Pittsburgh Penguins Roundup: 2017 Draft, Free Agency, And Schedule

By Larry Snyder

With the 55th edition of the National Hockey League Entry Draft set for Friday, June 23 and Saturday, June 24, the Pittsburgh Penguins continue to barrel into the off-season at full speed. The claiming of new young talent for the bench is at the United Center, home of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Barring any trades, all of the Black and Gold’s picks they still own, come at the end of the round. They are 31st in the first, 93rd in the third, 155th in the fifth, 186th in the sixth, and 217th in the seventh.

Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun in his mock draft has Pittsburgh opting for Waterloo Black Hawks center Shane Bowers from the United States Hockey League with their first selection while Dave Isaac of the Courier-Post forecasts Spokane Chiefs center Jaret Anderson-Dolan from the Western Hockey League.

After the draft, free agency skates to center ice at noon on Saturday, July 1 with another opportunity for teams to improve their rosters. Pens general manager Jim Rutherford spoke with Josh Yohe of dkpittsburghsports.com (subscription service) about possibly adding to the blue line crew, “We’ll see how things shake out but obviously we need to take a look. Am I possibly interested in trading for a defenseman or signing the right guy in July? Yes.”

Rutherford and the Penguins disclosed Thursday, June 22 the re-signing of defenseman Chad Ruhwedel to a two-year agreement, worth an average value of $650,000. They also approved a two-year entry-level deal with prospect forward Frederik Tiffels from Western Michigan University. He came to Pittsburgh in the sixth round of the 2015 NHL Draft.

From the staff at ESPN.com, the dates of Thursday, July 20 to Friday, August 4, is the time for salary arbitration hearings in the NHL. The deadline for salary arbitration settlements is Sunday, August 6.

While the players take time off to enjoy their day with Lord Stanley’s Cup, the NHL announced Thursday, June 22 the 2017-2018 regular season schedule. Fans of the Penguins can look forward to 11 Saturday home contests while the Boys of Winter must deal with 19 back-to-back match-ups from October to April. Here is a look at some of the engaging, dates you might want to circle on your calendar.

Putting up another Stanley Cup Banner, opens the season Wednesday, Oct. 4 at the Paint Can. The meeting with the St. Louis Blues gets underway at 8:00 p.m.

The Boys from Music City, the Nashville Predators return to the City of Bridges Saturday, Oct. 7 at 7:00 p.m. Pittsburgh hits the Catfish Capital of the South Saturday, Nov. 11 at 8:00 p.m.

Marc-Andre Fleury, along with fellow former Penguins James Neal, Deryk Engelland, Chris Thorburn, David Perron, and the rest of the Vegas Golden Knights visit Tuesday, Feb. 6 at 7:00 p.m. The Black and Gold get their first look at the Sin City crew at T-Mobile Arena, Thursday, Dec. 14 at 10:00 p.m.

Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals welcome Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, and Company Wednesday, Oct. 11 to the Verizon Center. The opening faceoff is 7:30 p.m. between the long-time rivals. The Caps first appearance in the Steel City is not until Friday, Feb. 2 at 7:00 p.m.

Columbus helps the holidays arrive at the end of the year with a pair of contests in the Burgh. The Blue Jackets invade Thursday, Dec. 21 at 7:00 p.m. and again Wednesday, Dec. 27 at the same 7:00 p.m. start time.

Philadelphia pulls into 1001 Fifth Avenue Monday, Nov. 27 for a 7:00 p.m. meeting while the New York Rangers sharpen their skates in town Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 7:00 p.m. The Islanders come over from New York Thursday, Dec. 7 at 7:00 p.m.

Masterton Memorial Trophy winner Craig Anderson and the Ottawa Senators host the Black and Gold at the Canadian Tire Centre, Thursday, Nov. 16 at 7:30 p.m. The Sens make the trip from Ontario to Pittsburgh Tuesday, Feb. 13 at 7:00 p.m.

One set of dates to keep in mind is Friday, Feb. 9 to Sunday, Feb. 25 for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Commissioner Gary Bettman said back in April; the NHL would not suspend its schedule for players to participate in the tournament. Can or will the Penguins and other teams permit their athletes to go to the Winter Games? The league has not announced what they will do if any players attend the event.

