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Saturday, June 29, 2013

State of the Penguins by @LCJS

12:00:00 PM 0

With the NHL Draft this weekend, prospects will be picked and franchises will hope to find future talent. However, you have to put forethought into the draft, as most players are a few seasons away from contributing. Until those players are ready, teams have to rely on already developed talent, and the Pens are no exception. Let's forget about Unrestricted Free Agents, like Dupuis and Cooke, who for the moment are currently without a contract, and take a look at how the roster currently sits (6/29/13):

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Friday, June 28, 2013

Pens Don't Need Harry Z by @MadChad412

12:31:00 PM 0
hockeysfuture.com
The Pittsburgh Penguins have been a model franchise when it comes to the NHL and pro sports for the most part. They do a lot for their fans, their players hardly ever get in any kind of trouble off of the ice, and they put out a good product year after year. The Pens seem to try and stray away from controversy, despite Matt Cooke's on the ice antics, and their fans like it that way. But now the Pens have made an acquisition that gives their clean image a little blemish, the acquisition of Harry Zolneirczyk.

The Pens acquired Zolneircyk from the Anaheim Duck, sending minor-league defenseman Alex Grant in exchange. Zolnierczyk, 5-foot-11, spent a majority of the ’12-13 season in the AHL with Adirondack and Norfolk, scoring 11 goals and 19 points. Zolneircyk is a scrappy grinder, who most likely will end up in Wilkes/Barre, but could compete for a fourth line spot with the big boy club.
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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Free Agency Preview: The New All-Over-The-East Division by @ToonsBrian

10:37:00 PM 0

July 1st marks the beginning of NHL Free Agency and is akin to a national holiday for followers of hockey. Throughout the week, my Toons/ToonSports cohost, @ToonsJack, and I will be looking at each team from all four of the NHL's new divisions and providing a brief snippet of what to expect from those teams. 

Click the links below (as they become active) to jump to each specific division:
     The New Central Division
     The New All-Over-The-East Division
     The New Atlantic Division

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Temper Expectations on Letang Return by @Nick422

4:00:00 PM 0
It's draft day and it happens: A previously thought of "key piece" of the Pittsburgh Penguins' core is shipped to a destination other than that of the Steel City.  Contract talks didn't work out, an impasse was found and a decision was made.

(Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Is this a flashback to last year with Jordan Staal or a peak into the future with Kris Letang?  We won't know for a few days but one thing we do know: Don't expect equal value.

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The Blackhawk Blueprint for Penguin Success by @ExcitedBobErrey

12:20:00 PM 0


It's become a tendency to look at a team that just won the Stanley Cup as if it has unlocked a secret for success in the league.  Depending on the year and who won, you either need to have strength down the middle, or solid goaltending and defensemen.  Maybe you need to have size and skill, or possibly just a well rounded game with speed.  Of course, looking at what the reigning champs did to get there and trying to emulate it is a losing proposition.  There are many ways to win in the NHL and each roster has its own unique identity.  Pieces need to be added to that enhance the ability of a team to play its game, not as a result of whatever is trendy.


Despite this, there are times when you see another team in a familiar position, with a similarly constructed roster, go on to win the Stanley Cup with slightly different methods.  Looking at both team's rosters, Chicago and Pittsburgh share a decent amount of similarity.  Both teams have deep lineups with relatively strong 3rd and 4th lines.  Both commit a significant portion of the salary cap to two elite forwards, with Pittsburgh's duo (Crosby and Malkin) being more talented than Chicago's (Toews and Kane) but likewise taking up more cap space.  They have similar production and talent in the secondary scoring, and both like mobile defensemen who can add some offense.


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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Penguins Alumni on Twitter by @evil_shero

1:21:00 PM 0
After countless hours of fruitless twitter deduction I have compiled a list of anyone who wore the Penguins crest and their twitter accounts. If you want current players you can click HERE. If there are errors of exclusions you are amazing and I want to hear them so hit me up on my twitter account @evil_shero. I haven't see a list like this anywhere on the interwebs so enjoy. Enjoy the wiki articles on them as well.

(current as of 6/24/13)

Brad Aitken
@bradaitken
Colby Armstrong
@armdog
Arron Asham
@therealasham45


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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Summer of Change? Try Summer of Complacency by @chrisrbarron

3:45:00 PM 0

When the Pens season ended in a spectacular disaster, swept by the Bruins, many observers – myself included – believed this would be the summer of big change in Pittsburgh.  As we head towards the draft, however, it is becoming clear that this is looking less and less like a summer of change for the Penguins and more and more like a summer of complacency.

Instead of relieving Dan Bylsma of his head coaching duties after their playoff embarrassment, Ray Shero and the Pens ownership gave Bylsma an extension.  This should have been our first, and most clear signal, that while changes would inevitably be made, Shero did not believe that wholesale changes were necessary.

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Free Agency Preview: The "New Pacific" Division by @ToonsBrian

9:00:00 AM 0

July 1st marks the beginning of NHL Free Agency and is akin to a national holiday for followers of hockey. Throughout the week, my Toons/ToonSports cohost, @ToonsJack, and I will be looking at each team from all four of the NHL's new divisions and providing a brief snippet of what to expect from those teams. 

Click the links below (as they become active) to jump to each specific division:
     The New Pacific Division
     The New Central Division
     The New Atlantic Division
Read More

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Original Six: Greed and Mismanagement in The NHL by @ChicksDigHockey

9:00:00 AM 0



Are you taking a moment to appreciate the history we are likely witnessing? The NHL realignment has moved all of the Original Six teams to the Eastern Conference except Chicago, leaving another Original Six Stanley Cup match up unlikely in the near future. You may have heard once or twice or 46 times that this is the first Cup run featuring Original Six NHL franchises since 1979. If it took 34 years to get an Original Six match up with two teams in the West, will it take 68 years now that there’s going to be only one team in the West? 

