Eastern Conference final team capsules: Pittsburgh Penguins

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A rundown of the East’s top seed, which finished the regular season at 36-12-0.

28th appearance
3 Stanley Cup titles (1991, 1992, 2009)

Studs:

  • Sidney Crosby: 7 goals (T-lead in NHL), 8 assists, 15 points
  • Pascal Dupuis: 7 goals (T-lead in NHL)
  • James Neal: 5 goals, 2 assists, 14 shots on goal in last 2 games
  • Evgeni Malkin: 16 points (T-2nd in NHL) … but only 43.0% on faceoffs
  • Kris Letang: 16 points (T-2nd in NHL, most among defensemen)
  • Paul Martin: 30 blocked shots (5th in NHL)
  • Tomas Vokoun: 6-1, 1.85 GAA (3rd in NHL), .941 save % (2nd in NHL), 1 shutout
  • Team: 6-1 at Consol Energy Center
  • Team: 4.27 goals per game (leads NHL) … highest average since 1992-93 (min. 10 games)
  • Team: 28.3% on power play, 13-for-46 (leads NHL)
  • Team: 89.7% on penalty kill, 35-for-39 (3rd in NHL)
  • Team: 203 blocked shots (T-2nd in NHL)

Duds:

  • Marc-Andre Fleury: 2-2, 3.40 GAA, .891 save%, 1 shutout

Stanley Cup winners with 2009 Penguins (11 players, 2 coaches):

  • Craig Adams, Matt Cooke, Sidney Crosby (captain), Pascal Dupuis, Mark Eaton, Marc-Andre Fleury, Tyler Kennedy, Chris Kunitz, Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin (Conn Smythe winner), Brooks Orpik, Dan Bylsma (head coach), Gilles Meloche (asst)

Cup winners with other franchises (1):

  • Chris Kunitz (2007 Ducks)

Seeking first Cup, have played or coached one+ playoff game this postseason (13 players, 2 coaches):

  • Beau Bennett, Tanner Glass, Jarome Iginla, Jussi Jokinen, Brenden Morrow, James Neal, Brandon Sutter, Joe Vitale, Deryk Engelland, Paul Martin, Douglas Murray, Matt Niskanen, Tomas Vokoun, Tony Granato (asst), Todd Rierden (asst)

Seeking 2013 postseason debut:

  • Robert Bortuzzo (15 regular season games), Dustin Jeffrey (24)

Most career playoff …

  • Games: Chris Kunitz, 95
  • Goals: Sidney Crosby, 40
  • Points: Sidney Crosby, 105

Last playoff …

  • Hat trick: James Neal, May 24, 2013 (vs. Senators, Game 5, ECSF)
  • 4-point game: James Neal (3 goals, assist), May 24, 2013 (vs. Senators, Game 5, ECSF)
  • Short-handed goal: Pascal Dupuis, May 22, 2013 (at Senators, Game 4, ECSF)
  • Fight: Evgeni Malkin, May 7, 2013 (Travis Hamonic, at Islanders, Game 4, ECQF)
  • Shutout: Marc-Andre Fleury, May 1, 2013 (vs. Islanders, Game 1, ECQF)

Playoff trend:

  • The Penguins made the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season.
  • The Penguins earned the top record in their conference for the second time (1992-93)

Milestones:

  • With two points, Sidney Crosby (105) will move past Kevin Stevens for 3rd on the all-time points list in Penguins postseason history … Mario Lemieux (172) and Bruins’ Jaromir Jagr (147) are 1-2
  • With three points, Evgeni Malkin (97) will reach the 100-point mark and tie Ron Francis for 5th on the all-time points list in Penguins postseason history
  • In the ECQF, Marc-Andre Fleury tied Tom Barrasso for the most career shutouts (6) by a goaltender in Penguins postseason history
  • Jarome Iginla has played 1,232 regular season games without winning a Stanley Cup, 3rd-most among active players (Roman Hamrlik – 1,395; Shane Doan – 1,246)
  • In the ECSF, the Penguins clinched a series on home ice for the 1st time under Dan Bylsma (1-6)
  • Evgeni Malkin has the most single-postseason points (36, in 2008-09) among active players

2012-13 season

  • Longest win streak: 15 (March 2 – 30), 2nd longest in NHL history (1992-93 Penguins had 17)
  • Longest winless streak: 2 (on five occasions)

Biggest storylines of season & postseason:

