Category Archives: Penguins News

Connor Mike David, Austen Matthews in the headlines of the awards show

Connor McDavid may get a chance to bring home the hardware.

 

It’s Awards Night in the NHL, as the league will honor the best of the best from the 2016-17 season. The Penguins finished the season as the league’s best team. But who were the top individual performers?

Hart Trophy

Nominees: Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, Sergei Bobrovsky

The 20-year-old McDavid is trying to become the third player to win the Hart Trophy before his 21st birthday, along with Crosby and Wayne Gretzky (who won it twice).

Crosby, who led the NHL with 44 goals this season, is attempting to become the ninth player to win the Hart Trophy three times.

Bobrovsky winning would be highly notable. He led the NHL in goals-against average and save percentage. He’s trying to become the fourth goalie to win the Hart in the last 50 years, joining Dominik Hasek (twice), Jose Theodore and Carey Price.

Calder Trophy (Top rookie)

Nominees: Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, Zach Werenski

Matthews led all rookies with 40 goals and 69 points this season. He’s the first rookie to score 40 goals in a season since Alex Ovechkin in 2005-06. He can become the first Maple Leafs player to win the Calder since Brit Selby in 1965-66, the first American to win it since Tyler Myers in 2009-10 and the second player of Hispanic heritage to win, joining Scott Gomez (1999-2000).

Laine led rookies with an average of 0.88 points per game. He can become the first Finnish player to win a Calder since Teemu Selanne in 1992-93.

Werenski led all rookie defenseman with 11 goals and 47 points and hopes to become the second Blue Jackets player to win the Calder, joining Steve Mason (2008-09).

Vezina Trophy (Best goalie)

Nominees: Sergei Bobrovsky, Braden Holtby, Carey Price

The three finalsts have won three of the last four Vezina Trophys. Bobrovsky led the NHL in goals-against average and save percentage. Holtby tied for the NHL lead with 42 wins and led with nine shutouts. He can be the first back-to-back Vezina winner since Martin Brodeur (2006-07 and 2007-08). Price won the Vezina in 2014-15.

Norris Trophy (Best defenseman)

Nominees: Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson, Victor Hedman

Burns can become the first Sharks player to win the Norris. He led defensemen with 29 goals and 76 points. Per Elias, he is the second defenseman to have at least a share of the team lead in goals, assists and points in a season (Kevin Hatcher in 1990-91). Karlsson is trying to become the ninth player to win the Norris Trophy three times. Hedman led defenseman in assists and power-play points. He can become the first Lightning player to win the Norris.

Also up for grabs …

Selke Trophy (Best defensive forward)

Nominees: Patrice Bergeron (Bruins), Ryan Kesler (Ducks), Mikko Koivu (Wild)

Lady Byng Trophy (Most gentlemanly player)

Nominees: Johnny Gaudreau (Flames), Mikael Granlund (Wild), Vladimir Tarasenko (Blues)

NHL Foundation Player Award (Core values of hockey)

Nominees: Travis Hamonic (Islanders), Wayne Simmonds (Flyers)

Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award

Nominees: Nick Foligno (Blue Jackets), Ryan Getzlaf (Ducks), Mark Giordano (Flames)

Masterson Trophy (Perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey)

Nominees: Craig Anderson (Senators), Andrew Cogliano (Ducks), Derek Ryan (Hurricanes)

Jack Adams Award (Coach of the Year)

Nominees: Mike Babcock (Maple Leafs), Todd McClellan (Sharks), John Tortorella (Blue Jackets)

GM Of The Year Award

Nominees: Peter Chiarelli (Oilers), Pierre Dorion (Senators), David Poile (Predators)

This Pittsburgh Penguins title was a spectacle of survival

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — After the Penguins had finally conquered Bridgestone Arena, after the raucous Predators fans had thrown a final catfish and vacated the premises and allowed a few hundred Pittsburgh Penguins supporters to roar, after the TV cameras had turned off and the floodgates had opened to friends and family, Phil Kessel exchanged huge hugs and grateful pounds of relief with his friends. Mark Streit cradled his baby in his arms for gleeful photo opportunities with whomever passed by. Exhausted Penguins conducted versions of what was surely the same celebratory interview in a bevy of languages.

And there, in the middle of it all, was Sidney Crosby.

Even after the glamour of the initial Cup hoist was over, the Penguins captain again held the trophy up for minutes on end as he slowly sauntered around and then through a throng of teammates, coaches and onlooking media. You would forgive Crosby for feeling like it was his own, given that his Penguins became the first team to repeat as Stanley Cup champions since the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings, and he became the first player to lead the NHL in regular-season goals then hoist the Cup since Wayne Gretzky in 1986-87 — Crosby’s birth year. While Crosby’s first title was a victory of revenge and redemption over those same Red Wings, and the second was a return to the summit after physical adversity, this was a triumph of sheer will. Pittsburgh survived its way to this championship.
Matt Murray started the playoffs as the backup and finished with two straight shutouts.
It took a win in Game 6 to keep the Penguins from tying a record for the longest postseason in league history, but in their 25th game of these playoffs, the Penguins delivered an unlikely victory. Beating the Predators in Nashville, where the home team had gone 9-1 before Sunday’s must-win Game 6? Winning a defensive struggle? It’s weird to think of a team with the silky skills of Crosby, Kessel and Evgeni Malkin gritting their way to a championship, but once the shooting luck they rode to stay alive early in this series wore off, Pittsburgh turned in what was mostly an impressive defensive display, a stretch of simply hanging on.

