Sunday, October 31, 2010

GTOPG: Pens 3, Carolina 0

By Finesse

Led by Brent Johnson's great legs, the Pens went on the road last night to defeat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0.  Evgeni Malkin sat out the game with a bruised knee and Kris Letang missed a large portion of the game with a "body injury" as I'm terming it.  This is the type of game that you will be hard pressed to remember in two weeks, but it's a clean road victory and 2 points in the standings.  Right now the Pens are clearly a better road team than home team, and, it's beyond debate at this current moment in the season, are clearly a better team with Brent Johnson in net.

However, GTOG contributor Eloquence points out, "Clearly we need to continue with BJ.  But, it's worth noting, that all of Fleury's games have been against teams with winning records.  That can only be said for half of BJ's starts.  The PP in games with Fleury: 2 of 30.  With BJ: 6 of 32.  Every loss with Fleury has been by one goal (if you take away the empty-netter against Tampa).  I'm not a Fleury apologist and I completely agree with giving Johnson more starts, but let's not forget all of the other factors."

Eloquence.
 Well put.
 
Some reflections:
  • I'm firmly entrenched in the camp with Eloquence that Fleury is the long-term goalie for the Pens and ultimately the key to winning a Stanley Cup this year, and over the course of the 5 years remaining on his deal.  But right now, Brent Johnson is the hottest goalie in the league and it is hard to justify not considering him the #1 goalie.  You have to ride a performance like this while it lasts.  It reminds me of the last time we saw an athlete catch fire like this...
  • Enough with the powder blue jerseys already.  
  • Another abysmal performance by the Pens powerplay which has led Eloquence do the unthinkable - call for the return of the Ryan Whitney play.  As only someone named Eloquence can eloquently ask, "Why don't we do that anymore now that we have even more skill for that?"
  • Two second assists for Crosby.  That's what I like to see.  Accumulation of semi-deserved points is the key to competing for the scoring title and he seems to be doing that a lot more so far this year than last year.  After all, he has to keep up with Stamkos, right?
  • I was stuck with the non-HD Carolina broadcast, and all I can say is that they were describing the family of prized-rookie Jeff Skinner as if it was the Rockefellers, Kennedys and Tillmans all wrapped in one.  What is this family like?  How great could they possibly be? 
  • Paul Martin has been making a few bad clearing plays and seems to be a little vulnerable when digging the pucks out of corners.  His mistake along the boards cost the Pens the St. Louis game, and there were a few other shaky clearing attempts by him last night.  We are still 100% on board with this signing, but a weakness may be revealing itself.
  • Is the bloom off the rose with Letestu?
  • Around the league, the Caps exploded with a 6 goal second period against the Flames (snore) and the Devils continue to suck with a league worst -19 goal differential.  "How many more games until John Maclean is fired as Devil's coach?" asks Eloquence.  "If I remember correctly, Lou Lamoriello once fired a coach when the Devils were in first place a couple of weeks before the playoffs started."
Big win.

Here we go Steelers.

    Saturday, October 30, 2010

    GTOPG: Flyers 3, Pens 2

    By Finesse

    As a fan, when your confidence in your favorite team's goaltender is waning, you tend to overanalyze every goal that he gives up and look for reasons to blame him.  He's already sort of in your personal dog house, so it's easy to look to him as the scapegoat.  Last night Fleury was unspectacular, but the same could be said for every one of his teammates.

    The game started with two fights and about 74 penalties in the first 3 minutes.  If you weren't yelling "kill him!" at the screen during the Cooke/Richards fight, then you aren't a Pens' fan.  And if you aren't rooting for Engelland to stay in the big leagues over Lovejoy when Michalek returns, then you haven't been paying attention.  As Biz Nasty put it on Twitter last night:
    What did I tell u folk about engeland. The man is a beast. I said he's top 10 in the league. Agreed?

    But what did all those fights do to help the Pens win?  Who knows, but as explained below, at least Paul Devorski was happy.  Some thoughts:
    • I was stuck watching the Philly broadcast and they mentioned at the beginning that Fleury has given up the first goal in 7 of his last 18 games.  That's a remarkable statistic.  It's easy to say this in hindsight, but why did he get the start?  BJ has close to the best numbers in the league and we just put him on the shelf for a week?  I know the long-term plan is to get Fleury's head back on straight, but we have all season for that.  It's ok, though, because one move can change the world.

    • Sid, Geno, Letang, and Goligoski need to be a little less casual with the puck on the Power Play.  Sid has a ton of confidence in his passing ability, for good reason, but he is often trying to thread the puck through someone's skates across the blueline and it's been intercepted, or at least kicked out of the zone, too many times to count.  We should be generating offense from the corners and below the goal line where people simply can't take the puck off of Crosby. 
    • Speaking of the high risk nature of the power play, I'd like to reiterate my call from probably the second game of the year to get Paul Martin on the first power play unit.  You don't need to have world class offensive ability to be a good power play quarterback...you just have to make good decisions.  It can't hurt, right?  
    • There was word late last night that VH1 is giving Paul Devorski a reality show called "The Paul Devorksi Show."  The premise is that he goes to crowded events that are designed to focus on other people, but he finds a way to insert himself and become the center of attention.  In the first episode, he goes to a Bat Mitzvah and gets the family to lift him up in the chair during the Hora while poor little Erica Goldstein stands by shellshocked.
    Don't worry, I'm here now.  Notice me!!!
    • I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of bias on behalf of the Philly broadcasting team.  They were highly complimentary of Sid, Geno, and everyone else.  I'm kind of speechless.
    • Kris Letang continues to impress (you know, except for the turnover on the shorthanded goal) and as GTOG contributor Poise puts it, "Letang is GTOG'ing right now.  Although I think the Pens should take a class on Powerplayology at CCAC."
    The season is long, and as frustrating as that was, it's time to dig in for the long run.  Reinforcements are on the way:

    Friday, October 29, 2010

    "Fleury To Start in Goal Tonight"

    Remember when this didn't merit a headline?
    
    Get Well Soon.
    

    Today in Ron Cook Poetry: You Mean the Grass Isn't Greener in Detroit?

    By Artistry

    If there is one thing Pittsburgh Post Gazette columnist Ron Cook specializes in aside from redundancy and rhetorical questions, it's glorifying role players to the degree that, if you didn't know better, you'd think they were first ballot hall-of-famers.  Today's subject:  Larry Foote of your Pittsburgh Steelers.  According to Cook, Foote learned a profound lesson when he went from the Super Bowl champion Steelers to the perenially sucky Detroit Lions.  Don't go from the Super Bowl champion Steelers to the perenially sucky Detroit Lions.  In any event, he's still a champion.  Here's Today in Ron Cook Poetry.

    Aug. 7?
    Absolutely.
    May 21, 2009?
    Of course.
    Feb. 1, 2009?
    You bet.
    Sure.
    "Larry Foote did what Larry Foote does."
    Point proved.
    "The grass isn't always greener on the other side," he said.
    There's a lesson there.
    That's right, Foote already conveyed it.
    The grass isn't always greener ...

    Lesson Learned

    Morning Skate: There Will Be A Lot of Steelers' Fans in New Orleans

    This is Finesse on an early direct flight to Dallas from Pittsburgh. The yinzer-quotient on this plane blew past Dave Wandstedt levels and is inching toward Donnie Iris and the Steely McBeam lady.



    There must be a connection to New Orleans from Dallas. Tarot card readers on Bourbon street better study up on the NFL and be ready to answer, "will Aaron Smith play again this season?"

    Go Pens.

