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Re-examining preseason predictions for RMU

Written by Craig Meyer on .

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Instead of doing a dry, standard and broad preview heading into the 2013-14 season, I opted to examine each Robert Morris player through a best-case and worst-case scenario. Simply, I wanted to look at the components of the team through two different lenses -- one being an ideal, if-everything-works-out-perfectly view and the other being a sort of Murphy's Law, everything-that-can-go-wrong-will way.

With the season having been over for about a month, I figured now would be a reasonable time to look back on those and see where each player ended up falling. At the end, I'll assign a grade based on how they performed relative to those expectations. If they exceeded the best-case scenario, they get an A. If they met it or come close to it, it falls in the B range. If they were somewhere in the middle, it's a C. If it's at the worst case or close to it, it's a D. If they somehow did worse than that, it's an F. And, given everything that happened this season, if they didn't really display enough to warrant a grade, it's an incomplete.

Naturally, the grading process is as arbitrary as it is for a college liberal arts professor, but such is the nature of the beast.

NOTE: I did not do entries on walk-ons Evan Grey and Shaire Tolson-Ford. Both were suspended for one year by the university back in January.

 

THE RETURNERS

 

G Karvel Anderson

What I said back in November:

Best case scenario: 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.

Worst case scenario: With Coron Williams, Russell Johnson and Velton Jones gone – all players that shot at least 34 percent from 3-point range – defenders can key in on Anderson, meaning he doesn’t get quite the same looks he did last year. He’ll still get his share of 3s, but he won’t shoot as well with more pressure and he’ll see his scoring take a dip. Also, coming off offseason surgery, his wrist will bother him and cause him to miss some time on the court.

What ended up happening: Reading back on that best-case prediction, it really seems like I sold him short, especially if we're working in an unrealistic realm where pretty much anything can happen. He improved in virtually every statistical category possible -- even in areas of strength like 3-point shooting -- while putting up unreal efficiency numbers and, most importantly, being a go-to scorer who could be counted on to push the team to a win when needed. Not only was he a strong contender for the NEC player of the year award, but he won it with little debate or protest. Anderson was named an honorable mention AP all-American and was as strong a representative of the program as one could probably ask for. I'd say that more than covers the best-case scenario. Grade: A

F Lucky Jones

What I said back in November:

Best case scenario: If there’s a potential star on this team, it’s Jones. His numbers improved substantially from his freshman to sophomore year and now with Velton Jones gone, there’s a reasonable assumption that he will emerge as the team’s primary offensive threat. Not only will he be the team’s leading rebounder again (helping limit the burden off an already-thin front court), but he’ll also be the leading scorer as both a competent penetrator and a continued threat from 3-point range. Ideally, he’s a matchup nightmare who can stretch the court and create opportunities for his teammates. He’ll do just that in 2013-14 as he wins NEC player of the year.

Worst case scenario: As talented as Jones is, he has a tendency for some mental lapses in games and in practice (anyone that’s watched Andy Toole during an RMU practice can attest to the latter). Players come with different characteristics and not everyone has laser-like focus, but for someone with his sort of skill level, there will need to be some assertiveness if he hopes to make another jump from his sophomore to junior season. If that doesn’t happen, expect his stats to be down, leaving the Colonials partially devoid of their most dangerous offensive weapon. Also, he’ll clothesline 10 more players, get banned by the NCAA and embark on a pro wrestling career.

What ended up happening: I may have jumped the gun a year early on the Lucky-Jones-is-going-to-be-an-unquestioned-star thing. Jones was undoubtedly an excellent player this season, an extremely good No. 2 option, but he was just that -- a very strong player who wasn't quite the star that Karvel Anderson was. And that's no knock on Jones at all. What Anderson managed to accomplish this season was probably the best statistical season in Robert Morris' modern history and just because Jones wasn't able to stack up to a whimsical preseason projection doesn't mean he had a bad season. In fact, it was the opposite. While some of his offensive numbers went down -- field goal percentage, 3-point percentage -- perhaps nobody was more integral to the Colonials' undermanned success than Jones, particularly on the defensive end, where he often had to defend positions 1-5. This wasn't Jones' season to be a star, but after his performance in 2013-14, he's set himself in a position to be just that for Robert Morris in 2014-15. And, yes, I feel a little cheated that he didn't lay anyone out on an attempted layup this season. Grade: A-/B+

F Mike McFadden

What I said back in November:

Best case scenario: The early reports on McFadden were that he looked much improved from last season and the exhibition game against California confirmed as much. That will carry over into the regular season as McFadden, no longer hampered by tendinitis in his knees, displays greater speed and athleticism. In turn, that gives RMU a consistent offensive presence on the low post, something that they, at least now, don’t obviously have. Healthy at last, he also improves drastically on his low rebounding numbers from last season. A spot on the all-conference team becomes a very real possibility.

Worst case scenario: Pretty much the opposite of the previous paragraph. After an offseason of rest and rehabilitation, the lingering injuries and pain begin to resurface, limiting his game and stripping him of the sort of leaping ability necessary to get points and grab rebounds down low. Without an effective McFadden, the RMU frontcourt, as a whole, is a liability throughout the season as the team becomes more one-dimensional than it was last year.

What ended up happening: This one definitely sided more toward the worst case. If it were just about his game, he would have been somewhere in the middle between the two scenarios, probably more toward the worst. His scoring numbers were the lowest in his Robert Morris career, his rebounding figures didn't improve much and he wasn't much of a noticeable presence on the low post. Of course, his on-court performance wasn't everything. McFadden missed the final 18 games of the season in what amounted to him leaving the team. The reasons for the move aren't entirely clear -- I've heard different things from different people -- but the nagging injuries seemed to at least play some part in it. Grade: Incomplete

 

G Anthony Myers-Pate

What I said back in November:

Best case scenario: With just one year of eligibility left, I’m not exactly going out on a limb saying that Myers-Pate will never be the same kind of scoring threat his predecessor, Velton Jones, was. With that being said, I see some similarities between the two and much of that will translate to the court this season. Myers-Pate will be an active offensive presence, routinely setting his teammates up for easy baskets while limiting his mistakes. An even 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio is possible. He also improves his 25.4 percent clip from 3-point range last year, giving the team yet another outside threat.

Worst case scenario: For all the similarities he shares with Jones, there’s one clear difference between the two – Myers-Pate is not nearly as outgoing as Jones and at a position that requires constant communication, that could be a potential problem. He is not able to adjust to the role of being the team’s primary offensive catalyst and in the process, his turnover numbers increase. As he continues to struggle shooting from deep, he gradually loses minutes, and eventually his starting spot, to freshman Kavon Stewart.

What ended up happening: Like Anderson, I may have sold Myers-Pate short a bit when it comes to a best-case-scenario. Many of the things that I listed in that paragraph ended up coming true. He improved his 3-point shooting by six percent, he actually had better than a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio (it was 2.18:1) and he was a a consistently reliable offensive presence for much of the season, one that routinely put his teammates in a position to excel. But it wasn't like that for the entire season. Myers-Pate was never a backup in the traditional sense of the word, but he took some time to adjust to his new role on the team as the go-to-guy at the point guard spot. That adjustment was reflected in some underwhelming offensive stats early in the season. That far from tells the full story for Myers-Pate, as he basically fulfilled his best-case scenario, but they were part of that story nonetheless. Grade: B

 

G David Appolon

What I said back in November:

Best case scenario: Unlike others, I’m bullish on Appolon. He’s got a unique skill set that could ideally make him a poor man’s Lucky Jones by the end of the year. He’ll start to demonstrate that this season, first by showing effectiveness in limited minutes and later becoming an important piece in the team’s rotation. His poor shooting numbers from last season (32.5 percent on FGs, 22.9 percent on 3s) improve as he gives the team yet another matchup nightmare, along with Jones and Desjuan Newton, who can stretch the floor.

