PenguinsExperience.com - A Pittsburgh Penguins Blog © 2009
Thursday, February 05, 2009

Recap: Penguins 4 - Lightning 3 [OT]

7 comments
If, in October, someone had told me that one of the season's biggest highlights would be an overtime victory against Tampa Bay, I would have laughed. Of course, I also would have laughed if someone told me the Penguins would be in a desperate race for the finals playoff spot with Florida and Carolina.

But both of those things are true.

Evgeni Malkin is the best player on this team. Sidney Crosby is an amazing talent with great vision and skill. He's the kind of guy who will work as hard as he can every single game. But no one on this roster can take over a game like Evgeni Malkin can. The commentators during the game were right, it was like watching Mario out there.

This was one of those games that makes me want to throw out $150.00 for Malkin's jersey, despite the fact that I still hate the Penguins RBK Edge jersey design.

It was actually a pretty pathetic game. The Penguins once again spent the majority of the game being outplayed by a team they should have easily dominated. They seem to always struggle against new goaltenders and last night was no different. As the second period ended I truly believed Mike McKenna was going to get a shutout in his first full NHL game. I've been a Penguins fan for almost 20 years and I was ready to give up on the team. But Evgeni Malkin proved me wrong.
"I'm mad because we're losing." - Evgeni Malkin
That's exactly right. The Penguins shouldn't be down on themselves, they shouldn't be sad, they shouldn't feel hopeless. They should be mad. If you look at the talent on this team, even with all the summer defections, you see a team that should definitely be in the playoff hunt.

This was a great, character-building victory. It will be incredibly hard for the Penguins to build on this, since they face Columbus, Detroit and San Jose in their next three games, but that is exactly what they need to do.

Last night proved that the season isn't over yet. Maybe the boost from this game, combined with the challenge of facing two of the best teams in the West, will cause the Penguins to up their game and finish the season strong. Maybe they'll make the playoffs. Maybe Malkin will win the Hart Trophy.

After last night those things don't seem so impossible anymore.
Continue reading...

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning @ Pittsburgh Penguins

3 comments

Anaheim Ducks
@Pittsburgh Penguins

Game Time: 7:30pm/ET
From: Mellon Arena, Pittsburgh, PA
Penguins Record: 24-23-5 (10th in Eastern Conference)
Flyers Record: 17-24-10 (12th in Eastern Conference)
Last Meeting:
December 23rd, 2008 @ Pittsburgh (2-0 Lightning)



PITTSBURGH PENGUINS LINE COMBINATIONS:
Matt Cooke - Sidney Crosby - Evgeni Malkin
Luca Caputi - Jordan Staal - Petr Sykora
Chris Minard - Maxime Talbot - Tyler Kennedy
Pascal Dupuis - Bill Thomas - Eric Godard

Brooks Opik - Rob Scuderi
Mark Eaton - Kris Letang
Alex Goligoski - Ryan Whitney

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS PROBABLE GOALTENDER:
Marc-Andre Fleury (16-13-3 / 2.85 GAA / .910 SV%)

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS INJURIES:
Sergei Gonchar (left shoulder surgery) - on injured reserve
Mike Zigomanis (shoulder) - on injured reserve
Ruslan Fedotenko (broken right hand) - on injured reserve

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS LEADERS:
GOALS: Evgeni Malkin (22)
ASSISTS: Evgeni Malkin (54)
POINTS: Evgeni Malkin (76)
+/-: Evgeni Malkin (+16)



TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING LINE COMBINATIONS:
Vaclav Prospal - Vincent Lecavalier - Martin St. Louis
Ryan Malone - Jeff Halpern - Evgeny Artyukhin
Steve Downie - Steven Stamkos - Mark Recchi
Gary Roberts - Ryan Craig - Adam Hall

Andrej Meszaros - Paul Ranger
Steve Eminger - Lukas Krajicek
Cory Murphy - Matt Smaby

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING PROBABLE GOALTENDER:
Mike McKenna (0-0-0 / 0.00 GAA / 1.000 SV%)

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING INJURIES:
Jamie Heward (concussion) - on injured reserve
Paul Szczechura (lower body) - on injured reserve
Marek Malik (ankle) - on injured reserve
Mike Smith (upper body) - on injured reserve
Olaf Kolzig (left biceps tendon surgery) - on injured reserve, out for season

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING LEADERS:
GOALS: Vincent Lecavalier (23)
ASSISTS: Martin St. Louis (30)
POINTS: Martin St. Louis (48)
+/-: Martin St. Louis (+6)



Miroslav Satan will be a healthy scratch tonight. I have to say that's a good move. He has not been performing recently and the last thing the Penguins need is another defensively liability. If he was scoring goals his lack of defensive hockey would be overlooked but he's not. Scoring goals is his only job and he's not doing it, so benching him makes sense.

I would be lying if I said I wasn't excited about Gary Roberts return tonight. This may be the last time Roberts steps into the Igloo, so I hope he gets a large ovation. When he left I assumed that his veteran leadership was no longer required, but I was wrong. Gary Roberts is the exact kind of player the Penguins need right now. He works hard every single night and, even at his age, he's always a factor. I wish he'd come back and finish his career in the 'Burgh.

Mike McKenna will be in net for the Lightning. He played in his first NHL game last night, stepping in in relief.

If the Penguins lose this game it is very bad news. Their schedule only gets tougher from here on out. The upcoming Western Conference games against Columbus, Detroit and San Jose will likely not be pretty. They then finish off the month with games against Toronto, Montreal, Philadelphia and the Islanders. Outside of that last one, all of those teams have given them trouble this year.

It's another must win tonight.

Prediction: 4-2 Penguins
Continue reading...

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Recap: Canadiens 4 - Penguins 2

15 comments
None of the mistakes the Penguins made last night were new. They got an early lead, they blew it, they fell apart for a period, they played weak defense, they mounted a comeback attempt too late and they lost the game.

It's the same story every night.

We all know the team's problems. There defense is completely shaken. The guys that shut down teams like the Flyers and the Rangers during last year's playoffs now can't manage to clear one puck out of their zone. The Penguins defense is the definition of soft. This team is incredibly easy to play against.

Secondary scoring is nonexistent. It was great to see Luca Caputi work hard in front of the net and score. I'd forgotten what that looked like. People like Jordan Staal, Maxime Talbot and Miroslav Satan have disappeared. The team's offense cannot rest with only two players, no matter how good they are. Again, the Penguins are making it too easy. They don't work hard. They don't gather loose pucks. They don't head to the net and scramble for garbage goals. They're too easy to play against.

Their power play, despite scoring yesterday, is as close to useless as it gets. Rarely do the Penguins make their opposition pay for fouling them. Unless their definition of "payback" is "pass the puck around the perimeter until a defenseman can get a shot off that will likely be blocked and cleared from the zone." Again, it's all too easy.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are incredibly easy to play against.

Malkin, Crosby and Fleury are the only players who look like they care. They're the only players that look like they remember how to play NHL hockey. The rest of the team is lost, including the coaching staff.

I'm not sure what else to say.
Continue reading...

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins @ Montreal Canadiens

3 comments

Pittsburgh Penguins
@Montreal Canadiens

Game Time: 7:30pm/ET
From: Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec
Penguins Record: 24-22-5 (10th in Eastern Conference)
Maple Leafs Record: 28-16-6 (4th in Eastern Conference)
Last Meeting:
December 27th, 2008 @ Pittsburgh (3-2 Canadiens)




PITTSBURGH PENGUINS LINE COMBINATIONS:
Matt Cooke - Sidney Crosby - Evgeni Malkin
Miroslav Satan - Jordan Staal - Petr Sykora
Pascal Dupuis - Bill Thomas - Chris Minard
Luca Caputi - Maxime Talbot - Eric Godard

Brooks Opik - Ryan Whitney
Mark Eaton - Kris Letang
Rob Scuderi - Hal Gill

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS PROBABLE GOALTENDER:
Marc-Andre Fleury (16-12-3 / 2.82 GAA / .911 SV%)

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS INJURIES:
Sergei Gonchar (left shoulder surgery) - on injured reserve
Mike Zigomanis (shoulder) - on injured reserve
Ruslan Fedotenko (broken right hand) - on injured reserve

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS LEADERS:
GOALS: Evgeni Malkin (21)
ASSISTS: Evgeni Malkin (54)
POINTS: Evgeni Malkin (75)
+/-: Evgeni Malkin (+17)



MONTREAL CANADIENS LINE COMBINATIONS:
Sergei Kostitsyn - Tomas Plekanec - Alexei Kovalev
Christopher Higgins - Saku Koivu - Matt D'Agostini
Max Pacioretty - Maxim Lapierre - Sergei Kostitsyn
Alex Henry - Steve Begin - Tom Kostopoulos

Andrei Markov - Mike Komisarek
Josh Gorges - Roman Hamrlik
Ryan O'Byrne - Francis Bouillon

MONTREAL CANADIENS PROBABLE GOALTENDER:
Carey Price (17-8-5 / 2.53 GAA / .913 SV%)

MONTREAL CANADIENS INJURIES:
Mathieu Dandenault (left arm surgery) - on injured reserve
Georges Laraque (lower body) - on injured reserve
Alex Tanguay (separated left shoulder) - on injured reserve
Robert Lang (left Achilles surgery) - out indefinitely
Guillaume Latendresse (shoulder) - week-to-week

MONTREAL CANADIENS LEADERS:
GOALS: Robert Lang (18)
ASSISTS: Andrei Markov (33)
POINTS: Andrei Markov (40)
+/-: Andrei Markov (+9)



The Montreal Canadiens are hurting. They're missing Robert Lang, their leading goal scorer, among many others. They've only won one game in their last six. If there was ever a time for the Penguins to strike, it's tonight.

