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Thursday, January 08, 2009

Pittsburgh Penguins Midseason Reviews

The Pittsburgh Penguins

Tuesday's game against the Atlanta Thrashers was the Pittsburgh Penguins's 41st game of the season. That means we have officially hit the midway point of the 2008-2009 NHL season.

Midseason is a good time to look back at the performance of the team. It's a good time to reflect and discuss the successes and failures of this season's Pittsburgh Penguins.

It has been an up-and-down season. The Penguins began the season with one of the best starts in franchise history. By the end of November, two months into the season, they had only lost nine games. Only six of those losses were in regulation and only three of them were by more than one goal. The Penguins were having exciting games and posting amazing comeback victories.

Then in December it all started to fall apart. The injuries began to pile up and so did the losses. The Penguins only won four games in December and they suffered nine losses. In many of those losses the Penguins were beaten by a significant margin, including a 7-3 home loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Penguins did not fare much better in early January and they were again blown out at home, this time losing 6-1 to the Florida Panthers.

In order to fully recap the first half of the season, I have asked a number of Pittsburgh Penguins' bloggers to submit their thoughts. Below are their thoughts.

I Bleed Black 'n Gold:

This season started with promise and potential. Coming off of the playoff run to end last year, we were looking to be in the perfect position. Then, Nov. 15, Fleury goes down and things start to seemingly unravel. But the good news is we are still within playoff contention and still have a whole half to go. Now is the time for the 'glass is half-full' attitude.

After 41 games there are still plenty reasons to be thankful that we are Pens fans and remain hopeful for am imminent turnaround.

Things that went right:
- Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin pairing up in the All Star game, even though they have to play with cheating Canadiens. Should be a good skills competition though.
- Realizing that the powder blues are better in small doses and black is the best color at home.
- Great Day for Hockey commercials featuring The Clarks.
- Mike Zigomanis proving that he is a face-off machine. Hopefully, he will make a speedy recovery and is not out for the season.
- Our passing and offensive set-ups are well-planned and often amazing to watch, however create far too many chances for defenses to break up.
- Even being plagued by injury across the team, we were still relatively stable in depth (at least for a while), which could help trade opportunities along with development.
- Naming rights won for the Consol Energy center, opening potential for new nicknames and great fan signage.
- Geno taking his own interviews and commercials, providing for quality entertainment in itself.

Wish-List for the second half:
- A little bit of Power in the POWER play
- Geno to stop turning the puck over in his own zone
- Crosby to become a better fighter
- Flower to get back in his groove
- Janne Pesonen to live up to the hype when he's called up, even if without the gold hat
- All the skill we have to come together in a brilliant display of awesomeness
- Mario takes over as head coach???

We are Pittsburgh fans and we've been through much worse, not to mention put up with the Pirates. We know there is talent and skill, it's just a matter of it all coming together in the right ways to win games. With a team as young as we are, confidence from winning is a priority.
Does this mean a coaching shake-up? Does it mean trades? Only time will tell, but one thing will remain the same…we will always be the Pens and we will always believe. All fingers-crossed…Let's Go Pens!

Everything Pittsburgh:

The Pittsburgh Penguins season thus far has been very disappointing. The Pens started out hot, having their third best start in franchise history despite losing arguably their top two offensive defensemen in Ryan Whitney and Sergei Gonchar. Pittsburgh even looked like everything we thought they should look like as Eastern Conference Champs. The Pens were winning the close games and able to come back from seemingly unsurmountable odds to win most others.

All this changed, it seemed, overnight. The Pens started losing key players that really didn't show up on the scoreboard, but made a significant difference when it came to game time. Now, I can't blame all the trials and tribulations on the injuries. It seems Pittsburgh has lost its direction as well as the key leadership it once had. The Pens fell behind in the standings, and in the process lost its special spark we all came to love last year and early this year.

Was it the off season acquisitions or the expectations we, as fans, have placed on them to return to the finals again? We may never know. I believe we have the talent as is, but just need the desire again. The best thing for the team that we can provide is dedication and loyalty to our team.

We have been through worse, so, put your chin up and be happy we aren't in Tampa right now.


So far this season the Penguins have been OK. They had some really good games and they had their bad games, that is until lately. The boys seem to have lost the spark. They are getting beaten to the puck a lot and their shots and passing seem to be off. I don’t know if it is just a slump or if there are underlying circumstances.

Earlier in the season we saw MAF out because of injury. Sabs stepped up and took his place as well did John Curry on a call up from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The return of MAF seemed to be a turning point. Not knocking Fleury, just wondering if he wasn't up to speed and the boys lost some confidence?

Here in WBS during the month of December we saw forward Jonathan Filewich traded to St. Louis in exchange for a sixth round draft pick at the 2010 Entry Draft, and then in January we have defenseman T. J. Kemp traded to the Montreal Canadians for a conditional seventh round pick in the 2010 National Hockey League draft. Some people would wonder if this could be a prelude to what Pittsburgh may be planning.

Our thoughts are that it is mid season the Penguins are in third place in the division only nine points out; if they pull it together they can do this. They have one game in hand on the Rangers and are one behind the Flyers and two behind the Devils. Will it be easy? No but it isn’t impossible. The boys just have to shake the slump and look to improve their play in front of the net. The win over the Thrashers gives them a start.

Pesonen and the Pens:

I was gonna write this, but I got this picture from Tuesday night's game, and it summed up everything pretty that's the Pesonen and the Pens mid-season review...

