Thursday, May 29, 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:

Tim (Indianapolis, IN): Dave, with the MLB Draft coming up, I was wondering if you could share some insight as to how you evaluated pitching prospects during your time as GM of the Pirates.

Littlefield: I’m glad you asked this question. As you know, we drafted many pitchers in the first round during my time in Pittsburgh. This included guys like Bryan Bullington, Paul Maholm, and Brad Lincoln, who we all felt fit the blueprint in terms of the type of pitcher we were looking for. Now, you may be asking yourself, “Dave, what exactly was the blueprint?” Well, I have to give props to my predecessor in Pittsburgh, Cam Bonifay. He had been hearing rumors that pitchers who ended up having arm and shoulder surgery would actually come back with even STRONGER arms and shoulders. That’s right, the surgery would make the tendons even STRONGER. So, Cam drafted pitchers who might be susceptible to those types of injuries, and lo and behold, he came up with some gems, like Clint Johnston, Bobby Bradley, Sean Burnett, and John Van Benschoten. Johnston, Bradley, and Burnett all needed Tommy John surgery, and Van Benschoten needed surgery to repair a torn labrum. As a result, all of these guys now have stronger arms and shoulders. That means better velocity. Better velocity means better pitchers.

At first, I was a little skeptical about what Bonifay told me. Then, I saw a great movie on TV called Rookie of the Year. In it, this young kid who was like 11-years old injures his shoulder and gets it operated on. And get this… after the operation, he starts throwing the ball over 100 MPH! And the Cubs end up signing him, and they win the World Series! Since it’s widely known that we should believe everything we see in movies, it was then that I started to think, ‘Hey, Bonifay might be right.’ And then look at this: This guy named Sal Marinello from the awesome website healthandfitnessadvice.com says: “There are indications that a ball player’s arm actually becomes stronger as a result of having Tommy John surgery.” And poster “FencingAG” from the Fencing.Net discussion forum, who himself had an operation to repair a torn labrum, says: “Now, 3 years later, that shoulder is just as strong, if not stronger, than it ever was.” If you can’t trust Sal Marinello and FencingAG, then whom can you trust? So, I followed Bonifay’s blueprint and drafted guys like Bullington, Maholm, and Lincoln, all of whom we felt were susceptible to arm and shoulder injuries.

And now the Pirates are sitting pretty, for the most part. We totally missed on Maholm, though. He didn’t have any significant arm or shoulder injuries, and he’s a soft-tosser in the majors right now and fucking sucks. Meanwhile, Bullington and Lincoln are biding their time in the minors, with their stronger arms and shoulders. I wouldn’t be surprised if both of them are consistently hitting 110 MPH on the radar gun when they finally become regular starters in the majors, just like that kid from Rookie of the Year.

Two Words: Playoff Hockey



Two more words: Brooks Orpik. What a legendary shift.

Thanks to The Pensblog for bringing that to the world.

Darryl Sydor the Good Luck Charm, Adam Hall the Crafty Goal Scorer, and Brooks Orpiks (soon to appear on American Gladiators as himself)

The closest Daryle I could find... Darryl Sydor just doesn't have enough game-action on Google.


A couple thoughts from the Penguin's Game 3 Win.....

1) Darryl Sydor shall never be scratched, ever again. (unless his 36-year old body can't get out of bed tomorrow)

Darryl didn't play that well, but that's ok...we won and quite frankly I know a good luck charm when I see one. I'm 22, sometimes I play a sport that I haven't played in awhile and I wake up the next morning feeling like death. Darryl is 36 people.

2)Adam Hall is a pure goal scorer...he just needed some time to develop.

Adam Hall pulled a complete 180 on Wednesday. Not only did he score a goal, but he almost completely blew the game after failing to rifle the puck out of the Penguins zone with some 13 seconds left. Hall is a defensive specialist...some might call him a two-way forward...or a defensive forward, but lets face it...after Game 3 we don't know what he is. We think of him as a penalty killer, not a "Let-me-bank-it-off-your back-like-Lemieux" kind of forward...The teams on crack for all I know. If you don't know what I'm talking about, read what I said about the fourth line before Game 2.

3)Brooks Orpik and Michel Therrien better kiss and make-up because the Penguins cannot let that man walk into the dark night of Free Agency...

If you don't know why, you need to leave our blog immediately. Orpik laid out the entire Drake-Cleary-Draper line. The sequence included 4 totals hits, with 3 of those hits putting people on their back. I love that, that's like Steeler defense or something.

Bonus thought) Don't ever, ever, plan a date with a female without consulting the nearest Pittsburgh sport's schedule.

