All posts by Ryan Pawloski

Ive loved pittsburgh sports from the 1st day and will till my last day. Current PSU student for sports journalism

Offseason Player Grades: Conor Sheary

Statistics (Regular Season)

61 GP, 23 G, 30 A, 53 PTS, +24 +/-, 22 PIM

Statistics (Playoffs)

22 GP, 2 G, 5 A, 7 PTS, -5 +/-, 4 PIM

Grade: B-

Conor Sheary really helped out this team midway through the season while playing with Jake Guentzel and Sidney Crosby. The Sid and the Kids line really produced and lead the team as the best line in the league. But as for any player, there are ups and downs to a long season. Sheary exemplified the struggles and triumphs of a long season.

Sheary is an interesting player. Throughout this year, he reached amazing highs and amazing lows. He overpreformed for the first half the year and racked up big time points playing with Crosby and Guentzel. But he hit towards the end of the regular season, which carried into the playoffs. He even got benched during the postseason and had to wait until he got another opportunity to crack the lineup. As anyone else in the organization, Sheary persevered and helped the Pens get another ring. He scored twice during the finals and seemed to be coming back to the player we know he can be. Which is a puck battler in the corners and a great passer.

Preview

Next season should be a great one for Sheary. If you consider how much he slowed down after the first part of the season, it was amazing to see the points he was racking up. If he can play like that for 82 plus games then he will be 60 plus point player at least and potentially a 30 goal scorer.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Sheary is a big part of Crosby’s game. He is exactly the type of winger Crosby can play with. He’s guy that will do the dirty work in the corners like winning the puck battles. He is someone that can help make plays. I expect another good season and a more complete game for this young player.


Offseason Player Grades: Matt Murray 

Statistics (Regular Season)

49 GP, 32-10-4, 2.41 GAA, .923 SV%, 4 SO

Statistics (Playoffs)

11 GP, 7-3, 1.70 GAA, .937 SV%, 3 SO

Grade: A+

There’s not much you can complain about when it comes to Matt Murray. He has broken records and overcome adversity. He responds to negatives with huge positives. He shut the door on Nashville in the final 2 games to help win back to back cups.

Murray, time and time again, shows us how calm he is in the net. Just look at the Stanley Cup Finals alone. He stole games 1 and 2 for us at home. Then he gets a bit rattled in games 3 and 4. But then he responds by shutting Nashville out in games 5 and 6. He is an amazing goaltender that has shown many flashes of greatness in his young career.

Preview

Murray will be carrying the load for the Penguins again next year. He is already a legendary figure in Pittsburgh hockey. He will continue to grow his legacy as a Penguin and his own greatness. I don’t see Murray declining anytime soon as he is on the up and up. Pittsburgh was very lucky to have two amazing starting goaltenders for two straight Stanley Cup runs. Matt Murray was one of them and therefore a huge reason the Pens repeated as Stanley Cup champions.

Conclusion

Matt Murray is the Pens goaltender going forward as he should be. He has constantly shown his resilience and ability to be one of the greatest goalies to play the game. He plays calm cool and collected and for that reason fans should be excited. AS long and Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Kris Letang, and Murray are here, then expect a chance at winning the cup each year.

Vegas Expansion Team Predictions 

We are coming down to the wire when it comes to the Vegas Golden Knights selecting their team. All of the protection lists have been submitted. Now with these submissions I selected the team I would make if I was Vegas. 

Forwards

Bobby Ryan, OTT 

James Neal, NASH 

Dale Weise, PHI 

Brad Richardson, ARI 

Riley Sheahan, DET 

Trevor Lewis, LA 

Devante Smith-Pelly, NJ 

William Karlson, CBJ 

Dimitrij Jaskin, STL

Kerby Rychel, TOR 

Jonathan Marchessault, FLA

William Carrier, BUF 

Jacob De La Rose, MTL 

Reid Boucher, VAN 

Mikail Grigorenko, COL 

Defense

Toby Enstrom, WIN

Sami Vatanen, ANA

Brendan Dillon, SJS 

Matt Dumba, MIN

Klas Dahlbeck, CAR

Trevor Van Reimsdyk, CHI

Calvin De Haan, NOT

Jamie Oleksiak, DAL 

Griffin Reinhart, EDM 

Joe Morrow, BOS 

Jake Dotchkin, TB

Bret Kulak, CAL 

Goaltenders

Marc-Andre Fleury, PIT

Antti Raanta, NYR 

Philipp Grubauer, WAS

Review

I assembled this team with some big names but prospects that can become something great.

Every team is built through the draft and I expect Vegas to be no different. The big names I picked up will fill the seats up during their inaugural season and get attendance and allow Vegas to compete.

Most of these expensive contracts will expire in a year or two so the Golden Knights won’t have cap issues in the near future. And they’ll have about $20 million in cap space post expansion draft. Adding stars like Bobby Ryan, James Neal, and Marc-Andre Fleury brings great advertisments around the city and a great product on the ice.

Even though this is what I would pick to allow for a competitive team. I would think Vegas is gonna make a lot of trades with teams to either keep a player or trade away one. I don’t expect my team to come close to the real team. But I do expect Vegas to have a handful of good talent on their roster next year. It’ll be a crazy next few weeks with lots of movement around the league. So everyone enjoy the fun off-season that will be commencing. 

Stanley Cup Preview: Predators vs. Penguins

The Penguins are here again and have a chance to repeat as champions. They would be the first to do so since the 98 Red Wings. But to get to that point they must defeat the Predators.

The Preds are the hottest team in hockey right now with a lot of no names. 

