Monday, January 31, 2011

Peter King is Self-Indulgent; GTOG is Anything but Nonplussed

By Artistry

We don't talk too much here about Sports Illustrated's Peter King, because if you think Ron Cook is an easy target, consider for a moment that King has a regular section in his Monday Morning Quarterback column devoted to his "coffee nerdness." Really. I'm making an exception today because King in this week's column did two things that particularly bothered me.

1) He fell victim to the all too common sports media tendency to completely misunderstand the actual meaning of words. Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue was "nonplused" by criticism of the labor deal he negotiated a few years back, King wrote Monday. Meaning Tagliabue was unconcerned or not surprised. OK, first of all, it's spelled "nonplussed." Second of all, it means the opposite of what you think it means. Look it up.

2) He wrote these words:  "Now the only movies I absolutely have to see before the Oscars are The Social Network, Black Swan and Inception. Don't worry. I'll get to them. Can't wait to see them." To which I would respond: I'm not worried. Good for you. I'm pretty sure not even your own family cares. Nonplussed?


Definitely.

Morning Skate: Letang, Bang; Super Bowl Storylines Now so Tired, Game May Need to be Delayed

By Artistry

Much like Mario Lemieux finally learned how to be a champion by playing with Gretzky, Messier, and Coffey in the 1987 Canada Cup tournament, Kris Letang took a major step toward fulfilling his Hall of Fame potential by leaping into the fiery crucible of the 2011 NHL All Star Game and emerging with two dazzling goals. Not really. I'm pretty sure Henrik Lundqvist scored two goals in "Team Lidstrom's" 11-10 victory over "Team Staal," and Letang worked harder at the team's holiday party than he does here:



Still, it's a good thing he gave us some highlights, because Marc-Andre Fleury reportedly gave up 13 goals in 4 minutes of play. Asked this morning if he was sorry he missed the game, Sidney Crosby replied, "What ga....Oh. No. Er, it was a special day for the league and the people of Carolina." When asked the same question, Evgeni Malkin said, "Girls like."  In other news today:

- Packers Coach Mike McCarthy is from Pittsburgh. The Staals are brothers.

- I was reaffirming my decision never to watch NBA games Sunday by sitting with my buddy as he took in the Celtic's convincing win over the Lakers while sporting a hideous Robert Parish t-shirt. "How are you feeling about the Super Bowl?" he asked me. "Concerned," I replied. "It's no secret how you attack the Steelers' defense."

"Do what the Patriots do," he said.

"Spread them out," we said, in unison.

You see? Not a secret. You would not know this by listening to ESPN's Mike & Mike this morning, as they tried to pass off Kurt Warner's "insights" in this regard as somehow groundbreaking or, at the very least, "fascinating." No, it is not a revelation that this is a way to beat Pittsburgh, provided you have the personnel, which the Packers do. Nevertheless, prepare yourself to listen to breathless punditry on this very topic over the next six days, because these people need to sound like they're breaking news. Take solace in the fact that if either James Harrison or Lamarr Woodley gets around the corner and pops Aaron Rodgers just once, that game plan could backfire completely.

- The Ravens have fired quarterback coach Jim Zorn. Quarterback Joe Flacco, who, at last check, has retained his job, salary, and benefits, interpreted Zorn's firing as "a personal attack on me." It's completely understandable that Flacco is upset, but GTOG advises him a) to work on his game; and b) to remember that Zorn once tried to run a fake field goal against the Giants, the Giants realized the fake was on and called timeout, and then Zorn ran the exact same play anyway.



Could be he was fired on the merits.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Net Mouth Scramble: Athletes Continue to Struggle With Concept of Twitter; We Get It, Pouncey is Out; NHL Players Got Skillz

By Artistry

Add the Green Bay Packers to the list of professional sports franchises who may want to join the Miami Heat in sponsoring mandatory educational seminars on the perils of Tweeting. Injured Packers Nick Barnett and Jermichael Finley turned to Twitter this week to complain about the organization's treatment of its injured players, and now they seem puzzled that anyone noticed. Barnett blames the social networking service for taking his statements and making them available to others through, uh, social networking. So now he is quitting the service. Take that Twitter. Finley is laughing off his remarks that the team disrespected him and that "someone is going to pay," explaining that sometimes tweets happen in the heat of the moment. For morons players like Barnett and Finley, sending out thoughts on Twitter is apparently no different than talking to themselves. GTOG is considering offering a Twitter powerpoint presentation to professional sports teams, entitled "Tweet of the Moment; Your Players are Stupid, but Not Everyone Needs to Know About It." I think we could have something here.

Antonio Cromartie: Just Threatened via Twitter to Assault Matt Hasselbeck, Promptly Fathered Another Child

Other headlines this Sunday afternoon:

- ESPN filed its sixth report indicating that "sources" say Maurkice Pouncey will not play in the Super Bowl. GTOG's sources were telling us this as early as one week ago, when they saw Pouncey during the second half of the Jets game wearing street clothes and on crutches.

- Marc-Andre Fleury and Kris Letang took part in the NHL All-Star Saturday Skills Competition yesterday, and no one watched except maybe their families. But word is that Fleury did do a few jumping jacks before stopping Alex Ovechkin on a shootout try, so that's always worth a Youtube clip. 



Major points to Ovechkin for creativity. What a personality.*

* GTOG's official position is that Alex Ovechkin has a terrible personality. As discussed in Saturday's podcast, no amount of Skills Competition histrionics can change this.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

GTOG Podcast: 31 Minutes of Heart Pounding Podcasting -- The NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft, Pens at the Break, and Super Bowl Week Preview

In a podcast that might elevate your heart rate over 200bpm, we talk about ways to improve the new All-Star format, the Pens' outlook at the All-Star break, who has the inside track on Super Bowl MVP, current Steeler Hall of Fame chances, and how to avoid getting arrested for solicitation of prostitution during Super Bowl week.


You can listen in this window, on our podcast page, on our Facebook page, or in iTunes.  Or all of the above.  You can also download the mp3 file here.

Friday, January 28, 2011

5 Things GTOG Is Looking For During All-Star Weekend

By Finesse

A guy named Ryan Lambert posted a column on Puck Daddy this morning called "The 5 best things that could happen at NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft."  It included such things as "Civil War," and "Breaking Up The Hurricanes."  Are we sure this isn't stolen from Bob Errey's "Tips To Win" feature on FSN?  Anyway, we loved Ryan Lambert's post so we decided to rip it off, with the only difference being that ours will be interesting.**

Official Lambert of GTOG

Without further ado, here are 5 Things GTOG Is Looking For During All-Star Weekend...

1) Nick Lidstrom Turning The Zamboni Water Into Wine.  If there is one guy in the league who can do it, it's St. Nicklas himself.  He may be the greatest human being ever to don a sweater of any kind, let alone a hockey sweater.  Unfortunately, we heard a rumor that Versus has uncovered footage of the only time Nick Lidstrom was ever on the ice for a goal allowed by the Detroit Red Wings, albeit the Red Wings were on a 5-on-3 penalty kill at the time.  GTOG has a patent application pending for a method of bottling Lidstrom's Classiness.

