Monday, October 31, 2011

It's Not That Hard: GTOG Realigns the NHL

By Finesse

The fallout from the NHL's proposed realignment is very noisy.  Reactions are all over the map.  Here is the proposal, via Puck Daddy.

According to Elliotte Friedman of CBC Sports, each team will play every team outside the division twice (once home, once away).  If the Pens are in a 7-team division, that means 46 out of division games, and 36 in division games (so the Pens would play each team in the division 6 times -- the same as now).  There would be a return to divisional playoffs, where 4 teams from each division would play each other for the right to play the conference's other division winner in the conference finals.  Think Patrick Division.  Pensblog did an excellent analysis of this yesterday, but today, we've got a different plan.

Find out GTOG's proposal after the jump...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

GTOG Raw Emotion Podcast: Steelers Beat Patriots 25-17

After a long-overdue and emotional win over the Patriots, we reflect. But we're not raising any banners.

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"I wonder if they are finally starting to realize that I may have lost my fastball..."

If you can't beat Toronto, you might as well throw a sick Halloween party

By Finesse

When the Pens play on HNIC against Toronto, it's usually one extreme or the other -- think the Valentine's Day massacre or some game where Sid and Geno probably each had hat tricks (not looking it up, but just assuming that it's happened in Toronto).  Last night, as the game crawled by on mute in the background of a big time Halloween party, it was clear that this game wouldn't hit either of the extremes, unless you count Malkin trying to set the record for most penalties taken but least amount of time actually spent in the box.

The definition of something you hope to never see.
Bottom line: nothing to dwell on here.  Pens are going to lose some games.  Hands is going to continue mopping up in front.  Pens PK will miss Michalek.

We look forward, not backwards.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Myth of the Twitter Boogeyman

By Finesse

There is a weird phenomenon happening and we at GTOG don't like it.

A GTOG Investigation
Bloggers, reporters, and other smart phone-wielding instigators associated with the NHL keep mounting their high-horses to make strong proclamations in response to unspecified boogeymen. Look at your Twitter feed. Odds are you'll soon be watching somebody start an argument with people who don't exist.

What is GTOG talking about? Read on after the jump...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

GTOG Podcast: Pens Win; Steelers-Patriots Preview

We cover the Pens' hot streak, the Steelers-Pats matchup (huge game, arguably the biggest of the season), drafting Andrew Luck, the NBA Lockout, and the highest grossing actor of all time.

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Yes, that's Drew Bledsoe.

Steelers hoping stats don't lie; suspect Brady knows the truth

By Artistry

On paper, it's a matchup of strength against strength. The Patriots come to Heinz Field on Sunday to pit their vaunted passing attack against the Steelers' top ranked pass defense.

There's a really great fro-yo place on Gay Island.
But if you just read the words "Steelers' top ranked pass defense" and reacted by saying anything other than "That can't be right," or, more succinctly, "Bullshit," then you are probably William Gay. The numbers don't mean much when you look at the quarterbacks the Steelers faced over the season's first 7 weeks:

Joe Flacco
Tavaris Jackson
Curtis Painter
Matt Schaub
Matt Hasselbeck
Blaine Gabbert
Kevin Kolb

In a league with those seven quarterbacks, Matt Hasselbeck makes the pro bowl and possibly the Hall of Fame, so forgive GTOG's skepticism on the issue of the Steelers secondary.

Second Team All-Pro in Steelers' Opponents League
The key to Steelers-Pats after the jump...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

GTOPG: Pens survive sparse, apathetic crowd; Win 3-0

By GTOG Staff

The Pens play the Islanders six times every year.  Four of those games are always competitive, because for the past 5 years, the Isles have had a relatively young, up and coming team that occasionally shows flashes of being competent and sometimes even threatening.  And then there are the other two times the teams play.  In these games, at least two out of the following three things happen: 1) Crosby or Malkin get a hat trick; 2) less than 11,000 people attend the game in Long Island; or 3) Rick DiPietro is healthy enough to be the backup goalie.  Last night was one of the other two times.  The Pens put forward another rock solid performance featuring a harmonic ballet by the Sullivan-Malkin-Neal line; an "I'm playing so well that not even I can blow this shutout by allowing a meaningless late goal" performance by Marc-Andre Fleury; and an on-ice-hockey-lecture from guys like Dupuis, Cooke, Park, and Asham showing the young-and-fun Islanders' kids have a long way to go before they can hang with the big boys.

This is how men celebrate scoring goals.
The Islanders name-to-face quiz, a command performance by the Prime Minister, and a full recap after the jump...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Islanders forgive Penguins for being assaulted by Islanders

By Artistry

We have official word at this hour that the New York Islanders are not - we repeat not - looking for retribution tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins. This is refreshing, because we were sure Jack Capuano's men would be out for justice after their fists were attacked by so many Penguins' faces last February 11. Big sigh of relief.

How dare you, Eric Tangradi.

