We have the Cup...now what?

It's been over two months since the Pens have captured the coveted Stanley Cup, and we're all
savoring it. Heck we've had to wait 7 years for even another shot at the Cup. Following the 2009 season the Penguins were the favorites for a repeat. Not only that, but for subsequent years they were considered at least a contender; maybe with the exception when our Ferrari was in the shop. If you don't get that reference, I don't know, try google.

Nevertheless, it's been a blast. I know I ordered at least $150 work of paraphernalia immediately. Following that I spent time rubbing it in to my hockey friends and family. It's just what you do when your team wins. Like if you're a couple, you fight over directions.  It's just what you do. I also spent time on twitter jobbing some people, I mean you have to, it's part of the fun. Maybe my favorite thing is following the players and seeing what they're doing with their day with the Cup. Everyone is different, and usually they share it with members from their humble beginnings.

Not that it's over by any means, but the question is what's the verdict for moving forward? Typically when a team wins the Cup you find many players get that pinnacle-peak feeling of achieving the ultimate reward and then jumping ship for another shot elsewhere with a bigger contract. Year after year you see that in just about every sport. But what about the Penguins?

Well, thus far the following major transactions have been made:

1) Lost Ben Lovejoy to the Devils
2) Lost Jeff Zatkoff to the Kings
3) Re-signed Justin Shultz
4) Re-signed Matt Cullen

And that about does it. That's right, for the moment the Pens haven't really lost anyone except for Ben Lovejoy. The loss of Jeff Zatkoff will obviously be minimal considering the 1-2 punch of Murray and Fleury. And with Trevor Daly returning from injury, that bolsters back the top 4 on the blueline. So yeah, not much has changed with our Penguins this offseason. To answer the question of "now what?" I think we can safely say that barring any unfortunate health issues our Penguins will be back in the mix next season once again! Heck I may have to even make a wager over at best sportsbook as well, too.


Stanley Cup Playoffs Daily Pics

New York Islanders force Game 7 

If you are looking for a reliable source of information for all the hockey games of the post-season, then you are in the right place. Here, you get a full analysis of every game and check out some useful predictions that could come in handy to help you in placing your bets. Check out the NHL odds for the upcoming playoffs games here. Let us take a look at the games everyone is looking forward to.

Game 6, Detroit Red Wings Take On Tampa Bay Lightning, 7 p.m. ET

The Red Wings lead the series 3-2 and the Lightning have an uphill task as they must beat them come Monday night for them to force a Game 7. The amazing thing is that, were it not for the late drama we witnessed at Game 4 where the Lightning put in 3 late goals to overcome a 2-0 deficit, then five games would have been enough to see an end to the season already.

With a much disciplined defence, Red Wings’ goalie, Petr Mrazek has been at his best so far which justifies all the credit that he has been receiving. This means that the Lightning offensive play has to be at its best if they are to get past the Red Wings defence and their impressive goalie. Apart from Tyler Johnson with 4 goals in 5 games, no one else in Tampa Bay has really found their scoring ways. Steven Stamkos is yet to score in the series and the match up against Pavel Datsyuk could mean that the spell might continue given that that battle has never real gone right for the Lightning.

The story over at Red Wings is a totally different one as they have a good attack with 9 players having at least a goal each and 13 of them with at least 2 points each. This is the pick; Red Wings 4 Lightning 2.

Game 7, New York Islanders at Washington Capitals, 7:30 p.m. ET

The series is tied at 3-3 as the New York Landers and the Washington Capitals play their game 7 Monday night. When your favourite team is playing a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it means more than two-and-a-half hours of madness. This match up is going to be very intense physically if the first round is anything to go by.

The last time the Islanders advanced to the second round of the post-season is back in the 1992-1993 season. 14 times, they have missed the playoffs and lost 6 times in the first round for the times they did qualify. As much this could be the best chance for them to qualify again, the Washington are still very strong offensively and they have a top class goalie who knows what it takes to win games at the top level. Given that the Capitals will be looking to put a disappointing post-season behind them, the pick is Capitals 3, Islanders 1.

The Main Stars

Our first star is Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals who despite having a disappointing Game 6 will be looking to bounce back.

Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings is one of the best players in the game and he has been doing a great job for the Red Wings both offensively and defensively.

Petr Mrazek, Detroit Red Wings’ goalie is expected to continue impressing and making a big impact on his team’s performance as they face the Lightning.


The Playoff Push

Written by Mark Stevens

With guys like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the roster, the Pittsburgh Penguins have been in the Stanley Cup playoff discussion nearly every single year. That is once again the case in 2015, as they currently stand in 6th place in the Eastern conference. Even though this is not the best team Pittsburgh has put out there in recent memory, they look like they will at least get the opportunity to compete in the postseason. In the NHL, that is all a team really needs.

Right now, a total of 7 teams have distanced themselves from the rest of the pack in the Eastern conference. A few hot weeks could get Pittsburgh right back to the top of the conference standings, as they are just 6 points behind Montréal as of right now. They could easily fix their current standing if they did a better job playing at home. They are actually the best team in the Eastern conference as far as road records are concerned, but they have not done a good job protecting their home ice.

As expected, Crosby and Malkin have been leading the charge on offense. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is once again very solid in net as well, as he has helped this team become a top 5 defense as far as goals against are concerned. That is really going to come into play in the postseason, because goaltending can make a huge difference.

With the trade deadline looming, there is a very good chance that Pittsburgh makes at least one move to try to solidify their roster in general. This is a franchise that is in a win-now mode, as their star players will not be in their prime for too much longer. They have already added David Perron and Maxim Lapierre in deals in the month of January. As far as the next week is concerned, they will probably look for either an additional piece in front, or another forward to add depth.

Pittsburgh definitely has experience in the postseason over a lot of their competition. That could help sway things into their favor as they try to make a postseason push.

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NHL Players’ Peculiar Hobbies

Thrashing it up on the ice, being tripped over, throwing off the gloves and having at it! To any unsuspecting fan or viewer, this is perhaps the image one will create in their mind when they think of ice hockey players; big guys going for gusto, testosterone surging. This isn't really the case however. Hockey takes a huge amount of skill and lightning fast reflexes- far more than an exercise in slogging the puck- and when one sheds the stereotypes, players really are quite a varied bunch. Naturally there are certain players who take ‘varied’ to the next level, pursuing some truly surprising hobbies in their spare time!

Tony Lydman, Thrasher

The retired player, a veteran of teams such as the Calgary Flames, Buffalo Sabres and the Anahaeim Ducks, plays in a band in his spare time, one that him and his friends started many years ago. The band, Mononen, is quite unlike what one might expect from an NHL player (or is it…), though really explains in part the drive behind Lydman’s game!

Brent Burns, Zookeeper

This Canadian defenceman who plays for the San Jose Sharks is no stranger to being in dangerous situations, but the creatures that Burns keeps at home would make even the hardiest goalkeeper quiver at the knees. Pythons, parrots and all manner of other reptilian creatures frequent the player’s home, earning it the nickname “Burns Zoo”!

Steven Stamkos, Batter

24 year old Stamkos has made quite the mark since being drafted by Tampa Bay Lightning, but in another universe the player could have been a pro of an altogether more laid back sport- baseball. The player played at the provincial level prior to being drafted into the OHL, but still finds time to play for a local Markham beer-league in the summer!

Thomas Vanek, Illegal Gambling

Now we’re aware that this isn’t so much of a hobby as a controversy, but hey, gambling is a hobby nonetheless! It was reported recently that the NHL star’s name had surfaced in relation to a money laundering and illegal gambling ring in Western New York. If you enjoy gambling so much, Thomas, satisfy your craving online at www.jackpotcitycasino.com! It’s inexpensive, fun, and signing up won’t result in a knock on the door by federal authorities.

Jonas Hiller, Petrolhead

Ducks player Hiller is well known for checking his mask or tightening his skates, but not so well known is his love for checking oil gauges and tightening the brakes. Hiller has a very large collection of cars back home in Switzerland, including a 1967 Camero, 1965 Volkswagen Bus and a 2004…SEAT. Fair enough!


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.

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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!!!!

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