Most of us who follow hockey can name the Original Six with no problem: Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, and the Toronto Maple Leafs. These were the six teams that comprised the National Hockey League for the 25 seasons between the 1942–43 season and the 1967 NHL Expansion. The Original Six are still active franchises in the league, but do you know the story of how these teams became the six?

 
The NHL consisted of ten teams during the 1920s but the financial difficulties of The Great Depression caused them to lose the Pittsburgh Pirates, Ottawa Senators, and Montreal Maroons. The seventh team, the New York Americans (nick-named the Amerks), was the third expansion team in the history of the National Hockey League (NHL), the second to play in the United States, and the first to play in New York City. 
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Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Doldrums of Summer Speculation by @LCJS

12:00:00 PM 0

The Stanley Cup Finals are still going on, but for 28 of the NHL's 30 teams, these are the doldrums of summer. While it may seem like there are a lot of things going on, most of the current news for the non-finals teams is speculation. Sure, there are head coaches being fired then hired, but seeing the Rangers and Canucks basically swap coaches in Alain Vigneault and John Tortorella (if he accepts) is about as exciting as licking wet paint. This is why people start searching for things to talk about that aren't really things at all. This is where speculation begins and common sense ends.

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Ray Shero and the Pens "All in" with Crosby, Malkin, and Bylsma by @MadChad412

3:00:00 PM 0
http://media.kitsapsun.com/

Life is all about making choices and taking risks; just like in business, and in poker. Pittsburgh Penguins general manager and 2013 NHL GM of the year winner Ray Shero has just put all of his cards on the table and has gone "All in" with three different guys. With the Penguins coming off of their fourth straight postseason ending in disappointing fashion, the entire internet was expecting huge shakeups by Pen's management. Instead, Shero has decided to maintain the foundation of the Penguin's core. That foundation being Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and head coach Dan Bylsma.

Deciding to take care of Crosby was a no-brainer during last offseason, despite some people being a little nervous about the length of Crosby's contract (12 years, $102 million) because of Crosby's history of injuries. But signing Crosby was a slam dunk and a no-brainer, especially at a cap hit of just $8.7 million per-year. There is little doubt that Crosby is the best overall player in the National Hockey League, and Shero and the Pens have secured him throughout him throughout the prime of his career. 

With Crosby already locked up, Shero then had to turn his attention to the other half of the two-headed monster; Evgeni Malkin. Like Crosby, re-signing Malkin wasn't really much of a decision and Shero and the Penguins got the contract done a lot faster than I expected. Malkin signed a eight-year deal wit a cap-hit that includes a cap hit of $9.5 million per year. Malkin is arguably the second best forward in the NHL behind his teammate and captain, Crosby.



Signing these two long-term shows the Penguin's commitment to winning and stability. The two-superstar format sometimes gets criticized from the outside for various reasons. None of which I can take seriously considering that the Pens have been considered Stanley Cup contenders every year since 2007-2008. The two-headed monster has already won one Stanley Cup and went to another Stanley Cup Final in just six seasons. Take into account that both Crosby and Malkin missed the 2010-2011 postseason with injuries. (The Pens lost in the first round in a seven-game series with the Tampa Bay Lightning that year)



Taking a look at stats, Crosby and Malkin have already proven that they are the best two active forwards in the NHL. The huge commitment to these two players does come with a few concerns with the biggest one pointed out by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette blogger Seth Rorabaugh. Seth pointed out that the Pens now have the most money committed to two individual players in the entire NHL.(You can read Seth's post called "Are the Pens too Top Heavy? here


In the day and age of the salary cap, the Pens have made it known that they are going to live and die with the two-headed monster system. But honestly, would you really take any other two players in the league to build a team around other than Crosby and Malkin? I know I wouldn't. Maybe Stan Fischler would though. 


During the Malkin negotiations, there were reports that Malkin wanted the Pens to retain head coach Dan Byslma. That doesn't surprise me given the fact that every player seems to love the player's coach, Bylsma not known for being a disciplinarian. (Understatement of the year right there)

To me, I wouldn't have been mad one bit had the Pens decided to move in a different direction as far as head coach goes. I'm not really the world's biggest Bylmsa supporter, but I also don't think he's the worse coach in the league either. I just think he is what he is, and that's a head coach given a Stanley Cup caliber roster while learning on the job. You have to remember that this is still Bylsma's first NHL head coaching job and he's only going into his fourth full season. 

Bylsma's record and success really speak for itself. He's the fastest coach in NHL history to reach 200 career wins; and he's already won a Stanley Cup. In fact, since being the coach of the Pens; Bylsma has the best winning percentage in the entire NHL among active coaches. 



Most people that I interact with on social media are more "Pro-Bylsma" than "Anti-Bylsma". That's fine and I understand it, but too often I think that Bylsma doesn't take enough criticism. Using "selective stats" Byslma is just 3-4 in playoff series and 20-21 in the playoffs since winning the Stanley Cup. That includes last year's humiliating first-round loss to the Philadelphia Flyers; and a possibly even more humiliating sweep in this year's Eastern Conference Finals via the Boston Bruins. A series that the Pens not only got swept in, but outscored  by a total of 12-2.

With the huge expectations for the Penguins and the amount of talent that Shero has compiled over the year's, plus the amount of playoff consecutive playoff failures, I figured that Byslam would either be fired or at least on the hot-seat. Instead, Shero gave Bylsma a contract extension through the 2015-2016 season. 

Didn't see that coming. 

Bylsma still has a lot of improvements when it comes to his in-game coaching abilities. His lack of either believing in or understanding how to take advantage of match-ups makes others and myself frustrated beyond belief. 