Wake Up With GTOG: In case you forgot, Joe Flacco reminds you that he's still Joe Flacco

By Finesse

It's tough to explain this:

Until you see this:

3.6 yards per pass attempt.  In other news, the Steelers are in first place.

Monday, October 24, 2011

GTOPG: Steelers beat another bad team in unimpressive fashion so as to lower expectations against Patriots (wow, well done); Win 32-20

By Artistry

When the NFL released its schedule for the 2011 season and he saw New England coming up on the docket in Week 8, Mike Tomlin really had only two options: A) play solid September football, follow that up with three weeks of sound October football, welcome the Patriots to Heinz Field for a clash between the two best teams in the AFC, watch as Tom Brady spreads the field against the Steelers suddenly suspect defense, grimace as Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez catch a combined 28 passes for 332 yards and 6 touchdowns, shudder as the Pats manage to eat the clock in the 4th quarter by handing the ball to a running back you've never even heard of even though you play in a 16 team fantasy league, then get ready for Baltimore; or B) start the year with a total debacle of a performance against the arch-rival Ravens, take another loss to a playoff team (Houston) that isn't nearly as close as the final score suggests, and string together 5 wins against non-playoff teams that are so uninspired that the Steelers end up home underdogs against New England (-2.5). He chose "B."

Here's the thing. The Steelers could be a top flight but underachieving team that overcomes a spate of early season injuries to again emerge as the class of the AFC. We could beat the Patriots. We just have no expectation whatsoever that that will actually happen. So kudos to Coach Tomlin. Brilliant strategy.

 - The most promising thing we took from Sunday's game in Arizona is that it never felt for a moment like the Steelers could lose it. We can't say the same thing about the wins against Jacksonville and Indianapolis. Really, you can't have enough games where you have absolutely no fear that the Steelers will completely relax in the 4th quarter and allow a miracle comeback; i.e., you can't have enough games against Kevin Kolb. The Steelers obvious weaknesses through the early part of the season - the woeful pass protection, the deplorable run blocking, and James Farrior - all were present against the Cardinals. It's just that bad teams can't consistently take advantage of them.

- Ben Roethlisberger, on the other hand, can take advantage of bad teams. He was brilliant in sticking the dagger in the Cards when they managed to pull within 3 in the second half. Perhaps the best example of Ben's preternatural pocket awareness was the play where he sensed pressure from no fewer than three rushers and managed to find Ike Redman for a little dump off and first down. He even brought back the patented, Oscar-worthy elbow flex/arm roll combination that's brought him so much critical acclaim over the years. When one day someone makes a documentary about Ben's heroism, Dan Dierdorf will lobby to narrate it.

- Much has been made of Mike Wallace's impact on the offense, and that's well-deserved. If you don't realize how great Mike Wallace is, consider he is once again averaging more than 20 yards-per-catch (20.3) after averaging 21 ypc last season and 19.4 ypc as a rookie in 2009. Randy Moss never averaged 20 ypc in a season. We've been watching the beginning of a career that could be historically great. But don't lose sight of the fact that Roethlisberger has been consistently targeting Antonio Brown. On Sunday, we saw that focus on getting Brown the ball start to pay off, as Brown hauled in 7 passes for 102 yards and made one spectacular catch on 3-and-5 during a game-sealing 3rd quarter drive. If the Steelers can arrange to use New England's offensive line next week, this is a passing attack that could really explode against the Patriots.

- Note to Rashard Mendenhall: you suck, and you're in danger of losing your starting job to Mewelde Moore. There. Now we can look forward to Rashard Mendenhall running for 100 yards next week.

- So pleased Lamarr Woodley decided to join us this season. Here's GTOG co-founder Finesse, stuck today on jury duty: "Woodley grabs people like a grizzly bear scooping a 50 pound salmon out of the water in Alaska."

- We don't even recognize the Steelers defensive line anymore, although one of those guys does look like Ironhead Heyward, and that McClendon person seems inspired by the Steelers dedication of the remainder of the season to all-time great Steelers d-lineman Aaron Smith. Finesse is unsentimental. "There is no doubt that Aaron Smith has been a great player for the Steelers, but that time has come to an end," he said. "That is, his time as a Steeler needs to come to an end. I'm sure that if Smith was healthy, he could still be a very solid contributor, but the chances of that happening are lower than the chances of Big Ben not wincing on camera during a game. He's been knocked out with season-ending injuries in something like 4 of the last 5 years; as tough as it will be to see him go, it's unfair to ask the Steelers to continue paying a guy to play 4 games and then tear a muscle somewhere in his upper body." Besides, we can still count on Willie Colon for that.

Tearing tendons and collecting paychecks since 2010

Zybnek Michalek Breaks Finger; Plans to Spend More Time with Family

By Artistry

TSN's Bob McKenzie reports this morning that heroic shot blocker and general defender of the net Zbynek Michalek will miss a month of games with a broken finger, and if at any moment you think the Pittsburgh Penguins will have all of their important players in the lineup at one time, destiny may opt to take a dump on your chest.

