Thursday, January 31, 2008

I Want to Fight Ilya Kovalchuck

If you didn't have a chance to catch the Penguins-Thrashers game last night, then you probably don't understand where I'm coming from. SportsCenter has been pretty much all over the story this morning, but Ilya Kovalchuck is a bitch, and I'm proud to say that I hate him more than Tom Brady.

Last night, after scoring a goal, Kovalchuck proceeded to turn to the entire Penguin bench, and pump his fist in their face. The move was downright unsportsmanlike. I wish I had the video, but this video of Kovalchuck taunting Crosby, after a goal in 2006, is worthy enough. (skip ahead to the 2:40 mark)



Anyways, the real juicy news comes when Ilya is reminded by Jarkko Ruutu that 'Yes, this is the sport of hockey'.



So yeah...Kovalchuck is not only a bitch, but a puss too. The common rule in sport: Celebrate with your teammates. Hes just lucky Therrien didn't let big Georges Laraque out of his cage.

Anyway, last night's event has officially brought Ilya Kovalchuck to #1 on my fight list, but fortunately enough I don't have to challenge him to a fight. I'll just let the paid professionals take care of this one.

Don't you just love hockey?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Penguins' Links


First, Against the Odds was found on youtube. Now, courtesy of The Pensblog, comes One from the Heart. A viewing is highly recommended, followed by a reading of Pat's article from this summer, counting down the best lines from the movie.

Uploaded by the same amazing youtube user, a poem by Dave Crawley about the '91 cup.

If nothing else, skip to about 2:25 into the video. Trust me, you will not regret it.

ESPN's latest attempt to prove they don't hate the NHL: a featured article on Sid by Scott Burnside, "The Other Side of Sidney Crosby". What I found interesting, other than that he named his dog after me (or was it some sort of convoluted Mike Lange reference?), was Fleury's story about a prank they pulled on Crosby when he was a rookie.

"During a time when opposing players and critics were accusing Crosby of whining too much to officials, his teammates regularly hid baby clothes or baby shoes in Crosby's dressing room stall.

Did Crosby think it was funny? Not really, Fleury admits."
Yeah, Sid might have won the Tom Barrasso Trophy for biggest clubhouse jagoff two years ago (since there wasn't much competition), but I don't think anyone else would have fared much better in that situation. It's time to let it go.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

These Guys Put Denzel Washington To Shame



So I know this video has made the rounds in a lot of blogs by now. I first saw it on Deadspin yesterday, and it's been on The PensBlog as well. But if you've seen it already, I don't think you'll mind seeing it again. It's that good. For those who haven't seen it, well, you're in for a treat.

It's a commercial for a local Pittsburgh auto dealer featuring superb acting by Colby Armstrong, Maxime Talbot, Sergei Gonchar, and Evgeni Malkin. I mean, these are Oscar-worthy performances.

Seriously, can anyone decipher what Gonchar is saying at the end? I think I hear "Geno", but I cannot make out the other part. Also, the only way this video would have been better is if they gave some speaking lines to Malkin.

End of Post

Friday, January 25, 2008

BCS National Championship- "The Hangover Is Gone" Edition

Tiger Bait

Ok, for those who don't know... I'm a Buckeye. During my four years at Ohio State, I've never witnessed a loss to the Michigan Wolverines. That fact alone keeps me sane, and one step above Tom Brady in the collegiate ranks. Yeah Tom, Screw.... you.

But anyway onto LSU vs Ohio State.... Yeah yeah, you've all said it 1000 times, the SEC is more powerful, and has more speed than the Big Ten. I say screw that. Last year's loss to Florida should just be thrown out the window. The Buckeyes were not ready to play that game. From the O-line that played like Russ Grimm, to fat ass Troy Smith, to Ted Ginn getting raped by his teammate following the opening touchdown.

Same team?

Anyway, Ohio State was ready for LSU this year, that's no excuse. First quarter, 10-0 Ohio State...I thought we had them right where we wanted them, but no....instead Jim Tressel decided to put the ball in the hands of our quarterback, Todd Boeckman.

I'll cry about this to my grave, but if Jim Tressel was replaced by Bill Cowher after our 10 point lead, Ohio State would currently be National Champions. Instead, Mr. Tressel decided to put the ball in his QB's hands, and throw the ball rather than hand the ball off to Beanie Wells 35+ plus times. Beanie Wells will go top 3 in next year's draft by the way, if not #1. Hes a freak of nature, and he could have single handedly won Ohio State that game. Beanie had 39 carries against Michigan, a with a month off between games, 40 carries would not have been out of the question. All Steelers fans know the drill. A running game runs clock, and keeps your defense off the field. Ohio State had a good enough defense to win, if you can keep them off the field and rested.

Props to LSU though. Matt Flynn played the best game of his life. I've watched them all year on CBS (the catchy music gets me) , and I've never Flynn play so well. After our 10-0 lead, Flynn completed almost every pass he made until maybe the 3rd Quarter. I give credit where credit is due, and Flynn definitely showed me something. Brian St. Pierre and Charlie Batch...watch out.

So anyway, Ohio State lost. Taking a loss like that as you're sitting amongst thousands of LSU fans is by far one of life's toughest college experiences. At least when I'm cramming for a final, LSU's fight song isn't blaring down my ear. (On that note: LSU and Florida have some great fight songs, and they almost make me hate "Hang on Sloopy") .

Ok...so life goes on right? I'm in New Orleans, it's warm, I still live and breathe to see another day. I'm also not James Laurinaitis, Malcolm Jenkins, Kirk Barton, or Alex Boone...sooo pretty much I didn't first-hand lose the biggest game of my life, twice in two years. Just put yourself in their shoes...how do you even come back to college after that? I'd turn pro just to escape the pain.

Unfortunately my hotel is on Bourbon Street, and I'm definitely going to take some serious shit on my way back. There was a lot of shit talking going on before the game, and with a victory and a night of drinking in their hands, I was ready for it all...

The cops were ready for it all too, this sniper tower could have very well saved my life.

Suprisingly, no Sniper Tower was needed.


The LSU fans took their victory like a champ. After the game, I heard "Tiger Bait" called my way once, and I heard that shit all weekend, so no big deal. I stayed out until at least 2am, and heard nothing rude, obnoxious, or demeaning. I'm starting to think I like these Tigers...



Maybe it's a Southern thing, but normally I expect so much shit talking that fights break out. I mean pretty much everyone on Bourbon street is intoxicated in some shape or form, and following a defeat, where both teams are heavily represented with fans, you could only imagine the worst. But nope, nothing.

LSU fans are all but classy in my book.

Their girls are hot...
Only in the South...
Their team is good...And their city is one of the best in the world...
Seriously...this street will be clean as a whistle tomorrow...New Orleans is one of the best.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Trail of Mononucleosis


Gossip reporter and 8th grade student Beth Wagner will occasionally be stopping in to offer up juicy items on your Pittsburgh sports’ teams.

Rumor is that Tyler Kennedy has mono. I know, crazy, right? Wondering how he got it? Yeah, I was too, but I did a bit of research during study hall and lunch and got the full scoop. And just so everyone knows, I did not make out with Ryan Magee after teen center last Friday! That bitch Tiffany will say anything. Alright, here’s the scoop:

It all started when 9th grader Nolan Politowski made out with Tiffany, who had originally gotten mono from around 100 other ugly guys. Nolan then accidentally dropped a rubber band from his braces into Joey Belachik’s milk cartoon.


Joey's dad found a job in Johnstown, moved his family, and Joey became a big fan of the Chiefs. There he met the Hanson boys…



…and shed much blood in the ensuing fight, some of which ended up on captain Reg Dunlop.



