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Contrary to Popular Belief, the Penguins Aren’t Dead Yet

By: Andrew McDermott

The Stanley Cup Final has come down to a best of three series with all the marbles on the line. After the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Nashville Predators in the first two games, many fans thought it was a guarantee the Penguins would be back to back champions. However, the Predators had other plans and beat the Penguins in the following two games to even the series 2-2 heading back to Pittsburgh.

Many fans are smacking the panic button after the last two losses, almost throwing in the towel at the moment. As discouraging as the last two games were, honestly what else could you expect? I’m not one of those people. While I do know momentum is firmly on Nashville’s side, and the Penguins do somewhat have their backs against the wall, there is plenty to be positive about.

It’s back down to a three game series with home ice advantage, like the Ottawa series. The Penguins have been in this position before. Sidney Crosby has elevated his game and is attempting to carry this team once again. Matt Murray has been playing solid, but not to the high expectations that fans know he can play at. Most importantly, the forwards still have gas left in the tank. I do believe the Penguins are the better team in this series, but Nashville has played like they want it more these past two games. If the Penguins want to win, here’s what I think has to happen these next few games.

  • Ron Hainsey must sit out a game, at least. The defensive group as a whole has very little gas in the tank, with Hainsey being the most obvious. He’s failed to clear the puck out of the defensive zone multiple times, is slow to the puck, and turnover prone. He’s turned into Rob Scuderi this series. I think Chad Ruhwedel can move the puck better, and he’s definitely quicker than Hainsey. I’d slot Ruhwedel into the lineup for speed and puck movement.
  • Offensive zone pressure must be sustained. Throw every shot you can at Pekka Rinne, who woke up after the first two games to play like the All-Star he is the last two games. Get grimy, get dirty, and get into that crease to make him uncomfortable.
  • Score on the power play. After a dismal first three games with the man advantage, the power play came to life a little bit in Game 4. Stop passing up shots and put the puck on net.
  • Speaking of putting the puck on net, Phil Kessel needs to get going offensively. He’s seemed passive at times, but attempted 8 shots in Game 4. A recipe for success for Kessel is to just shoot, shoot, shoot.
  • Secondary scoring needs to happen. Aside from Guentzel, Crosby, and Malkin, there really hasn’t been a scoring threat among the rest. Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust, and Patric Hornqvist need to start putting pucks into the net like they’ve shown they can.
  • Control the breakouts. Penguins fans haven’t seen many clean breakouts this series with Nashville being aggressive on the fore check. Use that to your advantage, and make them pay for being aggressive with a few more odd man rushes.
  • Finally, win the 50/50 battles. Heck, even win the 2-1 battles. Nashville has played like they want the Stanley Cup more, and the Penguins are going to have to elevate their game more in order to scrap out some wins these next few games. It won’t be pretty, but a gritty game is what the Penguins need to get past these pesky Predators. What a fun series it has been so far, and I still believe the Penguins will be back to back Stanley Cup Champions.

Penguins Look to End Senator’s Cinderella Story

It was a long, tough series, but the Pittsburgh Penguins got the job done. They defeated the Capitals 2-0 in Washington in Game 7. Now I could go on about how there’s nothing sweeter than watching the Capitals lay a zero on home ice during a Game 7, but I’m not going to. I’m here to give a quick preview of the Penguin’s next opponent: the Ottawa Senators.

Ottawa defeated the Boston Bruins in the first round, followed by defeating the New York Rangers in round two. Any hockey fan can tell you that the Senators had a really easy path to the Eastern Conference Finals. This has been a fairy tale run for Guy Boucher and his players, but I have a pretty strong feeling the clock’s about to strike midnight for this Cinderella Story.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to underestimate the Senators. They are led by one of the, if not the best defenseman in the NHL, Erik Karlsson. He’s already tallied 13 points and played some of the best hockey of his career in the 2017 playoffs. The crazy thing is, he’s done it with two hairline fractures in one of his feet. Karlsson has had a lot of success this season against the Penguins, but he’s not the only one. Penguin killer Derrick Brassard, center Jean-Gabriel Pageau and winger Bobby Ryan have all had success this postseason. But after that, the Senators don’t really have much firepower. The Penguins have a way more rounded lineup that features scoring on its top three lines.

