September 2015 - PensInitiative | Pittsburgh Penguins Blog | Rumors | News

The Latest

Post Top Ad

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

On Losing a Championship by @Nick422

12:00:00 PM 0
On June 14th, 2015 the ECHL's season came to an end as the Allen Americans, out of Allen, Texas, defeated the South Carolina Stingrays 6-1 in Game 7 of the Kelly Cup Finals in Texas.  I know this because I was there.

And I worked for the Stingrays.

Read More

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

When In Doubt, Hate Rob Scuderi by @ChicksDigHockey

11:30:00 AM 2

I opened twitter over the weekend and saw a random tweet about how much Rob Scuderi sucks. Its preseason and the Pens didn't play that day but someone felt the need to bash Rob Scuderi. Maybe that person had a bad morning, maybe they splashed coffee on their shirt that strained across their beer pudge, maybe their comb was filled with a tangle of falling out hair….for whatever the reason, they just spontaneously tweeted a little Scuderi hate. 

When in doubt, hate on Scuderi.

He’s aging, he’s slowed a step. He has a sweet contract that doesn’t just hit the cap, it kicks it.….just hate on Scuderi.

Why not? He isn't the same Rob Scuderi who lifted the cup with the Pens in ’09. If you’re looking for that Scuderi, he’s gone and won’t be back. His body has withstood multiple injuries, exhausting TOI and more than a few times dropping the gloves. He's easy to criticize. Even if you don't know much about hockey, you can always hate on Scuderi.

How does he compare to Kris Letang? He doesn’t! At 36 he’s a bottom pair D man and his TOI will reflect that.

If you ask actual media people who cover the Pens what the team and coaches think of Rob Scuderi, they will tell you without hesitation that he is loved. He’s a vet who's hoisted the Cup twice and is respected as a leader with an impeccable work ethic.

This is the point where all the stats people’s heads are exploding. (You know who you are) How dare I come out in support of a player who’s numbers show he is worthy of your hate? Because, while numbers can undoubtedly be useful in evaluating performance, (gasp)... they aren't everything. You simply can't quantify some intangibles, like willingness to block a shot.

Many people want to argue that Scuderi should not be playing in favor of younger defensemen, but Derrick Pouliot, for one, doesn't look quite ready to start the season. Those same people want to pick and choose which coaching decisions to support and which to label as “What were they thinking?” with the perfect focus of hindsight. Scuderi is being vetted in preseason along with all the others still vying for a position. If they play #4 ahead of other candidates, could it be that, in their expert opinion, he’s the best choice? Do you really think coaches sit around and say, “Player X gives us a better chance to win but put in Rob Scuderi.”

Perception versus reality. The hating of Scuderi has become as tired as the Cindy Crosby jokes. What if, instead of showing your obvious hockey superiority by piling on Rob Scuderi, you made a positive comment or said something constructive?

Hahahaha….what fun would that be? When in doubt, hate on Scuderi.
Read More

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Pens' Amateurs: Lindo Shines by @ToonsBrian

2:09:00 PM 0

Over the course of their respective seasons, I will be keeping you up to date on how the Penguins' amateur prospects are progressing.

While the United States Hockey League and Ontario Hockey League have begun play, the majority of the Pens' prospects play in the NCAA, which begins its season in a little over a week. Please note that some players will likely be added to this list after the Penguins final roster decisions are made.
Read More

The Three Worst Things About the NHL (right now) by @DXTraeger

10:00:00 AM 0
Artist's Rendition of the NHL Shield Under Gary Bettman's Leadership
 The National Hockey League is a stubborn, stubborn OH MY STARS ARE THEY STUBBORN! entity.

The mere fact that Gary "I WILL PUT HOCKEY IN THE DESERT!  ....No, seriously guys!  Stop laughing!" Bettman has continued to serve as commissioner for twenty-two years despite three (!!!) lockouts speaks volumes about the league's reluctance slash-inability, slash-STUBBORNNESS to adapt in order to improve the product.