In my opinion Bylsma made some terrible decisions during the postseason: 

  • Playing Simon Despres only three games. Why? Despres was beyond ready to be a top-six defenseman this year. Yet, Bylsma chose to play guys like Deryk Engelland, Mark Eaton, and Matt Niskanen over him night after night. During the regular season, Kris Letang played his best paired with Despres. 
  • Playing Jarome Iginla on the wrong wing. When Shero acquired Iginla via trade, it was honestly one of the most exciting trades in Penguin's history. But for some reason Bylsma kept Ignila on the opposite wing that he had been playing his entire career, which made Iginla look awkward on the ice. On top of that Byslma refused to use Iginla on the first power-play for whatever reason. 
  • A few more: Relying on the stretch pass too much, not having his team crash the net enough, not sticking with Tyler Kennedy even after Kennedy had proven his worth in the playoffs. Trusting Engelland too much, among others. 
Shero even said during his press conference that Bylsma is still growing and will continue to grow as a coach. I have no doubt that he will. I for one would have liked to see a shakeup in the coaching staff even if it were just one of the assistants (Todd Reirdon) being relived. To me Shero has shown that he and the Pen's upper-management is content with what they have. 

With that said I don't want to think like I"m just giving Shero a pass. Shero has made his share of mistakes and so has his scouting team. Brenden Morrow and Iginla often looked slow and were used  out of place. That's on the head coach.

The Penguins are supposed to be Stanley Cup contenders based on their roster and previous success. That is the expectations for this franchise on a year-to-year basis; fair or not. Instead the Pens are under .500 in the playoffs since winning the Cup in 2009; which is just unacceptable.

Having locked up Malkin and Crosby long-term; Shero and Pens' ownership has shown that they not only believe that they will won another championship with that model; they have also shown that they are not as panicked by their lack of playoff success in the last four seasons. Which is "ballsy" considering that Malkina and Crosby combined for ZERO points in the four-game sweep elimination by the Boston Bruins.

Like it or not, this team will live and die with Crosby and Malkin's play. That was shown this postseason. So if and when Crosby and Malkin underperform and the Pens falter; the two-headed monster system will be criticized accordingly.

With Shero extending Bylsma I see two things; one being that he realizes that his two superstars like playing under Bylsma, and the other being that Shero didn't want to go into next season with Bylsma's future up in the air. I don't think Bylsma's extension means he's off the hot-seat at all, considering that hockey coaches have a very high turnover rate; and that the Pens extended Michelle Therrien in 2007 and fired him the very next season.

I believe that Bylsma is on the hot-seat, but I also believe that the Pens are content with having great regular season success and contending for a Stanley Cup. However, in my mind Shero has finally put himself in a situation where he would can face real criticism. Shero's backing and belief in Bylsma has put himself in a vulnerable position in my eyes; especially if the Pens have yet another playoff collapse next year.

The future comes down to Bylsma's ability to grow as a coach; and Crosby and Malkin once again proving that they are indeed the two best players in the league when it counts the most. That is what Shero obviously believes in and for that very reason I believe in.

In Shero I trust, and you should too. 

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The Logic of Trading Kris Letang by @ExcitedBobErrey

12:00:00 PM 0


Kris Letang is a great player.  He's one of the best skating defensemen in the league and possesses a great outlet pass.  And it takes a lot of offensive skill to average a point per game in the current NHL, as Letang did this past season.  Possibly the only thing that surpasses Letang's skill is his value.  Teams are placing increasing value on mobile puckmoving defensemen, and very rarely do these types of players become available, especially as young as Letang.  On the free agent market, Kris Letang could get an enormous contract, at possibly the largest cap hit in the league.  However, Kris Letang won't be hitting free agency, at least not while exiting out of Pittsburgh.  The 1st round of the NHL draft begins on June 30th, and expect to hear news of either an extension or a trade before then.  Based on the situation, fully expect to see Ray Shero announcing another blockbuster deal.

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Worst Sports Year? by @Nick422

9:00:00 AM 0
I should have seen it coming in February when the Baltimore Ravens were given the Super Bowl when a holding/pass interference call was blatantly ignored.  It allowed a man complicit in two murders live the dream ending he doesn't deserve and allowed one of the most easily hatable franchises to win the Super Bowl.



It was the start of the worst sports year.  Ever.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Top Penguins One Hit Wonders by @evil_shero

9:00:00 AM 0
With all the questions swirling around the Penguins off-season roster moves this summer it got me to thinking who are some of the more memorable "rental" players to wear the black and gold sweaters. I looked at any player who played less than 100 games with the Penguins and made an impact of some sort. No one reads these introductory paragraphs so ...

Marian Hossa


Acquired:  February 26, 2008, along with Pascal Dupuis, in exchange for Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, prospect Angelo Esposito, and the Penguins' first-round pick in 2008 (Daultan Leveille).

Scoring Stats
SeasonTmGPGAPTS+/-PIM
2007-08PIT12371006

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Expansion? The NHL Gets it Half Right by @chrisrbarron

4:23:00 PM 0

The saga of the Phoenix Coyotes may finally be coming to an end.  Gary Bettman and the leadership of the NHL, which has inexplicably fought to keep the Coyotes in the desert, may have finally reached the end of their rope.  It has been widely reported that if the potential buyer for the Coyotes who actually wants to keep the Yotes in Arizona - Renaissance Sports and Entertainment - can not come to an agreement with the city of Glendale on how much they will be paid (yes how much the city of Glendale will pay the owners of the Coyotes) to operate the Jobbing.com Arena, the NHL will sell the team to an ownership group that will move the team to Seattle.

Earlier this year, I wrote a lengthy piece laying out the case why the Coyotes should be moved to Quebec City.  In the piece I admitted that while I believe strongly that Quebec City should be the destination for the Coyotes - I also believed that the NHL wouldn't move them there. 

