Eastern Conference final team capsules: Pittsburgh Penguins

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A rundown of the East’s top seed, which finished the regular season at 36-12-0.

28th appearance
3 Stanley Cup titles (1991, 1992, 2009)

Studs:

  • Sidney Crosby: 7 goals (T-lead in NHL), 8 assists, 15 points
  • Pascal Dupuis: 7 goals (T-lead in NHL)
  • James Neal: 5 goals, 2 assists, 14 shots on goal in last 2 games
  • Evgeni Malkin: 16 points (T-2nd in NHL) … but only 43.0% on faceoffs
  • Kris Letang: 16 points (T-2nd in NHL, most among defensemen)
  • Paul Martin: 30 blocked shots (5th in NHL)
  • Tomas Vokoun: 6-1, 1.85 GAA (3rd in NHL), .941 save % (2nd in NHL), 1 shutout
  • Team: 6-1 at Consol Energy Center
  • Team: 4.27 goals per game (leads NHL) … highest average since 1992-93 (min. 10 games)
  • Team: 28.3% on power play, 13-for-46 (leads NHL)
  • Team: 89.7% on penalty kill, 35-for-39 (3rd in NHL)
  • Team: 203 blocked shots (T-2nd in NHL)

Duds:

  • Marc-Andre Fleury: 2-2, 3.40 GAA, .891 save%, 1 shutout

Stanley Cup winners with 2009 Penguins (11 players, 2 coaches):

  • Craig Adams, Matt Cooke, Sidney Crosby (captain), Pascal Dupuis, Mark Eaton, Marc-Andre Fleury, Tyler Kennedy, Chris Kunitz, Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin (Conn Smythe winner), Brooks Orpik, Dan Bylsma (head coach), Gilles Meloche (asst)

Cup winners with other franchises (1):

  • Chris Kunitz (2007 Ducks)

Seeking first Cup, have played or coached one+ playoff game this postseason (13 players, 2 coaches):

  • Beau Bennett, Tanner Glass, Jarome Iginla, Jussi Jokinen, Brenden Morrow, James Neal, Brandon Sutter, Joe Vitale, Deryk Engelland, Paul Martin, Douglas Murray, Matt Niskanen, Tomas Vokoun, Tony Granato (asst), Todd Rierden (asst)

Seeking 2013 postseason debut:

  • Robert Bortuzzo (15 regular season games), Dustin Jeffrey (24)

Most career playoff …

  • Games: Chris Kunitz, 95
  • Goals: Sidney Crosby, 40
  • Points: Sidney Crosby, 105

Last playoff …

  • Hat trick: James Neal, May 24, 2013 (vs. Senators, Game 5, ECSF)
  • 4-point game: James Neal (3 goals, assist), May 24, 2013 (vs. Senators, Game 5, ECSF)
  • Short-handed goal: Pascal Dupuis, May 22, 2013 (at Senators, Game 4, ECSF)
  • Fight: Evgeni Malkin, May 7, 2013 (Travis Hamonic, at Islanders, Game 4, ECQF)
  • Shutout: Marc-Andre Fleury, May 1, 2013 (vs. Islanders, Game 1, ECQF)

Playoff trend:

  • The Penguins made the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season.
  • The Penguins earned the top record in their conference for the second time (1992-93)

Milestones:

  • With two points, Sidney Crosby (105) will move past Kevin Stevens for 3rd on the all-time points list in Penguins postseason history … Mario Lemieux (172) and Bruins’ Jaromir Jagr (147) are 1-2
  • With three points, Evgeni Malkin (97) will reach the 100-point mark and tie Ron Francis for 5th on the all-time points list in Penguins postseason history
  • In the ECQF, Marc-Andre Fleury tied Tom Barrasso for the most career shutouts (6) by a goaltender in Penguins postseason history
  • Jarome Iginla has played 1,232 regular season games without winning a Stanley Cup, 3rd-most among active players (Roman Hamrlik – 1,395; Shane Doan – 1,246)
  • In the ECSF, the Penguins clinched a series on home ice for the 1st time under Dan Bylsma (1-6)
  • Evgeni Malkin has the most single-postseason points (36, in 2008-09) among active players