2) A Column About How The All-Star Game Lacks Buzz Because Crosby Isn't There Written By Someone Who Has Previously Written That Sidney Crosby Is Overexposed By The NHL.  This is more commonly known as the "Larry Brooks Manifesto."
  • Brooks, December 28, 2008: "The NHL should be embarrassed for itself ... The NHL's All-Crosby-All-The-Time marketing machine has been detrimental to the sport by virtue of its exclusionary policy."
  • Brooks, March 7, 2010:  Calling out Crosby for declining an invitation to go on David Letterman after his Golden Goal, Brooks writes in a column titled, "Crosby blows NHL's golden chance" that "it's difficult to understand why the NHL's most recognizable player and ambassador refused to spread the gospel."
3) A rational explanation for why Mike Green is an alternate captain.  Anyone?  Ted?  Bruce?  Someone?  Bueller?

4) Hyperbole about All-Star Games Past.  My favorite part of All-Star Weekend by a mile is during the hardest shot competition when we inevitably will have the pure delight of hearing something along the lines of, "Of course, we all remember where we were when Al Iafrate hit 105.2 in 1993."



5)  A Bodycheck By Mr. Irrelevant.  Whoever the last overall pick is (Kris Letang may be in the running) should make the game interesting by getting physical with an unsuspecting player on the opposing team.  Nothing to lose.  Except your place in heaven if you take a run at St. Nick.

GTOG.

**Readers may be asking why I'm being dismissive of Ryan Lambert's post.  Glad I asked myself.  His post includes gratuitous shot-taking at Matt Cooke and the Penguins presumably because he is confused about what year it is or he never ever ever rooted for a team or player who ever ever ever did anything that may have "crossed the line."  He blames "teams like the Penguins" for "cutting checks" to guys like Matt Cooke, arguing that this allows Matt Cooke to continue being a "reckless piece of garbage."  Unmentioned in this article is the fact that Matt Cooke is a pretty effective reckless piece of garbage, scoring 15 goals last season (and a +17) and having 9 goals already this year as a +12 while anchoring the league's top PK unit and amassing 5 shorthanded points.  But let's not get off topic.

Morning Skate: Ron Cook's Comeback and The Big Legursky

By Artistry

Ron Cook is fighting to become relevant to GTOG Nation again. First, he comes up with a new rhetorical device known as the Clause Dedication and then, this morning, he breaks out a column about Steelers backup quarterback Charlie Batch that not only identifies the one storyline that absolutely no one is talking about this week - for good reason - but also launches an attention-grabbing assault on the English language. To get us warmed up, here is the Friday edition of Today in Ron Cook Poetry: "No Way, Right?"

There's just no way, right?
Or is there?
Let's give the man his due right now:
You might say history repeated itself.
Who saw that coming?
So Batch was.
Think about it:
"My body feels fresh," he said.
There's just no way, right?

Or is there?

I have goose bumps. Now, to the big story of the morning: nobody is kidding themselves about Maurkice Pouncey's chances of playing in the Super Bowl, except maybe Maurkice Pouncey. You know what that means. Way out west there was this fella... fella I wanna tell ya about. Fella by the name of Doug Legursky. At least that was the handle his loving parents gave him, but he never had much use for it himself. Mr. Legursky, he called himself "The Dude".

"Hey, cool it B.J. Raji. OK man? There's a beverage here."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

GTOG Confirms That Nothing Is Going On So We Talk Federer, Joe Starkey, and The Pirates

By Finesse

Is there any week all year that is less exciting sports-wise than the week after the NFL Conference Championship Games but before the official kickoff of Super Bowl Week?  Yes, every week of baseball season.  But besides that, no.

Here is what's happening:

- Roger Federer lost to Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open semifinals.  I would have watched his match had any of the 11 websites I checked actually listed a start time for it instead of just saying it was the "5th match" on "Thursday."  No indication of whether that is Thursday America or Thursday Australia or what the hell time the "5th match" started.  Even Gary Bettman knows that fans would like to know when games start.

- Joe Starkey of the Trib got it done this morning, preempting the inevitable Roethlisberger-redemption stories by saying that no one knows what he is actually like now so people should stop pretending like they do know.  People won't, obviously, stop pretending.

- Strangest stat of the NHL season so far: The Caps have been shutout 7 times.

- NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft is Friday night.  Nick Lidstrom and Eric Staal are captains. The worst part of not having Crosby as a captain is that we won't get to see him not shake Lidstrom's hand after the draft.



- Huge Bachelor coming up on Monday.  Maybe the biggest episode of the season so far. 

- Scouting services put the Pirates' farm system as 21st out of 30 teams.  The analysis: "This system consists of a few high-end prospects, including three teenage power arms, followed by a dropoff."  Don't worry fans, there is no need to be concerned about this alleged "dropoff" because if the last 18 years have taught us anything, it's that the Pirates' young pitching prospects ALWAYS pan out.

Who am I?  Click here to find out.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ron Cook's Newest Rhetorical Device; Column Note: That Title is Dedicated To Ron Cook

By Finesse

We have been backing off our boy Ron Cook recently, not because he is getting better as a columnist (he isn't), but because there just isn't enough time in the day to keep track of the rhetorical roller coaster that is his thrice-weekly column.

This morning, however, something changed.  We awoke and were subjected to the following sequence:

"There was no dropoff whatsoever," said offensive tackle Jonathan Scott, who knows a little something about stepping in for a fallen teammate, putting his hand in the pile and keeping the standard as the standard.

Column note: The second half of the above paragraph is dedicated to Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.

Back to Legursky ...
For the first time in our lives, Ron Cook has left us speechless.

GTOPG: Marc-Andre Fleury Sees Your Onus, Raises You a Shutout; Pens Win, 1-0

By GTOG Staff

The New York Islanders are playing the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center Tuesday night, and you're forgiven if you feel somewhat confused at first about which team is which. You find yourself thinking that, without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in the Penguins' lineup, they look about the same. Two hungry teams, short on top shelf talent, scrapping and clawing just to get that one goal to put them over the top. Then suddenly, there is a goalie who overcommits, a wraparound chance, a juicy rebound, a shot towards an open net, and a right leg pad flashing like a great white cobra. The puck is kicked out with authority, and everything becomes clear: that's Marc-Andre Fleury, and that is the difference. Sorry, Kevin Poulin, you're way out of your league.


No Accident.

The Penguins got a tremendous effort from the entire lineup on Tuesday to carry some momentum into the long all-star weekend. Navy Seal Craig Adams did what elite warriors do and in the third period scored the only goal the Penguins would need. Max Talbot served notice that he can center a fourth line with tough-as-a-rusty-nail Aron Asham and Mike Rupp that will legitimately frighten people in the playoffs. Chris Kunitz had tremendous hop. Tyler Kennedy pummeled a guy about twice his size and made us wonder if, pound for pound, he is the toughest guy in the league.

But the story is Fleury. At what point do we have to consider - despite Sidney Crosby's brilliance before he was knocked from the lineup with a concussion - whether the Flower is this team's MVP? What more does he need to do? He leads the best penalty killing unit it the NHL. He's probably been one of the top 5 players in the league since his game turned around in November. And he's a great trash talker. If the Penguins don't have him in the lineup right now, they are the New York Islanders.

