New Sheriffs in Town?
That's right, ladies and gentlemen. After tonight's 4-2 win over the New Jersey Devils, the Pittsburgh Penguins are looking down on everyone in the Atlantic Division.
Evgeni Malkin looks more and more like the real thing, after making a habit of putting one behind the netminder in each game, and first round pick Jordan Staal is tied for the team lead in goals scored (4) with Malkin and Michel Ouellet. Heck, through 8 games, Mark Recchi is +3! Last year, after 63 games with the Penguins, his +/- was -28, a team worst. (He managed to be -8 in Carolina in the 20 games he played with the 'Canes after he was traded and -5 in the playoffs).
I've made the assertion that the Penguins will not succeed in the long term if they cannot improve on their Shots-on-Goal differential, which is still among the league's worst. But I can't complain too much about the last three games as it's been reasonably close. And Marc-Andre Fleury, while not playing out of his mind, has been playing well enough to keep the Penguins in games.
at New York Islanders - Pens outshot 37-36 (lost faceoffs 29-32)
vs Columbus Blue Jackets - Pens outshot 39-34 (won faceoffs 39-34...weird)
vs New Jersey Devils - outshot Devils 25-22 (won faceoffs 25-24)
These are signs of a team on the rise. Their performance against contenders like Carolina (L, 1-5) as the season goes on will, naturally, be the measuring stick.
Date to remember: November 17. At Buffalo Sabres. This is the team that many feel will represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals. We'll see how the lines have gelled.
In the meantime, only one more game this month, and that's this Saturday at Philadelphia. Can they kick their hated rivals while they're down?
If someone told you that a football team generated 473 yards of total offense, you'd probably think they won semi-handily.
The Steelers should have learned two valuable lessons this week.
One: Surrendering 399 yards of total offense to the home team is not even close to acceptable, nor is allowing 4.4 yards per rushing attempt.
Two: If you give a good opponent possession at midfield (or closer) semi-regularly, you're going to pay for it.
Forget that Ben Roethlisberger suffered a concussion on a play that should have seen: a) Hines Ward catch the pass anyway, and b) a 15-yard personal foul for a blow to the head. Charlie Batch warmed up fairly quickly and fit the bill more than adequately.
Forget that Nate Washington was flagged for a false start on what was to be a spike. In a comment by "old galoot" at Mondesi's House, "why wasn't he "stand like a statue", knowing a spike was coming? But seriously, should the game really have come down to that? No guarantee that Reed was going to make the FG the way the game was going, anyway.
If you want a scapegoat, look at the two consecutive drives in the 2nd quarter by Atlanta. Getting to start at the Pittsburgh 25 after a Roethlisberger fumble, then the surprise onside kick (Kudos to Tyrone Carter for getting his hands on that ball, but with no one around him, a couple of Atlanta players saw to it that he wouldn't be able to hang on) that resulted in more defensive lapses.
Make no mistake the defense is the primary culprit. The offense wasn't perfect, nor were the special teams, but when your offense scores you almost 38 points, that should be a win.
And, as thejim commented in my last post, a lot of people are eating their words over their assertions that the Falcons can't pass. I guess I'm joining them at that table as I didn't disagree.
In each of the first three games, we've seen some pitcher's clinics, starting with rookie Anthony Reyes, going 8+, surrendering 2 runs on 4 hits.
Then Kenny Rogers, "poop" or "no poop" (future game show on NBC? Well, whatever, thanks to DJ at "The Derek Bell Yacht Co." for finding the image), throws 8 innings of 2-hit, shutout ball, only to watch Todd Jones, who reminds me a bit of Jose Mesa in the closer's role, flirt with giving the Cardinals the tie or the lead. Then tonight, Chris Carpenter gives up only 3 hits in 8 full innings.
No doubt Tony Larussa, as much as I dislike him, is a happy dude. He was more emotional tonight than I've ever seen him.
Meanwhile, ex-Bucco Sean Casey continues to do ok. 3-for-9 with 1 RBI. Considering the Tigers have scored only 5 runs in three games, having 20% of the RBI's can't be considered choking.
Random, crazy thought: Suppose this series goes to the 7th game with the Tigers tied or trailing in the bottom of the 9th, and The Mayor comes to the plate representing the winning run. If Casey would go yard to win the series, will anyone remember in that instant that he and the only other man to win a World Series with a walk-off dinger were filmed together for a Pittsburgh Pirate 30-second promo prior to the start of the season?