Tag:Steve Sullivan
Posted on: February 29, 2012 11:07 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2012 12:48 am
 

Winners & Losers: Penguins, Blackhawks, Leafs



By: Adam Gretz

There's always a winner and a loser in the NHL, and this is a new nightly look at some of the winners and losers in the biggest games and biggest situations across the league.

Winners

Pittsburgh Penguins: The Pittsburgh-Dallas Stars matchup is your typical, run-of-the-mill East vs. West game that takes place once, maybe twice per year.

There really isn't much of a history between the two teams, and it's not really a game that would (or probably should) get any extra attention on your schedule.

But man, something flipped the switch on Wednesday night as the two teams played one of the most physical -- and entertaining -- games of the season, with what appeared to be plenty of bad blood. The Penguins lost Kris Letang and Steve Sullivan during the game, and didn't necessarily play their best, but still ended up coming away with the 4-3 win in a shootout. That gives them another two points in the Eastern Conference standings and moves them three points ahead of the Senators (with two games in hand) and four points ahead of the Philadlephia Flyers.

The real concern for the Penguins now is the status of Letang, easily their best defenseman. With all of the talk about Sidney Crosby's absence this season (and back to last season) the Penguins still have plenty of scoring and depth down the middle, especially with the way Evgeni Malkin and Jodan Staal are playing. They can still be a Stanley Cup contender, if not one of the favorites, without Crosby, and have played like it.

They may not be without Letang. During his earlier absence the Penguins were 10-11 witout him.

[Related: Penguins 4, Stars 3 -- Kris Letang injured (Video)]

Chicago Blackhawks: February hasn't been the best month for the Chicago Blackhawks, and entering Wedneday's game against the Maple Leafs, another team that's been sleepwalking through the month, the Blackhawks were riding a three-game losing streak and falling dangerously close to the Western Conference playoff bubble.

After falling down early in the first period, the Blackhawks roared back and earned a 5-4 win thanks to a big performance from Marian Hossa, scoring two goals, including the game-winner ... which turned out to be an empty net goal late in the third period.

[Related: Blackhawks 5, Maple Leafs 4]

Ryan Miller: The Sabres goalie spoke out earlier in the week about his team trading Paul Gaustad to the Nashville Predators for a draft pick (he didn't like it), and in his first appearance since the trade deadline he played perhaps his best game of the season, stopping all 43 shots he faced, including 20 in the third period alone, as Buffalo picked up a 2-0 win over the Ducks to keep a small glimmer of hope alive when it comes to its playoff chances.

[Related Sabres 2, Ducks 0 -- Sabres trade Gaustad to Nashville]

Losers

Toronto Maple Leafs
: After slow start after slow start, the Toronto Maple Leafs finally had a fast start on Wednesday night in Chicago, in a game they absolutely needed to win, not only for their playoff hopes, but to keep some sort of sanity within the city of limits of Toronto. They actually jumped out to a 3-1 lead first period lead.

Things looked promising. And then they watched as the bottom completely fell out, resulting in a 5-4 loss to the Blackhawks. And just like that, things went from bad to total meltdown.

Toronto has now lost 10 of its past 11 games, with the only win during that stretch coming in overtime against the Edmonton Oilers, and remain four points behind the Washington Capitals for the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference -- a playoff spot that no team seems to want.

Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks already slim playoff hopes took a big hit on Wednesday night, and thanks to the Stars gaining a point in a shootout loss, and Anaheim's 2-0 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, Bruce Boudreau's bunch now finds itself seven points out of the No. 8 seed in the West, and still in 13th place.

They put together a heck of an effort in the third period, firing 20 shots at Ryan Miller (and 43 for the game) but could never break through on the scoreboard.

[Related: Playoff Race]

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Posted on: January 31, 2012 10:37 pm
Edited on: January 31, 2012 10:38 pm
 

Disallowed goal, late collapse costly for Leafs



By: Adam Gretz

Pretty much every game is a playoff game for the Toronto Maple Leafs right now.

