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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Pens/Canes Recap by @pghgirl15222

9:46:00 PM 0
First Period:

Penguins had a much better start to this game after looking extremely lethargic last night. They went to the penalty kill pretty early after Bortuzzo headed to the sin bin. Faulk capitalized on this, 1-0 Canes. It didn’t last for very long though,  Malkin to Kunitz, 1-1.  Shortly after Bortuzzo makes up for his penalty, 2-1 Penguins. 

During a commercial break the Canes played a video thanking Jim Rutherford for his years of service to the Canes. According to Josh Yohe a decent amount of fans booed. Pretty trashy in my opinion. The man gave you years of dedication and you boo him? Alright.

On a side rant I am starting to be a full believer in the notion that the NHL is targeting the Penguins on penalties. I have watched a consistent lack of calls on behalf of the Penguins while opposing teams get a power play on the same type of issue. The  NHL is becoming very transparent with this. 

Pens finally get a power play with a little over 1 minute left in the first. After the recent string of non-calls I am shocked we even got one.



Second Period:

Spaling created a beautiful chance about 2 minutes into the second. Sent the puck beautifully to Hornqvist who barely missed. Nice to see the Nashville guys come together. 

The refs continue to confuse with their penalty calls. Ignore a potential penalty on Ehrhoff yet proceed to call a small hook on Malkin that the Canes constantly get away with. Make up call? Maybe, but they continue to force fans to try and figure out their maze of calls. So far no one has reached the expert level.

Penguins to the power play after a delay of game call against Carolina but failed to capitalize.  Shortly after Greiss had what was likely the save of the game while robbing Staal. Side note: Did you know Eric and Jordan Staal are brothers? Just in case no one told you guys. Spot the sarcasm.

Overall this was a slow period of hockey. Lots of whistles and stoppage of play. Pretty back and forth overall. Greiss was absolutely brilliant this period with some unreal saves. Bailed the Penguins out a few times. Penguins manage to escape it with the lead still, 2-1. 



Third Period:

The third period was summarized exactly like the other two: watching paint dry.  The refs are a little obsessed with their whistles tonight.

After what felt like an eternity of nothingness the Penguins get a beautiful goal by Ehrhoff. Holy offensive defensive production. Talk about guys stepping up when it is needed the most. 

Naturally the game ends with a questionable penalty to the Penguins. I wish I could pretend this was shocking but my acting skills are not that solid.

Penguins pull out the win and look a lot better in the process not that it is saying much. Overall some boring play. 3-2 Penguins


Oh...

Semin was all over the ice tonight.

Sorry. Not sorry.

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Friday, November 28, 2014

800 and 300: the Pittsburgh Penguins' Mount Washingtonmore by @DXTraeger

3:00:00 PM 0
Mount Washingtonmore in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Conspicuously absent in this picture: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Since 1991, the faces of Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr have been chiseled into the Pittsburgh Penguins' Mount Washingtonmore with good reason: they are two of the best players to ever lace up their skates in National Hockey League history.  However, since Sidney Crosby has recorded his 800th point and Marc-Andre Fleury notched his 300th win, the face-filled pantheon of Penguins' historical greats may be complete.

Lemieux sans mullet...that sounds like French-Canadian, eh?
Lemieux's 1988-1989 campaign was chock full of highlights, including his famed "Five Goals in Five Different Ways" game against the New Jersey Devils on New Year's Eve.  He finished the season with 85 goals, good enough for fourth all-time behind Wayne Gretzky's 92 in 1981-82, Gretzky's 87 in 1983-84, and Brett Hull's 86 in 1990-91.

Lemieux's shooting percentage was a ridiculous 27.2% in 1988-1989.  How good, exactly, is 27.2%?  For starters, it's a higher shooting percentage than Gretzky ever managed, higher than Islanders great Mike Bossy's best year, but a few percentage points behind...Robbie Brown, whose two best seasons included Brown shooting at a 30% clip in 1987-88, and at 28.99% in 1988-89 (while playing alongside Lemieux).

Regardless, let's translate 27.2% in a different way: if Lemieux had taken 528 shots (as Alex Ovechkin did in 2008-2009), then Lemieux would have scored a ridiculous 143 goals in 1988-89.

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Judging the Neal Trade: Q1 by @BrianK_PI

12:00:00 PM 0
***All stats through Wednesday, November 26 (21 GP each)***

When Jim Rutherford took over the Penguins this past spring, the first major move he made was a draft day shocker. James Neal had been rumored to be on his way out of Pittsburgh before Rutherford even arrived in town, and he dealt the talented, but troubled, winger to Nashville for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling. The trade was not initially well received by many due to a perceived lack of value and Spaling's inclusion in the trade. Those in favor argued that Hornqvist played a more complete game and would receive a similar scoring bump playing next to Malkin and Crosby.

It will take years to full judge the trade, just as all other deals need time to assess their full impact. After all, no one would have predicted after the Hossa trade that it would have been notable for bringing Pascal Dupuis to Pittsburgh. However, we can take a look at the early returns and try to judge the trade as it looks so far. And, with a little bit of further analysis, the answer may be more surprising than it first appears.

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

PI Power Poll: 11/14-11/21/2014

9:00:00 AM 0

The members of PensInitiative.com took a look at the week's perfomance by each of the Pittsburgh Penguins. In a survey, members ranked their opinions of how each performed in relation to the rest of the team and were based on the games between November 14 and November 21, 2014. Those four games resulted in a 3-0-1 record against the Maple Leafs, Rangers, Canadiens and the Islanders who handed the Pens a 5-4 shootout loss. The results of that survey were used to create this week's PI Power Rankings.

