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Behind the Blog: PensBurgh

As I mentioned last week, I am bringing over some Behind the Jersey features to WIM now that I am blogging here full time. The most popular BTJ feature was Behind the Blog, which is basically an email interview with a hockey blogger that in 10 questions asks about their favorite team, the NHL, and their blog so you get to better know the blogger. I will be going through the SBN hockey blogs first and then plan on branching out to other hockey blogs so if you'd like to participate, feel free to leave a comment or send me an email.

Our first guest is Frank from PensBurgh, which is the SBN blog dedicated to covering the Pittsburgh Penguins. I want to thank him for taking the time to answer my questions. Please return to hear from Joe at Mile High Hockey.

Q.1 - You started PensBurgh back in December of last year. Why did you decide to start blogging?

Well I started on blogger back in April of '07 to sorta test myself and my interest in blogging.  I've always liked writing, and I do it professionally now thanks to SBN, but I wanted to see if I could juggle it into my schedule.  After I passed my personal test on blogger I reached out to SBN and talked about coming onto the network.  My first open thread on SBN was for the Winter Classic, so I think that was a good launching point for a brand new site - and an easy way to remember when I started.

 Q.2 - When and why did you become a Pittsburgh Penguins fan?

I became a Pens fans when I was 8 or 9 years old.  It's actually a weird story.  I was in a store with my dad and I remember seeing an enter to win box for something with Mario Lemieux holding the Cup up over his head.  And I thought to myself, "Man, I wanna be like him."  I started following the Pens from thereon in, reading up and listening in on anything I could find.  One could say I jumped on board as a front runner, but I stuck with them through the thick and thin - I think it's justified by now.

Q.3 - I know you aren't crazy about the Wings after the whole Stanley Cup Finals, Hossa, & Conklin deal, but how do you see both the Wings and Penguins performing this season? SCF re-match?

You can take Hossa.  He's really working out well for ya, huh?  [WIM: Note that he made this comment on October 21st before Hossa went on his current scoring streak.] As for the SCF rematch...yeah, I'm not ruling it out.  The Pens are taking a lot of heat from the press and such because people think that without Whitney and Gonchar on defense we are going to collapse.  Not entirely true.  We're definitely giving up more shots, there's no arguing that.  But Fleury has been incredible in net and Sabu just proved the other night that he is a comparable backup.  I'm not worried about the season, and I welcome a healthy Gonchar and Whitney back to the lineup for the playoffs - a playoff run that will hopefully have a rematch of last year's finals.

Q.4 - What do you hope to achieve with your blog over the next year?

Always looking to grow, expand, get more community involvement.  I know a lot of blogs out there focus on users submitting content.  That's exactly what all of the blogs on SBN are focused on, only you don't have to e-mail me your pics, have me filter through them or decide which are the 'best' for the main page.  Users can post up all of their own stuff and it automatically appears on the page.  I'm also really hoping to get some association with minor league teams or at least some interviews with players in the system.  I want to more or less adopt a guy in the minors and follow him up through the system so that one day when he's playing in the NHL I can say, "Pssh.  Yeah, we talked when he was in the minors."

Q.5 - The Penguins faced off against Buffalo in the Winter Classic this past New Year's and the Wings will play Chicago at Wrigley Field for round two next year. Do you think the NHL should continue hosting a Winter Classic each season?

Oh totally.  I was happy to see the Pens outdoors last season and I'm just as happy to see the Wings and Hawks outdoors this year.  It's a huge marketing platform, a great chance to expose people to the game and just a way of returning the sport to the very roots of pond hockey.  I think it's a great idea, and once it expands to teams outside the "colder" regions, I think the places like Wrigley, Buffalo, Montreal, etc should be used as neutral sites for teams like the Stars, Ducks, Lightning and so forth. 

Q.6 - What do you think was the biggest move the Penguins made over the summer?

Well the Pens moved a lot of guys, you have a few yourself.  Laraque went to Montreal, Ruutu to Ottawa, Conklin and Hossa to the Wings, Hall, Roberts and Malone down to Tampa.  It was certainly a breakup year for a lot of the guys on the team, but in terms of acquisitions, the Pens now have Miroslav Satan who, despite a lot of people saying he's underrated, has been phenomenal thus far.  Alex Goligoski is the call up from the minors who was asked to fill some pretty big skates on the blue line with Gonchar and Whitney out.  Eric Godard was picked up from Calgary and comes in as the new enforcer, along with rookie Paul Bissonnette.  All in all I don't think the Pens had many "big" moves, but plenty of substantial moves to replace some of the big guns from last season.

Q.7 - Which Pittsburgh player do you think will have a breakout season? A slump?

Breakout is hard to say.  There are plenty of new faces on board, so to say a guy like Miroslav Satan is going to have a breakout season wouldn't really mean much in the sense of the term.  But I will say that Satan is going to have a big year for the Pens, and if anyone comes close to "breakout" I'll pick Tyler Kennedy.  As for a slump, I think Petr Sykora is off to a rough start.  This is all due in part to an upper-respiratory infection he had during the preseason, followed up by a groin injury.  So even then he's playing through pain, but it will no doubt have an impact on his stats.

Q.8 - What team has surprised you the most to start off this season (and yes, I realize the season is still quite young)? Disappointed you?

I'm surprised at the Flyers, but happily surprised.  As of the typing of this response they've still yet to win a game.  Where are our division rivals?  It doesn't make it as fun when they are easy to beat.

As for a disappointment, I guess I stand with a lot of people when I say the Lightning.  I mean, I didn't expect them to win the Conference or anything but I did buy into the hype a bit.  I guess I was a sucker for that.  How long before Melrose is back on ESPN?

Q.9 - Who is your favorite hockey player (current or retired)? Why?

It would be wrong of me to not say Mario Lemieux.  I mean, the guy was obviously injury prone his entire career but that shouldn't shadow his accomplishments.  My favorite record that he set is the five goals in five ways in a single game - even strength, short handed, power play, penalty shot and empty netter.  You can't tell me that's going to be an easy one to break.  I also really admired the guy for his ability to bounce back after chemo and radiation for cancer.  He took to the ice one night following treatment and scored a goal and added an assist against the Flyers, all while wearing a turtle neck under his sweater to hide the marks on his neck from the chemo.  Incredible.

Q.10 - Is there any hockey blog or website that you look to for inspiration?


I read a lot of newspapers online, not just for Pitt but also for whatever team the Pens are going up against.  If anything I check out Yahoo's PuckDaddy and James Mirtle's new site From The Rink daily to check out whatever topics they have goin down.  I'm highly motivated to try and talk about the things people aren't talking about too, or aspects of the team I feel are being overlooked.  But in the vast blogosphere that is hockeydom it's definitely hard to find a collection of sites that aren't touching up on the hot topics.