    Thursday, October 28, 2010

    Step Up Worldwide (Rick Malambri, Rick Malambri, Rick Malambri)

    By Artistry

    GTOG is huge in Indonesia.  I'm not kidding.  We've gotten more visitors from that country than we have from Indiana, PA, and they love us in Indiana, PA.  And the Indonesians aren't visiting because they want Penguins' postgame analysis.  No, this phenomenon originated back in August with Finesse's brilliant preview of the Rick Malambri vehicle "Step Up 3D." 

    I call the movie a "Rick Malambri vehicle" because it's apparently through mass googling of "Rick Malambri" that so many native Jakartans have found their way to this blog.  Shockingly, it appears there is a scarcity of media attention being directed at Rick Malambri, and these people will take news about Rick Malambri anywhere they can find news about Rick Malambri.  Rick Malambri.

    Rick Malambri Look-a-like
    Although Step Up 3D underperformed domestically, it was a huge hit overseas, particularly, we're guessing, in Indonesia.  So we're thrilled to announce that producers have been given the greenlight on another Step Up sequel, this one entitled "Step Up 4Ever."  We'll be sure to bring you news about Rick Malambri's effort to set a generation free with one dance move, as it happens.  [Ed. Note:  Rick Malambri.]

    Real Rick Malambri

    GTOPG: Scratching Max is Hard To Do; the Book on Fleury

    By Artistry

    GTOG tends to have a glass half-full approach to Penguins postgame analysis, but there were elements of last night's 5-3 loss to the surging Tampa Bay Lightning that have us troubled this morning.  With only a few exceptions (Sid, Letang, Adams), the team looked discombobulated.  Tampa, for all its offensive talent, was there for the taking.  It didn't happen.  There are many reasons why.  I wrote them all down on a piece of paper, which I forgot to pick up off the kitchen table this morning.  Little Artistry's nanny is going to think I left her a note that "Talbot sucks" and "MAF has no clue on plays from behind the net," among other things.  I'm not sure she'll be able to decipher this.  But here's how I would explain it to her:
    • Too many times, Max Talbot has been invisible this season.  I did notice him last night a few times, giving the puck away or making poor dump-ins.  GTOG contributor Eloquence offers his take:  "I hate to say this, but Max Talbot needs to be a healthy scratch.  He's the type of guy we need when the game gets a bit sloppy like it did last night -- to dump the puck and get the cycle going.  Bringing pizza to the college students in line for student rush tickets is no longer a big enough contribution."  Agreed.  We are huge Talbot supporters here.  He is a wonderful character.  And he was a genuine Stanley Cup Finals Game 7 hero.  But then, so was Ruslan Fedotenko.
    • Too Quiet
    • Do you think the league has a book on Marc-Andre Fleury?  Chapter 1:  originate offense from behind the goal line.  Fleury struggles mightily with quick chances in tight.  He's susceptible short-side and five-hole.  See the Lighning's first goal last night.  Chapter 2:  Take long-range wrist shots.  Actually, the farther away the better.  Fleury often can't seem to track them.  See the Lightning's second goal last night.  Chapter 3:  For some reason, in 2010, Fleury isn't make the one big save his team needs in the third period of a close game.  See Marty St. Louis' goal in the third.  Note to Fleury:  please don't make me regret writing this.
    • Evgeni Malkin puts on a dominant display for a couple of shifts nearly every game he plays.  But his effort is not consistent and it's not translating into points.  8 points in 10 games is not cutting it, Geno.
    • Eloquence points out that the power play had some great passing and chances, which largely came as a result of movement away from the puck. "Still need to execute more, but good progress. The pointmen are making me a bit nervous with a lot of passes across the blue line. But I do like the move into the high slot when the defense extends itself. GTOG has been yelling at that the TV for three years about more movement. Glad it's finally getting through. It took longer than a Ron Burkle divorce settlement."  It did look good at times, particularly on the PP late in the first, but there's no production.  And you can't have a power play where Geno doesn't have the opportunity to one-time the puck.  That's our biggest weapon out there.  Don't keep the gun holstered.  Makes no sense.
    • Let's end with a couple of positive notes:  1) How about Sid blowing up St. Louis with a shoulder check in the second period, then leading the rush the other way?  Breathtaking.  2) Eloquence notes, "Letang continues to be impressive.  We all know he can skate, but I'm equally impressed with his improved physical presence and strength on the puck. There were a number of times when he was initiating the contact. Tremendous to watch."
    Flyers on Friday.  LGP.

    Morning Skate: How Can Something So Adorable Be So Dangerous?

    By Artistry

    We were so busy worrying about Stamkos, we forgot the little guy owns us.


    Lots to discuss.  Stay tuned later this morning for GTOPG and news about something that has readers all over the world turning to GTOG.

    Wednesday, October 27, 2010

    Morning Skate: LeBron tries to make people laugh; People feel uncomfortable

    By Finesse

    We don't write a ton about the NBA here, but last night I did watch the Celtics-Heat while I was doing a fantasy basketball draft.  Yes, I do fantasy basketball, and yes, it is actually better than football.  The big story was that the Celtics defeated the star-studded Heat in a tight defensive battle, which is a synonym for "awful game to watch."

    The real takeaway is LeBron's new commercial, which is stunning in its failure to be: a) funny; b) good; c) relevant; and d) sensical.  It's awful.  LeBron appears to be trying to take on his critics while at the same time being funny while at the same time selling shoes while at the same time taking jabs at Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley.  LeBron strikes me as someone who genuinely is not funny despite his own opinion that he is funny.  In fact, there is a name for athletes who think they are funny, act like they think other people think they are funny, but in reality are really uncomfortable and unfunny: Donovan McNabb.

    LeBron has spent his whole life being worshiped, so obviously his buddies from Akron laughed at everything he said.  I don't blame them - when your choice is between laughing at LeBron's unfunny jokes and getting out of Akron or being a night shift manager at the Goodyear tire plant (that probably is now in China), I'm going with laugh. 

    Tuesday, October 26, 2010

    Today in Ron Cook Mentions: Did I Mention? [Ed. Note: You Mentioned]

    By Finesse

    Today, Ron Cook mentioned.  Then he mentioned.  Then he asked if he mentioned.  Then he mentioned.

    Ron Cook is getting dangerously close to what no one ever thought possible -- writing a sentence and then following up in the very next sentence by asking whether he mentioned what he mentioned in the previous sentence.  In his column this morning, he mentions that Ben shrugged it off and then, after a quote from Roethlisberger himself, inexplicably asks whether he mentioned what he just mentioned.  We've now said it 100 times, but if you haven't already, you have to read our rules for writing a Ron Cook column -- Ron Cook is clearly reading them. 

    Without further ado, here is today's Ron Cook poem, titled "Did I Mention?"
    You have no idea.
    You might say the man was relieved.
    Now more than ever.
    Wow.
    In each game, Roethlisberger shrugged off an early mistake.
    Did I mention the man shrugged it off?
    Did I mention the man was relieved?

    Things could have been worse.
    A lot worse, actually.

    I have to tell you that was nice to see.
    That he had two good arms to do it.

    Morning Skate: Playoff Beard

    By Artistry

    San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson apparently dies his beard black to intimidate his opponents.  I am boycotting baseball indefinitely, but I couldn't help watching Wilson pitch an inning the other night.  I found the beard bizarrely compelling.  I couldn't look away.  I figure the Penguins should do jet black playoff beards.  Take it to stage 2.  Imagine Talbot and Dupuis sporting one of these things.  Or Jordan Staal.  Mercy.






