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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Win Tickets to Watch a Penguins' Game with This Man by @ChicksDigHockey

6:21:00 PM 27

We’re very excited about PEMF’s “Watch a Game with the Pros”. So excited, in fact, we’re giving away 2 tickets to the event. Here’s all you have to do to win:

Predict who will score first and at what time in which period for the Penguins during the outdoor game between the Pens and Blackhawks on March 1st. Your prediction may look like this:

                                Neal at 10:32 in the first

Your entry must include all of those elements in order to be eligible to win. Don’t tweet your prediction and don’t leave it on FB. The only entries that will be considered are those left in the comments section below this article.

Come on!! Have some fun and help raise funds for the PEMF. Don’t want to play? You can purchase tickets at http://pemf.net/watchwiththepros.html

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Pittsburgh Penguins Trade Rumors: Kesler, Callahan, and St. Louis by @PandaPSU

1:00:00 PM 0

In the blink of an eye, the trade deadline rumors exploded last night. Big names like Ryan Kesler, Ryan Callahan, and Martin St. Louis surfaced as potential trade targets over the next week. All of these guys will be highly sought after and can make a huge difference for playoff teams. Do any of these guys make sense for the Penguins?

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The Impact of Paul Martin & Kris Letang's Health on the Penguins' Trade Deadline? by @griffTHW

9:00:00 AM 0

Only a few weeks ago, the trade deadline wish list in Pittsburgh consisted almost exclusively of reinforcements for the forward unit.  From a perceived need to replace the injured Pascal Dupuis to a desire to bolster depth within the bottom-six, the club's greatest needs, its biggest holes, existed up front.

For some, that all changed with a shocking and sobering loss of Kris Letang coupled with the recent news that Paul Martin would miss four to six weeks with a broken hand.  And, just like that, the Penguins' needs swelled, spilling over to include a depleted defensive corp. 

But can all those needs really be addressed?  After all, between a tough trade market and Pittsburgh's salary cap position, Ray Shero finds himself in a tight spot if he hopes to beef up his squad for a lengthy playoff run.  On Tuesday, the G.M. discussed the impending deadline, expressing both pessimism about an ability to replace Dupuis and an uphill climb faced in the search to supplement his blue line.

Still, the Penguins don't find themselves completely handcuffed.  Though not substantial, the club possesses some wiggle room and, given Shero's propensity for finding ways to pull the trigger on deals most never saw coming, would anyone truly be shocked to see an active Pittsburgh squad in the trade market over the coming week?

So, if some flexibility exists, could the injuries along the blue line impact the club's plans as the deadline approaches?  Below, we take a look at each case, providing our take on any potential implications.
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Morning Drive: 412 Sports Talk 2/26/14

8:00:00 AM 0
Last night on 412 Sports Talk Mad Chad and Mike "Buzz Saw" Asti were joined by the Trib's Josh Yohe.  What else do you need to know?

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Outside Hockey Part 3: The Insider by @Nick422

4:00:00 PM 0
This is Part Three of a four part look at the different views of outdoor hockey.  Part One and Part Two are found here.  The following is a repost from caseandpointsports.com.

Part Three: The Insider

In 2011 I was fortune enough to snag a media pass to attend the NHL's premier event, the 2011 Winter Classic in Pittsburgh, PA.  This was my view from the dry seats.

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A look at the future of Simon Despres with @MadChad412 and @H_P_Hockey

9:00:00 AM 0

The Pittsburgh Penguins can't seem to catch a break when it comes to injuries. I guess we all we were all kidding ourselves if we thought that the Pens' players that were representing their countries in Sochi, for the Olympics, were all going to make it through without an injury. Defenceman Paul Martin injured his wrist and will now be out 4-6 weeks. That, along with the fact that Kris Letang is out indefinitely means that the Pens are now very thin on the blueline. 
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Morning Drive: The League 2/25/14

8:00:00 AM 0
Last night on The League host Brian Blystone looked at the buyers and sellers in the East and West, examined how the Sochi games would impact future NHL participation in the Olympics as well as this year's playoff picture.

