Stats N' At Through 4 Games by @PandaPSU


It may not be a large snapshot of the season, but it is always fun to look at stats. I put together some interesting stats and a few charts from the first four games this season.

Coming Full Circle on the Salary Cap by @BrianK_PI


When the lockout ended and the salary cap was implemented prior to the 2005-06 season, the Pittsburgh Penguins were in a very different place than they are right now. They were awful on the ice, having gone 22-46-14; "good" for 58 points and a second to last place finish in the NHL. Their team payroll of $23.1 million was well below the $39 million salary cap and not much higher than the $21.5 million salary floor. Craig Patrick, the architect of the two Stanley Cup winning teams in the early 90s, would last only the first year with the cap before being replaced by Ray Shero.


The team progressed very quickly on the ice, going from 29th in the NHL to the playoffs to the Stanley Cup Finals to winning the Cup over the course of four seasons. Some of the key players for those teams, such as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, and Marc-Andre Fleury among others, were on ELC or bridge contracts and the long term deals they signed helped push the Penguins up against the ceiling of the salary cap. Those teams, who had youth and depth in spades, saw the depth slowly deteriorate as cap concerns tightened their grip on the Penguins roster, and the youth never returned as the team had poor player development and an over-reliance on veteran players. 


Morning Drive: The League 10/19/14

Morning Drive brings you the latest episode of the Radio:PI Podcast Network for easy access.  This morning: The League


RECAP: Pens Beat Islanders. Malkin, Fleury, Hornqvist Shine



Penguins/Stars Post-Mortem: Evaluating the Lines by @DXTraeger


The Pittsburgh Penguins, well rested after a 5-2 demolition of the Toronto Maple Leafs last Saturday night, started strong but faded fast against Dallas and allowed the talented Stars to score two late goals and win by a final score of 3-2.

Thursday night's game against the Stars was a reversal of trends in several regards: the Crosby/Hornqvist/Kunitz line, which had been the best line on the ice in the season opener against the Anaheim Ducks, struggled for the first time this season, and the Penguins third line of Comeau/Goc/Downie looked downright pedestrian as they recorded the worst line success metric of the evening.

In case you've missed the Penguins/Ducks analysis or my recent breakdown of the Penguins' lines in their win against the Maple Leafs, the metric I have been using to assess the Penguins' players and their respective lines is based on the successful completion of basic hockey assignments and plays (such as clearing the puck after a defensive faceoff or successfully entering into the offensive zone as a unit) during 5-on-5 play.

Under this system, offensive zone pressure is valued as much as generating a top-notch scoring chance, which is in seen as equal as failing to mark a man defensively.

This is what my charts look like when tracking the game:

A Good Loss, A Good Injury by @LCJS

Dupuis' injury might teach the Pens a lesson.
By Lee C.J. Sobotka | Staff Writer


On Thursday, the Pittsburgh Penguins lost to the Dallas Stars in heartbreaking fashion.  However, there is a way to view this as a positive.

Against the Anaheim Ducks, the Pens scored 3 goals in the 1st period and cruised to a 6-4 win.  Against the Toronto Maple Leafs, another 3 goal first period lead to a 5-2 win.  The Stars game stated no different, as the Pens jumped to an early 2-0 lead.

To say the team was rolling was an understatement.  The Stars goal at the 6:08 point of the second period didn't seem like it would pose too much of a problem as the Pens were still flying around and registering chance after chance.  That all changed less than a minute later at the 6:58 mark when Pascal Dupuis was hit in the neck with a puck.

The brutal injury seemed to shake the Pens, who looked like a team that just wanted to go home.  Time could not move fast enough, and the Pens were doing just enough to keep the Stars in check.

Then, with about 3 minutes to go in the game, when Dallas seemingly tied the game only to have the goal disallowed, momentum shifted totally to the Stars.  Moments later, the game was tied and then lost with just seconds remaining.  The Pens lost the chance at a point in the standings, but hopefully gained a little perspective.

History of Hockey Video Games by Frank DeSimon

Part One: Fat Guys, Thin Guys and Bleeding Heads.

I am 36 years old and not old enough to remember too much about pre-NES video games (Ms Pac Man, Frogger, Pole Position and Ka Boom! were the extent of my Atari 2600 knowledge). I just don't know much about the earliest hockey games. Which is fine, because it allows us to begin our journey in that magical year of 1988. Michael Dukakis paraded around in a tank, Alf was entertaining us with his Melmacian whimsy and the first large scale online-based computer virus (known then as “the worm”) was unleashed. But there was no reason to fret, because Bobby McFerrin was there to remind us “Don't Worry, Be Happy.”

Hey, driver! You missed a spot.
It was sometime in 1988 (near Thanksgiving if memory serves) that I wandered into a local K-Mart and, thanks to money from my dear since-departed Bub (that's my Grandmother for you whose families abandoned the vernacular of the old country once they hit Ellis Island) and purchased “Ice Hockey” for the NES. I enjoyed hockey. I enjoyed video games. So it seemed like a natural fit. What a revelation.

Over the next few years, I spent countless hours working on the perfect line combinations of skinny guy, average guy, and fat guy that would give me the ultimate edge in 8-bit hockey glory. To this day, players still hold on to which combination is best, a testament akin to Coke vs Pepsi or Apple vs PC.



"I call USA!"