Michalek baby also likely to poop on chest

Wake Up With GTOG: Ron Cook Reminds You That Mike Wallace is Fast; Steelers Win 32-20

By Finesse

A full Post Game will be up later today, but let's get the morning started with some Ron Cook poetry featuring rhetorical questions, needless repetition, bizarre use of italics and colons, and at least one "indeed."
Shame on Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton.
Cornerback Richard Marshall isn't.
Here's the first of two amazing things:
And the second amazing thing:
We're talking unbelievable speed.
Teams keep kicking to Hester.
He keeps doing it.
How does this keep happening?
Oh, it's real, all right.
It showed up on the scoreboard.
Deflating for the Cardinals?
Deflating, indeed, Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt admitted.
Still, Wallace won.
"He's a freak show out there ... "
That day is coming fast.
Of course, it's coming fast.
With Wallace, how else would it come?

Tough crowd.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

GTOPG: Pens Outmaneuver Devils; Win 4-1

By Finesse

Last season when the Pens were missing Sid and Geno, every game was a nail-biter.  The Pens were scraping and clawing for every goal.  It got so bad that you probably said to yourself more than once, "Bylsma should be double shifting Kennedy right now."

This season, the Sid and Geno-less Pens have a completely different feel -- a borderline dominant one.  You actually expect the Pens to score goals and don't act surprised when they score one on the power play.  If Fleury lets in a bad goal -- which he rarely does -- you don't think that just lost the team the game.  If the Pens hit a rut, you say to yourself with total belief, "it's OK, as long as we're rolling Richard Park, Jordan Staal, and Dustin Jeffrey down the middle, something special will happen."  And then it does.

It's too early in the season to get too high or too low, so we're going to keep things in perspective.   But right now, the Pens are cruising along like Vin Diesel when he shifts gears 20 times during a car chase scene from Fast & Furious.

Just wait until we can flip the nitro booster.

Go Pens.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Countdown to NFL Week 7: The NFC East and Chris Cooley's Frustrations

By Finesse

[We're counting down to Week 7 with analysis of some of the league's biggest stories. In Part 1, we covered The Carson Palmer Hypothetical; in Part 2 we looked at the Donovan McNabb trade; and in Part 3 we surveyed the AFC playoff picture.]

The NFC East

A common theme you've heard this year is that the NFC East is down.  At least two problems with that theory:

1) It implies that the NFC East is usually "up" which is odd because the Cowboys have won one postseason game since the 1990's (which was followed by a 30-point loss), the Redskins aren't half as relevant on a national stage as they think they are, the Giants are one lucky helmet catch away from being a footnote to history, and the Eagles annually find creative ways to pour gasoline on their fans and set them ablaze.

"I told you! I want to use all my timeouts in the third quarter!"
2) This season, the NFC East is actually NOT down -- it's the same as it always is.  Technically, this depends on whether you think the Eagles can turn it around because if they can, then you have four teams that are each tough: the Skins and Cowboys have strong defenses, the Giants can run the ball, and the Eagles are as explosive as anyone when Michael Vick isn't getting concussed.  Though the anti-east-coast-bias'ers may want to bury the NFC East, the fact is that there is only one team in the entire NFC -- Green Bay -- that is definitively and unquestionably better than every team in the NFC East.

Staying in the NFC East: Chris Cooley is Frustrated

You may remember his brother Tanner -- yes, he's named after an adjective and has a Twitter account dedicated to being the parrot on his big brother's shoulder who chirps back at people who critique Chris  -- as the guy who blogged in February of 2009 that he saw Sidney Crosby "cry like a 7 year old who got beat up by the school yard bully" and that the Penguins wouldn't make the playoffs.

Chris, the Redskins' backup tight end, is out indefinitely with a hand injury and he feels "frustrated."  He has vowed to come back at a higher level than before, which presumably means he will go from definitely being a non-threat to probably being a non-threat.

Contrast his current disappointment with the delight he felt a few weeks ago when Tony Romo was throwing unlimited interceptions.  Here's some of what he wrote at the time:
And as a player who has decided to share my real personality with the fan base, I make a clear choice with expressing my political incorrectness as an entertaining attempt to engage as a real person. I will not apologize if my sense of humor and hint of sarcasm is difficult to ascertain by the more serious NFL supporters.
Just as Cooley was delighted about Romo's failures, we're delighted by his rapid skill-decline.  We will not apologize to our less serious readers for the fact that we aren't trying to be funny or sarcastic about that -- we're genuinely delighted.

This occurred while the 10-1 Steelers were defeating the 3-8 Redskins in 2004.
Look, we don't really know whether Cooley is on the decline because he's not good enough to be on anyone's fantasy team so no one really cares.  But what we do know is that if you ever find yourself in a position of trying to explain to people that you have a sense of humor, you've done something wrong.  Likewise, if you're an overpaid and injury prone tight end who had 8 catches this season before your injury, and your backup is probably going to make the Pro Bowl, you should rent, not buy.  We don't know whether he's washed up.  But it sounds like the water is running.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Countdown to NFL Week 7: The AFC Playoff Picture: Who is the best Leader of Men?

