keep up with the speed, especially in the new NHL. Let's hope that I am wrong. He may be able to add a bit of offense to the 3rd line. Matt Hussey was a 9th round pick in 1998. He had a cup of coffee with the parent team in '03-'04 and chipped in with 2 G and 1 A in 3 games. He is a high energy player who may add a spark to the Penguins.

Is the team done making moves? The answer seems to be no. There are several other players set to come off of the injured reserve. Dick Tarnstrom has been practicing with the team and could be back as soon as this evening. Andre Roy has also been skating and could add the physical presence that the team sorely lacks. There was some speculation that Dick Tarnstrom was close to being dealt to Edmonton before his injury and depending on his impact upon returning, could still be headed out. He is an asset that could possibly fetch the second line center that the team has lacked all season.

Mario Lemieux has stated that he would give up his spot on team Canada's Olympic team if he wasn't completely healthy or not playing well. Mario is a very smart man, and it seems that he may be flashing back to 2002, when he was not healthy but led Team Canada to a gold medal. The backlash in Pittsburgh was great. The city thought that Mario had thrown them under the bus. Playing on one leg for a gold medal was worth it, but not for team he owned. I personally had no problem with him chasing his dream of a gold medal at 36 years old. Not many get that opportunity. Not many get the chance at 40 either. However, if the team is not healthy in the standings and Mario is not performing at a high level he will not play.

Ovechkin v Crosby Part 1 tonight. The battle for the NHL's top rookie will continue at the Mellon Arena as the Penguins meet the Washington Capitals. Both Crosby and Ovechkin have had all the right things to say about each other leading up to the clash, gushing about each other's ability. The game should be a good one, the first of many in this budding rivalry. A rivalry that should get better each game, one that will get even more intriguing when Evgeni Malkin in thrown into the mix next season.

The footage of Jiri Fischer's seizure was one of the most frightening things I have ever seen at a pro sporting event. The league was definitely right for canceling the remainder of the game until a later date. Seeing the players scramble to Jiri's side, escorting his fiance to the bench really put everything in perspective. Though it is so much more to many of us, ultimately, it is just a game. Please keep Jiri Fischer and his family in your thoughts and prayers.

Penguins Recall 2. More Moves On the Way??

The Pittsburgh Penguins have recalled center Matt Hussey and right winger Michel Ouellet from their farm team in Wilkes Barre-Scranton. They will both be in the line-up tonight against the Washington Capitals. Sergei Gonchar, who has been nursing a groin injury, is also expected to play.

The team officially announced the waiving of Konstantin Koltsov, Rico Fata and Rob Scuderi. No word on if they have cleared. If they make it through waivers, it is thought that they will be assigned to the Baby Penguins.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Pens Reportedly Waive Three in Canada is reporting that the Pittsburgh Penguins have waived Konstantin Koltsov, Rob Scuderi and Rico Fata. All NHL teams have until Tuesday at 12:00 to claim them or they can be assigned to the Wilkes Barre-Scranton Baby Pens.

More info as it becomes available.

Moves on the Horizon?

Are the Pittsburgh Penguins on the verge of making some personnel moves, no one aside from General Manager Craig Patrick knows the answer to that question. It is becoming more obvious by the day that something is needed to spark this line-up into playing the way it should be. The only constant has been the play of Sidney Crosby.