2012-13 season

  • Longest win streak: 15 (March 2 – 30), 2nd longest in NHL history (1992-93 Penguins had 17)
  • Longest winless streak: 2 (on five occasions)

Biggest storylines of season & postseason:

  • March 2-30: “The Streak II” or “The March through March” … following the Blackhawks’ NHL-record 24-game unbeaten streak in regulation to begin the season, the Penguins came within two wins of tying the 20-year-old NHL record of 17 consecutive wins (1992-92 Penguins)
  • March 30: A deflected slapshot to Sidney Crosby’s jaw costs the superstar the last 12 games of the regular season
  • Trade deadline acquisitions of veterans Brenden Morrow (Stars), Jarome Iginla (Flames), Jussi Jokinen (Hurricanes) & Douglas Murray (Sharks) helps offset injuries to Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Paul Martin & Kris Letang
  • The Penguins become the only NHL team without an overtime/shootout loss this regular season (5-0) … in the first two playoff rounds, they won their first two OT games (Games 3 & 6 at N.Y. Islanders), but lost in 2OT in Game 3 at Senators
  • May 9: Tomas Vokoun replaces Marc-Andre Fleury in net before Game 5 of the ECQF and posts a shutout
  • May 17 & 24: Sidney Crosby (Game 2) & James Neal (Game 5) score hat tricks in ECSF vs. Ottawa

Award finalists:

  • Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy (Perseverance and dedication to hockey): Sidney Crosby

Concussion problems limited Crosby to just 63 games over the previous two seasons. However, he bounced back this season with 15 goals and 56 points in 36 contests.

  • Hart Memorial Trophy (Most valuable player to his team): Sidney Crosby

Despite missing 12 games (jaw surgery), Crosby had 56 points (T-3rd in NHL), 41 assists (2nd in NHL), was a +26 (4th in NHL), played 21:06 per game (6th among NHL forwards)

  • Ted Lindsay Award (Most outstanding player as voted by members of the NHLPA): Sidney Crosby
  • James Norris Memorial Trophy (Top defenseman): Kris Letang

Despite missing 13 games, Letang had 38 points (T-NHL lead among defensemen), was a +16 and played 25:38 per game (7th in NHL)
NHL General Manager of the Year: Ray Shero

Blues’ Binnington faces a whole new world in 2019-20

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues.

Come out of nowhere, steal the No. 1 job, win a Stanley Cup and get a nice payoff all inside six or so months.

It seems hardly believable. Impossible, really.

Yet there stands Jordan Binnington, a 26-year-old formerly journeyman goalie who, prior to puck drop in a Jan. 7 game against the Philadelphia Flyers, was simply a nobody in the NHL world.

Two-and-a-half hours and 25 saves later, Binnington had his first NHL win in his first NHL start and his first NHL shutout all under his belt. A flash in the pan? Far from it, apparently.

Binnington would feature in 29 games in the second half of the season for the Blues. His 24-5-1 record with a .927 save percentage and five shutouts during that span would pull the Blues all the way from the league’s murkiest spot in the basement to third-place in the Central Division.

And from there, he’d start all 26 games the St. Louis Blues played in the playoffs on their magical run to the Stanley Cup. Binnington would set rookie records for wins in a postseason and, ultimately, lift Lord Stanley with a 16-10 record, including a 32-save, .970 performance in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final to cement the Blues worst-to-first achievement.

[MORE: 2018-19 review | Three questions]

These things simply don’t happen, and yet Binnington willed it into existence with a ‘Do I look nervous to you?’ attitude that was only backed up on the ice.

Binnington’s emergence earned him a two-year, deal worth $4.4 million annually, making him the highest-paid goalie on the Blues (a mere $50,000 more than Jake Allen) and No. 1 status between the pipes heading into the 2019-20 season.

He’s earned it. And now the hard work begins.

There was no pressure on Binnington last season. Every win was met with awe, not expectation. If he had come in and failed, he wouldn’t have been labeled as a bust. If he had crashed out in the first round of the playoffs, he still would have been considered a success.

