A brief look...

We are officially 49 days away from the start of the NHL season. The semi-new look Penguins have essentially started over in the front office and management as a whole. With a Penguin's goalie from yesteryear leading the charge at GM and a raw, semi-NHL-experienced Head Coach, girded up with the most talented two-center combo in the world, nothing short of another Cup is expected.

As long as this team maintains their two star centers, this team has a legitimate shot at a deep playoff run. Following the 2008 and 2009 seasons where the Penguins effectively played in (and eventually won) the Stanley Cup, the fans expectations have been high. It was the right move for the franchise to remove the Ray Shero as things were no longer working with his decisions. While he may have been the fall guy to the riff between Bylsma and his players, it was nevertheless necessary. Though it was surprising that he was the first to go prior to Bylsma.

Mike Johnston will stand behind the bench this year for the Penguins. The decision sparked a lot of conversation since the past 8 years of Johnston's coaching career were spent in the WHL. Despite leading the Portland Winterhawks to a 231-114-10-10 record in that time, his NHL experience has been minimal. The odds most certainly will have the Penguins near the top of the list.

James Neal will no longer be skating on Geno's wing with being shipped off to Nashville. Instead,
Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling will by vying for line spots among the top echelon. We all witnessed a completely different looking Crosby these past playoffs. Some were calling it a lack of effort, some even evaluated his body language as a cause for concern. While he's no saint and surely could have milked (what we would later find out was) his injured wrist, I think the majority stands on the hinges of the former.

In the end, a healthy rejuvenated Sidney Crosby and lower expectations for the squad as a whole, I think we're going to like what we see. This team loves to play as underdogs, that's how and when they achieved success. No one is expecting a Cup out of this season, but that just might be what we get


Score BIG with ScoreBig.com!

With the Penguins season coming to a disappointing end, we're all stuck with another Cupless summer. It's been 5 years since we've been able to wear our Stanley Cup garb proudly with the appropriate bragging rights. Our highly revered general manger has been fired, and we're on the cusp of a new era for Penguins hockey.

So for me, I have to occupy myself with something to take my mind off things. With my wife being a big Tim
McGraw fan, I thought I'd venture to find tickets to his concert here in Raleigh, NC. Fortunate enough for me, I was able to come across this fantastic new ticket purchasing website called ScoreBig.com.

For me, I've bought tickets from other websites in the past with some confusion and disappointment. Score big is different. They are simple, easy to use, and you ACTUALLY save money. All you do is find the game/show/event you want to attend, then find the best seats available and voila! After that you just make an offer on the tickets and you find out in less than 30 seconds if the offer was accepted. There's even something I like to call the "probability bar" when you put in your offer amount that tells you the likelihood of the site accepting your offer. Bottom line, wifey and I are going to Tim McGraw on June 22nd. And we saved about $10 a ticket.

Do yourself a favor and check them out the next time your going to buy tickets. I'm convinced they'll be your go-to service for tickets from here on out.

Go Pens!


Marc Andre the Giant and his friend Sidney

(Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
The main topic that surrounds the rise and fall of the Pittsburgh Penguins these days is Marc Andre Fleury.
Never mind that there are two specific players dedicated to keep the opposing team away from the net. Never mind that there's are three players dedicated to scoring on the opposing teams goalie so as to insure a goal here or there can be spared. Alas! It is the goalie's plight to be the focal point of carrying a team to the promise land. And here we have MAF as the main culprit.

Since the 2009 Cup the Pens have struggled to make any progress in the playoffs. Yes, we all know that. It is, incidentally, the plight of the fan of this team. Expectations are high when nothing less than the Cup satisfies you. But do we really need to put the onus entirely and completely on Fleury? We all want someone to blame for the losses. In the past the real whipping boy has been Geno. Of the two major superstars on the team he has been the one with the tendency to show some volatility. However a new face has emerged out of the mouths of babes, that being Crosby.

Despite 87's constant persistent regular season play, he hasn't put up any goals this post season. For a guy who won the Art Ross this year it's nearly unthinkable for him to not have lit the lamp thus far. And because of that, he's been taken some heat for it amongst the fan base and media sources alike. But enough about Sid, it's all going to change here soon.