PLEASE NOTE: Due to the formatting of this page, it may not appear correctly on certain mobile devices.
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Monday, November 24, 2014

Down on Downie by @Nick422

1:00:00 PM 0
As dramatic change swept over the Penguins this off season, one signing stood out amongst certain fans: that of former Flyer, Lightning, and Avalanche pest Steve Downie.


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For Penguins, Early Season Adversity is a Good Thing by @PandaPSU

10:37:00 AM 0
Brock Nelson scores on the power play Saturday en route to a 4-1 victory for the Islanders (Photo courtesy Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
At the start of the season, many fans predicted the Penguins would struggle a bit out of the gate. After all, the Penguins traded away one of their best forwards, and they were bringing on board an almost entirely new coaching staff and front office. Then the team started out 13-3-1. Over that period, there was an eleven game stretch where the Penguins went 10-1 and outscored their opponents 44-16. Marc-Andre Fleury had four shutouts, and the team was rolling. Then the Penguins had a home-and-home over the weekend with the Islanders. They lost the first game on Friday in a shootout, but were outplayed for most of the game. Then, on Saturday, they lost 4-1 and collectively turned in one of their worst performances this year. While most Penguins fans are unhappy with this result, I am glad it is happening to the team.

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Recap: Penguins Fall to Islanders....Again

10:41:00 PM 0
Photo from Penguins.NHL.com

You could say that a minute and half during the first period of Friday night's Pens/Islanders matchup at Consol Energy Centre was the difference between a great night and a slightly disappointing one. In that 95-second span, the Penguins watched an early 1-0 lead transform into a 3-1 deficit against one of the Metropolitan Division's up and coming teams.

Saturday night offered the Pens a chance to redeem that 95-second lapse which resulted in Friday's 5-4 shootout loss.

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Gnoming Around Pittsburgh by @did_i_sutter

8:00:00 PM 0

Most Pens fans are familiar with Hockey Fights Cancer month and the purple jerseys that are associated with it. Back in 2012 during the NHL lockout, some Pittsburgh hockey bloggers wanted to do something to stay in touch and have fun during the extended off season. The blogging community joined together for the common cause of raising funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the same charity the Hockey Fights Cancer benefits. A kickball tournament called Hockey Kicks Cancer was born and is still going strong 3 years later. In that time, we have raised and donated a staggering $40,179.84 to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society through our fundraising efforts at the event and from corporate gift matching programs.

As we approach the end of our 3rd year as an event, we have decided to do something in the kickball off season to benefit our friends at LLS at the time of year where most of us think about giving to others.

This year, we are selling a calendar featuring a Pittsburgh Penguins garden gnome at various sights and landmarks around our beautiful city of Pittsburgh. We cannot express enough our gratitude to the NHL and the Penguins organization for allowing us the privilege of using their logo to help raise awareness for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

The calendar is being pre-sold as we work with our publisher to have the calendars printed and shipped to Pittsburgh. The cost is $15+ shipping. We are shipping anywhere in the United States, Canada, and Europe for a flat rate for each region.

100% of the proceeds from the calendars will be donated to the Western Pennsylvania/West Virginia Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.


You may place your order at our Ecwid page or via our Facebook Page. We will do our best to ship for Christmas delivery so get your orders in as soon as possible!
100% of the proceeds from the calendars will be donated to the Western Pennsylvania/West Virginia Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
You may place your order at our Ecwid page or via our Facebook Page. We will do our best to ship for Christmas delivery so get your orders in as soon as possible!

Please share with your friends and family and help us in our continued fight against cancer!
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Boo Boychuk by @LCJS

3:17:00 PM 0
___________________________
By Lee C.J. Sobotka | Staff Writer

Public Enemy No. 1
Hockey is a sport of grace and violence.

It is less about brute force, like football, and more about the skillful application of power.  There is nothing quite as beautiful as a player stepping up and into another to separate them from the puck.  These well-timed hits are an integral part of the game.

For example, lets look back to last week where Evgeni Malkin smashed the Rangers' Dan Girardi into his atomic components.



Boom.

Girardi had his head down and Malkin connected square into his chest to separate him from the puck... and his senses. Girardi, understandable shaken up, later returned to the game in overtime.

That is everything a clean hit should be:

  • The torso is the primary point of contact.
  • The player is separated from the puck.
  • Neither player was seriously injured.

If only all hits could be this way.  Sadly, this is not the case.

In the game last night versus the Islanders, Johnny Boychuk showed exactly how not to behave, with a dirty hit late in the game.


 


As you can clearly see, Boychuk's cross check was the primary point of contact.  His leg was out in an effort to contact Malkin's knee for added effect  It didn't separate the player from the puck, as the puck was nowhere near Malkin at the time.

On any of these actions, a penalty is deserved.

Nothing was called on the play.  Luckily, Malkin returned later in the game.

It's hard to view this as anything but a dirty play due to the simple fact that the puck was nowhere nearby.  As of posting, the NHL has not announced an supplemental discipline - and I wouldn't hold my breath for any.  Just remember plays like this when you hear the league talk about putting player safety above all else.

As for Boychuk, there is only one thing Pens fans can do tonight during the rematch game:
--------------------------------------------------------------
Lee can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LCJS
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Morning Drive: Case and Point 11/21/14

8:00:00 AM 0
Morning Drive brings you the latest episode of the Radio:PI Podcast Network for easy access.  This morning: Case and Point


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Friday, November 21, 2014

Game 18, Penguins vs. Islanders Recap by @DXTraeger

10:15:00 PM 0

The Pittsburgh Penguins opened a home-and-home series with the New York Islanders on Friday night at the Consol Energy Center.

