The Pittsburgh Penguins advanced to the second round tonight, but they still have a lot to prove going forward. They had a 4-0 lead going into the third period and once again the Penguins weren’t able to play sound defensively with the lead.
Ultimately the clock was their friend as the Blue Jackets still lost 4-3.
With the exception of Game 5, even when the Penguins did win in this series, it was by overwhelming Columbus offensively and that’s a strategy that will be difficult to pull off in the later rounds against more experienced and loaded teams.
Fleury took a lot of heat for his collapse in Game 4 and questions remain about his future in Pittsburgh after years of being solid in the regular season and less than satisfactory in the playoffs.
In the end, it was Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin that was the hero tonight. He ended his career-worst nine playoff game scoring drought with style by posting a hat trick.
Brandon Sutter accounted for the Penguins’ other goal, but he was also hurt during the contest. So was Penguins forward Joe Vitale due to a knee-on-knee collision with Blake Comeau.
Given how the Penguins played while missing them for a large chunk of the third period, it would be very troubling if either of those injuries proved to be significant.
At the end of the day though, Pittsburgh did prevail. The team still has a chance to silence the critics and its goal of winning the Stanley Cup is still alive.
Those who feel as though the Boston Bruins may rebound – John Tortorella, maybe? – likely rest some of their optimism on the back of a healthy Zdeno Chara.
It’s possible that he’s merely limping into what may otherwise be a healthy 2015-16 season, but it’s definitely looking like a slow start thanks to a lower-body injury.
The latest sign of a bumpy beginning came on Monday, as several onlookers (including CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty) pointed out that Chara was listed on injured reserve.
As Haggerty notes, that move is retroactive to Sept. 24, so his status really just opens up options for the Bruins.
Still … it’s a little unsettling, isn’t it?
The Bruins likely realize that they need to transition away from their generational behemoth, but last season provided a stark suggestion that may not be ready yet. Trading Dougie Hamilton and losing Dennis Seidenberg to injury only make them more dependent on the towering 38-year-old.
This isn’t really something to panic about, yet it might leave a few extra seats open on the Bruins’ bandwagon.
Zack Kassian may have avoided major injuries stemming from his Sunday car accident, but it likely sent the signal that he may need help.
The response: he was placed in Stage Two of the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program (SABH) of the NHL and NHLPA on Monday.
According to the league’s release, Kassian “will be suspended without pay until cleared for on-ice competition by the program administrators.”
Speaking of being suspended without pay, here’s a key detail:
The 24-year-old ended up with a broken nose and broken foot from that accident. The 2015-16 season was set to be his first campaign in the Montreal Canadiens organization after a tumultuous time with the Vancouver Canucks.
Kassian spoke of becoming more mature heading to Montreal, but the Canadiens were critical of his actions, wondering how many wake-up calls someone can get.
In case you’re wondering about the difference between stage one and two: