Wednesday, February 28, 2007

New Lines, New Gripes

It was announced today what the lines are going to be with the new players the Penguins acquired.

Roberts - Crosby - Recchi
Malone - Malkin - Ouellet
Staal - Talbot - Armstrong
Ruutu - Christensen - Laraque

All I can say is: good god.

There have been rumblings of Therrien being a Jack Adams candidate, and I can honestly it is things like this he shouldn’t win.

I don’t get it. I just don’t. Jordan Staal has flourished on the line with Malkin, yet for his good play he is awarded with a demotion? And now he is placed with two guys who cannot match his offensive abilities?

Michel Oullet, who continues to contribute nothing, is punished by keeping his spot? Therrien continues to show favoritism to Oullet, and is the only person who watches the Pens that can’t see that, and sadly he is the only one who can control the lines.

Erik Christensen, who plays much better in the top line role and struggles in the checking role, is moved to the 4th line?

Again, I have to reiterate my F grade to Ray Shero on the deadline for failing tor emove Oullet from this roster.


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Deadline Roundup

Sadly, only on of my deadline wishes came true, and of course it was the one I could have most easily gone without. Regardless, lets take a look at what Ray Shero did in his first deadline as GM.

The Deals

Gary Roberts for Noah Welch

I am strongly against this deal. I’ve heard the argument about how Roberts adds grit, leadership etc. but here’s the thing: our first call up from WBS is Micki Dupont. Micki Dupont. That is not good. And neither are the two defenseman ahead of him in Melichar and Scuderi. We now also have no stay at home ready to make the NHL roster anytime soon. Not to mention Roberts is 40 and probably wont be back next season.

I can see what Roberts brings, but I don’t think this was a good move, especially since we have a weak defense.

Georges Laraque for Daniel Carcillo and a 3rd

I like this deal as this was the only thing on my wish list the Pens got. A 3rd isn’t too much to pay, and let’s face it: Carcillo is a dime a dozen player. He is easily replaced, not to mention his short temper has led to many bad penalties for the Baby Pens.

Laraque, though he doesn’t fight a whole lot, it’s because few want to fight him. Also, he can play better than any tough guy out there. And his +7 rating should not be overlooked on a poor Coyotes team. Here’s something else: Laraque has 12 points less than Michel Oullet. Oullet, who plays more minutes, with better players and on the power play, is barely able to outscore a tough guy. That speaks against Oullet and for Laraque.

Dominic Moore for a 3rd

I don’t like trading away Moore, our best face off man and fore checker. Even with diminished playing time, I still thought he was contributing to the team. While I would prefer to have him, his loss isn’t devastating at all. Talbot should be able to pick up the slack of Moore’s departure.

Nolan Schaeffer for a 7th

This is a good deal by Shero to get another goalie in the system. I do think despite his UFA status he will be resigned and become Fleury’s back up. He comes from San Jose, who is notoriously good for drafting goalies. He played some NHL games this year and did well. Wilson smartly waited until every team’s goalie situation was settled before he passed him through waivers to be unclaimed.

Joel Kwiatowski for a 4th

Well, he’s better than Melichar, right?


Well it was nice to have a deadline where we weren’t selling off all our good players, and just picking up random junk.

I am disappointed Shero did not land a defenseman, but if it meant not giving up a 1st for a guy of Rivet’s caliber than I am happy he didn’t do it. However, our defense is still our weakest point, and I don’t think it is good enough to carry us far into the playoffs. This is another reason I am angry at the Roberts deal as why trade for a guy when you’re not really geared up for the playoffs?

I know many wanted a scoring winger, but the asking prices were astronomical. Look what Tkachuk and Guerin fetched. Both too rich for Shero’s blood, as it should have been.

My biggest disappointment is that Oullet and Melichar are both still on the team. I know you need blueline depth, but Melichar has played less than half a dozen good games this year, and Oullet continues to drag down his line mates.

For the trades, Shero did good in getting a fair deal, minus the Roberts deal in my opinion. OS I give him a C as he was not able to pull off anything great.

If you add in that all of Oullet, Melichar and Scuderi are on this team, it’s an easy F.

But, after all is said and done, things could have been worse.