    Monday, October 25, 2010

    Positive Development: Tangradi Demoted

    By Artistry

    Eric Tangradi did a lot of good things during his first significant stretch with the Penguins.  He set some good screens.  He drove to the net.  He showed some presence on the forecheck.  But he also showed that he's not yet worthy of a spot as a top 6 forward on a contending team.  And the Penguins don't have room for him on the third or fourth line.  So Tangradi and defenseman Andrew Hutchinson are heading to Wilkes Barre to make room for Aaron Asham, Brooks Orpik, and/or Jordan Staal.  Tangradi has nothing to be ashamed of, but I hope we don't see him for another year.
    
    New Winger for Dustin Jeffrey
    Time to find out what this team can do with the regulars in the lineup.  Without them?  We're still in first place.  LGP.

    GTOPG: Steeler Nation Runs the League; May Want to Rethink 18 Game Schedule

    By Artistry

    I hate when Aaron Smith is out for the season.  It happens often enough that I'm very familiar with the particular feelings involved.  And disappointment is at the top of the emotions list this morning, even though the Steelers stole an important 23-22 win yesterday in Miami.  Other feelings include disbelief (that we escaped with the W), irritation (at Ben Roethlisberger's failure to protect the ball on the biggest play of the game), and fraternity (with referre Gene Steratore, Jr.).  We'll get to those.
    • No sense belaboring the point that Smith's loss could cripple the Steelers' Super Bowl chances.  I bet Ron Cook can sum this up with four brief declarative sentences and one rhetorical question:
              It won't be nearly as good without him.
              It just can't be.
             This is not a good trend.
             That about covers it.
             But for the rest of the season?
    • Yep.
    • This is the trouble with professional football.  It's just a war of attrition out there.  Injuries happen in every sport, but in the NFL it's not really about who's better, it's about who's left standing at the end.  If you can make it through 16 games of getting mauled repeatedly by Haloti Ngata, congratulations.  Bet you won't make it through 18 games.
    • Good Luck To You.
    • I don't really question the integrity of Steratore (hereinafter the "Mayor"), but I've, uh, seen better officiating.  I was just hoping against hope that the officials would determine there was no conclusive video evidence that Ben fumbled before the goal line.  When Steratore announced that it was indeed a fumble, I was downcast.  Then the guy says, "However."  However?  Really?  After a Dolphin player handed me the ball in the endzone, I don't think I would have even considered a "However."  Good thinking, Mr. Mayor.
    • You can't fumble there. 
    • I would feel better going into New Orleans next weekend if Saints hadn't just been pummeled by Cleveland, the best football team in Ohio. 
    • The Ravens really went out of their way to try to lose at home to Buffalo on Sunday, but they couldn't pull it off.  Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has a terrific beard, but it just wasn't enough. 
    • Chris Collinsworth last night on the Brett Favre/Jenn Sterger drama:  "This is an issue of sexual harassment.  If Jenn Sterger were not an NFL employee, this would be an issue in Brett Favre's bedroom, but it wouldn't be an issue for the league."  (Al Michaels nods in agreement.)  What?  OK guys, feel free to sexually harass non-NFL employees.  Just keep it off the field.
    • Farve has reportedly admitted to leaving Sterger harassing voicemails, but denies sending her inappropriate pictures.  Al Michaels reported this story last night like he was bored with it, and he has every reason to be.  Brilliant PR strategy by Favre:  become so overexposed during multiple offseasons of handwringing over your possible retirement that when you actually do something both terrible and newsworthy, we can't even deal with it.  Well played, sir.

    Morning Skate: Why Don't We Let the Guy From Washington, PA Decide

    What a call.

    You Didn't See Who Recovered the Ball, Did Youns?  Touch-dahn!
    Steelers GTOPG coming soon.

    Sunday, October 24, 2010

    GTOPG: Pens Lose, You Probably Don't Even Care Anymore

    By Finesse

    Nothing gets the blood flowing like the 10th game of the season on the road against St. Louis.  The Pens lost 1-0 in overtime, but this is one of those games when you're happy that the NHL switched to the 3-point system because you can at least say, "Hey, we got a point."  In the grand scheme of the season, this will probably be the most forgettable game...in fact, I barely remembered it when I woke up this morning.  Quick thoughts:
    • BJ is really earning his playing time.  He was fantastic again last night, and there is no reason for him to blame himself for that last goal.  He may have been trying to whack his stick off Paul Martin, not the post.
    • Pascal Dupuis and Max Talbot are not producing anything.
    • Speaking of not producing, Eric Tangradi looks like he'll be the first to go when Asham and/or Staal return.  He barely gets any playing time as is (too lazy to confirm with stat sheet, but if he did have a lot of playing time then that is even worse because I didn't notice him).
    • Mark Letestu had a rough night - he looked like a rookie for the first time, getting pushed off the puck with ease.
    • Don't be upset with Paul Martin for that turnover.  He's already done 50 times more good things than bad things.
    • The best thing to come out of this game: Confirmation that Jaroslav Halak is out of the Eastern Conference.  Of all the goalies in the league, he has to scare you the most (from a Pens perspective) at this point, right?  He was solid again last night, confidently turning aside good scoring chances.  I doubt the Blues will be in the Finals, so good luck to the Western Conference in dealing with that.
    On to the next one.  Go Steelers.

    Saturday, October 23, 2010

    GTOG Told You So: Steven Stamkos

    By Artistry

    Back in July, GTOG felt Steven Stamkos wasn't getting the respect he deserved in various pre-season NHL player rankings.  Despite sharing the league lead in goals last year with Sidney Crosby, Stamkos wasn't even cracking some pundits' lists of top 10 centers.  We ranked him behind only Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.  Last night Stamkos recorded a natural hat trick to take over the league lead in goal-scoring with 8.  The guess here is he's not looking back.



    When this kid gets a chance, he doesn't miss.  What a weapon.

    Friday, October 22, 2010

    Rome Has Fallen; A Dynasty Crumbles

    By Artistry

    In a shocking edition of "Ted's Take" today, Caps owner Leonsis proclaims his team "average."  You see, they have a lot of injuries, and that requires a juggling of lines.  The Oilers of the 80's didn't have these problems.

    Unsure How to Get to Game

    GTOPG: Letang Ends LeGame; Sid and Geno Serve Notice

    By GTOG Staff

    He's missed the net entirely plenty of times in his young career, but Kris Letang buried the game-winning slapshot last night in overtime, as the Pens repeatedly overcame one goal deficits to beat a rugged Nashville team 4-3.  Our takeaways this morning:

    Finesse:  This is a game the Pens won solely because they had the two best players on the ice.  I was watching the Nashville feed of the game and their announcers were reacting to Evgeni Malkin like he was a high school senior boy playing in a middle school girls' soccer game.  Utter domination.  He was taking 2 minute shifts and literally taking the puck off of people at will.  Sid was similarly excellent, as is to be expected.  I wouldn't be surprised if Sid has more goals than assists again this year given that it is becoming clear that he has to assume the goal-scoring duties on his own.  But, given that this game was won by Sid and Geno, is anyone concerned by this? I'm not disappointed because it is fun to watch, but we also don't want it to be a trend that those two have to play together to create chances.  On second thought, I'm over-analyzing...what a game by those two.