Lineup changes for the Penguins included Robert Bortuzzo dressing for Simon Despres, and Zach Sill remaining in the lineup to occupy the void left by Pascal Dupuis's deep vein thrombosis health scare.

Pittsburgh won its previous contest with the Islanders on October 18th by a final score of 3-1.  In that win, the Penguins killed off seven Islanders power-plays, with Patric Hornqvist netting two goals and assisting on another.

First Period Action:

The Penguins wasted little time in beating the Islanders' backup goalie Chad Johnson, with Brandon Sutter tallying his sixth goal of the season off a nifty deflection from Paul Martin's shot from the point.

With the Islanders clogging up the neutral zone and standing up the Penguins at the blue line, the Penguins resorted to repeated dump and chase attempts to establish offensive zone time.  Unfortunately, the Islanders were more than up to the task, and were able to successfully transition several poorly executed dumps into scoring chances at the other end of the ice.

The Islanders tied the game at one apiece when Matt Martin received a pass in open ice as the Pens were caught with a lazy line change.  Martin snapped a wrist shot from the left circle and cleanly beat Fleury, who was on his line but still failed to stop the puck.

The Isles took a 2-1 lead when Paul Martin had the puck poke-checked off of his stick at his own blue line.  Nikolay Kumelin then proceeded to undress Kris Letang with an inside-out move in the slot, with Fleury getting a piece of of Kumelin's wrister before it found the back of the net.

New York would score their third goal in under 1:30 as Ryan Flome had a Thomas Hickey shot from the point deflect off of his toe and behind Fleury.  The Isles' third goal came after Marcel Goc lost a defensive zone faceoff and the Penguins were unable to clear the zone.

After a lengthy offensive possession by the Islanders that nearly saw them score their fourth goal of the period, Blake Comeau bounced a puck off of Matt Martin from behind the net, drawing the Penguins within a goal after one period.

As I discussed in my article from earlier today, the Penguins under Mike Johnston have adjusted their offensive zone entry tactics, with their forwards opting to enter the attacking zone with possession rather than utilizing the dump and chase.  For the period, the Penguins unofficially entered the attacking zone with possession 16 times while attempting 11 dump and chases (most of them originating from a Penguins' defenseman outside of the attacking blue line).

Second Period Action:

Sidney Crosby and his linemates Chris Kunitz and Blake Comeau opened the second period with an initial strong push, but soon found themselves chasing the Islanders in their own end.

Crosby and Company generated an excellent scoring chance four minutes into the second, but a quick transition from the Islanders suddenly sprang New York on a virtual 4-on-1 entering the Pittsburgh zone.  The Isles' scoring chance was ultimately negated when the Islanders tried one pass too many and the puck went harmlessly into the corner.

Craig Adams had a wide open net on the Penguins next shift, but rushed his shot attempt and missed by a wide margin.

Two shifts later, the Penguins made a careless neutral zone pass that was brought back the other way by the Islanders.  Nick Spaling lost the man he was supposed to be marking, defenseman Nick Leddy, and Leddy one-timed a wrister past Fleury to restore New York's two goal lead.

After a quick referee whistle cost Crosby a rebound scoring chance, Spaling would earn a measure of revenge with #13 finding a bouncing puck and banging it past Johnson to pull the Penguins back within one goal.

Kris Letang nearly tied it from the side of the net, but Johnny Boychuk saved Johnson's bacon with a stick save on the goal line.  Malkin then created a scoring chance for himself on the very next shift, and barely missed backhanding a rolling puck past the Islanders' goalie for tying tally.

With only 1.7 seconds remaining in the second period and with an offensive zone faceoff, Penguins' coach Mike Johnston pulled Fleury for an extra skater, but Crosby lost the draw, negating any potential scoring opportunity.

The Penguins carried play in the second period, and generated their offense by focusing on entering the offensive zone with possession and getting away from the dump and chase that had repeatedly sprung the Islanders' breakout and transitions in the first stanza.  Unofficial entry numbers were 18 entries with possession with only 9 dumps and chases.

Third Period Action:

The Penguins opened the third period with a series of successful dumps that put the Islanders back on their heels, but it was the Isles that nearly opened the period's scoring, prevented only by an excellent Malkin stick-check in front of Fleury.

Kunitz then let his man crash the net with a half-hearted backcheck that nearly resulted in the Islanders fifth goal, but Fleury made the stop.

The Penguins continued to vary their zone entries in the third, with Malkin's line nearly scoring after Nick Spaling drove the net and partially screened Johnson.

Spaling would repeat his center drive later in the period, successfully collapsing New York's defensemen and creating an open lane for Hornqvist in the slot.  Malkin went tape-to-tape, and Hornqvist's snapshot beat a screened Johnson to tie the game up at 4.

After yet another sloppy line change, Crosby's line nearly surrendered a go-ahead goal, but Fleury made a series of saves to keep things even.

After the Islanders' Calvin de Haan limped off of the ice following a head-first collision into the boards, Johnny Boychuk targeted Malkin away from the puck and hit the Penguins center with a cross-check to Malkin's wrist while simultaneously kneeing the inside of Malkin's left knee.

The Penguins would then weather a series of late New York scoring chances, including a dangerous bouncing puck that Fleury had to redirect away.

Regulation ended with the two teams still tied at 4-4.

Unofficial zone entries were charted at 15 zone entries with possession and 14 dump and chases.

Overtime:

The Penguins controlled the first half of overtime, but kept the puck at the periphery while not taking many shots at Johnson.

The Islanders had a few moderate scoring chances, but Fleury was on his line and held everything out of the net, bringing the two teams to the shootout.

The Shootout:

The Penguins elected to shoot first, as is their usual custom with Fleury being a shootout specialist in net.

