Archive for October, 2010

You Guys All Know That James Harrison Isn’t Retiring, Right?

October 20, 2010

The top story on both Post-Gazette.com and ESPN.com today were “James Harrison Mulling Retirement”. Backing up this ridiculous, overblown, intentionally eye-grabbing headline is the following stupid quote from Harrison’s agent, in a very obvious attempt to legitimize his client’s gripe with his most recent fine through dramatic, exaggeratedly defensive rhetoric:

“We wouldn’t joke about this,” Parise said. “This is a very serious issue. James is very concerned about how to play football. If James is going to be fined $75,000 for making a legal tackle, then how do you go play football? It’s quite frustrating to James, to Coach Tomlin, to me, to everybody.”

Congratulations, James Harrison’s agent and news sites being obligated to post this as a shocking news story so everyone clicks on it and talks about it at the water cooler (do people still talk about stuff at water coolers? Or were they scrapped when Seinfeld went off the air?)

The thing is, no one has EVER retired from professional sports while at the top of their game and making tens of millions of dollars, barring injury, age, or some absolutely massive controversy. The closest examples I can think of:

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AP Calls Jordan Staal A Defenseman, You Know, The Usual

October 19, 2010

Another day, another AP article getting a really basic fact about hockey completely wrong. See if you can spot it!

CANONSBURG, Pa. — Penguins forward Jordan Staal is practicing with the team for the first time since May…

Staal resumed skating last week, when the team said he needed additional conditioning work and practicing before he could play again. The Penguins haven’t set a timetable for his return.

Staal was a finalist last season for the Selke Trophy, given to the NHL’s best two-way defenseman. Until this month, Staal had not missed a regular-season game due to injury during his five-season career.

Didja catch it? It was the part where they said the position that Jordan Staal doesn’t play and that the Selke Trophy isn’t for. Also, it’s boldfaced.

The AP is really on a roll lately after their Saturday article that referenced “Pittsburgh defenseman Matt Carle.” And this gem.

Does the “P” stand for “People who don’t know very basic facts and yet are professionally compensated to provide said facts to the public?”

Penguins 5, Senators 2: Penguins Stick It To JUDAS Gonchar

October 19, 2010

Has a player ever left the Penguins on more amicable terms than Sergei Gonchar? He and the Penguins mutually agreed to part ways after five productive seasons and a Stanley Cup, then he signed with a conference nonrival for an excellent salary, and the Penguins welcomed him back with a highlight reel at Consol, a standing ovation from the fans, and Penguin players tapping their sticks on their boards. I was half expecting Matt Cooke to line Gonchar up for a blind-side hit, then at the last second yell “SURPRISE!” and flip lights on and the rest of the Penguins would all be gathered in the conference room with party hats and a “55″ cake and everyone would hug and Gonchar would give an awkward thirty second speech then they’d eat and slowly disperse back to work.

That didn’t exactly happen. What did happen, though, was a third straight Penguins victory, keyed off a 3-0 Penguin lead after a wide-open First Period. The Pens managed 17 shots in the First and allowed 12, but still emerged up three goals after a slick Mike Comrie feed to Mark Letestu for his team-leading fourth goal, a bubble hockey-esque bounce off the end boards that Crosby hand-eye-coordinated behind Brian Elliot, and a faceoff that Ottawa cleanly won in their own defensive zone that they couldn’t corral, ended up on net, and was knocked in on the rebound by a fully outstretched diving Malkin.

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Best Bob Errey Quote Of The Season So Far: Goligoski Is A Hummingbird

October 18, 2010

During Monday’s Pens/Senators game, Chris Neil lined up Alex Goligoski for a big hit while his head was turned, and at the last second, Goligoski pushed himself away from the boards and Neil collided with his own teammate. This greatly amused FSN’s Paul Steigerwald and Bob Errey, and during the instant replay — emboldened by the Pens’ comfortable lead — Bob Errey delivered this awesomely insane about Golgoski’s move (transcribed verbatim):

“For Goligoski he saw it coming and he was able to WOOP! Slip out backwards. Like a hummingbird, don’t they take off backwards? Like a fly, when you try to catch a fly, Steigie? You gotta, you gotta reach behind that fly it goes backwards, like a crayfish. And that’s exactly what Goligoski did.”

Suck on that poetry, Lord Byron. You…hummingbird…crayfish.

I know a lot of Pens fans complain about the Penguin tv announcers (and basically all non-Dodger fans whine about their announcers all the time), but personally, I think Errey and Steigerwald do a pretty good job, and I’d rather have two homers slipping in the occasional awesomely insane quote than a completely professional, reliably sane announcing team. Or Joe Buck, ever.

