Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Podcast: Previewing Pens-Islanders, with an appearance by a real-life Islanders fan!

A big Isles fan named Eric joins the podcast to discuss the Pens-Isles series, how the Isles can win the series, the lingering impact of the brawl, and our predictions. A very entertaining appearance. It's the GTOG podcast.

Click here to subscribe on iTunes

**If you're listening on your smartphone, the best ways to make sure that you have an uninterrupted experience are: 1) download the podcast from iTunes OR 2) download the Spreaker app by going to the App store and searching for "Spreaker" then "Get To Our Game"**

Drop the puck.

How to get yourself adequately worried that the Pens will lose to the Islanders

By GTOG Staff (follow us on Twitter)

Artistry: Everyone around the water cooler today had the same question: "Are you happy with the match-up?" As an initial matter, happiness has nothing to do with playoff hockey. There is excitement, yes. But it's excitement like you feel before you go skydiving for the first time. "I hope I don't die" excitement. It's a lot of fretfulness and sitting really close to the television. The real question is, do we think the Islanders are a "favorable" match-up. 

The place we need to get to.
On paper, the answer has to be yes. The Penguins went 4-1 against them this season, with the only loss coming way back on January 29. Since then, the Pens have outscored the Isles 16-5 in four games, and three of those games were played without either Malkin or Crosby. And the Islanders were underwhelming against everybody. 21st in the league in penalty killing. 21st in the league in goals against per game. A negative goal differential. Is there anything that you can tell me to get me to the proper state of heightened anxiety?

Get worried with us after the jump...

Monday, April 29, 2013

Pens draw the Islanders in Round 1; Talk yourself into being scared now

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

The Pens open the playoffs on Wednesday against the New York Islanders.  A few quick thoughts.

Schedule via Puck Daddy
[Insert every caveat imaginable about how nothing is guaranteed, and an 8-seed won the Cup last year, and David Volek, etc.] This is probably the best matchup the Pens could have hoped for.  The Islanders have limited playoff experience, vastly inferior depth, and the Pens have outscored them 16-5 in the last 4 games, all of which the Pens won.

The main things to worry about are: 1) The Islanders have one of the top-5 players in the league and he's only getting better, plus a talented supporting cast 2) Evgeni Nabakov has tons of playoff experience and there's a stat somewhere that shows that Crosby never scores on him; and 3) the Pens are burdened with all of the expectations while the Isles have none.

Don't fight it. Allow Matt Moulson to scare you.
As legitimate as those concerns are, there are easy counters for each.  The Isles have a top-5 guy; the Pens have two of them.  Nabakov has playoff experience; it's not particularly good playoff experience, and even if it was, so does everyone on the Pens.  The Pens are burdened with all of the expectations; that's because they have the better team.

There's a recent parallel for this series that should bring at least some comfort.

In 2007, an ascending Pens team got its first crack at the playoffs against an Ottawa team loaded with veteran talent that was on a run of playoff disappointment.

Here are some things from the ESPN archive previewing that Pens-Sens series:
The theory is this is a psychologically fragile Senators team that has a tendency to cave when the going gets tough. 
The Penguins face a Senators team long on playoff disappointment but equally long on experience and motivation. 
The Penguins give up a lot of chances and are especially susceptible to a strong forecheck. The Senators, second among all playoff teams in goals scored, have enough fire power to make the Pens pay dearly for mistakes. 
And from the Game 1 preview: The Ottawa Senators can see a lot of what they used to be when they look at NHL scoring leader Sidney Crosby and the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins when the Stanley Cup playoffs begin Wednesday night.
Everything turned out to be true.  The Senators steamrolled -- and I mean steamrolled -- the Pens in a 6-3 game 1 win.  The Pens settled down after to steal game 2 and make the rest of the series competitive, but there was never a doubt about who was the better team.  The Sens won the series in 5 games. The Pens' best days were ahead of them.  The Senators were loaded for a run at the Cup.

We'll have several preview posts leading up to Wednesday.  LGP.

Friday, April 26, 2013

That feeling in the pit of your stomach is healthy; Pens lose, 3-2

By Artistry (follow me on Twitter)

There's fear in the air in Pittsburgh. Or at least at my gym. Jerry the Trainer bet me and a middle-aged gentleman doing squat thrusts that the Penguins won't make it out of Round 2 of the playoffs. Doug, the other trainer, shook his head slowly and said he didn't see how they'll win a playoff game given the way the Pens performed last night. Let me be clear. I don't think Jerry and Doug have any idea what they're talking about. But the feeling of dread that they're articulating is legitimate and - based on long experience - healthy.

Did the Penguins peak too soon? Not at all. We haven't even seen the Penguins. Not with Sidney Crosby, James Neal, Evgeni Malkin, Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, Kris Letang, and Paul Martin all together on the bench at the same time. There is still no telling what this group could do.

But here they were in New Jersey, giving up a third period lead for the first time all season (they're now 19-1 when leading after two), with Malkin trying to work his way back to top form but Sid, Neal, and Martin still on the shelf, and often looking like their heads were somewhere else. Then we find out that in all likelihood we're getting the Islanders in Round 1. Out of all the remaining possibilities, that's the last team we want to see. Why?

1. They're lighting quick. Crankshaft, go put a body on Michael Grabn--oh, I'm sorry, he's already taking a post-game shower.

2. Evgeni Nabokov. Pretty sure neither Malkin nor Crosby have scored a goal against him. EVER. Who has the goaltending advantage here? Are we sure it's the Penguins? Really, are we positive?

3. 1993. Don't really want to talk about this here. Just listen if you want.

