Nick and Connor recap and react to the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship so far, review the latest suspensions and injuries, look to the future of the NHL in 2019 and beyond, discuss 2019 All-Star Game captains, Jake Guentzel’s new extension and Jim Lites’ quotes on Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn.
Casey DeSmith was the star of the game Friday night at PPG Paints Arena as the Pittsburgh Penguins de facto starting netminder made 48 saves in a 5-3 victory over the Boston Bruins.
Jake Guentzel had the game-winning goal midway through the third period after a pair of quick goals by the Bruins had tied the game, but the Penguins held strong with DeSmith leading the way from his crease.
DeSmith (10-5-4 record, 2.46 goals against average, .923 save percentage in 22 games played) made 48 saves on 51 shots against for a .941 SV% in the win, while Boston goaltender, Jaroslav Halak (9-5-2, 2.40 GAA, .926 SV% in 18 GP) turned aside 23 shots on 27 shots faced for an .852 SV% in the loss.
The Bruins have now dropped their last four games in Pittsburgh and snapped a three-game winning streak with the loss and remain 4th in the Atlantic Division with a 17-11-4 record (38 points).
Pittsburgh bounced back from a, 6-3, blowout loss at United Center on Wednesday– though the Pens haven’t won in Chicago since February 27, 2009 and last beat the Blackhawks in the regular season on March 30, 2014– and improved to 14-11-6 (34 points) on the season to move into 3rd place in the Metropolitan Division– surpassing the New York Islanders for the last divisional playoff spot.
Kevan Miller (larynx) was back to practice on Thursday in a red no-contact jersey for the Bruins, while Jake DeBrusk (concussion) remains out of the lineup.
Noel Acciari was inserted back on the fourth line at center for Friday night’s matchup with the Penguins after missing the last three games since Dec. 6th as a healthy scratch.
Sean Kuraly slid over from centering the fourth line to playing left wing, having missed Thursday’s practice to undergo minor surgery for his broken nose (sustained in a fight with Ben Harpur in Ottawa last Sunday).
As a result, Gemel Smith joined Jeremy Lauzon as the only healthy scratches for Boston, with Miller (throat), DeBrusk (concussion) Zdeno Chara (knee, left MCL), Patrice Bergeron (rib/sternoclavicular) and Urho Vaakanainen (concussion) still out of the lineup due to injury.
Bruce Cassidy kept the rest of the lines and defensive pairings unchanged from Boston’s three-game win streak entering Friday in Pittsburgh.
Brandon Carlo was guilty of the game’s first penalty– a minor infraction for holding– at 2:24 of the first period and the Penguins went on the power play for the first time of the night.
Pittsburgh did not convert on the skater advantage.
Later in the period, DeSmith robbed Boston forward, Brad Marchand, of an otherwise surefire goal as DeSmith got the glove on Marchand’s elevated backhand shot.
Late in the first period, Derek Grant (2) put one through Halak for the game’s first goal to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead at 17:48.
Matt Cullen (3) and Garrett Wilson (2) had the assists on Grant’s goal.
Entering the first intermission, the Penguins led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, while trailing, 11-9, in shots on goal. Boston held onto the advantage in takeaways (4-1) and face-off win percentage (56-44), while Pittsburgh led in giveaways (2-1) and hits (20-15).
Both teams had two blocked shots each through one period and the Pens were 0/1 on the power play.
Phil Kessel (13) went unchallenged for a goal early in the second period that made it, 2-0, Penguins after all five skaters for Boston collapsed into a small box their own zone.
Evgeni Malkin (24) and Zach Aston-Reese (3) had the assists on Kessel’s goal at 1:56 of the second period.
Almost midway through the period, Guentzel slashed David Backes and was sent to the penalty box at 9:00 of the middle frame.
The Bruins were unable to convert on the ensuing skater advantage, but began to swing momentum into their favor as about a minute after the power play expired, Carlo (1) blasted a shot from the point past DeSmith to cut Pittsburgh’s lead in half, 2-1.
Carlo’s goal was his first in 116 games– breaking the longest active goalless streak in the NHL– and notching his first tally since March 4, 2017 against the New Jersey Devils.
Chris Wagner (2) and Kuraly (4) had the assists on the goal at 11:53.
Late in the period, Guentzel cut a rut back into the sin bin for tripping David Pastrnak at 17:22 of the second period.
While on the power play, the Bruins turned the puck over and the ensuing result was costly as Aston-Reese (3) floated a shot past Halak to make it a two-goal game once again.
