Stanley Cup Final 2017

By Steve Samek

Here we go. From 16 teams, down to two in the NHL playoffs. It’s the surprise Nashville Predators and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Penguins looking to go back to back in winning Stanley Cups, while the Predators look for their first.

Nashville stunned Chicago in round one, before beating St. Louis and Anaheim. Pittsburgh run to the cup went through Columbus, Washington and Ottawa.

This could be the most interring series yet. During the season, the Pens and Preds have split their two games. The home team took the victory in each game. Nashville outscored Pittsburgh seven five in those two meetings. https://www.nhl.com/predators/news/instant-analysis-nashville-predators-face-defending-champs-in-final/c-289616482

 

Though offense may be hard to come by in this series. Nashville is the top team in goals against average in the playoffs with a 1.81 mark. Having only surrendered 29 goals. https://nhl.bamcontent.com/images/photos/289652432/2550×3300/cut.png.

 

 Big reason for this is goaltender Pekka Rinne. Rinne has the top playoff marks for save percentage with .941 and wins with 12. Combine that with a 1.70 GAA and you have a brick wall. http://www.nhl.com/stats/leaders?

The goalie tandem of Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray should also make it difficult for Nashville to score. Fleury has a 2.56 gaa and a .924 save percentage while picking up nine wins. http://www.nhl.com/stats/leaders? Both Fleury and Rinne have posted two shutouts during the playoffs.

Though Rinne will be tested. The Penguins lead in goals per game with 3.05. This is highlighted by Jake Geuntzal’s nine playoff tallies. Evgeni Malkin is the playoffs leading scorer by points with 24. http://www.espn.com/nhl/story/_/id/19471551/2017-stanley-cup-ranking-all-stanley-cup-finals-players. Back him up with ESPN ranked number one player in this series Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel and there is no shortage of threats to light the lamp. http://www.espn.com/nhl/story/_/id/19471551/2017-stanley-cup-ranking-all-stanley-cup-finals-players

Nashville will look to Filip Forsberg to score with his team best eight goals and 15 points during the playoffs.

Though it may be close in goaltending it isn’t close in experience. The Penguins boast 156 games of Stanley Cup Experience, with 19 goals scored and 24 winners of the Stanley Cup. The Predators have no Stanley Cup winners, 2 goals scored and a mere five games played in the cup. Note that doesn’t include the injured Chris Letang for Pittsburgh. http://www.nhl.com/stats/.

 

This is the third time the Penguins have played in back to bac finals. The first in 1991 and 1992 in which they won both. Then in 2008 and 2009 they split two finals with Detroit, but won the second of the two.  On top of that the Penguins have been the dominant team in the playoffs the past 10 years ranking first or second in Stanley Cup finals appreances, wins and playoff wins. https://nhl.bamcontent.com/images/photos/289652432/2550×3300/cut.png.  Though in the home ice advantage of gold standard mark 481 consecutive sell outs and Nashville is in for a brutal fight. https://nhl.bamcontent.com/images/photos/289652432/2550×3300/cut.png.

Nashville will take at least one game, maybe two. You don’t sweep a Chicago team, built very much like Pittsburgh in terms of star power, and not feel confident. I wouldn’t say it was luck as Nashville followed it up by beating St. Louis and Anaheim too, both times presumably as the underdog.

This could be a cause where if Pittsburgh underestimates them and comes out flat it could be in for a surprise. Much like the series against Ottawa that should on paper have been domination. Pittsburgh’s star power and experience has the ability to win this in quick fashion. They just need to play like it.

Bold prediction is Pens in 5. Realistic is Pens in 6. Though I would venture to say a game seven would be incredibly interesting and would be anyone’s to take.  This series is the rubber match from the regular season with so much more on the line. Looking for both teams to come out hungry and have this be an intense final. One that should end with Crosby hoisting his third cup and adding to his legacy.

Not even this viral video with catchy tune will stop Pittsburgh. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pz7SlP3FiM4

 

 

Pens Playoffs Round Two 2017

By Steve Samek

After dispatching Columbus in five games the Pittsburgh Penguins eagerly awaited the conclusion of The Washington Capitals and Toronto. Toronto made its first time in the playoffs in a while a short one, being overmatched by the President’s trophy winner in six games.

Cue the Déjà vu. Penguins and Capitals for the past two season meeting in round two of the NHL playoffs. Pittsburgh walking away with the series victory last season in addition to winning eight of nine playoff meetings between the two.

During the season, Washington took the season series 2-0-2 during their 55-win campaign.  Though the Pens earned 50 wins of their own in route to the runner up spot in the Metropolitan division. https://www.nhl.com/news/washington-capitals-pittsburgh-penguins-playoff-preview/c-289056882?tid=287345754

The Stars are display in this one. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin ready to role for Pittsburgh against the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Jake Geuentzel stepped up against Columbus with five goals and is your playoff goal scoring leader. Malkin’s 11 points is tops in playoff points. http://www.nhl.com/stats/leaders?season=20162017&gameType=3

 

Though the possibly overlooked stars are the goaltenders. Marc-Andre Fleury is stepping up after the injury to Matt Murrary. Fleury contributed a 2.52 goals-against average and .933 save percentage against Columbus. Fleury’s has also led the Pens to an addition cup win and a finals appearance and is showing veteran leadership.

