Archive for October, 2010

Penguins 3, Hurricanes 0: I Think We All Saw This Brent Johnson Season Coming

October 31, 2010

This was one of those “simple analysis” type games, which is good, because I never feel like writing long posts on the weekend. I prefer spending the weekend relaxing by the beach, re-enacting Corona commercials by, like, pouring a mai tai on my cell phone, or whatever. I literally do that every single weekend. I’ve gone through hundreds of cell phones, but it’s totally worth…nah it’s not worth it. I really should stop ruining my cell phones with mai tais every weekend to prove how relaxed I am.

Whoops, I’m already rambling and making the short post long. The simple analysis:

1) The Penguins showed a lot of jump, particularly for a road game the night after a home game (though the ratio of Pens fans to Canes fans sounded downright Yankees-in-Tampaesque).

2) Brent Johnson played awesomely, and Cam Ward played not awesomely.

Johnson stopped 33 Carolina shots to notch his first shutout in a Penguin uniform, improving to 5-0-1 on the year. Ward, conversely, let in a Max Talbot goal after Talbot attempted to make a forehand move, lost the puck, and it slid in under Ward, then allowed a second goal to Pascal Dupuis on an unscreened, untipped wrister from the right circle.

The Johnson / Fleury disparity this season has been so glaring, it doesn’t require in-depth statistical analysis, but right now the numbers are just staggering:

Johnson: 5-0-1, 1.16 GAA, .960 SV%
Fleury: 1-5-0, 3.35 GAA, .863 SV%

At what point do we stop just automatically assuming Fleury will reclaim the starting job? That’s not a smart-assed rhetorical question, I honestly have no idea how this situation is going to play out over the next couple months. Brent Johnson has allowed 7 goals in six games – Bylsma has to keep starting him over Fleury for the foreseeable future, using Fleury only on their upcoming Friday/Saturday back-to-backs in the next two weeks, if at all. 12 games is a small sample size, and obviously we can’t throw Fleury under the bus after 6 games (and a bunch of bad games last year including several playoff ones ok I’ll stop this parenthesis has made its point). But Johnson’s certainly making it interesting.

By the way, that two-year, $600,000 / yr deal the Pens gave Johnson is looking slightly decent now, huh?


Freddy Sanchez Delivering In The World Series Is A GOOD THING, Pirates Fans

October 28, 2010

Freddy Sanchez was a super-likable presence during his time with the Pirates, coming in as a blocked Red Sox prospect, not getting a chance to play regularly in the majors until he turned 27, and ultimately willing himself into the Pirates’ lineup by outhitting Joe Randa then converting to second base and posting a string of reliably productive seasons. His oft-mentioned batting title in 2006 is one of the few tiny hooks the Pirates of the 2000s can hang their tiny hats on, and even when his production dipped in ’08, Sanchez remained extremely well-liked by the Pirates fanbase, and rebounded slightly in 2009 before being dealt to the Giants at the 2009 trade deadline, two months before his contract expired.

Sanchez overcame early injury problems in 2010 to post a decent season for the eventual NL West champs, and last night, in his first-ever World Series game, Sanchez went 4-for-5 with 3 RBI and 2 runs scored in the Giants’ 11-7 victory. It was a truly transcendent, feel-good night for fans of the terrific ballplayer and person that we loved in Pittsburgh, and seeing him finally get a chance to shine on baseball’s biggest stage was truly satisfying.

At least, that’s what I thought. Apparently, most of my friends who don’t follow the Pirates were absolutely outraged by Sanchez’s performance last night, and I slapped my forehead pink watching Facebook post after Facebook post appear that ripped on the Pirates for letting Freddy Sanchez go because management is dumb and cheap and never changes and let a World Series HERO slip away. I wrote several paragraph-length responses to these Facebook posts but never posted them, like some depressed ex-boyfriend fighting my drunkenness long enough to discard the email I was about to send my now-engaged former girlfriend.

Let’s clear up three things about Freddy Sanchez’s performance in Game One:


Lightning 5, Penguins 3: When You Play Tampa, You Just Have To Contain Teddy Purcell

October 28, 2010

My brother, a hockey fan who despises the NBA even more strongly than I do, has long made the argument that part of the NHL’s struggle for publicity stems from how fundamentally different the roles of its stars are from those of the stars in the NBA. If you attend a Lakers game, you know almost unequivocally that Kobe Bryant is going to score 20 points with a shot at 30 or 40, and he’ll have the ball in his hands on nearly every possession throughout the entire game, whereas if you attend a Penguins game — such as the Pens’ unimpressive 5-3 clunker in Tampa Wednesday night — you very plausibly might see Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin manage just one secondary assist between them.