When the Penguins opened their wallet during the free agency period that followed the signing of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the thinking was that they would now be able to compete with the rest of the league. Gone were the days of selling off the team's talent and challenging for the Stanley Cup playoffs was again a reality. Craig Patrick was given the opportunity to show the hockey world that he was a keen judge of talent and that he was held back by the financial constraints that were put on him under the old system. Well, that just hasn't been the case. Unfortunately, many of the players who were brought in are not faring well in the new NHL. Mark Recchi has met all expectations and a case could be made for Ziggy Palffy as well, aside from his reluctance to shoot the puck! The goaltender that was brought in the be the workhorse has been more of a mule, and one that should be sent off to the glue factory. Jocelyn Thibault has been horrible. He has struggled with injuries and has been average at best. He has done well with stopping the first shot most of the time, but in this league stopping a rebound has become even more important because defensemen just can't hold up forwards the way they used too. Thibault has failed miserably at stopping second and third shots. Often times looking around in disbelief at the lack of a whistle to stop play, even though the puck is sitting in the clear, waiting to be knocked home by a charging opponent. Thibault was signed to a 3 year, 1 way deal that has pretty much handcuffed him to the organization. At this point he is an untradable commodity, and becomes more so with each poor performance. Thibault, Sebastian Caron and Patrick's overestimation of their talent when signing them have pretty much relegated "goalie of the future" Marc Andre Fleury to the AHL for the remainder of the season. He was the best goalie in training camp and has been stellar in his few NHL looks this season, aside from one outing. He should be in Pittsburgh now, money aside.

The organization has made numerous comments on their self imposed budget and how they still stand to lose millions this season. How do you think not making the playoffs will effect the bottom line? The team is worried that Fleury has easy to attain bonuses in his contract that could push it to $3 million this year, all the while knowing that he is the goalie that gives them the best chance of getting the revenue that can be generated through a round or two of the playoffs in the spring. The absurdity of the situation is that the team is paying players such as Lyle Odelein and Steve Poapst the cash that could be used to have their "franchise" goaltender in Pittsburgh. Odelein would be ok as a niche player, but is being used as a top 4 defenseman. Noah Welsh could just as easily be in that role, but he is being left in Wilkes Barre - Scranton too.

Andre Roy was brought in to give the team a physical presence. He has spent most of the season out of the line-up with a broken orbital bone. He may not be able to fight anymore, which all but negates his value here. Another million dollars wasted. John LeClair is a great leader, but hasn't contributed lately, unless you count the 2-3 penalties he takes each game. These are the types of mistakes that Patrick has made in the past few months.

The team put Lasse Pirjeta through waivers last Friday to free a roster spot for Shane Endicott. Could this be the first of several more moves? The team is still in dire need of a second line center and a top 3 defenseman. Hopefully Craig Patrick is working the phones and developing a plan to right this ship before it is too late. Some of the moves are obvious, others are not, but something has got to happen soon. This team has to much talent and potential to be wallowing in the basement of the eastern conference.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Crosby the Diver? Not a Chance....

There has been a recent backlash in certain circles regarding the play of Sidney Crosby. Tim Panaccio wrote about it in his blog on and Eklund himself seconded the opinion. Interesting that two people who are based in Philadelphia would speak out against the "new face" of the NHL, a face that was rearranged by Derrian Hatcher just before it went on to single handedly hand the Flyers their first defeat on home ice since opening night.

These gentlemen have gone on record stating that Sidney Crosby has become a diver and a whiner. I will agree to some extent with the latter. Sidney has got to learn to control himself in situations where he could cost the team a goal. There are going to be numerous occasions where Sid gets abused and the ref is not always going to make a call, we have seen this happen to the best players in the league for years. Sidney, well on his way to becoming one of the best, will be in this situation his entire career and needs to learn to combat it the way he did later in last evenings tilt again the Flyers, on the scoreboard. Sidney picked his game up in the third period scoring one goal and setting up another in regulation. He then took a pass in stride from Ryan Malone with less than a minute in the overtime period, and beat Antero Niittymaki to clinch a victory for the Penguins. Sidney finished with 2 goals and 1 assist.

