Friday, May 31, 2013

Penguins vs. Bruins: Tale of the Tape

By GTOG Staff

[You can find the preview podcast here]

It's Eastern Conference Finals Eve, Boston vs. Pittsburgh, when thoughts of Mario Lemieux torturing Ray Bourque swirl in our heads, somewhere Andy Moog is waking up in a cold sweat, and the Tale of the Tape between these two titans becomes urgent and required reading. Our thoughts and prayers are with Ulf Samuelsson's right thigh, which is to this day still traumatized by Cam Neely's carelessness. And we wish Vladimir Ruzicka the best in his quest to forget everything that happened after his 5-point performance in Game 2 in 1991. Let's break this down.

Obstacle Overcomability

This is always our most important category, because it defines the NHL playoffs. If you can play, you can play, but if you can't overcome adversity, you can't win. The Bruins had that historic comeback against the Leafs when they were down three goals in the third period of Game 7, and down two goals with 1:22 left in regulation. Amazing, unprecedented stuff from the Bruins. But you know what else is amazing? The fact that the Toronto Maple Leafs took a 4-1 lead in Game 7 against Boston in Boston. You don't give Bill Clinton credit for still being married to Hillary because no one gets obstacle overcomeability points for overcoming themselves.

The Penguins saw Marc-Andre Fleury - arguably their most important piece of the playoff puzzle heading into round 1 - melt down against the Islanders. They're still meshing as team and figuring out who belongs in the lineup. Their captain and best player is only now setting aside a face shield that - believe it or not - limited his effectiveness. They face enormous external pressure to win and win going away. And all the Penguins are doing is getting better.

EDGE: Pens.

Read on for the rest of the categories ...

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pens-Bruins preview podcast: Oozing with analysis, emotion, and predictions

It's our Pens-Bruins Eastern Conference Finals preview podcast.  How does the long delay affect the series? Which Bruin do you fear the most? What's the deal with the Tortorella firing? All that, our predictions, and so much more. It's the GTOG Podcast.

**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"**

TWITTER: Follow Artistry. Follow Finesse. Follow GTOG.

Patrice Bergeron shutting down Sidney Crosby? Don't hold your breath.

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

There's no question that the Patrice Bergeron vs. Sidney Crosby matchup is one of the top story lines of the Eastern Conference Finals.  Bergeron is a really good player, he's clutch, and he's exceptional on face-offs.  As Puck Daddy pointed out, "Bergeron has given Crosby fits in the face-off circle in the past" (and it linked to this old story).

But other than in the face-off circle, has Bergeron ever given Crosby fits in anything else?  We decided to take a look at their head-to-head history ... and we found that one guy has a decided advantage.  A very decided advantage.

Read on to find out who...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Penguins vs. Bruins: Does Pittsburgh's regular season sweep of Boston matter at all?

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

The Pens swept the three regular season games against the Bruins this year.  They were all very well-played one-goal games.  Does it matter?  Let's take a look back.

March 12th: The Sutter Game. Pens win, 3-2

What happened: The Bruins led 2-0 with under 7 minutes left in the third when Chris Kunitz got the Pens on the board and Brandon Sutter blacked out and woke up with his two biggest goals of the season. Highlights here.

What we wrote:
Almost immediately after Tyler Seguin scored to put the Bruins up 2-0 with 6:30 remaining in the first period, the Penguins started cobbling together one of their finer efforts of the season, even though they spent the next 33 minutes getting shutout by a goalie whose name was either a Mexican restaurant (Qdoba) or the Supreme Leader of Iran (Khomeni). If the Pens had gone on to get shut out, we would not have been overly discouraged. 
Relevance for Eastern Conference Finals: This was the Pens 6th win during the 15 game winning streak, and was the second game during the streak where the Pens started winning with good defensive efforts.

Read on for more...

Jaromir Jagr is coming to town: OH MY GODDDDDDD!!!!!!

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

The impending Pens-Bruins Eastern Conference Finals is not short on story lines, and for our money, none is bigger than the most basic one -- the Bruins are really good, and this should be a great series.

The one that barely registers is the return -- again -- of Jaromir Jagr.  There's some consternation, as there always is, about how Pens fans should react and/or "treat" Jagr when he returns.

Read on for our reaction ...

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Remember: Goliath kills David 99 times out of 100. A recap of Pens-Sens

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

The widespread hope coming out of the first-round dogfight was that the pressure coming with being a heavy favorite and having three straight bad series losses in the playoffs would be relieved and the Pens would finally play up to their potential.  Check that box.  This victory over Ottawa was as lopsided as it should have been.  The Pens were way better than Ottawa and they played like it.