Some other thoughts on the game...

- For a large portion of the game, the best player on the ice was a 23-year-old Austrian named Michael Grabner, the 14th overall selection in the 2006 Draft by the Vancouver Canucks. At one point, he literally left exhaust fumes on Ben Lovejoy. He is a player to keep an eye on, not just because he is good, but because he has a remarkable stat line, including 14 goals and just five assists in 43 games. That's the same amount of assists as Mike Comrie has this season, for those who were curious.

- You will find no bigger fans of Jordan Staal than GTOG, but our appreciation for his abilities is grounded in the reality of what his abilities actually are, not his last name or his draft position. In three games without Sid and Geno, Staal has one assist on a short-handed goal. In other words, zero points as the team's top forward at even strength and on the power play. Even allowing for the fact that three games is a small sample size, zero points is, unsurprisingly, less than what you would want from your top forward. We believe that Jordan Staal is a great player when cast in an appropriate role. Here's hoping that he is surrounded by people who can convey to him that, when his contract is up in a few years, the grass will not necessarily be greener on the other side of Crosby and Malkin. If there are not, then GTOG will assume that responsibility.

Let's have a chat, Jordan.
- While the Pens' lineup certainly resembled the Isles lineup, one key difference is on the blue-line, where on two or three occasions, the Isles decided to set up their point men outside the blue-line. Interesting strategy, to say the least.

- If Crosby can return for the first game after the All-Star break, he will start the stretch run for the scoring race only one point back of Steven Stamkos. If I'm in charge of marketing for Tampa, the first thing I do is reassess my career goals. The second thing I do is hold off on printing those Stamkos Art Ross posters.

- The Pens have 31 wins at the All-Star break and a +40 goal differential. They are on pace for a 108-point season. Not too shabby.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bachelor Recap: To "Fall for This Man" or To "Retract," Like a Sunroof; That is the Question

By Artistry

Episode 4 is always put up or shut up time on ABC's "The Bachelor." Ladies, you better decide now if you want This Man to raise your children and guard and protect your heart or if it's time to slowly back away before turning and sprinting as fast and far away from the Living Room as your fake-tanned legs can carry you. If things seem to be moving too quickly given that you're only on your first date with George W. Bush's dimmer reality television show doppleganger, surely you are not here for the right reasons. In any event, it's time to make up your mind, and ABC has any number of celebrity therapists on hand to help you through this.

And man, do these Ladies need therapy. The show began with Michelle, the Black Swan, waking up with a shiner, having apparently punched herself in the face while sleeping. That's some tormented activity right there. Not only is she certain that she wants to marry Brad, she may actually murder anyone who stands in her way. I'm not ruling that out at this point. The look on her face when Chantal got the week's first one-on-one date was like Bruce Boudreau trying to coach his way out of a losing streak: a mixture of confusion, rage, and an embarrassing facial blemish. That's a combustible recipe.


The Red Swan
As for Chantal, her date had to go in one of three directions: A) Chantal is forced to confront her fear of the ocean by producers insisting she romance This Man in, on, or around the ocean; B) Chantal must ignore her phobia of heights by being asked to kiss This Man while dangling precariously from the top of a skyscraper; C) Chantal must overcome her nearly paralyzing self-consciousness and record a studio album of Peabo Bryson songs with This Man. Let's break this down. We knew it couldn't be "C," because the Bachelor already covered that territory a couple of weeks ago with Seal standing in for Peabo Bryson. Chantal is from Mercer Island, Washington, which means she probably has to fly to get where she wants to go, which means she is unlikely to have a fear of flying. Therefore, it is unlikely that she would be afraid of heights, so I cannot choose the letter "B." I'll have you know that I scored quite high on the Logic section of the LSAT. This leaves only "A." And sure enough, soon, we saw Chantal and This Man, on the ocean floor and looking like Cylons from Battlestar Galactica, walking hand in hand. What a journey already for these two. Overcoming her fear of the ocean was worth it, Chantal opined, because she can see herself as Chantal Womack "definitely." For his part, Brad appreciates that he can be so "playful" with Chantal, who with this date may have pulled even with Ricky Bobby's wife in the NASCAR race of love.

The Ladies find a "safe space" and Brad tells multiple women to "Come here to me please" after the jump...

It's Going to be a Long Two Weeks; How to Get to Super Bowl XLV

By Artistry

We got some blowback from GTOG Nation regarding Sunday night's post-AFC Championship podcast. It seems some of you found our perceived lack of enthusiasm over Pittsburgh's eighth trip to the Super Bowl offputting. We have heard your criticism and, like Ben Roethlisberger after getting smacked in the nose by Haloti Ngata, we're ignoring it. We are newsmen, not cheerleaders. We are truth-tellers. Think Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite. Finesse is not Myron Cope (may he rest in peace). We're going enjoy the ride to Dallas - our love of Pittsburgh sports is the engine that drives this publication - but we'll also continue to call it like we see it. Band of brothers.

Still with us? Good. Now here's the message this morning: it's time for everybody to develop a thicker skin as we enter the Super Bowl hype machine. It isn't going to be easy, and we want you to be prepared. Here are a few tips to handle what you will surely experience in the coming two weeks:

1) The Roethlisberger Referendum. ESPN is going to take a camera into the bathroom at that Georgia bar as Sal Palantonio intones, "10 months ago, Ben Roethlisberger was here, his pants, allegedly, down..." Do yourself a favor, and don't take the bait. There will be about 200 news stories like this, there may be a protest or two, and blog commenters and pundits will talk ad nauseum about the terrible guilt gnawing at the collective conscience of Steeler Nation. How can we root for a team with an alleged rapist at quarterback? How can we live with ourselves? Here's how you answer: I can live with myself just fine. Believe it or not, I do not consider the Steelers' quarterback to be an extension of me. I already lived through the Roethlisberger scandal, felt disgust, wished we would trade him, watched him genuinely - if, at times, laughably - try to be a better person, and came around to realizing that, however flawed he is as a human being, as long as he stays clean going forward, I'm really happy he's still on the team. I don't need to live through it all again, and I won't. Go Steelers.


"God is Great."
2) The Offensive Line Referendum. We've talked all season about how the Steelers were to some extent doing it with smoke and mirrors, because it's hard enough winning without one starting offensive tackle let alone two. Now the answer to the question "What would happen if Dermonti Dawson and Mike Webster had a lovechild together," Maurkice Pouncey, will likely miss the big game with a high ankle injury. Against the odds, Doug Legursky will start at center, guard, and tackle, but he will face a Packers front seven featuring the overwhelming talent of B.J. Raji, Clay Matthews, and Kris Jenkins. The media will point out, repeatedly, that not even Doug Legursky is up to this task. I can already feel this one coming full circle. The offensive line is going to be ridiculed so extensively for the next two weeks that it will necessarily overperform in the Super Bowl. You watch. And if Roethlisberger can beat Ngata, Ray Lewis, and Terrell Suggs with no one blocking for him, he can beat these Packers, too.

