Our Latest Posts

24 May 2008

Computer Dying!

My computer is on its last leg and I am too poor with my wonderful military paycheck to afford a new one until my stimulus check comes in. This will be in a couple weeks. My email is toad268@gmail.com or justin.tucker.murphy@us.army.mil... I can get these at work, so drop me a line!


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22 May 2008

Keys To Beating The Red Wings

The 4th and Final Installment of the Playoffs. Pretty kick ass to be able to say that.

I've been taking some time with this one because the Red Wings are a much different type of matchup than what the Pens have gotten so far in the playoffs. The Red Wings have speed, they can pass the puck extremely well. Their transition game is excellent. They play their system about as good as any team in the league. They aren't very physical but they are a puck possession team..

1. Get physical with the Red Wings. It worked out for Anaheim last season. The Red Wings like I noted are a puck possession team. They are very systematic. Guys like Brian Rafalski will avoid physical contact to move the puck. The Wings are a good transition team. Playing physical with them, slows their game down. It also is the Pens best chance to force the Red Wings into turning the puck over. The Pens need to finish checks, rub guys out along the boards, smack a few open ice hits. Get it in the back of their head that the Pens aren't just a run n gun team.

2. Don't Press. The Red Wings are similar in a way to the Devils. They play their system well and it could fristrate the Pens. The Pens need to take what is given. They don't want to be pressing against Detroit and make ugly turnovers anywhere on the ice because Detroit can turn that around quickly.

3. 2 Way Play. The Pens forwards have been stellar in their 2 way play this playoffs and that will definitely need to continue against Detroit. With Detroits passing game and transition game, the Will need all of the players on the ice to get involved to not only defend against the Red Wings but to create turnovers and chances for themselves.

4. Holmstrom Factor. This could go beyond Homstrom but right now the guy is the best crease player in the league. He goes there and he parks his 200 lbs. ass in front of opposing goalies and screens and often times interferes. The Pens need to clear Holmstrom from the crease and not allow him or any other Red Wings play to camp out in front of Fleury. Detroit has defensemen that can and will shoot. Detroit makes it's living out of screen and crease play. The Pens are going to have to more than clear the crease, block pucks well, lift sticks, take away good shooting angles.

5. Malkin Line has to be superb. Crosby's line should get Lidstrom which means the Malkin Line should have a little mroe freedom. They have to produce and Malkin (along with Crosby) can't be throwing desperation blind passes all series long against Detroit.

6. Forecheck. If there was a series for the Pens to need a physical forecheck it's this one. Detroit's defense isn't real physical and some of them lke to Whitney out on the play and avoid contact. The Pens need to forecheck strong and take away that possession game of Detroit and make it their own.

7. Park some bodies in the crease. Osgood looks good because he's not being challenged. Opposition isn't shooting a lot and considering the Pens aren't a big shooting team, this means that when they do shoot they have to be quality chances. Like any goaltender, if you create traffic in front of Osgood, you're doing yourself a favor. Our blueliners are going to have to shoot more and our forwards are going to have to crash the net more and create chaos for Detroit. Detroit isn't exactly a team that will punish you for being in their crease, so do it.

8. Steal a game in Detroit and continue playing strong at home. I don't want this to go 7 games, which means the Pens wil have to continue taking care of business at home and steal one from the empty seated Joe in "hockey town".

9. Shutdown the Red Wings first Line. I will assume that Detroit is going to run their first line against our first line and when we get home ice, I'm going to assume that Therrien will try to match Staal's line against the Zteerberg/Datsyuk line. The Red Wings don't have great secondary scoring especially with Franzen being out. Even with Franzen in there, the guy was racking up ridiculous stats against an injury plagued Colorado team. He was average at best against Nashville. I have no problems with the Crosby Line and Datsyuk Lines coming to a draw since I believe we have better depth scoring.

10. Special Teams. Both teams have been excellent scoring and keeping teams from scoring on Special Teams in the playoffs. Something is going to break in this series. Pens simply need to continue with their strong Penalty Killing but the Power Play has to start clicking. This is the most jeckyl and Hide Power Play I've ever seen. If they aren't scoring a goal, the Pens PP looks like complete crap, which means they look like crap more than 70% of the time. Create more chances, shoot more and make Detroit work hard. Often times the Power Play looks like it is making it really easy for the opposition.

Those are my 10. I left off individual stuff that is kind a redundant like Fleury etc... We all know that individual players need to play well. We know that we need strong goaltending, disciplined and well positioned defensive play. We need the defense to be making good smart first passes in the transition game etc... These are all things commonly needed to win. The above 10 things weren't neccesarily things we've had to do in all of the series we've been in. We've played teams where we've been able to work through the neutral zone on with ease. We've faced teams that either played good system defense (Rags) or played bad defense (Flyers). We've yet faced a team that can move the puck and score as well as Detroit.

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19 May 2008

Bring On Detroit!

My views on the Stanley Cup Finals...