Unfortunately Carey Price will be at the other end of the ice.

Price was outstanding during the last meeting between the Penguins and Canadiens. He was the main reason the Habs were victorious.

Just like every game, the Penguins need this win. Their line-up is finally getting healthier. They need to start winning.

Tyler Kennedy will miss this game with a suspension. Phillipe Boucher will be a scratch as will Alex Goligoski, for some reason. Goligoski deserves to play, at least until Gonchar returns.

Paul Bissonnette was returned to WBS and has been replaced by Luca Caputi in the line-up. This will be Caputi's NHL debut.

In other news, the Penguins have named Evgeni Malkin the permanent alternate captain for the remainder of the season. The days of alternating the 'A' each month are over. Brooks Orpik will be the other alternate until Sergei Gonchar returns to action. This is a great move. Malkin definitely deserves the honour.

Hopefully Petr Sykora sees decent playing time tonight. He is third on the team in scoring and deserves to be on the ice more, especially during power plays.

Prediction: 3-2 Penguins
Continue reading...

Monday, February 02, 2009

Tyler Kennedy Suspended for One Game

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Tyler Kennedy has been suspended for one game for leaving the players' bench to instigate a fight with Toronto's Luke Schenn.

Schenn had just delivered a big hit on Evgeni Malkin with Kennedy left the bench to engage Schenn in a fight. The Penguins' defense was that the team was on a line change at the time.

The Official NHL Rulebook states:

70.2 Legal Line Change – A player who has entered the game on a legal
line change or legally from the penalty bench (penalty time has
expired) who starts an altercation may be subject to discipline in
accordance with Rule 29 – Supplementary Discipline.

A player or players who have entered the game on a legal line
change during a stoppage of play, who line up in preparation for the
ensuing face-off, and who participate in an altercation shall be
penalized under the appropriate rule and will be subject to discipline in
accordance with Rule 29 – Supplementary Discipline (a game
misconduct is not automatic in this situation unless provided for as a
result of his actions in the altercation).

Continue reading...

Monday, February 02, 2009

Congratulations to the Pittsburgh Steelers

1 comments
Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers

Just in case there is anyone that doesn't know, the Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl last night.

It was an outstanding game filled with lead changes and drama.

There's a lot that the Pittsburgh Penguins can learn from the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I've posted a new article at The Hockey Writers on that very topic.

What the Penguins Can Learn from the Steelers.

Check it out!
Continue reading...

Monday, February 02, 2009

Error

1 comments
There's been an issue moving some of the posts off of MVN and back onto Blogger.
As soon as I get that fixed they will return. Continue reading...

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Game Recap: Maple Leafs 5 - Penguins 4

1 comments
This was a game the Penguins should have won. They scored four goals and yet still lost. They were outplayed by a team that they should be able to handle.

It wasn't good.

At least there's that other game on today.

There aren't many good things to say about the situation the Penguins are currently in. I thought they were finally coming out of their slump, but it looks like that's not the case.

I guess "Go Steelers?"
Continue reading...

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Places to Watch NHL Hockey Games Online in 2012

4 comments
It's been a few years since we put together our 10 Places To Watch NHL Hockey Games Online list, so it makes sense that we do an update. Despite the fact that this blog isn't updated vanymore, the original post is still quite popular. However, a lot of the sites listed there have been shut down, so we thought we'd list  some new options:

We'll deal with the 100% legal services first. These options may work for you depending on where you live:
  • NHL GameCenter Live - This is available online as well as on various devices (iPad, Xbox 360, etc.) for a monthly or yearly fee.
  • CBC Sports shows live NHL hockey in Canada from their Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts.
  • Leafs TV on Rogers on Demand - If you're a Rogers customer and you subscribe to Leafs TV, you can watch Leafs games anywhere.
And now onto the rest...
Continue reading...

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins @ Toronto Maple Leafs

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Pittsburgh Penguins
@Toronto Maple Leafs

Game Time: 7:00pm/ET
From: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario
Penguins Record: 24-21-5 (9th in Eastern Conference)
Maple Leafs Record: 18-23-8 (11th in Eastern Conference)
Last Meeting:
December 20th, 2008 @ Pittsburgh (7-3 Leafs)




PITTSBURGH PENGUINS LINE COMBINATIONS:
Matt Cooke - Sidney Crosby - Evgeni Malkin
Pascal Dupuis - Jordan Staal - Petr Sykora
Tyler Kennedy - Maxime Talbot - Miroslav Satan
Eric Godard - Bill Thomas - Paul Bissonnette

Brooks Opik - Ryan Whitney
Mark Eaton - Kris Letang
Rob Scuderi - Phillipe Boucher

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS PROBABLE GOALTENDER:
Mathieu Garon (6-8-0 / 3.17 GAA / .895 SV%)

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS INJURIES:
Sergei Gonchar (left shoulder surgery) - on injured reserve
Mike Zigomanis (shoulder) - on injured reserve
Ruslan Fedotenko (broken right hand) - on injured reserve

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS LEADERS:
GOALS: Evgeni Malkin (20)
ASSISTS: Evgeni Malkin (53)
POINTS: Evgeni Malkin (73)
+/-: Evgeni Malkin (+16)



TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS LINE COMBINATIONS:
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Matt Stajan - Nik Antropov
Jason Blake - Dominic Moore - Lee Stempniak
Niklas Hagman - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin
Brad May - John Mitchell - Jamal Mayers

Ian White - Pavel Kubina
Mike Van Ryn - Luke Schenn
Jeff Finger - Jonas Frogren

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS PROBABLE GOALTENDER:
Vesa Toskala (16-17-7 / 3.31 GAA / .884 SV%)

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS INJURIES:
Jeremy Williams (bruised left shoulder/illness) - on injured reserve
Tomas Kaberle (broken right hand) - expected to miss at least one month

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS LEADERS:
GOALS: Jason Blake (16)
ASSISTS: Tomas Kaberle (26)
POINTS: Nik Antropov (36)
+/-: Ian White (+3)



No one wants to think about the last time the Leafs and Penguins played.

There isn't much to say here. The Penguins need to win. After last night's disastrous game in New Jersey there had better be a completely different Penguins team on the ice tonight.

Mathieu Garon will make his first start for the Penguins and Matt Cooke returns to the line-up. It's looks like Chris Minard will be the odd man out on offense. That's too bad, as I think he's been playing quite well recently.

Alex Goligoski remains a scratch for some ridiculous reason.

Just win.

Prediction: 5-3 Penguins
Continue reading...

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Recap: Devils 4 - Penguins 3 (OT)

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Just when you thought the team was starting to turn the corner, just when you believed the Penguins of last season had returned, just when you allowed yourself to think about the playoffs again the Pittsburgh Penguins reminded you that a Penguins lead if the most dangerous lead in hockey.

Again.

Somehow the Penguins were outshot 39-16 in regulation and yet, with less than 10 minutes remaining in the game, they were up 3-1. And then they remembered that it's not the 2008 playoffs and they crumbled like a house of badly coached cards.

For the second game in a row Marc-Andre Fleury gave the Penguins a chance to win. Unfortunately his defense did the exact opposite. I would call them "soff" if I had any sort of respect left for Michel Therrien.

The fact that they even got a point out of the game was remarkable considering how throughly the Devils dominated the shot count. After the first the shots were 19-7 and somehow the Penguins left that period up 2-1. Not much happened in the second but then Evgeni Malkin scored at 8:35 of the third. It looked like Fleury was going to steal a victory.