There are areas that still need tightened up, but no team is without flaws.  And while other teams may be better in certain areas than the Pens, no team comes as close to having everything as the Pens.  A lot of teams have a really good top 6; the Pens have a top 6 that has the runaway two best players in the league. A lot of teams have a good bottom 6; the Pens have a bottom six consisting of 6 guys who each fit a specific role, and do it well.  A lot of teams have a good defense; the Pens have 6 guys who are playing better each game, and look like they have their worst hockey behind them.  A lot of teams have defensemen who can generate offense; the Pens have Kris Letang.

It's true that the Pens have achieved only what they have been expected to achieve -- beating a #8 and #7 seed.  On paper it seems like no big deal, but consider: The #2 and #3 seeds in the East are out.  The #2 and #3 seeds in the West are out, and Chicago is one game away from being out.  The best compliment you can give the Pens right now is that they are as dangerous as we all thought they'd be.

Before we get to Boston in the next few days, let's recap this series.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Pens roll, 6-2, to sweep Senators. Wait. It wasn't a sweep?

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

Because the most memorable moments in sports are usually the most unexpected, it's easy to forget that so much of what happens is exactly what's supposed to happen.  And the Pens' dispensing of the Senators, seemingly with very little difficulty, was exactly what was supposed to happen.

It was obvious after Game 1 that the Pens were a superior team to Ottawa, and once the Pens put up another 4-spot on Craig Anderson in Game 2, the concerns about getting stoned by this year's "hot goalie" dissipated.  Game 3 was about as encouraging of a game as the Pens have played all playoffs until an epic brain-fart at the end that didn't really put the series in doubt, but confirmed the doubt in your head that as great as this team is, there is still the capacity for bad mental mistakes.  That doubt was re-suppressed during the Pens' sustained domination throughout Games 4 and 5.

Make no mistake about it.  This was a 5-game sweep.  The Pens were dominant for long stretches, and brilliant for others.  It was every bit the mismatch that Pens-Hurricanes was in 2009.  The only times the Senators had sustained pressure, the Pens kept it to the outside and gave up very few quality scoring chances.

It's hard to say how much of the Pens' performance this series was due to the Pens being great or Ottawa simply being overmatched and running out of gas after a season played almost entirely on fumes.  But I lean toward the former.  Everything about the Senators' body language -- and even their captain's actual language -- screamed "this team is better than us."  Professional athletes don't usually play with such resignation unless they know that they know they have no chance.  Ottawa had no chance, and they knew it.  In fact, they knew it a long time ago.

After the Pens stole Jarome Iginla from the Bruins in the middle of the night, Paul MacLean was asked the next day about all the Pens' moves. "I don't even know why we'd bother playing the playoffs," he joked. He should have listened to himself.  Ottawa should never have bothered.

Mr. Mom knows.
We'll be back tomorrow morning with a full recap of Game 5, including thoughts on Neal's hat-trick, Vokoun's steadiness, and ... gasp! ... Kris Letang's Conn Smythian level of play.

Go Pens.

Jonathan Toews: Who are you, and what are you doing?

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

I tuned in last night to the second and third period of Hawks-Wings Game 4 just in time to witness Jonathan Toews take three consecutive minor penalties, fail to get a shot off on a breakaway, and have a pass intercepted on a 2-on-1.  Sprinkled in among these offensive failures were signs of an obviously frustrated player, from wild stick swinging to an absolute death stare on the bench to berating officials.

I haven't seen a captain act out his frustrations in such an immature manner since ..... oh.  Right.

It's no easy task facing the Red Wings.  Even if they aren't as talented as they used to be, beating them requires more patience and more discipline than is required to beat any other team. You simply have to work harder than you usually do.  When the Pens played the Red Wings in the 2008 Finals, the Pens didn't even score a goal until 3 minutes remaining in the first period.  Of Game 3.  The last four games of that series were split 2-2 and were all one-goal games (including Game 5, which is easily in the conversation for best-played playoff game in Penguins history).  But by then it was too late.  The Wings, deservedly, closed out the series.

Things came easy for Chicago this season.  They're probably finally realizing that it won't come that easy against the Red Wings.  It just might be too late.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Some stats on the Pens, just because

By Finesse

Before the Internet, when the Pens had a bad period or game you only had a few options: take a walk, sit on the toilet and play Tetris, or drink profusely before passing out and calling into a sports talk radio show the next morning.  But now when the Pens play, it's so easy to vent on Twitter, text message, or even the arguably pointless period-by-period recaps we've been doing.  The ability to react to everything means that the forest often gets lost in the trees.  With the Pens up 3-1 on Ottawa, let's look at the forest.  Some interesting Pens stats presented without comment (mostly) after the jump...

A 7-3 victory sounds about right; Pens push Sens to the brink in Game 4

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

We opened our podcast last night asking the question: Was Game 4 the game we've been waiting for the Pens to play all postseason?  Our answer was a definitive 'no.'  Game 3 was the game we had been hoping the Pens were capable of -- a tight, 1-0 win, with scoring from an unexpected place, and an ability to overcome a hot goalie with a hot goalie of our own.  But you know, shit happens.