Read More

Friday, September 25, 2015

Penguins' Fans are Ready to #PartyHard by @kjcmalakai

6:00:00 PM 0

I love goal horns and goal songs.  They are part of what makes attending a National Hockey Game a unique experience from the other major North American Sports.  So when the Penguins switched their goal song from Song 2 by Blur, to Rock and Roll Part 2 by Gary Glitter, to Kernkraft 400 by Zombie Nation over the past several seasons, I was pretty bummed.  I had gotten attached to Song 2 since I had attended the most games when it was the Penguins' goal song.  Rock and Roll Part 2, while a fan favorite from the '90's, just had to go (see why here).  Kernkraft 400 seemed like an "oh crap we need a new goal song because the guy that sings the other song is a really bad dude" safe choice for the Penguins to choose last season, but was really uninspiring (plus it is the same song used by the Boston Bruins, so eww).

Since I am using the word "uninspiring" as a synonym for "sucks as a goal song" when describing Kernkraft 400, and since the last several seasons have proven that the choice for the Penguins' goal song is dynamic, it is time once again for the Penguins to change their goal song.

If you have any kind of a presence on Twitter and follow the usual suspects when it comes to hockey, and specifically the Penguins, you would have had to notice a clamoring by the fans for the Penguins to use the song Party Hard by Andrew W. K. as their new goal song.

These tweets represent a (very) small sample size of the support that Party Hard has as a goal song for the Penguins.  To see just how much, go to Twitter and search Party Hard Penguins.  The results are quite extensive.  Even Andrew W K (unofficially) appears to be in support of using his song.

As well as his wife.

Just in case you were wondering if the Penguins are listening to the fans (well, at least their Twitter account is)...

Our own Evil Shero has already done most of the work for the Penguins.

So, are yinz ready to Party Hard?  I know I am.

Read More

Assessing the Blue Line Options by @BrianK_PI

2:00:00 PM 0

After being plagued by the lack of depth in the forward ranks the past few seasons, the Pittsburgh Penguins finally have assembled a championship caliber roster up front. Led by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Pens can roll four lines that can score and have the ability to play a solid possession game. After bottoming out at 2.65 goals/game last season (19th in the NHL), Pittsburgh is poised to get back to the high scoring ways they've been known for since Mario Lemieux first entered the league.

It'll be needed, as the team will only go as far as the defense takes them. Gone from the past few seasons are defensemen Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, Paul Martin, Christian Ehrhoff, and Simon Despres. While the losses hurt the Pens blue line to varying degrees, it's a large amount of turnover over a short time period, mostly of players who were trusted to play large minutes. While Kris Letang and Olli Maatta have effectively sewn up their spots as the top pairing, there are several options for the next four spots in the lineup. In addition, given the waiver status of the younger players in contention, it's not unrealistic to think that the team could carry 8 defensemen to start the season to avoid exposing players to waivers.

Read More

Ranking the NHL's Most Lethal Top 6

10:00:00 AM 0
So I've been preparing for the 2015-16 NHL season by drinking in all articles about hockey from all news sources, blogs, magazines, and scraps of napkins left over at the bar. Hockey season is upon us and I can't get enough.

One thing I constantly see from other teams' sites (you know, the EVIL ones)  are claims that their "Top 6" is one of the "best in the league" or "so sick". In the time period of posting prospective line-ups and season predictions, its really fun to speculate how your team's top two lines will perform shouldering the heavy responsibility of lighting the lamp. So I decided to figure out who does have a sick Top 6 and who is just dreaming.

I based this purely on scoring points and nothing else. I feel that is the main priority of the Top 6, right? I am well aware that the team's offense is only a small slice of the pie as how it translates to a team's success, but this was just a fun exercise to display a team's fire power on it's top 2 lines.

When doing research I considered:

  • I used RotoWorld to find the most up to date and mostly accurate team depth charts
  • The Coyotes, Sabres, Oilers, Jets, had rookies on their depth charts so I gave Eichel, Domi, and Ehlers (a generous) 60 points and McDavid 70 points projected for this season
  • I used for career totals in points and games played
  • I used Hockey Abstract for the TOI totals and Shifts per Game for the 2014-15 season
  • I could have done different metrics for different stats but scoring is what the Top 6 players job is so I based all analysis from how many points a player scored in a season

First I found every team's Top 6 (per RotoWorld):

