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Sidney Crosby, Brent Johnson power Penguins past Flyers; Could there be a goalie controversy in Pittsburgh?

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Is it too early to wonder if there might be a goalie controversy in Pittsburgh?

Probably, but that won’t stop many from wondering if Brent Johnson should be “the man” in net for the Penguins. The team’s dirt-cheap backup (he’ll register a $600K cap hit for the next two seasons) is now 3-0 in this young season while $5 million starter Marc-Andre Fleury is 0-3.

It’s overly simplistic to lay all the praise at Johnson’s feet and make Fleury the scapegoat for those losses, but Johnson has been outstanding. He stopped 81 out of 85 shots in his three appearances so far, allowing only four goals in three games. In a stark contrast, Fleury allowed 10 goals from only 68 shots, registering an abysmal 85.8 save percentage so far this season.

Yes, it’s beyond hasty for the Penguins to crown Johnson their new king in net. Yet in an 82-game season, there’s nothing wrong with riding the hot hand.

Pittsburgh 5, Philadelphia 1

While I’ve voiced my disapproval of the Penguins playing gifted but defensively suspect forward Evgeni Malkin on the point, it’ll look like Pittsburgh’s power play was dominant, going 2-for-7 thanks to two slap shot goals by Sidney Crosby. I’m not the only one to point this out, but the “Crosby sucks” chant in Philadelphia is taking on comical levels of desperation, as the Penguins forward now has 26 goals and 59 points in 33 career games (both in the regular season and playoffs) in the City of Brotherly Love.

Crosby also assisted on Chris Kunitz’s first goal, as the Penguins came back from a 1-0 deficit to score five unanswered goals and win this one to the frustration of their cross-state rivals. Mark Letestu continued his impressive start to the season in place of an injured Jordan Staal, scoring his third goal of the season (and what would stand as the game-winner) in the last minute of the second period. Matt Cooke poured a little salt in the Flyers’ wounds with an empty net goal.

One bright spot for Philadelphia was the play of Danny Briere. The small forward scored his fourth goal of the season in the first period and would have had another if Johnson hadn’t robbed him with two outstanding successive saves.

Despite going 1-3 at home so far this season, the Penguins will probably be tied with the New York Islanders for the Atlantic Division lead once tonight is over (the Islanders are up 4-1 against Colorado while the New Jersey Devils are down 4-1 against the Boston Bruins at the moment). Of course, the Islanders have played one less game – five to the Penguins’ six – so they’ll technically be ahead at the moment. Either way, the Penguins will take it.

The question is, could Johnson take Fleury’s job?

Flyers’ Couturier has street named after him in his hometown

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Most people will never be able to say they have a street named after them, but Flyers center Sean Couturier isn’t most people.

The 23-year-old’s name is now on a street sign in his hometown of Bathurst, New Brunswick. Sean Couturier Avenue leads to the rink where he began his minor hockey career.

“It’s special, it’s a great honour,” Couturier said, per CBC.ca. “It’s not something you dream of growing up, but if you can be an example for other young kids and remind them even coming from a small town like Bathurst, anything is possible if you make the sacrifices and believe in what you can do.”

The month of July has been kind to Couturier for the second straight year. Last year at around this time, he signed a six-year contract extension worth $26 million. The new deal kicks in at the start of the upcoming season.

couturier

(Image credit: Radio-Canada)

 

Report: Veteran center Moore says he has offers on the table

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The chaos of free agency has subsided. And the list of notable players out there has thinned down as the summer has carried on.

Still looking to sign an NHL deal is veteran center Dominic Moore, who is about to turn 36 years old next month and is coming off a two-year deal with the New York Rangers that paid him an AAV of $1.5 million. It was evident way before free agency that Moore likely wouldn’t be back in New York, and would go to the open mark.

“The free agency period goes in fits and starts. Things open up and close along the way. You just try to be proactive but patient. You also don’t want to put yourself in the wrong spot, so you wait to find the right fit, the right role,” Moore told Sportsnet.