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What's Next: Jarome Iginla by @ExcitedBobErrey

12:29:00 PM 0

The What's Next series is part of an ongoing look from the Pens Initiative staff taking a look at the Penguins UFAs, RFAs, and most polarizing personalities heading into the next season.  We look at the year that was and the year coming and wonder: What's Next.

What's Next: Jarome Iginla by @ExcitedBobErrey


It was supposed to be a storybook ending.  One of the most respected and beloved players in the game, winding down his Hall of Fame caliber career, is stuck on a team going nowhere when the powers in charge trade him to the team judged to be best positioned to win the Stanley Cup.  The former captain, who had only worn the one sweater over his illustrious NHL career, had to get used to new colors, new teammates, and a new city in a new conference.  With two of the best centers in the game as teammates, he was able to go from being the man on his old team to just one of the guys.  When the team raced through the first two rounds and into the conference finals, it looked like the stars would finally align, and the long wait would be over: he'd be able to skate around the ice, with the Cup held high over his head.  As a champion.


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Monday, June 17, 2013

The Smarks by @ToonsBrian

8:00:00 AM 0


smark (n.) fan of an industry, particularly in entertainment, familiar with the general backstage workings of that industry.

I first became aware of “smarks” when I joined twitter and started following fellow professional wrestling fans. To that point, I really had just watched wrestling as an entertainment format that I have been around my entire life. I’d watch the AWA events with my grandfather on his push-button Zenith television (the only time I’d ever heard him swear, calling Ric Flair a bastard). At the Civic Arena, I got to see Hulk Hogan, the Ultimate Warrior, the Honky Tonk Man and Kamala, whose name still invokes a little fear leftover from Little Brian’s memory banks. And the Attitude Era of the WWE reflected where I was at in my own life at the time it was going on.

However, smarks, to a large degree, ruined wrestling for me because I became one and hated myself for it. It did, however, teach me a valuable lesson: Don’t take other fans too seriously. This especially rings true with hockey fans (and sports fans, in general).

Whether the existence of the smark is the result of having access to statistics, news and data within a few keystrokes that we now enjoy or vice versa, I can’t say. All that is certain is that when you couple that information with knee jerk reactions, the availability of a media that allows for the mass spread of those reactions and a major case of mass ego-centricity, dealing with it all becomes unbearable.

Case in point, this Wednesday, Penguins General Manager Ray Shero announced the two year contract extension of head coach Dan Bylsma and assistants Todd Reirdon and Tony Granato. Pens fans ranged from being indifferent to throwing a tantrum over the decision, particularly with Bylsma. Why? Because they thought they know hockey better than people actually in the industry.

Photo(shop) by @Evil_Shero

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

What's Next: Douglas Murray by @KyleFourOneTwo

9:09:00 AM 0
The What's Next series is part of an ongoing look from the Pens Initiative staff taking a look at the Penguins UFAs, RFAs, and most polarizing personalities heading into the next season.  We look at the year that was and the year coming and wonder: What's Next.

The Legend of Crankshaft





From the first time he took the ice donned in the Black and Vegas Gold, Pittsburgh was excited about the idea of Douglas Murray. What was not to be excited about? Standing at 6'3 and tilting the ice at Two Hundred and Forty-Five pounds, the imposing figure we came to lovingly refer to as "Crankshaft" became a houshold name among the puck-knowledgeable throughout the Steel City. Brawn, power, a hell of a shot, and nearly zero skating ability came together in a strange bouquet that smelled of pure bliss seasoned with a spritzer of Diesel Fuel.

How did it come together? What did we learn? What will come next?

Let us delve into a strange and terrifying world in which a guy that size is ALLOWED to play professional Ice Hockey...

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Saturday, June 15, 2013

What's Next: Brenden Morrow by @evil_shero

12:00:00 PM 0
The What's Next series is part of an ongoing look from the Pens Initiative staff taking a look at the Penguins UFAs, RFAs, and most polarizing personalities heading into the next season.  We look at the year that was and the year coming and wonder: What's Next.


In the "what have you done for me lately" culture of Pittsburgh Hockey, Brenden Morrow has already been written off as an off-season casualty.

When Brenden Morrow signed with Pittsburgh, waiving his NTC, he stated "I want to win the Cup" as his main reason. It was admittedly tough to uproot his family for this opportunity but he decided to do what's best for himself personally and accept a trade to the clear Cup favorites.


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What's Next: Marc-Andre Fleury by @LCJS

9:00:00 AM 0
The What's Next series is part of an ongoing look from the Pens Initiative staff taking a look at the Penguins UFAs, RFAs, and most polarizing personalities heading into the next season.  We look at the year that was and the year coming and wonder: What's Next.

Franchise Goaltender.

Scapegoat.

Stanley Cup Champion.


Marc-Andre Fleury is an enigma. His incredible amount of talent seemingly comes with the confidence of the Cowardly Lion. He is known for making the most breathtaking saves one will ever see only to then let in a goal that former Pens coach Michel Therrien could only describe as "soff."

At 28 years old, Fleury is entering his prime as a player. He has 9 seasons of NHL experience under his belt, so his track record is long enough to make judgments. The questions is: Which way do you lean? Is Fleury a true franchise goaltender or a middling net-minder who costs far more than he is worth?

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Friday, June 14, 2013

First Star, page 5 by @RobUllman

8:00:00 PM 0
Even the comics are a bummer for Pens fans this week!


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What's Next: Pascal Dupuis by @ExcitedBobErrey

9:00:00 AM 0
The What's Next series is part of an ongoing look from the Pens Initiative staff taking a look at the Penguins UFAs, RFAs, and most polarizing personalities heading into the next season.  We look at the year that was and the year coming and wonder: What's Next.