    Artistry:  It was.  After a rough start to this game where the puck just seemed to be bouncing on the Pens, everybody's blood started boiling in the second period.  As Sid cross-checked Jordan Tootoo repeatedly in the back, I had conflicting emotions, particularly when Nashville scored on the ensuing power play.  On one hand, I felt Crosby took a terribly self-indulgent penalty.  Did he think he wouldn't get called for the second cross check?  What about the third?  In a 1-1 game, that's not how captains are supposed to act.  On the other hand, I thought maybe Sid was about to take over the game.  It reminded me of when guys would get under Mario's skin, and it was the biggest mistake they could have made.  Don't wake the sleeping giant.  In this case, Nashville woke two giants.  Do you think Geno was inspired when Deryk Engelland came to his defense?  He was in 2009 playoff form last night.  It's true that we rely disproportionately on our top players to create chances, but most teams do, and we have the best top players.  And when the Pens outshoot the opposition 38-24 like they did last night, that's getting to our game.

    Finesse:  I feel great that Fleury got the win. Hopefully this settles him down a bit because he was still shaky at times (although to be fair, he was also great at times).  That shot in OT that nearly got past him would not have been a good goal.

    Artistry:  Aside from injuries, Fleury is still this team's biggest concern right now.  He did look sharp at times, but he continues to flash the kind of inconsistency that makes me wonder if his teammates are really as confident in him as they purport to be.  He needs to be in better position on Nashville's third goal of the night.  Pretty amusing when the Preds' announcer went on a tangent about Fleury's puck-handling skills and compared him to Ron Hextall.  I guarantee that's the first time that's ever happened.

    Let me also take a minute to recognize what Kris Letang is doing right now.  After 8 games, he leads the team in assists with 6, he has 9 points, and he has a plus-minus of +9.  He may be our best defenseman.  Letang for the Norris.

    Why Not?
    

    Morning Skate: Yeeeeehawww



    After listening to the Preds announcers last night, anything is excusable from Steiggy and Errey.  Even this.

    Thursday, October 21, 2010

    Instant GTOPG: Sid and Geno Gallop to Victory

    By Finesse

    This was Secretariat in a dog race. Sid and Geno basically won this game on their own. Malkin was in full out strip-mode, taking the puck from the Predators like Patrick Kane takes change from cab drivers -- at will. Sid had the hop from the drop of the puck and his goals were just a matter of time.

    Flower did little to ease our concerns, but a win is a win.

    LGP.

    NFL Dominating Concussion Talk; NHL Refuses to Concede

    By Artistry

    The Los Angeles Kings' phenomenal 20-year-old defenseman Drew Doughty is reportedly out for a week after getting conked in the head, news that comes in the midst of a "summit" on hockey concussions that's taking place at the Mayo Clinic. 

    Two thoughts on this:  1) the only hope for professional contact sports is for athletes to regress in terms of fitness.  Drink more, exercise less.  Get fatter, slower, and safer.  Everybody wins.
    New Prototype?
    2)  No way my wife is letting Little Artistry play football or hockey.  I will need to convince him that the ladies love cross country.

    Morning Skate: You Need James Harrison on that Wall

    By Artistry

    More fallout this morning from the Harrison story.

    Ben Roethlisberger told the PPG that he prefers not to be injured, but he's given this a lot of thought, and
    he would take a concussion over a knee injury.  He very nearly died from a head injury a couple years ago, but OK.  As I always say, if given a choice, sacrifice the head.  You've only got two knees.

    On the other end of the spectrum is ESPN's Rick Reilly,
    who is appalled - appalled I say - at the barbarism of James Harrison and, really, the entire Pittsburgh Steeler organization.  It seems Mr. Reilly has only just noticed that football is a violent sport.  Too violent?  It's certainly hard to argue otherwise.  But it's up to the league to navigate the impossibly tricky waters of how the NFL goes to an 18 game season while keeping a bunch of human missiles from killing each other.  It's not James Harrison's problem.  That guy is paid to seek and destroy.  If you have a problem with that, take it up with the suits in the league office.  James Harrison's existence, Mr. Reilly, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, well, it actually doesn't save lives.  But let's go to the video anyway.

    Wednesday, October 20, 2010

    Is James Harrison being a little dramatic?

    By Finesse

    James Harrison is considering retirement after being fined $75,000 for a questionable hit on Cleveland Browns' receiver Mohamed Massaquoi this weekend.  A few things...
    1. He will not retire.  It's preposterous.  End of discussion.
    2. Since it is clear that he won't retire, why talk about it?  He may be trying to make some sort of weird statement to the NFL, but he probably doesn't realize that everyone outside of Pittsburgh hates him and probably wants him to retire.  
    3. I've said for some time now that James Harrison will one day be led off of a football field in handcuffs.  He is a violent individual with freakish strength, who probably will kill someone before his career is over.  It's not really funny when you think about it, but I sure like that he's on the Steelers and not the Ravens.  
    4. I think Mike Ditka's idea for combating concussions - removing facemasks so players are more hesitant to inject their head into a tackle - is intriguing.  It could lead to the first on-field decapitation, but it remains an intriguing idea.
    5. When I saw the headline, "Harrison set to retire" I hoped it was Jerome Harrison because he was on both my fantasy teams this year and has done less than nothing.
    Memo to Fans: Don't run on the field

    Tuesday, October 19, 2010

    GTOPG: Paul Martin Shoots Threes Left-Handed; Pens Win

    By Finesse

    Great win for the Pens last night, as they handled the Ottawa Senators by a score of 5-2.  Sergei Gonchar's return was unspectacular, BJ played another "so solid" game, and the Pens finally got a clean regular season win at CEC.  Some thoughts:
    • Paul Steigerwald had one of his best nights as a play-by-play guy.  He was all over the action, made a Mike Lange-esque prediction that Chris Campoli would score, and made an astute observation during the Derek Engelland fight that is worth discussing.  It was Steiggy's contention that one of the best things about the Pens is that there are a lot of young guys on the roster who feel like they have to play to earn/keep their roster spot every night - Tangradi, Letestu, Lovejoy, Engelland.  That has provided the team with a new energy that can really help the Pens keep up the pressure on the nights when Sid and Geno just don't have it.  When Asham and Staal return, I think it is important that the young guys continue to have the opportunity to earn their playing time.  When Asham returns, for example, there is no way that Letestu or Tangradi should sit - they have earned their spots.  Keep a rotation between Talbot, Asham, Dupuis, Godard, Rupp and make those guys feel like young guys who have to earn their spot in the lineup every night.  [Artistry follow-up:  At the same time, I feel like it was one of Bob Errey's worst nights as an "analyst."  Do you ever find yourself thinking, "What the hell is Bob Errey talking about?"  This happens to me roughly once a shift.
    • I've been a little tough on Talbot this year, but I thought he was very good last night.  He was skating better than I've seen him all year, and that's a great sign.
    • Speaking of skating, Kris Letang has to be one of the 5 best skaters in the NHL.  Say what you want about his decision making, and we do, he has the ability to recover on some of his less-egregious turnovers that probably allows him to take more risks than other players.  [Artistry follow-up:  Agreed.  Letang and Goligoski both have elite speed that allows them to freelance on the power play with minimal risk, and we saw that finally pay off last night in the first period.  The Sens defense could not keep up with those guys in the moments leading up to Crosby's goal.  They were also probably still dazzled by the brilliance of The Letestu.]
    • Obviously we could spend more time praising Letestu, but let's give some props to Eric Tangradi as well.  On Letang's goal, the Pens fifth of the game, Tangradi was parked right in front of a shell-shocked Brian Elliot.  Letang's shot was deflected and Elliot probably would have been able to re-adjust were it not for Tangradi being in Holmstrom-City right on the edge of the crease.  Elliot couldn't see the puck and didn't adjust and the goal put the game officially out of reach.  Elliot whined for goaltender interference, which is exactly what you want to see out of opposing goalies when Tangradi is on the ice (just not when Matt Cooke is on the ice).  
    • If you're like me, then you were happy that Dupuis' goal went in without hitting Kunitz because it gave Crosby the second assist.  For any player to compete for a scoring title, they have to get good luck on plays like that and get credit for these "cheap" second assists.  Wayne Gretzky probably has a 100-foot yacht named "Second Assist."
    1,276 second assists
    • Later tonight (hopefully) we are going to break down the two most recent Ron Cook columns.  If you are new to the site, then you may not know that when we started this thing, we drafted the "Rules to Writing a Ron Cook Column."  If you ever read the PG, and particularly if you read Ron Cook, then you must compare his columns to our rules.  Trust us.  Also, take a look at some of the other greatest hits on the right sidebar.  Thanks for reading.  GTOG.

