Jaromir Jagr comeback: fact or fiction?

With the Penguins’ season coming to such an early end, the rumors surrounding who they are going to pick up in free agency are growing loud.

Rob Rossi of the Tribune-Review pulled up an interesting nugget that the Penguins have reached out to former star Jaromir Jagr to see if he would like to be a part of the festivities celebrating the 20th anniversary of the 1991 Stanley Cup Champions. While it was reported that team asked that he be there for a reunion golf outing this summer, this hasn’t stopped the rumor mill of a possible return to Pittsburgh from turning.

Jaromir has always had a love with the city of Pittsburgh, going back to him being drafted by the team. Though the relationship soured toward the end of his days, here, requesting a trade in 2001, I firmly believe that he would be open to coming back.

Despite being 39, he had a great performance recently in the World Hockey Championships, scoring a hat trick to eliminate the United States in the quarterfinals. While many players go for a swan song at the end of their careers, Jagr could contribute to the Penguins being a more competitive team.

He is no longer under contract by the KHL (Russia), so he could be contacted by any team in any league.

The team is planning on retiring his number as soon as he announces that he is hanging it up. With five scoring titles and one MVP trophy, he was one of the most dynamic players this franchise ever saw. Think how much better would it be with him ending it with one more go around with the team that he made his name with.

Game 7 aftermath

The curtain came crashing down on the Penguins’ 2010-2011 season Wednesday night, as they fell in the decisive game  seven 1-0 to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

It brings an end to a frustrating season for fans, as many were left wondering what could have been, as the team was the best in the league before losing star players Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin for the season halfway through.

The Pens had seen their three game to one lead in the series slip away, with the Lightning outplaying them in games five and six, setting up the final game in Pittsburgh.

The last game was a microcosm of the series for the Penguins. They got great goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury, who was the primary reason for the Penguins ability to stay in the game. However, the anemic offense, which many feared would the biggest obstacle for the team to get over, did them in. The Penguins went a ridiculously horrible 1-35 on the power play during the series. This just shows how much the team missed their playmakers Crosby and Malkin.

Tampa Bay would only need one goal, which was scored by Sean Berginheim on a clone of a play behind the net that got the Bolts a tally in game six. Tampa goalie Dwayne Roloson increased his record in elimination games to 6-0, standing tall in net.

With the high expectations this team has now, a first round exit would have been thought to be a colossal failure back in December. However, with all the adversity the team faced throughout the second half of the season, few if any teams would be able to keep it together losing as many players as they did let alone come within a few points of a division title. It gave us a chance to see the skills and heart that many of the team’s young prospects have while they stepped up in tough situations. Though many of the games weren’t pretty, you couldn’t help but admire the effort the team gave on a nightly basis.

Certainly fans are disappointed that the season came to an early end, but with the Penguins healthy going into the 2011-2012, and the experience they gained during a turbulent season like this, they will be the team to beat in the NHL next season.

(Photo from postgazette.com)

Game 1 Aftermath


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo from post-gazette.com

It took some time, but the Penguins were able to secure a victory in game one against the Tampa Bay Lightning behind stellar goaltending, and getting just enough offense.

The team followed what was basically their script for the second half of the season. Play shut-down defense and get a little offense at just the right time.

Marc-Andre Fleury was locked-in early on. He made a ton of big saves including beauties against Ryan Malone and Vincent Lecavalier that stopped what appeared to be game-changing goals.

The Penguins offense started getting their chances in the second. Despite a multitude of opportunities, the Pens just couldn’t get past Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson.

In the third period however, those chances on offense, would eventually pay off. At the 6:05 mark of the final period, James Neal sent a slap pass to a wide open Alexi Kovalev who had somehow gone unnoticed behind the entire Lightning defense right in front of the net. He buried the shot, and the Penguins went up 1-0.

Just 18 seconds later, Arron Asham converted a wrap-around goal that sent the Consol Energy Center into a frenzy, and locked the game up for the Penguins. Chris Kunitz added an empty netter that completed the 3-o victory.

The player of the game, no doubt, was Marc Andre Fleury. His 32 saves were the reason the Penguins were in the game. He’s peaking at the right time.

Links to Coverage

Fleury saves the day (P-G)

Third-period flurry lifts Penguins to win over Lightning (Tribune-Review)

Starkey: Fleury made win possible (Tribune-Review)

There are few more depressing places while the Penguins are making their yearly run at the Stanley Cup than PNC Park. Last night in front of literally hundreds, the Pirates saw their first dip below .500 in 2011 after losing 6-0 to the Brewers. Despite throwing five no-hit innings, starter Kevin Correia came unraveled in the sixth, giving up four runs which were highlighted by a Prince Fielder three-run home run.

Pirates fall below .500 with loss to Brewers (P-G)

Brewers bats break out, bounce Bucs (Tribune-Review)

Penguins vs. Lightning Preview

My magical trip home to enjoy Pirate baseball came to an end. As I returned to school in Athens, Ohio, another sport near and dear to the sports fans of the Steel City is ramping up for the playoffs.

