Archive for the ‘NHL’ Category

The Next Level!

April 26, 2009
The last two Penguin games have been heart stoppers. It seemed that we forgot how to play our style of hockey. I was actually worried about the series simply because we let them take control. Then, out out nowhere, our hero emerged. Was he on the first line? Nope. Second line? Nope again. Third? Wrong again. It was our hometown favorite Max Talbot to the rescue. It is amazing what a simple fight can do for a team. And they want to take fighting out of hockey? This is the definition of why it needs to stay in!

In game five at home, we played great in the first period, out shooting the Flyers 15-5 and getting all kinds of chances. Unfortunately none went behind Biron. The spirits were down and the Flyers scored one more in the second and two in the third to clinch it. We were outplayed and outmaneuvered in the second two periods. We somehow forced ourselves out of that game. We let them win that battle. It was at home as well. It shouldn’t have happened. The battle we can lose, but not the War!

Game six started almost the same way, although we looked much better. The Flyers got two quick goals in the first though and one early in the second and it looked like game five all over again. I was scared to come back to Pittsburgh for game seven. I know how I felt last year when other teams were not able to close it out and forced into it. I felt that they weren’t Stanley Cup quality. That is just how my mind works. I feel if a team can’t close it out soon after going up three games to one or none, they won’t make it to the finals. I am glad the Pens didn’t give me that thought.

At 4:21 in the second period, we were down 3-0. Every minute before that mark in the second, we looked like we were done. We looked like we were going to lose and deservedly so. Then Max Talbot got on the ice and started talking to Daniel Carcillo, an ex-Penguin for Wilkes-Barre. He used to play with Max down there. Now, as far as fighting goes, you don’t typically fight when you are up 3-0, simply because you could possibly, win or lose, give the other team some momentum. When Max asked for the fight, Carcillo was hesitant even though he wanted to, but with some encouragement from the bench, he agreed. This was the best example of a player being a bonehead. Max may have been beaten in that fight, but what happened afterward with the team was nothing short of amazing.

In a matter of 14 seconds after the fight, Evgeni Malkin crashed the net and Ruslan Fedotenko push the puck in past Biron’s right pad. He finally broke the ice after a game and a half of not scoring. It also looked as if it broke Biron’s will to play on the level he had been previously. Before the period was up, we had Mark Eaton and Sidney Crosby scoring in a similar fashion, batting the puck out of mid-air into the net after a juicy rebound. If you do the math right, we tied it. If the Flyers truly deserved to win this one, they wouldn’t have let that tying goal in.

Just past two minutes into the third period the clincher happened. Malkin skated into the zone and it looked like he pushed their defense back, without actually touching anyone. He then had a nice little dish to Sergei Gonchar who wound up and fired his signature slap shot into the top left corner of the net. Biron didn’t have a prayer. They let the Penguins control the ice. That was all she wrote aside from the hard fought empty netter by Crosby in the end. We won the game and clinched the series, now we wait for our next opponent.

Now, back to fighting. I am a big proponent of fighting in hockey, but only a certain kind. This was it. It was the type that comes with passion and emotion. Now I have said that I didn’t like the ones right after the faceoff, but in this case, it was right. I guess it is circumstantial. What I mean is that when you send your heavyweight guy out that is know to be a fighter and the other team does as well, it isn’t an emotional fight. It is just their jobs and doesn’t have the same effect. Now, if the great hockey minds can figure out how to control the difference, that would make it great!
Just to let you know, Boston won its series as the first seed, so if the Rangers knock off Washington today, no matter what, Boston would face them and we would get whomever wins between New Jersey and Carolina. If the Rangers eventually lose the series against the Caps, then we would play Boston. I don’t care who we play, but think of this…the last two times we played Boston in the Conference Finals, we won and went on to win the Stanley Cup!

Let’s Go Pens!


All Hail Fleury, Our King of the Nets!

April 23, 2009
In Fleury we trust. Or at least that is what we should be saying right about now. I want to take a look at how well our beloved goaltender has been doing the past couple of years. It is pretty impressive. I like to compare him in a round about way to another Pittsburgh favorite in Ben Roethlisberger. I am not going to dwell on this just think of how each plays. When the chips are down and they are the most important cogs on their respective teams, they always seem to come through. Back to Marc-Andre Fleury.

Marc-Andre Fleury is only 24 years old and has appeared in a Stanley Cup Final as well as achieved over 100 wins. He also is starting to get the Brodeur and Roy-esqe type of reputation, however everyone keeps holding their breathe for him to flop. I will tell you this much, I don’t believe he will.

Fleury was drafted by Pittsburgh 1st overall in 2003. He was the first pick because our Penguins were just horrible the year before. We went 27-44-6-5 for 65 points. We were second to last in the league. This was just the second year of our four year hiatus from the playoffs. Ryan Whitney was our top pick at 5th overall the year before. This was a legendary draft class with Eric Staal taken second, Nikolai Zherdev third, Thomas Vanek fifth, Dion Phaneuf ninth, Andrei Kostitsyn tenth, Jeff Carter eleventh, Zach Parise seventeenth, Ryan Getzlaf nineteenth, and Mike Richards at twenty-fourth. You look at this draft and it is amazing how this much talent all went in the first round. The key is that Fleury was taken before all of them.

He was immediately shoved into a semi-starting role for the Pens, even though he wasn’t ready for it. That is usually reserved for a team that is half decent. We weren’t. We weren’t even by a longshot. We sorta left him out to dry constantly. Here is his progression since then…

2003-2004 21GP 4W 14L 2T 1SO 70GA 675SA .896SA% 3.64GAA
2005-2006 50GP 13W 27L 6T 1SO 152GA 1,485SA .898SA% 3.25GAA
2006-2007 67GP 40W 16L 9T 5SO 184GA 1,954SA .906SA% 2.83GAA
2007-2008 35GP 19W 10L 2T 4SO 72GA 909SA .921SA% 2.33GAA*
2008-2009 62GP 35W 18L 7T 4SO 162GA 1,850SA .912SA% 2.67GAA
*-injury season

Those are the overall numbers, but I want to show you the last 20 games of each of the last three playoff seasons.

2006-2007 15GP out of 20 with a record of 11-2-2.
2007-2008 13GP out of 20 with a record of 10-2-1.*
2008-2009 18GP out of 20 with a record of 13-2-3.
*-injury season

It seems like he gets significantly better at the end of the season, just when the pressure is on and you have to. Now onto some playoff numbers, which are also continually getting better.

2006-2007 5GP 1W 4L 0T 0SO 18GA 150SA .880SA% 3.76GAA
2007-2008 20GP 14W 6L 0T 3SO 41GA 610SA .933SA% 1.97GAA
2008-2009 4GP 3W 1L 0T 0SO 9GA 142SA .937SA% 2.09GAA*
*-still ongoing

So you see, Fleury is more solid in between the pipes than everybody talks about. The best way he could make that statement is coming off of that five goal let down in game three, only to stop 45 shots in route to a 3-1 win.

Marc-Andre Fleury may not have a Stanley Cup under his belt yet, but as long as he is in the net, we definitely have a chance.

Let’s Go Pens!