Washington has Brandon Holtby between the pipes. Holtby led the league in regular season wins with 42 and nine shutouts. He did this while contributing a .925 save percentage and 2.07 goals against average. All of these numbers put him in the top five statistically for regular season play.

http://www.nhl.com/stats/leaders?season=20162017&gameType=2

Though the biggest question is can the Capitals break through and stop the trend of the Presidents trophy winner begin ousted. Can they fight back after last year’s series loss? Does the Penguin’s all-time series domination come into play. How much will the Penguin’s playoff experience and four cups matter against the Capitols?

I would say that experience should hold a small advantage, but not a big one. Anything can happen in the playoffs. Nashville told that to Chicago this season. Washington is a good team. You don’t put up the best regular season mark if you’re not a good team.  Give the Caps a small advantage there and for a 2-0 season series advantage.

This one is going seven games. Anything else should be a disappointment. Two talented teams that are playing in a faux Stanly Cup as the winner of this series is being a popular pick to win it all. https://www.nhl.com/penguins/news/destiny-brings-pens-caps-together/c-28906477.

The only four times the Pittsburgh has hoisted the cup it went through Washington. Does this happen again. I think so Pens in seven games is my prediction.

 

Penguins playoffs 2017 Round One

Pens and Blue Jackets open up first round.

By Steve Samek.

82 Games led up to this. It’s the NHL playoffs. In the first round, it’s the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Columbus Blue Jackets. It’s a revenge matchup from 2014 when The Penguins dispatched Columbus in six games.

During the course of the year each team went 2-1-1 against each other. Though the Penguins used some better play in the last 21 games of the season to best Columbus after being tied at 86 points through 61 games. The Penguins produced a 12-6-3 record while Columbus went 11-8-2. Giving the Penguins the two seed and home ice in the first round. Worth noting is the Pens beat the Jackets 4-1 in Pittsburgh the last time these teams met on April 4th,2017.

Why the Pens lose. Defense and injuries. The loss of Kris Letang will hurt a lot. https://www.nhl.com/player/kris-letang-8471724

 As will the rotating carousel of defenders the Penguins used this season.  This could put stress on the goaltenders and led to disaster.

Though the Goalies should be able to hold their own. Even if Matt Murray starts over Marc-Andre Fleury. Murray went 32-10-4 this season with a 2.41 goals against average and .923 save percentage, which was eighth best in the league. http://www.nhl.com/stats/leaders

 Fleury backed him up going 18-10-7 this season with a 3.02 gaa and .909 save percentage in 38 games with 34 starts. https://www.nhl.com/player/marc-andre-fleury-8470594.

Columbus also has a strong goaltender in Sergei Bobrovsky. Bobrovsky went 41-17-5 with a 2.06 gaa and .931 save percentage, which was the league leader in save percentage and gaa. https://nhl.bamcontent.com/images/photos/288645940/1224×3672/cut.jpg.  Bobrovsky was also number two in the league win wins behind Braden Holtby and Cam Talbot. http://www.nhl.com/stats/leaders.

Though NHL goal leader Sidney Crosby and his 44 tallies are shooting at him. As is Evgeni Malkin and his 33 goals and Phil Kessel and Connor Shery with 23 goals apiece. The Penguins offense is definitely enough to give any goalie nightmares even the best in the league. https://nhl.bamcontent.com/images/photos/288645940/1224×3672/cut.jpg

I think experience will also play a role in this series. The Penguins are coming off a cup run. Columbus hasn’t made the playoffs sense 2014. The Pens have also made the playoffs 11 years in a row with two cup wins and another finals appearance. It’s just hard to beat the experience and winning tradition the Penguins have. https://www.nhl.com/news/pittsburgh-penguins-columbus-blue-jackets-playoff-preview/c-288633648?tid=287343212.

I think home ice for the Pens will help too. The last two times these teams played in Pittsburgh The Pens won. The trend for the season series is the home team winning, so if the trend stays its Pens 4-3. Both teams play well at home though with the Blue Jackets sporting a 28-12-1 mark at home, while Pittsburgh is 31-6-4. I would say that’s a home ice advantage for sure. https://nhl.bamcontent.com/images/photos/288645940/1224×3672/cut.jpg

 

I would say that Columbus is on the upswing, and would win a playoff series if given a better match up. They finished third in a tough Metropolitan division. If the current system wasn’t in place they don’t have a harder first round matchup than they deserve. Though the weaker stretch run than the Pens have put them in the position to win from the lower seed. Though I wouldn’t count it as an upset if the Blue Jackets win.

They won’t however. I’m taking the Pens in six games to win the series. Offense and a solid two goalie system with experience in the playoffs paying off.

 

Penguins Trades deadline 2017.