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Putting Dan Bylsma into Context by @PandaPSU

1:00:00 PM 0

Is there a more polarizing topic right now than Dan Bylsma? Prior to this season, Pens fans were divided, and I would say fairly evenly, about whether Bylsma should stay with the team this year. After a few years of disappointing playoff exits, many fans were at their wits end with him. Yet many others pointed to his success in the regular season and the injuries the team has faced over the past few seasons. They also pointed out that a coach cannot force a team to play hard, and much of the blame should lie directly with the players. Those issues were blown up and magnified over the past few weeks when Bylsma accepted the position of head coach for the Men's Olympic team.
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Fleury's Mask for the Stadium Series

11:46:00 AM 0

Today, Stephane Bergeron who has done mask designs for Marc-Andre Fleury in the past put this logo up on his Facebook. This will be the mask that Fleury will be wearing at the upcoming Stadium Series game against the Chicago Blackhawks which happens this Saturday at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL. Not only will Fleury be supporting his work but Corey Crawford will also be wearing a mask done by him. For more artwork from Stephane Bergeron, please check out his Griff Airbrush website.

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Watch a Pens Game with the Pros by @ChicksDigHockey

9:25:00 AM 1

What’s better than going to a Penguin’s game? How about watching it at a private viewing party with former Penguins?

On March 22, the Pittsburgh Emergency Medicine Foundation is hosting "Watch The Game With The Pros" at 31 Sports Bar and Grille, Bridgeville, PA. The Pens will be playing at home versus Tampa Bay Lightning that afternoon. This event will feature Pittsburgh Penguins Alumni, including former Stanley Cup winning goalie, Ken Wregget, NHL Hall of Famer and 6-time Stanley Cup Champion, Bryan Trottier. Also expected to be on hand is Pittsburgh's own, Dave Hanson, one of the Hanson Brothers from the 1970's movie, "Slapshot" 

This is your chance to interact with the pros: talk game strategy, talk stats, hear old war stories of the road and locker room, take photos and get autographs and have a few laughs while cheering on the Pens, all while supporting a great cause. The Pittsburgh Emergency Medicine Foundation (PEMF) is an autonomous charitable foundation formed to foster the academic and research programs of the University of Pittsburgh Affiliated Residency in Emergency Medicine and the Center for Emergency Medicine of Western Pennsylvania. PEMF is committed to providing financial support for research and educational endeavors in the field of emergency medicine.

31 Sports Bar and Grille, owned and operated by Penguins Alumni, Ken Wregget and his wife Cindy, has offered a cash bar and a buffet style menu including sliders, poutine, wings, reuben eggrolls, mozzarella, Buffalo chicken dip, onion rings. The CASH BAR will include Miller Lite specials. 

General Admission Tickets are only $25.00. >> TICKETS <<  This is a must-attend event. It starts at noon and continues until the game ends.
Break out of the winter dole-drums by attending a fun event that benefits an important cause. 


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Morning Drive: Case and Point 2/24/14

8:00:00 AM 0
Last night on Case and Point host Nick Case discussed Jason Collins' place in history, the NHL fan's inferiority complex, Olympic overload and gives you his Oscar picks!

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Monday, February 24, 2014

Chris Kunitz: A real vindication by @MadChad412

9:00:00 AM 10

Yes, it is true that Canadians are obsessed with every aspect of the game of hockey. They love the sport sometimes in an unhealthy way. This was seen during the entire 2014 Winter Olympics process, from picking Team Canada, through the actual games. Every single roster move and performance by a player was under a seemingly never happy microscope.
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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Is This Woman Sidney Crosby's Girlfriend?

Dan Bylsma: Enough is ENOUGH! by @ExcitedBobErrey

5:42:00 PM 3

I told myself I wouldn't write this post.

I told myself I wouldn't compare Team USA under Dan Bylsma and the Pittsburgh Penguins under Dan Bylsma, because they're two completely different situations. The outcome of the Olympics does not affect Dan Bylsma's ability as coach of the Pens in the slightest. A Gold Medal for Team USA wouldn't make Dan Bylsma more likely to lead the team to a Stanley Cup, nor would a disappointing Olympic finish lead to a greater chance of a disappointing playoff exit. While Bylsma's coaching job in the Olympics certainly could be reflective of his coaching abilities, it wouldn't change how things would play out in Pittsburgh. A pair of disappointing shutout losses to finish without a medal doesn't mean the Pens will be golfing early this spring and it certainly doesn't make Dan Bylsma a bad coach. I believed that heading into the Olympics, and I still believe that now.

And yet...........