But any wall will collapse if it's hit enough.

The Devils turned it on in the third, outshooting the Penguins 13-3. Pittsburgh's defense was weaker than a sick four-year-old.

If the game was 31 seconds shorter I would be talking about how the Penguins stole a win on the road against the hottest team in the NHL. Unfortunately the Pens couldn't clear the puck when they needed to and suddenly the score was tied.

Anyone who had ever watched a Penguins game before knew this wasn't going to end well.

And yet, with nine seconds left Malkin and Crosby rushed up the ice. Crosby was hooked behind the play which left Malkin covered. He found an opening and passed the puck. It looked like the impossible was about to happen. Unfortunately the puck ended up on the stick of Pascal Dupuis. With nine seconds left in the game and overtime looming you would think Michel Therrien would have put someone like Petr Sykora on the ice with Malkin and Crosby, but no, it was Pascal Dupuis. Dupuis is a great skater with the ability to get himself open very often, but he can't shoot the puck to save his life. And so his shot was stopped.

In overtime it was all Devils.

The end.
Continue reading...

Friday, January 30, 2009

Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins @ New Jersey Devils

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Pittsburgh Penguins
@New Jersey Devils

Game Time: 7:00pm/ET
From: Prudential Center, Newark, New Jersey
Penguins Record: 24-21-4 (10th in Eastern Conference)
Devils Record: 31-15-3 (2nd in Eastern Conference)
Last Meeting:
December 26th, 2008 @ New Jersey (1-0 Penguins)




PITTSBURGH PENGUINS LINE COMBINATIONS:
Pascal Dupuis - Sidney Crosby - Evgeni Malkin
Chris Minard - Jordan Staal - Petr Sykora
Tyler Kennedy - Maxime Talbot - Miroslav Satan
Eric Godard - Bill Thomas - Paul Bissonnette

Rob Scuderi - Ryan Whitney
Mark Eaton - Kris Letang
Brooks Opik - Phillipe Boucher

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS PROBABLE GOALTENDER:
Marc-Andre Fleury (16-12-2 / 2.78 GAA / .911 SV%)

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS INJURIES:
Sergei Gonchar (left shoulder surgery) - on injured reserve
Mike Zigomanis (shoulder) - on injured reserve
Ruslan Fedotenko (broken right hand) - on injured reserve

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS LEADERS:
GOALS: Evgeni Malkin (19)
ASSISTS: Evgeni Malkin (52)
POINTS: Evgeni Malkin (71)
+/-: Evgeni Malkin (+15)



NEW JERSEY DEVILS LINE COMBINATIONS:
Zach Parise - Travis Zajac - Jamie Langenbrunner
Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus - Brian Gionta
Brian Rolston - John Madden - David Clarkson
Brendan Shanahan - Bobby Holik - Mike Rupp

Paul Martin - Johnny Oduya
Colin White - Mike Mottau
Bryce Salvador - Andy Greene

NEW JERSEY DEVILS PROBABLE GOALTENDER:
Scott Clemmensen (21-9-1 / 2.27 GAA / .922 SV%)

NEW JERSEY DEVILS INJURIES:
Martin Brodeur (left elbow/biceps surgery) - on injured reserve

NEW JERSEY DEVILS LEADERS:
GOALS: Zach Parise (29)
ASSISTS: Patrik Elias (34)
POINTS: Zach Parise (57)
+/-: Travis Zajac (+24)



Once again the Pittsburgh Penguins will have to perform at their best. The New Jersey Devils have won their last seven games and they sit at the top of the Atlantic Division. They forechek aggressively and they don't allow many goals.

Ironically, it's the Penguins that will need to play the trap tonight in order to win.

When Martin Brodeur went down with an injury I thought the Devils' season was over. But they have learned to win without him, which is very scary.

The Penguins shut out the Devils in December, and they will need that same sort of defensive effort tonight.

Brooks Orpik returns to the Penguins blue line. Hal Gill and Alex Goligoski will be scratched. I don't understand the scratching of Goligoski and I don't understand the dressing of Phillipe Boucher.

The Penguins exploded for 5 goals in the third period against the Rangers and Marc-Andre Fleury played a very solid game. He was especially good in the second period and he kept the Penguins in the game. They will need the same sort of effort for 60 minutes tonight.

Prediction: 2-1 Penguins
Continue reading...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Recap: Penguins 6 - Rangers 2

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If every game was like the third period of last night's victory over the Rangers, the Pittsburgh Penguins would be looking forward to another long playoff run. Unfortunately, the Penguins haven't had many offensive outbursts like that this season, and thus they are struggling to make the playoffs.

The Penguins were lucky to leave the second period tied at one. They took too many penalties, they gave the puck away too often, and the Rangers outworked them. Marc-Andre Fleury held the Penguins in the game.

And then, during the third period, it looked like last season again.

The Penguins were explosive. They were dominant. And they scored goals. It was definitely an outstanding performance.

Those were the same Pittsburgh Penguins that rallied to beat the Red Wings in November, the same Pittsburgh Penguins that humiliated the Islanders in December, the same Pittsburgh Penguins that stormed through the Eastern Conference playoffs last season. Somewhere underneath the blanket of mediocrity that has covered them for the majority of the season, those Pittsburgh Penguins remain.

Now their season depends on how often they can bring that explosive team to the ice.

Yes, Fleury held them in the game until the third, but that's exactly what he has to do. That's exactly what he did during the playoff run. If this game did anything it showed the team - and the fans - that the Penguins do have the talent to dominate. They just need the desire.

That desire was there last night.

Are the Penguins now motivated enough to try? They performed so well in the playoffs last year because they knew they had to win those games. Well now they have to win as well. Maybe they've woken up. Maybe they are going to turn it around. Or maybe this was just one of those blips of success we've seen this season and they will put in a pathetic performance tomorrow night.

We can only wait and see.
Continue reading...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Preview: New York Rangers @ Pittsburgh Penguins

0 comments

New York Rangers
@Pittsburgh Penguins

Game Time: 7:30pm/ET
From: Mellon Arena, Pittsburgh, PA
Penguins Record: 23-21-4 (10th in Eastern Conference)
Rangers Record: 30-15-3 (4th in Eastern Conference)
Last Meeting:
January 18th, 2009 @ Pittsburgh (3-0 Penguins)



PITTSBURGH PENGUINS LINE COMBINATIONS:
Pascal Dupuis - Sidney Crosby - Evgeni Malkin
Chris Minard - Jordan Staal - Petr Sykora
Tyler Kennedy - Maxime Talbot - Miroslav Satan
Eric Godard - Bill Thomas - Paul Bissonnette

Rob Scuderi - Ryan Whitney
Mark Eaton - Kris Letang
Hal Gill - Phillipe Boucher

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS PROBABLE GOALTENDER:
Marc-Andre Fleury (15-12-2 / 2.81 GAA / .910 SV%)

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS INJURIES:
Sergei Gonchar (left shoulder surgery) - on injured reserve
Mike Zigomanis (right shoulder surgery) - on injured reserve, out for season
Ruslan Fedotenko (broken right hand) - on injured reserve
Brooks Orpik (groin) - day-to-day, will miss tonight's game

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS LEADERS:
GOALS: Evgeni Malkin (19)
ASSISTS: Evgeni Malkin (51)
POINTS: Evgeni Malkin (70)
+/-: Evgeni Malkin (+13)



NEW YORK RANGERS LINE COMBINATIONS:
Markus Naslund - Scott Gomez - Ryan Callahan
Nigel Dawes - Chris Drury - Lauri Korpikoski
Aaron Voros - Brandon Dubinsky - Nikolai Zherdev
Fredrik Sjostrom - Blair Betts - Colton Orr

Wade Redden - Daniel Girardi
Michal Rozsival - Marc Staal
Dmitri Kalinin - Paul Mara

NEW YORK RANGERS PROBABLE GOALTENDER:
Henrik Lundqvist (11-6-2 / 2.75 GAA / .909 SV%)

NEW YORK RANGERS INJURIES:
None reported

NEW YORK RANGERS LEADERS:
GOALS: Markus Naslund (15)
ASSISTS: Nikolai Zherdev (28)
POINTS: Nikolai Zherdev (40)
+/-: Marc Staal (+7)



It's cliché to continue saying that these are must win games.

The Penguins know what they need to do. They're saying all the right things in interviews about how there's no room for mistakes and how the playoffs start today and everything else.

Many of their injured players are returning tonight (Dupuis, Talbot, Crosby) and Orpik looks to be not far off. Matt Cooke is serving the first game of a two game suspension tonight, so Dupuis returns to the first line.

