Saturday, April 30, 2011

GTOG Pens Season Recap Part 1: The Defense Report Card

By Finesse

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At some points during this season it looked like the Pens had four #1 caliber defensemen and at least two incredibly promising rookies.  At other points, it looked like Kris Letang was in meltdown mode, Paul Martin was in no-man's land, Brooks Orpik was homicidal, and Matty Ice hadn't yet made any friends in Pittsburgh (see: Five, Game).  But despite some of the lower moments, any and all success that this Pens team had this season is due in large part to the defense, an incredibly solid mix of veterans in their primes, potential stars coming into their primes, and young guys who could ultimately make Ray Shero look like a genius.  Oh, and the top 4 are signed through 2014.

Some numbers:

- Tied for 6th in goals against per game at 2.39
- Tied for 5th best shots against per game at 28.7
- First in penalty killing at 86.1% (conveniently, I will not discuss the playoffs)
- First in references to having a "Norris Trophy candidate" who ultimately had as much chance of winning it as we do of watching another second of Real Housewives of New York.

The Pens' defense had its rough moments, especially in the Tampa series, and especially when Martin St. Louis had the puck.  But GTOG thinks that Ray Shero has built something that not a lot of other teams have: A Stanley Cup caliber defense.


Because people like lists of arbitrary rankings that they can scroll through, here is a report card on the Pens' D after the jump....

Friday, April 29, 2011

NFL Draft: Steelers Take Cameron Heyward; And We Shall Call Him "Iron Sack"

By Artistry

The good people of Pittsburgh are about to defy the conventional wisdom that nobody cares about this year's NFL draft. As soon as the phone lines are open today, local radio shows will be flooded with calls, because every Steeler fan is going to have an opinion, and it'll probably be one of these:

1) We should have drafted a cornerback or offensive lineman. How did we not draft either a cornerback or offensive lineman?
2) We drafted Ironhead Heyward's son. This is, by definition, awesome.
3) We should have traded like 7 of our picks in order to move up and take Mike Pouncey.

Let's take these one at a time.

First, you don't draft for need in the first round. It's always a bad idea. Bob Smizik thinks otherwise. It's possible Bob doesn't remember Troy Edwards. Don't get me wrong, if Prince Amukamara was sitting there at No. 31, the Steelers should have and would have taken the cornerback. But the best guys left on the board were Aaron Williams and Brandon Harris, and not only were those two generally not considered to be in the same tier of talent as Heyward, but most scouts think Williams will need to be moved to safety. The Steelers are trying to get to the Super Bowl right now - or as soon as they can get on the field - and if Williams and Harris aren't starting caliber right now, what good is that?  You might as well look for CBs who are value picks in the second or third round - guys who can start down the line.  Reaching for an offensive lineman would have made even less sense.  The Steelers played in the Super Bowl in February with three starters - Willie Colon, Max Starks, and Maurkice Pouncey - on the sideline.  And the offensive line played fine.  All of a sudden you're telling me we just have to draft Derek Sherrod?  Please. You never even heard of that guy before last night.  Take a tackle or two in the later rounds.  Besides, outside of cornerback, I would argue that the defensive line is the Steelers' biggest problem area.  I don't have a calculator, but I think the combined age of the three starters is 142.

Second, it is sort of awesome that Cameron is Craig's son.  Ron Cook is thinking the Steelers like the big fella. Bloodlines aren't everything - and Ironhead wasn't such a great pro as best I can recall - but Kevin Colbert generally knows what he's doing.  Look at his track record.


Third, that's insane. You maybe - MAYBE - trade away multiple picks if you can move up and take a can't-miss franchise guy like Andrew Luck or Ndamukong Suh.  Mike Pouncey is a guard, by all accounts he's not as good as Maurkice, and he has a much less fun name for Pittsburghers to say.

Some other quick notes from the first round, most of which I DVR'd and fast-forwarded through:

- John Gruden is the new golden boy at ESPN.  He really commanded the panel last night, with his weird haircut and unsettling facial expressions.  Whatever Gruden says, he says with supreme confidence.  Things like, "I really like what this guy brings to your team.  A) energy."  And then there is no "B."  Love that guy.


- Christian Ponder at No. 12?

- The Browns took massive NT Phil Taylor, I guess to pair with massive NT Shaun Rogers.  Curious.  But the Browns did luck out when Atlanta traded them multiple picks to move up to No. 6 for Julio Jones.

- Peyton Hillis - who looks like an ultimate fighting version of Nick Lachey - announced the Taylor pick and thanked Jesus Christ for putting him on the Madden cover.  Will he thank Jesus when he blows out his knee in the second game of the season?

- Adam Schefter reminds me of a young Donald Trump in that he says nothing of substance with total assuredness.  Except he's not the slightest bit entertaining.

- Baltimore took the talented cornerback with the off-field issues, Jimmy Smith. Not good news for Pittsburgh, unless he tries to emulate Ray Lewis by witnessing a murder and obstructing justice.  Hope for the best.

- Great day for New Orleans. The Saints snagged top prospects Cameron Jordan and Mark Ingram. Perhaps the most touching moment of the night came when a sobbing Ingram sent a message to his father, who is in prison for tax evasion or something.  "I miss you, dog," said Ingram.  And in that spirit, I just want to say to my father, who is not in prison right now but is instead probably golfing, "I miss you, dog."

Thursday, April 28, 2011

GTOG Podcast: It's about the Journey, not the Destination; 2010-11 Penguins Season Recap

By GTOG Staff

Twenty-four hours after the Pens bowed out to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7, we take a look back at the series and the season as a whole -- the most fun nightmare we have ever had.  In a comprehensive podcast, we ask: Should Kovalev have been on the ice at the end? What about Letestu? Was Super Bowl weekend the worst weekend in Pittsburgh sports history? How do Shero's trades look now? We tackle those topics, and more, including mini-previews of the conference semifinals.


[Other ways to listen: Click here to subscribe on iTunes, or click here to download an mp3]

We are working on a mega-season-recap post, so stay tuned for that over the next few days.  And thanks to everyone for your support during the season, but remember -- we are about more than the Pens. We will be here all summer writing about anything and everything. Stick with us, tell your friends, and as always....GTOG.

See you at center ice.

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GTOPG: Until a Power Play Goal Do Us Part; SEASON OVER

By Artistry

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On most days, say, if the Penguins were down by a goal in the 7th game of a playoff series and were afforded a power play opportunity with 1:33 left in regulation time, I would stand up. There would be a surge of adrenaline, and I would get up off the couch. I'd get sucked in - literally pulled toward the ice - by the moment.  I think I watched the entire 2009 Stanley Cup Finals with my face like 8 inches from the television.  But not last night.  Last night I stayed in my seat.  I knew it was over.  We're going to save a lot of our thoughts on the game for the podcast later tonight, but here are some initial musings in the final GTOPG of 2011.


