Wednesday, January 09, 2008

In Case You Didn't Know...

...I have been the voice of the Pittsburgh Penguins over at since September 2006. All blogs and coverage can be read over there. I have maintained this page as a resource of links etc for Pittsburgh Penguins fans...and myself! Please check out my blog at Hockey Buzz and be sure to become a part of the online Pittsburgh Penguins Hockey Buzzcast! You can get all of the Penguins info you need...what's happening in the Pens room?, insider rumblings, trade rumors, NHL insights etc. Check the player below for more info! As always, please feel free to leave comments and questions here! Thanks for the support!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Crosby Named Penguins Captain...

"A person and a player who is not only the best in the league at what he does, but he is also a player who exhibits the will to win, a passion for the game and a team first mentality..and a player that always strives to be the best.

To me this is a well earned honor for Sidney Crosby and when I say earned, I mean earned and it is a privilege for myself to announce that today Sidney Crosby is the new captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins."

Those were the words of Ray Shero as he kicked off the festivities at Mellon Arena this afternoon, where Sidney Crosby was officially announced as the captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins. This is a good move by the team and solidifies this young man as the team leader. He had been filling that role throughout the year, as evidenced by the way he was directing traffic throughout last season and the playoffs. Crosby looked comfortable leading players like Mark Recchi, Gary Roberts and Sergei Gonchar on the ice...directing them on positioning etc. Crosby has great relationships with his teammates and is not going to change who he is. He has always lead by example on and off of the ice and that is something he pledged to continue. He will also count on his teammates to pull their weight and will utilize any and all input.

"I try to lead by example...I don’t think that I put that solely on my shoulders, as a captain you have to take responsibility of course...but at the end of the day it’s a team sport. There are a lot of guys I can lean on for advice or for help in that area. It takes a team to win. There are responsibilities that come with being a captain...lead on and off the ice. That is something I am ready to do."

The kid does not come across as cocky or in your face and will make a great leader. This is a logical step heading into his third season in the league...and he is ready for the challenge. People who say he isn't ready can relax at knowing he was offered the "C" last season and turned it down because he didn't feel it was his time.

"It was talked about midway through last year, and it wasn’t the right time for me. As a team were playing great and you don’t want to disrupt things like that and myself individually I wasn’t ready to accept that responsibility quite yet," Crosby said. "Going through the playoffs and having that experience has given me more confidence."

This is a great day for the Pittsburgh Penguins and the next step in their return to greatness. For all the great players on this team, Sidney Crosby is the cornerstone and face of the franchise.

Watching Mario Lemieux hand Sidney Crosby his number 87 jersey with the "C" stitched on the left chest seemed a bit like a passing of the torch. Mario may still own the Penguins, but they are now officially Sidney Crosby's team.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Penguins By The Numbers - Part Three The Goalies

Over the last week we have broken down the existing Penguins Forwards, and we will get into the team's goaltenders and goaltending prospects. Which two goalies will make the team next season and who will man the crease in Wilkes Barre-Scranton? Here is my take...

With that let's get going...

Marc Andre Fleury - signed through '07-'08 and brings a cap hit of $1.295. Fleury is quickly becoming the goaltender that the team envisioned when they traded up to take him first overall in the 2003 National Hockey League Draft. Fleury is very athletic and quick as lightning. The one thing that stood out about his game this past season was that he no longer relied on straight athleticism and was starting to play the position. Goaltending coach Gilles Meloche had a lot to do with that, as he has spent much time working with the young goaltender on positioning and playing angles. Marc Andre Fleury is starting to make the spectacular save of old look routine...a product of proper positioning and staying upright. Fleury still needs to improve in certain areas such as rebound control and playing the puck, but he has taken major steps in the right direction. Fleury will be a part of the Penguins organization for years to come.

Jocelyn Thibault - Unrestricted Free Agent - Thibault is hoping to return to the Penguins but that is far from a given at this point. He did seem to finally get past the lingering hip problems that had dogged him during his first season in Pittsburgh and actually put together a fairly solid campaign behind Fleury. He worked very well in the role he was given by Coach Michel Therrien and is willing to stay on as a back up, but with the goaltending needs around the league some one could sign him by dangling the opportunity to start. Though Thibault looked more like his old self, he still seemed to have issues with perimeter shots, especially through traffic. He also seems to have lost a step and occasionally looked slow moving laterally in the net and getting back up during rapid flurries of shots. I foresee him moving on, but am not completely ruling out a return to the Penguins.

Nolan Schaefer - Unrestricted Free Agent - Schaefer was acquired from the San Jose Sharks at the trade deadline and immediately played a big role in Wilkes Barre-Scranton. The 27-year-old appeared in 15 games posting a record of 9-4, GAA of 2.24 and S% of .914. He has also been the main man for the Baby Penguins during their current Calder Cup run and could be positioning himself to be Marc Andre Fleury's back up come next season. The Penguins management team is intrigued with Shaefer and is trying to decide what they would like to do in regard to signing him. Schaefer has often been looked at as a career back up, but he is skilled and posted good numbers when given a 7 game look in San Jose. He has a large frame and doesn't make a ton of mistakes. He has not been given the opportunity to face top talent very often. He is my pick to be the top back up in Pittsburgh next season.

Goaltending Prospects:

David Brown - will become an Unrestricted Free Agent if not signed by August 15, 2007. Brown was one of the top goaltenders in NCAA Division I this past season as he posted career highs in almost every category. The Notre Dame Senior went 30-6-3, posting a 1.58 GAA, .931 S% and 6 shutouts. Brown is very athletic and has great reflexes; both traits make him tough to beat. He was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award and will probably be signed for one of the open positions in Wilkes Barre Scranton. Ray Shero and Chuck Fletcher would like to add Brown and/or Bobby Goepfert to add goaltending depth.

Bobby Goepfert - will become an Unrestricted Free Agent if not signed by August 15, 2007. Goepfert was also one of the top goalies in NCAA Division I hockey this past season at St. Cloud State. I am doubtful that the Penguins will retain he and David Brown of Notre Dame, as the numbers each have posted could add dollars to any potential contract. Goepfert posted a record of 17-10-7, a GAA of 2.29 and a S% of .924. He has great reflexes and doesn't make a lot of mistakes. He and David Brown grade out very closely and it may come down to which one the organization can sign easier.

Projected Goaltenders Pittsburgh '07-'08:

Marc Andre Fleury
Nolan Schaefer

Projected Goaltenders Wilkes Barre-Scranton '07-'08:

David Brown

I think that the Penguins will look at goaltending during free agency. Schaefer may be kept to start in Wilkes Barrie-Scranton if the team picks up a veteran NHL back up, which I think is a strong possibility. That would be best for the development of whichever college goaltender the team opts to retain. I will get more into who could potentially be signed when we discuss free agency and the Forward/Defensive prospects.

Look for the fourth and final "By the Numbers" regarding the forward/defensive prospects and free agency soon!


The Wilkes Barre-Scranton Penguins begin their second round series with Hershey tonight. The defending Calder Cup Champions have been known to give the Penguins headaches, but the Baby Flightless Birds are ready after getting by Norfolk in 6 games. Jonathan Filewich and Ryan Stone have been playing very well during the playoffs, but they are doing it with the help of great Edmonton prospects Robert Nilsson and Marc-Antoine Pouliot.

Hershey knocked the Baby Penguins out of the playoffs last season and they will be looking for revenge as they pursue their first ever Calder Cup.


