I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
In a short period of time, Olli Maatta may find himself going from the injured list to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ doghouse.
It sounds like Mike Sullivan wasn’t particularly happy with Maatta’s performance in Game 1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and that might prompt Maatta to be replaced by Justin Schultz.
That’s not the only blueline situation to watch, either, as Brian Dumoulin apparently avoided any major injury from that check by Lightning forward Ondrej Palat.
Sullivan wasn’t happy with Maatta’s positioning on this Alex Killorn 1-0 goal from Game 1:
Will that be enough to get the young defenseman benched? We’ll see. If nothing else, the Penguins have some options.
Oh, and Sullivan isn’t being coy about the Penguins’ starting goalie any longer.
Thomas Greiss might not be in the playoffs any longer, but he’s still playing some meaningful hockey.
In Sunday’s case, that meant doing something we haven’t seen in more than 20 years: leading Germany to a win against the United States at the worlds.
Greiss made 31 saves while Korbinan Holzer scored the game-winner with less than a minute remaining in regulation.
In the spirit of that tournament, here are some random highlights that are likely to entertain you:
Two games might not seem like much, but really, it’s all about what happens during those two games.
A blocked shot can lead to a “lower-body injury.” Someone could “turn into a hit at the last minute” and so on. Of course, two games could really just mean several extra shifts … and maybe opportunities to build up that extra confidence.
So far during the postseason, the St. Louis Blues went the distance with two full seven-game series. The San Jose Sharks were pushed to a Game 7 against the Nashville Predators, yet they dispatched the Los Angeles Kings in five.
With that in mind, does Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer think that fatigue could play to San Jose’s advantage?
“That’s a good question,” DeBoer said. “As the series goes on, maybe. I don’t think it’s an advantage early. Pretty limited travel through the first two rounds.”
“I think even though they’ve gone seven games, they’re healthy. I don’t anticipate us having an advantage. We’ll see as the series goes on whether it catches up.”
That’s the thing … as far as we know, the Blues are healthy.
That’s a funny turn, too, considering how injury-ravaged St. Louis was during the regular season. (The Sharks can sort of relate now that they have Logan Couture at full-strength.)
If you’re looking for big prognostications, don’t go to DeBoer. He doesn’t think that home-ice advantage will be much of a factor, either.
… Unless it is.
Saturday was that dreaded preview of the summer: a night without the NHL.
(There wasn’t even some NBA postseason to cushion the blow.)
Thankfully, there are still two rounds of exciting, high-tension hockey before we stare at the abyss known as the off-season. The Western Conference Final kicks off on Sunday.
San Jose at St. Louis (8:00 p.m. ET)
The television broadcast of Game 1 will be on NBCSN. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.
Some posts that will get you ready:
– No panic in Robby Fabbri‘s game.
– Ken Hitchcock explains his preference for one-year contracts.
– St. Louis wants to be “Canada’s team.”
– Logan Couture is in top form.
– After all these letdowns, one of the Sharks or Blues will rep the West in the Stanley Cup Final.
One would imagine that Matt Murray‘s job is safe, at least for Game 2.
The guy behind him has a Stanley Cup ring and a $5.75 million cap hit, so any loss will probably prompt people to bring up the name Marc-Andre Fleury.
The question, naturally, is how likely will it be to see Mike Sullivan turn to Fleury instead of Murray against the Tampa Bay Lightning? Perhaps to little surprise during these tight-lipped times in the playoffs, Sullivan played coy.
Even so, Sullivan didn’t throw Murray under the bus by any means.
“As far as what went on last night, we feel as though Matt had a very strong game,” Sullivan said. “The goals that were scored were high-quality chances. Very difficult saves. So I don’t think it’s an instance where Matt had a sub-par performance.”
He then reiterated that it doesn’t mean that the Penguins won’t turn to Fleury regardless.
Still, Murray’s bailed out the Penguins more than once this postseason, and who knows how rusty “The Flower” might be? Judge for yourself if Murray put Pittsburgh in a position to compete in Game 1: