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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Pick Your Poison by @Nick422

6:00:00 PM 0
It's a Game 7, one of three tonight in the NHL.  What makes this special?  It determines who the Penguins play in second round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.  Who do you want?  Well... it's not that easy.

(Associated Press)

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Changing Up the Lines: Changing the Penguins' Fortunes? by @DXTraeger

3:50:00 PM 0

Lost in the shuffle of Evgeni Malkin's game 6 heroics are the in-game adjustments made by head coach Dan Bylsma that enabled the Pittsburgh Penguins to finish off the pesky Columbus Blue Jackets and advance to the second round of the NHL playoffs.

That's right: "Bylsma."  "Adjustments."

Prior to Saturday night's 3-1 victory in game 5, the two words couldn't be used together in a sentence without the (Twitter) universe collapsing in on itself.  After Monday's series-clinching 4-3 victory, Bylsma deserves credit for generating a mix of lines that finally forced an opposing coach to have to counter, and when the dust settled, Columbus's Todd Richards had no answers for his former protege's moves.

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Video: Flyers fans fight at game 6

7:37:00 AM 0

 Say what you want about the fans at Consol Energy Center, but they usually don't act like animals. Pure trash. Stay class Flyers fans.
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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Pittsburgh Penguins: Three Things that Must Continue in Round Two by @griffTHW

5:17:00 PM 0

For a second consecutive year, the Penguins squared off against what most would consider a largely inferior first round opponent.  That's not meant as a knock on Columbus, a team clearly in store for an incredibly bright future.  It's just that the Blue Jackets figured to find themselves outmatched in terms of skill and experience, to struggle with a Pens team that dominated the regular season series between the two squads. 

The Penguins, however, hardly rolled over the Jackets, requiring six hard fought contests to finally eliminate their up-and-coming divisional rival.  Thus, after surviving a wildly entertaining series in which no lead appeared safe, the Pens will move on, preparing for either the Rangers or Flyers.

The exact recipe for success will depend on Pittsburgh's eventual opponent but, for now, we present three areas in which the Pens must continue to excel if the team hopes to find success in the next round.
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Penguins/Bluejackets Recap by @pghgirl15222

Buckle Up Baby! Penguins Move on to Round Two. by @ChicksDigHockey

9:00:00 AM 0

Few things are more exciting in sports than the quest for the Stanley Cup. Each year brings a new story of legends falling and underdogs excelling beyond expectation.  I never thought the Red Wings would exit with only one win nor that Crosby would be held without a goal in the series. 

The Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round seemed like a dream for the Penguins who had owned the Metropolitan division virtually all season. The Pens were rife with playoff experience while this Jackets' team was getting their first real taste of playoff hockey. In the end, the Jackets did not go gentle into that good night; they went kicking and screaming.

Many fans (this one included) breathed a sigh of relief when the Flyers and Rangers were paired for the first round rather than the Pens and Flyers. Let’s face it, for the past few seasons, the Flyers have been the ringworm on the Pens’ butts; gruesomely irritating but not deadly.

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Morning Drive: Radio:PI Postgame- 4/28/14

8:00:00 AM 0
Last night on Radio:PI Postgame Nick Case, Excited Bob Errey, Mad Chad, and Lee Sobotka all took their cracks at the Pens after barely beating the Blue Jackets 4-3 to win their first round series 4-2.

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Some Thoughts And Stats Regarding the Pens' Series Win Over Columbus

7:30:00 AM 0

The Pittsburgh Penguins are moving on to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the second straight season. The Pens eliminated the feisty Columbus Blue Jackets four games to two, in an extremely competitive and entertaining series. The Pens had a 4-0 lead in the third period, only to give up three straight goals in the third period. It was definitely a "Here we go again" moment. However the Pens prevailed and now they will meet the winner of the series between the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers.
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Monday, April 28, 2014

Only a Matter of Time for Crosby and Malkin by @PandaPSU

9:26:00 AM 0
(Photo courtesy of totalprosports.com)
If you would have told most Pens fans two weeks ago that the Pens secondary scoring and goaltending would be strengths in their first round matchup, many fans may have said the Pens would sweep the Blue Jackets. Most of those fans would have assumed Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin would not be held in check like they have been for much of this series. The good news is that the Pens are up 3-2 in the series with a potential series clinching game tonight in Columbus, and the better news is that is looks like it will only be a matter of time for Sid and Geno to breakout.
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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Thoughts On The PIttsbugh Penguins Heading Into Game 6 by @MadChad412

11:24:00 PM 0
With today's 24/7 news coverage of professional sports, athletes tend to do much talking, most of the time having their words not lead to much good. We always hear cliched statements from players and coaches saying  "This is going to change" and "We need to be better" etc... After the Penguins blew a 3-2 lead in game four last Wednesday, with only 30 seconds left, many their players told the media that the effort in game five would be better, and their head coach, Dan Bylsma, called out the entire team.
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Penguins/Bluejackets Recap by @pghgirl15222

11:30:00 AM 0

The good news for Penguins fans is that the team finally realized how to buckle up baby, properly. After an impressive 3-1 win the Penguins finally looked like the team many expected to see from Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Penguins had a lot to prove in this game. They were called out by their coach and fans alike. They have looked emotionless. They had to play 60 minutes and were running out of opportunities to do so.