I believe that one aspect of our game will wear the Redwings down severely is our size. Every opponent that the Redwings have faced have been ranked in the bottom 7 of the NHL.Every opponent that the Pens have faced are in the top 19 of the league with Ottawa and NYR ranked 6th and 11th respectively. We are ranked 5th. I think this in combination with our speed makes it hard to play against us. We were tasked in every series to bottle up at least one, possibly two scoring lines. We were extremely successful. Those players that were supposed to remain silent disappeared accordingly in their respective series. I feel the Redwings will have to depend on solid goaltending because we will get behind the aging defense a couple times as well as secondary scoring due to our defensemen not being as experienced in this situation. The critics and commentators can't tell us anything about our opponent that we haven't heard from series to series. I consider this a very even matchup as far as defense is concerned. I believe experience can overcome the age factor in certain situations. I also believe that age factor can overcome experience in offensive situations though. If you look purely at stats and remove the two non-factor series (Detroit-Colorado and Pittsburgh-Ottawa), the Pens should completely dominate the Redwings. I also believe that our inexperience in this certain situation could benefit us as well in the ways of being naive. I think that if we are naive enough, we won't think too hard about what is going on. I think we will surprise the Redwings with our talent. I think we will surprise the Redwings with out resolve. I think we will surprise the Redwings with our energy.
I believe the Penguins will win the Stanley Cup in six games.

Let's Go Pens!

Oh, And one more thing... I would like to say that we recently won a world championship in that city recently...what was it?
Oh, yeah..the Superbowl!


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A Word About Therrien

Many people I know ( myself included) have been quick to criticize Michel Therrien this season, mostly about line changes and seemingly endless combinations of players, regardless of how things turned out.

At this point, I believe it's time to give credit where credit is due. Due to injuries to key players and acquisition of others, Therrien had no choice but to fiddle with the lines. The problem came about when it appeared as though Therrien wasn't coaching, merely changing lines around. As we have recently learned, he was coaching the whole time. We only saw the visible side, which was the one that appeared on the ice. All the coaching was being done in the privacy of the locker room and at practices where we can't watch and participate in everyone's favorite pastime: armchair quarterbacking.

It seems now that we were all premature in judging his coaching prowess. This team has been coached exceptionally well and has matured well beyond its years, evidenced by their poise after clinching the Eastern Conference Championship by whooping the Flyers, and their refusal of the Prince of Wales trophy into the locker room. Therrien admitted that it was the players who decided not to invite in the trophy, but you must admit it is due to his coaching.

If they can stay composed and play in the Finals like they did in games 1, 2, 3 and 5, prepare to be sipping some brandy with Lord Stanley.

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18 May 2008

Once Again, The Gods Take Over!

The Bucs came out flying, but in the end could not hold that lead losing 4-3. It is looking more and more like the Pirates are not meant to ever eclipse the .500 mark. We are 21-23. I do have to say that this does somehow give me hope. The Bucs are almost closer than usual to having a winning record. If we could just go the rest of the season without playing the Cubs. I think we could turn this around and I will be honest, I see light at the end of a huge, 16 year tunnel. We have a chance. We can do it. I have faith in my Pirates, or I would not care enough to post.



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The Penguins Are In!

Found this on Pens Blog !

You have to listen to this!
Our favorite Mike Lange!

Well, I needn't say much here, but a 6-0 win is a statement. Everyone contributed. We played practically perfect on both ends of the ice. Fleury was brilliant in making some big saves towards the end to bury any hope of a Flyer comeback. We looked incredible and had all four lines rolling. We smothered them with potent defense and stifling offense. The Stanley Cup Finals await us and as we all know, we are 2-0 in that situation.

I believe coaching has been the key to our playoff run so far. As much as I bashed Michel Therrian during the season, I apparently was wrong. No team in the East had a chance. We started each playoff series 3-0 and beat some decent teams. We are tops in the league in almost every category. I am really looking forward to seeing how we respond in the finals. We are so young to be accomplishing this feat. We won the East in a Eastern Conference record-setting pace of 14 games. So far as I can tell, the Edmonton Oilers are the only team to achieve the same standard and they did it a couple times. So the comparisons continue between the Oilers and the Penguins.

March Of The Penguins

The Penguins have dominated their 2008 playoff opponents, especially at home. Pittsburgh has now won eight straight postseason games at The Igloo, the first team in 13 years to ride such a streak into the Stanley Cup finals. Only four other teams have done so.

Year Team
2008 Penguins
1995 Red Wings
1993 Canadiens
1990 Bruins
1988 Oilers

Here are some stats for you to admire:

Team Statistics | Individual Points | Goalie Stats

Doesn't this say enough?!

A Couple Posters For Fun!


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17 May 2008

Buccos Beat The Cubbies!

McLouth ends Bucs' slide vs. Cubs
Center fielder drills two-run homer in the ninth inning

CHICAGO -- For the first time in eight games against the Cubs this season, the Pirates were finally the ones who got to shake hands on the field afterward. A back-and-forth afternoon ended in the Pirates' favor, as the Bucs snapped a 10-game overall losing streak to the Cubs with a 7-6 win in front of 41,686 at Wrigley Field on Saturday.

