Tag: Paul Martin

Mike Johnston Press Conference

Rutherford admits mistakes, but has support of Penguins ownership


You may question some of his moves, but you can’t say he lacks candor.

Penguins GM Jim Rutherford met with reporters today in Pittsburgh, and proceeded to:

Admit the club erred in the development of Beau Bennett, that the player should have spent more time in the AHL.
Express regret for trading young defenseman Simon Despres for veteran defenseman Ben Lovejoy.
Concede he could have handled an interaction with a certain member of the media better.

Those were the mistakes for which he held himself accountable.

But Rutherford also said:

— He has the full support of ownership to make the changes he sees fit, which may include buyouts. (Rob Scuderi?)
— He will look to add a top-six winger, most likely through a trade, given the dearth of options in free agency.
— The head coach he hired, Mike Johnston, did a good job, and the players said so.

Anyway, it should be a very interesting offseason in Pittsburgh. The Penguins have a number of pending unrestricted free agents, including Paul Martin, Christian Ehrhoff, Steve Downie and Thomas Greiss.

It could also be a challenging one for Rutherford. If he wants to add a top-six winger through a trade, what, exactly, could he offer in return? He already traded his first-round pick to get David Perron, and it’s not like the Penguins are blessed with an overabundance of prospects.

Besides, they need to develop their prized youngsters, not trade them away for short-term fixes. (You know, like they traded away Després.)

Related: Friedman says Penguins need to ‘think about’ trading Malkin

Ailing Pens to give d-men Chorney, Dumoulin playoff debuts

New York Islanders v Pittsburgh Penguins

Much has been made of Pittsburgh’s banged-up defense — currently without Kris Letang, Christian Ehrhoff, Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot — and tonight, the byproduct of those injuries will be on display as Taylor Chorney and Brian Dumoulin make their playoff debuts against the Rangers.

“Those guys have played a lot together throughout the year,” Pens head coach Mike Johnston said, explaining that Chorney and Dumoulin would play together as a defensive pair. “Putting those two together is natural for us.

“Dumoulin moves the puck well and can skate. Chorney’s playing at the top of his game right now.”

Kudos to Johnston for such a positive spin, but it’s hard to imagine he’s truly pleased at this development. Chorney, 27, has bounced around organizations over the last four years and, prior to playing seven games for Pittsburgh this season, hadn’t skated in the NHL since 2012.

Dumoulin, 23, has just 14 big-league games on his resume. He and Chorney have spent the majority of this season in AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

“It’s a really exciting time and place to play,” Dumoulin said, per the Penguins website. “A lot of nerves, excitement. It’ll be a lot of fun.”

If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that Johnston actually has six healthy defensemen at his disposal (which wasn’t always the case this season) and, with Dumoulin and Chorney as a pairing, he can limit their minutes and load up the top four of Paul Martin, Rob Scuderi, Ben Lovejoy and Ian Cole.

But that might be it as far as silver linings go.

Pens to play with just five d-men in crucial tilt versus Isles

Kris Letang, Steve Downie, Rob Scuderi

Pittsburgh will be undermanned in the first of two games that could decide its playoff fate.

On Friday, head coach Mike Johnston announced that injured d-man Derrick Pouliot would miss tonight’s game, meaning the Pens will ice just five blueliners when they host the Isles at Consol.

A rash of poor health and cap constraints have left Pittsburgh in this position. Olli Maatta, Kris Letang and Christian Ehrhoff are out with various ailments and, as a result, journeyman Taylor Chorney was recently brought up from AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton because his (relatively low) cap hit fit within the financial parameters of a recall.

The Pens are asking a lot of Chorney, 27. He’s played almost exclusively in the AHL over the last three seasons and, since appearing in 42 games in his rookie campaign, has skated in just 22 NHL contests.

So the Pens will play tonight with a blueline comprised of Chorney, Paul Martin, Rob Scuderi, Ian Cole and Ben Lovejoy. It’s the same five-man unit that struggled in Tuesday’s loss to Ottawa after Pouliot exited with his injury; Martin played over 29 minutes, Scuderi over 25 while Cole and Lovejoy were both over 21 (Chorney, playing in just his fifth game of the season, played 13:34.)

The Penguins blew a 3-0 lead against the Sens, eventually losing 4-3 in OT. That said, Pittsburgh still controls its own destiny for the playoffs — if they beat the Isles and Sabres, they’re in (and could pass New York for third in the Metropolitan Division.)

Rutherford: ‘Our guys felt very strongly about reacquiring’ Lovejoy

2014 NHL Draft - Round 2-7

Of all the trades completed today, was there one that left fans angrier than the one that saw Pittsburgh trade 23-year-old defenseman Simon Després to Anaheim for 31-year-old blue-liner Ben Lovejoy?

If there was, we missed it. Based on the comments we got here at PHT, the majority of Penguins fans were positively irate with GM Jim Rutherford for trading away young Després. 

According to Rutherford, however, Lovejoy was a player that was highly coveted by those within the organization.

“He’s developed into a solid, consistent player,” he said. “Our guys felt very strongly about reacquiring this player.”

The Pens also acquired d-man Ian Cole, 26, from St. Louis, in return for 25-year-old defenseman Roberto Bortuzzo.

“When we looked at our defense, despite the fact that it’s played pretty well at this point, we were concerned about the experience,” Rutherford explained, per the club’s website. “We were looking to upgrade, add more of a veteran presence.

“We felt to have a good run in the playoffs we needed more experience and that’s why we made these two deals.”

The Pens certainly have experience back there now, with Lovejoy joining a blue-line corps that already included Kris Letang, Paul Martin, Christian Ehrhoff, and Rob Scuderi.

And to be fair to Rutherford, perhaps he felt giving up Després was worth the risk with youngsters Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot in the organization.

That being said, these deals will only increase the pressure on the Penguins to make a deep run in the playoffs. You can bet the fans will remember today if things don’t go well.

Blackhawks edge Penguins in shootout after tight game

Pittsburgh Penguins v Chicago Blackhawks

On paper, a Chicago Blackhawks – Pittsburgh Penguins matinee screams finesse and high-end skill. It’s not to say there was a total deficit in either on Sunday, but Chicago also earned a 2-1 shootout win thanks to “sandpaper” and strong goaltending.

Corey Crawford earned his 23rd win of the season (and fourth in five games) by stopping 36 out of 37 shots.

Marc-Andre Fleury couldn’t overcome some dazzling shootout work from Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp, but he was strong in regulation, turning aside all but one of the 32 shots he faced.

For teams that rarely see each other, there was a decent amount of bitterness in the air.

Maybe most memorably, Andrew Shaw caught a comically bruised Paul Martin with a big hit at the end of regulation.

There also seemed to be some competitive tension between Toews and Sidney Crosby:

One could argue that the Penguins carried some of the play with a slight shot and possession advantage:


 (via Hockey Stats.ca)

The Blackhawks and Penguins largely find themselves where they were entering Sunday. The Penguins remain close – but still behind – the New York Islanders for the Metropolitan Division lead while the Blackhawks at least stay in the running for the Central Division crown.

In a way the game captured the two teams as they’re still showing promise, yet they also have some work to do to regain their all-world form.