The most impressive of the game was Marc-Andre Fleury. A lot of questions surrounded a guy, who last year, would have flopped after Game 4. The new, updated version was strong, and confident. He silenced everyone with his performance.

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Radio:PI with Special Guest Mayor @billpeduto

7:00:00 PM 0
Hosts Mike "Buzz Saw" Asti and Nick Case sat down with Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto to discuss the Pens first round woes, what can be done to fix things, what to do should things go sour, and more!

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Paul Martin: An Exception to an Underwhelming Series by @griffTHW

9:15:00 AM 0

The Pittsburgh Penguins are lucky.  They're lucky they find themselves knotted at two in a series in which they've largely been outplayed.  The club's stars continue to underperform, countless Penguins parade to the penalty box as a result of undisciplined play and the Blue Jackets consistently outwork an opponent seemingly content to win or lose based solely on their immeasurable talent.

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Pittsburgh Penguins: No Heart, No Balls by @ExcitedBobErrey

1:29:00 PM 6
No Magical Wizard Can Fix What Ails This Penguins Team

The Pittsburgh Penguins, at least the version that won the Stanley Cup in 2009, were not only a young team but one known for having a great locker room presence. Such a great presence that veteran Billy Guerin, a noted prankster, could fit right in and provide a needed leadership presence. The team was a young, tight-knit group that played a tough, rugged game under Michel Therrien and continued to compete their hardest when Dan Bylsma took over. Those 2007-08 and 2008-09 teams overcame the odds and doubts to win back-to-back conference titles and a Stanley Cup.

However, it seems that the locker room culture that was a such a integral part of those Penguins teams making SCF appearances has disappeared along with the team's ability to win playoff series. Michel Therrien has long since moved on, and it seems that many of the defensive teachings that made such an impact on that young team have gone with him. Defensive breakdowns have happened with varying frequency for the Penguins over the years, but bringing in Jacques Martin was supposed to fix those issues. The foundation for a strong team defense was supposed to be put in place, and that foundation certainly wasn't supposed to be crumbling around them against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Defenders are giving Blue Jackets players almost free reign through the slot, with Jack Johnson going so far as to taunt the Penguins through the media about how much space he had. A poor effort on the backcheck certainly hasn't helped, nor has the team telegraphing extremely low-chance passes the Blue Jackets have been able to transition the other way and attempting lazy behind the back passes to nobody in particular.

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Penguins V. Bluejackets Recap by @pghgirl15222

12:30:00 PM 0

I am not a huge believer in curses, but I am starting to believe in the dreaded 3-1 lead curse. It struck again last night in Columbus as the Pittsburgh Penguins were defeated by the Blue Jackets 4-3 in overtime.

The Penguins started the game off right in the first period, leading 3-0 after goals from Craig Adams, James Neal, and Chris Kunitz. The Penguins seemed to scale back and play largely on defense after that. In total the Penguins were out shot 46-25, and it showed. 

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Why Blaming Fleury is the Wrong Easy Answer by @PandaPSU

9:34:00 AM 14
(Photo courtesy of the sportingnews.com)
For 59 minutes and 38 seconds, Marc-Andre Fleury was playing one of the best playoff games of his career. After misplaying the puck on an ill-advised play behind the net, his entire fortune changed. He proceeded to let in a gimme shot by Nick Foligno and just like that the series was tied 2-2. For fans, it is a tough pill to swallow because the Pens were 22 seconds away from having a strangle hold on the series. The easy thing to do is to blame Fleury and call for Zatkoff, Vokoun, Hartzell, anyone but 29. As horrendous as those two goals were, if the Pens had won last night, it would have simply further masked the deeper issues with this team.

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Morning Drive: Radio:PI Postgame 4/23/14

9:29:00 AM 0
Last night on Radio:PI Postgame hosts Mike "Buzz Saw" Asti and Nick Case took a look at the horrible, gut wrenching Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.  And by not just making fart noises into the mic, they did more than the Penguins most of the game.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Marc-Andre Fleury Misplays A Puck at the End of the Game, Costs Pens The Lead/Game

10:49:00 PM 1
The Pittsburgh Penguins were about to win the game. The Columbus Blue Jackets were down 3-2 and had their goalie pulled in desperation. The Blue Jackets were bringing all night, outshooting the Pens 41-24 in regulation. Up until the last 24 seconds of the game, Marc-Andre Fleury was simply brilliant, stopping 39 of 41 shots. But then......this happened.
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Learn From It by @Nick422

4:22:00 PM 0
Monday night the Pittsburgh Penguins pulled off what seemed to be one of the most improbable playoff wins in franchise history.  Dead in the water for the first 39 minutes of game action, an unlikely hero emerged and the Penguins fought back to win 4-3 in a stunning display of offensive burst.

Is that good?

