Sunday, November 30, 2014

11-30-14 PODCAST: Steelers lose; Pens still rolling along

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Podcast: Pens blank Habs; Steelers win in Tennessee

Pens blank the Habs
Why don't we know anything about Mike Johnston?
How good is Beau Bennett?
What is a "chapel minister"?
Steelers steal win in Tennessee
Ben's neck wrap

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What is that on his neck?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Podcast: Pens vs. Wild; is Ben the MVP?

Live during the 3rd period of Pens-Wild, we talk about the Pens and Steelers.  Some good stuff in here.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

PODCAST: Pens rolling; Ben plays his greatest game in Steelers win

Talking Pens and some Steelers. And some fake interviews of the Pens and Steelers captains. It's the GTOG Podcast.

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Friday, October 24, 2014

The Pens Through 6 Games Are Who We Thought They Were. Or Not.

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

In the span of 27 hours, the Pens went from a team with a fresh gloss of juvenation to a team caked in 5 years worth of stank.  Reality is somewhere in between, though I don't buy the developing conventional wisdom that the best thing for the Pens is if they struggle to start the season.  Why is that true?  The best thing for the Pens is to be playing well in the spring; I'm not sure why blowing leads in October makes that more (or less) likely.

The obvious positive is that the Pens are first in the league in offense, and scoring should not be a problem as long as Crosby and Malkin are healthy and as long as 5 of the 6 guys on the blueline have legitimate offensive upside.  The obvious negative is that the team gives up way too many goals, and too many of the scoring chances against the Pens are of the "Is it even legal for that guy to be so wide open?" variety.  The Pens Corsis are OK, but their "what-the-F-are-you-doings" are still off the charts.

"This area here. This is our net. What we don't want is the puck in this area."
If you're looking for more positives, Comeau, Spaling, and Downie are definite upgrades from what the Pens had in the bottom 6 last year, but that's as obvious as saying that not having Ebola is an upgrade over having Ebola.  As a group of 6, the bottom of the lineup is still meh (at best), but those guys are a lot more capable of moving up and down the lineup than the Joe Vitales and Taylor Pyatts of the world.  Sill and Adams are dead weight, but we knew that going into the season.  (Sill is averaging 7:29 of ice time and has no discernible ability.  Do the Pens really not have better?).

Can we talk about Marcel Goc?  (Actually, before we do, let's take a moment to recognize that as the very first time anyone in the world has ever asked to talk about Marcel Goc).  Is he good?  If so, at what?  He's played 27 games with the Pens and has a total of 4 points and a 0 Q-rating.  I know he costs nothing and I know he's way-way down on the list of Pens problems, but take a moment next game to pay attention to him.  You'll have to be looking at the screen, though, because the announcers will probably not be calling his name.

- Speaking of people who average fewer points per 60 minutes than Marcel Goc ... Brandon Sutter, everyone!  It's well-documented that I am no longer capable of being objective about Brandon Sutter, but I think the same is true of anyone who thinks the 5 goals Sutter scored in the playoffs last season (one of which went off of his pants) has cemented him as a guy who deserves top-6 opportunity if only he wasn't boxed out of that role by 87 and 71.  I give the guy credit for being so unmemorable so much of the time that people only remember the times he scores, and not the times he's invisible for several games in a row.  He's scored 2 goals thru 6 games this year -- once in the 3rd period when the Pens were up 2 goals, and once in the 3rd period when the Pens were up 3 goals.  He's fourth among forwards at attempted shots at 5-on-5 (which is good).  But otherwise, despite playing significant stretches with Malkin (who, admittedly, looked very rusty in the first few games), he just isn't a consistent producer.

(If any of this seems too negative, I'll let this article point out the perils of being too positive in October:
That being said, one can’t deny the chemistry that Sutter and Kobasew seem to be developing with one another. They’ve already combined for two goals (both game-winners, by the way) and look to be more than capable of taking some of the offensive pressure off of the Crosby and Malkin units.
You can never take the week of October 1, 2013 away from Chuck Kobasew!!! You just can't!!!)

- Speaking of attempted shots, Evgeni Malkin has 8 shots on goal at 5-on-5 in 6 games.  He's a great player, but he's capable of a lot more.

- Every few days, The Christian Ehrhoff Bandwagon pulls slowly up along the curb, rolls down its window and asks us to hop on.  Politely, we respond, "I think we're going to just walk from here, but I'll let you know when we need a ride.  Thanks!"

- This is where we are with Fleury.  If you're one of his loyal supporters, then you can probably go through the first five games of the season and, except for one or two goals, find some other player who is more at fault than Fleury.   You could certainly do that for the Philly game.

But water finds its level, and it's probably a fair representation of Fleury that his numbers are less-than-mediocre over his first five games.  A 2.81 GAA and a .906 SV% sucks.  It just does.  If a quarterback throws two interceptions every Sunday, maybe Ron Jaworski tells you on Wednesday that all those picks are because the receivers are running the wrong routes ... fine, but at some point, just stop throwing interceptions.  With Fleury, at some point, just stop the puck, consistently, every game.  If you need a good defense to be a good goalie, are you really a good goalie?

Well what about the Islanders game, he was great in the Islanders game!?!?!  Sure, but that's 1 out of 5 games, and if you look at his game-by-game save percentages -- .862, .920, .893, .971, and .875 -- the Pens are down at least 3-games-to-2 in a playoff series with those numbers, and possibly sent home in 5.  We are a broken record at this point, but it's not good enough to be great occasionally.  You have to be really good, almost all the time.

That's why things like Rob Rossi's love note to Fleury, which says incredibly "The Penguins won't win [the Cup] again without Fleury" is just ridiculous.  In 10 years, that statement could turn out to be true, but the underlying sentiment -- that the Pens can't win the Cup without Fleury -- is not only preposterous, but factually incorrect.  A lot of teams have won the Stanley Cup without Fleury as their goalie.  The Pens could do it, too.

That there is no easy answer to the question, "well who else are you going to get to play goalie?" is not an excuse for not trying to answer it.  And when Crosby says that Fleury calms the Pens down on the ice, that's not reason for doubling-down on Fleury (as GMJR seems keen on doing), that's reason for concern.  Does anyone believe that the Pens' "calmness" (especially Crosby's "calmness") has been a strength?

