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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Who is Oskar Sundqvist? by @ChicksDigHockey

2:51:00 PM 0




The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed forward Oskar Sundqvist to a three-year entry-level contract....Who is Oskar Sundqvist?
Sundqvist is a 20 yr old  6’3” Center from Boden Sweden. He was drafted 81st overall ( 3rd round) in the 2012 Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins.  At only 190#, he needs to bulk up a bit for the NHL but already has a reputation for having a nasty disposition on the ice; he takes a lot of penalties  In Sweden he has been touted for his skating and offensive skillsHe spent the 2013-2014 season with Skelleftea in the Swedish Elite League. He was a contributor to their postseason championship play with six points (4G-2A) in 13 playoff contests in 2013-14. Sundqvist, represented Sweden at the 2014 World Junior Championships, scoring twice in seven games while helping the Swedes earn a silver medal.

That’s all well and good but……Who IS Oskar Sundqvist? For that info, we went to Pittsburgh’s preeminent hockey prospect guru, Ian Altenbaugh, the Eastern Conference editor & a contributing writer at Hockey's Future:


PI: What’s the scoop with Oskar’s penchant for penalties?
Altenbaugh: The issue with penalties was more a problem when he was a Jr player. Oskar has mostly behaved himself on the ice this season.
PI: Where do you see him fitting on a team?
Altenbaugh: Sundqvist has an infectious personality off the ice & plays a smart two way game. Huge man with good hockey IQ. Projects as a third liner, could be a top nine guy if offense continues to come around.
PI: How’s his shot?
Altenbaugh: Puts whole body into his slap shot, nice wrister too.
PI: What improvements would you like to see him make?
Altenbaugh: He needs to round out his offensive game. He played mostly as a shutdown guy at WJC & in SHL. Exploded offensively in SHL playoffs.
          PI: Thanks, Ian.

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Does Marc-Andre Fleury Still Belong in Pittsburgh? by @griffTHW

11:18:00 PM 1
For over nine years, Marc-Andre Fleury has patrolled the Pittsburgh crease, helping transform the Penguins from a laughing stock into one of the NHL's most successful squads.  Along the way, he's backstopped his club to back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals, reached the pinnacle of the sport in 2009 and broken numerous franchise records.  Not yet 30 years old, The Flower sits poised to capture his 300th victory early next season, a milestone achieved at the game's highest level by only 29 other individuals.

And, yet, Fleury's future with the Pens remains very much in doubt.  With a single year left on his deal, the emergence of a new regime on the horizon and a tumultuous summer bearing down like a freight train, there's no telling how much longer the affable but oft-maligned goaltender will suit up for a franchise that made him the first overall pick of the 2003 draft.

So, the question becomes, once that new regime takes over, will the Penguins hold on to Fleury?

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Mike Milbury for Pens GM

7:00:00 PM 5

Another day goes by as the Pittsburgh Penguins search for a new general manager to replace the fired Ray Shero, and things still appear to be in the preliminary stages. WPXI had listed Pierre McGuire as a potential hire on last night's news, a candidacy we explored in depth on this site, but McGuire denied any interest in the job, saying on TSN radio the reason was "because honor matters to me". McGuire has seemed to withdraw himself from the search, and his lack of experience would have worked against him anyways, but it's entirely possible that Dave Morehouse could stay within the NBC organization as he tries to come up with a short list of candidates. Mike Milbury, the longtime GM of the New York Islanders, has the experience that Pierre McGuire lacks on his resume, and there's no telling what direction a non-hockey guy like Morehouse could go in. If Morehouse wants to explore non-traditional avenues in his search for the best man for the job, he could decide to bring in Milbury. With that being said, we take a look into Mike Milbury's candidacy:

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Pierre McGuire for Pens GM

7:57:00 PM 0

As the Penguins continue to move forward in the wake of firing Ray Shero, the task now falls to Dave Morehouse to assemble a list of candidates for the vacant GM position and find the best man for the job. WPXI Pittsburgh has come up with their own short list of candidates on tonight's news, which leads us to take a look into the candidacy of one Pierre McGuire:

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Interview with @fleroux18 by @evil_shero with thanks to @yajagoff

1:00:00 PM 0









I attended the PEMF (Pittsburgh Emergency Medical Fund) Hang with the Pros event sponsored by +Ya Jagoff last Saturday and I was able to fulfill one of my childhood dreams by interviewing one of my favorite players, Francois Leroux. You can bask in my Leroux love HERE or just enjoy the post below.