Pittsburgh led, 3-1, as Aston-Reese scored their first shorthanded goal of the season. For the Bruins, it was their fifth shorthanded goal against this season and yet another defensive breakdown in Friday night’s action.
Riley Sheahan (2) and Brian Dumoulin (9) were credited with the assists on Aston-Reese’s goal at 19:01, deflating any momentum the Bruins had gathered.
After 40 minutes of play, Pittsburgh led, 3-1, and Boston led in shots on goal, 29-18 (18-9 in the second period alone). The Pens held the advantage in blocked shots (9-4), giveaways (5-2) and hits (37-27) after two periods, while the B’s led in takeaways (4-2) and face-off win% (64-36).
Pittsburgh was still 0/1 on the power play and the Bruins were 0/2.
Boston opened the third period with a lot more pressure in their own zone than they exhibited in the first 40 minutes of action, which eventually led to a turnover-turned-goal almost midway through the period.
But first, after Charlie McAvoy jumped on a loose puck before it could exit the offensive zone, Wagner (3) received a pass and ripped a one-timer past DeSmith to bring the Bruins to within one goal and make it, 3-2.
McAvoy (6) and Kuraly (5) had the assists on Wagner’s goal at 7:08 of the third period.
A mere 52 seconds later, the B’s forced a turnover and exchanged it for a rush into the attacking zone that led to an initial shot from Pastrnak that rang the crossbar behind DeSmith.
With the puck bouncing back out of the crease and DeSmith well out of position, David Krejci (5) was able to secure just enough possession to get off a backhand shot of his own into the open twine, tying the game, 3-3.
Pastrnak (18) and Marchand (23) had the assists on Krejci’s goal at 8:02.
Moments later, Guentzel (13) tipped in a shot from the point by Kris Letang and the Penguins led once again, 4-3. Letang (18) and Sidney Crosby (18) had the assists on Guentzel’s goal at 10:47 of the third period.
Cassidy pulled Halak for an extra attacker with about 90 seconds remaining in regulation.
Torey Krug fired a shot wide of the goal on the ensuing face-off in the offensive zone and the puck bounced off the end-boards with enough force to generate another chance in the low slot had Ryan Donato gotten there in time.
Instead, DeSmith was able to get to it first and covered the puck up for another face-off.
With 14 seconds left in the game, Boston used their only timeout to draw up a plan to tie the game once again, but it was to no avail.
At 19:54 of the third period, Aston-Reese (4) pocketed his second goal of the night on the empty net, with the assists to Crosby (19) and Jack Johnson (6)– making it, 5-3, Pittsburgh.
Upon the final horn, the Penguins beat the Bruins for the fourth time in-a-row at PPG Paints Arena.
The B’s outshot the Pens, 51-28, after 60 minutes, but couldn’t muster enough in the goal scoring department to outdo Pittsburgh.
The Penguins, in the meantime, led in blocked shots (15-7), giveaways (6-3) and hits (52-35) after the action Friday night. The Bruins finished the night atop face-off win%, 61-39, and went 0/2 on the power play, while Pittsburgh finished 0/1.
With the win on Friday, Pittsburgh improved to 10-4-5 when scoring first this season. DeSmith made a career-high 48 saves, surpassing his previous career-high mark of 42 saves late in the third period.
Boston travels back home for a Sunday evening (5 p.m. ET puck drop) matchup at TD Garden with the Buffalo Sabres before traveling to Montreal for a square with the Canadiens at Bell Centre on Monday.
The Bruins return home after that for a two-game homestand– starting next Thursday against the Anaheim Ducks and concluding next Saturday in a matinee matchup with the Nashville Predators.
Sunday, Dec. 23rd, the Carolina Hurricanes play host to the Bruins on Whalers Night at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Hurricanes will be wearing their throwback Hartford Whalers sweaters for the first time this season.
More on the Arizona Coyotes latest debacle with Seattle expansion looming, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith did something never done before, the Calgary Flames rise in the Western Conference and the St. Louis Blues dismal season. Bob Murray and the Anaheim Ducks made a few moves– signing Murray to an extension, claiming Chad Johnson off waivers and a minor trade.
Plus, Nick and Connor review the last 15 years of first round picks by the Pittsburgh Penguins and do a deep dive on their future and what it might look like.