This Pirates' first win against the National League Central-leading Cubs was sealed by none other than center fielder Nate McLouth, who continues to be the club's offensive catalyst. With one on and the game tied in the ninth, McLouth connected for a homer off Carlos Marmol that landed just over the right-field basket. The homer was the 12th of the season for McLouth, and his second of the year against Marmol.

McLouth's homer aided a Pittsburgh bullpen that had blown its second save of the road trip two innings earlier. Pirates starter Zach Duke, who had allowed four runs early, finally settled in and retired eight hitters in a row before handing over a 5-4 lead to Tyler Yates with one out in the seventh. In total, the left-hander allowed four runs on eight hits.

Duke's aim at his third straight win, however, would be foiled two pitches later when Alfonso Soriano took Yates deep to even the game. The homer was the second of the afternoon for the Chicago left fielder and his fourth already this series.

After falling into an early 4-2 hole, the Pirates had taken the lead with three runs in the fifth that chased Chicago righty Carlos Zambrano from the game. Duke opened the inning by drawing a four-pitch walk before back-to-back singles by Freddy Sanchez and McLouth brought him around to score.

After a walk to Jason Bay, Adam LaRoche connected for his second consecutive single to center to drive in the tying run. Xavier Nady drove in the final run of the inning with a sacrifice fly to right that pushed his team-leading RBI total to 35.

Our record now sits at 21-22. It seems that the baseball Gods do not want us to eclipse .500!


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Dallas Makes It Interesting

For the second game in a row, and the first time in Detroit this series, Dallas wins to survive another day. Dallas is trying to do what only two other teams in NHL history has completed. A comeback from three games to none. Also, for the second game in a row, the Stars held the Redwings to just one goal. It will be really interesting if Dallas can pull off a surprise in game 6 as well.

We Will See!


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Time for the Knockout Blow!

It is time for the Pens to put the nail in the coffin. We need to show the league that we are ready for the Stanley Cup Finals. We need to show that we are capable of doing what we set out to do. We need to show that are offense is what we all have seen and our defense is as solid as they have displayed in the playoffs. We need to show the Red Wings that they have something to fear when we get there. We need to prove all the commentators wrong by winning convincingly. The commentators are saying the East doesn't have a chance. We need a showing to prove otherwise.

Let's Go Pens!


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16 May 2008

Vote! MLB AllStar Game

You Know Who To Vote For!


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Mike Lange

You have to listen to this!
Our favorite Mike Lange!

To: Penguins Fans

We feel that FOX Sports Net made a terrible move in firing long time Pittsburgh Penguins announcer Mike Lange. Mike is one of the most talented announcers in the history of NHL hockey. Nobody but can match the energy that Mike Lange brings to the Penguins broadcasts. We feel that this firing should be reversed. This is a HUGE loss for not only Pittsburgh, but for long time Pittsburgh Penguins fans!


The Undersigned

Mike Lange

We all need to vote! Tell All Your Friends!

This might give you an idea what is at stake.


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Pens lose to the lowly Flyers

Let me start by saying that I still believe that the Pens will beat the Flyers.
Now, with that said, I'd like to chastise everyone, including all the Pittsburgh sports media, for counting their chickens before they have hatched.

Let's face it, other than a few questionable efforts this spring, the Pens have had it quite easy. While they have been playing very well, they've gotten several lucky bounces to end up in the back of the net. The puck that bounced off someone and landed behind Lundqvist to get the comeback started against NY, the one in overtime against NY that skipped off a few players only to wind up on Hossa's stick, Crosby's opening goal in game 2; the list goes on. Granted, you need good bounces to win in the playoffs, but they've managed to get away with a few lackluster efforts and chalk up some wins.

Call me a cynic. But if they think they can beat Philly and march into Detroit playing lazily and getting lucky, they've got another thing coming. Not to state that old "give 110%" cliche, but if they go play like we all know they can, they can beat Philly AND Detroit.

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14 May 2008

If You Are Superstitious...Don't Read!

I look at this and it puts things into perspective.


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Pens Blow the Sweep....Still Lead 3-1

Well, this sucks. We have another chance to put a team away and we let them run all over us. The good news about this whole event is that we can win the series at home where we are a franchise-record 7-0. Our fans make the Mellon Arena incredibly hard to play at. One other aspect of this game I loved was the possessed play of Jordan Staal. Unfortunately it took two periods to get anyone rolling. If he is playing for his Granpa, his Granpa should be extremely proud. Let's hope he keeps this rolling into next game! Read above at what my cousin had to say... he is right on about it all!Here are the game stats for the Pens:

So, they said that we were going to lose in Philly just because of the fans, eh? Looks like they underestimated our talent and will to win. They came out in all the orange you can stand. They came out and made as much noise as humanly possible until...BAM! BAM! down 2-0 shortly after 7:40 of the first period. They managed to get their only goal on a lucky shot by Umberger. After that, that was all she wrote. They tried everything. They even tried Downie and...OOPS! Another giveaway, another game down the tubes for the Flyers. Now they are down three games to none. Only two teams have ever came back from a 3-0 series record. Granted, one was the Islanders (Thanks Chris for the correction!) against the Penguins, but I don't see this happening this year. Look at our record for God's sake! At 11-1, we are one of five teams in history to accomplish this playoff record. Unfortunately, two of the other four did not win the cup. Hopefully we don't fall into that scheme. Although, the Red Wings are playing pretty good right now too. That is going to be one heck of a series!

