Minors Review - Middle Infield

by battlingbucs | Feb 03, 2014 - 3:47 PM
Top 5 Prospects
1. Alen Hanson: Hanson is easily the Pirates top middle infield prospect. Sign in 2009 as an International free agent Hanson had his big breakthrough during the 2012 season when he put up eye popping numbers as a 19 year old in A ball. Expectations were high for Hanson coming into the 2013 season and while it would be unfair to call his season a disappointment he definitely didn’t do what most were hoping he would. Almost all the questions surrounding Hanson are about his fielding as many scouts question his ability to stick at shortstop. Hanson has the speed and range needed to be a solid defensive shortstop but his arm and consistency remain in question. If Hanson sticks at shortstop he has the bat to make himself one of the better ones in the league and even if he doesn’t manage to stick at the position his bat should allow him to become a solid regular at 2B or 3B. Hanson ended 2013 at the AA level and it is likely he will begin back there to start the 2014 season.

2. Max Moroff: Admittedly I’m a bit higher on Moroff than most others. Moroff was drafted in the 16th round of the 2012 draft and only signed with the Pirates after their deal with Appel fell through and they were able to give Moroff 300K to sign. Upon signing Moroff went to rookie ball and posted very good numbers showing excellent plate discipline and good line drive power. For the 2013 season the Pirates pushed Moroff up to full season ball and he ended up with mixed results. Still there was Moroff’s great plate discipline but he didn’t really hit the ball with any consistency all year. Overall Moroff’s makeup at the plate reminds a lot of former Pirate’s prospect Robbie Grossman as he is an extremely disciplined hitter who can do everything else well but not great. Defensively Moroff still has some issues to work out but the general consensus seems to be that he has a good chance of sticking at the shortstop position. Moroff is at an interesting place in his development as it would make sense for the Pirates to once again push him to A+ or hold him back in A ball. I’m guessing they hold him back to start the year.

3. Adam Frazier: The Pirates drafted Frazier in the 6th round of this past draft. He was widely considered the best college shortstop in the draft which is more an indictment of just how poor the crop was than it is an endorsement of his skills. I make the statement not to... [Read More]
    0 Replies | 588 Views

Checkmate: Penguins Roll Kings in LA

by steeler_salerno | Jan 31, 2014 - 7:30 AM
Paul Martin, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Jussi Jokinen and Olli Maatta celebrate Jokinen's first period goal. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

The Pittsburgh Penguins wasted little time in dispatching the Los Angeles Kings 4-1 Thursday night. The Penguins scored early and often as they dominated play right from the opening faceoff. It didn't take the Penguins very long to get on the board, just 0:57 into the content, Penguins forward Evegeni Malkin scored to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead. The play was setup due to Malkin's line doing an excellent job of fore-checking and creating traffic in front of King's starting goaltender Jonathan Quick. After Quick mishandled a routine glove save, and a failed clearing attempt, Penguins forward James Neal attempted a shot in the slot which was partially blocked and the puck squirted to Penguins forward, Jussi Jokinen who found the puck in traffic and made an outstanding no look behind-the-back pass to Malkin who, was left all alone to Quick's left, slam-dunked the puck home.

The Penguins continued to play the role of the aggressor, as they pummeled the Kings everywhere on the ice. In particular, Penguins forward Tanner Glass and defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, where buzzing all over the ice, hitting any Kings' player they could at any opportunity they got. And it paid dividends for the Penguins. However the Kings, who have failed to score with any regularity the past few games, made the most of their first Power Play opportunity. 9 minutes in Chris Kunitz was called for hooking and :16 seconds later, Kings forward Anze Kopitar rifled a laser from the left-point high short side on Penguins goaltender Jeff Zatkoff, to tie the game at 1-1. But the game wouldn't remain tied for very long, in fact, it was tied for less than 1:30. Just :32 after the Kopitar's goal, the 2 Kings players were called for separate penalties on Evgeni Malkin. In the bizarre turn of events, the Penguins wound up with a 5-on-3, 2-man advantage for an entire 2:00. The Penguins wasted no time flashing their #1 Power Play unit, scoring :45 into the 1st Power Play. After
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    5 Replies | 825 Views

Penguins Bounceback Against Sabres

by steeler_salerno | Jan 28, 2014 - 9:09 AM

The Pittsburgh Penguins bounced back from their 3-0 loss to the Dallas Stars with a 3-0 of their own against the Buffalo Sabres. Marc-Andre Fluery led the way for the Penguins stopping all 24 shots he faced. The Penguins got unlikely goals from defenseman Deryk Engelland and Tanner Glass, as well as from a likely source, forward Chris Kunitz. Kunitz's goal would be the only one the Penguins needed, but getting goals from other-than-top-line scorers was most certainly a sight for sore eyes.

Much like the Dallas Stars game on Saturday evening, there was never really much doubt in this game, although the game was scoreless after one period of play. However, the Penguins never ceded control, out-muscling and out playing the Sabres throughout the matchup. This game also saw the resurgence of the Penguins' PK unit, who after going 1-for-3 against Dallas, stifled the Sabres on all three of their PP attempts.