(Russell LaBounty/USA Today)

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Daniel Carcillo Scores Against The Flyers, Trolls All of Philadelphia

11:12:00 PM 6

Nothing says NHL playoffs quite like the Philadelphia Flyers losing. The New York Rangers defeated the Flyers in game three Tuesday night and now lead the series 2-1. In perhaps the biggest troll move of the playoffs Daniel Carcillo, ex-Flyer, scored the Ranger's fourth goal of the game and proceeded to taunt the Flyers' entire fan-base in Philly. Hilarity ensured as some guy in a Claude Giroux jersey was super butthurt and flipped Carcillo the double-bird. Never change Philadelphia, never change. Put a smile on your face as you go to sleep tonight Pens' fans.
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Jack Johnson Continues To Run His Mouth About the Pens

10:19:00 PM 3

It seems that at least one player always seems to have a need to run his mouth in professional sports. If you look through the history vaults, you will see countless examples of players trash-talking to the media, and most of the time it has come back to bite that player in the ass. (See Jeremy Stevens, of the Seattle Seahawks, leading up to Super Bowl XL.)
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This Week in Penguins History by @RobUllman

Rob Scuderi is Missing by @ChicksDigHockey

9:15:00 AM 1

I’m looking for Rob Scuderi. HAS ANYONE SEEN ROB SCUDERI??

There’s a guy wearing #4 for the Penguins who kinda looks like Scuds but if you watch him play, you know right away he’s an impostor. This guy stood next to the post Saturday night and watched a puck go in the net and was totally ineffective in the neutral zone. This #4 took minor penalties in 3 straight games. So, clearly not Scuderi. 
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Morning Drive: Radio:PI Postgame 4/21/14

8:54:00 AM 0
Last night on Radio:PI Postgame hosts Mike "Buzz Saw" Asti and Nick Case tried to figure out exactly what the hell happened in last night's 4-3 comeback win over the Columbus Blue Jackets to take a 2-1 series lead.

If you know what happened, please let us all know.

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Orpik Scores Amazing Goal, Yes Chant At Big Screen, Matt Cooke Killed Someone, Saddest Fan Pic Ever & More

11:58:00 PM 0
Hello Darkness My Old Friend 

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Little Man, Big Game: Brian Gibbons by @PandaPSU

1:00:00 PM 0
(Photo courtesy of the PostGazette.com)
After watching Game 1 last Wednesday night, my mind was made up that Brian Gibbons would be the feature of my weekly piece. Gibbons has already shown in his first two NHL playoff games what he can bring to the table for the Pens. He's skated under the radar for most of the season, and for good reason. He has a lot going against him... a small frame at 5'8" and 170-ish pounds, and trying to find playing time on a team of superstars and veterans. Yet he has proven his worth to this team throughout the season time and time again.
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Concerning Stats and Efforts Regarding Crosby, Malkin, and Others by @MadChad412

8:00:00 AM 1

Sidney Crosby is the best hockey player in the world. Since he has been in the national hockey league, he's won two scoring titles, a Hart Trophy, two gold medals in the Olympics, and has captained a Stanley Cup championship team. Crosby has accomplished all of this by the age of 26. Crosby leads all active players in career points-per-game for both the regular season and the postseason.
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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Claude Giroux Thinks The Flyers Get Two Points For Winning A Playoff Game

It's Time To Win A Robert Bortuzzo Jersey From PI and @TotalSportsEnt

9:54:00 AM 0
Last Sunday, we revealed the rules for the Pens Initiative/Total Sports Enterprises Easter Egg Hunt. Simply put, all you had to do was look for all-capitalized words while reading Pens Initiative articles throughout the week.

Today is the day that you can tell us what those Easter Eggs were and enter yourself to win an autographed Robert Bortuzzo jersey, courtesy of the folks at TSE. Simply fill out the form below by listing the Easter Eggs by 12:00 AM Eastern on April 21st (That's Easter Sunday night) and our winner will be announced Monday via facebook, twitter and an article on PensInitiative.com.


If you're not 100% certain that you've collected all of the Easter Eggs, or would just like to be certain that you did, here's a little cheat sheet:

On Tuesday, Liz reposted a classic guide to Surviving a Deep Playoff Run - and added one Egg.

Nick Case added one more to the Easter Egg count when he covered a wide-spread, universal and time-honored dislike of Pierre McGuire on Wednesday.

Thursday, Sean Griffin covered Kris Letang's return and it's relation to the playoffs while adding one Easter Egg.

Friday night, Milan Lucic checked out Danny DeKeyser's Easter Eggs and Saturday, PI added 3 more Eggs of their own to the mix. Nick Case found video of Lucic's training regimen and revealed TWO Eggs. Later in the afternoon, Lee Sobotka added another Egg as he reawakened the nightmare that WAS the X-Generation.

So there you have it. Do your research, if you need to, and enter to win.

And, most of all, thank you for joining us at PensInitiative.com!
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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Do You Remember? by @LCJS

6:49:00 PM 0

It's incredible how long ago 2004 feels.  In the midst of the X-Generation, the Pens were a terrible team that sold off all of their talent in order to keep the lights in Mellon Arena on.