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Ryan Miller is Not Marc Andre Fleury's Successor by @ChicksDigHockey

9:24:00 AM 3



Do the Penguins have a goaltender problem or a back-up goaltender problem? I think they have a back-up goalie issue but was shocked to see some Pens' fans fantasize about picking up Ryan Miller.

The St. Louis Blues have elected to let Ryan Miller go to free-agency. The Blues acquired Miller and Steve Ott in late February from the Buffalo Sabres for Jaroslav Halak, Chris Stewart, prospect William Carrier, a first-round draft pick in 2015 and a third-round pick in 2016. (USA) Turns out he was a rental.

 Miller has long made it clear long made it clear that he’d welcome a move to Southern California to make life easier for his wife, actress Noureen DeWulf. Do any of the California teams need him?

Should the Penguins explore a deal with Miller? How would a Miller/Fleury pairing even look?
Wait....No one is suggesting the Penguins give up Fleury….right?

What  BETTER goalie  is available? Who would make you say, "Let him go"? Many of you step up with much bravado to call for coaches to be fired and major players to be traded but if you’re getting rid of Marc Andre Fleury shouldn't it be for someone clearly better for the job?


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Morning Drive: Radio:PI Post Season with @OtherNHLCrosby

8:00:00 AM 0
Last night on the final new Radio:PI of the season hosts Mike Asti and Nick Case were joined by NHL.com's Penguins correspondent Wes Crosby.  They talked press box food, the past of the Penguins, the Pens to come and much more!


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Monday, May 19, 2014

Lemieux, Burkle Handling Transition the Right Way by @ToonsBrian

9:00:00 AM 0


Last week, the Pittsburgh Penguins made waves that reached across the National Hockey League by firing Head Coach Dan Bylsma and General Manager Ray Shero.

Except that’s not how it happened at all. In fact, the Penguins ownership’s decision to fire Shero and only Shero shocked the media – who had reported that both would be shown the door – and fans alike.  
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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Joe Starkey Blames Sidney Crosby for Everything

12:11:00 AM 2
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist Joe Starkey completely crushed Sidney Crosby in his Sunday column on the Trib. Starkey ousted Crosby as the single reason the Pittsburgh Penguins are not playing in the eastern conference finals right now. 

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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Pittsburgh Penguins: Sizing Up the GM Candidates

8:56:00 PM 0

It was eight years ago last month when the Penguins were in this spot looking for a new general manager. The last time around, Mario Lemieux had to fire Craig Patrick, a career hockey man that Lemieux respected considering their time together. Patrick was the General Manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins for 17 years and when he left, the team had an obscene collection of quality young hockey players.

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Inside Dejan Kovacevic's Interview with Lemieux/Burkle by @ChicksDigHockey

2:50:00 PM 0




Friday’s announcement by Penguins ownership rocked the foundation of the city of Pittsburgh. Ron Burkle and Mario Lemieux chose to stay away from the emotionally explosive press conference. Instead, they hand-picked two trusted media professionals, granting each on the record, nothing barred interviews.
Dejan Kovacevic of The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, was one of those journalists. I was privileged to be granted an interview with Kovacevic. I wasn’t permitted to ask about the interview itself but DK permitted a look inside the room at the emotion and demeanor surrounding the defining moment of the 2013 – 2014 season. 

Pens Initiative: When David Morehouse made the announcement, were you waiting for more? What was the press conference like? You and the rest of the media went with a certain expectation.

Dejan Kovacevic: I know I was. My initial thought was that he was going to split the announcement into two, out of some respect for both. But as he kept going and never mentioned Dan Bylsma, it became clear something was off. I raised my hand for the mic and had it whispered to me that I’d be eighth from that point. I had a backup question kind of planned in my head until the main was still available when my turn came.        
                                                      (video) http://bcove.me/bpm7vk71
 
DK: And no, I hadn’t thought of ‘element of weirdness’ in advance. Just kind of popped into my head thinking about the whole scene.

PI: Fans were upset that Mario wasn’t present. Was there backlash that Mario didn't attend the presser? Do you feel today's unprecedented access was a way for L&B to make themselves available and accountable but in a controlled way?

DK: There wouldn’t be backlash in a press conference room, if you mean among ourselves. We’re there to do a job. Besides, it had been pretty well known at least to a group of us that Morehouse would be doing the talking.