Worst case scenario: In simplistic terms, a continuation of what we saw last season. He shows no clear signs of improvement as a junior (a pivotal time for player growth), still looks lost at times on the court and eventually gets leapfrogged by newcomers like Newton, Charles Oliver and Britton Lee in the team’s rotation.

What ended up happening: Few people embodied the "excel when given the opportunity" mantra that helped define the Crazy Eight more than Appolon. I had always really liked his game, but there was little to back it up beyond a few anecdotal examples. He didn't get many minutes and in that limited time, he didn't really show anything that would possibly earn him a greater role on the team. Early in the season, that trend looked like it would continue, but when the team went down to eight players, the junior wing reinvented himself as a player and helped rejuvenate his career. A poor-man's Lucky Jones in some ways, Appolon was a versatile threat who could play a number of positions and come up with big plays in big moments. He's still not much of an outside threat (15.4 percent on 3s), but there's a fun stat that tells a lot about his development and greater role this season. In his first two years at Robert Morris, Appolon had 109 points total; this season, he scored 146. Grade: B+

 

C Stephan Hawkins

What I said in November:

Best case scenario: Hawkins is kind of the great “What if?” on the RMU team and this year, that potential-laden question gets answered pretty convincingly. The opportunity for increased minutes is there and the sophomore takes full advantage, showing an improved offensive game and remaining the team’s lone shot-blocking force. His length makes him, at worst, a great shot-altering presence and he manages to stay out of foul trouble while becoming the team’s leading rebounder. He starts to crack the starting lineup by season’s end and ends up averaging about 20 minutes per game.

Worst case scenario: When CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein visited RMU’s practice last week, Hawkins was one of the players that stood out to him, as he said the big man has “A-10 athleticism” is a “player to keep an eye on.” While Rothstein’s unflinching optimism admittedly can make him an easy punchline sometimes, he’s right on this – everything is there for Hawkins, but will he put it together? In this case, he doesn’t. Like he was in the exhibition, he looks lost on the court at times, continues to not pick up some of the game’s subtle nuances and get in foul trouble so early that he’s never able to get much time on the court. A lack of progress leaves the team relying heavily on its remaining bigs – McFadden, Jeremiah Worthem and Aaron Tate.

What ended up happening: I didn't outline much with Hawkins as far as production, but all in all, he performed pretty well. The minutes were there (he averaged just shy of 20 per game at 19.6) and for the most part, he took advantage of those minutes. His scoring numbers reflected that increase in playing time -- from 2.5 ppg in 11.5 mpg to 4.6 ppg in 19.6 mpg -- but his rebounding didn't improve all that much (from 2.2 to 2.9). In fact, when looking at offensive and defensive rebounding percentage, his numbers actually got worse. He's developed a very reliable mid-range jump shot that he uses effectively (and often), but he still needs to develop more of a back-to-the-basket game, something coaches will repeatedly tell you. It was a good-but-not-great season from the sophomore, but there were signs of improvement and at this point, that's probably the most important thing. Grade: C+

 

THE JUCO TRANSFERS


G Desjuan Newton

What I said back in November:

Best case scenario: Junior college guys can be a mixed bag – sometimes they’re underappreciated assets, other times they were playing at that level for a reason – but a few guarantees come with Newton. Mainly, he’s athletic as all hell, evidenced by some of the dunks he’s pulled off both in the Greentree summer league and in practice. He uses that to full advantage, becoming a dynamic offensive threat who can penetrate and create his own shot, something last year’s team was largely missing. Also, regardless of how he does, Newton will be the most entertaining player on the team.

Worst case scenario: The transition to the D-I game can be tricky for some JuCo guys – for every Karvel Anderson, there are countless others that didn’t make it – and Newton shows that. His athleticism is still there, but he’s erratic and turns the ball over often. He never really finds his shot, making him somewhat of an offensive liability and in what should be a crowded backcourt, he sees his minutes diminish.

What ended up happening: When he was playing, Newton was pretty much an embodiment of the worst-case scenario or in the ballpark of earning a D in this exercise. It wasn't that he was bad, but he simply didn't do enough on the court to justify getting significant playing time. After playing a decent amount in the Colonials' first nine games, Newton saw his minutes decrease drastically and soon enough, he temporarily left the team, an absence that ended up becoming permanent as he would not play the rest of the season. He has since been granted his release from the program. Grade: Incomplete

F Aaron Tate

What I said back in November:

Best case scenario: I promise I’m not trying to make too much out of a meaningless game, but Tate started the exhibition last week for a reason. Early on, he’s proven something to coaches and he shows that once the season begins, instantly becoming a reliable force on the low block by collecting rebounds for a team that will need them. By the time conference play starts, he solidifies his status as the starting power forward, which is really the only position still in question at this point.

Worst case scenario: Tate’s on the smaller end for a power forward – standing 6-foot-5 – and it shows as he’s not able to carve out the necessary space against taller players with Division I experience. It has probably become pretty obvious at this point, but with only four traditional big men (for, theoretically, two spots), the Colonials will need contributions from almost all of them or they will have to go extended stretches of the game playing small. Thus, if Tate doesn’t produce, that aspect of the team’s game will suffer.

What ended up happening: Tate wasn't much of an offensive threat and with the way his game is, it likely won't ever be that way. But the beauty of it is that he doesn't have to be. He began the year as a starter, eventually lost the spot to Jeremiah Worthem and once Worthem was suspended, he reassumed that role. Tate's something of a junkyard dog, the kind of player who doesn't do anything flashy or noticeable, but he fulfills a necessary and important niche -- the rebounder and essential glue guy. Tate's 4.4 rebounds per game were second on the team and he was the only RMU player to rank in the top 400 players nationally in offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. Grade: B-

G Charles Oliver

What I said back in November:

Best case scenario: The addition of Oliver came with pretty clear intentions. With Coron Williams off to Wake Forest, the team needed a traditional shooting guard who could replace Williams’ production from beyond the arc. He shot 44.9 percent from 3-point range in junior college and that figure is able to translate to Robert Morris, where he is able to get enough open looks. The team doesn’t miss a beat with the loss of Williams and, best of yet, Oliver has two years of eligibility remaining (unlike Williams, who would have been a senior).

Worst case scenario: Conventional wisdom (and Norman Dale) would tell you that the dimensions of a basketball court are the same at all college levels and, thus, a shooter’s effectiveness should remain the same. But, for whatever reason, that doesn’t prove to be the case with Oliver, as his shot falls flat. On average, he misses more than one out of every 3s he attempts, taking away the biggest strength of his game and planting him behind the likes of Newton, Stewart and Lee.

What ended up happening: Oliver's the only guy on the Robert Morris team that has ever interviewed me for a paper for a communications class, so I'm predisposed to like him. Like a lot of players on the team, he fell somewhere between the best and worst-case scenarios. He averaged just about 15 minutes per game, so it wasn't like he was a major piece to the team, but he was productive in those minutes, averaging 6.3 points per game. Largely a 3-point specialist (106 of his 188 field goal attempts came from beyond the arc), Oliver shot well at the beginning of the season, but tailed off as it went on, missing 25 of his final 29 3-point attempts. While he wasn't anything outstanding, Oliver did what he needed to do and should only improve next season as a potential starter. Grade: B-

 

THE FRESHMEN

F Jeremiah Worthem

Best case scenario: Worthem is being talked about like a potential NEC rookie of the year and there’s plenty of reason for that. He would fit almost seamlessly into the vacant power forward position and with a relative lack of numbers down low, the opportunity for big minutes is there. Anyone that saw games at Greentree this summer knows just how good he can be. Albeit as a freshman, he makes good on that, averaging double figures in points, becomes the team’s leading rebounder and shows an above-average outside shot that will draw larger players out to the perimeter and open things up down low.

