Archive for October, 2009

Malkin To Take 2-3 Week Break

October 29, 2009

Evgeni Malkin has decided to make the Penguins’ next month of hockey marginally more challenging by sitting out 2-3 weeks with a shoulder injury. In response, the Pens have called up Chris Conner and some dude named Mark Letestu from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

No word yet on precisely how the team plans to compensate for his ice time, but I imagine the Staal-Kennedy-Cooke line will remain intact (when Kennedy returns) and possibly assume the technical moniker as the “#2 Line,” with perhaps Craig Adams centering Fedotenko and Conner on a half-scorey, half-grindy sort of third line. Dupuis could bump Conner in a pinch, but I’m guessing they’re not calling up Conner to have him sit, and Dupuis would be far better suited for a role on a 4th line and occassional PK or random thrown-together-after-powerplay line. Rupp isn’t going anywhere, and Godard, Bourque, and Letestu can rotate in the other roster spots, depending on who gets the most impressive one rush down the side and wrist shot into the opposing goalie’s glove.

Malkin’s spot on the power play will probably be shared by Kennedy and/or Fedotenko, but I’m also guessing we’ll see Conner out there with the man advantage as well. I’m glad the Pens have Conner, too, because he’s exactly the sort of “Just called up from the AHL!” dude who would definitely score against the Penguins in his first game up.

Obviously, with Gonchar out already, this gives the Pens some major ice time to redistribute, but it’s also not even November and there’s no way the Pens aren’t making the playoffs, so as long as it’s not a nagging injury for Malkin, the Pens giving him a little rest and their depth guys some more seasoning probably won’t be a bad thing.

Anyone wanna dare them to try to keep winning with Crosby out too? Cahhhmaaaaaan……

Penguins 6, Canadiens 1: Pens Manage To Contain Team Of Easily-Containable Dudes

October 29, 2009

Montreal appears to be right on track for their annual low-seeded playoff finish, early playoff exit, and consequent coach pressure and firing in December of 2010. The Canadiens have been playing better defensively lately, at least as far as I can derive from tickerbar scores, but the Penguins absolutely manhandled them; Montreal appeared to be playing no discernible system, the supposedly red-hot Jaroslav Halak turned in a pedestrian performance, and the Canadiens’ Gomez-Gionta-Cammalleri “Legion of OK Dudes” combination was far from terror-inspiring.

In short, Montreal resembles a better-coached ’08-’09 Tampa Bay Lightning: a suddenly high-priced roster of more than 50% new guys all frantically trying to mesh together to resemble a complete hockey team. I imagine they’ll still make the playoffs, though, because unlike the Lightning, they’ll be motivated by the fact that if they miss the playoffs, the citizens of Montreal will hunt down and murder their families. But I don’t see them going anywhere after that.

Other bright spots:

– Free agent splash Mike Rupp matched his goal total from last season (3 in 72 games) just 12 games into the season.

– I laughed pretty hard in the First when Malkin slipped a saucer pass to Dupuis for a mini breakaway and Steigerwald excitedly announced “Here comes Dupuis all alone…saved by Halak.” You’re not allowed to excitedly raise your voice if the person with the scoring chance is Pascal Dupuis. It’s the same as the old Kip Miller rule.

– I find myself rooting extra hard against Montreal these days solely because they took on Scott Gomez’s contract and helped the Rangers, making them guilty of some “Accessory To Team I Hate” crime. Beating them by 5 goals while Nonfactor-ez  turned in a typical nonfactor performance was far sweeter than your standard Northeast Division win.

Sidney Crosby is good.

Chiefs Suspend Larry Johnson For Gay Slurs; Rams Players Exclaim, “Awesome, That’s All It Takes??”

October 27, 2009

Kansas City Chiefs running back and 2006 fantasy pick Larry Johnson has been suspended indefinitely from team activities while the organization investigates his alleged use of gay slurs towards media members following the Chiefs’ loss to San Diego this past Sunday:

Johnson issued an apology and a national gay rights advocacy organization called on the league and the team to take action against the two-time Pro Bowl back…

The Chiefs said they have told Johnson he would not be allowed to practice with the team or participate in team activities until the matter was resolved. (Yahoo)

Johnson’s punishment for using gay slurs is to not have to play for the Kansas City Chiefs?? That’s a punishment? This could set an extremely dangerous precedent…

Immediately following the suspension, roughly 130 players for the Rams, Bucs, Browns, Lions, Titans, and Terrell Owens immediately Twittered “EVERYONE IN THE MEDIA IS FAGS I REPEAT FAGS PLEASE RETEWEET THIS”

If Only That Vikings Game Had Been A Scrimmage…

October 27, 2009

Steelers postgame comments:

“We scored more touchdowns than their offense,” said safety Ryan Clark. “If it was a scrimmage, we would have won.”

