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About the Blackhawks - 03-01-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

A preview of the Blackhawks.

When and where: 8 p.m., EST. Soldier Field.

TV: NBC.

Record: 35-12-14, 84 points. The Blackhawks are in second place in the Central Division.

Leading Scorer: Patrick Kane (right), 60 points (27 goals, 36 assists).

Last Game: 2-1 road loss to the Rangers, Thursday. Corey Crawford made 22 saves for the Blackhawks.

Last Game against the Penguins: 3-2 road loss, Dec. 20, 2011. Viktor Stalberg had a goal and an assist for the Blackhawks.

Blackhawks Player We Would Bet Money On Scoring: Marian Hossa. He has 44 points in 39 career games against his former team.

Ex-Penguins on the Blackhawks: Denis Bonvie, professional scout, Scotty Bowman, senior advisor, Marian Hossa, RW; Norm Maciver, assistant general manager; Michal Rozsival, D.

Ex-Blackhawks on the Penguins: Craig Adams, RW; Tom Fitzgerald, assistant to the general manager.

Useless Blackhawks Trivia Vaguely Related to the Penguins: Rozisval has the most career games played among active Czech-born defensemen (817).

Best Blackhawks Video We Could Find: Blackhawks legend Bobby Hull scoring his 600th career NHL goal against the Bruins in 1971-72:

Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury (31-13-3, 2.29 GAA, .917 SV%) for the Penguins. Corey Crawford (22-10-10, 2.35 GAA, .916 SV%) for the Blackhawks.

Injuries: For the Penguins, defensemen Kris Letang (stroke) and Paul Martin (hand) are out. Right wingers Beau Bennett (hand/wrist), Chris Conner (hand), Pascal Dupuis (knee) and goaltender Tomas Vokoun (blood clots) are on injured reserve. For the Blackhawks, goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin ("lower body"/shoulder) is on injured reserve.

Potential lines and defensive pairings: Neither team held a morning skate today. The Penguins primary lines and defensive pairings during Thursday's game against the Canadiens were:

14 Chris Kunitz - 87 Sidney Crosby - 49 Brian Gibbons
36 Jussi Jokinen - 71 Evgeni Malkin - 18 James Neal
15 Tanner Glass - 16 Brandon Sutter - 12 Chuck Kobasew
17 Taylor Pyatt - 46 Joe Vitale - 27 Craig Adams

3 Olli Maatta - 2 Matt Niskanen
44 Brooks Orpik - 5 Deryk Engelland
4 Rob Scuderi - 41 Robert Bortuzzo

-The Blackhawks primary lines and defensive pairings against the Rangers were:

10 Patrick Sharp - 19 Jonathan Toews - 81 Marian Hossa
23 Bryan Bickell - 12 Peter Regin - 88 Patrick Kane
29 Kris Versteeg - 65 Andrew Shaw - 20 Brandon Saad
52 Brandon Bollig - 16 Marcus Kruger - 28 Ben Smith

2 Duncan Keith - 7 Brent Seabrook
27 Johnny Oduya - 4 Niklas Hjalmarsson
8 Nick Leddy - 32 Michal Rozsival

Notes:

-The last time the Penguins played the Blackhawks this happened:

-Kobasew has appeared in 599 career games.

-Kunitz has 199 career goals.

-Versteeg has 99 career goals.

-Kane has 487 career points.

-According to Accuweather, it will be 18 degrees with snow showers by the start of the game.

-The referees will be Marc Joannette (25) and Chris Rooney (5). The linesmen will be Derek Nansen (70) and Jay Sharrers (57)

-Our live blog, direct from the city with big shoulders, will begin at approximately 6 p.m. Please tune in.

(Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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Appreciating Karvel Anderson

Written by Craig Meyer on .

 

http://media2.s-nbcnews.com/i/MSNBC/Components/Photo/_new/131126-karvel-anderson-main_2.jpg

(Image: Getty)

Sometimes, when you watch someone shoot a basketball for the first time, you just know. It’s a feeling based on nothing more than gut instinct and first impressions, but you walk away from it almost mesmerized. ‘Damn, there’s just something so pure about the way the ball comes out of his hand,’ you think to yourself.

I am not and will never claim to be an enlightened basketball mind, at least when it comes to scouting players. But I can remember getting that awestruck feeling for the first time when I was a 12-year-old kid watching warmups before a Louisville-Air Force game in 2002 at Freedom Hall.

It was then that I saw a freshman from the Bronx knock down 3-pointer after 3-pointer with ease, many of which were 25 feet or further. His name was Francisco Garcia. He went on to become an all-American who led Louisville to its first Final Four in 19 years before making it to the NBA, where he still plays today.