By Steve Samek

 

The Pittsburgh Penguins continued a recent trend of being aggressive at the NHL trade deadline. The Pens made two moves last night and one last week. The goal of the movies was to add defensive depth after Trevor Daley and Olli Maatta are out with injuries that limit them for a about another month. Kris Letang is also facing an injury, but is listed as day to day.

 

To address the need Mark Streit was picked up for a 4th round pick in 2018. Frank Corrado came over from Toronto for Eric Fehr, Steve Olesky and a 2017 4th round pick. The previous week Ron Hainsey came over from Carolina.

 

I would say that the Hainsey deal is the headliner followed by the Streit deal. Both give you established veteran presence on defense. Hainsey has played in 894 NHL games. https://www.nhl.com/player/ron-hainsey-8468493.

 

 Streit is a veteran of 11 NHL seasons and 765 games. All for the price of a 2nd round and 4th round picks and a minor-league player. These deals should benefit the Penguins greatly for the playoff run. https://www.nhl.com/news/pittsburgh-penguins-acquire-ron-hainsey-from-carolina-hurricanes/c-287050588

 

 

 

The Corrado deal seems like a bit much. Two solid role players in Fehr and Olesky plus picks for a 23-year-old defensemen that played mostly in the minors this season. Corrado was assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to start. This was said to be a salary cap movie to acquire Streit. He may develop into a usable defenseman, but for now I’m saying salary dump. Though the consensus from my sources is Corrado just needs playing time to develop. https://www.nhl.com/penguins/news/inside-scoop-trade-deadline-analysis/c-287282286

 

Though the most interesting move is one that didn’t occur. Marc-Andre Fleury did not go anywhere. Fleury has been a mainstay in Pittsburgh sense being drafted 1st overall and has only r given up the starting job to Matt Murray this year. Fleury is still a solid backup and has cup winning experience should Murray go down with an injury. Fleury is also a prime target in free agency and the upcoming expansion draft.

 

Overall I would give the Penguins a B or B plus grade on these deals. The met their biggest need without over paying for it.  While the deals may not be flashy and top of the line they are still upgrades. Jim Rutherford has had a lot of success in his recent deadline deals and even if this isn’t as big as a Phil Kessel trade the moves should still work out.

 

 

 

Olli Maatta’s Pittsburgh Career Up in the Air

untitledBy Rachel Mangan

Olli Maatta has had a lot of bad luck in his short career thus far, but the baby-faced 22-year-old blonde has always shown nothing but determination and perseverance. After suffering from shoulder injuries, mumps, concussion, and even cancer, the young defenseman has always found his way back to the ice.

On February 26, 2016, Maatta was rewarded for his efforts with a six-year contract extension.

According to Spotrac, the contract is worth $24.5 million, with an average salary of about $4 million a year.

In his first campaign with the Penguins in the 2013-2014 season, Maatta proved himself to be a force to be reckoned with ending the season as the team’s rookie of the year, with a total of nine goals and 20 assists.

Things went south, though, as Maata’s second season with the Pens was limited to a mere 20 games. The 20-year-old was diagnosed with a cancerous thyroid tumor that had to be surgically removed. Removing the tumor did not require any chemotherapy or radiation treatment and, he was projected to have a full recovery. Continue reading “Olli Maatta’s Pittsburgh Career Up in the Air”

David Perron Returns Home

Star seeks cup with former team

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Photo St. Louis Blues

By Rachel Mangan

After spending three  years on teams like the Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins  and Anaheim Ducks, David Perron  has finally returned to where it all started in 2007.

On July 1, Perron signed  a two-year, $7.5 million deal with St. Louis, where he began his NHL career (h/t Chris Pinkert of NHL.com).

Perron was drafted by the St. Louis Blues back in 2007 , and he has spent the majority of his career in St. Louis thus far. However, he did take a few detours before returning to the starting place of his NHL career.

Perron  was one of the more productive forwards on the Blues, scoring 20-plus goals in two out his first three seasons with the team. Continue reading “David Perron Returns Home”

Crosby’s Absence Concerning Considering Concussion History

Sidney Crosby diagnosed with the 4th concussion of his career

Rob McKinney

Pittsburgh_Penguins_Sidney_Crosby_Shooting_More.jpg
Photo credit: John E. Sokolowski – USA Today Sports (via CBSSports.com)

The Pittsburgh Penguins played their first game of the 2016 NHL regular season last night.

Before the puck dropped, the Penguins organization honored the 2015-16 Stanley Cup team by raising a Stanley Cup Champion banner in front of 19,758 fans.

This moment was bittersweet as captain Sidney Crosby was on the ice for the pregame show but didn’t play in the game against the Washington Capitals due to a concussion.

Crosby’s concussion was suffered last week during practice, but rumors are still circulating about the injury occurring in the World Cup of Hockey back in September.

Whether Crosby injured himself in practice or in the World Cup of Hockey, it still doesn’t take away from the fact that the Penguins could be without their best player for several games. Continue reading “Crosby’s Absence Concerning Considering Concussion History”