Jason Brough

Crosby not satisfied with generating chances — ‘You definitely want to score more’

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(AP) – Sidney Crosby hovered in the left circle, waited for the pass from assistant coach Rick Tocchet before firing a laser into the far corner of the empty net.

Then the Penguins captain did it again. And again. And again, once rifling the puck with so much velocity it became lodged between the twine, a reminder that Crosby’s shot — when fully unleashed — remains one of the NHL’s best. The trick is finding the time, the room — and just as important, the initiative — to let it loose during a game.

It’s not happening with any great regularity for Crosby during his team’s hotly contested Eastern Conference semifinal against Washington. Through fifteen-plus periods and 133 shifts, Crosby has only 11 shots and none of them has found a way past Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby.

And while Pittsburgh’s depth has helped carry the Penguins to a 3-2 lead over the Presidents’ Trophy winners heading into Tuesday night’s Game 6, Crosby is well aware it will take more than the two assists he’s put up for the Penguins to advance to the East finals against Tampa Bay.

“You definitely want to score more,” Crosby said Monday. “I think you always want more but I think we’ve generated some decent chances. We’ve still got to find a way to produce more, whether it’s generate chances or execute when we do get them. I would say that’s how we view it. I think we can get better.”

It’s not that Crosby has been ineffective. His mere presence is enough to open up opportunities for teammates. Patric Hornqvist buried the overtime winner in Game 4 thanks in large part to Holtby being so focused on Crosby parked in front of the net the goaltender couldn’t make it across the crease in time to stop the shot from the right circle.

Yet neither Crosby nor Evgeni Malkin – who has a goal and an assist in the series – has been able to match the dynamic play of Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin, who set the tone early in Game 5 and scored a goal and an assist for the second time in three games as the Capitals fought off elimination.

Still, Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan is quick to defend the tandem that generates relentless defensive attention from opponents.

“These guys have had an impact on the game,” Sullivan said. “They may not have had the [offensive] production everybody grows accustomed to but they certainly have made an impact on the series.”

It’s telling that perhaps the series’ biggest subplot — the rapid maturation of 21-year-old Penguins goalie Matt Murray while filling in for Marc-Andre Fleury — has taken a backseat to Crosby and Malkin regaining their scoring touch. Sullivan, who has often remained coy about his personnel decisions, cut short any potential drama by naming Murray the starter for Game 6.

And he spent several minutes protecting his stars.

“They share a tremendous amount of responsibility for our group and they’re doing everything within their power to help our team win,” Sullivan said. “We know it, our players know it … (but) this team isn’t about any one or two players.”

Good thing, because the return of Washington defenseman Brooks Orpik following a three-game suspension for an illegal hit on Pittsburgh’s Olli Maatta gives the Capitals another big body to steer Malkin and Crosby out of the way. It’s a task Washington handled capably even with Orpik out of the lineup.

“I think we’ve just been keying in on him and trying to limit his space and his time,” Holtby said. “He’s still making some plays, but we’re doing a pretty good job of coming back as a five-man unit so that there’s not too many options open for him.”

Crosby becoming a little more selfish might help, too. From the day he arrived in December, Sullivan has preached the importance of getting the puck to the net rather than search for the perfect play, a trap both Crosby and Malkin have succumbed to at times during their careers in part because their talent and vision allow them to take risks others would not.

Sullivan calls it “playing the right way,” a mantra that’s been repeated so often over the last five months forward Eric Fehr joked “it’s something that’s a part of our everyday life now, making sure that we’re reminding ourselves that a shot is never a bad play.”

A creed Crosby insists is getting through even if the pucks – for now – are not.

“Over the course of the game there’s always times you could look back and say, ‘I could have shot that maybe,”‘ he said. “Our focus, our mentality has been to finish at the net and create chances there. A lot of the pucks at the net are from second, third chances. We have a feeling for that.”

Boudreau doesn’t believe superstars are needed to win

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Bruce Boudreau has coached some pretty good players in his time behind an NHL bench.

In fact, he’s coached some of the best.

In Washington, there was Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. In Anaheim, it was Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.

But with all due respect to those guys, the new head coach of the Minnesota Wild doesn’t think superstars are an absolute requirement to win the Stanley Cup.