In a vote being conducted by ESPN, all of the Penguins award nominees are leading their respective categories.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Penguins By The Numbers - Part Two the Forwards

Well our defensemen discussion brought some good ideas of possible fill ins on the Penguins blue line...some notables: Andy Sutton, Scott Hannan, Vitaly Vishnevski, Brent Sopel, Kimmo Timonen, Cory Sarich and Aaron Miller. I am not sure which direction Ray Shero is going to go, he could look to fill the defensive need via trade, but most likely is going to bring in some one through free agency. I will discuss some of the above names when I get to the Free Agency "By the Numbers."

Today we will look at the Penguins forwards and discuss cost and who will be staying with the team.

Let's go started...

Sidney Crosby - signed through '07-'08 and brings a cap hit of $3.7 Mil. (Of course it is hard to predict his actual hit based on bonus payments) What can't this kid do? He has already broken 100 pts in each of his first two seasons, won an Art Ross Trophy and is the potential Hart Trophy winner. Crosby is the closest thing to a Penguin for life that they have on the roster. Ray Shero will discuss long-term contract with Sidney Crosby in July. The team cannot negotiate with him until after July 1st. I can envision the wording of any new Crosby contract stating that he will be the team's top paid player under the terms of the existing CBA...terms that dictate that no player can make more than 20% of the total salary cap for any team.

Evgeni Malkin - signed through '08-'09 and brings a cap hit of $3.834 Mil. Malkin cooled off a bit down the stretch, but there is no denying that he is a dynamic talent. He is the likely Calder Trophy winner, which is awarded to the league's top first year player and should evolve into a top two line center in the NHL. Malkin will be fine, he showed us only flashes of what he can be when he is completely comfortable and confident...something that he wasn't fully this past season. Malkin will be a dominant player in the NHL and will be one of the Penguins cornerstones for quite some time.

Jordan Staal - signed through '08-'09 and brings a cap hit of $2.2 Mil. Staal wowed the hockey world as he made the Penguins roster at the age of 18. Many thought he would be sent back to his junior team in Peterborough, but the young center gave the team no choice but to keep him. He went on to score 29 goals, 7 of which were short handed - a record for first year players. Staal looks as if he could be better than his older brother Eric and may end up being better than Evgeni Malkin...a great situation to be in if you are the Penguins. This is the player that will make it hard for the team to keep Malkin as they both approach free agency down the line. Michel Therrien calls him: "Scary good!"

Mark Recchi - Unrestricted Free Agent - Recchi had a good year playing almost exclusively with Sidney Crosby. He will probably not be given that opportunity very often if the Penguins resign him. Recchi is a good mentor and leader to have around, but he may not have a place on this team if Gary Roberts is retained. Recchi has said that he will work from now on with one-year contracts and will fill any role that the team envisions for him. If I had to place odds upon his return I would set them at 60-40. Recchi started here and will most likely end his career here.

Ryan Malone - signed through '07-'08 and brings a cap hit of $1.375. Malone has shown glimmers of the talent that he possesses, but he is very inconsistent. Malone is popular because he hails from the Pittsburgh area, but I can't see him getting another chance next season. Ray Shero came close to trading him a couple of times this past year, and I think he will get the offer he has been waiting for this summer. Malone may still blossom into a good NHLer, but it is going to have to be with another team. He is great at killing penalties, but that isn't enough for a player who is going to make $1.45 Mil during the coming season...say good-bye to Ryan Malone.

Jarkko Ruutu - signed through '07-'08 and brings a cap hit of $1.15 Mil. I think that Ray Shero envisioned a little more scoring out of Ruutu, but the Finnish agitator did everything he was asked this season. He occasionally took penalties at the wrong times, but will be a great compliment to the "stars" once again next season. He is so tenacious that he was quoted in Russia's Sport Express as saying he would hurt Malkin in the World Tournament if he had too to secure victory for Finland. Win at all cost guys are hard to come by...

Nils Ekman - Unrestricted Free Agent - To say that Nils Ekman was a disappointment this past season is an understatement. Much more was expected of him prior to his injury, a horrible dislocated elbow. Ekman will most likely be allowed to walk. I mentioned him getting another look in camp this coming year in a prior blog, but I was mistaken on his contract status...the $1.1 Mil he was making will be put to use in plugging some of the teams other holes. Nils, we hardly knew you!

Colby Armstrong - Restricted Free Agent - Armstrong has the heart of a lion and showed the hockey world that he is not afraid to mix it up with anyone. He disappointed many with his lack of scoring this past season, but he was really never known as a huge offensive threat...he is a great energy guy, and a great teammate. He may not cash in often, but the ones he does put in are big goals. Armstrong will be on this team for the foreseeable future and should come a bit cheaper than originally thought.

Maxime Talbot - Restricted Free Agent - I absolutely love this player. If I had to choose one Penguin to clone other than Sidney Crosby, this is the guy. Talbot was a much bigger scorer in Canadian Junior hockey than he will ever be in the NHL, but he is the prototypical 3rd line energy guy. He can play Center or the wing and is a great presence on and off of the ice. There is no doubt that Max Talbot will be qualified...he was one of the better face-off men that the Penguins had coming down the stretch. Not to mention his knack for scoring very timely goals...think Ottawa with 1.9 seconds remaining in regulation.

Michel Ouellet - Restricted Free Agent - I am sure that he will be qualified, but I also think Ray Shero would move him if approached with the right deal. I cannot knock Ouellet though, for as much abuse as he has taken, he did end up putting a nice year together. It is just a shame that he is not a better skater because he does have some hands, especially around the net. If only we could splice him with Konstantin Kolstov! I look for Ouellet to be back, but wouldn't be surprised to see him move one. He is known for scoring goals and that is a commodity in the league.

Gary Roberts - Unrestricted Free Agent - Roberts was amazing after coming over from the Florida Panthers and the Penguins would love to keep him. He showed a young Penguins team how to win and what it takes to be a professional hockey player. Many of the Penguins core asked Ray Shero if they could work out with Roberts this off-season, and it is no surprise because he is in great shape for an older player...probably better than some players half his age. The decision to come back to the Penguins will be made more by the player than the team, but I have a feeling he will be back. He seemed to really enjoy himself here and realizes that the team is close to competing for the Stanley Cup. Pittsburgh is not that far from Toronto and his daughter. Based on things I have heard...Roberts signs.

Ronald Petrovicky - Unrestricted Free Agent - Petrovicky played sparingly this past season after having hip surgery during training camp. I wouldn't mind having him back, but I think that he will be allowed to move one. He hits everything that moves and will fight if he has too, but the team was hoping for more than the 6 points that he put up in 31 games. Just like Nils - Petro, we hardly knew ya!

Chris Thorburn - Restricted Free Agent - Thorburn had some ups and downs this past season, but definitely should come back next season. He does have some hands and can score goals in the right situation. There could also be some interest in him around the league, as one scout told me that his team was looking at Thorburn if the Penguins hadn't grabbed him off of waivers from the Sabres early last season. I can see Ray Shero bringing him back at the right price and teaming him with Ruutu or Talbot.

Erik Christensen - Restricted Free Agent - Christensen is a wild card...he could potentially be a top two line player in the NHL, but his inconsistency knocks him down to 3rd and 4th line duty too often. The team will definitely retain this 18-goal scorer because they have to be intrigued with what he has done in spurts. His shot is lethal; he can play the wing and center and is decent in the face off circle. There are games where he looks like the Penguins most dangerous forward and others where he just looks lost. If he puts it all together...look out. I would love to see him get more of a look on Sidney Crosby's line.