My brother Mike points out, “It wasn’t a scrimmage and you did win.  For the same reason you would have won the scrimmage.”

Marian Gaborik’s Twelve-Game Ironman Streak In Jeopardy Following Unforseeable Injury

October 27, 2009

Who could’ve seen this coming?

Gaborik Headline

“That’s why we signed him,” gushed GM Glen Sather. “To make an impact, then get hurt and spend 2-80 weeks away from the team while people keep saying how good the Rangers are gonna be when Gaborik comes back.”

I’m pretty sure “Gaborik scores 2, leaves game with injury” is one of the default headlines whenever someone starts a sports publication. It’s the NHL’s version of the “I’m running late” text message.

Steelers 27, Vikings 17: Dumbass NFL Victories Are Way More Fun Than Dumbass NFL Losses

October 26, 2009

The Steelers had already fallen victim to two “Dammit, NFL” losses, so it was about time for a “Dammit, NFL” win. The Steelers didn’t control play against the Vikings at all; they were outgained 386 – 259, lost the possession battle 36:58 – 23:02, converted only 4 of 12 third downs, most of which were exceedingly reasonable, and Roethlisberger turned in a pedestrian 14/26 for 175 yards and a TD. Still, the Steelers prevailed, because it’s the damn NFL and good teams win weird games like this all the time; unless you’re the ’07 Patriots, even the league’s best teams usually pad their gaudy records with three or four crappy victories, but in the end, as cliched as it sounds, none of that matters, cause the Steelers won, they’re 5-2 now, and the Vikings are no longer undefeated.

The Vikings did commit an astonishing 5,795 yards worth of penalties, which helped a bit, and the Steelers D finally got tired of us whining about them needing to make a big play and spitefully scored two touchdowns to shut us up (for at least one quarter). Even with the Vikings’ miscues and the seemingly slanted offensive statistics, the Steelers could’ve put the game away earlier if…

1) Santonio Holmes’ TD wasn’t negated with an offensive pass interference call on Heath “Ol’ Reliable Except On That Play” Miller.

2) Rashard Mendenhall hadn’t fumbled on the Vikings 4 yard line by diving over the pile on a non-goalline play and spastically flinging away the football. I’m pretty sure Mendenhall was waiting for the exact millisecond when Steeler fans finally trusted him again after his rookie struggles and Bengals-game benching to make sure that when he did screw up again, it was extra gut-wrenching. I’m still waiting for Lastings Milledge to do the same with the Pirates next year, with a hot month of April followed by him randomly founding a Neo-Nazi hate group in May (Awww, crap!)

3) Not allowed Percy Harvin to return a kickoff 275 yards for a touchdown (yep, he ran the length of the field and back untouched 2.75 times). The Steelers special teams had to play competently for all of 2008 before I even began to entertain the thought that whenever they kicked off, it might actually not get returned for a touchdown (or to like, the Steeler 10), and like the Mendenhall thing, juuuuuuust when I was beginning to believe in the Steelers’ special teams, they’ve now given up kick return TDs in back to back games.

Apologies for the Bill Simmons-style rip-off reference, but I feel a bit like Helen Hunt at the end of Cast Away; after being convinced for months and months through therapy that my husband was gone, I finally grew to accept it, then BAM! He’s back out of nowhere. Only in this case, the husband is some random fast dude warping to the 50 untouched and me shrugging too hard to bother shouting the F-word.

4) Any Combination of the Above. All three would’ve been nice.

Other random thoughts on the game:

(more…)

Lightning Players Hold Strip Shootout In Attempt To Also Get Called Gay By Flyer Fans

October 23, 2009

ESPN:

Lightning lighten up with strip shootout

The Tampa Bay Lightning didn’t face an opponent Tuesday night, but they almost saw too much of one another.

In an effort to inspire more team unity, Lightning players competed in a post-practice game of strip shootout, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

Players faced off in a series of shootouts, forced to lose a piece of equipment every time their attempt was thwarted. The final player to find the back of the net?

