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For all the regular season successes and stories of resiliency, the Pittsburgh Penguins have seen their postseasons end in very sour ways the last few years. You can now add “the bitterness of coughing up a 3-1 series lead” to that list of recent disappointments as the New York Rangers bounced them in Game 7 by a score of 2-1.
Let’s look at the complete picture, even if there might be some panic in Pittsburgh:
- Sidney Crosby blew everyone else away in regular season scoring. His 104 points topped everyone by a large margin; no one else even crossed the 90-point barrier (Ryan Getzlaf came in at second place with 87).
- Of course, things didn’t work out quite so well for Crosby during the postseason. Evgeni Malkin actually enjoyed a fantastic playoff run after “only” scoring 72 regular season points. Expect a mind-numbing array of stories pondering what’s wrong with Crosby … including maybe even a tangible update or two (maybe an actual injury update if applicable?).
- Marc-Andre Fleury seemed to settle himself down after Mario Lemieux gave him a locker room visit following a tough first-round loss. Still, the questions about “The Flower” will probably persist amid his ups and downs. The interesting thing with Fleury is that unlike Crosby, Malkin and other key cogs, he isn’t locked up long-term … with a contract to expire after 2014-15, he’s approaching a real fork in the road.
- The questions about head coach Dan Bylsma’s job security will probably be quite a bit louder, however. The amicable coach navigated the challenging waters of another regular season and helped Pittsburgh shake off the typical run of injuries to win their division, but work before mid-April is taken for granted now with the Penguins. He’ll be questioned for a perceived lack of adjustments and a variety of other failings that may or may not be his fault. Many believe this is finally the time that his second chances will run out.
- While the big names are locked in, the supporting cast could change drastically in Pittsburgh. Matt Niskanen is the biggest free agent name to consider after a breakout season, but Jussi Jokinen joins the likes of Brandon Sutter and Brooks Orpik as the Penguins don’t have many players lacked up outside of the core. That could be intimidating or promising depending upon your opinion of GM Ray Shero (assuming he’s still the general manager).
- The Penguins were patient after being swept from the 2013 Eastern Conference finals by the Boston Bruins, but will the franchise weather the storm this time? It’s difficult to imagine this team without some significant changes … the question is: how drastic will those alterations end up being?
What a story Joseph Blandisi‘s been for the New Jersey Devils this season.
The 21-year-old played in his first NHL game on Dec. 11 and has stayed with the Devils ever since.
It took him five games to pick up his first career point, but he’s done a whole lot more damage since then.
Blandisi came into Saturday’s action with 10 points in his last 12 games and he added to that against the Flyers.
He opened the scoring with this beautiful between-the-legs goal on goalie Michal Neuvirth (top of the page).
That’s Blandisi’s fourth goal of the season.
Some Twitter reaction to the goal:
The Boston Bruins will be without center Patrice Bergeron in Saturday afternoon’s matinee against the Minnesota Wild.
It’s unclear how Bergeron suffered the undisclosed injury, but there’s reason to believe it occurred after he dropped the gloves with Jets forward Blake Wheeler (above).
He’s considered day-to-day at this point.
Losing him for an extended period of time would be devastating for Boston.
“You don’t like seeing your star players (fight), but you also understand that it’s an emotional game and that stuff happens and at one point a player says, ‘Enough is enough and I’m going to stand up for myself,’” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said after the game, as per the Boston Herald.
“From what I gathered there was a lot of slashes behind the legs behind the play and stuff like that. He took things upon himself. As much as you don’t like it, you can’t tell him he’s not allowed. He’s a big boy and he can certainly make some decisions on the ice. And it’s not the first time that he’s fought. But I like the fact that he doesn’t fight much.”
After this incident, there’s no doubt that the Bruins will tell Bergeron to keep his gloves on from now on.
Jets captain Andrew Ladd still doesn’t have a contract for next season and with the Feb. 29 trade deadline approaching, something’s gonna have to give.
According to TSN’s Gary Lawless, the Winnipeg Jets will make one last push to sign the forward before making him available on the trade market.
Ladd doesn’t want to leave and the team wants to keep him, but after Dustin Byfgulien got an extension earlier this month, there may not be enough money to go around.
At one point, the Jets reportedly made Ladd a six-year offer worth $6 million per year, which he obviously didn’t accept.
Can they top that? Time will tell.
Waiting to trade Ladd is probably the smartest decision.
Keeping the captain around would be great, but if the two sides can’t agree to a new contract, there’ll be no shortage of suitors for Ladd’s services.
Lawless mentions the Penguins, Panthers and Blackhawks as potential landing spots for the 30-year-old.
The Kings have also been mentioned as a potential destination for Ladd.
Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff will have to make some crucial decisions over the next few weeks.
Michal Neuvirth will make his first start of the month in Saturday’s game against the New Jersey Devils.
The 27-year-old missed five games with a lower-body injury. He was activated off the injured list earlier this week and served as Steve Mason‘s backup in Thursday’s game against Buffalo.
Neuvirth has an 11-6-2 record with a 2.14 goals-against-average and a .933 save percentage in 2015-16.
He’s put up some solid numbers against the Devils in his career. Neuvirth has a 5-2-4 record with 2.03 goals-against-average and a .927 save percentage in games against New Jersey.
Steve Mason, who’s coming off a 41-save performance in a win over Buffalo, hasn’t been as good against Saturday’s opponent.
Mason is 0-7-0 lifetime against the Devils.
Puck drop is at 1:00 p.m. ET.