“The way we were able to get better with every series, that was a big thing for us,” Crosby told ESPN.

Their biggest improvement over this trek came on defense after Matt Murray returned to the lineup from injury. Murray, who ran a .937 save percentage after taking over for Marc-Andre Fleury in the Ottawa series, became the first goalie to roll off consecutive shutouts in the Stanley Cup Final since Chris Osgood (against the Penguins) in 2008.

Murray snuffed out repeated Preds chances from point-blank range, climaxing with a brilliant stop on a Colton Sissons breakaway in the second period. As much as Murray has been an afterthought at times — and there were certainly Penguins fans calling for Fleury as recently as Game 5 — who has a better résumé as a big-game goalie this early in his career? Murray turned 23 last month and has two meaningful roles in Cup victories — both as a rookie because of an NHL technicality — to his name.

If he’s the Grant Fuhr to this team, well, that’s a compliment.

The Penguins didn’t make it easy for Murray or themselves. They committed each of the four penalties the referees called without generating one on Nashville, including a pair of naive plays in their own zone, which set up a 5-on-3 in the third period. Pittsburgh centermen lost 70 percent of faceoffs through the first two periods, including a 4-for-22 stretch from none other than Crosby and Malkin.
For 58 minutes, the wall in front of Pekka Rinne couldn't be breached. And the breakthrough goal ultimately bounced in off his back.
Their defensemen unsurprisingly struggled to transition the puck out of their own zone, including a rash of mistakes from the Penguins rearguard during the first two shifts of the second period. One of those missteps required intervention from a third party, as a premature whistle wiped away what should have been the game’s first goal from Sissons.

It’s fair to wonder whether the Penguins should have needed a disallowed goal to stay within a goal of the Cup for the first 58 minutes of the game. The Predators basically spent most of this game down to one useful defensive pairing, and while the duo of Mattias Ekholm and P.K. Subban were massive in stifling Malkin’s line, Nashville hung on for dear life the rest of the way. Their third duo of Matt Irwin and Yannick Weber were basically left to rot on the bench after a horrific Game 5, while Roman Josi and the clearly injured Ryan Ellis couldn’t keep up against Crosby, as Ellis finished with a CF% (Corsi percentage) of 38.9 in 21 minutes of 5-on-5 play.

With their superstars held off the scoreboard, it took notable efforts from the veterans lurking deeper in Pittsburgh’s forward corps to come away with a victory. Matt Cullen, possibly playing his last NHL game, had a CF% of 60.9 in 5-on-5 play. The 40-year-old was on the ice for 11 scoring chances in just over 14 minutes of even-strength work. The Cup-winning goal — the physical manifestation of the cliché about how important it is to just put the puck on (or near) the net — came on a well-timed rebound from Patric Hornqvist. Hornqvist, a former Predators draftee and 30-goal scorer with Nashville, survived the inquest of a coaches’ challenge for goaltender interference to etch his name in history with one of the prettiest ugly goals he’ll ever score.

It would be cruel to deny Hornqvist’s old team its role in what was a compelling finals. The Predators rebounded beautifully from their brutal 6-0 loss in Pittsburgh in Game 5, with Pekka Rinne returning to form and stopping Pittsburgh’s first 27 shots. Nobody expected the Predators to make it out of the first round of the playoffs (with a stunning sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks that exactly nobody predicted), let alone outplay the Penguins for large chunks of these finals. It will be a long summer of wondering what might have happened if a couple of calls had swung their way, if an official had just managed to catch a glimpse of a puck slipping through Murray’s pads before blowing his whistle. It would have been impossible to begrudge the Predators a Game 7 in Pittsburgh.

And yet, the Penguins did the sorts of things that were supposedly absent during their six-year stretch between titles. They kept themselves alive by winning a pair of Game 7s after losing three consecutive Game 7s in those lean years. They chipped in with a cohesive defensive performance and weren’t dependent upon the hot stretches of their stars. They got great goaltending when they needed it. It might sound like a new story for such a star-laden team — until you remember that the Pens have clinched their Stanley Cups in the Crosby Era by winning 2-1, 3-1 and 2-0.

The Penguins and Crosby have been survivors all along.

Soon after the game, Crosby was asked by ESPN about the possibility of a three-peat. “I can’t imagine how difficult that is, knowing how difficult it was to get to this point,” he said.

You got the feeling as Crosby skated around with the Cup in his hands that, for this night, the future Hall of Famer was happy to celebrate just being the last team alive.