This week’s episode is chock full of coffee infused, Seattle inspired, artisanal Seattle expansion discussion in addition to William Nylander’s new deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Plus, waivers and trades are rampant this time of year, Tom Wilson: The Bad and the Bad Things That Happened This Week, Chuck Fletcher was hired as General Manager of the Philadelphia Flyers and a 15-year first round draft pick look back of the Los Angeles Kings.
The Board of Governors meeting gets underway next week involving the Seattle expansion vote, Bill Peters took a puck to the jaw and Rick Middleton and Vic Hadfield are having their numbers retired this week.
The Chicago Blackhawks and Arizona Coyotes made another trade with each other, Karl Alzner is being Wade Redden’ed, Ron Hextall got ousted as the Philadelphia Flyers GM, the Buffalo Sabres win streak reached double digits and the Winnipeg Jets brought back their Heritage Jerseys.
Nick and Connor also encourage all of Long Island to go to the New York Islanders game at NYCB Live (it’s the Nassau Coliseum) this week and quickly plan a hopeful trip to see Sporting KC play in Atlanta.
Joakim Nordstrom scored the game-winning goal in overtime Friday night at TD Garden almost two minutes into the extra period on a slap-pass turned redirection for the 2-1 Boston Bruins victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Jaroslav Halak (8-2-2, .939 save percentage, 1.98 goals against average in 14 games played) made 36 saves on 37 shots against for a .973 SV% in 61:57 time on ice for the win for Boston, while Tristan Jarry (0-0-1, 1.94 GAA in one GP) made his season debut and stopped 35 out of 37 shots faced for a .946 SV% in the loss.
Boston improved to 14-7-1-3 all-time in 26 games on Black Friday since the club played their first game on Black Friday in 1990.
The B’s improved to a 12-6-4 record (28 points) on the season and remained 4th in the Atlantic Division with the win, while the Pens fell to 8-8-5 on the season (21 points) and remain in 8th place in the Metropolitan Division with starting goaltender, Matt Murray, back on the injured reserve.
Pittsburgh is tied with the New Jersey Devils in points for 7th in their division, but trails in the tiebreaker of regulation-plus-overtime wins by one (New Jersey has nine, Pittsburgh has eight), heading back home to play the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday.
John Moore returned to the lineup on the blue line for the Bruins on Friday after missing the last three games with a lower body injury, while Bruce Cassidy inserted Colby Cave into the lineup centering the third line alongside Nordstrom and Noel Acciari.
In addition to Brandon Carlo (upper body), Zdeno Chara (lower body, left MCL), Patrice Bergeron (upper body), Urho Vaakanainen (concussion) and Charlie McAvoy (concussion), Anders Bjork and Steven Kampfer joined were out of the lineup as healthy scratches.
Cassidy indicated before Friday night’s matchup that it is unlikely McAvoy, Vaakanainen or Carlo may rejoin the lineup on the upcoming two-game road trip starting Saturday night in Montreal against the Canadiens.
With Halak getting the start (and win) against the Penguins on Friday, Tuukka Rask will tend the net on Saturday against the Habs.
With Moore back on defense, Matt Grzelcyk remained on the first pair with Kevan Miller and Torey Krug suited up alongside Moore. Jeremy Lauzon and Connor Clifton rounded out the remaining defensive pair.
A back and forth goaltender battle resulted in no goals allowed by either club in the first period. Both teams played aggressively, but neither went over the line as no penalties were called in the opening frame, as well.
After one period, the game was still tied, 0-0, with the Bruins outshooting the Penguins, 12-9. Pittsburgh had the advantage in blocked shots (6-3), takeaways (9-3), giveaways (6-2) and face-off win percentage (63-38) entering the first intermission, while Boston led in hits (10-7).
Coming out of the dressing room for the second period, the Pens upped the ante with some tilted action in their attacking zone, leaving the Bruins trailing behind the play.
Krejci tripped up Juuso Riikola at 5:05 of the middle frame and gave Pittsburgh their first power play of the night.
A little over a minute later, while working the puck around the offensive zone on the skater advantage, Evgeni Malkin (9) blasted a one-timed slap shot past Halak to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead.
Moments later, the B’s responded with a give-and-go of their own as DeBrusk (9) carried the puck into the offensive zone, sent it to Krejci and received the drop pass back for the connection on a one-timer slap shot of his own to tie the game, 1-1.
Krejci (15) and Miller (2) had the assists on DeBrusk’s goal at 13:40 of the second period.
With the goal, DeBrusk now has eight points (six goals, two assists) in his last nine games and with an assist on the goal, Krejci tied Peter McNab for 11th overall on the franchise’s all-time points list with 587 career points in a Bruins sweater.