What's Next For ..... Pascal Dupuis by @ExcitedBobErrey




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Thursday, June 13, 2013

How Bylsma Needs to Change by @ExcitedBobErrey

1:00:00 PM 0
Expectations were high for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2013 playoffs, and they didn't include losing that way in the Eastern Conference Finals against Boston.  When you have one of the most talented teams in the league, getting swept while scoring 2 goals in the ECF is simply not acceptable.  Dan Bylsma won't be the fall guy this offseason, and even more shockingly neither will his assistants.  It's almost unfathomable to imagine there won't be any type of shakeup after yet another embarrassing playoff exit, but if there is it'll have to come on the roster.


I'll freely admit I think this team needs to go in a different direction at the head coach position.  Having said that, if Shero wasn't going to get rid of Bylsma, extending him was the only logical step.  With the outcry for Bylsma to be fired and only a year left on his contract, Bylsma's status would constantly be a distraction after every bad loss, and it would only get much worse during losing streaks.  That being said, a contract extension for just 2 years is hardly a vote of confidence in this situation.  It screams of giving him enough job security to not become a distraction while keeping the term of his contract short so he's not too costly to replace.  That being said, if he wants to make it until the end of this extension there are certain things he needs to do differently.


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What's Next: Kris Letang by @Nick422

9:00:00 AM 0
The What's Next series is part of an ongoing look from the Pens Initiative staff taking a look at the Penguins UFAs, RFAs, and most polarizing personalities heading into the next season.  We look at the year that was and the year coming and wonder: What's Next.

He astounds and confounds.  He piles up points and produces cringes.  His hair is as sexy as his points columns, his +/- can be as scary as life without him.  He's soon due for a large raise but what's his worth to the Pens compared to his value?  Should he stay?  Should he go?  It's What's Next for Kris Letang.



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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Who Is Hockey's Tim Tebow? by @Nick422

9:00:00 AM 0
Your first thought when reading the headline is, "Great.  Just great.  A Tim Tebow article.  On a hockey blog, no less!"


After Tim Tebow signed with the New England Patriots on Monday the first thought was to mock the signing.  He's not a very good player but he's well known for his off the field antics.  Every sport has one of those.  One could argue that through the years Alex Rodriguez has become that man in Major League Baseball.  The NBA has the likes of Metta World Peace (formerly Ron Artest), whose age is reducing his effectiveness.

Who holds that title in the NHL?
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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Thoughts on Fleury by @mikeknerr67

3:00:00 PM 0


After any playoff loss, there are important questions a team must ask about how to improve for the following season. After a stunning and humiliating loss like the Penguins experienced Fridaynight, the questions become a lot more demanding, and people begin to demand that heads roll.


Since the game 2 meltdown, and especially after Friday night, fans and media folks have pointed fingers at probably every single person in the organization except Tomas Vokoun and Dana Heinze. Everyone has an opinion on how to turn things around over the offseason (Fire Bylsma! Trade Letang! Scrap the defense and start over!), but one of the most popular opinions right now is the one I simply can't understand: the growing conviction that Marc-Andre Fleury has played his last game as a Penguin.

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What's Next: Tyler Kennedy by @ChrisRBarron

12:00:00 PM 0

The What's Next series is part of an ongoing look from the Pens Initiative staff taking a look at the Penguins UFAs, RFAs, and most polarizing personalities heading into the next season.  We look at the year that was and the year coming and wonder: What's Next.

I have written a lot about Tyler Kennedy for this website, on Twitter, and on Facebook.  I have been a long-time defender of TK and sometimes have felt like I was the only one out there.  Well that's not exactly true, because during the Pens regular season the only bigger TK fan than me was the one who mattered:  Dan Bylsma. 

Despite a regular season where he struggled mightily at times, and despite the fact that fans and talking heads alike were calling for Bylsma to scratch Kennedy, TK played in 46 of the Pens 48 games, and the only two he missed were due to illness.

Bylsma used TK everywhere:  on the 2nd line with Malkin and Neal, on the 3rd line with Cooke and Sutter, on the 4th line, hell even on the first line as a center when Crosby's jaw was broken.



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What's Next: Dan Bylsma @ChicksDigHockey

8:00:00 AM 0
The What's Next series is part of an ongoing look from the Pens Initiative staff taking a look at the Penguins UFAs, RFAs, and most polarizing personalities heading into the next season.  We look at the year that was and the year coming and wonder: What's Next.


Dead man walking!!

It’s what they say in prisons when a man on death row is taken from his cell. It’s what Twitter yelled when Dan Bylsma walked to the mic for his presser Sunday.

Disco Dan, winner of a Stanley Cup, winner of the Jack Adams award, has fallen out of favor with the rabid Penguins’ fans. He was blamed for last season’s embarrassing playoff crumble, North Korea having nuclear weapons and for the Pens finishing in 4th place this season. I wouldn't be surprised to find out he shot Kennedy (the president, not TK. He loves TK).


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Monday, June 10, 2013

The Winter Classic ... Cup? by @ExcitedBobErrey

2:00:00 PM 0
The NHL first hosted the Winter Classic on New Year's Day 2008, as the Pittsburgh Penguins took on the Buffalo Sabres in front of 71,000 fans in Ralph Wilson Stadium. While the ice quality at that first Classic wasn't the greatest and the gameplay suffered some as a result, the event succeeded beyond the league's wildest imagination, and Sidney Crosby scoring the game winning goal in a shootout through the falling show was the memorable moment to top it all off.  Since then the Winter Classic has been hosted in iconic venues such as Wrigley Field and Fenway Park and has continued to grow in popularity.  Given the success and excitement around the outdoor games, the NHL has planned 6 for the 2013-14 season



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What's Next: Matt Cooke @MadChad412

10:03:00 AM 0
The What's Next series is part of an ongoing look from the Pens Initiative staff taking a look at the Penguins UFAs, RFAs, and most polarizing personalities heading into the next season.  We look at the year that was and the year coming and wonder: What's Next?