Ben believes that Maurkice Pouncey helps the Steelers make good decisions off the field.
We're accepting of the fact that Fleury is, and will very likely continue to be, the Pens goalie.  And we're cautiously optimistic that he can get hot enough in the playoffs to win another Cup.  But we could do without the iron-clad pronouncements that the Pens need Fleury -- like actually need the man, Marc-Andre Fleury -- to win a Cup.  What they need is a guy to make more saves.  Whether that's Fleury or someone else really doesn't matter.

- Overall, the early signs still seem positive.  The Pens have scored first in 5 of the 6 games, and four of those have been multi-goal leads, so clearly Johnston's system is having an effect, at least when the teams are fresh and the ice is good.  The pessimistic view would be that the second and third periods are like the second and third times a pitcher goes through the lineup.  You're getting a little tired, and the other team is getting your timing down.  It's important for the Pens to master the basics first, and the leads are indicative of them doing that.  But then they have to finish.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Podcast: Pens off to a hot start; Why are the Steelers so irrelevant?

Talking the Pens hot start, and why the Steelers have become borderline irrelevant on the national landscape.

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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Podcast: Official 2014-15 Penguins Preview

Our Official 2014-15 Penguins Preview Podcast. We discuss our expectations for the upcoming season, including out over-unders for things like Thomas Greiss' playoff starts, and what having an "NHL body" actually means. This is big. This is the GTOG Podcast.

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

PODCAST: Pittsburgh Steelers season preview, in which we tell you the result of every game

It's our official 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers preview. We go through the schedule and tell you what will happen in every game. We also discuss whether anything makes Ben happier than going out onto the field for the coin toss alone, whether any team has ever had an easier schedule than the Steelers, and whether Mike Tomlin is a good coach. All that and more on the only Steelers preview podcast you will ever need (or want). It's the GTOG Podcast.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Podcast: Pens, Spaling, Sutter, Subban, Steelers, and a bunch more

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Podcast: Talking Pens and free agency, the Neal trade, Crosby's awkwardness, and some other stuff

(This one is a little slow to load ... just stick with it).

Here's the Ovechkin/Crosby video we talk about on the podcast:

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

PODCAST: Pens hire Mike Johnston; we discuss Jim Rutherford's reign

Taking stock of the Pens' offseason. This is a good podcast.

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Friday, June 6, 2014

Penguins hire Jim Rutherford to replace Ray Shero; this tastes like room-temperature 7UP

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

The only thing we know for certain in the wake of Ray Shero's firing is that the Pens did it without having any idea what to do next.  In the immediate aftermath of Shero's dismissal, there were rumors that this was part of some master plan for the Pens to lure Mike Babcock out of Detroit, as if the Pens ownership was already thinking 3-steps ahead of everyone else in the league (even though the league has been out-thinking the Pens for the last 5 years).

Jump ahead three weeks and people were trying to talk themselves into Pierre McGuire.  The Pens went from having one of the most respected GMs in the entire NHL who, despite his many mistakes the last few years, was still someone who had the trust of players, agents, and other GMs to reportedly considering hiring a guy who hasn't been involved with a hockey team since coaching in the ECHL in the mid-90s and steadfastly refuses to pronounce people's names correctly for no reason.  That's like firing Ben Bernanke and spending the next three weeks interviewing Lou Dobbs.

Shero's moves the past few years are not defensible, but you don't change a GM just for the sake of change.  That's what firing coaches is for.  GMs can make bad signings, bad trades, and set a bad direction for the franchise ... but, unlike coaches, they can also undo the damage they've done.  When a coach loses the room, it's lost and it's not coming back.  But when a GM makes a mistake, he can undo it.  Glen Sather got someone to take Scott Gomez's contract and now the Rangers are in the Stanley Cup Final.  Shero has done damage, but probably could have undone most of it -- or at least could have been trusted to try.  And if the rumors are true that Shero had a Letang trade in place last summer (a move that would have likely re-stocked the cupboard that had grown increasingly bare), but had it nixed by ownership, then you'll have to excuse us for feeling like the Pens might have fired the wrong guy.

Enter Jim Rutherford.

He was a late addition to the list of rumored candidates, a list that's only distinction was its lack of distinction. Julien BriseBois?  If we pretended to have a clue about him we'd be as phony as anyone pretending not to be horrified at the realistic possibility that David Morehouse was going to pull a Dick Cheney.  Sure, Governor.  I'll advise you on VP candidates.  Paul Fenton?  Eh.  Tom Fitzgerald has no particular qualifications for the job.  Jason Botterill is probably fine, but if the Pens were confident in him, they wouldn't have spent 3 weeks wasting time talking to Pierre F'ing McGuire.

Firing Shero was high risk, low reward.  Hiring Jim Rutherford is high risk, low reward, but it's not -- at least at the outset -- a disaster.  Make all the Jussi Jokinen jokes you want, but they've already stopped being funny.  Every GM makes bad moves, and when it comes to waiving a guy or trading him while retaining salary, it's likely that something is going on behind the scenes we don't know about.  And if we're going to judge Rutherford on his trades with the Pens, remember that he's the guy who sold Shero on the idea that Brandon Sutter was good enough to be, for 2 seasons, the only NHL-ready asset the Pens received in exchange for Jordan Staal, a player who had unlimited value when he was traded.  Here's hoping he can hoodwink another team into thinking Sutter is that good.

Rutherford certainly has his flaws, but for better or worse, at least he has a track record.  The only thing we've heard about Botterill and BriseBois is that they're young, as if being under 40 is itself an asset.  Glen Sather is 70.  Dean Lombardi is 56.  Being young is great, but the Pens need to make some big changes to the roster immediately, and there's no guarantee that a GM with absolutely no experience would come in and have the balls to trade a guy like Neal, Letang, or Kunitz, when he knows he has at least a one year grace period where everyone will continue blaming Ray Shero unless the new guy royally screws up (and trading one of those guys could end up being a royal screw up).  Rutherford can hit the ground running on Day 1.  Maybe it will be with a thud.  But maybe, with an ownership group willing to spend to the cap, it won't be.

We'll see what Rutherford does with the coaching situation, the draft, and free agency before we judge.  Until then, all we can do is feel.  And we feel underwhelmed by the entire process and result, not because the Pens hired Rutherford, but because there was no one they could have hired that would have made us feel otherwise.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

PODCAST: Ray Shero is gone; do the Pens have a Plan B?

We talk about the Shero firing, the David Morehouse Show, Dan Bylsma's future, Crosby's game, and what the Pens should do with guys like Letang, Fleury, Sutter, and Neal. It's the GTOG Podcast.