Worst case scenario: It’s dicey to do this kind of exercise with freshmen. Odds are, they aren’t going to emerge as a star immediately, especially on a team with a pretty established starting lineup, and if they don’t do well or don’t play much, it’s largely because they’re freshmen. There’s a grace period to learn the game and get acclimated to it; sometimes, that takes a full season. But if Worthem doesn’t become a consistent contributor down low, it will be a disappointment and something that could hinder the team’s overall balance and depth.

What ended up happening: Well, a lot happened. For the time that he did play, Worthem looked liked a walking iteration of what many ideally projected him to be. He was a bruising inside presence who had the ability to stretch the floor and get looks from the outside. Averaging about eight points and four rebounds per game, he won NEC rookie of the week numerous times and figured to be a strong contender for the conference's rookie of the year award. Of course, that's not how everything ultimately played out. Along with three teammates, Worthem was suspended in January for a non-criminal violation of university policy, the kind of offense that carries a mandatory one-year suspension from the university. It's unclear whether Worthem will ever return to the program -- of the four, he has the best shot to, but I still don't think it's all that likely -- and based on some of the glimpses he was able to show as a freshman, that's too bad for the Colonials. Grade: Incomplete.

 

G Kavon Stewart

What I said back in November:

Best case scenario: I’ve got a theory that everything a left-handed basketball player does looks smoother. I have no clue why this is, but that’s just always how it looks. Maybe that’s what’s at play with Stewart, but from what I’ve seen of him, there’s just a smooth, calm demeanor to Stewart’s game, something you don’t often see from a freshman. He will begin the year as the backup point guard and will gradually see his minutes increase as he creates plays and, most importantly for a young player, doesn’t turn the ball over. By the end of conference play, he’ll be starting, which won’t be a product of poor play from Myers-Pate – rather, it will just be impossible to keep him off the court. Averaging double figures in points and about 3.5 assists per game, he wins the NEC rookie of the year.

Worst case scenario: Stewart has a problem common to many freshman point guards – turning the ball over – that limits his playing time and forces RMU to shuffle other players like Lee and Newton into the backup point guard role.

What ended up happening: Stewart was as electric of a playmaker as there was on the Colonials last season and that was just in his first season of college basketball. At pretty much any moment, especially in NEC play, he's the fastest player on the court and can get to the basket with relative ease. His assist rate of 25.7 (187th among DI players) is more than a little promising. But there are also some downsides that sometimes limited that playmaking ability. He didn't shoot the ball particularly well this season, making only 40.6 percent of his attempted field goals, including a horrid 41.4 percent clip on 2-pointers. Theoretically, that should improve with time, as should his average of two turnovers per game. There's a lot to be learned after a freshman season and if Stewart does, he could become something truly special. Grade: B

 

G Britton Lee

What I said back in November:

Best case scenario: For whatever reason, Lee seems to be the freshman who gets overlooked, despite shooting 53.7 percent for a Philadelphia high school that went 26-3 last year. Though it’s hard to imagine that kind of a mark translating to the college level for a freshman guard, Lee shoots well enough to become a fixture in the RMU rotation at the 2 spot and even gets some time at point guard, where he also excels. He won’t start by the end of the year, but he’ll be averaging around 15 minutes per game.

Worst case scenario: Again, the worst case for a freshman is usually a shortage of playing time and a lack of anything eye-popping in limited minutes. That will be the case with Lee as he struggles to get on the floor in what will be a pretty crowded backcourt.

What ended up happening: Even prior to his suspension, Lee was averaging just 3.3 points per game and interestingly enough, he never actually scored a point in his Robert Morris career, assuming that he won't be coming back even when the ban is done. Lee was on the trajectory of the worst-case scenario and that was before he was suspended along with three other teammates. Grade: Incomplete

 

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

 

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Rangers - Flyers preview - 04-17-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Rangers vs. Flyers

Rangers Leading Regular Season Scorer: Martin St. Louis, 69 points (30 goals, 39 assists).

Flyers Leading Regular Season Scorer: Claude Giroux, 86 points (28 goals, 58 assists).

Rangers Expected Starting Goaltender: Henrik Lundqvist, 33-24-5, 2.36 GAA, .920 SV%.

Flyers Expected Starting Goaltender: Ray Emery, 9-12-2, 2.96 GAA, .903 SV%.

Rangers Regular Season Statistics

Flyers Regular Season Statistics

Rangers Injuries: Center Derick Brassard (back) and defenseman Ryan McDonagh (shoulder) are probable. Left winger Ryan McDonagh (shoulder) is out.

Flyers Injuries: Defenseman Nicklas Grossman (ankle) is probable. Right winger Steve Downie ("upper body") is doubtful. Goaltender Steve Mason ("upper body") is out. Defenseman Chris Pronger (concussion) is on injured reserve.

Rangers with Stanley Cup bling: Brad Richards, C; Martin St. Louis, RW.

Flyers with Stanley Cup bling: Ray Emery, G; Hal Gill, D; Vincent Lecavalier, C; Chris Pronger, D.

Something worthwhile about the Rangers: The Rangers had the best penalty killing percentage of any Eastern Conference team in the postseason this past regular season at 85.3 percent.

Something worthwhile about the Flyers: The Flyers have lost eight consecutive road games against the Rangers.

Something useless about the Rangers that is vaguely connected to the Penguins: The only people to coach the Penguins and Rangers in a postseason game are Herb Brooks and Craig Patrick.

Something useless about the Flyers that is vaguely connected to the Penguins: Former Flyers center Rick MacLeish is the Flyers' all-time leader in game-winning postseason goals with 10.

Former Penguins on the Rangers: Daniel Carcillo, LW (Carcillo is a former Penguins draft pick but never played for the organization at the NHL level); Rick Kehoe, professional scout; Dominic Moore, C; Ulf Samuelsson, assistant coach; Glen Sather, general manager.

Former Penguins on the Flyers: Hal Gill, D; Adam Hall, RW; Joe Mullen, assistant coach; Kjell Samuelsson, player development.

Who needs to be the difference for the Rangers: Andrew MacDonald, Kimmo Timonen (right), Mark Streit, Braydon Coburn, etc. With the Flyers turning to backup goaltender Ray Emery, the Flyers' defense needs to make life easier on him.

Who needs to be the difference for the Flyers: Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal, etc. The Flyers are loaded up front. The Rangers' blue line needs to limit the damage from the likes of Flyers forward Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds and Scott Hartnell.

Best Rangers YouTube Video We Could Find: Rangers left winger Esa Tikkanen's series-clinching overtime goal in a 3-2 win against the Panthers in Game 5 of a 1997 Eastern Conference quarterfinal series:

Best Flyers YouTube Video We Could Find: Flyers right winger Joffrey Lupul series-clinching overtime goal in a 3-2 win against the Capitals in Game 7 of a 2008 Eastern Conference semifinal series:

EN Prediction: Given the Flyers' rotten recent history at Madison Square Garden, an injury to the steady Steve Mason is the last thing they needed. Henrik Lundqvist will give the Rangers a series win. Rangers 4-2.

(Photos: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images and Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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McKay's streak continues ...... Matijevic's streak comes to an end

Written by Mike White on .

Blackhawk's Brendan McKay came into today with a pitching streak for the ages. Norwin's J.J. Matijevic had an unforgettable hitting streak.

Only one of the streaks continued.

Brendan McKayMcKay (pictured), a senior left-hander, shut out Central Valley, 8-0, and stretched his scoreless innings streak to 44 innings, dating back to last season. Eight more shutout innings will put him in the top 10 all-time nationally, according to the National Federation of State High School Association.

On top of the shutout, McKay struck out 20 batters. In covering more than three decades of baseball in the WPIAL, I don't think I've ever heard of anyone striking out 20 batters in a seven-inning game in the Pittsburgh area. But guess what? It is the second time McKay had 20 strikeouts this year.

