Claude Giroux

Tale of Tape: Penguins vs Flyers

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On Sunday, the Philadelphia Flyers 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.

Philadelphia: 45-24-9, 3rd in Atlantic Division.
Leading scorer: Claude Giroux (27G-59A-86P)

Pittsburgh: 48-24-6, 2nd in Atlantic Division.
Leading scorer: Evgeni Malkin (48G-54A-102P)

Dec. 8, 2011 – Philadelphia 3, Pittsburgh 2. The Flyers were a point behind the division-leading Penguins going into their first meeting of the season. The Penguins, who were playing without Sidney Crosby for the first time following his original attempt to return from a concussion, were outshot 15-8 over the first period. Danny Briere netted the first goal of the contest just 6:38 minutes into the game. In the second, Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds and Scott Hartnell each found the back of the net to give the Flyers a 3-0 lead.

Pittsburgh staged a comeback attempt with goals from James Neal and Malkin, but Pittsburgh still ended up surrendering its hold on the division.

Dec. 29, 2011 – Philadelphia 4, Pittsburgh 2. Although they were held off the scoresheet in their opening matchup against Pittsburgh, two former Penguins turned Flyers — Jaromir Jagr and Maxime Talbot — made their mark in this game. Both of them scored and Jagr had some fun at the expense of the Penguins’ crowd by saluting them following his goal. However, it was rookie Matt Read that ended up netting the game-winning goal for Philadelphia.

On the Penguins side of things, Tyler Kennedy led the charge with a goal and an assist. Jordan Staal found the back of the net for the 15th time and extended his goal scoring streak to three-games.

One of the keys to the Flyers’ success was their ability to shutdown Pittsburgh’s hottest player, James Neal. They snapped his eight-game point streak and limited him to just two shots on goal.

Feb. 18, 2012 – Pittsburgh 6, Philadelphia 4. The Flyers couldn’t stop Neal this time, but he wasn’t even their biggest problem.

Things started off well enough for Philadelphia, with Jagr scoring twice within the span of 18 seconds to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead going into the second period. They managed to maintain that lead for most of the frame, but then Pittsburgh’s Pascal Dupuis and Brooks Orpik were each handed two minute minors just 33 seconds apart.

That gave Philadelphia the man advantage, which was something they apparently could not handle that afternoon. Staal and Matt Cooke netted back-to-back shorthanded goals to give the Penguins a 3-2 lead. You can check out Cooke’s goal below.

Eric Wellwood managed to tie the game back up with 1:19 minutes remaining in the second period, but things got even worse for Philadelphia in the final 20 minutes. Pittsburgh’s Dustin Jeffrey scored just 37 seconds into the third period. Dupuis and Neal added two insurance goals as the Penguins finally beat the Flyers.

March 18, 2012 – Philadelphia 3, Pittsburgh 2 (OT). The Penguins were riding high on an 11-game winning streak going into this contest and they had recently gotten Crosby and Kris Letang back. At the same time, Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov had been nearly flawless in the weeks leading up to this meeting.

The Penguins struck first, with goals from Craig Adams and Malkin in the first and second periods respectively. However, given that the Penguins outshot Philadelphia 27-10 over the first 40 minutes, Bryzgalov deserves some credit for keeping the game close.

His efforts paid off in the third when the Flyers finally made their counter attack. Kimmo Timonen and Hartnell both beat Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury in the first five minutes of the third. The game went to overtime where Hartnell just barely beat the buzzer to give the Flyers’ a 3-1 series lead.

Lehtonen only lasts one period in Game 2

Lehtonen
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Kari Lehtonen might have been more hit than miss in the playoffs going into today’s action, but Game 2 against St. Louis was certainly a start he’d like to forget.

Dallas outshot St. Louis 10-5 in the first frame, but the Blues still managed to take a 3-1 lead. Antti Niemi replaced Lehtonen for the second period which means, barring another goalie change, Lehtonen will actually end up with a sub-.500 save percentage this afternoon.

The numbers obviously look bad and it’s hard not to blame Lehtonen in the face of that, but the Blues deserve a lot of the credit for those goals. Patrik Berglund had a great shot on goal for the first marker, Joel Edmundson‘s first career playoff goal came after a nice setup by Troy Brouwer, and when Brouwer collected his own goal it was off of a rebound during a power play.

