Tuesdays With Stoosh 12.27.2011

Christmas hangover city.

Some holiday leftovers, dudes…

3.17 goals per game for the Pens. That's sixth-best in the league heading into Monday's games. That's with Crosby missing three-fourths of the season and Letang missing a third of the season. Pretty solid.

James Neal. Twenty goals.

Pens are also 9th in the league in goals allowed per game (2.54). Again, unreal numbers given the substantial injuries to Kris Letang, Zbynek Michalek and Ben Lovejoy this year.

It's a strange testament to his place in the game that there are twenty-something players out with concussions in the NHL and the only one whose name seems to conjure up any serious mention of the word "retirement" is Sidney Crosby (OK, Pronger's name comes up, but he's old). Yes, the recurrence of his symptoms is reason for some concern, but it's still a strange phenomenon how this has really only come up with him. Never heard one mention of the "R" word with Kris Letang or Claude Giroux, for instance.

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And for the record, that's just an observation. Crosby will be back when he's back.

Things you never thought you'd be saying on December 26: If the playoffs started today, Florida would be the 3rd seed in the East, Ottawa would be 8th seed and Buffalo, Tampa and Washington would all be having Breakup Day tomorrow.

Also, the Devils would be the 7th seed in the playoffs right now. They've done this with 38-year old Johan Hedberg and the shell of Martin Brodeur in net all year. That's probably some sort of horrible indictment of the rest of the Eastern Conference right there.

You know who already has twenty goals? James Neal.

The Winter Classic is right around the corner and that means it'll be Interview City with Ice Guru Dan Craig, and in each interview, he'll be asked the same five questions he's been asked about the ice.

How do you set up the rink, Dan? How do you make the ice, Dan? What if it's too warm, Dan? What if it snows, Dan? What if it rains, Dan?

The same questions, over and over. Welcome to every Dan Bylsma Media Scrum Since January 6, 2011, Mr. Craig.

Hey Dan, guess who has twenty goals just 35 games into this year?

 

Let's put something into perspective just a little, because we're pretty much at that point of the season that this is comparable. Keep in mind that your current leader in the NHL scoring race is Claude Giroux, who has 43 points in 30 games. Quoting this from Rick Buker's new book, "100 Things Penguins Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" (that's morbid…):

"In 1992-93, Lemieux bolted from the starting gate like a thoroughbred racehorse. Piling up 101 points in his first 38 games…"

And that's about all you really need to know to drive that point home. 101 points in 38 games. That wasn't even twenty years ago. That's certainly not to diminish the accomplishments of Neal or Giroux, or Malkin or Kessel, or anyone else in this current NHL era. And in fairness to those guys, the game has changed a lot in those twenty years. There's a much more emphasis on team-based defensive systems, much more intensive coaching of goaltenders, and players train harder year-round now than they ever did.

But still…

NHL Network spent most of Christmas Day running re-broadcasts of each of the four Winter Classics. Since that game ended, has any Pens fan ever said with any genuine enthusiasm, "Hey, I think re-watching the Caps-Pens WInter Classic is a fantastic idea"? That game is like the hockey equivalent of learning how Chicken McNuggets are made.

Speaking of Winter Classic, let this one marinate around the marketing offices over at NHL headquarters. The league got it's Winter Classic edition of OviSidFest almost a year ago at Heinz Field. Since then, Sidney Crosby has played in precisely nine games because of his concussion. And in that same span, Alexander Ovechkin has played in 72 regular season games, scoring just 66 points (28G, 38A).

If you throw in Ovechkin's nine playoffs games from last year, he played almost a full year of hockey since last year's WInter Classic. In his last 81 games, he's scored 33 goals and 43 assists. He's a 76-point player in his last full season's worth of hockey. 

Just to be clear, that's obviously not the league's fault. Just appreciating some irony here. It's probably safe to assume that a year or two ago, the NHL never envisioned a point where one of its version of "Bird vs. Magic" would be shelved for almost a full season by a concussion and the other wouldn't even be in the top 60 in the scoring race midway through a season.

Watched the United States' team in the World Junior Championships on NHL Network. It's never going to draw many casual fans, but it wasn't that long ago – just a few years, really – that this tournament was nowhere to be found at all on television in the States. Nice to see this getting coverage, especially with some Pens prospects involved in the tournament.

Dear NHL.Shop.Com, the packaging for your gift cards still has an Atlanta Thrashers logo on it. Not complaining. Just thought it was funny. Besides, I'm sure all of Winnipeg probably called to inform of this horrible oversight. Then they probably booed Fleury and Malkin.

Canes tonight, and then the Flyers come to town Thursday for the game everyone's had circled since the schedule was first released. Bart Scott, your thoughts?

 

Let's go Pens.

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