David Backes thought he had the go-ahead-goal in the second period, but referee Wes McCauley deemed it otherwise as the puck appeared trapped between Jarry’s leg pad and the inside of the net hidden from the naked eye.
Upon video review, the call on the ice was confirmed– no goal.
Through 40 minutes of play, the Bruins and Penguins were tied, 1-1, on the scoreboard and, 25-25, in shots on goal (with Pittsburgh outshooting Boston, 16-13, in the second period alone).
Boston held an advantage in blocked shots (11-10), hits (20-17) and face-off win% (53-48) heading into the second intermission, while the Pens led in takeaways (15-6) and giveaways (10-4). Pittsburgh was 1/1 on the power play and the B’s had yet to see the skater advantage on the night.
Miller sent the puck clear over the glass midway through the third period and gave the Penguins their second power play opportunity of the night with an automatic delay of game infraction at 10:41.
The Penguins did not convert on the ensuing power play and the Bruins managed to kill off Miller’s minor penalty.
After regulation, Pittsburgh was leading in shots on goal, 36-35, having outshot Boston, 11-10, in the third period alone. The game was still tied, 1-1, and the Bruins led in blocked shots (15-14), as well as hits (27-24). Meanwhile, the Penguins held onto the advantage in takeaways (19-9), giveaways (15-6) and face-off win% (56-44).
Pittsburgh was 1/2 on the power play after 60 minutes and the Bruins did not get a chance on the skater advantage in Friday night’s matchup.
After surviving an onslaught by the Penguins in overtime, the Bruins managed just enough puck control in the attacking zone for Pastrnak to send a cross-ice pass over to Krug for the slap-pass intentionally wide of the goal where Nordstrom (4) was standing for the redirection pass Jarry.
Nordstrom’s goal at 1:57 of the overtime period, secured the 2-1 victory for Boston and was assisted by Krug (7) and Pastrnak (9).
Boston improved to 2-4 in overtime on the season with the win and finished the night tied in shots on goal with Pittsburgh, 37-37, despite leading in shots on goal in overtime, 2-1.
The Bruins also led in blocked shots (16-14), and hits (28-25) after the final horn, while the Pens held onto the lead in giveaways (16-6) and face-off win% (56-44). Pittsburgh finished the night 1/2 on the power play.
Boston begins a two-game road trip after Friday night’s home game against the Penguins, swinging through Montreal on Saturday and Toronto on Monday, Nov. 26th before returning home for a Thursday night matchup with the N.Y. Islanders on Nov. 29th in which the Bruins will retire Rick Middleton’s No. 16 sweater before the game.
The 2018 Hockey Hall of Fame Class was inducted on Monday, plus we remember the NHL Guardians and celebrate Joe Thornton’s milestones. Tomas Plekanec retired– leaving us a turtleneck to pass on ceremoniously– and Milan Lucic was fined $10,000.
The Pittsburgh Penguins’ plight comes with an extension for General Manager Jim Rutherford, while the Los Angeles Kings battle the injury bug in net (we finished recording before Wednesday’s trade between the two clubs).
Meanwhile, Tom Wilson is back, a concussion lawsuit was settled, the 2019 NWHL All-Star Game was announced, Jakob Chychrun got a six-year extension and Nick and Connor discuss when they’ll eventually let their kids (if they ever have any) play contact sports.
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Nick and Connor talk Alex Tuch’s extension with the Vegas Golden Knights, superstars Auston Matthews, Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid, as well as Charlie McAvoy extension options, the New York Rangers, Boston’s first line vs. Colorado’s top line and the week’s biggest matchup.
47-29-6, 100 points, second in the Metropolitan Division
Lost in Second Round to Washington, 4-2
Subtractions: D Lukas Bengtsson (signed with Linköpings, SHL), C Vincent Dunn (signed with Orlando, ECHL), D Matt Hunwick (traded to BUF), C Josh Jooris (signed with TOR), W Tom Kuhnhackl (signed with NYI), D Andrey Pedan (signed with Ak Bars Kazan, KHL), F Carter Rowney (signed with ANA), LW Tom Sestito (retired), W Conor Sheary (traded to BUF), D Jarred Tinordi (signed with NSH)
However, this campaign is a little bit different than any before it.
Pittsburgh entered last season as the reigning back-to-back champion. The Pens had their ups and downs during the regular season, but after a six-game victory over intrastate rival Philadelphia in the First Round set up yet another conference semifinals meeting with Washington, fate seemed to be in the black-and-gold’s corner once again.