And yes, I think there was a feeling among Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle to find a way to establish some level of accountability without tormenting themselves through a presser. I genuinely don’t know which of the two hates those things more, though I’ll have to guess it’s Burkle since he’s even less visible.

As I wrote in my Saturday column, though, I feel both would have done well to do more on this day.

PI: When did you know you were invited to a private meeting? Why do you think you were invited?

DK: I had an assurance from one of the owners three days beforehand that he’d make himself available to me after any press conference if I had questions. We’d been in regular communication, and I respect that he recognized I have a job to do.

And no, I’m not telling which one.

PI: Can you explain the rarity of an on the record, no holds barred interview with Lemieux and Burkle? How long did you have to prepare?

DK: Ha! Prepare?

First off, that’s just not me. I can’t script interviews. I’ve done that a couple times in the past, and they end up horrendous because I didn’t do enough listening and adjusting. For this one, I didn’t have an outline, notes, nothing. The most I’ll ever do is some kind of little four-word, five-word outline. I really was just determined to wing this, let it go wherever it went.

Second, there actually wasn’t time to fully prepare because I wasn’t 100 percent certain how the whole thing would go — or who’d be in that room — until, well, really, I was taken in there.

PI: Set the scene for us, what was the feeling in the room? Tense? Casual?

DK: I’d say Mario set a real casual tone, first off by being really casually dressed (no-lace sneakers!) and then by just kind of lounging back on a couch opposite where I sat. Burkle was to my left, no less casually dressed (he actually joked in comparing their sneakers once we were done), and seemed extremely comfortable, loose and yet authoritative in the right situation, once cutting off when I began to interrupt with a follow-up. I liked that. And I especially liked that it belied whatever reclusive image he might have. The guy’s anything but withdrawn.

Overall, though, there’s no tension I could feel for the simple reason that I’ve long experienced a mutual trust with Lemieux, and that was going to override anything in there. When I talk with Lemieux, especially straight pucks, it’s very comfortable. I know he appreciates that I’ve been at this a while and that I can go back to covering him in his playing days (which didn’t always go well for us, by the way).

PI: I've always been curious about the relationship between Lemieux and Burkle. Do they convey an air of unity? Do you get a sense that these two guys are on the same page? 

DK: Well, I suppose it would be fun to say it’s got an element of weirdness to it, but in a good way. On the surface, you’d think they’d be as different as can be, given backgrounds, profession, everything. But they’re amazingly in tune, respectful and sensitive to each other’s comments while at the same time each clearly being his own guy. It’s a wild dynamic, as I remarked to someone shortly coming out of that room.

PI:  During the interview, David Morehouse spoke up in defense of Lemieux and Burkle; you described the room as becoming "animated" can you elaborate on that?

DK: Yeah, I have a feeling that Morehouse thing might have looked worse on the transcript than it was in reality, judging by some readers’ reactions. He had sat silently through most of the meeting, but he seemed to feel compelled to jump in when I raised the possibility that the owners could be leaving their coaches in a lurch. That’s OK. That’s his job, just like I reminded that I have mine. Ultimately, I got answers, which is all that was sought.

PI: Do you feel Lemieux and Burkle were frank with you? Are some things already decided or does it all rest with the new GM?

DK: The Saturday column kind of tried to poke through that idea that the GM will control everything, because that’s not going to be the case in making the actual hire. They’ll have a vision, a mindset for what they want the Penguins to be, and that’s what I tried to get even before the hire is made.

PI: You've known Mario for a long time. How did you gauge his demeanor, his body language?

DK: He’d rather have been golfing.

PI: So, how does a heavy hockey conversation dissolve into Tennis talk?

DK: Dissolve? Bite your tongue!
Burkle’s CAA agency represents, among many others, the one, the only Novak Djokovic, world’s greatest tennis player and pretty much King of Serbia if Serbia still had a king. My name kind of set Burkle off on a bit of a tennis excursion, at which point Lemieux and I chimed in with some seriously deep, informed analysis of what’s made Djokovic so talented.

There was more. More tennis, I mean.

