Friday, December 30, 2005

Pens End 6 Game Skid

The Pittsburgh Penguins finally pulled out of their nose dive. They were not able to get Michel Therrien his first win as Head Coach of the team through his first 4 contests. Though the winning didn't come during Coach Therrien's first two weeks, his influence was very obvious! The team had been playing harder, skating with the opposition and looking like a team that took losing personally, just like their coach. Well, they were finally rewarded for their efforts last night.

Marc Andre Fleury stole the show with many unbelievable stops. He really was the difference in the 6-2 win. The Sidney Crosby, Tomas Surovy, Ziggy Palffy line left their finger prints at the scene too, but it isn't very often that a goaltender takes number one star and player of the game honors in that type of game. Fleury was forced to make over 40 saves in the game, many of them tough ones. He is really flashing the ability that made him a first overall draft pick.

Another number 1 overall, Sidney Crosby, had another great game. He finished the night with 2 goals and an assist. He was creating opportunities throughout the night and his line has become the Penguins best. He and Ziggy Palffy have recaptured their magic since being put together with call-up Tomas Surovy. Surovy has picked up 4 goals since being recalled.

Though the defense still needs some work, 40 shots a game isn't going to fly, the team is really beginning to show signs of life. Michel Therrien's passion for the game seems to be contagious and the players are beginning to get on board. Then again, a large part of this roster has played for the man in the past...some earlier this season. All is not perfect, but it is getting there. The playoffs may not be a realistic goal at this point, but if they begin to turn in performances like last night on a regular basis, they will certainly win many games than they lose.

The next test will be Saturday afternoon against the hated New York Rangers. We will see if they get another passing grade.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Several Player Moves

Brooks Orpik and Ryan Vandenbussche have been placed on IR. Rob Scuderi was recalled by the team yesterday.

It is being reported by Jonathan Bombulie on his WBS Penguins Insider Blog that the Pittsburgh Penguins are reassigning Matt Hussy to WBS and recalling Maxime Talbot and Colby Armstrong. It was sort of a shock when Talbot was reassigned a couple weeks ago, considering that he was the team's best penalty killer. These two should help the team in short handed situations and with shutting down the oppositions top lines.

Maxime Talbot, who had a nice scoring touch while playing junior hockey in Canada, seems to have recaptured a little of that magic while he was was in Wilkes Barre-Scranton. Hopefully that will translate into a few tallies in the NHL.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Losing Continues

The Penguins played a spirited contest against the Toronto Maple Leafs last night, but unfortunately came up with the same outcome: a loss. The Pens have now lost their first 4 games under new head coach Michel Therrien, but the team is showing signs of buying into his system. The skating that the team has been doing in practice is starting to show in the games. There were a lot more players moving their feet to keep up with the opposition last night and a lot less clutching and grabbing. The team defense still needs some improvement, but things look to be turning around.

The teams skated to a 0-0 tie in the first period, but the Penguins looked to have the upper hand. That spilled over into the beginning moments of the second period. The flightless bird took a 1-0 lead when Mark Recchi deflected home a Sergei Gonchar shot on the power play. That lead was short lived though. The Leafs quickly answered on a goal by Alexander Khavanov. The Maple Leafs gained some momentum at that point, and got a power play goal late in the second period from Penguin killer, Mats Sundin. Sundin has more goals against the Pittsburgh Penguins (33) than any other player in history.

The Penguins fought to tie the game in the third period and finally pulled even on a spectacular individual effort by Sidney Crosby. Crosby was fighting for the puck behind and to the right of the Toronto net, he was knocked to a knee. He slid himself out in front of the net on one knee, took a shot which was saved by goaltender, Mikael Tellqvist. He then pushed the rebound across to Michel Ouellet, who buried a shot behind Tellqvist.

The Penguins failed to capitalize on a long 5 on 3 advantage late in the third period, though they generated several great chances and added to their power play shot total. They finished with 19 while on the man advantage.

Then came overtime and a very familiar scene. Mats Sundin found Tomas Kaberle for the game winning goal.

The Penguins seem to be moving closer to where Michel Therrien wants them to be, but have yet to find the formula for winning the close games. Winning is something that has to be learned, these pens are still in class, but are moving towards graduation.