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Friday, May 16, 2014

The Curb Your Enthusiasm scene that eerily resembles Pens ownership expecting someone else to probably fire Dan Bylsma

We understand how Larry feels at the end of this clip.

Is there a reason Mario and Burkle can't get the sponge?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Sidney Crosby doesn't deserve excuses or scorn. His game just needs to evolve.

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

Sidney Crosby doesn't deserve any excuses. The last month was, without question, the longest sustained stretch of stink in his entire career. Pointing to his puck possession numbers or his criminally sub-par supporting cast is just an excuse. A seven-game series is a small sample size, but that's by design -- the playoffs test a player's ability to perform and produce under pressure in a small number of games. He didn’t. And his teammates didn't lob harmless wrist shots into Lundqvist's crest from 40 feet away or pass the puck to the other team on every power play. It should be open season on criticizing his performance.

But it's hard to see the forest through the trees when you're walking through the woods with your head down staring at Twitter. The truth is that even if Crosby gets swept in the first round in each of the next five years but wins one more Cup in his late 30s, his career would still be a massive success.

Crosby will be 27 when next season starts. Here is the list of players since 1980 who have captained a team to multiple Stanley Cups.

Potvin (4x)
Gretzky (4x)
Mario (2x)
Messier (2x)
Scott Stevens (3x)
Sakic (2x)
Yzerman (3x)
Toews (2x)

That's seven of the greatest players of all time, plus Jonathan Toews. The fact that Toews has turned into a better player than a lot of people thought doesn't make Crosby any less successful. Mark Zuckerberg didn't become a disappointment to his parents the day someone came along and invented Twitter.

And really, Toews' unprecedented success is the exception that proves the rule: it's really hard to win one Cup, let alone multiple Cups. Joe Sakic won his first Cup at 26, but he didn't win his second until he was 31. Steve Yzerman didn't win a Cup until he was 32. Next time talking heads point out that Crosby doesn't have any playoff overtime goals, remember: When Yzerman stole the puck from Gretzky and scored on John Casey in double OT in 1996, he was 31 years old and Cupless (and lost in the next round). When someone on Twitter asks when Sid is going to have his "Messier in '94 moment," remember: Messier was 33 years old in 1994. Maybe Sid will have his Messier Moment in 2020 when he's, you know, 33 years old.

So yeah, the last five years were a lost opportunity for Crosby, but it was the opportunity for him to achieve a level of success by age 26 that is pretty close to unprecedented. The best players of all time lose in the playoffs ALL THE TIME. Gretzky lost 12 playoff series. Messier and Sakic lost 11. Yzerman lost 17! Crosby has lost six. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but he's going to lose another six. At least.

The only thing that matters now is how he can get that second Cup.

Whether we like it or not, the playoffs de-emphasize skill and elevate the frustrators over the frustrated. A big reason why the Pens never won another Cup after '92 is that Mario martyred himself in a holy war against the league over how hockey should be played in the playoffs. Sorry, but Mario lost that war. Sid shouldn't martyr himself, nor should his only recourse be to toughen up and fight through the punishment and interference. Instead of being the one always getting frustrated, he should listen to Missy Elliot: "Flip it and reverse it. Ti esrever dna ti pilf nwod gniht ym tup I."

If I was Bylsma's replacement, this is the challenge I'd issue to Crosby: be a finalist for the Selke trophy in 2015. Crosby won the scoring title by 17 points this year, but he was on the ice for 53 goals against at even strength. The three Selke finalists -- Kopitar, Bergeron, and Toews -- were on the ice for 27, 29, and 45, respectively. If Crosby had scored 17 fewer points and been on the ice for 17 fewer goals against, he'd have still won the scoring title and been a leading candidate for the Selke, all while developing the one trait that will endure through any prolonged slump: a tenacity to get the puck away from the other team as fierce as the tenacity to keep it away from them. If developing that means the Pens beat Carolina 2-1 on Thanksgiving Eve instead of 6-3, good. The Pens were never going to win Game 7 against the Rangers 6-3. But they could have won it 2-1.

Using recent history as a guide, Crosby is better off being more Frank Selke and less David Hart. From the 2009-10 season through the 2013 season, the finalists for the Hart Trophy won a combined 64 playoff games. The finalists for the Selke Trophy won a combined 85 playoff games. Or go back even further -- before the age of 30, Steve Yzerman finished in the top 10 of Hart Trophy voting six times. He won zero Cups. From age 30-37, he finished higher in Selke voting than in Hart voting every single year. He won three Cups.

It might be time for Crosby and Art Ross to see other people, too. It’s nice to see that banner hanging, but it’s not really necessary. After all, if the Ducks beat the Kings in Game 7, only five of the top 20 scorers will be left in the playoffs. If the Kings win, only four of the top 20 will be left, and none of the top 11.

Becoming a little more Selke-ish wouldn't be a reinvention of Crosby’s game; it would be an evolution, and one that's necessary because of the inevitable: Crosby isn't going to be the best player in the league forever. Sooner rather than later, especially given his concussion history, he will slow down and younger players will come along and start winning his scoring titles. His path back to the Cup isn't to try to keep getting better at the things he will inexorably get worse at. It's to get better at the things he can still be great at deep into his 30s.

Steve Yzerman’s career can teach valuable lessons about how Crosby’s game can evolve, and how everyone watching should be patient and keep perspective along the way. In the first round of the 1993 playoffs, the Wings were down 3-games-to-2 to the Leafs, and Doug Gilmour was getting the best of Steve Yzerman. Before Game 6, according to Sports Illustrated:
Yzerman went to see Murray and MacLean and asked them not to lie to him. How was he playing? What could he do to be better? Said Murray, "We asked him not to lose to Doug Gilmour's line. To look after his own end, and if he did that, the scoring chances would come." 
And so they did, in bunches. With Yzerman in effect turning the tables on Gilmour and assuming the role of the highest-paid checking center in the league, Toronto's offense stalled. "I had no jump in my legs," Gilmour said. Yzerman had a goal and an assist, and Detroit's depth at the skill positions took over.
The Wings won Game 6 and tied the series.

But you know what happened next? The Wings lost Game 7.

Yzerman was a week shy of his 28th birthday at the time. Only four short years away from his first Cup.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Podcast: Pens drop Game 7 to Rangers; Come find peace in our fallout shelter

Pens drop Game 7, and it's another season lost. We discuss all the fallout, including what changes can be made and what changes need to be made.