  • March 2-30: “The Streak II” or “The March through March” … following the Blackhawks’ NHL-record 24-game unbeaten streak in regulation to begin the season, the Penguins came within two wins of tying the 20-year-old NHL record of 17 consecutive wins (1992-92 Penguins)
  • March 30: A deflected slapshot to Sidney Crosby’s jaw costs the superstar the last 12 games of the regular season
  • Trade deadline acquisitions of veterans Brenden Morrow (Stars), Jarome Iginla (Flames), Jussi Jokinen (Hurricanes) & Douglas Murray (Sharks) helps offset injuries to Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Paul Martin & Kris Letang
  • The Penguins become the only NHL team without an overtime/shootout loss this regular season (5-0) … in the first two playoff rounds, they won their first two OT games (Games 3 & 6 at N.Y. Islanders), but lost in 2OT in Game 3 at Senators
  • May 9: Tomas Vokoun replaces Marc-Andre Fleury in net before Game 5 of the ECQF and posts a shutout
  • May 17 & 24: Sidney Crosby (Game 2) & James Neal (Game 5) score hat tricks in ECSF vs. Ottawa

Award finalists:

  • Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy (Perseverance and dedication to hockey): Sidney Crosby

Concussion problems limited Crosby to just 63 games over the previous two seasons. However, he bounced back this season with 15 goals and 56 points in 36 contests.

  • Hart Memorial Trophy (Most valuable player to his team): Sidney Crosby

Despite missing 12 games (jaw surgery), Crosby had 56 points (T-3rd in NHL), 41 assists (2nd in NHL), was a +26 (4th in NHL), played 21:06 per game (6th among NHL forwards)

  • Ted Lindsay Award (Most outstanding player as voted by members of the NHLPA): Sidney Crosby
  • James Norris Memorial Trophy (Top defenseman): Kris Letang

Despite missing 13 games, Letang had 38 points (T-NHL lead among defensemen), was a +16 and played 25:38 per game (7th in NHL)
NHL General Manager of the Year: Ray Shero

Malkin on ‘workaholic’ Crosby, Penguins’ chances for three Cups in a row

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Evgeni Malkin shared some interesting observations with Sports-Express’ Igor Eronko this weekend, including that he believes that the Pittsburgh Penguins “have all the tools” to win a third Stanley Cup in a row.

Quite reasonably, Malkin notes that the team kept its core intact.

Of course, Malkin and Sidney Crosby are still the catalysts for the Penguins, so it’s always fun to come across the latest observations from the Russian star.

Good stuff.

It’s not surprising to see Malkin praise Crosby and pump up the Penguins’ chances. Last year, he showed confidence in Pittsburgh’s repeat chances and professed an interest in being on the same team with Crosby for the next “10 years.”

This summer’s been a great one for Geno, with plenty of team honors mixing with some great individual feats. For example:

Habs’ Byron got to skate(board) with Tony Hawk

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Montreal Canadiens forward Paul Byron is so speedy on the ice, his skating can sometimes be intimidating, particularly when he’s on the penalty kill.

Every now and then, we’ll see, say, a floppy-haired snowboarder also show some serious skateboarding acumen, and skateboarding seems to blend well with surfing to boot. So what about ice skating and skateboarding?

Well, Byron apparently got to meet Tony Hawk – along with his kids – and at least made a solid impression, as the Canadiens website notes.

“Paul can hold his own. I bet he’d do better on my board,” Hawk said. “It wouldn’t be so wobbly.”

The only bummer is that it doesn’t seem like footage of Byron skateboarding is available. There is some cute footage of Hawk with Byron’s kids, though:

Little B's turn💙

A post shared by Sarah Byron (@sarahannbyron) on

There’s also Hawk skateboarding in a Canadiens sweater. Fun stuff.

(H/T to Sportsnet.)

Taylor Hall’s remarkable run of bad luck

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This post is a part of Devils day at PHT…

Taylor Hall deserves credit for that great “lottery ball specialist” tweet when the New Jersey Devils landed the top pick of the 2017 NHL Draft, but you could picture the star winger making such a joke while gritting his teeth.

You see, as much as Hall seems to be a luck rabbit’s foot for a team when it comes to landing the top pick of a draft – just consider his Edmonton Oilers days on top of this last bit – but that good fortune hasn’t always come from an individual standpoint.

In hopes that we may some day see Hall in, say, a playoff game, let’s recount some of his unluckiest moments. Keep in mind that he’s still just 25.

Injuries

He became the first pick of the 2010 NHL Draft, which means he’ll be compared to Tyler Seguin (though that discussion mercifully doesn’t come up that often).