Pens make move

The Pittsburgh Penguins made a deal to acquire 40 year old winger Gary Roberts from the Florida Panthers in exchange for Noah Welch. Roberts, a 40-year-old left winger with the Florida Panthers, previously had contended that he would accept a trade only to Toronto or Ottawa, but was persuaded to come to Pittsburgh. The Penguins, one of the youngest teams in the league with the average age of 27, desperately need more of a veteran presence in their lineup with the ageless Mark Recchi. Roberts will provide the Penguins with the hardnosed, gritty attitude that should provide the team with a little spark when they are sluggish. Roberts most importantly may be able to teach young wingers like Eric Christensen, Michel Ouellette and Ryan Malone to crash the net with effectiveness as well as additional guidance in terms of positioning, work ethic and heart.

Welch, 24 yr old defensemen, out of Harvard University was considered to be a candidate to be a stalwart on the Penguins blueline for years to come. However, in short callups the past two seasons, he seems to be having trouble adjusting to the game. Some would argue that this is tentative and has trouble keeping up with the speed of the game. Not the best skater in the world either, Welch isn’t blessed with tremendous agility making it tougher for him to adept. Welch also seemed overwhelmed on the ice while the older Rob Scuderi and Josef Melichar who are seemingly consistently overwhelmed offer no where near the same amount that Welch can offer with some seasoning yet continue to stink up the joint.

After being sent down to Wilkes Barre, Welch’s inability to excel at the AHL level on a consistent level caused quite a bit of concern. The issue becomes exacerbated because now the front office obviously doesn’t feel secure enough if Welch is ready to step in here next year and play well enough to merit even a spot on the third pairing. And after this year, they can't just send him back to Wilkes-Barre. He has to clear waivers. As a result, he had to be traded… or so the Penguins front office thought.

In my mind, I like what potentially can Roberts can bring to the Penguins lineup but let’s not kid ourselves. Giving up a player like Welch, for an at maximum, a year and change+ rental player seems way too steep. Further complicating the matter, is the fact this cements Melichar and Scuderi as the Penguins bottom pair of defense provided Shero doesn’t make any moves. This is preposterous and needs to be address. Melichar and Scuderi though fine 7 or 8 defensemen on most teams are not people you want “solidifying” your defensive corps. Furthermore, if and when the injury hits the Penguins blueline, there is little to no depth outside of the solid Alan Nasreddienne who many argue should be playing now anyway. After that comes journeyman AHLer, Micky DuPont. This is definitely still not a team that can be counted on to do some damage in the playoffs and while the 2 stooges man the blue line. I do like what Roberts can bring but he truly can’t bring what the Penguins REALLY need.


Roberts Continued

Gary Roberts has apparently waived his no trade clause and will be dealt for Noah Welch per TSN. More to come later

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Roberts Saga

As I'm sure all of you have seen, the Penguins and Panthers are anxiously awaiting the decision of Gary Roberts on whether or not he wants to join the Penguins. Lets just do a quick run down of the rumors that have emerged from this (please note, none of these are confirmed)

  • The Pens will be giving up a "young player with potential" (god willing this will be Oullet)
  • The rumored player is said to be Noah Welch
  • Gary Roberts is leaning towards declining the deal
  • Toronto has negaged in a bidding war, apparently offering a 2nd, 4th and defensive prospect for Roberts
Personally, I dont think the Pens should give up any players not named Melichar, Scuderi or Oullet for what will amount to a rental. I have never really condoned this kind of move, thinking it ebtter to keep the young guy, especially now in the cap world where young players are even more important. If it is Welch, I am worried that our first call up from WBS will be Micki Dupont.

The way things sound it wont be until tomorrow that we find out. Personally, I am hoping Roberts nixes the deal, because I dont think the Pens should be gearing up for a run this year.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Deadline Wishes

Well the trade deadline is less than a few weeks away, we all have our deadline wishes. So here are my deadline wishes for the Penguins (no particular order).

1) Veteran defenseman
The Pens still need help on the blueline. Scuderi or Melichar playing regular minutes isn’t going to win you a cup, so someone like Aaron Miller would be great. I think the Pens can go with the offensive defensemen they have right now, its their own end that needs work. Preferably get a veteran defenseman that hits too.

2) Tough Guy
The Pens need a tough guy. Thorburn, Ruutu, these a guys aren’t heavyweights and cant keep other teams from going after Crosby. The Pens should still have Roy to do this (who can actually play nonetheless), but Therrien’s inability to use him got him picked off waivers. Now they are right back where they started. I’m not really jumping on the bandwagon, I’ve felt this way for years. Every year Craig Patrick, noticing we were getting the crap beat out of us, would get a bunch of tougher, but crappy guys at the deadline only to let them go in the summer. I’m sick to death of this team always getting pushed around.