By Finesse

[We're counting down to Week 7 with analysis of some of the league's biggest stories.  In Part 1, we covered The Carson Palmer Hypothetical and in Part 2 we looked at the Donovan McNabb trade.  Also check out our podcast here.]

Sometimes the NFL is a difficult league to figure out.  Other times, it is as clear as day and you just need to come to GTOG to see the full picture.  We're going to simplify the AFC playoff race for you right now.  Here are the standings:

In the AFC, all indications are that the 4 division winners are going to be Baltimore, New England, San Diego, and either Houston or Tennessee.  For Steeler fans who think I'm conceeding the division to Baltimore prematurely, consider: the Ravens demolished the Steelers and they have a +77 point differential in 5 games (the Steelers are +17 in 6 games).  Of course the Steelers could still win the division, but we also thought they'd put away the Jags easily once they got up 17-0.

That would leave the following teams to battle for the two wild card spots: Pittsburgh, Buffalo, NY Jets, Oakland, and Houston or Tennessee.  Yes, I am leaving 4-2 Cincinnati out on purpose.  Remember, they are the Bengals.

The Steelers exposed Tennessee, so even though Houston isn't great, you have to figure that they take the South at 10-6 and the Titans don't get more than 9 wins.  (And if they don't then Tennessee will win it at 9-7.  The point: Neither is getting a wild-card).  Oakland is replacing Jason Campbell with Carson Palmer, which reminds me of the time I got a D on a science test in 4th grade, begged the teacher to let me take it again, and then got an F.  So we're left with Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and the Jets for the two wild-card spots.

The Steelers have the easiest road to at least 10-6 and a playoff birth.  Even if you aren't sold on how the Steelers have played this year -- and how could you be? -- the fact remains that the Steelers have 5 easily winnable games remaining: at Arizona, at Kansas City, Cleveland twice, and home against St. Louis.  That would get the Steelers to 9 wins, meaning they'd only have to win one out of the following 5 games to hit the magic 10-win mark: home to New England and Baltimore, two games against Cincy, and at a suddenly formidable San Francisco.  In other words, the Steelers can make the playoffs by continuing their early season trend of losing to good teams and escaping bad teams merely by continuing to lose to good teams and escaping bad teams.  It could be wild-card weekend before we actually know what kind of Steelers team we're working with.

General Dwight D. Roethlisberger, Commander of His Guys
The final wild-card spot will probably be decided by the two games remaining between the Bills and the Jets.  If either team sweeps, the playoff spot should be theirs.  But if they split, then the edge has to go to the Fred Jackson's Buffalo Bills because they still get to play Tony Sparano's Dolphins twice.

So, what have we learned?  First and foremost, the Steelers must make the playoffs.  It's almost impossible for them not to.  Second, razors are no defense against Joe Flacco's eyebrows.  Finally, and as we've been saying forever, the NFL is about having the best quarterback.  You can have a cute regular season with a merely decent QB (San Francisco), but unless you have a top 5 QB or are related to Peyton Manning, you aren't winning the Super Bowl.

You just aren't.

2011 - Aaron Rodgers
2010 - Drew Brees
2009 - Colonel Ben Roethlisberger
2008 - Peyton Manning's Brother
2007 - Peyton Manning
2006 - Private First Class Ben Roethlisberger
2005 - Tom Brady
2004 - Tom Brady
2003 - [ignoring]
2002 - Tom Brady
2001 - [also ignoring, but had best defense ever]
2000 - Kurt Warner
1999 - John Elway
1998 - John Elway
1997 - Brett Favre
1996 - Troy Aikman
1995 - Steve Young
1994 - Troy Aikman
1993 - Troy Aikman

Thursday, October 20, 2011

GTOG Podcast: Pens Keep Winning; Should General Roethlisberger be Given More Ammunition to Lead His Men?

Have you ever wanted to listen to a super low-energy podcast with sound issues that is borderline incoherent and goes 10 minutes longer than it should?  Great!  In this week's podcast, we discuss the Pens, the Steelers, the World Series, and even the NBA lockout.

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Give this man more responsibility!

Pens vs. Habs: "Let the Speculation Begin"

By Artistry

Further confirmation today that Mike Cammalleri is a huge douche. Really, when asked by a reporter if he's going to make a return to the lineup after suffering a relatively minor injury, who says, "Let the speculation begin"? Mike Cammalleri, that's who. You may not realize this living in the hockey bubble of Quebec, Mike, but for everyone in the entire rest of the world, you don't exactly move the meter.

Let the violent retching begin.
Also, word out of Montreal is the Penguins are only good because they get high draft picks.

See that? Now you're ready for the game. GTOG podcast afterwards. LGP.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Countdown to NFL Week 7: Donovan McNabb Gets Benched; Leslie Frazier Translator Reacts

By Finesse

Leading up to Sunday's action, we're going to be reacting to some of the big stories in the NFL.  Yesterday, we explored The Carson Palmer Hypothetical.  Today, we look at Donovan McNabb's benching.