And yet here I am writing about Dan Bylsma, Team USA's failure, and the Pittsburgh Penguins. It's certainly not a post I wanted to write, because it's a post that only gets written if Team USA disappoints. It's definitely not a post I expected to write either, especially because I still believe what happened in Sochi, stays in Sochi, and has no bearing on Dan Bylsma's ability to coach the team in the playoffs. But then the Olympics played out like a script no Hollywood producer would ever find plausible. Stop me when this stops being familiar. Team USA races through the preliminary round, winning all 3 games and earning 8 out of a possible 9 points. They lead the tournament in goals scored in the preliminary round (15) , finished with the second fewest allowed (4), and earned the 2nd seed for the medal round. They went from being a step behind the favorites entering the Sochi Olympics to forcing themselves to the forefront of the Gold Medal discussion.  In their first elimination game Team USA beat the Czech Republic 5-2 to reach the semifinals, where only a two game losing streak could prevent them from leaving without a medal.

Team USA lost to Canada, 1-0, in a game where it couldn't generate offense and needed to rely on its goalie to manage to keep things that close. The Canadians managed to clog things up in transition, and the Americans weren't able to counter. While they missed out on a chance to play for Gold, they still had a Bronze Medal on the line when they faced Team Finland. Except Finland is even better at being able to play a trapping style on the big sheet of ice, and a 5-0 blowout loss resulted. The biggest stage, and they came up small, unable to score and unable to beat the trap and sustain offensive pressure.

How much more of this do you need to hear, Pens fans?

Dejan Kovacevic had an excellent piece on the problems Team USA faced in the medal round, and with a finger on the pulse of the locker room he didn't hold back in assigning blame for what troubled the Americans in their final two games. The team played passively, in the words of the players, and were hardly put in the best position to succeed. Dan Bylsma, with an arrogance Vladimir Putin surely was proud of, stuck to "the same system, the same lines, and even the same exhausted goaltender" that didn't work against Canada. It was no surprise to see Team Finland play that style of hockey, as it had been working well for them throughout the entire tournament. It was a little surprising to see Team Canada adapt that style of play, but much less so considering that Claude Julien was on Team Canada's bench and effectively swept the Pittsburgh Penguins out of the playoffs last year with a very similar strategy. The least surprising of all, in hindsight, was 120 minutes of hockey being played without an effective counter by the man behind Team USA's bench.

I meant it, stop me when this stops being familiar.

There's been a lot of reactionary criticism of Dan Bylsma following Team USA's failures, and while it'd be a bit foolish to take his Olympic failures as a means to criticize his NHL work, they certainly fit flawlessly into the already developing narrative. I've written about Dan Bylsma and the Penguins once or twice before, and we're once again watching the same story unfold. Dan Bylsma is simply the wrong coach for the Pittsburgh Penguins, not because of what happened in the Olympics, which certainly didn't help the argument otherwise, but because the same problems keep surfacing over and over again. It's our own personal Pittsburgh Penguins Groundhog Day, and with each passing year it becomes harder and harder to believe Ray Shero, Mario Lemieux, and Ron Burkle let this continue to repeat itself. In 2009, Dan Bylsma led Michel Therrien's team to 4 postseason series wins, going 16-8 to win the Stanley Cup. He took over an already well structured team and system and breathed new life into a talented team that desperately needed it. Since then, Dan Bylsma has led Dan Bylsma's team to 3 postseason series wins, a 20-21 record, and more frustration and disbelief among the fanbase than can be accounted for. Now, add in this Olympic failure, and I'll be damned if he didn't stick to the script exactly.

Some of you, if you've made it this far, will have absolutely hated what I've had to say. Some people will blindly hate Dan Bylsma, and some will blindly defend him, but it's more than fine to direct legitimate criticisms his way. And I'm sorry, but at this point what argument is there for bringing him back next season? He wins a lot of games, you say? I'd love to hear an argument, with a straight face, that there aren't plenty of coaches in the league that could lead this team to the top of the standings in the regular season. His coaching ability when the injuries pile up? It's certainly impressive, but if we're missing Crosby and Malkin like in 2011 or two thirds of our defense like we were in December during the playoffs, it's not going to matter who's behind the bench because it's going to make winning the Cup a long shot. He's a good coach? He is, but that's hardly a reason for allowing him to keep his job. It's easy to see why you wouldn't pair Joe Thornton or Henrik Sedin with a couple pass first wingers who have questionable shots, just like it's easy to see why you don't surround Alex Ovechkin with snipers who can't pass. They're bad fits, but for whatever reason it's more difficult for some to see that when it comes to a coach, especially a good coach.