3) The Coronation of Aaron Rodgers. Look, the guy is great. There are moments where he looks like the best in the game. He'll be playing in perfect conditions in Dallas, similar to what he saw when he put up all-universe numbers under the dome in Atlanta a couple weeks back. He's got five wide receivers he can rely on to get open, and the Steelers have only two guys in the secondary - Taylor and Polamalu - who can really cover with any consistency. The media will tell you this is a recipe for a Super Bowl MVP award for Rodgers. To which I would respond, you might want to hold off on handing Green Bay that trophy, because Aaron Rodgers almost got beat by Caleb Heine on Sunday. Caleb Heine, someone so obscure that I'm not at all sure if I'm spelling his name right. Someone so inconsequential that, apparently, he played the game with a mustache, shaved it before the postgame press conference, and no one noticed. Besides, great quarterbacks who look invincible can always be had with the right gameplan. Ask Tom Brady.

Now you should have the tools you need to face the doubters, the cynics, and the jagoffs. Go forward with confidence. HWGS. GTOG.

Later today: The Black Swan takes it to another level. We'll have your "Bachelor" recap coming up in a few.

GTOG Behind Enemy Lines: Report from the Rangers/Caps Game

By Finesse

GTOG was unfortunate enough to secure a ticket to last night's Rangers at Capitals game at the Verizon Center in DC.  For those who are wondering, the answer is yes, the Verizon Center scoreboard is still the single loudest instrument ever designed by humans.  At one point the guy sitting next to me turned to me and asked, "Did you hear that asteroid that just crashed next to the arena?"  "No," I responded at the top of my lungs.  "But I did just have my eardrum shattered by the monster truck announcer reminding fans to be aware of pucks leaving the ice surface."

Just as confused as you are that he is still relevant to Caps' fans.
The Caps scored a second period goal to take a 1-0 lead, but the Rangers got the tying goal with about 7 minutes left and then undressed the Capitals' third-string goalie, Braden Holtby, who of course would be named "Braden" and play for the Capitals, in a shootout.  A few quick reflections on a game featuring two Eastern Conference playoff teams.

- The Rangers are a very solid, well-coached hockey team.  (Ed. note: That taste in your mouth is bile).  They were missing Dubinsky and Callahan, as they have been for a while, but still trotted out a few solid lines and held the Caps to just 13 shots through 2 periods.  They lack the top-end talent of the other teams in the East and are relatively inexperienced in certain areas (blueline).  But while probably not a threat to win the Eastern Conference, they are definitely a threat to win at least one playoff round.

- The Rangers are an even bigger threat to win a playoff round if they draw the Capitals.  [Pens fans...should you be rooting for Caps to get the #3 and Rangers to get the #6?  Yes, yes, and yes.]

- Alex Ovechkin executed a Greg Louganis-worthy dive last night, much to the dismay of the Verizon Center faithful, who coped with the pain of seeing their star player dive 1,000 times worse than their #1 enemy supposedly does by weeping, sobbing, weeping, and then immediately forgetting about it and resuming texting the scoreboard.

Click to play.
- Do I care that Ovechkin dove?  No, not at all.  Let this make clear to fans of all teams, particularly those of the Rangers and Caps, every single player embellishes calls, every team has players who embellish calls, and to think otherwise is to envelop yourself in a blind cloak of hypocrisy. 

- One exception: Mario Lemieux once took a high stick and, in an attempt to draw the call, threw his glove so high that it went out the open roof of the Civic Arena.  That's not diving, that's moxie.

- Go Pens.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Crosby Might Have a Touch of Congestion; Will Skip All-Star Weekend

By Artistry

As we continue to wonder just what kind of "symptoms" Sidney Crosby is experiencing these days, the Penguins confirmed Monday that he will not participate in all-star festivities taking place this weekend in Raleigh. Are we still talking about his concussion at this point? Has anyone nailed that down at all? With only the Islanders in the way of another week's worth of rest for Sid, it wouldn't be a surprise if that's all this really amounts to in the end: another week of rest for Sid. I'm expecting to see him in the lineup next Tuesday when the Penguins return from the break against the Rangers. If he's still out next week? Well, then I'll be surprised. And scared.

Oh, Geno will likely skip the weekend, too. It's sad, really. You can say the all-star game doesn't really mean anything, and you'd probably be right. But it doesn't have to be that way. There was a time when a young French Canadian center made it his personal playground and a fitting showcase for his genius.



Natalie looks like she just walked off the set of a Bon Jovi video. Awesome.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

GTOG Podcast: Steelers Win; We Record Relatively Unenthusiastic Podcast

By Finesse

The Steelers narrowly avoided creating the worst memory of all time for Steelers fans, and are instead headed to Dallas to take on the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV.  To celebrate this increasingly common occurrence, Artistry and I recorded a podcast that, let's just say, doesn't ooze with contagious enthusiasm.  We're happy, but we're getting a little too used to this.  At one point I think I declared the Pens victory over the Hurricanes on Saturday as "a victory no matter what the score is."  And yes, we made fun of CBS announcers during our podcast.

You can listen to the podcast in this window (below), on our podcast page, download to your computer here or subscribe on iTunes.

GTOG Goes On The Record: Jets v. Steelers Predictions

By Finesse

Earlier this afternoon I solicited predictions from GTOG's contributors for this evening's Steelers-Jets game.  These predictions should be given no weight and are nothing more than our homeristic desires for what we want/think will happen tonight.  Basically, we will claim credit if one of us gets the score right or we will delete this post if the Jets win.

Finesse: Ben Roethlisberger leads a winning drive, finished off by the golden foot of Shaun Suisham.  Steelers 23, Jets 21.

Artistry: Steelers 23, Jets 14.

Eloquence: "I'm confident we'll be effective at stopping the run, leaving Sanchez with many 3rd and longs. That should mean a low score for the Jets and good field position for the Steelers. And makes our red zone offense the x factor. If the Steelers score three touchdowns, I predict a win.  Steelers 24-13."

Poise offers the following pick, with analysis at no extra charge: "This game is all about which team is able to effectively harness their collective playoff momentum. With the Steelers scariest opponent now out of the picture in New England, the Steelers pathway to the Super Bowl just became one very winable game away. And with such greatly improved odds, coupled with home field advantage, the Steelers should be carrying the mental edge. However this game is by no means a lock for the Steelers. It can be very challenging defeating an opposing team playing with such intense determination and an underdog mentality. If the Steelers can effectively shut down the Jets' offense and force Mark Sanchez into turnovers, the game is all ours. I give the game to the Steelers 17-13."

Brandon Lang: "Give the points.  Steelers 30, Jets 20"

Morning Skate: Marc-Andre Fleury Strangles De Onus, Pens Win

By Finesse

With Sid and Geno both out with injuries, GTOG tapped Marc-Andre Fleury as the man to accept the onus of winning games without two of the NHL's premier players. It may have taken a game too long as Bylsma started Brent Johnson in New Jersey, but with Fleury back in the cage last night, all was well.

Without Crosby and Malkin, the key to the Pens' success is fairly simple -- score first. In New Jersey, the Pens quickly went down 2-0 and you knew that you were never going to get the next 2 hours of your life back. Last night, the Canes appeared to have scored first (I certainly thought it went in), but it turned out that Fleury got his butt-end on the shot and just a few minutes later the Pens finally scored their first goal without Sid and Geno.