PI: Thanks so much, not only for what you bring to the Pittsburgh sports scene but for your generosity with this blog.
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Friday, May 16, 2014

Mario - Save the Pens AGAIN! by @ExcitedBobErrey

12:52:00 PM 1



Mario,


We know you're pissed about what's happening. It's hard to hide your disdain from the owner's suite when this team badly under performs yet again when it matters the most. Hell, it's impossible for even the most passionate and die hard Pittsburgh Penguins fans to look at this team, how it's playing, and not get upset. The team has elite talent, yet it doesn't seem to care. The coach has a Stanley Cup, Jack Adams, and Olympic head coaching position on his resume, yet he often seemed in over his head. And the GM won General Manager of the Year last offseason, an award that felt a bit like salt in the wound then when his deadline moves flamed out and even more so this past season as the lack of organizational depth was palpable. This team stood at the crossroads of their future and their Stanley Cup past, and bold moves needed to be made to keep this team on the right track going forward. To your credit and Ron Burkle's, you both realized that. You were as fed up as we were. This team had been given too much slack for too long and it was time for the price to be paid. The GM and the head coach needed to go.


Only, that didn't happen. Well, not entirely at least. You fired Ray Shero at the press conference today, and you made it fairly obvious that Dan Bylsma would be following out the door, but you did not fire Dan Bylsma. Let me make that clear: you did NOT fire Dan Bylsma. Once making the tough decision, the response needed to be quick and swift so this team could begin building from the ruins of the past 5 postseasons towards a better future. Your response was akin to lethally injecting a mass serial killer but spending hours trying to find a vein. Now here comes the obvious problem with this decision: you let Dan Bylsma impact your search for a new GM. If firing Bylsma is a prerequisite for the job, you're basically already turning down the candidates who might be receptive to making things work with Bylsma behind the bench. Otherwise you're bringing a guy in and forcing his first major move onto him. Dave Morehouse made it a point at the press conference to address the allegations that Ray Shero had certain moves forced on him from the higher ups - do you really want to go down that road from the start?


What're the reasons for keeping Bylsma around as a lame duck? Are you really more worried about him going to a team like the Washington Capitals than Ray Shero? Because I absolutely am not. And if you're really that worried about him going to Washington, fire Bylsma and deny the Capitals permission to interview him. I know the organization's reputation is important to you and denying a well-liked and fired coach that opportunity would come off horribly, but do you really think this debacle today isn't damaging that reputation already? That reputation absolutely takes a hit today as it appears the higher ups are running things with little regard to the hockey operations but with full focus on marketability. That would be the reason behind making the new GM fire Bylsma, right? To make him look good in front of the fanbase. Too often over the past few years too much emphasis has been placed on making sure the looks good instead of making sure goal #1 is accomplished: Getting back to the Stanley Cup finals and getting everyone's name back on the Stanley Cup. It's hard to look bad as an organization when you can affix "Defending Stanley Cup Champions" to the team name.


Mario, though I wasn't alive to see it, you saved the Penguins in 1984 when they selected you with the first overall pick, breathing new life into a below average franchise, increasing the popularity of the sport across the region, and getting the team to a point where they're expected to have success. You saved the team in 1999 when you purchased the team out of bankruptcy, and I'll be damned if you didn't pay back every single cent the organization owed, even without being legally obligated to do so. You saved the team yet again when you were able to secure the financial backing for Consol Energy Center. You would have made a pretty good goalie if you weren't already a HOF-caliber and generational talent at forward. I ask you, please: save this team one more time. There are far too many competing factions in the organization with different agendas and goals. Set the tone from the top down - this team will be putting all their energy into winning another Stanley Cup, and they'll do that by doing things the right way.




Signed,

EBE
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Summer of Change: One Move the Penguins Should Avoid by @griffTHW

10:36:00 AM 1

2013-'14 wasn't even supposed to be their year.  A cap crunch and the subsequent lack of depth combined with past postseason failures to prevent many from taking the Penguins seriously as true Cup contenders. 

So, even though Pittsburgh cruised to another division title, the masses wanted to see how the Pens performed when it really counted before buying in.  What they witnessed, though, resembled nothing more than a playoff roller coaster ride. 

Effort came sporadically.  Execution lacked consistency.  Results were mixed. 