3) Oullet, Scuderi and Melichar gone
I’m not afraid to say it: these three have been costing us all year with their terrible play. Scuderi and Melichar lack anything resembling offensive production, and terrible defensive play have made both liabilities. You can get a decent game from Scuderi every once in a while, but Melichar once every few weeks. Oullet I explained in a previous post. Basically this is addition by subtraction.

You know, that’s really all I have on my wish list. Amazing that after all years of wanting just about everything at the deadline, I have so few wishes. Shero has created depth on the lower lines, so I don’t find myself wanted gritty guys. Having Crosby, Malkin and Staal has bumped up the scoring significantly, so we aren’t clamoring for goal scorers. Our defense has improved much with the addition of Eaton, Orpik now adjusted to the rules and the emergence of Whitney.

Sadly, of those on my wish list I really want the three said players gone the most. Of those three, I would say Oullet gone would be the most wanted because he continually drags down whatever line he is on. Melichar you can at elast bench, but Therrient refuses to bench Oullet.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Streak Snapped

Sadly, the Penguins streak came to an end today, with a mere 27 seconds left in regulation. Due to a massive brainfart, I forgot to DVR the game, so I can only talk about what I know from the message boards.

  • Fleury played awful and let in three soft goals.
  • Melichar and Scuderi were beyond horrid and played a big hand in helping the Isles win
  • Crosby, Malone and Recchi played awsome
  • The New York media felt the need to be complete idiots and award all three game stars to the Islanders, despite the above mentioned players having 4 points, 3 goals and 5 points respectively.
  • Therrien should have pulled Fleury and put Thibault in.
Sorry for such a short recap, but when you dont see the game, you cant do much.

Three Stars (if done by non-biased idiots).
1) Recchi
2) Malone
3) Crosby

Sunday, February 18, 2007


That's the streak after the Pens beat the Caps today 3-2. They once again made it close, giving up a goal with 45 seconds left in the game. They continue to live up to the "Cardiac Kids" nickname Paul Steigerwald bestowed upon them.

Crosby only managed an assist, and Malkin got a goal from the far boards almost at the goal line. How he got it in, I dont know.

Oullet and Melichar, both who receive much criticism, actually played decent games. Thibault was also pretty solid (though he got help from the post on Semin's penalty shot) and Fleury got a much needed break.

Jarkko Ruutu played another solid game (and after he leveled Erskine, the Caps defenseman stopped hitting) , and Ryan Malone, despite having trouble in the offensive zone again, out in another great defenseive effort.

Refereeing wasn't that good, as penalties on both sides were rather weak. But it's never going ot be perfect, and I've seen much worse.

Three Stars:
1) Malkin
2) Gonchar
3) Semin

Pens Beat Devils

The Pens continued their romp through the standings, beating the Atlantic leading Devils 5-4. After going up 3-0 they once more let the Devils get close, though part was that Fleury let in a very soft goal to Travis Zajac, but with the way he has been playing recently you can hardly blame him.

Crosby ended his scoring drought and added an assist and continued to tighter his grip on the scoring race. Staal got yet another goal, and Scuderi got his first of the year (though both he and Malone maintain Malone deflected it in), and Josef Melichar added two assists.

Jarrko Ruutu also potted two goals, as the 3rd line pairing of Ruutu-Moore-Petrovicky continued to be effective in all aspects.

Oullet had a very nice pass to set up Staal's goal, but at the end of the game instead of skating up ice and dumping the puck during an empty net, he decided to shoot from his own blueline and get an icing call. This led to a minute and a half in the Pens zone of the Devils nearly scoring. Tip for Michel- if you can't hit the net from 5 feet away, there's a good chance you won't hit it from 50 feet away either.

The Devils players had good things to say about the Pens, invluding Scott Gomez saying "They are the real deal."

I would also like to point out some complaints I have seen about the pairing of Scuderi-Melichar, widely regarded as the two worst defensemen on the team. Initially, I was wondering what Therrien was doing also, but then I realized he did the right thing. The top two pairings of Eaton-Gonchar and Orpik-Whitney have both been plyaing very well during this winning stretch. Do you really want to break up that chemistry? I agree with Therrien that better to have one weak ebtter and two good ones, than one good one and two average to weak pairings.