Reg, who gets around to a lot of hockey wives and girlfriends, totally hooked up with Vesa Toskala’s girlfriend. On the night of December 1st the Penguins traveled to Toronto to play the Maple Leafs, and lost, even though Tyler had a goal. That goal wasn’t the only scoring Tyler did that night, as he made out with Toskala’s girlfriend behind 31 Flavors later in the evening. After hanging around Gary Roberts for the entire season, Tyler Kennedy's immune system was so strong that the disease was kept at bay until now. Just remember, you didn’t hear it from me.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Capitals Shootout Revisited

I talked to numerous people about last night's shootout throughout the day today. Here is the best analogy I heard...

Think back to the Jacksonville playoff game. One a huge two point conversion, the Steelers decide to throw a fade route to the right corner. Except Roethlisberger doesn't get the ball all the way there. No matter. Hines Ward is playing out of his mind and basically wills the ball into his hands. A Sean Mahan hold negates the play, but what a catch nonetheless.

Fast forward to later in the same game. The Steelers, facing another two point conversion, throw a fade to Nate Washington in the left corner. The ball is poorly thrown. Nate Washington looks like he doesn't know how to spell fade let alone run one. Ball game.

Now...

Nate Washington is taller and faster than Hines Ward. In theory, he is better built for a fade route. But in crunch time situations, physical attributes don't reall mean anything. Why? Because when games are on the line, you put the fate of your team in the best players hands.

Erik Christiansen is Nate Washington in this scenario. He has a particular value to the team (solid wrist shot, good shootout skill). But it is positively, absolutely, undeniably clear that Evgeni Malkin is/is becoming/will be a better hockey player than anyone in this town could have ever dreamed him to be. Don't take my word for it. Read Bucci's take on him, cause it's all true.

Like Malkin, Crosby has never been a particularly potent shootout player. But did that stop Therrien from sending him out there in the Winter Classic? No. Every single person knew that Crosby would have the chance to win it, not because he is the best physical skills for a shootout (the best physical tools to run a fade route if you are sticking with the Steelers comparison), but because he is the man you want with the puck at the end of games, regardless of the situation. Malkin had matched Ovechkin goal for goal in the game and hit for hit, had the crowd chanting his name...and yet he isn't a good enough shootout scorer, so he doesn't get the chance to even up against AO again.

Yes, it is only a regular season game. Yes, Ruutu, Christiansen, and Letang are all more than capabale in a shootout. But think back to the Steelers game and ask yourself: do you throw the ball to Hines Ward or Nate Washington when you need two points? Do you give the puck to Malkin...or someone else? Hines had been jawing all game with Jags defenders, not unlike Malkin one-upping Ovechkin as much as he could in his goal celebration. I'm inclined to go with the star with the swagger instead of the person who looks good on paper.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Therrien Time

Though I hate the Capitals, tonight's hockey game was a memorable one. Some great scoring from great players on both teams and, for the Pens, some solid contributions from role players like Talbot and Malone.

Any time a team gets spread thin like the Pens are now, talking heads normally discuss how a team has to "come together" or "rally around their fallen leaders" or get players to "step up". I think it is undeniable though that the biggest burden from such a situation falls on the coach. I'm alright with Therrien starting Sabu tonight despite his home struggles, coming off a shutout it would be tough to sit him down. One call that left me wondering "what if", though: the decision to leave Malkin out of the shootout. Malkin does have a horrible track record on shootouts - he was 3 for 12 last year and Lange said his stats for this year tonight but I forget.

But we can all agree that since Crosby has gone down, Malkin has morphed into a new type of problem for other teams. Does this affect his shootout efficiency? Maybe not. But it would have meant a hell of a lot in the intangibles department if Therrien had said "You know what? With Sidney out, you're our guy. You carry us. We go as you go. Rifle one into the twine." For a guy that doesn't speak English very well, I think a show of trust like that would be as big an endorsement as a player can get, tied at 5 in a shootout at home with your star player out. Yeah, so he likely would have taken Ruutu's spot and negated our only goal. But I thought that Therrien had a chance tonight to put the onus on a player with a newly found confidence, a chance that would have me more intrigued about the long term effects than the short term ones. Irregardless, more tough decisions are going to come Therrien's way and heres hoping he can take the risks necessary to keep the team chugging along.

Your Pittsburgh Steelers Offseason Overview

Here’s an overview of the Steelers current status on a position-by-position basis. Some specific first day draft possibilities are mentioned, as are a couple of free agents who might be attractive and fit the Steelers mold.

QB: Ben Roethlisberger will be the starting quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers for the foreseeable future. His contract extension will be the main priority for the front office this offseason, so look for that to get done. Expect a deal similar to Tony Romo’s 6 year, $67 million extension with $30 million guaranteed. Charlie Batch is the perfect veteran #2 QB any team would want. Brian St. Pierre is an unrestricted free agent, and I think it’s time to cut ties with him. Initially I preferred the Steelers spending a late round pick on a developmental QB, but with only six picks this year due to the Allen Rossum trade, a better idea would be to sign a couple of rookie free agents and see if you can strike gold there.

RB: Willie Parker should be fully ready to go next season. The fibula is a non-weight bearing bone, so he should also be full speed. I’m absolutely fine with Najeh Davenport and Gary Russell as the backups. However, this draft seems to be loaded with quality backs, with guys like Darren McFadden and Felix Jones (Arkansas), Jonathan Stewart (Oregon), and Rashard Mendenhall (Illinois) all expected to go in the first round. Should one of these backs fall to the Steelers spot at #24, and should no comparable OL and DE options be available, the front office may be hard pressed to pass up such talent. GM Kevin Colbert has mentioned his desire for a two back system, so don’t discount this possibility. I always prefer to draft for need in the 1st round, so a first round RB doesn’t really appeal to me. But it’s a better option than reaching for OL or DL. Reaching causes you to draft players like Troy Edwards.

WR: A fairly solid group overall, but one that could use some improvement. Santonio Holmes will be entering his 3rd year, the year where many wide receivers finally become dominant forces. Expect a huge season from Santonio next year. Hines Ward is getting up there in years, so it’s time to start thinking about his replacement. While as of now he’s expected to go top-15, Malcolm Kelly (Oklahoma) may be extremely tough to pass up should he slip a bit. Nate Washington is a restricted free agent and will most likely be brought back. Cedrick Wilson costs a little too much for my taste, but I have a hunch he’ll be back as well. I’ve made it known that I’d like a tall target at wide receiver, and the front office will have options should they agree. It could come from the draft via a guy like Kelly or a mid-round pick, or from Dallas Baker, who hopefully has made some strides after a year on the practice squad. One guy to keep an eye on in free agency: Ernest Wilford of the Jacksonville Jaguars. A nice 6’4 target who’s a pretty good run-blocker, and the type of modest signing the Steelers typically make in free agency.

TE: This position is capably manned by Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth. It should be given no consideration either through free agency or the draft. Expect the usual suspects (Jon Dekker and random rookie free agents) to compete for the #3 TE spot.

OL: Should be the focal point of the offseason, after Ben’s extension. You can reasonably expect Marvel Smith and Kendall Simmons to return to the starting lineup, Simmons moreso because of money rather than ability. Alan Faneca is most likely gone, as is Max Starks, and I’ve got to think Sean Mahan was so wretched that he’ll be relegated to the bench. My feeling is that Colon should be moved to guard. Switching Simmons to LG and moving Colon to RG makes the most sense, due to Simmons ability to pull. That leaves you with C and RT to fill. At C, look for Darnell Stapleton to get a chance. The organization is obviously very high on him, as he came out of nowhere to make the team last year. Right tackle should be filled by a first round draft pick. The tackle class is extremely deep this year, with Jake Long (Michigan), Ryan Clady (Boise State), Sam Baker (USC), Jeff Otah (Pitt), Chris Williams (Vanderbilt), Anthony Collins (Kansas), Gosder Cherilus (Boston College), and Carl Nicks (Nebraska) all projected to go in the top 2 rounds, as of now. Otah is a guy who is projected to go right around the Steelers pick at #24, and is a local product, so he’s my predicted pick for right now. Conceivably then, you could have a starting OL looking like this next year: LT- Smith, LG- Simmons, C- Stapleton, RG- Colon, RT- Otah. Depth would include Mahan, Kemoeatu, Essex (re-signed as a restricted free agent), and another first day pick. If you’re looking at a free agent target, Titans guard Jacob Bell could be an option. Again, he’s the type of modest signing the front office typically prefers.

