Eric Tangradi knows how to stick with the Penguins: make life miserable for goalies

erictangradiscreen.jpgBack in the Mario Lemieux Era, the Pittsburgh Penguins were at their greatest when they sported an incredibly deep lineup that included Kevin Stevens, a power forward who enjoyed his best years skating alongside Super Mario.

While the “current” edition of the team already won one Cup with a twilight-years power forward (Bill Guerin) and a hellacious forechecker with suspect hands (Chris Kunitz), the team seems like it misses a certain presence at the forward position. With that quibble in mind, perhaps the biggest wild card for the Pens this season is prized prospect Eric Tangradi.

At 6’4″ 221 lbs., Tangradi knows what he needs to do to crack the Penguins lineup: create havoc, particularly in front of the net. Mike Colligan wrote about Tangardi possibly being a diamond in the rough for The Hockey Writers and might be able to play a role that hasn’t been filled properly since Ryan Malone bolted to Tampa Bay for big bucks in free agency.

The combined length of Tangradi’s goals in this 3:16 AHL highlight reel (via Eric P. of The PensBlog) wouldn’t add up to the length of an NHL ice surface and should remind many Penguins fans of Ryan Malone. Malone had a career year with Malkin and Petr Sykora in 2007-08, scoring 27 goals and landing a 7-year, $31.5m contract with Tampa Bay.

When I asked Tangradi about other NHL players he feels play a similar style, he pointed to two of the premier power-forwards in the Western Conference:

“I think [Tomas] Holmstrom is one of those guys especially and [Johan] Franzen as well from Detroit. They’re skill guys, but they use their big frame to get to the front of the net and they’re able to play with high-level players. As a group they’re very effective because of the big guy driving down the middle to the net.”

OK, it might be a little hasty for Tangradi to compare himself to a true technician at screening goalies (Holmstrom) or a player with scary drive and scarier hands (Franzen), but I think the message is that he’s prepared to crowd the crease to the best of his ability. Such a presence would be especially welcome on the Penguins power play, as the unit has often been a little “too cute” and guilty of making too many passes in the last few years. Screening a goalie is one of those “easier said than done” tasks, but blocking a netminder’s vision can force all those hours of positional training to dissolve into seconds of sprawling desperation.

Tangradi may very well be one of those subtle wild cards for the Penguins, a guy who determines the team’s “ceiling.” If he flourishes as a rookie, the Penguins would have Kunitz, Tangradi and Staal/Malkin as suitable wingers. If he doesn’t then the team will once again rely on Crosby and Malkin to produce nearly all their offense.

He might not be a likely Calder candidate, but Tangradi is nonetheless a rookie to watch in 2010-11.

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    The Predators are on a roll

    DENVER, CO - MARCH 05:  Filip Forsberg #9 of the Nashville Predators awaits a face off against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on March 5, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Predators defeated the Avalanche 5-2.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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    ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) Filip Forsberg scored twice, including the tiebreaking goal in the third, and the Nashville Predators rallied from two goals down to beat the Minnesota Wild 4-2 Sunday night.

    Forsberg took a pretty feed from Ryan Ellis and one-timed it from the left circle past Darcy Kuemper with 6:36 left to put Nashville up 3-2.

    It was Kuemper’s first-career loss in five starts against the Predators, who have won six of seven and wrapped up a five-game road trip with four wins.

    Ryan Johansen added an empty netter for Nashville, and James Neal also had a goal. Pekka Rinne stopped 21 shots for Nashville.

    Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville scored for the Wild. Kuemper, starting in place of regular starter Devan Dubnyk, had 28 saves as Minnesota fell into a first-place tie with Chicago atop the Western Conference.

    Forsberg tied it at 2:20 of the third on a backhander past Kuemper’s stick side.

    Minnesota started fast, pulling ahead 2-0 just 7:31 into the game. Granlund scored his 11th just over two minutes in. Pominville added his seventh five minutes later.

    But seven games in 10 days appeared to catch up with the Wild in the second as Nashville outshot Minnesota 10-4 in the period and controlled the puck effectively.

    Neal pulled the Predators to 2-1 with his team-leading 16th goal of the season 2:25 into the period.

