All posts by Ulm29

Offseason Player Grades: Brian Dumoulin

Statistics (Regular Season)

70 GP , 1 G, 14 A, 15 PTS, +/- Even, 14 PIM

Statistics (Playoffs)

25 GP, 1 G, 5 A, 6 PTS, +9 +/-, 6 PIM

Player Grade: (A)

Brian Dumoulin stepped into a big role this season when his defensive partner, Kris Letang, underwent season ending surgery. Dumo earns an A in my book because of the way he stepped into a top defensive role, being charged with shutting down the other team’s top offense lines, especially during the playoffs.

Review

Dumoulin has proven to be a shutdown guy here in Pittsburgh. I don’t think anyone expects him to put up more than a handful of points per season. (Although I do see offensive talent in his game) Looking into some analytic stats on Dumo, if you break his numbers down, they’re in the top half of defensemen in the league. He quietly gets the job done each and every night, he’s not flashy, doesn’t have a cannon of a shot, or the top-level speed and skating, but at the end of the day he does what you want a top pairing, shutdown defenseman to do.

Preview

Dumoulin is a RFA this summer. I hope to see him sign a long-term deal to keep him in Pittsburgh for the foreseeable future. Next season, I fully expect him and Letang to be one of the NHL’s top pairs in the league. Again, I don’t expect him to put up a lot of points, but he provides that stable partner for Letang to be Letang.

Conclusion

Brian Dumoulin may be one of the most underrated defensemen in the league, but the numbers are there to prove that he is being over looked. Without a player of his caliber I don’t think the Pens repeat this year.

Keys/Notes to Game 4

The Pittsburgh Penguins head into game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals up 2-1, the exact same situation they were in last season and well, we all know how that ended.

  • After Sunday’s practice, it appears that Matt Murray will remain the starter for the Pens in game 4 and rightfully so. Murray is an astounding 7-0 following a playoff loss. Murray has proven in is short NHL career that his ability to bounce back after a loss is top notch. It’s no surprise Sullivan sticks with his guy.

 

Nashville Predators center Colton Sissons (10) celebrates a goal as Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray (30) looks on during the second period in Game 3 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals Saturday, June 3, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. Photo: Mark Humphrey, AP / Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

  • Shockingly it appears that Nick Bonino will be a game time decision for game 4. Bonino missed game 3 with a lower body injury (ankle) and was in a boot and on crutches the past two days. He did skate early Sunday morning, and then later participate in practice, being part of the second power play unit.

  • Geno Malkin. I believe that game 4 is the type of game we can see Geno take over. After a frustrating game 3, I fully expect Malkin to come out with a purpose and lead the pens to a victory in Nashville.

  • The Power play. There is no question that the Pens power play has struggled during the finals. The Penguins are just 1-13 in finals on the power play. With their one goal coming in game 1. If it is a mixing of lines, moving players around in the zone, or a new look player play completely, special teams wins or loses games and right now it is costing the Pens.

Image result for penguins power play

The Pens look to take a commanding 3-1 series lead Monday night in Nashville. It will not be an easy game, but the Penguins have proven that they bounce back well after a loss. Puck drop is set for a little after 8pm in Nashville on NBC.

Unsung Heroes

Overtime, Game 7; these are the games as hockey fans we love. Thursday night, the Penguins defeated the Senators 3-2 in double overtime to clinch their bid to the Stanley Cup Finals vs the Nashville Predators. The game winning goal coming from 37-year-old Chris Kunitz, which was his second goal of the night. This entire playoff, and regular season has been filled with unsung heroes. Yes, we have the three-headed monster in Malkin, Crosby, and Kessel leading the way in playoff points. But there are a few guys pulling some of their own weight. Names that stand out are Jake Guentzel, Chris Kunitz, Bryan Rust, Olli Maatta, and Brian Dumoulin.