The Predators exemplify what it means to play as a team.

Because of this team first mentality, they got to the finals as the 16th seed. They are the first 16th seed ever to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals. Their defense and goaltending is what they count on most.

Their goaltending lead by Pekka Rinne, which is the best goalie in the playoffs this season. He’s focused and determined and a huge reason that they’re here.

The defensive core is full of number 1 defenseman and help a lot with on offense. They move the puck well and know when to make a shot or create sneaky passes. Their forwards are led by Filipino Forsberg, James Neal, Colton Sissons, and Victor Arvidsson. Each player is extremely dangerous with the puck and can score at anytime. But the most dangerous part of this team is how they create screens in front of the net. That’s how the score and what they focus on in the offensive zone.

Onto the Penguins.

They’re back again and are a determined group still. Even though the Preds play as a team, so do these Pens. 

They know how to keep eachother focused and in it. The series against the sens showed how close this group is. They could be folded under the frustration but stayed determined. Throughout these playoffs the Pens have had to learn to adapt their game to beat opponents and stay focused to beat top goaltenders. Even though this teams defense is tough I find it hard to believe the Pens can’t beat them. I mean they beat the Sens and goalies such as Sergei Bobrovsky, Braden Holtby, and Craig Anderson. But throughout this series there will be certain key things to watch for.

1. Nashville Screens

The Preds, like I was saying like yo throw a lot of bodies to the front of the net. The Pens defense will have to “remove them” in order to stop their offense. If the Pens can do this then I really like their chances.

2. Pens in the face off circle

The Pens got a bountiful amount of depth down the center of the ice compared to Nashville. If you want to beat Nashville it starts at the face off circle. With Ryan Johansson being injured the Pens have a huge amount of depth over the Preds. So if the Pens control the the circle then they should be able to control the game. Which leads to my 3rd point of how the Pens can win. 

3. Control the puck

Whoever controls the puck more will obviously get a huge advantage to win. But if the Pens win the face off circle then that’ll lead to controlling the puck. The Pens will hold the puck more and that’ll lead to more chances for them.

This series is going to be a tough series for both teams. But it’ll come down to goaltending and puck possession. With Matt Murray and the depth down center ice I definitely see the Pens having the advantage there. But Nashville is a very good and opportunistic team and will create issues for the Pens. But if the Pens play like they did against Ottawa then I believe they’ll get a similar result.

Olli Maatta Beginning To Return To Form

The Pens are coming off a 7-0 blow out against the Senators notching back to back winning efforts.

Notice that the defense is getting a scoring touch here. Olli Maatta himself has scored the first goals in the past few games. But man has he come up big for the Pens during the playoffs.

He has been playing solid minutes for the team and remains effective. Ever since Maatta was diagnosed with cancer and returned, he hasn’t been the same.

Before cancer, Maatta was an obvious top 4 defenseman in the NHL. After returning he has struggled to produce points and help the team.

But with all the injuries during this stretch he has stepped up along with the defense as a whole. But Maatta seems to be finding the same confidence he had during his rookie season.

He is finally living up to his contract and helping his team.

If the Pens do repeat as champs they need impressive play by the injured defensive core. Maatta will be a huge part of this moving on as long as his teammates.

So next time your watching the Pens make sure you’re watching the defense closely and especially Maatta. Who is starting to transform back into the top pairing defenseman the Penguins wanted him to be.

Can The Penguins Figure Out The Trap?

After the Pens frustrating loss in game 1, fans are getting fired up.

Ottawa played well defensively and were opportunistic in their scoring. Their type of game is extremely frustrating to their opponents. But the question is how do the Pens not only win but excell against this trap defense? 

Well the Pens are already close to beating this trap defense. They have to just do simple things to adjust their game plan.

The two major issues from game one were turnovers and shooting. Turnovers happen but it seemed that these two issues went hand and hand. When the Pens would enter their zone, they would make a bad pass into traffic instead of shooting the puck. You fix this by watching tape and giving the players the correct mindset.

I believe Mike Sullivan will do this and figure out the Ottawa defense.

If the Pens learn to shoot the puck more with a dump and chase mentality then they will be fine. Just look how successful Matt Cullen‘s line was. And that is because of the dump and chase they were doing. The Penguins need to use this to their advantage.

The last thing they need to do is keep a level head.

With all of their great chances last night they need to stay focused and goals will come to them. Just stay focused and play the game one shift at a time. Focus on the shift your on and not the one you just played or going to play soon.

If the Pens stay focused, get clean entries, and shoot the puck with bodies on the front then the goals will come. So Pens fans don’t be concerned yet and be cognizant of this teams bounce back ability.

Penguins Resiliency Is Key

The Penguins resiliency is something special. This team really improves their game to step up to the challenge. After that game 7 win against the Capitals in Washington they couldn’t have faced a better challenge. 

The Penguins went into game 7 as the underdogs needless to say. After games 5 and 6 in which they lost 4-2 and then 5-2, the Penguins weren’t playing their game and it was obvious that they were struggling.

Personally I thought they might’ve ran out of gas. But again and again this team just keeps surprising everyone even though we should come to expect greatness from this team. 

From last year and in this year we continue to watch in awe of the comeback kids. Whether it’s coming back and winning games or playing up to the challenge in huge games, this team steps up. They never stop proving us wrong, and I couldn’t be happier. 

The Penguins are moving onto the Eastern Confrence Finals and I am very impressed with this groups character again. But expect them to play great when it matters most during the remaining of the playoffs. And don’t count them out till the final horn sounds.