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How the Pens can win Game 7 by changing lines and hearing a good pregame speech

By Artistry (follow me on Twitter)

The most obvious way for the Pens to win Game 7 tonight is to avoid giving up the first goal -- the crowd, fanbase, and entire city is eager to turn on this team and will do so immediately and viciously if the Pens give them any reason to.  Make no mistake about it: we count ourselves among this group.  Finesse has already traded Kris Letang to Edmonton in his head six times this morning.

But there's still a game to play, and so the Pens might as well play to win.  And to do that, here is the forward lineup I'm submitting tonight, because these should have been the lines in Game 6:


Malkin and Crosby lost whatever spark they had together earlier in the series in Game 5. They've been horrific defensively, they've given the defensemen no puck support on the breakout, and they've been overpassing to an embarrassing degree. Pairing them is no longer necessarily playing to a strength.

Time for Dan Bylsma and the coaches to swallow this pill: their best forward this series aside from Malkin has been Brian Gibbons. He is absolutely torching the Rangers with his speed and does more with 10 minutes of playing time than Crosby has done in 20. If you split Sid and Geno - which is an obvious move at this stage - and your job is on the line, you better ride that little mini-pony for all he's worth. Side benefit: you might just get James Neal untracked after he finally showed some hunger to get to the net in the latter part of Game 6.

You ride this pony until this pony don't ride no more.
It's also time for Dan Bylsma to push the cameras out of the locker room, close the door, and deliver some real talk with the following pregame speech: "I'm not going to tell you this is the most important night of your lives. It's not. I'm not even going to tell you it's the most important game. I hope it's not. Make no mistake: if we lose, I'll be fired. Do not weep for me. I'll land on my feet, maybe in Washington, and I'll have no trouble getting Alex Ovechkin to stand 150 feet away from Mike Green to wait for a stretch pass. None at all, boys. I look forward to it. A bunch of you will be shown the door, too. Maybe you, Tanger. Maybe you, James. You'll still go on to play for good teams and make a lot of money. OK, hands in. I'm wearing my lucky olive suit and purple tie. Let's go boys, come on boys. No pressure."

Sunday, May 11, 2014

PODCAST: Pens lose Game 6, 3-1; Is this an unraveling, or no big deal?

On to a Game 7.

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Friday, May 9, 2014

Podcast: Pens lose Game 5; Can they be trusted?

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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Podcast: Pens take stranglehold on series, win 4-2

Great game.

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Monday, May 5, 2014

Podcast: Fans endure Game 3; Pens win, 2-0

Another great game from Fleury.

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Sunday, May 4, 2014

Podcast: Pens win, 3-0; Series tied at 1-1

Maybe the Pens' most complete performance of the playoffs.  Series ties at 1-1.

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Friday, May 2, 2014

Podcast: Pens drop Game One to Rangers in OT, 3-2

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Today is Much More Important Than Maybe You Think

By Artistry

It's Finesse's birthday.

It's a significant one, too. Let's just say history shows he may be past his prime goal scoring years, but he's not ready to be put out to pasture like Rob Scuderi. He's got some big things going on, much bigger things ahead, and yet his ability to carry this blog on his shoulders for lengthy stretches is as effortless as a Brandon Sutter forecheck.  Finesse churns out some of the sharpest and funniest posts on the Internet in the time it takes most people who tweet out their "pieces" to take a bathroom break. 

If you are a fan of this blog, you also know Finesse is good company. Few others would be willing to talk with me about the Penguins for long stretches after my kids go to bed on a weekday evening, and if they did, it is highly unlikely I would want to listen. I am #blessed.

Please wish Finesse a happy birthday. In life, much like little Mario, he never needs a chair.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Quick thoughts on Pens-Rangers: Unfortunately, the Rangers are good

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

The first thing that jumps out when looking at the Rangers roster is, "Damn. They have a lot more good players than Columbus."  Pierre McGuire's hyperbolic cheerleading for the plucky Columbus Blue Jackets aside, that wasn't a particularly good team.  The BJs had one or two good players, a smattering of pretty decent players, and then a bunch of whatevers.  Derek MacKenzie, Mark Letestu, Jack Skille, Artem Anisimov, Blake Comeau ... those guys are OK forwards to round out a lineup if your top lines have stars like Crosby and Malkin.  If your top lines are anchored by Brandon Dubinsky and a good-but-still-too-young Ryan Johansen, then you're not a deep team.  You're an average team.

The Rangers are not average.  In Nash, St. Louis, Stepan, Richards, Pouliot, Zuccarello, Brassard, Hagelin, and Boyle, the Rangers have 9 good forwards.  A 4th line of Dominic Moore, Derek Dorsett, and whoever else they dress is certainly no worse than a fourth line featuring Tanner Glass.  Their defense is very good (4th in goals against during the regular season), and unlike Columbus which had one good defenseman (Jack Johnson), the Rangers actually have four good defensemen (McDonagh, Girardi, Staal, and Stralman), which means they're not going to be at a huge disadvantage to either Crosby or Malkin's line (assuming they split up), and can shelter any weaker defensemen by playing them against the Pens' relatively weak bottom 6.   And while Lundqvist has never really impressed against the Pens, it doesn't mean he's not a good goalie.  It would hardly be surprising if he stole a game (or several) and, unlike with Fleury, it would be very surprising if Lundqvist blew a game for the Rangers.  They are also finally playing for a coach who they don't hate.

Oh, and don't underestimate this point: one of these two teams had the good sense to waive Taylor Pyatt; the other one picked him up.

No love lost (or good plays made) when Taylor Pyatt is involved.
This all adds up to a simple fact: the Rangers are a significantly better team than the last three teams the Pens have beaten in the playoffs (NYI, OTT, CBJ).  Forget the disparity in points during the regular season (Pens won the division by 13 points) because what happened in November is irrelevant: the Rangers had more wins in the second half of the season (25) than the Pens (22).  (Counterpoint: So did Columbus).  They gave up more than 30 shots only once in 7 games against Philly, and 8 different forwards scored 2 goals.  They won without getting any goals from Rick Nash (who we all think sucks), and if you subscribe to the theory that Crosby is due to breakout in Round 2, you have to also believe Nash is due for the same.  They traded their captain, under whose leadership they never won anything, for Marty St. Louis, who is not only a much better player than Ryan Callahan, but has been a nightmare for the Pens to handle.  Unlike 2008, they won't be hampered by Jaromir Jagr's poor leadership of spending more time worrying about whether Crosby is diving than trying to win the game.