- Jordan Staal made a comment after the game, something to the effect of, "We can't let these years slip by."  He was talking about the period of time when the Penguins' core players - Staal, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, Kris Letang, and Brooks Orpik - are all still in their prime, and you wouldn't trade them for six players on any other team.  It's a window that's closing, little by little, with each passing season.  He's right that no one should take these years for granted, not the fans, and not the players themselves.  That reminder was entirely appropriate last year when an underachieving team lost Game 7 to Montreal, but it's not needed now.  The Penguins didn't take anything for granted these last few months. They battled their asses off.

- We've probably overdone the car metaphors in describing Alexei Kovalev's play, but hang in there for one more. When he's clicking on all cylinders as he was in the first period, the ride is still amazing. But the guy gets terrible gas mileage these days. He had nothing in the second, and as Dejan Kovacevic writes, Dan Bylsma apparently decided Kovy's no-show in the second justified leaving the Penguins most skilled player on the bench with one minute to go, a 6-on-4 power play, and the season on the line. Letestu is probably the Pens best faceoff guy, so Bylsma might have been able to justify having him out there in the last minute. But Letestu didn't take the draws at the end of the game. Jordan Staal did. You won't find any bigger fans of Dan Bylsma. We essentially named the blog after him. But that was unjustifiable. And what a sad ending to Kovalev's career as a Penguin.

When it's time, it's time.
- As we wrote in Wednesday night's instant reaction post, none of the Penguins remaining core players let us down with their effort Wednesday night. Marc-Andre Fleury was fairly spectacular in Game 7. He made an unbelievable toe save on Simon Gagne that no one is talking about and denied Adam Hall late in the third to keep the Pens in striking distance. Nobody had a clue what was going on when Dominic Moore threw his reverse pass to Bergenheim for the game-winner. Watch the replay. Asham skates right by him. We don't fault Fleury. But we'd be remiss if we didn't point out that Fleury has always struggled to read plays originating from behind the net.  We'd also be remiss if we didn't point out that no one should ever doubt his capacity to come up with a sterling performance on the biggest stage.

The solution, not the problem.
- We didn't see Dominic Moore turning into Adam Oates in this series. But we told you we had a hunch he would be a major factor.

- Kevin Constantine believed that power plays are simply about creating 2-on-1 chances.  How many of those did we see in the Penguins' 35 man advantage opportunities this series?  This team focused on things like "net front presence" and "just getting pucks on net," but that only led to them scoring "one goal."  The "entire series."  This is something we'll elaborate on "during the podcast."
"That's 2 minutes on us?  Ok, I'm fine with that."
- ROOT sports is an abomination.

- Kudos to Chris Conner. All year long, that tiny little guy has been the first name on our tongue when we're looking to make room in the lineup for somebody else. And all year long, he kept battling back and showing more heart than guys twice his size. That last part may be somewhat redundant because everybody is twice his size. After his humiliating gaffe on the Game 6 penalty shot, there he was again last night, battling, creating, and drawing penalties resulting in power plays that no one would ever score on. Come to think of it, maybe we should have put Chris Conner on the power play. Our guess is Conner won't see time in a healthy Penguin lineup next season, so let's just take a minute to tell him, Chris, we see you.

- Sometimes the greatest art is inspired by pain.  Never was this more evident than when Finesse sent me his unedited notes on Game 7, typed into his phone at like 2:00 am.  Here they are, verbatim:

No boarding on ohlund
Steiggy calls out fans for booing the PP
We had first three power plays
Problem - no shooters. No gonchar no goligoski no Sid no geno
The pps were ok, but shots into chest.
Their first goal was the same goal as last game. Wake up.
Difference between fan base and crowds. Great fan base, Terrible crowds
Offense generated from behind the net
Moore and bergenheim like Stockton and Malone
What's scarier than kovalev skating the wrong direction. He must retire. Nothing left
Why letestu on PP? Why?
Worst ever crowd at least as it translates on tv
Late PP
Kennedy desperately wanted to be out there.
Get letestu off the ice.
Seriously.
Get off the ice.
Talbot?
End the white out.

Now tell me that isn't poetry. 

The Penguins may have played their final game, but GTOG doesn't have an offseason.  As discussed, we should have the podcast up by tonight.  We've got a major Penguins Year in Review post on tap.  We'll have coverage of the Steelers' draft, which will be a welcome distraction.  And then we'll find other stuff to keep you engaged. Thanks to all for reading. GTOG.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

GTOG Instant Reaction: It's Over, But the Split is Amicable; Pens Lose, 1-0

By Artistry

We wanted it to work out. We really did. But part of us was holding back. We kept something in reserve. Because in our heart of hearts, we knew it wasn't meant to be. We were 1-for-35 on the power play, for crying out loud. Of course it hurts to blow a 3-1 series lead and get blanked in Game 7 by a 41-year-old journeyman netminder, but you know what? It doesn't hurt too much. The 2010-11 Pittsburgh Penguins are the hardest working bunch I've seen since I started following this team 27 years ago. They didn't get cheated. They took their cuts tonight. They just couldn't make contact.

Well, He Made Contact
The call-in shows will be overrun on Thursday with frontrunners lamenting the Pens' inability to close, Dan Bylsma's decision to go with Connor and Niskanen over Tangradi and Engelland, and Alexei Kovalev's late-game disappearing act. Turn off the radio. The Penguins lost this series because the Lighting are talented, well coached, and the Penguins have two $9 million players in street clothes. They didn't close because they couldn't close.

None of the remaining core players let you down tonight. Staal was a beast. Letang was a warrior. Orpik killed it. Fleury was spectacular. They gave everything. After popping in a single goal, the Lightning went into 1995 New Jersey Devils mode, and you can't expect Mark Letestu to power through that. You just can't. The Pens were dealt a s--- hand this season, and they played it as well as anyone had any right to expect. Don't hang your head for a single second. No other team gets to welcome Sid and Geno back in October. Meet back here Thursday for GTOPG.

Game 7: Suit Up

The game starts in 4 hours and 35 minutes. 


Watch the game with GTOG tonight on Twitter @GTOGblog.  LGP.

Countdown to Game 7: T-Minus 7 Hours

Should Be Able to Squeeze in 18


Game Day



Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Relax, It's Only Game 7

By Artistry

You don't have to be in Pittsburgh today to sense the negativity overtaking the city.  Just glance at Twitter.  Or talk to my dad.  Did people view this Penguins team as some sort of juggernaut?  Did no one pay attention when we told you that if either team won this series in five games it would be the Lightning?  And didn't we also predict we'd win this in 7?  Just relax.



If you think the odds are stacked against the Penguins because we just don't have the horses to pull this thing out, let me remind you of another Game 7: the one in Detroit in 2009.  Sidney Crosby got knocked out of that one about halfway through, and the Wings had Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen, and an army of other guys who could stickhandle through a maze of pylons faster than Arron Asham can skate in a straight line, and you know what?  It didn't matter.

Guy Boucher is at it again, complaining that Brooks Orpik poked Little Stevie Stamkos in the eye.  Doesn't matter.

Felonious Ryan Malone says he put a clean hit on Pascal Dupuis.  Who cares.

Taking penalties against the Penguins is proving to be a smart strategy.  Whatever.