When Dan Bylsma hits the open market next, there's going to be demand for his services, and one team will be lucky to have him as their coach. He'd be a good fit in a small market that's not maxing out the salary cap on its roster and has a talent disadvantage. That's what he's good at, and that's what he's shown to be his strength. Players love him, and he's good at squeezing out results even when the talent isn't there. But the talent is here in Pittsburgh. With both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in the lineup this team will always threaten the top of the standings and be a contender in the postseason. The mindset in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization is Stanley Cup or Bust, and that needs to be reflected with their coach. They need to get someone behind the bench who is best qualified to get this team through the playoffs, because they have enough talent to get there as a high seed regardless of who's in charge.

I guess in the end, it's much easier to still believe that Sochi changes nothing than I thought reacting to yet another all too familiar ending for Dan Bylsma. Because nothing has changed with the Pittsburgh Penguins; they're still in the same position they were before the Sochi Olympics. The change is in my expectations and how I view the team, where I believed that somehow this year would be different from the previous playoff disasters. That Dan Bylsma would have learned something from those early exits, that bringing in Jacques Martin would help fix things when it mattered, that the team leading the conference could be the favorites to win the Eastern Conference Championship and a serious contender for the Stanley Cup. That the team wouldn't have to advance in the playoffs in spite of Dan Bylsma, but with Bylsma making the correct calls and decisions throughout the course of a series. That my hopes that this year would be different were more than just wishful hoping. I'm certainly not eliminating the Penguins from the playoffs, nor do I believe that there's absolutely no chance Dan Bylsma can lead this to another Stanley Cup. I will root on this team, win or lose, but I've got to ask Ray Shero, Mario Lemieux, and Ron Burkle something important:

Stop this from being familiar -- how much is enough?

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When the Games End by @ToonsBrian

10:27:00 AM 1

Chances are you don’t recognize the name Stanley Ralph Ross. But if you are even remotely familiar with the history of sports coverage, you most certainly know his words:

Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport … the thrill of victory … and the agony of defeat … the human drama of athletic competition”
These are the words that began every ABC’s Wide World of Sports broadcast. They were words that, themselves, captured the essence of sports and the observance of sports. For the most part, at least. 

What Ross failed to recognize – or, at least, acknowledge – in that iconic introduction is an aspect of sports that is equally prevalent: anticipation. The “games men play” would lose some of their luster if not for the stories leading up to them. Those stories are what allow fans to connect to the athletes they pull for. They offer a way to relate. A way to live vicariously. A way to own the thrill or the agony, regardless of which comes to fruition.

Leading up to the 2014 Olympic Semi-Final match between Teams USA and Canada, I was a ball of stress. I know with 100% certainty that I was not the only one, even if the only proof I needed was one of the conversations I was having in the minutes prior to the drop of the puck.

Check these guys out. Click here
Through my work with Pens Initiative, I’ve been fortunate enough to make a number of connections who I communicate with on a regular basis. Mike DeNicola from The Orange and Black Pack is one of those whom I have regular conversations with.

Like myself, Mike is well versed in Star Wars lore, is fond of the color orange (although for vastly and unacceptably different reasons), thinks both advance stats and The Beatles are overrated, and managed to marry upward. Also, we both love the sport of hockey and not just our own respective teams, yet remain unapologetically ‘Merican in our approach to these 2014 Games.

That’s why I wasn’t surprised when I got his message with less than ten minutes until the start of the first period.

“Dude, I…I dunno if I can handle losing today.”

While I hadn’t, to that point, had the guts to put it out there, that was the very thought weighing heavily in my mind that very morning. Especially since my hopes had been built up by Team USA’s inspired level of performance to that point. I was more into relishing the thought of that big win that ultimately didn’t come.

Still, it was that very thought that kept me from getting any much-needed sleep leading into the game that morning. Anybody who works midnights realizes the significance of morning sleeps.

The darkest day of the tournament for Team USA
 As the actual game trudged on towards what would be its eventual 1-0 final score, the answer to how I would handle the loss became more and more relevant.

It was inevitable that the loss would hurt. In the end, sports are no different from life in general. Loss hurts. So you quite simply take what you can take from it and move on.