    Late letdown costs Canucks versus their old rivals from Chicago

    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 22: Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrtaes a third period goal against the Vancouver Canucks at the United Center on January 22, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Canucks 4-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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    Sure, the Vancouver Canucks clawed back against an old rival, the Chicago Blackhawks, on Sunday.

    But, thanks to a late letdown in regulation, they missed out on a great opportunity to move into a playoff position.

    Down a pair of goals in the third period, the Canucks managed to come back in hostile territory. It started with a Troy Stecher power play goal. Bo Horvat, in the lineup two days after getting hit in the back of the head with a slap shot, tied it up for Vancouver just 46 seconds later.

    But the chance for at least a single point slipped at the worst possible time, as Jonathan Toews scored with 1:18 left in regulation and then set up an empty net goal from Marian Hossa just a few seconds later to secure the 4-2 win.

    The Canucks remain stuck at five wins — just five wins — on the road. They have the 29th-ranked road record in the entire NHL. Only the Arizona Coyotes have been worse away from home ice. So, that’s a problem that needs to be fixed down the stretch.

    Vancouver had a chance to move into a wild card spot. Instead, they let the Blackhawks regain momentum as the period went on, and as a result, they remain on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture for right now.

    Corey Crawford earned his 200th career win, making 26 saves. That’s a milestone night for him. For Toews, that’s his most productive night of the season, as he factored into all four Chicago goals, which, of course, included the winner.

    This has been a difficult year for Toews. He’s been injured. His point production has been down.

    Video: Giroux bumps scoring slump to give Flyers the OT win

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    The Philadelphia Flyers needed a win.

    So overtime against the New York Islanders seemed like a perfect time for captain Claude Giroux to bust his scoring slump.

    Without a goal in his last 12 games, or since Dec. 21 before the holiday break, Giroux finished the Flyers comeback with an overtime goal to give Philly a 3-2 victory on Sunday. Jakub Voracek did great work along the boards to force a turnover from John Tavares, and Shayne Gostisbehere followed up his chance with a quick pass to a wide-open Giroux at the top of the crease.

    That comeback win — Philly trailed by two goals early in the second period — bumps the Flyers back into a wild card spot.

    Steve Mason had a big game in net for Philly, with 36 saves, while the Flyers fired 47 shots on goal toward Thomas Greiss, although it’s a difficult task trying to re-set and stop Giroux — an accomplished scorer in the NHL — on the doorstep.

    Goals, goals and more goals! Blue Jackets outlast Senators for overtime win

    COLUMBUS, OH - JANUARY 19:  Mike Condon #1 of the Ottawa Senators stops a shot from Cam Atkinson #13 of the Columbus Blue Jackets as Mike Hoffman #68 of the Ottawa Senators skates back on defense during the third period on January 19, 2017 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Ottawa defeated Columbus 2-0. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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    Plenty of goals. A little three-on-three overtime. Seemed like an enjoyable afternoon of hockey between the Ottawa Senators and Columbus Blue Jackets.

    Well, maybe the goalies, Mike Condon and Joonas Korpisalo, didn’t enjoy it as much.

    The Blue Jackets prevailed for a 7-6 overtime win, with Cam Atkinson scoring just 1:09 into the extra period. That’s his 23rd goal of the season. Only two players — Jeff Carter (24) and Sidney Crosby (28) — have scored more goals than Atkinson this season.

    With the win, and the Capitals sitting idle today, the Blue Jackets move back into a tie with Washington at 68 points in the fight for first place in the Metropolitan Division.

    There were some anxious moments for Columbus.

    Rookie defenseman Zach Werenski was hurt blocking a shot in the third period. He briefly left the game, unable to put any pressure on his right leg as he was helped off.

    The good news: He only missed a few minutes, returning late in regulation and for the overtime as well, which is important for the Blue Jackets.

    Despite his rookie status, and being a 19-year-old blue liner, Werenski is having an impressive season with six goals and 26 points in 45 games before Sunday.

    “The thing that has impressed me the most about him is he’s a bit unflappable,” coach John Tortorella said earlier this season.

    “He’s made a couple of huge mistakes in a game and he comes to the bench, shakes it off and then goes out and makes a great play. For a 19-year-old playing that position and the amount of time he’s getting in key situations with this organization, it’s pretty impressive.”