After a shaky start against Columbus, the Penguins responded with two solid efforts (as long as you exclude, you know, that near-collapse at the end of Game 6) to close out the upstart Jackets.  And, though Pittsburgh started the second round with a dud, the squad followed Game 1 up with arguably its greatest stretch of the season, looking like world-beaters for much of the next three contests.  Suddenly, hope blossomed while expectations escalated as the Pens surged toward a second consecutive Conference Final appearance.
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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Moving Forward by @ExcitedBobErrey

6:08:00 PM 1


A few thoughts as the Penguins being what could be the most important and defining offseason they've had in a long time:

- The Bylsma/Shero debate has been beaten to death, resurrected back to life, beaten to death again, returned as a zombie, and taken a few shotgun blasts to the temple. That being said, if I had to put money on the outcome I'd say Bylsma goes and Shero stays, albeit after Lemieux/Burkle lay down the law and explicitly tell him that he needs to turn things around if he doesn't want the same fate. While the idea seems to be floating around that Dan Bylsma is somehow paying for Shero's mistakes, it's a completely unintelligent attempt at revisionist history. No question the overall depth was lacking on the Pens this season following the decrease in the salary cap, but this is still a roster that managed to run away with the Metropolitan Division despite 500+ man games lost to injury. It's also a team that played flat and uninspired hockey for large portions of the 2014 playoffs, took far too many bad penalties in the offensive zone, and managed to only go 1-20 on the power play against the Rangers despite the fact the team boasted some of the most elite offensive talent in the game. Depth concerns don't prevent the power play from being competent. Not to mention, depth wasn't a concern last year when Bylsma healthy scratched the current team's 2nd leading playoff scorer while playing a future HOF'er out of position and left him there as he clearly looked badly out of place. Nor was it an issue in 2012 as the widespread Stanley Cup favorites completely melted down in spectacular fashion against Philadelphia. At some point the coach needs to be able to exert some control over his roster when things are going badly, but that never materialized during the Bylsma era.


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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

No Bylsma No Cure All by @Nick422

4:00:00 PM 0
The time has come.  Even the most ardent Dan Bylsma defender can see it.  No matter his coaching ability it's time for a change behind the bench.  Changing the coach, however, will not fix everything.


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Penguins 2013-2014 Season Post-Mortem: Who Stays, Who Goes and Why by @DXTraeger

8:50:00 AM 1
Ray Shero and Dan Bylsma in happier days (photo by PuckBuddys.com)

The spectre of last night's series ending 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers looms large, and basks the once-glowing visages of GM Ray Shero and head coach Dan Bylsma in shadow.  They may never again see the light of day as members of the Pittsburgh Penguins organization.

Gone are the smiles from the 2008 and 2009 Cup runs: they have been replaced by the grim jawline of team owner and legend Mario Lemieux.  Lemieux's one-time tenant and current Penguins captain, Sidney Crosby, scored only once in Pittsburgh's 13 playoff games, and is both a symbolic and literal symbol of everything that went wrong for the Black & Gold in the playoffs.

Crosby will once again captain the Penguins for the 2014-2015 campaign, but not much else is set in stone as the organization heads to a painful off-season that will be wrought with difficult decisions from the top on down.

In this first part of two, the roles of GM Ray Shero and head coach Dan Bylsma will be examined, and their fates debated.

RAY SHERO, General Manager (signed through 2015-2016)

STAYING or GOING:  Staying

Rationale:  Shero's tenure as General Manager can be viewed through different prisms of evaluation criteria, yielding very different opinions as to whether or not Shero has helped or hurt the Penguins' continued efforts to win another championship.

First and foremost, Shero has negotiated a series of trades where Pittsburgh emerged as clear winners.  The crown jewel of his moves was sending a struggling Alex Goligoski to the Dallas Stars in return for mercurial winger-turned 40 goal scorer James Neal and diamond in the defensive rough find Matt Niskanen, but not all of his moves have had the same results (see: Kovalev, Alex and Ponikarovsky, Alex).

Shero's draft success is also subject to scrutiny, as he (and thus the Penguins) spent what first round picks they did not trade away on puck-moving defensemen, as such players are a high priority with Dan Bylsma's defensive breakout and transition hockey system (a lot more on that in a moment).

Shero was able to parlay some of these specialty players into trade deadline stopgap players like Jarome Iginla, but the Penguins have ultimately been playing with fire by not drafting offensive players and the organizational depth has suffered as a result.  As a result, the Penguins now feature a surplus of players that play approximately the same game and bring nothing new to the 6 available defensive slots at the NHL level.

Shero also condoned the "Superstar Model" which pays Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang each in excess of $7 million a year, with winger James Neal also taking in $5 million per season.  This has limited the financial resources the Penguins have to develop 4 solid lines under the salary cap, and Shero's complicity in signing these players to high contracts means the Penguins have to live and die with Crosby and Co. manning the ship.