Looking Back: Video From NHL Prospects On YouTube.com – Shane Bowers OT Goal vs Musketeers | Oct 14, 2016…

Your GIF CAP And More For Game Six: Penguins Vs. Predators

By Larry Snyder

The Pittsburgh Penguins claimed back-to-back Stanley Cup Championships with their 2-0 shutout of the Predators Sunday in Nashville. Here are the two goals that we will not forget.

From #72 Patric Hornqvist On YouTube.com…

From #62 Carl Hagelin On YouTube.com…

And, we never tire of seeing this on YouTube.com…

Here are a few comments and observations from around Twitter…

Let’s get together at the parade and enjoy the fun…

2017 Stanley Cup Final: Pittsburgh Penguins Vs. Nashville Predators Game 5 Comments

By Larry Snyder

With the best of seven series knotted up at a pair of victories apiece, the Pittsburgh Penguins seek to maintain home ice advantage against the Nashville Predators for the third time at PPG Paints Arena tonight at 8:00 p.m. You can watch every odd-man rush up the ice on NBC. We check in with both teams for quotes and comments.

Sidney Crosby commented about the Preds defense to Nicole Jelinek on the team’s website, “I think both teams are trying to find that line of forcing teams into mistakes and being aggressive and not making your own. I think that is really what it comes down to. Probably both of us have made a few plays that ended up going back the other way, but you can’t sit back and let teams come at you. Sometimes that is going to happen and you are going to make mistakes, but for the most part, both teams are trying to play pretty aggressive and force the other team into turnovers.”

Evgeni Malkin expressed his thoughts to Matt Gajtka of dkpittsburghsports.com (subscription service) about playing in over 200 games the last two seasons, “I know people talk about we’re tired, but believe me, they’re tired, too. There are only three games left. Let’s not talk about tired. It’s so much fun right now. I mean, we’re playing in the Final.”

Jonathan Boumulie from the Tribune-Review had a conversation with Conor Sheary about his possible return to the Crosby line for this evening’s contest, “I do have a comfort level with (Crosby). Nothing’s really set in stone until game time, but if I do get that opportunity, I think I need to focus on bringing what I can and trying to help make that line better as much as I can by using my speed.”

Sam Werner at the Post-Gazette caught up with Phil Kessel about the Pen’s power play looking better in Game 4, “We had some chances, we had some looks, we moved around better. I think we’ve been through dry spells like this, but we’ve got a pretty good power play and we’ll just keep playing.”

Pens head coach Mike Sullivan talked about Game 5 with Ken Campbell from The Hockey News, “I don’t know that we feel that we’re against the ropes. I think we have to win a game. That hasn’t changed. Desperate is a funny word for me because it gets thrown around our game a lot. It always has a connotation of hopelessness. I don’t believe that’s the word that we want to use to describe our team. I think we’ve got to play with urgency. I think we’ve got to play determined. I think we have to play with conviction. I think when our team plays that way, we’re at our very best.”

Coming into Game 5, Joe Rexrode of the USA Today Network and The Tennessean has this from Nashville’s P.K. Subban, “You can’t forget, regardless of what happens in a game or throughout a series, they’re the Cup champions.”

Left wing Viktor Arvidsson chatted with the Canadian Press about his goal in Monday’s Game 4, “I try to contribute as much as I can. Of course, it was nice to get one.”

Nashville head coach Peter Laviolette spoke with Brooks Bratten Wednesday on the Preds website about Game 5, “We have to win a road game – there’s no other way around it. For three series, we’ve been able to do that. We’ve been able to find some success on the road. We’ll look to go into Pittsburgh [and take] Game Five. We have to at some point. We have no home ice in this series, so we have to go in and steal one at some point.”

Next Up: The sixth match-up in the battle for the Stanley Cup is at Bridgestone Arena in the Athens of the South Sunday, June 11, when the Preds and Pens meet at 8:20 p.m. Watch every power play on NBC, or you can listen to Mike Lange and Phil Bourque on 105.9 FM – The X.

Video From LiveNHLWire On YouTube.com – Penguins and Predators Mic’d Up for Game 4…

2017 Stanley Cup Final: Pittsburgh Penguins Vs. Nashville Predators Game 2 Quotes And Comments

By Larry Snyder

Coming off a victory in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final where the shooting difference was 26-12, the Pittsburgh Penguins endeavor to tame the Nashville Predators for the second time at PPG Paints Arena this evening at 8:00 p.m. You can see who captures every faceoff on the NBC Sports Network. Here is a look at the various quotes and comments about the matchup from both squads.

