Steve Tambellini, Greg Sherman

Avalanche GM Greg Sherman says he’s “very confident” in his abilities

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There’s no question that Colorado Avalanche GM Greg Sherman has had his share of doubters since free agency opened on July 1. Actually, some would say that he’s been under fire since the moment he pulled the trigger on the blockbuster trade that sent power-forward Chris Stewart and blossoming defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (and a pick) to St. Louis for Erik Johnson and Jay McClement (and a pick). It certainly didn’t help that the Avalanche only had one victory in 21 games between the end of January and the middle of March. Such is life around a team that finishes with the second worst record in the league.

The naysayers have become loud enough that Terry Frei of the Denver Post talked to Sherman about it at Semyon Varlamov’s press conference on Thursday.

“I’m very confident in my abilities to do the job I have to do,” Sherman said. “This particular job, while player personnel decisions are a big part of it, there are multiple facets to running a hockey club. I’m very confident in the role.”

Sherman isn’t shying away from it: For better or worse, these are “his” moves and he’ll be accountable for them.

“A hundred percent,” he said. “I make the decision. I’m surrounded by great hockey people, but at the end of the day, make the decision and move forward. I and we believe what we’ve done in the last couple of weeks, culminating with last Friday, has upgraded this hockey club. We’ve addressed the areas that were a priority for us and we believe we have put ourselves in position to continually grow this team together and get us back to where we rightfully belong.

“I don’t think it’s any different than any other major organization or sports organization. I surround myself with strong hockey people. I come to the hockey decisions. The recommendation is made and at the end of the day, I make the final call. So to me, it starts and ends with me and I’m fortunate to be surrounded by these strong hockey people, and keeping everyone on the same page as we move forward as a franchise.”

It’s probably not a good sign when the general manager of an NHL team feels that he has to start a response with: “I’m confident in my abilities.” Then again, it’s not a great situation for the Avalanche GM when an opposing general manager says, “I’m surprised we got such a good deal from Colorado.” Ouch. No wonder the man is more defensive than Dave Bolland against a Sedin.

Unfortunately for Sherman, there is going to be high profile criticism when he makes high profile moves. It’s easy for fans and pundits to sit back and criticize the Stewart/Johnson trade or the move for Varlamov. Did it look bad for the Avalanche when Chris Stewart went on his scoring binge in St. Louis? Absolutely. Do first and second round draft picks sound like a king’s ransom for a goaltender that has only started 59 NHL games? Sure it does. Honestly, only time will tell if those deals work out in the Avs favor—but the early returns don’t look good.

No matter what happens, you have to give respect to the man who takes ownership for his decisions. He did everything short of saying “the buck stops here.” He made a good move to acquire Tomas Fleischmann (health not withstanding) and he went out and got the goaltender who he thought would be the best for the Avalanche’s future. After his comments, we know that he made the final evaluations and is confident in his hockey decisions.

If Varlamov develops into an elite goaltender, fans in Colorado will be confident in his hockey decisions as well.

Game on: Penguins even series with rival Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins will head back home with a split of their second-round series with the rival Washington Capitals.

Former Capitals forward Eric Fehr came back to burn his hold team, as he scored with under five minutes remaining in regulation to help lift the Penguins over Washington with a 2-1 victory in an eventful Game 2 on Saturday. Evgeni Malkin threw the puck toward the net and Fehr was able to re-direct it by Braden Holtby.

Oh, this was an eventful game, indeed.

It started early in the first period with Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik catching Penguins blue liner Olli Maatta with a late and high hit that warranted — at least for now — only a minor penalty for interference. Maatta, clearly in distress following the hit, didn’t play another shift and saw only 31 seconds of ice time in total, as Pittsburgh was reduced to five defensemen for the remainder of the game.

It continued in the third period. Kris Letang was furious after getting called for a trip on Justin Williams, and even more ticked off when the Capitals tied the game on the ensuing power play.

For two periods, the Capitals couldn’t get much going. Only four of their players had registered a shot on goal through 40 minutes, while the Penguins held the edge in that department and held the lead.

Washington came out with more jump in the third period, testing rookie netminder Matt Murray with 14 shots in the final 20 minutes. But the Penguins got the late goal to break the deadlock.

Video: Penguins’ Letang was furious after Capitals tie up Game 2 with power play goal

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Kris Letang watched from the penalty box as the Washington Capitals tied up Game 2 with a power play goal in the third period. The Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman was called for tripping after he appeared to muscle Justin Williams off the puck as he entered the zone.

Letang let his disagreement with the call be known at the time, and was furious after the Capitals capitalized on a goal from Marcus Johansson.

The Capitals started the period down a goal and being outshot 28-10 by the Penguins, who need a win to even the series.

Also, it seems this is worth mentioning:

Video: Hagelin goes top shelf to give Penguins the lead in Game 2

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In their quest to even the series, the Pittsburgh Penguins had done a nice job through two periods of suffocating the Washington Capitals, while gaining the lead on a beautiful goal.

Carl Hagelin took advantage of a vast amount of space that opened up in front of the Washington net, finishing off a nice pass from Nick Bonino, burying his shot just under the cross bar on the glove side of Braden Holtby.

Through two periods, the Penguins were outshooting Washington 28-10. Only four Capitals players — Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Matt Niskanen — had registered shots on goal.

Video: Orpik penalized after catching Maatta with late, high hit

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The Pittsburgh Penguins were without defenseman Olli Maatta for most of the first period of Game 2 after he was on the receiving end of a high, late hit from Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik.

The hit occurred early in the first period, well after Maatta had gotten rid of the puck on a rush into the Washington zone.

Maatta, who nearly fell over as he tried to stand back up, was in obvious distress as he went to the dressing room. Orpik was given a minor penalty for interference on the play.