Game 7 is going to be close, it may go to overtime, and the Penguins don't have a St. Louis or a Stamkos in the lineup.  But we do have a number of guys who have been here before and delivered, several guys who have been a hero before and could be again.  It only takes one.


Quit wringing your hands, and get behind your team.

GTOPG: Go Ahead, Read This, Get it Out of Your System; Pens Lose, 4-2

By Artistry

We told you this thing would go 7 games, but we don't have to feel good about how we got here.  The playoffs can take over your life.  People in my office this morning are either tip-toeing past my door or pausing only to give their condolences.  It's a little weird, and we all need to move on.  There is still a game to be played on Wednesday.  But first, an exercise in catharsis in lieu of the standard recap.  In the grand tradition of Penguin playoff text messages, the following exchange took place Monday night between 7:15 and 10:53 p.m.  I'm warning you, it gets a little dark.

Artistry, 7:15 pm - You live?

Finesse, 7:16 pm - Yes.

Artistry, 7:17 pm - Bylsma listened to the podcast, called out Letestu, flipped Neal and Kunitz.

Finesse, 7:18 pm - And this surprises you?

Artistry, 7:21 pm - Need to be a lot stronger on the puck.

Finesse, 7:23 pm - I worry the line switching will render Hands irrelevant.

Artistry, 7:24 pm - Legit concern. Kovy looks off. I vote we put Kuny Talbot Dupuis together and give Letestu's line less minutes.

[Roloson fumbles the puck. Talbot finds Dupuis in front on a bang-bang play. 1-0 Penguins]

Finesse, 7:25 pm - Dupuis is a real man. A hero, in fact.


[Kovalev commits a brutal offensive zone turnover and hooking penalty.]

Artistry, 7:26 pm - Kovy is awful.

Finesse, 7:27 pm - Kovalev is close to needing to be a healthy scratch.

Artistry, 7:28 pm - He is showing signs of dementia.  At times he thinks he's playing a preseason game for Ottawa.

Finesse, 7:29 pm - He has one speed: slowly apathetic.

[Jordan Staal buries Matthias Ohlund on the forecheck.]

Finesse, 7:38 pm - Staal should be that strong every game.  He's manhandling people.  Unfortunately, we refuse to stop taking terrible penalties.  This is an incurable problem.

Artistry, 7:40 pm - Terrible.  Stamkos has his confidence.  We're going to pay.

Artistry, 7:44 pm - It takes a real effort by Letang to make himself a liability.  He's giving it 100%.

Finesse, 7:45 pm - We are getting crushed.

Artistry, 7:46 pm - Thrilled with a tie after one.  Penalties killed us.  Inexcusable.

Artistry, 7:59 pm - Is Letang uncoachable?  Does he speak English?  Is he high?


Finesse, 8:05 pm - His mind hasn't grown into his talent yet. It will happen, hopefully.  He also might think he is better than he actually is.  Remember, he CANNOT actually score goals, which is unusual for someone so heralded as an offensive defenseman.

Artistry, 8:07 pm - Letang vs. Goligoski in five years:  still an open question?  What about in two years?

Finesse, 8:08 pm - Still go Letang overall.  But burying the puck is a skill that he doesn't have.

Artistry, 8:08 pm - Big pp.

[Kovalev loses a battle for the puck on the boards.]

Artistry, 8:10 pm - Kovy sucks on the boards.

[Chris Conner is denied on a 3-on-1.]

Artistry, 8:13 pm - Conner needed to bury that.  Missed by three feet.

Finesse, 8:13 pm - Wide open net.

Finesse, 8:14 pm - Sad truth - we are relying on Chris Conner to score.

[Dominic Moore undresses the Pens' third defense pairing.  Letestu in space.  Bergenheim hits an open net.  2-1 Lightning.]

Artistry, 8:16 pm - Maybe 4 of our worst 5 guys on the ice for that one.

Finesse, 8:18 pm - Who is reliable right now?  Dupuis, Adams, Rupp, Talbot, Orpik.  That's the list. 

Artistry, 8:20 pm - Just watch Letang unravel completely.

[Pens get another power play.]

Artistry, 8:21 pm - Any chance at all we score here? I put it at 2%.

Finesse, 8:21 pm - That's our PP%.

Artistry, 8:21 pm - Exactly.

[After failing to score on the power play, the Pens get another stellar opportunity as Chris Conner is taken down on a breakaway.  Penalty shot.]



Finesse, 8:26 pm - That's about right.

Artistry, 8:26 pm - mmm.

Finesse, 8:32 pm - Let's think positively.  This is a one goal game.  But on the other hand, if we win, do the Caps eliminate us in 2 or 3 games?

Artistry, 8:34 pm - I'm not sure it pays to care. Geno and Sid aren't walking through that door.  Or are they...

Finesse, 8:34 pm - They aren't.

[Something else bad happens.]

Artistry, 8:47 pm - I'm going to puke.

Artistry, 8:58 pm - Rossi points out that Pens haven't won a single game this year when behind after two.

Finesse, 8:59 pm - Knew that. No better time than now.

[Staal ties the game at 2-2 off the feed from Niskanen.]

Artistry, 9:10 pm - Wooo.

Finesse, 9:11 pm - Niskanen.

[Steve Downie scores.  3-2 Lightning.]

Finesse, 9:12 pm - Ouch.

[Ryan Malone takes his 28th minor penalty of the series.]

Artistry, 9:14 pm - Malone is such a f---ing punk.

Finesse, 9:15 pm - He isn't even annoying to play against because he's so dumb that he keeps getting caught.

Artistry, 9:15 pm - Idiot.



Finesse, 9:17 pm - No chance we score.  A guy in a coma is texting in their PK strategy.

[Ryan Malone, of all people, scores.  4-2.]

Finesse, 9:29 pm - Despondent.

[I get an email from my friends, who blame Paul Martin for this game, the economy, and world hunger.]

Artistry, 9:29 pm - These guys are starting in on Martin again.  I am genuinely confused.  I also feel like stabbing myself in the face.

Finesse, 9:31 pm - It's the entire team.  To single one person out isn't fair.  Michalek has been face down for 4 goals this series.  We just look completely gassed.  We are in constant survival mode out there.  We have to work too hard for success.  Unsustainable.  That's why things snowball like this.

Artistry, 9:33 pm - Maybe we are just a bad team with heart.

Finesse, 9:34 pm - We said 7 games.  This isn't surprising.

Artistry, 9:44 pm - I feel nothing.

Finesse, 10:47 pm - Need to try to stay positive.

Artistry, 10:53 pm - OK, I'll try.

At which point, I went to get a beer, ensuring I would have to pee at 4:15 in the morning, and stared out the window into the darkness.

Monday, April 25, 2011

GTOG Instant Reaction: 'Til the Bitter End; Pens Lose 4-2

By Finesse

This is not the time to jump ship.

But if you can find a nearby bridge, we won't blame you.