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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

What's Wrong With Sidney Crosby? Crosby Girlfriend and Injured Hand Rumors

3:30:00 PM 7

What in the world is wrong with Sidney Crosby? The Pittsburgh Penguins' superstar is not playing like himself in this postseason and it  is extremely noticeable. Crosby has one goal in 12 playoff games this postseason and only has 10 goals in his last 40 games overall. Crosby has just seven points in 12 playoff games, and has gone without a point in five of the 12 playoff games this postseason, including two straight heading into Tuesday night's game seven. 
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Do I Hate Hockey Stats? 'Corsi' Do. by @ChicksDigHockey

9:12:00 AM 3
Brian Blystone



I hate statistics. They are an attempt to put things in order through confusion. The men in my TL have suddenly become infatuated by seemingly meaningless comparisons and strings of numbers peppered with percentages.  Sports dudes love to throw a percentage or two in their discussion, in order to make their arguments more bullet proof. So, we love the results, that more often, we do not care to understand properly, and we hate the method that shows us that we are shallow.

I think statistics are uninteresting because they don’t prove anything with certainty. They force the decision making process through a set of tools that doesn’t tell you what is true, only what is unlikely. Wading through them is the equivalent of wearing high heels in gravel. 

Brian Burke, famed curmudgeon, was once quoted as saying, “There has not been a statistical breakthrough in hockey yet,’’ said Burke. “Baseball was made for this . . . In hockey, stats are like a lamp post to a drunk - they’re useful for support, but not for illumination.’’

Stats people are so smug. They are the math geeks from high school all grown up with a little coin to spare. Such geek revelations are often right because they define the outcome before stating the fact. It’s like saying Jussi Jokinen scores a goal every time I stand in my underwear in the kitchen and drink coffee the morning of the game. You gotta be in awe of whoever figured that out (I think it was the guy in the apartment across the street).

Now we don’t just have stats; we have advanced stats. Advanced stats, metrics and analytics, or “fancy stats” as many have come to lovingly/mockingly refer to them, are really just the initial stages of a movement to bring hockey analysis to the forefront of boring. Why make a simple game difficult?

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Monday, May 12, 2014

Two Words by @DJH00tiE

10:07:00 PM 0

Game. Seven.

That's what it comes down to Tuesday night in Pittsburgh. It's been like a bad dream for Pens fans, who went from being on fire, winning games 2-4 by outscoring New York 9-2, to ice cold. Losing games 5 and 6, they scored only 2 goals of their own. There's no doubt Consol Energy Center will be flooded with eager fans anticipating the clock hitting 0:00, with the home team having more goals on the scoreboard and hoping to erase the painful memory of last year's winless Eastern Conference Final. 

They have the team to win the Stanley Cup this year, but one more game stands in the way of that goal of advancing to the next round. If they want to hoist one of the most coveted trophies in all of sports, if they want their claim to fame when it comes to being able to sustain long series, if they want to be known as one of the greatest teams to ever play the game, they need to step their game up when the puck hits center ice Tuesday night.

The playoffs have been a puzzle that they haven't been able to find the pieces to as of late. They've been unable to win half of their first round series over the last 4 years, but finally looked on track in last season's playoffs, before scoring a mere 2 goals in 4 games and getting swept by the Boston Bruins. The Penguins have made it out of the second round and into the Eastern Conference Finals just once (last season) since winning it all in 2009, and despite having one of the best teams in the league for the last 7 years, the Pens have managed just a trio of conference championship appearances. Which sounds like a lot, but any NHL expert will tell you that they should be there more. A lot of that blame has fallen on the shoulders of the goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury.

Statistically, Fleury is having the best playoffs since the '07-'08 season, when the Pens lost to the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Final. His save percentage (.916) and goals against average (2.43) up to this point are the second best of his career in the postseason. It's true he's allowed some spotty goals and while the Rangers have gotten lucky, he hasn't been as consistent. However the fact of the matter is, he has kept his team in games. Pittsburgh has been involved in more 1 goal games (6) than any other team in the playoffs, most of which involving what I like to call "The 4-3 Jamboree" during the 1st round against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Fleury has a 3-3 record this postseason in games decided by 1 goal.

Then you must look at the play on the opposite side of the ice. The Rangers have had a do or die mentality since they dropped game 4, going down 3-1 in the series. Maybe it's the play of Henrik Lundqvist. The veteran goaltender has been solid, allowing only 2 goals in the last 2 games after allowing 9 in games 2-4. He's been on point, making electrifying saves that have kept his team ahead most of the last 120 minutes. 