Matt Cooke, NHL public enemy number one, is an unrestricted free-agent now that the 2012-2013 season is over. Cooke has been one of the controversial figures in the entire league during his career and that has been highlighted during his duration with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Despite the controversy and dumb mistakes by Cooke, he has been an instrumental role player for the Pens and I think they should do whatever it takes to re-sign him.

So what's next for Cooke?

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Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Pens Need an Identity by @highheelshockey

12:00:00 PM 0
That's it. Pack it up and go home.

I wrote in my last article "The Cultural Issues with the Pens" that the Pens lack a team identity. I'd like to take this opportunity to elaborate on that subject. It needs a space of its own.

Over the course of the last seven seasons since Sidney Crosby broke into the NHL, a torch was passed to him from Mario Lemieux. This team would become Sidney Crosby's team. During that time, the Penguins organization and the NHL as a whole have married the two together. Crosby, being without a doubt the best player in the world, is a marketing gold mine. He is consistently the most sought after jersey league wide year after year. He is the face of Reebok, Gatorade, and so many other companies. He is the face of the NHL.


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All Good Things... by @LCJS

9:56:00 AM 0
Our pain is over.  

The war that is the NHL Playoffs has chewed up and spat out another victim:  The Pittsburgh Penguins.  It’s hard in some ways to believe what has actually transpired.  The Penguins were eliminated by the Boston Bruins in 4 games, getting swept for the first time since 1979 when the 3rd seeded Bruins swept the 8th seeded Pens.

The strangest part of the Pens stunning defeat is what caused it:  A total lack of offense.

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Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Hockey Gods Are Angry by @ChicksDigHockey

1:06:00 PM 0
I woke up Saturday morning a bit foggy from the vodka I drowned my sorrows in Friday night. For a few brief moments I forgot why I had abandoned restraint the night before and indulged in one more drink than I should have. As the vodka fog lifted, I was left with the reality that the Penguin’s season was over. The ugliness of being swept in the conference finals descended on me and I felt nauseated…well, to be fair, maybe that was the vodka, too.

We will debate and analyze the third round collapse in 2013 for years to come. The ugliness of the lockout left such a bad taste in my mouth (again I may be over-looking the vodka) and forever hung an asterisk of explanation behind the season. The mass of talent the Penguins gathered for a run at the cup was awe inspiring. The wealth of talent was almost embarrassing. Obi-Wan Shero gifted us with the likes of Jokinin, Murray, Morrow and ‘future hall of Famer’ Jarome Iginla. We Pens’ fans were giddy as children on Christmas morning. 


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Friday, June 7, 2013

First Star, Page 4 by @RobUllman

All On The Line. @hockeyNicole

8:00:00 AM 0
Sit back, take a deep breath and try to put yourself in the following situation.



The aches and pains of 95 minutes worth of hockey are beginning to settle in. Sweat drips carelessly, drenching everything in its path. You begin to take off your gear unconscieniously as the hustle and chatter of media members fills the air. Your eyes scan the visiting lockeroom to the sight of hockey players, teammates, brothers in arms. Most of their faces are blank or drained after the daunting battle you all just endured. Victory slipped your fingers once again. You feel like stepping up and giving a little talk, but you're far past that notion now. The enemy has taken the upper hand in battle but, in reality, the war is less than 48 hours away. A bitter feeling churns at your stomach, where anxiety and fear spark a flame. Unforgiving vengeance, that's what it is. For the city you represent, the crest you wear on your chest and for the gentlemen who go into battle you every other night.

It's down to one game now. Do or die. Win or go home. The start of the beginning or the beginning of the end. All these thoughts zip through your head as you take one last glance at the gentlemen around you. You drag in a hard breath and slowly let it out, "Make history or be history?"

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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Disco's Diary #3 by @evil_bylsma

The Cultural Issues of the Penguins by @highheelshockey

9:00:00 AM 0
We know how terrible the defense has been. We know how lazy the back-checking has been. We know how utterly pathetic the power play has been. We know that Marc-Andre Fleury has become the pariah of the Penguins organization. We know that Sidney Crosby is still stuck back in the Ottawa series, searching for his way to the Boston series.

But issues of the x’s and o’s and effort aside, the Penguins have deeper issues that I believe are responsible for what is looking to be a fourth failure in a row in the playoffs.

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Why the NHL Needs to Stop the Flop @Evil_Shero

6:00:00 PM 0

To me, this is hockey. It's tough, it's brutal, it's violent, there is lots to love about the fastest sport on Earth. There has been a small trickle in of embellishment in the past few season in the NHL and not cracking down now will make a mockery of the sport we love.


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Jump Off That Bridge, but Pack a Parachute by @ExcitedBobErrey

3:00:00 PM 0
To say it's not the start you want to a series is a bit of an understatement.  Each team starts on even footing, and if you can get up a couple of games in the series you're probably going to win.  I can't tell you the exact percentage, but teams that go up 2-0  win the majority of those series mostly because of a couple simple reasons.  Being up 2 games means that you only have to win 2 more to your opponent's 4.  Also getting that big lead indicates that you're playing better than the other team, which coupled with the extra leeway makes getting that coming back a difficult task.  But the NHL doesn't stop series when a team gets a 2-0 lead, or 3-1 lead.  They even make teams finish things up when one has gone up 3-0.  That's because teams can, and have, come back from those deficits before, the Pittsburgh Penguins in particular.  Beginning with the Cup runs in the early 90s, the Penguins have faced  2-0 deficits 8 times.  They've come back to win 5 of those, and 5 out of 8 is a much better percentage than the rest of the league.  Two of those losses the Penguins found themselves in a 3-0 hole, which is all but an automatic ticket home, but let's take a look back at the others.


