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Morning Java: Who’s your key to Game 4?

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

OTTAWA — Morning, Lunatics …

>> The Wednesday column compares the Penguins to a molecule and other such weirdness, but it also has some pretty candid talk from mega-intense Kris Letang.

Welcome your feedback, as always, but I’d also like to ask: Which player is your key to Game 4?

And to extrapolate a bit, let’s go a bit past Tomas Vokoun here. That’s obvious.

>> Here’s our full team coverage from practice yesterday, by Rob Rossi and Josh Yohe.

One of those pieces is about the imminent return of Jussi Jokinen, interviewed right here …

>> If you missed my follow-up interviews off the Tuesday column about Jarome Iginla and Dan Bylsma’s usage of Iginla, the videos of my questions yesterday afternoon are right here.

>> My TribLIVE Radio show podcast yesterday included discussion of the power play, of the Pirates’ challenge in reining in A.J. Burnett and of the Steelers’ challenging in weighing LaMarr Woodley.

>> Travis Snider’s grand slam and Jason Grilli’s 35-pitch save carry the Pirates past the Cubs. Rob Biertempfel reports from PNC Park.

>> Farewell to Max Starks, total class act and a big — literally — part of the Steelers’ success the past decade. He’s bolting for the Bolts.

>> Mike Tomlin’s message to the Steelers on first day of OTAs: Shut up. Alan Robinson reports.

Author: Dejan Kovacevic

Dejan Kovacevic, a lifelong Pittsburgher, is an award-winning sports columnist for Trib Total Media covering the Steelers, Penguins, Pirates, Pitt and more, including his fourth Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He also appears on WPXI-TV's 'Subway Final Word’ and hosts a weekly show on TribLIVE Radio. For 2011, he was named one of the top four columnists in the country -- highest circulation category -- by the AP Sports Editors. For 2012, he was named one of the top three columnists in the country by the National Headliners Awards. For 2013, he was named top columnist in the state by the Keystone Awards and second-place by the Pennsylvania AP Managing Editors.

274 Comments

  1. Pascal Du-pweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

    When Duper is on his game, and burying pucks, good things happen.
    We know Sid, Malkin, Vokoun will be themselves……….. Duper is the key.

    • Glad to see Snider hit that GS. He is much maligned, and I am guilty of that also, but he is trying to improve.

      Also, fond farewell to Max Starks………. the Steelers most consistent tackle the past 4 years. May he have great success, except when he plays us. Good Luck to him.

    • Agreed. In all the hand-wringing over the Alfredsson tying goal, I never noticed anyone questioning why Duper wasn’t on the ice in the final minute.

  2. I think maybe Jussi Jokinen gives the Pens a lift.

    Now if you were asking the most unlikely key… Brenden Sutter!

    Haven’t read the article yet; I will in a little bit. I don’t think Letang should be entitled to the point on the PP. I loved those rockets from Iginla at the end of the regular season, I also get Dan’s point that when the Sens are rushing the points on the PK, Chris has a far better chance to get back on D. The point (no pun intended) of the PP is to score,not to prevent the other team from scoring.

    Trust your stars Dan

    Stuart

  3. Nice Wednesday column. I like the attitude of the players you spoke with, and if this last loss motivates them to greater heights, then we will be better off for it in the long run. Looking on the bright side, if we had won Game 3, maybe we then come out flat and lose Game 4 thinking we can cruise to the Conference Finals, and we don’t learn the valuable lesson although being in the same position should we win on Wednesday. So if this is the kick in the rear we needed to move forward, solve some of our ills and get everyone refocused, then all the better. Like I said, just keeping it positive . . .

    • . . . oh yeah, although never a huge fan, in the spirit of keeping it all positive, I am going with TK for Game 4.

  4. James Neal is the key. When this guy can score, it can come in bunches, and while he is def playing injured, he become a liability of sorts when he is not able to put the puck in the net.

    DK: I wouldn’t agree about the liability part, Clint — he’s pretty sound defensively — but I will share your choice of player.

  5. On the PP (and your podcast), Sid, Malkin and Martin should be the givens. Beyond that, I am fine with either Neal (given his PP history) or Iginla (given his performance at end of season) on the left dot. If Neal is the pick, then Kunitz as the net front presence. If Iginla on the left dot, then either Kunitz (first choice) or Neal as the net front presence.

  6. Ill go with Brooks Orpik. I think he’s had a bit of a rough season, but the team needs to follow his lead and just play smart. Can’t let the ending of period 3 Sunday bother you. Just keep on rolling and get traffic in front of Anderson.

  7. Disco Dan since he lost game 3 by putting the wrong players out at the wrong time thereby singlehandly losing the game. He needs to make up for that brain fart.

    DK: Hey, anyone seeking to add an avatar, it’s super-easy, and it even carries over to other sites. It’s at gravatar.com

  8. Some think Clint Hurdle is all glibness, no game-management skills. Others take a more nuanced view, criticizing some of his moves, nodding at others. I happen to think he’s just the right man at the right time for this job. The 2013 Pirates truly run the gamut from experienced vets to wet-behind-ears-kids. The team started the season with a large number of unknowns to figure out. (What does Russell Martin have left? Who will be our 3rd starter? Our 4th? 5th? Right field? Where does Garrett Jones fit in? Can Jason Grilli handle the closer’s job? And on and on.)

    I think Hurdle is figuring out things and putting the puzzle pieces together quite deftly. It would appear he is striking the right tone with his wide variety of players. Not to discount how dramatically the players themselves have risen to the occasion, but from arguing that call on Sunday, to his pregame chat about “situations” which had Travis Snider relaxed when he was adroitly inserted to pinch hit — Hurdle is getting it right and getting results out of all these ‘unknowns.’