Marc-Andre Fleury has had a stellar playoff so far, stealing three games alone on Capital ice in round two. I expect him to keep up his hot streak in the net and outduel Craig Anderson of the Senators. The Penguins speed and shot totals should be enough to wear Anderson down and give him fits during the series. Defensively in front of Anderson, aside from Karlsson the two notable names are Marc Methot and Dion Phaneuf. Remember that Methot and Crosby have a little tension between them after Crosby slashed off one of Methot’s fingers, and that Phil Kessel and Phaneuf don’t seem to like each other. I think this series will be chippy from the start, factoring goon Chris Neil and his antics into the equation.

The series will come down to how well the Penguins are able to get the puck up the ice. The Senators run a 1-3-1 trap really well, and it slows teams down. The Penguins defenseman will have to be on the top of their game and limit turnovers, which will limit the Senator’s scoring chances. It’s no secret the Penguins got banged up in the first two rounds. While the Senators have injuries of their own, it’ll be interesting to see how the Penguins can break the Senators trap and utilize their speed that not many teams can match.

The Penguins have taken care of the two biggest threats out of the Eastern Conference. With a Senators team that just doesn’t have the firepower to match the Penguins, I’m seeing the Penguins reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 5 games.

By: Andrew McDermott

 

Don’t Give Up on the Penguins Yet 

By: Andrew McDermott

Well, last night the Penguins had an old fashioned ass beating handed to them by the Washington Capitals. It was ugly. It was hard to watch. The Penguins just looked like a team that had nothing left in the tank. They played soft, uninspired hockey that could put even the most die-hard Penguins fan to sleep. It was disheartening to see that kind of performance put out on home ice. We can sit here, talk about everything that went wrong, and complain that the season is over. But here’s the thing: it’s not. Lets have a short memory and forget about that game.

Game 7 is in Washington. The Capitals are looking to make it to the conference finals for the first time in the Alex Ovechkin era. The Penguins are looking to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. What better test for the Penguins than to beat the Capitals on their home ice to head to the Eastern Conference Finals? I would be absolutely shocked if the Penguins showed up with the effort that they did in Game 6 again. It was a wake up call for the Penguins. They got manhandled and embarrassed. Plain and simple. But if this doesn’t light a fire under them, I don’t know what will. The Capitals think that they’ll have an easy win on Wednesday. They think the Penguins are demoralized and have given up. It sure looked like that Monday night.

But I have faith in Mike Sullivan. I have faith that he gets this team back on track, and ready to play their best game of the season. Let’s not forgot the Penguins took two games in Washington in this series. What’s stopping them from doing it again? What’s stopping Marc-Andre Fleury from stealing another game? I don’t want this to be Fleury’s last game as a Penguin.

The defenseman need to step it up now more than ever. We know that they can play way better than they did. Ron Hainsey’s turnover in the defensive zone was a backbreaker. Monday night was evident that this team misses Kris Letang now more than ever. Justin Schultz, Olli Maatta and Ian Cole all need to step it up another notch in Game 7.
But it’s going to take a team effort to beat the Capitals. I have a feeling that Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are going to be playing focused on Wednesday. They’re the leaders of this team and it’s no secret that if those two are playing well, the rest of the team’s game gets elevated. It’s now or never for the Penguins. Every great team faces a true test at some point in the playoffs. It’s time to see what this year’s squad is made of. Until then, it’s #PensIn7.

Injuries, Lack of Offense Fuel Pirate’s Woes

By: Andrew McDermott

Tell me if you’ve heard this story before: the Pirates are off to a slow start to kick off another season. This time it’s 2017, and the offense and defense has been struggling to support the fantastic pitching Gerrit Cole and Company has provided them. Cole, Ivan Nova, Jameson Taillon and Chad Kuhl have given the Pirates the opportunity to stay in games early on this season. However, the bats and defense haven’t been able to do the same.