My point with that anecdote is that you get an inescapable premonition when you lay eyes on not just an accomplished shooter, but one that just looks so natural doing it. I noticed it about 11 years ago with Garcia and it happened again a little over a year ago when I saw Karvel Anderson shoot for the first time.

I knew nothing about him at that moment. It was my first game on the Robert Morris beat, so I had never spoken with him or seen him play. I didn’t know that he would play much of that season with an injured wrist. I didn’t know that in sharp contrast to that smooth, flawless release was a backstory that was anything but.

But the image stuck with me. He went on to have a strong junior season doing largely what he exhibited that night – being a consistently reliable presence from 3-point range.

Anderson’s first season of Division I basketball created expectations for this current one, but some questions still lingered. How would he come back from this third wrist surgery in two years? How would he respond to increased attention from defenses, especially with the departure of a handful of talented shooters? Most of all, how would the player that relished being “the best-kept secret” live life as a well-known commodity, at least in the NEC?

The answer has been pretty damn resounding.

Before the season began, I did a blog post on the best-case scenarios for each player. Below is what I wrote about Anderson:

Anderson’s offensive rating last season put him among the top 100 players in Division I last season and it was the highest rating of an RMU player in the KenPom era (since 2003) that used 20 percent or more of the team’s possessions. That sort of efficient play continues and even with more shots and more attention from opposing defenses, he continues to shoot a similar percentage from three-point range. Not only does he stay healthy all year, but he leads the Colonials in scoring, makes first team all-NEC and is a strong contender for player of the year.

It’s obviously too early to say anything declarative on end-of-season awards, but so far, it looks like he may even surpass those grandiose expectations.

The basic, per-game stats stand out immediately. Here’s a quick look at those:

Pts/game Asts/game Rebs/game FG % 3-pt. %
19.5 1.5 3.4 51.7 46.7

Beyond some of those earlier anecdotal claims are more numbers, the kind that illuminate a hard-to-deny fact – Karvel Anderson is having the best season of any player in Robert Morris’ modern history.

As of the team’s most recent game, Thursday's 69-64 victory against Fairleigh Dickinson, these are Anderson’s most pertinent offensive numbers on KenPom.com. His national rank is highlighted below in yellow:

Karvel s

As a quick refresher, offensive rating is sort of a catch-all number that measures offensive efficiency, percentage of shots and possessions used are pretty self-explanatory, effective field goal percentage is a player’s adjusted field goal percentage when accounting for the fact that 3s are worth 50 percent more points and true shooting percentage factors in trips to the free throw line.

Regardless, the national rankings should be enough of an indication – in some of the most telling offensive statistics for a shooting guard, Anderson is among the 50 best players in the country. His numbers in those categories are the best of any Robert Morris player since 2003.

For a little extra context, here are Anderson’s same numbers from last season:

Karvel s 2013

Respectable numbers, no doubt, especially for someone in their first season of Division I basketball. But the reason that I added that is to show the kind of improvement he has made this season and how that progress has come amid some changes.

Simply put, he has managed to noticeably increase his offensive efficiency and production while taking more of the team’s overall shots and using a greater percentage of their possessions. That’s pretty remarkable on its own, but just how efficient he has been with that greater usage is pretty absurd.

There will be a lot of discussion over the next week or so about whether Anderson should win NEC player of the year. I believe so, but when you see someone play on what seems like a nightly basis, you become admittedly biased in the matter. Fairleigh Dickinson’s Sidney Sanders and Bryant’s Alex Francis would be more than acceptable winners, as well.

What I was partially trying to do with this post was signal that Anderson’s something of a unifying figure in a divided world of those who obsess over college basketball.

Though my take on watching him play is unique, he passes the eyeball test so many are fond of. His stroke is as pure as they come and when he gets going from 3-point range, it’s a mild shock if the ball even grazes the rim. And on the other side, he has the sort of ridiculous advanced statistics that make statheads like myself drool.

This is a trend that’s been going on for much of the season, but with only a handful of games left in this season and Anderson’s college career, it’s always worth bringing up.

In all likelihood, Anderson will never be Francisco Garcia, never being a Final Four participant, a first-round NBA Draft pick or a nine-year NBA veteran.

But there are some things you can never forget in life and there are some things that transcend time, regardless of how much basketball you watch. And for both Garcia and Anderson -- as a young fan watching the first and as a writer watching the latter -- you always remember the first time you see something as pure as a perfect shot.