Add to this list the fact that the Penguins were losers in their last three playoff series. Of course we're uneasy.  The Penguins should be, too. If John Tavares skates onto the Consol ice next week, they should feel tremendous apprehension, even fear. This is a good thing and should provide great comfort. You're probably wondering why that is, how the creeping doubt, Neil Greenberg saying we're no good at puck possession, that feeling that we're on the verge of enormous disappointment, could ever inure to our benefit. Well, have you ever seen a herd of frightened elephants?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Steelers NFL Draft Preview: Many Needs, One Name

By Artistry (follow me on Twitter)

You don't win Super Bowls by drafting guys who you're willing to put in the lineup only if James Harrison signs with the Bengals. You win Super Bowls by drafting guys who are among the best in the league at their position, guys who you know will give you a match-up advantage in at least one discrete facet of the game. Foundational pieces. But hey, let's not set the bar too high. Let's just shoot for above-average pieces. The jury is still out on David DeCastro and Mike Adams. Otherwise, by my count, the Steelers have drafted and retained only two players who come close to meeting that description in the last five years: Maurkice Pouncey and Antonio Brown.

Would put team on back, but can't put pressure on left ankle.
Considering Maurkice Pouncey is injury-prone and overrated and we have no clue yet if AB is a legitimate No. 1 receiver, you know what? That's pretty terrible!

So what will the Steelers do in Round 1 of tonight's NFL draft? It's obvious. Read on...

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The dumbest things we've said this season, featuring Ryan Lochte and Alex Ovechkin

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

We don't say a lot of things, but when we do, they're usually right.  Except when they're not.

With Pens season in full calm-before-the-storm mode, we thought now was the ideal time to go back and evaluate ourselves by asking tough questions:  Did we say anything dumb?  Anything that later turned out to be wrong?  If so, is there a way we can argue that we were not actually wrong?

We combed the archives and came up with the examples below.  The scale we're using is the "Lochte," in honor of Ryan Lochte's new reality show, "What Would Ryan Lochte Do?" which is followed every night by a half-hour live after-show, "Stare Blankly At Nothing In Particular."  One Lochte means our statement was kinda dumb; a full five Lochtes means we need to rethink this endeavor.

(NOTE: Nothing in this post should be construed as an apology. We do not want this post to result in us being called "classy.").

Find out whether we were dumb, after the jump...

Click of the Day: Namaste, Rashard Mendenhall

Rashard Mendenhall cares not for material possessions. Rashard Mendenhall encourages you to let go. We encourage Rashard Mendenhall to hold on. Hold on, Rashard Mendenhall, to the f---ing ball.

Our apology for Dan Steinberg's lies about the Washington Capitals

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

We trusted you, Dan Steinberg.

On March 19th we had Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post's DC Sports Bog on our podcast to discuss a range of issues.  Little did we know that he would use the platform to spread his lies and slander about the Washington Capitals and the team's owner, Ted Leonsis.  His web of deceit was exposed last night after the Capitals clinched the Southeast Division with a 5-3 win over the aggressively mediocre Winnipeg Jets, so Steinberg apologized on his blog this morning for being wrong about predicting that the Caps wouldn't make the playoffs.

Oh, that's rich.

How do you think we feel, Dan?  You used us and our substantial influence in the podcasting world to spread your propaganda, advance your anti-truth agenda, and wage your personal war against Ted Leonsis.  We opened our Google + accounts to you, gave you our real names, and even let you see our faces while we stared deep into the recesses of your ear as you for some reason felt compelled to lean forward at a 90-degree angle and press your mouth directly up against your phone's microphone (yet it was still difficult to hear you).

Your so-called "apology" to an entity unknown for your vicious untruths will never be enough, Dan.

All we can do while we try to pick up the pieces is apologize to our fans for letting this deviant on our podcast (which you can listen to below) to preach irresponsibly about how he thought a team that was 12-16-1 might not make the playoffs.  We never should have exposed you to this monster.  For that, we were wrong.  And for that, we're sorry.

(Also, Dan, let us know if you ever want to come back on to formally apologize and then Tweet out the link to that podcast like 50 times the next day to get more people to listen. Thanks!)

GTOPG: We didn't feel a thing; Pens donate 4-2 win to Buffalo

By Artistry (follow me on Twitter)

We have officially begun the "Let's not get crazy out there because we've wrapped up the #1 seed, but also don't develop any bad habits" portion of the season. Welcome, everybody. Last night was a good example of how awkward it can be when you're trying to work guys back into the lineup and gear up for a playoff run while inevitably clicking into psychological cruise control.

Make yourselves comfortable.
Let's note off the top that had the Penguins won last night, it would have marked their 23rd win in 25 regular season games. No team has ever done that, either in the salary cap era or the dynastic days before. We're not sure if this means the Penguins are really that special or the East is that bad, but only the Caps are even making us lift an eyebrow at this point. And the Pens junior varsity looks pretty, pretty good.

More on the game after the jump...

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Click of the Day: Mario Takes Control

21 years ago today, the Pens came back to Pittsburgh for Game 3 of a first round playoff series against the Capitals. They trailed two games to none. Mario Lemieux stepped out of the Civic Arena tunnel, and it looked like his skates never even touched the ice. He was flying that night. 6 points later, and the Pens were on their way to a second consecutive Stanley Cup.

Thanks to @NHLhistorygirl for the anniversary reminder.

How the Pens and Caps could meet in the first round: It's complicated

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

With a huge tilt tonight between the Caps and Jets (which I will be attending), I sat down to try to figure out a scenario where the Caps and the Pens could end up meeting in round 1.  Not only would this be a nightmare scenario for me personally (too emotional), but the Caps, led by a fully juvenated Alex Ovechkin, are potentially the biggest threat to upset the Pens in Round 1.

SportsClubStats is currently giving the Caps about a 3.4% chance of finishing with the #8 seed.  I gave myself a similar 3.4% chance of actually making this post meaningful and failed miserably, as you'll see.