Well...the same score, but a different way. I thought we were flat for quite a bit during this game, but we turned it on when it counted. We had a goal disallowed, which I will address in a few seconds, we had some questionable things that I thought were negative that we did and some positive as well. As far as the goal disallowed... I don't think the judges took into the fact that the best camera angle from inside the net was at a different angle proving that this goal was in. Oh well. I guess it doesn't matter now. They probably knew that we would more than likely score enough to overcome this non-goal. Now, the negatives...we were flat in the second. It looked like we had no fire. We had no desire. Luckily we must have heard an earful in the intermission. They came out flying in the third. None other than Mad Max scored the winner. It makes the move to replace Hall with Talbot look genius. He gave us the spark we needed. As far as the positives, I already mentioned one, Max Talbot, but the other thing I loved to see was none other than Sidney Crosby on fire once again. He scored the opener and assisted on the final empty net goal. He is now tied with Evgeni Malkin for the playoff league lead. I am loving this. We might have a chance to see Sid and Geno clicking on all cylinders in the same game...finally! Here are the Pens game stats for this game. They are improved from last game. Oh, one final note, Jordan Staal is looking like a genius on key faceoffs. I know eveyone has complained about his non-scoring, but he is perfect for this team and a vital part of it.

I forgot to add this...Hell Yeah!

This is what I wrote for Game 1:

Well...convincing win. Honestly, that was pretty ridiculous. I thought the Flyers were going to dress for the whole game, but they apparently sent their wives out for the last two periods. I mean we were holding back for 30 minutes of the game and still grabbed four. We made their defense look like Swiss cheese and Biron look like Price. I am going to assume that the Flyers will try to come back more organized for game two, but I am not guaranteeing anything. I think they were trying to figure out what they were going to do with Timmonen out, but never finished their thought. I am not entirely sure when they will either. I think if the Flyers don't show up on Sunday and make it a close loss, they don't have a prayer of getting back in the series. They need a split. I am going to say that the Flyers will not be able to pull it together for game two and the Pens will win easily again. I think the only major different statswise will be PIM and hits. I think the Flyers will rack them up and we will rack up the PP goals.

I will throw some stats out now:


Staal: 11 for 20 = 55%
Malone: 1 for 1 = 100%
Malkin: 4 for 9 = 44%
Hall: 2 for 6 = 33%
Crosby: 9 for 18 = 50%

As you can tell from these, we were under 50% in the faceoff circle. I believe we would have a much easier time winning if we could tip this over 50% more often. I love how we can win without faceoff wins, but it might come out to bite us in the ass later on. I don't like this idea. I will finish this off by showing more numbers. I am all about the numbers because it tells the story of the game...well, somewhat.


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12 May 2008

Dallas Solves Osgood

Dallas has finally solved Chris Osgood. No other team so far in the playoffs has figured him out yet, until now. Is this a sign of things to come? Who knows. It is a psychological boost for the Stars as well as the Penguins who are on the brink of eliminating the Flyers. It is known now that Osgood can lose. Who knows what's next?

Fast Facts

• Stars goalie Marty Turco improved his career record vs. Detroit to 3-13-5.

• Brenden Morrow has 15 points in 16 playoff games this season.

• The Detroit-bound Stars' franchise has lost its last 10 postseason games at Joe Louis Arena, dating back to the 1992 playoffs.

-- ESPN Research


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Pirates are 9-5 so far this month!

Finally! A winning record is on our radar!

The Pirates are now an amazing (well, for the Pirates anyhow) 20-21. They go into Wrigley today to see if they can improve their record for the month of May. Unfortunately, they have had a tough time against the Cubbies this season. Hopefully, we can turn it around tonight. They seem to be getting key hits at the right times. I feel they are weathering their injuries fairly well. I would love to see us pull above .500 this far into the season. We will see though!

Maholm has chance to end road woes

ST. LOUIS -- They say things are always better at home. You know, comforts such as mom's cooking and sleeping in your own bed.

Add Paul Maholm's results to that list.

Maholm's numbers on the road compared to his home stats this season have been like night and day.

One has been superb. The other, leaving much left to be desired.

As Maholm looks to seal a third consecutive series win for the Bucs, he'll also be trying to buck a trend of dismal road performances. His last road win came on Aug. 23 of last season, even though he has made five road starts since then. Maholm's numbers during that span are not impressive: The lefty has lasted just 19 2/3 innings and allowed 32 earned runs.