I have watched all but one Penguin game this season and have not seen evidence of Sidney Crosby diving. I have seen an awful lot of him being shoved to the ice, tripped, slashed, having his helmet knocked off, being face washed etc. Sidney isn't exactly a huge man, but he is strong on his skates. He doesn't just fall to the ice, or look to be embellishing all that often. I am not saying that he hasn't done it at all, what player hasn't. Throughout the first month or so of this season, I saw many players fall to the ice as soon as they felt an opponents stick on them, especially against the Penguins, who seemed to be one of the most heavily penalized teams in October. During this time I had seen only a couple diving calls, and they had all been tacked on to a penalty to the player committing the infraction. Sid has been mauled often this season and has only recently grown frustrated with the officials.

It was very surprising to see Derrian Hatcher get away with 2 consecutive high sticking penalties last night. If Sidney embellished the injury I didn't see it. Those broken teeth and cut lip were not the product of a special effects team. Sidney laid there because he was in obvious pain. He didn't bark at the referee and went to the bench, though he was disgusted. When he came back on to the ice and Hatcher caught him in the mouth a second time, he was visibly upset. I personally cannot blame him for that, I have played enough hockey in my day to know that getting high sticked, especially back to back times is not a pleasant experience. I was quite shocked that the penalty wasn't called. Granted, Sidney needs to learn how to handle those situations without taking a penalty.

I wouldn't say that the league is letting Crosby get away with anything or not penalizing him. I have seen him called for several Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalties this season and if anything, the referees seem even quicker to blow the whistle on Sidney. If Sidney Crosby needs a sitdown with Colin Campbell, so does Marian Hossa, Joe Thornton and a host of other very skilled young players that have spent a lot of time griping about being hit, slashed and tackled. I have even seen Peter Forsberg lay on the ice and look to the referees when a call was missed.

I haven't seen anything this season from Sidney that I would call cheating. All I have seen is a dynamite young player that 29 other teams aren't lucky enough to have and who has been placed under the biggest microscope that I have ever seen. This young man is going to have some ups and downs, but I don't think that he is supposed to take abuse with a smile. He fights through hooks and holds as much as any young player I have seen in the league, sure he may not be doing it as well as a player almost 2 full years his senior, Alexander Ovechkin, but he does it. Check the highlights of the November 7th game against the New York Rangers and you will see him split the defense, get tripped, leap over two sticks and still put a shot on net. Sidney seems to be held to a higher standard than any of the other rookies in the league. He is delivering on what was advertised, leading the league in Rookie scoring, drawing penalties, creating scoring chances, leading when asked too, and most importantly, winning games. All of this and it still isn't enough.

Tim Panaccio's Blog Entry:
Eklund Blog Entry:

Ovechkin v Crosby

When Sergei Balashov wrote the attached article blasting Sidney for winning the Rookie of the Month for October, I took exception and responded....Here is my email and his response. I thought it was pretty nice of him to respond, he also made some comments on future Penguin Evgeni Malkin and what we are in store for in the future with him....

From : Brian Metzer
Sent : Wednesday, November 9, 2005 3:55 PM
To :
Subject : Some thoughts on Ovechkin and Crosby


I just read your article about the rookie of the month selection in October. I realize that you are reporting for Russian Hockey Digest and that it is your responsibility to cover Ovechkin and all of the other Russian players in the NHL, however, I think that it is pretty obvious that you haven't watched a single game that Sidney Crosby has played this season. He has been one of, if not the best player on the ice for the Pittsburgh Penguins in most of his games. I think that speaks volumes, considering that he is on a team with Mario Lemieux, Mark Recchi, Ziggy Palffy Sergei Gonchar etc. Ovechkin's situation dictates that he should be one of the best players on his team, being that he plays with the group of mostly "yesterday’s minor leaguers and underachieving players."

History has shown that the player who has more points typically wins the award, goals are only really a factor in cases of a tie. Sydney may not have as many goals as Alexander does, but his points aren't coming on meaningless second assists either. Most of the assists have been beautiful plays, no look passes, setting a teammate up tape to tape for a great scoring opportunity. These are plays that require great skill. Not the product of playing on the power play with Mario Lemieux and company. In fact, of Crosby's 19 points, only 9 have come on the power play. That is 10 points while playing even strength. Crosby is also leading his team of "high profile agents" in scoring.