They entered Tuesday's game in Pittsburgh in a three-way tie with New Jersey and Florida for the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference, and every possible point is a must. That's why their 5-4 shootout loss against the Penguins was not only costly, but most certianly frustrating. Not only because they didn't gain the two points against one of the many teams they're chasing in the standings, but also because they blew a three-goal third period lead with 10 minutes to play on a night that they completely dominated for the first 50 minutes.

Mikhail Grabovski scored a pair of goals, and thanks to third period tallies from Clarke MacArthur and Tyler Bozak the Leafs opened up a 4-1 lead mid-way through the third period and looked to be well on their way to an important win. And then everything started to collapse. Goals from Steve Sullivan and Joe Vitale brought the Penguins to within one, and then a shot from James Neal deflected off the shoulder of Evgeni Malkin and beat Jonas Gustavsson with just six seconds to play to send the game to overtime and eventually the tiebreaking shootout.

One of the biggest plays of the game, and the one that received plenty of attention after the fact, happened early in the first period when Bozak had what would have been the first goal of the night disallowed for goaltender interference (shown above). If you watch the replay, it's hard to see what, exactly, led to the call.

After the game Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson was asked what explanation he received from the refs.

"We bumped into their goalie, and we didn't," said Wilson. "And then it changed to we pushed their defenseman into the goalie, and that didn't happen either. There's nothing you can do, you play on, but just in hindsight right now it's an important goal that got waved off."

Joffrey Lupul, the player that was called for the interference simply said "bad call," when asked about the play.

"Refs make mistakes too, but I didn't touch the goalie," added Lupul. "I don't know if their defenseman skated into him or not, but as far as I know it was a mistake."

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: December 21, 2011 2:12 pm
Edited on: December 21, 2011 2:18 pm
 

The most dangerous player in hockey right now

malkinBy: Adam Gretz

PITTSBURGH -- Evgeni Malkin is back, and right now it looks as if the Pittsburgh Penguins are his team.

When Sidney Crosby returned to the lineup last month the discussion immediately focussed on whether or not he could win the NHL's scoring title, despite missing the first 20-plus games of the season. As it turns out, Malkin is the Penguins forward we should have been looking at all along.

Thanks to his three-assist performance during a 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday, which came after a five-point destruction of the Buffalo Sabres over the weekend, Malkin moved into a tie for the top spot in the NHL scoring race with 39 points, catching Toronto's Phil Kessel, despite missing six games of his own.

Right now there isn't a more dangerous offensive player in the league, and it couldn't have come at a better time for the Penguins.

For the second year in a row the Pittsburgh roster has been crushed by injuries and on any given night has had some combination of Crosby, Paul Martin, Zbynek Michalek, Jordan Staal and Kris Letang, among many others, sidelined due to various ailments and injuries. Even with all of that, the team has a continued to pile up wins and stay near the top of the conference standings and have the look of a top Stanley Cup contender. Head coach Dan Bylsma certainly deserves a lot of credit for that, as does the Penguins front office, led by general manager Ray Shero, for having the type of organizational depth that allows the team to handle so many injuries to so many key players.

But it also doesn't hurt to have a player like Malkin, one of the most talented and skilled players in the world, that is always capable of taking over a game. And that's exactly what he's been doing for the Penguins this year. For much of this season he's been playing on a line with James Neal and free agent acquisition Steve Sullivan. When the Penguins acquired Neal last season it was done so under the assumption that he would eventually be the goal-scoring winger the Penguins have long been searching for to put alongside Crosby. But with Crosby missing so much time due to injury, Neal has found a home on Malkin's line, and along with Sullivan, have formed a trio that has been Pittsburgh's best on a nightly basis.

"I thought his line in particular, I know Geno is the big guy on that line, but their line played very well in the first," said Bylsma after Tuesday's game. "They attacked in every chance they got over the boards at 5-on-5, and on the power play. They were putting pucks behind and playing in the offensive zone and on the attack."

A couple of years ago Malkin was one of the players consistently mentioned in the "best player in the world" discussion, along with Crosby and Washington's Alex Ovechkin. He won the scoring title during the 2008-09 season and then followed it up with a Conn Smythe performance in the postseason as the Penguins won the Stanley Cup, defeating the Detroit Red Wings in seven games.

