Phoenix Coyotes v Pittsburgh Penguins

Pressing question: How much pressure is on the Pens?

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One of PHT’s 10 pressing questions in advance of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs…

Here’s the list of teams Pittsburgh has defeated in the playoffs since winning the Stanley Cup in 2009:

Ottawa Senators
New York Islanders

End of list.

The lack of wins over quality opponents — neither the Sens nor Isles are in the playoffs this year — speaks to a larger issue facing the entire Penguins organization, prior to what could be the most important postseason in franchise history:

Over the last five years, the Pens’ playoff exits have defined them far more than any of their wins.

There was running into the Halak wall in 2010. The defensive meltdown against Philly in ’12. The offense seizing up like an engine with no oil against Boston last year. For a team that looked to be on the cusp of a dynasty after beating Detroit five years ago, the playoffs have become vexing — something few expected to see.

“Given the guys that I played with on the ’09 team, you’d think that they were going to be a perennial Cup candidate,” defenseman Rob Scuderi said, per the Columbus Dispatch. “But sometimes it doesn’t work out that way.

“Just because you have a team on paper that looks like it’s going to blow the doors off the playoffs doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. You have to come together at the right time and for a long time. As much as you think this team would have had more wins, it’s not shocking. It’s a hard time of year to win.”

Yes, it is a hard time of the year to win. But one has to wonder what happens if the Penguins don’t.

Head coach Dan Bylsma will undoubtedly come under fire — again — should Pittsburgh flop. Rumors flew after last year’s sweep to Boston in the Eastern Conference finals, with one report claiming owner Mario Lemieux was mulling over a coaching change, followed by another suggesting the Rangers were ready to pounce if Bylsma was let go.

Marc-Andre Fleury will also be under the microscope. Replaced by Tomas Vokoun midway through last year’s opening-round victory over the Isles, Fleury rebounded this regular season and posted great numbers, but that’s done little to shake his playoff reputation. In a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league, Fleury isn’t the goalie that backstopped Pittsburgh to the Cup in ’09; he’s the one that followed up an awful series against Philly two years ago by getting yanked last year.

So, how does Fleury deal with it all?

“Not read too much. Not watch [TV],” he said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “And remind myself that I have won one more Stanley Cup than a lot of people.”

Like Bylsma, Fleury’s future could hinge on this postseason. He’s heading into the final of a seven-year, $35 million deal and it’s hard to imagine Pittsburgh re-signing him after another playoff disappointment.

Others are in a similar boat. Longtime defenseman Brooks Orpik, who’s spent all 11 of his NHL seasons in Pittsburgh, is a pending UFA. Same goes for Matt Niskanen, who’s played the last four years with the Pens. It’s all part the overall theme of pressure — along with the weight of expectations comes the added weight of uncertain futures, possibly hinging on how the Pens do this spring.

“This team has had the weight of expectation on them for a long time,” Scuderi explained. “It’s something you just have to learn how to deal with. Those are mostly kind of outside sources putting the pressure on you.

“You just have to be able to shut it out and play your game.”

For more Pressing Playoff Questions, click here.

Report: Gaborik (foot) to miss World Cup final, start of Kings season in doubt

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 17: Marian Gaborik #12 of Team Europe celebrates his first period goal against Team USA during the World Cup of Hockey tournament at the Air Canada Centre on September 17, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Some bad news for Team Europe and the Los Angeles Kings — Marian Gaborik, who was seen this morning on crutches, is reportedly out of the World Cup of Hockey final and may miss the beginning of the NHL campaign as well.

The news, first reported by Sportsnet, comes after Gaborik played 17:58 in Europe’s shock semifinal win over Sweden, scoring his team’s opening goal.

Gaborik took a puck to the foot during the second period, yet managed to finish the game.

The veteran Slovak had enjoyed a good tournament prior to getting hurt, scoring a pair of goals while getting healthy doses of ice time, including nearly 19 in a win over the Czechs in the group stage.

With Gaborik out, Mikkel Boedker will (presumably) make his tournament debut. Boedker has been a healthy scratch for the Europeans thus far, though it’s possible he could continue to sit if head coach Ralph Krueger elects to dress seven defensemen — Luca Sbisa would get the call — rather than plug in another forward.

As for the ramifications for L.A… well, this could be tough. Gaborik, signed through 2021 at $4.875M per, only scored 12 goals and 22 points in 54 games last season — missing extensive time with a lingering knee injury — and the Kings were hopeful he was in line for a bounce-back campaign, especially given how good he looked at the World Cup.

Sportsnet reports Gaborik is headed back to Los Angeles today.

