Holiday Hater Report
Mike Wilson is a former Faceoff-Factor writer whose “claim to fame” were his “Hump Day Hater Reports.” Currently in college, Wilson stepped down from FF following the Penguins’ Stanley Cup victory, but has returned for a one-shot during his holiday break.
The Pens hate December
Itâ€™s no secret that the Pens have been very inconsistent in the month of December through the last few years. After the lockout, Pittsburgh has gone 29-31-6 with 62 points in the final calendar month.
Now I know what youâ€™re thinking: â€œMike! Your math is wrongâ€¦thatâ€™s actually 64 points.â€ And youâ€™d be rightâ€¦Iâ€™m just seeing if youâ€™re paying attention. Youâ€™re probably also thinking â€œBut Mike, thatâ€™s not that bad of a month-long record.â€ Well letâ€™s take a look at those lossesâ€¦
In 27 of the 31 losses, the Penguins only scored two goals or less, including the seven times they were shut out. And in nine of those games they allowed five goals or more. It doesnâ€™t seem to matter if the team they play is in the basement of the league or rigging up lights on the roofâ€”in December, weâ€™re not quite sure which Penguins to expect at game time.
However, the Pens do seem to find their identity for the rest season in December and then right the wrongs in the second half of the schedule. Letâ€™s hope thatâ€™s the case this season as well.
The Russians hate defense
When I was glancing down through Team Russiaâ€™s Olympic roster, I did a major spit-take. Then, after I let my computer dry out and re-boot and had cleaned the soda stains off the keys, I re-examined the roster sans-beverage.
This team is overflowing with offensive talent. From the top line to the bottom checking line, theyâ€™re loaded with superstars. And, unfortunately for the Russians, their defensive lines are the same way.
Gonchar, Kalinin, Markov, Tyutin, Volchenkovâ€¦these are some of the best offensive defensemen in both the National Hockey League and Kontinental Hockey League. And while most of these guys are fantastic skaters and exceptional shot-blockers (especially Volchenkov), they lack physicality and good defensive stick maneuvering.
In Olympic years past, physicality wasnâ€™t that big of a deal. Itâ€™s well-known that the Olympics have a lower tolerance for hitting. But now almost all the teams are putting a few tough guys in their roster.
Another weakness I see with Russia is the infamous Russian Superstar Syndrome (RSS). This is where extremely talented hockey players of Russian descent like to handle the pucks themselves, or simply like to have it passed to them, and forget that they have a team around them. Now this does come in other nationalities, rarely, but it is predominately seen in the Russians.
With so many â€œâ€“ovsâ€ on this team, Iâ€™m not sure Team Russia will be able to turn â€œonâ€ the chemistry (ba dum chh). One of the first things that needs to be done when this team gets together is working within the lines and making sure there is enough chemistry among them.
Team Russia is like a dangerous weaponâ€¦if used properly, it can be unstoppable. If not, it can explode right in your face.
Canadian defense > Russian defense
After reviewing the Russian lineup, the Canadian lineup brought a little bit of joy to my heart.
â€œAlas,â€ I screamed to my dog, â€œa team that is capable of good-old-fashioned systematic hockey.â€ He didnâ€™t seem as enthusiastic.
Itâ€™s a roster complete with goal-scorers, speedsters, role players, depth, two-way defensemen, and solid goaltending.
This is a team that can play man-advantage, down a man, man-to-man, beside a man, Supermanâ€¦you name it, and Team Canada has it covered.
But back to the titleâ€¦Defense seems like it is going to be more important in these Olympics than they have ever before. And Canada looks as though theyâ€™ve taken note.
Sure, theyâ€™re missing guys like Souray and Phaneuf, but settling for guys like Seabrook, who is just as capable, and Pronger, who we all know has a good set of teeth, isnâ€™t too bad either. Not to mention they have great two-way defensemen in Dan Boyle, Duncan Keith and Scott Niedermayer and they have a physical presence with, again, Pronger and Drew Doughty.
Notables not making the final cut
In case you havenâ€™t noticed, there are multiple players who many felt should be included on their respective Olympic rosters but were not chosen by their countryâ€™s general manager. Iâ€™d like to focus on some that are Penguin related.
This wouldâ€™ve been a great selection for Team Canada. Staal centering the fourth line in a grinder position is like a match made in heaven. Heâ€™d be right at home since heâ€™s used to playing on a physical, puck-possessing line in Pittsburgh. Heâ€™s shown signs of having a good shot and has developed great hockey sense since his debut in the NHL.
All of this is without even mentioning his penalty killing abilities. Could you imagine Jordan Staal and Mike Richards on a PK together? That would be a combination of two of perhaps the greatest penalty-killing forwards in the NHL today.
Nonetheless, Jordan will be watching the Olympics from Thunder Bay this time around.
I agree with Brian Burkeâ€™s decision on this one. I just heard Bob Errey say â€œBilly Guerin has been a God-send this year.â€
The goal he scored against Tampa Bay (which necessitated Erreyâ€™s comment) was a perfect example of what Guerin shouldâ€™ve been doing all year long. I donâ€™t have enough fingers to count how many times Bill Guerin has missed open-net opportunities this season. Okâ€¦so heâ€™s scored some impressive goals as wellâ€¦but what really matters is that he hasnâ€™t been able to capitalize on the many other chances heâ€™s gotten to put the Pens in a position to tie or even win games.