Someone was in someone's head.
The Rangers are a legit team that could not only beat the Pens, but actually win the Cup.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Pens dispatch Blue Jackets in 6 games with well-disguised ease; Reasons for optimism, thoughts on Brandon Sutter, and much more

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

[Listen to the podcast above or check out our Spreaker page. To download the podcast directly from iTunes, click here.  Or you can download, listen, and subscribe via the Spreaker app on iTunes by clicking here, or on Android by clicking here.]

There are definitely some things to be worried about coming out of the Pens' first round series win over Columbus, but there is much more to feel good about.  Consider:

- The Pens outplayed Columbus for the vast majority of this series, especially at even strength.  The only time Columbus outplayed the Pens for any sustained period of time was in the 2nd and 3rd periods of Game 4 after the Pens had already built a 3-0 lead.  It ended as a 6-game series, but it was a 5-game series on merit.  This is exactly why the Pens were lucky that Columbus edged out the Red Wings in the wild card race: because the Pens are definitely better than Columbus.

- Though the Pens took some penalties they shouldn't have taken, they mostly came within the context of actual hockey.  There were very few, if any, truly selfish penalties (Sid's Game 6 slash on Anisimov a glaring exception) and this represents a marked improvement in discipline over the past two playoff seasons.  The only way the Pens could have let CBJ play on an even footing would have been to play down to Columbus and engage in scrums and personal battles where talent doesn't really matter.  Bylsma deserves a lot of credit for getting his message through on this front.

- During the regular season, Crosby, Kunitz, Malkin, and Neal combined to score exactly 50% of the Pens' goals (121/242).  In Round 1, they combined for 28% (6/21).  Role players aren't necessarily expected to score in the playoffs, but you're not going to win the Cup if they don't.  Niskanen, Sutter, Jokinen, Bennett, Gibbons, Stempniak, Adams, Orpik, and Letang combined to score 15 goals in only 6 games, an average of 2.5 goals/game.  That's more than the L.A. Kings averaged per game over the course of the entire season.  This series was a complete team effort.  Just three more to go.

Much more after the jump, including some extended thoughts on Brandon Sutter...

Monday, April 28, 2014

Podcast: Pens close out Blue Jackets in Game 6, 4-3

It got a little too close for comfort at the end, but the Pens held on.  We look back on the CBJ series and look ahead to the Flyers or Rangers.

Listen to the podcast above or check out our Spreaker page. To download the podcast directly from iTunes, click here.  Or you can download, listen, and subscribe via the Spreaker app on iTunes by clicking here, or on Android by clicking here.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Huge team effort in Game 5. Pens win, 3-1

No podcast tonight, but we'll be back soon to laud the Pens extra-impressive effort in Game 5.  LGP.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Here are a bunch of non-controversial statements about the Penguins

By GTOG Staff (follow GTOG on Twitter)

Before we get going, this is good advice from Joe Starkey in the Trib: try to have some fun.  With that in mind:

- The Pens should still win this series.  We're not disrespecting Columbus -- they've played well -- but the Pens have two of the last three games at home and despite being outplayed for 30 minutes last night, still should have closed out the game.  This doesn't mean the Pens will win the series, but even after all the craziness of the first four games, the Pens find themselves in a pretty good spot.

- Fleury is to blame for the Game 4 loss.  We don't need reminded that the Pens looked like ass for most of Game 4 -- we've preached that as loudly as anyone.  And the failure of the Pens' star players to produce is concerning, if not outright alarming.  But the Pens scored three goals, and if this were any team but the Post-Concussion Pens, that would occasionally be enough to win a playoff game.

It's irrelevant that Fleury was the Pens' best player for 59:30 last night because when Jack Johnson dumped the puck in, that 59:30 was in the past.  Fleury had one job: don't get scored on in the last thirty seconds.  He failed spectacularly, then failed again in overtime.  If this seems unfair, go back to what we wrote after Game 4 against the Islanders last year:
"Goalies are not judged the same as other players. By definition, a goalie's job is to mask the mistakes of his team. Every shot the Pens allow is technically a mistake by someone on the Pens because in a perfect hockey game, you'd give up no shots against. So yes, blame Kris Letang and Craig Adams for their idiotic turnover at the Isles' blue-line while shorthanded (or Letang for this idiotic play), but a goalie's job in that situation is to not fall all over himself and let a muffin of a slap shot sail past him into the net. Blame the team defense for allowing sustained pressure by the Islanders on Okposo's goal from behind the net, but for as bad as that was, remember: THAT WASN'T EVEN A SHOT ON GOAL. Goalies don't get to offset their bad goals by pointing to the saves they do make. If Flower stops ten straight breakaways then kicks a pass into his own net, he screwed up."
Not all positions in sports are created equal.

Lonely place. Stop the puck.
- It is possible to blame Fleury for the Game 4 loss and still recognize that the Pens were badly outplayed for much of the game.  If anyone could muster the stomach to watch the tape of that game, he would see the Pens playing their softest, most timid hockey of the season.  Top-to-bottom, it was pitiful.  Maybe Columbus is just faster or maybe their physicality is wearing on the Pens; whatever the case, the Pens played scared.  Flipping pucks to no one, forwards standing 80 feet from their defensemen, bad penalties, afraid to take a hit, Joe Vitale trying to stickhandle, Crosby standing 50 feet from the net on the PP and passing it directly to the other team, Dan Bylsma's steadfast refusal to wear a suit that isn't a hideous shade of green.

- This team is in a bad place.  Bylsma is calling out the effort of his team and his star players.  When things start going sour on a hockey team, it doesn't take a press pass to the locker room to notice.  So far, there are no signs that this team is in the right place mentally to make a deep run.  The players can preach that they're confident in Fleury, but is anyone buying that?

- Crosby and Malkin must elevate their game. Immediately. The Pens can't put Tyler Kennedy in the lineup like last year to score a huge goal in Game 5.  All they can do is put Taylor Pyatt in the lineup to accelerate the rigor mortis on the 2013-14 season.  Sid and Geno's teammates have done a lot of the heavy lifting to get the Pens to 2-2 in this series. These two need to take their share of the burden. No excuses.

- If you're waiting for Brian Gibbons to ride in on a little white pony to save the day, it's pretty clear your best players aren't playing like your best players.