It's a source of no consternation for GTOG that the Pens gave up two late goals to make this a nail-biting finish. When your two top guns are out, you take wins any way you can. Also, I think we've reached the point in Fleury's career where we just have to assume that he will only get shutouts in incredibly rare situations. He's playing as well as any goalie in the league this season, but he has only one shutout. It's just not in his arsenal.

No doubt that this game is overshadowed by the pending Steelers-Jets AFC title game, but a huge two points nonetheless.

Check back late tonight or Monday morning for a special GTOPG Steelers podcast. Hopefully the mood will be celebratory, but if not, we'll just talk about something else.

Go Steelers.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Morning Skate: The Race Is On

By Finesse

Last night Steven Stamkos tallied an assist for Tampa Bay in their 2-1 shootout victory over the Florida Panthers.  That pulled him even with Crosby in the overall points race, while Stamkos holds a 5-goal edge in the race for the Rocket Richard.  Crosby is not playing tonight against Carolina and we don't see any indication that he will play until after the All-Star break.  Get well soon, Sid.


Friday, January 21, 2011

GTOPG: Pens Show They Can Do Anything If They Set Their Minds To It; Lose 2-0 To New Jersey

By Artistry

The Penguins have played some wonderful hockey for considerable stretches of this NHL season, but man, when they set about not showing up for a game, they really commit. Sure, Marc-Andre Fleury was probably due for a rest after starting the past five games, but I'm guessing he wouldn't have passed out from fatigue facing the Devils on Thursday. And seeing as how the Pens' were without both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin against a team that - no matter how poorly they've played all season - shuts down the Penguins on a fairly consistent basis, it probably wasn't the time to sit your all-star netminder. Lest you think this is GTOG MMQBing, I refer you to Thursday's post previewing the game. All signs last night pointed to the Penguins considering this something less than a big game; they failed to appreciate that all two points are created equal, and it may have cost them two points. Because as soon as Brian Rolston powered a first period slapshot past a too-deep-in-his-net Brent Johnson, you knew where this was headed.

So, apparently, did the Penguins' players, who for the most part looked like they started the all-star break a week early. Paul Martin violated the the first rule of clearing the defensive zone by softly reversing the puck behind the net to Zybnek Michalek when Michalek wasn't even close to him. Then he violated the first rule of polite and accountable hockey player media relations by saying after the game that Michalek "called for it, so I made the play." Actually, you didn't make the play. Some scrub for New Jersey made the play by taking your pass, walking out in front, and scoring to put the Devils up 2-0. Michalek, for his part, gave what we will generously describe as less than his best effort to get back into the play. That's $9 million worth of crap in one sequence. Heck, I'm not even mad. That's amazing.


"Our net was open, so I shot the puck into it."
The Penguins were no threat to score on Martin Brodeur at that stage or, really, any stage. Only one guy played like the game meant something, and if you watched the game, I don't need to say his name. If you didn't watch the game, or if you fast-forwarded through large portions of it as any sane person watching on a delay would have, that guy was Max Talbot. He took the puck hard to the net, bowling over Brodeur and taking two goalie interference calls in the process, he fought some guy and lit a bit of a fire under his woefully unprepared teammates, and he had a look on his face that made you think for a second that this was the playoffs and not a regular season game against one of the worst teams in the league. Just a little reminder as to why he's not going anywhere at the trade deadline.

The Penguins have two games before the break against teams they can beat even with Dustin Jeffrey leading the charge on the second power play unit: Carolina and the Islanders. We hope Fleury's feeling well rested.

Morning Skate: If The Pens Lose, And No One Is There To See It, Did It Really Happen?

By Finesse

We will have more to say on this game later today, even if it is unclear why anyone would want to relive the experience of a suffocating 2-0 defeat to a terrible New Jersey Devils team in an empty arena without your three best players and without generating anything resembling a good scoring opportunity.

This morning we would just like to point out that there have been some slight upgrades to our website.  As you can see in the right hand column, you can click to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes.  There is also an embedded podcast player on the "NEW! Podcasts" tab above as well as on our Facebook page.  We're still working out how often we are going to record podcasts, but if you haven't listened yet, check out the first two.

Not Our Favorite

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Video: Straight To The Dome Piece

Maybe everyone has already seen this video from The Amazing Race, but we haven't.  And it's fantastic.

Morning Skate: No Geno Tonight; Looking Forward to "Another Player" Stepping Up On Second PP Unit

By Finesse

At the risk of sounding as obvious as an ex-football player color commentator, this season has proved at least one truism to be true -- injuries matter.

Evgeni Malkin has been playing with a bum knee all season and his production has been pedestrian.

Chris Kunitz, by all indications, spent last season hampered by nagging injuries and his production was pedestrian.  This season, he is as healthy as he has been since donning the Happy Penguin sweater and has earned his new nickname "Two-Ply" because of the sudden change in softness of his hands.

Injuries are ravaging the NHL this season, so the Pens are relatively no worse off than anyone else (although tonight's second PP unit of Mike Rupp, Dustin Jeffrey and "another player" according to Dan Bylsma leaves everything something to be desired).

Any point the Pens can earn tonight is a bonus in the standings.  We don't like to put pressure on people, but the onus falls on Marc-Andre Fleury.

"I accep de onus"

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

You Can Never Have Enough Testies

By Artistry

[Check out the Tuesday night podcast here.]

Two rookies have been the Penguins' most pleasant surprises midway through the regular season, and Ray Shero did not wait to lock them up with cap-friendly deals. First, he signed 6th defenseman Deryk Engelland to a contract with a cap hit of $566,666 through 2013-14. Then yesterday, he kept Mark "Testy" Letestu in the fold with a cap hit of $625,000 for each of the next two years.



If you pay any attention to the team's salary structure - and if you don't, what exactly are you doing with your time - you realize these moves were no-brainers. Engelland is about as effective as a depth defenseman has a right to be, he should improve in that regard, and he's rapidly become one of the most respected fighters in the league. Letestu has the versatility to play up and down the lineup and allows the Penguins the flexibility to move Jordan Staal and Evgeni Malkin to the wing as it suits them. And the signing of Engel and Testy brings the future of the roster into clearer relief.

Per capgeek.com, the Pens now have $52,324,999 in salary tied up for the 2011-12 season, with an expected salary cap of $59,400,000. Could be a bit higher, but we're not in the business of making risky projections. Put your calculator away and let GTOG do the math: that means, with the roster as currently constituted, Shero will have $7,075,001 to sign 8 forwards. How does he do it? Let's take a stab at this by looking at the guys already in the system.

Craig Adams - What a warrior. And a playoff player. He's not going anywhere. Bump him up to $650,000/year. Get it done.

Pascal Dupuis - Duper has in all likelihood priced himself out of town. A top line winger making $1,400,000? OK, he's not a top line winger. But don't expect his agent to admit that.

Tyler Kennedy - TK becomes a restricted free agent this summer. Right now he's at $725,000. Is he indispensable? No. Is he a handsome man? We're sure there's someone out there for everybody. Do we want to keep him? For the right price, absolutely.