While McKay's scoreless streak stayed alive, Matijevic's streak came to an end when he went 0 for 3 in a 2-1 loss to Hempfield. Matijevic had hit a home run in six consecutive games, a feat also unheard of around the WPIAL.

You knew Matijevic's streak had to end soon, didn't you? That is awful tough to keep hitting home runs. He also had 10 consecutive hits. A shoutout to him for an incredible feat, putting the two streaks together.

As for McKay? Heck, who knows when that scoreless streak will end. He is now 25-1 for his career but his statistics this season are surreal. He has pitched 20 innings and has 49 strikeouts. Are you serious? Girls softball pitchers don't do that and that sport is so pitcher-dominated. McKay gave up four hits and struck out two. He has allowed five hits in 20 innings. Today's effort came after he pitched a no-hitter last week against West Allegheny, despite McKay maybe not being at his best.

"I thought he was a little better today," said Blackhawk coach Bob Amalia. "His curveball was better and I think he had a little more pop on his fastball. I thought he was sharper."

Amalia thought McKay was throwing maybe 87-88 mph. He was clocked in the low 90s last month while pitching in Arizona. Several major-league scouts were on hand again today.

"His curveball must have impressed because some of those scouts left some packages from their teams in the dugout for him," said Amalia.

"I can throw harder, but it's still pretty cold," McKay said.

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Blue Jackets at Penguins - 04-16-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

PREGAME

(For the playoffs, we normally switch over to this montage.)

-Greetings on the first night of the playoffs. There's something about the start of this postseason for the Penguins which seems ... ordinary. There isn't the same buzz for tonight's Game 1. Maybe it's a because the game isn't against a heated rival. The Blue Jackets and Penguins may have a rivalry some day based on geography.... but that day isn't here yet.

-Maybe, it's the sputtering end to the regular season for the Penguins? They limped to the finish line. They didn't outright stink down the stretch run following the Olympics but they weren't very good either. They were the definition of mediocrity from late February to Sunday night.

-What's definitely a factor is the sting of four consecutive exits from the postseason to teams with lesser seeds. That has given anyone with a vested interest in this team ample reason to be cynical.

-Personally, we think its Stanley Cup final or bust for Dan Bylsma. This team is capable of getting to the Stanley Cup final with a little help. Avoiding the Bruins would be nice and it's entirely possible they could get upset in the second round. We don't think the Penguins will beat the Bruins in a potential best-of-seven-series but they are capable. Ultimately, we think the Stanley Cup champion will come from the Western Conference. If Dan Bylsma can get his team there, his job is safe heading into the offseason.

-Another person with plenty riding on this postseason is Marc-Andre Fleury. There is no safety valve this postseason. Tomas Vokoun is not an option. Jeff Zatkoff is stictly a backup goaltender. This team will sink or swim with Fleury. From what we've observed, he's a little more serious about his profession these days. He's not wired tightly like a Ryan Miller by any means. He's still a little goofy and flighty but he's cut down on that stuff a little bit. Additionally, we think new goaltending coach Mike Bales has benefitted him from a technical standpoint. Either way, Marc-Andre Fleury must keep things together.

-It's also fair to have big expectations for Beau Bennett. Even if you consider the long-term injury he is coming off of, he's on the first line with Sidney Crosby. He must produce. We expect to have a Q&A with Bennett in the next day or two. He admitted he's in much better shape this season than he was last season. The Penguins have had little success in terms of drafting and developing forwards. He's one of the few forwards they have drafted who can offer some legitimate optimism.

-This Blue Jackets team almost reminds us of last seasons' Islanders. We don't mean that so much in terms of playing style or personnel but more so in terms of their status of being an underdog. Like the Islanders, this is a young team with little postseason experience. But also like the Islanders, they having nothing to lose and they seem to realize it. They won't be outworked. They will contest every puck and they will go to the net. The Penguins might win this series in five games or even less, but most of these games will be tight. We would expect a few 3-2 or 3-1 games.

-Sergei Bobrovsky is this team's greatest asset and he has to play like it. The Blue Jackets lost several tight games against the Penguins this season and Bobrovsky barely played in any of them. He could have made the difference in a few of those contests.

-The Blue Jackets have a fairly deep blue line. With their top two defensive pairings of Fedor Tyutin and Jack Johnson as well as Ryan Murray and James Wisniewski, they can matchup reasonably well to the Penguins' top two lines.

-Remember how the Penguins focused on John Tavares last season? We would expect them to try the same thing against Ryan Johansen, the Blue Jackets' best offensive weapon. They will try to make life miserable for him. We're not sure if the Penguins have the personnel on their third line to do that but Johansen figures to be a focus.

-The absences of Nathan Horton and R.J. Umberger are killers for the Blue Jackets. They are some of the few players on this roster with any sort of success on their playoff resumes. Horton was huge for the Bruins in their run to the Stanley Cup in 2011. Umberger has 19 points in 26 career postseason games.

-The Penguins will try a "Gold Out" for tonight's game by giving fans gold t-shirts and towel. We're interesting to see how the aesthetics of this will look.

-Some sights around the barn. Said barn:

-The ice:

-Mark Recchi:

-Martin Straka:

-This is sharp. Derrick Pouliot Portland Winterhawks:

-We don't want to say it's cold for mid-April, but...:

-Darius Kasparaitis:

-Petr Nedved:

-Fans entering the barn:

-Fans being given their gold t-shirts:

 

 

-The shirts have "Buckle Up Baby!" the catch phrase of Penguins broadcaster Phil Bourque:

-The turnout for the big screen is a little light presumably because of the cold weather:

-There is a smattering of Blue Jackets fans. James Wisniewski:

-Ryan Johansen:

-Nick Foligno and ... "Nothimagain:"

-Denis Herron:

-Ulf Samuelsson:

-The "gold out" has made these yellow Mario Lemieux jerseys from the mid 1980s a popular choice:

-Paul Coffey:

-Jersey of the Night: Bryan Trottier:

-Warm ups:

-The Penguins' starters are Jussi Jokinen, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Kris Letang, Rob Scuderi and Marc-Andre Fleury.

-Their scratches are Robert Bortuzzo, Deryk Engelland, Marcel Goc, Jayson Megna, Taylor Pyatt and Tomas Vokoun.

-The Blue Jackets' starters are Cam Atkinson, Matt Calvert, Brandon Dubinsky, Jack Johnson, Fedor Tyutin and Sergei Borovsky.

-Their scratches are Nick Foligno, Matt Frattin, Nathan Horton, Dalton Prout, Nick Schultz, Jersemy Smith, and R.J. Umberger.

-Jeff  Jimerson is ready for the playoffs:

FIRST PERIOD

19:11: A backhander by Johansen from in tight on the right wing is eaten up by Fleury. A small scrum breaks out with Letang giving Calvert a punch to the the chest. Nothing comes of it.

19:00: Kunitz pushes a puck through the neutral zone and chips a little pass to Crosby streaking up the left wing. Crosby tries to battle by Ryan Murray and snap off a wrister wide to the  far side.

17:33: The hitting begins. Craig Adams smacks Corey Tropp with a solid hit in front of the Penguins penalty box.

17:25: Former Penguin Mark Letestu drops Niskanen with a hard hit behind the Penguins net. Fire Ray Shero.

17:17: Niskanen gets a little revenge by shoving Jarde Boll to the ice near the Penguins' left wing corner.

16:47: Off a set up by Malkin, Neal rips a quick wrister from the left circle which is blocked by Johnson.

16:27: A pedestrian backhander by Bennett from in tight on the left wing is fought off by Bobrovsky.

16:21: Kunitz lifts a little backhander from above the crease. Bobrovsky rejects it.

15:52: A wriste by Jack Skille from the high slot is blocked by a kneeling Orpik.