Here are just some of the things that we can take from this Olympic tournament:

A Helluva Run – Leading into these Sochi games, by and large, the US was expected to be on the outside looking in. To many “experts,” they weren’t even supposed to contend.  Hello, Medal Rounds.

In the preliminary rounds, Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk were in the Top 4 among scorers with 8 and 7 points respectively.  Team USA as a whole had the best goal differential. The team was one regulation win from being the number one seed in the qualifying rounds.

Speaking of that one missing regulation win…

That Russian Game – Not enough can be said about that game. Everything about it, from a US perspective was (almost) perfect. 

It had a slow build, at just shy of 34 years. 

There was a great villain in Vladimir Putin, who declared that Russia’s performance in these Games would hinge solely on the performance of the men’s hockey team. 

There were human rights interests.

There were stray dog stories.

There was TJ Oshie.

Oshie was a controversial pick in and out of the selection committee’s meetings. As chronicled by ESPN.com’s Scott Burnside, Dan Bylsma staunchly fought to have him on the team. As push came to shove, Bylsma stuck with his guy over and over again in the shootout, the very reason he put his neck out for Oshie’s inclusion. Decision validated.

Now, despite the dreadful finish for Team USA, at least we can own that memory, made sweeter by Oshie’s humility following that performance.

A Teaching Moment – I have kids, so this one’s big for me on two levels. Thanks to the magic of DVR and round-the-clock coverage, the Olympics provided a bonding experience and some excellent opportunities to teach them and remind myself of some of life’s certainties.

We watched Team USA together. Saw them when they were invincible. And, ultimately, we saw them when they seemed helpless. Nobody is immune from “off days.”

Strong finishes are every bit as important as strong starts, if not more so.

Gamesmanship is easy and can be fun. Humility in victory, not so much, which makes it much more valuable.

Participation medals and ribbons don’t exist in the real world. If you want anything in life, earn it.

There’s always someone better than you. Your goal is to change that. Even if it takes four years.

And, of course, without the agony of defeat, what would the thrill of victory be?

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#Sochi2014 Olympic Hockey Update: Gold Medal Game

9:58:00 AM 0
The be all to end all for the 2014 Olympics has come and gone.  An entire tournament is over.  Perhaps the last time we'll see NHL players in the Olympics.  If you missed the game and will watch later do NOT click below.  Spoilers.

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Saturday, February 22, 2014

#Sochi2014 Olympic Hockey Update: Bronze Medal Game

12:27:00 PM 0
One medalist is determined!  If you taped the game and don't want to know who it is don't click ahead!  Spoilers.

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Friday, February 21, 2014

#Sochi2014 Olympic Hockey Update: Semi-Final Round

3:13:00 PM 0
The Gold and Bronze medal games are set in stone!  We're two games away from the end of it all.  As always if you don't want to know what happened don't read ahead because spoilers.

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Wager of Patriotism with @ryannoble66 and @PandaPSU #PensOlympicBet

1:00:00 PM 0

Few things in life bring out the raw emotion seen in sports and love of country. Luckily, every four years we can unite these two things in ice hockey at the Winter Olympics. A few months back Ryan and I talked about how fun it was to watch the Olympics online in 2010 with friends from the United States and in Canada. We also talked about what might happen this year if Team USA and Team Canada met for a rematch in Sochi. We joked with each other and provided some friendly trash talk. We also said if the matchup came about that we would have to put something on the line for a friendly Olympic bet. While Ryan has a great love for steeped tea from Tim Hortons, I tend to prefer the Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks. From this, the Olympic bet was born. So, if Team USA wins tomorrow, Ryan will be sending me a Starbucks gift card, and if Team Canada wins, I'll be shipping a Tim Horton's gift card his way.

So now it is your turn. We want to hear from you. Who's side are you on for our friendly wager? Do you have any wagers going on with your friends? What plans do you all have for the Olympic game tomorrow? We have seen everything from getting up at 7 to go to the bars to tailgating in the morning before the game is on television. Use the hashtag #PensInitiativeOlympicBet and sound off now, or leave us a comment below. Whatever happens tomorrow, remember to have fun and not forget we are only enemies for a few hours and we are all Pens fans at heart!

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The Road to a Rematch by @griffTHW

9:00:00 AM 0

At long last, it comes down to this.  Kind of.

