Tag Archives: Penguins

Offseason Player Grades: Scott Wilson

Statistics (Regular Season)

78 GP, 8 G, 18 A, 26 PTS, 0 +/-, 32 PIM

Statistics (Postseason)

20 GP, 3 G, 3A, 6 PTS, +4 +/-, 11 PIM

Player Grade (B)

Last season, Scott Wilson came into the NHL and got a chance to play on Sidney Crosby’s wing.  Not so coincidentally, Wilson had quite a hot start to his NHL career, scoring goals like it was his job in the early going.  Many believed that of the “Wilkes guys” that were brought up last year, Wilson may be the purest goal scorer of them all.  I disagreed, and felt Sheary and Rust were both better finishers than Wilson, and at least based off of this year, I was correct.  Wilson did however produce 26 points in 78 games played this season, and mostly played a bottom 6 role.  He will likely be a mainstay on the Penguins’ bottom 6 forwards for the next few years, and can fill in when needed in the top 6.

Review

Wilson really began to establish his physical presence, especially in this years’ playoffs.  Anyone remember that 4 hit shift he had against the Senators?  It was absolutely crazy.  He played alongside Malkin and Kessel a lot and provided room for those guys by using his body and driving hard to the net.  I do not think the Penguins would ideally like Wilson in a top 6 role, however I would not be surprised to see his physical and gritty play continue into next year. He will be a pain to play against.

Preview

Next season, Wilson will almost for sure have a bottom 6 role locked up.  I would not be surprised if his offensive numbers dip ever so slightly, but I would also expect that hits and PIM will trend up slightly.  That said, Wilson is a great guy to have in the bottom 6 and has still shown promise in being able to chip in when he needs to.

Conclusion

Scott Wilson had a pretty solid year.  His numbers in the playoffs may not stand out on paper, but he ultimately brought a physical and gritty game which the Penguins definitely needed down the stretch.  Also after the previous 2 Stanley Cup parades, the dude knows how to “party hard.”

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: Jake Guentzel

Statistics (Regular Season)

40 GP, 16 G, 17A, 33 PTS, +7 +/-, 10 PIM

Statistics (Playoffs)

25 GP, 13 G, 8 A, 21 PTS, +1 +/-, 10 PIM

Grade: A+

Jake Guentzel opened his NHL season mid-season against the New York Rangers.  Guentzel played alongside Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel in the game and notched 2 goals, including one that came on his first NHL shot.  And he didn’t stop there.

Guentzel became a mainstay on Sidney Crosby‘s line towards the end of the season and was a main piece of the “Sid and the Kids” line that lit up the lamp late in the season.  Although he got cold in the playoffs for a while and even became a near scratch, Guentzel came just 1 goal shy of Dino Ciccarelli‘s record of 14 goals by a rookie in the postseason and tied his record 21 points.  Not too bad for a rookie.  Not to mention he recorded a hat trick while winning game 3 for the Penguins in OT against Columbus in the first round.

Preview

Based on the end of the regular season and late in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, I would be very surprised to not see Guentzel with Crosby and Conor Sheary on the top line.  Guentzel has thrived while playing with Sid, and Sid seems to enjoy Guentzel’s finishing touch.  Throughout his young NHL career, if Guentzel keeps his goal-scoring touch up, he would be on pace for 36 goals in a full 82 game NHL season.  Although I’m sure his scoring touch will decline slightly and injuries will likely happen, I would not be at all surprised to see Guentzel score 25-30 goals next season.

Review

Guentzel had about as good of a season as he could have.  He became a mainstay on the top line, was a huge producer in the Penguins’ offensive output, and already has his name scratched into Lord Stanley’s Cup.  Everyone in this fanbase was, and still is, excited to see what Daniel Sprong can do, but my goodness how about Jake Guentzel.  He came out of almost nowhere and just played as if he was in the NHL for years.  I cannot wait to see what he can bring next year.

Conclusion

Jake Guentzel is one special player, and most importantly, he is very young.  He will continue to grow and continue to get better in the upcoming years.  He should play with Sid for the majority of the next few years, but who knows what will happen.  One thing I can say is that barring any major injuries, Guentzel could be a consistent 20+ goal scorer in this league.  He does not necessarily have an impressive release like Neal did with the Pens, but he just has a knack of being in the right place at the right time, and has a sneaky quick shot.  Look for him to continue to do damage in the NHL.

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.

Top 10 Saves Of Marc-Andre Fleury’s Career

Marc-Andre Fleury is now a Vegas Golden Knight. He has had an illustrious career in Pittsburgh as he’s been a part of three different Cup teams.

