..not a whole lot..
New post at Bucco Blog. Leave some comments and let me know what you think.
Caps star Alex Ovechkin and Pens stud Evgeni Malkin, former Russian league roommates, put on a show to remember Monday night in Pittsburgh
First of all, to anybody who hasn’t seen it, or for anyone who has and just wants to have their mind blown again, take a look at this Rick Nash goal from last Thursday against the Phoenix Coyotes. Goal of the century at the least, if not the best goal of all-time. Ranks right next to this goal from Washington’s Alex Ovechkin which was, coincidentally, against the Coyotes as well.
Speaking of Ovechkin and the Caps, if you missed Monday night’s game in Pittsburgh, you missed one of the best games of the season. In a hotly contested offensive shoot-out, the Pens and Caps went back and forth all night. Ovechkin put on his usual show, scoring two goals and an assist, plus a shoot-out goal to put the Caps ahead.
Meanwhile, Evgeni Malkin continued to find the back of the net at a ridiculous pace, scoring two goals while assisting on a Ryan Malone power play goal early in the third period. Malkin and Ovechkin put on an absolute show in the ‘Burgh, making electric play after electric play all night long. The two even almost dropped the gloves in the second after Ovechkin tried delivering a big hit (fast-forward to the 8 second mark if your really impatient) on Malkin. Needless to say, Malkin proved to be the tougher Russian.
The big thing I take away from this game, however, is Malkin’s performance, and how it could effect the future of the Pens. Prior discussions on this forum and countless others have questioned whether Malkin, whose face-off performances have not been all that impressive to date, should be moved to a wing position next to Crosby as a long-term solution. I think Monday night’s game proves that keeping Crosby and Malkin split is necessary to maximize both players talents.
Malkin’s started hit the back of the net with a lot more regularity when Pens’ coach Michel Therrien began using Malkin as a wingman on the top scoring line next to Crosby. However, there is just no way the Pens can keep those two together. Malkin would just be too valuable centering the second line, being the Ron Francis to Sidney Crosby as Mario Lemieux, or Mark Messier to the Oiler’s Wayne Gretzky, if you will. Malkin creates way to many opportunities on his own to use him as a pure scorer next to Crosby. The guy has too much talent not to captain his own line.
One more intriguing stat that I take away from Monday’s game — the Pens were an impressive 3-of-8 on the power play tonight. That’s without Sidney Crosby in the line-up. Also worth noting, Petr Sykora has scored 8 of his 14 goals this season on the power play, which is odd considering he hasn’t even been a regular on the top power play unit, so far as I know. Maybe Therrien needs has some considering to do regarding his power play units once Crosby returns. We’ll see if tonight’s power play success was a fluke, or if maybe Crosby’s presence on the ice was somehow holding the Pens back, although I can’t imagine how it would be.
New post up at Bucco Blog. Feel encouraged to leave some comments to let me know what you think.
Hey big news for all of my devoted readers. I recently discovered an opening at Bucco Blog, the official blog site of the Pittsburgh Pirates, so I sent them some stuff and they enjoyed it, so I’m officially a contributing writer at the site. This does mean that the majority of my Pirates related stuff is going to find its way over there, as I don’t believe I’m aloud to double post articles due to copyright laws and such. That said, I’ll be sure to let you know on here when I have something posted at Bucco Blog.
Just to clarify, I am not listed as Jake on the site. The main writer, Jolie Jake, is listed as Jake, and therefore it made little sense for me to try to use that name. All of my articles will be posted under Seiner. You can find my first post in the News and Opinion category. It’s simply a re-post of my Clemens steroids article.
After listening to Mark Madden ramble about the future of the Pens a little this afternoon, I had a few opinions that I decided might be best designed to be posted on here.
First of all, I want to address the, “What do the Pens do when Marc-Andre Fleury comes back?” question. While what Ty Conklin has done so far this season has been absolutely superb, you have to remember that the guy is 31 years old already. If he was really capable of playing at a level anywhere near as high as that which he’s performed since his December call-up, he would have already earned himself a starting job with a nice, long-term contract elsewhere. Fleury is still young enough that he has a future ahead of him, while Conklin is just a career back-up in the middle of a good hot streak.
That said, here are some interesting lines from Penguins’ defensemen Brooks Orpik that do make it sound as though Conklin could be more than just a flash in the pan.
“The big thing is the way he handles the puck,” Orpik said. “It makes it so much easier on the defense. It is really like having an extra defenseman out there.
“His saves speak for themselves. But one thing we have talked about as defensemen is how much easier things have been with the way he handles the puck.”
