The Pittsburgh Penguins were looking like a serious Cup contender a week ago. Then they added Brenden Morrow, Douglas Murray, and Jarome Iginla and now they appear to be, at least on paper, the clear Stanley Cup favorites.
Of course, the New Jersey Devils have seen some of those. As the sixth seed last season they had to get past Cup favorites to get to the actual Finals where they faced an eighth seed Los Angeles Kings team that dispatched a number of highly regarded teams too.
“I think last year’s a good example of why you play the playoffs,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer said in a Bergen Record report.
The Devils won’t be able to match Pittsburgh star-for-star in a playoff series, but DeBoer argues that “there’s a lot of intangibles.”
That’s not to say that New Jersey is assuming that Pittsburgh will collapse under the weight of expectations or the trades will upset the Penguins’ chemistry. The Devils just think that they’re competitive regardless of the Penguins’ moves.
Part of the reason for that confidence is because adversity has brought them closer together. They’re working through Ilya Kovalchuk’s shoulder injury now and had to endure a rough patch without Martin Brodeur. Not to mention people being down on the Devils from the beginning of the season after they lost Zach Parise as a free agent.
“You’ve got to be careful about picking favorites,” Devils captain Bryce Salvador said. “The thing about hockey is it’s a team game, so it’s whoever’s going to be hot and whoever’s going at the right time there at the end. As we saw last year, that’s what really matters.”
Devils look to add ‘pieces’ instead of making a ‘splash’
With added expectations, how will the Penguins handle the pressure?
You know what they say: it’s easy to bash a strategy in hindsight.
Slam that NFL head coach for going for it on fourth down … or settling for the field goal. Bury that MLB manager because he kept a pitcher in too long. And so on.
“Score effects” settle in during almost any lopsided hockey game, yet the Dallas Stars present quite a conundrum: what’s the best way to put a way a team with this much firepower?
Tonight may have presented the greatest evidence that this team won’t go away easy, as it seemed like the Minnesota Wild had the best of a tired Stars team* when they built a 3-0 lead.
Instead, the Stars scored three third-period goals while Tyler Seguin capped the comeback with an overtime-winner.
It was one of those bend-and-then-break moments for Minnesota. Dallas generated a 44-26 shot advantage, including a ridiculous 35-15 edge in the final two periods.
Does that mean that Mike Yeo may have tried to play too conservatively with a healthy lead? It’s a possibility.
On the other hand, would the Wild be wiser to try to run-and-gun with one of the most dangerous offenses in the NHL?
It sure seems like a pick-your-poison situation. Which way would you lean, though?
* – To be fair to Minnesota, each team was on back-to-backs.
If nothing else, the New Jersey Devils seem like they won’t be the sort of team a contender can essentially mark off as a “W” on their calendars.
The Montreal Canadiens may not be in a position to take opponents lightly with Carey Price on the shelf, but whatever the case may be, they saw their four-game winning streak end in frustrating fashion on Saturday.
After falling behind 2-0, the Devils scrapped their way back into it, eventually riding a John Moore overtime goal to a 3-2 OT win.
If Montreal needs an obvious bright side to look on considering this hiccup, Alex Galchenyuk‘s hot weekend may be a good thing to look at.
Tonight’s loss may smart a bit anyway, however.
If you want to summarize the Capitals – Maple Leafs game in one sentence, you could do worse than:
“Washington is hot as Jonathan Bernier is cold.”
The Caps reeled off a 4-2 win against Toronto on Saturday, giving them five straight wins. They also jumped into first place in the Metropolitan Division today, as they keep climbing while the New York Rangers are experiencing some growing pains.
Again, James Reimer can’t get healthy and back in Toronto’s net too soon:
With this win, Washington is now 17-5-1, leading the Metro by one point with 35 standings points. They also hold a game in hand against the Rangers, and no other Metro team even has 30 right now.
Measuring stick stretch begins
Tonight’s game began a “prove-it” month-and-change for Washington.
This contest began a three-game road trip, and they’ll also play six of seven away from Washington.
It’s pretty rough through the start of 2016, really. The Capitals will only enjoy three home games through Jan. 9.
In other words, the Capitals seem like a convincing East contender, but look out if they remain hot through the next 5-6 weeks.
Yes, there’s a lot of drama surrounding the Pittsburgh Penguins, whether it’s founded on serious problems or merely speculation.
It’s easy to get swept up in all of that and ignore the fact that, hey, they still have Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. Those two can really heal wounds with their on-ice play, and in Saturday’s case, Malkin is taking over against the Edmonton Oilers.
His spin-o-rama goal above was a real jaw-dropper. He also scored Pittsburgh’s second tally:
These highlights feel like Malkin’s way of saying “It’s going to be just fine.”
Update: It wasn’t enough for a win, however, as the Oilers beat the Penguins 3-2 via a shootout.