    • Hurdle has improved, like many of the players. No reason he couldn’t get better. He’s been at it long enough. Just because he’s only had that one winning season. Last season could have been, should have been and would have been if DK hadn’t “absolute locked” it.

      He’s been to the WS as a manager and a coach and he’s young enough to manage many more years if he wants to.

      The above message brought to you by the Clint Hurdle Fan Club, Bob Hasis, President.

      • I am a Clint Hurdle Fan Club member and I endorse this message

      • Clint is the best Bucco manager since James Leyland. Yeah, he makes mistakes and so does everyone else. Clint is as good as his pitching staff. The starters must go deeper in the games. What is nice is the Bucs have Karstens, Morton, & Cole to help out when the current pitching breaks down. We haven’t had that luxury in years. Note I didn’t mention JMac as a candidate to help out. He needs to either be traded or DFA’d.

        • I think Clint has improved quite a bit this year, and I have not been real high on him in the past. Heck, he even uses his best relievers in tie games now!

          However, I think you must admit that being the best Bucs skipper since Jim Leyland is not exactly a high bar to leap over.

        • Good to see you, Gunner.

          Morton pitched last night for Altoona was the LP. Didn’t pitch extremely well or poorly. 4.2 innings, 80 pitches. 2 runs, 4 hits, 2 W, 3 K’s. Getting there.

          • Lucky………..I am not a big Morton fan but, he is a better fallback than guys like Brian Burres, Dana Eveland as well as some of the other broken down palookas that have passed thru PNC. Burres and Eveland are the only 2 names I can remember.

  9. Key to Game 4? Easy, Bylsma. Make the adjustments you need to make. Now.

  10. I went to bed with the Pirates losing.

    Woke to find a dramatic win.

    Then read the end of the game thread. Everyone wishing everybody else Nitey-Nites.

    Oy.

    Good thing I went to bed early.

    I don’t do Nice.

  11. Thank you for your service Max….we will miss you !!

  12. Dejan,

    First off, thanks for the blog, chat, tweets, columns, etc…appreciate your outreach. I know I’m in the minority but I don’t have a big problem with the lines. Is is possible that Kunitz with Sid and Dupuis improves the ability to cycle and forecheck and maintain possession time, thus keeping the game from getting too freewheeling? Seems more wide open otherwise and maybe its part of the defensive mind set strategy?

  13. James Neal. At different parts of the post-season you’ll see different lines clicking and producing. Granted Malkin has been racking up points, but James Neal hasn’t. A goal or 2 from him 5 v 5 is enough to ignite that line to make them absolutely lethal every time they are on the ice.

  14. Check out RB Pirate Notebook from yesterday. The Bucs are going to wear Penguin jerseys on the road trip.

    Funny quote from Snider

    “I thought about asking for a (Jaromir) Jagr jersey,” Snider said. “But then someone told me he’s not real popular around here anymore. I like him because he had that mullet and he’s still playing even though he’s almost 50 years old or whatever.”

    • LOL priceless!

    • I understand he did some things to p*ss off ‘burghers, but he’s still my favorite to pull on a Penguins sweater.

      Simply magical.

    • Are the Penguins even going to like that? I keep reading and hearing that the Steelers and Penguins are BFFs, but the Pirates are shunned by the other two franchises for “just not getting it.”

      • Must be why Sid and the rest of the Penguins took the cup to PNC Park a few years back…

        • I agree, Paperboy. I was saying that sarcastically. Sid & the boys seemed to love hitting at PNC, especially when he launched the first pitch he saw in BP most of the way up the stands above Roberto’s Wall.

  15. I wouldn’t pick a particular player, more an attitude/emotion….play with the focus, awareness and desperation that was stunningly absent in the last 30 secs of Game 3.

    If I had to pick a player, that kind of energy might come from a JV or TK….

  16. Penguins:
    Matt Cooke. He was one of the steadiest players, as the Trib reporters proclaimed previously.
    The fact that Cooke threw a hit that paved the way to a goal in an openly hostile environment speaks of his ability to focus during his shifts while he fulfills his role. It must be tough for Ottawa players and fans to watch him excel.

    Senators:
    Eric Karlsson. His “activate” button has been pushed. Uh-oh.

  17. We sucked at faceoffs, especially left circle…which I Jussi’s Jokinen’s forte. Get possession more often, good things will happen. Jokinen is my catalyst.
    That doesn’t downplay what a lot of other guys do for this team. Cooke, Duper, Vitale to name a few.

  18. JAL’s Mountain Music Morning Links

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qw9i-ixcrSA

    GENERAL DAILY UPDATED BASEBALL SITES

    1- MLB Transactions

    http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/transactions

    2-MLB Trade Rumors-Pirates
    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/pittsburgh_pirates/

    3 Go Buccos- Pirate News (from external sources)

    http://gobuccos.com/pittsburgh-pirate-news/

    4 Pittsburgh Pirates Stats

    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AsjN0zO-DxI0dHVOMzdPYm9wUEJtdVJ0WWUzVWhFc2c#gid=0

    BLOGS and such

    5—Pirates Prospects

    First Pitch: Jeff Locke and the Defense of FIP

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/05/first-pitch-jeff-locke-and-the-defense-of-fip.html

    Prospect Watch: Stetson Allie Homers Twice; Sands, Sanchez, and Herrera Also Homer

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/05/prospect-watch-stetson-allie-homers-twice-sands-sanchez-and-herrera-also-homer.html