“You want to be on a good team that has a great chance to win but you also want to have a responsibility, some value on that team. It’s about marrying all of those factors and making the best decision.”

Moore has never been known for offence. With the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2010-11, he hit 18 goals. That was a career high. His highest point total? Forty-one in 2008-09 with Toronto.

But a team looking for a veteran player in the middle, on a reasonable contract and among the bottom six group of forwards, that can have success in the faceoff circle and play on the penalty kill may eventually get him under contract.

According to Sportsnet, there have been offers made to Moore. Now, it appears, the ball is in his court.

Related: Patrick Eaves bests big hockey names at Smashfest V

Coyotes have work to do, with RFAs Murphy, Stone still unsigned

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 25: John Chayka of the Arizona Coyotes attends the 2016 NHL Draft on June 25, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The Arizona Coyotes added a defenseman with a right shot to their roster, signing Luke Schenn on Saturday. And there could be more moves to the back end on the way for Arizona.

They still have work left with respect to two restricted free agents. Defensemen Connor Murphy, 23, and Michael Stone, 26, are still looking for new contracts.

Stone, another right-shot blue liner, had a career-best 36 points in 75 games last season for the Coyotes and has an arbitration hearing scheduled for Aug. 4.

His previous contract was a three-year deal with an average annual value of $1.15 million. But he’s also coming off surgery to repair the ACL and MCL in his left knee, according to azcentral.com. In April, it was expected he could be out at least six months.

“I know he’s running well and moving pretty well,” said Coyotes GM John Chayka, as per azcentral.com. “ … He’s a big part of our blue line, so we’re hoping to get him back as soon as we can.”

However, when it comes to a new deal for Murphy, it appears there is some distance between the two sides.

From Arizona Sports 98.7:

While Chayka said the tenor of talks with Murphy has been good, Murphy’s agent, Brian Bartlett, said on July 18 that he was uncertain when a deal might be struck, and he reiterated on Saturday that nothing has changed in those negotiations.

“I hope we are close,” he wrote via text message last week. “Still have a gap to bridge, but confident we will get it done eventually. Could wrap up with one phone call but I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes a little longer to get on the same page.”

Murphy is a Coyotes first-round pick from 2011. His entry-level contract, with its AAV of more than $1,075 million, is expired.

He appeared in 78 games for the Coyotes last season, increasing his point total from seven in 73 games in 2014-15, to 17 points in the 2015-16 campaign.

Blues’ Allen says he still needs to prove he’s a ‘legit’ No. 1 goalie

St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen (34) is scored on by the Edmonton Oilers during second period NHL hockey action in Edmonton, Alta., on Wednesday, March 16, 2016. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)
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The goaltending roles in St. Louis have been clearly defined this summer. Jake Allen is the No. 1 netminder and Carter Hutton, a free agent acquisition, is the No. 2.

For the past two seasons, especially, Allen and Brian Elliott were both counted on to shoulder the goaltending duties, but the platoon scenario was ended when Elliott was traded to Calgary last month.

Allen recently commented on what was a positive working relationship between himself and Elliott, but seemed relieved that the leash may not be as short as it may have been in the past if he has an off night.

“It was tough to make mistakes when Brian was around because one game — you had a bad game — he was right back in the net and vice versa with him and me,” said the 25-year-old Allen, as per a video on the Blues’ website.

“I think you get a little bit more leeway, I guess, now. But not a whole lot. Carter’s a great goalie and I’ve heard a lot of great things about him.

“I feel that I had to etch myself into the league consistently. Now that I’ve done that, I still have another place to go and prove I’m a legit No. 1 guy.”

Allen just wrapped up only his second full NHL season.

The highest number of starts he’s made in a single season at the NHL level is 44 — in the 2015-16 season.

Blues’ GM Doug Armstrong said in June that Allen lost the crease, with Elliott taking it over with his strong play down the stretch and in the playoffs. He also made it clear Allen would have to battle to get it back in September. That changes to some degree now that Elliott is no longer in St. Louis.

Hutton, 30, was the back-up in Nashville, but made a career-high 34 starts in the 2013-14 season, posting a .910 save percentage.