Perhaps Conklin’s performance is more than just him being on a hot streak. Maybe his stand-up style and consistent positioning are meshing well with the style of defense the Penguins like to play. One cannot help but notice that Conklin does an excellent job of controlling rebounds and always seems to be in the right place to knock down a shot. Meanwhile, he has only made a small handful of spectacular, Fleury-like saves. Maybe Michel Terrien and his defensive scheme just clicks better with a knowledgable, consistent, but not necessarily flashy goaltender? Something to consider when Fleury makes his return in the coming weeks.
The other major area of concern for the Pens down the road will be the question of adding a strong offensive winger to put next to Sidney Crosby in the coming years. Madden claimed the Pens would be much better off splitting Crosby and Evgeni Malkin up, allowing them each to center their own line, rather than placing the two together on one super-line. He referenced how Mario Lemieux had Hall of Famer Ron Francis centering the second line behind him during the Penquins stronger periods in the ’90’s, and honestly I agree with Madden there. You have to balance your talent to win hockey games.
But if, three years from now, you have Crosby and Malkin centering lines 1 and 2 respectively, while Max Talbot, arguably the best, most mucking-ist (the only word I could use to describe Maxime) third line center in the NHL, takes face-offs on the checking line. Where exactly does that leave Jordan Staal and Angelo Esposito? Staal, despite some struggles this year, still has one of the brightest futures ahead of him of maybe any 19 year old on the planet. It isn’t at all crazy to think he’ll be a 30 goal scorer year in and year out by the time he’s 22, and his improvements in the face-off circle this year would make it very tough to split him out to a wing position.
Esposito, the Penguins 1st round draft pick this past summer, has a bright, bright future ahead of him, except for his natural position is at center. Granted, I think there is still plenty of time to turn Esposito into a wing before he makes his NHL debut, even if it means holding him in the minors for an extra few months to a year.
That said, neither Esposito or Staal is a 4th line center. Both need to be on the ice, and Staal in particular needs to be at center. In my mind that leaves the Pens with two options:
A. Keep Malkin and Crosby together on line one while you build depth on the rest of the team, namely picking up another solid scorer to put next to Staal on line 2 and developing a solid core of defensemen to put in front of Fleury or whoever ends up being the Pens goalie of the future.
B. Let Malkin center the 2nd and line and use Staal as a trading piece to acquire a front line scorer, possibly Marian Hossa, who is known to be on the block this season.
It’s going to come down to a judgement decision on the Pens part, but honestly the offensive pieces are already very much in place for this team to compete for a title. Throw a better set of defenders and some consistent goaltending behind those scorers, and this team could be a serious contender in a highly competitive Eastern Conference.
Saturday’s Steeler meltdown has this Yinzer a little down on his luck. What better remedy for a broken heart than Pirates baseball chatter?
…oh man, if you could only feel the sarcasm of that intro ‘graph…
John Sickles, often considered the source for MLB prospect info, has posted his annual list of the top Pirates prospects. Pretty thin, if you ask me. Time to unload and re-build?
Apparently not if your Neal Huntington. Take a look at the offers he’s supposedly getting from Seattle for Ian Snell and Jason Bay. Somebody tell Neal to pull the trigger already.
By throwing Bay into the deal, it’s more than likely that the Bucs could entice the M’s add Carlos Triunfel to the deal, if not more. My suggestion is to try substituting either Ryan Feierabend or Tony Butler for Morrow. That adds up to:
More specifically that’s:
Jones (B+ to A- prospect, depending on who you ask)
Feierabend/Butler (both B to B+, with Butler probably being the better prospect)
Triunfel (B+ to A-)
Sherrill (poor man’s Damaso Marte)
That leaves the 2010 Bucs with:
A border-line all-star outfielder in Jones, who will only be 24 years old
A solid, affordable lefty 1-2 punch in Gorzelanny paired with either Feierabend or Butler.
A shortstop of the future who should make some impact from day one (see below)
A solid lefty set-up guy
Considering Bay will already be years into the decline of his career by this point, and Snell will have maxed out as a number 3 starting pitcher, I’d consider that a successful deal if made.
(This is the see below part)
Triunfel is the guy that screams to me as a must have in these discussions. The kid is a stud, and is already ascending through the minors at age 18. He’s drawing some comparisons to both Alex Rodriguez and Hanley Ramirez, mostly because of his early success, and while asking him to live up to either of those two might be a stretch, expectations for Triunfel aren’t far off.
The Pirates are looking for Jack Wilson’s replacement, and let’s face it, Brian Bixler is not the answer. The smart move: get rid of Wilson to give Bixler some time at shortstop. When the experiment is deemed a defensive failure about halfway through 2009, slide Bixler over to second, where scouts say he could actually be a solid everyday player, and plug in Triunfel.
Geeze this GM stuff is easy, somebody get me on the phone with Bob Nutting, I’m ready to take Neal’s job.