The main theme of the season so far has been injuries to the Pirates infield. With Adam Frazier and David Freese on the disabled list, Pirates fans have been blessed to see Phil Gosselin get steady playing time this season. I’ll just get this out of the way really quick: Phil Gosselin doesn’t deserve to be on any major league roster. Watching Gosselin attempt to hit a baseball is the equivalent of watching Jersey Shore reruns: sure, it may have been funny the first few times, but my god is it cringe-worthy. As much as I would love to see his .138 batting average on the roster, I think it’s time to send him on his merry way. Maybe the Washington Wild Things can give him a spot on their roster.

Speaking of horrid batting averages, John Jaso has been quite the hitting machine this season. Jaso, like Gosselin, is also under the infamous Mendoza line this season with a .143 average. Newsflash: small-ball baseball only works if, you know, they can get on base. Couple those two averages with Alen Hanson, who’s batting .176 in limited starts, and you have the easy decision of who to DFA when Freese and Frazier comeback. (Hint: goodbye Gosselin and Hanson.)

The Starling Marte suspension became an even bigger problem for the Pirates when David Freese hit the disabled list. With Freese on the disabled list, Josh Harrison has been the primary third baseman. Before the Freese injury, Harrison and Frazier platooned in the outfield spot left open by Marte. Now that Harrison is manning the hot corner, this meant that Jaso has seen some time in right field. While Jose Osuna has done a decent job filling in as the primary right fielder, the days Pirates fans get to see Jaso stumble around in right field is quite a sight to behold. I’d rather see Bacon Burt in front of the Clemente Wall, at least then when he misjudges a fly ball it will be funny and not downright sad.

Another problem for the Pirates offensively is the slow starts from Andrew McCutchen and Gregory Polanco. With the Marte suspension, it was up to these two to pick up the slack and contribute more offensively. Unfortunately, they haven’t. McCutchen is hitting .218, while Polanco has been struggling at the plate with a .250 average. Any Pirates fan knows that this is far from what these two can contribute to the team. If the Pirates truly want to be contenders, these are the two bats that really need to start stepping it up.

Now, it’s not all doom and gloom for the Buccos. Josh Harrison is starting to look like the Josh Harrison that Neal Huntington gave the big extension to. He’s thrived in the leadoff spot, hitting .305 with 5 home runs on the year. Before Frazier hit the DL, he was hitting .306, although his defense was lacking. Finally, Freese was hitting .321 before being shelved. And perhaps everyone’s favorite story, Gift Ngoepe has been a pleasant surprise at the plate, in very limited action hitting .292 and being defensively solid in the infield. Josh Bell has been doing Josh Bell things at the plate, and looks way more comfortable at first base. The pitching has been fantastic to start the year, and could be even better once Tyler Glasnow starts to figure it out.

I’ve been critical of the Pirates so far this season, mainly because of the lack of depth that has reared its ugly head early on this season. Losing Sean Rodriguez and Matt Joyce in the offseason has proven to actually be a problem this year. When Phil Gosselin is seeing time on your team, someone deserves the blame for that. But when you factor in how well Freese and Frazier were playing before their injuries, it definitely softens the blow a little bit when it comes to the team’s problems at the plate. The main problem offensively is McCutchen and Polanco not producing at the plate. A team is only as good as its star players are, we saw that last year when McCutchen struggled. No matter which way you spin it, the Pirates will only go as far as those two will take them. The pitching has been great so far this year, it’s time for the outfield to step it up. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

 

 

Don’t panic: Penguins still in control of series

By: Andrew McDermott

Did anybody really think that the Penguins would defeat the Capitals in five games? Let alone beat the Capitals in an elimination game on their own home ice? This is the Stanley Cup playoffs. Winning a series, especially against the President’s Trophy winners, wasn’t going to be a cakewalk. Sure, the Capitals choke every year and never make it past the second round. That’s been the running joke of the NHL for the past several years. So Saturday night, you had to expect the Capitals to bring everything they had onto the ice. You had to expect Alex Ovechkin to finally tally a goal in the series. This was the Washington Capitals last gasp. The Capitals stars finally showed up in Game 5. Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov all tallied goals in the 4-2 victory.

