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Friday, November 16, 2018

JARRY SCORES by @disgruntledbill

10:04:00 AM 0
Tristian Jarry finally scored.   He may not be the de facto in starter like his rival Casey DeSmith, but you have to take your wins where you can get them. Crank up you audio so you can hear underrated play by play guy Nick Hart totally freak out.



If you're keeping score the goalie of the WBS Pens is now tied in scoring with Brassard, Sheahan, Rust, and Cullen. This was the 14th goalie goal all time in the AHL's history and the first goalie goal for WBS. WBS beat the Thunderbirds 4-1.  Gotta love AHL games that start at 10 am so WBS and AHL history can happen while I'm mid way through a morning meeting. Cheers to anyone who saw this live.

Our sweet prince Jarry has been gunning for this goal though. He almost scored last week in Hartford.  The puck isn't anywhere close to the net right? Well the thing is that Dustin Tokarski threw his stick onto the ice. When a player throw their stick at a player taking a shot on an empty net goal it should be an automatic goal. The problem was that Tokarski was in the process of leaving the ice, since he hadn't yet reached the bench when his stick was thrown. So instead of an automatic awarded goal, WBS just got a 2 minute powerplay here. Curious stuff.

WBS is currently in third place in the Atlantic division and despite being named the Penguins they do not suck.
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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Sprong to Get the "Pouliot Treatment": Revisited by @MedinaMarie_PI

2:58:00 PM 0
(Photo Credit: The Athletic)
In January of this year, I wrote a piece regarding the topic of Daniel Sprong being sent back to the AHL during the 2017-18 regular season. The Pittsburgh Penguins fanbase had begun to draw comparisons between how "the Sprong situation" was being handled to that of the situation of now former Penguins defenseman, Derrick Pouliot. 

At the time, I was not ready to so quickly give credence to there being a similarity. Sprong was still a kid fresh out of his final year in the QMJHL and needed some time/ room to grow. Playing in the AHL gave him a chance to potentially do just that. Sprong would end up scoring 32 goals/ 33 assists for 65 points while playing for the Wilkes Barre- Scranton Penguins and he was trending in the right direction. 

When Sprong made the NHL line up out of the 2018 Pittsburgh Penguins training camp, it seemed as though the similarities between the Sprong/ Pouliot situations were going to be put to bed. Everyone hoped that, come the Thanksgiving break, Sprong would be emerging as one of the top young talents of the year. 

However, recent events have caused the similarities to glare ever more brightly, so much so that they can no longer be ignored. 

To much disappointment, Sprong has failed to make even a ripple in his NHL career or impress Head Coach Mike Sullivan. In the past month, Sprong has had one good outing in which it seemed everything was starting to click (versus Vancouver on October 27), but one positive game has still not been enough to earn him a try on a higher line. 

Sprong has played strictly on the Penguins fourth line and averaged just under 10 minutes of ice time in his last five games played. He has no goals in 12 games, only four assists and sits at a -2 in plus/minus rating. He was a healthy scratch for the last two outings versus Washington on Wednesday November 7 and versus Arizona on Saturday November 10. The Pens Inside Scoop Twitter account noted that Sprong was only being slotted into various spots during the Penguins Monday practice on November 12, which would indicate that he is set to once again set to fill a seat in the press box. 

"....but he needs to play with Crosby!!!" 

I will admit that Sprong not even getting a sniff at the top line is a bit laughable, however one must take into account that spots and opportunities must be earned. If he would have scored at least one goal within the last 12 games, it would have helped his cause greatly, but he can't even get a shot off. It is also difficult to try and get a shot away when playing in the defensive end, somewhere Sprong has spent a lot of time, and is still not yet comfortable in. 

Disappointing play, not living up to expectations, an unwillingness to accept constructive criticism, an unwillingness to adapt or change playing style to not only progress their own abilities but strengthen the team, a bit of an attitude problem and seemingly in HCMS doghouse...it's just a familiar story with a new face.   

Will Sprong fall to the same fate as Pouliot? Some NHL media outlets think so. Rumors of the Penguins accepting calls/offers from prospective teams interested in a trade have begun to swirl and will only be fed more and more the longer Sprong stays out of action, but what could the club even get for a struggling fourth liner? Would a package deal with another player have to be put into the works to make any deal happen? 

There is no telling how many chances Sprong is going to be given to prove why he still belongs in a Penguins uniform, but dealing with Pouliot for so long may have shown management that there is only so much you can do if the player isn't willing to help themselves and isn't helping their team win games. With General Manager Jim Rutherford apparently ready to pull the trade trigger at any moment, Sprong's time in Pittsburgh could be up before it even got started. 