[Listen above or click here to subscribe on iTunes]

Game 4 was the game we knew the Pens had in them, and the Pens teased us with it a few times in the Isles series (Games 1 and 5) and even early in this series (Game 1).  But they never got all the way there like they did last night.  Game 4 was total domination.  The Pens OWNED the first period and probably should have been winning 5-2 after 20 minutes.  With all due respect to Dejan Kovacevic, who is having himself a hell of a playoffs, the Pens were not "awful" in the first period.  In fact, it was arguably the Pens most dominant period offensively in the whole playoffs; it just took a few minutes more of play in the second period to reap the benefits on the scoreboard.  What happened in the third period -- 4 goals in 10 minutes -- was not the product of 10 good minutes of hockey, something which has often been enough for the Pens to win games.  It was the well-earned payoff from two excellent overall performances in Ottawa in Games 3 and 4.

The Pens went into Ottawa and scored 8 goals in 2 games -- it's just a matter of bad fortune that they weren't spread out more evenly to come home with two wins.  Because one thing is clear this morning and it's that this series should already be over.

Read on for more...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Podcast: Pens explode for 7-3 win, let's talk about it

Can any other team in the NHL do what the Pens did tonight -- get stymied by a "hot" goalie for a period, then run him out of the building in a third period so dominant it bordered on embarrassing?

We discuss on the GTOG Podcast.

(If you're new to the podcast, the quality is usually much higher. One of us (Artistry) decided to go on a family vacation during the NHL playoffs)

**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"**

Second Period Recap: Pens up 3-2, Equilibrium restored

The first 3 minutes were a market-correction for a first period that the Pens dominated.  Rarely do you see a pass that either of two guys could have taken for a breakaway.  Hands has some serious finish.

Strong period from Vokoun.

We know Ottawa will come hard this period, so the Pens will get their chances.  Put the first few away and zip it up.

You've already gotten to your game. Now stay there. 

First Period Recap: Pens down, 2-1. But now the good news.

The good news is that the Pens are playing REALLY well offensively.

The bad news is that Anderson is finding a groove and the Pens wasted a ton of chances to score.  Sid should could have 4 goals.

The main takeaway from the first period is it's another 20 minutes that hasn't changed the script.  The Pens are better than Ottawa, and the difference is significant at times.  But whether the Pens have the capability to take advantage of that fact and not break down mentally?  That was -- and remains -- an open question.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

At least the Pens aren't playing Detroit, plus a thought on Jarome Iginla

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

We lamented the Pens' bad Game 3 loss, then quickly regained our perspective and realized things weren't that bad.  More evidence that things aren't that bad:  The Pens could be playing the Red Wings.

Good read from Dejan Kovacevic about the Pens' misuse of Jarome Iginla, especially on the power-play.  As we wrote yesterday, there's simply no point in having him stand on the goal line feeding Letang and Malkin for one-timers.  Beyond his points, Iginla had a dramatic effect on the Islanders series -- you'll recall he almost killed Evgeni Nabokov in the first period in Game 1.  And then the Pens went on to score at will against Nabokov for the next 6 games.  Coincidence?

There's an argument that was the simplest yet best play the Pens have run all postseason.

Again, please.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Pens blow Game 3, but we feel terrific about it: Here's why

By Artistry

Nothing is more annoying than Penguins fans who seem to relish complaining about the team more than they like celebrating watching the very best players in the world for most of the past 30 years and annually contending for the Stanley Cup. We know those people. And we don't like listening to them. But we do live radio shows immediately after every playoff game, when the emotion is most raw, and, well, it can sometimes be like sticking a microphone in front of two, more verbal John Tortorellas.

Artistry in a quiet moment with his dogs

Finesse gives a big thumbs up at a recent charity event
Then we get an email like the one from Graig in Columbus, and we're left asking ourselves a horrifying question: "Wait, are we those people?"

From Graig:

I have been looking for a long time for a Pens-specific podcast.  The Pittsburgh radio shows are fine, but I have to wade through a bunch of Steeler stuff to get to the Pens stuff(grew up in Eastern OH in the 80s about 75 mins. from Pittsburgh, am a Cleveland fan in everything else).  Pens 24/7 is fine for information, but the discussions are uninteresting.  I found yours because one of my favorites, Dave Dameshek, tweeted that he was on it, and I LOVED that show.  It was a great discussion of great memories from my childhood and teen years, and I stand behind the assertion that 66>99, always.  66 is my favorite athlete in any sport, and I consider it a privilege and honor to have seen him in person in his prime.  