1991 Wales Conference Final: Down 2-0 against Boston

Game 1: 6-3 Boston
Game 2: 5-4 Boston (OT)

The Boston Bruins came into the series as favorites over the Pittsburgh Penguins, having represented the Eastern Conference Wales Conference the previous year and finishing with the top seed in the conference heading into the playoffs.  They won the first 2 games in Boston and it appeared they were getting ready to punch their ticket back.

Game 3: Pittsburgh 4-1
Game 4: Pittsburgh 4-1
Game 5: Pittsburgh 7-2
Game 6: Pittsburgh 5-3

The Penguins came back to Pittsburgh, and a couple of games and identical 4-1 scores later they had tied the series.  Momentum had shifted, and they seized control in a rout before finishing things off back at Mellon Arena.  Pittsburgh finished things off against Minnesota in the SCF, bringing the first Stanley Cup back to the Steel City.


1992 Patrick Division Semi-Final: Down 2-0 and 3-1 against Washington

Game 1: Washington 3-1
Game 2: Washington 6-2
Game 3: Pittsburgh 6-4
Game 4: Washington 7-2

The Stanley Cup hangover proved to be a real thing in the regular season, as the Pens finished just 3rd in the Atlantic Division Patrick Division, and the title defense didn't get off the to the best start on the road in Washington.  The Capitals dominated in Games 2 & 4 to take 2-0 and 3-1 leads, and it appeared that Pittsburgh's reign on top was going to be short lived.

Game 5: Pittsburgh 5-2
Game 6: Pittsburgh 6-4
Game 7: Pittsburgh 3-1

The Penguins kicked off what would become an almost annual tradition in letting the Capitals get the big lead before ending their season in the most heartbreaking of fashions.  The comeback kicked off the run to a 2nd consecutive Stanley Cup, and after going down 2-1 against the Rangers the Pens would win 11 straight to bring Lord Stanley home.



1996 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals: Down 2-0 against Washington

Game 1: Washington 6-4
Game 2: Washington 5-3

In what was becoming a familiar scenario, the Penguins were fresh off a great regular season in which they won the Northeast Division yet still found themselves down 2 games to the Washington Capitals in the opening round.  And in familiar fashion:

Game 3: Pittsburgh 4-1
Game 4: Pittsburgh 3-2 (4OT)
Game 5: Pittsburgh 4-1
Game 6: Pittsburgh 3-2

The Pittsburgh Penguins once again showed why the Washington Capitals franchise was a joke as they flipped the switch on their defense and shutdown the Capitals.  The playoff run ended on a sour note as the favored Penguins couldn't hold off the upset from the Panthers in the Eastern Conference Finals.  While the Pens would make the ECF again in the Mario Lemieux era, this was the last great chance they had at winning a Stanley Cup.


2008 Stanley Cup Final: Down 2-0 and 3-1 against Detroit

Game 1: Detroit 4-0
Game 2: Detroit 3-0
Game 3: Pittsburgh 3-2
Game 4: Detroit 2-1

Pittsburgh surprised the hockey world in 2008, as the big deadline acquisition of Marian Hossa severely accelerated the Pittsburgh's postseason timetable, and the Penguins responded by breezing into the Stanley Cup Finals with only 2 losses on the postseason.  Just like the previous season, they found themselves exploited by a much more experienced team as Detroit dominated the first 2 games and took commanding 2-0 and 3-1 leads.

Game 5: Pittsburgh 4-3 (3OT)
Game 6: Detroit 3-2

Despite Petr Sykora's OT heroics and a furious push at the end of Game 6, Pittsburgh could not mount a comeback and ended up losing the Stanley Cup to Detroit in 6 games.  For the 2nd year in a row, the Penguins gained invaluable experience and learned what it takes to win in the playoffs.

2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals: Down 2-0 against Washington

Game 1: Washington 3-2
Game 2: Washington 4-3

The Pittsburgh Penguins found themselves in NBC's dream scenario during their attempt to represent the East again in the Stanley Cup finals as Sidney Crosby (and 19 other guys) faced off against Alex Ovechkin (and 19 other guys) for a spot in the ECF.  Because this is a Pittsburgh-Washington playoff series, the Penguins spotted the Capitals the early 2-0 series lead.

Game 3: Pittsburgh 3-2 (OT)
Game 4: Pittsburgh 5-3
Game 5: Pittsburgh 5-4 (OT)
Game 6: Washington 5-4 (OT)
Game 7: Pittsburgh 6-2

Because this is a Pittsburgh-Washington playoff series, the Penguins came back to win.  After playing 4 incredibly close games that included 3 overtime games, the Penguins made it look easy in Game 7.  For the first time this group of young players faced adversity in the playoffs and moved onto the next round.

2009 Stanley Cup Finals: Down 2-0 against Detroit

Game 1: Detroit 3-1
Game 2: Detroit 3-1

For the 2nd year in a row, Pittsburgh faced off against Detroit for the Stanley Cup, and for the 2nd year in a row the Red Wings won the first 2 games to take the early 2-0 lead.  The Penguins had faced this exact situation against the Capitals earlier in these playoffs and once again would need to win 4 of the final 5 games to win.

Game 3: Pittsburgh 4-2
Game 4: Pittsburgh 4-2
Game 5: Detroit 5-0
Game 6: Pittsburgh 2-1
Game 7: Pittsburgh 2-1

That's exactly what happened.  Pittsburgh answered Detroit's pair of 3-1 wins with a pair of 4-2 wins, and after a bad loss in Detroit that looked like it might put the Stanley Cup out of reach, Pittsburgh finished things off with a pair of 2-1 wins for the 3rd Stanley Cup in franchise history.


