150712-Crosby-Malkin

Would Kessel work better with Crosby or Malkin?

30 Comments

Phil Kessel joining the Pittsburgh Penguins inspires some intriguing questions, and one of the most enjoyable ones is: should he line up with Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin?

If you’ve followed how the modern NHL works, the most accurate answer is probably the evasive one: “both.”

Head coaches love to juggle combinations, especially early on in a season, so the high-scoring sniper will likely get multiple looks with the two dynamic pivots. Heck, the Penguins could terrify opposing defenses (and penalty kill units) by sending all three out, especially when they need a goal or two.

All of those disclaimers aside, it’s still a pretty fun thing to debate, particularly during the hockey-starved summer.

Interestingly, it seems like quite a few people argue that Kessel might click with Malkin more than Crosby, and the theme of such arguments comes down to meshing styles.

Note this stance from NHL.com’s Dan Rosen:

With Kessel and Malkin on the ice together, there would be constant movement and interplay between two threats able to score on virtually any possession in the attacking zone.

Crosby plays more of a north-south game of direct lines and quick puck movement. Crosby’s linemates have to think the game quickly, react quickly, and be ready in a hurry. He wants his wings to be predictable.

The Hockey Writers’ Mike Colligan floated a similar theory:

Malkin and Kessel also play an instinctual style as opposed to the precise, tactical approach of Crosby. Much like Mario Lemieux, Malkin and Kessel know exactly when to take off up the ice before hockey fans (and most opponents) even realize there’s a breakaway opportunity. They react to the game as it unfolds, which can be a nightmare for linemates who don’t have the same mindset.

Naturally, Kessel could just easily find chemistry with Crosby. In simplified terms, the American winger is a natural sniper while Crosby ranks as one of the NHL’s most gifted passers. Actually, let’s go even simpler: that duo could work simply because of their sheer skill.

Pensburgh brings up an interesting idea, too: Malkin may very well prosper with Kessel in town even if the former Maple Leaf isn’t his winger. “Geno” had to deal with makeshift wingers while Crosby skated alongside David Perron and Patric Hornqvist in 2014-15, yet Kessel arguably allows other Penguins forwards to fall in more comfortable spots.

***

It’s obviously way too early to predict how this will shake out, especially since the Penguins could conceivably shake up their roster a bit more before the 2015-16 campaign kicks into gear. Either way, it should be fun to find out how Kessel fits in Pittsburgh, though.

Related: Crosby thinks that Kessel is excited to join the Penguins.

Crosby on Kessel: ‘He seems like he’s excited’

150710_CrosbyKessel (2)
42 Comments

Sidney Crosby knows his team struggled to score goals last season.

Newly acquired Phil Kessel is coming off a down campaign too for that matter, but the 27-year-old forward’s goal scoring prowess is well documented, especially after he averaged 30 goals per season during his six campaigns in Toronto without the benefit of playing with a top-tier center.

Combining him with Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin has the potential to bolster both sides.

As Crosby put it, there’s “a lot of anticipation.”

“It’s a nice addition to our team,” Crosby told TSN on Thursday. “Obviously he’s a great scorer, brings a lot, and offensively he’s going to help any team so we’re happy to have him.

“From talking to him, he seems like he’s excited. I think it’ll be something everybody is looking forward to this season.”

Kessel was dealt by the Leafs to the Penguins on July 1 and is looking forward to the fresh start.

“For it to be Pittsburgh … with everything that franchise has meant and two of the best players in the world there … I never would have thought I’d have the chance to play with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, to play on a team like the Penguins,” he said. “It’s just amazing. I’m so pumped.”

Kessel is so “pumped” about the change of scenery that he’s reportedly turned to fitness guru, and former Penguin, Gary Roberts to help him get into shape for the upcoming season.

The Madison, WI native is coming off his worst goals-for total in an 82 game season since his second year in the league.

Related: ‘It’s hard to find players like Phil Kessel’

Is it too early to get excited about Crosby vs. Ovechkin again?

150703_SidneyCrosbyAlexOvechkin
34 Comments

Yes, we’ve been in this spot before.