Ducks Getzlaf Kesler Maroon Silfverberg Perry Stewart
Coyotes Vermette Hanzal Boedker Domi Doan Downie
Bruins Krejci Bergeron Marchand Beleskey Eriksson Pastrnak
Sabres O'Reilly Eichel Kane Moulson Ennis Gionta
Flames Monahan Backlund Gaudreau Raymond Hudler Frolik
Hurricanes Staal Rask Staal Skinner Lindholm Nash
Blackhawks Toews Anisimov Shaw Teravainen Kane Hossa
Jackets Johansen Dubinsky Hartnell Saad Foligno Atkinson
Avalanche Duchene Soderberg Landeskog Tanguay MacKinnon Iginla
Stars Seguin Spezza Benn Sharp Nichushkin Hemsky
Wings Datsyuk Richards Zetterberg Tatar Nyquist Abdelkader
Oilers Nugent-Hopkins McDavid Hall Pouliot Eberle Purcell
Panthers Bjugstad Barkov Huberdeau Jokinen Jagr Smith
Kings Kopitar Carter Lucic Pearson Gaborik Toffoli
Wild Koivu Granlund Parise Zucker Pominville Vanek
Canadiens Plekanec Desharnais Pacioretty DeLa Rose Gallagher Semin
Predators Ribeiro Fisher Wilson Bourque Forsberg Neal
Devils Zajac Elias Henrique Cammalleri Palmieri Gionta
Isles Tavares Nielsen Nelson Lee Okposo Bailey
Rangers Stepan Brassard Nash Kreider Zuccarello Fast
Senators Turris Zibanejad MacArthur Hoffman Ryan Stone
Flyers Giroux Couturier Schenn Read Voracek Simmonds
Penguins Crosby Malkin Kunitz Perron Kessel Hornqvist
Sharks Thornton Couture Marleau Hertl Wingels Ward
Blues Backes Stastny Steen Schwartz Tarasenko Brouwer
Lighting Stamkos Johnson Palat Killorn Kucherov Callahan
Leafs Kadri Bozak vanRiemsdyk Lupul Parenteau Arcobello
Canucks Sedin Sutter Sedin Burrows Vrbata Hansen
Capitals Backstrom Kuznetsov Ovechkin Johansson Oshie Williams
Jets Little Scheifele Ladd Ehlers Wheeler Stafford

Then I simply added their points from of the Top 6 players on each team 2014-15 season together and ranked them.

Winner: Lightning

There was little surprise in these results with the Lightning going all the way to the Stanley Cup finals. The Chicago Blackhawks are a bit of a surprise with a huge dip but they did lose Sharp, Saad, Richards, and Versteeg.

Simple enough, right? Nah. What about players like Jordan Staal, David Krejci, Alex Semin, and Evgeni Malkin who lost a chunk of their season to injuries? Should the 2014-15 projections should be weighted down so heavily because of someone in their "Top 6" was injured last year? Nah ...

I took each player's PPG (points per game) output and projected it throughout an entire 82 game season then added them together.

Winner: Penguins

"If only the Penguins were healthy" was the fans mantra from 2015 and well ... 2014 ... 2013 ... 2012 ... 2011 etc. Having a healthy line-up and having Kessel there was little doubt the Pens would top the list once projecting last year's full season totals together. The Red Wings and Blue Jackets, without a doubt, could have benefited from a healthy line-up.

Then I figured well ... what if the player just had a terrible year? Scoring league-wide was way down last season and some players we are used to scoring a ton ended up with career lows. So I took career PPG (points per game) and averaged their point production per season.

Winner: Penguins

The Pens don't surprise me at all with this result. The top 2 points per game leaders of active NHL players are Crosby with 1.36 and Malkin with 1.19 over their careers. With adding Kessel (.77), and having Perron (.59), Hornqvist (.625), and Kunitz (.69) career points per game that is truly an insane Top 6.

Then I combined all three methods to balance out the dumb variables and for curiosity's sake.

Winner: Penguins

With all 3 techniques being applied the Penguins come out on top. It takes a lot more than a lethal top 6 to be successful in the NHL but the rankings, in most cases, correlate with the standings last year. There are too many variables not included in these charts, defense, goal tending, team systems, and injuries but it was fun to just quantify things on pure scoring and nothing else. Take this anyway you want but the results are hard to argue.
Read More

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Goodbye Expectations, Welcome Back Fun by @ChrisRBarron

4:29:00 PM 0

In the pre-season of every sport, hope springs eternal. It's human nature. No matter how thin a roster appears or how many talking heads have written a team off as no hope, in the pre-season fans can still cling to the hope that all their question marks will turn into exclamation marks and that all the talking heads will be wrong. It's the preseason, still time to dream of Cinderella, before the reality of the pumpkin comes crashing back down on you.