Why are hockey video games so much fun? Fun to the point that we would dedicate an entire multi-part article to something of an oral history of the them? Fun to the point that people buy game systems just so they can have the latest hockey games? Is there some tangible finite explanation (for example hockey is awesome and video games are awesome so hockey games are incredibly awesome / the same way chocolate is awesome and so is peanut butter, so things like Reese's Peanut Butter cups are the candy of the Gods?).

Even Hollywood has immortalized them in their own way. NHL 94 was featured in “Swingers,” NHL All Star Hockey in “Mallrats.” I'll cover that famous "Mallrats" scene in my next installment.



I did manage to miss out on some fun by never owning Blades of Steel for the NES. Apparently, I was having too much fun alternating between thin guys, average guys and fat guys.

Le "Meh"nifique
That means 1991 would be the next crucial year of evolution, especially if you grew up in Pittsburgh. Just a few short months after the Penguins hoisted the Stanley Cup for the first time, the Sega Genesis released two competing hockey games: EA Sports NHL Hockey and Sega Sports Mario Lemieux Hockey. Being a proud Yinzer, I opted for the latter on my Christmas list. Despite the goofy pink, charcoal and teal uniforms the teams graced, Mario Lemieux Hockey had a charm that made it stand out from its technically superior competition. The cartoony graphics, the organist, and the then ahead-of-its-time level of customization made the game a complete blast, evidenced by the fact that the engine was used in other games in other formats, such as the ill-fated Atari Lynx.

X-Axis Fight Fest!!!!!
After a fun year of distraction, the real juggernaut would begin.

EA followed up with NHLPA 93, losing the NHL license but teaming with the player's union to add all the real players. Ah, the unmatched excitement of seeing Phil Housley's name on the screen as you slipped one past Tim Cheveldae to go ahead in the 3rd.

This coincided with ESPN bringing the NHL games to a national audience for the first time in years. In the days before internet, it was awesome to see these funky guys with funky European names on tv then play as them on your Sega Genesis.

Without the NHL team license, each team was represented only by their city name. That's fine unless you're an Islanders fan. With two New York teams, somehow the team who won 4 straight Cups only a decade earlier lost out to the Rangers who spent the better part of 5 decades with only “hey, we're an Original Six” to hang their hats. So, if you were an Isles fan, you spent a year playing as a blue and orange team called Long Island. In a similar situation, Madden games from that era have green guys, who we assume are the "J-E-T-S JETS! JETS! JETS!," that are referred to as New Jersey. Add the ability to make a player's head bleed, and NHLPA '93 made for a pretty good installment.


From that point on, we'd see a lot of competition for the better part of a decade. Complete with players and teams, as well as the overdue addition of the one-timer, NHL '94 is still remembered fondly by fans of the genre. NHL 14 even features an NHL 94 mode and there are online leagues playing various emulations and hacks of that game. Of course, at the time, that release faced off against the revolutionary - or headache inducing depending on your perspective - NHL Stanley Cup for Super NES. The game was played in a constantly rotating 360 degree 16-bit environment. It wasn't without its charm.


Join me next time, in a few short weeks, when we tackle the mid 1990's through the beginning of the 21st century, when hockey games - and lots of video games for that matter - became as much about flashy full motion video and licensed soundtracks as they were about content.

The Mechanics of the Dupuis Injury by @ChicksDigHockey

Getty Images



Last night, Penguins’ fans held their collective breath as Pascal Dupuis lay on the ice being attended to by medical personnel. We were worried, taking our cues from the faces of Pens and Stars players as they stood looking stunned while Dupuis remained on the ice. 

The injury occurred after Dupuis was checked from behind by former Penguin Alex Goligoski. When Dupuis fell, he went forward with his shoulders over his knees. He appeared to see the Letang shot that ultimately hit him coming. He tucked his head down exposing his neck to the force of the puck. 
 

He was talking to teammates, was able to make a fist and moved his legs. He did complain of numbness which is a sign of nerve involvement. Standard precautions for an injury that involves the spinal column is to immobilize and transport.

Via Trib Total Media/Christopher Horner


At its worst, an injury such as that could have caused a fracture. At it’s best, it was a ‘Stinger’.
 

Stingers are the result of traction or compressive forces on the brachial plexus or cervical nerve roots. The force of the puck strike literally stuns the nerve resulting in stinging, burning or numbness. Weakness may be present at the time of the injury. Some will report the arm feels and appears to be dead. This paralysis and other symptoms may be transient or temporary. They may only last a few seconds or minutes. For most, the healing takes days or weeks. Rarely it is permanent. 

What happens in an injury like Dupers?

The puck struck his neck. Because his head was tucked down, his vertebrae were spread further apart and the whole area was more vulnerable. In short, the nerve plexus was less protected. A nerve plexus is an area where nerves branch and rejoin. The brachial plexus is a group of nerves in the cervical spine from C5 to C8-T1. This includes the lower half of the cervical nerve roots and the nerve root from the first thoracic vertebra.


The brachial plexus begins with five roots that merge or join together to form three trunks.


At the hospital, Dupuis likely had imaging such as an MRI to evaluate the structures surrounding the injury. A physical exam was conducted to evaluate nerve function and reflexes. 

The evaluation was obviously positive as Dupuis took the ice this morning to skate on his own prior to the team's practice. It's hard to say when the medical team will feel comfortable with him practicing with the team let alone playing. As for long term symptoms, that remains to be seen as well.

What is a certainty is that Dupuis will give his recovery 100% of his effort and focus.That's who he is and what he does.

He is, after all, Super Duper.






Illustrations via methodistorthopedics.com

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