DL: The rotation at DT is fine with Hampton and Hoke. Not the case at defensive end. It’s time to address this spot. Kirschke may be brought back, but Eason should be as good as gone. McBean might be much improved with a year under his belt, but you can’t count on it. This position needs to be infused with some youth, and that means looking to the draft. Specifically, it needs to be addressed on the first day of the draft. Many want to go OL in the first round, and I’m in that camp. But if you can find an impact 3-4 DE in the first round, well, then you have to consider it. If you can do that, you can insert this guy as the starter, and let Kiesel become a wave player, where he is much more effective. Additionally, this allows you to move Kiesel back to special teams, where he was extremely effective before becoming a starter on the defensive line. So, a first round 3-4 DE could actually improve two areas. Guys who the Steelers could conceivably target on the first day include: Calais Campbell (Miami, Fla.), Kentwan Balmer (North Carolina), Pat Sims (Auburn), Dre Moore (Maryland), Frank Okam (Texas), and Red Bryant (Texas A&M).

LB: The starting outside linebackers are pretty much set next year with James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley. On the inside, it’s getting time for last year’s first round pick Lawrence Timmons to see the field, and that could spell trouble for Larry Foote. Competition for that spot will be held in training camp, and with any luck we’ll see Foote finally get unseated. Look for a possible starting LB corps consisting of Harrison and Woodley on the outside and Farrior and Timmons on the inside. Depth at this position is lacking, and Farrior isn’t getting any younger, so ILB could be addressed around the 4th or 5th round.

CB: Pretty good shape here. Ike Taylor will return to start at one of the spots, and the seemingly annual training camp competition between Deshea Townsend and Bryant McFadden will again be held for the other spot. William Gay had a solid rookie season and provides nice depth. Still, with the modern day offenses and teams like the Patriots spreading it out at will, you can never have enough quality defensive backs. So, it might be prudent for the Steelers to address this in the mid rounds, possibly in the 4th or the 5th. On the other hand, Townsend is on his last legs and McFadden will be a free agent after next season. As of yet, he has not proven to be starter material. Therefore, the Steelers could be compelled to address this position earlier, if someone of there liking falls to them in, say, the 2nd or 3rd round.

S: The core of this position will return, with Polamalu, Clark, Smith, and Carter all expected back. Unless Smith has made some mental strides, we might see Clark back starting at the FS spot. As I said, you can never have enough quality defensive backs, and the position can be upgraded, so it could be improved in the later rounds. If you look back in past drafts, you’ll see that a lot of late round safeties made significant contributions in their first years. This is a position you can address late in the draft and still get quality contributions.

Special Teams: Reed, Sepulveda, and Warren will all be back. The Steelers could look to add a few special teams specialists via free agency. Also, look for the guys they draft on the second day to be guys who can come in and contribute on special teams. This hasn’t been the case in past drafts, as we’ve mostly gotten underachievers such as Fred Gibson and Orien Harris or players who lack talent such as Charles Davis.

End of Post

Friday, January 18, 2008

"It's gonna hurt the Penguins - we lost our top gun!"

Shit happens.

In what has become one of the worst short term trends in Pittsburgh sports history, the injury bug returns, attempting to derail another season. Sidney Crosby went down tonight in what is being described as a high ankle sprain, the same injury that sidelined Talbot for little over a month and still has Fleury out. In the long run this will be good. There's always a silver lining, and I'm here to point it out:

1.) Thankfully, Sid must drink his milk, because he didn't end up like Gary Roberts, Willie Parker, or Levance Fields.

2.) The Pens played well after he went down... until the third period when they absolutely imploded.

3.) Players will have to step up and guys will fill new roles. Sucks for Sid's Art Ross/Hart chances, but it is a definite positive for our Stanley cup aspirations. Staal will be playing a much larger role. Malkin looked absolutely possessed for the rest of the game, at one point trying to do too much on his own by going red line to red line. Errey tried talking to him while he was on the bench and all he got was the infamous Russian cold shoulder. Why doesn't he act like this most of the time? Maybe its because he has to split time with Sid for puck possession, but he went on a similar tear last year when Sid had a bum ankle for a couple of games. When Sid does return I would not mind seeing them on different lines. Malkin needs to be a dominant player on his own.

4.) This one goes along with number 3. When the Pens won the cup back in '92, Mario missed 18 games due to injury. Typically, a high ankle sprain takes at least a month to heal, more than likely about 6 weeks. A couple days under 6 weeks, we play the Boston Bruins. If Sid comes back for that game, and plays the rest of the season, he would have also missed 18 games to injury. Meaningless? Absolutely. We just lost Sidney for probably over a month, take what you can get.

Now the bad...

1.) Other than the second period, they looked listless and Conklin looked human. Lets hope we get the magic back.

2.) Sykora complains too much. It's one thing to bark at the refs, but putting your hands up in disgust when the play is still going on and the puck is 3 feet from you is too much.

3.) We lost Sidney Crosby.

4.) We lost Sidney Crosby. Dammit.

Some other thoughts from tonight's game:

During the intermission, Potash had a piece on Vinny vs Sid (which is even more stupid than Sid vs. Ovechkin), and interviewed both of them. Their media training from growing up in Canada as NHL super-stars to be is mind-boggling. Emotionless, complimentary, staying away from anything that might be construed as offensive or humorous. Sid what do you think about Vinny? "Oh he's a great player, someone you just try to contain" Vinny what do you think about Sid? "He does things nobody else can do" blah blah blah. I'm not looking for trash talk, but raising your voice past library levels and saying something remotely unexpected would probably make this paragraph a lot more interesting.

-Malkin has been throwing around his body a lot more in the offensive zone, another positive to take from this game.

-The Pens defensemen got a lot of the quality chances tonight. I even thought Scuderi was going to get off the schnide. Good because we'll need the extra O, but bad because a lot of the shots were generated when the forwards couldn't connect near the net.

-It's one game. If Sid doesn't go down, it would be looked on as a bad loss and we move on. The next game will do a lot to the collective conscious of the fans and team.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Ask The Scout: Dave Littlefield



Every so often, Cubs' scout Dave Littlefield will answer a question from one lucky Cubs' fan. Here is today's question:

Ryan (Galesburg, IL): Not sure how I feel about your hiring, Dave. Your job is to evaluate talent, and during your time in Pittsburgh you managed to cultivate an atrocious minor league system. Why do you feel you're the right fit for the Cubs?

Dave Littlefield: Thanks for writing in, Ryan. There are two main reasons for my hiring. First, Jim Hendry feels that he owes me. When I gave him Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton for Bobby Hill and a bag of cleats, he recognized that I could have traded them to any team for a useless utility infielder, but I chose him. Why? To set myself up for my inevitable firing and subsequent job search. Second, a complete lack of talent such as my own doesn't come around too often. While sitting watching TV in my boxers for the past two months I was able to watch a total of 126 episodes of the reality show "Seinfeld" in an attempt to learn from George's success as a a Yankees' employee. When I stumbled on the episode where he does everything opposite to what he normally does, and succeeded, I knew what I had to do. Imagine, I suggest we draft a certain left-handed pitcher over a sure-fire positional prospect because I think you can't have enough left-handed pitchers. Hendry sees my report and immediately decides to draft the positional prospect, which turns out to be an excellent move. You can't place of a value on this type of ineptitude.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Lazy Links

Way late on this photoshop, sorry to the anonymous person who sent it in.

Sorry for the dearth in posting, its one of those times where the crew at DAI is busy at the same time. On a positive note, the next Pittsburgh sports based flash game is starting to come together.