    Monday, October 18, 2010

    The Return of Superman and Gonchar

    By Finesse

    Three quick thoughts on the weekend that was, and the night ahead. 
    1. I'm not going to lie and say that I was able to watch the Steelers' game yesterday, but I will predict what Mark Schlereth of ESPN had to say: "Pittsburgh Steelers football.  Smash mouth football.  In the National Football League, when you have a football team like the Pittsburgh Steelers, that plays football with an edge, that runs to the football, that has a great football coach, and a great leader like Ben Roethlisberger return to the football field, and Harrison, and Woodley, and those defensive football players, and the football team's identity is run the football, swarm the football, that's a recipe to win football games in the National Football League.  Football."
    2. We've written extensively about Roethlisberger jettisoning the "Superman/Big Ben" name for the more safe-around-your-daughters "Clark Kent/Ben" moniker and Ben certainly said all the right things yesterday.  He allegedly teared up when he saw his parents in the private box and gave them a point after a touchdown pass (although, it's also possible that he was pointing to a Slippery Rock student).  I think the more appropriate new nickname for Ben should be "16-27" because that seems to be his career stat line.  Roethlisberger returned and played a vintage Big Ben game - decent numbers, one stupid mistake, but a win at the end of the day.  The Steelers are a team to be reckoned with, obviously, but 270+ pass yards for Colt McCoy is not a good thing.  Shore it up, D.
    3. Sergei Gonchar returns to Pittsburgh tonight.  Let's not be like Caps fans, and instead give him a nice cheer before the game.  He was a great player for the Pens for 4 years (we've all collectively erased his first season with the Pens from our memories), a calming influence in the locker room and power play, and showed a level of heart and determination that a lot of critics thought he had been lacking.  In my opinion, Sergei's best moment as a Penguin:

    Sunday, October 17, 2010

    GTOPG: Letestu a Giant; Sid From Way Downtown; Brent Johnson has Great Legs

    By Artistry


    Of the major story lines coming out of last night's 5-1 win over the Flyers - and there are a few - let's start with one we didn't see coming:  Mark Letestu is Stepping Up 3D.  Tie game, late second period, it's looking like it would be a fluke if the Pens get out of Philly with anything more than one point, Letestu is surrounded in the slot by three Flyers, and somehow he puts the puck in the net as his head is being driven into the ice by Chris Pronger.  He just leapfrogged Jock Callander on the Penguins' list of "Guys Who Came Out of Nowhere To Make You Think They Might be Good."  I say he's going to graduate to actually being good.  That play convinced me.  Also last night:
    • As rumors continued to circulate that he's playing hurt, Sidney Crosby did what he always does against the Flyers, scoring two third-period power play goals to seal the victory.  Two things about this:  1) he's definitely hurt.  If you watch Crosby regularly, this is becoming increasingly obvious. He has very little push, and nowhere near his customary acceleration right now.  Hall of Fame Dave was off target this morning asserting there is no reason to doubt that Crosby is injury-free.  There is every reason to doubt that.  He would never admit to being hurt.  It's not in his nature, and  it would put him at a competitive disadvantage; and 2)  I think it's fair to say Sid has never scored an NHL goal on a slapshot from just inside the blueline like he did last night.  Crosby at the top of the umbrella on the powerplay is something we've never seen, and the Flyers had no answer for it.  Might not be a bad idea to try that again.
    • The hope here is that those Crosby goals inject some confidence into the powerplay, which for the better part of the game was unspeakably bad.  The Pens must get at least one or two PPG per game to play with  the better teams in the league right now, because they won't often be holding those teams to two goals a game with all the injuries and Marc-Andre Fleury's spotty play of late.
    • Speaking of the goalie, there he was at the buzzer last night, greeting last night's starter Brent Johnson with his trademark grin.  Maybe Fleury knows something we don't, but I think Johnson's performance means Dan Bylsma has to come back with him again tomorrow night, right?  Let's not over-think this.  You have to ride the hot hand at this point.  Forget about Fleury's confidence. The guy's a grown man, and now like a 6th year veteran, making $5 million a year.   He needs to perform.  There is no reason you sit Johnson down right now.  As Paul Steigerwald put it late in the third, Johnson has "great legs."  Fleury isn't losing his job.  Call it a sabbatical to the bench.
    • Is it too early to say that Mike Comrie has earned GTOG's early tag as nothing more than a recreational hockey player?  I think not.
    • Heavyweight Jody Shelley, you probably just didn't notice that Eric Godard was in uniform last night.  Or giant-killer Derek Engelland.  I'm sure that's why you chose to drop the gloves with the Penguins' third toughest guy, Mike Rupp.
    • And finally, you stay classy Mike Richards.

    • The only thing I like more than beating these guys is my family and maybe a few friends.  LGP.

    Saturday, October 16, 2010

    GTOPG: Pens 3, Islanders 2

    By Artistry


    You know how sometimes you record a hockey game on DVR, and then when you settle in to watch it late at night, you realize it didn't record, and you feel profound disappointment and sense that there is some conspiracy against you because you know you hit record?  Yeah, that happened last night.  I took solace in the fact that it was only the Islanders, and I caught the last 8 minutes of regulation and overtime.

    Alex Goligoski, clearly inspired by criticism this week from GTOG, fired the game-winning wrist shot in overtime for the Pens' first-ever win at Consol.  I can't say in retrospect that I regret missing their previous seven power play chances.  1 for 8 against the Islanders is just abominable.  Bring back Mike Yeo.

    The other notable item last night was the major penalty and game misconduct issued to Kris Letang for this hit:



    Great hit.  Awful call.  Nothing else to say about it.

    The Pens are in Philadephia tonight.  I'm setting two DVRs.  LGP.

    Friday, October 15, 2010

    Marc-Andre Fleury is Hungover, Fake-Tanned, and In a Fight With a Towel Dispenser

    By Finesse

    Jeff Reed knows how Marc-Andre Fleury feels, which can only mean that Fleury drank too much last night, peed in public, complained about his contract, and fought a public bathroom.  No wonder Fleury has been shaky.

    Skippy, just make some kicks this week.

    Go Steelers.  Go Pens.

    Check out the comments to yesterday's post for some discussion on the Fleury/Brent Johnson controversy non-troversy.

    Thursday, October 14, 2010

    B.J. to start Friday night

    By Finesse

    Dan Bylsma is going with Brent Johnson in goal this Friday night at CEC against the Islanders and possibly even again on Saturday at Philadelphia, according to the Post-Gazette.

    Fleury's first three games this season have been horocious.  BJ's one game was solid, if not very solid.  Some wouldn't even hedge on the solidity of BJ's game against the Devils and would just call it, "real solid."  It's way, way too early to talk about a benching of Fleury for any more than a game here and there, but I am in total support of starting BJ this Friday.  The Pens desperately need to win a game at home before this new arena thing becomes an albatross around their neck all season (I don't know what an albatross is, but people always say it is around a neck).  With the unsteadiness of Fleury, BJ gives the Pens a better chance of winning tomorrow.

