Evgeni Malkin

Tale of the Tape: Penguins vs Bruins


On Sunday, the Boston Bruins will take on the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center (12:30 pm ET, NBC) – here’s a look at recent history between the two clubs.

Pittsburgh: 41-21-5, 2nd in Atlantic Division. Leading scorer: Evgeni Malkin (38G-43A-81PTS)

Boston: 40-24-3, 1st in Northeast Division. Leading scorer: Tyler Seguin (24G-31A-55PTS)/Patrice Bergeron (19G-36A-55PTS)

Dec. 5, 2011 – Bruins 3, Penguins 1. In what would be Sidney Crosby’s final contest before he returned to the sidelines due to concussion-like symptoms, Tim Thomas saved 45 shots, including 39 in the final 40 minutes.

The win extended the Bruins’ incredible run to 14-0-1. Just a day later, they lost in regulation for the first time in over a month. Crosby managed five shots on goal and logged 21:03 minutes of playing time, but was held off the scoresheet.

The Penguins also had a scary moment during the game when Crosby and teammate Chris Kunitz collided at center ice in the third period. Crosby was slow to skate back to the bench after the incident.

Following the game, Crosby was initially held out for what the team described as precautionary reasons, but it later became clear that he would be sidelined for an indeterminate amount of time. Although his collision with Kunitz was one of the last things to happen before Crosby was sidelined, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma later said that Crosby’s condition wasn’t caused by a specific hit.

Feb. 4, 2012 – Penguins 2, Bruins 1. Tim Thomas was solid once again, but that wasn’t enough as the Penguins’ struck back.

Marc-Andre Fleury turned aside 28 shots to earn his ninth straight victory.

“Marc was exceptional,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “He was able to control the rebounds and limit the opportunities they had.”

After failing to record a point in their previous match against Boston, Malkin netted a power-play goal with just nine seconds remaining in the first period to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead. Matt Cooke scored the game-winning goal, much to the ire of The Garden crowd, who booed him for his hit on Marc Savard nearly two years earlier.

Boston’s loss marked the first time since early December that they had suffered consecutive defeats. Boston was shaky throughout the month of February. On the flipside, this victory was the lone bright spot in the Penguins’ 1-2-1 road trip.

Two major Stanley Cup contenders clash

Although no playoff-bound squad, least of all the first place New York Rangers, should be counted out in March, an Eastern Conference Finals between the Penguins and Bruins certainly seems plausible. Boston has been mediocre lately, in part because of the absence of Nathan Horton (concussion), but they are still largely the same team that lifted the Stanley Cup in 2011.

Meanwhile, the Penguins have shown a remarkable ability to overcome injuries. They have the second best record in the Eastern Conference despite the fact that their best player has been limited to eight games. As they are, the Penguins seem poised to make a serious push for the Cup, but if they get Crosby back in time for the playoffs, then they might become the hardest team in the league to beat.

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”