Had a nice conversation with Pittsburgh TribLive Radio’s Chris Mack yesterday, discussing the now-finished Penguins/Islanders game, the infamous yinzer accent, and my illustrious blogging history (I kid, I kid).
You’ll see that somehow, inexplicably, HCDB completely disregarded my advice to not dress Eric Godard last night. Gonna have to have a talk with him.
NOTE: There’s a couple of naughty words in the beginning of the interview. If you want to download the interview separately, here’s the link.
Yes, I realize that the Philadelphia Flyers still have a game in hand over the Penguins.
And yes, I realize that if the Penguins and Flyers are tied in points at the end of the regular season, the Flyers would easily win the “no shootout wins” tiebreaker.
But the fact remains that Penguins have a chance to at the very least temporarily tie for the Eastern Conference lead with a regulation win over the Flyers at the Consol Energy Center tonight.
And that, my friends, is pretty damn remarkable.
Again, apologies for the lack of posts beyond pasting embedded clips and press releases. Just not my year writing-wise.
Slowly but surely, your Pittsburgh Penguins are getting healthier.
This past week saw the return of forward Arron Asham, just in time to relieve Matt Cooke as it turned out. Brooks Orpik is practicing with the team as his broken finger is nearly healed. Once Orpik is back in the lineup, which is looking like next week, that will make the Pens’ defensive corps back to full strength. Eric Tangradi is now skating with the team as well having recovered from the concussion caused by the Trevor Gillies elbow. Mark Letestu has been skating on his own after dealing with an upper-body injury. Even Mike Comrie, who has only appeared in 16 games with the Penguins before having hip surgery, is back on the ice and getting his conditioning back in shape. Nick Johnson is farther away, still experiencing concussion symptoms. And, oh yeah, that Crosby guy is ramping up the intensity of his workouts, both on and off ice. Not coming a moment too soon, I might add.
But as players eventually get back to the lineup, it makes Penguins’ Head Coach Dan Bylsma’s job that much tougher.
Yesterday’s announcement of a three-year contract extension for Penguins’ head coach Dan Bylsma is certainly well-deserved.
After all, immediately upon his hiring in Feb. 2009 he led the Pens in a furious rally into the Eastern Conference playoffs, coming at a time when there was a legitimate concern that the defending Eastern Conference champions would even make the playoffs. That culminated of course with the Penguins hoisting the Stanley Cup that June.
However he’s arguably done his best coaching this season, with his roster depleted of its star players in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin due to injury. Bylsma not only has the Penguins competing, he now has them playing at an intensity that not many other Eastern Conference teams would like to face as their opponent in the playoffs.
But one thing’s for sure in the two years Bylsma’s been behind the Penguins’ bench: Not just any ‘ol NHL player can flourish in his system.
If you would have told me on Feb. 4th, when Evgeni Malkin had his knee blown out vs. Buffalo, with Sidney Crosby already being out of the lineup a month, that the Penguins would be a mere two points away from not only the Atlantic Division lead but the Eastern Conference lead, I would have told you that you were out of your frickin’ gourd.
Yes, as of today the Flyers have two games in hand over the Penguins, so it’s not quite that close most likely. But the fact that the Penguins have not only kept their collective heads above water while their depleted roster slowly but surely gets healthy, they’re within at least striking distance of gaining additional home ice advantages in the playoffs.
And they’ll be getting even healthier in the next few weeks, with Chris Kunitz, Arron Asham and Brooks Orpik due to return. Of course, Mr. Crosby remains the penultimate wildcard. If he comes back, I’m not sure I’d like the Penguins as my playoff opponent. I’m not really sure I’d like them in the playoffs as is right now, in fact.
But here’s the question: How the hell are they doing it?
It’s a calculated risk that Penguins’ GM Ray Shero and Head Coach Dan Bylsma had to know they were dealing with, and praying it never came to fruition.
They looked their roster at the end of last season, one which ended in a frustrating fashion, basically getting outworked by the Montreal Canadiens. So they did some shoring up, re-signing Matt Cooke, signing free agents Zbynek Michalek, Paul Martin and Arron Asham.
Things were good, really good. A President’s Trophy was certainly not out of the equation this season.
Hindsight is 20/20, as we all know. Still, as we embarked on this season, after the FA signings, one thing stood pretty apparent: You’ve got Sidney Crosby to score goals, you’ve got Evgeni Malkin to score goals, and then you’ve got everyone else.
But what would happen if the Dynamic Duo would ever to go down? Well, we’re now seeing it. A roster full of grinders.
Remember him? The guy with the back-to-back hat tricks. The guy who moonwalked after his goals.
But as Penguins’ GM Ray Shero continues his wizardry, the Pens’ roster has one huge asterisk, one that will determine the overall success of the team this season.
That asterisk is next to Sidney Crosby’s name.
UPDATED with video after the jump.
He made the biggest splash in the waning minutes of the 2008 NHL Trade Deadline by snagging Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis from the Thrashers, and only giving up mediocre forwards Erik Christensen and Colby Armstrong, former #1 pick but recently disappointing Angelo Esposito and the Pens’ #1 pick in the ‘08 Draft.
The next season he traded away offensive-minded but defensively shaky defenseman Ryan Whitney to Anaheim and getting not only Chris Kunitz in return but promising power forward Eric Tangradi as well. Whitney lasted only a season before he was traded again, this time to Edmonton.
So really, it should come to no one’s surprise that Penguins’ GM Ray Shero pulled off yet another larceny yesterday, getting promising power forward James Neal and defenseman Matt Niskanen in return for defenseman Alex Goligoski.
Just some quick blurbs as we await the Sunday afternoon matinée between the Penguins and Blackhawks:
- As the Toronto Star’s Damien Cox accurately pointed out this morning, Don Cherry’s proclaiming of Mario Lemieux as a hypocrite is a bit, well, hypocritical. This coming from a guy that has created 22 videos called “Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Hockey”, no doubt earning him hundreds of thousands of dollars, probably more.
And by the way, as the Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s Empty Netters’ Seth Rorabaugh mentioned this morning, let’s not overlook the decades-long bias against French-Canadian hockey players (as well as European) Cherry has become infamous for. Don’t think that has nothing to do with it.
Well, it’s that time of year. The anticipation is building. The rumor mongers are coming out of the woodwork (thanks, Twitter).
Some pretty significant trades have already been made, some 10 days before the trade deadline on Feb. 28th. So in that respect it’s natural for Penguins fans to start getting antsy, especially since so many teams have already made at least one move to re-shape their rosters.
But for Pens’ GM Ray Shero, he’s got more than just your normal NHL GM things to consider when it comes to making any major moves as we get closer to the deadline.
He somehow needs to assess whether he’s going to have his franchise player available sometime this season.
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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