The Penguins last game against the Rangers was text book. They did everything they needed to do. They need the same kind of effort again tonight.

It's going to be difficult for the Penguins. They are not a team that frequently plays for 60 minutes a night. But if they ever needed motivation, they have it now. Too many more losses and they're golfing. If they lose more than 12 of their remaining 34 games in regulation, I don't see them making the playoffs.

Games against division rivals are where points can be made up. The Penguins have nine games left against Atlantic Division teams, including tonight. Three of those games are against the New York Islanders, the only team in the Atlantic with a worse record than the Penguins. The Penguins play 26 of their remaining games against Eastern Conference teams.

Their destiny is in their own hands.

They're talented enough to make the playoffs. They've shown that in strong victories against the Rangers and the Flyers recently. The Penguins playoff hopes will be decided by the effort they put in.

Prediction: 5-2 Penguins
Continue reading...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Petr Sykora on Michel Therrien, Jaromir Jagr and More

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LetsGoPens recently posted a translated interview with Petr Sykora. Thanks to Empty Netters for the find.

Sykora had a few interesting things to say regarding Penguins' head coach Michel Therrien.

"Sometimes you play almost the whole game, he sends you on the ice all the time. Then another game comes – and boom, you sit on the bench. You are getting cold; then you don’t want to even go on the ice anymore," said Sykora.

"One has to get used to constantly playing with somebody else every shift; being rotated all the time. You simply have to learn to get the most out of every situation when the coach lets you play."

I've never been a fan of Therrien's constant switching lines. It doesn't give players the chance to gel and I think it's disruptive to the game.

I've also always wondered why Sykora, a player that plays very well with Evgeni Malkin, doesn't get many chances on the top line with Malkin and Sidney Crosby. When those three have been on the ice together they have played very well. With the Penguin disastrous power play this season, I'm confused as to why those three players aren't fixtures with the man advantage. It make sense to place your three most productive players together on the power play, especially when it is struggling.

Sykora also mentioned that the mood around the Penguins organization is, unsurprisingly, negative these days.

"Of course the atmosphere is rather tense here. Everybody expected more," said Sykora. "Like everywhere else where the team keeps losing. You come to a practice, and you feel that the atmosphere is bad. The coaches don’t talk to you, they just yell. I hope things will turn."

And, if the Penguins organization needed another reason to put Sykora on that top line, he answered it when asked what keeps him wanting to play for the Penguins. One word: "Malkin."

"I’d like to keep playing with him. So that apparently keeps me here the most," said Sykora. "He is exceptional because he can take a puck, beats an opponent, and he still sees you. He can see you regardless where on the ice you are, even when two players guard him. He can pass to me like nobody ever before. And he is a nice guy who does not vilify you when things go wrong. He is not like some other starts who are constantly pissed off. He is OK all the time, cool, no problem."

In regards to the possibility of Jaromir Jagr returning to the Penguins Sykora said:

"The first day we discussed it a little bit with the guys in the locker room. I don’t even know whether Dzhegr (Jagr) and Mario call or are in contact with each other... I saw Mario maybe just three times since the start of the year. He is rather quiet, comes in to say hello, asks whether everything is OK. But that he would ask for an advice regarding Dzhegr (Jagr) – not a chance."
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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Ten Things You Can Do Instead of Watching the NHL All-Star Game

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The NHL All-Star Game is a joke.

We all know it. At Penguins Experience we are Boycotting the game. Sidney Crosby will not be playing the the game due to injury. Evgeni Malkin will be there, forced to associate with Alexander Ovechkin for the weekend. Nothing good can come out of this game.

For those who aren't watching, here is a list of ten things you can do instead of watching the NHL All-Star Game:

  • Watch Pittsburgh Penguins DVDs. We suggest The Pittsburgh Penguins 10 Greatest Games or Sidney Crosby: On the Ice and Beyond (Amazon Affilate links)
  • Send a "Get Well Soon" card to Sergei Gonchar. We need him back as soon as possible. If you have any medical training or voodoo skill, please do whatever you can to get him back into game shape ASAP. Please.
  • Watch clips on YouTube. We suggest you start with Scott Hartnell Can't Do Shootouts, hearing Malkin suggest that the team should "Shoot Everybody" is a good place to begin as well.
  • Sign up at TerribleTowelWave.com (Thanks to The Pensblog for that one)
  • Watch paint dry. Trust us, it will be more exciting than the game.
  • See if you can come up with a voting system better than the one the NHL used for this year's game. Try to use computers, paper and pencil, or some sort of precise arrangement of broken sticks to do a better job than whoever the NHL hired this year.
  • Pray that the Penguins make the playoffs.
  • Pray that Evgeni Malkin doesn't get injured during the game.
  • Make fun of Philadelphia. There's no particular reason for this. In fact, we feel that all Penguins fans should find some time every weekend to make fun of Philadelphia. It helps right the universe and will generally make you feel better.
  • Count the days until real hockey comes back.

As a special bonus 11th suggestion, you can join our Boycott the NHL All-Star Game Group on Facebook.
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Friday, January 23, 2009

Sidney Crosby Makes Right Decision, Misses All-Star Game

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When I saw THIS a few days ago I was concerned. Yes, Sidney Crosby was the leading vote-getter in the NHL, but the All-Star Game is a joke. We all know it. So the very idea that Sidney Crosby would play in the game despite an injury was concerning. The Pittsburgh Penguins need Crosby healthy if they hope to make the playoffs this year. They can't have him running off to a popularity contest and injuring himself.

Missing the game gives Crosby more than a week without a hockey game and it is the right decision for him to make.

I understand the pressure Sidney Crosby must have felt. Like it or not, he is the face of the league. The NHL went nuts with press releases, telling the world how Crosby received more votes than any NHL all-star ever. He was supposed to be one of the centerpieces of the game. I am sure there was some people within the NHL that wanted Crosby to play despite the injury. I am sure there was a lot of coercion coming from the league's offices in New York. I'm sure people were telling him to show up for the game, pose for some photos, do a few interviews and, if the injury was an issue, to play the game at half speed.

But that's the problem. Sidney Crosby doesn't do anything at half speed. When he is on the ice he works hard. That hard work is one of his greatest attributes, but it could also cause him to injure himself in a glorified exhibition game.

In the end Sidney Crosby made the decision to do what is right for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

And, when you think about it, it's actually the right decision for the NHL as well. Yes, Crosby in the All-Star Game might bring the league some publicity, but Sidney Crosby leading the Pittsburgh Penguins back into the playoffs will provide them with even better publicity. Sidney Crosby and the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Red Wings last season gave the NHL it's highest ratings in years. Yes, that rating had a lot to do with the overall quality of the two teams involved, but Sidney Crosby's presence was definitely a factor.

Besides, if Crosby were injured in the All-Star Game that would likely decrease the ratings for all of the other Penguins games shown on NBC and Versus this year. And for what? A possible small blip in the ratings for the All-Star Game?

The All-Star Game is one of the least popular events on the NHL calendar. I'm sure the NHL would rather have a healthy Crosby leading the Penguins into the playoffs (and boosting those ratings) than appearing in one poorly-watched game.

The Pittsburgh Penguins would definitely want that.

Also, we're still Boycotting the NHL All-Star Game and we'd love you to join us.
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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Recap: Hurricanes 2 - Penguins 1

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As I said in the Game Preview, "the Penguins have always had trouble with Cam Ward."

The Penguins didn't play particularly poorly, they just ran into a hot goalie. A loss like this usually isn't cause for concern, but when you're at the All-Star Break and you're in 10th spot in the conference, it's a big deal.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have definitely been playing better recently. Gone is the complete lack of effort we saw against Toronto or Florida. Unfortunately, the Penguins have dug themselves into a hole that will be very difficult to get out of. In most games, the Penguins will play about a period-and-a-half of good hockey. That's been their problem for a very long time. Unfortunately, their talent allowed them to win even when checking out for half of the game, so they continued to play that way. Now the injuries are building up and without a solid 60 minute effort they can't win.

