Benz on the Penguins: Major topics of debate heading into the Olympic break

 

The Pittsburgh Penguins have entered the Olympic break with 76 points. That’s good for second place in their division and fourth place in their conference. In other words, the Pens are exactly where they ended the regular season last year before beginning the playoffs. Some fans see that as harbinger of things to come. Others see that as the team stagnating and meandering towards the post season. With that being said let’s play a little “True/False” with the major topics of debate heading into the Olympic break that seem to be consuming the Penguin fan base as backers of the Birds hope to see a second consecutive Stanley Cup parade four months from now in downtown Pittsburgh… assuming the snow is shoveled out by then. Hah! I take that back. The city would never be able to make that happen. Let’s just hope most of it melts on its ownRead More »

Penguins have the assets to upgrade their roster to an “A”

 

Monday’s 5-4 Penguin win over Buffalo was televised on Versus. During the second period, the network interviewed Pens GM Ray Shero. He was asked to give his team a grade on the ‘09-’10 season so far. After waffling for a moment or two, Shero eventually blurted out… “I guess about a ‘B’ would be fair.” Wow. Shero must be a pretty hard grader. Glad I didn’t have him for a teacher. His curve would’ve been tough to deal with. At the time of this post (2/2/10) the Penguins had 71 points. Only four teams in the league (WSH, SJ, NJ, & CHI) had more. Pittsburgh was also sitting second in the Atlantic division, and fourth in the conference. Then again, I’m sure most Penguin fans know where Shero is coming from. They are the defending Stanley Cup champs. Most of the roster is back and finally healthy. Yet the clubRead More »

Can the Penguins power play build on the positive foundation laid out on Sunday’s game winner?

 

By Tim Benz If you read Pittsburgh sports internet sites (like this one), or listen to talk shows (like mine. Cheap plug time: 105.9 the X Monday-Friday 6-10 am), then you may have heard about Penguin fans who play the “Penguin Power Play Drinking Game.” For every failed, forced back door pass to Alex Goligoski from Crosby or Malkin, take a drink! For every fanned shot in front of the net by Bill Guerin, take a drink! For every failed entry into the other team’s zone, take a drink! For every :30 second span of time without a shot attempt… finish your beer! Well, if you watched the last two Penguin games (a 6-3 loss to Washington and a 2-1 win over Philadelphia) by those rules, you were probably checked into rehab by the time the Pens’ power play actually came up huge and got a game winning goal againstRead More »

Off-season: Steelers defensive scheme has become too reliant on Polamalu, Smith

 

A lot of Steeler fans were upset because they couldn’t watch their team play in the playoffs this year. Well, if you watched the Green Bay/Arizona game Sunday night. you actually did watch the Steelers. On both sides of the ball. In the same game Two good quarterbacks. Two good receiving corps. Two offenses using the pass. And two awful, awful defenses. Anyone who wanted to watch the Black and Gold in the playoffs, but saw that game instead., got their wish. That’s exactly what a Steeler playoff game would’ve looked like. A close game. A blown lead. A comeback. And somewhere between 75-90 total points. Maybe they would’ve won. Maybe they wouldn’t have. But I do know this, watching the defense on a grand stage like the playoffs would’ve been the equivalent of dental surgery. The Pittsburgh Steeler defense in 2009 stunk. There is no other way to sayRead More »

Players not using “injuries” as a good excuse for recent stretch of losing

 

I’m not sure why everyone is so upset about the Penguins most recent loss. It was a 4-1 defeat to New Jersey at home Thursday night. They barely avoided a third straight shutout defeat. It was their fourth loss in a row. And the players held a closed door meeting afterwards. But it was actually a good night. After all, nobody else got hurt! By recent standards, that’s a major victory. Of late, getting through a game unscathed has been rare for Pittsburgh. Over the past four weeks, the Penguins have lost Tyler Kennedy, Sergei Gonchar, Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin, and Brooks Orpik. Throw in Max Talbot (who has yet to play this year due to off season shoulder surgery) and that’s 1/3 of their regular skating roster from the playoffs last year. Compound those injuries with the off-season departures of Petr Sykora, Rob Scuderi, Hal Gill, and Mathieu GaronRead More »