    Travis Snider’s Grand Slam Lifts Pirates to 5-4 Win

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/05/travis-sniders-grand-slam-lifts-pirates-to-5-4-win.html

    Pirates Notebook: Jeff Karstens Talks Rehab, Role With Team

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/05/pirates-notebook-jeff-karstens-talks-rehab-role-with-team.html

    6 Bucs Dugout

    Travis Snider’s grand slam lifts Pirates to 5-4 win

    http://www.bucsdugout.com/2013/5/21/4354226/travis-sniders-grand-slam-lifts-pirates-to-5-4-win

    7 WHYGAVS

    Game 45: Pirates 5 Cubs 4

    http://www.whygavs.com/pittsburgh-pirates/may-2013/game-45-pirates-5-cubs-4.html

    8 The Green Weenie

    Snider’s Slam Drops Cubs 5-4

    http://oldbucs.blogspot.com/2013/05/sniders-slam-drops-cubs-5-4.html

    9 Rumbunter

    Which Pirates Deserve To Be All-Stars This Year?

    http://rumbunter.com/2013/05/21/which-pirates-deserve-to-be-all-stars-this-year/

    10 Raise the Jolly Roger

    Pirates 5, Cubs 4

    http://raisethejollyroger.com/2013/05/pirates-5-cubs-4/

    • Mountain Music Alabama 1982 Alabama was probably the most influential group in the move of country music into the mainstream.

  19. NEWSPAPERS and MAGAZINES and Other Media

    11 Chicago Tribune

    Cubs bullpen blows Garza’s excellent comeback

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/baseball/cubs/ct-spt-0522-cubs-pirates-chicago-20130522,0,2624730.story

    12 Rant Sports

    Matt Garza’s Flawless Start Ruined By Chicago Cubs Bullpen

    http://www.rantsports.com/mlb/2013/05/22/matt-garzas-flawless-start-ruined-by-chicago-cubs-bullpen/

    13 Conway Daily Sun

    Locke: ‘Every day is exciting’

    http://www.conwaydailysun.com/index.php/newsx/local-news/107203-locke-enjoying-curent-big-league-ride

    14 Pittsburgh Business Times

    What’s Citi Field got over PNC Park? Media buzz

    http://www.bizjournals.com/pittsburgh/blog/financial-district/2013/05/whats-citi-field-got-over-pnc-park.html

    KDKA

    MLB Analyst Sean Casey: Pirates’ Plan Coming Together

    http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2013/05/21/mlb-analyst-sean-casey-pirates-plan-coming-together/

    16 CBS Sports

    Cub Vs Pirates Game Preview

    http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/gametracker/preview/MLB_20130522_CHC@PIT

    17 Sweetspot

    Have Reds benefited from easy schedule?

    http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/36191/have-reds-benefited-from-easy-schedule
    18 PBC Site

    Snider’s pinch-hit grand slam lifts Bucs over Cubs

    http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2013_05_21_chnmlb_pitmlb_1&mode=recap_home&c_id=pit

    Notebook: McCutchen back in lineup after knee soreness

    http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20130521&content_id=48196430&notebook_id=48196434&vkey=notebook_pit&c_id=pit

    SPORTS WEBSITES

    19 Baseball Prospectus

    7 Baseball Firsts We Expect to See in Our Lifetimes

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=20629

    20 Fangraphs

    Baseball Will Surprise You — 5/20/13

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/baseball-will-surprise-you-52013/

  20. Steelers Blogs

    21 Behind the Steel Curtain

    Just how bad was the Steelers’ 2008 Draft?

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/latest-news/2013/5/21/4344866/steelers-nfl-draft-history-2008

    A small tribute to Ryan Clark: The “other” Steelers safety

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2013/5/21/4348034/steelers-depth-chart-safety-ryan-clark

    22 Steelers Depot

    - Reggie Dunn Has Yet to Master Catching Punts

    http://www.steelersdepot.com/2013/05/report-steelers-rookie-wr-reggie-dunn-has-yet-to-master-catching-punts/

    Soccer(football) Will T

    23 Daily Telegraph

    West Ham have £15 milllion bid for Andy Carroll accepted but striker keen to make his mark with Liverpool

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/liverpool/10072120/West-Ham-have-15-milllion-bid-for-Andy-Carroll-accepted-but-striker-keen-to-make-his-mark-with-Liverpool.html

    24 World Soccer Daily

    World Soccer Daily: 10 stories you need to read, 21st May, 2013

    http://www.worldsoccer.com/247/world-soccer-daily-10-stories-you-need-to-read-21st-may-2013

    PENGUIN BLOGS and NHL Links

    25 Pensburgh

    Pressure mounts on Dan Bylsma

    http://www.pensburgh.com/2013/5/21/4351464/jarome-iginla-pittsburgh-penguins-nhl-playoffs-dan-bylsma

    26 NHL

    Penguins, Neal not concerned with his lack of scoring

    http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=671560

    27 Ottawa Citizen

    Scanlan: Coaches adjust, adapt ahead of Game 4

    http://www.senatorsextra.com/main/coaches-adjust-adapt-toward-game-4-at-sbp

  21. Pirates win 6 of past 8.

    And drop from second to third, a half game behind the reds. To use hockey parlance, the Ps have a game in hand on the reds.

    But still.

    Also holding the second spot in the WC race. Different # of games played and time of the season make it kinda meaningless. But hey. Better than the alternative. Anybody remember 2010?

    • “Anybody remember 2010?”
      That was the year I had my hip surgery. (Actually, it wasn’t. Happened in 2011. But, you know, poetic license and all that. It’s been a while since I randomly blurted something out about my hip surgery.)

