January 31

The Pens are Back on Track

Hey yinz. The all-star break is over for both football and hockey, and for the latter that means teams are gearing up for the playoffs. The Penguins seem to be taking that very seriously. It’s no secret that they’ve been in a bit of a struggle during the first part of the season, hanging around the .500 line and lying low in the division. I knock on wood when I say that may be behind them.

The Pens have seemed to have turned themselves around. With a win over San Jose last night they have won seven of their last ten games. Since my previous blog post only last week, the pens have shot from 5th place in the metropolitan division to 2nd right behind Washington, passing New Jersey, Columbus, and Philly in one week. I may be taking the optimistic approach, but things are really looking up.

Remember last week when I said the young guys were keeping the team afloat? And that if the stars starting producing as well they would be nearly unstoppable? Well, I think that is starting to happen.

Evgeni Malkin Scores Against San Jose

Most prominently last night against the sharks when Evgeni Malkin released some of his magic for a hat-trick. The veteran looks to be back to full production, and he is a real difference maker when he is. The young guys continue to be productive as well. Brian Rust contributed the other two goals of the night as him and Geno ran the show. Let’s hope this production level is contagious for the whole team and the Pens will see big success again.

 

Another huge contribution to their success would be if the power play continues to be as lethal as its been. Currently, the Pen’s power play is 1st in the league at 27.1 percent success. Power play goals can really swing the momentum in a game and they must continue to use it’s effectiveness to their advantage. With Murray back in net and the superstars back on track, the power play can only get better and the team will be back on track for another successful playoff year.

Now, this wouldn’t be much of a sports blog if I didn’t at least mention the upcoming Super Bowl, even if the Steelers aren’t involved. The Eagles will face off against the Patriots in Minneapolis this Sunday in Super Bowl LII. Let’s just say I do not like the Patriots. Mostly because they’re just too good and the Steelers are never able to beat them. Also, Patriot’s fans are some of the cockiest people around. Thus, I have to say I’ll be rooting for the Eagles this weekend, hoping they teach the Patriots and their fans some humility. Never thought I would say this but Go Birds!

But most importantly…

LET’S GO PENS!!

January 24

Rookie Power

What’s up yinz? Hope you’re all heading down the road to recovery after the heartbreaking Steelers playoff loss. The AFC championship game almost dulled some of the pain when the Jaguars came so close to upsetting the Patriots, and every Steeler fan like myself craves to see anyone take down New England. However, the Patriots, as always came back in the second half to steal the win away 24-20.

Casey DeSmith

As football comes to a close and we prepare for the final game of the season, hockey is in full swing. The Pens continue to have an up and down season, winning some and losing some. Currently, they remain a few games over .500 with a record of 26-21-5 and lagging at 5th in the metro. Does this mean we must abandon our hopes of a three-peat Stanley Cup Season? In my opinion, absolutely not. While they may not be the unstoppable force that they were last year, the Penguins are still a solid team and are very capable of making and competing in the post-season.

 

Jean-Sebastien Dea

It’s no secret that part of the pens issue is the lack of production from the superstars of Crosby, Malkin, and Letang. Phil Kessel remains an exception as he is having his best season so far with the pens. However, the young talent on the team has seemed to pick up a lot of the slack and is a huge contributor to keeping the pens in the race. This emergence of young talent was very prominent in last night’s game versus Carolina. Less than a month ago Dominik Simon, Jean-Sebastian Dea, and Casey DeSmith were playing in the minors. Last night the rookies were named the three stars of the game. Dominik Simon netted the game-tying goal for the pens for his second goal of the season. The story of the night, of course, being that Dea scored his first NHL goal, which just so happened to be the game winner. Let’s not forget the fantastic goaltending by rookie goaltender Casey DeSmith, who made 35 saves, only letting one squeak behind him. He has done a great deal in carrying the load while starter Matt Murry has been absent.

Dominik Simon

The Penguins are continually one of the best teams in hockey because of their knack for developing young minor league guys into high-level NHL players. We often forget that guys like Jake Guentzel, Conner Sheary, and Brian Rust were only rookies last year. Now they are looked at throughout the league as top-tier players. Even starting goalie Matt Murray has only been in the NHL for two seasons and now is one of the most desirable goalies in the league and has two cups under his belt. Are Dea, Simon, and DeSmith the next generation of standout rookies? I can’t be certain yet but they’ve shown great promise so far and their high production keeps some of the pressure off of guys like Crosby and Malkin.

If the young talent continues to play like they are and the stars of the team get out of this current slump, the Pens can once again return to that unstoppable force that we have seen the past two seasons.

LET’S GO PENS!!

January 18

All Good Things Must Come to an End

Well yinz, last weekend our greatest fear came true as the Steeler’s season came to an abrupt end in a heartbreaking 42-45 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Steelers seemed unprepared for the matchup as they were simply outplayed by the Jags. Maybe they got too ahead of themselves by thinking about their Patriot rivals rather than focusing on the matchup in front.

Much of the fault lies in the weakness of the Steeler’s defense, a rare problem for this season as they were consistently ranked a top defense in the league. Throughout the game they continually let the Jaguars take the momentum away and the offense was playing catchup all afternoon. Although Ben topped Blake Bortles in the air game with 469 passing yards, the defense let star rookie Leonard Fournette run for 109 yards and 3 touchdowns, leading to their demise.

However, the offense is still responsible for some of the damage. As with the first matchup against Jacksonville, the Steelers shot themselves in the foot with turnovers. An interception and a fumble both led to Jacksonville touchdowns. Also, our star running back Le’Veon Bell stayed rather silent with only 67 rushing yards and a last-minute touchdown.

With all the bad stuff out of the way, let’s look on the bright side. We didn’t get the Super Bowl ending that we were hoping for, but a lot of good things came out of the season. Our rookie draft picks turned into standout players, the young defense proved to be extremely capable, and the offense continues to be a growing threat to multiple pro-bowl players on the roster.

Looking into next season there is more good news as Ben Roethlisberger announced that he plans to continue playing in 2018. We can now breathe a sigh of relief as most feared that this was his last season due to expressed interest in retirement after last season. This also buys the Steeler’s coaching staff some extra time in developing Laundry Jones or finding a more suitable replacement for the aging, hall of fame worthy quarterback.

One offseason issue remains with Le’Veon Bell, as it looks like they are going to have more contract complications. Last offseason, Bell did not reunite with the team until week one because he was not happy with his contract and being franchised tagged. Now this time around the Steelers announced they plan on tagging him again, and Bell has already expressed much distaste for this idea.

I’ll end this rather somber post with a glimmer of good news: The Penguins finally seem to be heating up. They have won 5 of their last 6 games, giving them a record of 24-19-3 and placing them 4th in the metropolitan. They still have a lot of work to do to climb back to Cup-winning caliber, but always seem to have a knack for turning it up in the second half of the season. Let’s hope that’s the case and we will see a three-peat!

LET’S GO PENS!!!