Predators forecheck giving Penguins’ d-men plenty of problems


For the Pittsburgh Penguins, a magical fix doesn’t appear on the way.

Kris Letang has missed these entire playoffs, which is a tremendous loss. Injuries, particularly on defense and specifically to one of the best blue liners in the NHL, have been an issue for the Penguins throughout the postseason.

In Letang’s case, he was sidelined before the playoffs even began.

Yet, they’ve managed to make it this far — two wins away from winning back-to-back Stanley Cup titles. Game 5 of the series goes Thursday in Pittsburgh.

But it was evident during Monday’s Game 4, a victory for the Predators, who tied the series at two games apiece, that Nashville’s forecheck gave the Penguins’ group of defensemen — Olli Maatta, Justin Schultz, Trevor Daley, Brian Dumoulin, Ian Cole and Ron Hainsey — plenty of problems.

At one point during the final seconds of the middle period, after another relentless forecheck hemmed Pittsburgh in its own end and unable to break out, it eventually began to look as if Nashville had a power play. That wasn’t the case, although it might’ve appeared differently at first glance, as the Predators worked the puck around.

“They’re right on top of the puck all time, forcing turnovers and taking away our time and space,” said Penguins goalie Matt Murray. “I think we got a lot better as the game went on, making our decisions a little bit quicker coming out of our zone. I think that helped us out a lot compared to previous games.”

Now, it was interesting following Game 4 that TSN hockey insider Darren Dreger didn’t completely slam the door on the possibility — or at least the notion — that Letang could return late in this series. Letang had neck surgery in April, although the news of his impending operation and playoff absence had been revealed before the postseason.

More from Dreger on TSN:

“I sense that there is a slight chance. Now prior to this series, I reached out to the Pittsburgh Penguins management and asked that very question: ‘If this series was to go deep, is it possible Letang could come back?’ And the response was, ‘No.’ But that’s not necessarily the feeling that I’m getting around the organization right now. I would say that it’s a long shot. It’s highly unlikely, but it’s not impossible. But keep in mind, he had neck surgery for a herniated disc back in early April. The prognosis was four-to-six months, so we’re two months into the recovery. Again, at best, I think it’s a long shot.”

Again, it doesn’t appear that there will be a magical fix on the way. Although, Mark Streit could still be an option if the Penguins coaching staff decides to make a change for Game 5.

Acquired at the trade deadline, as Pittsburgh bolstered its depth on the blue line, the 39-year-old Streit has played only three times in these playoffs, his last game on May 23 versus the Ottawa Senators. He had a pair of assists in three games in that series.

“You know, our blueline crew, they’re a simple bunch,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan. “They’re trying to make plays to get out of our end zone. They’re trying to help us along that offensive blueline. I don’t think we have anybody back there that wows you offensively.

“You know, they’re a simple bunch and they’re effective. I think they help us at both ends of the rink. I think they’re trying to play the game the right way. What I really like about them is their compete level. As I’ve said all along here, they’re not perfect by any stretch. But these guys are competing.”


For Penguins’ defense, it’s been a group effort to replace Letang

Though sidelined, Letang does best to boost Penguins drive for a repeat

These 2017 NHL Draft picks lacked hype … but not swagger


The interview process for draft prospects must be a real beating. Then again, it’s also an opportunity for hopefuls to push back.

In the case of two smaller prospects, it meant providing some swagger in their answers, possibly impressing their new teams. If nothing else, Kailer Yamamoto and Michael DiPietro generated some refreshingly confident quotes.

One would assume that the Edmonton Oilers picked Yamamoto with the 22nd choice for more than just a great answer alone … but still.

Nice, right?

Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek related a similar story about DiPietro, who the Vancouver Canucks nabbed with the 64th pick.

Funny story: When one team at the NHL told him “We don’t think you can play in the NHL with our team, you’re too small” at the combine, he fired back with “well, I guess you have a problem with winning, then.” How do you not like that?

If nothing else, those two aren’t shy.

As a bonus story, check out the bumpy path Will Reilly – aka the “Mr. Irrelevant” of the 2017 NHL Draft – took to being chosen last overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins, via Puck Daddy’s Sean Leahy. From the sound of things, there are worse feelings than going 217th.

The 2017 NHL Draft may have been “pumped down” from a hype perspective, yet it sounds like many of these prospects at least bring some moxie to the table.

Kings, Golden Knights labeled 2017 NHL Draft winners; Bruins, not so much


It’s nearly certain that we won’t be able to determine the “winners and losers” of the 2017 NHL Draft until, say, 2022. If not later.