It’s only fitting to set aside some time to compile a list of, what I believe, are Fleury’s top 10 saves in a Penguins uniform. We start with number ten…

No. 10- Chef Fleury With The Stop

There isn’t a lot to this save. Flyers defenseman Matt Carle winds up for a slap shot outside his offensive zone. It hits Flower right in the chest. He then takes the puck and flips on his stick a few times before gloving it down to be frozen. I included this because it happened in Philadelphia where Fleury has had demons before. It was cool for once to see the Philly crowd booing him as opposed to getting on him for allowing a goal in the building.

No. 9- Kubi-NO

This is ridiculous. Fleury moves from right to left to shut down the Lightning’s Paul Kubina. He spins while kicking his pads up in the air. He gloves it after the pad hits it. It’s too hard to explain. Just enjoy.

No. 8- Don’t Back Down

As Daniel Alfredsson bares down on Fleury during a shootout, Fleury squares him up. Alfredsson should’ve lifted the puck but instead beats Fleury…until he doesn’t. Fleury rolls over on his back and gets his glove hand down before the puck crosses the line. It’s beautiful. So poetic.

No. 7- Saving Blake

Maple Leafs forward Jason Blake had already buried two goals on the night. He just about had a guaranteed third when he carried the puck around Fleury. Somehow, someway, Fleury dived back across the crease and got his glove out to absolutely rob Blake of that third goal. This is number seven. I promise the list is getting even better.

No. 6- No Luck For Atkinson

I’m a huge fan of this goal because of Cam Atkinson being a Columbus Blue Jacket. Fleury softly let the puck squeak through his six hole as he couldn’t hold it to his side. He turned around alertly and fell back swiping the puck away with his stick as it was inches from crossing the goal line. Fleury is a savage.

No. 5- Setting The Tone

Just one piece of the multiple playoff flops by the Washington Capitals, Alex Ovechkin is given a breakaway in the first three minutes of game seven. Fleury, up to the task, calmly follows Ovechkin’s every move and flashes the leather to keep it at 0-0. The Penguins went on to win the game and the Cuo in the following round.

No. 4- Green With Envy

This one is a nifty play on all accounts. Defenseman Mike Green displays some silky mitts by deking in and out of potential defenders. He even had Fleury fooled. Somehow, Fleury reached back and stopped it before Green was able to dispose of it into the back of the net and win the game in overtime. Green’s face went right into his hands in disbelief. Fleury was all smiles. Classic Fleury. Classic Capitals.

No. 3- Flying Fleury

You’ll all remember this one. As the puck flips into the air, Fleury flies backwards and amazingly knocks the puck out of danger while spinning. The puck likely would’ve hit the ground and spun in due to the way the puck was flipping in mid-air. Had Fleury hit the puck any later, it probably would’ve been knocked in. Quality save by your favorite Flower.

No. 2- “OH MY GOODNESS!”

This is my favorite save that Fleury has ever made. Bobby Ryan and Erik Karlsson had just about done what they wanted on the play and Karlsson’s shot looked destined to get to the back of the net. I’m not sure how he did it, but Fleury’s glove stopped it. The puck never crossed the line and, even more amazingly, Fleury’s arm stayed in his socket. It’s probably my favorite save he’s ever made. Number one should be obvious…

No. 1- Lord Stanley, Lord Stanley, Bring Me The Brandy

I don’t think anything will ever have made Fleury more iconic than this. The initial save on Brian Rafalski through traffic was impressive enough. The ensuing save on Nicklas Lidstrom? Legendary. The Penguins hadn’t won a Cup since 1992. That save there was the dagger in the Red Wings attempt to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. Something the Penguins did these past two seasons.

Hopefully you enjoyed the list. Obviously, there were other saves I wanted to put on but were omitted. I leave you with this: Marc-Andre Fleury, you will always be my favorite goalie and human being. While the Penguins are in great hands with Matt Murray, you are part of the puzzle that has helped keep this ship afloat. You will be missed greatly.

Offseason Player Grades: Phil Kessel

Statistics (Regular Season)

82 GP, 23 G, 47 A, 70 PTS, +3 +/-, 20 PIM

Statistics (Postseason)

25 GP, 8 G, 15 A, 23 PTS, +12 +/-, 2 PIM

Player Grade: A-

Mr. Ironman Phil Kessel played a full 82 game season once again and played in all of the Penguins’ 25 playoff games.  Kessel had 70 points in the regular season and 23 in the postseason, but only totaled 31 goals in those 107 games.  Although I do agree that Kessel’s playmaking ability is underrated, he was brought here to score goals, and I feel like Kessel has the skill and the shot to score 30+ every year playing alongside Malkin.  I would like to see Kessel score more, but past that, there are not many complaints.

Kessel once again brought his best game in the playoffs, producing at almost a point per game, ending with a +12, only 2 PIM, and a huge goal against the Senators which gave the Penguins a much needed game 2 win at home.  What isn’t there to like about Phil Kessel?