Because of this, the pre-season is generally a great time to be a fan of any team. Well, unless you have been a fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the last few years. Hope hasn't sprung eternal the last few pre-seasons, instead each season has been greeted with an overwhelming anxiety. As the weight of sky high expectations hung heavy in the minds of Pens fans everywhere.

The crush of sky-high expectations, of the Cup or nothing mentality, has not only killed the hopeful optimism of the pre-season it's basically rendered the regular season as meaningless. How many times have we heard over the last few years that the only thing that matters for this Pens team is the post-season and even then its not just enough to win a series or two, literally anything short of a Stanley Cup victory or at least an appearance in the finals would be considered an utter disappointment.

Look, I get it, when you have the greatest hockey player on the planet in the form of Sidney Crosby, surrounded by superstars like Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang and Marc Andre Fleury - all in the prime of their careers - I understand why expectations would be so high.

The crush of these expectations has - unfortunately - made it joyless to be a Pens fan at times. It's strange, just across town the Pirates endured 20 consecutive losing seasons - a North American record for a major sport - and yet even in the middle of all of that losing there seemed to be more joy in being a Pirates fan than there was being a Pens fan these last couple of seasons.

Everyone expected the Pens would win another Cup or two by now.  Or hell, at least have made a couple of finals appearances. But, alas it hasn't happened.

Something has felt different this pre-season. It feels like hope springs eternal again, it feels like some of the joy in being a Pens fan is returning. I think, this is in no small part due to the fact that for the first time since the Pens last won a Cup the world isn't expecting much out of this Pens squad.  Hell, it seems the trendy thing among talking heads right now is to pick the Pens to miss the playoffs all together.

I don't think that is going to happen. The core is still in place and still in its prime. Letang and Maatta are healthy. The top three lines are deep. Oh, and Phil frigging Kessel is a Penguin!

No matter what happens this year, I am going to enjoy the ride - and based on the enthusiasm I have seen among other Pens fans these first two pre-season games, I am not alone.

I am not waiting for the playoffs to get excited. I am going to savor every damn minute of Pens hockey this season. So thank you to all of the talking heads out there who have finally lifted the yoke of sky-high expectations off of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

And who knows, maybe with the weight of expectations finally off their backs, not only will fans enjoy this season, but maybe the Pens will finally deliver a long playoff run.

Enjoy the season folks!

Read More

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Pens Level Of Success Rides On Defense

2:00:00 PM 0
Olli Maatta (photo: Gregory Shamus NHLI)
The 2015-2016 Pittsburgh Penguins are going to score goals. They will likely score a lot of goals.  There is a good chance they average four or more goals a game, but what will determine the level of success they will see, is if the Penguins defensive corps can prevent teams from scoring five goals a game.

With a top six that will include Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz, David Perron, and Patric Hornqvist, goals won't be much of a problem. 

The real issue is whether the defenseman can stay healthy and whether they can give this powerful offense a chance to win games. If they can do that, they will win a lot of games. If they don't, another heartbreaking early playoff exit will be in order. 

As has been the custom for the last eight seasons, Kris Letang will be the defensive spark plug. If healthy, he'll get lots of ice time and there is no reason to believe Letang won't collect a decent amount of points jumping in with the likes of the Kunitz-Crosby-Kessel line and a loaded first power play unit. 

Letang, 28, has not played in a full season since 2010-2011. This includes two consecutive seasons in which he played in just 35 and 37 games. 

Olli Maatta, 21, played in 78 games in his rookie season in 2013-2014. Last season he fell victim to a shoulder injury and played in just 20 games. 

Even with Maatta and Letang missing time with injuries, the Penguins gave up 204 goals which was tied with the Winnipeg Jets for 10th best in the NHL last season. 

The Penguins netted 217 goals in 2014-2015 and it's safe to say they will score more than that this season.

If the defense can stay healthy and perform by staying in the 200-215 goals given up range, the lack of defensive depth won't be a major issue and will be overshadowed by the offense. 

If Letang and Maatta can't stay healthy, that poses a major problem for the Penguins and will likely send the front office scrambling to strike a deal to improve the depth of an inexperienced blue line corps. 

In fact, eight of the 13 players currently listed on the Penguins defensive roster have less than a full season of NHL experience. 