As for his performance on opening night. Sidney had a great goal scoring opportunity on his first shift and did plenty worth mentioning each time he was on the ice. He was also being shuffled between lines on a team that was struggling to find itself. Now that the Penguins are seemingly pulling themselves out of their season long funk, Crosby's totals will only go up.

You mention that Crosby is on pace for a season of 25 goals and 88 assists(113 pts) which is off of Gretzky's rookie pace of 137 pts(51 G 86 A) and that Ovechkin has a better chance of hitting the Great One's numbers. Well, in looking at Ovechkin's point totals so far,12 goals and 5 assists in 15 games, he is scoring about 1.13 points a game. He is projected to score 93 points for the season, with about 66 goals( averaging .8 per game). If he is somehow able to score 66 goals, he is still only on pace for 93 points, 20 less than Sidney Crosby through 82 games. The award will go to the rookie is who the best all around player and has posted the best numbers. Not to the player who can duplicate Wayne Gretzky's numbers. If being compared to Gretzky has done anything for Sidney, it has caused him more grief, because when he achieves anything at all this season, the media chalks it up to the league not wanting to look bad for the hype surrounding him.

Let it also be known that Sidney Crosby is almost 2 full years younger than Ovechkin. This comparison may go on throughout their career's, but Sidney will be the better overall player. If Ovechkin develops his playmaking and defensive game in the coming seasons we may have more grounds for comparison.

As for Marc Andre Fleury, he will be Pittsburgh's franchise goalie. He is 21 years old and would be in the NHL this season if he didn't have to clear waivers before being sent down to the AHL. He is one of, if not the best goaltender in the AHL this season and the Wilkes Barre Scranton Baby Penguins are unbeaten in their first 12 games! Marc Andre was named the AHL goalie of the month for October posting 6 wins, a 1.17 gaa, and a .955 s%. These are not the kind of numbers that a wash out puts up. Not even Martin Brodeur came right into the NHL and played regularly. Fleury will be with the Penguins for many years and if he didn't sign a $3 million, bonus laden deal under the old Collective Bargaining Agreement, he would be in Pittsburgh right now.

The bottom line is that not every player coming into the league is the next Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, or Patrick Roy. They are the next generation of superstars, Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, and Marc Andre Fleury. Let these players players play their games and create their own legacies. I do appreciate your work and will continue to follow the site, but just wanted to pass on a couple comments.

Thanks for your time,

Brian Metzer

Sergei's Response:

From : <>
Sent : Thursday, November 17, 2005 10:28 AM
To : Brian Metzer
Subject : Re:

Hi Brian,

first of all oddly enough I'm a Pens fan and so I have watched enough Crosby to get an opinion on the whole crosby-ovechkin thing. And it stays the same. I didn't say Crosby wasn't any good, actually I said he was but not as good as they said he'd be once he comes to the NHL and as of now, not as good as Ovechkin is. You already know my opinion and you know why I think that. As for the Malkin situation, Evgeni Malkin's conrtact will expire in a little bit less than 3 years but I believe he will come over to the NHL in Summer. This is a typical situation with Russian players when their teams demand moneyfrom the NHL in return for the young talents that leave their clubs to play overseas. Guys from Metallurg Mg want about 2 or 3 million for Malkin but the Penguins are hoping they can get Evgeni for less than that. I have a feeling that this problem will be somehow solved in the end of the season. Personally, I can't wait to see Evgeni in the NHL. I've always thought that Malkin is better than Ovechkin in terms of hockey talent. AO is a better scorer, but Malkin is a much better playmaking forward. Still it's a tough call but I believe Malkin will be doing an even better job in the league. Let's just wait and see. Evgeni has a great potential and he has to work harder to play to his fullest ability. He's got the chance to gain some more experience in Russia and grow professionally. I can assure you the Penguins didn't miss out when they lost the draft lottery getting the 2nd overall pick and using it on Malkin. Thank you for sharing your comments and thoughts! We'll continue doing all we can to give you the latest updates and news on Russian hockey.