Preview

Kessel started the season as many thought: playing on the right wing with Carl Hagelin and Nick Bonino and completing the 2016 line of the playoffs, the HBK line.  That line, however, completely failed the Penguins this year, and looked awful when they did play together.  The same chemistry just was not there this year, and so Kessel spent most of the season with Malkin, and I’d like to think that he will begin there next year, too.  As I stated above I would like to see Kessel score more goals, but if he doesn’t he needs to keep producing points like he has been and be a continuous powerplay threat.

Review

Kessel continued to do what he usually does: put up points, score on the powerplay, and continues to rise to a different level in the playoffs.  Kessel began to receive some rough words from the media during a span of the playoffs where he had been quiet, but they said this despite Kessel producing 23 points in 25 games in the postseason.  I think Pittsburgh is the best fit in the NHL for Kessel and I would imagine that he stays at least until the end of his contract.

Conclusion

The Penguins have accepted Phil Kessel for the player that he is and the player that he isn’t.  He isn’t extremely effective defensively, nor is he always super aggressive on the forecheck, but he provides a finishing touch that the Penguins have desperately needed throughout the years.  Kessel not only provides offense, but brings his best game in the postseason, and nearly won the Conn Smythe Trophy last year.  I could not be more happy that Rutherford traded Kessel, and it is great to see him play as a Penguin.

Oh, and Phil Kessel is now a 2-time Stanley Cup Champion.

Marc-Andre Fleury: Goalie, Teammate, Inspiration

What can be said about Marc-Andre Fleury that hasn’t already been said? Plenty!

Fleury the goalie…

Will have his name etched in the NHL and Penguins history books for a long time. “Flower” is one of only three goalies drafted 1st overall in NHL history. The other two were Michel Plasse of the Montreal Canadiens in 1968 and Rick DiPietro of the New York Islanders in 2000. Plasse lasted 299 games, DiPietro 318 games, while Fleury has racked up 691 NHL games and counting. In the Penguins history books Fleury exclusively holds six different team records. As I just mention Fleury has played in 691 games, a Penguins record for Games Played by a Goaltender. Other team records are as follows, Goaltender Wins 375, Shutouts 44, Most Games Played by a Goaltender in a season 67 (3x), and Most Shutouts in a Season 10.

But please, don’t let these incredible records distract those of you who’ve had a Jekyll and Hyde, love, hate, relationship with the 2x NHL All-Star, since his debut with the Penguins in 2003.

Oh, and please don’t turn an ankle jumping on and off the bandwagon for the 3x Stanley Cup Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist. As if those stats alone aren’t enough to warrant a city and fanbase’s unconditional love, Fleury is more than his records and stats, he’s and incredible teammate.

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Fleury the Teammate…

Is something that no one, not even the biggest anti-Fleury fan can deny. In fact, he has awards for that too. Twice in Marc-Andre Fleury’s career with the Penguins he has been awarded the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Good Guy Award. An award that not even the team’s owner Mario Lemieux has ever won. Fleury was even voted team MVP twice (2011, 2015) during his tenure with the Penguins. The team MVP has only been awarded to a goalie, three times since its inception in the 1967-68 season, in which Les Binkley (the team’s goaltender) was the initial recipient.

But moreover, to prove the validity and value of Marc-Andre Fleury as a teammate, are heartfelt quotes from his teammates, on his character and importance to his team during this year’s locker clean out day. Four of my favorites from that day are:

“It’s pretty clear what he means to this town. He rode in the truck behind me in the parade yesterday. Listening to the fans and everything that they said to him and the support they gave him … it’s pretty clear what he means to this community. I know what he means to this team. I haven’t played with many better teammates than him. I just remember when he stepped in for Game 1 of the playoffs, the way that he played and what he did for us, the way he stepped up. I know what he’s gone through these last couple of seasons, sitting next to him in the room. He comes to the rink with a smile every day. He does his best to support his teammates. It’s never about him. He’s a pretty unique person and a unique teammate. Whatever happens for him, whoever gets him, is going to be very lucky.” —  Matt Cullen

“It’s sad. He’s the type of guy that I want in my life at all times. If I could follow that guy around all day, I’d be happy. He’s such a fun guy to be around and I love that guy so much. He’s such a great player that he’s going to be good if he’s here or no matter where he is.” — Brian Dumoulin

“So happy to play with him. He’s the best teammate, best guy. I never met a guy that doesn’t like him or want to play with him. He’s unbelievable, and we’ll see what happens but I love him.” — Justin Schultz