MAF has shown us a glimpse of his 2009 glory once again in the game last night against the Rangers. Sure the Rags looked a little tired. Sure they didn't look like they were on their game. But the Penguins, for all intents and purposes didn't either. The difference? Out-dueling Kind Henry with a little help from Letang, Jokinen, and Malkin. If 87 starts producing at a rate of even a half a goal each game and Fleury can remain sharp, the upside to this team shows nothing but the Cup over their heads

The odds at allpro currently have the Penguins as second only to the Blackhawks as the Stanley Cup favs. And there's good reason for that because the Penguins could very easily be up 2-0 in the second round with a "struggling" captain and a seemingly volatile goalie. 


Rivers, Penguins Are a Strong Hand

The five-year anniversary of the opening of Rivers Casino is fast approaching and thus so is the five-year anniversary of the casino's relationship with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Whether or not you're in favor of gambling or of the casino's presence in the Steel City, the casino and the hockey franchise have enjoyed a mutual relationship that has benefited the city of Pittsburgh as well.

Part of the casino's agreement with the city of Pittsburgh is that Rivers will pay $7.5 million every year for 30 years to aid in the construction cost of Consol Energy Center, the Penguins' shiny new arena that opened in 2010. Paid in two yearly installments, a hefty check of $4.7 million cleared the bank just last month. This revenue stream lifts some of the burden off of Pittsburgh's taxpayers.

The casino is also used as a home for the Pittsburgh Penguins' Alumni Association's Charity Poker Tournament. The third annual event played out in March and it raised money for the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation. The game was Texas Hold 'em and a $200 entry fee granted you unlimited $25 buys of chips. Players competed for Penguins memorabilia including signed jerseys sticks, pucks, photos and Penguins tickets.

Located less than three miles from Consol Energy Center, Rivers Casino serves as a popular destination for out-of-state fans who want to squeeze in some table games before or after a Penguins game. This leads to additional outside revenue for the city.

Wheelhouse, the sports bar and grill inside Rivers Casino, has become a popular gathering place for fans to watch the Penguins in action on what Rivers claims to be the largest high definition television in Pittsburgh to go along with another 40 flat screen TVs. Wheelhouse also serves as the home to FSN's live Penguins pre-game broadcast.

Like it or not, the Penguins' relationship with Rivers Casino is a win-win.


The Playoffs: Looking forward

The Penguins have clinched the playoffs for the 7th straight year including 2 trips to the Stanley Cup finals and 1 Cup to brag about. Last year seemed like it was quite the possibility they were going to make another, but they ended up embarrassed with a 4-0 sweep by the Boston Bruins. So what can we expect from this years playoffs?

If I were a betting man (I might find myself at best sportsbooks, but) I would probably not put my money on another trip to the Stanley Cup finals. Why you might ask? Last year the Penguins went a perfect 15-0 in March, losing the first two games in April, but hammered out another 7 straight wins before dropping another 2. That's the way you want to head into the playoffs, on a high note.

This year our beloved Pens recorded a subpar 8-8 record in March. They've split the first two games thus far in April and have a challenging remaining 5 games to round out the season.

These games will likely tell a lot about how the Pens will perform in the post season, particularly the Philadelphia game. But the up and down, lack of consistency they had in the beginning of the season makes one worry about what to expect once that puck drops in the playoffs. Sure they've been riddled with injuries. Sure Geno isn't playing at the moment due to an injury (among other players). But what confidence do us fans really have with what we're seeing at the moment? Nothing less than a Cup will satiate us as a successful season.

Time will tell...


Upcoming Winter Olympics...

While we're all gearing up for the Winter Olympics to start later this month, our loyalties will once again be tested the minute we see our beloved Penguins skating for their respective countries.

Some might disagree with this notion, but I for one can tell you that while being on the side of team USA the entire way (and always will), I wasn't all that upset to see Crosby beat Ryan Miller some 4 years ago. I know I know, country before everything, some cry. But you know what, I'm not rooting for Zach Parise and such on a daily basis. I am Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik. Even Disco Dan, of course I am.
But we all have our favorite players and Sidney Crosby is just one guy I'm almost never going to root against. Same for Geno. Simple as that.

Nevertheless, you have to check out this interactive Sochi hockey game schedule posted on sportsinteration.com. Really cool way to tell when the games are played. Not only for hockey, but for curling as well!!!!


Future Bets: A look at the odds

As winter turns to spring fans of certain sports anticipate different things. Baseball fans look forward to Spring Training. Horse racing enthusiasts look forward to the Triple Crown races where they can bet on Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont winners. Football fans look for week 12 NFL lines analysis. And even though the weather is getting warmer hockey aficionados have Stanley Cup playoff and World Championship puck action on tap. In the sports books of Las Vegas the Pittsburgh Penguins are currently the top choice to take the Stanley Cup.