Friday, November 11, 2005

Crosby Knocks Off Habs in Shootout

In what could have been a scene out of a Hollywood movie, Sidney Crosby found himself in position to deliver an elusive victory against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. Crosby, who was the third Penguins shooter, watched as 3 Montreal Canadians and 2 Penguin teammates were stuffed in the game deciding shootout. He had probably played this scene out 1,000 times in his head as a young man growing up in Canada rooting for the Canadiens, though the scenario may have been reversed. Instead, Sidney was on the opposing blue line contemplating what he could do during his breakaway to beat a very stingy Jose Theodore and clinch a much needed win. Well, Sidney took the puck and skated towards Theodore with some speed, deked and faked a shot from the slot, before smoothly going to the backhand and roofing a bullet that sent Theodore's water bottle flying. The arena erupted as if it were a playoff game. Sidney had won the game and his father Troy, a one time Montreal draft pick, celebrated wildly with the rest of the crowd in Mellon arena.

Crosby scored the Penguins first goal of the game and Mario Lemieux staked the team to a 2-0 lead. The Penguins watched that lead evaporate as Montreal' Craig Rivet scored to make it 2-1 and Chris Higgins closed out the regulation scoring at 16:29 of the third.

Jocelyn Thibault also had a coming out party of sorts, notching his first victory of the season and his finest showing in a Penguins uniform. Thibault made 30 saves, many of them quality. He also stopped all three shooters in the shoot out, including sniper Alex Kovalev, who had to be frustrated after the game. Thibault robbed him numerous times throughout the evening. Thibault went on to earn number 1 star honors.

Penguins Notes:

The team called up Marc Andre Fleury from the Wilkes Barre Scranton Penguins. The move became a necessity after goalie Sebastian Caron strained a quad muscle during Wednesday nights 5-0 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers.

Maxime Talbot was helped off the ice after taking a shoulder/elbow to the head from Montreal forward Steve Begin. Begin received a 5 minute major for elbowing, a 10 minute misconduct and a 10 minute game misconduct.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Over the last two weeks the Pittsburgh Penguins have started to look a little like the team that everyone thought that they were going to be after winning the draft lottery to secure the rights to uber phenom Sidney Crosby and bringing in several high profile free agents. At times during the same period, they have looked like the same team that has struggled in the new look NHL, taking ill advised penalties, struggling in their own zone, not getting to loose pucks and most importantly, losing games. Will the real Pittsburgh Penguins please stand up!

After picking up their first win of the season on October 27th against the Atlanta Thrashers they went on to lose their next game 5-3 against the Carolina Hurricanes, blowing a 3-1 third period lead, something that they have become very adept at doing. They bounced back with their best week of the season by posting two big wins over division opponents, a 4-3 overtime win in New Jersey and a 5-1 throttling of the New York Islanders. There was a buzz forming around the team, and it seemed as if they were turning the corner. Ryan Whitney and Eric Christensen had been called up right before the New Jersey game and each were contributing in all situations. Then the team lost their inspirational leader, John LeClair, to facial fractures after being struck with a puck during the morning skate last Saturday. That seemed to hurt more than anyone could have expected. LeClair had recently lifted his game to a level not seen earlier in the season, he was scoring goals on the power play and becoming a great locker room presence. Losing him brought out the worst in the team, they went on to play their worst game of the season and lost 6-3 to the Boston Bruins.

Things did not look to get any better with games against the division leading New York Rangers, and the high scoring Atlanta Thrashers. The Penguins dominated most of the first two periods in the Ranger game, staking themselves to a 3-0 lead, only to watch the Rangers score 2 third period goals. They were able to avoid a complete meltdown and won the game 3-2. The win put them within 1 game of .500. Which was amazing after they were winless in their first 9 games. Unfortunately, they stayed consistent in their pattern and lost to the Atlanta Thrashers Wednesday night 5-0, and looked very bad in the process.

