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.



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.

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.



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.

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:

Crosby-Kunitz-Gibbons
Malkin-Neal-Jokinen
Sutter-Stempniak-Bennett
Goc-Vitale-Adams

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.



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.

Friday, May 9, 2014

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



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.

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.



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.


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.