‘Never say never,’ but Krueger’s commitment is to Southampton, not to making an NHL return

Southampton v Bayer Leverkusen - Pre Season Friendly
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Ralph Krueger spent one lockout-shortened season in charge of the Edmonton Oilers, before he was unceremoniously fired (via Skype) to make way for the hiring of Dallas Eakins.

But Krueger’s success at the World Cup, leading Team Europe into the best-of-three final against Team Canada, has a lot of people wondering if he might one day make an NHL return.

Krueger’s current full-time job is a big one — he’s chairman of Southampton Football Club in the English Premier League.

Suffice to say, it’s not a job one just leaves for anything.

“I came in here committed completely to Southampton Football Club and the future of that organization in my role,” Krueger said Sunday. “You can never say never, but at the moment I’m very proud to be back in hockey at this level and to be competing. We are just having so much fun in our room, the coaches, the players, the whole group is enjoying it, and I am, too. But my real life is my commitment to Southampton Football Club at the moment.”

Kreuger repeated his “never say never” line today, so it sounds like he’s at least open to the possibility. However, he insisted that he didn’t take the World Cup job with the goal of getting another job in hockey.

Related: Southampton smokes West Ham in London

Byfuglien ‘didn’t enjoy’ his World Cup experience

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 15:  Dustin Byfuglien #33 of Team USA answers questions during Media day at the World Cup of Hockey 2016 at Air Canada Centre on September 15, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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It’s getting harder and harder to find positives in the aftermath of Team USA’s poor performance at the World Cup of Hockey.

On Monday, Winnipeg d-man Dustin Byfuglien weighed in on his time at the tourney, telling Sportsnet it wasn’t much fun.

“The experience and everything that went on, it is what it is,” Byfuglien said. “You know, I didn’t enjoy it.”

That revelation is hardly a surprise. Head coach John Tortorella made Byfuglien a healthy scratch for the tournament opener against Europe — a dismal 3-0 loss — then played Big Buff just 10:50 in a 4-2 defeat to Canada.

Byfuglien did get a healthy chunk of ice time in America’s final game — 21:18 in a loss to the Czechs — but by that point, the damage was done.

It was clear early on the Byfuglien experiment had its problems.

Named to the U.S. national team for the first time in his career, he was platooned between forward and defense in the exhibition games leading up to the tournament, even though he’d previously stated he much prefers playing defense.

“It’s definitely not my favorite spot,” Byfuglien said after playing up front in a pre-tourney win over Finland. “It’s just something they wanted to try and that was it.”

Not long after the Finland game, Big Buff was out of the lineup. And Tortorella’s reasoning behind the move wasn’t very clear.

“As we went through our lineup and the situations that we may get involved with — power play, penalty killing and all that — we felt this was our lineup to start the tournament,” he explained.

The lack of explanation only further confused the issue. Parking Byfuglien was a bizarre decision to begin with, especially in light of America’s offensive woes at the tournament — a versatile weapon on the power play, Byfuglien was the highest-scoring U.S. defenseman in the NHL last season.

In the end, this situation only underscores the problems that plagued Team USA throughout the tourney. Roster and lineup decisions constantly came under scrutiny and, in the end, nobody had anything positive to say about the end result.

But at least there was one good memory…

What about the Red Wings for Trouba?

SAN JOSE, CA - MARCH 27:  Jacob Trouba #8 of the Winnipeg Jets in action against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center on March 27, 2014 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Earlier today, PHT writer Adam Gretz made compelling cases for the Ducks, Bruins, Rangers, and Avalanche to take a run at Winnipeg defenseman Jacob Trouba.

But allow me to add one more team to the potential mix — the Detroit Red Wings, who could really use a 22-year-old, right-shot defenseman who skates well and has good offensive instincts.

The Wings also have a surplus of forwards to work with. While Dylan Larkin is probably untouchable, Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar probably aren’t. Or perhaps a youngster like Andreas Athanasiou or Anthony Mantha would interest the Jets.

The question the Wings may run into, should they make a push for Trouba, is whether they’d be willing to part with Danny DeKeyser. The 26-year-old defenseman just signed a six-year contract extension, and there’s reason to believe the Jets may look for a youngish, left-shot d-man in return for Trouba.

That’s pure speculation, for the record. DeKeyser is an important part of the Wings. He’s a Michigan native and he comes with a fairly reasonable, $5 million cap hit. However, it’s worth noting that, according to General Fanager, his no-trade clause doesn’t kick in until next summer.

At the very least, Ken Holland should be in touch with Kevin Cheveldayoff, if only to gauge the price for Trouba. The Red Wings’ GM said over the summer that he may look to trade for a defenseman around training-camp time, which happens to be right now.

“Part of this might be let’s get to September and see,” Holland said. “I’m hoping we’ve got 15, 16 NHL forwards and we’re positioned to do a deal.”