Winning high scoring games will only get a team into the playoffs. In the playoffs, where the best of the best face each other, defensive depth and inexperience is exploited and trying to win games 5-4 is a recipe for failure.

It is still likely that the Penguins will try to bolster their defense before the NHL trade deadline regardless of if they get plagued by injuries or struggle. Dustin Byfuglien, who is slated to be an Unrestricted Free Agent after the 2015-2016 season, has already been linked to the Penguins as a possible destination. However, with two million in salary cap space, the Penguins will have to clear an expensive contract to make room for someone like Byfuglien. 

The Penguins will go only as far as it's defense takes them in 2015-2016.

Read More

Pens vs Canes: New Faces, First Impressions.

10:00:00 AM 0
I think I speak for everyone when I say the NHL season could not have arrived any sooner. Yes, I realize the Penguins already played in Columbus. But because it was a 0-0 snooze-fest until Beau Bennett won it in a shootout, for all intents and purposes I'm going to say that NOW real watchable and exciting hockey is back. I put an emphasis on exciting because, wow. The Penguins didn't disappoint in their first action at the Consol Energy Center. These were the high-flying, fast-paced Penguins we all were hoping to see once the preseason started. Yes I realize it was the preseason, and yes I realize that the Carolina Hurricanes entered the ice with a less than stellar lineup. In any event, they put on a show and many players showed what they have to offer.

I want to try and keep this relatively short, so I will cover five new faces that stood out the most to me.

Phil Kessel
I would be completely remiss if I didn't talk about Phil Kessel first, so here it goes. 17 seconds. 17 seconds was all it took before the Crosby/Kessel show premiered. Kessel chipped the puck from the defensive zone to Kunitz who found Crosby in flight with a golden opportunity to try and make it 1-0.  Though he didn't score, he drew a penalty and the Penguins new-look Power Play got their first look of competitive play. The chemistry between Kunitz, Crosby, and Kessel was instant. Kessel's first goal as a Penguin was a beauty. If the tic-tac-toe passing doesn't make you excited for a full season of Kessel/Crosby I don't know what will. I can literally talk about what I liked from Kessel's game for hours.

Olli Maatta:
Not a new face, but Olli sure impressed. I'll be the first to admit that I thought it would take a little time for Maatta to regain the speed and precision to his game. Well, he proved me wrong and I'm not even mad about it. His goal was a blast. Olli is going to be a monster this year, book it.

Daniel Sprong
My mind is telling me he wont make the Penguins opening day roster, but my heart is telling me yes. Sprong showed off all the tools that made many NHL scouts believe he should have went in the first round. He also seemed very comfortable on the Penguins second Power Play unit earning an assist on the Gonchar Power Play goal. He could retire tomorrow and Jim Rutherford would have already drafted better forwards than Ray Shero had, but that's a discussion for another day. We obviously haven't seen enough to make a definitive prediction on Sprong, but if this was an indication of the future, this kid can be special.

Sergei Gonchar 
Like Maatta, not necessarily a new face but Gonchar scored a nice Power Play goal in his first action as a Penguin since 2009-2010. While Sarge looked great on the Power Play, his defense left much to desire. I don't use plus/minus to determine a players defense, but according to Jason Mackey of the Tribune Review, "Canes have three goals tonight. Gaunter has been on the ice for all of them. Last one was probably the worst of the lot." Not necessarily damning, but those also aren't sparkling words for a player often criticized for his lackluster defense in past seasons.

Adam Clendening
Adam Clendening was very solid. He isn't Rob Scuderi. Okay, okay. Jokes aside, Clendening was okay. He was pretty unnoticeable, and I mean that in a flattering way. He isn't the kind of defenseman to go end-to-end and score, but he also isn't going to single-handedly shut Ovechkin down. He was solid enough to have a home on a bottom pairing. 

Honorable Mention
Kevin Porter. He makes honorable mention because he isn't Craig Adams. This is especially exciting to me because this means we don't ever have to hear Steigy and Bob Errey make a Harvard reference during a broadcast as he dumps the puck in the offensive zone and lets the opposing defensemen clear it with ease. 

Obviously I could write a lot more, but for such a small sample size I'd hate to jump the gun. Only time will tell what the opening day roster will look like, but I think we will all agree this could be a fun year.

Read More

Post Top Ad