Four years after the iconic tally that brought both relief and euphoria to all of Canada, the United States will finally seek revenge, hoping to skate past the Canadians on their way to Sochi's gold medal game.  And, while this contest lacks Vancouver's championship drama, it does provide the victor with an opportunity to shed the stigma of a North American national team that wilts on international-sized ice.

This time, though, expectations have shifted, at least for one country.  Sure, the Canadians have sites on taking home a second consecutive Olympic gold and, given their loaded roster, it's easy to see why.  But, for the Americans, four years and almost 6,000 miles have made a world of difference.  Because, while they may have overachieved in snagging the silver in 2010, simply medaling in Sochi won't cut it for this squad.  Indeed, the U.S. arrived in Russia with capturing gold in mind and anything less would prove a disappointment.
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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Outside Hockey Part 2: The Participant by @Nick422

4:00:00 PM 0
This is the second in a four part series on the different views of outdoor hockey.  Click here for Part 1.

Part 2: The Patricipant

I did it backwards.  I was born in Pittsburgh, PA.  I grew up outside of Harrisburg, PA.  I was 18 when I started playing ice hockey.  In Charleston, SC.  I never had the chance to play pond hockey growing up in the game.  I never knew if I'd had the chance but I longed for the opportunity.

Finally the chance came.

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#Sochi2014 Olympic Hockey Update: Quarterfinals Round

2:45:00 PM 0
The Final Four have been named in the 2014 Winter Games.  If you've DVR'd the games and want to watch without the ending ruined just know that this post has spoilers.

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Gut Czech for Team USA by @PandaPSU

9:57:00 AM 0

(Photo Courtesy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Other than a thrilling shootout victory over the host team in Russia, Team USA has steamrolled its way into the Quarterfinals. They outscored over matched teams in Slovenia and Slovakia by a combined 12-2. By all accounts, they have emerged as a gold medal contender, if not a favorite. They seem to be exuding confidence and are clicking in almost every aspect of the game. For these very reasons, Team USA should fear their noon matchup with the Czech Republic.
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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

#Sochi2014 Olympic Hockey Update: Elimination Round

5:40:00 PM 0
The end of preliminary rounds have arrived with the end of day five.  If you don't want to know what's ahead then don't click below because... Spoilers.

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Does Pittsburgh Deserve Bylsma? by @ChicksDigHockey

9:07:00 AM 13

 It must be hard to be a coach or sports figure in the contentious world of Pittsburgh sports. The rabid sports fans of Southwestern Pennsylvania demand an unattainable level of perfection and accountability that leaves little room for the frailties of mortality. 

I offer the example of Dan Bylsma. 

He made the mistake of coaching the Penguins to a Stanley Cup victory the same year he debuted as an NHL coach. Since then, he has had the audacity to coach the team to a playoff berth every year but has yet to bring the cup back to the ’Burgh. “Fire him!” was the cry after the abbreviated 2013 season. Yinzer Nation deserves better than the likes of Dan Bylsma. 

Or do they?

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Every Four Years - By: @LuigiLemieux

5:21:00 PM 0
Every Four Years

Article by Kyle Fritz (@LuigiLemieux) for Pens Initiative

6 AM Saturday Morning, 15th of February 2014.

The alarm was like a wakeup call from the front desk of Hell, considering I would not have to show up to work until later that afternoon.

More pressing matters to attend to now however. I needed to jump in the shower and wash the depression from another Valentine's Day massacre off my body, splash on some good ol' American Spirit, and head off to the bar.

I had a 7:30 AM date with destiny. We all did.

Normally a pre-dawn trip to your local watering hole would raise the suspicion of your friends and the trepidation of your loved ones. I have to admit, on the way there I thought to myself a couple of times "I guarantee I am the only dumbass that shows up." I was certain that the early start time for all of us along the Atlantic rather than the Black Sea would dissuade even the most die hard of Puck-heads and Patriots.

Like the British did back in 1775, it would seem that I underestimated the passion and strength of a well armed (and slightly intoxicated) militia.

As I walked through the door I stumbled sleepily into the warm embrace of my fellow Americans. The beer taps were opened and the bar tabs began, as the most excited group of hockey fans this side of the Monongahela River directed their attention to the screens on the wall. It was then that the Yanks, draped in red white and blue skated out to the displeased roar of a crowd all too aware of the history behind the two teams set to face off. If I had not have known better, I'd have thought it was 1980.