13:40: The Blue Jackets strike first. Brandon Dubinsky undresses Paul Martin with a nice deke above the Penguins' left circle and fires a backhanded pass to Johnson sneaking in from the left circle. Johnson goes forehand then snaps to his  backhand to tuck a shot by a sprawling Fleury. What a great set up by Dubinsky. Johnson was left off the United States Olympic team by members of Penguins management while Martin and Orpik, the defensive duo on the ice for that goal, made that team. Johnson has to jacked for that goal. Dubinsky gets the only assist. Blue Jackets 1-0.

11:43: Murray races back for a puck in his own left wing corner. He plays it out but is run over by a strong forecheck by Beau Bennett. Murray is coming off a knee injury late in the regular season. That couldn't have felt good.

11:21: After Stempniak turns a puck over in the neutral zone, Artem Anisimov rips a rising wrister which Fleury snags with a fancy glove save.

10:55: A one-timer by Niskanen fom the left point is kicked out by Bobrovsky despite traffic.

10:41: Niskanen pops a one-timer from the center point wide of the cage.

9:32: A wrister by Boone Jenner is rejected by Fleury.

9:06: Brandon Sutter gets the puck deep on the left wing, circle behind the net and whips a feed to the crease for Stempniak. The timing is off and they fail to connect on the pass.

8:20: After the Blue Jackets fumble the puck twice in their own zone, Brian Gibbons gets two chances from the left circle. Bobrovsky kicks out the first and snags the second.

5:35: A wrister by Anisimov from the high slot is wide of the cage thanks in part due to a check by Malkin.

4:33: Crosby swipes a one-time from the left circle wide of hte cage.

4:10: Nikita Nikitin pounds a slapper from above the left circle. Fleury snags it.

4:07: Off the ensuing faceoff in the left circle, a slapper by Nikitn is wide of the cage.

3:21: Nikitin chops a slapper from the left point wide of the cage.

2:47:  Jussi Jokinen to the rescue. After Tyutin fumbles a puck in his own right wing corner, Malkin collects it, looks up and sneaks a pass to Jokinen in the slot. Jokinen settles the puck on his fore and chops it by the blocker of Bobrovsky. Malkin and Maatta get assists. It's Maatta's first career postseason point. The "Hey Song" is played. Blue Jackets 1, Penguins 1.

2:24: Sutter gets a chance in tight in the left circle. Bobrovsky rejects it.

2:15: Calvert chips and chases a puck up the right wing boards. Scuderi lays a check into him on the boards and holds him up. Officials gives Scuderi an interference minor. That's a legit call by the book, but the book tends to remain closed in the playoffs. Sutter, Adams, Orpik and Martin take the ice.

2:02: The Blue Jackets cash in immediately.After Jenner forces a turnover by Orpik behind the Penguins net, Johnson tries to jam in the puck on the left of the cage. The puck rolls around where Letestu is able to snap i by Fleury's glove hand. Letestu celebrated like he won a date with Kate Upton. Fire Ray Shero. The Blue Jacket simply outworked the Penguins on that play. Johnson and Jenner each get assists. Blue Jackets 2-1.

0:59: Bobrovsky appears to get away with a trip on Jokinen.

0:25: Malkin rips a wrister form the slot. Bobrovsky kicks it out.

0:18: Neal and Malkin each get chances in tight but can't bury it.

0:15: The Penguins get a late power play Blake Comeau is nabbed for cross checking Gibbons in the crease. That's two minutes. Crosby, Malkin, Kunitz, take the ice.

0:00: End of period. Blue Jackets 2, Penguins 1.

SECOND INTERMISSION

-The Blue Jackets are ready. They didn't seem to care about the Penguins' skill or extensive postseason resume. They took it to the Penguins. They earned this lead.

-Martin and Orpik have been on the ice for each of the Blue Jackets' goals. They need to be better.

-Fleury was left out to dry on the Johnson goal but he could have stopped Letestu's shot.

-As expected, the Blue Jackets are pitting Brandon Dubinsky against Sidney Crosby and Artem Anisimov against Evgeni Malkin whenever they can.

-Malkin looked pretty aggressive in his first game back. He didn't shy away from any contract or any high traffic areas.

-Bennett bloodied Murray:

-The Blue Jackets have a 13-12 lead in shots on net.

-The Penguins have a 23-19 lead in attempted shots.

-Johnson and Calvert each lead the game with three shots.

-Maatta, Jokinen, Gibbons and Malkin each lead the Penguins with two shots.

-Letang leads the game with 8:14 of ice time.

-Johnson leads the Blue Jackets with 7:24.

-The Blue Jackets are dominating faceoffs, 16-7 (70 percent).

-Johansen is 5 for 7 (71 percent).

-Malkin is 3 for 7 (43 percent).

-Johnson leads the game with three blocked shots.

-None of the Penguins has more than one blocked shot.

-T-shirt of the night features the "Option Line" of Kevin Stevens, John Cullen and Mark Recchi:

SECOND PERIOD

20:00: The Penguins will have 1;45 of power-play time on fresh ice. Crosby, Neal, Malkin, Kunitz and Letang take the ice.

19:17: Gulp. Letang fumble a puck int he neutral zone. Derek MacKenzie is all over it. He chips it up the right wing boards, gets behind Letang and attacks the net. He cuts across the slot and flips a wrister by the blocker of Fleury. What is going on? The goal is unassisted. Blue Jackets 3-1.

18:38: Niskanen has a slapper in the right circle blocked by Murray.

18:26: Beau Bennett to the rescue. Jokinen settles a puck on the right half wall and deals to Martin at the left point. Martin deals a cross-ice pass to Niskane at the right point. Niskanen tees up a slapper. Bennett is in the slot and direcits it with his backhand of his stick and by the blocker of Bobrovsky. The Penguins needed that badly. Niskanen and Martin get assists. The "Hey Song" is played." Blue Jackets 3-2.

17:51: Brian Gibbons draws yet another penalty. Johnson holds him up on the left wing wall of the Penguins' zone. It's kind of a ticky tack call but the Penguins will take it. Malkin, Niskanen, Crosby, Neal and Kunitz take the ice.

17:41: Tie game. Wow. Malkin controls a puck at the center point and deals a pass to Niskanen in the lef tcircle. Niskanen swipes a quick shot through the legs oa kneeling David Savard and through the five hole of Bobrovsky. What a wild game. Malkin and Crosby get assists. The "Hey Song" is always wild. Blue Jackets 3, Penguins 3.

16:49: On a delayed penalty, MacKenzie whacks a one-timer from the center point. Fleury kicks it out. Tanner Glass is called for interference against Comeau. Another ticky tack call. xx take the ice.

15:47: Murray dodges a block attempt by Martin and whips a wrister which is blocked by Gibbons. Martin clears the rebound.

15:19: Savad is in deep in the right circle and lifts a wrister which Fleury eats up.

14:19: Malkin tries to jam in a forehand shot from the right of he cage but is denied by Johnson and run over by Johnson.

13:54: Malkin takes down Tyutin with a solid hit in front o f hte Penguins' bench.

13:39: Tropp tries to jam in a backhand shot from the right o fhte cage. Fleury holds it out.

13:15: Gibbons is skating with Crosby and Kunitz.

12:28: Crosby gets lose on the left wing off a nice move around Wisniewski in the neutral zone. He tees up a slapper wide of the cage.

12:10: Bennett on is on the left with with Sutter and Stempniak.

11:16: Nikitin tries to stand up Adams at the Columbus blue line in front of the Penguins' bench. Adams thumps him to the ice for his troubles.

9:24: A wrister by Johansen in the high slot is blocked by Martin.

9:23: Wisniewski snaps off a wrister from the right point through traffic. Fleury snags it.

9:11: Calvert hustles the puck up the right wing one-on-one against Letang. He tries a spin move in the left circle and is shoved to the ice by Letang.

8:25: Crosby has a chance in tight to the left of the cage but a stick-on-puck by Johnson knocks the puck away.

