Sunday, October 12, 2008

Pain, Regret, and Reaction

Therrien's reaction to the loss: "They didn't work, its that simple". The problem is that he actually believes in such truly archaic "strategy". Its the old "square peg, round hole" quagmire. It means that Therrien believes working harder at trying to fit said peg into the hole will ultimately make a difference. It isn't a plan, its a liability. Maybe it is that simple to Mike; then again, not everyone is a blunt instrument.

It is easy to forget how insurmountable playing against Brodeur can be. If they trap, you dump. You dump, he plays it. He plays it clean to some asshole like Colin White, or he plays it to an area where its a 75-25 puck for a Devils forward. That's where you need to get creative with how you dump the puck, timing the forecheck, zone entry, and owning the half boards. Any of those things would have been a nice adjustment. 

We take away the half boards, especially on Brodeur's forehand, maybe we hold the zone more than twice during the final two periods. 

Perhaps we take a page out of Colorado's book when they beat NJ in the Cup Finals; the hard-around. Brodeur couldn't field it cleanly. It must have been agonizing for him to watch the disc sail around the glass. 

Here's an idea; use the dummy play. The two-line pass is legal now, so station a Penguin RW somewhere in the middle of the ice on the NJ blue line. Mix up the breakout by letting a defenseman blast the puck at said RW from deep in our zone. The RW gets a piece of the puck, negating the icing while getting the puck into the NJ end in a real hurry. The play is timed with the weak side forward, the C, entering the zone to pressure the assholes, New Jersey. Its similar to the hard-around in that Brodeur wouldn't have any idea where the puck was going and, hence, couldn't time leaving the crease to play it. The LW takes a Devil or two to the slot, just deep enough to peel out in case of a turnover. The "dummy" RW goes to the weak half-boards, taking away the soft dump of the NJ defender, helplessly trying to reverse the puck to the defender whom is covering the LW charging the net. 

The dummy play uses the very tendencies of trapping teams against them to create what the work so hard to deprive; odd-man situations. If you time it right, at the very least you're playing one-on-one. With Centres like Pittsburgh's, that's a match-up I like. Best-case scenario, the RW catches that weak reverse, and the C is waiting for the give-and-go from the strong corner. Maybe the weak point is open? Who knows, but you've gained the zone easily and nobody is trapped in case of a fast breakout by NJ. 

Therrien just doesn't understand this shit. He seems unable to adjust to really obvious tactics. Hard work doesn't make a hockey player able to skate through a brick wall. That is why, Penguins fans, man invented the siege tower, and I suppose Therrien is that dude at the foot of the wall with boiling tar being poured upon him. 

You know what would have been a decent adjustment? The Murphy dump. From our zone, flip the puck 30 feet into the air, over the Devils and into the far end of the neutral zone. Do you recover the puck? You just may. In any event, you aren't turning the puck over in your own end. You're making NJ  compete for the puck every time you gain possession, which for last night would have been a Revelation. 

The thing that kills me -KILLS me- about Therrien, is that the only adjustment he sees fit tot make are juggling the lines. I fail to understand how he can be patient... so damn patient he allowed time to expire last night listlessly playing into the trap... patient enough for that, but so impatient that he feels it necessary to remove Fedotenko from the 1st line. Dude, we're 2 1/2 games intot the year. Are you disappointed there's no chemistry yet? I counted 4 instances where Fedotenko caused a Devil to turn the puck over in their zone in Period #1, so I'm not sure what the hell prompted Mike to demote him. He also wasn't featured on the PP. Mike went with Matt Cooke for some reason... How could Therrien be 4-years-patient with Rob Scuderi, yet not have the trigger finger to wait an entire home-opener to make silly line decisions? 

What I'm trying to say here is that failing to realize you have to make in-game adjustments, playing favorites with Frenchies, and especially explaining to the media that you're not really sure besides work ethic why you lost a tactical battle gets you fired when you have the players we have. Look at Minnesota's roster, or look at Nashville. Look at Boston, watch them play and imagine what it must be like to at least be able to wonder if the adjustment will make a difference. Its almost like Therrien hates transition and only wants to gets shots on net during power plays. 

