In with the New? 2/3 of the Penguins puzzle is clear going into the off-season


As the Penguins head into the off-season two thirds of the puzzle is clear. They are set in goal between Marc Andre Fleury, Brent Johnson, and Brad Thiessen {RFA}. On the blueline, four of their top six defensemen are under contract (Letang, Orpik, Martin, Michalek). Meanwhile, former first round pick Simon Despres is in the system and will probably be at Wilkes-Barre next year. The team also feels there is still room for improvement out of Ben Lovejoy, Matt Niskanen, Deryk Engelland and others in the minors. But the forwards right now are a jumbled bunch of pieces which need to be sorted out to complete the puzzle.

Five Things to Look Out For Heading Into Game 5


The Penguins are in the driver’s seat in their first round Stanley Cup playoff series against Tampa. But some questions still hang over Game Five as Pittsburgh enters Consol Energy Center (Saturday, 12:00pm) with a 3-1 series lead. Here are five things to look out for heading into Game Five: 1. The forward line-up: Chris Kunitz will be back. And his all-around game at wing will be a welcomed addition. But who sits? It probably won’t be anyone from the Asham-Adams-Rupp line with the way that line is playing. So look for either Eric Tangradi or Chris Conner to be scratched. Clearly Penguin management is intrigued by Tangradi’s size and upside. And he did provide a nice screen on Tyler Kennedy’s power play goal. So, especially on the man-up unit, Tangradi may reap more rewards. But if Kunitz is back, Tangradi may not get on the power play at all.

What the loss of Matt Cooke means for the Penguins


By Tim Benz We can debate the length of Matt Cooke’s suspension. Is it appropriate or too long? We can argue over whether or not the Penguins should keep Cooke after the season. And we can talk about the likelihood of the NHL living up to this new lofty standard of discipline for headshots, or slacking off with the next punishment it doles out. All these points have been hotly contested around water coolers in Pittsburgh for a few days now. Here’s another question to ask: Will the Penguins miss Matt Cooke? Well, if the four periods of hockey Pittsburgh has played without him so far is any indication…then the answer is a resounding: “HELL YES THEY WILL!” Go ahead and call Matt Cooke a dirty player, but also call him a good one. He’s a very good third line winger. He’s good defensively. He hits hard (sometimes even legally).Read More »

If cleared to return, should Crosby risk coming back for the playoffs?


By Tim Benz We can put a few rumors to rest about Sidney Crosby now. First of all, SIDNEY CROSBY NEVER HAD A TUMOR. Sidney Crosby was also never considering retirement. Sidney Crosby was never suffering from a mystery illness. Nor was he abducted by aliens. Nor was he a Canadian spy. Nor are he and Evgeny Malkin being cloned and replaced by body doubles. Although, that would be interesting. Maybe one of the two body doubles would actually give up the right circle on the power play. Sidney Crosby is just trying to get over a really bad concussion. And he had to shake some initial pain in his neck too. Now the only pain in his neck remaining appears to be incorrect radio reports from Toronto. Now let’s clear up another rumor: Sidney Crosby is not coming back for sure either. But he’s trying. And that’s news. BecauseRead More »

On the Goligoski Trade: Shero gave Penguin fans what they wanted, once again


By Tim Benz You gotta hand it to Ray Shero Penguin fans. He makes the trades you want him to make. In 2007 you asked for a veteran power forward and a fighter. He got you Gary Roberts and Georges Laraque. In 2008 you wanted Marian Hossa and a big defenseman. Well Shero got you Hossa, Hal Gil, and Pascal Dupuis too. In 2009 you wanted Bill Guerin, and Billy G helped get you a cup. Heck, earlier that year you demanded a Ryan Whitney trade too. You didn’t necessarily know who wanted in return, you just wanted Whitney run out of town. Well Shero did that to the tune of Chris Kunitz and Eric Tangradi, which seems like a pretty good swap…even if the collective hatred of Whitney was a little too much. Similarly, Shero has made folks in Penguin country grin in 2011. Once again this year PenguinRead More »