There are 8 possible outcomes in any NHL game involving the Caps: 1) Caps win in regulation; 2) Caps win in OT; 3) Caps win in shootout; 4) Caps lose in regulation; 5) Caps lose in OT; 6) Caps lose in shootout; 7) I laugh maniacally at 4, 5, and 6, and 8) I pretend 1, 2, and 3 never happened.  When you try to extrapolate these possibilities over 3 remaining games for the Caps, with 5 other teams still in the mix, it becomes the following nonsense, which represents probably 10% of the possible outcomes.  I tried.

Here's what you need to know.
If the Caps win tonight in regulation or overtime, they clinch the Southeast division and the #3 seed. 
If the Caps win in a shootout, they'd eventually clinch their division if they either a) got a single point in either of their final two games (vs. OTT, vs. BOS); OR 2) Winnipeg did not win in regulation or overtime against Montreal on Thursday. 
But if the Caps lose in a shootout AND get 0 points in their final two games AND Winnipeg wins in regulation or overtime on Thursday against Montreal, the Caps get the #8 seed if they finish 3rd out of these 4 teams -- WSH, NYI, NYR, OTT.  The most likely way this would happen is if the Isles and Rangers finished with 55 or more points BUT Ottawa lost its final two games (vs. PHI, @BOS) after beating Washington in regulation on Thursday. 
If the Caps lose in regulation tonight, good.
If they lose in regulation tonight AND they get 0 points in their final 3 games, they would get the #8 seed only if the Rangers also got no points in their final 3 games.  Not likely. 
If they lose in regulation tonight, but then earn 4 points against Ottawa and Boston, they get the #3 seed regardless of what Winnipeg does against Montreal. 
If they lose in regulation tonight, then get three points against Ottawa and Boston with one of those wins coming in regulation or overtime, they get the #3 seed regardless of what Winnipeg does. 
If they lose in regulation tonight, then get 3 points against Ottawa and Boston but do not win either game in regulation or overtime, Winnipeg clinches the SE if Winnipeg beats Montreal in regulation or overtime on Thursday.  Then the 8 seed is really in play.
If the Caps lose in overtime tonight, they'd clinch the Southeast if they got more points in their final two games (OTT, BOS) than Winnipeg earned in its final game against Montreal (3 out of 4 points in their final two games clinches no matter what Winnipeg does against Montreal). 
If Caps lose in a shootout tonight, there are literally a billion possibilities and really who cares anyway?  Just miss the playoffs, please.
Got it?

Pens beat Ottawa 3-1 to keep rollin' & trollin'

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

Before we get started, if you woke up this morning and thought to yourself, "I feel oddly smart today, it's making me uncomfortable, I need to find something to make me dumber," make sure to read Don Brennan's column in the Ottawa Sun about the relative size of his testicles compared to Matt Cooke's.

There's a lot of validity to the viewpoint that the Senators lost this game because they spent the first half of it consumed exacting revenge on Matt Cooke for his accidental slicing of Erik Karlsson's Achilles earlier this season.  While Chris Neil & Co. were needlessly gunning for Cooke, the Pens' two alternate-alternate captains, Brenden Morrow and Jarome Iginla, took young Dustin Jeffrey under their grizzled veteran wings and staked the Pens out to a 2-0 lead.  Ottawa, a team that doesn't score goals, should have had a laser focus on doing everything it could to get out of the #8 seed to avoid a first round matchup with the Pens.  Although in a roundabout way they did get closer to that end because with the right combination of wins by Washington and Winnipeg, there's a very realistic chance the Senators won't finish with the #8 seed.  They'll get the #9 seed.

Young Dustin, so willing to be led.
But the viewpoint we subscribe to is that the Pens are just very good, even if they were missing an All-Star starting lineup (Crosby, Malkin, Letang, Neal, Martin, Fleury).  In our podcast with Neil Greenberg last month, we debated how many more wins the Pens would have down the stretch because of the acquisitions of Morrow, Iginla, and Murray.  He thought it would lead to no extra wins; we said it didn't matter because they were here to swing one or two games in the Eastern Conference playoffs.  No one accounted for the possibility that everyone on the Pens would get hurt and two of the most well-respected players of the last decade would take over.  There is no case to be made that the Pens would be on an 7-game winning streak if they hadn't made these trades.

Brenden Morrow now has 11 points in 12 games with the Pens.  He had 11 points in 29 games with the Stars.  Jarome Iginla has 8 points in 10 games.  The Pens are 10-2 with Morrow, 8-2 with Iginla.  It's borderline comical.

None of this is to say that the Pens are a lock to do anything in the playoffs, especially because there's a real possibility, as silly as it may sound, that the team's biggest hurdle will be incorporating everyone back into the lineup.  It's just meant to point out the obvious: Morrow and Iginla are not Ponikarovsky and Leopold.  They're difference makers of the highest order.

Because I'm a masochist, I've kept an eye on the Pens' advanced stats since the trade (you can learn about advanced stats in our podcast with Greenberg, a pioneer of the advanced state movement with ESPN and the Washington Post).  I'll spoil the drama: They're not good.  In their last 3 games against Montreal, Boston, and Ottawa, the Pens have a combined Corsi of -93 (-22, -38, -33 respectively).  The team Corsi has dropped to the middle of the pack in the league.

I have yet to decide whether to give this any credence, especially where the team has been missing its 5 best players, but I am preparing myself, and you, for the inevitable "Why the Pens aren't as good as you think" story-lines in the playoff previews.  Just as sure as winter, it's coming.

Get it over with already.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Click of the Day: What's your favorite news blooper?