But over the past two seasons his production dropped a bit, perhaps due to lingering injuries, and then he missed the last half of the 2010-11 campaign, as well as the playoffs, due to a knee injury that he suffered when Buffalo's Tyler Myers awkwardly fell on his leg during a game last January. Because Malkin has always played second chair in Pittsburgh to Crosby, the face of the franchise, his name has always been the one that's been brought up in absurd trade rumors and baseless speculation for a wide range of reasons (I've brought this up before, but just google "Evgeni Malkin Trade" and start reading), including but not always limited to salary cap concerns, the need to acquire a goal-scoring winger, and, well, pretty much anything that anybody could throw against the wall in the hopes that it would stick. It never did, and for good reason.

Even though Malkin is the "No. 2" center in Pittsburgh (it's probably more of a 1A and 1B deal) when the team is at 100 percent, he has always had a knack for elevating his game when Crosby is out of the lineup. He did it during the 2007-08 season when Crosby missed extended time due to an ankle injury that came after he fell into the boards, and he's doing it again this season. On a per-game average he's actually scoring at a higher rate right now than he was during the '08-09 season when he won his Art Ross Trophy.

 "Geno has been a force offensively," said Bylsma on Tuesday. "But he's also a guy we're counting on to play against other teams top lines right now, and he's been good at both ends of the rink. He's been powerful and making plays and driving. He's going to have probably 10 scoring chances again with how he's dominating and how he's playing."

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: December 21, 2011 2:12 pm
Edited on: December 21, 2011 2:18 pm
 

The most dangerous player in hockey right now

malkinBy: Adam Gretz

PITTSBURGH -- Evgeni Malkin is back, and right now it looks as if the Pittsburgh Penguins are his team.

When Sidney Crosby returned to the lineup last month the discussion immediately focussed on whether or not he could win the NHL's scoring title, despite missing the first 20-plus games of the season. As it turns out, Malkin is the Penguins forward we should have been looking at all along.

Thanks to his three-assist performance during a 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday, which came after a five-point destruction of the Buffalo Sabres over the weekend, Malkin moved into a tie for the top spot in the NHL scoring race with 39 points, catching Toronto's Phil Kessel, despite missing six games of his own.

Right now there isn't a more dangerous offensive player in the league, and it couldn't have come at a better time for the Penguins.

For the second year in a row the Pittsburgh roster has been crushed by injuries and on any given night has had some combination of Crosby, Paul Martin, Zbynek Michalek, Jordan Staal and Kris Letang, among many others, sidelined due to various ailments and injuries. Even with all of that, the team has a continued to pile up wins and stay near the top of the conference standings and have the look of a top Stanley Cup contender. Head coach Dan Bylsma certainly deserves a lot of credit for that, as does the Penguins front office, led by general manager Ray Shero, for having the type of organizational depth that allows the team to handle so many injuries to so many key players.

But it also doesn't hurt to have a player like Malkin, one of the most talented and skilled players in the world, that is always capable of taking over a game. And that's exactly what he's been doing for the Penguins this year. For much of this season he's been playing on a line with James Neal and free agent acquisition Steve Sullivan. When the Penguins acquired Neal last season it was done so under the assumption that he would eventually be the goal-scoring winger the Penguins have long been searching for to put alongside Crosby. But with Crosby missing so much time due to injury, Neal has found a home on Malkin's line, and along with Sullivan, have formed a trio that has been Pittsburgh's best on a nightly basis.

"I thought his line in particular, I know Geno is the big guy on that line, but their line played very well in the first," said Bylsma after Tuesday's game. "They attacked in every chance they got over the boards at 5-on-5, and on the power play. They were putting pucks behind and playing in the offensive zone and on the attack."

A couple of years ago Malkin was one of the players consistently mentioned in the "best player in the world" discussion, along with Crosby and Washington's Alex Ovechkin. He won the scoring title during the 2008-09 season and then followed it up with a Conn Smythe performance in the postseason as the Penguins won the Stanley Cup, defeating the Detroit Red Wings in seven games.