Mario Lemieux may start skating next week. However, he is not expected to play for at least 2 more weeks.

Here is a copy of an open letter that Michel Therrien wrote to the fans of Wilkes Barre-Scranton. This is a very classy move by a man who was panned in certain parts of the US and Canada when he was named coach of the Penguins. He may rub some the wrong way, but I have no problem with someone who is this passionate about winning. He is a man who takes losing personally. I was very impressed by this gesture and wanted to pass it on. (credit to Lets Go Pens webmaster RJ Akerman for posting it on his board)

Dear Penguins Fans,

The past two weeks have gone by like a whirlwind. Little did I know that as I stood behind the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton bench and watched as our team recorded a 7-1 win against the Manitoba Moose December 10 that it would be my last game as your head coach.

The chance to return to the National Hockey League is what I have been working toward since joining the Penguins organization two-and-a-half years ago. That opportunity came very quickly earlier this month, meaning I did not have the chance to let you all know how important and enjoyable my time in Wilkes-Barre has been.

Myself, Mike Yeo and Stephane Dube can not thank you all enough for your support, both at the arena and in the community. There is no doubt in my mind that you are the most passionate, most die-hard and most dedicated fans in the American Hockey League. Your presence inside the Wachovia Arena is a home ice advantage that no other team in the league has, and lifts the players more than you will ever know.

Away from the rink, you welcomed me and my children to your area with open arms. We made many great friends during our stay in Northeastern Pennsylvania, and they will all be missed.

I would also like to thank Jeff Barrett, Rich Hixon, Greg Petorak and Tom Grace from the Penguins' front office, the training staff of Mark Dumas, Teddy Richards and Patrick Steidle, and the rest of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton organization for their help. Having such a dedicated group behind you only makes your job easier, and I can not thank them enough.

My gratitude goes out to every player who has suited up for me in Wilkes-Barre, and especially team captain Alain Nasreddine. It is good to know that he is on hand to help lead the way for the Penguins.

And lastly, I would ask that you give your full support to new head coach Joe Mullen. I was part of the group that suggested Joe for the job, and we all believe that he will continue to provide the lessons and leadership that form the backbone of a winning franchise.

I now begin a new chapter in my life, with new challenges. But wherever I go, I will always take a piece of Wilkes-Barre with me. My two years with you have been some of the most fulfilling and memorable of my life, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Best Wishes and Happy Holidays,

Michel Therrien
Head Coach, Pittsburgh Penguins

Friday, December 23, 2005

Happy Holidays from the Pittsburgh Penguins Report

Merry Christmas......

Just wanted to wish you and yours a great holiday season.....hope everyone is happy and healthy!

Unfortunately the Pens fell tonight to the dreaded Flyers. Sidney Crosby made it interesting notching 2 goals within 20 seconds of each other.....the third period lead could not be held and they went down 5-4.

The team will have a chance to redeem itself starting Tuesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs. This is the month that the Pens have to make a move. There are an awful lot of games in January! Let's get it started!!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Pens Partner with Isle of Capri - Make Redevolpment Deal with Nationwide Realty Investors

The Pittsburgh Penguins have announced that they have partnered with Isle of Capri, an international gambling company that manages 15 river boat and land based casinos. The Isle of Capri people would manage the casino if the Slots license is awarded to the Penguins group. They would in turn designate $285 million to build a new 18,000 seat arena for the region. The proposal would require no public funding.

If this were to happen, the Penguins would then redevelop the 50 acre area in which Mellon Arena currently sits with retail, office, and residential development. The total redevelopment could come in at over $1 billion dollars.

Once an arena was completed, ownership of the venue would be turned over to the City-Allegheny County Sports and Exhibition Authority. The Sports and Exhibition authority also voted unanimously this morning to amend the Penguins lease. They now have the option to renew for one year, instead of the 5 years that were part of the pact previously. This should open the door for the Penguins to stay one extra year while the proposed new arena is built.

