Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pittsburgh Penguins Marc-André Fleury: How Ya Like Me Now?

A few weeks ago we asked the question: "What Is Wrong With Marc-André Fleury?"

After reviewing his play and watching video of the goals against, our answer to the question posed was: "Nothing... It's just hockey.  Sometimes you get the bounces... sometimes they get you."

Well, it doesn't happen often, but it seems that we were correct.  As you might have already guessed, the gloating will now commence.  

In all seriousness, Fleury's atrocious start has been followed up with some very solid play and a touch of brilliance here and there.

The credit for the turnaround doesn't belong to us, it belongs to Fleury. After a dismal start, Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote about his struggles "with goals and confidence".

Fleury is 1-6, owns a goals-against average of 3.55 that places him 36th in a 30-team league and a save percentage of .853 that is the worst in the NHL.

There's no disputing those figures, or what they say about Fleury's performance in his first eight appearances this season.

Since then, Fleury has posted an 8-0-1 record, with a GAA south of 1.70, and a save percentage in the .950 area. The "Flower" is blossoming.  

Anyone calling for Brent Johnson now? Not so much.

So what's the secret? A double dose of The Heavy and Kool Moe Dee?

Has he just had a nice run against inferior competition? 

Consider that he has beaten the likes of Henrik Lundqvist, Tomas Vokoun and Roberto Luongo along the way, and had to win a few one-goal games, including a shutout in Buffalo, it stands to reason that Fleury has had great focus against other high caliber goaltenders.

Note that during this streak, MAF has enjoyed the benefit of excellent team defense, and consistent offensive support.

The Penguins have a 9-0-1 record over their last ten games.  They have outscored opponents by a margin of 31-16, have had decent success on the power play; and are nearly perfect on the PK.  

So when we say the credit belongs to Fleury, we mean the Penguins as a team as well.

What is he doing differently?

It's been recognized that Fleury has tried to keep himself in better position by cutting down on his attempts to poke check the puck. THAT, combined with diligent team defense equals increased confidence and certainly, positive results.

In the end Fleury is just playing a well-rounded game and getting the bounces. Pucks that eluded him before seem to find him.

It's still the same game of hockey, he just looks better doing it now. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Time For Hockey Thanks

Before Ricky Bobby sits down to pray to the dear Lord Baby Jesus to thank him for a wonderful meal, his two beautiful sons, Walker and Texas Ranger, and his red-hot, smokin' wife, Carley, why don't we as hockey fans take a moment to reflect on what we are thankful for this Thanksgiving?

I'll go first.  My top nine. Yeah, that's right, nine!

9. Hockey Sites

Want to know when Mike Richards' contract ends, or how much cap room exists for the Leafs in 2013?  Visit CapGeek.com.  They do an excellent job of keeping up with all 30 teams and cap transactions.

Dead bored?  Take a visit to hfboards.com. Click on the "Trade Rumors and Free Agent Talk" tab to read some of the most ridiculous trade proposals ever imagined... it also leads to some extremely witty banter.

8. There Is No Winter Olympics in 2011

The 2010 Games in Vancouver were entertaining and provided plenty of dramatic finishes, but it really took a fat chunk out of the NHL season.  Too many players seemed distracted by the whole "playing for country" thing and never got on board for the regular season.






7. Dino Ciccarelli HOF Induction

After a career that included more than 1,200 NHL games, 608 goals, 1,200 points, an indecent exposure charge and a day in jail for a hatchet job over Luke Richardson's head, the wait is now over for one of the leagues most colorful characters.




6. Legit Contenders 

Proving that last season was no flash in the pan, up and comers Phoenix, Los Angeles, Colorado and Montreal continue to play like they belong on the short list of claimants to Lord Stanley.


 They are doing it in different ways, but are getting it done despite roster changes, injuries and higher expectations.