Donovan McNabb Gets Benched

One of the biggest dangers to democracy is athletes who don't know they aren't funny.  Cue Donovan McNabb.

The unnecessary laugh that occurs at the 45 second mark after he says "deep dish pizza" is the Unnecessary Laugh of Legends. I'll be showing that clip to my grandchildren. I look forward to not watching him when he's co-hosting ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown next year.

But we wonder if he's fake laughing today, now that he's been replaced by rookie Christian Ponder?

For some insight on the quarterback change, let's take a ride on the Leslie Frazier translator.  Here's what the coach said after the Vikes' 39-10 loss on Sunday when asked about Ponder.
"The only qualifier is what's best for our team, and that will be the criteria we use when we sit down and continue these discussions over the next couple days. For a guy who gets limited reps in practice, it seems he had a good grasp, like we thought he would, of our offense."
[...Running the GTOG Leslie Frazier Translator...]

"Here's my dilemma.  I'm in way over my head.  But beyond that, here's my other dilemma.  I have no idea what is best for our team.  The best thing would probably be to try to go 1-15 and draft Andrew Luck, but there is no chance I'll still be the coach when that happens, so I don't know how that would benefit me.  So I could continue to have Donovan McNabb throw grounders to our receivers.  That's one option.  Or, I could go with Christian, who has a grasp of our offense.  I don't know what our offense actually is, but he is grasping it."

While we have the Translator out, read on for a bonus translation...

GTOPG: Dupuis, Kunitz, Cooke, and BJ Lead the Way; Pens Win 4-2

By GTOG Staff

No one wants to hear about how the Penguins are missing all their top players, or how tired they are, or how the early season schedule seems specially designed to disadvantage them. We're tired of excuses. But going into Tuesday's game in Minnesota, we were fully prepared to make them: No Crosby, Malkin, Fleury, Orpik, Letang, Kennedy, or Jeffrey. No rest between games. A hungry Mike Yeo on the Wild bench. Cal f-ing Clutterbuck. As it turns it out, Minnesota is left wondering this morning why they traded Pascal Dupuis for Adam Hall in 2007.

- Certainly the Pens have an advantage over everyone else in the league at the top of the roster assuming, of course, that Sid and Geno are healthy.  But make no mistake about it, the heart and soul of this team is not embodied in any one person, but is best exemplified by three guys: Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz, and Matt Cooke, ages 32, 32, and 33, respectively.  For super-talents like Sid and Geno, the prime of their careers is usually in the 25-28 year old range.  But for guys like these three, who can capably play any role they are asked, their early thirties is their prime.  They're physically stronger than the 20-somethings, and their experience is invaluable.  Each of these three is at the point where his veteran savvy is at its maximum, but the physical abilities haven't started to diminish.  Is a 22 year-old first round pick going to win a puck battle against a 32-year old man with this beard?

- The shorthanded goal engineered by Cooke and Dupuis is a prime example of this veteran savvy and moxie. If you're a point man on the power play trying to get a shot or a pass through Cooke, you don't see a man constantly vilified for dirty play. You just see an enormous pain in your ass. Cooke shut down the lane and showed incredible patience and vision by angling a blind pass off the boards to the streaking Dupuis. And what a finish by Super Duper.  Same thing for Kunitz's goal, which was created by him baiting a defenseman into a turnover, and then setting his body in perfect position to receive a pass in his wheelhouse delivered by Dupuis.

- GTOG was primed this week to send out an APB on Kunitz's hands. Also not necessary. Even though his first goal was some time coming, Kunitz continues to make at least one player on every NHL team curl up and weep like Glenn Close in "The Big Chill." On Tuesday, it was Jared Spurgeon.

So delicate. So tender.
- Brent Johnson was heroic last night.  We have complete and total confidence when he plays, except during shootouts.

- Team MVP Jimmy Neal fired yet another puck through a goalie last night, but we defy anyone to argue he's playing much differently than last spring, when he managed 1 goal in like 27 games. He was one of the best players on the ice during that cold stretch, too. He's not a streaky player. He's a streaky scorer.

- If you could have one guy in your lineup tomorrow, would it be Neal or Hossa?

- It looked like Letang replacement Brian Strait suffered some kind of wrist injury and had to leave the game early, putting even more pressure on a suddenly beleaguered defense. But Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek sucked it up and played almost exactly half the game. Also, Deryk Engelland started blocking shots with his face, so that helped.

- By any measure, Martin and Michalek have not been great 5-on-5 this season, but to bash them now would be to blind yourself to the facts on the ice -- these two are anchoring a penalty killing unit that was almost singularly responsible for the Pens having home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs last year, and is one 4-on-3 overtime goal against away from being perfect this season.  Yes, we want more from them.  But that doesn't mean we aren't also getting a lot as it is.