Evgeni Malkin tried to surprise Johnson with a quick wrist shot, but missed wide.

John Tavares entered the zone with speed, then slowed down, trying to force Fleury to commit.  Fleury held his ground, and Tavares fired a harmless shot off of Fleury's right pad for an easy save.

Crosby came down on Johnson, faking forehand before roofing a backhand past Johnson to put the Pens up 1-0 in the shootout.

Franz Nielsen then replicated Crosby's shootout move, beating Fleury with a backhand to Fleury's glove side.

Brandon Sutter then attempted his patented forehand-to-backhand breakaway move, but Johnson appeared ready for it, easily turning it aside.

With the game on the line, Kyle Okposo faked left and Fleury bit, leaving Okposo with a wide open net for the game winner, thus giving the Islanders the 5-4 shootout victory and denying Fleury of his 300th career win.

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Trying to Replace Pascal Dupuis by @PandaPSU

6:00:00 PM 0
Pascal Dupuis inevitably cracking another joke (Photo courtesy PittsburghPenguins.com)
When the news came out Wednesday that Pascal Dupuis would be out at least 6 months with a blood clot in his lung, fans were filled with a mixed bag of emotions. First, their hearts went out to Dupuis and his family. This would be a long road back for anyone, and it's especially true for a professional athlete with dreams of playing again. Second, fans thought about how much this organization has been through over the past 12+ months. The Penguins family has had to endure similar blood clot issues with Tomas Vokoun, a stroke from Kris Letang, Thyroid cancer with Olli Maatta, and now this. These are not things that go through player's minds when they look into the future of their careers. After all of the more important dust settled though, the big question remained - how do the Penguins replace Pascal Dupuis?

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Dumping the Dump and Chase: Pittsburgh's New Zone Entry Tactics by @DXTraeger

3:07:00 PM 0
Shero and Bylsma, proponents of the Dump and Chase
When the Pittsburgh Penguins' organizational brass decided to fire Dan Bylsma and General Manager Ray Shero last summer, the idea was not to just replace the man standing behind the bench but to also rid the Penguins of a Bylsma "system" that had become stagnant and predictable.

The subsequent hirings of Mike Johnston and Jim Rutherford to replace Bylsma and Shero marked an overhaul in hockey philosophy, with the two placing an emphasis on new statistical analytics that seem to positively correlate puck possession with winning.

To this end, Johnston has thus far diminished the frequency of the Pens' "dump and chase" entry in lieu of his attacking players carrying the puck into the offensive zone.

Under Bylsma, all lines would routinely approach the blue line and upon reaching the other team's defensemen (usually just inside the attacking zone), the player with the puck would chip the puck into a corner and a race for the puck would ensue.  

The premise of the dump and chase is sound, as it helps counter opponents that aim to stand up the Penguins at the blue line and thus disrupt Pittsburgh's zone entries.  A well-executed dump and chase forces the defenders to turn and try to corral the puck, knowing full well that they will be forced to take a hit along the boards while in a semi-vulnerable state.  

In addition, since most teams try to have one defender get the puck while the other places himself in position to receive a pass and start a transition to offense, if the forechecking forward can acquire the puck, he can either initiate the offensive zone cycle or, given that his team will likely have an overload situation in front of the net, attempt a centering pass to give the Penguins an excellent scoring opportunity.

Conversely, a successful blue line defense yields offsides, turnovers, and diminishes the attacking players' speed by interrupting their momentum and forcing them to divert away from their intended skating lanes.
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This Week in Penguins History by @RobUllman

You Couldn't BE More Wrong About: Fighting in Hockey by @griffTHW and @BrianK_PI

10:04:00 AM 0

Well, Brian, it's been a few weeks since our latest installment of You Couldn't BE More Wrong, so it's probably about time to prove you wrong, once again. And, with the news of a hand injury Connor McDavid sustained in a recent fight, we may as well weigh in on the raging debate regarding whether or not dropping the gloves still has a place in hockey.

Now, don't get me wrong. I hate seeing someone get jumped just for landing a clean, hard hit on an opponent. What's more, the extinction of a "traditional" enforcer only improves the speed and quality of the game. That being said, I still believe fighting has a place in hockey.

So, tell me, why ban the fisticuffs?
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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Morning Drive: Four One Two Sports Talk 11/19

8:00:00 AM 0
Morning Drive brings you the latest episode of the Radio:PI Podcast Network for easy access.  This morning: Four One Two Sports Talk


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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Dupuis to Miss Six Months with Blood Clot in Lung

1:20:00 PM 0
The Penguins called a 1pm press conference today and as such people became worried.  With Pascal Dupuis suffering from a mysterious illness everyone wondered if he would be the focal point.  Unfortunately he was.  The Penguins announced that Dupuis will miss the next six months with a blood clot in his lung.


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The Sidney Crosby Debate by @pghgirl15222

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Penguins vs. Canadiens Recap by @pghgirl15222

10:05:00 PM 0
First Period:

Overall the Penguins started strong. They matched the physical play of the Canadiens during the first period and overall they were flying on the ice. Under Johnston they are playing with a confidence that has not been seen since the 2009 Cup run. 

Bennett intercepted a bad pass to make it 1-0 Penguins. If he can stay healthy it’ll mean huge things for the Penguins. The person that would benefit the most from this would be Brandon Sutter and this is shaping up to be exactly what the coaches had wanted during the pre-season. Shortly after this Bennett found Letang who fed Downie for the goal. 2-0 Penguins.  

The Canadiens had some quality chances which is something I expected given the talent on their team but Fleury stood strong.  Another beautiful chance for Bennett with under 3 minutes left in the first. Kid. Was. Flying. Tonight.  Shots 11-7 Penguins.