Winning the Stanley Cup? It’s still hard to fathom, really.

But now Binnington has some statistics to his name. The bar he set for himself is in the realm of the NHL’s elite. And somehow, he has to now make that translate into a full slate of NHL starts — perhaps as many as 60 next season.

That’s where the pressure lies.

Binnington is unproven as a full-time NHL starter, like Carter Hart in Philadelphia. Both had great seasons, but both only played half the year. So questions remain.

There’s nothing, at least at the moment, to suggest that Binnington can’t handle it. Sure, his save percentage dipped in the playoffs, but he handled the pressure of a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final with apparent ease.

He appears to be a true iceman when it comes to that.

Nevertheless, he’s now playing for a bigger payoff in two years after having bet on himself over the next two seasons. His long-term financial gain also hangs in the balance.

Binnington gave fans what they craved and now they’re only going to want more.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Can the Blues repeat as Stanley Cup champions?

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues.

Let’s ponder three questions facing the Blues.

[MORE: 2018-19 review | Under Pressure]

1. Can they do it all over again?  

If winning the Stanley Cup is the hardest thing to do in hockey, then winning it two years on the trot is that much more difficult.

One team in the salary cap era has been able to pull off a repeat and they had some guy named Sidney Crosby on those teams. The point is that it’s uber-difficult, but a question that every Cup champion faces.

This is the challenge the Blues now face with more or less the same team they won the Cup with this past June. Not much has changed in St. Louis since Alex Pietrangelo hoisted Lord Stanley for the first time in franchise history.

But can a team that was in last place in January and now feeling the effects of the Stanley Cup hangover do it all over again?

The NHL’s tightest-knit group has all the chemistry one could ask for and it’s largely intact from a season ago. And now they have all of that experience to lean upon, as well. But the Central Division is no push-over and several teams have strengthened their squads while the Blues have chosen to rely on what’s within.

It’s certainly a tall order.

2. Will Alex Pietrangelo’s lack of a contract extension be a distraction? 

He’s the team’s captain, talisman and one of the best defensemen in the NHL. And he’s (at this point) entering the 2019-20 season with a year left on his current deal and unrestricted free agency waiting for him next summer.

If you go back to December of last year, you’ll find a lot of ink was spilled where the best trade destinations for Pietrangelo would be. The Blues were an awful team at that point and the Blues, perhaps, could have capitalized on such an intriguing asset. They didn’t and were rewarded in the playoffs with a special performance.

His play during the Stanley Cup run will only have upped his asking price on the free-agent market. And the Blues need to decide on what to do before a John Tavares-like scenario becomes their own reality.

3. Is Jordan Binnington for real? 

We’re going to cover this in a separate post, but it bears mentioning here.

Binnington should probably have won the Calder Trophy for the NHL’s best rookie after he won 24 of 30 decisions he figured in with a .927 save percentage and five shutouts. The most impressive part of all of this is he didn’t start a game until early January.

Now, he could face a schedule with a workload double what he played last season. Those are uncharted waters for 26-year-old.

Binnington made the most of his opportunity when handed one last year. There were no expectations then, however. Now, they’re higher than ever.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

It’s St. Louis Blues Day at PHT

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues.

2018-19 

45-28-9, 99 points (3rd in the Central Division, tied for fourth in the Western Conference)
Playoffs: Won Stanley Cup

IN:
Nathan Walker
Derrick Pouliot
Jake Dotchin
Andreas Borgman

OUT:
Jordan Schmaltz
Adam Musil
Nikita Soshnikov
Jakub Jerabek
Patrick Maroon

RE-SIGNED
:
Jordan Binnington
Joel Edmundson
Jordan Nolan
Samuel Blais
Zach Sanford
Robby Fabbri
Oskar Sundqvist
Carl Gunnarsson
Nolan Stevens

[MORE: Three questions | Under Pressure]

2018-19 Summary

Well, that went pretty well, didn’t it?