The disparity in star power between NHL players and NBA players isn’t solely a factor of the sports’ differing popularities or the way that they’re promoted, but also results from this primary, fundamental difference within the sports themselves. If you’ve never seen a basketball game, you’re still not going to watch a Heat game without noticing LeBron James; if you’re not a serious hockey fan, though, you very well could’ve missed Sidney Crosby Wednesday night.

I’ll save the finer points of this argument for another day, but it’s a nice, general, roundabout segue into my minorly disgusted reaction to the Pens’ loss to Tampa, in which Sidney Crosby played possibly his worst game of the year, managing 3 shots and a Minus-1, providing absolutely zip on the power play, and turning the puck over with Cutleresque frequency. The Pens managed to lose a game in which they scored two shorthanded goals on the same Tampa power play, got goals from Matt Cooke, Pascal Dupuis, and Craig Adams, and managed to chase the clueless-looking Mike Smith just 12 minutes into the game.

Fleury did his part too, allowing 4 goals on 30 shots (.867 SV%) including the first shot of the game for his second straight start, this time on a harmless wrister along the ice from Tampa’s most dangerous sniper, Dana Tyrell. The equally unstoppable Teddy Purcell added a goal on an untipped wrist shot from above the circles (the Pens had a tough time containing the notorious -Ell Twins), Vinny LeCavalier threw an unstoppable power play one-timer past Fleury to tie it, and Marty St. Louis forced a breakaway through two Penguin defenders and chipped the winning goal over a failed Fleury poke-check. Stir in another sweet 0-for-5 on the Pens’ power play and voila! A regulation loss after being up 3-1.

Jordan Staal is allegedly slated to return Friday against Philly. If his weight still isn’t up to par, he has my permission to eat Mike Comrie.

Jose Tabata + LF = TABATALF

October 27, 2010

It’s a slow time of year for Pirates news (the World Series usually is), but in a rare moment of inspiration, someone on a BucsDugout comment thread yesterday was listing the Pirates’ projected 2011 starting lineup, beginning with Jose Tabata in Left Field.

They accidentally forgot a space between “Tabata” and “LF”, though, thus unleashing, for the first time…

Spent 15 minutes Photoshopping that last night at 1 am instead of, I don’t know, getting sleep, or reading some classic literary masterpiece or raising $2 for cancer research. I’m not liking my chances for the 2010 World’s Most Useful Human Award. Mayyyybe 2011.

Colton Orr Scores Second-Most Interfering Goal In History Of Interference

October 27, 2010

Check out Colton Orr’s completely legal go-ahead goal in Tuesday’s Maple Leafs / Panthers game:

“That effing COUNTED???” – Scott Hartnell, Matt Cooke, and Tomas Holmstrom all in unison, harmonizing.

That’s easily the second-worst uncalled goalie interference I’ve seen in recent years, behind only the not-notorious-enough Flyers/Capitals Game 7 goal from 2008, which gets worse every time I go back and rewatch it (skip to 2:27):


Aaron Smith Undergoes Surgery, May Return This Season, Won’t Return This Season

October 26, 2010


Defensive end Aaron Smith had surgery Monday for a torn tricep tendon in his left arm, but it is possible he will not miss the remainder of the season.

Coach Mike Tomlin said today the Steelers will wait and see how Smith recovers from the surgery and, for now, will keep a roster spot open for their veteran defensive end.

Basically what you’re saying is, you’re not officially declaring him done for the year, but he’s definitely done for the year, right? I really don’t want to get my hopes up.

Forgive me if I’m skeptical, but after Troy Polamalu’s second injury last year was deemed not as bad as his first, which kept him out two games, and he ended up randomly missing the entire rest of the year, I now just assume that any major injury instantly means the guy’s done for the year, especially when it’s an injury that means the guy’s done for the year.

Hopefully ’09 first-round-pick Ziggy Hood can take a Timmons-like step forward in Smith’s absence, if only so I have more reason to pull out the Bill And Ted’s “Ziggy Piggy!” song whenever he sacks someone.

Still, I’ve always thought Smith’s muscle tears are extremely underrated; the attention always goes to the defensive ends with the most torn ACLs.

NEWS IN BR…F: Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

October 26, 2010

  • Romo Breaks Clavicle, Ending Cowboys Season Two Weeks Ago

  • Zito Still Awkwardly Hanging Out With Giants

  • Lamoriello To MacLean: “I Won’t Fire You That Much Sooner Than Every Other Devils Coach”

  • Marijuana Arrest Reminds Buccaneers To Cut Jerramy Stevens

  • Eagles’ Reid Burns Timeout During Bye Week
  • Steelers 23, Dolphins 22: Pittsburgh Ref Pittsburghs Pittsburgh To Pittsburgh Victory

    October 25, 2010

    I usually make it a point to be overly critical of calls in the Steelers’ favor (or the Penguins), because as an upfront Pittsburgh fan, it makes me look all awesomely objective on this blog when I’m like “The Steelers got away with this holding call” and everyone’s like “Wow he’s so objective, now I’m totally gonna pay attention to everything else he’s saying, and also sleep with him!” (That was a supermodel saying that. That’s the majority of my readers – WordPress totally tracks that.)