If Game 5 was like getting blindsided by an 18-wheeler, Game 6 was Chinese water torture. Tonight was a slow, excruciating two and a half hours of some of the worst hockey the Pens have played all season. Unfortunately, it was either not quite bad enough or the Lightning just aren't quite good enough to have put you out of your misery early like in Game 5. Instead, while the Lightning went invisible in the second and early third period - giving you just a little bit of hope that the Pens might actually win this game - every single thing that was wrong with the Pens this season was put into a blender, mixed up, and then excreted all over the ice during five second period powerplays.


For anyone watching on Versus, you heard a story about a Lightning assistant coach -- maybe his name was Simmons, we don't know -- who is very sick and was watching from the hospital. It goes without saying that GTOG wishes this man a speedy recovery. This individual was apparently texting the Lightning bench FROM THE INTENSIVE CARE UNIT to advise them on their penalty kill strategy. It worked. Granato, Reirden, and yes, Bylsma, are being outcoached via cell phone by a guy in a hospital. We aren't making this up.

This isn't Marc-Andre Fleury's fault. It isn't a single individual's fault, although deciding whether Letestu or Kovalev has been the Pens' worst player this series is like Rebecca Black deciding between the front or the back seat - you can make a really good argument either way. Kovalev makes global warming look fast. And Letestu, although we're sure he is trying super hard, would look like he's out of his league if his league was the WNBA. Oh, but combined they played 9:42 on the powerplay. Because that makes sense.

We will have much more tomorrow in Get To Our Postgame, which will likely feature a reprint of some 2+ hours of sad, lonely, depressing, self-pitying text messages about whether you'd rather have Goligoski than Letang in 2017. Yeah, it got that bad.

However...

Somehow, someway, the Pens can, and actually might, still win this series. The past two games are over  - you can't lose them again, even though the Pens tried their best to recreate Game 5 tonight. We all knew that this series would not be easy, even if we didn't think the Pens would look this horrendous along the way.  But since the beginning, we have said Pens in 7.  You don't change a horse midstream.  Pens in 7.

Hopefully has unlimited texting plan

NFL Draft: The Right Guy For the Job

By Artistry

Here's Steeler mastermind Kevin Colbert talking today about Thursday's draft.  Colbert seldom speaks publicly.  He's usually busy being awesome.  Here are Pittsburgh's first round picks since KC took over in 2000:

2010 - Maurkice Pouncey
2009 - Ziggy Hood
2008 - Rashard Mendenhall
2007 - Lawrence Timmons
2006 - Santonio Holmes
2005 - Heath Miller
2004 - Ben Roethlisberger
2003 - Troy Polamalu
2002 - Kendall Simmons
2001 - Casey Hampton
2000 - Plaxico Burress

Probably Co-chairs Illuminati with Ray Shero

Game 6 Preview: Are You Thinking What I'm Thinking?

By Artistry

Every player has a game-day routine.  Usually a morning skate, followed by a big meal, maybe a nap.  Here at GTOG, we warm up by taking the essence of the day's Ron Cook column and producing Ron Cook Poetry.

In their loud rink.
In front of their rabid fans.
So much for home-ice advantage.
I know that.
And no, he wasn't smiling.

It's worth repeating here:
The Penguins will show up, and they won't be afraid.
Are you thinking what I'm thinking?
The Penguins had better win tonight.

See? Now we're ready to play.

- Some Tampa columnist thinks the Lightning might be in Marc-Andre Fleury's head. And we thought Ron Cook asked a lot of rhetorical questions.

- Was Dan Bylsma wrong when he famously said Caps goalie Mikey Neuvirth was "not good?" That's not a rhetorical question. I'd really like an answer.

- Who is Paul Martin?  Is he the top tier defenseman we thought we were getting last summer, or is he merely a rich man's Mark Eaton?  He played poorly on Saturday, but who didn't?  All rhetorical questions, prompted by a deluge of emails from friends of GTOG who have been insisting all series long that PM is wildly overpaid and should be - and I think they're serious about this
- a healthy scratch in Game 6.  Whoa.  I think there are two questions that really need to be answered here:  1) Is Paul Martin well suited for his role, i.e. is he a legitimate top 4 defenseman on a contending team?; and 2) Is Paul Martin overpaid at $5 million per year?

Lost in Existential Thought
First, before he came to Pittsburgh, Martin was unquestionably the best defenseman on the New Jersey Devils.  The conversation should probably end there, but let's go on.  Martin plays at least 20 minutes a night, and sometimes as many as 35-40 minutes, for a team that finished the regular season with 49 wins.  That's second in the league to Vancouver.  Only five teams in the league gave up fewer goals per game.  I don't need to tell you that the Penguins were hurting up front for many of those games, or that they were hurting in general for most of them.  Paul Martin was a constant.  He played 77 games, and he played at even strength, on the power play, and short-handed.  He didn't light up the scoreboard, and no one expected that.  Ray Shero was looking for a mobile minutes-eater who could help the Penguins get to their game.  Someone who could turn swiftly and collect the puck in the defensive zone, make a quick outlet pass when possible, and have the poise to stickhandle out of danger and up ice when necessary.  That's exactly what he got.  No question Martin needs to step up his game tonight, but naysayers may want to take a minute to appreciate what exactly his game is.

Second, Martin has three obvious comparables in terms of salary vis a vis performance:  Sergei Gonchar, Dan Hamhuis, Anton Volchenkov.  Those were the other top defenseman on the free agent market in the summer of 2010, and they signed for $5.5 million, $4.5 million, and $4.25 million per year, respectively.  Let's not even address Gonchar, because it's too easy.  If you'd rather have a clearly over-the-hill minus-machine like Sarge on your payroll for the next couple of years, I don't know why we're even including you in this conversation.  Look at the other guys:

                            GP     G     A    Pts    +/-   PIMs

Paul Martin         77      3     21    24     9      16
Dan Hamhuis      64      6     17    23     29    34
A. Volchenkov    57      0     8      8       3      36

How's that Volchenkov signing looking?  Great defender when he's healthy, but he hasn't played 70 games in 5 years.  I don't see him getting more durable going into his thirties.  He'll be sitting out games in New Jersey for at least five more years.  Hamhuis?  Solid player, but we knew that.  The plus-minus?  If Paul Martin played for the Canucks this year, he might have been a +80.  Meaningless stat.  Is Paul Martin overpaid?  Not compared to these guys.  I'm sure you could find players you'd rather have who make less, but I'm guessing you'll come up with homegrown stars who got locked up early in their careers (Kris Letang, Shea Weber).  You can't just go out and get those players.  Of course, you could try comparing Paul Martin to Tom Gilbert ($5.5 million), Roman Hamrlik ($5.5 million), Sheldon Souray ($5.4 million), or Michael Roszival ($5.0).  But maybe it's better if you just stop complaining now and find another target. 

- Flyers captain Mike Richards buried Buffalo's Tim Connolly into the boards during Sunday's Game 6.  Connolly, who played more minutes than any other Sabres' forward this series, is out for Game 7.  No suspension for Captain Leadership.



If Matt Cooke pulled that stunt, the league would have already scheduled a televised beheading for this afternoon. Then again, Mike Richards doesn't have a history of questionable hits. Wait. What's that? He does? Oops.