    • I think it is actually 9 of 11 when you add in the last 3 of the series at NYM, Drew. But, you’re right. This is not your older brother’s Central Division any more.

  22. Let’s talk strategy:
    In the 6th inning of last night’s game Clint knows that it is a critical point in the game. Sends up Snider to pinch hit for Barmes. Snider with the grand slam.
    And Barmes’s replacement also goes on to get 2 hits and doesn’t botch any plays in the field.

    Manager with the right moves and the players with the execution. I sure as heck don’t want another collapse but lets remember this if we have to do any finger-wagging at the end of the season.

    • I emphatically second this. Hurdle is the right man at the right time for the 2013 Buccos.
      (And now, I’m back off to bed. Only 4:30-ish in the morn, here. Going to try and steal a few more winks.)

    • Biz is gonna start a LunchBox Wagon…

    • He does have the magic touch right now. It still comes down to having the players come through. It sure makes a difference when you have players that have actually started at some point in their careers like Tabata, Snider, Jones, Gabby and Inge coming off of your bench instead of some washed up ready to retire cashing a check player. I know Inge fits the description I gave but the guy has always been a gamer that has given his all.

      I’m not sure what their pinch hitting batting average is but it seems like more often then not they have come up with a big hit. I can’t imagine that continuing but I’m going to enjoy it while it’s going on.

    • Start the wrong player so that the guy who should be playing can come off the bench.

      Just like they draw it up on the chalk board.

      • I happen to agree with you NMR

      • I was wondering that myself last night….isn’t that part of the platoon system to match lefties vs. righties? Oh well…it worked.

        • Sure did. Loved it. Made for great TV.

        • Clint obviously loves Gaby. Therefore, he exercises managerial discretion on the platoons vs. RHP with Gaby. That’s my take, anyway. He thinks of him as more than a 1/3 of the games starter. We’ll see how it plays out. Personally, I’m ok with Gaby just smoking LHPs when they start vs. the Bucs, and waiting to pinch hit late vs. a tough lefty if a RHP started against us.

  23. “-”It is what it is. It’s playoff hockey, and one of those things that if he was in that situation I probably wouldn’t have shoved him there. The way he plays, he plays a physical game, and I don’t expect anything less from him.” – Chris Neil on Brooks Orpik’s hit which injured Neil in the second overtime of Game 3.”

    Who is this a$$clown trying to kid?????!!!!?!?!?!

    • haha Brooksie dished back:
      Orpik did not have much to say.

      “He’s a guy who plays hard,” he said. “He’s a competitive guy. Everybody knows how he plays. He’s out there to agitate. I don’t have much to say about it. He gets away with a lot. Let’s put it that way.”

  24. The key to game 4 for me is Malkin. He dominated a good part of game 3 and is starting to make me less and less crazy as the playoffs roll on.

    Sorry to see Starks go. He’s a lot like Farrior in terms of notoriety. Never thought either got the credit they deserved. Starks contract situation was always strange.

    • The Steelers took Max for granted the last two seasons. I actually hope this move bites them in the butt…

      • Tomlin & Colbert always disrespected the guy, and then he would always bail them out at the last minute. Then, again, there have never been a lot of teams trying to sign him as a FA for some reason. I like him, though. Very durable.

        • Best thing that could happen is he plays so well, the Bolts want to keep him. I know they only signed him for a year,…but…

  25. I agree with Sarah that its more about attitude/focus.

    If I’m picking a player, I’ll go Malkin. Maybe he comes out on fire, still upset for the giveaway. He’s looked better and better in the playoffs. If he starts burying pucks, Pens gain hold on series again.

    I’ll qualify that with, I’ll take anyone’s “key”, Neal, Duper, Cooke, TK, Iginla. As long as Pens win, I’m ok with any hero.

    LET’S GO PENS!!!!

  26. Why did they choose Guy Whimper over Starks? Is it solely a cap issue?

  27. Hey, I see Stetson Allie hit two dingers last night.

    I’d like to see them move him up to Bradenton, see what he can do there

    • Very impressive indeed. How much longer does he have to keep hitting like this till he gets promoted?

      I know it would probably be best for him to stay down in Wheeling for the time being since he hasn’t hit since high school but he’s really kicking butt.

      • I think he’s like 22, so he’s a bit older for that league, heck, what do they have to lose?

        • I’m with you here…for most guys. Heck, I was just reading an article about the O’s promoting another top prospect straight from AA to the bigs. Guy had a higher ERA than Gerrit Cole before his last start. Anyways…

          I’ve seen Allie make huge mechanical adjustments over the last year. He still seems to struggle with consistency in that regard from a couple videos I’ve seen, which shouldn’t be a surprise given the relatively small number of reps. He’s also still really green when it comes to pitch selection and hitting breaking balls, so I hear.

          Guys like Polanco, Tailon – yes, push them. Guys like Allie and Josh Bell, I’m not so sure.

          • I thought it was interesting last night that the Cubs started Garza after him getting to 75 or so pitches in the minors while the PBC wants a pitcher to get to 100.

            Not criticizing them, just interesting as to the differences in philosophies between organizations. As you pointed out with the O’s promotion.

            Ok, lets compromise, how about a quick call up to High A for the last couple of weeks of this season?

            Sometimes a challenge can bring out more from a player ;-)

            • Biz, last season’s elbow injury played a part in holding him to limited pitches..per the Trib:

              It was Garza’s first big league start since July 21, when he went down with an elbow injury. Before the game, Cubs manager Dale Sveum said he would limit Garza to around 85 pitches.