- Fleury isn't likely to get any more reliable any time soon.  He's been too consistently unreliable in the playoffs since the Pens took a 3-1 series lead over Tampa in 2011 to expect anything other than: this will happen again.  This will definitely happen again.  When a goalie gets in the zone, teams often start passing up shots because they're looking for the perfect opportunity.  Fleury is in the opposite of this zone.  Columbus probably thinks they will score on every dump-in in Game 5 (and they might).  They'll be firing pucks as indiscriminately as Alex Ovechkin on a power play against Florida in November.

- The Pens probably don't have a better alternative than Fleury.

Focus on the right hand column.  Those are Jeff Zatkoff's playoff save percentages.
- But we don't necessarily know that.  Here's what we all think is true: Fleury isn't good enough to lead a team to the Cup, let alone this team.  What we don't know is whether Zatkoff and/or Vokoun is.  Well, we probably know that Zatkoff isn't.  See above.

- If Vokoun is cleared to play, he should dress as the backup.  There's an easy argument to be made that Zatkoff or Vokoun should start over Fleury, and I'm spending most of today having that argument with myself.  But if Bylsma decides to go with Fleury -- and he almost certainly will -- a rusty Vokoun on the bench might be worth the risk.  Or not.  Who knows anything at this point other than a "rusty Vokoun" sounds like something unpleasant?  Is he even healthy?

- If Fleury is at all shaky early, Bylsma needs to give him a quick hook.  Life is short.

- The Pens are too scared about giving up another shorthanded goal.  Play 4 forwards on the power play.  PM is playing excellent hockey, but he doesn't need to play 4 minutes on the PP.  He's the Pens most valuable defensemen and DB should conserve his minutes for even strength, especially the shift after the power play when the Pens have to put out their bottom 6ers.

The Pens are playing like they're scared to go to the net, which is probably more about the Pens being scared to give up a shorthanded goal.  Crosby and Malkin are conspicuously avoiding taking the puck to the net, opting instead to loft soft passes to Paul Martin so he can loft his even softer slap shot to the net in hopes that it will be deflected by a lonely Chris Kunitz.  James Neal is an asshole who takes a lot of penalties, but so what.  He's dynamic on the power play.  Get him out there in the high slot and tell everyone to stand closer to the net.

- The Pens are the easiest scary team to play against, maybe ever.  The job of a GM is to construct a team out of parts that fit together, and Sutter-Megna-Bennett don't really fit as a playoff-caliber 3rd line. That's a line you put together on Xbox because they all have high offensive awareness ratings.  Bennett is a nightmare in the defensive zone, Megna looks like he weighs 140lbs, and Sutter plays like he weighs 140lbs.

- Beau Bennett and Lee Stempniak need to get back to rotating.  As we've mentioned, the Pens need some Emergeability, and Bennett isn't going to show consistent Emergeability with Sutter and Megna.  And Stempniak is decent, but he's also kinda whatever.  Despite Sid's failure to get on the scoresheet, the possession numbers at least show that he's spending a lot of time in the offensive zone.  Where Bennett might look comfortable next to him.

- Why is it OK for Columbus players to sit on the boards with both legs in play while waiting for a line change?  Noticed this several times.  Full disclosure: I'm biased.

- We don't know what's going to happen.

Mobs were forming after the Pens lost Game 4 to the Islanders last year, but the Pens steadied the ship and won enough playoff games to earn the right (in Shero's eyes) to come into this season without making many changes.  This year, the Pens are two OT bounces away from having swept the Jackets but they're also two two-goal comebacks from having been swept by the Jackets.  We really don't have any idea what's going to happen over the next three games.  As we wrote last year after Game 4 against the Islanders:
"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. "

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Podcast: We've seen this movie before. Pens, Fleury blow Game 4, 4-3

The Pens were outplayed for the final 40 minutes, but just when it looked like they might escape ... Fleury happened.  We discuss it all on the GTOG Podcast.

Listen to the podcast above or check out our Spreaker page. To download the podcast directly from iTunes, click here.  Or you can download, listen, and subscribe via the Spreaker app on iTunes by clicking here, or on Android by clicking here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

After sixty minutes, the Pens got the result they deserved; Pens win, 4-3

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

In the NBA, great players win championships.  In the NHL, great teams win championships; having great players makes it more likely that you'll have a great team, but doesn't guarantee it.  The Pens are a long way from being a great team, but they're getting offensive production from guys they haven't been able to count on during the season -- Paul Martin has 6 assists, Sutter has 2 goals, Bennett has 4 points, Gibbons has 2 goals, and even Brooks Orpik pulled off a sick toe drag and buried one.  You can win a lot of playoff games with Crosby, Malkin, Neal, and Kunitz scoring power play goals, and the Pens are going to need that sooner rather than later.  But if you want the Pens to win multiple playoff series and maybe even the Cup, it's critical that they win games even when those four aren't scoring.  The Pens are up 2-1 in this series and their four best players have no goals yet.  If you actually root for the Pens to win games (rather than being one of those "Pens fans" who openly root against Crosby and Malkin), this should make you happy.

More thoughts below the podcast.


Listen to the podcast above or check out our Spreaker page. To download the podcast directly from iTunes, click here.  Or you can download, listen, and subscribe via the Spreaker app on iTunes by clicking here, or on Android by clicking here.


- A pretty perfect description of the game from misterjamo in the comments section of our latest podcast:
It's taken me a long time to come around on the advanced statistics, but last night's game is a pretty strong case study in their usefulness. The Pens attempted 73 shots to Columbus's 42, and from the (admittedly) little I was able to see Pittsburgh was the better team by many miles. And when you consider that CBJ's third goal and the Penguins' fourth goal came on arguably fluke redirections on shots that weren't on goal when they left the original shooter's stick, it's a pretty strong argument that firing the puck in the general vicinity of the 6'x4' is a good strategy. 
The problem with Sid is that he's the best player in the world, and four assists in three games for the best player in the world will get your "hunger" questioned. Consider that Sid attempted 8 shots (second only to Neal's 9), started a whopping 80% of his shifts in the defensive zone and still managed a relative corsi-for of +22% (best on the team last night) while his QoC was a rather insane 30.9%.

Yeah, Sid is paid $8.7 million to score and when he doesn't questions are going to be asked. But the way he was deployed last night made that awfully difficult.