Georges Laraque - signed through '07-'08 and brings a cap hit of $1.2 Mil. Laraque was sort of a disappointment since coming over from Phoenix at the trade deadline. He didn't do much fighting, though you can't fight if others will not drop the gloves. He did show some skill in the corners and seemed to cycle the puck well with his line mates. He will probably be on the team next season, but will not dress on a nightly basis. He could be next season's Andre Roy and find himself on waivers before it is all said and done.

Ray Shero has said that finding a goal-scoring winger for Sidney Crosby is not a top priority, but it is something he will try to accomplish. Shero has stated that he was comfortable with the goal scoring he got for the guys he has, but would like to find someone who could be a long-term solution on Crosby's wing...someone who could grow with Sid. That is easier said than done, but the right guy could be out there. If that player is available, I am confident that Ray Shero will find him.

I will discuss the Wilkes Barre-Scranton forwards who could potentially break into the NHL next season in the prospects part of this series. Stay tuned in the upcoming days for Goaltenders/Prospect and possible free agents.

Keep the comments coming...

Penguins By The Numbers - Part One the Defensemen

This will be the first in a series of blogs regarding the current Penguins roster. I have broken it down into Forwards, Defenseman and Goaltenders...we will give a player capsule, contract status and prospects of the individual being a Penguins next season. I will also look at possible free agent signings, trade options and prospects during this series.

Tonight we begin with the Defensemen. That seems to be where the most question marks linger and where we will most likely see some changes this off-season. With that in mind, let's get started!

Sergei Gonchar - signed through the '09-'10 season and brings a cap hit of $5.0 Mil. The Gonchar signing was lambasted across the league when he failed to live up to expectations during his first season with the team. That all changed in '06-'07, as Sarge found himself among the league's leading scoring defensemen. He actually finished second in the race with 67 pts and will be back next season. Sarge will most likely serve as Evgeni Malkin's landlord again and will be a big part of the Penguin power play. Unfortunately, he is not a huge defensive presence, although he was typically matched against the opposition’s top line this season. He would be best served as a number 2 or 3 defenseman.

Mark Eaton - signed through the '07-'08 season and brings a cap hit of $1.6 Mil. Mark Eaton was just what the doctor ordered through the first 2.5 weeks of the season and then he was derailed by a nasty wrist injury. Eaton missed 35 games then went on to miss another 12 late in the season with a knee injury. The Delaware native never seemed to fully bounce back and he just wasn't the same player. Mark Eaton is a quality stay at home defenseman, but is more of a 3,4,5 guy than a number 1. Eaton will be back but will most likely be used a bit differently after some off-season acquisitions are grafted onto the roster. He is a tenacious shot blocker and taught his teammates how to give up their bodies for the cause.

Brooks Orpik - signed through the '07-'08 season and brings a cap hit of $1.038 Mil. Orpik continued to evolve into the bruising physical presence the team was hoping for when they selected him 18th overall back in 2000. He didn't go for as many "big" hits as he had done in the past, but he improved his overall game and stayed physical. Orpik is improving and will be used on one of the Penguins top two pairings next season.

Ryan Whitney - Restricted Free Agent - Ryan Whitney took many steps forward during the last season. He became a huge part of the Penguins power play and improved upon his defense. His offense is top notch, but he does need to get better with the defensive aspect of the game. Some have mentioned him as a future Norris Trophy candidate, but he will not be considered until he begins to play a more complete game. He is a big kid who could probably play a more physical game, but will be relied upon to score in this line-up. Whitney will receive a qualifying offer from the Penguins who will look to get him signed to a 2 or 3-year deal.

Josef Melichar - Unrestricted Free Agent - Melichar was the lightning rod for much criticism this season on the Penguins blue line. However, was it all deserved? I don't think so, especially when you consider that he is at best a 5 or 6 defensemen and was being cast in a much different role. Michel Therrien used him to offset Sergei Gonchar was Mark Eaton was out of the line-up and was typically matched against the other team's top line. He was also among the team's ice time leaders night to night. Melichar was over matched at times, but did the best he could with his skill set. Look for the team to retain Melichar and use him as a 5 or 6 d-man or for depth.

Eric Cairns - Unrestricted Free Agent - Cairns, who missed most of the season with post concussion syndrome, will not be a Penguin next season. He is a slow skater and does not fit the Shero plan. To be effective he needs to hit and fight...something his ailment does not allow. He may catch on with some one, but it will be a depth position, possibly in the AHL.

Robert Scuderi - Unrestricted Free Agent - Scuderi is a tenacious penalty killer, and in that lies his value. I am not a fan of his five on five play, but he is one of the best the Penguins while playing short handed. I could see him being retained for depth and used in a 5 or 6 role game to game. I do not foresee the team keeping he and Josef Melichar...if one is signed; it's happy trails to the other. However, Michel Therrien is loyal to a fault and he will most likely lobby to have them both retained.

Alain Nasreddine - Unrestricted Free Agent - Nasreddine seemed to lose his place in the line-up after he missed several games due to the birth of a child. That was unfortunate, because he was leading the team in +/- and was very steady in the defensive zone. Being held out of the line-up seemed to put his game off and he wasn't the same player when he returned. Nasreddine will most likely be retained, if not on the parent club then for Wilkes Barre Scranton, where he has worn the C in the past.

Joel Kwiatkowski - Unrestricted Free Agent - Kwiatkowski made only one appearance for the Penguins after coming over at the trade deadline from the Florida Panthers. I do not foresee him coming back to the Penguins next season. He is mobile and moves the puck well, but he obviously did not fit the Therrien system.

Micki Dupont - Unrestricted Free Agent - Dupont seems to be made for the new look NHL, but he couldn't seem to hold a roster spot this season. Dupont, who played 3 games for the Penguins, went on to have a big year in Wilkes Barre Scranton. Dupont was actually named the team's captain and could sign a deal to stay in that role. He will not be on the parent club next season.

New Arrival:

Kris Letang - signed through the '08-'09 season. Letang looked good in a 9 game cameo with the Penguins, and then went on to tear up the QMJHL. Letang will definitely compete for a position on the Penguins blue line next season and will give the team a third dangerous point man on the power play. Letang also boasts the only right handed shot in the organization, something the team sorely lacked this season.

The Penguins defense was exposed during their opening round playoff series against Ottawa and it is an area that Ray Shero will have to address. The defense was not mobile enough and was beaten by Ottawa's quicker forwards on a regular basis. Changes will be made, but if we had to come up with the Penguins top 6 defensemen for opening night October '07 from the names listed, it would look like this:

Sergei Gonchar - Mark Eaton
Ryan Whitney - Brooks Orpik
Kris Letang - Josef Melichar

Extra: Rob Scuderi, Alain Nasreddine

I could live with the groupings listed above, but it would be the same story come playoff time. Look for Ray Shero to pick up a true number one defenseman, but he could settle for a good 2 or 3 type. The team is deep with offensively gifted defensemen, so the player could be a bit more one-dimensional the other way. One name that has been mentioned in several circles around Pittsburgh is Andy Sutton. Sutton's size and how he uses it against opposing forwards would suit the Penguins, however he does have a history of ankle injuries.