I'll leave it at that. Always consult before making plans.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Two Updates

In a somewhat unsurprising move, Daryl Sydor will be back in the lineup tonight. Perhaps a little more surprising is that the move is at the expense of Letang. Looks as if the Pens are trying to pit experience against experience.

As for the other update: frequent DAI reader Jay has informed me that a new blog exists, dedicated to the one and only Scott Burnside:

Scott Burnside Steals From Blind Orphans

Unreal.

Eddy Spaghetti Podcast 2.0



We were lucky enough to be involved in Eddy's roundtable discussion on why the Pens can still win the cup. Make sure to check out the end where Pat gives arguably the best Earl Mann impression of his life.

Eddy Spaghetti Pens Podcast: The Ledge

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Quite Possibly the Most Asinine Article of the Post-Season


If you aren't angry enough after Games 1 and 2, try this piece of trash writing from Scott Burnside on for size.
To summarize: Mario Lemieux is selfish, always has been, always will be. He needs to be more involved in the game, but not in the attention-seeking way he always has been.
No, I'm not kidding. Burnside really thinks that. What does he fail to consider? Oh, I don't know...
- that Lemieux saved the team from bankruptcy by deferring salary payments. If things didn't work out and the team went bankrupt again, Lemieux would have been totally screwed from a financial standpoint seeing as he would have forfeited all the money he was originally owned for the sake of saving the Pens. Sounds selfish to me.
- that proceits from watching Games 1 and 2 at Mellon Arena went to the Mario Lemeiux Foundation instead of Mario's pocket. Again, so selfish.
- Did I mention the Mario Lemieux Foundation?
Maybe what makes me most angry about this is the double standard used by the media on athletes. A guy like Sean Avery keeps making the news and everyone is saying "Go away! Show some humility! Pipe down!" A guy like Mario humbly sits on the sidelines instead of overshadowing the current stars and he needs to force himself in the spotlight more. Call it the Tim Duncan School of Journalism. Winning isn't interesting. Humility isn't interesting. Not granting interviews to scumbags like Scott Burnside is not only uninteresting, but somehow damages the game of hockey. Is it even possible for a guy like Burnside to find a balance?
The comments section on the article makes up for it, though. Take a look through and you will see that Burnside lost many a reader with that article. DAI readers, I beg you: fire away in the comments.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Hmmm

In my mind, I started this post a million different ways. "Series doesn't start until the home team loses..."

"The Red Wings are providing the mathetmatical solution to experience over age: 5 defenders in the middle+1 speedy penetrator=big problem for the Pens..."

"Chris Osgood is a..."

Well, see below.

There really is no way to sum up the game in a positive light. However, anyone that wants to hit the panic button should get out now before things really get grisly. The Red Wings are good. Damn good. It really is quite remarkable to watch them collapse their forwards in on the defensive end then spring them loose the other way. One gets the feeling that this Wings team has already had all of its "off" games. The Penguins must simply raise the stakes.

Which means what, exactly? Playing Sydor for Gill, perhaps? Switching the lines back up again (Geno's line=0 shots)? Who can say. There shouldn't be excuses, though. The Detroit Red Wings are playing championship defense. In their own right, the Penguins are killing penalties like a championship squad. But you don't need a blogger to tell you which is more important in a Stanley Cup Final.

You can complain about errant passes, lack of intensity, coaching, or whatever else you want, but the reality is this: a 5 game series starts Wednesday. The Penguins must win four of those five games. At the beginning of the year, you would have taken those odds with this young team. Hell, right now I will take those odds with this young team. Experience beat youth/speed/Crosby/a non-diving-goalie tonight. The real question is: does the youth have enough time to grow up?

Wednesday night we'll find out in a big way.

The Biggest Pussy You'll Ever See



Hi. My name is Chris Osgood. And whether I'm being lightly tapped by Mike Ribeiro's stick, or being slightly nudged by Ryan Malone or Petr Sykora, one thing I can guarantee is I'm a bigger flopper than Manu Ginobili. If a fly landed on me I'd flop to the ice.





Did I mention I have sand in my vagina and it itches?

Trying to Figure the Newly Configured

If you haven't already heard about the newly configured lines that the Penguins will be rolling with in Game 2, you don't watch enough TV. While I agree with the addition of Malone to the first line, the addition of Roberts to the line-up in general, I couldn't be more wholeheartedly disappointed with the scratching of Laraque.

Ryan Malone-Sidney Crosby-Marian Hossa

Ok...You'd have to be on crack to not think this line won't be unstoppable.

