Rangers rookie Kevin Hayes’ first career playoff goal is OT winner

Kevin Hayes (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

This past off-season, Kevin Hayes was the hottest unsigned NCAA free agent. Drafted by the Blackhawks in 2010, Chicago couldn’t get the big center under contract before he was eligible for free agency and the New York Rangers swooped in and inked Hayes to an entry-level deal.

Now, almost eight months to the day after Hayes inked his deal, the rookie has netted his first career playoff goal — and it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. In overtime of Game 4 of the opening round series between the Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins, Hayes found a loose puck at the side of the goal and, with goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury flat on his back, Hayes shovelled the puck into the net for the overtime winner: Read more

Rumor Roundup: What trades will the Penguins make this summer?

Pittsburgh Penguins (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

When the Pittsburgh Penguins marched to two consecutive Stanley Cup finals (winning the Cup in 2009), future championship success seemed assured. This season, however, the Penguins barely qualified for the playoffs, prompting suggestions that their once-promising championship window is closing.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist Josh Yohe believes this spring could be the final go-around for the current Penguins roster, suggesting changes could be coming in the off-season. While rumors recently made the rounds claiming Evgeni Malkin or possibly captain Sidney Crosby could be shopped, Yohe reports the club’s organization has no intention of parting with neither them nor goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, unless they ask to be moved.

As for others on the current lineup who were part of the Penguins’ last Cup run, Yohe notes questions concerning how the health of top defenseman Kris Letang (concussion) and right winger Pascal Dupuis (blood clots) could affect their playing careers. He also suggests the declining performances of left winger Chris Kunitz and defenseman Rob Scuderi could tempt Penguins management to unload their contracts, while aging right winger Craig Adams probably won’t be re-signed this summer. Read more

Rangers aren’t perfect, but Pens are who we thought they are: not likely to win this series

Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi pulls the puck out of the net after Chris Kreider's second period goal in Game 3 Monday. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

In my pre-playoff predictions, I picked the President’s Trophy-winning New York Rangers to have the easiest first-round series of any NHL post-season team this year and beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in just five games. And although I have to give the Pens credit for not weakly waving a white flag through the first three games of the opening round, after their Game 3 2-1 loss to the Blueshirts, I don’t expect we’ll see them upset the league’s best regular-season squad. Part of it is simply because the injury-ravaged Penguins in their current condition just don’t have the horses to run with the skilled and versatile Rangers, but even at full strength – even with the sidelined Kris Letang, Christian Ehrhoff, Olli Maatta and Pascal Dupuis in the lineup – they don’t possess the depth and balance their opponents do. Read more

Rangers’ Marc Staal uses end boards to set up Chris Kreider for goal on perfect ricochet pass

Chris Kreider of the Rangers and Pittsburgh's Taylor Chorney battle for the puck in Game 4 of their first-round series Monday. (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

With ice in front of their opponents’ net so difficult to acquire in the playoffs, NHLers have grown accustomed to deliberately firing the puck wide of the other team’s net and off the end boards in the hope it will ricochet out to a teammate in position to tap it home for a goal. In Game 4 of the Pittsburgh Penguins/New York Rangers series Monday, Blueshirts defenseman Marc Staal demonstrated why that approach is an option, setting up teammate Chris Kreider for the visitors’ second goal of the night to give them a 2-0 lead.

Staal got the puck at the blueline approximately 11 minutes into the second period in Pittsburgh and quickly shot the puck to the right of Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. It bounced out right to Kreider, who batted it into the Pens net in the blink of an eye: Read more

Happy 4/20; here are the best hockey jerseys for potheads

Bernie Parent of the Philadelphia Blazers  (Photo by Melchior DiGiacomo/Getty Images)

Admittedly, I don’t smoke pot and I never have. But I listen to a lot of music made by marijuana enthusiasts and since today is 4/20, I thought it would be fun to come up with the best hockey jerseys for potheads.

We did have the idea of posting the article at 4:20 Eastern time, but then thought folks should have some time to read before the mythical hour was upon them. We also figured we shouldn’t post it in the morning because none of the target audience would be awake yet.

So let’s get to it now.

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Crosby wakes up, Sutter does a bit of everything in Penguins win

Sidney Crosby

It only took Sidney Crosby four minutes and 39 seconds to double his playoff goal total from last season.

Crosby scored twice in the the second period and Brandon Sutter came up huge on the penalty kill and power play to help the Penguins beat the New York Rangers 4-3 in Game 2 Saturday.

Crosby was dangerous most of the night and found the score sheet twice in a span of 4:39 in the second, breaking a tight goaltending battle between Henrik Lundqvist and Marc-Andre Fleury.
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Which Game 1 loser faces the most pressure to win Game 2?

(Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

If you’ve just lost Game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs or if you’re annoyed at the header of this article, you’re likely thinking, “Sheesh, it’s one game, this is not news, mountain out of a molehill,” etc. And you’d be right in certain cases. You’d be wrong in others, however. No two series are created equal, and some Game 1 defeats were more alarming than others.

Here’s a brief rundown of the Game 1 losers, ranked from most justified in panicking to least.

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Penguins need virtually flawless game to beat Rangers, and didn’t deliver one in Game 1 loss

Rangers forward Derick Brassard scores on Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury in the first period of Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round series. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The injury-depleted Pittsburgh Penguins were one of the biggest underdogs of any team entering the 2014-15 NHL playoffs, particularly after they finished the season 3-5-2 and barely managed to claim the final Eastern Conference wild card berth to set up a date with the league’s No. 1 regular-season team, the New York Rangers. And when the Blueshirts scored a goal just 28 seconds into the first period Thursday night, went up 2-0 late in the opening frame, and outshot the Pens 13-5 enterng it looked as if a rout was on.

It didn’t turn out that way, as the Pens gathered themselves from the second period on and made a game of it, cutting New York’s lead to 2-1 six minutes into the second and keeping the Rangers off the scoresheet for the rest of the night at Madison Square Garden. But there are two reasons why Pittsburgh didn’t find a way to win Game 1: firstly, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were unable to produce any offense, something necessary for this team to win; and secondly, they’re playing the odds-on favorite to win the Stanley Cup – a squad that requires only the briefest of breakdowns to take advantage of before clamping down on defense.

Pittsburgh needs to play four virtually perfect games in order to win this series, and their slow start and sloppy first period was more than enough for the Blueshirts to beat them. Read more