 Marc-Andre Fleury had a game where he wasn’t a brick wall. Relax Penguins fans. Twitter during the game was calling out Fleury for giving up what may have been a couple weak goals. I don’t agree with that. He played an overall good game. The Capitals scored off of the rush twice in the game, and just beat the Penguins by outplaying them. I’ll take Fleury’s .929% save percentage any day of the week for the amount of shots he’s faced this series. Fleury stole Game 1 and Game 4 of this series. He’s been one of the key reasons the Penguins are up 3-2 in this series. Also, hey Penguins fans: Sidney Crosby is back in the lineup. So yeah, that’s kind of a big deal.

 The Penguins will be okay folks. The Capitals finally won a game on their home ice. Game 6 will be played in Pittsburgh on Monday. Sidney Crosby is back in the lineup. The Penguins will be okay. Barry Trotz and Co. will be scheduling their tees time come Monday Night. Penguins in six was my original prediction, let’s hope it doesn’t go to seven games. Then maybe the worry will start to settle in. I couldn’t see the Capitals winning three in a row against the Penguins. I still don’t see it. The Capitals had their last gasp Saturday night.

 Quick notes:

  • It was nice to see Carl Hagelin score his first goal since January 20th after going through a slump and dealing with injuries. If he can get his scoring touch back, it’ll be a key addition for having another scoring option on the 3rd/4th
  • Conor Sheary also returned from a concussion Saturday. However, Sheary hasn’t had great playoffs so far. Zero goals and two assists in nine games: yikes.
  • Glad to see Tom Wilson is a human trash can. Energy players can spark a team with big hits in a playoff game. But Wilson crossed the line by hitting Trevor Daley in the numbers and picking up a charging minor by hitting Jake Guentzel right in front of the benches. Let’s hope the Penguins can finish off the Captials Monday so Mr. Wilson can spend his summer in a trash can like Oscar the Grouch.

NFL Offseason Fantasy Risers and Fallers

Josh Wagner: Staff Writer

If you are like me and are addicted to fantasy sports, then this article is right up your alley. No this isn’t for baseball or basketball or even soccer but yes I am talking about NFL Fantasy football! I am deeply sorry but I have not a single clue how to go about using fantasy baseball/ hockey, or how my scoring works in a league that also makes zero sense so I am deferring back to my area of expertise, shall we?

RISERS:

Quarterback: Jameis Winston

Its really hard to not get excited about this guy, Jameis Crab legs Winston was such a sleeper in many leagues last season. He went un-drafted in over 70 percent of leagues and somehow managed to finish with over 4,000 yards passing again! Did I mention he’s the only QB in NFL history to throw over 4k in the his first two seasons in the sport? Winston’s stock is also hot because of two factors in addition to Mike Evans are going to help pull the weight in the ariel attack department. Number one is Cameron Brate who spent most of the season on and off the field with injury issues but he’s on what you would call the come up. Brate finished 6th amongst TEs (ESPN Standard Scoring) and hauled in 8 TDs. Number two is Deshaun Jackson, the man can move like the wind and open up that top on any defense in the league. In addition Jameis has a cannon waiting to be utilized down in Tampa, Winston was third in the league in “air yards” (2,703 yards) which doesn’t include yards after the catch for receivers.

Runningback: Melvin Gordon

This may seem like stating the obvious but the Chargers losing Danny Woodhead will do wonders for the young tailback Gordon. He will now certainly shift into an all down back in Los Angeles (LA Chargers, weird) where no matter how bad the team is they always have an above league average offense and Phillip Rivers is a gunslinger. Add that sentiment to the fact that Gordon was just three yards shy of the 1,000 yard mark while missing three games. Gordon is also a dual threat to add to the incentive in PPR leagues to go along with the lions share of goal line touches, shouldn’t be any touchdown vulturing in LA.

Wide Receiver: Michael Thomas

Again I know, Wags couldn’t have guessed this one! But for real, no more Bradin Cooks means Thomas is the undoubted number one wide out for a QB in Drew Brees who has lead the NFL in passing yards the last 3 seasons. The volume of targets Thomas will get is going to be straight up stupid folks. Couple that with the addition of Tedd Ginn to keep a secondary honest its gonna be another big year for Thomas. In his rookie year Thomas had at least five catches in 11 of his 15 games along with finished in the top 10 in standard scoring amongst receivers. Oh and he’s from Ohio State, those kids don’t fail.