But over the past two seasons his production dropped a bit, perhaps due to lingering injuries, and then he missed the last half of the 2010-11 campaign, as well as the playoffs, due to a knee injury that he suffered when Buffalo's Tyler Myers awkwardly fell on his leg during a game last January. Because Malkin has always played second chair in Pittsburgh to Crosby, the face of the franchise, his name has always been the one that's been brought up in absurd trade rumors and baseless speculation for a wide range of reasons (I've brought this up before, but just google "Evgeni Malkin Trade" and start reading), including but not always limited to salary cap concerns, the need to acquire a goal-scoring winger, and, well, pretty much anything that anybody could throw against the wall in the hopes that it would stick. It never did, and for good reason.

Even though Malkin is the "No. 2" center in Pittsburgh (it's probably more of a 1A and 1B deal) when the team is at 100 percent, he has always had a knack for elevating his game when Crosby is out of the lineup. He did it during the 2007-08 season when Crosby missed extended time due to an ankle injury that came after he fell into the boards, and he's doing it again this season. On a per-game average he's actually scoring at a higher rate right now than he was during the '08-09 season when he won his Art Ross Trophy.

 "Geno has been a force offensively," said Bylsma on Tuesday. "But he's also a guy we're counting on to play against other teams top lines right now, and he's been good at both ends of the rink. He's been powerful and making plays and driving. He's going to have probably 10 scoring chances again with how he's dominating and how he's playing."

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: November 21, 2011 11:53 pm
Edited on: November 22, 2011 10:43 am
 

Tracking Crosby: How he was utilized in debut



By: Adam Gretz

One of the biggest questions heading into Monday's Penguins and Islanders game was the number of minutes Sidney Crosby would play. The early estimates started off as low as 12 or 13, while it was pretty much a given that he wouldn't see anywhere near the 20 or 21 minutes he's averaged throughout his career.

When all was said and done, Crosby ended up playing a total of 15 minutes and 54 seconds over 21 shifts.

Here's how it looked:

Even-Strength Ice Time (11:29) -- When the Penguins acquired James Neal last season it was pretty much assumed that it was done for the purpose of eventually putting him with Crosby. And who knows, that may very well happen at some point. But with the way Neal has developed chemistry with Evgeni Malkin and Steve Sullivan, the Penguins are apparently in no hurry to break up a line that's working. So for the majority of his 21 shifts on Monday, Crosby centered the Penguins' top line between wingers Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis, as he has done throughout much of the previous two seasons. During those 11 minutes he recorded seven shots on goal (an incredible rate), scoring both of his goals, while also assisting on Brooks Orpik's second goal of the season. He also managed to draw a penalty when Milan Jurcina was sent off for cross-checking in the first period.

More on Sidney Crosby

Power Play Ice Time (4:23) -- During the Penguins' four power plays Bylsma responded each time by sending Crosby's unit out there to open the shift in the offensive zone. The Penguins power play, which struggled to score goals last season and through their opening round playoff loss to Tampa Bay, ended up finishing the night 1-for-4 with Crosby assisting on Malkin's power play tally at the 3:17 mark of the second period.

Faceoffs And Zone Starts -- When asked how conscious he was of where Crosby's shifts were starting, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma responded with, "I wasn't that conscious of that situation, more of the opponent he was playing against. However, he was winning a lot of his draws and When we could get him out there in that situation to win draws we did do that. He ends the game winning 15 of his draws, that's a lot. He picked up kind of where he left so we were using him in that situation."

Crosby ended the night winning 15 of his 21 faceoffs, a success rate of over 67 percent. This is one area of his game that Crosby made huge improvements in over the past two seasons and Bylsma utilized him in all three zones:

Offensive Zone Faceoffs: Seven (4-for-7 on faceoffs)
Neutral Zone Faceoffs: Six (5-for-6 on faceoffs)
Defensive Zone Faceoffs: Eight (6-for-8 on faceoffs)

Given that the Penguins were the home team and had the last line change, they were able to dictate who was out there against him for the most part, and did a good job of having him avoid New York's top defenseman, Mark Streit, as well as avoiding the Islanders' best defensive forward, Frans Nielsen, during even strength situations.