Before I forget...

If you haven't seen it, you have to watch a San Jose Sharks game. I can't stop thinking about how lethal their PP is. Basically, they use variations of the aforementioned dummy play to gain the zone, and have Marleau and Cheechoo recover the puck. Those two then go to the net. Joe Thornton sets up with the puck in the right corner, just above the circle. 

He then looks out. What does he see? Close to him, set up in the slot slightly to the right of the hash marks is Cheechoo, who scored the other night off a vicious one-timer from this very position. Behind him below the right circle is the still-eye-popping righty one-timer of Rob Blake. Its a real challenge trying to negate Cheechoo and Blake from firing ICBMs at net. It splits the PK enough, and Joe has such a great set of passes, that Dan Boyle, whom owns a pretty dangerous right-handed shot, is set up below the left circle. Anaheim was scrambling thoughtlessly while Giguere was screened, hammered, and beaten repeatedly. The rebounds, especially from Blake's shots, were quickly pounced on by Marleau. His foot speed is perfect for that situation; pressuring the PK and recovering a rebound. It looks unstoppable; check it out. 

Thankfully, we have a woesome and ramshackle bunch, namely the Flyers, coming to town next. That should be a fun game. To me, its a must-win. The fucking Rangers are 4-0 and we have to close ground right now. Washington and Toronto after that... we need to start putting up Ws, and I mean yesterday.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Almost forgot...

Martin Brodeur is going to use a new mask this season. This obviously will result in long, often inexplicable losing streaks and misfortune. Its nothing exciting, either, although it doesn't feature any incomplete NJ logos like the old one. There are pictures of it everywhere, all copyrighted, so its up to you. 

Actually, I don't like the mask. Its boring. It should say something more personable to Martin, like "once I retire, this franchise is going to move to Ontario almost right away", not the MB 30 thing. Also, as long as every inch of the Prudential Center is covered in Devils logos like some kind of rip from a Ramada Inn, their lettering around Center Ice should stand out by saying "We're Trying To Quietly Deal With All Those Environmental Concerns So Shove It Up Your Ass". 

Kris Beech... and Standardized Banners.

Right, so Kris Beech signed a new deal with the Pens this summer, and now apparently wants out of the deal via refusal to report to the WB/S Baby Penguins. He's been placed on "unconditional waivers", or "fuck you" waivers, and can have his contract terminated should he remain unclaimed and fail to report to The AHL. You know, sometimes having great promise, prototypical NHL size, and a lot of chances are meaningless without commitment and self-discipline. He's not a casualty of the salary cap, he is and will be a casualty of work ethic and attitude. A 27 year old former 7th overall pick who apparently is finished taking a piss in the NHL; Kris Beech. Nice knowing you.

Your friend and mine Dave Morehouse, Penguins Team President, announced that our 12 Art Ross and 5 Hart Trophy recipients will be displayed upon new banners which will be revealed at the home opener on Saturday. The existing banners which display our Stanley Cup, President's Trophy, Conference, and Division Titles will be "standardized", which means one style and color scheme. No word on the Michel Briere Blue and White banner - I assume that one is left alone. I'm guessing the banners are going to be really, really big, because they're going to be getting a lot of additions. Speaking of additions, I suggest some kind of board displaying Pittsburgh's obvious lording over our rivals, especially Washington. 

I live in San Jose's viewership area, so I catch a lot of Sharks hockey. Obviously they have made some splashes, and find themselves without cap room for 6 4', 235er Kyle McLaren. We should attempt to pick him up should he be placed on re-entry waivers. Why is that? Gonchar. 

McLaren has virtually no upside to his offensive abilities, though he has a pretty heavy, low shot. He doesn't have any business being on a PP unit, then again that isn't what we need right now. Gonch was our #1 guy when it came to shutting down the opponent, and now w/o Whitney, we're woefully unable to match against secondary threats. Orpik becomes the #1 guy on this defense now, whoever he plays with, but the drop-off is quite noticeable. 

