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Scratch his back with a hacksaw:  Penguins broadcaster Mike Lange remains an iconic hockey voice

From Allen Panzeri of the Ottawa Citizen:

Honoured by the Hockey Hall of Fame with the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award in 2001, Lange is an icon in the Steel City, following in the big footprints of Bob Prince, who was the voice of the Pirates for 28 years, and Myron Cope, the colour commentator on Steelers’ radio broadcasts for 25 years.

Lange is so ingrained as the city’s voice of hockey that his fans will turn down the sound on NBC broadcasts and listen instead to his call of the game.

“If I ever own my own skyscraper, instead of smooth jazz as the elevator music I think I’m just gonna loop Mike Lange goal calls,” wrote one devotee on Twitter a couple of days ago.

The affection is mutual.

“If they enjoy listening to me and can have some fun with it, hey, that’s the ultimate compliment,” Lange said this week while watching the Ottawa Senators and Penguins practice at Scotiabank Place.

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Marc-André Fleury: A quandary for Pittsburgh, a headache for Canada

From Roy MacGregor of the Toronto Globe and Mail:

Three Dog Night had it all wrong.

One is not the loneliest number. It’s 29.

No. 29, also known as Marc-André Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins, is on the ice at Consol Energy Center. He is skating between Zambonis as they re-surface the ice: crouched over, head bowed, deep in thought that does not require a mind-reader to decipher.

What the hell has gone wrong?

Fleury is, or at least is supposed to be, the starting goaltender for what has been the strongest NHL team in the Eastern Conference. He is supposed to stop the pucks while Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jarome Iginla, and a cast of other hockey stars fire pucks into the opposition nets. He is supposed to backstop the Penguins to the 2013 Stanley Cup prior to taking over the net as Team Canada defends its Olympic gold medal in Sochi next February.

That was the dream, the plan – but recently it has gone off the rails.

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Penguins Contest for Today: Win $200+ Tickets to Game 2

TiqIQ have planned a great Twitter contest that we'd like to get off the ground around tonight's game.   Details below:

Guess the final score/outcome of Game 1. Guess the scorer of the GWG as a tiebreaker. Correct answer wins a pair of tickets to Game 2.

We're thinking the value of the tickets will be in the $200 range (tbd).  

All you have to do is follow @tiqiq and reply with mention of TiqIQ and you'll be entered to win.

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Fleury Sits, Vokoun to Start for Penguins in Game Five

From the Penguins' Sam Kasan:

Tomas Vokoun will be the Penguins starting goaltender in Game 5 Thursday night against the NY Islanders at CONSOL Energy Center.

“We brought Tomas Vokoun in to play big games for us and be a goaltender we can count on to go in and play big games. He’s done that this year for us,” head coach Dan Bylsma said.

In four games – three starts – against the Islanders this season, Vokoun is 3-0 with a 0.90 goals-against average, a .970 save percentage and one shutout.

”He has been very good against the Islanders in the three games he’s played against the Islanders,” Bylsma said. “We’re getting a guy that is capable of being a great goalie for us.”

Vokoun, 36, has a 13-4 record for the Penguins this season with a 2.45 goals-against average, a .919 save percentage and three shutouts.

Vokoun has played 11 career playoff games, all with the Nashville Predators. Game 5 will be his first playoff action since 2007. He has a career .922 save percentage and one shutout in those 11 contests.

Marc-Andre Fleury started the first four games of the series. He went 2-2 with a 3.40 goals-against average, .891 save percentage and one shutout.

Vokoun will be the first playoff starting goaltender for the Penguins not named Fleury since Johan Hedberg in 2001.

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Crosby on Cover of This Week’s Sports Illustrated

From Sports Illustrated:

(NEW YORK – May 7, 2013) – Pittsburgh Penguins’ star Sidney Crosby continues to amaze by coming back from injury better than when he left, writes Michael Rosenberg in this week’s SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.  Since returning from a 13 game absence with a broken jaw, Crosby, who makes his fifth appearance on the SI cover, has scored two goals and assisted on three more, including the game-winner in Sunday’s come-from-behind overtime win over the Islanders.

Despite missing 25% of the lockout shortened season, Crosby still finished third in the NHL with 56 points. Rosenberg finds that Crosby, still just 25 years old, uses his time off from injury to study the strengths and weaknesses of himself, his teammates and the rest of the league. “If this is how you succeed at work, we should all call in sick,” says Rosenberg.