This season, Maholm has dropped all three road starts, accounting for all of his losses. Contrasting to the 9.60 ERA Maholm has on the road this season is his 2-0 record and 2.05 ERA at home. Opponents are hitting .394 against him on the road, while they have hit below the Mendoza line (.200) in Maholm's starts at PNC Park.

While Maholm knows that he needs to develop more consistency on the road, he has insisted all season that his road results are bound to change and don't have anything to do with a change in approach.

Maholm will look to limit his pitch count, a problem that has plagued him in each of his road starts this season. And he'll look to limit the damage early -- he has allowed five and six runs, respectively, in the first two inning of each of his past two starts.

Maholm has never made a start in the Cardinals' home park. In four career starts against St. Louis, however, Maholm has allowed just six earned runs over 23 2/3 innings.

While the lefty will be trying to break his own personal road losing streak, he'll also be looking to continue a stellar streak of starting pitching by the Pirates over the past week.

The team's 7-1 record over the past eight games has been fueled by its starters. Not including a spot start by John Van Benschoten on Monday, Pirates starters are a combined 5-1 with a 3.47 ERA during that span.

Pitching matchup
PIT: LHP Paul Maholm (2-3, 4.79 ERA)
If Maholm hadn't tried an unwise defensive play in his last start, he may well have finished six innings of work without giving up a run. Instead, his attempt to try to snag a grounder led to four Giants runs in and a no-decision for Maholm. The lefty ran up a high pitch count early, but retired the last seven hitters he faced and did well in keeping the ball down. Maholm is 1-2 with a 2.28 ERA in three starts against St. Louis.

STL: RHP Todd Wellemeyer (3-1, 3.56 ERA)
Wellemeyer deserved better after allowing only a pair of unearned runs in six solid innings Friday in Milwaukee, but Isringhausen blew his fifth save with two outs in the ninth, and Milwaukee rallied for a victory.

Well, We Lost...Doesn't Mean We Have To Like It!

Well, Van Benschoten sent to Triple-A because of this game. Check out the link attached to the title. It looked like Hudson had our number that whole second game like Duke had the Braves in the first game.

Fast Facts

• The Braves avoided being swept by the Pirates for the first time since Sept. 1-3, 1978.

• Pittsburgh snapped its longest winning streak since taking 10 straight from June 25-July 5, 2004. The Pirates had won six in a row.

• The Braves, who own the majors' worst road record at 5-14, put an end to their seven-game road skid.

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates boarded a flight to St. Louis on the heels of an 8-1 loss to the Braves in the second game of a doubleheader on Monday, but there was no sour taste left by how this most recent homestand ended.

"It's not a bad ending," said Adam LaRoche, whose two-run homer in Game 1 helped to seal the Pirates' 5-0 win in that game. "This just happened to be the last one before we leave. All in all, it was a great homestand. They weren't really lucky wins. I think we outplayed them."

Trying to cap off a perfect homestand with a sweep of the Braves, John Van Benschoten couldn't mirror the success of the Pirates' starters over the past week. And when he stumbled early, so did the Pirates.

However, looking past Van Benschoten's struggles, the Pirates couldn't be more content with how this seven-game stretch played out.

It started with a sweep of the struggling Giants, a club not expected to do much this season. But winning the first three in a four-game series against perennial contenders, the Braves, did more than just up the total in the win column. After skidding to three losses against the Nationals, this pick-me-up has the Pirates believing that they have the potential to compete with the best.

"They are obviously a very respected team," LaRoche added. "So, to come in and take three out of four is a big step for us."

When Monday's Game 1 win gave the Pirates a six-game winning streak -- the longest for the team since it reeled off 10 consecutive wins back in 2004 -- they saw themselves back at just one game under .500 for the first time since April 18.

"It was a great homestand for us," manager John Russell said. "We feel pretty good about how we're playing the game, and we realize that if we get all the pieces working together we're a pretty good ballclub.

Added Jason Bay: "That was a big series for us. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, we're going to go as far as our pitchers take us."

In those six wins, Pirates starters posted a 4-0 record and a 2.29 ERA. They averaged nearly 6 2/3 innings per start.

Unfortunately for the Pirates, however, Van Benschoten wasn't able to take advantage of his chance to make a new impression in front of a new management. His spot start didn't go as smoothly as he had hoped and neither did the aftermath, which saw Van Benschoten optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis rather than joining the club on the plane to St. Louis.

The Pirates had won Game 1 hours earlier behind six scoreless innings from Zach Duke and a clutch two-out, three-run double by Freddy Sanchez. Van Benschoten then ran into an Atlanta team poised to break out of an offensive funk.

The Pittsburgh righty had pitched exclusively out of the bullpen since being called up on April 27. However, he took the mound not having seen any game time since May 3.

But Van Benschoten didn't attribute his final line score -- four-plus innings, six earned runs, nine hits -- to the long layoff.

"If you don't pitch for eight or nine days, that shouldn't matter," he said. "You should prepare yourself to pitch. For the most part, I think I was prepared. Just toward the end I think I fell off."