Tight End: Martellus Bennett

Fantasy owners of Bennett last year probably want to burn me to the ground for this pick. He played multiple games without Gronk and still did not produce much, but something tells me the Aaron Rodgers is going to make this signing look brilliant. Rodgers has made Jared Cook and Richard Rodgers look like All Pros in the past and Bennett has much more talent then them. To add I just don’t see Green Bay running the ball as much as the rest of the league, makes no sense taking the ball away from one of the great QBs in the league.

Kickers: LOL good one

Chris Boswell is GOAT.

Fallers:

Quarterback: Joe Flacco

Honestly I just really do not like Joe Flacco at all and that is partially why he is here. But in a non biased approach his offense looks more feeble than Frat Houses foundation. Steve Smith retired, Kyle Juszczyk left for the Bay Area, and so did Kamar Aiken for Indy. The only addition is Danny Woodhead. So you tell me will Joe Flacco made lemons into lemonade? Nahhhhhhhh.

Runningback: Geo Bernard and Jeremy Hill

These two just straight up piss me off… I have owned both separately many years since I began playing and every year its a total crap shoot on who will have the big game. Let me make this easy on you, screw ’em both and don’t pick them PROBLEM SOLVED! Running back committees can rot in hell.

Wide Receiver: Any Pats Receiver

Tom Brady just spreads the wealth way too much to ever make me a comfortable fantasy owner. With the addition of Brandin Cooks and Gronk coming back your guess is as good as mine as to who will be the hot hand for Bellicheat on any given Sunday.

Tight End: Jason Witten

This guy has been on his way out the door for years now I swear! Romo always found a way to get Witten the football but the Dak Era doesn’t look to promising for the pro-bowler. Zeke and the running game has also become the go to for the Dallas offense which takes opportunity away from Witten. Witten failed to break the 700 yard mark receiving for only the second time in his career, the other was his rookie season.

 

 

 

 

Pittsburgh Pirates- My Top 10 Hall of Fame Items

Ryan McDermott – Staff Writer

The city of Pittsburgh is like none other. We have the best fans, the most interesting people, and we even put coleslaw and French fries on our sandwiches. The city of Pittsburgh is fortunate enough to be the home of the Pittsburgh Pirates. During my tenure as a Pirates fan, the early 2000’s to today, I have been through the highs and the lows (mostly lows). However, this does not change my love for the organization, and the appreciation of the awesome moments that I have been able see. So, here is my list of the top 10 items, from my stint as a Pirates fan, that belong in the Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Fame.

10.) Bob Walk’s Chair

The tip heard around the world. Enough said.

BobWalk

9.) Cheese Chester

The fan favorite in any pierogi race, so why not stick him on the list. (Nobody likes you Pizza Penny, you abomination)

chester.jpg

8.) Jung Ho Kang’s Luxury Car

Hopefully, good ole’ Jung Ho is reading this article somewhere in Korea. You messed up my man.

kangcar

7.) Lemonade Guy

One of my fondest memories is hearing that loud scream of “Lemonade” at PNC park. See you at the crossroads, Lemonade Guy.

lemonade

6.) Jerry Meals’ Glasses

Just when we all thought that the Pirates were starting to turn things around… Jerry Meals says its safe.

meals

5.) Randall Simon’s Bat

Let’s be honest, nobody likes Milwaukee, and that was probably some of the best swinging that the Pirates organization has seen in years. Way to tee off Randall.

simon

4.) Lloyd McClendon’s Stolen Base

That’s a bold strategy Lloyd, let’s see how this plays out.

lloyd

3.) Johnny Cueto’s Dropped Ball

The first Pittsburgh playoff baseball I have ever seen, and the fans didn’t disappoint. Pittsburgh got him rattled, and Russell Martin capitalized with a huge homerun.

cueto

2.) Clint Hurdle’s Gum

A staple of the current Pirates organization. Who can remember the last time that Clint hasn’t had a wad in his mouth?

clint

  1. Andrew McCutchen’s Dreads

Now maybe they should be looking for these things instead of Tom Brady’s missing Super bowl jersey! Bring them back Cutch!

cutch.jpg

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