    We stand behind Bylsma on this call.

    Get to your game, BJ.

    GTOPG: Leafs 4, Penguins 3

    By Artistry

    We're thinking of renaming this feature "Get To Our Post Mortem."  The Pens are now 0-3 at the new Consol Energy Center, with the three deflating one-goal losses against three Eastern Conference teams we should beat.  Sure, it's early.  But inconsistent effort combined with a slew of injuries has GTOG concerned.  Some thoughts on last night's loss to Toronto:
    • It may be hyperbole to compare the impact of the loss of Brooks Orpik and Zybnek Michalek to what the Steelers endured last season when Troy Polamalu and Aaron Smith went down, but not by much.  Look at the Leafs first two goals last night.  In the first, our new 6th defenseman Andrew Hutchinson committed a brutal turnover, then decided to cover a guy in the high slot, leaving Colton Orr wide open in front of the net.  Then, on a Maple Leaf power play, Alex Goligoski and Ben Lovejoy were on the ice when Tomas Kaberle slid a pass right through the box for a wide open shot and goal.  Poor spacing, although you can pin that on the forwards as well.  And there were numerous other blunders, though Ben Lovejoy made some nice plays. 
    • Ultimately, the defense is going to be fine.  I see no reason to second-guess the signing of Paul Martin.  That guy is an anchor.  Orpik and Z-Mickle will be back, and will complement the talents of Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski perfectly.  The long term problem I see is this team again has no finish.  Remember how the Penguins of the 90's would coast along, looking like they weren't even interested in competing, then all of a sudden explode with like three goals on four shots?  Well, the current incarnations of the Pens is the exact opposite of that.  They need 40 shots to score 4 goals.  Problematic, especially when one of our more skilled forwards (Mike Comrie) earned a healthy scratch.  Finesse:  Exhibits A-Z of Sid's frustration with his wingers: When Dupuis couldn't bury the feed from Sid midway through the 2nd.
    • But it isn't just Dupuis or "Hands of Stone" Chris Kunitz (Finesse:  Is there anyone less graceful at falling down than Chris Kunitz? Every single person in the arena knows when he falls. He makes Chris Bourque look like Geoff Sanderson).  The problem extends right up the chain to Evgeni Malkin.  How confident was I that Geno would botch his penalty shot late in the second period?  Supremely.  I was just upset we didn't get a power play instead. 
    • Have you ever heard Dan Bylsma call out Marc Andre-Fleury the way he has this week?  I'm hard pressed to recall HCDB saying a negative word about anybody.  It's usually not his style.  He's more of, how do I put this, a "Boys, let's Get to Our Game" type.  But Fleury has given up at least three goals in every game he's played this season, and if that trend continues, all of this other talk about the team won't mean very much at all. 
    • There are a couple of positive takeaways from last night:  1) Eric Tangradi is improving every game.  He's going to be a player, but Sid laid it out on a platter for him as he cruised down the slot in the third period, and he needs to get that shot away.  2)  This:


    • Finesse:  I was really worried when I realized Engelland was fighting Colton Orr, especially after the first 10 seconds when it looked like Engelland might actually get decapitated.  But he fought back hard and landed a HUGE shot to Orr's chin.  What a fight.  Big props to Engelland.
    • Finesse: It's embarrassing to be 0-3 at home.  It really is.  Not time to panic, of course, but time to be embarrassed.  I've never heard a team credit the opposing team's goalies as often as the Pens do.  Memo to the Pens - these other goalies are not that good.  The goalies we have lost to so far are: Sergei Bobrovsky, Carey Price, and Jonas Gustavsson.  There is no Patrick Roy in that bunch.  In fact, there isn't even a Roy Patrick, who probably doesn't even exist but sounds like he would be an awful goalie.  Are these other goalies playing well or do the Pens just not score on them?  When Dupuis didn't bury Sid's feed, the announcers credited Gustavsson, but in reality, every goalie in the league could have gotten his leg to the same spot.  The problem was that Dupuis shot it into the 5% of the net that Gustavsson actually had covered.  Gustavsson sounds like a prosecutor from the "Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" books, not a goalie who should be shutting down the Pens.
    Jonas Gustavsson?

      Tuesday, October 12, 2010

      The Confounding Case of Alex Goligoski

      By Artistry

      [UPDATE: Check out our January 2011 "reassessment" here]

      For a time, it seemed he was ready to take his place among the finest young nucleus in the league, joining Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang, and Marc-Andre Fleury as the Penguins' "core" players.  In those early weeks of the 2009-2010 season, Alex Goligoski appeared to be a bona fide emerging star.  The surge in his play culminated with a performance in Columbus where he scored a late, game-tying goal and looked like our best all-around defenseman.  He also looked like Abe Vigoda.

      Goligoski

      Vigoda
      Then he was injured (Goligoski, not Vigoda, who still appears to be in remarkably good health despite reports to the contrary).  Knocked out for about a month with "a lower body," as the Penguins' have come to describe these things.  Since then, we've seen the tantalizing flashes of talent, like the one on Monday in New Jersey, when Gogo swooped through the neutral zone to collect a loose puck jarred loose by Eric Tangradi's check on Ilya Kovalchuk, and in the next instant blasted the puck past Marty's Brodeur's outstretched glove.  But more frequently, it looks like Goligoski is swimming out there, sometimes quite literally.  The defenseman who ended up flat on his stomach in some sort of a bizarre attempt to thwart Travis Zajac's late-third period rush toward the Penguins' net?  That was Goligoski, doing the breast stroke.  He basically just threw his body on the ice and hoped Zajac stumbled into him.  Actually, it was probably a better showing than this one:



      Also troubling is that Goligoski has been having a hard time gaining the zone on the power play.  He doesn't have the patience of Sergei Gonchar or Paul Martin, who Finesse rightly suggests should take over on the point.  Time after time against New Jersey, Goligoski was hurried into making a bad pass.  He's effective once the power play sets up shop, but he needs to be the guy that gets us to that point, and he's not showing he can do it.

      What happened to the kid who showed so much promise and poise last fall?  I'm hoping he's available, because when we receive news about the injuries to Brooks Orpik and Zbynek Michalek, I don't expect it to be good.  That means an even higher profile for Goligoski, and he simply can't be such a defensive liability in a top 4 role if the Penguins expect to stay afloat for the next few months.  I'll take it a step further:  Goligoski's ability to elevate his level of play may be the key to the first half of this Penguins' season.

      Today in Ron Cook Poetry: Disarray, I Tell You

      By Finesse

      We haven't crafted a Ron Cook poem in some time because he seems to have been writing longer paragraphs.  However, when the topic is Joe Paterno, Cook doesn't hesitate to break out the tried and tested strategy of endless rhetorical questions, references to self, and ridiculous repetitions on nonsensical Cook-isms.  He chided Sue Patero several weeks back for not dragging Joe Paterno's near-lifeless body off the sidelines before it actually became a lifeless body right in front of Brent Musberger's eyes.  Now, he's back on the Paterno bashing bandwagon again, this time with a rhetorical question in the actual title of his column.  Take it away, Ron.
      Disarray, I Tell You
      Please, spare me the nasty e-mails.
      This is not piling on an 83-year-old man.
      A guess?
      Nor will his marvelous career.
      See that arm in the air?
      That's mine.
      I am in that group.
      Whatever.
      Ok, I admit it.

      How can it not be?
      That's awful.
      Not surprising, but awful.

