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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Paul Martin, A Norris Trophy Candidate?


                          
                                                                            Peter Diana/Post-Gazette
   
      When Paul Martin was signed by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2010 off-season, they were hoping he would be able to come in and fill the void by taking Sergei Gonchar's role when he left the team to sign with the Ottawa Senators.

     Statistically speaking, Martin has been doing fine. However, Martin would find himself playing inconsistently, constantly turning the puck over, and was not adjusting well to Pittsburgh's system as anticipated. This made General Mangaer Ray Shero ask Martin during last year's offseason if he would like out of Pittsburgh and be traded. Martin however, simply declined.

     Martin had told Shero that he wanted to prove he belonged in Pittsburgh and knew he needed to step his game up and wanted to redeem himself by working hard to improve his it. Martin appears to be making good on his word as he has improved his overall play significantly and to date has four goals on the season. The first time he has done so since the 08'-09' campaign when he finished with five. Add the fact that he is doing this in an already shortened season, Martin has finally played up to his potential and is already being talked about as a Norris Trophy Candidate (Best all around Defenseman)

     While some may say it is a longshot, Paul Martin has earned to be at the very least a candidate or a name brought up for the Norris Trophy. Martin does have some stiff competition, including teammate Kris Letang. Martin's success has not gone unnoticed as he has gained the attention of many. If he can continue at this level of play, Martin could very well be taking home some hardware this season!

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Image Source: (1.)  http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/sports/penguins/penguins-paul-martin-played-with-severe-injury-694429/

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Script Flips As Crosby Will Now Need To Carry The Pittsburgh Penguins In Malkin's Absence

                                                                               
                                                        Photo Credit: (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

     Twice now Evgeni Malkin has had to step up for the Pittsburgh Penguins when Sidney Crosby was out with an injury (2008 ankle and good portions of the 2011 & 2012 seasons with a concussion)

                         (2.)

                                                                                Matt Freed/Post-Gazette
                                  Malkin suffered a concussion during a game against the Florida Panthers

     Now, the script has flipped as Malkin is out with a concussion with Crosby needing to carry the team.

     In both of Crosby's absences, Malkin would produce two of his best seasons to date with 106 points and 113 points in the 2008 & 2012 seasons respectively, with a berth in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2008.

     One thing though that may make Crosby's task more difficult is the fact he will need to do what Malkin did, but with a shortened season. With a shortened season, practically every game will be a playoff game as the majority of teams still figure to be in the playoff picture at the beginning of April when the trade deadline approaches.

     In Pittsburgh's first game without Malkin, Crosby lead the Penguins to a 5-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, finishing with 2 goals and an assist. Crosby clearly has all the talent in the world and leadership skills to help carry the extra load during Malkin's absence. What remains to be seen is how long with the Penguins be without Malkin and will a shortened season have a different effect on Crosby and the Penguins, as opposed to when Malkin had a good majority of the season to play with while Crosby was out?

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Image Sources: 1.http://www.takingbadschotz.com/?attachment_id=13662
                          2. http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/sports/penguins/malkin-cleared-back-at-penguins-practice-677783/

Friday, February 22, 2013

What We Learned From The Pittsburgh Penguins In Their 6-5 Loss To The Philadelphia Flyers



     Now that I am able to finally stomach the result of the game, I can now look at what we have learned from the Penguins 6-5 loss to the Flyers the other night.


  
 Paul Martin has improved
                 (1.)
                      
 Martin had been receiving lots of criticism for his underachieving since he has arrived in Pittsburgh. Martin however, has turned things around, he scored the game winning goal against Buffalo and had an assist on 3 of the 5 goals scored by the Penguins against the Flyers. His offensive performance from the blueline has really improved as he is able to get the puck on net which has allowed for rebound opportunities for the Penguins. Just recently it was noted that Martin had asked if he wanted to be traded during the off-season which he of course declined. Ever since, Martin has stepped up his game and has been performing at the level the Penguins had expected him to play at when they signed him.

The Powerplay has been producing more
                          (2.)
     Alright, so they are not necessarily scoring on every powerplay or every other, but the powerplay unit has seemingly stepped it up and has started to shoot a bit more as opposed to passing. Ever since the acquisition of James Neal the powerplay has vastly improved. The Penguins are first in the Eastern Conference with a powerplay percentage of 27.54%. Though the Penguins still are in need of someone to 'quarterback' the powerplay, the offensive production on it has increased immensely.