That said, having loved the first show, I thought....Alright, here's what I'm looking for!  Well, sort of.  I love your names, you guys have interesting discussions, and have real personalities.  Plus, I love that Pittsburgh accent.  However, I can't help but notice there is a lot of negativity in your cast.  I get it.  Expectations are high, as we've basically assembled the NHL's version of the Miami Heat(I am still sorting out how I feel about that one).  However, I must ask the you guys get any enjoyment out of watching our beloved Pens?  I'm not trying to be hostile, sarcastic, or a smart ass.  It seems that even with wins, there is about 75%(at least, sometimes more) talk about what we were terrible at.  I mean, you'll throw in something positive or a compliment while acknowledging your own negativity sometimes, but it is a little bit of a turn-off.  I get it, I understand being critical.  I really do.  Last night we had chances to put them away, and Letang was out to lunch on the tying goal.  However, nothing comes easy, and I'm not sure you understand what a difficult job it is that we're trying to pull off, and that the competition is actually worthy.  Maybe it's just my background as a loser Cleveland fan in everything else that skews my perspective.  I'm happy to have won anything in my lifetime.  I could really live off of the three Cups for my lifetime, mainly because I don't know when or if it will happen again.  I'm actually happy to have a team that is a perennial me, in my pro sports fandom, you don't know when that will ever happen or for how long, so enjoy playing meaningful games in the playoffs.  

First, Graig is right on the money. We love watching and talking about hockey, we generally have good humor about and affection for our hockey team, and we think we can offer some genuine perspective in a universe of bad Pensblog imitations. If we've been getting away from the mission, that's on us.

Ben, after an email from Graig.
Second, let's be very clear: this was a bad loss, not a bad game. In fact, we're more encouraged after that Pens performance than we have been all season long. Get ready for a shot of positivity with a chaser of delight after the jump...

So, about that shorthanded goal ... Pens lose, 2-1

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

[Listen to the Raw Emotion recap podcast below or click here to subscribe on iTunes. For a read on why we actually feel terrific coming out of Game 3, click here]

When Matt Cooke devilishly drew a slashing penalty on Erik Karlsson with 87 seconds left in the game, we were fully prepared to lavish the Pens with praise after what may have been their best performance of the postseason.  A 1-0 win? With almost nothing to complain about? In what seemed like an actual normal playoff game after two straight series of sometimes bizarre play?  Sign us up!

One bad play doesn't erase 59 minutes of strong play. But man, did that suck.

This loss would go in the heartbreaking category if the Pens were underdogs, or if some Senator made a great play on the tying goal, or if the Pens had lost 1-0 in overtime with Craig Anderson shutting the door all night.  But when the Pens, from the coaching staff to every player on the ice except Vokoun, make a series of inexcusable decisions on the tying goal, the Raw Emotion reaction is to be disgusted.  And when you feel yourself not being surprised that it happened, because the Pens cling to mental errors like a baby clings to his blankie, it raises serious questions about whether this team has the mental discipline to pay attention to all the details necessary to win the Cup.

Everyone says it and it's a boring cliche, but it's true -- if the Pens just cut back the mental errors, there's no one that can play with them.  The problem is that there's limited evidence they can do this.  We're still hopeful that the Pens can win the Cup and VERY optimistic that the Pens can still make short work of the Senators. The overwhelming talent should be plenty to do the trick.  But if the Pens somehow fall short, then we already know why.

Read on for a full breakdown of the Alfie's shorty ...

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Podcast: Disgusting loss; Pens fall, 2-1 in double OT

Just a ridiculous game to lose on every level. Experience it all over again with 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"**

First Overtime Recap: We all know how this should end

Still have no clue how this game is tied.  Malkin is the best guy on the ice by a mile.

Third Period Recap: Free Hockey, can we send it back? 1-1

If the Pens lose this game we will do a 30-for-30 documentary on all the breakdowns on that Alfredsson shorty.

Second Period Recap: Pens up, 1-0. Choke 'em out

Perfect time for a third line goal.  Pens are playing very well, IOO.

It's time to put Ottawa to bed.  Should never let them think they can win this series.

First Period Recap: "Storm" Weathered; Pens-Sens scoreless

About 4 minutes into the game, Brian Engblom said that the Senators were off to a really strong start.  Then Paul McLean echoed that a few minutes later.  What were they talking about?  Pens didn't score but looked as good as they have all postseason.

Sutter had an historically soft play in the neutral zone and failed to bury a great chance, but did a great job getting in the shooting lanes on the Glass PK.

Speaking of Glass, no reason for him to be playing over Jokinen assuming Jokinen is healthy.

Letang and The Prime Minister operating at their highest levels of the season.