McLaren brings a real sense of malice to the blueline. He stands out because he rocks that yellow visor, but also because he really destroys people. His scouting reports say things like "tends to put himself out of position" trying to go for big hits, but I disagree. He reads developing plays extremely well, and watches the eyes of the poor bastard he's about to send to the locker room. He does this thing where he points at the open man, and when the puck carrier takes that look out at open ice, Kyle closes in fast and explodes through the check. He isn't afraid to brawl, either. I like that in a guy.

So, just imagine getting a slightly bigger, more experienced Brooks Orpik for 1.25M. He's a UFA after this season, so its a high-reward, low risk pickup, much like Satan and Fedotenko. My guess is that the guy brings it; according to a recent interview in The SJ Mercury in which he says he's dedicated to "show 30 NHL GMs they were wrong" in not initially claiming him, unlike Kris Beech, had no trouble reporting to Wrcester, SJ's AHL team to start working towards returning to the NHL. Therrien would love him, and so would we the instant he lays out Scott Gomez. 

I'm just generally so happy Hockey is back. This blog is going to be more active now that there will be actual content, so lets drop the disc. Go Pens-

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Pens in Sverige; Line discussion

I am about 30% Scandinavian. I'm into Scandinavian music and lore, as well as my longstanding belief that the best hockey players come from Sweden. That isn't the same thing as saying "The best player in the world  is  Swedish"; far from it. That title is, of course, touted by either a Canadian or Russian currently gearing up for a game against Jokerit.

Speaking of Scandinavians, I'm really wondering where one Janne Pesonen fits into this Penguins lineup.  Therrien seems to be going with Fedotenko-Sid-Satan as the top unit, one which is hard to argue against given the complimentary archtypes the wings represent, and Staal-Gino-Sykora as the 1A line, which again oozes chemistry and poses a threat every shift. I'm more excited about the Gino line. He and Sykora can read each other's mind. Its very special to have two players who compliment each other so well, but Gino and Staal are scary together. Finding that third guy who isn't just along for the ride is damn near impossible, and I think we may just have it.  Pesonen seems to be the top-six type wing, although it remains to be seen how he plays without the puck in the NHL. 

Also interesting is the fact that we're much more comfortable this season with our depth players. They have clearly defined roles. Placing Staal on the wing eliminates a lot of confusion. Max Talbot becomes the checking line center, who along with Matt Cooke and Pascal Dupuis make for an inredibly fast and aggressive unit. Honestly, I think Talbot and Dupuis are capable of playing LW on most NHL #1 lines. Matt Cooke is going to be great. He's going to be in heavy competition all season with Orps to lead the team in hits, he's going to score between 9 and 14 goals/25 points, and finish with a +/- between +15-20. 

Eric Godard knows. He knows why he's putting on that sweater, taping up those wrists. He's aware that he isn't going to see a regular shift. He understands something that I don't think BG Laraque fully appreciated. He realizes his job is strictly to introduce himself to any opponent guilty of tampering with Penguin superstars. Can he help a line sustain a cycle deep int he offensive zone? Frankly, I don't care. We don't need to find out. What we need is a sheriff, and I believe we've got one. 

Tyler Kennedy recently was signed to a contract extension and he's the #4 Center of the NHL club. This spells the end of Jeff Taffe's chances of remaining with Pittsburgh long-term. Again, it clears up some confusion. 

That leaves a fourth line wing position vacant. Janne Pesonen a fourth line winger? I really don't know. If I'm the coach, I keep Godard at arm's length while double shifting either Sid, Gino, or Staal with Kennedy and Pesonen. Having the fourth line skate with Godard seems more like a liability, even as we're talking about the occasional 40-second shift. Godard should sit between the defence and forwards, keep the bench morale up, and be prepared to fight people. 

Ok, The Rangers are done beating Magnitogorsk, so I'm off. Looking forward to annihilating Jokerit. Go Pens.