Marc Andre Fleury is the Penguins No. 1 Goalie

(3.)     Before the season started, many wondered if Tomas Vokoun would give Marc Andre Fleury a run at the starting gig for the No. 1 Netminder. After Vokoun's performance against the Flyers, it became apparent that Fleury is the Penguins go to guy in net. In the three games after Vokoun recorded a shutout against the New York Rangers, he has gone 1-2 and has given up an average of 4 goals per game with a save percentage of 0.854%. Where as Fleury in his seven starts since, has gone 6-1 and has only given up an average of 2 goals per game with a save percentage of 0.927%

Sidney Crosby & Evgeni Malkin need to shoot more
              (4.)
     Despite having arguably the two best players in the world, they both possess a flaw that they have each demonstrated. More often than not they will attempt to make a flashy play by passing it to another player when they themselves have a golden opportunity of their own to score. While they do need to maintain their play making abilities, they also need to put the puck on net too create more scoring opportunities for themselves and the team.

Lack of Veteran Presence & Leadership
                                                       (5.)
     Ever since Bill Guerin retired, the Penguins have been missing that veteran leadership in the locker room and on the ice. Guerin not only provided a strong presence as a veteran, but was able to add scoring along with it. One player that comes to mind is Jarome Iginla. While it may be a pipe dream, the benefits from it would do wonders as not only would the Penguins be getting both a veteran and a pure scorer in Iginla, but would have someone who already has established chemistry with Sidney Crosby, as evident of the 2010 Winter Olympics when they both helped lead Team Canada to Gold!

     These are just my own observations, some may agree while others will disagree. Whatever the case, the Pittsburgh Penguins have improved but still need to address some issues along the way, especially if they plan on contending for a Stanley Cup!

Image Sources: 1. http://cbspittsburgh.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/paul_martin_106659000.jpg?w=300
                          2. Pittsburgh Penguins Official Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151734234673765&set=a.10151734234533765.613515.13732078764&type=3&theater
                          3. http://24.media.tumblr.com/75e9f266a3ee22776f6398c011771cca/tumblr_mgyiluFUKb1qfammbo1_1280.jpg
                          4. http://thesportsfanjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/765_NewsPGMPHov.jpg
                          5.http://www3.pictures.zimbio.com/gi/Team+Canada+Olympic+Orientation+Camp+sqxDJTy81lWl.jpg

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Monday, February 18, 2013

Can Anyone Stop The Chicago Blackhawks?

                  (1.)

     The Chicago Blackhawks have been putting the entire NHL on notice, winning 12 of their first 15 games and have managed to get a point from each of them! In fact, their three losses have only come via a shootout! With a record of 12-0-3, not only do the Blackhawks possess the best record in the NHL, but arguably have the best roster up and down the entire lineup.

     To Start, the Blackhawks have plenty of superstar talent with the likes of; Patrick Kane, Jonathan Towes, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Brent Seabrook, and Duncan Keith. Even in games where these players do not produce offense, other players, such as; Andrew Shaw, Viktor Stalberg, Marcus Kruger, Nick Leddy, Bryan Bickel, and others have provided the team with scoring depth.

     Another thing just as impressive is the Blackhawks are 8 of 10 in road games (8-0-2). The only other team to win 8 out of 10 on the road are the Pittsburgh Penguins (8-2-0).

     The Blackhawks also have two quality goaltenders in Corey Crawford and Ray Emery who are also a big reason to Chicago's early season success.

     The Blackhawks are no doubt the most complete team in hockey right now and look to be Stanley Cup favorites. Now the only question that remains is if they can keep this up and continue to duplicate the same results they have produced through their first 15 games.


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  (1.) Picture courtesy of Chicago Blackhawks Facebook page
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151521346344258&set=a.10151521346284258.550867.29919479257&type=1&theater

Friday, February 15, 2013

Evgeni Malkin: Best In The World Is Lost In a Little World of His Own



     In my honest and humble opinion, I believe Evgeni Malkin is the best hockey player in the world today! He has the achievements and accolades that can prove that. Right off the back, Malkin won the Calder for Rookie of the Year. Is a 2 time Art Ross Champion as the league's top scorer. One of those which came last year in arguably his best season to date as he also won the Ted Lindsay Award(Most Outstanding Player) and the Hart Memorial (League MVP) Oh and he has a Conn Symthe for playoff MVP from 2009 when he helped lead the Penguins to a Stanley Cup!