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The Phil 005 - Upon Further Review by @ryank_119

9:00:00 AM 0
Of course the hit was okay, guys. There's just some things you can't do on the ice.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Penguins at a Glance: Early Goings are a Bit Bumpy by @MedinaMarie_PI

11:31:00 AM 0
(Photo Credit: Bleacher Report)
The first month-plus of the Pittsburgh Penguins 2018-19 season is in the books. October has been seen as more of a test month. Lines and defensive pairing were shuffled, reshuffled, substitutions were made, and final decisions on whether or not those on two-way contracts should remain on the main roster or be sent back to the AHL (or put on waivers entirely).

For the Penguins, there were significant highs and a few lows to deep to measure within the last 31+ days. Some things worked, some didn't, and some should never be in consideration for trying again unless there is no other option available.

One of these "please don't ever do that again" moments came when Derick Brassard was tested as a winger for Sidney Crosby's top line. It went about as well as using trying to us a newspaper as an umbrella. The experiment lasted all of three games (not in succession) that garnered lackluster results. His best game of the three came versus Calgary on October 25. However, in a game where even Jack Johnson scored a goal, not much could go wrong. While Brassard was tested as a winger, he had zero goals, only three assists (all coming versus Calgary), and broke even in plus/minus.

Brassard is not a winger. He has never played the wing and it clearly is not something he feels comfortable with or can be expected to be good at. Brassard was brought in to be a center. The third line center to be exact. That is where he should stay so that he can build some chemistry in order to get the bottom two lines scoring again. Currently, Brassard is plagued with a lower-body injury so any attempt to find his game and finally fit into the Penguins roster has come to an abrupt, but hopefully, brief halt. However, if the lack of minutes as the third line center is going to cause him to throw a hissy fit, the Penguins have Riley Sheahan and/or Matt Cullen to step into the position while Brassard throws his temper tantrum in the press box.

Another touchy subject is that of Daniel Sprong and Dominik Simon.

Sprong is still being used in a fourth line role with minimal, if any, in game chances on the top line. Verses Vancouver on October 27, it seemed as if Sprong may have finally woken up. He was defending, he was making plays, he was giving puck support, he even got an assist on one of the five goals scored during the Pens victory. It was his most ice time in the last five games. However, one shining moment has not been enough to get a shot on the top line or get him out of Head Coach Mike Sullivan's doghouse.

Simon, on the other hand, is trending upwards and has found favor in the Pens locker room, mostly with Captain Sidney Crosby. He scored in both games versus the New York Islanders and has seen an uptick in his ice time.

Sprong is, as they say, status quo. He still hasn't scored, he really isn't getting many shots away (only 11 shots in 10 games- the fewest of all forwards excluding Derek Grant), and he is no where near as good along the boards as Simon. That is the kind of player Crosby likes to play with and the kind of player that actually compliments his style of play (for more of an in-depth look at that notion, check out Dan Kingerski's article for Pittsburgh Hockey Now). To say the least, something has to change, otherwise, Sprong's name may appear on the trade block sooner than anyone ever expected.

Moving on to a high point, Evgeni Malkin has continued right where he left off last season. He was recently named the NHL's Second Star for the month of October with his six goals, 13 assists and rolling the Penguins to a 6-2-2 record within the month. Coming into November, Malkin rode a 10-game point streak, and on pace to topple is 98-point 2017-18 season. Malkin is a man on a (continued) mission to prove how wrong the NHL was in not including him in their 100 Greatest Players list.

Another man on a mission is Kris Letang. Coming off what was arguably his most unimpressive professional season, Letang has a point to prove.Since the start of the season, Letang is once again back to averaging 22-25 minutes of ice time, his half slapshot is deadlier than ever, and he sits at a 53.7%. With Justin Schultz out of the lineup for an extended period of time due to injury, it will be up to Letang to keep his stats on the positive side to carry a defensive core that could use a good kick in the backside.

If we are going to give October and early November a grade, it's a solid C/B- with a lot of room to improve on both sides of the puck. While Sidney Crosby is back to putting on in-game scoring and skating clinics, the team as a whole is still struggling to find themselves and fit together cohesively. They have lost four straight games since coming back from their trek through Canada and goaltender Matt Murray has been pulled in three of those four losses.

November could prove to be a crucial month for the Penguins as the holidays and the "mid-season judgment point" approaches.
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