Second Period:

Bennett sent a beautiful pass to Sutter. The result? 3-0 Penguins. 3 points so far for Bennett. If he can stay healthy this line is going to be huge for the Penguins Another thing that was lacking so much in the past few seasons. The 2009 Cup run featured a strong third line centered by Staal who produced when the top two couldn’t. Malkin and Crosby can’t possibly be on every night. Someone needs to be there when they are off. 

Spaling had a beautiful chance five minutes into the period. I will hear that “ding” in my dreams.  First penalty of the game came halfway through the second. Spaling was called for holding. Massive PK for a Penguins team that has barely faltered on it since a rough start. 

Malkin took a hooking penalty with a little over 3 minutes left in the third. Seemed like a weak penalty to me considering I had seen massive amounts of interference and hooking on Crosby tonight without a call. Regardless another ridiculously strong kill by the Penguins. 

Finally a slash against the Canadiens to send the Penguins to the PP with a little under 1 minute left. Goal Sidney Crosby, 4-0 Penguins.



Third Period:

A tripping penalty to Martin early in the third forced the Penguins to protect their lead against a team that is known for comebacks. The Penguins killed it regardless of a few strong opportunities for the Canadiens. Fleury has been standing tall so far this season to the relief of fans and it’s beautiful to see. 

It was a period filled with some great opportunities by the Canadiens but the Penguins managed to hold it together for the remainder of the game. Overall it was  strong defensive showing for the Penguins but the Canadiens are not a team that will be denied of quality scoring chances. Regardless Fleury posted a shut out. It’s also worth noting the amount of blocked shots by the Penguins. Very impressive


Overall:

It's not as if this game was easy for the Penguins. The score does not tell the story of it at all. The Canadiens are a strong team and had some great chances. At the end of the day, Fleury was the difference maker on those chances. 

It is important to go back and once again note the confidence the Penguins are playing with. They have never lacked talent but rather now have added players that were needed and have an enjoyment for the game that had been lacking. If they can continue at this pace, and stay healthy, I believe there is not a team that could take them seven games. 

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5 Penguin Points to Ponder by @ChicksDigHockey

9:00:00 AM 0

Sixteen games into an 82 game season is hardly time for reflection. It is, however, enough time to notice some things that spark thought and make you go Hmmmm.......






 In August Coach Johnston said he felt they (Pens) needed to “lessen the load” on Sidney Crosby. He said that even though Crosby is the team’s captain, other players needed to take some of the load in terms of leadership as well as performance. 

Sure enough, Crosby is spending less time on ice so far this season. Heading into Friday night’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, he was averaging 18:42 per game — about three minutes less than the career-high of 21:58 he played last year and the first time in his career that he is not in the 20-minute range.  At this writing, Crosby is #2 in the league in over-all points as well as assists.

Crosby isn’t suffering from the loss of minutes. The Pens aren’t suffering from a little less Crosby.  After all, it’s a long season and who knows what less wear and tear on Sid could mean at the playoffs? Perhaps less will be more.

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Monday, November 17, 2014

The Importance of Thomas Greiss by @PandaPSU

1:00:00 PM 0
Thomas Greiss at Training Camp (Photo courtesy of PittsburghPenguins.com)
We have seen it time and time again. A team has an A+ starting goaltender and does well in the regular season only to fall short in the playoffs -- this article is not solely directed at the Pittsburgh Penguins since 2009. Maybe the goalie starts to struggle in the playoffs, but the team is reluctant to turn to its backup goaltender. That backup was OK for the regular season, but now everything is on the line. I have always thought that a Stanley Cup caliber team needed a competent backup. Someone who can apply pressure to the starter, but not threaten him. Also, someone that can step in should an injury arise to the starter. I decided to take a look at the starting goalie and backup goalie tandems on the Stanley Cup winning teams since the lockout in 2005.
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3 Reasons these Penguins are Different by @griffTHW

9:00:00 AM 1
Last year, the Pittsburgh Penguins overcame a myriad of injuries to waltz through the 2013-'14 regular season.  They seemingly wrapped up the Metropolitan by Thanksgiving, ultimately finishing the campaign with a 13 point cushion over their nearest division rival.

That group, however, represented anything but a complete team.  It was an incredibly top-heavy squad, one that relied heavily on special teams to help overcome its deficiencies.  But, when the stars and the power play went quiet against the Rangers, the season quickly unraveled as Pittsburgh blew a 3-1 series lead and another golden opportunity to come out of the Eastern Conference.

With sweeping changes throughout the organization in the offseason and plenty of new faces in the lineup this year, though, the Penguins find themselves off to another great start.  Time will tell how this season will play out or if all the new looks will pay off in the postseason but, early on, we're already seeing signs that this year's squad has changed for the better.

Consider the following:
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Friday, November 14, 2014

Awakening the Sleeping Giant by @BrianK_PI

4:50:00 PM 0

When the Penguins exceeded expectations to make the Stanley Cup Final as a young, talented team, and won it all the year later, it seemed like only the beginning for what many were calling hockey's next dynasty. Anchored by four top draft picks all in their young 20s, it appeared that Pittsburgh was going to be atop of the league for years to come. And they have, to a point: they've finished over 100 points in every full season, and they've ranked 8th, 3rd, 4th, 2nd, and 6th in the league during the regular season.

Problem is that the regular season success hasn't carried over into the postseason. They failed to win a playoff series in two of the five seasons since winning the Cup, and two other seasons they bowed out in the Eastern Conference semifinals. As time went on, expectations for the group grew sky high, and even a trip to the ECF was viewed as a disappointment. It became a no-win situation that any team would struggle through. Lose a playoff series and watch the whole world tear apart their performance until everyone received a share of the blame. Win another Stanley Cup? There'd certainly be those wondering why it took them so long.