Maybe it's Martin St. Louis, who has been an inspiration for his team. Playing in game 5, just 24 short hours after discovering of his mother's unexpected passing in France, there is no doubt this Rangers team is rallying around him in support of his loss. Having lost my mother, I couldn't help but get a little emotional when he scored a goal in game 6... because it was on Mother's Day and that's just special. Regardless if you like the Rangers or not, you have to admire their heart.

No matter how you want to spin it, it takes a team to win Lord Stanley's Cup. It takes a team that plays as a whole, skates in fluid motion and maneuvers the puck through the defense to get just a look at the perfect shot. 

That perfect opportunity where the goalie is out of position. 

That precise look and pass across the crease to an open teammate who's evaded the opponent. 

Lines 1-4 must play to the caliber they are expected to play. Why? Because it's the Cup. It's win or go home for the Pittsburgh Penguins. It all comes down to 2 words...

Game. Seven.
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Pittsburgh: City of Champions and Spoiled Fans by @PandaPSU

4:00:00 PM 3

(Photo courtesy of CNN.com)


There are not a whole lot of places that I enjoy being in more than Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I grew up in Johnstown, and spent much of my childhood visiting Pittsburgh landmarks and attending various sporting events. I have a real love for the city and the people that encompass it. That is why I am so sad to see an illness spread through the city and much of the people that inhabit it. There seems to be no cure for it. It is spread very easily through person-to-person contact, specifically through speaking to others. What is this mystery illness you ask? SCF. No, not Stanley Cup Final, which uses the same acronym, but rather Spoiled City Fanbase.

(Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated.com)


I was eight whenever the Pirates were really good in the early 90s. I have fond memories of seeing games at Three Rivers and watching Van Slyke, Bonilla, Bonds, Drabek, etc. Then the city clearly suffered with one of the worst baseball teams and franchises for the next 20+ seasons. They finally broke out last year and it was pure magic. PNC Park is one of the most beautiful ballparks in the country. To finally be able to see it full is certainly a sight to see, and it is something that should happen with regularity. Nothing will be able to beat that National League wildcard game against the Reds last season. The park was electric. The fans, dressed in pure black, made one horrifying scene for the opposition. Who can forget C-U-E-T-O being slowly screamed by the sold out crowd? This season? After a lackluster start to this season with the Pirates starting 16-21, many fans have called for Nutting’s job. Some have said that Huntingdon was not aggressive enough in the offseason. A game in which McCutchen went 2-3 but flied out in the ninth inning brought on the “Cutch is not clutch” talk. It is sad.

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Penguins/Rangers Recap by @pghgirl15222

11:46:00 AM 0

All the Penguins had to do was win one game this weekend, and they fell flat. In a disappointing loss to the Rangers Sunday night, the Penguins now face a game 7 tomorrow in Pittsburgh.

Martin St. Louis drew first blood with a goal 3:34 into the game, and Carl Hagelin added a shorthanded goal 6:25 in. The Penguins started to gain momentum after being outshot 12-3 with a goal by Brandon Sutter, but could not seem to get the best of a brick wall Henrik Lundqvist, who made 36 saves.

The Penguins let their frustration show in the end, getting penalties from James Neal and Beau Bennett in the third.

Overall, the Penguins are 2-6 in game 7’s in Pittsburgh. They will try to make it 3-6 on Tuesday night at 7:00 PM at CONSOL.



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How Did It Come To This? by @LCJS

9:00:00 AM 0
This series feels worse than he looks
"Where is the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing? They have passed like rain on the mountain... Like wind in the meadow. The days have come down in the west, behind the hills... Into shadow."

Those were the words spoken by Theoden during the Battle of Helm's Deep in Lord of the Rings.  It's a fitting description of the Penguins current state of affairs.

"How did it come to this?"

I feel ya, Theoden King.

Everyone, from those occupying the owners box to the couch potato fan, has got to be asking themselves how has it come to this?  It's one thing to run into a better team.  This isn't that.  It's another thing to run into a hot goalie that steals a series.  Again, this isn't that.