The Penguins turned it on towards the end of the third period, but it was too late. Cam Ward shut the door and the rest is history. Again, the Penguins didn't play particularly bad, but they didn't play good enough. Not good enough considering they are battling the Hurricanes for the final playoff spot in the East.
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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Preview: Carolina Hurricanes @ Pittsburgh Penguins

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Anaheim Ducks
@Pittsburgh Penguins

Game Time: 7:30pm/ET
From: Mellon Arena, Pittsburgh, PA
Penguins Record: 23-20-4 (9th in Eastern Conference)
Flyers Record: 22-20-5 (10th in Eastern Conference)
Last Meeting:
December 4th, 2008 @ Carolina (5-2 Penguins)




PITTSBURGH PENGUINS LINE COMBINATIONS:
Matt Cooke - Sidney Crosby - Evgeni Malkin
Miroslav Satan - Jordan Staal - Tyler Kennedy
Chris Minard - Dustin Jeffrey- Petr Sykora
Paul Bissonnette - Bill Thomas - Eric Godard

Rob Scuderi - Ryan Whitney
Mark Eaton - Kris Letang
Hal Gill - Philippe Boucher

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS PROBABLE GOALTENDER:
Marc-Andre Fleury (15-11-2 / 2.84 GAA / .908 SV%)

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS INJURIES:
Sergei Gonchar (left shoulder surgery) - on injured reserve
Mike Zigomanis (shoulder surgery) - on injured reserve, out for the season
Ruslan Fedotenko (broken right hand) - on injured reserve
Pascal Dupuis (groin) - on injured reserve
Maxime Talbot (upper body) - on injured reserve
Alex Goligoski (illness) - day-to-day, will likely miss tonight's game
Brooks Orpik (undisclosed) - day-to-day, will likely miss tonight's game

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS LEADERS:
GOALS: Evgeni Malkin (18)
ASSISTS: Evgeni Malkin (51)
POINTS: Evgeni Malkin (69)
+/-: Evgeni Malkin (+14)



CAROLINA HURRICANES LINE COMBINATIONS:
Sergei Samsonov - Eric Staal - Tuomo Ruutu
Ray Whitney - Matt Cullen - Justin Williams
Chad LaRose - Rod Brind'Amour - Scott Walker
Ryan Bayda - Brandon Sutter - Patrick Eaves

Joni Pitkanen - Dennis Seidenberg
Joe Corvo - Frantisek Kaberle
Niclas Wallin - Anton Babchuk

CAROLINA HURRICANES PROBABLE GOALTENDER:
Cam Ward (17-14-3 / 2.62 GAA / .909 SV%)

CAROLINA HURRICANES INJURIES:
None

CAROLINA HURRICANES LEADERS:
GOALS: Eric Staal(19)
ASSISTS: Ray Whitney (24)
POINTS: Ray Whitney (38)
+/-: Patrick Eaves (+7)



Another huge game for the Penguins. The Hurricanes are only a point behind them in the standings so a regulation win is important here for the Penguins. They want to catch up to the teams in front of them, but they also want to hold the teams behind them back.

Tonight's game is also another opportunity to play the Staal Brothers Drinking game.

The Penguins have always had trouble with Cam Ward. Ward is coming off of a shutout. So is Penguins' goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. Ward shut out the Toronto Maple Leafs yesterday and Fleury shut out the New York Rangers on Sunday.

The injury situation in Pittsburgh keeps getting worse. Alex Goligoski and Brooks Orpik will miss tonight's game. Maxime Talbot and Pascal Dupuis have gone from "day-to-day" to "injured reserve" so I don't expect them back any time soon. Mike Zigomanis will miss the remainder of the season due to a shoulder injury.

It's also strange seeing Petr Sykora on the third line with Chris Minard and Dustin Jeffrey. He plays so well with Malkin that it's tough splitting the two up. But Cooke has also worked very well with Malkin and Crosby so I'm glad he's still on the first line. Staal and Kennedy play well together so it makes sense that they are on the same line as well. Bissonnette-Thomas-Godard is a very physical line.

Prediction: 4-2 Penguins
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Monday, January 19, 2009

The Pittsburgh Penguins Are A Better Team Than Their Record Suggests

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I've recently joined an excellent hockey site called TheHockeyWriters.com.

The site is in the process of collecting the best hockey writers from around the Internet in one place. Each writer will cover one team, and I will be covering the Pittsburgh Penguins.

I just completed my first post there The Pittsburgh Penguins Are A Better Team Than Their Record Suggests.

TheHockeyWriters.com is a very interesting site that I have a lot of faith in. It's currently growing rapidly and it should become THE place to read hockey news and commentary in the near future. I'd suggest that you check it out.
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Monday, January 19, 2009

Recap: Penguins 3 - Rangers 0

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This was a big game for the Penguins. Against a divisional opponent they had to perform well and win if they wanted to keep their playoff hopes alive.

They did.

Whether the Penguins played a great game or the Rangers played a terrible one, or if it was a combination of both, didn't matter. The Penguins were dominant for the majority of the game.

Marc-Andre Fleury wasn't tested very often, but when he was he came up big.

Even though Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were held off the score sheet, the rest of the team stepped up with some timely goals. The fact that the Penguins could defeat the current Atlantic Division leaders without their two superstars scoring is a huge plus for the Pens.

The team defense was outstanding. They didn't let the Rangers create very many chances and they gave them even fewer second chances. Yesterday's game was exactly how the Pittsburgh Penguins will need to continue to play if they hope to find success this year.

The Penguins now need 22 wins in their 35 remaining games to have a good shot at making the playoffs.
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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Preview: New York Rangers @ Pittsburgh Penguins

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New Yotk Rangers
@Pittsburgh Penguins

Game Time: 12:30pm/ET
From: Mellon Arena, Pittsburgh, PA


Short on time today, so this is a very short preview.

Huge divisional game for the Penguins.

LETS GO PENS!

Prediction: 4-2 Penguins
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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Penguins Trade Dany Sabourin for Mathieu Garon

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The Pittsburgh Penguins have traded Dany Sabourin to the Edmonton Oilers
The Pittsburgh Penguins have sent goaltender Dany Sabourin, forward Ryan Stone and a 2011 fourth-round pick to the Edmonton Oilers for goaltender Mathieu Garon [TSN]

It seems like a strange trade. It makes sense for the Penguins to try and shore up their goaltending, but it's not like Garon is having a very different season from the one Sabourin is having. His stats are 6-8-0 with a 3.17 GAA and a .895 SV%.

Dany Sabourin is 6-8-2 with a 2.85 GAA and a .898 SV%.

They're very similar.

Both goalies are unrestricted free agents after this season and Garon makes almost double what Sabourin does (Garon's cap hit is $1.1 million while Sabourin's is only $512,000.) Also, not that Ryan Stone or a fourth-round pick were going to be major components of the Penguins' future, but it seems weird for Ray Shero to trade away additional minor league assets. It's not like the Penguins organization is full of depth.

It's a very strange trade. Perhaps Shero felt that he would end up having to pay Sabourin more next season than he would Garon.
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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Recap: Penguins 3 - Ducks 1

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The Penguins didn't need Sidney Crosby, they had Matt Cooke.

Okay, so Cooke probably won't win the Hart or Art Ross Trophies anytime soon, but since moving up to the first line he has done an outstanding job. He scored two goals last night and Hal Gill (!?) added one of his own as the Penguins won 3-1.

The Cooke-Malkin-Sykora line looked very good. Perhaps the Penguins have found a suitable replacement for Ryan Malone on that line. Speaking of Evgeni Malkin, he definitely stepped up and played an outstanding game in the absence of Sidney Crosby. Malkin was almost impossible to knock off the puck last night and he earned himself two assists.

Marc-Andre Fleury had a solid game as well.

Unfortunately it wasn't all good news for the Penguins as Brooks Orpik left the game with an injury and did not return.

It looks like there may be another WBS player called up for Sunday's game. The WBS players handled their responsibilities well. They played strong games and didn't make any major mistakes.

Bonus points go out to Paul Bissonnette who brought the sort of emotion we haven't seen in the Penguins since last June.

Sunday will be a huge game for the Penguins. They could still be without many of their regulars and they will be playing against a division opponent. Sunday's game has huge playoff implications for the Penguins. I've heard that some other game being played in Pittsburgh on Sunday is kind of important too.

Last night the Penguins, with a severely injury-depleted roster, pulled together and stepped up to earn a victory. They will need to do the same on Sunday afternoon against the Atlantic Division-leading New York Rangers. The Penguins need that win.