MAFvsGoalies1000Saves 1-27-14.jpgGoaltender Ryan Miller played an excellent game, and the USA Olympic goaltender, as expected, got little to no help from his defense corps. Miller finished the night with 2GA and stopped 29 of 31 shots (the empty net goal does not count against Miller). It's sad to think that with how well Miller is playing, this Buffalo team is really THAT bad! Here are Miller's major stats through the season thus far (to include this game against the Penguins). It's worth noting and is really no surprise that Miller has faced the most shots of any goalie (~35 per game) in the East. His Shots-to-Goal ratio is actually not that bad; Miller is giving up a goal every 13 shots. Compare that to Fluery who is giving up a goal 12 shots. Fluery has seen however, 115 less shots. Finally, Miller has only allowed 94 GA, which is 2 better than Fluery. My final thought on Miller, he is at the end of his contract, as such, he will be an UFA (unrestricted free agent) at the end of this season. While Miller

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    0 Replies | 530 Views

Stars Shine in Victory Over Penguins

by steeler_salerno | Jan 27, 2014 - 8:22 AM
The Dallas Stars stars were unkind hosts to the Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday evening, routing the Penguins 3-0. Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen was stellar as he shutout the high-octane Penguins, stopping all 24 shots he faced. In what was pretty much a one-sided affair the entire game, the Dallas Stars took the fight to the Penguins and never let their foot off of the gas. It was obvious that the Stars wanted to use this game as a "measuring stick" of the progress they had been making recently. They were winners of their past two games, both in a similar, dominant fashion. They beat the Wild 4-0, and the Maple Leafs 7-1, before routing the Penguins.

Much of the 1st period was rather uneventful. The only real hightlight for the Penguins came on their first power play when Lehtonen stifled James Neal in front, keeping the Penguins off the board. The Stars would kill off that pentaly and from that point on, seemed to take over the game. Later in the period Dallas got its first crack at a power play, and they did not fail to produce. After allowing the Stars forward Ray Whitney a clean entry down the right wing boards, Whitney made a pass back to a wide open Sergi Gonchar, who ripped home a slap shot to Fluery's glove side. That PK attempt looked unlike any other Penguins effort. And the trend would continue. Early in the 2nd period, after a Kris Letang penalty, the Stars PP struck again. After killing 1:50 of the 2:00, the Penguins' PK let their guard down; once again allowing a clean entry into the zone, this time from the left boards. Tyler Seguin connected on a beautiful wide open pass to Jamie Benn streaking down the right wing. Benn buried the pass on a one-timer into an empty net. The Penguins woes continued. Nearly half way into the 2nd period the Penguins couldn't even muster a double-digit Shots-on-Goal number. The Stars were that aggressive and dominant. And to make matters worse, the Penguins seemed about as disinterested and apathetic as any team could look. And it would lead to the Stars 3rd goal. After trying to go 1-on-3 through the neutral zone, Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin was stripped of the puck. The Stars headmanned the puck to forward Rich Peverley who skated into the Penguins' zone with speed and snapped a shot again high glove side over Fluery, to make it 3-0 Dallas.

The Penguins attempted to show some signs of life in the 3rd period, as they managed to sustain a few offensive zone... [Read More]
    3 Replies | 706 Views

Penguins Edge Islanders in High Scoring Thriller

by steeler_salerno | Jan 24, 2014 - 12:06 PM
Zatkoff robs Frans Zielsen during a late 2 man advantage, helping preserve the Penguins 6-4 victory. (Photo courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

In what was a thrilling and exciting game, the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the New York Islanders yesterday 6-4 on Long Island. This game had a definite playoff feel to it, right from the onset, and it did not fail to disappoint. It was a tail of two Penguins teams with plenty of action to go around; wild momentum swings, comebacks, extraordinary saves, you name it, it happened. I felt as if I was transported to last year’s ferocious playoff series. This game seemingly was a mirror image of many of those games.

Coming into this game I knew that this would be a struggle for the Penguins. They were coming off the heels of a very emotional and dominant win against the Canadiens, avenging their 5-1 loss to the Panthers, and were riding a wave of energy and emotion. Time, however, was not on the Penguins’ side. They had to immediately cull their emotional win and focus on their next opponent, the New York Islanders. The quick turnaround meant little rest for the Penguins who had to gear up and play a hungry Islanders team that loves to play against Pittsburgh. This also meant that it would probably take the Penguins some time to get their “game legs” under them. While New York certainly isn’t the best team (21-25-7, 49 pts), they have played the Penguins extremely well of late, including the dramatic 6 game playoff series that took the Penguins to the near brink of elimination. In fact in the 4 head-to-head games played this year, all but one (this one) were decided by 1 goal. Furthermore, coming into the game, the Islanders were riding a winning streak and were 7-3-0 in their last 10 games. Mix all of these factors together and you have the perfect recipe for a great game and even a potential “upset”.

While both teams employed the services of their backup netminders, it was the Penguins’ netminder, Jeff Zatkoff who would need to grow up…fast. The young, feisty Islanders swarmed the Zatkoff early and often, and it was Zatkoff, who had to make several “Fluery-esque” saves to help preserved the victory. In my mind Zatkoff

... [Read More]
    7 Replies | 846 Views

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