              Read more: http://triblive.com/sports/pirates/bucsgalleries/4053492-74/pirates-garza-cubs#ixzz2U1qDRZbn
              Follow us: @triblive on Twitter | triblive on Facebook

              • Jandy, I think Biz was refering to the time and amount of rehab starts the Pirates make their guys take relative to other teams.

              • ahhhhh then is it better to err on the side of caution and go less?

              • Thanks for the patience guys, I re-read that all, and I see how you’re saying maybe some “reward” and motivation might help.

              • Garza did pretty good last night

                But, its just interesting with the differences in philosophies, now one thing about Garza is the Cubs want him to establish his value quickly so they have a chance to move him if they can’t sign him.

                That might be part of the equation with him

              • Now you’re really getting into the weeds of baseball, Jandy.

                I think it’s always better to err on the side of caution, which in the rehab case would be giving the guy more time to work up to more pitches like the Pirates do.

                Except nobody reeaaalllyy seems to know exactly what makes pitchers break. Is there really any evidence that 100 pitches are better than 75? Or six rehab starts are better than three? I don’t think anyone can answer that question honestly.

              • +1

              • Thanks again, NMR, I’ll just keep plugging along.
                Hubby asks me all kinds of questions about the Buccos, and I manage to sound soooooo smart…lol…you guys are great! I learn a lot in here ;)

              • Bingo, Bizrow (9:55 a.m.)! The Cubs are hoping to catch lightning in a bottle with Garza for about 6-8 weeks, and then get a decent return for him at the trading deadline. They are going nowhere this year, and he is not in their plans. So, they will be aggressive with him, I think.

            • Could not agree with you more, Biz.

              Reward the kid with a promotion and get him a taste of what he needs to work on over the offseason.

              And I emphatically second your opinion of challenging a player. Gerrit Cole comes to mind.

          • He would be a good candidate for High A. He hit all last season in Rookie ball and has really worked out the kinks. .329, 12 HR, 38 RBI.

            Time to see a little better pitching, better breaking balls, etc. Like you said, huge mechanical adjustments. Kudos to the kid.

          • As he gets better and better, but continues to be old for his level as a prospect, I wonder how bummed he is about what could have been. Not that he can’t still get to the show (and I hope he does), but I’d be wondering if I could have been doing the same thing at 20.

            • From all accounts that I’ve read, he wanted to be a hitter all along. I wonder where he’d be if he hadn’t been cursed with that throwing arm?

              • Exactly. That’s what I meant, but you said it better than I did. He wanted to hit all along, but for all intents and purposes, wasted a couple of years throwing 99 MPH all over the place.

            • and isn’t it sad/crazy that 20 is “old” ;)

    • That kid has a neck like a bull! WOW!

      • Morning Jandy,

        from your Bull Hippo! :)

        • Oh wait, Drew doesnt like this nice stuff…………..

          How this……….

          Morning all you LOOOOsers here today!
          We need more clouds, less sunshine!!

          Fire Bylsm……….
          Fire Hurdl………..
          Fire Tomli………..
          Fire ourselves!!!

          Fire Hippos!!

          There. Should take care of his fix for a few days…….. ;)

        • LOL G’mornin ya whacko Hippo ;)

          • Thanks. Want to appease our resident grump! ;)
            And his poodle.

            Hyped for the Pens game tonight.

            Go Du-pweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee ! ;)

            • Goooo Pens! I’m hyped too. Decked out in Black n gold…Pens tee and black jeans. Pens earrings even. bring it, Sens!

  28. Regarding the key guy for tonights Pens game, I’m going with Sid and or Malkin, time for the stars to shine

  29. My key player choice is James Neal. His job is to score goals, and if he gets on a hot streak like he tends to do, he could take over this series and the next….and the next? He needs to start putting the puck in the net, and I have a gut feeling he might get started tonight…. Also Neal putting the puck in the net would keep Geno from thinking he needs to do it all himself….although he almost did a few times last game…

  30. I’m going with Neal as my key player. He has been on a scoring drought an we need him to put in a goal. My thought with him is that if he can get one of those nice low rocket shots to go in, it will spark some scoring. Neal also can change a game for the negative by taking a dumb penalty so it will also be key for him to play with an edge and hit like he often does, but avoid any stupid penalties that will put the Pens down a man.

  31. OK so, where the heck is Oshkosh this morning? >:/

  32. Finally got to see a win last night and that makes me and the mrs’s very happy. We sit in a section with couple of other 20 game pack holders and we were all grumbling by the 5th inning that we will witness our 5th or 6th lose, depending on if we were able to attend the Seattle game. Then Snider happened and all was forgotten. Next up for us is a date with the Tigers next Thursday evening. Really would be nice to get a 2 game winning streak going.

  33. Someone has bid $20 on the Lyle Overbay ball. That’s about $20 more than I hoped to get for it. I’ll keep you all updated. Bidding ends in a couple hours.

    • Great news. His 7 HR’s for the Spanks can’t hurt your cause.

    • username: Kyle Loverbay

      I’m pretty sure there is a Kenny Powers Eastbound and Down joke to be made somewhere here.

      • Do you think our boy Lunchbox has earned himself a start tonight ?

        • Nah, Tabby and Gaby both have hit a single against Samardzija.

          Gotta play the matchup.

          • How’d you know ? They each actually have 1 single against him. Lunchbox is 0-1.

            • Lunchbox is due.

            • I looked it up on B-Ref, which apparently qualifies me for a position in the Pirates analytics department.

              Frankly, that part scares me more than Hurdle. It doesn’t sound like it’s just Clint making these calls. It sounds like an organizational philosophy to trust numbers in such small samples. I’d be surprised if other sabre-savvy teams agreed.