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The PI Power Poll - 11/14/2014

1:00:00 PM 0

This week, the members of PensInitiative.com took a look at the week's perfomance by each of the Pittsburgh Penguins. In a survey, members ranked their opinions of how each performed in relation to the rest of the team and were based on the games between the Sabres and Rangers. The results of that survey were used to create this, the PI Power Rankings.

PLEASE NOTE: Due to the formatting of this page, it may not appear correctly on certain mobile devices.
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How Corsi Stats Impact Mike Johnston's Offensive Zone Line Decisions by @DXTraeger

10:51:00 AM 4
Zach Sill, O-Zone Master
Superficially, it’s hard to find fault with new head coach Mike Johnston and his team’s torrid 10-3-1 start to the 2014-2015 NHL season.

The Pittsburgh Penguins sit atop the Metropolitan Division with 21 points, and are third in the Eastern Conference overall standings with three games-in-hand against the front-running Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadians.

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

It's Okay to Like Rob Scuderi Again by @Nick422

12:17:00 PM 0
When "The Piece" was re-signed two years ago people rejoiced.  A cared of figure in the Penguins Cup run of '09 was returning!  Unfortunately, after an injury derailed his season, he became a lightning rod of criticism and the face of what was wrong with the Shero/Bylsma era.  It's time for that to change.


Last year for Rob Scuderi was not what you'd call a good one.  Not by any means.  A liability when ever on the ice after a broken ankle, it seemed his already questionable contract had become a full blown albatross.  The adored Penguin quickly saw his popularity drop faster than the Penguins dropped his contract signee, Ray Shero.

Everyone hoped that a new change in front office or head coaches meant a one-way ticket to literally anywhere but here for Scuderi.  A new coach?  A new GM?  No ties to the beleaguered blue liner?  Ship him to the lowest bidder!

Instead Rob Scuderi was kept.  It could have been a lack of of offers.  It could have been a new General Manager waiting to take stock of his new team before making any decisions.  Either way fans grumbled and groused as opening day came around with an older Rob Scuderi taking up well over $3 million of a cash strapped and cap close contender.

It was quite easy to be down on Scuderi.  By any metric, advanced or eye test, he had an awful season.  A fresh start, however, has benefitted him.  A new coach, one who knows how to use and insulate Scuderi, has done him wonders.  Fewer offensive zone starts, a focus on the penalty kill, and some sheltering has "Scuds" playing his best hockey since the Kings Cup run.

war-on-ice.com

Mike Johnston has helped turned Rob Scuderi from an overpriced liability to an effective, though highly paid, third pairing defenseman who can be counted on for some leadership.  While experience can be overrated two Stanley Cups rings can be nothing to scoff at.  Far from irreplaceable in the line
up with the depth behind him in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, he is now a solid place holder while youth continues to grow.

Still a pricy part of the team, still signed for too long.  Rob Scuderi is once again earning his keep as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. It may not be 2008-09 Rob Scuderi.  It may not be Los Angeles Kings Cup Rob Scuderi.  He is, however, decent.  And given last year's results decent is a big step forward.

Perhaps it's a player fully healed.  Maybe it's a system that puts less pressure on him.  It could be a coach who knows how to accurately use him.  Either way, the days of Rob Scuderi being an outright liability are, so far, left behind with last year's dust.  He may no longer be "The Piece" but Rob Scuderi is, one again, part of the puzzle.
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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Breaking the Power Play Record by@kjcmalakai

8:37:00 PM 0


The Penguins' Power Play has been impressive this season (last night not withstanding), but everyone knows that.  Let's take a look at some numbers so far.

Home Power Play Goals:
13 (Best in the NHL)

Home Power Play %:    
40.6% (Best in the NHL)

Road Power Play Goals:
8 (2nd in the NHL, but it should be pointed out in FIVE fewer games than #1)

Road Power Play %:      
29.6% (4th in the NHL)

Total Power Play Goals:
21 (Best in the NHL)

Total Power Play %:      
35.6% (Best in the NHL)

Through 14 games, or 17.07% of the regular season, the Pittsburgh Penguins are on pace to break the all-time best regular season power play % set by the 1977-1978 Montreal Canadiens at 31.88%.  It's still relatively early in the season, but I went ahead and attempted to figure out how many power play goals it would take for the Penguins to break this mark.

Through 14 games so far this season, the Penguins have played 7 games at home and 7 games on the road.  In those 7 home games, the Penguins have scored 13 power play goals out of the 32 times that they have had the man advantage.  On the road, the Penguins are 8 for 27.  The Penguins have 34 home games and 34 road games remaining, so based on the numbers so far:

HOME:  32 power play opportunities / 7 games played thus far = 4.57 power plays per home game
             4.57 power plays per home game x 34 games remaining = 155.38 home power plays

ROAD:  27 power play opportunities / 7 games played thus far = 3.86 power plays per home game
             3.86 power plays per road game x 34 games remaining = 131.24 road power plays

TOTAL:  155.38 home power plays + 131.24 road power plays = 286.62 potential power plays

The number that the Penguins are trying to beat is 31,88%, expressed as .3188 as a decimal, so how many goals would it take if the number of power plays were added to the number of potential power plays to reach this number?

59 actual power plays + 286.62 potential power plays = 345.62 total potential power plays

The formula to determine the number of goals needed as:

Unknown number of goals/345.62 potential power plays = 31.88% success on power play

To isolate the unknown number of goals, multiply the 345.62 potential power plays and .3188

345.62 x .3188 = 110.18 power play goals

Round the 110.18 power play goals up to 111 power play goals and the season % finishes as 32.12%.