Kennedyyyyyy
Eric Tangradi - He should be ready next fall, and if he is, that's huge in terms of cap relief because he should see time as a top 6 wing. He's due $845,833 if he makes the team.

Eric Godard, Mike Rupp, and Aron Asham - All of these guys fall under the "Makes the team tougher to play against and will drop the gloves" umbrella. That's useful to a degree, but with Engelland in the fold, you don't need them all, and only Asham has the pedigree to play consistently on a third line. Godard is almost certainly gone; Rupp may be as well; and all three of them are candidates to go. The market is going to dictate the names we see in these roles next year; if one of these guys won't take close to the minimum to play in Pittsburgh, some other free agent certainly will.

Chris Conner - We have no idea how this plays out, but if you read the tea leaves, it's not hard to see the Pens are skeptical about his future with the team. He still has plenty of time to make believers out of the front office, and Tuesday's game against the Wings was a good start. He's making $550,000 this season.

Mike Comrie - Uh, buh-bye.

Max Talbot - No way to dodge this issue. He's another center, and we're all set there, particularly if we bring back Adams in the 4th line role. He's making $1,050,000 this season. As much as we love him, as much as he loves Pittsburgh, and as much as he's done for the franchise, he has underperformed this season. There are two options here as far as GTOG is concerned: 1) He takes a significant pay cut and stays in Pittsburgh for, say, two years at a $600,000 cap hit; or 2) He walks. You know what's not an option? Trading him at the deadline. You can part ways with Talbot in the offseason if necessary, but you do not trade the heart and soul of the locker room if you think this team is capable of a serious Cup run. And it is.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

GTOG Podcast: Pens defeat Wings 4-1; Steelers v. Jets talk; Pitt over Syracuse; The Bachelor

GTOG Nation,

Here is our 19 minute wrap-up podcast of the Pens' 4-1 victory over the Red Wings.  We also touch on the Steelers/Jets game, Pitt's win over Syracuse and, of course, The Bachelor.

You can use the player below to listen in this window or download the mp3 file to your computer by clicking here (click download, follow instructions).  We're still working on iTunes distribution and overall sound quality.  Nonetheless, we're confident that this is the best podcast you'll ever hear.



First 9 minutes on the Pens, then we talk Steelers, Pitt, and Bachelor.  If you want to fast forward, wait a few seconds until it is finished loading, then go for it.

We hope you enjoy, keep spreading the word.

The Bachelor Retroactive Live Blog: Daddy Issues; Impenetrable Walls; and Slippery Kisses

By GTOG Staff

Those of you who are new to the blog may be asking yourself, what are guys who love to talk hockey doing recapping ABC's "The Bachelor?"  Number 1, we're watching this show so you don't have to. You shouldn't be asking questions, you should just say "thank you" and go about your day. Number 2, we send each other texts during the show with messages like "Critical episode for so early in the season" and "Chantal really brought it tonight."  Even a Friend-of-the-Blog texted in, "what a great episode."  In other words, we do the same thing we do while watching a Penguins' game. The players are just different. Now buckle your seat belts; it's time for the retroactive live blog conversation that never actually happened, and probably never should have.  [Discussion of Monday's episode in the last 4 minutes of this podcast]

Finesse:  I spent a week watching last night's 2-hour Bachelor, and it quickly became clear that this episode was about Brad's insistence that Walls come down. It began with Ashley S. telling us that her daddy passed away 2 years ago.

Artistry:  I think on the contestant application, one question is definitely "Daddy issue, single mother, dead spouse, or all of the above?"

Finesse: If not for those, what else would be behind Walls?

Artistry: True, and it's really the source of tremendous conflict on this season's journey, because Brad really doesn't have patience for Walls. Along with shirts, he can barely tolerate them.  A bit hypocritical, is it not?

Finesse: Also hypocritical is the decision of the producers to not unveil the first use of the term "journey" until 8:46pm.  But you're right on Brad having Walls.

Artistry: In contrast, Walls were not really a problem for Ashley S. She seems to understand that the Ladies all need to share their most painful experience with Brad before they can take it to the next level; the next level being Tuesday. Here, she had a painful experience to share, and she got to share it to the music of Seal. This brought Mrs. Artistry to tears.

Brought Mrs. Artistry to tears.
Finesse: I hear the whispers out there on "the blogs" that there was maybe some manipulation by the producers to have Ashley S. singing "Kiss From a Rose" when that was "her song" with her "daddy" and to force Mrs. Ricky Bobby to travel to her date on a jet when Ricky Bobby perished in a plane crash, but I resent the implication that these dates weren't pure coincidence.

Artistry: It couldn't possibly be orchestrated by the producers. Too genuine. Look at the singing performance. You can't fake that.

Finesse: Brad isn't a bad singer because he can't sing. He's a bad singer because he can't read fast enough to keep up with the song. 

For more Bachelor conversation, read on after the jump...

Morning Skate: No, Not Joey MacDonald

By Artistry

It's another big week in GTOG Nation, and that's not even counting the revelation that the girl with the vampire fangs is apparently the least crazy person on "The Bachelor." Let's get started.

- No Jimmy Howard tonight for the Red Wings when they make their first appearance at Consol Energy Center. No Pavel Datsyuk, no Dan Cleary, no Tomas Holmstrom, no Brad Stuart, no Chris Osgood, and no Mike Modano either. Yet somehow, despite its multitude of injuries, Detroit is again near the top of the NHL's overall standings with two points more than the Pens. It's not clear why the Wings are able to hoard seemingly all of the highly skilled, defensively sound, if slightly under-sized European guys, but they've just plugged a few of the young ones into their lineup and keep cruising right along. We will learn their names and hate them by about 7:18 p.m. Tuesday night.

Nothing Personal, But We Hate You.
- The Pens should have no trouble with the Wings' third-string goalie. No way some kid named Joey MacDonald comes to Pittsburgh and shuts down...wait....oh, it's that Joey MacDonald?  Forget I said anything.

- There is a hot new religion in Detroit where true believers drop whatever they're doing, kneel on a carpet, and pray to Nicklas Lidstrom. There may be some davening involved - we're still researching this. No less an authority than the great Paul Coffey compares the Lidstrom deity to Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady. It's unclear whether Coffey is referring to Brady's touchdown to interception ration in his last handful of playoff games, but I'm sure not.

- Fail by Puck Daddy in assessing Deryk Engelland's crushing hit against Marc Savard on Saturday. Said the Yahoo blog: "Some Bruins fans disagreed, but this was a good clean hit. You can tell because no one on the Bruins attempted to murder him over it."



It apparently never occurred to Puck Daddy that no one on the Bruins attempted to murder Deryk Engelland because he's Deryk freaking Engelland.

- It's a good sign for the Steelers that it's Tuesday and the Jets are still talking about the Patriots. They may not even be aware that they're playing in Pittsburgh this weekend. You won't find GTOG looking past New York and talking about how bad of a matchup it would be for the Steelers to have to face Aaron Rodgers and his 5 wide receiver set in the Super Bowl. That will not happen here.