Finally someone realized that no one was creating a Pas-cal God-send banner in the upper deck of Mellon Arena for Dupuis.



This line has two skill players, and Pascal did little to make the line better. Ryan Malone will bring a dynamic that could make this line very fun to watch. Malone should be good at getting in front of the net and banging in all those loose pucks that Hossa and Crosby fire off of Osgood.

Max Talbot-Evgeni Malkin-Petr Sykora

I love Talbot. Skyora on the other hand is starting to look like Mark Recchi. Maybe hes just a little too old and a bit too tired for this whole run to the Cup thing. If there were a senior tour of the NHL, Recchi and Skyora would be front runners for the jog to the Cup.

All-in-all Malkin needs to pick it up...Talbot and Malkin together should make for a great line if Malkin decides to move his feet. We all know Talbot will.

For all that I'm concerned, Sykora can just sit in the slot looking for a one-timer off the boards, or maybe he could sit behind the goals and turn on the red-light when necessary.

Pascal Dupuis-Jordan Staal-Tyler Kennedy


Play good defense...that's all we need from you guys. It also wouldn't be a bad idea if Staal decided to play like he did in Game 4 against Philadelphia. Is it just me or does anyone else see Mario Lemieux in Jordan Staal, as he pulls the puck in and out of defenders with his long and controlling reach... While I only see those moments in flashes, its fun to compare.

Gary Roberts-Adam Hall-Jarkko Ruutu

Gary Roberts is back...This move couldn't of come any earlier, but unfortunately it comes at the expense of Laraque.



Ok, yeah...part of me still hopes that Laraque can lay down the law with Darren McCarty, but seriously...Laraque has created more goals than Adam Hall. I can think of two off the top of my head, including one of his own against the Rangers. The other question you have to ask yourself is who would center that fourth line? Who would take face-offs? Yeah, the fourth line rarely takes face-offs anyway, but maybe the Penguins could just let Laraque lay-out the opposing centermen right off the draw.

Ok...wishful thinking from a man who enjoys the physical element of the sport, but I guess I'll just hope Therien dresses Laraque for the Penguins home games at Mellon Arena, and then I'll just hope that something like this happens again...

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Monday


As far as losses go, that kinda sucked. It was definitely worse due to the fact we have only lost two games this postseason. Winning all the time makes the feeling all the more acute when the inevitable loss actually occurs.

The final score is misleading. No doubt the Penguins were outplayed, but it was still a game where you felt like the Penguins could have stolen it. Had they scored on their furious power play in the first with Helm in the box, this might have been a different game.

Overall, the Penguins seemed like they didn't expect the Wings to be that fast, that quick to the puck. Maybe it was due to slower and subpar competition in the first three rounds, or simply a lack of focus, but they did not consider each battle for a loose puck to be a life or death situation. They need to.

Crosby's line looked capable the entire game, and generated the few decent chances. Malkin's, not so much. I Want to Fight Tom Brady pointed out Sykora pretty much wasted our final power play opportunity. Malkin looked the most ill-prepared for the jump in level of competition. But knowing him, he'll respond.

I was pissed off initially at the fourth goal, that vitriol that was lacking toward Detroit had finally surfaced, but it probably helped the Pens more than anything. They were going to lose anyway, but now that taste in their mouths got a bit more bitter, and the Red Wings got a bit more overconfident. We'll come back on Monday more prepared, more ready to capitalize on Osgood challenging slap shots 10 feet out of the net.

We've been in the playoffs for the past 6 weeks, but we haven't yet experienced exactly what it means to be in the playoffs. Bad losses, heart breakers, a small sense of doubt. No trip to drinking with Lord Stanley is complete without hardship. All we can do is wash our lucky jerseys, trim the beard and focus on one thing. Monday.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Penguins' Salary Cap Status: You're the GM


I debated about waiting to put this stuff up until after the finals. I mean, we have all offseason. We'll also have some downtime this series, though, and realizing the shape the Penguins are in in terms of the cap puts a lot of things in perspective that can make this series all the more important. I'm not saying next year the Penguins will drop off, just that the team they put on the ice could be very different and just as good.

I took the cap information from NHL Numbers, which is an amazing site, and turned it into an excel file that can be used to toy around with the Pens' financial situation. Wondering if Shero has the room to sign Laraque and Ruutu after giving Hossa $8 million and Malone $4.5 mill? This is how you can find out.

SALARY CAP SPREADSHEET (.xls)

(If that link does not work try this one.)