This is great news for the Penguins. This would be a great deal for the city and county and hopefully it will encourage the Gaming Board to award the Penguins group the Stand Alone Slots License. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees at this point. At least the "powers that be" in Allegheny County and Pittsburgh have taken notice and have seemingly jumped to attention since Mario Lemieux stated that there was only a "slim chance" of the team staying in Pittsburgh just over a week ago.

Penguin Press Conference Today at 2:00

The Penguins have called a press conference for 2:00pm today. They are expected to announce the details of their Arena Financing Plan. I will have more info after the press conference. From what I have heard, the Penguins plan is dynamite and will make it very hard for the Gaming Board to bypass their application for the Stand Alone Slots License in Pittsburgh.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Joe Mullen Named Coach of the Baby Pens

Joe Mullen, fired as an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins last Thursday, was named head coach of the Wilkes Barre-Scranton Baby Penguins today. Joe Mullen and Rick Kehoe had been coaching the team on an interim basis for this past weekend's games.

Time will tell how this hiring works out, but will give Craig Patrick's critics something to bark about for the rest of the season. Especially if there is some sort of setback in WBS.

Stay Tuned....

Penguin Notes: Rally, Mario, Moves.....

The "Save the Penguins" rally was held Friday night before the Pens match up with the Buffalo Sabres. It was very cold, which may have kept some people away. All three local news channels were represented. Interviews were conducted with fans etc. The group wasn't very big to begin with, but it grew as KDKA's live feed was about to hit the air. Bob Pompeani, a KDKA news personality, went on the air at 6:45 and represented the rally well. You can view the clip here....

It may not have been as big a success as everyone would have liked, but it was a start. I for one will do everything that I can to help the cause. Their will definitely be additional rallies. Hopefully it can be done on a larger scale in the future.

Pens Drop a Pair to Buffalo
You could see Michel Therrien's influence almost immediately in the Friday night match up against the Sabres. Though it was his first game behind the bench of the big squad and he only had one practice with the team, his system was taking root. The players were flying through the neutral zone, generating turnovers, taking them the other way for scoring chances and all around showing more effort than previously seen this season. Unfortunately, the outcome was the same. They fought hard to get to overtime on Friday, but an ill advised penalty, their 9th, put them down 4 on 3. Buffalo quickly won the game on Chris Drury's rebound goal.

Saturday's tilt didn't start out as good. The Pens quickly went down 2-0, prompting Coach Therrien to take a time out. His displeasure was evident and he let the team know it. The gist of his rant was: This is crap, if you don't want to play stay on the bench. The team quickly responded, but could not get the late equalizer and went on to lose 4-3.

The team does not play until Friday night when the Philadelphia Flyers come to town. This will give Michel Therrien and his staff a week to get the team better conditioned and to implement their system. Therrien has sited the teams poor conditioning as one of the main reasons for their horrible start this season.

Mario Has Relapse
Mario Lemieux returned to the line-up on Friday night, playing on a line with Sidney Crosby and Ziggy Palffy. Unfortunately, he suffered more heart palpitations during the third period. The team held Mario out of their Saturday game with Buffalo for precautionary reasons. It is not known how much time Mario will miss.

Vandenbussche Waived - Reassigned
Ryan Vandenbussche was waived over the weekend, once he cleared waivers he was reassigned to Wilkes Barre-Scranton.

No New Coach for Baby Pens Yet
The Wilkes Barre-Scranton Baby Penguins have not yet named a successor to Michel Therrien. The team was coached this weekend by Joe Mullen and Rick Kehoe. There are several rumors that General Manager Craig Patrick is interested in hiring Cape Breton Screaming Eagles Head Coach/GM Pascal Vincent. Vincent has stated in news reports that no one from the organization has contacted him.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Talbot and Pirjeta Sent to WBS. Ouellet Called Up

Is Michel Therrien trying to reunite his most successful line from Wilkes barre-Scranton? Well, it certainly looks that way. The Penguins have recalled Michel Ouellet and sent down Maxime Talbot and Lasse Pirjeta. Ouellet is not the best skater to ever take an NHL sheet of ice, but he can score some goals. This could be a good situation for him, especially since he will most likely be reunited with his linemates from WBS, Eric Christensen and Matt Hussey.