For the first three innings, it looked as if the newfound aggressiveness and confidence that Russell lauded Van Benschoten for prior to the game was going to make a difference. The right-hander's pitches were consistently around the strike zone. He threw a first-pitch ball to just three of the 12 hitters he'd face in those first three frames.

"My pitches were down and everything was rolling around well," he said.

"I thought he threw the ball well," Russell added.

But the Braves were due to break out of their slump. They scored their first run in 20 innings in the third before Van Benschoten -- and the Pirates' defense -- allowed two more the following inning to spot Atlanta a two-run lead.

An error by Doug Mientkiewicz at third helped the Atlanta cause and marked the fifth of what would be six errors on the afternoon for the Pirates. All six would be committed by someone different, including three different errors by three different Pirates third baseman.

Van Benschoten would be chased the following inning, with a three-run Brian McCann homer marking the biggest blow.

"I think the last few innings the ball was just getting up," said Van Benschoten, who is winless in his 10 starts over the past year.

To Tim Hudson's credit, Van Benschoten would have had to have been near perfect to match the Atlanta ace, who now has six wins on the season. The Bucs benefited from a fielding error to score once in the first, but would connect for just one more hit off Hudson in his seven innings of work.

"He was phenomenal," Russell said. "He changed speeds. He kept us off the plate. He kept us off balance the whole game."

Despite the loss, the Pirates finished their season series against Atlanta with a 5-2 record and upped their record at PNC Park to 12-8.

Game 1 of the doubleheader....

PITTSBURGH -- Even a rainout on Sunday couldn't halt a streaking Pirates team that used another strong starting pitching performance to reel off its sixth straight win, this one 5-0 over the Braves in Game 1 of a doubleheader at PNC Park on Monday afternoon.

Not only did the victory extend the team's season-best winning streak, but it also moved the Pirates to 7-0 in their last seven home games and to 5-1 against Atlanta this season. The Pirates will be looking for their third sweep of the season if they can take one more from the Braves in the second game of Monday's twin bill.

Zach Duke picked up the win and continues to sizzle in May. He finished with a six-inning quality start for the third time already this month. It wouldn't be the left-hander's most dominant performance, but, despite scattering five walks and five hits, Duke allowed only one Atlanta baserunner to reach third all afternoon. He would strand 10 Braves on base by the end of his day.

"He's keeping the ball down," manager John Russell said. "He's getting a lot more groundballs. That's the type of pitcher he is."

With the win, Duke notched back-to-back victories for the first time since Sept. 11 and 17, 2006.

"Pitch-quality is the difference," Duke said. "They are quality pitches. They have life to them. The sinker is on right now."

With Duke locked in a scoreless pitchers' duel through five, the Pirates offense took advantage of some uncharacteristic wildness by Atlanta starter Jair Jurrjens to take the lead in the sixth.

Right fielder Jason Michaels drew a five-pitch walk to start the inning, before Adam LaRoche hit a shallow popup that dropped just in front of Atlanta outfielder Matt Diaz. After runners advanced on a sacrifice bunt, Brian Bixler took a ball off his name on the back of his jersey to load the bases.

Jurrjens battled back from a 3-0 count to strike out Duke, but wouldn't have similar success against Freddy Sanchez. Sanchez sliced a bases-clearing double into the right-field corner to give the Pirates a lead that the pitching staff would not relinquish.

"That was huge," Duke said. "That was the difference maker. He's steady Freddy. That's what he does."

With the hit, Sanchez moved to 3-for-5 with eight RBIs on the season when hitting with the bases loaded. He is also 10-for-24 with eight RBIs since moving to the leadoff spot, a move that coincides with the beginning of the team's winning streak.

Adam LaRoche would extend that lead with a two-run homer to right in the eighth off Atlanta reliever Manny Acosta.

The Pirates did snap their six-game errorless streak, however, as they finished the game with four different players making errors. Michaels' fifth-inning error was the first of the now Major League-leading 36 team errors that has been committed by an outfielder.

Inching our way to .500! I would love to see it again outside the first week of the year!


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Baby Pens Are In The Conference Finals!


WILKES-BARRE, PA – A strong third period wasn’t enough to overcome a slow start, as the Portland Pirates posted a 3-2 win against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals on Thursday night at the Wachovia Arena at Casey Plaza.

The Pirates’ victory evened the best of seven series at one game apiece, with the next three games slated for Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

AHL All-Star Bobby Ryan netted two goals for the visitors, who snapped the Pens’ postseason winning streak at five games.

“We didn’t help ourselves in the first 40 minutes. They created a lot of momentum, got up by a couple of goals. We battled back but it was just one too many,” said head coach Todd Richards.

Pens’ captain Nathan Smith – who scored a pair of goals himself on Thursday - concurred with the coach’s assessment.

“They carried the play the first and second period, and that probably ended up being the difference in the game,” he said.

Portland came out strong in the opening period, controlling play in the Penguins end and peppering John Curry with 11 shots to just four by the hosts. The rookie netminder held the Pirates at bay until the 9:49 mark of the second frame.

