Montreal Canadiens 3, Pittsburgh Penguins 2
You really can’t draw too many “big picture” conclusions after only two regular season games, but the Pittsburgh Penguins might have at least a little cause for concern.
The team went ahead 2-1 in the middle of third period thanks to a nice goal by young forward Mark Letestu and it looked like they might get a little revenge (and their first regular season win in their new building, the Consol Energy Center). That was not to be, however, as the Montreal Canadiens scored the game-tying and game-winning goals in rapid succession, as Jeff Halpern scored on a deflection before Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury allowed a soft one against Scott Gomez.
In less than 30 seconds, the Penguins went from winning a grinding game against the team that knocked them out of last season’s playoffs to opening their new building 0-2 with zero points.
Of course, it’s unfair to be too negative to the Penguins because they lost to a determined team in Montreal. Carey Price was probably the star of the game, stopping 36 out of 38 shots as Pittsburgh peppered the net much like they did against Jaroslav Halak in their seven game series. P.K. Subban received a hail of boos every time he touched the puck and with good reason: he got under Crosby’s skin with regularity.
It’s not all bad news for Pittsburgh. Their defense seemed fast and efficient as Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek already seem nicely integrated into a deep group. Sidney Crosby picked up the primary assist on Evgeni Malkin’s first goal, so their two stars are back on the scoresheet.
Perhaps the critiques regarding their lack of high-end wingers is right, though. They certainly didn’t lack aggressiveness in taking shots or bring defensemen in deep, but all too often it seemed like Malkin and Crosby were setting up fruitful chances that ended up fruitless.
Again, it’s far too early to panic in Pittsburgh, but an 0-2 start at home is disappointing to say the least.
The preseason is well underway and Josh Anderson is still without a contract.
Anderson, who scored 17 goals and 29 points last season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, is one of two remaining restricted free agents without a new deal. The other is Andreas Athanasiou of the Detroit Red Wings.
While there were reports this summer about Athanasiou potentially going to the KHL for this season, John Shannon of Sportsnet reported on Thursday that Anderson’s representatives have reached out to Hockey Canada’s staff about the 2018 Olympics.
Anderson’s entry-level contract, with an AAV of just over $894,000, expired at the end of last season.
Meanwhile, here is the latest on this ongoing contract situation.
Mikhail Sergachev has, over the summer, stated his belief he can play in the NHL this season.
He had a small taste of NHL action last season, appearing in four games for Montreal — the team that selected him ninth overall in 2016 — before getting sent back to junior and then being traded in June to Tampa Bay, as part of a blockbuster involving Jonathan Drouin to the Habs.
Well, Sergachev made a statement Wednesday in his preseason debut for the Lightning.
He scored once. He also played more than 22 minutes, which led all Lightning players on the night. That included time on the power play and penalty kill. If he was looking to make a favorable impression, to show that he belongs at the NHL level when the regular season begins, this seems to be another step in that direction.
“You watch this kid skate, shoot, stickhandle, he’s got NHL written all over him,” Tampa Bay’s associate coach Rick Bowness told the Tampa Bay Times. “Now we’ve got to give him experience. How much can he handle?”
There is competition on the blue line, with eight defensemen under contract in Tampa Bay for this season. That includes Sergachev, who is still only 19 years old. After getting sent back to junior last season, he recorded 43 points in 50 games with Windsor and then won the Memorial Cup that spring. That said, he’s made it a point of saying going back to junior “is not an option” for him.
Looking to make the leap: Mikhail Sergachev
Joffrey Lupul issued a statement Wednesday, saying he wouldn’t seek a second medical opinion after the Maple Leafs announced he didn’t pass his training camp physical.
A day later, reports have surfaced that the 33-year-old forward will, in fact, undergo another, independent medical test.
That is according to James Mirtle of The Athletic:
Earlier this week, Lupul made accusations against the Maple Leafs on Instagram.
“I’m ready … just awaiting the call,” Lupul wrote in the comments section of the Instagram post, per a screen grab. “haha failed physical? They cheat. Everyone lets them.”
Lupul, who didn’t pass his physical for a second year in a row, issued an apology yesterday. But those comments — which have since been deleted — seem to have grabbed the attention of the league.
Darren Dreger of TSN added to that, saying it’s the NHL pursuing a second medical opinion on this matter.
“The National Hockey League has that right to pursue the second opinion. That’s exactly what they’re engaging in right now,” Dreger reported Thursday.
“The reasoning behind it is because of the comment that Lupul made on social media. I’ll go back a year ago. The league didn’t step in a year ago but Lupul stayed quiet at that point. So they want to make sure — ‘They’ being the National Hockey League — that the medical evaluation from the Toronto Maple Leafs is 100 per cent above the board.”
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) General manager Jim Johannson has ruled out the possibility of the U.S. men’s hockey team having NHL draft-eligible prospects competing at the Winter Olympics in February.
Johannson tells The Associated Press he doesn’t view anyone from the 18-and-younger pool of prospects capable of cracking the projected lineup of non-NHL players, many of whom are opening this season playing in Europe.
USA Hockey’s assistant executive director says he’s also targeting a number of established college players, and would not rule out keeping a spot or two open for members of the U.S. team competing at the World Junior Championships this winter.
Johansson spoke in Buffalo, New York, on Thursday, where he is attending USA Hockey’s sixth annual All-American Prospects game. The game features the top 42 U.S.-born players eligible to be selected in the NHL draft in June.