5. All Star Game Changes


It may not prove to be a perfect formula, but it is something. Nearly ever sport has struggled to maintain interest in their All-Star formats.  The NHL is no exception.  Brendan Shanahan, the league's VP of Hockey and Business Development, masterminded a new formula for putting on a new show.  Even if it doesn't re-invent the game, it's much better than the same old dog and pony.



4. Big Time Rookies

It hasn't been the names that we were expecting to see, but there have been some great performances put in by first year players.  Forwards Jeff Skinner, Logan Couture, Tyler Ennis and defensemen John Carlson and P.K. Subban have been outstanding. Netminders Michal Neuvirth and Sergei Bobrovsky have not only battled for the lead in wins for rookies, but for the NHL lead as well.


3. Kovalchuk

Ah, Ilya Kovalchuk.  The guy has been the story for two years now.  Last season was about if he would re-up with Atlanta or become the biggest UFA in a long time.  This year has been all about his new contract which cost New Jersey dearly, not only in dollars, but in fines and draft picks too! The Devils salary cap nightmare and his every misstep (shootout fails) keep his name constantly in the news.


2. Stamkos

When the Lightning made him the top overall pick in 2008, much was expected of Steven Stamkos... but not this much.

Last season he tied Sidney Crosby for the most goals scored, unveiling a wicked one-time slap shot in the process.  This season Stamkos is showing that he can score from anywhere. He is making converts in each NHL arena he visits that his name belongs in the breath as Sid and Ovie.


1. Winter Classic & HBO 24/7

The Winter Classic is it's own institution among hockey fans.  It's the NHL's showcase.  This season the league is making use of it's two biggest marketing options in Crosby and Ovechkin to be sure. 

However, the game will get another boost when cable giant HBO features the game and a behind-the-scenes look into the month leading up to it. May it expose the world's greatest game to a whole new audience.


Also due to a binding endorsement contract that stipulates I mention Powerade at each grace, I just wanna say that Powerade is delicious and it cools you off on a hot summer day and we look forward to Powerade's release of Mystic Mountain Blueberry. Thank you, for all your power and your grace, Dear Baby God, Amen~

Friday, November 19, 2010

Marian Hossa and the Pittsburgh Penguins: A What If Story


It can be debated that the struggles this season of perennial contender New Jersey Devils, may be, or may not be a result of their insistence on retaining star winger Ilya Kovalchuk this summer.

What cannot be debated, is that his contract saga cost them dearly, and it has wreaked havoc upon their cap situation.

New Jersey's mess got us to thinking... (I know, we should have stopped there.)

Following the 2007/08 season, the Devil's division rival Pittsburgh was in a very similar situation.  At the deadline, they had pulled the trigger on a trade with Atlanta which netted them a high powered, pending UFA winger in the form of Marian Hossa.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Skills of the Infuriating Sean Avery


Sean Avery has skills.  Not Napoleon Dynamite's coveted nunchaku skills, bow hunting skills, or computer hacking skills, but skills nonetheless.

Deciphering just what those skills actually are, is a matter of debate.

At his best, Avery scores timely goals, throws his body in harms way and rattles the opposition.  Various media outlets have more than once tabbed him as an "Evil Genius".

Sadly, all to often, he is at his worst.

Succinctly, Sean Avery's worst consists of taking pointless penalties, making tasteless remarks to the media, unseemly cheap shots and aggravating/embarrassing his teammates.

Let's take a look back at some of Avery's career lowlights:

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ilya Kovalchuk. Just How Much Will He Cost The Devils?


The New Jersey Devils are flat out awful right now. Que the jokes: "The Devils are in hell."  "Their play is bedeviling to their fans.", etc...

Sure they have some key players injured, but when they come back, just how much better will they be?

After several attempts by both the Devils and Kings, Ilya Kovachuk was finally re-signed by New Jersey.  The result for Lou and crew was that the Kovy signing created a  laundry list of issues that New Jersey will have to overcome, not only for this season, but also in the near future.  That list is a daunting one.