“As much as I like Ovechkin and Getzlaf and Perry, you don’t need those guys to win,” Boudreau said today, per Chad Graff of the Pioneer Press.

“You can do it the old-fashioned way. You do it as a team,” he added, per Mike Russo of the Star-Tribune.

At the risk of discounting the importance of coming together and working as a cohesive unit, recent history disagrees with Boudreau’s notion. The last team to win the Cup without a genuine superstar was…ummm… the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006?

And to buy that argument, you’d have to believe that Eric Staal, who finished seventh in league scoring with 100 points that season, wasn’t a superstar back then. (Sidney Crosby, for comparison’s sake, had 102 points.)

Now, granted, it’s not like the Wild are completely bereft of stars. Zach Parise and Ryan Suter may be on the wrong side of 30 now, but they remain very effective players. Suter just completed the best offensive season of his career, with 51 points in 82 games.

The real point that Boudreau was trying to make — and perhaps it was mostly a motivational ploy — is that the team is more important than the individual, and also that his experience can help put Minnesota over the top.

On Sunday, Boudreau told NHL Network that he thinks the Wild “can win in the next two years.”

With that sort of timeline, he understands the pressure is very much on. His new job isn’t like the “massive, massive challenge” that Mike Babcock accepted in Toronto. The expectations in Minnesota are to win, and win now.

“I’ve been in the business a long time, and we’re in a winning business,” Boudreau said, per NHL.com.

“So you have to win.”

Related: With an aging core, the Wild could be Boudreau’s biggest challenge yet

Report: Hamonic doesn’t want to be traded anymore (Updated)

Denis Potvin, Travis Hamonic
AP
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Well, this changes a few things. Newsday is reporting that New York Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic has rescinded his trade request.

Hamonic’s request became public knowledge in November, forcing him to explain that it was a “personal, family matter” that was behind his desire to be traded closer to his Winnipeg home. While he was willing to play out the remainder of the season with the Islanders, it was seen as largely inevitable that he would be moved sometime in the offseason.

Not surprisingly, numerous teams were reportedly interested in acquiring Hamonic. The 25-year-old is under contract through 2019-20 for a cap hit just below $4 million.

Update:

Hamonic has confirmed the report.

Related: ‘There’s a real legitimate chance’ that Oilers trade fourth overall pick: Chiarelli

Blues sign promising Finnish goalie Ville Husso

TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 2:  William Nylander #21 of Team Sweden is stopped by Ville Husso #30 of Team Finland during a quarter-final game in the 2015 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship at the Air Canada Centre on January 2, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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Big morning for signing goalie prospects, apparently.

Not to be outdone by the Panthers, the St. Louis Blues announced today that they’d signed 21-year-old Ville Husso to a three-year, entry-level contract.

Husso was drafted 94th overall in 2014, when he was considered by NHL Central Scouting to be the top European goalie available. (In fact, GM Doug Armstrong told In The Slot blog that it was “a little bit of a surprise” that Husso was still there when they took him.)

Husso has spent the past three seasons with HIFK Helsinki in Finland’s top league. He had a .927 save percentage in 39 games this past season, then helped his squad all the way to finals, where he had two shutouts in a six-game loss to Patrik Laine’s Tappara team.

Schmidt will sit in Orpik’s return from suspension

Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik (44) levels Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta (3) with a high hit during the first period of Game 2 in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinal series Saturday, April 30, 2016 in Washington. Pittsburgh won 2-1. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
AP
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With Brooks Orpik set to return from his three-game suspension tonight in Pittsburgh, the Washington Capitals have apparently decided to keep defenseman Taylor Chorney in the lineup, while sitting Nate Schmidt.

Per CSN Washington, the Caps practiced yesterday with Karl Alzner paired with Matt Niskanen, Orpik with John Carlson, and Dmitry Orlov with Chorney.

Schmidt, 24, took just 13 shifts in Saturday’s 3-1 victory. He also had a costly turnover in Game 3 that led to the Penguins’ winning goal.

In Chorney, Caps coach Barry Trotz has an older player with a bit more experience.

“He’s gone through a few more life experiences,” Trotz told reporters. “He’s gone through a few playoffs and those all help. They’re very important at this time.”

Related: It looks like Olli Maatta will be back for Game 6 as well