We're planning to get an AFC Championship preview podcast up sometime this week, and there is plenty more on the GTOG agenda. Your Bachelor recap is coming later today. We'll shoot for a quick postgame podcast after Pens-Wings tonight, which we hope to have posted in the morning. Somewhere in the midst of all this, we'll work at our actual jobs, and I will change Little Artistry's diaper. Until then, GTOG.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Morning Skate: Be Careful What You Wish For

By Finesse

[Check out the GTOG podcast here]

One of the most enjoyable terrible decisions that I've ever made was to spend a morning last April at Starbucks with Artistry "basking" in the fact that the Washington Capitals and New Jersey Devils had been eliminated from the NHL playoffs, seemingly paving a clear path for the Pens to return to the Stanley Cup Finals for the third year in a row.  We tried to offset our concerns about bad karma by carefully reminding ourselves that we were basking, not gloating.  After all, there was work to do.  Nonetheless, we were excited.

We all know how that turned out.


No one was rooting harder for the Jets yesterday than we were because none of us wanted to see New England in another AFC Championship Game.  But now that the Jets have booted the Patriots and Bill Belichik's cutoff sweatshirt, there is no basking in GTOG Nation.  We've learned our lesson.

Jets at Steelers is a much better matchup than Steelers at Patriots, but there is a lot of work to do.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Get To Our Podcast

Loyal Readers,

Welcome to GTOG's first of many podcasts. We open with discussion of the Steelers decimation of Baltimore and then transition to Pens talk at around the 18:45 mark (and for those who are still with us, we introduce Little Artistry while we hit The Bachelor briefly at 41:00).

You can listen below, or download the MP3 file here. Just click "download." We understand there are better ways to do this. Baby Steps. Will try to have on iTunes ASAP.

We recorded this Sunday afternoon during the Bears-Seahawks game so we didn't know at the time that the Steelers would be hosting the Jets in the AFC Championship Game. In fact, we blatantly assumed throughout that it would be the Patriots (though we mostly edited that out).

We're still learning the technology, so let us know if you have any problems. Otherwise, enjoy. And tell your friends.

-Finesse


Quick tip: If you want to fast-forward, wait a few seconds until it is completely downloaded, then have at it.

Jets Coming To Town

By Finesse

"What are you up to next week?" ... "Nothing, you?"

GTOPG: The Marc-Andre Fleury Show; Pens Win 3-2

By Finesse

[GTOPG Steelers here]

The Pens had another mini-collapse in this game, but fortunately it came early enough to allow Jordan Staal to bury the game-winner in the 3rd period.  That's what happens when you have a well-coached team with a recognition that the sky is not always falling.  After blowing two games to the Bruins already this season, it would have been easy for the Pens to let it happen again.  Fleury didn't allow it.

- Staal is a beast.  He needs to be a center, and so does Sid, and so does Geno.  Keep them separate.

- Chris Kunitz has 15 goals this season.  Alex Ovechkin has 15 goals this season.

- Just like that, the Pens are back to .500 without Sid (2-2-1).

- Speaking of Sid, Rob Rossi is speculating that he may sit out the All-Star game even if he is back for the Pens before that.  Two reactions: 1) Something is going on with him, and it's not good; 2) Rossi's suggestion makes no sense.  The All-Star game is basically non-contact.  If he is healthy enough to play in a real game, why would he need to sit out the All-Star game?

- Pens had one powerplay, Bruins had four.  C'mon Gary, are we not paying you enough?  I thought we just renegotiated the deal?

- Two more points for Stamkos.  Get well soon, Sid.

- Abbreviated recap, but we're still Getting To Our Game.  GTOG Podcast coming soon, we hope.



LGP.

GTOPG: Big Ben Roethlisberger Doesn't Make You Forget About His Past But Reminds You He Is Really Good; Little Joey Flacco Reminds You Why He Used To Be Tyler Palko's Backup

By Finesse

[GTOPG Pens here]

The Steelers tried everything they could to lose this game.  They fumbled the ball.  They took stupid penalties.  Offensive linemen stood around not blocking people (ok, that happens a lot) while a live ball lay unclaimed on the ground.  Shaun Suisham missed a field goal, something no one thought could ever happen.  Mike Tomlin looked shellshocked.  Troy Polamalu had one of his worst games since his rookie year.  And, of course, the Steelers gave up a punt return touchdown.

But on this day, one hero emerged and stood taller than all others.  Not the refs who called back the punt return for holding (Ravens fans: yes, the guy flopped, but watch a longer replay and there was some holding there).  Not Antonio Brown who made a David Tyree-esque catch.  Not Ryan Clark, who forced a fumble and had an interception.  Not Little Joey Flacco, who inspires the opposite of confidence in his team.  No, on this day, the hero was a familiar 260 pound redneck quarterback with a past rocked by "poor decision making" but a cannon for a right arm.

Family.  Band of Brothers.
Roethlisberger wasn't the only Steeler who had a great game, but he was, by far, the biggest difference between these two teams.  When the score was 21-7 Ravens at halftime, no one I was watching with was concerned that the Steelers wouldn't be able to get to 21+ points, and the reason is Roethlisberger.  He may play ugly and he may have worn a baby blue linen suit in the middle of winter to his postgame press conference, but he's a winner (at football).


Some other thoughts on this game:

- Sometimes it is difficult to underestimate the intelligence of professional football players.  After Roethlisberger was crushed by T-Fizzle in the second quarter and the ball popped loose, no one, including Roethlisberger himself, thought it necessary to pick up the football despite there being no whistle.  I'm sure there is some confusion on the field at the time, but come on.  Someone I was watching with suggested that coaches should not be able to call timeouts, and I asked if he really wanted people like the 21 guys who stood around a live-ball to be responsible for clock management as well.

- Speaking of things that aren't intelligent, the NFL's rules on coaches' challenges need to be changed.  The current rule is that each team has two challenges, and if you get BOTH of them right, you get one extra challenge.  I had never really thought about this until it became an issue for the Steelers last night, but this makes no sense.  Why do you have to get both challenges correct to get an extra?  If you challenge a call, and you win the challenge, you shouldn't lose your ability to challenge - after all, if you are winning challenges, it means that the refs are screwing up, not you.

- The proposal to fix it: each team is only allowed two incorrect challenges all game - once you miss on two, you're out for the whole game.  If you keep winning challenges, then you can keep challenging. The only counter argument I can see to this is that it will slow the game down.

- The proposal part 2 to fix that: First, the NFL shouldn't care about a slightly slowed down game.  Coaches' challenges = commercial breaks = money.  Second, there is no reason that the ref on the field needs to decide the challenge.  Just have an official in the booth make the decision and save the charade of a 69 year old ref running 80 yards across the field to tuck his head into a tiny peep-show booth.

- Mike Tomlin sounded like he was shot with adrenaline after the game in his press conference, but the reality is that he appeared to be shellshocked as the Heinz Field postseason demons were descending during the second quarter.  Also unimpressive was the decision to go for 4th and 1 at the Ravens 12 yard line with the score tied 21-21 with 14 minutes left in the 4th quarter.  It looked like total confusion on the field - thankfully, our QB weighs 260lbs.

- A huge performance by two of the youngest Steelers - Maurkice Pouncey and Ziggy Hood.  Hood has capably stepped in for Aaron Smith after his 11th torn triceps muscle.