      Timeouts have been wasted.
      Has it ever happened?
      Disarray, I tell you.
      This much is certain:
      It's not going to be pretty

      Whatever.

      Monday, October 11, 2010

      GTOPG: Pens 3, Devils 1

      By Poise

      It's always extra satisfying when the Penguins can pull out a solid road win for a Columbus Day afternoon game.  This was the type of game that makes you sleep better tonight.  We cranked out our first win of the season and broke a seriously depressing 6-0 losing streak against the Devils.  Our defensemen made the game's most significant offensive contributions, and Brent Johnson reminded us how solid and confident a backup goaltender we have.  A few thoughts about this afternoon's game and what this means for you:

      Zombie Fest: I think the guy on the right is my Orthodontist
      • Brent Johnson - How nice was it to watch Johnson go behind the net and effectively trap a loose puck and get it safely to out from behind the net? 
      • Craig Adams - While Craig Adams certainly doensn't score many goals, what he lacks in offensive firepower he more than makes up for in ability to insert himself in compromising situations and come out swinging.  
        • Finesse: Craig Adams won't just take a grenade for you, he'll make out with her at the bar.
      • Paul Martin - Paul Martin has got serious offensive ability, including a deceptive slap shot and an amazing decision making ability.  Finesse nominates him as the point man on the power play, and his performance tonight is certainly compelling evidence. 
      • Zombie Fest - This past weekend was Zombie Fest in Pittsburgh.  This is a festival where you dress up like a zombie and hang out and have brunch downtown.  Pittsburgher's love dressing up like zombies, but not as much as they like dressing up as animals.  Speaking of which, shout out to Boomer the Dog Boomer the Dog.
      • Diet Mtn Dew - Just wanted to remind our readers that Diet Mtn. Dew now comes in the following flavors with utterly unreal names: Supernova, Voltage, Typhoon, Crave, White Out, Flair, Ultra Violet, and Distortion.  If anyone out there ever wants to write a guest post for GTOG, the above referenced nicknames are all available.  Apparently they are doing some kind of taste bracket thing over at Mtn Dew headquarters.  Don't know much other than that, by my money is on Voltage pulling out the lead on Supernova.  Anyone want in on this action?
      Liquid Diabetes?
        After the jump, read Finesse's thoughts on today's big win

        Sunday, October 10, 2010

        Five Demands the NHL Should Make with New TV Deal

        By Eloquence

        The NHL is in the final year of it's TV contract. Reports are coming out that talks between NHL and TV execs will be heating up soon (and have already begun informally). Versus, NBC, and FOX are all reportedly interested, which is great news for league and it's bargaining power in terms of money and other stipulations.

        With that said, GTOG would like to see Commissioner Bettman and Co. demand these five stipulations for any network that is serious about the privilege to broadcast NHL hockey:

        1) Three prime time games/week. The NHL is stronger than ever, a thrilling game, and has a generation of stars that will be around for the next 15 years. America needs to know and love them now so that they want to watch them for the rest of their careers. No more "Thursday Hockey Nights" on ESPN2. Two weekdays (an east coast game followed by a west coast one) and one game featured on the weekends. The NHL is more exciting exponentially than the NBA...people just need the chance to see that for themselves.

        2) A real production set. We don't need a virtual playbook like the one ESPN has for the NFL, but we'd like something more than an old couch in Scott Burnside's childhood living room.  The Versus set has improved over the years, but it doesn't exactly say "the NHL is a big deal." Get a great set, but leave the gimmicks to the NFL coverage.

        Poise follow up: Also, the handgun and ash tray set dressing in Burnside's living room studio is alienating to viewers, especially young children.

        3) Bring bloggers into the analysis on TV and online. This is obviously self-serving, but even without the GTOG team included, it could be a lot of fun for fans and get a lot of buzz around the web. Puck Daddy, The Pens Blog, etc. -- give them some air time and opportunity to talk about what fans think of a match-up, trades, arenas, health code violations, etc. With the decline of traditional media and often lacking coverage of the NHL anyway in favor of other sports, the NHL and the network who wins the bid would do themselves a favor to build the hockey blog community. Getting them on TV and radio shows will give bloggers legitimacy and build the fan base for hockey with more options for coverage. I just thought of this as I was writing and think it's a tremendous idea.

        Poise follow up: Eloquence brings up a great point about the growing emergence of blogs and social media as new age replacements for what we can all agree is lacking coverage by traditional sports media outlets.  What builds personalized connections to teams, players and the NHL is not ony the added insight and coverage, but the inside jokes, nicknames, contests, photoshops, and quirky storylines that are usually absent from traditional media outlets.  (Penguins blogs, most notably The PensBlog has done an outstanding job at doing exactly this over the past few seasons.)  Not only will this help engage a younger and more financially desirable demographic, it will also translate into added revenue for the teams and NHL through boosted advertising, ticket, and merchandise sales.  As for giving bloggers TV time, Eloquence is just looking for an excuse to get his Crosby-esque hair on TV.  I don't blame him.  Great hair.    

        Finesse follow up: I'm really glad Eloquence thinks Eloquence's idea is tremendous.

        4) More time on Sportscenter. ESPN will obviously do this if they win, but the NHL should make them do this if they even want a seat at the table during negotiations. And then award the contract to someone else. This is only one of many things that ESPN would have to do if they want me to watch SportsCenter again.

        Poise follow up:  Jay's Telestrator may cause riots to break out at ESPN Headquarters in Bristol, CT. Hide your kids, hide your wife.

        5) HIRE MIKE LANGE! Of course we're biased, but those who know Lange know that he brings one of the best minds around to the game. He's fair, he's clairvoyant, players respect him, and he has the best voice in the game when someone scores. Finesse has noted that Lange has an uncanny ability to watch pre-game warm-ups and make incredibly accurate predictions about how a certain player will have a big game. This sort of gift should be shared with America and beyond just the radio in Pittsburgh.

        GTOPG: Canadiens 3, Pens 2

        By Finesse


        This was the official, "welcome to the NHL season, where terrible losses can put you in a terrible mood" game.  In case you forgot how annoying the Canadiens were, this was a pretty clear reminder.  It's the second game of the season so you won't find any overreaction here, but rest assured, we know this one sucked.  Some thoughts:

        • With about 5 minutes left, the Pens were leading 2-1 and were dominating the Canadiens on the forecheck, confirming that the Canadiens are sticking to their tried and true strategy of sucking for long stretches of time and then relying on the opposing goaltender to allow a soft goal.  Hey, if it works.  I was taking some notes on the game in my iPhone and typed "Dance of Champions" with 4 minutes left.  Won't make that mistake again.
        • I'm vehemently against all habitual booing of opposing players.  I don't mind some occasional booing, but to boo an opposing player every time he has the puck is a waste of energy and borderline embarrassing.  Aren't we playing completely into that player's hands when we do that?  Ovechkin scores about 11 goals a game against the Penguins, but some people think that booing him might get him off his game.  How about ignoring these guys?  We all LOVE when Flyers and Caps fans boo Crosby, so don't you think that opposing teams like when our fans boo their guys?  And, why P.K. Subban?  Yeah, he's annoying and a little dirty, but he was playing in his second ever regular season game.  Let's not make this guy out to be more than he is - a rookie.
        • That being said about Subban, he does his job well if that job is baiting the Pens players to get distracted. Way too much after the whistle stuff by the Pens, although I do understand how irritating some of those Habs players can be.  The refs were calling tons of penalties in these skirmishes - I'm sure the fans were happy that in addition to paying for tickets to see the refs, they also got treated to a hockey game.
        • When is it OK to be worried about Fleury?  We'll have a much longer post on this if he continues to let in a soft goal every game, but last night was brutal.  Maybe he never had a chance at stopping their first goal, but to not even be looking at the shooter?  Fleury's weakness is when the opposing team generates offense from behind the net, and that play was no exception.  I don't really need to say anything about Gomez's game-winner because we all saw it, but his tendency to let in at least one bad goal every game is getting to be troubling.
        • Tangradi is far from a fluid skater, but he is usually around the action which is a good sign. When Asham is healthy, I see no reason to send Tangradi down - he should get some more opportunity.  At a minimum, he hasn't done anything to show that he doesn't belong here.  So, who would that leave vulnerable on the roster?  Let's just say that Max Talbot may want to make sure his suit is back from the dry cleaner.  We love Talbot, though - maybe our favorite Penguin.
        • AGH cam is the best thing to happen to FSN in a long, long time.  And to FSN's credit, they only cut to a ridiculous single-player zoom in camera on a Pens odd man break once last night.  That's progress.
        Time to regroup for Monday.  LGP.