By Artistry

In honor of A.J. Clemente, the rookie newscaster who got the boot from his North Dakota local news station after spending his first few seconds on live TV spewing profanity, it's time to play, "Pick Your Favorite News Blooper."

Full disclosure here, I anchored local news for a few years in an earlier life, and I promise you, if YouTube existed in the 90's - or if ANYONE had been watching at all - I probably would have been fired like 15 times over. As Finesse will attest, I am prone to laughing fits of up to several minutes in duration, so it wasn't always pretty. Thoughts and prayers for these brave anchors.

Forget Revenge: 3 Things Ottawa should focus on besides hating Matt Cooke

By Artistry

Dateline, Ottawa. Star defenseman Erik Karlsson works his way back from his Achilles injury. Senators owner and CSI Ottawa star Eugene Melnyk awaits word from his forensics team on the Matt Cooke investigation. And about 70 citizens of Canada's capital city are organizing a Matt Cooke "hatefest"  in anticipation of tonight's game against the Penguins. Said one of the hatefest organizers:

"Erik, we love you we're here to protect you. We have your back. We're not going to let any other players run you over."

In short, for the proud city of Ottawa, we passed the point of embarrassing conduct some time ago and are now on the verge of a mortifying civic meltdown.

Listen, we understand emotion. We value it enormously. But revenge against Matt Cooke is not what a team battling for the 8th seed in the conference needs to be focusing on right now. It's time for the Senators and their fans to refocus on three priorities during this last week of the regular season. We're here to help.

Read on...

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Pens are the favorites, clinch the East with 3-2 win over Boston

By Finesse

By any advanced statistical measure, the Bruins dominated the game against the Pens yesterday.  By traditional measures, like discipline, beastmodeness, and final score, the Pens came out on top.

There's so much to say about so many people from this game, but we'll be brief.

Beau Bennett proved he belonged on the playoff roster several games ago; now he's just getting better every night.

For all the trades Shero has made, picking up Tomas Vokoun may still be his best.  Pens are probably out of this game in the first period if Brent Johnson is in net.

Matt Cooke is deep inside Boston's heads.  Very deep.  Sean-Couturier-showing Malkin-a-picture-of-Couturier-having-sex-with-Geno's-girlfriend-while-he-repeatedly-punches-Geno-in-the-head-after-the-whistle deep.  As long as Cooke stays out of the box, which is hard for him to do even if its solely because of his reputation, this is invaluable.

There's no way Jaromir Jagr looks forward to playing a 7-game series against Crankshaft.

Letang had a rocky game overall, and showed several flashes that must give Shero pause about offering him a $7 or $8 million/year extension.  But you have to pay a premium to get guys who can bury it like he did on the game winner.

And finally, speaking of burying it, Jarome Iginla's tie-breaking goal early in the third period was arguably the biggest fist-pump moment of the year so far.  But maybe his biggest contribution came from his fight against Nathan Horton.  Horton appeared to have injured his left hand, possibly seriously, in the tumble to the ice.  When the Bruins were in the mix for Iginla at the deadline, the word was that he'd be taking over Horton's job on Boston's top-6.  He may have taken Horton's job after all.

Still not sure we realize how big of a deal it is that this guy is on the Pens.
The Pens have clinched the number one seed, which is exactly where they should be.  Since starting the season 3-3, the Pens are 31-7.

At the beginning of the season when the Rangers, Devils and Bruins were getting all the buzz in the East, it was nice to not be the favorites for once. But now that there's no choice, embrace the fact that the Pens are the favorites.

Because they should be.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Here's wishing the Flyers the Best Offseason in the World

Read all about it here.

Claude Giroux probably does feel like Craps.  Or maybe some Golfs.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Also in the news: Philadelphia Flyers about to be officially eliminated from playoffs

Game over for the Flyers when either the Rangers or Jets get to 50 points.

Best Player in the World really hasn't been the Best since this Best Headshot Ever

Thursday, April 18, 2013

CNN’s Erroneous Reporting is Exactly What We’ve Been Asking For

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

[For more on the media's coverage of the Boston marathon bombing, check out our podcast]

You could have sprained your brain trying to follow what was happening Wednesday afternoon on cable news and the Internet. The timeline of events is well-documented, but the gist of it is this: Several news outlets, with CNN leading the charge, were reporting that an arrest had been made relating to the bombings at the Boston Marathon.

This episode has been portrayed as an embarrassment for CNN, and that’s accurate to a large degree. Anytime your website has such blatantly contradictory headlines, you’ve done something drastically wrong.

Even though John King and others were hedging much of their reporting by attributing the information to “sources” within law enforcement, somewhere along the line all caveats about the reliability of this information were buried. In the screenshot above, there’s almost no indication that reports of an arrest are not yet verified.  Plus they’re just flat-out wrong. That’s a problem.

But it's exactly what we've been asking for.

Find out why after the jump...

The Comcast NHL Center Ice Package Saga: The lies and contradictions continue

By Finesse

Last week I documented my saga with Comcast regarding channel 790, allegedly one of the HD channels that's part of the NHL Center Ice package.  The crux of the complaint is this: the guide shows that this channel offers NHL games in HD, this channel has never worked, and no one at Comcast has done anything about it despite me complaining to them for years.  You can read the full complaint here.

After some back-and-forth last week (more on that below), the channel was still not working.  Last night it said it was showing the Penguins/Canadiens game.  Guess what?  It wasn't.

Not only was I stuck with the borderline un-watchable standard definition channel 771, but nothing was playing on 789, which is usually the one HD channel in the package that actually works.

So I decided to take more measures.  Read on to find out just how ridiculous things have gotten with Comcast...

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Podcast: Talking Pens-Habs and CNN's reporting on the Boston Marathon

In our first ever live podcast, we discuss the Pens big win over the Canadiens, Brenden Morrow, Brandon Sutter, Crankshaft, and the best/worst opponents in the first round. 