7:43: Bennett taps a pass from the left wall in the neutral zone to Sutter streaking down the slot. Sutter get sa step on Tyutin and attacks the net on his backhand. Tyutin hooks up Sutter a bit and force shim to lose the puck and crash into Bobovsky. NO call. Huh?

7:22: Crosby hustles up the right wing on  two-on with Kunitz. Savard lays down to attempt block but Crosby is able to deal it to Kunitz on the left wing. Kunitz sort of runs out of space and lifts a shot over the cage.

5:51: Comeau gets loos on the right wing and gets behind Maatta. He lifts a wrister which Fleury snags. Attendance is announced as 18,646. It is the team's 328th consecutive sellout.

5:11: Stempniak rips a wrister from the right wing. Bobrovsky kicks it out. Sutter is ther efor the rebound but cant' get a clean look handle on it.

4:30: The Blue Jackets will get a power play as Letang slashed Jenner in the right wing corner of the Penguins zone after Jenner hit him high. Jenner sold the slash a bit. Letang needs to be more composed on that. Adams, the great Joe Vitale, Martin and Orpik take the ice.

4:06: Adams takes a pass on the right wing and DANGLES by Wisniewski. Before he can do anything with the puck, Dubinsky runs him over.

3:24: After stealing the puck, Gibbons hustles the puck up the right wing, pulls up and is run over by Dubinsky. Sutter follows up on the loose puck and attacks the net. Bobrovsky denies him. What an effort by Gibbons.

2:55: Savard pounds a slapper form the right point wide on the near side.

2:38: Savad rips a rister from the right circle which Fleury kicks out.

2:30: Letang's minor is killed. That was an eventual penalty kill for the Penguins to say the least.

2:06: Crosby steals a puc in the neutral zone off Johansen, gains the offensive zone on the right wing and deals a cross-ice pass to Malkin above the right circle. Malkin hammers a on e-timer which Bobrovsky eats up.

1:44: After Crosby and Dubnisky get involved physically, including a slew foot by Dubinsky, Kunitz grabs a hold of Dubinsky behind the Penguins' net and a scrum develops. Nothing comes of it but things are getting testy.

1:00: Off a turnover by the Penguins in their own zone, Anisimov rips a wrister fromt he right circle.

0:52: After Niskanen turns the puck the puck over in his own right win corner, Anismov and Letestu each have chances in tight. Fleury holds them out. The Penguins are getting sloppy with the puck.

0:44: Kuntiz hustles up the right wing, gets a step on Murray and backhands a puck on net. Bobrovsky kicks it out.

0:29: After a poor pass by Gibbons in the attacking zone is stolen, Calvert get behind Maatta and Niskanen and has a bit of a breakaway down the slot. Before he can really attack the net, Fleury spans out with a poke check to break it up. Great play.

0:14: Dubnisky re-directs the a puck on net form the right circle. Fleury snags it.

0:00: End of period. Blue Jackets 3, Penguins 3.

SECOND INTERMISSION

-What a bizarre period. Each team had some quality chance off some sloppy plays by one another. In other words, this has been a classic Penguins playoff game to this point.

-Bennett was moved to the third line while Gibbons was bumped up the first line. We'll play devils' advocate and suggest that move may have been made to benefit the third line. It certainly has had a few scoring chances after the move.

-The Penguins puck possession has been iffy at best. They've been sloppy with turnovers.

-Brandon Dubinsky is going to be public enemy. No. 1 by the end of this series.

-The Blue Jackets have a 25-22 lead in shots on net.

-The Blue Jackets have a 44-41 lead in attempted shots.

-Letestu leads the game with four shots.

-Maatta, Kunitz and Malkin each lead the Penguins with three shot.

-Murray leads the game with 15:59 of ice time.

-Scuderi leads the Penguins with 14:30.

-The Penguins have a 28-26 lead in faceoffs.

-Crosby is 11 for 21 (52 percent).

-Johansen is 9 for 16 (56 percent).

-Johnson leads the game with six blockd shots.

-Scuderi leads the Penguins with three blocked shots.

THIRD PERIOD

17:41: Stempniak glides in off the left wing and lifts a wrister which Bobrovsky fights off.

15:42: Of a feed by Malkin, Neal rips a heavy wrister from the right circle high and wide to the far side.

15:04: Neal chucks a wrister from the left circle. Bobrovsky fight sit off. Malkin is there for the rebound but can't quite get a stick on it.

14:24: Crosby weave his way up the left wing and lifts a wriste ron net. Bobrovsky steers it away.

14:25: Off a feed from behidn the net by Crosby, Gibbons rips a wrister from the left circle off the far post.

13:47: Letestu whips a wrister from the right wing wide of the cage.

13:32: Maatta chucks a wrister on net from the left point. Bobrovsky snags it.

12:34: Letang snaps off a wrister from center point which is blocked. Kunitz chops the rebound just wide of the cage.

11:43: Brandon Sutter. Big. Goal. Scorer. Off a steal, Bennett feeds a pass to Sutter on the right wing. Sutter, w works his way up the right wing, and rips a wrister from the right faceoff down under the blocker of Bobrovsky ont he far side and into the cage. What a shot. That said, Bobrovsky needs to make that save. Bennett and Martin get assists. The "Hey Song" is played. Penguins 4-3.

10:38: Murray chops a slapper from center point wide of the cage.

10:26: Jokineen challenges Murray one-on-one off the right wing but loses the puck on a nice poke check by Murray.

9:46: The Penguins can ice this game. Tyutin is called for tripping Fleury. You don't see that too often. Crosby, Malkin, Neal, Martin and Niskanen take the ice.With a one-goal lead in the third period, the Penguins presumably want to defensemen on the ice to prevent any short-handed scoring chances.

9:38: Niskanen cranks a one-time from the right half wall wide of the cage.

8:27: Things are evened up as Letang is called for interference against Wisniewski. He sort of picked Wisniewski to give Neal some space to work with in the left wing corner. That's a legit call but you don't see it often in the postseason. We'll have four-on-four play for 41 seconds.

7:46: The Tyutin minor is killed. The Blue Jackets will have 1:19 of power-play time to work with.

7:47: Off a feed by Gibbons, Adams rips a wrister from the slot. Bobrovsky fights it off.

6:27: The Letang minor is killed. That was a strong effort by the Penguins' penalty kill.

4:24: The great Joe Vitale tries to controls a puck behind the Columbus net and is run over by Johnson. Oof.

3:37: Sneaking by a hip check from Scuderi on the right wing, Skille rips a wrister from the right wing off the near post.

3:12: Skille lifts a wrister from the right wing. Fleury snags it.

2:20: Off a turnover by Orpik in his own zone, MacKenzie swipes a loose puck from the right circle on net. Fleury kicks it away.

1:22: Murray pounds a slapper from the right point. Fleury kicks it out.

1:03: As Bobrovsky is pulled for an extra attacker, Johansen deals a pass to Murray at the top of the left circle. Murray snaps off a wrister. Fleury knocks it dead and covers the puck. "FLERR-EEEE!" chants rain down. The Blue Jackets call a time out to get organized.

0:06: Johnson chucks a puck from the right point. Orpik blocks it. Crosby out races Johnson to the rebound and pokes it down ice to kill the rest of the clock.

0:00: End of game. Penguins 4, Blue Jackets 3.

POSTGAME

-It's a win. It's a 1-0 lead. That's always going to be the important part of any postseason game. But this win feels ... sloppy. The Penguins did not play a complete game. They took lazy or even retaliatory penalties. Got out of position in their own zone. Turned the puck over. Gave up a short-handed goal with a fresh sheet of ice. The Pengins have quite a few things to clean up after this game.

-Regardless, it's 1-0 Penguins in the series.