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Must-See Hockey: Penguins Among Top-Rated Sports Teams Since ’97

From Sports Business Daily's John Ourand,

Are this year’s Pittsburgh Penguins about to join the ranks of the most-watched American sports teams?

Heading into their final regular-season games last week, the Penguins were on pace to post the highest average RSN rating for any U.S.-based MLB, NBA or NHL team since 2002. Penguins games on Root Sports were averaging a 12.56 Nielsen rating in the Pittsburgh market, a mark that would be the highest RSN rating for any U.S.-based NHL team on record.

Since 1997, only the 2002 Seattle Mariners, who pulled a 13.2 average on FSN Northwest that year, would have a higher rating among U.S.-based MLB, NBA or NHL teams than what the Penguins were averaging as of last week, according to SportsBusiness Journal research.

Before this year, the highest RSN rating in the last five years came in San Antonio for the 2010-11 season, when Spurs games on FS Southwest averaged a 10.19 rating. Before that, the Boston Red Sox averaged a 12.20 average on NESN for the 2007 season, the year in which they won their second World Series title of the decade.

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Penguins Postseason:  Formidable, but not Invincible

And so it starts.

As we near the beginning of another year of NHL Playoffs with the Penguins facing the Islanders, many of the prognosticators list the Penguins as a strong contender, if not favorite, to win the Stanley Cup.

It's certainly not an outlandish prediction:  The Pens went 36-12 in this shortened regular season, not to mention GM Ray Shero bolstering an already strong lineup at the trade deadline with seasoned playoff veterans hungry for a Cup of their own.

Shero has practically given Head Coach Dan Bylsma as close to a loaded deck as you can give prior to the start of a playoff run.  Of course, thing is, Stanley Cups are not won on paper.  It's as much of a crapshoot today as it was 20 years ago.

So the Penguins have the tools to go all the way without a doubt, most agree with that statement.  But there are some very valid situations that could throw a serious monkey wrench into the Pens' works.

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Now Must Be The Time For Fleury to Silence His Critics

Call me a glutton for punishment.

Recently, I spent a couple of hours watching the highlights (if you could call them that) of the Penguins' last three seasons of playoff games since winning the Stanley Cup in 2009.

As you can imagine, it wasn't pretty.  But it wasn't pretty exclusively due to Marc-Andre Fleury, as has been a common scapegoat, let's make that clear right away.  Yes, there were absolutely several very soft goals.  But there were also numerous situations where the defense in front of him broke down.  Deflected pucks.  And flat-out lucky bounces.

But hey, that's why goaltender is the most high-profile position when it comes to the NHL Playoffs, is it not?

For when the decent goalie all of a sudden stands on his head and leads his team to the Cup, it's the goalie on the team of superstars that fails to uphold his end of the bargain, for whatever reasons.

So now as the Penguins steamroll towards the playoffs with a top seed and an incredibly stacked lineup, the focus will inevitably be on Fleury.

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Video:  Crosby Feels Better; No Timetable For Return

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With Titanium Plates, Crosby’s Jaw Expected To Heal Quickly

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Dave Molinari:

The type of jaw surgery that Sidney Crosby endured last weekend after being hit in the face with a puck should, at the latest, allow him to return to game action by the time the playoffs begin in a month, experts say.

"As long as he keeps his nourishment up -- and he should since he's not wired shut -- he should be good to go in three to four weeks," said David Dattilo, director of oral and maxillofacial surgery for West Penn Allegheny Health System.

The timing and the jaw injury itself appear to be similar to what Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger experienced in 2006 when his motorcycle collided with a car whose driver failed to yield and turned left in front of him. The accident occurred a month before preseason camp was to begin.

Mr. Roethlisberger, who was not wearing a helmet, also did not have his jaw wired shut and was in camp on time that year.

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About The Confluence

Welcome to The Confluence, a Pittsburgh Penguins blog since 2006.

Originally at Blogspot, then at MVN, TheConfluence has over 1500 articles reporting Penguins news as well as jumping on my soapbox to opine constructive Penguins criticism.

I am blogger- credentialed with the Pittsburgh Penguins.  My posts are regularly linked by hockey websites such as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Yahoo!‘s Puck Daddy, and I’ve done numerous guest blogger spots on such websites asthe New YorkTimes.  I am a retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer.

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