Mike Cammalleri in town on Thursday night.  Go Pens.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Countdown to NFL Week 7: The Carson Palmer Hypothetical

By Finesse

Over the next few days, we'll be counting down to Week 7 by checking in on some of the big stories happening around the NFL.  Today, we look at the Carson Palmer trade.

The Carson Palmer Hypothetical 

Imagine that you bought a brand new BMW in 2003.  You were super excited when you bought it and thought it would help turn around all your bad luck.  In fact, it won an award from the BMW factory for being the best car the factory manufactured all year.  For the first few years, it ran perfectly, outperforming almost all other cars in its class, and consistently being voted one of the top cars of the year.  2005 was its best year ever -- it got from Pittsburgh to DC in under 3h30m and climbed this hill in Beechview in an historic ice storm without problems.

But in January 2006, your BMW went up against it's biggest challenge yet -- trying to navigate out of the Mellon Arena upper parking lot after an overtime loss where the attendant working the Centre Avenue exit left the bar down before he got drunk and passed out so everyone had to take the Bedford Avenue exit instead.  A real nightmare, but something you were sure your BMW could handle.

Just as you expertly navigate to an open lane and are about to exit onto Bedford Avenue, a guy with a German-sounding name sideswipes your left side and knocks our both your tires.  You're crushed, your car gets towed, and you're the last one out of the lot.

You spend all summer trying to repair the damage, but the best you can manage to put on the left side of your car are two tiny little replacement tires that enable you to go half as fast as you used to.  Now the outside of the car looks the same, but something is off.  You miss exits.  You stall the car in traffic.  Your biggest rival car -- a huge hulking white van from Ohio that looks like the kind of van you tell your daughter never to get in -- wins Car Of The Year twice in four years.

Manufactured in Findlay, Ohio
You continue driving the BMW for a few more years before realizing that you have to get a new car as a backup plan, just in case.  Your BMW feels spurned by this betrayal, so it refuses to work for you.  You remind it that you've invested a fortune in maintenance of it, but it doesn't care.  It still thinks it's running like it was in 2004 and 2005.  The situation only gets worse when your new car -- a red-top American-made car from Texas -- starts performing pretty well.  You start to like the new car better, but you're still so mad at the BMW's stubbornness that you refuse to trade it in and let him go to a new owner.  As the BMW sits there for months, its value deteriorates to almost nothing.  You're stuck, and think you'll never be able to get rid of it, especially with its blown-out left side tires.

But then the son of a recently deceased insane car dealership owner calls you and offers you your choice of two brand new shiny cars in exchange for the BMW.

"If I had been alive these past 12 years, I would have made much worse trades than this."

Kris Letang Only Needed One Game Off, But He's Suspended For Two

By Finesse

For this hit, Letang gets two games.

We thought it warranted one game, tops, which would actually have been a well-earned night off for Letang during the Pens' brutal October schedule.  This is setting a very severe precedent.  A few more hits like this, and Shanahan is going to be left with no option other than taking a player's first-born child.

"Wooo!!! Two days off!!!!"

GTOPG: Penguins Curiously Decide to go to Winnipeg to take Nap; Lose 2-1

By Artistry

It was about 10 minutes into the first period of the Pittsburgh's 2-1 loss to Winnipeg when colorful color commentator Bob Errey gave up. "They're discombobulated," he said of the punchless Penguins. "What do you want me to say?" You hush now, Bob. GTOG will handle this.

- The first minute of the game at the MTS Centre on Monday must have felt for the Penguins like waking up out of a sound sleep and finding yourself in the middle of a rave. They were disoriented, virtually paralyzed, and Zybnek Michalek hallucinated and thought he saw the Zhamnov-Selanne-Tkachuk line bearing down on him when it was really only two lesser Russians and Kyle Wellwood. Then Michalek fell, Wellwood scored, and the good citizens of Winnipeg reacted like Ted Leonsis at a post-regular season victory buffet. The Penguins then went 10 more minutes without a shot on goal and looked like they were skating in quicksand. After one period of play, it was 2-0 in favor of the untalented Jets, which any true fan knows could only mean one thing: the Penguins would proceed to dominate the final 40 minutes of the game, fail to bury a dozen sterling chances, and lose 2-1.

- Really, if you turned this game off after 20 minutes, huge mistake. This turned into a tremendous goalie duel between Marc-Andre Fleury and that guy Pavelec. Fleury was tremendous. GTOG co-founder Finesse missed most of the game and says he has few regrets this morning: "Any time the Pens are in a goalie duel with a goalie who has a career 4.6 GAA against us, it's bad news. I think 40% of Sid and Geno's goals over the past 3 years have come against Pevelic. Pavelic. Whatever." Indeed.

- The Penguins asked Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to field questions from the media after the game. "Our early season schedule has been brutal. Starting out with a Western Canada trip, then Winnipeg and Minnesota on consecutive nights? 7 games in 12 days? That's unheard of," Ben said while flexing his throwing hand. "Without Sid, Geno, Kennedy. Most teams would take a .500 record after this stretch and be thrilled. Not this one. It's up to me take these guys on my shoulders and carry them in all three zones. I just need to squeeze my swollen, throbbing foot into some skates. No excuses."