We will see what Ray Shero works out to upgrade this dimension of the team, if last year was any indication, he will do a great job of finding a gamer at the right price.

Stay Tuned tomorrow as we look at the Forwards.


Ryan Whitney had wrist surgery today to alleviate ongoing pain that had gotten progressively worse throughout the season. He will require 6 to 8 weeks of therapy on the wrist but is expected to be available for the start of training camp.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Moving Day...Pens Clean Out Lockers....Crosby Played on Broken Foot!

It was revealed at the end of last season that Sidney Crosby played the final 10 games of his rookie campaign with a separated shoulder...some things never change. The team and Crosby spent today cleaning out lockers, saying goodbyes and making another injury revelation...Crosby played the final 16 games of the season and playoffs with a broken left foot! The injury occurred during a 6-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens back on March 16th.

"The first two weeks were pretty sore, after that, it started to heal, so it got a little bit better. When we got to the playoffs, it was sore, but it wasn't grueling or anything. I got hit there a couple times after. It didn't help it, but I was fine. It just needs time," said the young superstar of the injury.

The teams training staff outfitted Crosby's skate with light padding; no other precautions were taken, so as not to reveal the injury to the opposition. Unfortunately the injury will hold Crosby out of the World Championships.

Crosby also revealed that he and the Penguins might explore a long-term contract, which should be exciting news for Penguins fans. It is obvious that this young man is falling in love with the city that loves him and he would like to remain with this team. He also made it known that he will live with Mario Lemieux and his family next season.

In other news...

The possibility of Gary Roberts staying with the Penguins next season is starting to seem more and more likely. Today Roberts talked a bit about his future and he said that he is considering staying here in Pittsburgh. He spoke of having a great time since arriving in Pittsburgh and really enjoying the atmosphere and playing with the young guys who are going to be stars for a long time. His exact comment about staying in Pittsburgh: "It's an option that I am looking at." Roberts would be a great player to keep around as this team looks to take the next step.

Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar were invited to join Team Russia for the World Championships and could join that team as soon as Monday.

Jordan Staal will join Team Canada. He will play on a team with brother and Carolina Hurricane Eric Staal for the first time in their hockey careers.

Jarkko Ruutu will join Team Finland, while Robert Petrovicky skates for Team Slovakia.

The Wilkes Barre-Scranton Penguins are tied 1-1 in their first round playoff series with Norfolk. I will be sharing some info about the Baby Penguins with you all during the coming weeks, since they will be played a bit longer. Hopefully they can make a run at the Calder Cup, something that has eluded many very talented WBS teams over the years.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Penguins Regular Season Wrap Up...

The Pittsburgh Penguins accomplished more this season than anyone could have imagined. They have qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2000-01 and flirted with winning their division until the final week of the season.

The Penguins finished the year with 105 points, which represents a 47-point improvement on the 58 they accumulated last season. That turnaround is the 4th highest in league history; it also makes them only the sixth team in NHL history to improve by over 40 points from one season to the next.

The season has been exciting from the initial drop of the puck when the Penguins shut out their cross-state rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers, 4-0 in their home opener. That also marked the first of 8 consecutive wins against the Flyers, something that the Flightless Bird had never done before. We were all given a chance to witness the Evolution and emergence of the assets acquired during the past 6 years of losing. Most of the stories have been nothing short of amazing.

One of the greatest moments of the season occurred on March 13, 2007. That was the day that we all officially learned that a deal had been struck to keep the Pittsburgh Penguins here where they belong. That night will be one of the fondest memories for a lot of Penguins fans and should rank along side the franchises Stanley Cup victories.

The Players

It was a great statistical season for most of the players who pulled on a Black and Vegas Gold sweater. The team produced:

- 2 players with at least 30 goals
- 5 players with at least 20 goals
- 11 players with at least 10 goals
- 5 players with at least 10 power play goals
- 7 players with at least 40 points
- 15 players with an Even or better +/- rating

These statistics pretty much debunk the thinking that the team didn't have enough scoring from the wingers and bodes very well for the future.

Here are some of the great accomplishments we witnessed from Penguin players this season.

Sidney Crosby

Of course any list that talks about Penguin accomplishments has to begin with Sidney Crosby. This young man has truly elevated himself to elite status in the National Hockey league. Crosby put up 6 points on December 13th against the Philadelphia Flyers to put himself ahead in the NHL scoring race and hasn't looked back since. He fended off charges by both Joe Thornton and Vincent Lecavalier to capture the first Art Ross Trophy of his career, making him the youngest winner in league history. He was the youngest player in history to hit 200 points in a career and his 2-season total of 222 is the 5th highest for any player during their first two seasons in the league. Crosby also earned his first Dapper Dan Sportsman of the Year award, a prestigious award in the city of Pittsburgh. The sky is the limit for this young man and he is only 19. Imagine Crosby in his prime...

Evegni Malkin

After what can only be described as a cloak and dagger affair to get this young man into a Penguin uniform, he did not disappoint. Malkin missed the first four games of the season after suffering a separated shoulder during training camp in a collision with John LeClair, but started the season strong. He set a NHL record by scoring goals in his first 6 career games, finishing the season with 33. Malkin was named Rookie of the Month for October and November, only the second rookie to capture the award in consecutive months to start a career. Malkin is the leading candidate to win the Calder Trophy as the Rookie of the Year. Malkin leads all rookies in almost every category including: Goals, Assists, Points, Shots, PP Points, PP Assists, and he is tied for Game Winning Goals with 6. This young man is pure talent and should be even more amazing as he gets completely comfortable with the North American game.

Jordan Staal

It blows my mind to think that we were all discussing sending this young man back to Peterborough after his initial 9 game cup of coffee in the league. I am sure glad that we were all wrong. Jordan Staal was probably the Penguin's best defensive player throughout the season and showed a goal scoring touch that most didn't know he had developed yet. Staal led all NHL players with a shooting % of 22.1. Staal was able to set two NHL rookie records during a great freshman season. The first by scoring 7 short handed goals, the second by becoming the youngest player in league history to record a hat trick (18 years, 153 days). Staal finished the campaign with 29 goals and 13 assists and could get himself on the ballot for Rookie of the Year. He is a huge kid and could end up being a monster, the likes of Todd Bertuzzi, once he fills out.

Marc Andre Fleury

MA or the Flower as his teammates call him finally got the chance to be the number one guy in Pittsburgh and he didn't disappoint. Fleury's 40 wins rank him second in team history and make him the first Penguin goaltender to record at least 40 wins since Tom Barrasso set the team record with 43 back in 92-93. MA also posted 5 shut outs and set career highs in most statistical categories. Fleury is quickly becoming a franchise goaltender, just as the team envisioned when they took him first overall back in 2003. This young man is as competitive as they come and hates to lose...he will be a future Vezina winner in this league.

Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney

The Penguins have not boasted two point men of this pedigree since the days of Paul Coffey and Larry Murphy. The two combined for 27 goals and 126 points. Gonchar could find himself getting some darkhorse consideration for the Norris Trophy based on his scoring total and Whitney should be a contender in the near future. These two are vital to the Penguins breakout, especially Whitney, who seems to always make a great first pass out of the zone. The Penguins forwards definitely benefit from having these two on the blue line. Both should be here for at least the next three years.

The Veterans

Mark Recchi sipped from the fountain of youth this season while playing on a line with Sidney Crosby. He provided great leadership and scored some big goals in helping this young team learn how to win. All of the BS that was going on last season went right out the window and Recchi was a model citizen and teammate, helping the young players along in every situation.