Still, what fun is that?

Quite a few outlets pegged some winners and losers, though sometimes the choices were more about themes like nations or player types than specific teams.

For example: Puck Daddy gives a thumbs down to the “green room” experiment.

Let’s take a look at some of the consensus picks.


Vegas Golden Knights

GM George McPhee was dealt a bad hand when it comes to the lottery draft, so he instead made his own luck. And then he selected three players who could improve this team going forward.

Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek especially liked the last two of their three first-rounders (Nick Suzuki and Erik Brannstrom), viewing Cody Glass as more of a no-brainer. Plenty of others were on board.

Los Angeles Kings

Gabe Vilardi fell to Los Angeles, whether it was because of shaky skating or some other reason. That potential steal (and some other shrewd moves) impressed the Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy, who assembled draft profiles for PHT.

Again, Vilardi’s loss was considered the Kings’ gain, as slower skaters were considered losers by the likes of Post Media’s Michael Traikos.

Philadelphia Flyers

Boy, Ron Hextall is good at this thing, isn’t he? Philly drew high marks even beyond the layup of landing Nolan Patrick. The main area of disagreement revolved around the Brayden Schenn trade, though plenty came out on Hextall’s side there, too.

Arizona Coyotes

Boy, that negative press didn’t last long, did it? Between landing Niklas Hjalmarsson, Derek Stepan, and Antti Raanta in trades and savvy picks, they were a popular choice.


Smaller players, Sweden, and Finland drew semi-serious mentions as “winners.”


Boston Bruins

The perception is that they played it too safe.

Colorado Avalanche, for now?

OK, this was more about draft weekend than picks, but people are criticizing Joe Sakic for standing pat. That could change, but the negative sentiment is there.

Detroit Red Wings

Another common choice. Some believe that their draft was the worst of them all, which isn’t great considering the declining opinion of GM Ken Holland overall.

New York Rangers

Lias Andersson was viewed as a reach by plenty, and his connection to the trade to Arizona might intensify the scrutiny.


Not a great draft for Russian-born players and/or guys who don’t skate quite swiftly.


So, those are some of the near-consensus choices for winners and losers, via the brave souls who made rapid reactions to the 2017 NHL Draft.

Ducks ink D Holzer to two-year deal reportedly worth $1.8M


As the dust settled on the expansion draft, the Anaheim Ducks’ defense is coming into focus.

Sunday continued that pattern; the Ducks signed Korbinian Holzer to a two-year contract worth $1.8 million, according to TVA’s Renaud Lavoie.

You can break down the Ducks defense as more expensive players (Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, Cam Fowler, and Kevin Bieksa) and cheaper ones (Holzer, Brandon Montour, and Josh Manson).

Only Vatanen, Lindholm and Holzer see contracts that go beyond 2017-18 – at least without an extension yet for the likes of Fowler and Manson – so Holzer provides a little bit of certainty.

Is the $900K a minor overpay, though? Holzer played in 32 games for the Ducks this season after appearing in 29 in 2015-16. His impact has been pretty minimal, generating seven points while averaging 13:31 in ice time per contest (down from 14:45 the previous season).

Granted he may get more opportunities to show what he’s capable of if the Ducks lose another piece. Then again, at 29, the Ducks likely know what they have.

2017 Hockey Hall of Fame class to be named Monday; Selanne + who?


The 2017 Hockey Hall of Fame class is expected to be announced on Monday, and every indication is that Teemu Selanne will be on the list. Beyond that, well, there are a lot of question marks. notes that there’s at least a possibility that Selanne will be the only NHL name to be part of this class, which would mark a first since 2010 (when Dino Ciccarelli was the lone addition).

It’s a nice way to continue what’s been a buffet for hockey fans: the 2017 Stanley Cup Final’s conclusion, the expansion draft and then the 2017 NHL Draft. The HHOF announcements are a nice appetizer before free agency gets, well, frenzied?

“The Finnish Flash” was also an obvious top choice in last year’s poll to see who should be in the class.

Now, that doesn’t mean he is the only interesting name.

For one thing, Daniel Alfredsson will be eligible for the first time, much like Selanne. “Alf” falls in the “Maybe” category with some interesting, debatable other options: Mark Recchi, Dave Andreychuk, Alex Mogilny, Jeremy Roenick, Paul Kariya, Chris Osgood, and more.

The 2016 Hockey Hall of Fame class included Eric Lindros, Rogie Vachon, Sergei Makarov, and Pat Quinn.