Why are the Penguins struggling? It’s not Fleury; Crosby & Co. are to blame

Marc-Andre Fleury (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

The big question mark coming into this series (other than, perhaps, how many games would it take for the Penguins to dispose of the Blue Jackets) was whether Marc-Andre Fleury could shake his recent playoff demons and take his team on a deep playoff run. And surely, after misplaying the puck to allow a late tying maker and letting in the OT-softy that has this series knotted at two, most will say he’s still haunted.

 

 

But if you’re looking to place blame, look at the big-name forwards in front of him first.

Coming off a sweep at the hands of the Bruins last year, where the Pens managed a total of two goals, the stars have once again gone AWOL: Sidney Crosby, zero goals. Evgeni Malkin, zero goals. James Neal, one goal. Read more

Jimmy Fallon’s NHL Awards: Zdeno Chara most likely to be two humans sewn together

Zdeno Chara (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

On The Tonight Show Tuesday, Jimmy Fallon dipped his toe into the NHL’s frozen pond with his humorous NHL Playoff Awards. He’s done this before in 2013 and even focused on the Bruins before, though he’s destroyed the pronunciation of so many of these names.

Last night, the Bruins and Penguins were in the crosshairs and it was a pretty good segment which, naturally, compared Zdeno Chara to Frankenstein-type monster. There is no other comparison for the towering Bruins defender.

But Matt Niskanan and Simon Despres got the worst of it, especially the former, who is in the middle of a heated Stanley Cup playoff series. If Niskanen doesn’t receive trash talk related to this joke in Game 4 – and onwards – it would be the most surprising development of the Stanley Cup playoffs. And now anytime he dumps it in, we have to wonder if Niskanen was actually trying to shoot it on net. Read more

This guy was the cleanest player in NHL history. But he never won the Lady Byng

Jason Kay
Rangers vs Detroit

In today’s NHL, it’s almost unfathomable that a player would compete for an entire season and not take at least one minor penalty.

Ryan O’Reilly, one of the finalists announced for the Lady Byng Award on Tuesday, came with a broken stick/delay-of-game-penalty of accomplishing the feat. He joins Butch Goring as the only skaters to ever play 80 games and be assessed two or few PIM.

So imagine a regular minute-muncher doing it four times in a career?

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Top 10 clutch performers in the playoffs

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images Sport)

Come crunch time, these are guys who find that extra gear when the pressure gets ramped up in the 
post-season. Here are the top 10 skaters you can count on to come through in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

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Rumor Roundup: Martin Broduer, Brad Richards and Mikhail Grabovski buzz

(Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)

Long-time New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur is leaning toward returning next season, but it remains to be seen if it’ll be with the Devils. Brodeur wouldn’t rule out another season with the Devils, but acknowledged their priority is re-signing Cory Schneider, who supplanted him as Devils starter. Schneider is eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2015.

If the Devils cannot re-sign Schneider to a contract extension this summer, NJ.com’s Randy Miller believes they should trade him and re-sign Brodeur. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch suggests the Pittsburgh Penguins as a destination for Brodeur, in order to mentor Marc-Andre Fleury. Garrioch also notes the New York Islanders need a goalie.

If Fleury suffers another playoff meltdown, the Penguins could be in the market for a new starting goalie, not a mentor. As for the Islanders, Newsday’s Arthur Staple reports they’ll be in talks with current starter Evgeni Nabokov. He could return in a backup role if they land a younger, experienced starting goalie via trade or free agency this summer.

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Bruins, Avs dominate my NHL Awards picks

Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron (Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Once again, I’m privileged enough to receive a ballot for the NHL’s annual individual player awards. It’s a huge honor for any hockey journalist and one I think deserves the respect of full transparency to the public. If we’re supposed to represent the fans, we owe it to them to reveal and stand behind our choices – choices I make after numerous discussions with NHL executives and players.

So here are my picks, along with some brief thoughts on why I chose the players I did for the five awards. You probably won’t agree with all of them, but the last thing these honors are about is pure consensus.

HART TROPHY (“to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team”) — Five selections.

1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
2. Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks
3. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
4. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
5. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings

The Rationale: As I’ve noted in the past, I’ve come to see the Hart as a most valuable player award, if only because the concept of “value” is so nebulous. But certainly, Crosby’s value to the Penguins – especially during Pittsburgh’s injury-plagued season – cannot be questioned. Nor can his status as the game’s best all-around individual force. Getzlaf was a very close second, while Giroux got the nod over Bergeron because he was the catalyst in Philadelphia’s remarkable season-saving turnaround. Read more

Can the Blue Jackets keep Sidney Crosby off his game?

Brandon Dubinsky

A few thoughts after Night 1 of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs…

• Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson is a polarizing player.

On the one hand, he’s an offensive defenseman who is capable of hitting or approaching 40-point seasons. He led the Blue Jackets with 24:40 of average ice time this season, which is actually more than a minute less than he was pulling in a season ago. He’s a guy the emerging Blue Jackets lean on, even though he’s their third-highest paid defenseman at $4.357 million against the cap through 2017-18.

On the other, he can be a liability at times. His negative Corsi for relative percentage this season was worse than every Blue Jackets defenseman and second-worst to only R.J. Umberger on the team. The volatility in his game, especially this season, was a reason why he wasn’t included on Team USA’s Olympic roster this time around.

But Johnson is a competitor. And when it comes to the playoffs, he’s a scorer. Read more

Fleury, Price just good enough to win Game 1

Price save

Let’s get one thing out of the way right away. If the four teams in the Eastern Conference play throughout the playoffs the way they did on the first night of the post-season, none of them will be around beyond the second round.

It was a night where all the playoff rules were broken, but also one in a couple of hockey’s age-old axioms held true. The notion that defense and goaltending rule in the playoffs went out the window very early in both the Montreal Canadiens 5-4 overtime win over Tampa Bay and the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. The age-old theory that scoring dries up in the playoffs also made a hasty retreat.

But, hey, it’s the Eastern Conference. If you’re looking for masterpiece games from a defensive standpoint, take your complaints to Dave King. If you seek actual entertainment, intensity and some pretty damn compelling hockey, don’t take your eyeballs off the screen for a second.

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