I am not sure why Max Talbot was sent down. He was one of the hardest workers on the team and has chipped in a goal or two, but he may thrive down on the farm. He was used in mostly a checking/penalty killing role in Pittsburgh, but was a big scorer in Junior hockey. This may be a move to help him develop into something more than a 4th line grinder. As for Lasse Pirjeta; he has some offensive talent and should be able to put up some numbers in the AHL.

Let's hope that the Baby Pens can maintain their momentum. They currently hold the best record in the AHL, though their roster has been suffled and their entire coaching staff has been installed in Pittsburgh. They practiced as usual Thursday with their captains running the drills. It has been speculated that Joe Mullen and Rick Kehoe will stand in as game day coaches this weekend.

Craig Patrick does not seem to be playing games. He was straight forward and to the point in his press conference announcing the coaching change. It seems that if players are not willing to get on board and play Michel Therrien's game, they will be gone. Only time will tell, but I feel that the next 10 games will tell the story. Though the picture is bleak, the team is not out of the playoff hunt. This could be one of the best comeback stories in the history of the NHL.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Eddie Olczyk and Assistants Fired

In the wake of an embarrassing road trip in which the Penguins were beaten by a combined score of 6-1, the team has apparently fired head coach Ed Olczyk and his assistants, Randy Hillier and Joe Mullen. It is being reported that Wilkes Barre-Scranton Baby Penguins head coach Michel Therrien and his staff will be taking the reins in Pittsburgh.

It is sad to see Olczyk go, but some change was necessary. This team has been a disappointment from opening night. The excitement that was generated by getting the right to draft Sidney Crosby and the signing of several high profile free agents was starting to die off, especially with the fringe fans in Pittsburgh. Many people who were buying tickets a month ago, were starting to spend that money elsewhere. Unfortunately, in professional hockey, it is always easier to fire the coach than the 23 players. I am sure that there will also be several personnel moves made, but this will serve as the first step.

Onorato Promises Plan for New Arena

Allegheny County Executive, Dan Onorato, has vowed to come up with a plan to get a new arena built for the Pittsburgh Penguins and the region. The County Executive has talked about coming up with two plans. Both would utilize a $90 million payment due to the city to support local projects. From there, one would utilize revenue from gaming, and the other funds from the private sector. Mr. Onorato wants to get these plans in place for the Penguins to review well before June 2006, when they would be able to hit to open market and look for a new home. He also does not want to stand pat and wait for the State's Gaming Board to award the Stand Alone Slots License for the area, because that may take up to a year. Executive Onorato feels that it is vital to have these plans available ASAP, so they can be presented and worked out, regardless of the Licensure process. More should be available on the Gaming Licensure after all applications are turned in and made public December 28th. The Penguins plan is thought to be very dynamic and would give almost all revenue back to the region, through development of the land where Mellon Arena currently sits.

Mr. Onorato did leave a little bit of wiggle room when he was interviewed by Fox Sport's Stan Savran Wednesday afternoon. He said that ultimately it would be the Penguins decision to stay in Pittsburgh. The plans would be developed and presented, but some other market..."could wine and dine them away." It is nice to see the urgency, but this could have all been avoided if Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh would have considered building a Multi Purpose Arena for this region during the years that have passed since Mario Lemieux purchased the team out of bankruptcy. The stage is seemingly being set for the "Powers that Be" to paint Mario and the Penguins as the bad guy. "We made a great attempt to build the arena and they still left town." All the while they would have the knowledge that the team had been and is still losing money. They also knew when the Penguin's lease ended. I really hope that this is not how the situation plays out.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Pens Take Embarrassing Loss

The Pittsburgh Penguins thought they were turning a corner after beating the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night. Well, that just doesn't seem to be the case. Marc Andre Fleury has given them fantastic goaltending, only to walk away with two more in the loss column.

The young goaltender was called upon to make 39 saves last night against a very bad St. Louis Blues team. The Blues are at the bottom of the league standings and are having a season almost as disappointing as the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins let a great scoring opportunity turn into a 3 on 1 against them, which resulted in the first St. Louis goal. Sidney Crosby was carrying the puck into the Blues zone, dropped a pass to Sergei Gonchar, who fell as he tried to take it. This sequence allowed Mike Sillinger to get possession and lead the charge the other way. Keith Tkachuk finished off a cross ice feed from center Doug Weight.