The Penguins’ mad dash at the last second to steal the Atlantic Division away from the Philadelphia Flyers came up short, so they ultimately had to settle for the number four seed in the Eastern Conference. They will play the young and very talented Tampa Bay Lightning. Here are some things to keep in mind.

Key Matchup: Penguins defense vs. Tampa Bay offense

Since the loss of Crosby and Malkin, the Penguins have been able to maintain their position in the standings with good defense. They will face a tough test from the potent Lightning offense that features two of the top 5 scorers in the NHL in Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos. The Penguins will have to keep up the intensity in their own zone, something they are more than capable of doing.

Player that will have to step up: James Neal

I know a lot of people give me crap for doubting him but hear me out. The Penguins will need to score goals. Neal had 21 goals and 18 assists when he was acquired at the deadline as a means of replacing the scoring that was going to be lost from the Penguins’ fallen stars. He has scored just one goal and tallied five assists in black and gold. Don’t get me wrong, he’s done a lot to get the team here, but he’s going to have to start scoring sooner or later.

Player that will step up: Marc-Andre Fleury

The playoffs have brought out the best and worst in the Penguins’ number one netminder, but he’s been locked in most of this season, and his shaky beginning to the year is far, far behind him. If the Penguins make a deep run, he will be the key reason. If think otherwise, look at many of the teams that do. They all had hot goalies.

The Penguins will win if: Keep on keeping on

They certainly haven’t won many pretty games since the injury bug has bit, but it seems that they always  get just enough to pull out the victories. They are playing very well as a team, and that is very important come playoff time.

The Penguins will lose if: They play undisciplined

The Penguins have developed a nasty habit of playing down to their competition at times throughout the season. The Lightning is a team with a deadly power-play that will strike if the Penguins find themselves in the penalty box too much.

Prediction: Penguins in 6

This series isn’t going to be a cake walk, however, the experience and defense are in the Penguins favor, two factors that usually lead to success in the playoffs.

On Cooke, Headshots, and the NHL

The buzz in Pittsburgh about Pitt’s latest choke Friday night came to a halt after Matt Cooke of the Penguins elbowed Ryan McDonagh of the New York Rangers in the head.

Cooke, who has received a reputation around the league as being one of the games dirtiest players, affirmed that claim with that reckless hit.

What is more bewildering is the fact that he did so just days after Penguins owner Mario Lemieux proposed a fine scale that would fine teams based on games suspended of players committing cheap shots.

In response, the NHL penalized Cooke by suspending him the remaining 10 games of the regular season, and for the entire duration of the first round of the playoffs.

The issue of headshots in hockey has been a very hot topic recently. All 30 general managers discussed the issue at length while meeting last week. They agreed that there should be stiffer penalties for those who purposely dish out illegal hits. However, they agreed that all head related hits should not be banned.

Wait? Am I missing something?

In this act of stupidity, the NHL is completely ignoring the fact that they should be protecting their stars. Whether accidental or not, there is no place for hits to the head in the sport. The NFL has placed a large amount of rules in order to protect quarterbacks and other players. With stars such as Sidney Crosby sitting out 30+ games because of these hits, shouldn’t the league think of getting rid of them altogether? They can have season altering effects on teams.

I know I’m in the minority of hockey fans. These so-called “hockey purists” think that this type of hitting should be allowed, that it is a part of “their game.” For these close-minded people I ask them to turn on ESPN. The only time they ever bother to talk about hockey is when these dirty hits and brawls take the center stage. The sad fact is that is what most of the sporting world thinks of this when they think of the great sport that is hockey.

I want to clear up that I think hockey should still be a physical game. That’s one part of the game that makes it exciting. However, it’s time to cut out a lot of the goonery that has plagued the sport for too long. I just wonder how many games missed by the stars of the league will it take for the NHL to finally realize its foolishness.

Morning Briefing 3-22-11

Photo from postgazette.com

Penguins

-Despite blowing a 4-0 second period lead, the Pens were able to scratch out a 5-4 victory in a shootout last night over the Red Wings in Detroit. Pascal Dupuis had two goals, in addition to goals from Tyler Kennedy and Chris Kunitz. James Neal had the lone shootout goal that was the difference.

Pens blow big lead, pull out shootout win (Trib)

Dupuis steps up, salvages shootout win (PG)

Pirates

The Pirates fell 4-1 to the Minnesota Twins in Bradenton yesterday. Paul Maholm pitched six so-so innings, giving up just two runs, yet allowing nine hits. He hasn’t had the best spring, and I have my doubts about his ability to anchor the rotation.

Twins get past Pirates, 4-1 (PG)

Ohio Basketball

The Bobcats take on Eastern Tennessee State in the quarterfinals of the Collegeinsider.com Tournament tonight at 7 PM.

Bobcats and Bucs to Meet in CIT Quarterfinal (OhioBobcats.com)

Duquesne

Pittsburgh’s last remaining college basketball team fell in the quarterfinals of the College Basketball Invitational to the Oregon Ducks in Eugene last night 77-75. Senior Bill Clark led the team with 19 points in what was his last game as a Duquesne Duke

Dukes’ Postseason Trail Ends at Oregon (GoDuquesne.com)