The Penguins are priced at +650 to win the Cup putting them slightly ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks, priced at +700. A quick primer on how moneylines work—a $100 bet on the Penguins to win the Stanley Cup would return $650 (plus a return of your initial $100 bet) if they are able to pull off the victory.

After Pittsburgh and Chicago other Stanley Cup frontrunners include the San Jose Sharks (+800), the Boston Bruins (+850), the St. Louis Blues (+1100) and the Anaheim Ducks (+1400). Further down the list there are some intriguing choices priced at 25/1 or higher including the Tampa Bay Lightning (+2400) and the Montreal Canadiens, Minnesota Wild, Vancouver Canucks and New York Rangers (all priced at +2500). It's not unprecedented for an eventual Stanley Cup winner to be available in this price range—in the past decade or so the Los Angeles Kings, Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning all cashed tickets at or in excess of 25/1.

What about the big long shots? The teams at the bottom of the league standings are unlikely to 'catch fire' and claim the Stanley Cup but should that happen the 'return on investment' is huge. The Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets are both +10000 to win the Stanley Cup. The Edmonton Oilers are +15000 followed by the Calgary Flames (+30000) and the Florida Panthers (+30000). The biggest longshot is the Buffalo Sabres who are currently dead last in the league. It's unlikely that they dig out of this big hole but if they do they'll return +45000.

If you're looking to make a NHL futures bet keep in mind that these moneyline prices vary widely from one sportsbook to another. Make sure to shop around for the best price before locking in your bet.


How Malkin Can Turn Things Around

Despite being at the top of the Metropolitan Division, the Pittsburgh Penguins haven’t been clicking on all cylinders as of yet in 2013-2014. While star Sidney Crosby has been great in carrying the offense, his main running mate Evgeni Malkin has struggled by his standards. As the first quarter of the season wraps up, how can the former MVP and star fantasy hockey performer get back on track and make Pittsburgh a true Stanley Cup contender?

After getting off to a solid start this season, Malkin has hit a rough patch the last few weeks. He has only found the goal once in his last 10 contests, and he is not creating a lot of opportunities for others like in the past as well. The timing for him seems to be off, and a lot of that could be due to the injury suffered by James Neal. The winger should return fairly soon, and that would give Malkin a familiar face to play off of on his line.

Another option for Pittsburgh could be to switch up their lines by possibly breaking up the Crosby-Chris Kunitz-Pascal Dupuis trio. That would be a tough pill to swallow though, because they have been perhaps the best line in fantasy hockey all season long. Messing with chemistry there could get Malkin back on track, but throw off Crosby. The one good thing about Crosby is that he seems to be much better playing with different teammates, while Malkin is more of a creature of habit.

 The Penguins still look great on paper, but Malkin is the type of player who can make a huge difference in the postseason. Obviously, there is a lot of time to sort it all out by then, but Malkin needs to get back to at least All-Star form. Right now he is getting lost in the shuffle on offense, and his line is struggling.


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Welcome to the East, Detroit.

As the 2013-14 NHL season approaches there is a lot of speculation about who might capture the Stanley Cup this year. While we haven't seen as many changes this off-season as we have in previous years, what we did see is a major shift in the divisional structure. The NHL has moved from six divisions to four. While only three teams have made the shift between conferences, the biggest impact has to be Detroit coming East. Winnipeg is heading west (rightly so) and the other shift is Columbus coming East too.

Detroit is going to pose a much more difficult time for the teams in their new division. Teams such as Boston, Buffalo, and Montreal are all now forced not only to face the Wings 6 times a season, but now rival them for a playoff spot for the foreseeable future. The breakdown of the new divisions can be found here, which also includes the new playoff structure as well.

Our last post indicated some of best odds with the Penguins being the favorites. Other sites offer odds in a game by game format. Below is a link to Sports Illustrated's most recent article on the Vegas odds with Chicago on top. Chicago seems to be the top team seeing as they've not only won two Cups in four seasons, but they have remained to keep their core in tact as well. Our beloved Penguins appear to be favorites as well. Let's be honest, as long as Crosby and Malkin remain on the team together, they'll always be a favorite.

Here are the top 5 in the latest odds on the winner of the 2014 Stanley Cup (via Sports Illustrated):

Chicago Blackhawks: 6-1
Pittsburgh Penguins: 13-2
Boston Bruins: 10-1
Los Angeles Kings: 12-1
St. Louis Blues: 12-1
Detroit Red Wings: 16-1

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