His most common opponent in the faceoff circle was Josh Bailey, whom he beat on four of eight draws. He was 5-for-5 against Nielsen, with all of them coming on the power play, and 4-for-6 against Marty Reasoner.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: July 26, 2011 5:42 pm
Edited on: July 26, 2011 5:52 pm
 

Can Jason Williams find a role with Penguins?

WilliamsBy: Adam Gretz

The Penguins signed Jason Williams to a one-year, two-way contract on Tuesday afternoon worth $600,000 if he makes the NHL roster. It's not exactly a move that's going to send shockwaves through the NHL, but it could prove to be a good fit for the 10-year veteran as well as the Penguins.

Throughout his career -- which he's spent bouncing between Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, Columbus and Dallas -- Williams has been a solid power play specialist that can chip in some points on the man-advantage. Of the 93 goals he's scored in his career, 32 have come on the power play, while nearly 40 percent of his total points over the past six seasons have come while playing playing with the man-advantage.

And that has to make him at least somewhat attractive to the Penguins, assuming he can earn a spot on the NHL roster.

Despite an impressive talent level, and what should be a strong power play unit on paper, the Penguins have been a below average team on the power play for about three years now. Going back to the 2008-09 season their power play has finished 20th ('08-09), 19th ('09-10) and 25th ('10-11) in the NHL, and is coming off of a disastrous performance in last season's opening round playoff loss to Tampa Bay, where the Penguins converted on just one of their 35 power play opportunities.

Because the Penguins have so much invested in their core players, particularly their top-three centers Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal, they don't have the luxury of adding high-profile wingers in free agency or through trades. Instead, they're forced to search for veterans that can come at a bargain price to fill in around their big three. Perhaps Williams can be one of those players that gives them the potential for a small boost in one area -- like the power play -- even if his game has other flaws.

Earlier this offseason the Penguins signed Steve Sullivan to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million. He's also been a productive player on the power play during his career, even though he's been limited by injuries in recent years.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl and @agretz on Twitter.


Posted on: March 6, 2011 1:46 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2011 2:04 pm
 

Playoff watch: Flames eye season sweep of Preds



Nashville Predators (33-23-9) at Calgary Flames (34-24-9) 

Scotiabank Saddledome, 8 pm ET

SEASON SERIES: Nashville 0-1-2; Calgary 3-0-0

IMPLICATIONS: The Predators' first victory – combined with an Anaheim Ducks loss – over the Flames would move them into the eighth and final playoff slot in the west. (Both Anaheim and Calgary start the night even in points, 77, and games played, 65, but the Ducks have the edge in wins.) The resurgent Flames could move up to fifth in the West with a victory. Here's a look at our playoff tracker

BREAKDOWN: The first three games of the season series have been close with one going to OT and another won via a shootout. But Nashville is coming off one it's most impressive victories of the season, a 3-0 decision over league-leading Vancouver.  Predators rookie Blake Geoffrion, the first NHL player from Tennessee who was recalled Feb. 26, has scored in back-to-back games. Youngsters like Geoffrion will be key down the stretch as Steve Sullivan (groin), Francis Bouillon (concussion) and Marcel Goc (shoulder) have gone down with injuries in recent weeks. Flames captain Jarome Iginla (above), who already reached the 25-goal mark for the 12th consecutive season, has scored at least three points in each of Calgary's last two games. Flames forward Alex Tanguay enters on a seven-game points streak. 

PLAYER vs. PLAYER:  Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff  vs. Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne. This is expected to be Kiprusoff's 20th consecutive start and and he enters with a 13-2-3 record over his last 19 starts.  Rinne has entered the Vezina --- maybe even the Hart --- conversation. The Preds which are the fourth-lowest scoring team (2.45 goals per game) in the league are mostly in the playoff hunt because of Rinne, who is second amongst NHL goalies with 10 or more games in goals against (2.08) and save percentage (.929). The two played no bigger role in the season series than in their first meeting on Oct. 19 when they were prefect through regulation. 

KEY STAT: 491. That's Calgary defenseman Jay Bouwmeester consecutive game streak, the longest in the NHL. It began exactly seven years ago today.

Photo: Getty Images
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com