        Friday, October 8, 2010

        Mario Looking at Mario

        By GTOG Staff

        As GTOG contributor Poise put it, "Do pictures get any more beast than this?"  He's talking about this shot of Mario Lemieux taking in the "Mario Mosaic," which was unveiled last night at Consol Energy Center.

        ????
        This photograph needs a caption.  Send us your suggestions, and we'll post our favorites next week.

        Get To Our Postgame: Flyers 3, Pens 2

        By Artistry

        Wouldn't you know it, Ron Cook got it right this morning.  Credit where it's due, he looked back on last night's inaugural regular season game against the hated Philadelphia Flyers and launched the quintessential Cook rhetorical query:  "I say so what?"  Indeed.  Everybody was excited for this one, and a bit more invested than usual, but we'll be struggling to remember the details in a few weeks.  Here's what caught GTOG's eye:
        • The Flyers didn't see the need to try to intimidate the Pens, even with Eric Godard out of Pittsburgh's lineup.  It's almost like they believe they can play with us.  That's a little disturbing. 
        • There is simply no answer for Evgeni Malkin if he has the jump he had last night.  Unfortunately, there is an answer for Mike Comrie wrist shots fired directly into the goalie's midsection.  Comrie will get those chances every game - he clearly knows how to get open - and he better start to find the net.
        • The way the puck was bouncing around in the first period last night probably had something to do with opening night jitters, but I suspect the Flyers' Mike Richards was right when he used an expletive to describe the condition of the ice at Consol Arena.  Concessions to Ron Cook and Mike Richards in the same post?  Rough morning.
        • Sure, the new power play was a failure last night.  But I'm not prepared to draw any conclusions.  Let's talk on Sunday.
        • There was a lot of talk in camp from Coach Dan Bylsma about the defenseman jumping into the play.  He wasn't kidding.  I don't remember ever seeing so many different Pens' defenseman being so aggressive offensively.  It didn't translate into goals last night, but it looks like this team is expecting Paul Martin, Kris Letang, and Alex Goligoski to compensate for the expected dearth of goal-scoring from the wings.  Even Z-Mickle was thinking offense. 
        • Kris Letang had the flu.  He gets a pass on the giveaway.  Just this once.
        • 
          Chin Up.
        • What a shot by Tyler Kennedy.  As discussed by Finesse in our season preview, he's got to add some versatility to his offensive game if he wants to stick.  He got off to a good start last night.
        • The state of the Penguins wingers was summed up perfectly at the end of the second period, when Chris Kunitz darted up the middle of the neutral zone looking to take a lead pass from Malkin and, without being touched, tripped over his own feet and somersaulted into the Flyers' end.
        • The sequence in the third period where Malkin had his stick held, then moments later stripped a Flyer of the puck and got called for a hook?  Terrible.  How's my over-under bet on Geno's penalty minutes looking?
        • Claude Giroux is a genuine, modern day Penguin killer.  He scares me more than any other Flyer forward, and it's not even close.
        • GTOG Nation, I call upon you now to explain the Alex Ovechkin commercial where Ovechkin's head (sans the rest of his body) appears in some kid's locker and he starts laughing maniacally as the kid looks on, stunned.  Children across North America (or at least children who get Versus) will have nightmares about this.
        Time to regroup.  Habs on Saturday.  GTOG.

        Thursday, October 7, 2010

        GTOG NHL Season Preview Part IV: Pens Preview

        By Finesse

        Everything is in place.

        Crosby is entering his prime.  Malkin is entering his prime.  Someone dumped Fleury's prime into the Pens' zone and he's trying to stop it behind the net, but may or may not be able to.

        Ray Shero worked the phones this summer harder than Naomi Campbell.  David Morehouse, who let three members of GTOG into a private party in Washington D.C. with the Stanley Cup two summers ago, ascended to his rightful place as Pens president.

        Dan Bylsma has another year under his belt, and whether or not it's true, we declare that he spent the whole summer watching game tape and figuring out how to teach his defensemen not to back in and let Ovechkin unleash wrist shots from the top of the circle.

        Mike Rupp is a year older and a year more beastly.  Matt Cooke and Aaron Asham are as ugly and as irritating as ever.  Tyler Kennedy is playing to prove he has a long-term place in the NHL.  Max Talbot stopped basking in the glow of Game 7 and is ready to become a superstar again.  Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz are......healthy?

        Eric Godard owns this suit.


        The defense is rejuvenated with fresh faces and a new energy.  Paul Martin brings the discipline of the Devils' shut down style.  Zybnek Michalek is going to be great even though if we are honest with ourselves, none of us ever saw him play in Phoenix.  Kris Letang knows he has to show that he is capable of being a top-4 defenseman and Alex Goligoski has to prove he's not a smaller, better skating version of Ryan Whitney.

        And there's Mario.

        As you can tell, almost all signs for the Pens are positive this year. On paper, the roster is almost as good as it was on paper in 2008 with Hossa (with all due respect to the 2009 Cup team, the Pens' roster in the 2008 playoffs was STACKED and the Crosby-era Pens have never played better than they did in the Eastern Conference Playoffs of 2008).  But that's just on paper, and paper can't measure the increase in maturity and leadership that the Pens' big guns have now that they are a few years older.  So, what isn't there to like about this Pens' team?


        Since word broke over the summer that Jordan Staal had an infection in his surgically repaired foot and showed up at the NHL Awards in a walking boot, we've been pessimistic about this injury.  As we've noted several times over the past few weeks, when there is only either silence or negative news about an injury like this, it means that there is only bad news.

        The Pens admit that there is some uncertainty surrounding Staal's condition, but insist that it is only a "blip" in his season.  We hope that's the case, but given that this is an infection and not a more traditional injury, who really knows what the time table is.  He hasn't skated since the playoffs, his leg is "withering" and he reveals that he has a long way to go.

        What does this all mean for the Pens?  Staal is obviously a huge presence on the ice, but his absence has a drastic trickle down effect on the whole roster.  It prevents the Sid-Geno combination and assures that each of those guys will be playing with linemates who are, to say the least, not in their stratosphere.  It's not good for the penalty killing unit which showed great improvements last year.  Just in general, it's not good (Ron Cook just smiled).

        We may sound overly worried about an injury that the team insists is not serious, but because the outlook of this team outside of the Staal injury is so rosy, we had to find something to harp on.  We hope we're wrong and that the Staal injury is just a blip, because with him at 100% this team will be very, VERY tough to contend with in the East.

        Thoughts on how the season will play out from the GTOG Staff, after the jump.