Ten years ago was the season before Sidney Crosby was a Penguin and the team was in the gutter.  During an 18-game losing streak that year, the Pens went 0-17-1.  Hell, in the first 62 games, they had a putrid 11 wins.

They ended that last season before the lockout 23-47-8-4.

Dick Tarnstrom led the team in points with 52.  Yes, a defensemen led the team in points.  Compare that number to the number of goals scored by Malkin or Neal in recent seasons.  Ryan Malone, not exactly known for having an elite skill-set, led the team in goals with 22.

The crazy bad numbers just keep going.  Do you remember who led the team in wins that year?  Of course you do!  It was Sébastien Caron who led the team with a whopping 9... count 'em, 9 wins, and 24 losses.  Fleury had 4 wins that year... with 14 losses.  Granted, he was only a rookie.

Orpik and Scuderi were on the '03-'04 team, but neither did anything remarkable - though they aren't the types to put up points.  It should also be noted that Mario Lemieux played for that team, logging 1 goal and 8 assists in 10 games.  Not exactly his best performance.

The Penguins scored 190 goals.

They gave up 303.

The days of Milan Kraft and Rico Fata are gone...

...and somehow you would think that things are as bad as ever.

These days, success is expected; so the fan base foolishly raises the alarm when a little patience is all that is required.  It's not even a matter of the team playing badly for a game, as I've seen people raise the alarm after a bad shift.

Is this what we've come to as a fan base?

Are we that spoiled?

As a certain Mad Chad is fond of saying: "Yinzers gonna yinz."

In reality, it's easy to expect the best from a team with this much talent.  With the likes of Crosby and Kunitz, Malkin and Neal, Letang and Martin, Batman and Robin, Tango and Cash, The McMannus Brothers... the list goes on and on. However, we should remember and be thankful for that very same talent, as it wasn't that long ago we had Eddie Olczyk patrolling the bench and Kris Beech was a big part of "the future."

We must remember that Fleury isn't the worst goalie to ever don a blocker.  Adams isn't always a waste of a roster spot.  Letang isn't worthless.

While there are times they have bad games, or bad streaks of games, it's not as if these are terrible players who don't belong on the ice.  Just 10 years ago the Pens were suiting up far worse talent.

That team sported the likes of Lasse Pirjeta, RAMZI ABID and Andy Chiodo.  I'll forgive you if you don't exactly remember them very well.

Let's do our best to try and remember during these playoffs that this Pens team (when healthy) can be as good as any Pittsburgh has put on the ice.  Be thankful that the X-Generation is but a memory, ten years old.  Enjoy the present while it lasts and root on the Pens to make these fresh memories great!

Save the alarms for when the next Matt Murley comes along.
Lee can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/lcjs
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EXCLUSIVE FOOTAGE: Inside Milan Lucic's Training

11:31:00 AM 0
We at Pens Initiative have obtained EXCLUSIVE footage into the training regimen of the Boston Bruins' Milan Lucic!  Click below for the SHOCKING footage!

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Lucic Spears a Guy in the Balls, Quenneville Grabs His Balls, And Datsyuk Scores Amazing Goal

10:29:00 PM 1
Folks, the NHl playoffs have only been going on for three nights, and they have already been amazing. So far, six of the first nine games of the playoffs have been decided by one goal. The games have been super exciting and competitive so far. If this is any indication of how the rest of the playoffs are going to be, hockey fans across the world are in for a treat.
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Radio:PI 4/17/14 with @jmarshfof

12:12:00 PM 0
Last night on Radio:PI, Mad Chad and Brian Blystone sat down with Jesse Marshall of faceoff-factor.com to discuss Pens/Blue Jackets, the NHL playoffs, and the Penguins going forward.

Don't forget that Radio:PI comes to you LIVE all playoffs long with shows immediately following the conclusion of every game!

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Some Thoughts About the Pens after Game 1 (And A Story About Nachos) by @MadChad412

11:13:00 PM 0

The Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets in game one Wednesday night, by a score of 4-3. The Pens came out flat, but did a good job of being resilient in the face of adversity, which is mostly due to thanks to their leadership, talent, and playoff experience. In the first period, you would have thought that the Blue Jackets were the more experienced team. The Blue Jackets came out, looked better than the Pens, and took a 3-1 lead. The Pens looked flat, especially on defense, having breakdown after breakdown, and couldn't seem to muster any  offense.
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Kris Letang: Raising the Bar for Playoff Hopes by @griffTHW

9:00:00 AM 2

As we begin the 2014 postseason, the Penguins find themselves in somewhat unfamiliar territory.  For the first time in several years, not many consider Pittsburgh one of the true favorites to hoist the Stanley Cup at season's end.  Indeed, question marks about goaltending, depth and injuries combined with uninspired play down the stretch, producing no shortage of doubters.  Whether the Pens struggled as a result of a plethora of injuries that finally caught up to them, fatigue or a lack of meaningful contests late in the campaign, the sputtering squad's recent play has produced lower than normal expectations for a fan base thirsting for another championship.

