The last time Reto Berra started an NHL game, he was a member of the Colorado Avalanche. His head coach was Patrick Roy. His opponent?
The Mike Johnston-led Pittsburgh Penguins.
So yeah, been a long time.
Tonight, Berra will start for the first time since the aforementioned game — played on Dec. 9, 2015 — when the Panthers host the ‘Canes in Florida. Berra’s start comes with No. 1 netminder Roberto Luongo dealing with a hip injury, and No. 2 James Reimer needing a night off (he’s been the goalie of record in eight straight).
Berra, 30, was acquired from Colorado via trade last June and has made one appearance for the Panthers this year, playing 25 minutes in relief of Reimer back on Mar. 7. That came after a lengthy stint with Florida’s AHL affiliate in Springfield, where he went 12-14-2 with a .910 save percentage and 2.53 GAA.
Berra’s in the last of a three-year, $4.35M deal (signed with the Avs back in 2014), so this audition is fairly important. If he can prove enough to be a capable NHL backup, he might find work this summer.
— Henrik Lundqvist is closing in on a return from injury, but not there yet, so Antti Raanta starts again as the Rangers visit New Jersey. Cory Schneider goes for the Devils, looking to turn around a terrible month of March (0-5-0, 3.81 GAA, .882 save percentage).
— Even though Marc-Andre Fleury recorded a shutout on Sunday, Pittsburgh will go with Matt Murray tonight in Buffalo. No word yet on a Sabres starter.
— Another big Atlantic Division tilt, as the B’s host the Sens (one night after they lost in Toronto). Looks as though Bruce Cassidy will go back to Tuukka Rask, who made 26 saves on Monday. The Sens are going with Craig Anderson, his third game in four nights.
— The red-hot Brian Elliott, currently on an 11-game winning streak, goes for Calgary tonight in Washington. The Caps will counter with Braden Holtby.
— Al Montoya starts for the first time since Mar. 9 as the Habs host the Red Wings in Montreal. No word yet on a Detroit starter, though Jimmy Howard is expected to get the call.
— Michael Hutchinson, who’s hasn’t start since Jan. 16, gets a rare opportunity when the Jets host the Flyers. Steve Mason, who’s been Philly’s go-to for most of March, will be in goal.
— Corey Crawford, fresh off an OT win against Toronto on Saturday, goes for Chicago. The visiting Canucks have yet to name a starter, but Ryan Miller is likely after Richard Bachman played over the weekend against Edmonton.
If someone told you that the Pittsburgh Penguins exploded for 14 goals in just two games on back-to-back nights, you might have assumed that key players like Evgeni Malkin returned to action. Failing that, maybe you’d ask if Sidney Crosby had been superhuman.
While Crosby was indeed fantastic during Saturday’s 7-4 win against the Wild (good enough to be one of the three stars on a busy day) and Sunday’s stunning 7-2 drubbing of the Jets, it wasn’t all him. Instead, it was a combination of a red-hot Crosby and a seemingly ragtag group of players coming together.
You can see the highlights of Sunday’s win in the video above, and check out Saturday’s score-fest against Minnesota here:
Pittsburgh’s games against the Jets seem to be all about subverting expectations. Earlier this season, Winnipeg won despite a ton of injuries to their defense; this time around, expectations were that Pittsburgh’s list of ailments would mean bad things, but instead the Pens won. In each case, the results were remarkably lopsided, too.
87 is on fire
Crosby’s strong play should not go unnoticed.
With two assists against Winnipeg, Crosby now has a three-game multi-point streak going, generating two goals and four assists for six points during that streak. The 32-year-old’s also scored at least one point during his first six games of 2019-20, collecting three goals and seven assists to total 10 points.
If the star center is slowing down with age, you have to really strain your eyes to see where he’s in heavy decline.
Not just Crosby
That said, 10 of those 14 goals didn’t involve Crosby points, so obviously it’s not just 87.
Sam Lafferty’s arguably had an even better weekend than Crosby. The 24-year-old is rapidly becoming more than a relative unknown who was a fourth-rounder (113th overall) from 2014. Lafferty scored two goals on Sunday after generating a three-point night (his first NHL goal, plus two assists) against the Wild on Saturday. So, yes, Lafferty generated five points to Crosby’s four on the weekend.
Managing five points in less than 27 minutes of total ice time is just kind of ridiculous, and ventures an argument that the Penguins should give Lafferty more opportunities to prove himself, particularly as injuries linger for more prominent players.
Lafferty: "Three wins in a row and playing a bit, it's been great. It's been really fun. I'm just playing, and right now, pucks are going in, so you want to ride that out as much as you can."
Zach Aston-Reese made an argument for player of the game on Sunday, though, generating a three-point night against the Jets (two goals, one assist).
It’s a testament to the Penguins’ knack for finding the occasional gems in the draft or in free agency, as for all we know, all of those injuries might open the door for someone to be a more regular contributor. Such a thing happened for Matt Murray, and to some extent, Jake Guentzel.
Speaking of finding ways to win, judging from this Natural Stat Trick heat map, you wonder if the Penguins might have scouted out a weak spot for Laurent Brossoit, attacked an especially weak spot of Winnipeg’s defense, or maybe it was just a coincidence that so many chances and goals came from the same general area?
One wouldn’t expect the lesser-known Penguins to stay so hot for too long, but little bursts like these can make a difference between missing or making the playoffs, or for a team with greater ambitions like Pittsburgh, maybe earning a round or two of home-ice advantage. Piling up points in games that look like losses on paper may also help the Penguins gain enough breathing room to give Crosby some rest down the line. As great as Crosby was in 2018-19 (with his underlying stats inspiring some to wonder if he deserved more Hart buzz), there were signs that he was wearing down for a Pittsburgh team that needed to battle to make the postseason. In an era of sports where teams are more interested in “load management,” the Penguins might want to work a little harder to earn that luxury for Crosby and others.