Steelers 28, Browns 10: Let The Awkward Cheering Begin!

October 18, 2010

That plan worked perfectly, huh? Have Ben Roethlisberger sit out four games, allow the story of his offseason troubles to fade a bit, force Steeler fans to put up with four weeks of Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch sailing deep balls, have Brett Favre get busted for sending pictures of his penis to Jets staffers and BAM! Bring Ben back to crush the Browns and have everyone cheer him. Roethlisberger Cakes for all! Yes, that link is Safe For Work.

Roethlisberger wasn’t perfect in this game (sidenote to game stories that mentioned he wasn’t perfect: Ben Roethlisberger isn’t perfect when he’s regular), but he threw for 257 yards and three TDs, the last of which occurred only so we have to say “three TDs” in our accounts of Roethlisberger’s return game instead of the more pedestrian-sounding “two.”

I will say though, the Browns seemed to be decently well-coached; their offensive play calling wasn’t overly predictable, their defensive schemes legitimately puzzled the Steelers at times, and their punt team was the greatest punt team that ever punt teammed, but the Browns just really noticeably lack talent all over the field, and the outcome of this game was never actually in doubt. And I say that as a typical “try to psyche myself out no matter how good the Steelers are looking so I don’t jinx it” homer fan. Even though the First Half score and total yardage were close, Pittsburgh controlled this game from start to finish.

The CBS announcing team provided my favorite “guy announcing the Steelers” cliche, introducing Aaron Smith as the “Very Underrated” Aaron Smith. Why does everyone always, always use the exact word “underrated” to compliment Aaron Smith? This has been going on in Pittsburgh papers, on national broadcasts, on highlight shows, and amongst Steeler fans for about six years now. At some point, isn’t he just “Really Good”?

My only criticism of the Steelers in this one was their overuse of Rashard Mendenhall after the game was already sealed up. I’m probably just being picky, but Mendenhall finished the game with 27 carries and touched the ball 10 times in the fourth quarter, while Isaac Redman only carried the ball 6 times all game. I’d like to see the Steelers give the ball to Redman some more late in games that they’re dominating to save Mendenhall a bit; even though 30 touches isn’t an absurdly high number for a #1 back, the Steelers can’t afford to have Mendenhall wear down as the season goes on, so spreading some carries around here and there when games are already decided seems like a no-brainer. FIRE BRUCE ARIANS ZOMG!!!!

The Steelers are currently 3 point favorites at Miami next week. Facing Colt McCoy and Chad Henne in back-to-back weeks? Brutal college schedule.

Penguins 5, Flyers 1: If You Give A Million Penguin Power Plays A Million Chances, They’ll Eventually Produce Hamlet

October 18, 2010

Before the season, I have to admit, I wasn’t totally enthused about the Pens’ re-signing of Brent Johnson, and not because I questioned Johnson’s ability as a backup or his performance in ’09-’10, but because I wanted the Penguins to go after a backup who could potentially get hot for a few games and challenge Fleury – perhaps someone in the Johan Hedberg / Martin Biron price-and-skill range — rather than a very clear backup goaltender, albeit a reliable and inexpensive one like Johnson. Now, six games into the 2010-11 season, Fleury has started three games and lost all three, and Johnson has started three and won all three. Obviously it’s super early and nothing Johnson does now (or probably ever) would or should unseat Fleury as the team’s long-term #1 goaltender, but for the meantime, Johnson is pushing Fleury for that starting job much in the way I’d hoped a Hedberg-type would have, and at the exceedingly reasonable cost of a two-year $600,000 cap hit (while also pulling the Penguins from 1-3 to 3-3).

It’s entirely possible Johnson will start letting in Scott Gomez dump-ins along the ice from 30 feet and this entire newfound confidence in his ability to challenge Fleury while helping the Penguins win in the short-term will immediately dissipate, but at least for the first six games, Johnson’s sudden steadiness couldn’t have come at a better time. Ideally, he can keep this up for a while and split the next 10 starts or so with Fleury 50/50, and after some confidence-redeeming Fleury spot-starts, Fleury can go back to being their 80/20 starter and playing like it. Or maybe he’ll keep letting in Scott Gomez dump-ins along the ice from 30 feet and I’ll have to keep copying and pasting my “Seriously, I’m not just whining, Fleury is factually not playing well” posts.