Hall’s rookie season was limited to 65 regular-season games thanks to the ill-advised decision to fight Derek Dorsett. His first NHL bout ended his 2010-11 campaign; Hall received criticism for the choice, which sometimes overshadowed debuting with 22 goals.

It was reckless to fight, especially with someone like Dorsett, but we’ve seen plenty of players get through skirmishes without anything major happening. Jarome Iginla endeared himself to hockey fans, in some ways, by doing just that … but Hall wasn’t so lucky.

Even if you chalk that first bit up to poor decisions, Hall’s injury luck has often been poor. He was limited to 61 games in his sophomore season, 53 in 2014-15 and missed significant pieces of 2013-14 and last season, too.

Some of the injuries were just downright-freakish.

Click here if you want to remember the time he caught a skate in the head during warm-ups, which left him with a disgusting “Frankenstein” wound and … it’s just gross. If you haven’t seen it, you’re lucky.

While his speedy, courageous style might leave him susceptible to issues, it seems like Hall catches an unusually high number of bad breaks.

Terrible team to bad team

Taylor Hall has been a productive player, keeping his head up even as he’s played for some miserably bad teams.

The Oilers have been pretty clueless for virtually the entirety of Hall’s career; this National Post article provides a handy rundown of their mishaps in rarely finding decent defensemen.

Those struggles likely inspired the team to trade Hall for Adam Larsson, a steady Swedish blueliner.

It says a lot that Oilers fans voted massively in favor of the Oilers winning that trade in at least one poll, as most hockey people agree that the Devils ended up with the upper hand.

Team success can skew the views of certain players, something Hall knows too well as a frequent scapegoat in Edmonton. If you want to roll your eyes, peruse some of the “not captain material”-type takes that Hall likely became all-too-familiar with.

He didn’t even get to truly benefit from Connor McDavid‘s presence, as Hall’s bad injury luck seemed to transition to McDavid for a brief spell; as you recall, McDavid’s season was greatly limited by an lucky fall that came from the same sort of driving style you’d expect to see from Hall.

Who could blame Hall for being jealous of the Oilers’ success now that he’s gone?

New Jersey is making some nice strides toward being a more competitive team, and Hall’s a big part of that sunnier outlook. It has to sting to take all those steps back to the painfully familiar rebuilding stages after suffering through all of those with the Oilers.

***

Look, Hall is nicely compensated for his play. He also was the top pick of a draft, so it’s not like he’s totally anonymous.

Still, it’s difficult not to root for the guy to soak in the accolades that come with greater team success, as Hall has been a fantastic power forward in some not-so-fantastic situations.

In other words, here’s hoping a little more luck goes his way … on the ice rather than in the carousel.

Poll: Nico Hischier vs. Nolan Patrick

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This post is a part of Devils day at PHT…

To some extent, the New Jersey Devils probably don’t care that much if Nolan Patrick ends up being slightly more effective, overall, than Nico Hischier.

As Taylor Hall can attest, the Devils lucked into the top pick of the 2017 NHL Draft, so GM Ray Shero was probably delighted that he would be able to pick between the two prospects. Rather than choosing Patrick or finding a trade, he made Hischier the first Swiss-born number one pick in NHL history.

Sports are about competition and comparisons, so it should be fun to measure the two forwards’ accomplishments and development as time goes along.

We might as well take hockey fans’ temperature now, though. Before we do, a quick “tale of the tape” – and an apology to the other prospects in the 2017 NHL Draft. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll be keeping this poll to Hischier vs. Patrick. Feel free to make a case for Miro Heiskanen (pictured, chosen third by Dallas) or any number of other candidates in the comments, though.

Hischier (draft profile): Scored 86 points in 57 games for the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads in 2016-17. Broadly speaking, Hischier seems to rate as the most creative player and has already impressed the Devils with his skating ability.

Apparently his favorite movie is “Happy Gilmore.”

Patrick (draft profile): The Winnipeg native was on the radar a bit longer than Hischier, in part because he managed 102 points in 71 games in the WHL in 2015-16. Last season hurt his stock quite a bit; while he was able to score well over a point-per-game (46 in 33), injuries limited him in 2016-17. Those issues might have limited more than people even realized, as it turns out he needed two hernia surgeries instead of one.

Generally speaking, Patrick is praised for his two-way play, which could help him be a quick fit for Philly. Both forwards are listed as centers.

Oh yeah, and Reid Duke gave him the nickname “Doctor Pat.”

***

OK, so with all of that information, let’s get after it: did the Devils make the right call or should they have selected Patrick at No. 1 instead?