- And finally, a note on the Ravens.  Ray Lewis can talk all he wants about "my defense" but the fact is that "his defense" has only three good players - Ngata, Suggs, and Ed Reed.  Not surprisingly, those are the only three Ravens who seemed to show up at this game.  On the offensive side of the ball, Anquan Boldin and TJ Houshmandzadeh sparked flashbacks of Limas Sweed.  And John Harbaugh gets credit for ejecting spit all over the 35 yard line when trying to call a timeout at the end of the game, but is otherwise known for not being able to decide whether to be conservative or aggressive and, therefore, sucking at both options.  We don't often turn our blog over to Hines Ward, who is a tenured professor at the Don King University of Self-Promotion, but it is called for in this case.
"They always pride themselves on bullying guys, bullying people," said Ward. "They always do all the trash talking. They've been trash talking all week. Talking about how they want to break Ben's nose again, stuff like that. Sometimes when you're fighting a bully, you've got to just hit them in the mouth and shut them up.''
Well put, Hines.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Morning Skate: A Few Links To Get You To Gametime

By Finesse

- The New York Times comes to Pittsburgh to dissect the differing opinions on Ben Roethlisberger, particularly between men and women.  Guess which gender likes him better?

- A look at what is going on with Ed Reed and the situation surrounding his brother's disappearance.

- The Baltimore Sun website is running a photo gallery called "Cryin' in their towels: Steelers Losses."  Apparently, it is just photos from memorable Steelers' losses since 2002.  What is it with the D.C. region that instead of just rooting for their teams, they feel the need to root for the misery of other teams?

- Charlie Batch is bankrupt.  Fortunately, it doesn't seem to be your typical athlete bankruptcy -- this one stems from property investments in Steel Valley.

- Rick Reilly thinks its 1998 so he actually wrote a good column.  This one points out what a douche Jay Cutler is, as if we didn't already know.  Take Seattle.

- Finally, keep a look out for the first-ever GTOG podcast, hopefully debuting either Sunday night or Monday morning.  Not sure yet whether we will have it on iTunes or just a link on the site.

Huge games today.  LGP.  HWGS.

Friday, January 14, 2011

GTOG Public Service Announcement: Don't Walk and Text

By Finesse

Courtesy of a friend of the blog via Sports Illustrated's underrated "Hot Clicks."

Morning Skate: A Quick Survey of the Eastern Conference

By Finesse

After the Pens' win over Montreal on Wednesday night, Mike Lange made an interesting observation on the postgame show.  He noted that if the Pens had lost that game, they would have been only 5 points ahead of the #8 seed in the Eastern Conference.  That was unthinkable only 2 weeks ago for a team on a long winning streak and briefly atop the NHL standings.  But it got me thinking.  Sometimes at GTOG we get so involved in the Pens that we don't step back and check in on what else is going on in the East.

What did I learn?  First, the East is no cakewalk.  Second, reader P.Co passed along this interesting site, which ranks the Eastern Conference teams by strength of schedule for games played and games remaining.  According to that site, the Pens have played the second hardest schedule in the East so far, but have the easiest remaining schedule (probably because of 4 remaining games against both the Islanders and Devils).

In 2008, the Pens steamrolled through the Eastern Conference playoffs and in 2009, the Pens were only pushed to the brink by the Capitals in the second round, but otherwise had no trouble (Evgeni Malkin is still wanted for first-degree felony battery in North Carolina).  But this year?  There will be no waltzing through the playoffs.  Quick observations on the current Top 8 and everyone else.

1. Philadelphia [59 points in 43 games] - As much as it pains me to say this, from top-to-bottom, the Flyers are the deepest team in the East.  Unfortunately for them, their goaltending is even below the bottom.  If you are being suckered into believing that Brian Boucher is any good, just watch the highlights of last night's Flyers-Bruins game.

2. Tampa Bay [57 points in 44 games] - Probably the most surprising team in the standings, not because they are in the playoff field, but because they are ahead of Washington.  The only reason they would scare me in the playoffs is that Crosby sustains all of his injuries against them.

3. Boston [55 points in 43 games] - They may be just a notch below the Flyers in terms of roster depth, especially after the larceny of Nathan Horton.  They may not be the favorite, but they will be an extremely tough out for any team.  And, do you really want to have to read articles about Chara shutting down Crosby in the playoffs?  Me neither.

4. Pittsburgh [58 points in 45 games] - The #4 seed is not a bad thing, unless it means a first round matchup with the Capitals.  The Caps may be disappointing (when compared with their pace of last season), but they show up for games against the Pens.  I'd take the Pens (surprise), but who needs the sideshow.

5. Washington [55 points in 44 games] - In his midseason awards column, which he apparently copy-pasted from 2008, Pierre Lebrun excreted on any credibility he had left by tossing Bruce Boudreau's name in his paragraph about candidates for the Jack Adams award.    The Caps are a 4 game losing streak from 9th place.  But they're also a 4 game winning streak from 1st place.

6. New York Rangers [55 points in 45 games] - This year's under-the-radar team in the East.  Nothing on their roster really stands out and they rely too heavily on Lundqvist in a lot of games, but they're a legit playoff team.  The Pens should match up well with them, but if you are looking for a #6 or #7 seed to handle some dirty work in round 1 by taking out the Caps, Bruins or Flyers, then be prepared to root for the Rangers.

7. Montreal [51 points in 44 games] - An underwhelming record and in danger of not making the playoffs at all doesn't change the fact that I do not want to see them in the playoffs.

8. Atlanta [51 points in 45 games] - A nice story and a team we are rooting for just based on the Kovalchuk karma.  But can they really win a playoff series?  This is why you want the Pens to win the conference.

Everyone else.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Miami Heat Committed to Raising Standards for U.S. Education

By Artistry

Back from a quick business trip to Charleston, West Virginia, where I try to go at least every winter just so I can get Little Artistry some kind of Pittsburgh athlete action figure at the memorabilia store in the Charleston mall. [This is patently untrue; I'm just trying to look on the bright side]. I did pick him up a Sidney Crosby action figure, which he liked, but then again, he also really likes peeing in the potty and "Trot Trot to Boston," so the bar for pleasing Little Artistry is not high.

My son's expectations are higher by far, however, than the standard of intelligence NBA teams seem to expect of their players. GTOG's favorite example of humility and class, LeBron James, drew unwanted attention Tuesday when he tweeted that the Cleveland Cavaliers deserved to lose to the Lakers by 60 points this week because "karma is a b----" and "God sees everything." First of all, easy Stevie Johnson. God ain't watching the Cleveland Cavaliers. Trust me on that. Secondly, 'Bron 'Bron tried to retract the tweet, or "de-tweet," if you will, by saying those weren't really his thoughts at all, and he wasn't even the tweeter in question.

Bought Son Lebron James Action Figure

The Miami Heat public relations team then sprung into action, cutting off any further questioning about the "karma" tweet. Then came this from ESPN's article on the controversy:

"Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said that the team has taken steps to educate players about Twitter and other forms of social media."

This is a bold step. Educating players about Twitter would involve somehow explaining to them that when you type words, other people will be able to read them. Is the Miami organization really sure it wants to pioneer this effort?