The Penguins now need 23 wins in 36 games to have a good shot at making the playoffs.
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Friday, January 16, 2009

Preview: Anaheim Ducks @ Pittsburgh Penguins

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Anaheim Ducks
@Pittsburgh Penguins

Game Time: 7:30pm/ET
From: Mellon Arena, Pittsburgh, PA
Penguins Record: 21-20-4 (10th in Eastern Conference)
Flyers Record: 22-18-5 (5th in Eastern Conference)
Last Meeting:
October 6th, 2008 @ Pittsburgh (5-4 Pens)




PITTSBURGH PENGUINS LINE COMBINATIONS:
Matt Cooke - Evgeni Malkin - Petr Sykora
Chris Minard - Jordan Staal - Janne Pesonen
Tyler Kennedy - Bill Thomas - Miroslav Satan
Paul Bissonnette - Dustin Jeffrey - Eric Godard

NOTE: Due to injuries the current forward line combinations are unconfirmed

Brooks Opik - Ryan Whitney
Alex Goligoski - Hal Gill
Philippe Boucher - Mark Eaton

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS PROBABLE GOALTENDER:
Marc-Andre Fleury (13-11-2 / 3.01 GAA / .904 SV%)

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS INJURIES:
Sergei Gonchar (left shoulder surgery) - on injured reserve
Mike Zigomanis (shoulder) - on injured reserve
Ruslan Fedotenko (broken right hand) - on injured reserve
Pascal Dupuis (knee) - day-to-day, will miss tonight's game
Rob Scuderi (head/face laceration) - day-to-day, will miss tonight's game
Sidney Crosby (lower body) - day-to-day, will miss tonight's game
Maxime Talbot (undisclosed) - day-to-day, will miss tonight's game
Kris Letang (lower body) - day-to-day, will miss tonight's game

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS LEADERS:
GOALS: Evgeni Malkin (18)
ASSISTS: Evgeni Malkin (49)
POINTS: Evgeni Malkin (67)
+/-: Evgeni Malkin (+12)



ANAHEIM DUCKS LINE COMBINATIONS:
Chris Kunitz - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Bobby Ryan - Brendan Morrison - Andrew Ebbett
Travis Moen - Samuel Pahlsson - Rob Niedermayer
Drew Miller - Ryan Carter - George Parros

Chris Pronger - Brendan Mikkelson
Scott Niedermayer - Steve Montador
Bret Hedican - Francois Beauchemin

ANAHEIM DUCKS PROBABLE GOALTENDER:
Jean-Sebastien Giguere (12-10-4 / 3.03 GAA / .906 SV%)

ANAHEIM DUCKS INJURIES:
Brad Larsen (sports hernia surgery) - on injured reserve
Francois Beauchemin (left knee surgery) - on injured reserve/out for season
Teemu Selanne (lacerated left quadriceps) - on injured reserve
Kent Huskins (broken right foot) - on injured reserve
Todd Marchant (broken pinky finger) - week-to-week
Brett Festerling (bruised left knee) - day-to-day, possible for tonight's game

ANAHEIM DUCKS LEADERS:
GOALS: Ryan Getzlaf (16)
ASSISTS: Ryan Getzlaf (37)
POINTS: Ryan Getzlaf (53)
+/-: Steve Montador (+14)



The Penguins have a couple injuries.

Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, Rob Scuderi and Max Talbot will all miss tonight's game. So will Pascal Dupuis, Ruslan Fedotenko, Mike Zigomanis and Sergei Gonchar.

That's eight regulars out of the line-up.

Five players from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton will play in tonight's game (Janne Pesonen, Bill Thomas, Chris Minard, Dustin Jeffrey and Paul Bissonnette.)

The Ducks also have their share of injuries and they too are currently struggling, losing three of their last four and eight of their last twelve.

The Penguins have also lost three of their last four and nine of their last twelve.

These are two injured, struggling teams that will meet at the Mellon Arena tonight.

With all the injuries it will be interesting to see if Janne Pesonen will finally get to play more than five minutes in a game. The current lines are unconfirmed, so I'm not sure who his line mates will be, but you have to assume that he will get a few chances.

A funny note is that under "Forward Lines" the Penguins Official Website wrote: "With all the injuries and jumbled lines at morning skate, this is anybody's guess."

It will be almost impossible to predict what will happen tonight, as the team is lacking several key members. Will the healthy pull together and earn a hard fought win, or will the injuries be too much for them to overcome?

We'll see tonight.

Prediction: 5-4 Penguins

Also, in honour of playing Anaheim tonight, I give you this:



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Friday, January 16, 2009

New Look for Penguins Experience

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Penguins Experience has a new look!

Please let us know what you think of the new layout by commenting on this post.

Also, if you experience any difficulties navigating the site or run into any errors please let us know.

Thank you.
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Friday, January 16, 2009

Can the Pittsburgh Penguins Make the Playoffs?

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Current NHL Standings - Pittsburgh Penguins in 10th Spot
Currently the Pittsburgh Penguins sit in tenth spot in the Eastern Conference. If this were late April the Penguins would be trying to book an early morning tee time for this weekend. But, in case the snow and the cold didn't give it away, it's not April. It's January.

The Penguins will enter the Mellon Arena tonight ready to play game 46 of an 82 game schedule. A lot can happen between now and April. Can the Penguins improve enough to make the playoffs?

Possibly, but it won't be easy.

The Pittsburgh Penguins currently have 46 points. They will likely need at least 91 to squeeze into the eighth seed. They may need more. Last year Boston grabbed the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference with 94 points.

So, based on last year's numbers, the Penguins likely need 48 additional points to be assured a postseason berth. That's 24 wins out of their remaining 37 games. It could also mean a few less wins and a few more overtime losses, but for simplicity-sake 24 wins is the benchmark.

Even including overtime losses, the numbers show that the Penguins can only lose in regulation 13 times if they hope to make the playoffs.

If they continue playing like they have been recently they will not make it. The Penguins have lost 13 times since December 8th. That's 13 losses and 6 wins in just over a month. The Penguins have won only 47% of their games this season.

They will need to win 65% of their remaining games to qualify.

Is that possible?

Last season the Penguins won 21 of their final 37 games. If you add in the overtime losses (five of them) that gave them 47 points in their final 37 games. This year's team will likely need 48 to qualify. So if they finish this season in same way they finished last season they stand a good chance at making the playoffs.

But that was last year's team and, if we've learned anything from this season, the current Penguins are not the same as last year's team.

Can the 2008-2009 Penguins win enough games to qualify?

Well, first you have to remember that it hasn't been all bad news. The Penguins got off to a remarkable start this season. In their first 37 games this year's team won 19 times. If you include the four overtime losses you'll see that the Penguins earned 42 points in their first 37 games.

The Penguins had their most success at the beginning of the season but if they end the season in the same manner they started it they still won't make the playoffs.

In order to make the playoffs, the team will need to play their best hockey of the season. They will need to play better than they did at the season's start and they will definitely need to play better than they are currently. They have won 16 of their previous 37 games and earned 35 points. That definitely won't get them competing for the Cup.

Of course, the number of points needed to qualify depends on the performances of the rest of the teams in the conference. If the teams directly above and below the Penguins in the standings get hot, the Pens will need to win more games to catch up to them. If they're cold, the Penguins stand a better chance at making it.

In conclusion, it is possible for the Pittsburgh Penguins to qualify for the playoffs but they will need to find a way to be better, and fast.
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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ten Positives in the Pittsburgh Penguins' Season

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It's easy to get down. The Pittsburgh Penguins have lost eight of their last ten and they currently sit out of the playoffs. They haven't won two games in a row since November. They may have lost Sidney Crosby to injury, for at least a short time. Alexander Ovechkin led the Washington Capitals to victory last night at the Mellon Arena. Things look pretty bad for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

So, like Monty Python says, it's time to look on the bright side of life.

Here are ten positives from this season:

The Consol Energy Center
During dark times it's sometimes best to look back on those days that were even darker. Just a couple of years ago it looked like the Penguins would be leaving Pittsburgh. Isle of Capri didn't win the slots license and Mario Lemieux was eating dinner in Kansas City. "Missing the playoffs" seems like nothing when compared to "Losing the Penguins forever." This year the new arena was given a name and it actually looks like the beginning of an arena. It's finally arriving.

Alex Goligoski's offensive skills
You can say what you'd like about his defense, but Alex Goligoski leads all rookie defensemen in points. He is also the highest scoring defenseman on the Penguins. He has definitely made Ray Shero's choices more difficult in relation to the Penguins' defense.

We had a great run in November
Think how bad off the Penguins would be right now if they didn't win six in a row in November. The Penguins only lost three games the entire month and got off to one of the best starts to franchise history.

Success with blocking shots
The Pittsburgh Penguins have three players that are among the top twenty shot blockers in the league (Rob Scuderi, Brooks Orpik and Kris Letang.) No other team can say that.

Arena attendance is great
To my knowledge the Pittsburgh Penguins have sold out every home game at the Mellon Arena this season. On average, The Penguins have sold 104.6% of the Mellon Arena's capacity this year. Only the Chicago Blackhawks and the Ottawa Senators have sold a higher percentage of their arenas this season

The Penguins hit a lot
Brooks Orpik leads the NHL in hits. Matt Cooke comes in fourth. It's good to see some players on the team who aren't afraid to get physical.