- Rest assured, Finesse and I will not be watching Game 6 together, and if he tries to contact me today, I'm not available. LGP.

UPDATE:  Thoughts on Sunday's two incredible Game 6 games from GTOG contributor Eloquence, after the jump...

Saturday, April 23, 2011

GTOG Podcast: Now That's How You Lose A Playoff Game; Pens Lose 8-2

By GTOG Staff

In the immediate aftermath of the Lightning's 8-2 blowout of the Penguins, we sit down to record a podcast that captures all of the raw, unfiltered emotion.  Actually, we just sound pretty bummed.  We assess what happened in this game, what it means going forward, and whether our disastrous record of watching playoff games together means that we can never see each other again.


[You can also click here to subscribe on iTunes]



Pens are stil up 3 games to 2.  Keep your chin up.  Huge game Monday.

Pens-Lightning Game Five Preview: A Huge Opportunity

By Finesse

A little Saturday morning LSAT logic for you.

There is a difference between a Huge Game and a Huge Opportunity.  Every Huge Opportunity is a Huge Game but not every Huge Game is a Huge Opportunity.  For example, Games 3 and 4 in this series were Huge Games.  Absolutely enormous.  But Game 5 today is not only Huge, it's also a Huge Opportunity.

If there has been one glaring weakness of this Pens team post-The Decimation, it is the inability to finish things off, whether it is a particular game (see Games 3 and 4) or a particular team (see Atlantic Division title).  (For those unfamiliar, "The Decimation" refers to Super Bowl weekend, when it started becoming apparent that Sid was out long-term, Malkin blew out his knee, and Ben Roethlisberger ran the Donovan McNabb 2-minute drill.)

It would be unfair to say that this Pens team lacks the cliched "killer instinct" because they are not nearly as talented offensively as they were in the past 4 years. We're sure they try to put teams away.  Instead, maybe they just lack "killer instinctability."  It's a real thing.

So today's Game 5 is not a must-win, but it is a Huge Opportunity for the Pens to reap some tangible benefits from how hard they have been working and how well they have been playing without their top guys.  A loss doesn't mean they will lose the series.  But a win?  Huge.

Bring the house down.  Go Pens.


Big podcast coming after the game. Stay tuned.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Very Special Easter RHONY Recap: Sheer Elegance is Back, and This Time, It's Lengthy.

By Sheer Elegance, GTOG Special Guest Blogger

While we were apart, I came to the realization that I must simply grit my teeth and grind this puppy out, because RHONY is officially going from bad to worse. Last week I tried to watch and was physically unable to do so until a week later, mostly because I was away from my television, but also because I really needed some space after Episode One. So yeah. S’gonna be a long season.

When I close my eyes and think about that terrible scene last week at the Gay Equality March with Simon in a rainbow bolero and the other (divorced) ladies in wedding dresses, and the aftermath of Sonja spewing at Alex to GET OUT OF HER INTIMATE ART PARTY with all of these discreet people there to buy beautiful wonderful Art, I cringe and die a bit inside. Hands down, the best line during the fight between Alex and Sonja, as Alex kept trying and failing to yelp with dignity about “checking the website,” was when Sonja said (and I don’t think I’m paraphrasing here) “we all love our gays. But this was my day.” Simon -- is that his name? – Simon somehow managed to actually get into Sonja’s ear and buzz around or something. It was really upsetting to her.

Born This Way
So yes, Sonja is the new Jill. But in her defense, it really is a lot of responsibility to be the Grand Marshall of a Gay Parade, you know? It can really get to a person! The gays need their role models! Why doesn’t Alex understand this?

Other things happened. Alex talked to Simon on a cell phone in full bondage wear after getting kicked to the curb by Sonja, which gave us another chance to see the lovely parking garage that Sonja’s fabulous townhouse abuts. We see the painting that Sonja’s mortified artist boyfriend painted of her. I think I saw a similar portrait in a frame store in Surfside, Florida, alongside a painting of all the Republican Presidents since Lincoln sitting around playing poker. We hear the other ladies murmuring about how the painting isn’t very good, doesn’t do her justice. Sonja gets drunk and acts again like a 13-year-old girl at her Bat Mitzvah when she knows the videographer has all cameras on her during the candle lighting ceremony. And then everyone goes home and their faces melt off.

That was episode two. So on to episode three.

Epic recap, after the jump...

Wake Up With GTOG: Andrew Ference Denies Speaking For Us All

By Finesse

There was a great moment in the Bruins-Habs game last night after ex-Penguin Andrew Ference scored for Boston to cut the Habs' lead to 3-2.  He gave a fist pump, a stick raise, and, oh by the way, the middle finger to the Bell Center crowd.  Before you speak critically of him for doing it, remember the splint you had to wear on your right middle finger for 3 weeks after the Pens were eliminated by the Habs last year.


Remarkably, Ference is denying that he was giving the finger, instead claiming, "I think my glove got caught up."  That's rich.  Clearly he is trying to avoid the suspension he will likely get unless Colin Campbell decides that this was a "hockey play" or gives some other inarticulate explanation.

Andy, have a seat and talk to GTOG.

Finesse's Kitchen
Own this one.  You never score and so you got excited.  Your career is decent, but otherwise unremarkable outside of your fight against Sidney Crosby.  This is your chance to be remembered, to be a hero.  No one likes Habs fans.  No one likes the Canadiens.  Embrace being the people's representative.

To be serious for a moment, this was an idiotic decision by Ference.  It must have felt good at the time, but we assume he instantly regretted it when he realized he would likely get suspended so he started blaming his glove for the actions of his finger.  That's like blaming your toothpaste when you say something stupid.

Big wins though for the B's and Sharks last night.  And huge loss by the Canucks.  Mental toughness is a funny thing...

Go Pens.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

GTOPG: When Mario Skated With Zemlak; Pens Win 3-2

By GTOG Staff

In April 1962, more than a year before the Rebecca Black-led conspiracy to assassinate him, President John F. Kennedy invited every living American Nobel Prize winner to the White House for a dinner in their honor.  At the event, he delivered one of his most famous quotes:
"I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."
What a speaker.  But it turns out that upon closer inspection, he might as well have been talking about the Pens' 4th line.  Craig Adams, Mike Rupp, and Arron Asham are the most extraordinary collection of heart, of skill, and of grit that has ever been assembled together on the Pens' fourth line, with the possible exception of some game in 1989 when Mario triple-shifted himself and skated with Richard Zemlak for 30 seconds.

James Neal may have gotten the game-winner and TK may have gotten the PP marker, but make no mistake about it -- the Pens are up 3 games to 1 in this series because when given the opportunity to roll 4 lines, the Adams-Rupp-Asham combination is hoisting a Penguins' flag in the offensive zone, tormenting the Lightning D, and generally just grinding bitches down.  It doesn't matter who they are on the ice against -- they are #Winning.

Craig Adams' Mom with the Umbrella
Think back to the offseason when Ray Shero signed Arron Asham and you wondered - you know you did - why we needed another guy who plays on the third line and scores 8 goals a year.  This is why.  The playoffs are what counts, and the Penguins collect champions.  You can never have enough of them. 