 

Craig Meyer: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG

 

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Empty Netter Assists - 03-01-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-The Penguins face the Blackhawks outside tonight in Soldier Field.

-"The ice was awesome. It was really good. I think we were the first of anyone to skate on it. Usually, they say it gets a little better the more guys skate on it and it settles a little bit more." - Sidney Crosby (above) on the rink at Soldier Field.

-Paul Martin underwent surgery on his broken hand to hasten the healing.

-Rob Scuderi doesn't mind a little snow.

-Brian Gibbons is no stranger to outdoor games.

-“I’ve learned quite a bit about his competitiveness. You kind of see the smile. It’s certainly a ton of skill how he plays the game, but I was impressed by it and learned just the competitiveness that he has and brings to the game. Skill-wise you see it live.” - Dan Bylsma on coaching Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane in the Olympics.

-Crosby and Blackhawks captain/forward Jonathan Toews will face each other as opponents in a regular season game for the first time tonight.

-Sidney Crosby speaks:

-Marc-Andre Fleury speaks:

-Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers was credited with a loss after making five saves for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in a 4-0 shutout on the road to the Syracuse Crunch.

-Highlights:

-Cody Sylvester scored two goals for the Wheeling Nailers in a 6-4 road win against the Elmira Jackals. Dustin Stevenson and Anton Zlobin each collected a goal and an assist for Wheeling while teammates Carter Rowney and Paul Cianfrini each recorded three assists.

-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton assigned Zlobin and forward Tom Kuhnhackl to Wheeling. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton also recalled goaltender Peter Mannino from Wheeling and assigned goaltender Eric Hartzell to Wheeling

-Happy 51st birthday to the greatest No. 2 center in NHL history:

-Happy 62nd birthday to former Penguins forward Pat Boutette. Acquired in the 1981 offseason along with Kevin McClelland as compensation for the Whalers' signing of goaltender Greg Millen, Boutette spent parts of four seasons with the Penguins. In 1981-82, Boutette appeared in 80 games and scored 74 points. During that spring's postseason, Boutette played in five games and score four points. He followed that up in 1982-83 by playing in 80 games and scoring 56 points. Boutette was limited to 73 games and 40 points during the dreadful 1983-84 season. After 14 games and four points in 1984-85, Boutette was traded back to the Whalers in exchange for Ville Siren. In 247 regular season games, Boutette scored 174 points, 40th-most in franchise history.

-After the Jump: The Sabres and Blues pull off a blockbuster trade.

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Setting the SEEN: Debut video report

Written by SEEN on .

Check out the new weekly video report with style editor Sara Bauknecht previewing the upcoming weekend's top social events.

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"The Hobbit" and Weta Digital go for (more) gold at Oscars

Written by Maria Sciullo on .

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 9.53.54 PMHaving spun a dungeon-ful armful of gold for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" this year, effects powerhouse Weta Digital is up for more this Sunday at the Academy Awards.

It's already been quite the awards season for New Zealand-based Weta, with the company earning Visual Effects Society (VES) honors for best animation in a live-action motion picture (that would be, among other effects, Smaug himself, the Middle-earth dragon voiced with silky menace by Benedict Cumberbatch).

Director Peter Jackson and senior visual effects director Joe Letteri -- who grew up in Aliquippa -- also received the Vanguard award from the Producers Guild of America last month. Letteri, who has eight Oscar nomination and has won four times, said Part 3 of "The Hobbit: There and Back Again" will be finished by the end of 2014.

"It has been an honor helping to bring Middle-earth to life again. It will be strange to be without it."

Heaven knows Weta won't be left standing around with nothing to do: "We are well into 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,' and it's a great film. The story is sharp, and we've had a few years to advance our technique for bringing our CG Apes to the screen."

Then there's this little project with James Cameron....

"As for 'Avatar,' [sequels] we've been working with Jim on some of the technology and excited for where he might take the story in these next films."

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 10.56.46 PMAs it happens, Letteri is not the only Pittsburgh-area native up for the visual effects Oscar. Gary Brozenich, who grew up in Natrona Heights, lives in London and works for MPC, which was nominated for its work on "The Lone Ranger."

MPC also did the stunning recent television "dominoes" promotion for the return of NBC's "The Blacklist."

Letteri said that in a season where movie fans have been wowed by FX in any number of films -- including Best Picture nominee "Gravity," -- he's still able to be wowed along with the casual observer.

"It's harder on the films that you work on but for other films, if the story is good, you get swept up in it. If you love what you do, you never give up being a fan. You appreciate the artistry and the craftsmanship, much like a painter viewing someone else's work."

 

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