Bob Smizik was in rare form on Sunday, delivering one of his trademark downer pieces, in this case about the 2008 Pirates. Am I the only one who thinks the low expectations are a good thing? It's like when I met my black sheep uncle for the first time when I was 8 or 9 years old. I was angry I had to put down my power ranger Zoids and expectations were low, but then he gave me 50 bucks just for the hell of it. I thought that was great until I realized a few years later that it averaged out to only around $2.77 for each Christmas and birthday he missed. Jerk.

Big Snack and Diego open up Mondesi's new line up with a top 10 list of things to do with your free time now that the Steelers are out of the playoffs. Though, reason number 7 assumes people who spend time on the blogosphere actually talk to women face to face.

I know Pat will like this one: Philip Rivers is Chachi.

Mark Madden believes Conklin should sit upon MAF's return. I think you ride Conklin until he shows any sign of coming down from whatever planet he is on, but not a minute sooner. But, as Madden points out, Therrien has never cared much for potential and likes to send messages to players depending on how they're playing, which means Conklin has probably earned a bit of respect.

Thats all I've got. Should be getting back into the swing of things shortly.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Conklin and Steroids: A Tale of Unrelated Topics

The Peguins are making things look fairly easy nowadays. Jordan Staal is getting garbage points, Ty Conklin is doing real-life impersonations of Frank Pietrangelo (the save tonight wasn't nearly as good as THE SAVE, but if you didn't immediately think of Petr Stasny getting robbed then you might wanna brush up on your Pens history), and Rob Scuderi is blocking shots like a man. Sorry, Rick. I was dying for Staal to get a Rorabaugh (an empty netter; come on folks, help me give the term some wheels...) just so he could have arguably the most illegitmiate HT of all time. Maybe it is just me, but with all the focus on the goaltending situation Crosby appears to be wheeling and dealing at a breakneck pace now - the points aren't necessarily flowing in, but each game he brings out some new voodoo stickhandling move.

Four minute penalties are killed with ease. Stick blades are breaking and boomeranging in at opposing goalies. Letang is singles-hitting pucks out of the crease in aerial fashion. Ty Conklin is undefeated.
Nothing like a hockey team getting hot.
A few quick links:
- If Therrien can't decide to bench Conklin or let Fleury play once MAF is healthy, you could always let them fight it out. My money is on Ty.
- No idea why I am linking to this, but here is a goodbye article written to Ty Conklin. By an Blue Jackets fan. Lots of pink colors involved. When you google Ty Conklin, weird stuff comes up. I thought long and hard about writing in the comments, but decided not to. That doesn't mean you can't...
- On a non-Conklin related note, Malcolm Gladwell is far too bright to waste his time writing about steroids in sports. The man writes for the New Yorker, writes best-sellers, and is insanely smart. That said, I always love when he gets wrapped up in a sports issue on his blog (one of the most thoughtful though infrequently written on blogs out there). His most recent four posts state in a very polite way: I am very bright and I don't see how to draw a line with regard to the concept of "performance enhancing". Great notion about Lasik eye surgery, and the tidbit about Patrick Kearney is both relevant and somewhat scary. Peruse and discuss here or over there.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

"I saw you and Hines Ward dahn at Erotica last Thursday"

So if you've watched any NFL football this year, you've seen those Coors Light commercials. You know, the ones where they take actual clips of a coach answering questions at a press conference and splice it together with scripted questions about Coors Light asked by a few guys acting as media members. They've been running them all season, and you've probably seen the ones featuring Denny Green, Jim Mora, and Bill Parcells.

Well, benstonium had the bright idea of making a parody of these commercials using answers provided by Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.

Enjoy.


End of Post

Pirates' Plans and Rick Responds


There was an interesting interview of Neil Huntington in the PG today by Dejan Kovacevik, who appropriately grilled him on the one foot in competing, one foot in rebuilding strategy that has been employed by previous GMs and still seems to be employed. I've always been, relative to most people, optimistic about the Pirates, so it comes as no surprise that I'm not too upset with the moves, or lack thereof, so far.

We underachieved last year. Not saying we should have been a division champion or even above .500, but if Bay's strong first half and Laroche's strong second half coincided, we would have been putting up a decent winning percentage. The pitching staff is a year older, and apparently slimmer. I'm not sold on the team by any means, I'm just glad we didn't trade away our players when their value was so low. Giving Bay a chance to show he still has it, before shipping him out, will give us more impact prospects. Not making any deals at this point was probably better for the minor league system in the long run.

--

Now on to Rick. At least a couple people really found Rick's ideas ridiculous, which is fine. If you don't like what he has to say, then you can stop reading the article now, I promise I won't get upset. What follows, though, is his researched explanation of why he wants to add defense to this team. You may disagree, and if you disagree so strongly that you want to write something that deserves more exposure than the comments section, send it in an email and I'll post it. Guaranteed. Thats what Rick did in the first place, and anyone who spends enough time to write a few paragraphs on a subject deserves to be heard. Other than drunk athletes, link dumps, and the snorg girl, thats what I thought this whole sports blogging thing was about.

Rick's Response:

Ok everyone, I am just a dumb farmer from Somerset County, so you're right I don't know anything about hockey. However, I did help Sam win his fantasy football league 2 years ago when I told him to pick up Drew Bennett.

Also, I kind of like hockey in general. I don't have my head up my ass thinking that the Pens are the only team in the NHL. Sure we have won 7 straight, but if the season ended today, only 1 of those wins would have been against a playoff team. In fact, if you don't count shootout decisions the Pens would have 3 wins and 11 losses against Eastern onference teams that would be in the playoffs. I'm not so sold on this team. Our last 7 games have included the 7th, 11th (2), 12th (2), 13th, and 14th place teams in the conference. Unfortunately, we won't be playing those guys come April.

So I know what you're thinking...why the hate of Scuderi? The truth is I don't hate him, I just highly dislike him. And I have a few reasons, too.

City of Pittsburgh, I must ask, how confident are you going in to the Stanley Cup Playoffs with essentially the same defense you had last year. Sure Melichar is gone and Sydor is an upgrade, despite trade rumors that he will be gone. Shero didn't pay this guy $2.5 million to trade him. He knows he will perform in the playoffs, as Sydor does have 2 cups. He has 151 games of playoff experience. By comparison, the rest of this years' defense has 103 games combined, 25 of which they picked up last year.

There is a template for winning the Stanley Cup.

1. You must have a hot (see: Khabibulin, Ward) or perennial all-star (see: Brodeur, Roy) goaltender.
2. You must have a solid third and fourth lines. These guys win games when the first 2 lines play to a tie. (Don't believe me? look at last years Pens who were done in by the likes of Mike Fisher, Antoine Vermette, Chris Kelly, and Peter Shaefer.) I know what your thinking 'Our beloved Ryan Malone, Colby, Armstorng, Max Talbot, Jarkko Ruutu and Eric Christiansen have gotten so much better' but lets face it, these guys have too.
3. You have to have a solid defense. So Sergei Gonchar scores goals... so what? He is a defenseman. Defenseman job is to keep the puck OUT of the net. Why don't you just move him to wing?

My point is this. Our defense is good, but not a Stanley Cup defense. Go out and get Peter Forsberg, Glen Murray, Marian Hossa, or Mats Sundin. I still don't think we have the defense to win the cup. I am a betting man, and if our defense stays the same no matter what happens to offense, I will take whatever odds you give me against the Pens winning the cup. Trust me, it's nothing personal, its personnel.

I love the new NHL. Its fast, its fun. One thing does remain the same, however. Defense wins championships. Star players who anchor a defense and chew up large chunks of minutes are an integral components of these championship teams. Below are some notable players of Stanley Cup bound teams.