- All the talk today is about how James Neal is fighting through a significant injury - possibly to the wrist he jammed into the boards a couple of weeks ago.  Put that out of your mind, because lots of people are playing with broken bodies out there.  The important thing is where Neal's mind is right now:  it's in a good place. 



- It was a bizarre start Wednesday night.  The Lightning had no jump, the crowd was dead, and it was like 98 degrees outside.  The Pens finally got a power play goal from Kennedy in the first, Asham buried his third goal of the series, and we had an opportunity to put Tampa in a sleeper hold, which, if you know this team, you knew wasn't going to happen.  We thought hockey players were supposed to be superstitious, but there was Bob Errey in the third, making comments like, "The Tampa Bay Lightning look like they're saying goodbye to their season."  Errey deserves at least 75% of the blame for this game going to overtime.

- The pace slowed as the game went on.  There was a whistle every 30 seconds.  It was like an NBA game.  That allowed Guy Boucher to get the matchups he wanted, and Vinnie Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis exploited Matt Niskanen and Ben Lovejoy on the St. Louis goal.  We don't think Lovejoy and Niskanen are playing badly - on the contrary, they've had a number of noticeably solid shifts - but look at the even strength goals Tampa has scored in this series.  Hasn't the Pens third pairing been on the ice for most of them?  Let us answer that.  Yes.

- The Big 4 of Orpik, Letang, Michalek, and Martin was nothing short of sensational.  They all played more than 30 minutes last night - Orpik logged 40:32 replete with crushing body checks - and gave the Lightning nothing.  Letang was the best player on the ice. 

- The penalty killers were back in regular season form. Craig Adams may have thrown himself on a live grenade in the third period.

- Overall, it was a decent showing for Eric Tangradi.  He set a terrific screen on the Kennedy goal and made at least a couple of deft passes.  Seems a little shaky at times with the puck on his stick though, and need to ratchet up the intensity along the boards.  He's not Wally Pipping Chris Kunitz, who watched the game last night while bathing his hands in white light.

- Aside from Staal's game-winning assist, the top 2 centers are not giving the Penguins what they are going to need going forward.  Tampa Bay is not a contender, even if the league and NHL beat writers try to convince you that Steve Yzerman has already built a dynasty by signing Mike Lundin.  Regardless of whether the Pens manage to close this series out on Saturday - far from a given - there is no reason to get too excited unless Sid comes back Staal and Letestu can start to put some pressure on opposing defenses.

Time to sit back, relax, look forward to Saturday, and watch the Capitals get way too excited about going up 3-1 on a No. 8 seed in the first round.  GTOG.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

GTOG Instant Reaction: The Neal World; Pens Win in Double OT, 3-2

By Artistry

We knew it was coming. And we knew it was coming at a big moment.

Force of Nature
For all of his struggles to put the puck in the net, there hasn't been one minute - not a single instant - that we've regretted the trade that brought James Neal to Pittsburgh.  Tonight in double OT he validated our faith in thoroughbred power forwards and humanity in general. Some quick postgame thoughts:

- The longer that game went on, the more it benefited a Penguin team that rolled four lines all night.  By contrast, 35-year-old Marty St. Louis had already played 25 minutes in regulation.  That guy is great, but  he's no Kris Letang.  Letang was born to play overtime hockey.  He saw 38 minutes of ice, and he was ready for more.

- Impressive showing by the Big Dog Eric Tangradi. Hall of Fame showing by 40-minute monster Brooks Orpik.

- Not to take anything away from Dwayne Roloson, but he sucks.

- Nothing that's happened in this series has been a surprise.  A great team takes at least a 3-0 lead into the first period intermission tonight, and the Lightning never get back in the game.  The Penguins as currently constituted are not a great team.  They'll average about 2.5 goals per game no matter the circumstances, they'll struggle on the power play, and they won't blow anyone out.  Right now they're just a good team blessed with championship role players and an elite goalie, but if they get out of the first round, look out.



Full GTOPG analysis coming Thursday.

The Calm Before The Storm

By Finesse

Compared to Caps-Rangers, Bruins-Canadiens, and even Hawks-Canucks, the noise level surrounding the Pens' series has been relatively quiet, even in the face of two suspensions.  Kunitz has humbly accepted his one-game suspension, although how you could be suspended for hitting someone with such a fluffy, velvety elbow remains a mystery.  Gagne should have thanked Kunitz and asked for another.  Meanwhile, Guy Boucher appears moderately fussy about the suspension to Downie, dusting off the tactical "Whether it's fair or unfair is not the question" response to a question that probably was about whether he thought the Downie suspension was fair or unfair.  Regardless, it's been two relatively drama-less suspensions.

That should all change tonight.  This is the calm before the storm.  Bylsma is refusing to announce whether Tangradi or Comrie will take Kunitz's place in the lineup, an approach that both players should find flattering because, no offense to either, I don't think Tampa cares.

Who does GTOG prefer?  Doesn't matter, although only one of the two scored on his most recent shot...

On Fire.
Go Pens.

The NFL Draft: Where Miracles Happen

By Artistry

The NFL draft is less than two weeks away, and we're already looking forward to the magical moment when Roger Goodell steps to the podium with the Steelers' pick and announces the name of an offensive lineman or cornerback none of us has ever heard of.  And when the Commissioner Whose Legacy Isn't Looking Too Good Right Now announces the 31st pick in the draft, that lucky individual may be transformed into a player we have heard of and will always remember, joining the ranks of historical figures such as William Gay, Max Starks, and William I. Colon. 

Immortalized Colon
Inevitably, some players will not be taken in the first round.  Instead, they will fall to the second, third, or possibly as low as the sixth round.  As the minutes pass and they wait for their name to be called, these men will stare the possibility that they may have to get a real job right in the face.  As someone who has a real job but is blogging right now, I can appreciate how devastating that can be.



It's OK, Tom.  Let it out.  Do a little hair flip if you need to.  Such is the drama of the NFL draft.  We're planning to cover it sporadically extensively and do a post-draft podcast, although, to be candid, we're a little distracted right now.


LGP.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Kunitz Gets 1 Game Suspension; GTOG Exhales

By Artistry

Nobody had any idea what was coming down today from the NHL disciplinary office.  We thought Chris Kunitz was getting at least two games for a blatant elbow to Simon Gagne's noggin, and with the way the league plays pin the tail on the donkey with suspensions, it wouldn't have been a complete surprise if it handed him three games.  But, as Finesse observed, Kunitz probably let Gary Bettman touch his hands.  Instant leniency.  He sits out Wednesday but returns for the always pivotal Game 5.

So Good. So Right.
It probably didn't hurt that the league announced an enormous TV contract today.  People are in a good mood.  Steve Downie also got a 1 game suspension, I guess under the theory that clocking Ben Lovejoy was only 5% as bad as Downie's hit a few years back on Dean McAmmond.  Whatever.