Send us your edited spreadsheets or just ideas to doubtaboutit@gmail.com and we'll post them after the finals are done, along with ours. Hopefully we can find one Pens fan who can figure out how to reasonably keep Hossa and Malone without mortgaging the future. So be creative and specific; names of replacement players would be awesome, and start some nice debate to help get through the offseason.

Who knows, if we put enough effort in we might get some people at the Penguins to notice. The next update will be after the finals.

Some rules for playing GM:

-Just fill in the boxes for the UFA's and RFA's with the average $/year that you would sign the player or their replacement. For example, if I think we won't keep Big George, I may think we should only pay our 4th line RW only $0.75 million/year.

-I bolded the average $/year part above because, unlike the NFL, in the NHL it is tough to be creative with contracts. In the NFL you can front load or back load a deal since the cap hit for a player is their salary for that year. Things like bonuses make it easy to pay a player a ton of money when you have plenty of room under the cap and then have more room when things get tighter. You can't do that in the NHL. Even if you give Hossa $10 million next year and $7 million the next three, he still has a Cap Number of 7.5 million each year. This is what makes it so difficult.

-The cap next year is projected to be around $56 million, a rise of $5.7 million. Thats around an 11% increase, which I used to calculate the cap for future years. Probably unrealistic, but its as good as a prediction as any.

-I have Sabu and Conklin listed as of now, but only one will really stay on the cap. If you decided to sign Conks or his replacement, just delete Sabu's salary for next year.

-You may also want to leave a little room for pulling players up after the roster limit is lifted at the end of February. 200 grand for trades and call ups should do it.

-For more info check out the CBA or the NHL Numbers FAQ

The Pens Sign New Enforcer for Playoffs

Look at this burly enforcer. Don't let that smile fool you, folks: those crossed arms tell you that Sam means business.

On a serious note, I wonder if Sam will now leave the blog to work as a professional bearded model?

And on an actually more serious note, I wonder: we were contacted to do the piece because our blog had covered playoff beards. Sam nicely agreed to do the interview and take a picture and talk about the blog. Only...no mention of the blog anywhere. Now, we are not fishing for publicity here. But the reason we were contacted in the first place is because of our blog. So, what, does the Trib just not want to acknowledge that it talks to bloggers? Are they all just wearing WWBBD wristbands*? Who knows. Still cool to see Sam's playoff beard in all it's glory.

*What Would Buzz Bissinger Do?

Stanley Cup Prediction

Photo by Chaz Palla of the Trib

Easily the most hype that has been floating around these finals is the lack of knowledge about these teams. Has there ever been more guess work surrounding a final? The Penguins are definitely the sexier pick. With the youth and star power of the Penguins, you can sense there is a palpable desire from those who root for the NHL as a whole to see the Penguins win.

But, really, any pick is a shot in the dark. Both teams have been playing phenomenally well against different teams. There's no significant history. You can look at the stats, and only find that these teams have very similar numbers in the playoffs.

There is one thing the Penguins have done significantly better than the Red Wings, and that is respond to adversity. It seems like a decade ago, but the Penguins struggled coming out of the gate. 8-11-2. Then there was the Thanksgiving game. Go reread Pat's article about that again. You can sense he was trying to temper his excitement, but he knew that it would all change around. And it did.

Then Fleury got injured. And Roberts. And Sid. And through it all the Penguins surged. But if you're visiting this site, you already knew that. When has Detroit faced any adversity this entire season? How about when the best defensemen alive injured his knee on on February 18th, and subsequently missed 6 games. They promptly lost 4 in a row.

If there is anything I feel confident guaranteeing is that there will be adversity for both teams. I'd love to see the Penguins sweep, but Detroit is too good to let that happen. At some point in this series both teams will get a a kick to the balls and one will respond. I'll take the kids who don't know any better. Pens in 6.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Eddy Spaghetti Podcast


Eddy from the blog Eddy Spaghetti is doing a run of podcasts with Pittsburgh sports bloggers leading up to the the Stanley Cup finals. We were lucky enough to be included, and discussed a variety of topics from how Earl Mann would describe Jordan Staal to Stanley Cup predictions. Click the link below to be directed to the podcast.

Eddy Spaghetti Pens Podcast: Pat and Sam from Doubt About It

Thanks to Eddy for putting it all together.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Best NHL Commercial Ever?

Credit goes to Greg Wyshynski over at Puck Daddy for this find.



If you needed help getting pumped up for Saturday, that should do it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Schedule Makers Screw Detroit


Must be fun to be in Detroit right now. The Wings are playing for the Cup, the Pistons are in the Eastern Conference Finals...good times, right?