The Penguins' losing record in their blue third jerseys should end the rumours that the team will go back to wearing blue full time
I like the blue jerseys. I think they have a great retro feel. I own one. But the Penguins should not go back to wearing powder blue full time. Black and gold are Pittsburgh's colours and they are the Penguins' colours. The team is 1-4 in their retro jerseys this year, which shouldn't really be a surprise. The Penguins in the 70s didn't have too much success wearing blue either. Unfortunately, the unlucky blues return this Sunday.

Petr Sykora finally scored a hat trick
After having more two-goal games than any player in NHL history who hadn't scored a hat trick, Petr Sykora finally broke the jinx in a 9-2 rout over the New York Islanders. It was definitely a special moment. Pascal Dupuis scored his first NHL hat trick in the same game.

Evgeni Malkin leads the league in scoring
Despite the team's troubles, Malkin remains 10 points ahead of Alexander Ovechkin in the scoring race. Sidney Crosby sits between the two, in second place.

The Mellon Arena has not been taken over by terrorists yet this year
Unlike the fictional 1995 Stanley Cup Finals, the Vice President is not being held hostage in a luxury suite, no one is planning to blow up the arena and Jean-Claude Van Dam hasn't killed Iceburgh.

See? It's not all that bad!
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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Reasons for the Pittsburgh Penguins' Struggles

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Everyone has an opinion.

Today we're going to take a look around the Internet and see why people think the Penguins are losing. Remember, if it's on the Internet, it must be true.

"Urgency and bruised confidence don't go too well together. That's what the Penguins are dealing with in the midst of a horrific slump." - Tricia Lafferty, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

"There are many possible reasons for their slump. The fatigue of playing so many games in two seasons. The goaltending that doesn't rival that of the last two seasons. There has been little offence outside of Malkin and Crosby." - TSN.ca/The Canadian Press

"I think the boys are just going to have to find a way to get along and play as a team, rather than to try and reignite the kinships that were obvious on last years team." - Matt Trevors, Bleacher Report

"an anemic power play... has been a major reason they have fallen to fourth place in the Atlantic Division" - Shelly Anderson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"The Penguins showed that lack of game-to-game focus recently by losing five times during a 15-game span to teams that were .500 or below. Among the defeats was a 2-0 loss at home on Dec. 23 to Tampa, which had the league's second-worst record at the time. It hasn't helped that the Penguins haven't had the 20 players they expected to have. Defenceman Sergei Gonchar, the key to their power play the last two seasons, has been out all season with a dislocated shoulder and may not return until March." - The Canadian Press

"The biggest reason for Pittsburgh’s dropoff this season is that they have not done as well keeping the puck out of their net. That problem almost always starts with goaltending. Marc-Andre Fleury is not playing as well this season as he did the year before... Their defence has taken a large hit from injuries." - The Puck Stops Here, Kuklas Korner

"The problems with the power play stem from the loss of defenseman Sergei Gonchar. The veteran back liner has missed the entire season so far because he underwent shoulder surgery in late September. He’s not expected back until February but his presence has been missed with the man advantage because he plays the point so well... Marc-Andre Fleury is the owner of a $35 million dollar contract yet he also owns one of the worst save percentages (.905) in the National Hockey League. The back up, Dany Sabourin is no better. (.902)" - Howie Karpin, Suite101

"It's not that the Penguins aren't willing to pay the price—hey, every NHL player has already paid a physical price just to play the game—it's just that they don't seem to have any players who are good at that part of the game." - Richard Newpol, Bleacher Report


Perhaps the reason the Penguins are finding it so hard to get out of this slump is because no one is quite sure what is causing it.

Unfortunately, the Penguins troubles are a combination of everything listed above and more.

The coaching methods are suspect, the injuries are mounting up, the team has lost a lot of character, the players are not working hard enough, the power play is failing, the goaltending is inconsistent, there is no secondary scoring.

These problems are not easy to solve.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Game Recap: Capitals 6 - Penguins 3

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Just when you thought the season couldn't get any worse for the Pittsburgh Penguins, it did.

The Washington Capitals defeated the Penguins 6-3 tonight at Mellon Arena. Alexander Ovechkin had two goals and an assist as the Caps won their second game in Pittsburgh this year.

The bigger story is that Rob Scuderi, Maxime Talbot and Sidney Crosby all left the game with injuries and did not return.

The Penguins started off strong but were completely overwhelmed by the Capitals in the second half of the game. Washington had 31 shots in the last two periods and totaled 42 on the night. The Penguins had 29.

Evgeni Malkin, Miroslav Satan and Ryan Whitney scored for the Penguins. Whitney's goal was his first of the season.

The officiating in this game was especially poor. I'm not blaming the refs for the loss in any way, as that's never cool. The better team won tonight. Besides, there were bad calls against both teams tonight.

Donald Brashear was given a double minor for high sticking when replays clearly showed it was Eric Godard's stick that hit Kris Letang in the mouth, not Brashear's. Later in the game Matt Cooke was given a penalty for thinking about hitting Alex Ovechkin, but pulling up. Hal Gill was also penalized because composite sticks break easily. Petr Sykora received a penalty for high sticking that no one actually saw happen. The refs also missed several blatant calls against both teams.

The Washington Capitals, especially Ovechkin, really know how to get under your skin. They celebrate every goal like it's a Cup winner and mock their opponents endlessly. It just makes them that much more infuriating to lose against. The Penguins have really grown to hate the Capitals and it's mostly Ovechkin's doing.

This was a bad loss for the Penguins. As the injuries mounted the Pens completely forgot their defensive system and fell apart. They were neck-and-neck with the Capitals for a period and a half. Then the Caps started pulling away. By the end it was all Caps.

But the injuries could spell the end of the Penguins' season if they are serious.

Rob Scuderi blocked a shot with his head in the first. He might have a concussion. Hopefully he doesn't miss much time. Max Talbot had his hand skated over by Ovechkin and Crosby left the ice favouring his left leg.

Crosby's injury is the most concerning. Not only because he's the team captain, but due to his history of leg injuries (i.e. last year's high ankle sprain.) Scuderi will be seriously missed on the blue line as well. He is without a doubt the Penguins' best defender. I can't see them winning many games without him in the line-up.

The Penguins are in tough now. They are still out of the playoffs and their schedule doesn't get any easier.

It's going to be a battle every step of the way.
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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Game Preview: Washington Capitals @ Pittsburgh Penguins

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Game Time: 7:30pm/ET
From: Wachovia Center, Philadelphia, PA
Penguins Record: 21-19-4 (10th in Eastern Conference)
Flyers Record: 27-14-3 (2nd in Eastern Conference)
Last Meeting:
October 16th, 2008 @ Pittsburgh (4-3 Caps)


PITTSBURGH PENGUINS LINE COMBINATIONS:
Matt Cooke - Sidney Crosby - Evgeni Malkin
Chris Minard - Jordan Staal - Petr Sykora
Tyler Kennedy - Maxime Talbot - Miroslav Satan
Paul Bissonnette - Dustin Jeffrey - Eric Godard

Brooks Opik - Ryan Whitney
Rob Scuderi - Kris Letang
Alex Goligoski - Hal Gill

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS PROBABLE GOALTENDER:
Marc-Andre Fleury (13-10-2 / 2.93 GAA / .905 SV%)

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS INJURIES:
Sergei Gonchar (left shoulder surgery) - on injured reserve
Mike Zigomanis (shoulder) - on injured reserve
Ruslan Fedotenko (broken right hand) - on injured reserve
Pascal Dupuis (knee) - day-to-day, will miss tonight's game

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS LEADERS:
GOALS: Evgeni Malkin (17)
ASSISTS: Evgeni Malkin (49)
POINTS: Evgeni Malkin (66)
+/-: Evgeni Malkin (+15)


WASHINGTON CAPITALS LINE COMBINATIONS:
Alex Ovechkin - Sergei Fedorov - Viktor Kozlov
Brooks Laich - Nicklas Backstrom - Alexander Semin
Tomas Fleischmann - Michael Nylander - Chris Clark
Donald Brashear - Dave Steckel - Matt Bradley

Mike Green - John Erskine
Shaone Morrisonn - Jeff Schultz
Milan Jurcina - Karl Alzner

WASHINGTON CAPITALS PROBABLE GOALTENDER:
Brent Johnson (11-6-2 / 2.75 GAA / .909 SV%)

WASHINGTON CAPITALS INJURIES:
Brian Pothier (post-concussion syndrome) - on injured reserve
Tom Poti (groin) - on injured reserve
Boyd Gordon (back spasms) - day-to-day, questionable for tonight's game

WASHINGTON CAPITALS LEADERS:
GOALS: Alex Ovechkin (27)
ASSISTS: Niklas Backstrom (33)
POINTS: Alex Ovechkin (54)
+/-: Alexander Semin (+21)


I think the Washington/Pittsburgh rivalry from the 90s is back.

