There’s a new winning streak in town and it belongs to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Pens ran their run of consecutive wins to eight after today’s 3-0 shutout victory over an offensively challenged New York Rangers team. Beau Bennett, Tyler Kennedy, and Pascal Dupuis each had a goal while Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 23 shots en route to his first shutout of the season. Sidney Crosby was held without a point and proving, for one game at least, that they can get the job done even without him.
Pittsburgh hasn’t had to sweat scoring goals over their eight-game run, but now both Fleury and Tomas Vokoun are stepping up in shutting teams down. Over the last four games, opponents have just four goals. Offensively, the Pens are averaging exactly four goals a game during the streak.
The Pens will look to make it nine in a row tomorrow afternoon on NBC as they take on the Boston Bruins at 12:30 p.m. ET.
Goalie nods: Reimer returns to Toronto, but he won’t start and the Leafs (reportedly) won’t recognize him
Reimer — dealt to San Jose at the deadline before joining the Panthers this offseason — has only played twice this year, making 25 saves in a shootout loss to Tampa in his debut, then allowing three goals on 22 shots in a loss to Pittsburgh on Tuesday night.
The New York Rangers took a gamble today, placing defenseman Dylan McIlrathon waivers for the purpose of assigning him to the AHL.
While it wouldn’t be a surprise if McIlrath gets claimed, for GM Jeff Gorton and head coach Alain Vigneault, it was a decision that couldn’t be put off any longer.
“Gorts and I and our staff had a long talk last night after the game, and we just felt that at this time, Dylan needed to play,” Vigneault said this morning. “We all appreciate him as a person, he’s done everything that has been expected of him, and more. But on our team right now, he’s our eighth defenseman, and keeping him here and not having him play and the money going against the cap…”
Vigneault added that Gorton “looked around” in search of a trade, but obviously no deal was made.
“Selfishly, I hope he clears waivers and goes to Hartford and plays,” said Vigneault. “But if somebody would pick him up and give him an opportunity, I’d be very happy for him.”
McIlrath, meanwhile, held himself accountable for the situation. The big blue-liner has appeared in just one game this season, and he only logged 9:14 in it.
“I’m never going to blame this on the coaches,” he said, per Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post. “This was all about my play and not earning a spot in the lineup.”
Little (lower body) out another month, and that’s a big hole in the Jets lineup
Unfortunately for the Jets, he’s not expected back anytime soon.
“We’re two weeks out today, and we’re shooting for the end of November,” Jets head coach Paul Maurice said on Thursday, while updating his team’s health situation.
To give an idea of how big a loss this is for the Jets, consider what Maurice had to say about Little’s absence, compared to missing unsigned d-man Jacob Trouba.
“[Trouba’s] not in the room, that has a big factor in terms of the distraction. It’s no different — well, it is different than Bryan. We’ve got a number of solid defensemen in our lineup.
“The Bryan Little injury is probably a bigger frustration than anything else, because that really changes the look.”
Little, 28, opened the year as Winnipeg’s No. 2 center, on a line with Drew Stafford and Shawn Matthias. As mentioned above, he was hurt in the first game of the season and — prior to the Bickell collision — set up the club’s first goal of the year, registering an assist on Matthias’ first-period marker.
When healthy, Little’s a productive contributor for the Jets.
He posted a career-high 64 points during the ’13-14 campaign, and a career-high 24 goals the season following. He’s also one of the club’s top faceoff men.
It’s fair to suggest Little’s absence has played a big role in Winnipeg’s slow start to the year. It has just two wins from six games, but will look to get things back on track tonight when it welcomes Dallas to the MTS Centre.
It’s still early, but Preds looking nothing like Cup contenders
Six games into their schedule, however, and the outlook doesn’t seem so rosy. Last night’s 6-1 loss in Anaheim left the Preds with a 2-4-0 record, and one frustrated head coach.
“We have to be tougher to play against, just generally speaking,” said Peter Laviolette, per NHL.com. “[Even-strength] play wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. Specialty teams just swung the pendulum tonight in the wrong direction, the shorthanded goals and the power-play goals were too much for any team. We have to do a better job just being harder to play against, defending our goaltender and defending our end better. We gave up too many chances.”
The Ducks scored three times on the power play and twice while shorthanded. Obviously, special teams was the big factor last night.
But like Laviolette noted, the Preds weren’t great five-on-five either, and they haven’t been great in that situation all season. In fact, per Hockey Analysis, they’ve been outscored 12 to 6 in five-on-five action. It’s their power play, which has converted 10 times already, that’s kept their start from being a serious disaster.
It’s only been six games, so there’s no need to panic quite yet. But the Preds play tonight in Los Angeles and Saturday in San Jose, so it’s not going to get easier any time soon.