Unless, of course, the schedules conflict.

TheBigLead just threw up a post about this: Games 1 and 2 at Joe Louis Arena are on the same day as Games 3 and 4 in the Palace at Auburn Hills for the Pistons. Saturday and Monday at 8pm, Red Wings vs. Penguins. Saturday and Monday at 8:30pm, Celtics vs. Pistons.
Much has already been made of the Red Wings inability to sell out games, although to be fair, the actual ticket numbers are about equal to sellouts at Mellon Arena, if not greater by the end of the season. But that doesn't change the fact that roughly 2,000 seats were unfilled for each game. I think we can all agree that if the Mellon had 2,000 extra seats, each one of them would have been filled over the past few months.

But the point of this post is not to compare Pittsburgh and Detroit fans. The point is this: if Red Wings tickets were easy to get before, they might have just gotten easier. The Pistons game will not only draw away viewers, but it is reasonable to assume that it might draw away some fans. Ticketmaster still looks ugly, but bide your time Pens fans. Red Wings fans face something of a conundrum, and Penguins fans may very well be the benefactor.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Ten Things I Would Have Taken In a Trade for Evan Meek

With the recent news that the Pirates sent “cash considerations” to the Rays in order to keep Evan Meek, it got me to thinking…

Ten things I would have taken in a trade for Evan Meek, if I were Rays GM Andrew Friedman:

1. A slice of leftover cheese pizza

2. A sleeve of crappy Maxfli golf balls (you know, the shitty ones you can find at Wal-Mart for $9.99 per dozen balls)

3. Baseball autographed by Jacob Brumfield

4. Baseball autographed by Turner Ward

5. Baseball autographed by Adam Hyzdu

6. One (1) general admission ticket to a Pittsburgh Passion football game

7. The rights to Altoona Curve manager Tim Leiper, who as a former .273 hitter in the major leagues could very well be one of the top prospects in the Pirates minor league system—behind Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, and Steve Pearce

8. A handle of the world’s shittiest vodka, Burnett’s Vodka (which, I should add, was a favorite of mine back in my earlier drinking days… it was cheap, okay?)

9. One of Don Cherry’s hideous suits

10. Colby Armstrong (to improve team chemistry in the Rays locker room)

I’m quite sure that our readers can think of a few other things.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Hop in the Cordova Baby...


cause we're goin dancin' with Lord Stanley!

I was waiting for "spit shine our shoes" from Mike, but it still sounded glorious. All six goals were glorious. The play of Mr. Marc-Andre Fleury was glorious. Your Pittsburgh Penguins are going to be playing for the Stanley Cup.

Are there any Flyers trolls left to pillage the comments? Anyone at all left who thinks that Biron can solve the Pens? If so, please speak soon, because we are going to forget about you very soon. Sam is probably already working on new graphs to prove...something. In all seriousness though, Sam called this one: Pens in five. Few others had the guts to be staunchly faithful in the Pens. I myself was overly worried. Kudos to Sambo.

Yet for all the jubilation you felt after each goal, for each hair that stood on end as you listened to the Mellon faithful proclaim "WE WANT THE CUP!", the Penguins players were there to remind you: we haven't won anything. Jarkko said as much in his post-game interview with the 'Tash. No one wore their championship hats or shirts. Everyone maintained focus, just as they had all day. The hated Flyers, their fans, and their Comcast-owned broadcasters...embarassed in a 6-0 game that leaves hockey historians searching their record books for a defeat bearing any resemblance from the past.

And so here we are, some sixteen years later. The chalice you see to the left is up for grabs. How lucky we are to have started blogging this year. Thank you to everyone for the rise in comments recently and for defending the site against the Philadelphia infiltrators. Four games seperates the Penguins from history, though do not be fooled - those four games will not come easily by any means.

Plan your time wisely. Explain things to your boss and your family. Do. Not. Shave. The Glory Days are back. Act accordingly.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Flyurs Phans are Reel Intelligunt

Thank you to TheBigLead for easing the pain of the loss to the Flyers. Enjoy the weekend.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Versus vs. Pittsburgh

No sour grapes here - the Flyers played a great game tonight and wanted/needed the victory more than the Pens. Staal played great, but the top two lines didnt have it tonight. Game 5 on Sunday is bigger than you could ever imagine.

So no, my problem isn't with the Flyers. Not their players, and not even their fans. The fights at the end of the game? Whatever. It happens. My problem is with Versus tonight. It is bad enough to watch your team lose in the playoffs, but it is even worse when you have to basically listen to the opposing team's broadcast.