- The top line of James Neal, Stevie Sullivan, and Richard Park dominated the second half of the game, and the sold-out crowd was on such a high that they may not have noticed the Penguins top line was centered by Richard Park. It was Sullivan's best game as a Penguin. He was dancing. Neal has been the team's MVP in these first two weeks, and it's not close.

Giving Mark Letestu first line center lessons.
- Matt Cooke showed his true value last night. He raised his game after the sluggish start, hit somebody every shift, drew a penalty, then later made a great play to get the puck to the point and screen Pavelec on Michalek's goal.

- Jordan Staal hit a post last night and made a strong move to the net to set up a prime rebound chance for Chris Kunitz, but he did nothing to shake GTOG's feeling that he's not doing enough. He's totally ineffective on the power play, and there is no reason that we can see - none - that Staal should be doing anything aside from standing directly in front of the net when we have a man advantage. We never want to see him trying to make plays along the half board.

- Kris Letang has a disciplinary hearing scheduled today to address his hit on that Burmistrov kid who had earlier in the game stripped Letang of the puck and set up the Jets' second goal. With any luck, Letang will get a one game suspension and be forced to not play 29 minutes tonight against Minnesota.

Monday, October 17, 2011

GTOPG: Blame it on the wind, but no excuses; Steelers barely hang on to win, 17-13

By Artistry

If there is one thing that's almost sure to be more entertaining than an October football game between the Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars, it's the Steelers trying to explain why they didn't win said football game by three touchdowns.

"I never make excuses," said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, prompting everyone at GTOG headquarters to take out our notepads and prepare to take copious notes. "When [the wind] is blowing, you have to put a lot of spin on the ball. I just wasn't doing that."

"The wind most definitely was a factor, but we won't use that as an excuse at all," added receiver Mike Wallace.

"It was gusting pretty good," continued Roethlisberger, and I swear to you, I'm not making this up. "Dan [Sepulveda] said on the last punt he wanted to take off and run. He didn't even want to punt it. It was what it was. It was kind of Heinz Field. One series it blows one way, then it swirls on you. Like I said, no excuses."

"I blacked out this morning when I was getting dressed, but no excuses."
- Rashard Mendenhall's 146-yard game came against a very solid Jacksonville run defense. No other running back has mustered more than 75 yards against the Jags. As Ron Cook put it this morning: "The team's best back, by far." We've been telling you the same thing for weeks, and we've been using complete sentences.

- The run defense, on the other hand, is the Steelers single biggest concern. Playing at home, against a rookie quarterback, they should be giving up next to nothing on the ground. As recently as last season, we took that for granted. Now, they can't stop anybody. Maurice Jones Drew was 4 yards shy of being the third back to top 100 yards against the Steelers in 6 games. Pittsburgh is now 15th in the league in rushing yards allowed. Do one thing exceptionally well, and you can cover up for a lot of deficiencies. But considering that the Steelers' other big weakness on defense is that they're susceptible to getting carved up through the air by accurate passers, that adds up to a bad defense.

- To this point, we've been telling you nothing you see on a given Sunday matters. September and October football is not November and Dee-cember football. Now, that changes. The Cardinals are coming off a bye week, and you never want to give Kevin Kolb extra preparation time. Follow that with consecutive home games against New England and Baltimore. In a few weeks, the Steelers really will have no excuses.

- Coming soon to GTOG: Finesse will have 360 degree, top to bottom, from all angles, every inch covered, coverage of the NFL. If we aren't writing about it, that means it doesn't matter.

"Follow GTOG on Twitter."

Sunday, October 16, 2011

GTOPG: March 2011 v.2.0; Pens Lose 3-2

By Finesse

We've said this regularly over the first 6 games, but it must be said again after the Pens latest sans-Sid/Geno loss in a game where the team played well but -- you guessed it -- couldn't bury enough of it's plentiful scoring chances.  We're ready for the stars to come back.  It's nice to be proud of the way the team plays when the Big Two aren't on the ice, but it's a lot like potty training: it's great when the kid is trying really hard to use the toilet, but at some point he needs to learn how not to hit the seat.

- Saying the Pens are starless right now may not be technically accurate.  James Neal has been dominant this season, galloping like a Clydesdale in a turtle race.  But this is not a surprise -- last year Neal was also an impressive player, clearly looking like the scoring winger the Pens needed (you know, except for the scoring).  This season, he's not doing anything that differently -- last year he threw the puck from the board to the net indiscriminately an unlimited amount of times, to very little success.  Except this time:

The point is that Neal wasn't that bad last year; but this year we're wondering if he could really be that good.

- Speaking of things that aren't that good, Jordan Staal's puck handling.

- We have nothing against Mark LeHealthyScratch personally, but it's never a good sign when your fill-in first line center is also the first guy that you scratch when your real first-line center comes back.  And it's an even worse sign when this fill-in subsequently gets replaced on first line duty by Richard Park.  And it's an even worse sign when Richard Park looks significantly better in the first-line role.