After all, the Penguins almost always beat the Capitals in the playoffs.
That modifier proved to be important, as the Caps defeated the battle-worn Penguins 2-1 in overtime in Game 6 to eliminate them for only the second time in 11 postseason meetings.
With Washington going on to win its first championship in franchise history, it put the onus on Head Coach Mike Sullivan‘s squad to win this year – not only to reclaim one of the most coveted trophies in the world from a division rival, but also to stake claim to the title of the NHL’s 10th dynasty and first since the 1983-1990 Oilers.
The league officially declares a club a dynasty if it claims at least three championships in the span of four years. With two titles in the past three seasons, this is a make-or-break season for Pittsburgh if Crosby and co. want to add that impressive listing to their resumes.
Offensively, Pittsburgh’s biggest addition for the 2018-2019 season actually occurred at the 2018 trade deadline when it completed a three-way trade for C Derick Brassard. It didn’t help that Brassard suffered a lower-body injury so close the regular season, but Pittsburgh is hoping it will see an improvement from the 4-8-12 totals the former Senator posted in 26 regular season and playoff games after he had a full summer to rest, recuperate and learn Sullivan’s system.
Brassard is just about as close to a lock for the third line’s center position as possible.
After a year of service to the Wild, soon-to-be 42-year-old Cullen was also added back into the mix and will surely assume fourth-line center duties, forcing F Riley Sheahan to the wing. With his immense experience at center, Sheahan will be a valuable commodity capable of playing on either the third or fourth line to serve as the backup face-off man should Brassard or Cullen get kicked out of the dot.
Any other changes to the Pens’ attack will come from within the organization. The clamor around the Steel City for RW Daniel Sprong is deafening (he posted 32-33-65 totals in 65 games played last year in the AHL), but his 2-1-3 effort in eight NHL games last season was not enough to convince Sullivan that he should stay with the senior team full time. He still has one more year left on his contract after this season, but the limited minutes awarded a former second-rounder gives many – including myself – the indication that Penguins coaches and management are running out of patience with the youngster’s growth.
In the same turn, F Dominik Simon and F Zach Aston-Reese earned their first Stanley Cup Playoff minutes last season, but only registered respective three and one assists in their eight or nine postseason outings (Simon managed 4-8-12 totals in 33 NHL regular season games last season, while Aston-Reese posted 4-2-6 marks in his 16 regular season showings).
None are locks for the roster, especially with the signings of Grant (12-12-24 totals in 66 games played with Buffalo last season) – another center that could transition to the wing – and Hayes (3-6-9 in 33 appearances with the Devils). General Manager Jim Rutherford is going to have to be very decisive with who makes the squad and who doesn’t, as he will not want to risk losing any of his talented youths to the waiver wire if he’s forced to make a move during the regular season.
The Penguins were even more quiet on the defensive front this summer, but there is two signings along the blue line worth talking about. While a defensive corps that includes Brian Dumoulin, new hire Johnson, Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, Jamie Oleksiak and Justin Schultz looks like it’d be more than solid enough to keep life easy for G Matt Murray, Pittsburgh could be in line for an upgrade if Riikola continues to impress even more than he already has.
The 24-year-old (he’ll turn 25 on November 9) from Joensuu, Finland has played a majority of the last six seasons playing in SM-Liiga (Finland’s top professional league) with KalPa – including playing exclusively with the senior team since 2015-2016 – and he’s been reported to be adjusting to the North American game very quickly and is garnering a lot of attention early in the Pens’ training camp.
Now, that’s not to say Riikola (yes, pronounced like the cough drop company) will avoid Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and automatically make the team. With Pittsburgh’s top six defensemen locked into contracts through next season (seventh-man Chad Ruhwedel will be a UFA next summer), it’s hard to find him a spot on the roster as things stand currently.
However, should the organization decide he’s the real deal (for what it’s worth, he’s been practicing with both Dumoulin, a left-handed shot, and Letang, a right-handed shot), I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rutherford begin fielding trade offers for one of his defensemen in efforts to create a spot for Riikola and improve his bottom-six offensive depth.
Offseason Grade: B
It’s hard to say the Penguins had an A-class offseason considering their overall inactivity, but I’d also argue that there was less to fix than a second round elimination at the hands of the eventual champs would indicate. The real work for this roster will be done when deciding to go with youth or experience, as the core of this group is still certainly capable of winning the Stanley Cup once again.