Think I am being overzealous? Consider that when the Flyers played in Pittsburgh, Versus showed footage of Flyers fans in bars at Philly. Was similar footage shown of Penguins fans Tuesday night or tonight? Unless I missed it on the way to the fridge or the John, I dont think so. Nothing. Nada. Instead they showed all the Flyers fans signs and continually remarked how "funny Flyers fans are". Any mention of The PensBlog-created "What Would Gary Roberts Do?" or "USS Hal Gill" signs in Pittsburgh? No.

Then there are the gems from the last minute of the game. "It is so cool here right now, with the team and the fans uniting as one." Ok, sure, fine. "Mike Richards is just doing what great players do." Take runs at players as time runs out? Um, ok. "Well with the win tonight, the Flyers are alive and doing just swell". What?! They are down 3-1! Are you being serious? Do you know the odds?

Granted, those quotes are paraphrased to some degree, but when I heard "swell" emanate from the TV, I had to check online to make sure that the Pens were still indeed up 3-1 in the series. Because I love and support hockey in all forms, I have tried not to bash the Versus broadcasting as so many other bloggers have rightfully done. But the whole "Comcast owns Versus AND the Flyers" conspiracy rang a little too true tonight for my liking. If I have to watch the Pens lose (and lets face it, it's the playoffs, we've been remarkably fortunate to only suffer one playoff loss), let me atleast watch it on a network that can cover a game in context. Briere is not the second coming. The Flyers are not leading the series. These shouldn't be hard things to broadcast, like, oh say, non-Blair Witch camera angles?

This might sound like misdirected anger after a playoff loss. Maybe it is. But I think these are reasonable questions to ask of the Versus broadcasting crew: why no footage of Pittsburgh bars? Why such little attention given to the ingenuity of Penguins fans? Why does an entire room of Pens fans have to turn off the volume and turn on Mike Lange when you show a game?

Go to church on Sunday everybody. And get ready to call off work for Monday. In the mean time, check out Blue Archer's new program for Pittsburgh Nonprofit Web Design projects.

This Isn't Swimming...



2 Minutes- Diving

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Karma

The guy who may or may not be Feeny from Boy Meets World (upper left) can't handle the truth.


I've never been a huge believer in sports teams getting what they deserve, but after the Patriots' fall in February I began to come around. After witnessing the current Penguins' 11-1 run, I'm finding it hard not to see it connected to karma.

Every opponent/fan base we've faced has whined. Blamed it on the officials, on bad bounces, and everything but themselves. And while this has been going on no player on the Penguins has complained, instead they've continued to score goals and relished the shedenfreud of each empty net goal. Honestly, was there a non-gameplay related moment of this playoffs better than seeing the utter dejection in the faces of Flyers fans as the cameras panned the crowd after Malone's goal? Maybe its not right, but the defeat of others has become almost as enjoyable as the victory.

To see just how bad the whining has gotten, check out the AP report for the game, which has this gem of a paragraph:

"The loudest noises that reined down from the rafters at Wachovia Center came in the form of groans, first when Evgeni Malkin drew a questionable hooking call against Flyers defenseman Derian Hatcher with a dive in the offensive zone, then when Whitney cashed in the Penguins' third power-play goal of the series."

The interwebs are not as fast as I would like them to be and I couldn't find the video of the penalty, but I don't see how an AP report, which is supposed to be about as unbiased of an article as you can find in journalism, could say definitively that it was diving. Maybe the whiners in the stands had some sort of influence on the writing, but as Pat pointed out in the post below, Hatcher is a "PIM-accruing 35 year old defenseman". Is it so shocking that he committed a penalty?

This scares me, though. Its gotten to the point that the bland recap you can find on any national sports site has begun to take an opinion based on questionable evidence. Either the Penguins are diving or everyone is complaining so much that the national media has to pay attention. The truth, as always, isn't discrete. As much as people want to complain about embellishment by Sid, and now Malkin, its extremely difficult to argue with the numbers.

Rangers Penalties: 30
Penguins Penalties: 34

Flyers: 28
Canadiens: 22

Flyers Penalties: 18
Penguins Penalties: 14

The Flyers had the 3rd highest PIM in the league during the regular season. The fact they are taking more penalties is no surprise and no one's fault other than their own.

For some reason I don't see the fans in Detroit complaining. Maybe because they will be the favorite or maybe because they can appreciate a good hockey team. While the first three rounds of the playoffs has been fraught with little suspense for the Pens, the awaiting Stanley Cup finals should make up for it.