 

Jake Guentzel- 2016-17 Regular Season– 40 GP | 16 G | 17 A       2016-17 Playoffs– 19 GP | 9 G | 7 A

What an amazing rookie campaign Jake has put together. Those who watched Jake play in WBS before being called up knew the type of impact he could have in the NHL, and what an impact he has made. Some may ask why he made this list of surprise players these playoffs, but I don’t think anyone expected a player with 40 NHL games to be in the top 5 of playoff scoring. Not to mention 3 GWG this postseason.

Image result for jake guentzel playoffs

Chris Kunitz- 2016-17 Regular Season- 71 GP | 9 G | 20 A |         2016-17 Playoffs- 14 GP| 2 G| 3 A |     

Chris Kunitz, what a guy. This is a player that Penguins fans have wanted to be dealt out of town for the last three years at least, and I am guilty of criticizing him as well. But with Kuntiz you know what type of player you are going to get. He’s the type of guy to battle in front of the net, finish his checks, and hey, even score goals when reunited with Crosby. Kuntiz has scored the most important goal of these playoffs so far (2OT ECF) so how could he not be a hero?

Image result for chris kunitz goal

Bryan Rust- 2016-17 Regular Season- 40 GP | 12 G | 4 A |            2016-17 Playoffs- 17 GP | 6 A | 1 A |

Rust is a player that really emerged last season when the Pens were faced with injuries and he made a similar impact that Guentzel is making this year. Rust is another guy that will finish his hit and grind in front of the net, but also comes up with some very timely goals. This post season, Rust has 2 GWG those goals being Game 5 vs CBJ, and game 7 vs Washington. Rust plays big in big games, so keep an eye out for him the Stanley Cup Finals.

Image result for bryan rust playoffs

Olli Maatta2016-17 Regular Season- 55 GP| 1 G | 6 A |              2016-17 Playoffs19 GP | 2 G | 5 A |

Maatta has been criticized time and time again, and granted he has not been the player the Penguins expected, he has held his own. Some unfortunate injuries have slowed Maatta’s growth, but minor things such as foot speed seem to be an issue for him. To Maatta’s credit he has played well this season, especially vs the Sens. Scoring two goals in as many games, and one being a GWG in the 7-0 victory, Maatta seems to be finding his way as of late.

 Image result for olli maatta 2017

Honorable Mention: Brian Dumoulin- Dumo gets my honorable mention for this list. Next to Ian Cole, he may be the best defensive defenseman the Pens have. Logging 20+ minutes in almost every playoff game, he is faced with the task of shutting down teams’ top offensive lines. He is a valuable player to this Pens roster that often goes under the radar.

Image result for brian dumoulin playoff

This Penguins team is filled with superstars as we all know, but there are a ton of depth/role players that are just as important as Crosby or Malkin are. Role players play a key part in winning teams, and the Penguins have built their team using high end role guys. They played a huge part in the 2016 Stanley Cup Run, and will again be a key factor in the 2017 Stanley Cup run.

Comparing Murray And Fleury

The goalie situation in Pittsburgh has hit yet another episode. The Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc Andre Fleury was pulled in game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals after allowing 4 goals on just 9 shots. Matt Murray was called on in relief of MAF and allowed only 1 goal on 20 shots faced. After the Pens dropped game 3, 5-1, game 4 had all goalie drama leading into it. Head coach Mike Sullivan decided to switch things up in net, giving Matt Murray his first start in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Murray looked sharp, stopping 18 of 20 shots, and leading the Pens to a 3-2 victory and ultimately tying the series at 2 games a peace.

Sullivan stuck with Murray as his guy for game 5, and it proved to be the right call yet again. Murray backstopped the Pens to a dominating 7-0 win, and taking their first lead of the series going up 3-2 into game 6 on Tuesday night.

The question moving forward is, who is the starting goalie? This is a question that penguin’s fans have been asking themselves all season.

MAF has been lights out this postseason, and you could argue that the Penguins are not in the ECF without his stellar play. Fleury’s 2017 postseason stats read as:

Wins- 9

Loses- 6

GAA- 2.56

Save %- .924

Shutouts- 2

Fleury is posting even better numbers this year than he did in 2009 when he led the team to their first Stanley Cup in the “Crosby Era”

Fleury’s one hiccup this postseason came in game 3, and Murray took advantage of the situation.