Let's look at the last 10 Stanley Cup champions:
2007- Anaheim Mighty Ducks- Pronger 6'6, 210 (99 games experience) and Niedermayer (162 games), need I say more.
2006- Carolina Hurricanes- Mike Commodore. You may not consider him among the NHL's elite defenseman, but he is 6'4, 225. Also, not only did he help the Hurricanes win the cup, he had the Flames within one game of the cup in the last cup pre-lockout. Also, on this defense was Glen Wesley (144 games).
2005- Lockout
2004- Tampa Bay Lightning - This was an undersized and unpolished group that included Kubina (6'4, 244), Sarich, Lukowich, Pratt, Boyle, Sydor (139 playoff games), Cullimore (6'5, 220). Tortorella fixed this by rotating 7 defensman. He kept his guys fresh and ultimately won the cup with a beat up group.
2003- New Jersey Devils- Scott Stevens (209 playoff games experience). Yes, as Penguins fans we hate Scott Stevens, but he was good. Really good. Also, Scott Niedermayer was on this team and was discussed earlier.
2002- Detroit Red Wings- Chris Chelios (210 games) played beside Nik Lindstrom (129 games).
2001- Colorado Avalance- Ray Bourque was 6'0, 219 (193 games experience). Beside him was 6'3, 222 Rob Blake (57 games.)
2000- New Jersey Devils- Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer.
1999- Dalls Stars- Zubov, Sydor, Hatcher, Matvichuk. The Fab 4.
1998- Detroit Red Wings- Nik Lindstrom.

I end at 1998, because that was the last time the Capitals played in the Stanley Cup finals. Sergei Gonchar was on the team that was swept in 4 games...

To recap:
In the past 10 years either, Lidstrom, Niedermayer, and, yes, Darryl Sydor have been on 7 of the 9 NHL championship teams. Only the 2006 Hurricanes and 2001 Avalanche were absent of one of these players.

So how does this relate to Scuderi. You guys are right, he is a good role player. He plays well at times, and like all NHL defensemen, makes mistakes. However, if you read my earlier post you would have seen that I feel the Penguins should be financially committed to 4 guys: Eaton, Letang, Gonchar, and Whitney. Because of his valuable playoff experience, I feel Sydor should have the fifth spot on the roster. I also feel that Orpik is gone next year to free agency.

This leaves a 6th roster spot available. I feel we could fill this spot with a skilled or sizeable playoff tested veteran to anchor our defense. If this is done, I believe there is nothing stopping us from winning the cup. Otherwise, Scuderi holds us back and we get eliminated in 7 in the Eastern Conference semifinals or 5 in the conference finals. He's ok, he's just not a championship piece.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Penguins' Trade Ideas: Kings

We've gone Penguins' heavy this week, mostly in response to the Steelers' loss. As Pat pointed out a couple nights ago, there were so many things to point to in that game that could have changed the outcome that it becomes laborious just to talk about them. I am proud of Steeler nation for the general response afterward. Sure, there were gripes about the non-holding call on the 4th and 2, but generally we blamed the players and coaches, especially Arians, because we should not have been in that situation in the first place.

I've been trying to get in contact with Rick so he could defend his hatred of Scuderi, but he's gone Dave Chappelle on us. And just like Chappelle's Lost Episodes, his last trade idea will be posted and many of you probably won't like it. The important thing to remember is that he's going team by team looking for trades. This doesn't mean he would definitely pull the trigger, but if Joshua Foss took everyone in Mellon Arena hostage and forced the Pens to make a trade with this team, this is what he would do.

The fake mustache he puts on at the end of Sudden Death was more evil


Let Rick know what you think in the comments.

Rick's Trade Ideas. Los Angeles Kings

Rob Blake is for sale to the highest bidder. The Kings would like to move his $6 million contract, even if it is just for the remainder of the season. Blake does have a no-trade clause, so he wishes only to play for a contender. The Pens could be a possible suitor. In 2001, Blake was dealt to a team full of superstars in the making (Drury, Hejduk, Forsberg, Sakic, Tanguay) and helped a defense with one other defensemen (Bourque) and a bunch of no names (Martin Skoula, Greg de Vries, Jon Klemm, And Eric Messier) win the cup. Sound like anybody you know?

Pros: The back line of the Pens gets a whole lot tougher and experienced. With Gonchar, Sydor, and Blake, you are looking at some outstanding players who have a bunch of cup experience. Blake could play with the ECHL player that is Rob Scuderi and make him look good. Or he could log about 25 mins a game with Gonchar. The PK gets a lot, better as well as the PP. With Sydor, Gonchar, Blake, and Whitney, you have about 50 years of PP point experience all on the same roster.

Cons: Blake is gone next year, he'll probably be a King again. Also, we will have to give up some young talent to get him. Possibilities include Christiansen, Kennedy, Armstrong and Talbot.

Sure, we all think of these guys as core Penguins players, but it is important to remember they were core system players when we were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs or not in them at all. In order to improve as a hockey team, you must improve your system players. Of these guys, the only one to be concerned about is Talbot. Sure, Eric scores in shootouts, but he has only scored 6 goals and has 7 assists, which isn't very much for a so-called "play-maker". Sure, Kennedy could be a player in the making, but with Staal inevitably moving back to be a 2nd line center (Ed. Note: Assuming Malkin stays on the top line) and Talbot on the third line, is this a kid you want on the fourth line? No. He could play wing, but he is too small to hold his own in the corners. The kid really has no future in the Burgh. Finally, Colby has lost his edge. He used to be a tough grinder, but now he is playing weak and not finishing checks. He is however on a tear of late, and this could interest the Kings enough to trade for him.

Sam's Synopsis: Probably won't happen. Finding a winger is the number one priority, and even if we could use the defensive help we won't be trading for one until Blake is out of L.A..

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Scuderi


Considering the response to Rick's last article, I'm guessing some will not be too happy with the next one. The draw for most of the ire was his hatred of Scuderi. Understandable, since Scuderi has been having a great season. While his contributions can not entirely be seen by statistics, I still wanted to see how he ranked in some defensive categories: blocked shots, give aways and take aways.

Blocked Shots: 67, good for 29th in the league. By comparison, Eaton, even though he's played 5 less games, has 89 which is 10th. Two guys Rick likes, Rob Blake (9th) and Adam Foote (12th) have blocked 91 and 85 shots respectively. Scuderi had 109 blocked shots last year, finishing 84th.

Give Aways/Take Aways: Scuds had 32 giveaways and 32 takeaways last year. The one to one ratio is actually pretty good as most defensemen have more giveaways than takeaways, often times even doubling up. Plus, the 32 takeaways put him at 44th in the league. This year he has 16 giveaways and 15 takeaways, nearly right on pace with last year.

Other than the blocked shots he hasn't shown any other statistical improvements. +/- has dropped slightly and so have his assists. This doesn't mean he hasn't improved. There are too many unrecorded aspects that go into a players' game, especially the type that Scuderi plays. He is playing more fundamental, as shown by the blocks, but also in not making killer mistakes. I could not find a statistic, but I remember him being involved with a few own goals and other less than positive plays at the end of last year. Add in the fact he has been playing with an offensively inept Sydor for the beginning of the season, and his lack of assists and slightly lower +/- make sense.

The type of jump in defensive consistency is equivalent to the Pirates finding that 4th starter that can steal you some games. That's not an insult at all; if the Buccos had a reliable 4th option behind Snell, Gorzo, and Maholm, 5-10 games would have had different outcomes. May not sound like much, but for the Pirates that's the difference between threatening .500 and finishing below 70 wins. For the Penguins, a defenseman like Scuderi stepping up is the difference between an early round exit and a deep playoff run. Scuderi was being called out at the end of last year as the weak link, and he's erased that thought so far. It's still too early to crown him a solid piece in the journey for the cup, but he, along with Conklin, have been pleasant surprises.

End of Post

Monday, January 7, 2008

Leroux's Links and Other Winners


Links:

Faceoff-Factor has midseason grades for your Penguins. Lets just say I'm happy I never had Mike Adams as a teacher. They also have the down low on the Lannon and Stone call ups.

Blog 'n Gold has Steelers Nation's reaction to the loss covered. I wonder what kind of legs the hatred of Arians will have.

In case you missed the game or were at the event, Empty Netters found the entire Winter Classic on youtube.

From Awful Announcing, Bill Cowher continues to expand his horizons, now offering insight into women's basketball. Was this the compromise Kaye made with Bill to allow him to be a talking head on CBS?