One reason for optimism, however, comes as a result of the team returning to health at just the right time.  With Evgeni Malkin and Joe Vitale back on the ice, the forward unit finds itself virtually as healthy as it's going to get.  And, while that will certainly serve to make this Pittsburgh team more dangerous, it's the recent return of Kris Letang along the blue line that may provide the biggest impact.

Consider the following:

The Transition Game

When executed properly, Dan Bylsma's system utilizes the speed, precision and skill of one of the league's most talented teams.  It's designed to get the puck out of the Pittsburgh end quickly, with blue liners ideally finding the club's skilled forwards streaking out of the zone with speed. Love it or hate it, the system brings with it the potential to play to the strengths of the some of the game's most talented players.

When both Paul Martin and Kris Letang found themselves out of the lineup, though, the squad suffered mightily.  Without the gifted puck moving defensemen on the ice, the Pens' transition game struggled.  The squad frequently found itself hemmed in its own end, helpless to break out in an effort to turn defense into offense.

With Letang (and Martin) back in the fold, however, the Pens' transition game becomes much more lethal.  The former-Norris finalist's skating ability makes his puck retrieval second to none, while his vision and puck moving skills allow him to hit speeding teammates in stride as they move up ice.  What's more, if there's no real play available, he's more than capable of skating the puck out of danger. 

Is he occasionally guilty of turning the puck over?  Absolutely.  But he also makes life a lot easier for Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the rest of the Pittsburgh forwards.  And, if life becomes easier for them, it follows that life gets better for the Penguins.

Offensive Production

It's no secret that one of the Penguins' greatest weaknesses results from their lack of forward depth.  While the club boasts two of the most explosive lines in hockey, it also employs a bottom-six that struggles to produce offense. 

As a result, it's crucial that defensemen chip in an effort to supplement offensive production.  And, while Matt Niskanen admirably produced a career high in goals (10), assists (36) and points (46) while anchoring a depleted unit for much of the year, it's the dynamic Letang who provides the Pens' greatest offensive punch from the blue line.

Whether it's his propensity for jump starting the transition game, his ability to join the rush or his acumen for lighting the lamp in crucial situations, Letang provides a vital offensive presence from the back end. 

Perhaps that's why, despite only playing in 37 games this year, he led all Pittsburgh defensemen with 11 tallies.  It's why, after missing two and a half months and returning for the final three contests of the year, he recorded a goal and three assists.  Sure, it's a small sample size but it serves to illustrate just how lethal Letang can be with the puck. 

If he can add even close to that kind of production in the POSTSEASON, it could help mask one of Pittsburgh's most glaring deficiencies.

Eating the Big Minutes

One of Letang's greatest qualities comes in the form of his ability to log so many minutes.  His incredible work ethic and freakish stamina allow him to seemingly remain on the ice all night.  Even after suffering the stroke that cost him 26 games, Letang returned to action without a hitch.

"At one point in the game I looked at him and he didn’t have a drop of sweat on him. He’s got a unique and rare condition and skating ability. He’s been out a long time, he’s been out a couple months and he looked pretty darn good out there defending, defending against good players and playing hard. He made some good plays and made a difference in the game.” - Dan Bylsma, on Letang's impressive return to the lineup
When healthy, "Tanger" (24:14) is second only to Paul Martin (24:34) in average ice time amongst Pittsburgh skaters.  He plays in all situation, provides a bit of a nasty streak and relies on his nearly unmatched skating ability to matchup against the NHL's elite.
"You see it offensively, but even defensively, being able to skate and match up against other team's good skill players with their speed, it's unique and it's a spectacle." - Dan Bylsma, on the importance of Letang's skating ability
Not only does eating up all those minutes and playing against the best the NHL has to offer provide the Pens with a defenseman who serves to help control a game, it creates a trickle down effect that simultaneously benefits the rest of the defensive unit.  Because, while the defense performed admirably for much of the season, it was clear that the group started to wear down as the campaign marched on.  With Letang and Martin back to perform the heavy lifting, though, fellow blue liners will benefit from an opportunity to finally spread the minutes around, to escape the weight of replacing the club's top puck moving defensemen.  As a result, the Penguins may find themselves with a sharper, more efficient group in front of Marc-Andre Fleury.

And, if that proves to hold true, the Pens may find more postseason success than many anticipate.
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Morning Drive: Radio:PI Postgame 4/16/14

8:00:00 AM 0
As we do every year during the post season we do a live edition of Radio:PI after every single game, win or lose.  Last night's 4-3 win over Columbus in Game 1 was no different.  Listen in as Evil Shero and Mike "Buzz Saw" Asti share their thoughts, and your thoughts, on the Pens first post season game of the 2014 season.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Penguins Playoff Preview with @JoshYohe_Trib and @MikeColligan by @PandaPSU