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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Henrik Lundqvist Sprays Sidney Crosby With A Water Bottle After Crosby Gets Knocked down

9:06:00 PM 9


Spraying people with a water bottle during a game seems to be a popular move this postseason. Shawn Thornton sprayed PK Subban with a water bottle during live-play this past Saturday night. Sunday night, Henrik Lundqvist sprays Sidney Crosby with a water bottle after Crosby got knocked down from behind by Dan Girardi.
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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Why Boo? Why not? by @ToonsBrian

1:41:00 PM 0
Booing is as polarizing a topic as any in the battle that is "True Fandom." Any time the booing starts - particularly if it starts during, say, Game 5 of the Pens/Rangers Stanley Cup Playoffs series - observers either take delight or great offense, depending on their own perspective.

Perspective.

The oft forgotten and negated concept of perspective that is ignored merely for the sake of labeling good and evil, heroes and villains, true fans and bandwagon jumpers.

So, why, or, just as importantly, when is it okay to boo? Let's take a look:

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Friday, May 9, 2014

Follow @PensInitiative on Google+

2:02:00 PM 0
Do you use Google+? So do we now! We would love for you to like our page there. 

We had a page set up that sat there and kind of collected dust. Now, our very own @ryannoble66  has taken it over and attempted to make it something more that a PI afterthought. 

I know what you are thinking.. 

"What can I expect from a Pens Initiative Google+ page?"

Great question! Not only can you expect posts from the website, but you also will have access to more photoshops, GIF's, future contests, a easy platform to connect with the site and its contributors and much more! (well, maybe just a little bit more... But as we go it could turn to much more!)

FIRST THING YOU NEED TO DO!!!!! 
1. Go get a drink because you look thirsty and it is getting hot outside..
2. Back, great!
3. Go to your Google+ page! (Or make one because it isn't as terrible over there as the rest of the internet would like you to believe)
4. Go to our page google.com/+Pensinitiative
5. ADD US TO YOUR CIRCLES!
6. Take a rest because you have earned it! 

We hope to see you there! 
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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Penguins/Rangers Recap by @pghgirl15222

12:23:00 PM 0


The Penguins have now moved themselves to within one game on advancing to the third round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Penguins have won three straight since losing the first game in over time, and have the chance to end the series in Pittsburgh.

Evgeni Malkin opened the game with a video game type goal 2:31 in and Brandon Sutter, Chris Kunitz, and Jussi Jokinen added goals to make this a very successful trip to the Garden. Overall, the Rangers had sloppy play and bad turn overs. The Penguins limited them to 15 shots, while down defensemen Brooks Orpik, who was lost in the first.

Jussi Jokinen is leading the NHL in post-season goals and it is showing. After sitting last year in the Boston series, he has proven his worth. Thanks Carolina.

I cannot say enough about the play of Malkin. He is consistently enforcing his will on opposing players. He is physical, grinding, winning battles, all while adding Sports Center replay goals to it.





Next game is Friday in Pittsburgh.


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Jussi Jokinen Cashing In by @griffTHW

9:00:00 AM 0

Entering the 2014 postseason, few would have imagined Jussi Jokinen leading the league in goals this spring.  Yet, following Wednesday night's action, he's doing just that, pacing (along with Marian Gaborik) the NHL with six tallies in ten contests.  What's more, his nine points rank second (tied) in team scoring, as Pittsburgh has jumped out to a 3-1 series lead in their second round matchup against the Rangers.

Now, it's almost hard to imagine where the Pens would find themselves without Jokinen's contributions.  But, with the versatile 31-year-old potentially headed for free agency this summer, his consistent production may create an issue if Ray Shero hopes to retain the skilled winger (or center, depending on the situation). 

After all, conventional wisdom suggests Jokinen will command more than the $3 million he currently pulls in each year and it's not likely that Shero will, once again, convince Carolina to pick up a chunk of any deal moving forward.

Consistent Production at a Discounted Price

When Sidney Crosby went down with a broken jaw late last season, the Penguins needed help down the middle.  And, with Jokinen having recently cleared waivers, Shero identified the Hurricanes' center as an ideal candidate. 

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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Marc Staal Continues To Target Sidney Crosby's Head

10:26:00 PM 12
A lot was made of Marc Staal going after Sidney Crosby's head and neck in game three on Monday night. Dejan Kovacevic wrote a passionate column about the terrible job of the officials are doing by letting this kind of stuff go, and the complete hypocrisy of the NHL on player safety. A lot of Rangers' fans and bloggers came to the defense of Staal, even saying that what he did happens every game and that is wasn't that big of a deal. 
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