Pittsburgh Penguins to honor Mario Lemieux's comeback from retirement with a statue

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lemieuxsecondrun.jpgDecember 27, 2000 was like a bonus Christmas present for Pittsburgh Penguins fans. On that day, franchise savior Mario Lemieux began what would be an incredible return to the game with a great performance against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

His first year was such a great success that he ended up being one of the three final nominees for the Hart Trophy. He managed to do so despite playing an abbreviated season in which he more or less got back into playing form on the fly. (His teammate Jaromir Jagr also was nominated for the Hart, but neither Penguin won the MVP that year).

While Lemieux worked all his magic in the Igloo, the Consol Energy Center will feature an easy-to-justify statue of the team’s greatest player and owner. Pittsburgh-area radio personality Mark Madden says that the team will unveil the statue on December 27, 2010, the tenth anniversary of Lemieux’s first game back in a Penguins uniform.

Sources indicate that 12.27.10 – the 10-year anniversary of Mario Lemieux’s comeback – will be the day the Penguins and Consol Energy Center unveil a statue of Lemieux outside the building. This will be just five days before the Winter Classic at Heinz Field and part of a week-long hockey extravaganza for the city.

The statue will reportedly depict Lemieux, with the puck, beating a defenseman. No word if the defenseman in question will be Ray Bourque, the Hall-of-Fame blueliner so frequently victimized by Mario throughout their careers.

But it should be. Mario sure made Bourque look like a statue back then.

Madden writes that Lemieux didn’t want the statue, but “common sense” prevailed. I agree completely; if the Los Angeles Kings have a Wayne Gretzky statue than surely the Penguins should have one for Super Mario.

The best part of the story might be that the ownership group – rather than fans or taxpayers – are the ones footing the bill for the likeness.

It’s hard to believe that ten years passed since Lemieux’s outstanding comeback. Will Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin one day be looked upon with the same reverence as Lemieux? They might end up being close to – if not better than – the player he was, but few players meant more to a team than Lemieux did to the Penguins. In any sport, really.

(H/T to Sean Leahy.)

Just about every relevant team in the East playoff races won tonight

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After Eastern Conference teams deserved a “C” on Monday, they generally passed Tuesday’s tests with flying colors. Sometimes they carved out three-point games when relevant teams faced off, too.

It’s almost bewildering trying to figure out where to start … so how about the top of the East?

Metro’s rich get richer

The Minnesota Wild deserve credit for fighting back from a considerable deficit, including overcoming an Alex Ovechkin hat trick (all on the power play). Ultimately, T.J. Oshie‘s overtime-winner gave Washington the 5-4 (OT) win.

Elsewhere in the Metro’s top ranks, Sergei Bobrovsky grabbed his 41st win of the season (3-1 win against the Sabres) to put Columbus three points behind the Capitals and two ahead of the idle Penguins.

Metro top three (all with 75 games played)

1. Capitals – 108 points
2. Blue Jackets – 105 points
3. Penguins – 103 points

Canadiens gain ground

The Montreal Canadiens handled the Dallas Stars 4-1 in The Epic Battle of the Benns. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Flyers beat the second-place Senators 3-2 via a shootout

Both the Maple Leafs and Bruins won their games, leaving Toronto one point ahead of Boston for third in the Atlantic.

Atlantic top five

1. Canadiens – 95 points in 76 games played
2. Senators – 91 points in 75 GP
3. Maple Leafs – 87 points in 75 GP

Bruins – 86 points in 76 GP
Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP

Finally, let’s look at the final spot in the East

OK, so there’s some overlap here. Why don’t we check on the most wild-card-relevant teams?

Third Atlantic spot: Leafs – 87 points in 75 GP

Final spot: Bruins – 86 points in 76 GP

Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
Hurricanes – 82 points in 75 GP
Flyers – 80 points in 76 GP
Panthers – 77 points in 76 GP

Again, the Bruins won, as did the Flyers. The Lightning were idle. The Panthers fell to the Maple Leafs. Buffalo lost while Detroit and New Jersey are out of the running.

You know who deserves special mention outside of the top eight? The Carolina Hurricanes deserve such a distinction, as they are enjoying one of their hottest runs in franchise history after beating Detroit 4-1.

The overall message: just about any truly relevant team at least grabbed a standings point, with most winning games outright on Tuesday.

It doesn’t exactly thin the herd, but it keeps the door open for a fun race to the finish.

It’s official: Red Wings’ playoff streak ends at 25 seasons

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When we look back at the 2016-17 season for the Detroit Red Wings, it will be remembered for some said endings.

It began without Pavel Datsyuk. We knew that their last game at Joe Louis Arena this season would be their last ever. And now we know that Joe Louis Arena won’t be home to another playoff run.

After 25 straight seasons of making the playoffs – quite often managing deep runs – the Red Wings were officially eliminated on Tuesday night. In getting this far, they enjoyed one of the greatest runs of longevity in NHL history:

Tonight revolves largely around East teams winning and teams clinching bids – the Edmonton Oilers could very well end the league’s longest playoff drought this evening – but this story is more solemn.

EA Sports tweeted out a great infographic:

“Right now it’s hard to talk about it, because you’re a big reason why it’s not continuing,” Henrik Zetterberg said in an NHL.com report absolutely worth your time.

Mike “Doc” Emrick narrated a great look back at Joe Louis Arena here:

Here’s what deal between women’s team, USA hockey is reportedly worth

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It’s great news that the U.S. women’s national team and USA Hockey came together on a deal for the upcoming world championships.

Still, all we really know is that the contract lasts four years, as the two sides decided to keep the dollar figures between each other.

The Hockey News’ Ken Campbell laid out a lot of the possible numbers on his Twitter feed, giving us an idea of what reportedly sealed the deal.

First things first, Campbell reports that the deal is worth $3.7-$4 million overall.

That’s quite the impressive number on face value, but what does it mean for players over a four-year contract?

Campbell reports that earnings will range between $850K and $950K, depending upon how they perform in the tournament:

They’ll also receive the same travel and other miscellaneous amenities as the men’s team, but what about years that are more about training than competition?

Interesting stuff. Definitely check out Campbell’s feed for additional details.

This fight between Tom Wilson, Chris Stewart got downright gory (Video)

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For those who decry the decline in fighting – in “blood and guts” hockey – Tuesday presented a bloody moment, one fairly high on this season’s Muta scale.

Also, for some, seeing it happen to Tom Wilson specifically may provide additional pleasure.

Anyway, as you can see in the video above, Minnesota Wild winger Chris Stewart bloodied the Washington Capitals pest in a fight. Whether you’re for, against or neutral toward Wilson, it’s quite the sight.

Wilson may be hurt, by the way. He missed some time but returned later in the contest.