     Unfortunately due to the long layoff from the lockout, Malkin seems to have struggled to find himself. Granted he played over in the KHL while the lockout was going on, and put up great numbers to go along with it, Malkin looks as he is having trouble adapting back to the game as far as the NHL goes. For one thing, Malkin seems to be lacking discipline as he has been taking a lot of penalties and at times lets his emotions get the better of him.

     Another issue as of late that Malkin is having is turning the puck over. Time after time Malkin will try to make finesse like plays for instance when he tries to do his no look pass. This has led to opposing teams stealing the puck and create scoring opportunities. Another issue to go along with his passing is that he will give up a good scoring opportunity by passing the puck instead of shooting it himself.

    I cannot tell you how many times I have seen Malkin have a golden opportunity to score a goal but instead passes up the chance by passing the puck to another player.

    Though I do not see this issue lasting forever, these are things that Malkin needs to address for himself so the Pittsburgh Penguins can be productive and perform at the level that they are capable of. Once Malkin gets out of this funk and the beast awakens, the league will once again be put back on notice by his dominating play and performance, and again reclaim his title of "The best in the world!"

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Scouting NFL Draft Prospect John Simon



     John Simon was a kid who caught my eye coming out of Cardinal Mooney High School for not only his football talents, but for his strength in the weight room and work ethic! I was able to see from his great work ethic and dedication that he would have a lot to offer on the field and in the locker room. Recently I decided to watch highlights showcasing Simon making plays on the field so I could do an evaluation on him since the NFL draft is coming up. This particular profile will feature; stats, accomplishments, his strength and weaknesses, and his projected round I see him getting picked and what teams would most likely select him for his services to address their needs.

                         


Name: John Simon

College: Ohio State

Height: 6' 2'

Weight: 256

Arm Length: 32 3/4 (inches)

Hand Length: 9 3/8 (inches)

40 Time: 4.76

Bench Press: 225 Reps- 48  Max: 450lbs. (as of 2008) Squat 700lbs. (as of 2008)               

 College Stats & Achievements: 75 Tackles 64 Assists 139 Total
19.0 Sacks   9 Pass Deflections   3 Fumble Recoveries

  Named 2012 Big Ten Conference Defensive Player of the Year (led conference in sacks)
  2012 Big Ten Lineman of the Year (14.5 tackles for losses)

    Strengths: Strength, Pursuit of Ball, Explosiveness, Great Leadership Skills

   Weaknesses: -Some mechanic issues with body, needs a little more composure.
    -Despite incredible strength, may need to add 10-20lbs on his frame as he is a little undersized, especially if he plays Defensive End.
    -Speed


     Simon is truly a coaches dream player. Well disciplined, great leadership skills, excellent work ethic. If Simon is in the right system, he will adjust quite well as he has some versatility evident from switching to linebacker to playing on the D-Line as an end or tackle during college career at Ohio State.

    Simon has 1st round talent but as of right now, there are currently more NFL ready Defensive Prospects and Simon may need time to adjust before he reaches his full potential. I see Simon going anywhere between the 2nd- 4th round.

    Teams that could really use Simon's services
    - New England Patriots
    - Green Bay Packers
    - Tennessee Titans
    - Atlanta Falcons
    - Philadelphia Eagles
    - Detroit Lions
    - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Sources:(1)http://www.muscleprodigy.com/john-simon-workout-arcl-1814.html 
                  (2) http://www.sbnation.com/nfl-mock-draft/2013/2/8/3968332/nfl-draft-2013-john-simon-profile
                  (3) http://www.nfldraftscout.com/ratings/dsprofile.php?pyid=90639&draftyear=2013&genpos=DE
                  (4) http://ohiostate.rivals.com/cviewplayer.asp?Player=411159
                  (5)  http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft/players/1664625

    Pictures: (1) http://www.twifonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Simon-John-Ohio-State-Buckeyes-Ohio-State-Athletics-Communications-ARTICLE.jpg
                   (2) http://www.ourhonordefend.com/wp-content/uploads/johnsimon_mygodishehuge.jpg
                   (3) http://www.elevenwarriors.com/sites/default/files/images/users/Grayskullsession/JohnSimonCurl.jpg

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