For all the star power that the NHL boasts outside of Pittsburgh and Washington, it’s difficult to resist the siren call of a spike in the Sidney Crosby – Alex Ovechkin rivalry. It’s perfectly plausible that we’ll never get a sequel to that memorable 2009 playoff series.

With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s be honest: it’s been a while since the Penguins and Capitals were in a better position collectively to pull this off.

Serious firepower

It’s still strange to picture Phil Kessel in a Penguins uniform, firing home well-placed passes from Crosby and/or Evgeni Malkin … but would it be that outrageous to imagine Kessel chasing Ovechkin in the Maurice Richard race now? As excited as Crosby and Malkin seem to be about the acquisition, Kessel and hockey fans should be especially thrilled.

Here’s the wrinkle that makes things even more fun: while the Penguins added the biggest name, Washington’s moves likely provide the Capitals with a deeper array of weapons.

Beyond the obvious in Nicklas Backstrom, the Caps now combine seasoned newcomers (Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie) with promising youngsters (Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky) to form a frightening forward group.

Hockey’s a team sport, and Crosby – Ovechkin can only be so riveting on their own … so how about Crosby, Malkin, Kessel and Kris Letang vs. Ovechkin, Backstrom, Williams, Oshie and Washington’s bevvy of pricey blueliners? Yeah, that sounds like appointment viewing.

While they’re still young

NHL TV Awards Show
via Getty Images

As strange as it sounds, the window might be closing on this rivalry, at least as a true showcase of two players who are seriously considered two of the best alive.*

Ovechkin will turn 30 on Sept. 17, and his hair is already looking a little grayer these days. Crosby turns 28 in August and people are already wondering if he’s starting to slow down.

No, the Penguins and Capitals haven’t totally mortgaged their futures this summer, yet the complexion of each franchise changed in some resounding ways in the past few days. You never know what might happen – we’ve been fooled before – but it’s tough not to picture an epic 2016 playoff series between these two players (and teams).

If nothing else, it’s fun to think about.

* – One could quibble about where the two rank among the elite, but they’re at least up there, right?

PHT Morning Skate: McLellan sought advice from Crosby in prep for McDavid

Canada v Russia - 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Gold Medal Game
8 Comments

PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Before Todd McLellan officially became the Edmonton Oilers’ bench boss and while he was still coaching Team Canada in the 2015 Worlds, he took it upon himself to pick Sidney Crosby’s brain about what life was like as an 18-year-old superstar so that McLellan would have a better idea of how best to handle Connor McDavid. (Edmonton Sun)

While on the subject of McLellan; he still thinks very highly of the San Jose Sharks. (NHL.com)

Los Angeles Kings director of player personnel Michael Futa opened up on a number of subjects, including the Kings’ offseason outlook and top prospect Adrian Kempe’s transition to North America. (LA Kings Insider)

Here are the highlight’s from Chicago’s triple-overtime victory last night:

New Philadelphia Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol might be able to better communicate with his players about why they’re being scratched or getting less playing time, compared to how Craig Berube did things. (Broad Street Hockey)

NHL Numbers had an interesting piece on the risk and potential reward of draft prospects. (NHL Numbers)

Dennis Seidenberg isn’t sure what the future holds for the Boston Bruins, but he hopes he’ll be able to stay with the team. (CSN New England)

Canada creams Russia for WHC gold, Crosby joins ‘Triple Gold Club’

Canada v Czech Republic - 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Semi Final
25 Comments

Once again, Canada put together the best bunch of world-class players it could manage and overwhelmed the rest of the world.

This time around, their gold medal came at the 2015 World Hockey Championship, as they absolutely throttled Russia by a score of 6-1. The finish was fittingly lopsided, too, as the shot count was 37-12 in Canada’s favor.

Sidney Crosby factored into the win – including a goal assisted by best buddy in the world Claude Giroux – and now joins the “Triple Gold Club.”

HNIC’s Elliotte Friedman lists some other members of this made-up but impressive group:

It had to be a refreshing period for frustrated NHL players on Team Canada, particularly guys like Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle.

Russia finishes up with the silver medal while the U.S. edged the Czech Republic earlier on Sunday for a hard-fought bronze. There were obviously some missed feelings for Russia after such a drubbing in the gold-medal game.

In other tournament news, Jaromir Jagr took home the tournament MVP.