GTOPG: Pens Survive the Drumline; Win 3-2

By GTOG Staff

The Lightning pulled out all the stops last night in an attempt to win Game 3 at home and box the Pens into a corner.  They handed out plastic drums.  Actually, that's about it.  Through three games, the Lightning's performance in this series has been steady.  Steadily mediocre.  They have some great players who can really scare you, in St. Louis, Lecavailer, and Stamkos [NOTE: Stamkos included solely on the basis of trying to avoid bad karma].  And then they have a bunch of guys who are ok, including Ryan Malone, who is lovingly dubbed a "warrior" but in reality is just an overpaid, injury-prone, minor-penalty machine.  And then after you get through naming all of their OK players, you finally get to Victor Hedman.

Nick Cannon: Huge Lightning Fan
None of that is to say that the Lightning can't, or won't, win this series.  They absolutely could.  In fact, it's probably still close to a 50/50 proposition because home-ice advantage means nothing.  But what it does tell you is that the Pens control their own destiny in this series.  The Lightning A-game, if they can get to it, probably won't beat the Pens' A-game.  But then again, maybe it could.  When your PK is in the tank, and your PP is a disadvantage, you take nothing for granted.  This paragraph is all over the place.  Symbolic of the first three games so far.

- Game 3 brought everything we've been saying about this series into stark relief.  If the the Penguins can get any lead, let alone an early two-goal lead, they can and should beat the Lightning.  But they have little margin for error, and, unfortunately, that includes referree errors.  We're not going to dwell on a couple of bad calls - and the penalties on Kovalev and Martin were pretty atrocious - because bad calls wouldn't mean much if the Pens' vaunted number-one penalty killing unit didn't look helpless at times against the Lightning.  That's a power play that makes you clench your buttox even when they don't get off a shot. 

- Here's an exercise that never gets old.  Take Max Talbot, Arron Asham, Mike Rupp, and Craig Adams.  Add up their salaries.  What do you get?   The number itself isn't particularly important, but put it this way:  you get about 500% more playoff production than Marion Gaborik for far less than half the price.  Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin make the Penguins dangerous, but it's these guys that make them champions.  Really, look at Max Talbot.  Having Talbot on your team in the playoffs is not unlike living with 2-year-old Little Artisty.  It's so rewarding that it makes you forget the sleepless nights and soiled diapers you endured during the regular season.  You forget this so completely that you're willing to do it all over again. 

Sniper.
- Out of all the advantages the Penguins have over the Lighting - goaltending, coaching, defense, intangibles, pretty much everything except scoring - is there a bigger one than the 4th line?  We don't even know who plays on the 4th line for Tampa.  But Asham, Rupp, and Adams are guys nobody on Tampa's bench can be excited to see on the ice at even strength.  Who was the guy Rupp walked right by to set up Asham for the second goal of the game?  None other than the Big Liability, Vic Hedman.

- For a guy who does so much vision training, we have no idea what Roloson was doing on Talbot's goal.  Max Talbot has made a career of scoring on relatively weak shots against average goalies.

- Chris Conner was a little monster last night. He always brings it after he gets scratched, or, in this case, after we suggest he should be.



- We love that Ben Lovejoy had a big smile on his face talking about how he had no problem with Steve Downie's big first period hit, a play that led to Talbot's huge early goal.  But the league may have a problem with it.  Or it may not.  We have no idea.  Consider a similar play by Downie a few years ago.



Downie got 20 games for that.  He used his body as a missile against Dean McAmmond, but really, how dissimilar is it to what he did to Lovejoy?  We're not even saying he should be suspended.  We're just saying the NHL has no clue what it's doing on any given day.

Hockey play.
- One thing is for certain:  Chris Kunitz is getting at least two games for his senseless elbow to Simon Gagne's head.  How bad is this news?  The Pens had a winning record this year without Crosby and Malkin in the lineup.  During a a 13 game stretch without Hands, they went 4-9.

- Having said that, if any team in the NHL is prepared to handle the loss of a key contributor, it's the Pens.  The Pens have won games this season with a lot less.  At one point, Joe Vitale was the Pens' third best player.  And we're only mildly exaggerating.

- And finally, Sid is practicing with the Pens this morning.  We'll surely hear that there is "no change in his status."  But still.  Huge.

Hey, ESPN, Enjoy Poker: NHL Re-Ups With Versus, NBC

By Artistry

Mixed emotions this morning concerning the NHL's new TV deal with Versus and NBC.  $200 million a year for 10 years is just an enormous coup for the league, which get about $77 million per from Versus under the current contract.  Looks like we may be able to squeeze Max Talbot under the cap after all.  I had been holding out hope that ESPN might make an overwhelming offer and Gary Thorne, Bill Clement, and NHL 2Night would ride in on a white stallion and rescue me from Pierre MacGuire, Mike Milbury, and hotel rooms that don't carry Versus.  That's not going to happen.  And that's OK.  ESPN treats the NHL like garbage, and now they have John Buccigross doing "vlogumns" in ridiculously tight sweaters.  Maybe bump the Stanley Cup playoffs up from last segment on Sportscenter and we'll talk in 2020.  Until then, good riddance. 

For Better or Worse
GTOPG analyis coming shortly.

Monday, April 18, 2011

GTOG Instant Reaction: No one said it had to be pretty; Pens Win 3-2

By Finesse

If it wasn't for Martin St. Louis, we're really not sure whether Tampa would even be in the playoffs.  Tampa can trot out a lot of expensive MVP candidates, but what they don't have is guys like Asham, Talbot, Rupp, and Adams.  American heroes, even if they aren't American.

Also heroic.
As for whether Kunitz and/or Downie will be suspended, it's anyone's guess.  Our guess is that Kunitz definitely will be, and Downie's is a toss-up.  At this point of the season, we won't even blink an eye at playing without Kunitz.  We've been through worse this year.  Comrie time?

Full recap coming tomorrow.  Huge win.  Home ice and order restored.

RHNY Non-Recap: This Says a Lot About the Show

By Sheer Elegance, GTOG Special Guest Slacker Blogger

So admittedly, I have not yet watched the full episode. I tried. I really did, to watch it in real time on Thursday night. (Ed. Note: It is now Monday). And it was so brutal that I turned off the television set and went to sleep instead, promising myself I’d get to it the next day, and then the next, and then the next. And still, by Monday afternoon I still have only seen the first 20 minutes of the show. So I apologize to the two of you still reading this, and I promise next week to get my housewife mojo back. But in the meantime, I will ask you this: how funny is it that they always shoot the exterior of Sonja’s townhouse to show that its connected to a public parking garage? Kinda mean but kinda funny. Also, the new assertive Alex is cool but a leeeetle strident, and quite possibly drinking to excess. And Sonja has jumped the shark.

Jumped Shark in a Mere 20 Minutes
More soon. In the meantime, please enjoy this Gawker recap. It will keep you in the know until I can get my stuff together.

Forgive me.

Some RHNY recap Sheer Elegance really likes, after the jump...

NHL Playoff Roundup: Captain 'Stache, 8-Foot Tall Goligoski, and Carey Price Pimpin'

By GTOG Staff

While we are generally immersed in the Pens' series, we always keep an eye on the rest of the NHL.  After all, the Pens can't play everyone we like to make fun of all at once.  Let's take a spin around the league.