Although the Cold War is over and the Iron Curtain for the time being has been replaced by a slightly more progressive set of drapes, The animosity remains all the same. You could feel the tension between the two squads from the drop of the puck. The spirited group of 11,678 Russians packed into the Bolshoy Ice Dome, wanted nothing more than to wash away the horrid taste of being on the wrong side of a miracle that had happened 34 years prior in Lake Placid, New York.

Here on the home front, there was a special feeling all the same. Every four years we get to forget about our hatred of divisional rivals, throw away our ill-will towards any team not draped in whatever colors you and your city may call your own. Every Four years we get to come together as countrymen and cheer on our brothers and sisters, exploding with a certain kind of pride normally reserved for the rockets fired off on The Fourth of July.

Standing there at that bar I certainly could feel it. My heart sinking with every goal allowed, my spirit racing with every wave of the "U-S-A" chant. These are the moments that we should really savor. Because every four years is few and far between, and we never know who, what, or where we may be the next time we get to cheer on our team, America's Team.

Overtime came, and Overtime went. Here we were readying for a shootout. How fitting.

The crowd of bodies clad in varying homages to Old Glory stood at near-attention. Eyes glued on those screens as they had been all morning. The familiar face of Dan Bylsma standing behind the bench gave us Pittsburgh-Americans an even greater sense of pride if that is even possible. He readied his warriors, and sent in his shooters.

The first three Americans shot, as did the first three Russians, yet the outcome had not been sealed. The game was still not decided.

Enter T.J. Oshie.

Actually, enter T.J. Oshie 5 times in a Row.



Cue the napkin toss. Feel the splash of spilt draft beer on your face. Chant the initials of the nation you call your own.

Whether you were at the bar, sitting at home, or streaming live on your computer, take note of the emotions you felt. These moments in sports are special. something in all of us knows it. Although the political ramifications of the game on saturday were nothing like they were back in 1980, the emotional victory still rings as loud as the Liberty Bell.

So what the Soviet Bloc has fallen?

Who cares that the Game did not evoke the same "Good vs. Evil" storyline?

In this day and age, with the bulk of this Country seeking absolutely anything to cheer for, I know it sure made me feel good to see a bar packed with people, up before the Sun, bursting with pride that for some may not have been displayed in a long time.

This is what the Olympics are about. Games like these bring out the American Spirit in all of us that never actually left.

Have a blast with it, be loud, be over the top, show your true colors.

However you choose to celebrate make sure to Remember this moment, because Every Four Years is a long time indeed.

Go America.
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Riding Shotgun with Sidney Crosby by @ExcitedBobErrey

3:06:00 PM 0

Another Winter Olympics has begun, along with all the familiar traditions that accompany the games: an opening ceremony honoring the delegations of the participating nations, medal ceremonies honoring the top 3 finishers with the Gold Medal winners' national anthems playing, and Canadians (among others) complaining about Sidney Crosby. More specifically, the difficulty that comes along with trying to play alongside Crosby, as the line shuffling and lack of chemistry in Vancouver has spilled over into the Sochi games. But how much of this is a real problem, and how much is actually affecting Team Canada? Through 3 games Sidney Crosby has 2 assists and, more importantly, Team Canada has 3 wins, 8 points, and an automatic berth in the quarterfinals. The same criticisms were heard four years ago, yet Canada won the Gold and Crosby finished with 4 goals and 3 assists in 7 games, including a fairly important GWG.

Much of the criticism is over the top, and at the root a small bit does ring true, but is that any real surprise? With no games leading up to the Olympics and no on-ice action at the orientation camp, this is the first time most of these players have played together. While it's a factor everyone must deal with, it doesn't mean it's any less of an issue in this specific case. With the best players in the world participating in the Olympics, the players are going to skate faster and shoot harder, but having elite physical abilities doesn't necessarily translate into having an elite mental ability to process the game and break down the action. Sidney Crosby often makes things look routine playing hockey that the vast majority of players wouldn't even think to try, let alone be able to execute. It's much easier to play off a player that likes to shoot from a certain spot, or is good at crashing the net and getting to rebounds. But when a player is so well rounded that he can effectively beat a defense in a multitude of different ways, and what he decides to do is dependent on what he sees from the defense, AND he's reading the defense at a higher level than anyone else on the ice and seeing plays and options that no one else does, it's going to take a lot more than a handful of practices and 3 games to be able to keep up.