As for the Flyers game itself, the Pens got 700 power plays and finally scored on a few of them, the Flyers had trouble finishing and basically folded in the third, and after the game Mike Richards said a bunch of stuff that would’ve been interpreted as bitchy whining if Crosby had said it (gets going about a minute in):

Tonight: Pens vs. Tranquil Music Islander Dogs

October 15, 2010

On the eve of tonight’s Penguins / Islanders showdown, Empty Netters draws our attention to this amazdiculous Islanders commercial from 2008 for Uncle Norman’s Pet Sponge:

I predict Kris Letang will randomly pinch up in a 1-1 game and leave Norman’s Pet Sponge wide open in the crease for a tap-in, and the Pens will lose 5-1. The other four goals will be scored by Nino Niederreiter, because “Nino Niederreiter” is the most “Obviously Scoring On The Pens” name I’ve ever heard.

Get ready to hear “Niederreiter getting some power play time here…oh what a shot by Niederreiter! Niederreiter’s second career NHL goal gives the Islanders a 1-0 lead…”

Good News! Pens Not Suicidal After 1-3 Start

October 15, 2010

How are the Penguins reacting to their 0-3 start at home? They’re hopelessly suicidal, right? I know I am. Time to fill the morning skate Gatorade dispenser with arsenic so it’s quick and painless and…

WAIT! Oh thank God:

The Penguins are still confident! Whew. The Eastern Conference Favorites are not totally packing it in after their 1-3 start.

Not to rip on Shelly Anderson (actually, yeah, exactly to rip on Shelly Anderson), but no team in the history of sports has ever admitted to not being confident.

Obviously the Penguins’ confidence isn’t shattered after 4 games of a 650 game season, and even if it were, they wouldn’t straight-up admit it to a hometown reporter. Even in the most hopeless situations, all sports teams remain outwardly confident, even if it’s a facade, and regurgitating vague locker room quotes to that effect does not constitute insightful journalism or anything worth reading.

Imagine seeing these headlines:

“Patriots: Oh crap, Brady’s done for the year! Screw this, we’re playing for a draft pick”

“Down 3-0 in series, Red Sox clubhouse cites near mathematical certainty of impending elimination”

“Team with Sidney Frickin’ Crosby on it believes season is over with 78 games remaining”

I know the P-G has to fill space with Penguin articles even after moderately uneventful off-days, but come on, “Penguins Still Confident”? Someone with no concept of what hockey or penguins are could’ve written this article in their sleep.

Michalek To Miss Only 2 Weeks After Watching Last Night’s Toronto Game

October 14, 2010

The Penguins ran tests on injured defenseman Zbynek Michalek for a couple days before announcing how long he’d be out, causing fan speculation that it might be something really serious, but after a preliminary report that Michalek would be out 2-4 weeks, the Penguins are now officially announcing that he’ll only miss about 2 weeks with a “right shoulder injury.”

I imagine his medical prognosis went something like this:

Doctor: It’s a right shoulder strain. Since it’s early in the year, I’d advise taking it easy for 2 weeks, then practicing for a bit and returning to game action about 6 weeks from now.

Michalek: That makes sense, don’t want to come back too early and re-injure it. Oh well — guess I’ll just sit here and watch the Maple Leafs game.

Steigerwald: Colton Orr scores!!! A perfect deflection in front of the net by Orr has given the Leafs a 1-0 lead.

Michalek: I’m coming back in 2 weeks.

Maple Leafs 4, Penguins 3: Fleury Gets Outplayed By Random Goalie Yet Again

October 14, 2010

Before we get to our first Complaining About Fleury entry of 2010 (someone have the champagne ready?), let’s get the obligatory pre-complaining about Fleury stipulations out of the way so that our rational, fact-based complaints aren’t misinterpreted as baseless whining.

Obligatory Pre-Complaining About Fleury Thing 1: Fleury Wasn’t The Pens’ Only Problem In This Game

The Pens got badly outhustled in the first half of the first period, and were extremely lucky to end up with a lead in the first place, particularly with 2 of their best defensemen out and the replacements playing cluelessly, their power play alternately not shooting and shooting directly into defenders, and their second goal coming off a gift turnover right next to the Leafs’ net.

Obligatory Pre-Complaining About Fleury Thing 2: The Shots Were High-Quality Chances

One of the goals came off a deflection from the point, one was a clean side-to-side one-timer, and one was put in by a wide-open guy in the slot. None of the goals individually were “bad” breakdown-type mistakes by Fleury (like the Scott Gomez game-winner Saturday night), and reflected as much about the Pens’ defensive effort as they did about the goaltending.

With those two necessary components to any complaining about Fleury post out of the way, let’s complain about Fleury:

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