Martin St. Louis, who (in order) lost his helmet, elbow pads, gloves, jersey, both leg pads, both skates, his leggings and socks before finally finishing one off. He had to attempt one shot with just one skate on, then took his final shots while wearing sandals from the locker room.

Sounds innocent enough, and clearly, NOT doing post-practice strip shootouts hasn’t really been working for Tampa, so what’s the harm?

But please, Penguins, no matter how badly the team needs a bonding boost, promise you’ll never, EVER do a team strip shootout. I already have to withstand 80,000 “Crosby is gay” comments in opposing arenas now; if word broke that Crosby and his teammates stripped for one another, that number will cube itself, and the word “is” will also be replaced by the word “gay,” so they can make sure to get “gay” twice in the three-word sentence.

Hypothetical Example:

[Enter Madison Square Garden. One billionth of one second passes.]

“Gaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygay
gaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygay
gaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygay
gaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygay…”

[Repeat x Duration of Game, Overnight, Sesame Street On Ice The Following Day]

Ross Ohlendorf To Intern For U.S. Department Of Agriculture; Pirate Fans Still Deciding How To Get Mad About This

October 23, 2009

There’s rest, there’s the Arizona Fall League, and then there’s Ross Ohlendorf’s offseason plans:

One week after the season ended, Ohlendorf began an eight-week internship with the Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. It’s a highly unusual endeavor for a professional baseball player, but to those who know Ohlendorf well, his plans to conduct research in conjunction with the National Animal Identification System comes as no surprise…

OMG! Until the Nuttings start spending money on WINNING instead of DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE INTERNSHIPS, I am DONE with this team. Fans should know they’re only after your MONEY and your AGRICULTURAL INTERNSHIPS and I am NOT falling for it!

Gene Collier On Why The Jeff Reed Situation Is A Situation

October 22, 2009

I do spend an inordinate amount of time in this blogspace whining about professional sportswriters’ columns, but I don’t want to give the impression that that’s the only thing I do; sometimes, I whine about professional sportswriters’ columns while also swearing a lot. So I’m kind of a Renaissance Man (The movie with Danny DeVito. I am that movie, is my point).

No, but really, to prove that I’m not Complaineypants McWhinerson when it comes to other peoples’ columns, even though that is my legal name, I would like to call attention to Gene Collier’s excellent P-G column today about the apparent hypocrisy between the Steelers’ handling of the Jeff Reed situation versus the Santonio Holmes benching a season ago.

Personally, I’m not against the Steelers’ decision to dress Reed for the Minnesota game this weekend, and the team’s stance doesn’t appear to be egregiously unreasonable, but this decision taken in conjunction with the decision to bench Holmes a season ago after he was found to possess a small quantity of marijuana is more than a little eye-opening, and certainly calls for a better explanation than Mike Tomlin and the organization were willing to give.

At its heart, this story does continue to call into question the myth that the Steelers organization is somehow more noble than the rest of the league when it comes to character issues. They’re not the Bengals, and they never trip over their own feet Jerry Jones style to snap up ex-cons at a bargain price, but can we stop acting like this franchise is on some holy, untouchable pedestal when it comes to valuing some vague form of ‘integrity’ over practical football decisions?

Taking a moral stand is a lot easier when it doesn’t require signing a kicker for one week and depending on him to kick at Heinz Field against an unbeaten team in the midst of a tight division race. Plus he doesn’t have dreads.

Pens Gear Up For Annual Blaming Of Anything That Goes Wrong On Gonchar Being Out

October 21, 2009

Sergei Gonchar is out 4-6 weeks with a broken wrist after being checked awkwardly in the Pens’ 5-1 victory over the Blues Tuesday night. The Pens will most likely shuffle NHL vet Martin Skoula into the 6th defenseman spot and hand Gonchar’s role on the top power play unit to Kris Letang.

As long as Gonchar recovers fully it’s not too big a loss, given the timing in the season and the Pens’ replacement options, but nonetheless, gear yourself up for the following exact scenario to occur 15 times per game for the next 4-6 weeks:

[On the power play, Crosby carries the puck, makes backhand saucer pass at blue line, Pens are Offsides]

Bob Errey: The Pens’ power play really misses Sergei Gonchar right now.

[Repeat x 9,000,000,000]