4:00:00 PM 0

Mike Colligan and Josh Yohe were nice enough to take some time out of their busy schedules leading up to the Pens opening first-round series with Columbus to give us a glimpse into their crystal balls of what will be the keys for the Pens this series, and who they predict will be drinking from Lord Stanley come this time in June. We would love to hear your comments with your own predictions for any of the topics mentioned. Enjoy and Let's Go Pens!
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Know Your Columbus Blue Jackets by @ExcitedBobErrey

2:18:00 PM 2

The playoffs are finally here after a regular season that saw the Penguins never seriously challenged by the rest of the Metropolitan Division, and with perfect timing the NHL has changed the first two rounds of the playoffs to a divisional format. The first victim: the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Left) Joke organizations usually have joke mascots
Right) BOOM goes the penis-shaped cannon mascot!
If you're not too familiar with the Blue Jackets, it's because they first started play as an expansion team during the 2000-01 season and have remained mostly irrelevant ever since. The team featured a hornet as its mascot for 10 years until someone in the organization finally realized the team wasn't named after a weird colored bee but the blue jackets worn by union soldiers during the Civil War. While fighting that war in this day and age is usually left to the South, I'm sure Ohio is white trash enough to pull it off. Speaking of pulling off, I'm sure the person who designed the new mascot is still laughing hysterically that he managed to get the team to accept a giant penis as its new mascot.

The Penguins play the Blue Jackets at Left) Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh
Right) Nationwide Arena in Columbus
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Radio:PI Playoff Preview featuring @Dejan_Kovacevic

10:09:00 AM 0
Last night on a special playoff preview edition of Radio:PI, host Brian Blystone sat down with THE Dejan Kovacevic to discuss the Pens, the playoffs, and much more.

Don't forget that Radio:PI goes LIVE after every game throughout the playoffs with the thoughts of our writers and you!

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

No One Has Ever Liked Pierre McGuire by @Nick422

6:19:00 PM 5
No matter the side you fall on when it comes to Cygate, if you will, there's one universal truth: No one likes Pierre McGuire.  This is a tradition that goes back decades according to this great, old article from The Hartford Currant.

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A Penguin Fan’s Guide to Surviving a Deep Cup Run by @ChicksDigHockey

9:00:00 AM 0

Hockey gets it right when it comes to championship playoffs. Best out of seven is the perfect format. It takes devotion and dedication to make a deep run for the Cup. The stress, the overtimes, the inevitable hockey fatigue all take their toll on the fan. I can only imagine how the players get through it.

It takes grit and determination to survive four rounds of playoff hockey. Here are a few tips to help you persevere so that you can function in your daily life while still remaining in the game:

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Pittsburgh Penguins 2013-2014 Playoffs: Spotlight is on Fleury, Bylsma by @MadChad412

9:35:00 PM 0

The 2013-2014 regular season is over. For many fans and critics, whatever happened in those 82 games no longer matters nor will it be remembered. In Pittsburgh, when it comes to the Penguins, anything less than a Stanley Cup is considered a failure. That has been the case ever since Ray Shero became general manager and the Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2008-2009. Since then, despite the team having one of the most talented rosters in the league, year-in year-out, they have only made it past the second round of the playoffs just once in four seasons. That's not going to cut it, not with the expectations that this franchise has. 

So who is the spotlight on the most? Well, of course you can say it's always on the team's captain, who happens to be the best player in the world and the current scoring champion of the league. That would be Sidney Crosby in case you couldn't guess it. Crosby always has the spotlight on him, no matter what game he's playing in. Last year, Crosby failed to tally one point in a four-game sweep at the hands of the Boston Bruins in the eastern conference finals. To be honest, that's simply unacceptable for the best player in the world. Hard to believe Michael Jordan going down like that in his prime. I'm sure Crosby would agree. 

Crosby seems to have been on a mission all year. He won the scoring title in the NHL, and helped Canada win the Gold medal for the second consecutive Winter Olympics. By the way, Crosby has scored a goal in each of the last two gold medal games. Crosby wants to be the best and wants to win the Stanley Cup, with the recent playoff failures the last four years, you have to believe Crosby is going all out and pulling off yet another epic performance. It was also nice to see Crosby get some much needed rest towards the end of the season. 

Dan Bylsma 

Who else? Well, there's the polarizing head coach, Dan Bylsma, who gets fired on social media on a daily basis. The fact is, the head coach of any team is one of the easiest targets when it comes to blaming. Byslma certainly has his flaws. His lack of using match-ups during games is certainly a part of his coaching repertoire that I could do without. Past examples would be not getting Crosby away from Zdeno Chara during last year's conference final, and not being able to get Evgeni Malkin away from Sean Couturier two years ago against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Bylsma won the Stanley Cup with the Pens in 2008-2009 after taking over as interim head coach for Michelle Therrien. Since Bylsma has been the full-time head coach, the Pens are three-and-four in playoff series, which includes two first-round exits in back-to-back-seasons. For the record, Bylsma was out-coached badly in last year's conference finals, and against the Flyers the year before. Despite the humiliating loss to the Bruins last postseason, general manager Ray Shero decided to not only not fire Bylsma, but re-signed him to a multi-year deal. 

