Tag Archives: 2017 Stanley Cup Finals

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.

Advertisements

COLUMN: What Exactly Is Crosby’s Legacy?

Sidney Crosby has recently arose in conversations as a top 5 player all time, and it’s about time.  Crosby has easily reined the NHL as the best player in the league over the past ten years.  So if anything he is overdue for being considered by many as a top 5 player all time.  Crosby has many reasons to be considered, and I will try to touch on those.

To begin, the easiest argument would be his insane stats.  Right now he sits at sixth all-time on the points per game stat, which in my opinion, is a great stat to show how offensively talented a player is.  The reason being, that a player could play 1000 games and have 700 points, while a player that only played 600 games could have 600 points.  The points per game stat obviously shows that the second player had a better offensive impact as he averaged one point per game and player one only averaged .7 points per game.  Also, the fact that Crosby is sixth all time, and playing in the hardest era yet to score in is also a testimony to how great of a player he is.  The next closest player from this era on that list…is none other than Evgeni Malkin.  Crosby has also scored 100 plus points in 5 out of 8 seasons where he played more than 70 games.  If it wasn’t for all his injuries, we can only wonder how much his stat line would be improved. And lastly he has been a 1+ point per game player every season of his career.

The second thing that attributes to his ever-growing legacy is his extensive trophy case.  Crosby has already captained the Penguins to two Stanley cups and has a chance to captain them to their third if they can win two of the next five games.  Crosby also has two Olympic gold medals, one World Junior Championship gold, and a World Cup gold.  He also has a plethora of individual awards to tack onto that.  He has two Art Ross trophies, two Maurice Rocket Richard trophies, three Ted Lindsay awards, two Hart trophies, two Messier awards, one World Cup MVP, and one Conn Smythe trophy.  Those are his best trophies or awards, there are much more but listing them all would make the article an extra page long.

Lastly, Crosby’s play style can be argued as an equal if not better argument for him being a top 5 player all time.  Crosby was mainly offensive in his game up until roughly 2015.  Ever since 2015, Crosby’s ability to play both sides of the puck has really taken a fore front.  He is now more physical than ever on both sides of the puck, and has shown that he can shut his opponents down in key moments of the game.  Most analysts are using his two-way play to justify him being a top 5 player of all-time.  The same argument was used to show why Crosby was the best player in the NHL this year despite being slightly outscored by Connor McDavid.  McDavid is yet to show he can play adequate defense and it mainly offensive oriented.  Stats don’t show the whole story in sports, and Crosby’s play is what truly sets him apart from the rest.

Overall, it should be a no brainer that Crosby is a top 5 player all-time, however there are still critics out there.  The good news is that his legacy can only go on from here on out, and he still has many years left to leave his mark.

Interference on Crosby?

Two major topics came out of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday. The first was the fact the Penguins went 37 minutes without a shot on goal. The second was, as always, the officiating.

On top of a disallowed Nashville goal from an offside review, there was also a 5 on 3 power play awarded to Pittsburgh when two penalties were assessed to the Predators at the same time.

What irked a lot of people was not what they called, but what they didn’t call. Welcome to another episode of Sidney Crosby got away with one.

On that same five on three power-play, Crosby gave Matthias Ekholm a bump beside the net in an effort to stop him from getting to the puck. Ekholm went down, and cries for an interference penalty went up.

To all you non-Penguins fans, I really do see what you’re saying here. I can see how it looks like interference. Plus you all may want it to be interference even more because it’s Sidney Crosby.

On the flip side, you’ll probably not read this with an open mind because you already think I’m defending it only because it’s Sidney Crosby.

So instead of boring you with the details of the play, I’m going to ask you to answer one question:

Was Sidney Crosby eligible to be hit?

That’s right. I’m referring to Crosby, not Ekholm. Crosby touched the puck, and it was momentarily in his skates. He had “possession” just prior to the contact. If he was still eligible to receive contact, then he was allowed to engage in a puck battle to defend his already established position.

I’m not saying this as a boom! Gotcha! type of point. I’m just trying to get people to look at it from a point of view other than seeing some guy innocently going for a puck and having another guy stick his butt out and knock him over.

To me, that’s not what happened. I saw a guy who just had the puck and was putting himself in the best possible position to win it back again.

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.

Why The Pens Will/Won’t Win Game Seven

The Eastern Conference Finals has reached a seventh game. Despite what many thought would be a quick Penguin victory, thus has not been the case.

The winner will represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals. They can win tonight and here’s why:

Leave It To Murray

Matt Murray has been really good. From the time he took the starting job last year all the way through until now, Murray has done a sensational job at keeping teams at bay. Tonight, he has a chance to win his second game seven in as many years and to play for his second Stanley Cup after winning it last season.

Despite the widely unpopular decision to start Murray over Marc-Andre Fleury in game four after Fleury had guided them to that point, Murray has posted a 2-1 record with a .950 save percentage and a 1.33 goals against average. He shutout the Senators in game five.

Murray is celebrating his 23rd birthday today. We all saw how Senators goalie Craig Anderson got treated on his birthday in game five. You’d hope for a bit better of a result from Murray tonight.

Don’t Shake The Rust

You’re probably wondering what rust could I possibly be talking about. I’m talking about Bryan Rust.