We also discuss CNN's reporting on the Boston Marathon bombings and what our expectations should be from the media.

Click here to subscribe on iTunes


**If you're listening on your smartphone, the best ways to make sure that you have an uninterrupted experience are: 1) download the podcast from iTunes OR 2) download the Spreaker app by going to the App store and searching for "Spreaker" then "Get To Our Game"**

LIVE GTOG PODCAST: Pens-Habs recap

Click here to listen live

LIVE Tonight: The Debut of GTOG Radio

Welcome to GTOG Radio.

Tonight after the Pens-Canadiens game, we will be broadcasting LIVE with our reaction to the game, our emotions generally, and maybe even some sound-checks to make sure we're doing it right.  Our first ever LIVE episode of GTOG Radio will also be recorded and later published as a podcast.

Our hope is that we will go LIVE after every playoff game, win or lose.  If you're listening and have anything you want us to add or ask, send a tweet to @GetToOurGame

To listen LIVE tonight after the game:  Click here to go to our Spreaker page

For the future: Make sure to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes

If you use some other RSS player, here's the feed link to subscribe

Click of the Day: Eric Hartzell is Huge

We know recently signed college star Eric Hartzell gives the Penguins a blue-chipper who went 30-7-5 with a 1.57 GAA and a .933 save percentage in leading Quinnipiac - heretofore known as a place that does polls sometimes - to the Frozen Four Finals. We know it might mean changes to the Pens goaltending as we know it. But we did not know he's at the opposite end of the spectrum from the immortal Roberto Romano.

Here's Romano:

Actual Size.

Here's the new breed of Penguins' goaltender:

Winter Unclassic! Penguins to play Blackhawks in Soldier Field

Reports have the NHL expanding its slate of outdoor games to 6 next year, starting with the Wings-Leafs Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, then followed up by:

Anaheim vs. Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium in January 25, 2014
New York Rangers vs. New Jersey at Yankee Stadium on January 26th
New York Rangers vs. New York Islanders at Yankee Stadium on January 29th
Penguins vs. Blackhawks at Soldier Field on March 1st
Ottawa vs. Vancouver at B.C. Place in Vancouver on March 2nd

There is no doubt that the Pens playing the Blackhawks outside in Chicago will be an awesome event.  We're excited about it.  But you know what would get us just as excited?  A regular season, indoor game between the Pens and the Blackhawks.

Sidney Crosby has played 2 career games against the Blackhawks.  Evgeni Malkin has played 4 games against them.  Injuries have contributed to this, but it's not hard to argue that not having any semblance of a Crosby/Malkin vs. Toews/Kane rivalry is the biggest missed opportunity in the entire league.  The best thing to come from realignment next season is a guaranteed two games against each Western Conference team.

But maybe -- hopefully -- this resolves itself sooner than next season.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Click of the Day: Why Phil Kessel should win the Hart Trophy

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

Sounds ridiculous, right?  That's because it is.

But with all the hype about Alex Ovechkin's recently declared candidacy for the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP, why not consider the candidacy of another goal-scoring winger who dramatically lowered expectations earlier this season by woefully under-performing, thereby laying the groundwork for MVP buzz when he started producing as he should have been producing all along?

In their last 20 games played:

Team Record:

Alex Ovechkin: 13-6-1 (27 standings points)
Phil Kessel: 11-4-5 (27 standings points)

Individual Statistics:

Alex Ovechkin: 18 goals, 8 assists for 26 points
Phil Kessel: 12 goals, 15 assists for 27 points

Attractiveness, as determined by Artistry's mom

"I'm sure his mother loves him."
"At least he has his teeth."

Monday, April 15, 2013

Click of the Day: The Leisurely Practice Skate of Champions

Sidney Crosby dons the Rick Tocchet facemask, Paul Martin shows off his feathery backhand touch, and James Neal shakes off the cobwebs.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Grind those bitches down; Pens pulverize Panthers, 3-1

By Artistry

There was not much to recommend tonight's Penguins game against the Florida Panthers. It was about as meaningless as it gets. Finesse barely paid attention, admittedly took a shower during the third period of a one-goal game, and is probably now at some hip bar wearing a nice, casual button-down shirt. Why am I bothering with this recap? Because I am married with children and lying in bed while my wife watches "I Want to Marry Ryan Banks" on the Hallmark channel.* You are the first star of our night, Jason Priestley. The second star?

- There can be no doubt at this point about what the acquisition of Brenden Morrow means to the Penguins. 2 goals, 1 assist, 4 penalty minutes, 3 hits, and 17 intense and unblinking stares in less than 15 minutes of ice time is a stat line that doesn't even do justice to what I expect will be a legend that may outshine Gary Roberts' by the time summer comes. This was less a hockey game than a body checking clinic by the Pens, and it's no stretch to say Morrow is now setting the tone for this team in Sidney Crosby's absence.

- Evgeni Malkin has a shoulder. Evgeni Malkin has a sunburn. Neither one of these statements is at all surprising.

- Beau Bennett looked fantastic playing his 4th line minutes tonight. What a weapon to have buried so deep in the lineup.

* OK, it was my idea. Jason Priestley stars as a reality-show Bachelor who believes his wife may be "in this room." But his special someone falls for Priestley's agent, played by Bradley Cooper. If you are reading this blog, don't try to tell me you're not on board with this.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Click of the Day: Crankshaft has been playing Whack-a-Mole for ages

Last night, Douglas Murray pounded the top of B.J. Crombeen's head like pizza dough. It wasn't the first time Crankshaft brought the hammer down. Observe.