So far, bringing back Bylsma has been a great move by Shero. Bylsma coached a great season, helping the Pens finish second in the eastern conference for the second straight season. The Pens also won their division, despite having the most injured team in the entire NHL, totaling over 500 man-games missed due to injuries and illness. A lot of those injuries were key players as well, including Pascal Dupuis, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Paul Martin, Beau Bennett, and James Neal, all of whom missed 20-or more games. That in a year where the Pens already had the least amount of quality depth on the roster since 2006-2007. 

Bylsma not only pulled off another great season, but he also became the fastest coach in NHL history to win 200 games. His resume includes a Stanley Cup, fastest coach to win 200 games, and a Jack Adams Award for coach of the year, and that's with just five full seasons of experience. Maybe that's why Josh Yohe of the Tribune-Review told me the other night on our podcast that "If Bylsma were fired from the Penguins, at least five teams would call him in 15 minutes. ". I don't think that's farfetched at all. The players also seem to love him, as many have included him in their reasonings for signing or re-signing with the team.

However, every coach has their shelf-life in the world of professional sports. Especially in the NHL, where we've seen teams have more than two coaches in one season. Hell, look at the Pens, who fired their coach in midseason in 2008-2009, just a season removed from a Stanley Cup finals appearance. That's how Bylsma got the job in the first place. Despite the fact that I've been told by multiple sources that cover the team that it would take "Something drastic" to happen for Byslma to lose his job, there is without a doubt a huge spotlight shining on him this postseason. If the team has another meltdown, it will be hard to argue replacing him with some fresh blood. Reports are that the Pens truly believe that Byslma is their guy, so I think if he at least gets to the conference finals again he's safe. 

Travis Hughes/SBNation.com

Marc-Andre Fleury 

Speaking of being blamed for everything that goes wrong with the Penguins, I present to you Pens' goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. In football, the quarterback also gets the blame when the team loses, in hockey, at least in Pittsburgh, the goalie takes over that role. It seems that there are only two different crowds in the Penguins' fan-base when it comes to Fleury; one that blames every single goal on him, and the other crowd that comes to his defense every time a goal is scored. The truth lies somewhere in the middle.

I can not defend Fleury's last two postseason performances. The team in front of him was extremely talented and he simply imploded. Two years ago, Fleury gave up 26 goals in just six games, which is an NHL record. Fleury followed that up with another brutal performance last year, allowing 14 goals in four games, and went 2-2. The Pens pulled Fleury in favor of Tomas Vokoun. Hindsight is 20/20, but it's hard to imagine the Pens getting to the conference finals the way that Fleury was playing.

"There's always tomorrow" would fit with the Fleury story. Four straight playoff disappointments have caused the spotlight to not only be shining on Fleury, but for most Pens fans to feel uneasy, as they don't quite know what to expect from him in the 2013-2014 playoffs. There certainly is a reason for fans to be pessimistic when it comes to the French goaltender, however, there are also many reasons to think he can finally play up to his standards. 

Fleury is a good goalie, and one of the most talented goalies in the NHL. His resume and highlights speak for themselves. Fleury is a former All-Star and Stanley Cup champion, who has also won 288 regular season games before the age of 30. In the 2007-2008 playoffs, Fleury was incredible, helping the Pens reach the Stanley Cup finals while posting a magnificent .933 save percentage. In 2008-2009, Fleury helped the Pens win the Stanley Cup, and was lights out in the final two games against the Detroit Red Wings, only allowing two goals on fifty-one shots. Fleury was the hero in game 7, stopping 23-of-24 shots, including the infamous save on Nicklas Lidstrom as time expired.

What Fleury will the Pens get this time around? Will they get the Fleury that seems to panic, that looks like a deer in headlights, giving up soft goal after soft goal? Or will they get the hero from game seven against Detroit? In the meantime, Fleury continues to be one of the best and most consistent goaltenders in the NHL during the regular season, but as we all know, the playoffs are what matters.  Speaking to Mr. Josh Yohe, he told me that "The Penguins players and management have nothing but belief when it comes to Fleury" and that "Fleury looks completely focused and motivated", well the entire fan-base hopes so. Fleury has a real chance to redeem himself from his recent failures, but another one could end his up-and-down career in Pittsburgh once and for all. 

Kris Letang: 

Kris Letang is a high profile player, even more so since he is only three games removed from being out of the lineup due to a stroke. Talking to people around the team, Letang is at no more risk of getting hurt than you or I. Letang takes a ton of heat in Pittsburgh, easily being one of the most consistently criticized players on the team. Add the fact that Letang was re-signed to a $58 million deal that kicks in after this season, and the stroke, and you have a player that will have a ton of eyes on him. 

It should be mentioned that Letang has looked incredible since he's returned to the lineup. He's definitely one of the best conditioned athletes on the team and arguably in the league. He's already shown how much he can help the Pens in their transition game; and by getting the puck out of their zone, which has been a huge problem for this team all season. The Pens do need some more offense from their blue-line, and Letang, who had 11 goals in just 37 games (On pace for 24 in 82 games) also had 16 points in 15 games last postseason, which is exactly what they need from him agains this year. Just maybe without the erratic defensive play. There is also worry that Letang will be targeted because of his stroke, which Bylsma has already came out and talked about publicly. 

