F the Penguins, go Predators!

Written by :
Published on : May 29, 2017

 

 

It’s almost time for another group of warriors to drink from Lord Stanley’s Cup of destiny. The defending champs, the Pittsburgh Penguins are annoyingly back in the trophy round. Their opponent, the Nashville Predators, are making their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Final. And I for one, am rooting for the new guys. All across sports, we see the same major market teams always hoisting the championship hardware. Let someone else have a turn for once.

 

I really wanted the Ottawa Senators to make the Final. They pushed the Penguins to the brink. Double overtime in game 7 but alas, Pittsburgh proved yet again they are one of the best outfits on ice. That final score bummed me out. No Canadian team has made the Stanley Cup Final since Vancouver in 2011 and the last Canadian team to win it was Montreal all the way back in 1993. That’s sad. They invented the sport but are relegated to watching the Stanley Cup instead of competing for it. And our northern brothers will have to wait at least another year before recapturing hockey’s top prize.

 

 

If you aren’t from Pennsylvania, then the Penguins should be the obvious villains in this series. They have been dominant in the sport for the last few years, they are defending champs, have a roster full of stars like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Jake Guentzel, Kris Letang and Matt Murray. Plus those black jerseys with that menacing mascot of theirs. I just hate them. Crosby especially. He is so good but he has a face that you just want to smash. Phil Kessel is cool though. Like a goal-scoring teddy bear but will buy you a beer. But seriously, Penguins please don’t win again. That would be great. Thanks.

 

Now, let’s meet the good guys. The unlikely crew from Nashville taking the playoffs by storm. In the net, is Pekka Rinne the Finish goaltender who is absolutely crushing it right now. He leads the postseason in every major goaltending stat (GAA, Save %, Wins, Shutouts). Rinne is the number one reason the Preds have made it to the Finals. But Nashville is a sneaky deep squad featuring ballers like PK Subban, Mike Fisher, James Neal, Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, Colton Sissons, Ryan Johansen and Mattias Ekholm. All the tools are here. Let’s hope they can put it together.

 

 

In terms of the matchup, you have to give the advantage to the Penguins just based on experience. They’ve been here before and they know how to win a Cup. But that may not be an issue if Rinne keeps up his level of play. Part of me wants to see Pittsburgh get swept but that won’t happen. The series will probably need 6 or 7 games to determine a winner. Which is fine because that sounds like a great Stanley Cup. Let’s just hope we get the right ending. F the Penguins.

 

Music city.

 

 


Why They Can Win: NHL Stanley Cup Final Edition

Written by :
Published on : May 30, 2016

 

Well, it’s that time of year again. After months of grueling playoff action, it’s time for the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, pitting the San Jose Sharks against the Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s been a long time coming for San Jose players and fans alike. This will be the first time in franchise history that the Sharks will play in a Stanley Cup Final.

 

It will be a thrilling time for the Sharks, particularly veteran forwards Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton. Marleau has been in San Jose since he was the second player selected at the 1997 NHL Draft; he has played 1,411 regular-season games with the Sharks and another 165 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Thornton arrived in 2005 in a trade with the Boston Bruins. Sharks defenseman Brent Burns has emerged as one of the better defensemen in the NHL and was recognized last month when he was named a Norris Trophy finalist. Burns had 75 points (27 goals, 48 assists) in the regular season. So let’s take a look at both teams and talk about how either one of them could be hoisting the greatest trophy in sports.

 

Pittsburgh Penguins:

I hate to say it, but the Pens have a pretty good chance at hoisting the Cup.

 

The Penguins have been a different team since Mike Sullivan replaced Mike Johnston as coach 28 games into the season. Sullivan has allowed the Penguins to use their speed to their advantage, and top players like centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, right wing Phil Kessel, and defenseman Kris Letang have thrived. Crosby scored 36 goals and had 85 points during the regular season, and he and Malkin each have 15 points in the playoffs. Letang has 10 points and a plus-4 rating.

 

 

Matt Murray has supplanted Marc-Andre Fleury as the No. 1 goalie in Pittsburgh after the latter sustained a concussion March 31. Fleury had a chance to grab his job back in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but he allowed four goals on 25 shots in a 4-3 overtime loss. Murray turned 22 on May 25 and has 28 games of experience between the regular season and postseason on his resume, but he has shown the poise of a veteran and his teammates have full confidence in him.

 

Crosby will always be the first name mentioned when it comes to Pittsburgh’s offense, but the Penguins are loaded up front. The acquisition of Kessel from the Toronto Maple Leafs last summer has paid dividends; Kessel enters the Final as Pittsburgh’s leading scorer this postseason with 18 points (nine goals, nine assists) in as many games. Monday, he’ll play his first game in the Final.

Kessel is part of what has been dubbed the “HBK Line,” consisting of left wing Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel. Bonino has 12 assists in 18 games, and Hagelin, one of the League’s fastest skaters, has five goals and seven assists.

 

 

Bryan Rust is going through the playoffs for the first time, but he sure doesn’t look rattled. Game 7 against Tampa Bay arguably was his best of the postseason; he scored each of Pittsburgh’s goals in a 2-1 win. Rust likely will skate with Malkin and Chris Kunitz, who has 10 points in 18 games.