Murray, who is 7-2 in his last 9 postseason starts, appears to be “the guy” for HCMS moving forward.

Murray has proven to be a big-time player. Still considered a rookie, Murray’s career playoff stats read as (Before game 6 ECF 2017):

Wins- 17

Losses- 6

GAA- 1.97

Save %- .927

Shutouts- 2

Not only Murray, but the entire team always plays well following a loss, so heading into game 7 the team and city should be buzzing with confidence to see the Pens in the SCF in back to back years.

As far as the rest of the playoffs go, I believe that Sullivan will ride out Murray. He seems to have confidence in Murray being the guy moving forward this postseason and into next year.

I have full confidence in both MAF and Murray leading this team to their 2nd cup in as many years.

It will be interesting to see what happens in the closing weeks of the season, and into the off season.

Penguins Have Affinity For NCAA Players

Throughout the 2016-17 season we have seen a lot of new names in and out of the lineup for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Most of these names are young talent coming from the Penguins farm system. Names such as Chad Rudwedel, Scott Wilson, and Carter Rowney are in and out of the lineup due to injuries. Players like Phil Kessel, Conor Sheary, and Chris Kuntiz are guys we think of as essential pieces to the Penguins in their respected ways. But what is one thing these players and many others have in common? That is, they have all played hockey in the NCAA before turning pro with the Pens, or another NHL franchise.

Would you believe that the Penguins have 17 guys that have played in the NCAA play this season in the NHL? Well, you had better believe it because it is true.

2016-17 Players Who Have Played in the NCAA for the Penguins

  1. Matt Cullen- St. Cloud State University
  2. Carl Hagelin- University of Michigan
  3. Chris Kunitz- Ferris State University
  4. Nick Bonino- Boston University
  5. Brian Dumoulin- Boston College
  6. Jake Guentzel- University of Nebraska Omaha
  7. Ian Cole- Notre Dame
  8. Ron Hainsey- Umass Lowell
  9. Phil Kessel- University of Minnesota
  10. Bryan Rust- Notre Dame
  11. Justin Schultz- University of Wisconsin
  12. Conor Sheary- Umass-Amherst
  13. Josh Archibald- University of Nebraska Omaha
  14. Carter Rowney- University of North Dakota
  15. Chad Ruhwedel- Umass Lowell
  16. Scott Wilson- Umass Lowell
  17. David Warsofsky- Boston University

*Out of the 17 listed players above, 12 are everyday players for the Penguins this season.

The Penguins have proved yet again that their depth in the farm system helped boost them to be a top 3 team in the NHL this season. Although all 17 former NCAA players have proved their worth this season, there are three names that stand out to me.

Justin Schultz- 12 Goals, 38 Assists. Schultz has proven this season that he is capable of putting up the offensive numbers he was expected to after being a 2nd round pick in 2008 all while improving his defensive game.

Conor Sheary- 23 Goals, 30 Assists. Playing aside Sidney Crosby for most of the season is beneficial, but believe me Sheary is the real deal. In just his 2nd NHL season he has proven capable of being Crosby’s right winger for a long time.

Jake Guentzel- 15 Goals, 16 Assists. Recently joining Crosby and Sheary to form the Sid and the Kids line, Gunetzel has proven to Penguins management that he deserves to stay in the lineup going into the playoffs.

To give credit where credit is due, these players have all proved that the NCAA is producing some serious talent now more than ever. There are also a few people in Penguins management that need to be recognized for their outstanding work.

Mark Rechi– Player Development Coach

Randy Sexton– Director of Amateur Scouting

Derek Clancey– Director of Pro Scouting

Without these gentlemen being part of the Penguins organization we may never see players like Sheary or Gunztzel make such a huge impact as they have this season.

 As far as the AHL team, Wilkes Barre Penguins, they currently have 14 rostered players who have played NCAA previously. The most notable singing being Hobby Baker finalist Zach Aston-Reese. Two notable players in the ECHL playing for the Wheeling Nailers are Cody Wydo, and Daniel Leavens who both attended Robert Morris University here in Pittsburgh.