Pens on the PP to start the second.  If the Pens are who we think they are, they start putting the Senators to sleep.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Make Erik Karlsson your bitch; Pens win, 4-3

By GTOG Staff

[Click here to listen to the Game 2 recap podcast]

In some playoff years, seeding really doesn't matter. Just get into the NHL post-season tournament, and you've got as good a shot as anybody. This is not one of those years. While the other two contenders in the East - the Bruins and Rangers - are forging their playoff identities in a crucible of early dogfights, the Penguins got to face some scrappy but ultimately deficient Islanders upstarts and are now two games into a series against an Ottawa team that just benched its best player. If it looks at times like Pittsburgh is playing some JV team in a preseason scrimmage, that is not your imagination.

Crankshaft looks OK with the way things are going.
With Erik Karlsson coming up lame, the Penguins might have the 10 best players in the series. Would you have traded Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz, James Neal, Jarome Iginla, Kris Letang, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik, or Tomas "I'm average except when I have to be great" Vokoun for any of the Senators that took the ice in the third period last night? No, you wouldn't, no matter how impressive goalie Robin of Gothenberg looked at times. The Penguins are very fortunate to have a chance to find their playoff groove in Round 2 against a team whose best offensive player is probably either Colin Greening or that little Pageau, and it isn't luck that got them here. It's what happen when you win 75% of your games in the regular season. (Unless you're Anaheim or Chicago and draw the Red Wings as a #7 seed).

Ahhh, to be in the East.
Read on for more on Game 2 ...

Friday, May 17, 2013

PODCAST: Pens win, 4-3; Crosby takes charge

Harder than it needed to be, but a huge win in Game 2.  Sidney Crosby owned their whole team.

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"**

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Pens/Sens Game 2: Get Ready to Rumble

By Artistry

This could get ugly. When the Ottawa Senators line up for Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semi-final series against Pittsburgh on Friday night, they're not going to be thinking about pushing the pace, a la the speedy Islanders. They can't. They're not going to expect their goalie to steal a game, because no matter how good Craig Andersen has been against most of the league, the Penguins generally have his number. No, Ottawa has only one prediction for the rest of this series: pain.

The Sens have 11 guys in the lineup who weigh at least 212 pounds.  The Penguins have 5 such guys, and 3 of them were scratched in Game 1. The only area where the Senators have a potentially difference-making advantage is muscle, and you can be certain they're about to use it. Think it's an accident that every time you turned on the Ottawa-Montreal series there were gloves all over the ice?

Of course the Senators don't want to put the Penguins on the power play, but as most people would tell you, desperation makes guys named Chris Neil do some crazy things. If you have any doubt about what the citizens of Ottawa are thinking right now, look no further than our favorite Sun columnist, Don Brennan. Surprisingly, he's not writing about his testicles or his penis. No, instead Don Brennan wants you to know that every once in a while, Sidney Crosby just likes to fight.

Ron Cook Poetry: "Maybe it was all that." A reader submission

Ron Cook Poetry is sweeping the nation.  

Reader Don emailed in this gem from Cook's column yesterday about how well Evgeni Malkin played in Game 1.  Don, you pretty much nailed it.

Cook: Malkin lives up to lofty standards

It says Malkin's talents are extraordinary.
You should have heard the crowd roar for all of the Malkins.
Sometimes, maybe we expect too much.
Malkin was pretty good against the Islanders by comparison, would you not agree?
Maybe it was all that.
There was another question for Malkin about his expectations.
Now is the right time for that.
"I try to play good every game," Malkin said, quietly.
The man usually does.
This one was better than most.
Those of us who watch him should be happy.
He should be happy.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Raw Emotion Podcast: Pens beat Sens, 4-1

Recapping the Pens 4-1 win over Ottawa. How dangerous is the powerplay? What's up with James Neal? Did Ottawa show anything that should scare the Pens? We muster up some emotion about the Pens workmanlike victory.  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"**

Second Period Recap: Pens up 3-1

Cory Conacher is the series villain.  

Pens are getting a little bit exposed in their own zone, especially when the lower lines and pairings are on the ice.

But the powerplay is so lethal.  You can't rely on the PP this much to win a Cup, but you can ride it while its hot.

Hands.  After a great play on the boards by Sid.

Some big saves from Vokoun that period.

Iginla is going to end the playoffs with unlimited points. 

First Period Recap: Pens up 2-1, but don't get comfortable

The bad news is that Craig Anderson has already proven, unlike Evgeni Nabokov, to be a real goalie.  The good news is the Pens already have 2 goals on him.

Look for Morrow to be a factor in this series, albeit in limited ice time.  He'll get in Anderson's kitchen. He already did on Martin's goal.

Malkin was brilliant in the first period (with the notable exception of his power-play killing penalty).  If he plays like this, then not sure who touches the Pens ...

... unless, of course, Vokoun puts a couple more Fleurys in his own net.

Daniel Alfredsson's hair looks atrocious.  Sorry we talk so much about hair.  But come on.