The above method was the quick and easy way of attempting to determine how many power plays the Penguins are likely to receive based on 17.07% of the Penguins' season having been played.  Just figure out the rate at which the Penguins are receiving power plays and multiply it out.  Simple.  However, that method does not take into account the rate at which their opponents are shorthanded.


The above chart shows rate at which every team in the NHL is shorthanded on the road and at home.  If that chart is combined with the Penguins' remaining schedule:


Using this method the Penguins should receive 234.96 more power plays this season so then we use the same formula as before:

59 actual power plays + 234.96 potential power plays = 293.96 total potential power plays

The formula to determine the number of goals needed as:

Unknown number of goals/293.96 potential power plays = 31.88% success on power play

To isolate the unknown number of goals, multiply the 293.96 potential power plays and .3188

345.62 x .3188 = 93.71 power play goals

Round the 93.71 power play goals up to 94 power play goals and the season % finishes as 31.98%.

If you take the average of the two methods, you get 102.5 power play goals, round that number up to 103 power play goals, and that is the number that I think the Penguins need to hit to break the all time record.

The Penguins have already scored an astonishing 21 power play goals so they need to score 82 more power play goals to reach the magic number of 103.

Why even bother trying to figure this out when we can just look at the current percentage and know if the Penguins are beating the all-time best or not?  Because of streaks.  Maybe the Penguins are on an incredible streak right now and the number will tumble back down to closer to 20%-25%. Maybe it won't.  Maybe the current power play is what the Penguins' power play is. Attempting to determine how many goals it will take to get to the record accounts for cold streaks when the number could dip below 31.88% until a hot streak brings it back up.





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Looking at the Players that were Traded for Dupuis by @kjcmalakai

9:00:00 AM 0


Since I am a stay at home dad, the NHL Network is constantly on in my house just as something to have on in the background.  While I was feeding my 4 month old, a name that I hadn't heard in a while came on the screen as he had recently been hired by the NHL Network and was going to work his first game as an analyst that night.

The name was Colby Armstrong.  Yes.  The same Colby Armstrong that was the "centerpiece" (along with Erik Christensen, Angelo Esposito, and a 1st round pick) in the package of players that was sent back to the Atlanta Thrashers in 2008 for Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis.  Everyone who watches the Penguins is well aware of the success that Dupuis has had in Pittsburgh and everyone that pays attention to hockey knows about the player that Hossa is in Chicago, but whatever happened to the guys that the Penguins sent away?  Their careers say that just Dupuis for the entire package that Pittsburgh sent to Atlanta still drastically favors Pittsburgh.  Add Hossa's stats to the mix and Ray Shero should be in prison for absolutely robbing the Thrashers.

(For comparison: Pascal Dupuis has played in 429 games scoring 241 points since being traded to the Penguins and is 35 years old)

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Recap: Pens Dominated At MSG

10:22:00 PM 0


The Tuesday night matchup between the Penguins and Rangers was dominated by fast paced action that saw the home team generating the majority of the quality scoring chances, receiving the majority of the lucky bounces and recording the only goals that would go up on the board.

On a night that promised to add a little scoring punch to an already hot Penguins team via the return of Beau Bennett to the lineup, offensive production from arguably the league's hottest team just wasn't there. Bennett replaced the largely ineffective Zach Sill, logging 9:35 TOI with a shot on goal.



Just a minute and change into the first stanza, Sidney Crosby headed to the box for interfering with Mats Zuccarello, a call that put the Rangers' power play - ranked 24th in the NHL - on the ice. The Pens would kill the captain's penalty off, but it wasn't due to a lack of effort from Rick Nash and crew. In that two minute span, the Rangers were able to register 5 shots on goal.

By the first TV timeout, the Rangers would hold a 9-3 edge in shots on goal.

A game of inches.
At 8:23 of the first, Zuccarello would open the scoring after New York's Derek Stepan cleanly won a draw against Marcel Goc to the left of Marc-Andre Fleury. Zuccarello ripped a wrister past Fleury's glove.

Moments earlier, the Pens were literally inches away from scoring a goal of their own, as a Nick Spaling shot trickled through Henrik Lundqvist's five hole. The Rangers escaped that bullet however and that sequence would be indicative of how the first period was shaping up.

Every goal he scores is a shorty.
Minutes later, Martin St. Louis would get a goal of his own on a bang-bang sequence after Pens defenseman Christian Ehrhoff attempted to clear the puck from behind the cage. His backhand attempt came off the boards to Marc Staal's stick who then fired a slap shot at Fleury. The rebound came out to Nash who sent it across to St. Louis who had a look at 24 square feet of net.

The official time of the goal was 10:59 and the Rangers were not done.

At 14:47, the puck kept bouncing the Rangers' way. As the Rangers worked the puck along the right boards, forward Kevin Hayes attempted to chip the puck back to the point. Nick Spaling had good position to intercept the puck but it came off of his skate hot and directly to defenseman - not actor - Kevin Klein who one-timed it past MAF. Former Penguins-for-a-day Lee Stempniak got a secondary assist on the goal that made it 3-0.

The clock would have finally have mercy on the Pens.

At the end of the period, Derek Stepan would be in the box for hooking Pascal Dupuis in the offensive zone, but the damage had been done. The Rangers were dominating on the scoreboard despite all of the similar numbers statistically.

After 1 period

The Pens first power play would go unfulfilled after carrying over into the 2nd period as the Rangers successfully stymied the Pens power play.

The first half of the second period was largely uneventful, save for some scoring chances for both teams and a Patric Hornqvist roughing call.