While Game 2 of this Boston series was an absolute nightmare, this series is far from over.  Pittsburgh returns 12 players from that Stanley Cup winning team that came back from 2-0 deficits, and they have an overabundance of veteran leadership.  The series shifts to Boston, and playing a road game might be just what this team needs to simplify things and make the smart play and help them get back to their game.

They need to stop the soft dumps into the corner.  Boston's defensemen are retrieving and clearing the puck quickly.  This extra emphasis on playing physical hockey and hitting the Bruins on the dump ins is leading Pittsburgh to do things that kill their possession time and keep the game moving towards their own end.  We've seen Bylsma bring the forwards further back to help the breakout before and he needs to do so again.  Boston is clogging the neutral zone and the long breakout passes aren't helping.  Not only does bringing the forwards back give the defensemen more options, it also prevents the forwards from being stuck up ice if and when the Pens do turn the puck over against the forecheck.  This team needs to make sure it's building its gameplan off a strong commitment in the defensive zone and allowing the offense to continue possessing the puck into the Boston zone instead of giving it up on soft dumps that.  This team has the talent to win 4 games against the Boston Bruins.  Winning Game 3 will go a big way towards swinging momentum in Pittsburgh's favor and getting the Bruins to play on their heals.  However, they need to be responsible in their own end.  They need to make the smart play clearing the puck off the walls instead of trying to force it up the middle of the ice.  They need to stop giving the Bruins extra odd man chances.  It won't be easy to win 4 out of the next 5 games, but this team has done it before.  Let's hope they can do it again.
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Let's All Panic by @Nick422

12:00:00 PM 0
Why not?  The Penguins are down 2-0, fairly convincingly, to a very tough Boston Bruins team.  Things look really bleak.  Players are playing poorly.  What else is there to do?

(Gene J. Puskar/AP)
Let's all panic.

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Kyle's Guide to Bridge Jumping, and why you should keep the faith. @KyleFourOneTwo

8:00:00 AM 0

With all the bridges in the city of Pittsburgh, how exactly should a Penguins fan go about choosing just the right one to jump off following the uninspired play of the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals?

Sure, you could go for the tried and true Smithfield Street Bridge, I mean it’s old… Very old… Not to mention Historical. You would end up right in the Monongahela (Pennsylvania River of the Year mind you), But in a town with bigger, brighter, and much more vibrantly colored choices, would one run the risk of being considered “Ironically Lame” for heaving themselves off the Ol’ Smitty?

Maybe.



Decisions… Decisions…

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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Sidney Crosby - You're Our Only Hope by @ChrisRBarron

12:00:00 PM 0



There is a lot of the blame game getting played this morning by Pens fans and hockey talking heads - and there is plenty of blame to go around.  The Pens leave Pittsburgh - headed to Boston - in a 2 games to none hole.  Even worse, the Pens just got demolished in game 2.  Completely and totally dominated in every single facet of the game.  There is very little to look at from game 2 and have anything even remotely nice to say about it.

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Monday, June 3, 2013

Best of Pens Facebook: May 27-June 2 by @TheCaptainDuck

12:00:00 PM 0
Best of Pens Facebook: May 27-June 2

It’s time for week seven of “Best of Pens Facebook.” If this is your first time checking the weekly post, the format and idea is simple: take people’s outrageous comments and suggestions on the Pittsburgh Penguins official Facebook page and showcase them for us all to laugh at.

During this time frame the Penguins only had one game (Game 1 vs. Boston). As you all know, they lost and are now down 0-1 in the series. Bruins fans entered the Penguins Facebook page and had a nice time while Penguins fans on Facebook really had no idea what to do. All in all, it was a mess.

Enjoy:
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Matt Cooke and the Downfall of Perception @MadChad412

9:00:00 AM 0


Matt Cooke is by far public enemy number one in the NHL. The man is hated by pretty much all fan-bases. Literally, Ottawa Senators fans even threw a "Matt Cooke hate fest" rally during the regular season this year. Cooke's reputation is terrible and in the past he's deserved this terrible reputation, but enough is enough.

Cooke's reputation shouldn't dictate him playing by a different set of rules. The NHL is already having problems with consistency in terms of officiating and dishing out punishments. Saturday night's game one between Pittsburgh and Boston was yet again another national showcase of the ongoing issue.
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Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Team of Fans @bigeagle12

9:00:00 AM 0
I’ve never done anything of this sort before, but I guess what better time than now? The Penguins are being forced into a hiatus in excess of a week due to a NKOTB concert (I know, right?) which results in me having some free time.

I have read multiple articles over the past several months that have argued whether or not the fans are truly a part of the team or not. Sure, they have the obvious arguments such as; the fans do not receive a check from the team for their services and in fact pay to go see them play and that the fans do not get credit for the wins and losses that take place on the ice. The obvious stuff aside, one thing that every article that I have read up to this point has failed to mention is that although the fans may not get paid and get credit, they do put in an immense amount of time every season following their favourite team while they pursue the most coveted trophy in all professional sports.

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Saturday, June 1, 2013

Eight Long Days by @LCJS

2:00:00 PM 0
Do you see what you do to me, NHL?

Do you SEE?!

It has been eight days now since the Penguins defeated the Senators, eight days since the horn sounded and the Pens left the ice for the last meaningful time.  Sure, the practices the Pens have held were undoubtedly useful, but to quote Allen Iverson:


“I mean, listen, we're talking about practice, not a game, not a game, not a game, we talking about practice.  Not a game.”  Iverson continued, “But we're talking about practice man.  What are we talking about?  Practice?  We're talking about practice, man.  We're talking about practice.  We're talking about practice.  We ain't talking about the game.  We're talking about practice, man.”
This is what the Pens have been reduced to... what I have been reduced to.

Practice.

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Radio:PI Conference Finals Preview with @Nick422 and @Evil_Shero

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