What is the problem? Where is the consistency? How can a team look amazing one night and look horrible another? Here are a couple thoughts...
  • Discipline - The team needs to play a more disciplined game. That means staying out of the penalty box. Ill advised penalties, especially during vital points of the game have cost them on more than one occasion. As evidenced in the loss to Boston last Saturday, the Penguins spent close to 8:00 minutes during the opening period in the penalty box. Two of the penalties were called when Rob Scuderi flipped pucks into the stands while shorthanded, causing the team to go down by two men.

  • Goaltending - The Penguins need more consistent play from their goaltenders. Jocelyn Thibault will get another chance, but has been nothing close to what the team thought they were getting when they sent a 3rd round pick to Chicago for his rights. Sebastian Caron has been good at times, but seems to let in a horrible goal at least once a game. To succeed in the NHL you need a goaltender who can occasionally steal a win for you. The Penguins do not have that on the NHL roster right now. Could Marc Andre Fleury be the answer? We won't know until they decide to forget the contract situation and give him a chance. Wonder if Craig Patrick is second guessing his decision to pass on Curtis Joseph, all that he has done is post a 7-4 record, 2.12 gaa and a .925 s% on a very average Phoenix Coyote team.

  • Defense - The team has got to recommit itself to playing team defense. When they have done so throughout the season it has been successful. The forwards have got to come back into the defensive zone and help out. Finish their checks and clear the puck up ice. The team has nonchalantly tried to clear the puck on numerous occasions and those have ended up in their net. They have got to utilize each other more effectively, by playing their positions and chipping the puck along the boards until it is out of the zone. There should never be a clearing pass through the slot or up the middle of the ice. Two mistakes that this team makes on a consistant basis.

  • Penalty Killing - The Pittsburgh Penguins currently rank 29th on the penalty kill with a 76.3 % kill rate. That is unacceptable, especially for a team that has been taking as many penalties as they have. This has got to change. Maxime Talbot and Matt Murley have done a decent job recently, but the team has got to get better. The rest of the problems they are encountering have been compounded by the horrible penalty killing. The team has found itself down by 2 and 3 goals early in games because of the lack of success in this area.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have shown some signs of becoming a contender in the Eastern Conference, but until they consistently do the things that have helped them win games lately, they will be a step behind the rest of the conference. The pattern of taking one step forward and two steps back has got to be broken.

NHL Notes:

  • Sidney Crosby was named NHL rookie of the month for October after posting 2 goals and 12 assists in 11 October games.
  • Eric Cole of the Carolina Hurricanes set an NHL record Wednesday night by being the first player in history to get awarded two penalty shots in one game. Cole scored on his first opportunity after being pulled down by Buffalo Sabres forward Jochen Hecht.
  • Veteran center Pierre Turgeon scored his 500th career goal Tuesday night in a Colorado win over the San Jose Sharks. The 36 year old has played for the New Islanders, Montreal Canadians, Buffalo Sabres, St. Louis Blues, Dallas Stars and now the Colorado Avalanche.
  • Cam Neely who is set to be enshrined in the NHL Hall of Fame in Toronto has never set foot in the building. His induction will be his first visit.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Pens Promote 2 from WBS

Defenseman Ryan Whitney and Forward Eric Christensen were recalled from the Wilkes Barre Scranton Baby Penguins yesterday. Both will be in the line-up tonight against the New Jersey Devils. Hopefully they can bring a little bit of the success that has been running wild in Wilkes Barre Scranton. The Baby Pens are undefeated posting a 9-0 record, a franchise record.

Both Christensen and Whitney were ranked in the top 10 scorers in the AHL. Christensen was third with 19 points and Whitney led all AHL defenseman with 14. Both players shined in training camp and were recalled after the Penguins started the season 1-5-5.