If you'd have told me that through three games the Pens PP was 3 for 17 (and 0 for their last 12) with Crosby, Malkin, Neal, and Kunitz with zero goals between them and Fleury sporting a.899 save percentage I'd have told you the Pens were down 3-0 and probably outscored 12-2. But the Pens have turned into a really respectable possession team (with some obvious lapses) playing their best even strength hockey of the year. If they eliminate the asinine penalties and make better decisions on the power play, this series is a laugher.
- A few other interesting tidbits from the shot charts.
- Total domination at even strength by Malkin-Jokinen-Neal.  The combined 5-on-5 shot differential for those three was 42-6.  Jokinen was not on the ice for an even strength shot against (12-0). 
- Crosby was on the ice for one even strength shot against.  It went in. 
- It has ceased being fun for me to slam Sutter, and I'm not doing this to slam him again, but I have to point out that the even strength shot differential when Sutter was on the ice was 13-2 in favor of Columbus.  If you factor in special teams, Sutter was on the ice for 17 of Columbus' 20 shots on goal.  And he only had 13:35 of ice time.  In other words, Columbus had 17 shots in the 13:35 that Sutter was on the ice.  They had 3 shots in the other 46:25.  3!!!
Sutter did score a huge goal, though.  For what the Pens have needed against Columbus, he's been adequate.  But if the Pens advance and go on the road against teams who can match lines with more skill than Columbus, a Sutter-Megna-Bennett line is going to be highly exploitable defensively.  Bennett, especially, has a long way to go to clean up his play in his own end.

- Pens were 0-for-6 on the power play last night and didn't revert back to four forwards until late in the game.  The concern with giving up shorthanded goals is real, but it's overblown.  CBJ's shorty in Game 1 was purely Letang's fault and had nothing to do with having four forwards.  The shorty in Game 2 happens sometimes.  Big deal.  The Pens had the number one power play in the league and Columbus had the 14th ranked penalty kill unit.  Letting the BJs dictate who you use on your PP is a big mistake.  Crosby and Malkin are already playing too far away from the net; putting PMPM out there instead of James Neal just spreads everything out even more.  Put Kunitz in front, Neal in the high slot, get everyone closer to the net, and tell them not to give up shorthanded goals.  This strategy will work.

This glove thing got pretty annoying pretty quickly, didn't it?
- Positioning Marc-Andre Fleury as one of the main reasons the Pens won Game 3 and are up 2-1 in the series is taking the positive spin a tad too far.  The more accurate way to put it is that Fleury was the main reason the Pens almost lost -- but didn't lose -- Game 3.  The first goal he allowed was especially bad, and its technical terribleness was compounded by its untimeliness.  Giving up a goal in the first few minutes of playoff games has become Fleury's hallmark, and it's easy to point to these goals as the root cause of many meltdowns by the Pens in the playoffs over the past few years.  A team can come into a game totally prepared and with a perfect game-plan, but without a baseline level of competence in net that can all go out the window immediately.  Credit to Fleury, I guess, for not giving up more than two bad goals.  But much more credit to the Pens skaters for making his job relatively easy for the rest of the game by only giving up a total of 20 shots and continuing to stick to a game-plan that definitely didn't include, "Step 1: Go down 2-0 on two soft goals."

"Let's go boys, come on boys, pick it up boys."
I get the value and importance of Fleury bouncing back from the two bad goals.  I'm just not willing to settle for that as his best attribute.  The Pens can get away with going down 2-0 early to Columbus because the Pens are better and Columbus can't stop taking dumb penalties.  But giving up two softies early to the Rangers or Bruins isn't going to fly.

- The Pens won a tight Game 3 against the Islanders last year, but allowed the Isles to get back in the series with a pretty brutal Game 4 loss.  The Pens can't do that this year because there's no Tyler Kennedy to come to the rescue in Game 5.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Podcast: Team Effort. Pens win Game 3, 4-3

Big team effort for the Pens tonight to pull out the W when things looked very perilous.  It's the GTOG Podcast.

Listen to the podcast above or check out our Spreaker page. To download the podcast directly from iTunes, click here.  Or you can download, listen, and subscribe via the Spreaker app on iTunes by clicking here, or on Android by clicking here.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Is there any reason Kris Letang shouldn't dress as a winger in Game 3?

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

Kris Letang has been a big liability for the Pens over the first two games, but rather than pile on, we want to bring him into our embrace and help him find his way back to being the "perennial Norris Trophy nominee who will never actually win the Norris and who is equally prone to dynamic brilliance and horrifying mistakes" that we've all come to love.  Here's an out of the box idea that will limit the damage Letang can do to his own team and might actually help shore up another team weakness.

Letang should play wing in Game 3.

Here are several hastily compiled reasons:

- Letang has been the Pens' worst defensemen in the first two games.  He's passing the puck directly to the other team with regularity and he's taken some terrible penalties (including one that led to the tying goal in Game 2).  Would Bortuzzo, Engellend or Despres be worse than Letang has been over the first two games?  It's hard to imagine.

- There is no reason to expect -- or wait for -- Letang to play his way out of this slump.  Sure, it's possible that his struggles are due to lingering effects from his stroke, but if that's the case: 1) are these lingering effects really going to go away any time soon?, and 2) the Pens don't have time to wait.  If Letang plays equally poorly in Game 3, but all of the sudden reverts to his 2011 form before Game 4, it might be too late.

- Brian Gibbons is listed as day-to-day and the Pens have no one appealing waiting in the wings.  Jayson Megna?  He's ok, but skating 8:34 between Joe Vitale and Craig Adams is more likely to ruin Megna's career than help the Pens win Game 3.  Taylor Pyatt is the worst player in the league.  Those are the options.

For all his struggles, Letang is a million times more talented than Megna or Pyatt.  And, as described above, Engelland or Bortuzzo can probably play at least as well as Letang has played in Games 1 and 2.  (NOTE: We are not expecting Engelland or Bortuzzo to play very well if they dress in Game 3).  Letang at forward, where his turnovers will put his team in less immediate peril, is a better option than Megna or Pyatt.

- Let's say Gibbons is fine and plays in Game 3.  Tanner Glass is the second worst player in the league and, as we discussed in our recap, actively hurts the team by only being able to play 11 minutes in an 81 minute game.  Letang at winger, even if he's never played wing before, is better than Tanner Glass.  And he can play more than 11 minutes.

- Letang might actually be OK at forward.  As Gibbons showed, speed matters, and Letang can skate like the wind.  He also has offensive talent and he's a right handed shot.  A Crosby-Kunitz-Letang line could absolutely keep Columbus on their heels.