 

It’s no secret Pittsburgh’s defense begins with Letang, who is one of the top offensive defensemen in the NHL. Letang is averaging 28:46 of ice time in the playoffs and has two goals and eight assists in 17 games. But he had two points in the Eastern Conference Final, and the Penguins may need more from Letang on the score sheet against the Sharks if they hope to finish this off.

 

Letang’s main defense partner, Brian Dumoulin, who scored his second goal in 116 career NHL regular-season and playoff games in Game 5 against the Lightning, is steady defensively and plays more than 20 minutes per game.

 

San Jose Sharks:

Marleau and Thornton will dominate the early storylines in this series, but center Joe Pavelski was born for this time of year. Pavelski has 13 goals in 18 games this postseason, including four game-winners. The first-year captain’s leadership on and off ice undoubtedly is one of the biggest reasons San Jose has gotten over the hump and reached the Final.

 

 

Center Logan Couture and Thornton are first and second in the NHL in assists this postseason, with 16 and 15, respectively. Each is extremely creative and a weapon on the power play. Couture’s 24 points lead the NHL.

 

Right wing Joel Ward is doing everything Sharks general manager Doug Wilson hoped he would when he signed him as a free agent on July 3. Ward has brought grit to San Jose and has 11 points in 18 playoff games. He is very familiar with Pittsburgh going back to his days with the Washington Capitals, so Ward should know what to expect in this series.

 

Ward’s line is centered by Chris Tierney, a 21-year-old who had seven goals in 79 regular-season games and has five in the playoffs. Swedish left wing Melker Karlsson continues to be a solid third-line left wing who is responsible in each end.

 

Burns is the star of San Jose’s defense and is capable of getting on the score sheet every time he’s on the ice. He enters the Final as the Sharks’ third leading scorer with 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) and is averaging more than 25 minutes of ice time.

 

 

Burns isn’t the only elite player on San Jose’s back end. Marc-Edouard Vlasic has been spectacular this postseason, shutting down the opposition’s top forwards one series after another. Vlasic blanketed the St. Louis Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko, who had 13 points in his first 14 games this postseason in the Western Conference Final, helping to hold him off the score sheet until Game 6. Vlasic is paired with Justin Braun, who was plus-3 in Game 5 against St. Louis and played 22:23 in the series-clincher.

 

San Jose’s power play has improved since the regular season, when it was third in the League at 22.5 percent, and is ranked second in the NHL this postseason at 27.0 percent. If the Sharks can keep the puck in the Penguins’ zone and Thornton can continue to find players like Pavelski and Marleau in the slot, their chances of winning the Cup increase dramatically.

 

 


Rangers Drop Game 3 to Pens

Written by :
Published on : April 20, 2016

 

 

Coming off a big win in game two at Pittsburgh and great start to game three, the inability to keep the momentum going into the third period is what cost the Rangers a win. After nearly two periods of great hockey by both teams, the Rangers gradually let the game slip away from them. The Pens defense, especially in the neutral zone, came up big for them and they allowed only 17 shots on goal the entire game. Henrik Lundqvist had another strong game in net, but could not make up for the lack of offense.

 

Having only 17 shots on goal in an entire playoff hockey game is just embarrassing. The Rangers did nothing to make back-up goaltender Matt Murray feel uncomfortable. It’s only a matter of time before Marc-Andre Fluery comes back, so taking advantage of opportunities like an unexperienced goaltender is key if you want to win.

 

During the early stages of the game, the Rangers had a clear advantage in the Penguins’ zone. Halfway through the first period, it looked as if the Rangers were going to take an early 1-0 lead after Kreider beat Murray near-side, something that would’ve been well deserved. But the Penguins challenged the goal for offsides, and after review it was ruled that J.T. Miller was offsides when the puck crossed the blue line.

 

 

The no-goal call had a visible effect on the Rangers’ momentum as the first period came to a close. Thanks to a great play by Kevin Klein that knocked the puck loose in the defensive zone, Nash was able to motor in on a partial breakaway and plant an absolute snipe right under the crossbar to make it 1-0 game.

 

Throughout the rest of the second period the Rangers seemed to control most of the game. They played well defensively, blocking the shooting lanes and keeping the Penguins to the outside. Late in the period Marc Staal was called for a hooking penalty on Carl Hagelin. The Pens didn’t waste anytime to capitalize on their man-up opportunity. Kessel’s shot was deflected in by Crosby to tie the game at 1-1 late in the second.

 

 

The third period is where the Rangers saw the most drastic decline in momentum. 4:16 into the period, Cullen scored on a breakaway after Boyle and Yandle collided at the blue line. The Rangers never fully recovered from this goal and it just got worse from there.

 

Following the goal that put Pens up 2-1, the Penguins completely shut down the Rangers in the neutral zone, and gave them absolutely no opportunity to create a scoring chance while entering the offensive zone. The Rangers attempted to make one final push after pulling Lundqvist, but they were unable to get any good shots on net. Letang was able to seal the deal with the empty net goal with less than 15 seconds remaining, and gave the Penguins a 2-1 lead in the series.

 

The Rangers will face the Penguins again for Game 4 of the series on Thursday night at MSG. If the Rangers can get another good start to the game and keep the momentum throughout, then they have a great shot at winning.

 

Let’s Go Rangers!!!

 

 

 


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