The Penguins were missing Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Evgeni Malkin, Pascal Dupuis, Marcel Goc, Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik, and Olli Maatta tonight…but they still had goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. He kicked out 39 shots in regulation to lead them to a 3-2 shootout victory over the Colorado Avalanche.
Pittsburgh also had forward Brandon Sutter, who logged 23:33 minutes with most of the team’s top-six forwards sidelined, and scored two goals in the span of 3:22 minutes. Jussi Jokinen made his return tonight and registered an assist before beating Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov in the shootout.
Although he came up short, Varlamov also had a good night, stopping 30 of 32 shots. He hasn’t allowed more than two goals in regulation in a single contest since March 25.
The Avalanche aren’t dealing with the sheer volume of injuries that Pittsburgh has, but it is worth noting that they were missing top scorer Matt Duchene. Despite that, the Avalanche rallied back from a 2-0 deficit and Patrick Bordeleau bought the team a point with his goal at 16:47 of the third period.
Pittsburgh’s already locked into the second seed in the Eastern Conference, so these two points won’t impact the Eastern Conference standings. It does have meaning to the Chicago Blackhawks though as they try to close the gap between them and the Colorado Avalanche in the battle for the second seed in the Central Division.
The wait is finally over. The 2016 Stanley Cup Final is about to begin.
Both the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks received some time to lick their wounds after three grueling playoff rounds, so expect Game 1 to be fun, even if there might be a subtle bit of rust here or there.
The star power is considerable. The beards are burly (at least on the Sharks’ side). It’s time to get cracking.
Game 1 airs on NBC. You can also stream it via the link below and enjoy some “NHL Live” coverage leading in.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE
Plenty of people believe that the San Jose Sharks’ defense is superior to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ personnel, but it’s one thing to be better on paper. When you’re on the ice, against a speedy and talented team, can you really stop the Penguins?
All signs point to sorely underrated Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic drawing the difficult assignment of trying to slow down Sidney Crosby.
Vlasic, a former Team Canada teammate of Crosby (as you can see from this post’s main image), realizes that he’ll have his hands full. In fact, he seems to believe that this will be an even tougher challenge than trying to solve St. Louis Blues sniper Vladimir Tarasenko.
The fantastic all-around defender isn’t exactly expecting to reinvent the wheel in his strategy against Crosby.
“It will be the same as in the first three series,” Vlasic said, via The Hockey News. “We’re playing against the top players on every time – Sid, (Evgeni) Malkin and those types of guys for Pittsburgh. Me and (Justin Braun) will just keep doing what we did, taking away time and space and hopefully it works out.”
The two players have had glowing things to say about each other for some time, but don’t be surprised if this high-level competition turns those happy thoughts into hard feelings.
It stands as one of the matchups to watch in what could be a fresh and fascinating Stanley Cup Final.
This summer looks like it could be one of changes for the Detroit Red Wings, even beyond the most obvious storyline of Pavel Datsyuk‘s future.
One area where the Red Wings would like to make some tweaks is in net, namely in trading Jimmy Howard. The Detroit Free-Press points out that GM Ken Holland admitted that moving the former franchise netminder “might be good for the organization.”
It’s reasonable to wonder what kind of market there will be for Howard, whose deal ($5.29 million cap hit through 2018-19) looks pretty tough to stomach on paper.
Maybe it’s best to consider the Red Wings’ options if Howard starts the 2016-17 season off on a strong note, or something of that nature. Perhaps an expansion draft could “solve” that problem if Detroit cannot find any takers?
The Red Wings remain forward-thinking and patient, which likely explains why the Free-Press focuses on their confidence with prospect Jared Coreau.
“In the big scheme of things, he’ll play in Grand Rapids for another year, but now we know he can play a lot of minutes if needed,” Goalie coach Jeff Salajko said. “Jimmy Howard played four years in the minors. We’re not rushing Jared, but he is going to be an NHL goalie, there is no doubt in my mind about that.”
In other words, a pairing of Petr Mrazek and Coreau wouldn’t just be a cost-effective duo … it might just be the Red Wings’ ideal scenario in the not-too-distant future.
From the NHL:
Pretty veteran crew, including three returnees from last year’s final.
Per the NHL, O’Halloran and O’Rourke will call tonight’s series opener from Consol.