Jason Brough

PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 16:  Olli Maatta #3 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates in Game Two of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs against the New York Rangers at Consol Energy Center on April 16, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Maatta appears to be healthy scratch, replaced by Schultz


While Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan would only say that all six of his defensemen would be a “game-time decision,” it sure looks like defenseman Olli Maatta will be a healthy scratch tonight against the Lightning, replaced by Justin Schultz.

Clues include Maatta staying later than Schultz at this morning’s skate, and Maatta practicing on the fourth pairing yesterday.

Also consider Sullivan’s criticism of Maatta’s defending on Alex Killorn‘s opening goal in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final.

“Olli, his positioning put him in a vulnerable situation on that particular goal, made it hard for him, difficult for him to recover,” said Sullivan. “Obviously, I think we would have liked that one back.”

Schultz, 25, has only dressed for three of the Pegnuins’ playoff games, once against the Rangers and twice against the Capitals. Most notably, he logged 17:56 in Game 4’s overtime victory versus Washington, when Kris Letang was suspended and Maatta was injured.

“Justin Schultz is a good player,” Sullivan said this morning. “I’ve said this all along that what he’s brought to our team is his mobility, his ability to make a first pass. He sees the ice pretty well. He has good offensive instincts. He can help us on a power play. He joins the rush extremely well. Those are all of his strengths. Those are the main reasons why our people thought he could help our team when we acquired him, and he’s done that for us when he’s played.”

French d-man Auvitu reportedly drawing NHL interest

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - MAY 05:  Rapahel Herburger (R) of Austria and Yohann Auvitu (L) of France battle for the puck during the IIHF World Championship group A match between Austria and France at o2 Arena on May 5, 2015 in Prague, Czech Republic.  (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)

Given the many NHL teams that will be trying to upgrade their blue lines this summer, it’s no surprise that scouts are searching far and wide for help.

Take French defenseman Yohann Auvitu of HIFK Helsinki, currently representing France at the worlds. TSN’s Darren Dreger says there’s “some NHL interest” in him, while Finnish hockey writer Juha Hiitelä says he heard the same thing, that a “few” NHL teams are interested.

Auvitu, 26, was the recipient of the 2015-16 Pekka Rautakallio Trophy for the best defenseman in the Liiga — an award that’s previously gone to the likes of Sami Vatanen and Brian Rafalski.

Auvitu had six goals and 15 assists in 48 games, then six goals and seven assists in 18 playoff games.

Only three French-born players were in the NHL this season: Philadelphia’s Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Detroit’s Xavier Ouellet, and Dallas’ Antoine Roussel.

According to Hiitelä, Auvitu wants to go to the NHL. The KHL is Plan B.

Related: Blues sign promising Finnish goalie Ville Husso

Penguins are 9/5 favorites to win Stanley Cup: online bookmaker


A fat lot of good it did for the Washington Capitals, but the Pittsburgh Penguins are the betting favorites to win the Stanley Cup, according to online bookmaker Bovada.

The odds for the remaining four teams:

Pittsburgh Penguins — 9/5
St. Louis Blues — 2/1
San Jose Sharks — 4/1
Tampa Bay Lightning — 17/4

That the Bolts won’t have Steven Stamkos or Anton Stralman to start their series with the Pens is undoubtedly a factor in the odds. And, of course, Pittsburgh has been playing extremely well and the star-studded Penguins are a popular team with bettors.

Not surprisingly, the Penguins also feature prominently in the odds to win the Conn Smythe Trophy. Despite a quiet second round, Sidney Crosby is the favorite at 9/2, with Phil Kessel (19/2) and Evgeni Malkin (10/1), and Matt Murray (11/1) not far behind.

Full Conn Smythe odds


Here are PHT’s conference final predictions

TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 5: Patric Hornqvist #72 of the Pittsburgh Penguins shoots past Jason Garrison #5 of the Tampa Bay Lightning to score  during the first period at the Amalie Arena on February 5, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

Twelve series down, just three to go.

Unlike the first round, the second round was mostly successful for PHT’s prognosticators. Nobody went below .500, even the virtual coin. All the humans picked the Blues over the Stars, and everyone including the virtual coin had the Sharks over the Predators. Also, props to O’Brien, who nailed “Penguins in six” on the nose.

Of course, we shouldn’t pat ourselves too hard on the back, because with the elimination of the Washington Capitals, nobody’s Stanley Cup pick is still alive. While it’s true that Halford picked the Lightning in the preseason, he changed his mind to the Blackhawks before the playoffs. So that was a good call.

Second-round results (Overall record)

Brough: 3-1 (8-4)
Halford: 3-1 (7-5)
O’Brien: 3-1 (8-4)
Dadoun: 2-2 (5-7)
Tucker: 3-1 (8-4)
Alfieri: 3-1 (7-5)
Just Flip A Coin: 2-2 (5-7)

On to the conference finals….

Pittsburgh Penguins versus Tampa Bay Lightning

Brough: Penguins in 7
Halford: Penguins in 7
O’Brien: Penguins in 7
Dadoun: Penguins in 7
Tucker: Penguins in 6
Alfieri: Penguins in 6
Just Flip A Coin: Penguins

(Prove us wrong, Bolts!)

St. Louis Blues versus San Jose Sharks

Brough: Sharks in 6*
Halford: Blues in 7
O’Brien: Sharks in 6
Dadoun: Blues in 7
Tucker: Sharks in 7
Alfieri: Sharks in 7
Just Flip A Coin: Blues

*This was a tough call, since I picked the Blues to make the final in the preseason. I feel in a way like I’m abandoning them, but at the same time I’m excited for my new life with the Sharks. 

Sullivan lauds Murray’s ‘ability to stay in the moment’

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 10:  Matt Murray #30 of the Pittsburgh Penguins  makes a save against the Washington Capitals in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 10, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Matt Murray was the first Penguins goalie off the ice this morning in Pittsburgh. The 21-year-old rookie is expected to start tonight in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final versus the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Murray, of course, has been one of the major stories of these playoffs, going 7-2-0 with a .935 save percentage. While there’s been some debate over whether veteran Marc-Andre Fleury, now healthy, should return to the net, head coach Mike Sullivan obviously likes what he’s got in the youngster.

“I just think Matt has the ability to stay in the moment. You know, he doesn’t get overwhelmed by the circumstance or the drama,” said Sullivan.

“He has the ability to respond the right way to some of the adversities during the course of a game or the course of a number of games for that matter.”

The attitude that Sullivan is describing is one that Murray has worked hard to cultivate. After all, goalies are going to allow bad goals, and they’re going to have bad games. It’s unavoidable. The key is the ability to bounce back and put the past in the past.

“I don’t think a result should impact your confidence,” Murray told the Post-Gazette“If you have an outstanding game, that doesn’t exactly make you an outstanding goalie. If you have a really bad game, that definitely doesn’t make you a really bad goalie.”

So far this postseason, Murray hasn’t had to shake off a “really bad game.” In nine starts, the most goals he’s allowed is four, and on that one occasion he didn’t allow the fourth until overtime. In five starts, he’s allowed two goals or fewer.

“I’ve watched him both in Wilkes-Barre and here in Pittsburgh,” said Sullivan. “If he thinks he should have had a save or one gets by him, it doesn’t impact the next play or the next save. He responds the right way to those sorts of adversities. And I think that speaks to his maturity. I think it speaks to his character, that he has the ability to respond the right way to those types of circumstances.”