Sutter-Iginla was a really bizarre choice to start the late 4-on-4.  Sutter couldn't find chemistry with a Bunsen Burner and a barrel of Ammonium nitrate.

Penguins-Senators Series Preview: Tale of the Tape

By GTOG Staff

Round 1 was like a boat ride in choppy waters after doing 23 tequila shots with a chaser of spoiled milk. Now we have to look at Chris Neil for the next two weeks.

Ottawa just steamrolled Montreal in five games by a combined score of 20-9. Erik Karlsson is back. Jason Spezza is practicing. Eugene Melnyk is investigating. The team is capable of revisiting that bizarre gladiator introduction again at any time. Anything can and probably will happen when the Sens take on the top-seeded Pens in Round 2. All we can do is handicap this matchup. Who has the advantage? Read on for the GTOG Tale of the Tape...

Poor Ted and Alex; Caps eliminated by Rangers in embarrassing fashion, 5-0

By Finesse (follow me on Twiter)

Ted, I know you're crushed right now. You had dreams of hoisting the Stanley Cup and taking a picture with it to use as the background of your Twiter page.  You had dreams of collecting mea culpas from around the league like they were stamps.  You had dreams of linking to every negative article ever written about your team in one giant post titled, "I was right, you were wrong."  Oh well, not this year.

There is a way to feel better about last night's spirit-crushing 5-0 loss to the Rangers, Ted.  It's very classy to say I am sorry and I was wrong. Saying "I apologize - I was wrong" can be very cathartic.

Sound like familiar advice?

Ted, we promise you'll feel great if you apologize to us.
Let's euthanize the 2013 Caps humanely after the jump...

Sunday, May 12, 2013

All's well that ends well: Pens win 4-3; Isles sent packing

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

Check out the recap podcast by listening below or clicking here.

When Brooks Orpik redeemed himself for nearly decapitating Sidney Crosby last month by firing a laser beam past a completely overmatched Evgeni Nabokov to send the Pens to the second round, the immediate euphoria was quickly replaced by a sense of relief.  With a team as seemingly loaded as the Pens, a first-round loss to the 8th season Islanders was unthinkable.  The fallout would have been impossible to contain.

Now all we have to do is contain the emotion.
But when the story of the 2013 Penguins is written, no one will care that the Islanders outplayed the Penguins for long stretches of this series.  The Confederacy won a lot of battles in the Civil War, too.  The playoffs are supposed to be hard. The Isles were able to capitalize on shaky goaltending by Fleury and make the Pens start feeling a little bit of doubt (fine, a lot of doubt), but the Pens did what winners do: they finished games.  Dominating the puck for two and a half periods like the Isles did is great; having world-class players making world class plays to win playoff games is better.  So if you're wallowing in the Pens poor performance for much of Game 6, you may find some solace in the most elementary aspect of the sport -- the clock.  Hockey games are 60 minutes for a reason: it's usually a long enough time to allow the better team to win.  Or at least get to overtime.

The Isles were a worthy foe.  But the better team won this series.  What this performance foretells for Ottawa is for another day.  Let's wrap this thing up.  A full breakdown of the series after the jump...

Saturday, May 11, 2013

PODCAST: Pens win, 4-3, in OT; Redemption for Brooks Orpik

Brooks Orpik has totally and completely redeemed himself for shooting the worst shot of all time at Sid's face.  What a win.  The Pens may not have deserved to win this game, but who the F cares.  Bye, New York.  And hello Ottawa.  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"**

Some of the worst goaltending we've ever seen.

Third Period Recap: No business being here, but here we are: OVERTIME

Heading to overtime 3-3.

No matter what happens the rest of this game, Kris Letang should withdraw from Norris Trophy consideration because of the turnover he made leading to the Isles' third goal.

But then Malkin got a shot of adrenaline that lasted about 5 seconds, but it was enough to set up the Prime Minister.  Tie ball game.

Here we go.

Second Period Recap: "We have the puck on that side for, like, a second;" Pens tied 2-2

Those are the words of my aunt.  She doesn't watch a lot of hockey.  That's how obvious it is.

The Pens must be touched by the hand of God to get out of that period tied 2-2.  That, or the penalty kill has been enormous.

Pens ran the worst power-play in the history of power-plays.

Somehow, this is a 2-2 game.  And it's winnable.

Go Pens.

This is, literally, the only good thing Malkin has done all night. 

First Period Recap: Credit the Islanders; Pens down 2-1

Great period from the Islanders. They deserve to be winning.

Not sure what Malkin is doing, or why he's doing anything he's doing.  He'll wake up.

Still hate the Sutter-Morrow-Cooke line.  Too slow.

Might take a power-play for the Pens to get going.  Someone call Bettman.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Pens Win 4-0; Tyler Kennedy serves as a perfect Booty Call

By GTOG Staff

Check out our Raw Emotion recap podcast.