Penguins defenseman Kris Letang, who is out after surgery to a herniated disc in his neck, talked to Matt Gajtka from dkpittsburghsports.com (subscription service) about his team, “A month and a half ago, I was sitting here and I was confident we could go all the way. When you have a leader like Sid, you have Geno, the core group is just unbelievable players. They care for each other. When you have that type of guy on your team, you know you have a chance.”

Scott Wilson commented to Gajtka after Wednesday’s morning skate about shooting opportunities in Game 1, “That was the biggest thing we need to do a better job of. We watched a lot of video and we … looked for that extra pass. That’s definitely one of the keys going forward. It wasn’t even that bad. We had more zone time than them.”

Matt Murray, who is 4-1 in these playoffs with a 1.62 goals-against-average, chatted with Jonathan Boumulie from the Tribune-Review about how the Pens forwards can apply the brakes to the Preds defense, “I think try to stay in their face as much as possible, not allow them to get going. That would be the biggest thing. Then, you know, they’re going to get their chances, but at the end of the day it’s just about trying to hold them off, playing hard defensively. I think being hard in our net front is key, too.”

Ian Cole in an exclusive player blog to NHL.com writes about playing better in Game 2, “We know they’ll still keep their tight gaps through the neutral zone and try to limit our odd-man rushes, but we can play a lot stronger with our forecheck and our reloads. We can do a better job to limit their speed through the neutral zone. We know their ‘D’ like to skate and join the rush, so to get a good forecheck and reload well and stay above those guys, I think will put us in a beneficial situation.”

Will Graves of the Associated Press has this from Nashville defenseman Ryan Ellis about Game 1, “Now we face a little adversity. We see what kind of group and character we have to bounce back. Everything was there that we liked but the result.”

Predators head coach Peter Laviolette spoke with Matt Larkin of The Hockey News Tuesday about his team’s Game 1 efforts, “It just didn’t go our way. I don’t think we were rattled. That last goal was tough, where it goes off Ekholm’s shin guard and in. It’s a nothing play, it’s not a scoring chance, and that pushed it to 3-0. I don’t think we played poorly at all through the game. That being said, we lost the game. We sit here, and they’re up 1-0 and we’re down 0-1. So we’ve got to be better. We’ve got to put the hammer on the gas pedal and make sure we’re ready to get after it.”

Next Up: The third meeting to claim Lord Stanley’s Cup is at Bridgestone Arena in the Music City Saturday, June 3, when the Nashville Predators skate against the Black and Gold at 8:22 p.m. Catch the battle along the boards on NBC or listen to Mike Lange and Phil Bourque on 105.9 FM – The X.

From SportsNet On YouTube.com – Guentzel’s flair for dramatic comes up clutch in Game 1…

Destiny Awaits: The Irresistible Force vs. the Immovable Object

(Photo Credit: John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s hard to believe we’re here again… We’re just hours before the Stanley Cup Final.

The Pittsburgh Penguins begin their quest to become the first repeat Stanley Cup champions in nearly 20 years tonight at PPG Paints Arena.

The series pits the playoff’s highest-scoring team (Pittsburgh) against its top defensive unit (Nashville).

It’s the first time the Predators have advanced to the Stanley Cup Final, while the Penguins return for the sixth time in franchise history.

Regardless of the road to the Stanley Cup Final, both teams have provided its fanbases with quality hockey and plenty of excitement. However, all that matters right now is the race to four wins.

Nashville, while lacking experience has overcome the odds beating three solid teams: Chicago, St. Louis, and Anaheim.  The Pens road hasn’t been easy either. They had to beat two teams with better records, and two Game Sevens and an incredibly hot goalie while playing without several instrumental players due to injury.

It’s a story of The Irresistible Force vs. the Immovable Object… and destiny awaits the winner.


THEY’VE BEEN HERE BEFORE

Experience, is definitely on the side of the Penguins. However, it was also on the side of Chicago and Anaheim… and we all know how that played out for those two teams. That being said, the Pens will need to use its experience to buck the trend against the Preds.

Pittsburgh enters the Stanley Cup Final with 19 of the 25 players they’ve used thus far owning Stanley Cup rings, and 17 of the 25 having appeared in at least one Stanley Cup Final.