Gary Roberts joined the team at the trade deadline and has been nothing short of phenomenal. He brings everything that a team going to the playoffs needs to be successful. Toughness, scoring and above all - Leadership. He has been a great teammate and has scored some big goals in his short time here. The team feeds off of his wolverine-like demeanor and also gets energized by his physical play. He will have a lot to do with any success that the team has in the playoffs.

The Role Players

These guys have been the unsung heroes of the team this season. There are not enough words to describe their contributions. Max Talbot and Jarkko Ruutu have been textbook 3rd and 4th line energy guys all season long. They have played defense in tough situations, killed penalties, agitated the other team and stood up for teammates. They have combined for 20 goals and 30 points, something that probably wasn't expected of them when the season began. These two are not alone...they are joined by the newly acquired Georges Laraque, Colby Armstrong, and Ronald Petrovicky.

The Rest of the Team

The team has gotten contributions from up and down the line-up and everyone has filled a role for the Penguins. Ray Shero wanted to build a team that would not make just one run, but compete for years to come and that is exactly what he did. He has decent depth at all positions on the ice, at least at the NHL level. The defensemen have overachieved to some extent and they will have to be strong during the playoffs for the team to be successful.

The Penguins regular season has been nothing short of amazing and the playoffs are gravy at this point. Though the team has a good opportunity to make a run at a Stanley Cup this season, this playoff year will most likely go down as a great learning experience.

This year can already be considered a success and the future is very bright. The March of the Penguins continues into the Stanley Cup Playoffs and beyond...the years of waiting have paid off Penguin fans get ready for the ride!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Hockey Buzz Podcast...

After a crazy week of big Penguins news and big is an interview that Eklund from conducted with me. Please check it out...

Hockey Buzz Podcast

This is a very exciting time to be a Penguins fan...the team is very close to securing it's first playoff spot in 6 years, they are guarenteed to be in Pittsburgh for at least the next 30 years, and they are the most exciting story in the league.

It has been a fun ride up to this point...fasten your seatbelts, it looks as if it is going to get even better!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

"It's a Great Day For Hockey..."

The Badger must be smiling down from the heavens today. His quote is one of the most appropriate on this day...the day that Pittsburgh kept their Penguins.

This has been one of the most emotional rides that I have ever been on, and I am sure that every person who follows this team will agree. The ups, the downs and of course the in-betweens have taken us all from tears to joy. It was a painstaking process and I am sure that we are not the only ones who are glad it is over. The politicians can get out of the hot seat. Mario Lemieux has piece of mind knowing that his legacy is secure. Ron Burkle can start deciding if he wants to stay in the hockey business and Kansas City can get to lobbying for the league's first expansion franchise in 7 years.

There was a lot of mudslinging from each camp throughout this process, but when things looked their darkest, the sides got themselves to the meeting table and hammered out a deal. The two sides will participate in a joint 5 p.m. press conference at the Sen. John Heinz Regional History Center to officially announce the deal.

Interesting to think how close the sides must have been...they just needed a final nudge in the right direction.

I am still not sure how to react, I don't think that this has sunken in yet. I have often stated that losing this team would be like a death in the family...and to have avoided that is an amazing feeling. Our team was on death row and the proverbial phone from the governor's office rang at the 11th hour with its pardon.

Thanks to everyone who had faith in the rumor I reported yesterday...and for your support in general. I really appreciate it.

The electricity is building throughout town and you can really feel the region's excitement. Reading your comments here and scanning other message boards for reaction has been a lot of fun. It has been a huge thrill to see the enthusiasm and pure joy that has come with this news. Pittsburgh is showing itself to be a great hockey town and its fans are carrying the torch.


Tune in later for post game feedback, reaction and a wrap-up of today’s events...

Friday, March 09, 2007

Collection of Posts From Last Night...

For some reason the newest firewall installed on my home PC did not allow me to log in...anyway, here is the latest...

Interesting Idea - Public Ownership of the Penguins

A former Democratic Allegheny County Commissioner, Mike Dawida and a local business man, Phil Isaly are going to pursue a court injunction barring any move to another city by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Their goal, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, is to prove that the team should be required to give the people of Pittsburgh the right of first refusal. They feel that since the public has invested tax dollars in the team, citing the $10 million that went towards putting in club seating 10 years ago as an example, that they should be given the opportunity to purchase the team before they be allowed to move.

The plan would not be unlike the stock offering in Green Bay that allowed the public to purchase the Packers. There is no doubt that the shares would sell like hot cakes, but two pitfalls stand in the way. The group will have to convince a judge to consider the public a stakeholder in the team based on the tax dollar contribution and they would also have to find a way to circumvent NHL bylaw. There is a rule in place prohibiting public ownership of a NHL franchise.

This situation isn't likely to come to fruition, but I thought it was interesting enough to pass along.

Here is a link to the actual article.

  • Trib Article

  • Though we are far from out of the woods on this cold Pittsburgh night, I think we got a very positive sign tonight. I know that there was optimism after the initial talks back on January 4th, but this seemed different..."substantial progress" is a very good sign. I think that getting Gary Bettman involved in the actual meeting was a great idea, he is a good tactician in these situations. His presence will bring these two sides close enough together to make the deal happen. Continue to keep those fingers crossed Pittsburgh!

    Here is a little of Big Georges, since we haven't gotten to see him in action just yet. Could the bruisers of the East be dodging him?

    Update: 11:30pm - Additional Talks Next Wednesday

    A joint statement has been issued. Progress made during the almost 4 hour meeting tonight and the two sides agreed to talk again on Wednesday. I will keep it coming guys...keep those fingers crossed!

    Was reported on KDKA and WTAE...WPXI missed the boat as usual in Pittsburgh.


    Reports are saying that the groups are still meeting and have been since just after 7:00pm. The longer the meeting lasts, the more optimistic I become. I will be following throughout the night and will report anything breaking.

    As I said earlier, keep your fingers crossed!

    Here is the latest from the Post Gazette...


    Quick Post Game Notes...

    Pens drop shootout. What were they doing, none of the three Penguins shooters did anything resembling what they have done during their latest shootout winning streak. Christensen shot instead of deking, I know that Marty is wise, but he has beaten some pretty good guys with dekes. Malkin and Sidney also chose to shoot...Marty giveth and he taketh away. They didn't have a chance. He was not going to be beaten by a shot after giving up the earlier goal to Ouellet. I feel that they would have been better served going with what was working...

    Malkin finally scores his 30th goal. I am sure that he is glad to have gotten that "monkey out of his back." He looked like a new player after getting the goal, making plays in both ends. He could have finished with a couple more on the night.

    Play got quite feisty during the final 3:00 minutes. The referees put the whistles away and almost lost control of the contest. Many hits were being thrown out and penalties ignored...both ways.

    All in all the game was a good indicator of what we can expect the rest of the way. The teams are starting to fight and claw for every point and the playoff atmosphere is kicking in.

    The Penguins are now 8 pts behind New Jersey in the Atlantic race.

    With his next victory, Marc Andre Fleury will have the second highest single season victory total for a Penguin goaltender. Number one on the list: Tom Barrasso.

    Stay tuned gang!

    Thursday, March 08, 2007

    "It's the Final Countdown..."