“There’s not much you can say about Flower that isn’t great. He’s awesome. He’s one of the best teammates you can ask for. He’s always having a good time. He’s always welcoming guys. He’s always playing little pranks. I think that helps build chemistry. Having a guy like that on your team is special. It makes everyone a little bit closer.” — Bryan Rust

The final quote by Bryan Rust brings us to something that, thanks to Penguins marketing and media, we as fans have had the privilege to witness throughout the years, and that is Fleury’s pranks. Some of which you will see if you follow me on twitter (@benchbossx2) for 29 Days of Fleury Love aka #29Forever. The pranks and the silliness and the laughter and most importantly Fleury’s big smile are all apart of building chemistry in the locker room, on a professional team, that can tend to have personnel turnover from year to year. I see this every year in my job as a university hockey coach and it’s always incredible to see those types of players that can be the glue between the veterans and rookies, between the top line players and the healthy scratches. The hierarchy within the room can get complicated and be detrimental to a team’s success. The selfless teammate that “Flower” is, has become a large part of why this Penguins organization has been successful for so many years. I’m not sure many people realize this, but no one has been with the Penguins longer Fleury (since 2003) other than Mario Lemieux, Ron Burkle, Mike Lange, Paul Stiegerwald, and some of the Equipment Staff. Fleury has seen coaches and General Managers come and go. He has seen many teammates come and go as well. Yet, the lighthearted and often comical Marc-Andre Fleury remained as the pulse of the Penguins franchise. Yes, Sidney Crosby is the team’s Captain, leader and heart of the Penguins, but Fleury has been its soul for the better part of a decade. Fleury as a great teammate, cannot be replaced, nor can Fleury as the humanitarian and inspiration.

Fleury the Inspiration…

Marc-Andre Fleury’s selflessness does not end at the locker room doors. He has understood the commitment of a professional athlete who’s made his home in the city he has played for many years.

Most recently as we all know by now, Fleury and his wife designed, donated, and assembled a new playground to the Boys and Girls Club in the Stow Rocks area of Pittsburgh, as well as donating equipment and an indoor floor hockey rink for the club. The “29” on the playground’s floor will forever embody the spirit of Fleury no matter where his career takes him. However, this is not the first time the Penguins netminder has showed his love for the city and its communities.

As fans, we have seen Fleury give his time to different charity events, visiting children in the hospital, playing ball hockey with local youth players, visiting schools, participating as a coach in Crosby’s youth camps, and stopping along his way to wherever it is he’s going to sign autographs for fans.

Pittsburgh has long been the home of Marc-Andre Fleury and his family. If it is inevitable that his long tenure with the Penguins organization ends, there should be no doubt that he loves this city and its fans. When asked what he’d miss most about Pittsburgh, he summed it up in one word, “Everything!”.

For this fan, Fleury hasn’t been just a franchise goalie to watch. I remember witnessing the departure of Tom Barrasso a few years prior to Fleury’s arrival. As much as a I enjoyed watching him play and see the success of the team while he was with them, it was easy to see him go. The media scrutinized him and at the time I felt like I understood why. That is far from the feeling myself and many Penguins fans have about Fleury.

If this is to be the last time as a fan I get to witness Fleury donning the Penguins logo…

If this was the last season we witness him defending the Penguins net with Statue of Liberty glove saves…

If this is the last time we get to see Fleury move the furniture out of a teammates hotel room or do cartwheels in the Penguins runway or just see his smile behind a Penguins mask after robbing a rival player on a breakaway…

Then I will certainly be saddened.

I have watched Fleury since he came into the league and joined the Penguins as an 18-year-old kid fresh out of the QMJHL. I watch Penguins bounce him back to juniors several times, while stating “he just isn’t ready for the NHL, we need to let him develop”. Meanwhile, they just knew that it wouldn’t help his development to get shelled every night behind a floundering team. But they couldn’t publicly say that, of course. I watched as Fleury finally joined the team permanently and thinking, “Wow! He’s so athletic! He’s so good!” I remember being so excited that this kid is the Penguins franchise goaltender. Then I watched him grow as a goalie. He wasn’t just athletic anymore. He wasn’t just relying on his natural ability anymore. Fleury began to think the game and be selective with his saves. I watched as he got out of the truck in the 2009 Stanley Cup Parade and run by me high fiving fans. I’ve watched him spin, rub the posts, attempt to score a goal, attempt to get into a fight, be an intricate part of winning two more championships and capture the hearts of a city.

As a fan, I’ve been more than fortunate to watch Fleury’s career bloom with my hometown team. As a writer, who knows, maybe I’ll be just as fortunate, if by some chance “Flower” reads this. If he does, I hope what he takes from it is that, he will never be forgotten here in Pittsburgh.

Thank you, Marc-Andre Fleury, from the bottom of my heart, for all the wonderful memories you have given me and the Penguins fanbase. #29Forever