No matter how many times you hear it, it’s still unbelievable to see the NHL standings on Jan. 3, 2019 and the Blues at the very bottom — 31st overall. Fast forward 160 days and they were hoisting the Stanley Cup celebrating the franchise’s first championship.

It was quite a season for the Blues, who fired head coach Mike Yeo on Nov. 20 after a 7-9-3 start. General manager Doug Armstrong turned to assistant coach Craig Berube to right the ship as the organization planned for a coaching search that would go far and wide.

Under Berube, the Blues didn’t improve much, going 9-10-1 in their first 20 games under the interim bench boss. But then came Jan. 7 and a game at Philadelphia featuring goaltending Jordan Binnington making his first NHL start, which ended with a shutout. Two weeks later they began a franchise-record 11-game winning streak that powered them up the Central Division standings. The winning ways continued through the end of the regular season as St. Louis earned 65 out of a possible 90 points in their final 45 games to finish tied for second in the division and fourth in the Western Conference.

Riding their red-hot goaltender and being led offensively by their summer acquisition in Ryan O’Reilly, the Blues took care of the Winnipeg Jets in six games, then the Dallas Stars in a memorable seven-game series before topping the San Jose Sharks in six games to reach the Stanley Cup Final. Their final foe, the Boston Bruins, needed seven games to be defeated, with O’Reilly winning Conn Smythe Trophy honors.

Through the unforgettable ride, the Blues adopted the 1981 Laura Branigan song “Gloria” as their theme after several players heard it in a Philadelphia bar in January. The DJ kept playing the song at the request of a customer and the players decided it would be played in the dressing room following wins.

“Play Gloria!” soon became the rallying cry and took over the city. Also becoming an important part of the Blues’ season was retiring anthem singer Charles Glenn, who continued performing as he battled multiple sclerosis, and 12-year-old Laila Anderson, who was diagnosed with a rare disease called Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocystosis. She became friendly with several players and was well enough to attend several games during the season and playoffs, including the team’s Game 7 victory over the Bruins in the Cup Final.

It’s interesting to think what would have happened had Armstrong not had the patience with the roster that he did and chose to blow up the team’s core before things changed. He stayed the course, chose the right coach to replace Yeo, and rode a hot Binnington to an unforgettable finish.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Lightning add size with dirt-cheap Maroon deal

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After the Tampa Bay Lightning suffered a humiliating playoff sweep following a historically great regular season, some argued that they were pushed around. That narrative about size only, well, grew when the St. Louis Blues won their first-ever Stanley Cup during the same postseason.

A lot of those size-related arguments were worthy of an eyeroll, but the Lightning beefed up for such a cheap price that it really seems like a no-brainer.

How else would you describe signing Patrick Maroon for one year at the measly cost of $900K?

For Maroon, the decision must come with some mixed feelings.

On one hand, the 31-year-old now has a strong chance to win championships in back-to-back seasons. Even after that sweep at the hands of the Blue Jackets, the Lightning rank as one of the favorites going into 2019-20.

Yet, it has to be frustrating for Maroon. He accepted a cheap one-year, $1.75M contract with the Blues after experiencing a tepid market during the 2018 summer, only to see this happen again.

With just 10 goals and 28 points in 74 regular-season games and a modest seven points in 26 games during the Blues’ Stanley Cup run, it’s clear that Maroon didn’t set the world on fire. Perhaps the Micheal Ferlands of the world were enough for those seeking size?

Maroon is a fine player, mind you, but his struggles to find much free agent interest during the last two years show the limits of any size obsession. It seems like that’s a nice luxury to have, and now the Lightning added a bit of that element.

By landing Maroon for a dirt-cheap price and also bolstering their defense with Kevin Shattenkirk after his Rangers buyout, the Lightning have replaced some of what they’ve lost in saying goodbye to the likes of J.T. Miller and Anton Stralman. This also leaves a reasonable amount of space to work with to re-sign Brayden Point, although the star RFA might not appreciate how much he gets squeezed.

It’s tough not to feel a little bit bad for Maroon, although he’ll probably be happy enough if he’s spending another day with the Stanley Cup next summer — preferably with a little more term and/or money on his next contract.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.