Just like in Vancouver, the constant shuffle of linemates doesn't help either. Jeff Carter started off playing on Crosby's wing, and he responded to his demotion in the second game by scoring a hat trick. Chris Kunitz was expected to help provide some stability on LW, but he's seemed tentative during action so far and hasn't been able to fully show why he deserves to be in Sochi on his own merit. Martin St Louis, Jamie Benn, and Patrice Bergeron have all been given a chance, and nothing so far has seemed to click. And the Canadian most likely to be able to step in and immediately click with Sidney Crosby is halfway across the globe. How badly could Team Canada use James Neal on Crosby's RW right now? Neal has one of the best shots in the NHL and, more importantly, has shown himself time and again to not only be able to keep up with a dangerous and unpredictable playmaking center, but to be able to thrive alongside that type of player. His familiarity with Sidney Crosby from the Pittsburgh Penguins would have only helped further, and he possesses the one intangible that is badly lacking on Crosby's wings: the ability to see the game the way Sidney Crosby sees it.

Unfortunately for Team Canada, James Neal isn't an option now, and a solution needs to be worked out with the players available in Sochi. And it needs to be a shared burden, by everyone involved. Asking Sidney Crosby to simplify his game would take away what makes him such a dangerous player, but adjusting his mindset could go a long way towards making the wingers fit. Crosby has registered 5 SOG through three preliminary round games. While he's undoubtedly at the top of his game when he can function as a playmaking center with scoring ability, this is someone who's a former Rocket Richard Trophy winner and 50 goal scorer. Serving as the primary shooter on his line is a role Sidney Crosby is more than qualified to handle, and while not his preferred method of attack it's still one he can execute at an elite level. In doing so Crosby won't have to simplify his game or change the things that make him more dangerous on the ice, but he does make it easier for his teammates, as it's much easier to be able to play with a scorer than trying to follow along and see what Crosby is seeing from the defense.

But the important thing to remember is that Team Canada has clinched a spot in the quarterfinals by winning all three of its preliminary round games, and even with the lack of chemistry on his line Sidney Crosby has helped get them to this point. The constant juggling of linemates certainly isn't helping the situation; if he doesn't have immediate chemistry with his wingers it's very unlikely he's going to be able to develop chemistry by the end of such a short tournament. But Sidney Crosby would do anything to help Canada win another Gold Medal, and transitioning from a playmaking to a scoring mentality would not only help Canada on its way to a repeat but would help solve the chemistry issue at the same time.
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#Sochi2014 Olympic Hockey Viewing Schedule Update

8:35:00 AM 0
The elimination rounds and here and the schedule heading forward has been announced.  Here are your listings for Tuesday and Wednesday's games for the United States and Canada.

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

#Sochi2014 Olympic Hockey Update: Day Five

3:15:00 PM 0
The end of preliminary rounds have arrived with the end of day five.  If you don't want to know what's ahead then don't click below because... Spoilers.

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Saturday, February 15, 2014

#Sochi2014 Olympic Hockey Update: Day Four

2:53:00 PM 0
We've made it through day four of the men's tournament.  Click below but if you want to watch later, especially the epic USA/Russia game, be wary:  Spoilers.

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Friday, February 14, 2014

Olli Maatta is becoming a superstar defenseman

10:27:00 PM 0

So far it's been good start to the Olympics for fans of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Jussi Jokinen and Olli Maatta have been tearing it up for the undefeated Team Finland. Evgeni Malkin is off to a good start for Russia, and Sidney Crosby got his first point on Friday for the undefeated Canadians. So far Maatta has stolen the spotlight from
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#Sochi2014 Olympic Hockey Update: Day Three

2:44:00 PM 0
Day three of the men's hockey tournament is over at Sochi and boy, where did the time go?!  Recaps are below!  Spoilers.  You know this, though.

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Penguins Valentines Day Cards

9:00:00 AM 1
Having trouble finding the right words to help express how you feel to the special someone in your life? Don't worry because Pens Initiative has you covered! Even if you are just looking for a laugh we feel that our Pittsburgh Penguins Valentines cards are perfect for the special Pens fan in your life!

Click Here for the Printable .pdf version!!!

Sidney Crosby

Marc Andre Fleury

Brooks Orpik

Jay Caufield

Evgeni Malkin

James Neal

Jussi Jokinen

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