So to an extent, you could say Lehtonen looked bad due to circumstances that were very unfavorable to him. Nevertheless, the Stars needed to shake things up after what was unquestionably a bad period for them.

Dupuis, Jagr, Zuccarello are Masterton Trophy finalists

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 18:  Pascal Dupuis #9 of the Pittsburgh Penguins in action against the New York Rangers during their game at Madison Square Garden on December 18, 2013 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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Pittsburgh’s Pascal Dupuis, Florida’s Jaromir Jagr, and the Rangers’ Mats Zuccarello have been selected as the three finalists for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.

The Masterton Trophy recognizes “the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.” In 2015 it went to Devan Dubnyk, who struggled mightily in 2013-14, but dramatically turned his career around the following season and led the Minnesota Wild to the playoffs in the process.

Dupuis attempted to play in the 2015-16 campaign while taking blood thinners, but on Dec. 8 he announced that he would stop playing “because of a medical condition related to blood clots.”

Jagr celebrated his 44th birthday in February, but despite his age he managed to score 27 goals and 66 points in 79 contests this season. With that, he became the oldest player to reach the 60-point mark in a single NHL campaign.

Zuccarello played in 81 games and set career-highs with 26 goals and 61 points this season after suffering a skull fracture and brain contusion during the 2015 playoffs that left him temporarily unable to speak.

Can there be parallels drawn between the 2016 Ducks and 2014 Sharks?

Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler (17) takes the puck up ice on a breakaway with San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, center, and Ducks center Nate Thompson, right, trailing on the play during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Anaheim, Calif., Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
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The Anaheim Ducks might not have suffered a reverse sweep at the hands of one of their biggest rivals, but they seem to have reached a breaking point when it comes to playoff disappointments.

After firing head coach Bruce Boudreau, GM Bob Murray was highly critical of the team’s core, even noting that at this point he’s not a fan of long-term contracts. That was perhaps a swipe at how he feels Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf‘s eight-year $69 million and $66 million contracts have worked out thus far. Meanwhile Ryan Kesler‘s six-year deal worth roughly $41 million is about to begin.

After San Jose suffered its first round loss to the Los Angeles Kings in 2014, Sharks GM Doug Wilson said they were now becoming a “tomorrow team” and they began a cultural shift that included Joe Thornton losing the captaincy.

There are differences of course between the two situations. One notable one is that the Sharks’ guard was already starting to change hands in 2013-14. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau were entering their mid-30s, but Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture were on the rise. Anaheim’s core of Getzlaf and Perry is significantly younger, but while Anaheim also has some promising forwards like Jakob Silfverberg, that generation of players doesn’t seem ready to carry the torch for the Ducks.

“We don’t have a lot of young guys in the lineup. … Today’s a much different feeling leaving the rink,” Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano said, per the Los Angeles Times. “In those [previous] years there’s been a sense of hope. Today, there’s zero feeling like that.”

Perhaps the Anaheim Ducks will find hope by watching the rest of the 2016 playoffs. If the San Jose Sharks continue to succeed, they will be an example of a team that once underachieved, hit a critical low, but then managed to fix that in a relatively short time without a massive turnover in terms of on-ice personnel. While we’re at it, you could make a similar argument for the Washington Capitals.

Maybe Murray will look to those franchises for inspiration as he moves forward.

Capitals, Penguins nearly perfect at stopping third period comebacks

Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) and Washington Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen (2) chase down the puck during the first period of Game 2 in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinals Saturday, April 30, 2016 in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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Pittsburgh only won by a single goal in Game 2 on Saturday and that deciding marker came with 4:28 minutes remaining in the third, but that contest had the potential to be far more one-sided.

The Capitals were outshot 28-10 through 40 minutes and were consequently leaning on goaltender Braden Holtby to keep things close.

“First two periods, I thought they were way better than us,” Washington coach Barry Trotz told CSN Mid-Atlantic. Or has Justin Williams put it, the Capitals “were getting embarrassed out there” during the first 40 minutes.

Washington did rebound in the third period, though it wasn’t enough to prevent the Penguins from evening this series at 1-1. That puts the pressure on Washington to take at least one game in Pittsburgh before the second round’s over.

Starting the game off strong is always going to be important, but that’s particularly true when talking about the Penguins and Capitals. Pittsburgh was 39-0-0 in the regular season when leading after 40 minutes while Washington was 37-0-1. So far in the playoffs, both teams are 4-0-0 when they have the lead after two periods.