- Bylsma did a good job last night of rolling all 6-defensemen to avoid giving Letang too much ice time this early in the year.  Last night he was at 21:13.

- The Sabres are for real.

- GTOG's rage over Comcast's failure to devote more than one High Definition channel to the NHL Center Package reached a boiling point last night; a very angry email was sent.  Comcast replied and will reach out to contact me as soon as possible.  It's a near certainty that they won't do anything about it, but GTOG is going to fight the good fight.

Beautiful Sunday.  Go Steelers.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Capitals Defeat Penguins in Overtime to Claim 2011 Stanley Cup

By Finesse

[Also check out the podcast here]

PITTSBURGH -- Denis Wideman scored in overtime as the Washington Capitals defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 on Thursday night to win the 2011 Stanley Cup.  The win over their arch-rival marks an undefeated 3-0 season for the Caps and sent the entire Washington region into a frenzy.  A group of twelve people at Hard Times Cafe in Fairfax, VA attempted to celebrate the victory by turning over a car, but almost immediately gave up and decided to go home and write "Crysby Sucks" on internet message boards instead.

"This is everything we ever dreamed of and more," said team owner Ted Leonsis.  "All the hard work we did this past week finally paid off.  It was a very long season for us, but very rewarding.  There were those horrible calls that we overcame, but I'm not complaining, but they were bad calls.  The Penguins are our biggest rivals and I'm glad that we can finally bring this Cup back to our great fans in Washington."

The Caps fell behind early on a goal by Pens' forward James Neal and when asked after the game, no players on either team could remember a time when the Caps possessed the puck in the first period other than that time defenseman Karl Alzner panicked and shot it out of play for a delay-of-game penalty.  But the tide turned in the second period as Penguin-killer Mike Knuble bullied a puck past backup net-minder Brent Johnson.

"We really turned things around in the f*cking second period," said Caps' coach Bruce Boudreau.  "In the first period, I thought our f*cking asses were up in our faces but f*ck it if we didn't f*cking come out in the second and f*cking get our juices flowing in our blood."

The Pens withstood the Caps' pressure throughout the second, but the Caps' continued the onslaught early in the third period as captain Alexander Ovechkin scored on a nifty deflection.  It was the captain's first goal of the season, and first time all night he did something other than come down the left wing and have the puck immediately taken off him by Pens' defenseman Zbynek Michalek.

"Follow my boy...Sasha!!!" Ovechkin shouted incoherently at a confused press corps after the game.  He went on to exclaim, "we not n Canada!" and "hAhaHahaaa."  When asked for clarification on Ovechkin's comments, Caps' spokesman Jim O'Donnell handed each member of the the press a blank sheet of paper, apologized, and immediately went home to his wife.

The Caps were holding a 2-1 lead when Jay Beagle tangled with Kris Letang and appeared to be whistled for a roughing penalty.  Pens' enforcer Arron Asham took exception and challenged Beagle to a fight.  After landing the first few blows while Asham played possum, Beagle's facemask was drilled 6-inches deep into his sinus cavity by Asham's right fist.  As Beagle lay on the ice spitting out his teeth, Asham reminded the crowd about Jerry Meals' safe-call and of the importance of a good night's sleep.

The fight turned the tide in favor of the Penguins who were able to tie the game on a wrister by James Neal, his second goal of the night.  Brent Johnson may have made a save or two in the third period, but just like the first period, no one can really remember.

As overtime started, the Caps' television broadcasters reminded viewers that Mike Green prefers 4-on-4 overtime hockey, presumably because it means less people for him to have to play defense against.  The Caps were awarded a power play after Jordan Staal was whistled for needlessly tripping Ovechkin as he was about to turn the puck over anyway.  On the ensuing power play, center Nicklas Backstrom found a streaking Wideman who buried the puck behind Johnson.

Caps' goalie and Conn Smythe winner Tomas Vokoun made 39 saves in the victory.

The road to the Championship didn't come easy for the Caps; it was the culmination of three games of intense work.  Before tonight's game, they had a hard-fought win over Carolina in their home opener Saturday and also survived the pesky Tampa Bay Lightning in a brutal 1-game series on Monday.  Prior years had seen the Caps fade as the playoffs wore on, so having their Stanley Cup awarded in the third game of their season appeared to be to their advantage.  But coach Boudreau wasn't about to let anyone diminish the team's accomplishment.

"Look f*ckface," the coach said.  "I don't give a sh*t if this was our first game of the f*cking year, a Stanley f*cking Cup is a Stanley f*cking Cup."

Check out the full recap on the GTOG Podcast here.

GTOG Podcast: Pens-Caps Recap; Crosby Cleared for Contact

We recap the Pens' 3-2 OT loss to the Capitals and discuss Sidney Crosby's announcement that he is cleared for contact. This podcast is oozing passion and emotion.

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Same haircut as Rob Rossi