- This will prevent the Pens from dressing Taylor Pyatt, and we're all better for that.

- Letang can always take a few shifts at D or play the point on the second PP.

- Deryk Engelland has gotten some time at wing this season, but let's be real: Letang would be a better winger than Engelland (and, as discussed above, Engelland should at least be equivalent to the Game 1 and 2 version of Letang).

- This would be a huge blow to Letang's ego.  First, who cares?  Second, maybe he could use the humbling.

- Finally, the Pens need to try something different.  The team just feels a little stale, a little off.  If Letang pumps in a goal while skating on Sid's right side, that could be a huge burst for a team desperately in need of something ... different.

Your thoughts?

Sometimes teams lose games; Pens lose to Columbus, 4-3

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

If you picked the Pens to win this series in anything more than 4 games it means you knew the Pens were going to lose a game.  This was not a meltdown, this was not a choke-job.  It was a flawed team losing a game in large part because of its flaws, which we all knew existed for the past 7 months.  If you have herpes, don't act surprised when you have a breakout.  There is no doubt that the Pens are going to lose many games in these playoffs, so all we're going to worry about is whether they can win 3 of the next 5.

- Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin did not have particularly good games (and I thought Crosby was the worse of the two).  They will need to be significantly better next game, but put the shovel down for a moment and hold off on the burial.  Crosby had two points -- yeah, they were secondary assists, but if it's so easy to get secondary assists, why doesn't everyone do it?  On his first assist, he maintained his balance behind the net and got it to Niskanen.  On the second, he made a backhand pass that only he makes.  It's not a coincidence that the Pens scored when he was on the ice.  If one is of the mindset that Crosby was some extra-special kind of awful last night, it means he needed to have at least three points for this to be considered a good game for him.  Does that say more about Crosby or about the team?

- As bad as 87 and 71 were for their standards, kudos to them for maintaining their composure.  Brandon Dubinsky is going out of his way to be a dick, and he was doing such a good job that he got in his own head and took two really stupid penalties.  I don't know whether than makes Dubinsky the worst troll ever or the best troll ever.  Regardless, this is where the Pens lost the game -- the four straight power plays in the second and third period.  This is a team that relied on the PP all year.  When it fails, it looks really ugly.

- Speaking of the PP, the shorty Columbus scored in Game 1 spooked Dan Bylsma into playing two defensemen on the PP, and the shorty last night seemed to basically cement the philosophy that the Pens need two defensemen on the PP to protect against a shorthanded goal.  This is a mistake.

Since 2011-12, James Neal is second in the entire NHL in power play goals (trailing only Ovechkin, and despite missing a lot of games).  It is too big of a sacrifice to keep him (or Kuntiz) on the bench in favor of Paul Martin in an effort to prevent a shorthanded goal that you really should have no problem preventing anyway.  PMPM is playing tons of minutes.  He doesn't need to play 9:31 on the PP.

- On the subject of ice time, a close examination of the time-on-ice stats clearly shows an underlying problem with this team -- the inability to roll four lines.  In an 81 minute game (played mostly with only 11 forwards), Tanner Glass and Craig Adams played only 11:26 and 11:31, respectively.  If you have a decent fourth line, they should be around that number in a regular season game.  They are nothing but designated penalty killers at this point.

- And a deeper look at the ice time numbers shows a possible explanation for why Crosby and Malkin looked off last night -- they are playing tons of minutes.  In an 81 minute game, Crosby played over 30:34 and Malkin played 29:01 -- that's a lot of time for a forward, especially ones who are targeted like they are and, particularly in Crosby's case, have to take on significant defensive responsibilities as well.  Only Paul Martin (34:07) played more than them.  No forward on Columbus even played 24 minutes.

The other OT games so far in these playoffs provide a nice comparison.  Montreal/Tampa Game 1 was over 78 minutes long -- Plekanec (24:26) and Stamkos (27:31) logged the most minutes, respectively.  St. Louis/Chicago Game 1 was over 100 minutes.  Toews (32:37) was the only Blackhawk with more minutes than Sid played last night.  For St. Louis, Steen (35:33), Sobotka (30:34), Schwartz (33:15), Ott (30:53), Backes (33:33) all played longer than Sid, but Sid would have dwarfed those numbers if the game went another 20 minutes.  And in Minnesota/Colorado Game 1, which lasted over 67 minutes, Parise (23:09) and Landeskog (25:56) were the only ones who would get close to 30+ minutes if that game had gone to a second OT.

When you're the best and highest paid players, you are expected to play tons of minutes and play them well, so 90% of me says "tough shit" and gets mad when they have bad shifts.  But the other 10% of me could understand their frustration if they wanted a little more help from their friends.

- If you want something to worry about, worry about Kris Letang.  He's been the Pens' worst player over the first two games (including Tanner Glass) and it hasn't been particularly close.  Doctors say he's healthy, and there's no reason to doubt that.  But he's playing like ass.  Pierre McGuire sounds like he wants to jump onto the Pens' bench, grab Letang by the shoulder, shake him and scream, "KRISTOPHER LETANG!!! GET IT TOGETHER KRISTOPHER!!! LOOK AT THE WAY MATTY IS PLAYING!! PLAY MORE LIKE MATTY!!! KRISTOPHER!!!!!!!!"

- Another reason to potentially worry: if Brian Gibbons is out next game.  The Pens have no margin for any forwards to be out.  But a bigger worry than that would be if Taylor Pyatt dressed as a replacement.  If that happens, then it will be clear that Shero and Bylsma have lost it.  Gibbons' solid play over a game and a quarter showed that it's more important to have one elite skill than it is to be huge and have no skills whatsoever.  Gibbons is tiny, but at least he can skate like an NHL player.  Pyatt has no skills.  Not a single one.  If the Pens are forced to bring in another forward, it has to be someone who can at least do one thing well.  That should probably be Megna because he can skate.  The second choice would be Engelland because he can eat up some minutes on defense and (CRAZY IDEA ALERT) shift back to defense full-time when the Pens finally realize Letang is killing them on the blueline and move him up to play forward on the 4th line.

Wait.  That's not that crazy of an idea.

Ultimately, everything that's happened so far -- good and bad -- is consistent with how this team is built and how it's played all year (with a sprinkling of off night for Sid and Geno on top).  If you're panicking now, it just means you haven't been paying attention.

Go Pens.