    The phrase made popular in the 1986 Europe hit is upon us. All of the players in the arena game are arriving in Philadelphia and getting ready to face off in the final battle to save the PITTSBURGH Penguins. Pittsburgh being the operative term...

    The past two days have been very difficult for the fans of the Penguins...they are the ones who are set to be hurt the most by any move. While the team's brass was meeting with officials in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, the people of Pittsburgh sat on pins and needles waiting for some kind of response from local government. News finally leaked of a meeting that would take place in Philadelphia at an undisclosed location. The Governor was not the happiest camper, but still remained cautiously optimistic that a deal could be brokered during a final sit down.

    From the sound of the news that has come out over the past couple days, the competition may have gotten a bit stiffer. It is believed that Kansas City has significantly increased their offer to the Penguins, so much so that they cancelled any possible visits to Houston.

    I was asked several times over the last couple days what I thought would happen...will they stay or will they go? I still think that they are going to stay, placing odds at about 60-40. However, if the Penguins have their so-called feather ruffled by the Governor as they did in a prior meeting, talks could breakdown quickly.

    Everything that has happened up until this point was a necessary evil. These are the steps of the negotiation. There is take and give, good and bad, pressure to the brink and then hopefully a resolution.

    Today reminds me an awful lot of the final days before the lockout ended. Granted, that was a long process that resulted in the loss of a season, but I have the same feeling in my gut. A feeling that says we will not be let down. One that says we will find out that we have our team signed, sealed and delivered for the next 30 years.

    Something else that came to mind today, I remember sitting in the stands in 1999 watching as Jaromir Jagr came back from a horrible groin injury to tie and then win a playoff game against the New Jersey Devils. There was a very big chance that it would be the last game ever played in Pittsburgh. The team's future was very much in doubt. Two people were involved in the process that saved the team that year...those same two men are part of the group involved in tonight's meeting: Mario Lemieux and Gary Bettman.

    I still believe that Mario wants to keep the team in Pittsburgh and I think that he will do what is needed to broker this deal. Gary Bettman also would like this team to stay right where it is; it is the poster child for HIS new NHL. One that has a lot of home grown, drafted talent...and one that will be able to control the future of those players for at least 7 years under the new CBA. Pittsburgh is one of the biggest draws in the league on television and at the gate, the league doesn't want them buried in Kansas City or anywhere else. A move is not out of the question, but it will be a last resort.

    I am hoping that by tomorrow at this time we can start to reminisce about the last time we almost lost the Penguins and look ahead to winning multiple Stanley Cups in our region's new Multi Purpose Arena! Imagine how great that new building could look with that Mario Lemieux statue looking on from in front of the building.

    Keep your fingers crossed Penguins is going to be a long night.


    Coach Michel Therrien lost his father today. Gerry Therrien died at home in Montreal after a long illness. He was 77 years old.

    Assistants Mike Yeo and Andre Savard will coach the team in Therrien's absence.


    Nils Ekman will return to the press box in favor of Michel Ouellet. I think Nils will ultimately regain a regular spot in the line-up, but he may not have been completely back conditioning-wise. He does have the capability of playing on the top lines and I look for him to do so as soon as he is able to get his wind.


    Marc Andre Fleury will make the start tonight.


    Jordan Staal set and NHL Rookie Record by recording his 7th short handed goal of the year Tuesday night in Ottawa. The record was previously held by Gerry Minor of Vancouver in 1980-81 and tied by John Madden of New Jersey in 1999-00.


    Newly acquired defenseman Joel Kwiatkowski could play tonight.

    Tuesday, February 27, 2007

    Trade Wrap Up...

    A couple last minute deals that were wrapped up by Ray Shero...

    The Penguins acquire Florida d-man Joel Kwiatkowski for a 4th round draft pick and San Jose minor-league goalie Nolan Schaefer for a 7th rounder.

    Joel Kwiatkowski 6-2 210 lbs, left handed shot, is a mobile defenseman who can move the puck well out of the defensive zone. Has been criticized for not using his size effectively enough and tends to make critical mistakes.

    Nolan Schaefer 6-2 200 lbs, he is a big kid who can come off the bench. Perfect for a back-up role. Has only 7 games of NHL experience but posted a gaa of 1.88 and s% of .920.

    Big Deals of the Day:

    Gary Roberts for Noah Welch

    I think that this is a good deal for the Penguins. Welch had been given every opportunity to make the NHL roster and was not able too. He may end up being a solid contributor in Florida, but you have to give an asset to gain one. Roberts is a warrior who will bring veteran leadership, toughness and touch around the net. He has also been there done that when it comes to the NHL playoffs. This 19-year vet will show the youngsters in Pittsburgh how to win. He will also be great for potential power forwards Colby Armstrong and Ryan Malone.

    Georges Laraque for Daniel Carcillo and 3rd round pick

    Laraque will ensure that the opposition does not abuse the Penguins young stars, especially Sidney Crosby. He has some history with Michel Therrien; the two won a QMJHL championship together in Granby. He is not just brawn; Laraque can play the game and has posted 22 points this season. He will fit nicely on the Penguins 4th line and his presence should keep eastern tough guys honest. Is he the Dave Semanko to Sidney Crosby's Wayne Gretzky?

    3rd round pick from the Wild for Dominic Moore

    In Moore the Wild get a great two-way player. Moore goes all out on every shift. It will be a shame to break up the RPM line, but it is not a crippling move. He had worked his way in and out of the team's doghouse a couple times this season, and occasionally tried to do too much. Subtracting Moore opens a role for Ryan Malone, I foresee him falling into place as the third line center. He tends to flourish a bit more in a role where he is considered one of the better players on his line. This trade also washes the third rounder that was spent in the Laraque deal.

    It is still a bit surprising that Shero did not acquire a defenseman of note. Kwiatkowski may fill a role for this team, but he is not the big steady guy most thought would be brought in. Is the defense steady enough to make a long playoff run? That is yet to be determined...a step in the right direction would be to reinsert Alain Nasreddine into the line-up. The journeyman has been very steady this season. Josef Melichar would make a nice fill in, but hasn't been near as effective since returning from his knee injury.

    What would you have liked to see the Penguins do?

    Update 12:35pm - Pen Grab Roberts and Laraque

    As I mentioned a couple days ago, the price for Big Georges would go down, and it did just that. Dan Carcillo may end up being the same type of player in the NHL as Laraque, maybe even a bit better, but I like the deal. If the Penguins had parted with anything over a 4th round pick it would have been horrible. That is not to say that I have figured out where Laraque fits in, but on paper it is a good deal.

    The Roberts saga thankfully has come to an end. No more should he stay or should he go....signed, sealed and delivered. I will get you guys more on that one tonight.

    Sounds like Ray Shero should take up sales, because he has done a great job in talking Roberts and Laraque into coming to Pittsburgh.

    More soon...


    The Pittsburgh Penguins have announced the acquisition of Gary Roberts. As noted yesterday, Noah Welch has gone the other way.

    I am tending to one of my Dad's appts this morning, but will be back online soon...updating via wireless. Will be live at Mellon Arena tonight...

    Stay tuned...

    Friday, February 23, 2007

    Pens Trade Deadline Preview...