Fleury kept the score 1-0 until late in the third period when he was beaten for a short handed goal by Jamal Mayers.

The Penguins gave the Blues 9 power play chances in the game, but were able to kill them all off. They can ill afford to be in the penalty box that often and think that they are going to have a chance to win the game.

The Penguins have enough offensive talent to overcome a 1-0 deficit late in a game, especially when they are getting superb goaltending. Why they have not been able to cash in on any of their opportunities is a question that is unanswerable. They haven't exactly gone up against Patrick Roy lately, facing a weathered Chris Osgood Monday night and the unproven Curtis Sanford last night.

The team doesn't play again until Friday night. Will changes take place? I am doubting it. They have been comfortable to wallow in what is quickly becoming a lost season this far. Not many surrounding the team even seem to care. Sure, many are saying the things you would expect, but nothing is coming out on game day that's shows concern. Aside from Sidney Crosby, Marc Andre Fleury and Maxime Talbot, you would be hard pressed to find a player who looks like they have any urgency on the ice.

If this team has a chance to win anything this year, it just might be the draft lottery to secure the rights to US sensation Phil Kessel.


Some city officials met yesterday to try and work out a plan for a new arena for the city of Pittsburgh. The plan still seems to be heavily reliant on getting some revenue from Slots. The Governor still seems to be noncommittal on support for the arena and will not commit any funds as of yet, saying that he will let local leaders advise him on other projects in the area before he makes a decision. More on this later......remember the Save Our Pens Rally on Friday night outside of the Box Office at Mellon Arena before the Buffalo Sabres game.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Rally Friday Night Before the Pens Game

The Save Our Pens group will be sponsoring a rally at 6:00pm outside of the box office and Penstation right before the Penguins face the Buffalo Sabres.

Please follow these links to email Governor Rendell and Mayor Elect Bob O'Conner.... For Gov. Rendell. For Mayor Elect Bob O'Conner.

The Pens lost 3-1 last night to the Detroit Redwings, wasting a superb effort by Marc Andre Fleury, who made 36 saves.

They look to get back on track tonight against the St Louis Blues, who are in last place overall in the NHL.

Monday, December 12, 2005

A Great Loss

The Pittsburgh Penguins moved one step closer to packing their bags for Kansas City, Las Vegas, Portland or whoever ends up being the highest bidder for the team. It is looking more and more like the Penguins plan to acquire the Stand Alone Slots Parlor license for the area is going to fall through and with it the revenue necessary to build a new arena. Team owner and captain, Mario Lemieux spoke at a press conference Saturday and delivered the grim news. This quote from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette sums up the past few years of lies and false promises made to Mario since he purchased the team out of bankruptcy: "I think we're really running out of time. We probably ran out of time already. It's been unfortunate that the city and the county haven't been willing to work with us over the last two or three years."

I cannot blame Mario for being frustrated. When he rode in on his White Horse to save this team and keep it in Pittsburgh there were certain assurances made that a new arena would be considered. Mario made it known to the politicians publicly and privately that an arena was necessary to keep the franchise viable in this market. The landscape of the NHL was very uneven. Teams were stealing all of the talent away from teams like the Penguins because they could not afford to match the high contracts that were being offered. They were not generating the revenue necessary to survive. Sure, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement helps the cause with it's salary cap, but without a new building the team still stands to lose money each year.

In June of 2006 the Penguins are able to begin the search for a new home, one with a new arena. However, potential buyers and cities can solicit the Penguins right now, and it is happening. Kansas City is courting the team and has been for some time now. This is unacceptable. Though this city will always be Steeler country; the Penguins have a very loyal following. Getting Sidney Crosby has generated a much needed buzz and interest in the team has never been higher.