Canadiens vs. Bruins; Canadiens Lead 2-0

This was Artistry's upset special, and so far so good.  Bell Centre is going to be a madhouse for Game 3.  The secret to the Canadiens' success is simple - bury your chances.  They only get a few per game, but that's all you need when you actually score.  Maybe that last sentence was a shot at James Neal.  Maybe it wasn't.  The Bruins are carrying an ailing Zdeno Chara, which we understand can be quite taxing.  Your likely Vezina winner Tim Thomas is a bit of a fraud, and if Carey Price keeps this up, Run DMC may forgive him this transgression.


We won't.

Rangers vs. Capitals; Caps Lead 2-1

We've watched more of this series than any other aside from Pens/Lightning, and a few things are completely clear.  First, the Caps have no excuse if they lose this series.  They are significantly more talented than the Rags, have home-ice advantage, and finally, seem comfortable beating a team like the Rangers at their own game.  Second, Brandon Dubinsky's mustache makes him look like an extra in Striking Distance.  Third, Karl Carlson - the Karl Alzner-John Carlson pairing - is going to be a real pain in the ass to deal with over the next several years.

They Shouldn't Have Put Him in the Water, if They Didn't Expect Him to Make Waves.
But none of the above means that the Caps will win this series.  They failed to bury the Rangers in Game 3, and after Dubinsky gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead with 1:39 left in the 3rd period yesterday, Ovechkin and Neuvirth buried their heads in their hands and reacted like Bruce Boudreau when Haagen Dazs operates on winter hours.  Champions go right to center ice and yell for the ref to drop the puck faster.  Bottom line: Based on the rosters, the Caps should close this one out without much trouble...but are they still mentally soft?

Sabres vs. Flyers; Tied 1-1

The Sabres were a trendy upset pick heading into this one, and with good reason.  They are more than just Ryan Miller.  They've got 8-foot tall Goligoski, i.e. Tyler Myers, covering the entire ice surface in about 4 strides, an otherwise mobile and fairly skilled D, a game-breaker in Tomas Vanek, and a bunch a little waterbugs up front hopping around the Flyers' zone.  The Flyers are already playing musical goaltenders, Chris Pronger is still out, and Artistry is acknowledging that he picked the Flyers to go to the Finals based solely on the fact that he could never bring himself to pick the Caps.  This is the Sabres' series to lose right now.
>
Blackhawks vs. Canucks; Canucks Lead 3-0

Boy, did Stan Bowman screw up this Blackhawks team.  Instead of the three dangerous lines and exceptional young goaltender they rode to the Cup last year, the Hawks have one great line, Marian Hossa, and Corey Crawford.  This is to take nothing away from Vancouver.  The Canucks are incredibly balanced, they have one of the best goalies in hockey, maybe the best two-way center in hockey in Ryan Kesler, their defense corps rivals and perhaps trumps the Penguins in terms of depth and mobility, and their high end guys are just as good if not better than anybody else's high end guys.  We miss anything?

Coyotes vs. Red Wings; Wings Lead 2-0

No, Pavel Datsyuk isn't Sidney Crosby, but nobody on the Coyotes even deserves to share the same ice surface with him.  We didn't even think twice about this series before it started, and we aren't thinking about it now.

Kings vs. Sharks; Tied 1-1

Now this is a surprise.  No idea what's going on here, but by all accounts, Jonathan Quick is good.


Predators vs. Ducks; Predators Lead 2-1

The only two notable things in this series are the Bobby Ryan skate stomping incident and Nashville fans waving Terrible Towels, neither of which is defensible.  The Ducks may be a little top heavy to pull this one out, although Max Talbot would legitimately be the Preds' #2 centerman.  Seriously. Anyway, we are rooting for the Predators because Ducks' home games start way too late.

Rebecca Black's "Friday" is Actually About the Kennedy Assassination

By Artistry

Duh. I can't believe we didn't realize this before.  From some website:






A quick Internet search revealed that JFK's driver's name was Bill Greer, but we apologize anyway for missing the obviousness of the message here.  In other news, Paul is dead.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

'Robot Journalist' Out-Writes Human Sports Reporter : NPR

'Robot Journalist' Out-Writes Human Sports Reporter : NPR

GTOG's crack research staff discovers that the patent on this device is owned by a Molinari, David.

Thanks to Big Fan George for the link.

As Sidney Sits, It's Humanity That Suffers

By Finesse

During yesterday's Red Wings-Coyotes game on NBC, Pavel Datsyuk chipped the puck past the Coyotes D-man and then shot the puck between his own legs.  It didn't go in.  But apparently it was such a history-making play that all the Coyotes' defenders stopped what they were doing and turned toward Mecca Datsyuk in awe, all the while letting Darren Helm put home the juicy rebound.  It was a nice play.  He even got a point for it.



But forgive us for not joining the chorus of punditry deeming Datsyuk's assist the "play of the playoffs."  Maybe we are jaded, but prior to January 1, 2011, that type of excellence was routine in Pittsburgh.  It's when you see the fuss about another player making a play like this that you really start to understand exactly what Sid's absence from these playoffs means.

It's an incredible loss for humanity.

GTOG has been a firm believer that Datsyuk (along with Zetterberg) is the the most consistently great player that the Pens play against.  Better than Ovechkin.  Better than the Sedins.  He's fantastic.  In fact, one of the reasons the Pens won the Cup in 2009 -- a reason many Pens' fans have conveniently forgotten -- is that Datsyuk missed the first 3 games of the series (maybe it was 4, not looking it up) and was far from 100% for the rest of it.  It made a huge diference and we're not afraid to admit that.

But if the past season and a half have taught us anything, it's that the clear cut number one player in the NHL is a Nova Scotian who, just a year ago, was babysitting his boss's children while earning close to $9 million/year.  Sid chips the puck past flat-footed defenders and makes creative partial-breakaway moves once a period.  You may say we are biased; we say we are objectively biased.


Since Sid's injury, we haven't wasted any pixels feeling sorry for ourselves about him not playing.  But sometimes, you can't help but wonder, what if David Steckel was more coordinated?  Unfortunately, he isn't.

So instead we are left with the NBA playoffs without Michael Jordan.  The Masters without Tiger Woods.  The Bachelor without Chris Harrison.

We're not pushing for Sid to come back.  In fact, we'd be fine if he was declared out until training camp. This is a long-term investment.  In ten years, no one will care whether the Pens lost to the Lightning in the first round of a Stanley Cup Playoffs that they'd be hard-pressed to win even with Sid in the lineup.  But we will care if Sid never got back to the level he was at in the fall of 2010.

Some will say we are crying about Sid's injury.  We aren't.  It happens, and we're fine with that.  The Pens must play with the lineup they have, which is still a very good one.  If the Pens don't win the Cup, it's because they weren't the best team.  It's that simple.  But if anyone should be crying, it's everyone who loves hockey.

And that's all we'll have to say about Sid.

Huge game Monday night.