Awards

I'd like to give out the first annual Doubt About It NFL Picks award to Pat, who successfully probably stayed above .500 to win. I have not actually calculated the past 3 weeks or so, but barring a huge collapse, I believe Pat has it. If Marc Anthony or Wannstache wants to dispute this claim, well they can go ahead and tally everything up. For his prize, Pat gets huge helping of prideful pie and an image of a trophy with his name on it.



We also won one of the Mondesi fantasy football leagues, which entitled us to a signed piece of Pittsburgh Steelers memorabilia. We hand out images of trophies, and Mondesi hands out actual memorabilia. Says something, huh? Then again, we don't know exactly what piece of memorabilia it will be.


As long as it is not Bobby Shaw related, I'll be happy.

End of Post

Penguins' Trade Ideas

Hailing from "America's County" (Somerset), my buddy Rick is probably the only guy to have memorized the ancestry of every holstein in Pennsylvania and been to a Penguins game. He's going team-by-team to suggest trade ideas for the Penguins as we near the stretch run. Yes, some are never going to happen, but thats exactly what makes it fun to talk about. Seem like an idiotic trade? Let him know in the comments.

General Team Overview

The Pen's are 18th in the league in GA/G and 16th in GF/G....so they need help both ways. The ratio of this when they are playing 5 on 5 is 14th in the NHL at 1 to 1. PP is 12th, PK is 23rd which is a concern since we have been shorthanded a lot. Keeping all of this in mind...

Goalie: Don't worry about it. We can win with Conklin. He is and Unrestricted Free Agent next year, so he has to play well for a big contract. His .939 save percentage would be good for 1st in the league. He is not the solution long-term, but neither is Fleury or Sabourin. Let's just sit tight and milk his greed for a big contract next summer.

Defensemen: Here we have 2 UFA's (Orpik and Eaton.) The Pens are high on Mark and coming off his injury they will get him cheap. So that means they have made a commitment to: Eaton, Gonchar, Whitney, and Letang.

Sydor. I like him. He is minus three, but he is good on the PP. Also, his late goal vs Washinton got us going. He has 2 or 3 cups and we don't have veteran experience. He will be big come playoff time. Also, this man does not take penalties, he has 13 PIM and 5 of those were the major for the fight against Ruzcicka.

Scuderi: Fuck him.

Orpik: With the money we have tied up in Crosby, Whitney, Gonchar, and soon 11 and 71.... we ought to see if we can get something for him. People say he's tough. Every time I see him he is getting slammed. Our entire defense is vaginas so we need to get tougher.

Trade Idea: I think we should trade him for.... Adam Foote, Columbus.

Foote has a big, mean streak and playoff experience. Also, he is fairly large and mean, and a decent offensive threat. Columbus would look to get his $4.6 million off the books and acquire a younger defenseman who will make less next year. Foote will merely be a rent a player, and next offseason we will sign a tougher defenseman. Our lines now become:

Gonchar and Foote- Gonchar will be protected by Foote.
Whitney and Letang- The future top line of the pens.
Sydor and Scuderi- I can't believe I put a Hall of Famer, a guy who played with Gretzky, on the same line as this piece of shit.

Let me know what you think.

Tomorrow: The Kings

Editors note: This is completely random, but I promised a shout out to a new Pittsburgh sports blog Raise the Jolly Roger. Check out their weekend wrap up which gives nice insight on the Pitt loss to Villanova.

End of Post

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Stache Report: Steelers Wildcard Edition

I thought I would have cooled down a bit by now, but in retrospect thinking about last night’s game has just pissed me off even more. Quick thoughts:

- Before last night’s game I said I would give Bruce Arians more time to prove himself. You know what? Last night proved he should be given his walking papers. The 3rd and 6 bootleg call was just the tip of the iceberg (How the hell do you not throw the ball in that situation?) The goal line series when the score was 28-23 was an absolute debacle. I was in complete disbelief. I kept waiting for them to just punch it in via a sneak or run. 2nd and 1, pass. 3rd and 1, pass again. Surely, they couldn’t pass again on 4th down. Yup, another pass, except ol’ Bruce was saved by a defensive PI call. Oh, and someone please tell Arians that fade patterns to 5’10 receivers almost never work. This series, and the 3rd and 6 call acting as the cherry on top, proved to me that Bruce should be gone. I was that disgusted with the whole thing.

- Fuck you special teams. I’m tired of your bullshit. Way to suck the air completely out of the stadium when we had a 7-0 lead. It wouldn’t be a Steelers home playoff game without a special teams blunder.

- I had no problem with the decision to go for 2 when the score was 28-23. Once the Mahan penalty pushed it back to the 12 yard line though, you HAVE to take the XP there. No decision really. You take the extra point there, and the Steelers would have kicked the extra point on their next TD, which would have given them a 31-28 lead. Big mistake by Coach Tomlin. Speaking of the Mahan penalty, Sam texted me during the game and told me it was a bullshit call. I couldn't tell because I was sitting in the opposite end of the stadium. After getting home and seeing the replay, it was clearly a terrible, terrible, call.

- Goodbye Clark Haggans, it was nice knowing you. LaMarr Woodley is ready to start, and his sack of Garrard late in the 4th quarter made Heinz Field quake. At that point, I was in the stadium drunk of my ass, and I was fully convinced we were going to win the game. I should have remembered we had Bruce Arians as our offensive coordinator, and he would decide on a whale-shit 3rd and 6 bootleg call instead of letting Ben throw the ball to ice the game (I cannot get over how bad that playcall was)

- Seemed to me that James Harrison was blatantly held on Garrard’s 4th and 2 scramble. No call by the refs, though.

- Trai Essex actually acquitted himself quite well yesterday. There may be hope for him yet. I’ll stop calling him “Trash” for now.

- Santonio has quite the knack for taking those quick slants to the house. He did it against Cincy last year to end the Bengals season, he did it last week against Baltimore, and he did it last night to spark the rally. Kid is a gamebreaker. Hines showed up big as he always does in big games. Nate and Ced did nothing. Would like to see a tall receiver added via the draft or free agency.

- Offseason has begun. First three rounds of the draft will hopefully produce 2 offensive lineman and a defensive lineman. Round out rounds 4, 5, and 6 with a tall WR, a CB (you can never have enough quality defensive backs), and a developmental QB (one you can groom to eventually take Batch’s #2 spot). And please Steelers front office, don’t treat free agency like the plague. It’s okay to sign someone who can step in and play (Read: not Sean Mahan).

- All in all, a decent season. About what I expected (I had predicted 10-6 and a wildcard berth for the Steelers in my preseason predictions). Hopefully, we can build on this next season. Keep the discussion about the game going in the comments if you have certain thoughts you’d like to address.

End of Post

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Ohio State vs LSU- From NEW ORLEANS!


This is a Pittsburgh blog, I know... but remember, if you're a true Steelers fan, eventually there will be a Steeler's Superbowl in the Bayou, so listen up.

Myself, I bleed Scarlet and Gray. I sold my Steelers playoff tickets in favor of a trip to New Orleans...hang me...cuss me...tell me Tom Brady is going to beat my ass...I don't care, it is currently 68 degrees in New Orleans. I made the right 'decision.



It's not like I forgot where I came from either... I'm currently wearing my Big Ben jersey, and I'll be wearing it out tonight. (more on that later)

My plan is to give every Pittsburgh fan, every OSU fan, every LSU fan, every college football fan, some incite into the night life of New Orleans AKA "Bourbon Street". An up to the minute, up to the hour update on the fun this city can provide.

Like I said...Pittsburgh will be playing a Superbowl here one day.

8:30pm: Left Columbus, Ohio:7 guys, 1 RV, 0 Containers of Alcohol (space issues)

11:30pm: Arrive at a Gas Station somewhere in Kentucky: Take a leak. Purchase 10, 8 oz Coors lights. Yes...somewhere in this world they have 8 oz. Beers. Our Plans: Shoot the 8 ouncers once we arrive in New Orleans.