Pens beat Lighting, 6-3; The ducks are neatly organizing into rows

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

Before you get to the recap, make sure to check out our podcast with Sean Gentille of The Sporting News discussing the win over Tampa, bad announcing, and all things Penguins.  Listen below or click here for download information

Eleven goals and a 74-47 shot advantage over the last two games against the free-falling Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning is nothing to celebrate on its own.  It's exactly what this Pens team should be doing to bad teams at this time of year.  But what is cause for great optimism is the resurgence of Ray Shero's deadline acquisitions.

Jussi Jokinen. 3 goals, 2 assists, +4 in 3 games, plus a shootout winner over the Rangers.  He obviously will not continue scoring at a goal-per-game pace, but Juicy J's versatility and offensive potential may dramatically impact the upside of this team.  To reiterate from our post on Wednesday: whether Jokinen takes some 3rd-line minutes from Brandon Sutter or not, the mere fact that one of those guys will essentially be on the Pens "4th line" makes the Pens as bottom heavy going into the playoffs as they were top-heavy at the beginning of the year.

Brenden Morrow. He's the type of guy who will break into your house the night before Thanksgiving, open your refrigerator, take a giant bite out of the carrot cake you're saving for dessert, throw the rest on the floor, and then tell you that you're a p***y for calling the police.  He was in Tampa's kitchen all night and he made his impact in only 14 minutes of ice time and without taking a penalty.  The word on him coming out of Dallas was that he wasn't the player he used to be, when his skill on the ice used to equal his intangibles as captain.  But with the Pens, he's freed from the burden of captaining a team that's perpetually battling for the #8 seed.  Now all he has to do is go to the net.

Jarome Iginla.  Have you ever started boiling a pot of water, come back to check on it 10 minutes later and thought, "this thing is barely starting to get hot, I thought it'd be ready by now," then walked away and forgot about it for a half hour, only to suddenly remember the stove is on and come running into the kitchen to see what looks like a volcano of water spewing all over the granite countertops?  Welcome to Jarome Iginla's 2013 playoffs.

Douglas Murray. He finally played a game with Kris Letang in the lineup, which helped bump Murray's minutes down to a much more desirable 16:20.  Prior to last night, the fewest minutes Murray had played was 18:20.  Our estimate is that 15:30 is the sweetspot for Crankshaft, which is completey realistic when Paul Martin returns.  There was a little bit of a PK meltdown last night, but the Tampa PP does that to people.  Won't be seeing them in the playoffs, so who really cares. Finally, he had zero hesitation about dancing with B.J. Crombeen last night.  Here's the fight video of Murray's overhand punching style.

More after the jump...

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Podcast: Talking Pens with Sean Gentille of The Sporting News

Sean Gentille of The Sporting News (follow him on Twitter) joins us to talk all things Penguins.  We talk about the 6-3 win over Tampa, Juicy Jokinen vs. Brandon Sutter, Malkin and Letang's next contracts, the best and worst match-ups for the Pens in the first round, Douglas Murray bopping people on the head, the problem with NBC broadcasts, what went wrong in Philly, what's going right in Washington, and so much more.  It's the GTOG Podcast.

Click here to subscribe on iTunes

**If you're listening on your smartphone, the best ways to make sure that you have an uninterrupted experience are: 1) download the podcast from iTunes OR 2) download the Spreaker app by going to the App store and searching for "Spreaker" then "Get To Our Game"**

Big Ben's Barracks: Ben will not leave Emanuel Sanders behind

By Artistry

[Int. Kevin Colbert's office]

Steelers General Manager Colbert sits in his chair, staring at framed picture of Ray Shero.

Colbert: "I know you can't hear me, but Jesus do I need you right now."

The phone rings.

Colbert: "Kevin Colbert."

Big Ben: "KC baby, it's Ben. How you doing? Listen, I want to get out in front of this Emanuel Sanders situation."

Colbert: "I'm not sure what you mean by getting out in front of it."

Big Ben: "There's an offer on the table for Manny to go join Tom, and we have until Monday to match. I want us to go ahead and match that today, not Monday. Get out in front of the situation."

Colbert: "I see. Look, Ben, first of all, I don't know if we'll match. It's a difficult decision. Sanders is a free agent after next season, and this puts us in a position where we have to pay $2.5 million to keep him for the year. Then he likely walks away and we get no compensation. If we let him go now, we get that 3rd round draft choice. In any event, if we match it, then it doesn't matter if we do it today or Monday."

Big Ben: "While I respect you, KC and the Sunshine Band, I could not disagree more. If a soldier is on a boat that gets taken out by a torpedo, and he's still alive and clinging to a mini-glacier like in Titanic, holding on for dear life, do you tell him, oh, just wait until Monday? No. You move heaven and earth to get him out of there.

Colbert: "Ben, I....That's just not a useful analogy at all. We need to look at the big picture here."

Big Ben: "Don't tell me about the big picture. I'm 31 years old. My window isn't staying open forever. If you leave Manny stranded on that little iceberg, who do we even have left at wide receiver besides AB and Cotch?"

Colbert: "Oh, you'll have targets. We've got Kashif Moore on the roster, Derek Moye, Bert Reed....Oh dear God forgive me (starts sobbing).

Big Ben: KC? KC, you all right? The Lord forgives, the Lord forgives. Hey man, go easy. You know what? WE FORGOT PLAX. We forgot Plax.

Don't forget Plax.
Big Ben (con'd): I don't know why that didn't occur to me. It's on me for even raising this issue and making you cry, KC. You know I approve of all the eight-figure contracts you gave to James, Troy, Lamarr, Lawrence, etc. If it means we're a little tight against the cap, that's the cost of doing business with great men.

Colbert: I guess so (sobbing). Thanks for being so generous about it.

Big Ben: Listen, I've got a big heart.

Letang is back; Problems with Comcast NHL Center Ice package

By Finesse

A few afternoon updates...