The Pittsburgh Penguins Power Play

Hockey, Football and Stiletto Shoes:

Wow, so the Pittsburgh Penguins… where do I start?

Sweden, the beginning, the good times. My boys paraded around Stockholm with mini Swedish flags while dividing their time between fine dining, lesbians, and cultural excursions. Life was a dream. Well, for the first game. Then they lost to the Senators and again to the Devils, and I told Max Talbot to wipe that smile off of his face before I shove that Viking hat up his ass. But, as you know, all couples have their tiffs, and in the very next game Eric Godard dropped the gloves and I immediately made it my mission to drop his pants. He officially replaced Jaromir Jagr to win the HFSS hockey boyfriendship for as long as he remains a Penguin. Taking the next loss against the Capitals was hard, as it hurts me to see my team lose a talented player with a unibrow of that caliber (seriously, you're a millionaire, just fix it), but call it make up sex, or call it raping the Leafs. My boys got all riled up and put us on a winning streak for the next three.

I spent November giddy and on acid, some of which I sold to Jordan Staal. That boy was shitting goals, and the Penguins ended up in a 6 game winning streak. Unfortunately, true to the words of the dyke cop in D.A.R.E., the rebound was harder then I could ever have imagined. My relationship with my boys became shaky. It started out innocently enough… sometimes Pascal Dupuis would forget to put the seat down, the power play would started faltering, or Tyler Kennedy didn't want to cuddle, and then BAM. It hit rock bottom.

December. I remember December as nothing but a drunken daze. The kind that George Bush felt for 40 years, but crammed into 40 days. My boys started dropping like flies, and at one point there was a higher percentage of Penguins starters on injury reserve then there were ice girls with herpes. The power play got it on as much as a 20 year old with severe E.D. (and was about as frustrated), and even Eric Godard was having hug-offs instead of fights. Michel Therrien and Mike Yeo came under fire, and then, on December 27th, the Penguins played the Habs. That's when I blacked out. For five games. The last thing I remember is my Habs fan friend telling me that Cary Price had just "stoned" my Penguins. Yeah, true story. I woke up again on January 6th to Marc Andre Fleury pouring water over my face, Petr Sykora holding smelling salts, and Eric Godard dialing 911. I watched them win from a hospital bed that night, keeping goal celebrations reserved as not to disturb my IVs. But I'm ok. The best thing about being in the hospital is that if you tell them it's cancer then all the Penguins come in to spend time with you and bring you presents. And don't worry. These next few months are going to get better; I can feel it. Or it's just the meds from the nurse talking. Whatever.

The Steel City Sports Fan (Penguins Edition):

The mid-way point of the season is always a good time to look back at the past few months and reflect on the team’s progress.

The Penguins were never afforded the opportunity for a good start to the season since it’s been one obstacle after another. A big factor that had a major impact on the first half of the season and continues to plague the team is injuries that began with Whitney having corrective surgery on his foot keeping him out of the lineup through the end of December and Gonchar suffering a major injury to his shoulder in the pre-season that required surgery and continues to keep him off the ice until recently. These are two key defensemen that make a great deal of difference to this team; however, I believe this team has been successful in playing well and keeping the team afloat despite their absence even though it probably hasn’t been as good as if they had been on the ice to contribute.
Gonchar is an elite defenseman and has always been the type of player that you don’t notice until he’s out of the lineup. Not having him and Whitney, who are both a vital part of the power play unit, is one of the reasons it has suffered up to this point since there were two big holes to fill on special teams.

Goligoski, who came up from the AHL taking only a few games before looking comfortable with his new spot on the NHL roster, has become a big factor on the team’s power play. Even though our powerplay as a whole suffers and the stats don’t show it, he has made a difference and has kept it going in Gonchar and Whitney’s absence.

Letang has really stepped up so far this season as well. You can just see his growth as a player and his confidence in his playing abilities which translates well on the ice and has allowed him to make important contributions to the team.
Players that the Penguins acquired this season have also made their share of contributions. Cooke has been a pleasant surprise. He is not only good along the boards and physical when he needs to be, but he has the ability to score goals and, as much as I hate to say it, has proven to be a great replacement for Ruutu (since he’s a favorite of mine). And Zigomanis has catapulted the Pens to another level of play with his winning face-off percentage which is the best of any player on the team. I believe that his absence due to injury is part of the reason the team isn’t fairing too well. I also like Godard’s toughness and believe he is a better enforcer than Laraque ever was for Pittsburgh.
One role that they weren’t successful in filling was that of Ryan Malone’s which I believe is another reason the Penguins are suffering since there isn’t a huge presence in front of the net and Staal really hasn’t had a chance to develop that skill yet.

Although I expected this review to be mostly negative since the team hasn’t been doing so well as of late, I find that there are a great number of things that the team has going for it which leaves me to believe that they just haven’t found a way to bring it all together yet. I believe this is due to the overall youth of the team and the absence of a veteran presence in the locker room left after Gary Roberts’ departure. I suppose I am an optimist when it comes to this team, but the situation could be so much worse if you think about it. The Penguins have a wealth of talent, but they just need to make it work and aside from a few minor changes that I believe will come before the trade deadline, I believe we will once again (maybe not this season) make a good run for and eventually win the Cup.

I would like to thank everyone for participating and I look forward to hearing your views at the end of the season.

1 comment:

wrap around curl said...

The HFSS recap was epically amazing.

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