TIOPS DAILY FIVE
*Rumblings, Musings, Opinions*
1. In front of the largest crowd ever at PNC Park (regular season), Monday’s home opener embodied just about everything in regards to where this team is heading. There’s a buzz around the Pirates and in this town that is starting to resemble the second, third seasons in the Sidney Crosby era.
Excitement and a belief of competing for a championship.
Monday’s game just had a special feel for an exciting team that fans actually believe in that can rival almost anyone in the Majors. Last year there was still that cautious approach that 2013 was a fluke. Not the case anymore.
2. The Pirates could not be happier with the start Pedro Alvarez is having and that goes back to spring training when he first arrived. Despite being disgruntled with the lack of opportunity to win back the third base job, Alvarez came to spring training with a great mindset, work ethic and it’s paying off for him so far. If there was an adequate trade out there, the Pirates would have gladly moved on from Alvarez during the off-season, but if his turnaround is for real, they will be in a win-win situation.
A 35-40 home run season from Alvarez helps the Pirates greatly for this season but also boosts Alvarez trade value for next winter when they need to move him.
Turn the first base job over to Josh Bell in 2016 and continue to restock the system by trading Alvarez in the winter, who is an important player for the Pirates but not a necessity moving forward. A bounce back season for Alvarez will pay huge dividends for the present and the future for the Pirates.
3. The Penguins are at a major dis-advantage in their first round series when it comes to the coaching matchup. Many around the league feel Alain Vigneault
will have a field day against Mike Johnston who has struggled adjusting this season against coaches that have played the Penguins multiple times this season.
Vigneault is as proven and a top notch of a coach as they come with immense playoff experience. He doesn’t get enough credit for taking the Rangers to another level after the firing of John Tortorella.
In the what didn’t happen category, if Dan Bylsma was fired in 2013, Bylsma topped the Rangers wishlist and likely would be the Rangers head coach right now and there would have been a very strong chance that Ray Shero would have targeted Vigneault, sources close to Shero say, as the two have ties dating back to their days with the Senators organization.
4. A key for Mike Johnston in games one and two, according to one Eastern Conference scout, especially with Kevin Klein not expected to play Thursday night, is finding a way to get Sidney Crosby’s line out against Dan Boyle who will be playing a second pairing role.
“Pittsburgh could have a real mismatch in their favor,” the scout said. “Danny’s over-extended in a ‘2’ role.”
The scout noted that Pittsburgh needs to game plan on chipping pucks in Boyles corner.
5. More and more scouts are coming on board about goaltender Matthew Murray being a future No. 1 goaltender and potential franchise goaltender. “He’s the real deal,” one scout said. “Exceptional ability to anticipate the play and that’s the number one element we look for in projecting goaltenders.”
“I see some Pekka Rinne in him,” the scout said.
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