With Ryan Stone off for goaltender interference, Andrew Ebbett tipped a Brian Salcido point shot that found the back of the net, snapping Curry’s shutout streak at just over 122 minutes.

Four minutes later, Ryan extended the lead to 2-0 with a great individual effort that saw Portland’s leading scorer deke Curry for his sixth goal of the postseason.

Smith got the Pens on the board shortly before intermission, taking a back door pass from Luca Caputi and redirecting the puck underneath the crossbar. That led to an all-out assault by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the third period, which saw the Penguins outshoot the Pirates 16-2.

However Ryan notched his second of the night – this one on the power play – with less than five minutes to play, before Smith countered with a power play tally of his own less than two minutes later.

“For 40 minutes they were clearly the better team. They were winning the races to loose pucks and there was a lot of motion in the offensive zone and in their D-zone, we ended up chasing a lot of times,” said Richards. “The goal at the end of the second kind of energized us a little bit. We got some life in the third, we got great opportunities to score. We gave up the power play goal, but our power play comes back and answers and gives us a chance in the final two and a half minutes or so.”

“The game kind of takes a different shape when they’re up and trying to protect a lead, and obviously we are trying to do everything we can to score a goal,” commented Smith. “Having said that I think that we did a lot better job of getting on pucks and things like that, we generated some chances. And that’s what we have to do early in Game Three. We have to get pucks behind their D, get a good forecheck going, and create some havoc down there and create some traffic in front of their goalie.”


WILKES-BARRE, PA – Dave Gove scored with less than seven minutes to play, and John Curry made 19 saves for his first career playoff shutout, as the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins posted a 2-0 win against the Portland Pirates in Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals on Wednesday night. Game Two takes place at the Wachovia Arena on Thursday night at 7:05pm.

The combatants spent most of the first two periods feeling each other out, as the clubs combined for 25 shots through 40 minutes of play. The best scoring chance of that time period came when Nathan Smith dinged a shot off the cross bar during a shorthanded two on one early in the first period.

Things started to open up a bit for the Pirates in the third, as the visitors controlled play in the Penguins’ zone for several minutes, forcing head coach Todd Richards to call a timeout to rally the troops.

“I didn’t like the way we managed the puck in the third, early in the third. Some turnovers, we weren’t able to execute, didn’t get pucks out,” said Richards. “But the guys battled and found a way to win. John Curry made some big saves, and again we had guys paying the price, blocking shots, diving in front of those pucks to try to get a piece of it.”

Those efforts paid off when Gove squeaked a shot between Jean-Sebastien Aubin’s pads during a scramble in front of the Portland net with 6:57 to play.

“[Ryan Stone] got the puck behind the net. I saw him look at me and I just went to the net,” said Gove, who picked up his second goal of the playoffs. “First shot wasn’t the shot I wanted to get off, but it came right back to me. I was able to put it on my backhand. It had eyes and went to the net, it was a garbage goal that went right through his legs, but we’ll take it.”

Ryan Lannon made sure the victory was in the Pens’ pocket with a looping empty net tally from about 150 feet.

“Lannon, he’s like a putter playing golf out there. I think he read the green right and it was a sharp break, right to left, and he got it to go in,” laughed Richards.

“I was just trying to get the puck out. I was on my backhand and I was just trying to get it as high and hard off the glass as I could. It started off going straight down the ice, then I don’t know if it hit a bump of something and started curving,” Lannon said. “It was nice to score, but at that point I think the game was over.”

Curry was solid in net, recording the first Penguins shutout since April 25, 2006 against Bridgeport.

“It’s not easy for a goaltender to go through a game and not get a lot of action,” said Richards. “They did have traffic, so he had to be on top of his game there.”

NOTES: The game was delayed about 15 minutes when referee Francois St. Laurent suffered a leg injury early in the first period. Dean Morton, who is scheduled to call Game Two, was in the arena and suited up to fill in.

Here is the AHL bracket:

Can you believe this? Penguin hockey can almost not get any better. Check out the similarities between the big club and the little one... The leading scorers in the NHL are Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby with 17 points, the AHL leading scorer is Tim Brent with 17 points. The big club is 10-1 so far and the little club is 8-2. They beat the Hershey Bears (Colorado Avalanche affiliate) four games to one and the Philadelphia Phantoms (Philadelphia Flyers affiliate) four games to one. The big club beat the Ottawa Senators four games to none and the New York Rangers four games to one. We are in the process of shutting down the Philadelphia Flyers and the series is at two game to none Pens. The Baby Pens have a hot goalie in John Curry who has a GAA of 2.48 and a save% of .911. Fleury of the Big Pens has a GAA of 1.80 and a save% of .937. Oh, and one more thing to add to the eeriness... The Baby Pens finished the season first in the Eastern Conference with a record of 47-26-7 for 101 points, the Big Pens finished the season second in the Eastern Conference with a record of 47-27-8 for 102 points.

LET'S GO PENS! Both of them....