Three Stars:
1) Ruutu
2) Crosby
3) Rafalski

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Pens Win Again, Staal gets Tricky

The game looked good when the Pens went up 3-0 during the second. Things looked bad when they squandered the lead and fell behind. But again, they just found a way to win.

The defense had another bad night, the lack of Brooks Orpik due to illness having no small aprt as Josef Melichar replaced him and picked up where he left off: playing terrible.

Staal got his first Hat Trick, and became the youngest player to ever do it. For a guy that wasn't supposed to be a scorer, he now has 23 goals, in no small part due his great accuracy and patience, putting him third on the team and one behind his older brother Eric who has played four more games.

Malkin chimed in with four points for himself having a hand in all of Staal's goals and Crosby only managed a single assist, despite playing a good game.

While I didnt see the interview, apparently Hockey Night in Canada host Don Cherry was gitty to be interviewing Staal, who he has gushed over all year. It also seemed Staal was a bit uncomfortable with it, and Cherry's affection for him may soon result in a restrainer order according to some viewers.

These are the kind of games the NHL wants to see. High scoring, end to end contests. Also, this was the first goal all year in the NHL to be scored three on three.

I am going to admit, I was a bit skeptical of Shero taking Staal with the #2 pick. Many seemed to be. But as time has worn on, Shero has proven he made the right decision and Staal is progressing far faster than anyone would have guessed.

The Pens now are in 4th in the East, and are poised to have three players 20 or younger to get 30 goals in a season, and they are the only team since the '84 Oilers to have that with 20 goal scorers.

Three Stars
1) Staal
2) Sundin
3) Malkin

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Pens win again, 7-0 against Flyers

Despite a poorly played game, the Pens managed a shootout win over Flyers.

It was one of those nights that things just werent going right. No bounces were coming their way and no one in particular played that well save a few. Crosby was again held pointless, the second time in a week, but the Pens still got teh win.

Crosby got the only goal in the shootout, though Forsberg had Fleury beat on a nice deke, only for the puck to hit the post.

Michele Oullet had a goal and an assist, but still brought down every other player while on the ice. Unfortunately his point getting means Therrien will continue to play him in situations he is not suited for (as in NHL play).

The defense also struggled mightily tonight, not able to get the puck out of their own end. Though credit goes to Knuble, Gagne and Forsberg who all had very good games.

Three Stars:
1) Gagne
2) Forsberg
3) Whitney


Here’s a game, pick out which of these names doesn’t fit for the subject of “second line”:

A) Jordan Staal
B) Evgeni Malkin
C) Michel Oullet

Answer, as if it wasn’t obvious, is C) Michel Oullet. Oullet needs to be removed from not only the second line, but the roster.

He scores in bunches, and it’s always either right in front of the net, or some easy goal set up by a good player. He cannot generate offense of his own or for his line mates. His skating speed, and quality, is incredibly low, and paired with the aforementioned deficiencies, he has been constantly dragging down the Penguins second line.

The only reason Oullet remains on this line, and possibly the team, is because as some fans are calling it, Michel Therrien has a man-crush on him. Oullet has constantly showed nothing in either end and yet Therrien keeps playing him. This is what I dislike the most about Therrien: he shows extra loyalty to those that played for him in Wilkes Barre Scranton.

I don’t mind some loyalty showing, but when it’s obvious you have much better candidates, i.e. Erik Christensen, there is NO reason for what Therrien is doing. This also applies to Rob Scuderi, who like Oullet provides nothing on a nightly basis.

Also, its not just the second line that is suffering because of this. Christensen is more top line material and there could me someone more suited for the 3rd line than him. Here is what my pairing would be:

Malone- Crosby- Recchi
Staal- Malkin- Christensen
Ruutu- Moore-Armstrong
Thorburn- Talbot- Petrovicky

This way Ruutu gets more time to play his physical game and annoy the other team, and you can play Thornburn who is player most willing to fight. Petro adds some good speed and grit, and is good with limited minutes. Not to mention, every player on the lower lines create more offensive chances than Oullet. Christensen’s speed and better instincts, not to mention offensive skills, will help Malkin and Staal much more.