For some reason, Rust has a knack for scoring in elimination games, namely game seven, as he did twice in the same scenario last season.

The Penguins defeated Tampa Bay in game seven of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, 2-1. Rust had both goals in front of the (then) CONSOL Energy Center crowd to get them fired up.

He was paired with Nick Bonino and Carter Rowney the past two games and has scored the series clinching goal in 3 of the last 4 playoff series for the Penguins.
“Just Play”

If there is anyone coach in the NHL that you’d be this confident about taking into a game seven outside of Mike Sullivan, I’d love to hear the answer.

Sullivan has made decisions that people here in Pittsburgh have doubted before. Where are they now?

Sullivan has never lost a playoff series as the Penguins head coach. He’s 6-0 and while that is a small sample size, you must be reminded of the Stanley Cup he won last year and his whisking away of the two teams in the Metropolitan Division that gave them the most trouble this season.

His “just play” mentality that has become synonymous with the Penguins and his exuding confidence that has radiated into the team makes the Penguins the favorites to win at home this evening.

– The Penguins will of course be tested and, no matter the team, any game is a 50/50 proposition from the time of the puck drop until the final horn blows to send one of these teams to the Finals. It won’t be easy and here is why:

Home Ice Isn’t Always Kind

Usually, there’s no place like home. Unfortunately, the Penguins maybe like the road better.

They’re very good on the road in game seven. Home? Not so much.

They’re 3-7 at home in game seven’s in franchise history. Now, that’s history. I personally don’t much much attention to these numbers because they came with much different team’s. If you want more hope, game seven vs. Tampa Bay in last year’s ECF was at home…the Penguins won.

What Is The Health Of Those Returning?

Playing a playoff game without someone like Patric Hornqvist can be crippling to any line up. The Penguins have fortunately had depth to replace him. So is sitting a healthy player for a still injured player, who’s game is bound to get him hurt again, a smart idea?

Hornqvist hates more than anything to be watching from the box and not pestering the goalie and throwing his body around. He took the skate this morning but how healthy is he? Many reports said he wouldn’t even return this season.

Justin Schultz, on the other hand, didn’t take the skate and is a game-time decision for tonight’s game. He had seemingly been ready to return but, again, is it a good idea? Only time can tell. The playoffs make many players force themselves back into the lineup prematurely. Keep an eye on this situation.

Anderson Can Steal The Show

Anderson will be the goalie of choice for Ottawa after a 45 save performance in game six. He has played solidly in this series outside of the game five meltdown. He can steal this series.

He’s not widely regarded as an all-world goaltender. But in the grand scheme of things, he’s one win away from the Stanley Cup Finals. He has proven that he can shut down one of the league’s more elite scoring team’s and keep them from beating him too often.

Anderson has an 11-7 record with a .922 save percentage and a 2.36 goals against average. He’s posted some good numbers that would win a few teams some Cups. He’s aging and this could be his final chance to even potentially make the Finals. Don’t expect him to roll over and let the Penguins make him surrender.

As the Penguins embark upon game seven tonight, keep these in mind. They’re valid reasons for both team’s to have a shot to win. The Senators are the underdog and will have much less pressure to get to the Finals. Another factor that could play into their hands. One thing is clear: both teams will lay it all on the line tonight.

Carter Rowney’s Impact Has Been Impeccable 

As the Penguins look to close out the Eastern Conference Finals with a win on Tuesday, they know that Ottawa is going to play their best game of the playoffs. They’ve got to be ready to push back. Forward Carter Rowney is ready to do just that.

Rowney has been one of the constants on a Penguins roster that has been banged up all season long. The Penguins have had young guys step up since the Stanley Cup run from last year. Why is his story more impressive?

Yes, Rowney is considered a rookie because it’s his first season in the NHL. But Rowney is 28 years old. He’s been through every rank and worked hard to be on the Penguins roster as he is now.

Rowney’s path to this point hasn’t been easy. He played his college hockey at the University of North Dakota. He went undrafted and was brought into the Penguins organization by signing with the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL. He spent parts of two seasons there before receiving the call to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to play in the AHL. It was a crazy feeling for someone who had never really dreamed of a post-college hockey career. He was living it.

He spent parts of another three or four seasons in the AHL just trying to make a name for himself. Last year, he finally did that.

Rowney showed his offensive potential scoring 24 goals and 56 points in 74 games.

Back tracking a few years, Penguins assistant general manager Bill Guerin got to watch Rowney in Wheeling and said that “he saw something special but couldn’t tell what it was” in Rowney. Now, Rowney has been one of the team’s most consistently good players in these playoffs.

He played in 26 AHL games this year scoring 21 points before he got the call to the NHL and made his debut on March 9. He’s been in and out of the lineup but has seemingly gotten better every time he’s been pulled out. He sat out most of the Capitals series, but when reinserted for game seven of the series, he hasn’t looked back.

There is nothing flashy about his offensive game. He makes the play he needs to make but if a defense first kind of player. He isn’t offensively challenged, however, as he proved over the last two seasons he played in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Consistency is something the Penguins greatly need with the injuries they’re dealing with, especially on the back end missing Kris Letang and Justin Schultz, their top two defensemen. Rowney has provided that this entire series and he’s being rewarded with some third line minutes. He’s shaping himself into an everyday NHL player after seemingly never being a thought in the organization’s head.