Apparently the Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres’ GMs weren’t the only ones who decided to do something beyond flip burgers, grill hot dogs and set off fireworks today. (Then again, two of the teams involved in this post are Canadian. I wonder if they get today off too, with their version of Independence Day coming on July 1 instead.)
Teams haven’t been very forthcoming with financial details today, so we’ll just look at the term of deals unless otherwise noted.
- The St. Louis Blues signed Brett Sterling to a one-year, two-way deal. The signing actually happened late last night/early this morning, so maybe you could say that the Blues took off today’s holiday anyway. Sterling will be a minor league forward for St. Louis with the potential to be a reasonably proficient player during fill-in work when Blues forwards are injured (not exactly uncommon if last season is any indication).
- While the deal hasn’t been officially announced yet, Antnon Babchuk’s agent Jay Grossman announced that the Calgary Flames are close to signing the defenseman to a two-year contract. If that signing goes through, it would represent a rare run of stability for Babchuk. He experienced an almost comical in one year, out the other routine with the Carolina Hurricanes. Babchuk played the 2006-07, 08-09 and 10-11 seasons with the ‘Canes while bouncing back overseas in the years in between. Update: it’s a two-year, $5 million deal. Woof.
The appeal of Babchuk is quite simple: he has a flamethrower of a slap shot. He’s not very good in his own end but he scored 27 points in 65 games with Calgary after being traded there from Carolina and had 35 points in 82 games overall in 10-11.
After trading momentum and goals through two periods, it only made sense that the Blackhawks and Penguins did the same in the third period and overtime before deciding the game in a shootout.
Bryan Bickell scored a freakish goal 1:09 into the third period, just throwing it towards the net. The shot caught Marc-Andre Fleury by surprise and beat him over the shoulder to give Chicago a 2-1 lead. The Blackhawks would hang on to that lead until late in the period when Pittsburgh newcomer due to injury Brett Sterling scored stuffing home a Jordan Staal rebound with 3:28 left in regulation.
Chicago and Pittsburgh traded off power play opportunities at the end of the third and into overtime resulting in some fantastic chances for both teams highlighted by a spectacular save for Marc-Andre Fleury on Michal Frolik and the Penguins making Corey Crawford stand on his head during the 4-on-3 power play in overtime. Nothing would get decided there as the game headed to the shootout.
In the shootout, Patrick Kane would score the only goal in the event while Pittsburgh’s Pascal Dupuis was denied by the post on his attempt. Even in spite of the loss in the shootout, Fleury’s play was brilliant throughout making 29 saves. Without his effort today, the Penguins likely don’t even get to go to the shootout. Corey Crawford was brilliant on his own in stopping 24 shots during the game and all three shots in the shootout.
One injury note from the game, however, as Pittsburgh’s Jordan Staal left the game during overtime after being struck in the face by a shot. Staal went right to the locker room after the shot and did not return. After the game, coach Dan Bylsma said he assumes that Staal is OK. If there’s anything the Penguins don’t need now it’s to have their best center to go out of the lineup at all with Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby out already.
The win is huge for Chicago as it gets them closer to the pack in the hunt for the playoffs in the Western Conference. Dropping a couple more in a row would’ve made things a bit tougher to handle in the ultra competitive West. For Pittsburgh, they’ll slip back a little bit behind Philadelphia in the East as the Flyers picked up a win earlier over the Rangers. The Pens have now lost five of their last seven games.
Jordan Staal may have been the lone big name forward on the ice for the Penguins tonight but he made his presence felt at the right time. Staal scored with 19 seconds remaining in overtime to give the Penguins a courageous win. It’s often silly to call a win during the regular season “courageous” but considering who the Penguins were sending out to play tonight, it’s stunning to see them come out on top with a win.
Earlier in the day the Penguins called up four players from their AHL team and they all suited up tonight. One of those call-ups, Brett Sterling, scored the first goal of the game to give Pittsburgh an early 1-0 lead. Making matters worse during the game is that previous AHL call-up Dustin Jeffrey left the game with an injury of his own. L.A.’s Jarret Stoll tied up later in the first with his 15th goal of the year. The game would stay locked up until near the end of overtime when Staal netted the winner.
Stepping up to make the effort worth it for Pittsburgh was Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury stopped 32 out of 33 shots to earn the win. His play of late has helped the Penguins keep winning while the team has been decimated by injuries.
For the Kings, it’s a brtual setback in a game that they likely should have won. After all, the Kings weren’t the team with the numerous key injuries but they were the team that was desperate to keep winning to keep up in the Western Conference. The loss for L.A. snaps their two game win streak while the Penguins get off their two game losing skid and helps them keep up with the Flyers.
The Pittsburgh Penguins managed to win a nice chunk of games without Sidney Crosby and/or Evgeni Malkin this season, but it seems like that lack of offensive punch started to rear its ugly head in their last two games.
Crosby addressed the media about his recovery today, saying that he hopes to return this season but there is “no timetable” for his return.
Crosby admits that it is “impossible to gauge” how long it will take for him to return, but he sure hopes that he’ll play again this season.
NHL.com provides video footage of Crosby’s discussion with the media.
In other Penguins news, the team recalled four players from Wilkes-Barre/Scanton today: Ryan Craig, Nick Johnson, Brett Sterling and Joe Vitale. Maybe they’ll get a shot in the arm from the likes of Sterling? Chances are the team, needs to improve via trade, but you cannot blame Ray Shero for seeing what happens with these minor leaguers.