Lookâ€¦I feel bad that Billy didnâ€™t get in, I really do. But thatâ€™s the Penguin in me (hypothetically speaking, obviously). The American hockey fan in me is pretty satisfied with the team Burke has put together.
Speaking of whichâ€¦
About three weeks ago, the â€œexpertsâ€ on Versus had a chance to say which on-the-bubble players would make it for Team USA. Alex Goligoski was one player who was thought to be automatically in. And, at that time, I agreed with them. Go-go started off the season very well, consistently keeping up top-five point totals on the team.
Goligoski is now seventh on the team in pointsâ€¦which doesnâ€™t sound so bad until you consider that Kris Letang is 13th on the team behind Brooks Orpik and in front of a struggling Tyler Kennedy. I was shocked to hear during the Tampa Bay game that the last non-Goncharian defenseman to score a goal was Mark Eaton in late November. I mean I knew it had been a while, but I didnâ€™t think it was that bad.
2014 isnâ€™t that far off, Alex. Hopefully next time will be better.
This is why I used the term â€œPenguin related.â€ Again, weâ€™ve seen in many Olympics past that physicality isnâ€™t a necessity. And while that might be changing this time around, it doesnâ€™t matterâ€¦Rob Scuderi is a perfect defenseman for Team USA regardless of defensive mold.
Do these names sound familiar?: Mike Richards, Eric Staal, Pavel Datsyuk, Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Daniel Alfredsson, Henrik Zetterberg, and Olli Jokinen? Of course they doâ€¦Reliable Rob Scuderi has played against all of them extensively and, in most cases, shut them down.
Heâ€™s also played with, and against, guys like Jarkko Ruutu, Marian Hossa, Petr Sykora, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Sergei Gonchar. And what else stands out about all these names? Theyâ€™re all 2010 Olympians.
If itâ€™s one thing weâ€™ve learned about hockey since its beginnings, itâ€™s that a lineup of all-stars doesnâ€™t always win games. You need guys like Rob Scuderi to win medals too.
But I digress.
The Pens hate Niclas Bergfors
Just when we finally got John Madden off our backs in New Jersey, in steps Niclas Bergfors. You canâ€™t listen to a Pens/Devils game without hearing that name over and over again. The young forward has scored four goals (one in each gameâ€”twice the game-winner), three assists, and has recorded 18 shots against Pittsburgh so far this season.
Bergfors is the newest breed of Penguin killer in the NHLâ€¦letâ€™s squeeze him on the list by Jokinen shall we? Or how about Alfredsson? Or Kessel? You get the idea.
As I mentioned, Bergfors is youngâ€”only in his third year with New Jersey (although this is the first season heâ€™s been permanently added to the roster). He has 13 goals and 13 assists, as of 1/2/10, on 102 shots. This kid has a future in New Jersey: he doesnâ€™t take many penalties and he makes his shots count.
â€¦and thatâ€™s bad news for the rest of the Atlantic.
The real reason I decided to write a cameo column?...
Engblom brought the mullet backâ€¦I felt it was a calling.
Have no fearâ€¦I mean Miroslav Satan.
The former Stanley Cup-winning Penguin has signed with the Boston Bruins. There still arenâ€™t any details available because he wasnâ€™t yet listed on Bostonâ€™s roster. I was alerted of the news by a link on NHL.com that didnâ€™t actually open to a story because the page was down (hence, again, no further information).
The link to the article read â€œBruins sign Satan.â€
I couldnâ€™t help but chuckle.
Jokinen hates mainstreaming
When asked about his native Finlandâ€™s chances in the upcoming Olympics, Olli Jokinen said they are underdogs.
â€œOur goal is to go out there and surprise everyone again,â€ Jokinen said.
Finland has medaled in four of the last six Olympic games (two silvers and two bronzes).
Not to mentionâ€¦
Olli Jokinen, Valtteri Filppula, Saku and Mikko Koivu, Jere Lehtinen, Jarkko and Tuomo Ruutu, Teemu SelÃ¤nne, Joni PitkÃ¤nen, Kimmo Timonen, Niklas BÃ¤ckstrÃ¶m, and Miikka Kiprusoff â€¦yeahâ€¦whoever they areâ€¦
Good luck â€œsurprisingâ€ everyone in Vancouver.
And to end on a really good hateâ€¦
Fenway Park hates Dan Carcillo
Leave it to the Philadelphia Flyers to initiate the first fight in Winter Classic history. And, Iâ€™ll give him credit, the ‘stache and sideburns and shoulder-length hair really did look retro Flyers. He even plays as dirty as they did in the 1970s. He had the charade going really well until the fight was over.
In the penalty box, Carcillo gave â€œrock onâ€ signs with his hands as if to say â€œHey everyoneâ€¦I was only acting like a classic hockey player. In reality, Iâ€™m an idiot.â€
I understand what he was trying to do though. He was trying to make a gesture to the away crowd to make a statement to his team and get them fired up to win a big game.
Now why does that sound familiar? I wonder if he experienced something like that before and was trying it out for himselfâ€¦nah, probably not.
Well it has been nice returning to Faceoff-Factor once again for this brief time. Keep an eye out and maybe someday, the Hater Report will return once more.
Happy New Year and, of course, Happy Hating!