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09 May 2008


Intrigued L.T. glad to see Patriots ensnared in Spygate
By Mike Freeman
CBSSports.com National Columnist

San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson has long been correctly viewed as one of the true good guys in sports. He is also, in many ways, one of the NFL's statesmen, so what he told CBSSports.com in an interview Thursday about the apparent conclusion of Spygate just might raise a few eyebrows.

It was Tomlinson last season who stated after the New England taping scandal first broke that the Patriots live by the saying: If you're not cheating, you're not trying.

Monday, Tomlinson admitted he had been following the case closely and added it was important that the Patriots were caught and their taping system stopped.

If they weren't, Tomlinson said, the team likely would have continued its spying and "who knows what would have happened or how they would have benefited?"

"I really wanted to see what happened with (Matt) Walsh," said Tomlinson, who is promoting the Gatorade Tiger Moonshot Challenge. "Initially I thought he had some different evidence. But it wasn't the case.

"I think there are always going to be people who look for an advantage. The Patriots were trying to get an edge. It's just great that they got caught."

To be clear, Tomlinson wasn't gloating, he was simply answering questions. But he is also highly opinionated on the subject and didn't hesitate in sharing those thoughts.

You have to love him for that (unless you're a Patriots fan). He's as fearless off the field as he is on it.

There's also no question that the Chargers and Patriots have developed into one of football's most entertaining and increasingly bitter rivalries. In a divisional playoff game several years ago, Patriots players, on the Chargers' home turf, mocked Shawne Merriman's sack dance, angering Tomlinson and other Chargers. San Diego linebacker Shaun Phillips called the Patriots "classless."

"I was very upset," Tomlinson said at the time. "They showed no class at all, absolutely no class, and maybe it comes from their head coach."

Tomlinson would later reconcile with Bill Belichick at the Pro Bowl.

Tomlinson's latest words might -- just might -- add to the bad blood.

Tomlinson isn't alone in being intrigued about Spygate. Several NFL players interviewed this week stated they had been following the case closely and offered all kinds of opinions on the subject.

Conspiracy theories and Spygate chat is apparently occurring inside NFL locker rooms as much as it is among the general public.

Tomlinson said Spygate was and remains a constant topic among the Chargers. "We talk about it all the time," he said. "If we're talking about it then you know other teams are talking about it. They're talking about this in NBA locker rooms. It's being talked about all over sports."

What surprised Tomlinson the most about New England's taping?

"I was shocked at the extent teams try to get an advantage," he said. "I had no idea it was like that."

Tomlinson said he has fully recovered from a severely sprained knee suffered at the end of last season.

"I'm running and cutting and everything is good," he said. "I'm ready to go."

Ok, here is my take on all this crap. I know they can't take away championships...well, they can, but they won't....I believe everything from the year 2000 on should have an asterisk. Now I know it isn't the players fault, but people are not stupid. I think they had to know something, just didn't ask questions. I figure all the coaching staff knew. Just too many people in the organization. Belichick claims that he didn't interpret the rules the way Roger Goodell did. What do we all believe? Well, the way I see it, Good ole' Bill had to realize this was a bunch of crap. He went from blowing in Cleveland to blowing in New England to blowing in New York to all of a sudden a genius in New England (once again). How does one become a genius overnight? By cheating, of course! I really hate how this all turned out... and this was before I found out about those asses taping the Steelers. I don't know what to think now. I really don't think the commish is going to punish any further. Is it right? I don't think so. We as fans can't do anything about it, but complaing about it for the next ten years.


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07 May 2008


I believe this was a very good draft for this year. I like the fact we picked up a big running back in Mendenhall as well as a tall receiver in Sweed. I know alot of people are complaining that we needed lineman. I feel that for this season, we will be alright with who we have. I believe that next year we may run into problems, but that is a whole season away. We will worry about that next year. I think that the schedule that we have this year demands some quick fixes. I think we accomplished just that. I believe in our system.


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I just want to pose a question to see what other people think...

Are the Pirates a better club than the last few years?


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Penguins/Flyers Matchup

This is a very intricate breakdown of the matchup (if you like gambling):


Offense: With the top two lines of the Penguins being centered by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, I don't believe that any team in the playoffs have a 1-2 punch as skilled as the Penguins. The Flyers have a couple guys that are playing hot right now in RJ Umberger and Daniel Briere, but they will not be enough to overcome the Pens' high flying offense.

Advantage: Penguins

I look at the defenses on both these teams and I see alot of strengths. I also see alot of weaknesses. How each team overcomes their weaknesses will determine the series.

Advantage: Even

Special Teams:
I see a significant difference in skill level in this field. I feel the level of competition in the second round displayed this difference. The Flyers may have a slightly higher power-play percentage, however, they faced a goaltender that was letting in one or two extremely soft goals in each game. The Pens faced the #1 defense in the East this season and were very successful on the power-play. I believe that the numbers do not display the talent and the Penguins will prevail on special teams.


I believe both goaltenders are playing extremely well right now. I believe both goaltenders didn't face a great offense in the last round purely because the defense played that well.


I believe both coaches have about the same level of experience at this point in time. How they handle the aggressiveness as the series goes on will be significant.


Prediction: Penguins in Six


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