9:45pm:
Arrive in New Orleans: We drove way too fast and got here way too early. Can't check into the hotel...

10:30pm:
First beer of the day: Gator Ale...14% alcohol. Let us keep in mind that this is my first meal of the day. I'll treat it as lunch. A bowl of Gumbo it is, a true taste of New Orleans. Interesting, but not that great. It wasn't worth the money ($9.95) and it wasn't a good drinking meal. I am drunk.

2:00pm: Scoop up some Beer and Liquor: If you ever come to New Orleans, BYOB. You can walk in the streets with an open container as long as it is in a plastic cup or aluminum can... The problem is you can't find 24 packs of beer in New Orleans. Save yourself some money and pack the cases of beer for the road. Iron City aluminum bottles anyone?

3:47pm: Tyrelle Pryor just won the U.S. Army All-American MVP Award: Go to Ohio State.

-Ok I'm gearing up for the 4 o'clock NFL Football game. Wait...Seahawks vs Redskins...no I'm going to take a nap. Join me later.

4:52pm:
I've brought the Rockies right to my hotel sink: "Is there any cold beer, or just these warm ones" a friends asks, "The sink" we reply in unison.

5:05pm: Bought some Tickets to the big game: I'm now broke. If you defer the cost of these tickets over the rest of my life, the cost is about $7-$10 a year. Not a bad way to look at it huh... I didn't buy tickets to last year's game, even though I was in Phoenix, so missing out this year just wasn't an option. Keep in mind that Ohio State hasn't lost the past two seasons when I'm in attendance (I missed the Illinois game this year).
Lessons to learn from my experiences: never buy your tickets from the scalpers on-site (in New Orleans). When I was in Phoenix I couldn't even find a ticket to buy around game-time. I also never heard from a single person who found a ticket for less than $1000 dollars a piece. Go with eBay or some random ticket broker...find the people that aren't willing to travel to New Orleans to sell these tickets. This may be a college football game, but these scalpers are pros.

-Does anyone like watching the Seattle Seahawks?... Good god they are boring. The Skins too...or maybe I just don't give two shits about the NFC. I think it's time for Harrah's Casino, then some Steelers football. Check in with me later.

12:06am: Steelers Lost: Plain and simple... Release Sean Mahan. I watched the Steelers lose with some Buccaneer/Ohio State fan's...they were very gracious. I walked back to the hotel for some more beer and had atleast 6 "Steeler" fans ask me "Who won?"....I politely answered..."The Jaguars"...when I should have told them to "Go shove it up your ass". I actually challenged one Browns fan to a fight. He thought he was all tough and cool until I took my Steeler jersey off for some Buckeye colors.

Ok back to Bourbon...we now have some reserve beer.

12:16am: Puking rally!!!: My buddy puked at about 6pm earlier today, and now at 12:16am he has manned up and decided to come out and hit Bourbon street with us. "Let's fucking rock, and go Bucks" he says. "I don't normally puke"...he exclaims. (The Cajun Burger + Tequilla is what got him).

To the Streets!

Sunday 4:02pm: When the Steelers get an offensive line, and we make the Superbowl...: I hope it's in New Orleans. This place is too much fun. Talking shit when you've been drinking all night is the best part. It's just a pity the Steelers won't ever play the Patriots in the Superbowl. I'd love to talk shit to their fans... Surprisingly I didn't see one fight last night. All the trash talking has all been done in good fun, with plenty of respect for both teams.

Sunday 8:13pm: "Shake that ass...!": That's what the group of men were screaming to the strippers throwing beads from the roof of "Hustler" strip club. The best part...the group of guys is just surrounded by their wives, shaking their heads in happy disgust. Happy disgust...I've only seen this in New Orleans where wives seem to approve of their husbands immaturity. If you're married...keep this in mind.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

5 Keys For a Steelers Win On Saturday


It's been a while since I wrote anything, so here are 5 keys for a Steelers win over the Jaguars on Saturday.


1. Defense must maintain their gaps

Obviously, the loss of Aaron Smith has severely hampered the run defense. But other factors can be attributed to the significant decline of the run defense. A disturbing trend I’ve noticed over the past couple of games is the over-pursuit of our linebackers creating huge holes in the defense for running backs to waltz through. A perfect example of this was last week’s 32-yard touchdown run by Ravens scrub Cory Ross. Larry Foote over pursued this play in an unbelievable fashion, and Ross made an easy cutback through a hole you could have driven a Mack truck through. The good news is that these are easily correctable mistakes that will markedly improve the run defense. The bad news: as I said, it’s been going on for a few weeks, so it’s a bit troublesome that it hasn’t been corrected already. Fred Taylor is a great back, and one of his greatest assets is his superior vision and patience. He killed us on cutbacks in the last game, and he’ll do it again if the Steelers run defense doesn’t maintain their gaps.


2. Attack the Jaguars safeties

Both of the Jacksonville safeties are pretty good players. Rookie free safety Reggie Nelson has had a fine rookie season, and savvy veteran Sammy Knight mans the strong safety position. However, each can be had through the air. Much like our own Anthony Smith, Nelson likes to gamble and go for the big play. He’s susceptible to double moves and pump fakes. If the Steelers running game can get going, watch for a deep strike from Roethlisberger to one of our wideouts as a result of Nelson’s aggressiveness. Knight won’t get fooled like Nelson, but his physical skills are declining. He is among the slowest safeties in the league, and any of our wide receivers can outrun him. Knight might even have trouble keeping up with Heath Miller. He makes up for his physical limitations with smart football instincts and a knack for being in the right place at the right time, but plays can definitely be made against him.


3. Help out Trash Essex

Essex gets the starting nod this week because of injuries to Marvel Smith and Max Starks. He’ll go up against Jaguars DE Paul Spicer, which is a huge mismatch in favor of Jacksonville. The Steelers need to do all they can to help Essex from getting Ben killed on a blind-side hit. I don’t care if that means keeping a tight end in to block or having a running back chip Spicer on the way to his passing route. Do whatever is necessary to make sure Essex gets help, because if he doesn’t Ben might not last the entire game.


4. Get a lead

This one is kind of obvious. We know what the Jaguars want to do on offense. They want to run the football. They want to put Garrard in manageable situations where he’ll be able to easily convert for first downs. If the Steelers can get a sizable lead, it will take the Jaguars out of their comfort zone. It will force Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio to panic and start passing the ball, and that’s when the mistakes will come. Garrard has been relatively mistake-free this season because the Jaguars running game has put him in positions to be successful. Make him throw, and I think we’ll see a few opportunities for turnovers.


5. Good weather on Saturday night

This is easily discernable by looking at each team’s strengths on offense. The Jaguars want to run. On the other hand, our bread and butter is now the passing game, even moreso than it was previously now that Willie Parker has been lost for the season. A clear night with no precipitation and little wind will tilt the playing field in our favor. Let’s hope the weather Gods will give Ben a nice, slippery-free surface to scramble around on and little to no wind to deal with when he finds an open receiver to throw to. I can guarantee you the Jaguars would much prefer mucky weather like the last game. A little weird, huh? A team from Florida hoping for snowy weather, while the big bad Pittsburgh Steelers hope for a clear night with no precipitation. I have to admit, it does make me a little sick to the stomach. Whatever. Looks like the weather Gods are complying thus far. Current forecast for Saturday night: 30 degrees, partly cloudy, 10% chance of precipitation, light winds.

End of Post

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

NHL > NBA

We normally do a link dump in support of various Pittsburgh blogs, but I'll toss this one out there today because of its relevance to an indisputable truth I realized yesterday. Pierogies n'at sent us an article about why Pittsburgh shouldn't have an NBA team. My first thought was to play devil's advocate as I have in the past. But of course then you get into numbers, and populations, and markets, and the whole debate just gets pointless when few people (read: no one) wants an NBA team. And I'm fine with that.