The NCAA is producing talent at a much more rapid level than they have in recent years. In 2015 alone 30% of the NHL were former NCAA players. Not only are they gifted hockey players but 91% of NCAA players are graduating with their degree. The NCAA is growing each year in talent, and I personally cannot wait to see what the future holds for these student athletes.

Penguins Sign Zach Aston-Reese

The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed Northeastern forward Zach Aston-Reese to a 2-year entry level contract.

Aston-Reese will report to the WBS Penguins this weekend. He will be on an amateur tryout contract for the remainder of the year. His 2-year contract will be in effect starting the 2017-18 season.

Aston-Reese recently finished the NCAA season with 31 goals and 32 assists in just 38 games. He led the NCAA in both goals and total points for the 2016-17 season.

His numbers have gotten consistently better throughout his career. The 6-foot, 180-pound forward is a solid sign for the Penguins, and will add even more depth to their minor-league system.

Aston-Reese told Michelle Crechiolo of Pens Inside Scoop that Pittsburgh was an easy choice for him.

“When I had time to sit down and think about it today,” Aston-Reese said. “It just felt like it was the right place.

Aston-Reece mentioned that he has spoken with both Mark Recchi and Bill Guerin in recent months.

“Just their track record over the past few years with what they’ve been able to do with bringing in college guys was big,” Aston-Reece said.

Guerin says that Aston-Reece’s character and compete levels are going to give him a chance to be a very productive player for the Penguins.

After missing out on prizes college free agent Jimmy Vesey last season, the Penguins were right back at it by picking up Aston-Reece. Just remember the last effective college free agent the Penguins brought up has 20 goals and is playing on Sid’s left wing.

Gabriel Landeskog to Pittsburgh?

In the recent weeks there have been rumors that Colorado Avalanche captain, Gabriel Landeskog, has been placed on the trading block. In typical Jim Rutherford fashion, Pittsburgh is at the top of the possible landing spots for Landeskog. So, what will it take for GMJR to pull off yet another block bluster trade?

Landeskog, who is 24, and in the prime in his career. This deal would be a no brainier for the Pens. First in 2012, he was named captain of the Avalanche, and at that point in time he was the youngest captain in NHL history. Landeskog has proven his leadership role in Colorado, but the team seem to be going downhill, rather than upwards. From the outside looking in, it appears the Avalanche organization are looking towards, Nathan Mackinnon, as the future now. Landeskog has 7 goals, and 6 assist so far this season. Overwhelmingly having a down season, not just the captain, but the entire team; dead last in the NHL overall standings, some may argue it is time for a major change in Colorado.

This trade is not unrealistic simply because Landeskog has a reasonable contract to work with. With a young player, who is already a leader, with a $5.5 million cap , for 4 years… this is due able. The question is, who do you give up? Immediately the first player that comes to mind would be Olli Maatta. The Avalanche main problems seem to come from the back end up, starting between the pipes. Maatta seems to make the most seance for both teams. For Pittsburgh, Maatta has had a up and down career here. At times he appears to be a top paring D-Man. On the other hand, his foot speed at times does not seem to be up to par. I believe with an entire 82 game season, Maatta can improve to be a top D-Man. Maatta, making a bit over $4 million over the next 6 years is a very reasonable cap hit for any team, especially with the potential he truly does have. In addition to, Maatta, a player like Eric Fehr could possibly be added to sweeten the deal a bit. Fehr has been in and out of the lineup for the Pens this season (2016-17), but could fit well in the Avalanche lineup as a role player who can also net some goals in his own respect. With a $2 million cap hit, I would want that $2 million to be in the lineup, not sitting in the stands watching. With just those two players it makes the trade for Landeskog possible money wise.

I just hope whatever happens the Penguins do not over pay. Is this trade necessary? Probably not, but Landeskog could help the Pens with another Stanley Cup run this postseason.