Hopefully, we only have to deal with the envy of fans for only one more game. If Hal Gill and Hossa continue to play the way they did last game it will be only one more game. But even if it takes another two or three, it sure beats the hell out of waiting another year, on top of 25, to see any of your teams win a championship. Enjoy the offseason, Philly.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Where Things Stand in Flyers-Pens

We could have posted over the weekend about the games, but it was more fun to let the comments section build up on Sam's post while the Pens did a little on-ice commenting of their own. To sum up the weekend:

- Biron is not a goaltending god
- Mike Richards is quite good
- Malkin may have more natural hockey talent than anyone in the world (see: Game 1)
- If the Flyers just want to hammer away at Malkin, then Crosby, Hossa, Malone, and the role players are going to get better chances (see: Game 2)
- Derian Hatcher's ice time in Game 2: 28:31
- Again, 28:31

Yes, the injuries to Timonen and Coburn obviously deplete the Flyers D, but it isn't a deep unit to begin with. Consider a hypothetical where the Pens lost one of their defenseman in a game (with Eaton already out, mind you) and we had to to pick five of these guys to finish out the game with Sydor getting dressed for Game Three: Gonchar, Letang, Scuderi, Gill, Whitney, Orpik. With the exception of Whitney perhaps, all six are playing top notch defense. Depth pays off, especially in the playoffs. The Flyers are going to have to either get more out of what they have, collapse the forwards back a little, or think of some other strategy to help out an injury-plagued unit that was never terribly impressive to begin with.

The performance of the Flyers forwards isn't helping the cause either. As of Sunday, Vaclav Prospal was sitting alone in 5th for the playoff scoring leaders. Is he playing in this series? Is Briere?

The Flyers can hold serve at home and all these concerns become moot. Scott Burnside employs the "aw-gee-shucks-the-bounces-aren't-going-our-way" logic here, and maybe he is right. There is still plenty of time for the bounces to go the Flyers' way. But such logic is often a veil for what is the real story. Steelers fans blamed special teams units for losing AFC Championship games because it was much easier than facing the reality that our quarterback was Kordell Stewart and that he was never going to win a Super Bowl. Pirates fans blame Littlefield, Tracy, McClendon, and whomever else because it is easier than coming to terms with the soul-rotting financial infrastructure of baseball.

The Flyers defensive woes and endless turnovers are no doubt results of the injuries they've suffered on the defensive front. But don't let injury-related excuses obscure the real story: a team that has a PIM-accruing 35 year old defenseman playing half the game in the Eastern Conference Finals probably had defensive issues long before any injuries took place.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Penguins-Flyers Breakdown: Bursting Biron's Bubble



A lot of the hype surrounding this series has boiled down to the Penguins trying to solve the suddenly hot Martin Biron. While Biron will arguably play the largest role in determining the Flyers' chances, the amount of praise that has been lumped upon him seems to be a bit overstated, or at least hypocritical. Here are Biron's stats in the regular season compared to the playoffs.


Biron, purely by the numbers, was actually better in the regular season, and has only faced an additional shot per game this postseason. This doesn't factor in the quality of the shots or key saves, most notably in Game 7 of the Caps series. Still, either give the guy credit for a good season or lay off the Conn Smythe talk for at least this series.

Also, I'm having trouble understanding how Fleury is still unproven or untested, but Biron gets off the hook. Fleury has put up a 1.76 GAA and .938 SV% while facing an average of 28 shots a game. Facing four shots less per game can have an impact on your goals allowed, but not THAT much of an impact. If anything, Fleury has appeared to finally turn the corner while Biron is more of a flash in the pan, the next Johan Hedberg. Nothing against the moose, but he only got us to the conference finals too.

So if the Flyers defense is allowing around the same amount of shots and Biron is maybe playing only slightly better than he did in the regular season, then why are the Flyers' surging? It's all in the offense. Here are basic statistics for each team.




The Flyers are averaging an extra 0.6 G/GM in the playoffs. The Penguins are hitting at 0.5 G/GM higher now then in the regular season. While they are similar bumps in scoring, the Penguins had already shown an increase in their offensive output with the arrival of Hossa and Dupuis, averaging 3.21 G/GM from the trade deadline to the end of the season, only 0.23 behind their current pace. The Flyers were relatively consistent with their scoring throughout the year, indicating they may be playing above what they are actually able to produce consistently.

Defensively, the Penguins are lowering the ice curtain with a GAA of 1.89, which is 0.6 GA/GM lower than their regular season mark. Again, though, after the trade deadline the Penguins improved to a 2.36 GAA. While there are signs that this improved defense is here to stay due to the new personnel, assuming that the Penguins can maintain this gaudy mark is probably wishful thinking.