We originally gave the nickname Booty Call to Steelers' safety Ryan Mundy, but Tyler Kennedy seized the honors for the Pens earlier this season when he was inexplicably slotted to play center in place of an injured Sidney Crosby on the Pens' first line in a 4-1 loss to Buffalo.  You can actually blame his horrendous play in that game for him being scratched in games 1-4 of this series. As we wrote then, the nickname Booty Call is used for a player when "he's never your first choice and you're constantly auditioning other people for the role, but he's always there when you call on him yet it's never as satisfying as you hope. Tyler Kennedy is the Pens' Booty Call. He's useful when you're in a pinch, but if you find yourself inviting him to your parents' house for Thanksgiving, it means something has gone horribly wrong."

Last night, though, TK really hit the spot.

Every time we need confidence we're going to look at Iginla's face in this picture.
What a performance by a guy who has been a strong playoff performer for the Pens throughout his career.  You've probably read this morning that he's sixth all-time in game-winning goals in Pens' playoff history.  This is a remarkable stat, but it's not all that surprising.

Tyler Kennedy is a "100 percenter."  If he's giving anything less than 100%, he's borderline useless.  But when he's at 100%, a level that is impossible for any player to sustain throughout a full season (even a shortened one), he does everything that you want from an energetic fourth line player, and then some.  And that extra is the finish he showed on the breakaway.  Almost any fourth-liner not named Tanner Glass can bring energy to a team and forecheck like he's on an acid trip.  But not a lot of fourth-liners can put a laser beam under the crossbar like that.

More on Vokoun, "Danny" Bylsma, and some observations from the box score after the jump...

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Podcast: Tylomas Vokennedy leads Pens past Islanders, 4-0

Huge win. Vokoun settled everything down. Tyler Kennedy ramped everyone up.  And Sid put the icing on the cake.  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"**

We can't quit you.

Second Period Recap: It's Tyler Kennedy's world; Sidney Crosby is just living in it

There's so much more work to do in this game.

Tyler Kennedy's goal was a beauty.  We rag on Letang as much as anyone, but that's a $7 million pass he made.


Sid's goal was just such a Sid goal.  It's not even about the hands.  It's about the legs.  Divine balance.

Pretty sure Kennedy and Vitale are doing cocaine in between periods.

First period recap: At least it's a normal hockey game (so far); Pens and Isles tied, 0-0

Isles carried the play the second half of the period, but it still seems so much calmer than Games 2-4.  Though the Isles are playing better going into the break, it's not like the Pens are running around like idiots (save for a Letang pinch and a Malkin turnover).

Pens would have had a lot more chances but don't seem to have their hands yet.  A lot of pucks rolling off sticks.  Nerves?

Hits usually mean you don't have the puck.

Game 5 Preview: TK and Vitale are in; Do Islanders fans deserve this?

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

It looks like Tyler Kennedy and Joe Vitale are in tonight. Jussi Jokinen and Tanner Glass are out.  Moves like this won't win the series for the Pens, but they can make it a lot less likely that they'll lose the series.  If the coaching staff is only comfortable playing Glass for 6 minutes/night -- and even that seems like a lot -- then he's a net negative to the team.  But we -- meaning every single person who has watched a Penguin game this season except Dan Bylsma and Ray Shero -- already knew that.

Tyler Kennedy can't be worse than Glass.

Mmmmm, TK.
As for the Vitale/Jokinen swap, it makes sense just to get a fresh body out there who can skate.  This could have been Vitale for Sutter and we'd have felt the same way.

With TK back, it might be time to consider bumping Morrow down to the 4th line.  Or maybe Cooke.  The point is, Sutter-Morrow-Cooke has been a terrible line.  Kennedy would bring a new energy to that line and maybe be able to help establish some time in the offensive zone.  Sutter-Cooke-Kennedy would be fine.  Morrow could take some spins through all the other lines and play on the second power play.

After the jump, a few Islanders links and some Ovechkin talk ...

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Breaking up with MAF, and our favorite Fleury stat from Game 4

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

It's official that Tomas Vokoun will be replacing Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 5 Thursday night in Pittsburgh. All this confirms is that Dan Bylsma watched Games 2, 3 and 4.

But before we move on from Fleury and go all-in with Vokoun, here's one final statistic from Tuesday's night's 6-4 loss on the Island.

As you are no doubt aware, the Islanders scored two goals last night on "shots" that were not actually on goal, in that they would not have gone in the net had Fleury not put them in the net.

Overall, the Islanders had 12 shot attempts miss the net at even strength.

If you take the two "shots" that Fleury scored on himself and add them to the 12 "missed shots" the Isles had at even strength, Marc-Andre Fleury's save percentage at even strength on shots that missed the net was .857.