It’s sad to see the teams well being sacrificed for favoritism. While I do not think Therrien should be fired, I do think Shero should do his best to deal Oullet at the deadline, and thus improving the roster by addition through subtraction.


Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Pens beat Preds 4-1

After the first period, i wasnt getting a good feeling about the way the game was going. Even after both Staal and Malkin scored, I just didn't feel safe against this team. When Recchi got a goal, you could tell it was going our way.

The young guns came through again, with Crosby and Malkin both getting two points, while Staal added another goal for his 19th, somethign that seems to be overlooked a bit.

Recchi also added three points, and Ruutu potted a empty netter to seal the game. A game that was getting chippy once more, though granted most of that was from Darcy Hordichuk running people from behind.

I've run out of good things to say about Fleury. Kid just keeps standing on his head. I remember hearing talk just last season how Lehtonen was going to be the best young goalie, and Fleury was only going to be average. This year Fleury is garnerning much more attention it seems. There is no talk of Fleury being mediocre at all anymore.

Watching the Preds for the first time in a while, I can see why they are sitting atop the league in points. very fluent and controlled plays, and not many mistakes. Recchi's goal aside, Chris Mason played a good game and deserves credit.

Michel Oullet hit people. Multiple times. Huh....

Pens defense did look good tonight for the most part. The forwards were coming back and not many mistakes from the D. The few mistakes came from Gonchar, who's half assed plat at times is really a weakness.

The game itself was entertaining, very little neutral zone play per se, and not a whole lot of stoppage. I think the Pens can be very proud of their effort tonight as they are now tied for fifth in the East after having toppled the top team.

Three Stars:
1) Fleury
2) Crosby
3) Staal

Three points and poor Recchi can't even get a star.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Pens 2, Caps 0

The Pens beat the Caps 2-0 in which neither Crosby nor Ovechkin registered a point. This marks the first time the Penguins have won without Crosby getting a point.

The Game itself wasnt very exciting. Some hitting, some decent moves but mostly a defensive game. Petrovicky's goal was a simple shot Kolzig should have stopped but just missed. However, this is the reason that the Pens need to shoot more: sometimes these goals just go in. Even in the post Craig Patrick years, they still seem to have trouble shooting instead of passing.

Kolzing almost pulled a Cloutier by letting a simple dump in bounce off his stick and start rolling past him when he went to play it. Luckily for him, the puck moved very slowly after he touched it.

Armstrong it out with a sprained knee with no definite time frame, though he will not play today against Montreal.

Fleury once agian made multiple good saves, getting his fourth shut out of the year, and second this week. He continues to keep the team in the game even when they dont score.

Malone, who got the third star, was superb on the penalty kill, generating some of the Pens best scoring chances all game short handed. He also killed quite a bit of penalty time by going into the Caps zone and getting himself pinned along the boards. While he got no points, defensively he was the best forward of the game and deserved the third star.

Gonchar's half assed effort to back track almost cost the Pens a few times and I will write an article on that when I get the chance.

Also, take note that there were 5 shutouts in the NHL last night, so Fleury's SO doesnt seem to be getting a whole lot of press.

Three Stars
1) Fleury
2) Petro
3) Malone


Thursday, February 1, 2007

Pens Win 5-4 in the Shootout

The Pens, despite their best efforts in the third, were able to beat the Canadiens in the shootout. Not only is it good to have the two points in the tight playoff race, but they seem to be getting a lot of confidence in the shootout now.

Gonchar was on fire, and Crosby, despite not having a good night, managed three assists. Malkin came out with two points also and Fleury continued his stellar play. Two of the goals were deflections that he couldnt have stopped, so the four goals against is a bit misleading, especialyl when Rob Scuderi makes sure the puck goes into the net.

I am growing more tired of Bob Errey by the game. How many times did he mention the butt of the stick hitting Crosby? Two, three dozen? And Steigy wasnt much better with his "the Habs have had their pride damaged and are battling back." Granted I agree the Habs did do a good job of getting a point, but Steigy, we are watcing the game and we can see that.

Also, I seriously wonder what the refs were thinking in not giving Armstrong a penalty for fighting Souray. He hit him while on the ground, not to mention actually dropped the gloves first. Carboneau had every right to be pissed at that.

Regardless, it was a very entertaining game and anyone that watched it as a neutral fan was in for a treat.

Three Stars
1) Gonchar
2) Bonk
3) Malkin