Wednesday, December 24, 2008

#109: Merry Christmas n'At

---Santa Claus is Comin' Dahntahn---

If you're a true Pittsburgher, this is your favorite Christmas Carol.

No. It is.

And your ol' pal Steeltown Mike is happy to bring you this piece of holiday cheer, from Steel City-based "Johnny Angel and the Halos":

Yinz better watch aht,
Yinz better not paht,
Yinz better not cry,
I’m tellin yinz hauscome,
Santa Claus is comin’ dahntahn.

He’s makin’ a list,
He’s checkin’ it aht,
He’s gonna find aht who’s nebby an ‘at,
Santa Claus is comin’ dahntahn.

He knows if yinz is a jagoff,
He can see inside yinz haus,
He knows if yinz been workin’ hard,
Or just sittin’ on yur caach (caach, caach, caach).

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells,
Jingle All the Way...
Lookin' from Mahnt Worshington,
Down where the Stillers.....are at. (Aw, C'mon guys...)

Yinz better watch aht,
Yinz better not paht,
Yinz better not cry,
I’m tellin yinz hauscome.
Santa Claus is comin’ dahntahn!…..

He sees yinz on the Nor'side
In 'Sliberty and Sahside, too.
He don't want yinz to be ascared
Just do what yer asposed ta do. (Doo Doo Doo)

Yinz better watch aht,
Yinz better not paht,
Yinz better not cry,
I’m tellin yinz hauscome.
Santa Claus is comin’ dahntahn!

("Hey, we done n'at yet?" "Yeah, let's go get som'n ta eat, man." "Yeah, I'm hungry, too" "Let's go get a chipped ham sammich." "Let's get ahtta here." "Ah, Merry Christmas, yinz guys.")

Merry Christmas! (n'At)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

#108: First Penguins Post of the Season

---Better Late Than Never?---

Thirty games into the 2008-2009 season, and not a peep from Pittsburgh's 336th-most popular blogger.

I jest (I don't even think I'm that high up in the hierarchy).

The standings show that the Penguins are 6 points off the lead in the Atlantic Division, in 3rd place, behind the leaders (New York Rangers) and the hated (Philadelphia Flyers). And they're only two points ahead of another archrival (New Jersey Devils).

Being third in a division that they won last year, one would think the Penguins are underachieving.

But on December 13, 2007, the Penguins' record was 15-13-2 (32 points), which is 4 points fewer than they have now. The '08-'09 edition of the Penguins have 3 fewer losses in regulation, parlaying those games into a win and two overtime or shootout losses.

And they've done this with an even larger target on their back this season (Division and Conference Champions) - and without defensemen Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney, who have been hurt all season.

Anyone who has read Steeltown Sports during past seasons has learned that I firmly believe that the team's greatest weakness is being outshot more frequently by the other team than the reverse. Certainly losing two of your top defensemen would not help that situation.

In fact, last year at about this time, the Penguins were just about even in Shots-on-Goal differential. Right now, the Penguins are at -1.9.

Marc-Andre Fleury was injured for only two full games by this point last year (that was the time period where Ty Conklin came in and saved the season), whereas this year, he's already missed 12 games due to injury. He was eligible to play in Saturday's 6-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, but rode bench as backup Dany Sabourin had a pitiful save percentage of .778

It seems like an upside-down world this season. Patchwork defense, back-up goalie, and a phenomenon that many fans are calling "less grit" (referring to the loss of players like Gary Roberts, Georges Laraque and Jarkko Ruutu) somehow yields a Penguins squad that is four points better in the standings after 30 games.

Not only that, but games 26 through 30 of 2007-2008, the Penguins won 4 out of 5. This year, games 26 through 30 resulted in the Penguins losing 4 out of 5, all in regulation (read: no points in the standings). So, even during a slump, the Pens are in a better position at this point.

Speaking of "grit", those of you who have read regularly (a term I use loosely based my update frequency these days) know that I'm not a fan of fighting in hockey, especially when the rationale is just to "light a fire" under his team when it's sucking air (defense of a teammate, especially a goalie, against a flagrant attempt to harm him by an opposing player, though, is justified).

That said, does anyone know if right winger Eric Godard (the new "tough guy" on the block) formal fighting training?

I saw him fight Chris Neil of the Ottawa Senators (I believe). Godard engaged Neil with a certain technique I know from the martial arts, and he seems to keep his hands loose until the moment of impact (Jeet Kun Do Concepts).

I didn't agree with the reason for Godard starting the fight (Pens down 2-0), but I find I can accept it better if I just study how the combatants as if I'm watching a demonstration.

Anyone know about Godard?

Looking ahead to the rest of the year, the Penguins simply have to weather the storm of injuries (Max Talbot was hurt for the last game, too). Then, when they start to get healthy down the stretch (and Ray Shero pulls his annual trade-deadline magic), the Penguins should be right at the top of the heap again.