- The Pens announced that Kris Letang is back tonight against Tampa.  This is, obviously, an enormous upgrade, especially to the Pens' transition game.  The rest of the lineup is a gametime decision, which basically means Bylsma is going to wait until as close to the start of the game as possible to scratch Simon Despres.

- The Prime Minister is skating.

- No updates on Crosby or Neal.  This feels concerning because it seems like Crosby has been injured forever.  It's been 10 days.

- I watch the NHL mostly through the Center Ice package which I get through Comcast.  I sent the below email to them this morning, after getting jobbed by them on the phone countless times.  If you, or anyone you know, has complaints about the NHL Center Ice package, tell them to email their complaints to comcastcares_support@comcast.com and/or send tweets to @ComcastMichael.
I'm following up on a Twitter exchange I had with Michael Cardone (@comcastmichael) regarding the NHL Center Ice package, and specifically channel 790. My account number is ... 
Regarding this specific issue: Channel 790 is supposed to be the second HD channel devoted to the NHL Center Ice Package, but this channel has NEVER worked. The listings tell me that it is showing a game but all I get are color bars. This has been going on all season. I've called at least 5 times and each time the customer service representative tells me, "We'll send this to our engineers and it should be fixed within 24 hours." Obviously, that has never happened, nor have I ever received any follow up. An image of my screen is attached.  
The reason this is such a problem is because the quality of the NHL Center Ice standard definition channels is borderline unwatchable. There is only one channel (Ch. 789) that actually shows games in high definition. The rest of the channels (mostly in the 770s) show the games in standard definition. It's 2013 -- Comcast, and the NHL should be ASHAMED to charge people for a product this poor.  
I wish Comcast would treat us NHL fans who want the Center Ice package as even second-class citizens. Instead, it's like we don't even exist. I've spoken to numerous customer service reps who have never even heard of the NHL, let alone the Center Ice package. From them I hear, "well, it's showing that the NHL network is in HD on channel 858." They don't understand that the NHL Network and NHL Center Ice package are not the same thing. This is unacceptable.  
To be honest, the ship has probably sailed for me continuing to get the Center Ice package through Comcast because even if you fix channel 790 and actually show me the games I'm paying for, 2 HD channels in 2013 is unacceptable. I'll almost certainly be getting the Center Ice through Apple TV moving forward.  
I'm hoping that this email receives a response not just from a technician, but from whoever at Comcast is actually in charge of the NHL Center Ice Package so that 1) I know that someone there actually knows the Center Ice package exists, and 2) I can actually be told WHEN and HOW this is going to be fixed instead of getting a "we'll send this to our engineers," knowing full-well that nothing will ever change.

Click of the Day: Ted Leonsis's War on Truth?

We present the story of the 1978 Washington Bullets championship trophy as seen by a Washington Wizards blog.  You decide.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Click of the Day: The Standing Ovation

20 years ago last night, the most appropriate standing ovation in the history of humankind happened.


Pens beat Carolina, 5-3; Tanner Glass is still pointless, plus thoughts on Shero, Sutter and Juicy J

By Finesse

It's always a great break when you catch a team in the midst of a free-fall like the Carolina Hurricanes (they are 1-infinity-1 in their last 14 games).  The Canes didn't roll over for the Pens by any stretch, but they have so little to play for and such shaky goaltending that as long as the Pens didn't quit, Carolina was going to give the Pens opportunities to get back into it.

When did he become, legitimately, one of the best wingers in the league?
We're hesitant to use the term "genius" to describe Ray Shero's trades, because they're less than two weeks old and it doesn't take a genius to identify guys with career resumes like Iginla, Morrow, Jokinen, and Murray and think they can be assets to your team.  But last night was a chance to marvel at the magnificent utility of Shero's deals.  The focus at the time of the trades -- and rightfully so -- was on what these new guys could do filling roles alongside the big boys.  Little thought was given to how great these trades would be in the event that some of the big boys were missing.

If you planted yourself firmly in the contrarian camp that the Iginla and Morrow acquisitions were overrated because those guys aren't the same players as they used to be, you were asking yourself the wrong questions.  Because, to point out the obvious, consider what the lines would have been last night without these trades compared to what they were.
  • Line 1 with trades: Malkin-Iginla-Kunitz
  • Line 1 w/o trades: Malkin-Dupuis-Kunitz
  • Line 2 with trades: Jokinen-Dupuis-Morrow
  • Line 2 w/o trades: Sutter-Kennedy-Cooke
  • Line 3 with trades: Sutter-Kennedy-Cooke
  • Line 3 w/o trades: Jeffrey-Bennett-Trevor Smith(?)
  • Line 4 with trades: Adams-Glass-Bennet
  • Line 4 w/o trades: Adams-Glass-Vitale
So in evaluating these deals, don't compare 2013-Iginla to 2004-Iginla or 2013-Morrow to 2008-Morrow or 2013-Jokinen to 2010-Jokinen.  Compare them to 2013-Trevor Smith, 2013-Joe Vitale, and 2013-Dustin Jeffrey.

(We could do a similar analysis for Crankshaft's impact on the defense but Dan Bylsma inexplicably refuses to dress Simon Despres, opting instead to let Derek Engelland tread water for 13 minutes/night).

More thoughts after the jump...

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Race for League MVP: Ovechkin vs. Crosby Again

By Artistry

The field is wide open. Everybody's once unanimous, no-question-about-it choice for the Hart Trophy winner as the league's MVP Sidney Crosby will miss his fourth game of the season on Tuesday, and suddenly he's fallen out of favor among the hockey cognoscenti.