The only break MAF could catch.

However at 9:15, New York created all kinds of traffic in front of MAF, resulting in a near-goal situation. Upon review, it was ruled that the goal would not count due to the peppered goaltender having covered up the puck enough to warrant a whistle before it was jammed into the back of the net.

However, Steve Downie found himself in the penalty box for roughing John Moore after the sequence This time, the Rangers' power play would capitalize as Derick Brassard sniped the top shelf of Fleury's glove side from the left circle with a highlight-reel wrist shot.



The goal would round off the scoring for the period.

This game, for all it's similarities on the stat sheets, was clearly a Tale of Two Goaltenders. One, dressed in blue, simply could not be beaten. The other couldn't catch a break. Neither had faced less than 10 shots on goal in a period to this point and the wide-open play that characterized the first 40 minutes of play.

The third period opened with the Penguins quickly going on the power play as Dan Girardi went off for hooking Crosby a minute in. Nothing.

Then, at 7:33, former Penguin Tanner Glass went off for boarding Simon Despres. Nothing again. Worse than "nothing," actually as the Rangers sent a puck deep into the Penguins zone and simply outhustled the team with the man advantage.

Derek Stepan chased the puck into the end boards to the right of Fleury with Evgeni Malkin hot on his tail. Rick Nash cut to the slot while Kris Letang and Crosby lazily pursued on the play, giving the Rangers captain the time and space he needed once he received Stepan's pass to make it 5-0 Blueshirts. The shorthanded goal was the Rangers' first of the season.

And that's the way it would end. A few solid pushes from the Pens met by King Henry who, whether through great play or great luck, refused to be beat.

It's good to be king.
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Tocchin' About the Pens' Power Play by @ChicksDigHockey

1:00:00 PM 0



Rick Tocchet was the kind of player you noticed on the ice. He started his hockey career renowned as a fighter but evolved into a respected power forward. He knew how to use his hands for something other than pugilism. When he retired after 2001–02 season, he joined an elite group of NHL players who collected 400 goals and 2,000 penalty minutes, including Brendan Shanahan and Gary Roberts. 

He played for six teams over an 18-year NHL career, beginning and ending with the Flyers. His numbers jump out at you: 1,144 games, 440 goals, 952 points, 2,972 penalty minutes. He hoisted the Stanley Cup while a Penguin in 1992
 
Really, as a player, he was the perfect blend of toughness and skill.

His coaching days have been filled with ups and downs. He started his coaching career as an assistant coach for the Colorado Avalanche in 2002–03. After that he was an assistant and briefly interim head coach in Phoenix . He moved on to Tampa Bay in 2008 as an associate coach and went on to replace Berry Melrose as head coach. He remained with Tampa until 2010 when he was relieved of his coaching duties by the new ownership. 

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Morning Drive: The League 11/9/14

8:00:00 AM 0
Morning Drive brings you the latest episode of the Radio:PI Podcast Network for easy access.  This morning: The League


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Monday, November 10, 2014

Kris Letang Contract Looking Better and Better by @griffTHW

8:47:00 PM 0
It wasn't long ago that Kris Letang found himself drawing the ire of an army of critics.  Because, when the defenseman signed his eight-year, $58 million contract extension last year, hoards of doubters surfaced, screaming about how the deal would handcuff the Penguins for as long as the former-Norris candidate remained in Pittsburgh.  They insisted Letang wasn't worth a $7.25 million cap hit, pointing to a propensity for turnovers and a perceived inability to quarterback the power play.

But, when Dion Phaneuf later signed a $49 million extension in Toronto and P.K. Subban inked an eight year, $72 million deal in Montreal, the harsh views regarding Letang softened in some people's eyes.  After all, with both the cap and pending salaries likely to swell in the coming years, maybe $7.25 million per year wouldn't look so bad as time marched on.
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How Beau Bennett's Return will impact the lineup by @MadChad412

1:00:00 PM 0

This was the year that Beau Bennett was going to break out for the Penguins. This was the year he was going to prove that he is a top-six forward in the NHL. Then, he got injured, again, for the third time in his very short NHL career. 
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What's My Age Again? Dupuis, Kunitz, and Scuderi by @PandaPSU

9:00:00 AM 0

Every player goes through it. They have extremely productive careers and then they hit a certain age where they begin to lose their abilities. It starts slowly at first. Maybe they can't skate as quickly as they did. Maybe their wrist shots are a little less fast. Maybe they just lose a bit of their vision to create plays or finish them. Once this starts, it usually creates an avalanche effect and the player is left contemplating retirement quickly. Many times this happens to players of any sport in their mid-30s, but Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis, and Rob Scuderi are bucking the trend this year for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
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Friday, November 7, 2014

This Week in Penguins History by @RobUllman

I Believe in Harvey Dent (and Marc-Andre Fleury) by @DXTraeger

2:00:00 PM 0

In Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight, the citizens of Gotham saw District Attorney Harvey Dent as their "White Knight," a public and incorruptible face of judicial justice cast against the sea of rampant mob corruption.

When it came to crime, Harvey Dent was a blockade for Gotham, a gate through which the criminal underground had to find a way around.  Dent recognized the impossibility of his stature, saying people like him either "die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain."

When it comes to the Pittsburgh Penguins...does that last bit sound familiar?

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I present to you Marc-Andre Fleury, the "Two Face" of the Gotham (Pittsburgh) Penguins.

Fleury is the ultimate White Knight facsimile: when he's on, Fleury's athleticism elevates him to "Elite" backstopper status.  When he is off, Fleury sows chaos and leaves a wake of broken-hearted (and furious) fans in his wake.
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