Get your game notes: Penguins at Blue Jackets

26 Comments

Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Columbus Blue Jackets hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins at 7 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

— The team that’s scored first has lost all five games in this series. In every other series this postseason, the team that scores first is 26-10. After four straight games in which the team down by two goals came back to win in this series, there was no such comeback Saturday in Game 5, a 3-1 Pittsburgh victory.

— Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury bounced back from Game 4 to help Pittsburgh win Game 5, stopping 23 of Columbus’ 24 shots. Fleury has yet to post back-to-back wins in this series and has only won consecutive playoff games twice in the previous three postseasons (2012 ECQF Game 4 and 5 vs. Philadelphia; 2011 ECQF Game 3 and 4 vs. Tampa Bay).

— Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky faced more shots (190) through the first five games of this postseason than any other goalie. In Game 5, last year’s Vezina Trophy winner faced 50 shots, turning away 48 in the loss. Only Chicago’s Corey Crawford has faced more shots in a single game this postseason — 52, in a 3-OT loss against St. Louis in Game 1. For the Penguins, it was the first time since Game 2 of the 2008 ECQF against Ottawa that they had at least 50 shots in a regulation postseason game. In the second period, the Penguins had 21 shots, matching a franchise playoff record for one frame.

— Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma tweaked his lines in Game 5 in order to feature Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the same line. Although neither was able to snap the longest postseason goal-scoring droughts of their careers — Crosby (10), Malkin (9) — they combined for eight shots, their second-highest total of this series since they had nine in Game 2. Crosby added an assist on Chris Kunitz’s power play goal in the second period Saturday, his fifth assist of the series.

— Of the 32 goals that have been recorded in this series, 15 have come via special teams (46.9% – 11 PPG, 4 SHG), the most of any first-round series. In Game 5, Columbus scored on the power play for the second straight game and in the fourth game overall in this series. Dating back to the regular season, Columbus has scored a power play goal in 13 of its last 16 games. The Blue Jackets are now 6-22 (27.3%) on the power play in the series, the third-best mark in the postseason. Boone Jenner scored the power play goal Saturday, while Ryan Johansen had one of the assists. The two are tied for the team lead in power play points—Jenner (2-2—4), Johansen (2-2—4). Jenner, the 20-year-old Canadian rookie, has a point in each game of this series and 11 points in his last 10 games, dating back to the regular season.

— In the past three games of this series, the winning team has out shot its opponent by 21 or more shots.

source:

 

Penguins GM confident they can find third-line center with Bonino gone

Getty
Leave a comment

August is nearing, and the Pittsburgh Penguins haven’t made a trade or signing to replace Nick Bonino, their outstanding (but former) third-line center.

On the bright side, the Penguins have remarkable breathing room considering their status as repeat Stanley Cup champions. Cap Friendly places their 2017-18 room at about $10.38 million.

That robust space likely explains why GM Jim Rutherford seemed fairly calm about the whole situation, as Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

“I do feel confident that, by the start of the season, we’re going to have a third-line center that we’re comfortable with,” Rutherford said. “Whether it’s one of those guys on the list or one of the guys that I could go and get right today.”

Rutherford (jokingly?) said that he had a list of “hundreds of names” as options, although it’s difficult to top Mackey’s suggestion of Phil Kessel‘s buddy, Tyler Bozak. After all, Bozak is a competent player who carries a $4.2 million cap hit that Pittsburgh could comfortably absorb (and the Toronto Maple Leafs might need to shed). It doesn’t hurt that Bozak’s contract expires after 2017-18, so the Penguins wouldn’t be on the hook if things don’t work out.

Of course, Matt Duchene is another name worth considering. It almost feels a little strange to ponder that speedy Avalanche forward being a “third-line center,” especially if Pittsburgh would want to get the most out of him.

MORE: Duchene might begin next season with the Colorado Avalanche

After that, though … the pickings could be much slimmer than Rutherford indicated to Mackey.

Shallow pool

Take a look at this current list of forwards who are unrestricted free agents.

There are some potential bargains here (P.A. Parenteau, Jiri Hudler, anyone?), but the situation gets significantly shakier if you’re picky enough to look only at centers. The likes of Daniel Winnik and Ryan White are reasonable roster additions, but the drop-off from Bonino could be pretty drastic.

What about other trade possibilities?

That’s a shaky group, too, especially if you apply Bozak-like terms as far as guys who only have one year left on their current contracts.