-Beau Bennett has a marvelous but strange game. His was marvelous because he produced. He scored a key momentum-shifting goal to salvage a power play for the Penguins. And then he made a nice pass to set up Brandon Sutter game-winning goal. His game was strange because of how he was used. He started the game on the first line on the right wing with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz then was moved to the third line with Brandon Sutter and Lee Stempniak. Even stranger was how he was used in the third period where he only got three shifts. Dan Bylsma was asked about Bennett being limited in the third. He said:

"Just went with guys that we - in the situation - wanted more of a three-line, More of a 10-forward rotation. That put Tanner Glass up in that spot for a shift against Johansen’s line. Came to the end of the game, we had a power play. So that limited that as well. Went with pretty much seven forwards in the last four minutes of the game."

-On switching Bennett and Gibbons, Bylsma said:

"I thought we needed a little more on the first line next to Sid and [Kunitz] at the end of the first period. I thought Brian Gibbons did that with his speed defensively. Chipping pucks by, getting the penalty that got us on the power play there. I thought he was effective there. Their line generated more offensive zone time, more puck time with Brian there. And I thought it was good for Beau Bennett as well. He went to play with Sutter and [Lee] Stempniak as a formidable line. They had the goal at the end of the game. They had the game-winning goal with Beau passing to [Sutter] for the game-winning goal. So I liked what Beau brought to the third line as well.

-Gibbons did what he does and he did it well. He hustled and drew penalties. He was a pesky presence on the penalty kill. He did a marvelous job of just holding the puck on the penalty kill and preventing the Blue Jackets from holding on to it.

-Adding Bennett to the third line seemed to spark things for that line. He set up Sutter for a breakaway in the second period which was snuffed on out play by Fedor Tyutin which could have been whistled for hooking. And as stated earlier, Bennett had a solid pass to set up Sutter's game-winning goal.

-The Penguins needed something like this out of Sutter. The Blue Jackets did an okay job at limiting the damage the Penguins' top two lines could do in terms of five-on-five play. Even as the road team, Columbus was able to stick the defensive duo of James Wisniewski and Ryan Murray as well as pest-like center Brandon Dubinsky on Crosby quite a bit. Additionally, Malkin saw plenty of shifts against center Artem Anisimov as well as defensive duo Jack Johnson and Fedor Tyutin. That appeared to give Sutter some better matchups to work against and he did quite a bit to take advantage. The Penguins will need more of that moving forward.

-The Penguins' top two defensive pairings did not have a smooth game. Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik did not look sharp on the first two goals by Columbus. Rob Scuderi and Kris Letang each had some rough moments including with penalties. Those four need to be better.

-Marc-Andre Fleury could have stolen a goal or two. He could have made this an easier night for his team. He was left out to dry a few times so it's not fair to  heap too much on him. He made some big save at key moments late to help get his team win. It was an adequate but hardly spectacular game for him.

-The Blue Jackets came to play. They went right at the Penguins early on. They were physical and they hustled. We're sure the Penguins expected that type of effort but it wasn't evident in their play and how they reacted to the Blue Jackets' hustle.

-We really liked the game Boone Jenner had. He was a pest on the forecheck and forced Orpik to turn the puck over leading to a goal by former Penguin Mark Letestu in the first period. Jenner did have a turnover which led to Sutter's goal. Beyond that, he had a nice game.

-We really liked the game of Ryan Murray as well. He did not play like a 20-year-old. He was a force all over the ice.

-If you're not already, you will be sick of Brandon Dubinsky by the end of this series. He was a pain in the you-know-what for Crosby all game. Crosby wasn't too fond of Dubinsky before this game. It's doubtful that attitude towards him improved.

-Officials called a really inconsistent game. They were really tight on things like interference but allowed other would-be penalties to slide.

-The Blue Jackets had a 34-32 lead in shots on net.

-The Penguins led in attempted shots, 59-57.

-Mark Letestu led the game with five shots.

-Fire Ray Sheo.

-Olli Maatta, Chris Kunitz and Malkin each led the Penguins with four.

-Wisnieski led the game with 24:58 of ice time.

-Paul Martin led the Penguins with 23:51.

-The Penguins led in faceoffs, 40-31 (56 percent).

-Crosby was 15 for 26 (58 percent).

-Ryan Johansen was 10 for 21 (48 percent).

-Johnson led the game with six blocked shots.

-Scuderi led the Penguins with three.

-Kunitz appeared in his 100th career postseason game.

-Malkin now has 99 career points.

-Olli Maatta recorded his first career point.

-The Blue Jackets' first goal was the first postseason lead in the history of the franchise.

-Game summary.

-Event summary.

-Highlights:

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Print

What is it? - 04-16-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

 

(Note: This is an updated version of something we've published at the start of the playoffs the past few seasons. It's something we get a lot of feedback on and we always enjoy writing it.)

If someone were to ask us what the Stanley Cup playoffs mean to us, we'd have a hard time giving a simple, concise answer.

-It's Bobby Orr leaping through the air.

-It's the Miracle on Manchester.

-It's Bill Guerin finding the little opening on Martin Biron.

-It's Richard Brodeur not being camera friendly.

-It's Kris Letang keeping the Penguins alive.

-It's Steve Yzerman lifting the Stanley Cup with one knee.

-It's Doug Weight lifting the Stanley Cup with one shoulder.

-It's Pat LaFontaine ending a long, exhaustive Easter Sunday.

-It's Vladimir Konstantinov flipping Claude Lemieux.

-It's Bobby Ryan making David Legwand look like a pylon.

-It's the reason Joe Louis Arena smells like fish.

-It's Jaromir Jagr beating the Devils on two bad groins.

-It's Jarome Iginla and Vincent Lecavalier duking it out when it mattered most.

-It's "The Save."

-It's 1940, 1955, 1961, 1967, 1972 and 1975.

-It's Mike Crombeen taking advantage of some poor defensive zone coverage by Randy Carlyle.

-It's Jason Arnott taking advantage of some poor defensive zone coverage by Sylvain Cote.

-It's Dave Andreychuk and Ray Bourque finally getting to touch the Cup.

-It's George Ferguson blowing by Ken Breitenbach.

-It's Dale Hunter tearing through the Flyers' defense.

-It's Bryan Bickell avoiding Josh Harding's poke check.

-It's the hole in Cam Ward's glove.

-It's David #*&! Volek.

-It's John Tonelli.

-It's Ed Westfall.

-It's Brooks Orpik.

-It's plastic rats.

-It's "Bury Graves."

-It's Nathan Horton taking advantage of a screen.

-It's Evgeni Malkin having enough of Henrik Zetterberg.

-It's Jarret Stoll finding just enough space on Cory Schneider.

-It's "The Geno."

-It's Mike Green letting Dominic Moore walk right in.

-It's Mike Green letting Vincent Lecavalier walk right in.

-It's Ken Wregget stopping Joe Juneau and Mike Richter stopping Pavel Bure on penalty shots.

-It's Semyon Varlamov robbing Sidney Crosby.

-It's "May Day! May Day! May Day! May Day! May Day! May Day!"

-It's Damien Brunner cleaning up the garbage.

-It's Ty Conklin making a mistake at a terrible time.

-It's Matt Cooke barging in at the last second (or the last 5.7 seconds to be precise).

-It's Brett Hull's foot in the crease.

-It's Patrick Marleau ending the Canucks' season.

-It's David Steckel sending things back to Washington.

-It's Alex Burrows remembering Luc Bourdon.

-It's Jordan Staal changing everything.

-It's "Darren Helm! Darren Helm!"

-It's "Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!"

-It's Patrice Bergeron snuffing out any hopes the Penguins had.

-It's Maxime Talbot shushing Daniel Carcillo and an entire city.

-It's Derek Plante giving the Senators a rude introduction to the playoffs.

-It's Joffrey Lupul giving the Capitals a rude introduction to the playoffs.

-It's Tom Fitzgerald blowing a slapper by Tom Barrasso from Centre Avenue.