According to ESPN Stats and Info, the Penguins’ roster has combined for 156 career Stanley Cup Final games versus just five for Nashville, all by captain Mike Fisher. However, Fisher is recovering from an injury and is a game time decision for Game One tonight in Pittsburgh.

Here is a breakdown of the Stanley Cup experience on Pittsburgh’s roster:

3 Stanley Cup rings (1): Chris Kunitz

2 Stanley Cup rings (4): Marc-Andre Fleury, Matt Cullen, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby

1 Stanley Cup ring (14): Matt Murray, Olli Maatta, Justin Schultz, Trevor Daley, Brian Dumoulin, Ian Cole, Nick Bonino, Bryan Rust, Scott Wilson, Tom Kuhnhackl, Conor Sheary, Carl Hagelin, Patric Hornqvist, Phil Kessel

4th Stanley Cup Final Appearance (4): Chris Kunitz, Marc-Andre Fleury**, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby

3rd Stanley Cup Final Appearance (2): Carl Hagelin, Matt Cullen

2nd Stanley Cup Final Appearance (11): Matt Murray, Olli Maatta, Justin Schultz, Brian Dumoulin, Ian Cole, Nick Bonino, Bryan Rust, Tom Kuhnhackl, Conor Sheary, Patric Hornqvist, Phil Kessel

Stanley Cup Final Debut (8): Chad Ruhwedel, Trevor Daley*, Scott Wilson*, Mark Streit, Ron Hainsey, Carter Rowney, Josh Archibald, Jake Guentzel

*Daley and Wilson were hurt and did not play in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, hence this being the Cup Final debut for both.

**Played in both the 2008 and ’09 Stanley Cup Final; was the backup netminder in ‘16

***Injured blueliner Kris Letang is a two-time Stanley Cup champion and has appeared in three previous Stanley Cup Finals


DEFENSE FIRST

The Penguins have used eight defensemen in the playoffs, with none averaging more than 22 minutes a night as head coach Mike Sullivan has elected to spread out the minutes with star defender Kris Letang shelved for the remainder of the year due to a herniated disc in his neck.

Nashville’s defensemen are a huge key to their offensive attack, as the Preds’ top-four blueliners – Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi, P.K. Subban and Mattias Ekholm – rank among their top-eight scorers thus far. The Preds blue line will create a huge challenge for the Pens because they can create a ton of offense from the back end.

Nashville’s blue line is capable of playing some big-time minutes and can also produce offense. Subban, Josi, and Ekholm average more than 25 minutes per game. Ellis is averaging nearly 24 minutes per game (23:59). 

The Predators top four defensemen have combined for 11 goals and 39 points in 16 playoff games.

Don’t underestimate Roman Josi. He doesn’t get talked about nearly enough and is the Pred’s best all-around defenseman. During the regular season, he led Nashville defensemen in points (49) and minutes (25:04) and quarterbacks the Pred’s first power-play unit.


GETTING OFFENSIVE
Pittsburgh enters the series as the NHL’s best offensive team.

Evgeni Malkin leads the NHL with 24 points (7G, 17A) in 18 playoff games, while Sidney Crosby (20 points), Phil Kessel (19 points) and Jake Guentzel (16 points) are also among the league leaders. The crazy thing is, Guentzel could be a healthy scratch tonight as he didn’t skate on the four top lines in practice on Sunday. 

Nashville doesn’t have a forward group with a lot of star power, especially with Ryan Johansen out for the remainder of the playoffs. The loss of Johansen means that even more offensive production will fall on the plate of young sniper Filip Forsberg, who tallied a goal and an assist in the Preds’ Game 6 clinching win against Anaheim. Forsberg enters the Stanley Cup Final as both Nashville’s leading scorer, and riding an NHL-playoff-high seven-game point streak (5G, 3A). He also has goals in five of his last six games.

BETWEEN THE PIPES
Coming off a series against one red-hot goaltender – Craig Anderson, the high-powered Penguins’ offense will meet another tough challenge… Pekka Rinne.

Rinne has been the best goaltender in this year’s playoffs. Heading into the SCF, Rinne leads the NHL in playoff wins (12), goals-against average (1.70) and save percentage (.941). He has allowed two goals or fewer 11 times in 15 outings this postseason.

However, history is on the Penguins side against Rinne. In eight career regular-season games against the Penguins, Rinne is just 1-5-2 with a 3.57 goals-against average and an .880 save percentage. His lone win was a relief victory in his first-ever appearance against Pittsburgh back on Jan. 8, 2009.