Honestly, the Penguins’ best bet in looking at that list would probably come down to an in-season move with a team that realizes it’s not a contender or simply understands that a player won’t be back.

Maybe the Calgary Flames would want to cut bait on Matt Stajan or (less realistically) Mikael Backlund? Would the Ducks move speedy, versatile sometimes-center Andrew Cogliano? There are other remote possibilities, such as the Leafs instead trading Leo Komarov (or especially unlikely moves in Paul Stastny or Tomas Plekanec).

Even if the above list seems enticing, how many of those teams would really want to move those players now, especially the bigger difference-makers?

If you’re the Penguins, you’re probably hoping that a Bozak deal could take place. And maybe you’re sweating this situation more than you let on.

(Note: There’s also the slight possibility that the Penguins might identify a replacement from within, though a contending team like Pittsburgh might not be so comfortable with that approach.)

Blues have ‘wiggle room’ after locking up Parayko

Getty
Leave a comment

The St. Louis Blues didn’t break the bank to keep Colton Parayko for five more years, and that’s important since they don’t believe the NHL’s salary cap will rise significantly in the next little while.

Parayko’s cap hit came in at a manageable $5.5 million, as the two sides narrowly avoided an arbitration hearing that was scheduled for today.

“You like to have as much wiggle room as possible,” GM Doug Armstrong said, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Now we view the cap will stay flat for the foreseeable future. We’re content with the space we have. We’ll move forward and get ready for training camp.”

The Blues now have a number of key players locked up long term, including Parayko, Alex Pietrangelo, Vladimir Tarasenko, Alex Steen, Jaden Schwartz, Patrik Berglund, and Jake Allen.

For Armstrong, the next big decision could involve Paul Stastny, the 31-year-old center who can become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

But a decision on Stastny doesn’t need to be made now, or even before the season starts. It’s the trade deadline that could be the real pressure point, akin to the Kevin Shattenkirk situation this past year.

Per CapFriendly, the Blues have just over $3 million in cap space, with one roster spot left to fill.

‘Highly unlikely’ Suns will pursue shared arena with Coyotes

Getty
7 Comments

The Arizona Coyotes appear to be on their own in pursuit of a new arena in the Phoenix area.

That’s because Robert Sarver, the owner of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, says it’s “highly unlikely” he’ll pursue a shared arena with the Coyotes.

Instead, Sarver is focused on upgrading the Suns’ current home (and Coyotes’ old home) in downtown Phoenix, Talking Stick Resort Arena.

From the Arizona Republic:

Sarver said building a new arena would have “maybe made more sense” four or five years ago when the cost estimate was $450 million to $500 million. The costs now, Sarver said, are “significantly higher.” Thus his focus on upgrading Talking Stick, which soon will be the second-oldest arena in the NBA.

“I think it’s the most economically viable alternative for the city and us,” he said. “I like downtown Phoenix. That’s my first preference. I think the NBA is more of an urban game. That’s our demographic.”

Talking Stick Resort Arena, formerly called America West Arena when the Coyotes played there, was designed for basketball and isn’t ideal for hockey. In that way, it’s a lot like Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which hasn’t been a great fit for the Islanders.

The Coyotes recently hired a new president and CEO, Steve Patterson, whose top priority is finding the team a new home in the Phoenix area.

Crosby to celebrate 30th birthday with Stanley Cup in Nova Scotia

Getty
4 Comments

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (AP) Sidney Crosby will mark his 30th birthday by once again parading the Stanley Cup in his province.

In tweets sent out by the Sidney Crosby Hockey School, Crosby said he would hoist the trophy in the streets of Halifax and Dartmouth as part of an annual civic parade.

“Get ready, the Stanley cup is coming to town!” Crosby confirmed in the tweet sent late Tuesday night. “I will be taking Lord Stanley to the streets Monday August 7th in the Halifax-Dartmouth Natal Day parade.”

The parade, part of annual events that celebrate Halifax’s birthday, also happens to fall on the Pittsburgh Penguins captain’s 30th birthday.

Natal Day chairman Greg Hayward said he expects another 25,000 people will be lining the parade route on top of the roughly 40,000 usual attendees.

“It’s extremely exciting to think that we’re going to have Sid and the Cup in our Natal Day parade,” Hayward said Wednesday.

Crosby has shown off the Stanley Cup twice before in his hometown of Cole Harbour, just outside Dartmouth, in 2009 and 2016.

Last July, Crosby carried the Cup in the back of a pickup that made its way to an arena in Cole Harbour as thousands of cheering fans looked on in sweltering heat.