              • #freethelunchbox

              • Hippos like lunch!!! ;)

              • You know I agree with you on this for the most part. I will say that I’m playing the guy that’s 7 for 9 against a certain pitcher. Or at the very least he’s my first pinch hitter. But I’m not necessarily benching the guy that’s 0 for 9. I think you look at it, but you don’t live by it.

              • When I hear the Pirates (read that NH) brag about their proprietary computer analytic systems, I get the shivers.

              • Milo–I agree with you, and I think that is what Clint does. But WDIK (what do I know).

              • +1 Milo. Right on.

              • And you too Arriba.

                I’d rather let Clint make the call based on baseball judgement than trust numbers in this situation.

                At some point in the season – not necessarily now – we have to start looking at results, though, don’t we?

                Gaby, for instance, is on pace for over 200 AB against RHP and is barely posting an OPS over 600. The team simply cannot afford to give away that many outs from a position that gets almost all its value from offense.

              • I’m not tied to batter-pitcher matchups, and I definitely like a larger sample size in order to make these judgments. But, 0-9 does not seem to bode well, and 7-9 seems like more than just good fortune. Those are pretty dramatic swings in performance. It’s when he is starting the 3-10 guy and saying it is because he hits a pitcher well that bugs me. That guy could be a swinging bunt single away from .200.

            • Perhaps if NMR could go to another paper’s website and actually listen to what Hurdle had to say rather than speculate what he thinks Hurdle thinks, this matter would be much clearer for everyone. Here are some facts:

              1. Hurdle and his coaching staff indeed look at matchups of hitter v. pitcher.
              2. Hurdle and his coaching staff also look at matchups of that hitter with 15 similar-style pitchers….which gives him more of a sample size.
              3. Hurdle and his coaching staff and every major league player will tell you that success vs. a specific pitcher or type of pitcher makes them feel pretty good in the batter’s box. And he also said that the opposite is true.
              4. Hurdle is very clear when he says that the pure hitting numbers don’t always tell the story… that in addition to the batting stats, they also utilize swing rates, swing and miss rates, etc.
              5. Hurdle said that a guy may have a 6 for 14 line against a certain pitcher and another may have a 2 for 12. But the 6 for 14 guy may have 3 bunt singles and a couple of infield hits while the 2 for 12 guy may be crushing balls right at a defensive player. So yes, he takes that into consideration too.

              NMR, I understand that you may think this argument has devolved into something so simple and small in sample size as pure hitter v. pitcher numbers, but there’s a lot more to it. I’ve said that all along.

          • I hate when we face this friggin Samardzija. He toys with the Bucs. Let’s hope tonight is different. Need to get to 10 games over .500.

          • And heeeerrrrreeee we gooooo agggaaaainnnn …

  34. Craig Anderson. I know that kinda bucks the point of the blog to pick a penguins player key to the game. I think depending on which Craig we see.. either gm2 or gm3 Craig Anderson will be huge factor in determining play.

    Here (raises invisible chalice) is to our powerplay re-establishing itself as well. Ottawa will come hard and penalize us.. we need to capitalize.

  35. Oh and… I wish I had watched pirates last night.. the hockey was kinda boring. Although it was good to see Boston win and Juicy Couture and the Sharks even the series on the Kings. Am hoping for a Boston sweep, a 6-game penguins win, and a Sharks v Wings west final.

  36. Alot of people have been hard on Brandon Sutter this playoff series because he isn’t putting in goals, but I would argue that is not what he was brought here to do. Sutter is accepting his role as a shut down, third line center (something that Jordan Staal had a hard time accepting) and it appears as though he is doing a good job at that. Jesse Marshall from FaceOff-Factor.com just tweeted, “Spent some time last night comparing 3rd line centers around the league to Sutter. No one even close to his defensive numbers.” Jesse is really good with numbers and stats so I will trust that he is accurate in his information.

    • I’ve been a Sutter fan all year. I’m still not sure why people are questioning him being put on the ice at the end of regulation last game.

      Some are saying he looks fatigued but I saw him give considerable effort in overtime on a number of occasions. I think he is a smart player who doesn’t waste energy on unnessary movement. He always seems to be positioned well so he doesn’t have to move much and it may look like he isn’t giving effort. I could be completely wrong because I love hockey but know very little about things like this.

  37. Greetings from the left coast. Guess I’ll most always be chiming in late on these discussions (haven’t even read DK’s column yet – too tired last night and too busy this AM).

    Couple of things…

    James Neal.

    Welcome to San Diego Max!! So happy to have him as part of the Chargers! Hoping for the Chargers to do more than frustrate, aggravate and disappoint this year. Go Bolts (unless you’re playing the Steelers :))!

  38. Oh and, I’ve got my Stanley Cup Pens tee on this AM (pulling out the big guns). Let’s go boys – get it done tonite!

  39. I am hopeful to see something from Neal. He hasn’t seemed to be skating well yet. Malkin has been so strong that Neal has to benefit.

    I wonder if Snider’s HR isn’t caught by the fan if it hits the top of the wall. Just looking at the reaction of the fielders it seems as if it would have hit the fence.

    Allie is intersting. I saw him pitch at State College and thought they shoul trade him at that point. No control and his fastball had no movement. It was just hard. I figured that would be the peak of his value. The switch to postion player is great. Gives the Pirates a chance to get something out of him. I would like to see the organization as a whole be a little more aggressive moving players along.

  40. Ya me too. Like to see Neal score a couple.
    Hoping to a decisive Pens win tonight and put this one away in 5 at home.

    GO PENS!!