A final thought on Flower. We really like the guy and genuinely feel bad for him. We're not the type of Pens fans who would rather be right than see the team win.  Nothing would make us happier than Flower regaining his mojo and leading the Pens to the Cup before turning to the camera and giving the entirety of GTOG Nation the finger. It's a sad day and in many ways it feels like a breakup. We still love him. We just need some time apart.

Three Changes and a Reminder: How the Pens can get back on track in Game 5

By Artistry (follow me on Twitter)

[Read our Fleury-centric recap here and listen to the recap podcast below]

Make no mistake about it -- the sky IS falling.  But it hasn't fallen yet.  Here are three changes the Pens need to make to avoid the unthinkable.  Spoiler alert: the first one is obvious.

1. Fleury out, Vokoun in.

This has now been made official.

We just want the Penguins to play a normal playoff game, and Tomas Vokoun has normal playoff numbers. Despite his longevity, he's had the misfortune of playing much of his career in Nashville and Florida, where he appeared in a grand total of two playoff series, both with the Predators. Those two series came in 2003-04 and 2006-07 against very good Red Wings and Sharks teams. In 11 games, Vokoun had a .922 save percentage and a 2.47 goals against. Marc-Andre Fleury hasn't had a playoff save percentage that high since 2007-08. Fleury hasn't had a save percentage over 90% since 2008-09.

2. Maybe it really is the Year of Bob

Mark Eaton has gone from hero to goat in the blink of a Michael Grabner breakaway. Just a week ago, people were talking about erecting a statue of the man who stabilized the Pens' defense, and last night he built his own monument to his play in the form of a heaping pile of absolute dogshit. In 10:28 of ice time, Eaton was on the ice for no fewer than 4 Islander goals. That takes some doing. And he actually played better in Game 4 than in Game 3.  This is not to say Eaton is no longer serviceable, it's just that he may no longer serviceable in this particular series. Just as with Fleury, the time has passed for stubbornly standing by players who aren't performing. There's no time. We know Despres and Engelland were swallowed up by the moment in their brief appearances. So it's time to ask the question: What about Bob?

Look at Bob. So ready. So aware.
3. The first step to recovery is admitting you have a Tanner Glass problem

There's one more lineup change that's overdue: Tyler Kennedy for Tanner Glass. Or put another way, a 4th line player with a history of north-south play and scoring huge playoff goals for Tanner Glass.

And finally, some perspective.

The Internet makes the sting of the Game 4 loss so immediate and so pronounced, that this moment has a power over us that it doesn't deserve. Remember your history, and we're not talking about 2012. In 1991 the Pens played an inferior Devils team and split the first two games in Pittsburgh. Then they split two games in New Jersey. The Devils even went so far as to win Game 5 in Pittsburgh. The Pens were down 3-2 to the Devils going back to NJ facing elimination, WITHOUT AN INJURED TOM BARRASSO. Frank Pietrangelo - who was no Tomas Vokoun - makes The Save, and comes back to shutout the Devils in Game 7. Then back-to-back Cups happened. This is all based on memory, but our memories are good. The point is, no one has any idea what's about to happen. We're just along for the ride.

This one's on Marc-Andre Fleury; Pens Lose, 6-4

By Finesse (Follow me on Twitter)

We discussed this passionately on our Raw Emotion Podcast last night, but it's worth rehashing: how can we tell what type of team the Pens have when Marc-Andre Fleury's performance prevents the Penguins from playing a normal playoff game?  Every goalie gives up bad goals.  Not every goalie has made a habit of doing so multiple times and at the worst possible times.  Every game.  And often by scoring on himself.  We can and will complain about the generally bad defense later today (though it was better last night), or the run-and-gun mentality, but all of these problems start with Fleury.


Show of Support for Malkin: The Geno Shuffle

By Artistry

Evgeni Malkin is down. He had a glaring giveaway in the third period of Tuesday night' Game 4 loss to the Islanders, which led directly to the game-winning goal by John Tavares. Then he lost his head at the final whistle. The city Twitter is in turmoil. So we need to ask ourselves a question. Are we going to leave him there, face down in the mud, languishing? Or are we going to lift him up?

Are we going indulge the panic rising in our chests, or, realizing we have a capable goalie waiting in the wings, stand up and shout: "IF YOU TAKE THE PENS PLAYOFF GOAL TOTALS BY GAME, AND COMPARE THEM TO THE WINNING TEAM'S TOTAL IN EVERY OTHER SERIES, THE PENS WOULD BE 17-4 WITH 5 GAMES GOING TO OVERTIME!"

Easy answer. Here's GTOG's Chief Musical Officer Daniel Marcus with possibly his best work yet: The Geno Shuffle. Shout it to the rooftops.

Big recap coming up. LGP. GTOG.