    That said, the furor over the Steelers’ victory in Miami Sunday regarding Ben Roethlisberger’s fumble that the Steelers retained is incredibly misguided and overblown. Yes, the Steelers got lucky when the ref signaled “Touchdown,” but that’s it — there’s no more to this story than the ref signaling a Touchdown after incorrectly eyeballing in real-time that Ben Roethlisberger had actually begun to lose the ball before breaking the plane. Once that call has been made on the field, the inconclusive recovery of the ball becomes moot. This is not, as several sources have insinuated, some sort of Pittsburgh-riddled conspiracy of pierogie-eating homers hell-bent on covering up how the deal really went dahn.


    Blues 1, Penguins 0 (OT): Paul Martin Wears The Scarlet T

    October 24, 2010

    This was a fairly even game from both sides; the Blues absolutely dominated the Penguins in the first, outshooting them 7-3 with Brent Johnson turning aside the Blues’ multiple good chances, and the Pens responded by outshooting St. Louis 19-7 in the second, with Jaroslav Halak responding likewise. The game remained scoreless after a moderately wide-open third period, and the Blues finally cashed in in Overtime after Paul Martin committed a brutal turnover in the corner of the Pens’ defensive zone, which T.J. Oshie centered to a wide-open Erik Johnson for a game-ending wrister.

    The turnover was unfortunate for Martin, who hadn’t played a particularly strong game to that point (he and Ben Lovejoy were the only Penguins who didn’t register a shot), but under most circumstances, the gaffe would’ve been merely one of several game elements we’d be discussing after a run-of-the-mill win or loss. In a 0-0 game, though, where both goalies were playing absolutely lights-out, Martin’s turnover directly gave the Blues their second point.

    The game story would’ve been different if Halak had slipped up or if the Pens’ power play had managed a goal on their four opportunities or if the Blues had lost their legs in the third playing on back-to-back nights, but in the end, Martin had the puck cleanly on his stick, failed to make a play with it, and it ended up in the back of the Pens’ net. Pittsburgh still earned a point against a team that’s now won its last 10 home games, so the game wasn’t a total loss, but with the way Brent Johnson performed yet again, the Pens would’ve liked to have come away with two.

    Fortunately for Montreal fans, Carey Price managed his first shutout in two years last night, so they didn’t have to see the Halak highlights and shoot themselves in the face while booing.

    Penguins 4, Predators 3 (OT): Sidney Crosby Is Good At The Sport Of Hockey. Yeah, I Said It.

    October 21, 2010

    That’s what Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin look like when they’re on top of their game. The Predators game was, I mean, not that embed. That embed is what Pascal Dupuis looks like on an odd man rush.

    As much as we love to dissect Letang’s inopportune pinching and Fleury’s psyche and the forwards’ defensive zone faceoff coverage and whatever other details linger whenever Crosby and Malkin aren’t ridiculous and the Penguins lose a game by a goal and the lingering emptiness prohibits us from just copy-pasting “They have Crosby and Malkin, they’ll be fine” and counting it as postgame analysis, in a victory like tonight, that’s precisely what I’ll do. Crosby and Malkin simply willed the Pens to two points tonight.

    Fleury played well, and Pascal Dupuis’ stick and Kris Letang’s slapper and some lucky bounces all helped, but this was a game the Penguins would’ve lost if either Crosby or Malkin had dropped a B+. Crosby’s first goal exploited a pretty glaring mistake by Pekka Rinne, who was cheating to his left expecting a pass, and both Malkin’s goal and Crosby’s second goal came off super-fortunate rebounds, but to borrow from my “Sportscaster Cliche” Page-A-Day Calendar, they were both textbook examples of great players creating their own luck. Eric Tangradi goes straight to the net on every single shift, but he still only has one goal; Crosby and Malkin scored tonight by being intuitive, seeing the rebounds before they happened, and fighting to get the right spot. Malkin’s effort on the second Crosby goal was so Hurculean, it made me unselfconscious enough to actually type the adjective “Hurculean”.

    Also, before the game I joked to my friend about how much I hated all those damn Predators fans and couldn’t wait for the huge Penguins / Predators rivalry game to shut them up, but then the game actually did end up being really physical and rivalry-seeming, in addition to being extremely entertaining from a skill stand point. With the win, the Pens improve to 5-3-0 overall and 3-0 on the road, and they’re now tied with the Islanders for the most points in the East, even though they’ve played 1-3 more games than every other team (really gotta squeeze in as many games as they can before their three best defensive players come back). Hopefully they can keep it up with only… let me check… 930 games left to play.