    • I’d love ago see Neal wake up, and do wonder how the ankle is affecting him.
      But I am a big believer in the rule that you generally play tomorrow the way you played today….and he’s 4 goals for what 19 games?
      Don’t expect him to catch fire tonight.

      I would hope that guys who’ve generally been having good playoffs, have great nights. Duper, TK, and so on.

      • And the vaunted Toews is sitting on a goose egg for Chicago. I can see Neal netting a couple tonight. I anxiously await a DK tweet to the effect of “Neal shoots low.”

        • Are the Hawks laying an egg as a team?
          Not just Toews?

          • Very good question, Sarah. I really couldn’t say for sure. Playoff hockey is so unpredictable. Maybe they peaked too early this year, because even though they have remained solid all year it seems to me the BHawks were not nearly as strong down the stretch. Maybe they just didn’t have anything to play for, having locked up the #1 seed so early. Or, maybe it is just that Detroit is an amazing franchise, and they still have a bunch of guys who know how to dial it up in the playoffs. They seem like a 2nd round nightmare opponent, if you ask me. But, whatever it is, Chicago seems to be on the ropes for sure.

            • Yes, could be. Just haven’t watched enough West and too much business travel!! Up at 3am, plane at 6am, in mtgs til dinner….just cant stay up to watch NHL Tonite at my hotel LOL!!!

              Anyway, LAK are my bête noir. No one West scares me like they do. I think they may eat Wings or Hawks for lunch.

              And If Bylsma thinks he can put Vokoun out there v Quick, well…

  41. JAL,

    Thanks for the extra NHL articles today. The one from the Ottawa Citizen was an interesting read about how video and “homework” has evolved in hockey. Would never have found that one on my own so Thanks!

  42. Well, I am out for the afternoon.

    Will be back for another Penguin and Pirate win tonight.

    Feeling productive………… changed my avatar to something more appropriate.

    Everyone have a great day.

    And play nice. ;)

  43. Also, got home late last night and sat down with the wife on the couch in the 9th inning of the Pirate game. I said, “Can we just watch the end of the game? It will be real quick.” Little did I know that Grilli was going to have an over 30 pitch inning that would go on much longer than her liking (she wanted to watch some other show on the DVR) and much longer than I am comfortable with. Thankfully, Grilli pulled out the save and hopefully he can get at least a day or two of rest after that outing.

  44. Brian Urlacher is retiring.

    • As a Pittsburgh guy living in exile here in Chi-town for a long time, I have to say I have found him to be very overrated for a long time. He is injured a lot, and just doesn’t have much range. Plus, when Bettis introduced his palm to Urlacher’s face in that snow game late in that Super Bowl season, I loved it. Reminded me of Bo Jackson vs. that big-mouth from Oklahoma, Brian Bosworth.

  45. The Steelers treatment of Max has always been enigmatic to me. In no particular order, chronologically or logically, this is what I remember:

    I was at a function early in his career where the Steelers’ General Counsel spoke, and he could not have been more complimentary of Max. Said he was very bright and able to be a quick study on things that he had no previous familiarity with. He even said he saw Max as being a part of the organization beyond his playing days.

    There were reports the coaches didn’t like him, and there were a couple years where he wasn’t even a starter.

    I know one year (and I think 2) he was franchised and made about $8 mil per, but they were not able to work out a longterm deal.

    When he’s been in, he’s been very good.

    I have to wonder if the franchise year(s) and not being able to work out a deal affected the organization’s view of him.

    • I have to wonder too.
      But then, when he’s not signed, sitting at home, and the Steeler decide last minute, hey, we need Starks, call him and sign him, that’s weird. Then it happens two years in a row. That’s friggin wrong. And to boot, he was one of the most dependable guys on the O line.
      I’m a Max fan, and maybe biased, but something just doesn’t add up here.

    • I agree Arriba. The Steelers were always looking to replace Starks. Win a super bowl replace him with Colon. Gilbert gets hurt Max holds down the fort. Give him LT and plays a while gets hurt then gets released. Line stinks bring back Max to stabilize. I have never understood the Steelers not wanting Max Starks.

  46. The Lyle Overbay ball sells for $20.50.

  47. Good for you. He’s upped his stock by $19.50 since he left here.

  48. Anyone else thinking last night that McCutchen has a chance to get a second grand slam in the same inning? That one foul ball wasn’t too far off….

    Not that any of that matters…just would have been cool.

    Pens 3, Ottawa 1 for the Pens to go up 3-1 in the series…

  49. Max Starks, my favorite Steeler lineman of the past decade. I’ll miss him, good that he got another job for him.

  50. Just read Rossis tweet : Vitale wasn’t injured, he was told by the coaching staff he was sitting.
    ??
    Anyone know why?
    And is he back tonight?

    • Someone guessed that Vitale wasn’t as good on face offs in game 2 (although I checked and he was 50%). Maybe it was just Bylsma getting Glass in there for extra PK help.

      With Jokinen coming in tonight though, the only way Vitale would get in is if Morrow was out. But, if Morrow will be out, something tells me Bennett might get in though….

    • Don’t trust anything you read regarding injuries and lineups right now. It is all smoke and mirrors in the playoffs, especially with Bylsma

    • Vitale is low on Bylsma’s list of who to play first, second, etc. Not quite as low as Despres, but …

      • Bennet on LW w Malkin?
        Iggy on 3rd line and left pt PP?

        But I dream.

        • yeah…we’ll throw some cold water on you, lady…unless you want ice down your tee shirt instead?

          • Why go with what has worked, after all?
            When you can keep trying head scratchers that are failing….

            I know I know silly me….