And who has emerged as a newly viable candidate for MVP but the Master of Setting Impossibly High Expectations Only to Lower the Bar so Dramatically That He's Exceeded Them Once Again Even Though He's Averaging Only a Point a Game, the Secretary of Hahahahaha!!!!!, the Captain of Regular Season Coronations, Alex Ovechkin.

Refusing to make the obvious joke about how he was not hit in the face with a puck.
Does this make any sense? Can we figure out how to make this post about Mario Lemieux's greatness? The answers to those questions are "No, that's ridiculous" and "You bet!" Read all about it, after the jump...

Sidney Crosby is alive; James Neal is concussed

On the same day we reiterated our desire to finally get the Crosby update we were promised last week, Sid himself spoke to the media after Pens' practice today (he didn't practice).  The good news is that other than his mouth looking like a war zone, he seemed normal and definitely not concussed.  He's still only eating shakes and hasn't heard from doctors about a timetable.  If there's one thing Sidney Crosby hates, it's giving timetables.  He probably asks girls out by saying, "let's meet up" but never telling them where or when.

Here he is.

The bad news is that James Neal has a concussion and is not joining the team on the upcoming 3-game road trip.

Iginla time.

It's not an honor just to be nominated; Pens clinch, and other NHL thoughts

By Finesse

There's a part of you that knows you shouldn't take for granted that the Penguins clinched a playoff spot thanks to Buffalo's shootout win over New Jersey last night.  But then you look at the Pens' roster and realize that clinching a playoff spot for this team probably shouldn't even need to be mentioned, let alone celebrated.  Sure, we can be proud that the Pens aren't the Pirates, but if the Pirates had Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols, Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, the chubby guy on the Tigers, Steven Strasburg, and a bunch of other good pitchers whose names I don't know, then they could take the playoffs for granted, too.  Having lived through through the leaner years at the beginning of the century doesn't turn making the playoffs into an achievement in itself.  It just makes you appreciate that Dick Tarnstrom isn't the Pens' best player anymore.

- Speaking of the playoffs, break up the Caps!  Ever since we pointed out that Ovechkin's statistics had declined in his late 20s much more significantly than those of other all-time greats, he's arguably been the best player in the league and ... wait for it ... should start getting some legitimate MVP buzz.  He won't -- and shouldn't -- win, mainly because of how terrible the Southeast division is.  Unless the Caps end up with a point total that is more in line with other division leaders, it's too easy to point to that dog-crap division as the reason why they're in the playoffs.

Our post still stands, both as mathematically valid at the time and for recognizing that he was far from washed up.  Good for him for getting it together over the past month, but it raises the obvious question: what the hell happened the past two years?

"I have a theory on that..."
- The biggest surprise in the East has to be the dramatic decline of the Carolina Hurricanes.  When we did mid-season projections a month ago, Carolina looked like a lurking sleeper.  But since beating  the Caps 4-0 on March 12, they are 1-10-1 and have been outscored 46 to 18.  And they have to be disappointed in Jordan Staal, who has only 22 points in 37 games and is a -13.  That's a 49 point pace for a guy singed at $6 million/year for the next 10 years.  The good news for the Staal brothers, though, is that now at least two of the brothers can make the family vacation this year.  The one that starts in late April.

- Brandon Sutter, by the way, has 1 goal and 0 assists in his last 12 games. Or if you prefer, 1 point in his last three and a half hours of ice time.

- It's so tempting to stare at the standings and think about how the seeding will shake out.  The most enticing first-round match-up that's getting more likely by the day is Capitals vs. Rangers in the 3 vs. 6 match-up   They've played in 3 of the past 4 playoffs (Caps won in '09 and '11, Rangers won last year), every game is a nailbiter, and John Tortorella threw a water bottle at some dumb Caps fan who was probably trying to impress Chris Cooley.  Round 4 between these two clubs would be too fun.


- Who even knew Margaret Thatcher was still alive?

- Remember how we were supposed to be told a more definitive time table for Crosby's return late last week?  Any time now would fine please thanks.

- Ron Cook says Evgeni Malkin needs to play better.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Flower steals it; Pens beat Rangers, 2-1

By Finesse

If you're in the mood to be negative this morning, the Pens 2-1 shootout win over the New York Rangers last night should give you plenty of ammunition   In no particular order: The Pens were outplayed for the third straight game; lost their best goal scorer to what looks like a concussion; Jarome Iginla looks uncomfortable at best, slow at worst; Brandon Sutter is something less than invisible; and most concerning of all, Evgeni Malkin is playing like crap.

But the Pens still won and it's because Marc-Andre Fleury stole the game.  He remains, as virtually all goalies do, the most important player on the team.  He was sensational last night.  The Rangers may have walked away with a morale victory but the Pens walked away with two points.

And there's no reason to apologize for this.  A lot of teams win games where they play like shit but the goalie steals it.

Many more thoughts on the game after the jump...

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Podcast: Dave Dameshek talks Lemieux, Stanley Cup tales, and why he's Wayne Gretzky's worst nightmare

There's only one word to describe this podcast with NFL Network luminary and Pittsburgh native Dave Dameshek: epic. This is the definitive podcast about the Pittsburgh Penguins.  We talk about this year's Cup chances, the triumphs of 1991 and 1992, the heartbreak of 1993, a night with the Cup in Shadyside, Mario's best goals, apologizing to The Bachelor, and the night Dameshek almost threw down with Wayne Gretzky. True story.

7:2 underdog against The Great One
Set aside an hour and strap yourselves in. It's worth it.

Click here to subscribe on iTunes

**If you're listening on your smartphone, the best ways to make sure that you have an uninterrupted experience are: 1) download the podcast from iTunes OR 2) download the Spreaker app by going to the App store and searching for "Spreaker" then "Get To Our Game"**


(If you're struggling with the player above, go to our Spreaker page)

Finally, make sure to watch this first for some background.