Thursday’s Practice Buzz: Pouncey won’t practice today; tomorrow is viewed as cutoff


— Ben Roethlisberger laughed off the karaoke bar video on A patron taped Roethlisberger singing “Piano Man” on stage with some of his offensive linemen. The post claims Roetlisberger ran up an 800 dollar tab. But he did tip 200! So perhaps the upset waitstaff on the Southside who was quoted in Sports Illustrated a few months ago about Big Ben’s small tips will be more excited to see Ben this offseason. The quarterback fielded a number of questions from the media today regarding the story. He claims the post was wrong and that he was back at the hotel before the 1:00 a.m. curfew that night. Roethlisberger claims he has a weekly tradition of taking his linemen out to dinner and didn’t want to “break superstition.” — Maurkice Pouncey didn’t practice yesterday and won’t practice today. He says Friday is his cutoff day. Pouncey seems to think ifRead More »

Steelers Practice Notes on Pouncey, Smith, Polamalu, & Packers offense


By Tim Benz Wednesday Practice Notes – Maurkice Pouncey arrived at media sessions today out of his walking boot. He was just wearing sneakers like the other players. He has ditched the crutches too. Perhaps he is keeping up appearances and hope. Perhaps he is the miraculously quick healer so many on the team promised us he is. Either way, Pouncey refused to expand on his “75 percent healthy” diagnosis for that injured ankle of his. The rookie sounds as if coach Tomlin got in his ear and suggested he stop giving such specific updates. All Pouncey stated this afternoon was that he is not practicing today. He wouldn’t make any promises beyond that. – On the Aaron Smith front, he is getting an MRI today after practice. Smith suggested he might push his injured triceps a little harder today than he has in practices so far during his recuperation.Read More »

Media Day Buzz: Starks goes off on commissioner Goodell


Here are some notes from media day today: – Aaron Smith says his triceps injury has shown marked improvement. He may get another MRI tomorrow and is still holding out hope of playing Sunday in the Super Bowl vs. Green Bay. – Max Starks went off on the commissioner in a one on one discussion with me today. He claims Roger Goodell is not telling the whole truth to Peter King (regardless of the partial retraction from King late last night regarding Goodell’s assessment of NFL players refusing to back Ben Roethlisberger before the commish levied his suspension). According to Starks, the commish refused to even hear questions from a select group of Steeler vets back in August. He called Goodell’s quotes…

Benz: Assessing how Tomlin and his players view Jets QB Mark Sanchez


By Tim Benz Mike Tomlin is renowned for his ability to say nothing while saying something. He is the king of the non-sound bite sound bite. He is the anti-Rex Ryan. No coach in the NFL enjoys avoiding the spotlight more than Tomlin. He’s the last coach in the world that would normally provide bulletin board material for an opposing team on purpose. But this week, he may have done so by accident. Yo see the only thing Tomlin hates more than making headlines is those who write the headlines. Tomlin loathes conceding a point of opinion to the media. He’s the kind of coach who would deflect credit away from a great throw and catch from Roethlisberger to Wallace, just to point out a running back who made a decent blitz pick up. That way, he’s acknowledging a good play from his team, but throwing the media off ofRead More »

Roethlisberger enters the playoffs as a different quarterback on the field


By Tim Benz It’s Steelers/Ravens: Round 3. So pick your cliché! “Throw out the records…It’s Armageddon…What else do you need to say…It’ll all come down to turnovers…” Well, if we threw out the records, they wouldn’t be in the AFC Championship game. It’d be a pre-season game. If it’s Armageddon, then next week’s likely trip to New England becomes a bit anti-climactic, doesn’t it? And if there is nothing else to say, then this would be a pretty short column So let’s pay attention to the turnover thing. And that’s actually a positive point when it comes to the Steelers, particularly Ben Roethlisberger. The Steeler quarterback has thrown a meager five interceptions in his twelve starts this year. In fact, his lone pick since November 14th came against these Ravens during their Week 13 match up. That’s an astonishing one interception in 231 pass attempts. Keep in mind, he’s sameRead More »