    The trade deadline is now only 4 days away and for the first time in many years the Penguins may actually be buyers. Instead of wondering which big name player was going to be subtracted from their roster only to be replaced with the likes of Richard Lintner or Rico Fata they will be waiting anxiously to see what magic Ray Shero has up his sleeve. Will he pull off something close to the deal that brought Ulf, Ronnie and Grant to town along with the Stanley Cup or will he end up with something horrifying like Nasland for Stojanov! We will all know by 3:00pm on Tuesday, but at least we are able to speculate about possible deals that will make the team better instead of tear it apart.

    Even during the bad times in Pittsburgh, the trade deadline was one of my favorite times of the hockey season. This year is no different, with that in mind I put together a list of the possible players that could be on their way to Pittsburgh along with cap/contract info and my feeling on whether the deal could happen. I have selected players that have been rumored to Pittsburgh over the past couple weeks...of course I have subtracted Anson Carter, as he has been traded to the Carolina Hurricanes.

    Here is where the Penguins are roughly situated capwise. The team has spent $27,075,021.00 to this point leaving them with plenty of room under the cap to acquire a player or two.

    On to the list (cheapest to most expensive)....

    Georges Laraque
    Laraque has been rumored to the Pens a couple other times this season but things seem to have heated up. He is widely considered one of the best fighters in the league and has some history with head coach Michel Therrien. The two won a QMJHL title together in Granby. Laraque is the type of player who can skate a regular shift on a third or fourth line and chip in with more than just fists. Laraque has a No Trade Clause and would have to approve any deal. I could see this going down...the 'Yotes shouldn't be asking for too much in return.

    06-07 salary Remaining Salary 07-08 Status
    $1,100,000.00 $281,715.00 signed $1.3 Mil $1.2 cap hit

    Bryan Smolinski
    Smoke, who once was a Pittsburgh Penguin, has drawn a lot of attention from around the league. He is a good face-off guy and a leader in the locker room. Smolinski also has a scoring touch and can play the power play. He would most likely bump someone from the Penguins third line upon arrival in Pittsburgh. Would he stunt the growth of Max Talbot? That is debatable. Smoke would be a nice addition, but the Hawks may want more than Ray Shero is willing to pay. I see this one as a low percentage.

    06-07 salary Remaining Salary 07-08 Status
    $1,520,000.00 $389,277.00 UFA

    Curtis Joseph
    Cujo is getting a bit long in the tooth, but he still has some gas in the tank. He will probably end up with a contender, but it will not be Pittsburgh. The Penguins would have been in the market for a consistent back up to Marc Andre Fleury, but Jocelyn Thibault has re-emerged as a very viable option, having won his last three starts. Thibault will be the Penguins back up. No deal.

    06-07 salary Remaining Salary 07-08 Status
    $2,000,000.00 $512,190.00 UFA

    Bill Guerin
    Bill Guerin's 28 goals and 19 assists would look great on one of the Penguins top two lines, however he has not played very much Left Wing during his career and that is where the Penguins could use him most. They need a proven goal scorer to hop onto Sidney Crosby's line. They individual would play along side the Kid and Mark Recchi. The Blues are believed to be asking for a lot in return. Ray Shero will not sell the farm to acquire what could only be considered a rental for the rest of the season.

    06-07 salary Remaining Salary 07-08 Status
    $2,000,000.00 $512,190.00 UFA

    Eric Brewer
    Brewer has great size and carries a cannon of a shot from the point. He would instantly become a top 4 defenseman on the Penguin blue line. It has been said that he could play a more physical game and that he has never fully harnessed his offensive ability. If he would sign a deal to stay in Pittsburgh, this could happen. Though there are plenty of suitors and the price may quickly climb out of the Penguins range.

    06-07 salary Remaining Salary 07-08 Status
    $2,014,000.00 $515,781.00 UFA

    Aaron Miller
    Miller is the most likely to come to the Penguins. He is exactly what they need. A big, strong defenseman who is capable of effectively clearing the front of his net. He is not prone to mistakes and is known as a winner wound the league. Miller has ties to USA hockey, as does Penguins GM Ray Shero. Miller could come cheaper than some of the other options, such as Brewer.

    06-07 salary Remaining Salary 07-08 Status
    $2,280,000.00 $556,100.00 UFA

    Nick Boynton
    Boynton is a younger more expensive version of Aaron Miller with some additional offensive upside. He could come as part of any deal bringing Laraque to the Penguins, but that is not a given. The bottom line is that he is known to be available, but his price may be too high for the Penguins. The good thing about him is that he is signed for the next two years.

    06-07 salary Remaining Salary 07-08 Status
    $$2,950,000.00 $755,496.00 signed next 2 seasons @ 2.95 mil

    Keith Tkachuk
    Tkachuk has always intrigued me, and he was one of the most dominant power forwards in the league at one point in time. He has a huge frame, a great shot and plays with an ill-tempered disposition. He can still put up some numbers and would look great next to Malkin or Crosby. The bottom line is that he is a bit too expensive and the Blues are going to want more than Shero is willing to pay. Stranger things have happened, but of the two power forwards in St. Louis, Guerin is more likely to Pittsburgh and that in and of itself is a long shot.

    06-07 salary Remaining Salary 07-08 Status
    $3,800,000.00 $973,161.00 UFA

    Most Likely Future Penguins: Laraque, Miller, Smolinski
    Least Likely Future Penguins: Guerin, Tkachuk, Boynton, Brewer, Joseph

    Most Likely Ex Penguins: Noah Welch, Ryan Malone, Dom Moore, Nils Ekman, Josef Melichar

    Friday, February 16, 2007

    This Crazy Life and The Penguins...

    Sorry for the layoff. I want to start by apologizing to everyone who has come back regularly since the Pittsburgh Penguins Report began in October of '05. I know that it stinks to navigate to a blog that you just may enjoy reading, only to find out that it has been stuck in last week...or worse, last month! The PPR will get back to regular updates this week.

    The last couple weeks have been pretty crazy and haven't allowed a lot of time to do what I needs to be done for two sites. I found out recently that my father has been dianosed with cancer and he has needed some it has been a shock not knowing exactly what siuation we are in. It doesn't look very good right now, but updating you guys here and at is something that I love doing and keeps me sane during the tough times. It is a great escape and helps to keep thoughts off of the scary things. So please keep coming back...I appreciate your patience! I am no longer able to post my Hockey Buzz material here as it is under a copyright there, but that just means I will be posting completely original material here and there. Two sources for Penguins info! It is going to be an exciting ride the rest of the way and I hope that you will all be here to follow it with me. I have a lot of exciting things planned...please keep questions, comments and ideas coming!


    The Penguins took the first step towards challenging the New Jersey Devils for the Atlantic division title tonight by beating them 5-4. Who would have thought that would even be something worth speculating back in September? Well, get ready Penguins fans, because your Pittsburgh Penguins find themselves only 5 points behind the Devils with 3 more head to head match-ups and one game in hand.

    I know that the 5 point is going to be tough to make up, but it is possible. The Penguins have been on fire, and seem to have found a way to win games even when they do not play well. They are now 13-0-2 in their last 15 games and look as if they may never lose another game! I know that the streak will end at some point, but they have been very consistant during the streak and have gotten contributions from up and down the line-up. They were able to overcome an eight game goaless streak from Sidney Crosby and have not allowed the fact that they have blown leads in for consecutive games effect what they are doing.

    Marc Andre Fleury seems to have taken the next step in his development, something I predicted would happen after the all star break. Even when he allows too many goals, such as tonight, he tends to make the big save when the game is on the line. He even shook off a very soft goal tonight...something that he has been unable to do in the past. Last season he would have unravelled a bit and possibly lost the game.