It is necessary to dispel a myth. A new arena is not something that is going to be used strictly by a hockey team. The new arena could be used for many different events, such as professional wrestling, concerts, ice shows, truck pulls etc. Several musical acts, Celine Dion and Paul Mccartney for example, have passed on playing Pittsburgh on their most recent tours because the arena did not accommodate their stage set up or house enough people. The Mellon Arena is a very unique structure, but it is out of it's prime. The city moved forward with building PNC Park and Heinz field. PNC Park is used less than 100 times a year, Heinz Field even less.

It would be a crime if the city lets the Pittsburgh Penguins leave town. They have provided many great sports moments in Pittsburgh history, including it's most recent championship. It has given us the gift of Mario Lemieux, who is one of the most genuine human beings ever to participate in Pittsburgh sports. A man who gave all he had on the ice and off it to keep this team in town. To me, losing the Pittsburgh Penguins would be like a death in the family. It is part of my life, and the thought of losing it is hurting worse than anything. I have many fond memories: Making it back to the playoffs in '89, sweeping the Rangers only to lose to the hated Flyers in 7 games, Stanley Cup victories, milestone goals, 18 game losing streaks, Jaromir Jagr when he was just out there having fun, Trots doing his Slip and Slide routine at the cup rally. I am hoping to have a ton of new memories as we go forward with Sid the Kid, MA Fleury, Whitney and the boys. If I ever prayed to the hockey gods, now is the time! Don't take our Penguins....

Penguins Recall Tomas Surovy

The Penguins ended their 6 game winning streak against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night. They dressed all of their healthy forwards that night and still only had 11, so they have recalled winger Tomas Surovy from their affiliate in Wilkes Barre-Scranton. Surovy, one of the leading scorers in the AHL this season, has 15 g and 19 a in 73 career appearances with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Surovy is expected to skate on a line with Maxime Talbot and Ryan Vandenbussche.

Mario Lemieux was also placed on the injured reserve list.

Friday, December 09, 2005

A New Low

The Penguins did not play a game since December 3rd. They were reportedly working very hard to right all the wrongs that have plagued them this season, including special attention to their anemic power play. The players were saying all the right things in the media and talked of the Thursday night match up with the Minnesota Wild as a very winnable game. A game that they thought they could add to the win column. That just didn't happen, causing the Mellon Arena crowd to try and figure out what was worse, the product on the ice or the 6" inches of snow that was coming down outside the building.

The evening started off with another turnover in the defensive zone. Center Shane Endicott tried to carry the puck into the neutral zone, only to have it knocked away by Marian Gaborik. Gaborik used his great speed to gather in the biscuit, deke Thibault and deposit a backhander in the net. All this in the first minute of play.

The game spiraled out of control from there. The Penguins allowed the low scoring Wild to grab a 5-0 lead as Alexander Daigle(2), Wes Walz and Brian Rolston all beat goaltender Jocelyn Thibault. The Wild's Manny Fernandez faced only 22 shots and was rarely tested as he posted the shut out.

The Penguins looked inept in all facets of the game. Their defensive work was very shoddy. It was obvious that the team could not keep up with Minnesota's speedy forwards, who cycled in the Penguins zone as if they were on the power play most of the time. Speaking of the power play, the Penguins did not have one until very late in the 3rd period and they did not produce anything other than frustration.

The team is starting to resemble a table hockey squad, they do not skate. They stand in a spot and bend, spin, twist and poke at pucks rather than skate. Their feet are not moving at all. This is not that way to succeed in the new NHL. The league had a popular bubble boy promotion in the past, but it is horrible when it is on your home ice.

When is the shake up going to come? A move has got to be made. I am not a fan of firing the coach when a group of underachievers is not getting the job done, but some kind of change is necessary. Craig Patrick should be held accountable if he stands pat on this one. At least look like you are trying to right the ship. The only untouchable players on the NHL roster should be: Sidney Crosby, Marc Andre Fleury, Eric Christensen, Ryan Whitney and obviously, Mario Lemieux. Aside from those guys, there is talent that can be moved. Craig Patrick has already tried the "let's put people on waivers and see who grabs them" move and it hasn't worked. He has got to realize that there is a new playing field, one with a salary cap. Regardless of the talent level of a player on waivers, a team is not going to just pick up all the additional salary. Patrick has to learn that you have to take some dirty laundry to get rid of some. A prime example, Kristian Huselius was recently traded to the Calgary Flames after they could have had him for nothing more than a waiver claim. They waited until they could offset picking up his $1,216,000 salary by forcing Florida to take on Steve Montador and Dustin Johner. The move wasn't a complete wash, but it was enough to get the deal done. Patrick better figure out the ways of the new NHL or he risks losing the excitement that was generated by winning the Sidney Crosby lottery. Fans are in the seats right now because they were sucked in by the hype and bought season tickets early, they have to come. They will not spend that money next season if things do not improve...and improve in a hurry.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Mario Lemieux Admitted to Area Hospital for Irregular Heart Beat