This series boils down to two units playing better than they probably actually are, going head to head, with one likely tumbling back to Earth. I'd have to give the edge to the Penguins, simply because they had displayed signs in the regular season that their defense had improved, and the new players add credibility to that argument. The Flyers, on the other hand, have played the second worst defensive team in the playoffs and a young and shaky goaltender who couldn't catch a cold in winter.

Either way you look at it, Biron is going to have to play better than he's already played and the Flyers have to crack a surprisingly stout Penguins defense. The chances of both happening are slim. Pens in 5.

Stats: NHL.com, hockey-reference

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Casey Hampton Likes To Play Beer Pong


This is a picture of Casey Hampton playing Beer Pong before Game 5 between the Penguins and Rangers.

Besides the fact that I liked the picture, my one question is this: How much beer do you think it takes for Casey Hampton, who probably weighs close to 350 lbs, to get drunk?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Various People React to the Penguins -Flyers Series


Flyers fans in the State College area: Holy shit! We're not too bad! Time to throw on my old Lindros jersey and act like I've been a fan the whole time!



Colby Armstrong: I'm just proud of my boys. They're doing a great job, I'm really ok with the trade...(starts sobbing uncontrollably)



Ray Shero Show of hands: who misses Eric Christensen?



Bryan Murray The Penguins tried to intentionally lose to the Rangers so they wouldn't have to face the Flyers.



Ed Rendell: There's a team called the Penguins in a city called Pittsburgh?



Barack Obama: Now, look, this series is an incredible story of two teams recently at the bottom of the league, born to a white woman from Kansas and a goat herder from Kenya, who battled through injuries and turned down the big firms on Wall Street to help those on Main Street. This is a story only possible in America. (Sorry Canada)



Hillary Clinton: 7 games is not a good indication of the better team. We should trust only those who have been around hockey the longest to decide who would be best to face the Red Wings in the next round.



John McCain: I'm very much looking forward to watching the series between the Pittsburgh Flyers and Philadelphia Penguins. (Lieberman whispers in his ear). Shit.



Rocky Yo, as Philadelphia's greatest sports champion I want Pittsburgh to know that even though Darien Hatcher has arthritis in his neck and calcium deposits in his joints he'll still be bringin' the hurtin' bombs. Unless that Laraque guy comes around, in which case forget I ever said that.



Carey Price: Sorry, I didn't catch the question.



John Stevens: Wrong John Stevens.


Need to be more specific:




John Stevens, Douchebag: Laraque should still be suspended.


Philadelphia's Champions in the Last Quarter Century: ::crickets::

Friday, May 2, 2008

That One Good Trade...

Remember that time you traded your best friend an Ultra Fleer Lenny Dykstra baseball card for a Ken Griffey Jr rookie card?

What a steal huh....Good luck making that trade again.

For the Pirates GMs, who are considered "professionals" at what they do, those kinds of trades also come very infrequently.

With the recent Pirate beat down of Oliver Perez, most of it coming from the bat of Xavier Nady, I was finally reminded of what Dave's Littlefield one "Good Trade" actually was.



So Bonifay traded Ricardo Rincon for Brian Giles...

Then Littlefield traded Oliver "Walkathon" Perez (as one New York Met blog put it) for Nady...

Now ...what is going to be the 1-deal that Neal Huntington knocks our pants off with...maybe trading Nate McLouth and Xavier Nady to the Padres for Chase Headley?

That would make sense, and be right on par with every other deal that the Pirate's GMs have made in years past. Yes, this tidbit was written sometime in the offseason, but just imagine if the Pirates would have traded Mclouth, and then he sets the world on fire in San Diego, just like he is in Pittsburgh right now... People would be calling for Huntington's head. I mean sure, Headley might light the world on fire too....but it's the Pirates...when has a trade ever worked out like that?

Mclouth has the sweetest, no hole swing, that I have seen on a Pirate's roster in years.... He might even rival Ken Griffey Jr for the smoothest swing, and none of that is a joke. (something you might normally expect from a guy called "I want to Fight Tom Brady")

For a team that has needed a CF for so long, it's about god damn time someone arrived. Now, can we just get Laroche to show up and play for once?

This Pirates team has the best lineup I have seen in years...they just need Jack Wilson and his glove back in the lineup, then I truly think that things will start rolling.

Now... all I ask is that Neal Huntington doesn't make that stupid trade that just rips it all apart. Can a GM for once, just learn how to make more than one good trade...