    Sidney Crosby got the monkey off of his back and finally got back in the goal column, that will only help the team. Look what they were doing when their best played wasn't scoring goals...what will they do when he is putting the puck in regularly?

    This Penguin team is the hottest in the league right now and have also morphed into one of the most exciting. I am not predicting that they will win the division, but they do have the chance...a playoff run is definitely in their future. Get ready for 1988-89 redux folks, this will be the year our young Penguins cut their playoff teeth...that next cup can't be too far in the future.

    Tuesday, February 06, 2007

    How About A Notes Column!?

    The Penguins have a huge test tonight as they face the Nashville Predators...the same Predators who happen to have the best record in the league. The Predators are 7-2-1 in their last 10 against the Penguins.

    The Penguins always seem to have a tough time against Steve Sullivan and Jason Arnott, but they are not the only ones that the 'Guins need to worry about. The Predators have had 14 different players score power play goals this season a testament to their balanced attack. Nashville currently has 8 players with 10 or more goals.

    Tonight's probable goaltenders: Marc Andre Fleury for Pittsburgh and Tomas Vokoun for Nashville.


    The Eaton Factor

    What does former Predator Mark Eaton mean to the Penguins? Well, a look at the standings with and without him is very telling. When Mark Eaton is not in the line-up they are a .500 hockey club. When the steady D-man is in the line-up they are 9 games over.

    Without Mark Eaton: 14-14-8
    With Mark Eaton: 12-3-1


    The Penguins have been getting production across their line-up, something that coach Michel Therrien stressed early in the season. Though Crosby and Malkin can shoulder a pretty big load when it comes to production, they cannot be the only ones scoring. It is no surprise that the team has gotten goals from Jarrko Ruutu, Ronald Petrovicky, Michel Ouellet and Dominic Moore during their 8-0-2 run.

    The team has 4 lines that can play the game, and that is what you need in today's NHL.


    So You Need a Goon?

    The rumors have been running wild about the Penguins being in the market for a goon to protect Sidney Crosby. I don't see them as being true, though it was speculated here that they were in the hunt for Sean Avery.

    Ray Shero is not willing to pick up a player who cannot play the game. If he were to bring in a "goon," he would have to be a lot more Bob Probert than Brian McGrattan. People who remember Bob Probert in his prime will understand this comment. Probert had 5 seasons of 14 or more goals...his best being 87-88 when he scored 62 pts (29G 33A) and put up 398 PIMs.

    It is hard to utilize a roster spot for a player who doesn't take a regular shift, precisely the reason why Andre Roy was waived earlier this season.

    A move will not be made unless the above is part of the equation.



    I admit to being very intrigued by this situation. Samsonov was a player I had a lot of interest in during the off season. He is a fast skater who can finish and set up others. He would look nice playing on either of the Penguins top two lines. Crosby could make him a rich man, however he may already be too rich for the Penguins tastes.

    My take is that the Penguins take a pass on this one.


    Noah Welch has been sent back to Wilkes Barre-Scranton again, his 6th trip back on the season. Ray Shero said that Welch is not getting discouraged. They apparently had a conversation about Welch's role this season and that included being the "insurance" from WBS.


    Paralyzer - Finger Eleven.....I cannot get it out of my head. Anyone else having this problem??

    Monday, January 29, 2007

    They're Heating Up, The Dads, Number 500 and the "New Fleury"

    First of all, I want to apologize for laying low the last couple of days. I have been sick...dealing with horrible congestion, coughing, headache etc. Seems to be getting a bit better I am back with a vengeance!

    What can be said about this past weekend's games aside from: amazing. The Penguins are really rounding into form and are one of the hottest teams in the league. They seem to have picked up right where they left off before the All-Star break. They are doing a lot of things right and are playing their system to perfection. Their special teams have been very impressive; especially the power play and they are getting contributions from top to bottom, even getting goals from Ronald Petrovicky, Max Talbot and Jarkko Ruutu during their road trip.

    Mark Recchi has obviously been sipping from the fountain of youth, I guess playing with Sidney Crosby will do that for you. He has been amazing and is a big part of why the Penguins are in the hunt for a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. He notched his 500th career goal on Friday night and has picked up 13 points in his last 6 games (7G 6A). He is a point per game player right now, and is performing far beyond any expectation that anyone could have had for him prior to the season. With Sidney Crosby being the MVP of this team, Recchi is as close as anyone at making a run at 1B. Recchi has been a great team player and is becoming the mentor to the young core that many hoped he would be last season.

    Sidney Crosby continues to do super human things and he seems completely effortless in doing them. What I mean by that is that he doesn't seem to be trying anything out of the ordinary. It is like I mentioned here in the past, it is just how he plays the game. He sees the ice like no other player and makes everyone around him better. He made a great pass to Ryan Malone Saturday night while in mid-air on his way to the ice after being tripped, but the most amazing thing was the goal he scored later in the game. Crosby picked up a loose puck that was headed into the right wing corner, and as he was falling twisted his body and snapped a backhand shot over goaltender Mikael Tellqvist's shoulder. How did he get the shot off, let alone score the goal? Those types of things are just a regular occurrence with this young man.

    The Penguins Father/Son trip seems to have been a huge success. The Dads were along for the entire road trip and were able to watch their sons in situations that they normally wouldn't have been able to. They were invited to practice, had dinners with the team and had the opportunity to gold together in Phoenix Saturday morning. Most of the dads relished the opportunity to spend time with their sons in this capacity and were exciting to meet each other.

    Some quotes from the dads...

    Dan Whitney - Ryan Whitney

    "It's been fantastic. It's been a wonderful experience and so nice of the Penguins to do this. Just to meet all the dads, they all have similar experiences, but they're from all over the world. (Ronald Petrovicky's) dad came from Slovakia, Nils Ekman's dad came from Sweden, then you've got Colby Armstrong's dad from Saskatoon. People came a long distance to spend this time with their kids. It's very special."

    Henry Staal - Jordan Staal

    "This is so much fun. It's fun to meet all the other dads, put a face to a name. You get to see where [the players] are, what they're doing, what their routine is. You get to become a part of it and see what goes on behind the scenes."

    As I mentioned last week, I will get some player reaction about having their dads present this week...


    Noah Welch is becoming the Marc Andre Fleury of this season; at least he seems to be shuttling between Wilkes Barre-Scranton and Pittsburgh as much as the young goaltender did a year ago. Welch was just sent back to WBS for the third time. Could Welch become trade bait? It is possible. I think he definitely has a future on the Penguins blue line, but there doesn't seem to be a place for him right now. If you can net a young winger, who happens to have a goal scoring pedigree, I think you do the deal.


    Most people wonder if the Penguins will be active at the trade deadline. Well, I think that they just shored up one area of weakness by "acquiring" a tough, stay at home defenseman in getting Mark Eaton back. They essentially didn't have him after their 11th game of the season and have remained in the hunt. He will solidify a young defense that has been playing very well and adds a veteran shot blocking presence. Getting him back in the line-up is a psychological lift. Between he, Gonchar, Whitney and the group of effective role players that the Penguins boast this defense is no longer the laughing stock of the Eastern conference.


    When the Penguins were in Dallas Friday night, Pittsburgh's own Mark Cuban took in the game and stopped in the locker room. He was seen with a white Evgeni Malkin jersey and got the young star to sign it. Could he have been admiring a future investment? Time will tell...