First you have Sidney Crosby and Alexander Semin exchanging comments.

They you have Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin showing an obvious dislike for one another.

If this were a playoff series it would be every dream the NHL has coming true.

The Penguins are coming off an impressive victory over the Flyers last night. The Capitals played last night as well, but with less success, losing 5-2 to the Edmonton Oilers.

This is another game the Penguins have to win. To be honest, they have to win a lot of their remaining games if they want to see the playoffs from anywhere other than their living rooms.

The good news for the Penguins is that it looks like the Capitals have finally cooled down a bit. They've lost their last three games after winning 14 of their previous 16 games. The Penguins will need to continue to play the system that brought them success last night. They will need to keep playing that system until the confidence and hard work that took them to last year's Stanley Cup Final returns.

Ovechkin will no doubt continue to play a physical style against Malkin. Hopefully having Matt Cooke back on the first line will eliminate any further rough stuff. That being said, they Penguins cannot allow themselves to retaliate and get into penalty trouble. Washington has a very dangerous power play.

On the other hand, the Pittsburgh power play will definitely need to be better. It seems recently that the Penguins play their worst with the man advantage. If the Capitals get frustrated and play too rough the Penguins will need to be able to make them pay on the score sheet by scoring power play goals. If the Penguins power play is ineffective teams will continue to take liberties with them knowing there will be no consequences.

A win tonight would put the Penguins back into the eighth spot in the conference, as Carolina is idle. A Buffalo loss will definitely help as well. Not that it matters where the Pens are in the standings tomorrow, but they need to take every chance they have to gain ground.

It should be a good game tonight. Hopefully the Penguins remember how to win at Mellon Arena. They've lost six of their last eight at home. Those two wins came against the Thrashers and Islanders, who aren't exactly power houses.

Prediction: 4-2 Penguins
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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Best Resources for NHL Hockey Statistics and Information

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The Internet is filled with NHL hockey news, rumours, information, commentary and opinions. That's great most of the time, but sometimes you just want the cold, hard facts. You want stats. You want the numbers. You want this historical records. You want box scores.

Today we've compiled a list of the best places to go for NHL hockey statistics and information.

PLAYER AND TEAM STATS

Hockey-Reference.com
I use this site almost every day. It has historical records for every NHL team (and WHA team, when applicable) dating back to the 1917-18 season. In addition to the standings from each season, it has team rosters, player statistics, and game results for every team in every year. The site also has a Leaders and Records index, a list of NHL award winners, and draft information. It also has a player and coach database that looks like it's just being built and is therefore incomplete. Hockey-Reference.com is definitely the place to start when doing any hockey research.

HockeyDB.com - The Internet Hockey Database
This site is a little more difficult to use, but it has a great search tool that helps you find what you need. It doesn't just have information on NHL teams and players, but multiple records on junior and college teams as well. It also has a very robust Record Book section that covers major, minor and defunct leagues from around the world. There is also a trading card database that will give you very detailed information on hockey cards from many manufacturers. HockeyDB.com is great for searching for information and its searchable database is definitely its biggest strong point.

Behind the Net
It doesn't get much more in depth than this. This site has more stats that you could imagine. It breaks down penalties, plus/minus, special teams performance, blocked shots, goaltender statistics and more into spreadsheets you can sort. It also maintains ratings lists based on an assortment of statistics. There is also in-depth, stats-based analysis on a number of topics. Due to the absolute wealth of information on the site, it takes a little getting used to before you figure out exactly what each stat means. However, once you've taken some time to look around and read, the site becomes invaluable.

Honourable Mentions:
DatabaseHockey.com
The Hockey Cube
StatsHockey.net


JERSEY AND UNIFORM INFORMATION

NHLUniforms.com
This site has graphics of every NHL jersey since the foundation of the NHL. The site is grouped by decade and then season. Each season has its own page. The decade pages also give you some historical context into the NHL at that time and, in later decades, provide you with information on jersey patches and manufacturers. Almost all jerseys on the site are drawn by the webmaster, which not only shows great dedication, but also ensures their are quality images of each jersey.

Icethetics
While it has recently added more jersey concepts and discussion to its site, Icethetics remains the place to look for information on new and unreleased jerseys. The site mainly covers NHL jerseys, but also takes a look at the minor leagues. If a team is planning on releasing a new logo or jersey, Icethetics will know. This is a great place to look for third jerseys when they are released.

Chris Creamer's Sports Logos Page
This site doesn't cover just the NHL or just hockey, but many sports. It's broken down by league and then by team. Sportslogos.net displays high quality logos for every team, including defunct teams and leagues. In addition to current logos, it has historical logos, secondary logos and logos and patches for special events. It's a great site for researching the history of a team's logo and a great reference for modern logos.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Can the Penguins Trap the Capitals?

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The Pittsburgh Penguins with coach Michel Therrien.
It sounds strange to say, but the Pittsburgh Penguins had a great deal of success playing a version of the neutral zone trap last night.

The rigid, defensive-minded system clearly frustrated the Flyers, and the Penguins were able to stay focused and win what was possibly their most complete game of the season.

Can they do the same tonight?

The Washington Capitals are definitely an offensive force. Alexander Ovechkin is third in league scoring and second in goals scored. The Capitals are the third-highest scoring team in the Eastern Conference. Keeping them in check will definitely be a tall task.

Is it possible?

I believe it is.

While it's true that the Capitals and Ovechkin are offensive powers, the team the Penguins defeated last night - the Philadelphia Flyers - are the second-highest scoring team in the conference and Jeff Carter of the Flyers is the only player who has scored goals than Ovechkin.

So the Penguins have already proven that their version of the trap can be successful against high-powered offensive opponents.

Additionally, the Capitals have struggled against defensive-minded teams this season. They have a 1-2 record against the New Jersey Devils and they lost to the Minnesota Wild in their only meeting this season.

Of course, one major question is whether or not the Penguins can actually maintain the level of focus and commitment necessary to play a 1-2-2 system for the second-straight game.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have not shown a great deal of dedication this year and their ability to play a rigid system has not been displayed very often. In fact, their inability to focus and commit to a strong strategy is one of the reasons they have struggled recently.

Last night's 60-minute effort was the Penguins' most solid effort this season. The rest of the year has been occasional moments of brilliance surrounded by a sea of mediocrity. Trying to play a strong system two nights in a row against two of the best offensive teams in the conference will be a big test for the Pens.

Have they realised that unless they focus and show some serious dedication the playoffs are a dream? Or was last night simply a one-off performance?

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Game Recap: Penguins 4 - Flyers 2

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There are few things that make a Pittsburgh Penguins fan happier than watching the Penguins beat the Philadelphia Flyers.

Watching the Penguins beat the Flyers in Philadelphia while the Penguins are in the middle of a horrible slump is one of those things.

Tyler Kennedy, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal and Matt Cooke scored for the Penguins. Sidney Crosby had two assists.

It looked like a completely different Penguins team out there tonight. They fought for pucks, they worked hard, they played defense and they won the game. The neutral zone trap, as boring as it is, worked for the Pens.

Of course, it was a Penguins/Flyers game so there was some rough stuff. Eric Godard absolutely dominated Riley Cote and Paul Bissonnette took care of Arron Asham. Both fights were in the first period.

Having Matt Cooke on the first line with Crosby and Malkin worked like a charm. Jordan Staal played very well centering the second line.

The Penguins really needed this win and they got it.

The Penguins power play still wasn't very impressive. In fact, the team was at their worst when they had the man advantage. All of their goals were even strength.

The Penguins system was very effective tonight. I was surprised to see this Penguins team, a team that has had no structure through the first half of the season, adhere to such a strict defensive system for the entire game. It doesn't make for the most exciting hockey, but it works. The fact that it frustrated the Flyers was even better.

The Penguins will need to continue their hard work tomorrow night against Washington. It will be a lot harder for the Penguins to contain Alexander Ovechkin, but they will need to work at it for the entire game. The team needs to stick with this structure as long as possible.

Some discipline and hard work are exactly what the Penguins needed. They played a complete game and at times they were absolutely dominant. I'd forgotten what that felt like.

Hopefully it continues.
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