Since taking over goaltending duties midway through the Eastern Conference Final, Matt Murray has proceeded to go 3-1 with a 1.35 goals-against average and a .946 save percentage in four appearances.

Overall, Murray has posted a stellar 10-2 record in the last two postseasons.

Backing up Murray is Marc-Andre Fleury who was arguably the Penguins’ MVP, winning nine of his 15 starts, and posting a pair of shutouts that included a 29-save blanking in Game 7 of the Second Round against the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center. No goalie has made 30-plus saves more often this spring than Fleury, who did so nine times. Fleury’s 62 career playoff victories are the most among all active netminders, and they rank 13th in NHL history.


IN THE END, IT DOESN’T EVEN MATTER…
All in all, it should be one of the most entertaining Stanley Cup series in a long time for the NHL. A superstar laden squad versus the proverbial Cinderella team. The Predators have put together an impressive run. It’s honestly been incredibly enjoyable to watch what they’ve been able to do on ice and how the city of Nashville has rallied around its team.

Each series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is different. Just like every game… You can win 7-0 one day and the next find yourself on the losing end of things… It’s a new beginning. The next four wins is ALL that matters. What happened in the previous series is over… It’s done. Don’t look on past successes, learn from previous failures. Enjoy the ride for what it’s worth. We’re lucky because we’re use to being in this situation. Don’t take it for granted. Be loud. The series can go either way and there are still plenty of questions to be answered.

The Pred’s top four defensemen are surely talented. Can they stop the high-powered Pens? It’s very possible, but not likely. 

Will Rinne give the Pens snipers fits like Craig Anderson did? He’s perfectly capable of that distinction, but I don’t see it happening… The Sens helped Anderson greatly by playing deep in their own zone in front of their keeper, essentially creating a bottleneck in front of Anderson. Nashville plays a different version of the 1-3-1 as Jesse Marshall illustrated earlier this week at the Pensblog. If the Pens continue to be aggressive on the forecheck, they’ll get plenty of quality scoring chances.

Can the Pens defense keep Forsberg and James Neal at bay? That’ll be quite the task.

Will PK Subban be a thorn in the side of Crosby and Malkin? You better believe it.

I don’t expect this Pens team to be involved in a low-scoring series like they were in the Eastern Conference Finals. I’m expecting fireworks.

Pens in 6.


STICK TAPS

  • Chris Kunitz joined Darius Kasparaitis (a player ever Penguins fan in a Washington DC bar should know) as the only players in franchise history to score an overtime goal in Game 7. With the goal, Elias notes that Kunitz became the oldest player (37 years, 241 days old) to score an overtime goal in a Game 7.
  • With four more wins, Kunitz would be the only active player with four Stanley Cups (2007, 09, 16).
  • Pittsburgh is aiming to become the first team since the 1997 and ’98 Detroit Red Wings to repeat as Stanley Cup champion.
  • Mike Sullivan became only the third coach to reach the Stanley Cup Final in his first two seasons with a team since 1968. He joined Larry Robinson (NJD; 2000 & ‘01) and Scotty Bowman (Blues; 1968, ‘69 & ‘70).
  • With a Game 7 win in the 2016 ECF, 2017 SR, and 2017 ECF, Sullivan became the only Penguins coach to win three Game 7s.
  • In the Final, Sullivan will face off against fellow American coach Peter Laviolette. It will pit the first time two coaches from the United States face off in the SCF.
  • Murray is the 1st goalie since Jacques Plante (1953-55) to start a SCF game in multiple years under rookie designation. His 16th career win in Game 4 vs. OTT set a NHL record for playoff wins by a goalie w/a rookie designation.
  • Murray recorded a 16-3-2 record this year at PPG Paints Arena & is 20-4-3 here all-time in the regular season.
  • One of these two head coaches will make history. The coach whose club wins this series will become the first American-born head coach to win two Stanley Cups. As it stands now, the Penguins’ Mike Sullivan and Nashville’s Peter Laviolette are two of six American-born coaches to lead their clubs to championships. The other four American-born head coaches to win the Stanley Cup are Bill Stewart (Chicago, 1938), Bob Johnson (Pittsburgh, 1991), John Tortorella (Tampa Bay, 2004) and Dan Bylsma (Pittsburgh, 2009).