Rob Scuderi: 

Rob Scuderi was brought back for one reason, and that's to help the team play good defense in the playoffs. Scuderi was a hero for the Pens during the cup run in 2008-2009, and then left for free-agency. Scuderi then won another cup with the Los Angeles Kings, and re-signed with the Pens this past offseason. Scuderi has a bad year during the regular season, but he was brought in for the playoffs. If he falters, that contract is going to begin to look worse and worse. 

James Neal: 

James Neal had an interesting season. He got suspended for five games, after he kneed Brad Marchand in the face.  He was left off of Team Canada, and missed 23 games total. His discipline was earning him well deserved criticism and he's fully developed into a heel across the NHL. That being said, he is still a very productive offensive player, averaging over a point-per-game. I have heard rumblings that the Pens would be willing to trade Neal if the right deal came along, if Neal continues his negative ways, take bad penalties and making dirty hits, there's a chance he can play himself out of Pittsburgh. 

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2:30:00 PM 0

For our birthday celebration, Pens Initiative will be running a contest to win the signed Mario Lemieux Sports Illustrated Cover. 

Winning is easy. Simply log on to the play-off-hockey challenge on ESPN (link below) and enter the private group information: Pens Initiative Challenge. The password is: Mario66Prize

Enter your information (registering is easy and free) and pick your players! Please use your twitter handle for your contest name so that we can contact you easily if you win. If you don’t have twitter, please use your full Facebook name so we can message you.

The Winner will be announced at the end of the playoffs. In case of a tie we will ask the top five contestants to pick a playoff MVP before it is announced. Winner will be the proud owner of the signed cover!

Here is the link: http://games.espn.go.com/playoff-hockey-challenge/2014/en/groupfind

The winner will be announced on www.pensinitiative.com as well as on our Twitter and Facebook.

Good luck!

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Was 2014 Ray Shero's Greatest Trade Deadline? by @PandaPSU

9:00:00 AM 0
(Photo courtesy of PittsburghMagazine.com)
Ray Shero is widely regarded as one of the NHL's greatest GMs. He was very successful in Nashville, leading the club to their first playoff appearance and setting the table for their 2005-06 season where they broke the 100 point mark. During his tenure with the Penguins, he helped keep the franchise in Pittsburgh instead of relocating, and in 2009, he helped the team achieve their first Stanley Cup since 1992. He also made some trades that turned out to be incredibly lopsided in the Penguins' favor. No trade deadline may have been more impressive than this season.

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Win an Autographed Robert Bortuzzo Jersey in PI's Easter Egg Hunt!

12:00:00 PM 0
How would you like to own an autographed Robert Bortuzzo jersey?

As part of our month-long birthday celebration - and thanks to the generous folks at TSE (@totalsportsent on twitter) - Pens Initiative is giving our faithful readers the chance to win exactly that.

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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Infamous Pens' Fan Gets Booted From Game by NBC- Mike Milbury Crushes Penguins

6:01:00 PM 20

Grass is green, the sky is blue, and Pittsburgh Penguins fans are complaining about the NBC coverage of their team. NBC has apparently done two different things to piss off Pens fans today. One is the completely biased lashing that "analyst" (And I use that term lightly) Mike Milbury gave the Penguins. The other was lifelong and infamous Penguins' fan, Cy Clark, aka Malkamania.

Apparetnly, Mr. Clark was kicked out of Saturday's game because of he brought in a large sign of NBC analyst Pierre McGurie's head, with Pierre's real name Regis on it. I asked Cy what happened, "yes I held up a Pierre Mcguire head with Regis on it, ushers come over and said we need to take that".

"I cant talk so my nephew went to say why, there is no swear word. Then they asked for all of my signs, I said they are not swearing on them,  then I was told that NBC wants me to leave. On the way upstairs I lost my breathe, and went to first aid, I was ok, and my nephew and I left". - Cy

Just unreal. Cy is a good man and a lifelong fan of this team. Cy is blaming the NHL and NBC entirely, but others have pointed out that the Penguins' organization are the main ones in charge. If everything that Cy told us is true, then there is a major problem with the NBC and Pierre McGurie if they are that thin skinned.

Some people on the internet are bashing the Penguins as well.  Does NBC have the ability to kick someone out of the game? Who's final call is that, the Penguins or NBC? Is this a censorship concern? The sign didn't say anything offensive, no foul language, it simply had the name "Regis" on the front. If you pay for tickets and you're not breaking any rules should you be kicked out for a sign? Was anyone near Cy upset about the sign? 

And here is Mike Milbury doing his normal neanderthal-style bashing of the Penguins. He makes almost zero sense, and even contradicts some of his previous opinions concerning the Penguins. Yes we understand that by talking about Milbury we are just helping he and NBC get more recognition but we also like to point out just how awful he truly is. Hockey fans deserve better than for Milbury to be one of the leading analysts in the sport.

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