One point that is constantly brought up about the NBA is that the regular season "doesn't matter" or that the players don't try. Such a fact is disputable to a degree, but if you listen to NBA talking heads that are in-the-know (Bucher, Stein, et al.), they often say how Jermaine O'Neal or so-and-so has been mailing it in recently. Which brings me to the aforementioned indisputable truth: the NHL has a remarkably better product than the NBA. The NBA mght market itself better, and it definitely has bigger stars. But when you consider the actual product/sport/whatever you want to call it that takes place on the floor night in and night out, I can't possibly fathom someone saying that your average NBA game is more entertaining than your average NHL game.

While the circumstances were more epic than normal yesterday, the Pens-Sabres game was a perfect example of how intense the NHL regular season is, as opposed to just the playoffs. Whereas NBA stars are annointed in high school, given guaranteed contracts, and then often get lucrative endorsements, your average NHLer "always leaves the rink knowing he just earned his paycheck", as one former player told me as a kid. The paycheck might be smaller than that of an NBA star, but I wonder to what extent a smaller pool of money makes the play more competitive (as opposed to the stupidly lucrative NBA contracts). Whatever the reason may be, as someone that has watched a good deal of NHL and NBA games from a (relatively) unbiased perspective, it is easy for me to say that the NHL has clawed back to the point where they have a better product than the NBA. Definitively. Now they just have to figure out how to market it.

On a unrelated note, glad to see that ThePensBlog guys and Seth from Empty Netters made it back safely. I heard horror stories about the drive from friends and I can only imagine what it was like. And Seth, great work on Junker and Crow - I did a double take when they said who was coming on. Nice job buddy. Sorry about the license plate.
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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Outdoor Game Liveblog


PG


-We've never done a live blog before so I thought this was a good time to try it. Max Starks is out with a knee for the game Saturday and Trai Essex is starting in his place, so we're off to a booming start.

-Every channel has the Rose Parade on, including NBC, which is a great lead in for the game. Pulling in the right demographic, I'm sure. I'll be back at 1:00.

-Nice intro montage with what looked like a 5th Staal brother. I can't decide if I'm upset I'm not there. On one hand, the atmosphere looks incredible, but at least I'll be able to see the puck. Bob Costas is a professional...a no look interview as that NHL rep came up right behind him.

-Baby blue is my new favorite color. Sweeter retro jerseys: Pens or Steelers?.

-Bob Costas was almost killed by a zamboni and still kept the interview going. So far I've been impressed. The snow is beginning to look like its going to be a big issue.

-First Eddie O appearance! How many minutes into the game until he brings up Fleury being sent down to the minors and how that led to his firing? 5? 10?

-GOAL. Holy crap. This is awesome. The puck moved 5 feet before the snow slowed it down at center ice. Of course Sid was unfazed, took it to the net, and Army slammed it home.

-The game started so fast I didn't have a chance to mention this, but no national anthem? With God Bless America being sung there was no diss to our country, but still kinda weird. Somewhere Jeff Jimerson is smoldering.

-From Pat: "Oh my god. Sid did the old street hockey juggle! I haven't seen that since the 7th grade!"

-Horrible power play for the Penguins. Momentum beginning to shift as we're having trouble getting the puck out of our zone. There is going to be talk after the game about how the snow may have affected gameplay too much, but compared to the slop that was the Steelers-Dolphins game this is nothing.

-As Sean mentioned in the comments, Darren Pang put himself in danger of getting run over by the Zambonis, bringing our almost death-by-zamboni count to 2. The snow seems to have slowed and the puck is now moving normally. Another penalty coming up on the Sabres. The Buffalo fans are restless.

-How much filler do you think Emrick and Olczyk have to fill in the gaps from ice problems? If we're going to get a "Hey I used to coach the Penguins!" reference from Eddie, this is the time.

-All fans are now beginning to get restless. I would not want to be the ice repair crew right now. By the way, can Conklin's pads and gear look any more mismatched? Sabu with his vintage gear is looking good on the bench.

-Colby gets the even it up penalty you knew the refs would call after the rash of Sabres penalties.

-Sid deftly knocks down the puck in mid air and gets the puck to Malone who hits the post. The Sabres bring it right back and Conklin makes a spectacular save. This is how hockey is supposed to be played.

-Eddie O: "Wood is good!" No joke necessary.

-First period ends, and I don't think this can be going much better for both the Pens and the NHL as a whole. High-quality play, weather adding a bit of a different element but not affecting things that much, and 73,000 die-hards in the stands. Plus, that whole winning the game thing and Sid displaying his hand-eye coordination a few times. Just unreal.

-During the intermission we're told by the weather guy that the second period will be the best in terms of weather. We open the second period and it is sleeting. Good call.

-Not a good start. Campbell rifles it into the twine, ending Conlkin's 81 minute shutout streak. The Sabres seem to have realized this isn't an exhibition.

-Laraque and Ruutu generate a few nice chances, but the momentum has shifted in favor of the Sabres. The crowd is also starting to get into it. I look forward to hearing the reports about the number of Pens fans in the stadium.

-Two years ago, do you think Brady Quinn thought his biggest sponsorship would be for a protein drink? Is he the first back up in league history to even star in commercials?

-NBC just put up a graphic on shots this period. Buffalo - 14, Pittsburgh - 0. That just about sums up this period.

-The two shots the Penguins were credited for doesn't really do justice to the amount of chances they had. They tried to get too cute with the puck, instead of getting it on net, and when they did shoot, the missed wide right every time.

-If a puck hits Ryan Miller's toque and somehow stops it from going into the net, could the refs award the goal? With the start of the third, I'm anticipating Gary Roberts emerging from the tunnel to take the ice.

-I'll take any win, but a shootout win would be just a little bit cooler. NBC has apparently lost its 50 yardline camera and we're now viewing from behind the Sabres' goal. I feel like I'm playing NHL 95.

-NBC is having issues, as it has to switch to a still frame audio only feed for about 10 seconds. Just more proof of the media's disregard for the NHL.

-We learn that Eddie and Emrick are actually on ground level, blocking the view of many spectators who payed a ton of money to see the game. We also learn one of the Zambonis is out of commission with a chunk of ice jamming it up. And by chunk of ice they mean Bob Costas.

-The only thing this game needs, other than more delays, Brady Quinn commercials, and camera issues, is a fight. I'm looking at you Big George.

-About 5 minutes left, they're still working on the ice, and Eddie makes the first reference to his coaching stint! Can't believe he lasted this long. Something about getting to know Sid, "before I got fired". Well done, Edzo.

-We discover that NHL teams send out Christmas cards. Somehow I don't think the Penguins' have Malkin and Sid wearing sweaters in front of a fire place. As the time ticks down Conklin makes a huge save, but Armstrong takes a huge penalty. A dubious call, but still a dangerous 4 on 3 as we head to OT. Not good.

-Conklin is half-man, half-god, half possible centaur. The PKers channel their inner Ulf Samuelsson and kill it off. Momentum switch in progress.

-Game is wide open, with the Sabres getting the better chances. At this point, every Penguins fan is just hoping for the shoot out to give Christenson and Letang a chance to win this.

-Shoot out. Kotalik up first for Buffalo. Top shelf. 1-0 Buffalo.

Christenson up next. Seemed to have trouble from the get go, the snow interfering with his movement. No goal.

Tim Connolly next for the Sabres. Sabu denies him.

Letang up next. Snow makes it looks like the puck is going through water. Letang doesn't care. Top shelf back hand.

Afinaganov finds Conklin's glove.

Then Sid comes up with the chance to bring the roof down. You can barely see the puck through the snow and he makes sure to keep it flat. Somehow, someway, he shuffles the puck through Miller's legs to finish off quite possibly the most entertaining Penguins' game since Lemieux's back was still an issue.

-Great game, great atmosphere. I can't wait to here the in person recaps from those who went to the game. If you did end up going, shoot us an email and we'll post it or just leave a comment.. I had fun live-blogging the game, maybe we'll do this again if we get some positive feedback on it.

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