        • My guesses for the lines if Morrow is out – not what I’d do, but what I am guessing Bylsma will do:

          14-87-9
          18-71-12
          24-16-48
          19-36-27 or 36-27-19

          If Morrow is in, 3rd line is 10-16-24, 4th line is 36-27-48

  51. The key to game 4 in my opinion is Malkin!

    He got 10 shots to the goal in the last game. As long as he doesn’t make any mistakes or commit any penalties he’ll be a huge factor.

    • I totally agree, Dom. For what it’s worth, I have a feeling he is pretty PO’d about Sunday and will come out flying.

    • That might be a good pick Dom. Actually, a good pick would be Malkin’s line 5 on 5. If Malkin gets going tonight, maybe that happens.

  52. Travis Snider is the key…….

  53. And STILL no Oshkosh :(

  54. My key to the game is kind of a boring pick. Probably been said a dozen times already but I’m too lazy to check.

    Sid.

    If Sid has a monster game, the Pens WILL win. And he’s the type of star who often brings out the best in teammates. Put that together, and Sid Monster = FUN game.

    If Sid does not have a monster game, they MAY win.

    I’ll take Will over May every day.

    And no. My wife’s name is not May.

  55. hasTV been confirmed in goal?

    • Nothing is confirmed, but it’s believed TV will start

      • Which I guess brings us back MAFs role, if he has one.
        Thought they might use him to spell TV, and I thought this game was an opp to do so. Guarantees a fresh TV for game 5 and gives Fleury some work should they really need him later. If TV is fatigued and plays bad, then you may be forced to use MAF in a much higher pressure Game 5.

        I am not one who believes TV can carry this team to the Cup.
        He will be outplayed by Rask and Quick and probably Crawford too.

        The Bruins scare me with their intensity. See that 4th line never-say-die goal last night?

        Pens don’t have that desperation right now.

        • I like what you say Sarah. Nearly everybody else on this blog throws up their hands and shouts “how can you not play Vokoun?” And I agree.. hoping penguins kick it up a notch in intensity and plow those canadians as intended.

          • *sigh* I meant I agree with gm4 being the best possible opportunity and least pressure scenario to give Fleury some work.

          • Yep…
            You can not play Vokoun in order to rest him, eps in a road game that is not a must win.
            You can not play Vokoun cos you feel you will have to rely on Fleury to make a dif vs the better teams which TV cannot make, and you must give him some reps.

            Or….you actually think TV will hold up physically AND make the difference v Rask or QUick or Crawford, neither of which I think are true. Remotely.

            Which…pretty much guarantees that’s where Bylsma’s gonna go!

        • I’m not sure….Craig Anderson is better than Crawford and Rask, and Vokoun went toe-to-toe with him. It would be really tough to change goalies unless Vokoun falters or gets hurt. That would be a HUGE gamble by Bylsma – even if the team was up 3-0. If Vokoun falters and you need to go to MAF, I’m betting MAF plays his mind out – he’s faced a game 7 in the Cup Final at Detroit which is big time pressure.

          If the Pens move on to face the Bruins, I think you’ll see them match that intensity/desperation. It will be the last step to get to play for the Cup….

          • Well I disagree that Anderson is better than Rask, most definitively not as a whole with his team. . Crawford well, dunno, you may be right there. Don’t watch enough West.

            So you’re saying you believe the Pens can ride Vokoun to a Cup?

            I’m really not there.

            • I’m still not sure, but he’s looked good so far. Mostly hoping for the best, and knowing/thinking MAF can step in and carry the rest of the way if Vokoun falters. I just can’t change what’s working, and I’d hate to throw off Vokoun somehow….not sure that could even happen, but every team rides one goalie through the playoffs for a reason.

              Rask is good, but I don’t think he steals game 3 like Anderson did.

            • Rask can be rattled (his temper) and thrown off his game…thus maybe he might be considered better than Andersen.

              • IMO the bottom line is TVs “ceiling” and “floor” are close together, meaning he is consistent, rarely plays awful, but is not capable of lights out stuff on any regular basis. His Best and his Worst are not that far apart.

                MAFs ceiling-floor is a gigantic gap. At his best there are few if any better. At his worst, I look good in comparison.

                I do not believe TVs ceiling is high enough to beat either BOS or anyone West.

                I KNOW Fleury’s is, but it could be moot cos
                A) he’s mentally broken
                B) Bylsma won’t play him

              • I agree Fleury can steal a game like Anderson did last game – we’ve seen it in the regular season as well as the playoffs. I’m not sure you’re giving Vokoun enough credit with his play so far though. He is steady, but that can be a good thing if the Pens are playing their system right. He has the best goals-against and save percentage of any goalie left in the playoffs (playoff stats). If I knew for sure MAF would play like he did in the regular season or in 2009, I’d use him. The doubts about Vokoun carrying the team to the Cup are the same as the doubts about the current MAF. What if you go to MAF and he is terrible again? You may ruin Vokoun’s momentum and ruin MAF for the rest of the playoffs. Ride the hot goalie.

              • Well for me the doubts are not the same.
                The doubts re Fleury have nothing to do with his capability, he’s more than capable to play at the level needed.

                My doubts re Vokoun are all about his capability. Do not believe he is capable of playing at the level needed to beat Boston or say LA.

                So for me not the same doubts at all.

              • I’m not saying you’re wrong to doubt Vokoun – like I said, I am still iffy. But my opinion is not to change what is working, and we haven’t seen him face the Bruins yet. He did well against an offensively talented team in the Islanders. The way he has played so far in the playoffs gives me hope he can do it…..hope is the key word.

  56. Haven’t gotten any tweets from Dejan on the game day skate, and no Pens thread up yet.

    Maybe that homeless french guy is after him again???

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