Either way, the Penguins are showing some moxy, so don’t count them out when they face the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday (a game you can watch on NBCSN at 7 p.m. ET).
Sometimes you come across things so silly, it’s honestly tough to shake them off. The Los Angeles Kings accomplished that recently, as they’ve announced that they will cover up a Taylor Swift banner for sold-out performances during Kings home games.
For all the talk of eyesores, don’t you think it’s weird that they’re forcing a blank space over the pop star’s already-goofy banner?
“The connection to our fans is our highest priority and through our engagement they have made it clear that the banner shouldn’t be part of their Kings game experience,” Kings/AEG Sports executive Michael Altieri said. “We didn’t see an issue in covering it for our games and in fact see it as an opportunity to show our fans that we hear them.”
Because hockey fans are involved, this isn’t a purely aesthetic argument, as extremely silly superstitions also seem to be involved.
Yes, some Kings fans think that the team’s colossal plummet down the standings isn’t about a bunch of players hitting the aging curve beyond their wildest dreams; instead, it’s about Taylor Swift.
There’s just something about Swift that brings out the illogical and petty in people, from Kanye West to the Kings. If nothing else, this goofy update draws some attention away from the Kings’ evergreen gloating about Jonathan Quick, who might just be losing his starting job to Jack Campbell.
To clarify, that's 10 years after next year — so 11 years in total of our goaltender being better than yours.
Anyway, hopefully you enjoyed this extremely hockey story, and it begs the question: what other NHL team – pop star feuds would you like to see? Prediction: the New Jersey Devils will not take on Bruce Springsteen … or even Bon Jovi.
The 37-year-old made his debut on Sunday, leading the Phoenix to a 3-2 win over the Swindon Wildcats after a shootout. Sporting a mask designed by the great Dave Gunnarsson which featured a tribute to fellow Czech Dominik Hasek and the logos of Arsenal and Chelsea, the two Premier League soccer teams he played for (and in Chelsea’s case, his current employer).
With the score tied at two, the Phoenix and Wildcats entered the shootout and Cech made two stops, including the final one of the game in front of a record crowd of 909.
Big Pete doing what he does best [on ice this time]! 👏
“I wanted to win, that was the main thing, and I’m glad we did,” Cech said afterward. “I was surprised that I wasn’t more nervous. I didn’t know what to expect so it was nice how quickly my body switched into matchday mode.”
Now, it’s back to work for Cech at Chelsea as the club’s technical and performance advisor until his next appearance in net for the Phoenix.
2. Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers. After scoring 50 goals and 100 points a year ago and finishing in the top-four of the league in both categories, Draisaitl is picking up where he left and is once again looking like a superstar. He finished with three points on Saturday afternoon — including two goals — to help the Oilers improve to 5-0 on the season. He and Connor McDavid (two more points on Saturday) are carrying the offense again.
3. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins. With the Penguins’ forward lineup dealing with a ton of injuries they are going to need their captain and his line to dominate for them to have a chance to win. Right now, they are dominating. Crosby was great once again on Saturday night, picking up two more points in a 7-4 win over the Minnesota Wild, including a highlight reel backhand goal off the rush. He has recorded at least one point in every game this season and already has eight in the Penguins’ first five games. The Penguins also received some surprising production from their recent call-ups with Adam Johnson and Sam Lafferty both recording their first NHL goals.
Other notable performances on Saturday
Brendan Gallagher finished with three points for the Montreal Canadiens as they handed the St. Louis Blues their first regulation loss of the season.
Rookie goalie Ilya Samsonov was amazing again for the Washington Capitals as they defeated the Dallas Stars. In his first two NHL starts Samsonov has allowed a total of two goals. He is the future of the position in The District.
Ilya Kovalchuk continued his strong start with another goal in the Kings’ 7-4 win over the Nashville Predators.
The Winnipeg Jets overcame an early 2-0 deficit against the Chicago Blackhawks to win in overtime on Mark Scheifele‘s second goal of the season. The Blackhawks remain winless.
The Capitals’ win against the Stars was their first regulation win in Dallas since the 1995 season. [NHL PR]
Phil Kessel played in his 1,000th NHL game on Saturday night, making him the third youngest active player to play in 1,000 games. [NHL PR]
Penguins goalie Matt Murray recorded his 100th career win on Saturday night, making him just the eight goalie since the 1966-67 season record 100 wins in 166 games or less. [NHL PR]
The Los Angeles Kings set a franchise record for fasted three goals, scoring three goals in 30 seconds during their win over the Nashville Predators. [NHL PR]
The Oilers are the first team in NHL history to come-from-behind to win each of their first five games of the season. [NHL PR]
Scores Edmonton Oilers 4, New York Rangers 1
Ottawa Senators 4, Tampa Bay Lightning 2
Los Angeles Kings 7, Nashville Predators 4
Winnipeg Jets 3, Chicago Blackhawks 2 (OT)
Boston Bruins 3, New Jersey Devils 0
Montreal Canadiens 6, St. Louis Blues 3
Toronto Maple Leafs 5, Detroit Red Wings 2
New York Islanders 3, Florida Panthers 2 (SO)
Columbus Blue Jackets 3, Carolina Hurricanes 2
Washington Capitals 4, Dallas Stars 1
Pittsburgh Penguins 7, Minnesota Wild 4
Colorado Avalanche 3, Arizona Coyotes 2 (OT)
Vegas Golden Knights 6, Calgary Flames 2
Vancouver Canucks 3, Philadelphia Flyers 2 (SO)