-It's Ron Francis blowing a slapper by Mike Richter from Centre Avenue.

-It's Steve Yzerman blowing a slapper by Jon Casey from Livonia.

-It's Steven Stamkos refusing to let something like a slapper to the face end his night.

-It's Martin St. Louis scoring on the biggest rebound of his life.

-It's Tonelli to Nystrom.

-It's "the best player in the world" hitting the actual best player in the world.

-It's Scott Niedermayer giving the cup to his brother, Rob.

-It's Matt Carkner keeping the Senators alive.

-It's Toews and Kane ending the Kings' reign

-It's Alex Ovechkin taking out Sergei Gonchar.

-It's the delight of a double deflection between Dave Bolland and Andrew Shaw.

-It's Alex Burrows getting Tim Thomas to bite.

-It's Mario Lemieux "retiring" in stunning fashion.

-It's Vladimir Konstantinov's "skate" with the Cup in his wheel chair.

-It's the fact that Shawn Chambers is probably still trying to figure out where Mario Lemieux is.

-It's Jamie Baker and the Sharks doing the unbelievable against the Red Wings.

-It's Andrew Brunette weaving through the Avalanche's defense.

-It's Hal Gill busting up Ryan Malone's already mangled schnoz.

-It's Stu Barnes putting one over Johan Hedberg's shoulder and off the cross bar.

-It's Oilers fans making us wish we were Canadian.

-It's Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin trading hat tricks.

-It's Igor Larionov displaying the most patient backhand ever.

-It's Sidney Crosby spinning Jason Spezza silly.

-It's Lanny McDonald making his only goal of the playoffs count.

-It's James Neal just taking one.

-It's watching a game with a few thousand friends.

-It's the Penguins piling on Darius Kasparaitis.

-It's the 24 white banners in Montreal.

-It's Oilers owner Peter Pocklington trying to sneak his dad's name on the Stanley Cup.

-It's Ron Francis saving the day when Mario Lemieux and Joey Mullen were hurt.

-It's Martin Gelinas sending his former employer to the golf course.

-It's Pavel Bure undressing Mike Vernon.

-It's Jaromir Jagr dancing through the Devils' defense.

-It's Jaromir Jagr dancing through the Bruins' defense.

-It's Jaromir Jagr dancing through the Blackhawks' defense.

-It's the Hurricanes stunning the Devils in the final 1:20 of a Game 7.

-It's Marc Savard shaking off the rust.

-It's "The Shift."

-It's Mike Fisher playing with a terminally-ill three-year-old boy.

-It's Maxim Afinogenov going for a swim.

-It's Ron Hextall jumping Chris Chelios.

-It's Gary Roberts tormenting the Senators.

-It's Evgeni Malkin having younger, fresher legs than his fellow countryman, Sergei Fedorov.

-It's Brian Campbell not having a prayer on a three-on-one against the Red Wings.

-It's that little "rattle" in Mike Lange's voice when he let's us know "H-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e shoots and scores!!!!"

-It's Brenden Morrow sending the Sharks home after four overtimes.

-It's Alex Ovechkin getting stoned on his breakaway in Game 7.

-It's Sidney Crosby not getting stoned on his breakaway in Game 7.

-It's the civility of a handshake.

-It's the beauty of a "hockey face."

-It's the ugliness of a finger point.

-It's the brilliance of a CBC pregame montage.

-It's Adam Deadmarsh helping Tinseltown beat Hockeytown.

-It's getting a hand (as well as a stick, a foot and a shin) from Rob Scuderi.

-It's Kyle Turris' perfect shot.

-It's Mike Krushelnyski's blooper over Mike Vernon.

-It's Simon Gagne helping the Bruins join an exclusive club with the 1975 Penguins and 1942 Red Wings.

-It's Pascal Dupuis going far side while falling on his butt.

-It's Joel Ward crashing in on Tim Thomas.

-It's that trainer from Toronto spraying a water bottle to celebrate Nikolai Borshevsky's overtime goal.

-It's Arturs Irbe's moldy goaltending equipment.

-It's the eternity of 17 seconds.

-It's Gary Roberts destroying Andreas Lilja and giving Adam Hall a chance at scoring.

-It's (Adam) Henrique being better than Henrik (Lundqvist).

-It's Jonathan Toews willing his way to a clutch shorthanded goal in Game 7.

-It's Alex Burrows and the Canucks finally beating the Blackhawks.

-It's Uwe Krupp bringing a championship to Colorado.

-It's Bob Baun scoring an overtime goal on a broken ankle.

-Its Jakub Voracek catching the Penguins standing around.

-It's Benn Ferriero giving himself the best birthday gift ever.

-It's Mario Lemieux making the Civic Arena probably the loudest it has ever been.

-It's Scott Walker being a villian in Boston.

-It's Alexander Steen benefiting from Jonathan Quick's error.

-It's Marian Hossa almost keeping the hopes alive.

-It's Daniel Alfredsson finding a big hole in the Penguins' defense.

-It's Jeff Carter circling the zone.

-It's Dustin Byfuglien putting Chris Pronger in his place.

-It's Tim Thomas putting Henrik Sedin in his place.

-It's Colin Greening scoring despite having pieces of fiberglass in his face.

-It's Jim Lorentz killing a bat.

-It's Marian Hossa being in the right place at the right time.

-It's Petr Nedved and Keith Primeau breaking tired, weary hearts.

-It's Brad Richards and Marc Staal figuring out Braden Holtby.

-It's Erik Cole's beard.

-It's Stephen Walkom doing his job.

-It's Brent Seabrook saving Walkom a lot of grief.

-It's Brad Park cleaning up his own rebound.

-It's Robbie Brown really making Ron Hextall mad.

-It's Dan Boyle and Steve Smith finding the wrong nets.

-It's Chris Kunitz windmilling Kimmo Timonen.

-It's Joe Thornton proving he can be clutch.

-It's Joe Pavelski always being clutch.

-It's Maxime Talbot making us stay up late.

-It's Marc-Andre Fleury simply refusing to finish his season.

-It's Petr Sykora calling his shot.

-It's closing Mellon Arena in a nightmare fashion.

-It's Theo Fleury slipping and sliding all over the ice.

-It's finally seeing a Stanley Cup celebration in Mellon Arena, just not the one most of us were hoping for.

-It's the Winnipeg White Out.

-It's #ImGregoryCampbell.

-It's Alexei Poniarovsky taking advantage of a bad rebound by Ilya Bryzgalov.

-It's Luc Robitaille's goal and Francois Leroux's goofy little kicking celebration in the corner.

-It's Daniel to Henrik after four overtimes.

-It's Carey Price preforming some self-dentistry during a game after taking a skate to the face.

-It's refusing to touch the Clarence Campbell Bowl or Prince of Wales Trophy.

-It's doing away with at least one of those silly superstitions.

-It's Brad Marchand dangling on Roberto Luongo.

-It's Garry Valk poking one by Tom Barrasso.

-It's Patrick Kane scoring a goal only he saw.

-It's Russ Cournall beating Frank Pietrangelo from the high slot.

-It's Anze Kopitar getting loose on Martin Brodeur.

-It's Patrice Bergeron being Boston Strong not once, but twice.

-It's Evgeni Malkin making some toast out of Martin Biron.

-It's Maxime Talbot taking advantage of a Brad Stuart turnover.

-It's Maxime Talbot showing why he's a "superstar."

-It's Marc-Andre Fleury winning the game everyone said he couldn't win.

-It lifting the Stanley Cup on their ice, a year after they lifted it on your ice.

-It's all of those things.

-And it's so much more.

Over the course of the next two months, much of what happened in the above video will be repeated in some fashion. In mid-June Gary Bettman is going to awkwardly hand the Stanley Cup to a gentleman with a "C" on his chest and someone will have one big long summer party.

And it all begins tonight.

(Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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