Pittsburgh Penguins owner and captain was admitted to an area hospital Wednesday after the team's workout with what was called an irregular heart beat. There was no other information available at that time. Lemieux went through the team's practice without issue, but was in the trainers office for an hour afterward before being sent to the hospital. He was immediately ruled out of the team's match up with the Minnesota Wild Thursday and was listed as day to day.

Mario was released from the hospital Thursday morning after having been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, which team General Manager Craig Patrick characterized as "a relatively common condition that can be treated with medication." This problem should not derail Mario's career, however it will keep him out of the line-up for a brief period of time.

Mario has apparently had several episodes of this condition since the middle of the summer, but it had gone undiagnosed until now.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Losses Pile Up

The Pittsburgh Penguins have not had much to be proud of this season, aside from the play of rookie sensation Sidney Crosby. Lately their game has started to improve but the league does not award points for hard work. The team has turned in some of their finest efforts only to have them end in losses, 5 in a row if you are scoring at home.

The Penguins seemed to get a little shot in the arm from the recall of goaltender Marc Andre Fleury last Monday, and their play during the last week has been much better. Fleury has given them the steady goaltending that they were not getting from Sebastien Caron or Jocelyn Thibault, but they just don't seem to be able to get over the hump. The team got off to a strong start last Tuesday night, but could only generate one first period goal against Buffalo goaltender Martin Biron. The team defense was much better and it only yielded 26 shots on goal, unfortunately it translated into a 3-2 defeat. Then came a match up with the rival New York Rangers. Once again they generated many scoring chances, but Hendrik Lundquist was up to the task and allowed only one goal to rookie defenseman Ryan Whitney. The Penguins took 36 shots but lost the game 2-1. Next up was a Saturday night match up with the Calgary Flames. The Penguins have owned the flames on home ice, but not on this night. The Flames got on the board first with a much contested goal, many in the organization thought the goal should have been waived off. This seemed to break the squad's momentum a bit and they fell behind 3-1, before losing 3-2.

During this three game stretch you could see certain things beginning to happen. The team defense has gotten much better and they have drastically cut the shots on goal that they were allowing during the first month and a half of the season. The defensemen are playing much better in their own zone, and the turnovers have dropped off. The third and fourth lines have begun to generate some scoring chances, though the lines had to be shuffled again due to groin injuries to Jon LeClair and Ziggy Palffy.

There are many things that the team can build on as it ventures into December, but they have got to start turning their hard work and effort into victories. They are now tied with Washington for last place in the Eastern Conference and are 13 points out of the last playoff spot. Even more daunting is the fact that the two teams occupying the 7th and 8th spot, Toronto and Tampa Bay are on pace to put up 97 points. That means that it would take 98 to slide into the final playoff spot. The Penguins will have to play at a .709 click during their remaining 55 games or average 1.42 points per game to make it in. Based on the past 2 months, I am not sure that they are capable of producing those results. The talent is there, but the results haven't been, only time will tell if these Penguins can learn to fly.

Caron Assigned to Wilkes Barre-Scranton

Goaltender Sebastien Caron cleared waivers and was assigned to the Baby Penguins on Saturday. This was the second time a goaltender has cleared waivers for the Penguins in a week. The team had the option of demoting Jocelyn Thibault or Caron and it chose the younger, less expensive option.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Caron Reportedly Waived

It was reported in Pittsburgh by Alby Oxenreiter on his Ox on the X sports report that the Pittsburgh Penguins have waived Sebastien Caron. It hasn't been officially released by the team.