Steelers Insider: Recent trend continues for once vaunted defense

 

It couldn’t be happening again. Not for a fifth straight game. Not this week. Not against Detroit. The Steelers couldn’t possibly be letting yet another hard earned fourth quarter lead evaporate, right Well, there they were. The hapless Lions. Winners of one game in their last twenty-one tries. Sitting 1st and 10 on the Steeler 21 yard line trailing 28-20 at the 2:00 warning. They were now within striking distance of tying this game against the defending Super Bowl champions. It was a contest they trailed by 15 points less than six minutes before. But that once vaunted Steeler defense continued its alarming recent trend of allowing massive fourth quarter comebacks to teams that appeared to be beaten in the first half. Even bad ones. Like the Lions. With a downtrodden QB like Daunte Culpepper at the helm. Normally, if you said to a football fan that the Steelers wereRead More »

October baseball and the Pirates

 

My sports weekend went a little something like this: Friday night: Banner raising for the Penguin home opener Saturday: I anchored at Channel 4 and managed to watch the better part of Penn State/Illinois, Miami/Oklahoma, LSU/Georgia, and Penguins/Islanders Sunday: I watched most of Ravens/Patriots, Cowboys/Broncos, and then covered Steelers/Chargers until the wee small hours of the morning Monday: The Vikings/Packers “Favre Bowl” on Monday Night Football followed by a Tivo viewing of Monday Night Raw starring Ben Roethlisberger. Which lasted until about 1:00 am Given the 4:40 am wake up call for my morning show on 105.9 The X, I was in desperate need of a sports-free nap by the time Mike Tomlin’s weekly news conference was over. After running some errands, I sacked out between about 3:30 and 6:30. It wasn’t until then that I realized…”Hey, isn’t that baseball play-in game going on right now?” Sure enough it was.Read More »

Talbot’s connection with his teammates is rivaled only by his connection to the fans

 

Penguin fans got it right Friday night. At the team’s 2009 Stanley Cup championship banner raising ceremony, there were a number of spine tingling moments. A video montage of highlights was played on four huge white sheets draped down from the ceiling. The sheets acted as screens for a theatre-in-the-round retrospective of Pittsburgh’s emotional ride to the franchise’s third NHL title. Those in attendance at Mellon Arena ooo-ed and ahhh-ed at all the big plays from that season as if they were watching them for the first time. Here were the top 5 plays in terms of fan reaction in the arena that night: -Marc Andre Fleury’s save to win the Cup -Fleury’s save on Ovechkin in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Final -Max Talbot’s two Goals in Game 7 against Detroit -Talbot’s now infamous “SHHHHHH” to the Philadelphia crowd en route to the penalty box in Game 6Read More »

Will Marc Andre Fleury finally get the credit he deserves?

 

The defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins have just wrapped up a Tuesday afternoon practice at Soutpointe. It was basically their first of the regular season. The 82-game marathon begins Friday night against the New York Rangers at Mellon Arena. Two days ago the Pens lost their pre-season finale in Detroit 4-1. Marc-Andre Fleury allowed all four goals. In fact, he gave up 13 in about 8 ½ periods of play during the pre-season. Yet there was Fleury on Tuesday afternoon getting out of his pads without a single media member waiting for him by his locker. I approached the lonely goaltender for a few quotes. He expressed some concern about how he had dealt with traffic in front of his net during the pre-season. “I’m getting used to that. You don’t see a lot of people coming at you in training camp. You know, guys hiding you. It wasRead More »

Steelers – Bengals Post-Game Analysis

 

It may have been the most horrifying five minutes of Steeler football that we’ve seen in some time. Ok, technically 4:27. And actually, when you factor in halftime and commercials for TV it may have been more like half an hour. But in terms of pure game-clock time, the 4:27 that occurred between the end of the first half of Pittsburgh’s 23-20 loss in Cincinnati and the first few minutes of the second half may have been one of the worst stretches of Steeler football ever. It all started with a 3rd and 4 opportunity for the Steelers at Cincy’s 35 yard line. That’s when Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes had one of their many misfires on the day for an incompletion to stop with the clock with 1:20 remaining in the second quarter. For whatever reason, at that point, Steeler coach Mike Tomlin decided it would be a goodRead More »