Tag:Chris Kunitz
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: November 7, 2011 6:35 pm
Edited on: November 7, 2011 7:52 pm
 

Kings' Moreau fined for hit, sounds off on system

By Brian Stubits

Los Angeles Kings forward Ethan Moreau was called for boarding over the weekend when he hit Chris Kunitz of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Unlike a lot of the boarding calls we've seen this season, it didn't result in a suspension for Moreau, but he was still fined. The NHL hit him with a $2,500 penalty, the largest a player can receive under the current CBA.

The hit happened about midway through the first period of the Penguins' 3-2 shootout victory in Los Angeles. Here is the play.

Clearly boarding, but it doesn't seem like a particularly vicious hit. Couple that with the fact that Moreau really doesn't have a history to speak of and you see why there is no suspension forthcoming.

Moreau will take the penalty in stride, but he first wanted to share his feelings on the matter. And share he did. Here is what he told Rich Hammond of LAKingsInsider.com.

"I've noticed a big difference in the last couple years, especially with D-men going back to get pucks," Moreau said Monday. "I think they just show their back to you now, and they're off the hook. It would be better if they just squared up to the hit, took the hit and moved on. I don't think protecting yourself by putting yourself in a vulnerable position is the way to play. I can't imagine. I would never do that, but it seems like it's almost something that's acceptable now.

"There has to be some repercussion, there has to be some penalty, either for embellishing on a questionable hit or not protecting yourself. What happened with me, it looks bad, I admit it. It looks like it is a penalty, but players definitely embellish it."

Moreau didn't call out Kunitz personally, but Moreau clearly didn't think his punishment fit the crime.

"I definitely hit him from behind, but it wasn't excessive," Moreau said. "I was just trying to finish my hit and it happened so fast. He's looking for the puck and I'm just trying to knock him off the puck. He's a strong guy. It didn't seem like he braced (for the hit). He went down pretty easy. He was out for that shift.

"So I understand their philosophy, and what they're trying to crack down on, but it's difficult. It's a really difficult read. My job is to play physical, and if you pass up every questionable position on the ice, you're not going to be very physical."

Moreau certainly is not the first player to share these feelings. He grows an increasingly louder chorus of critics on players intentionally trying to draw these penalties. This will remain an issue as long as the boarding penalties are under such a microscope.

And while Moreau does not call out Kunitz, it sure seems that's where this rant was born, out of the frustration from this particular play. It should be noted that for a very similar play, Kunitz's teammate Kris Letang was actually suspended earlier this season for being the deliverer, not the recipient of such a hit. Letang, however, had a background that wasn't pristine like Moreau's.

I still can't quite comprehend how players can view an extra couple of minutes of power play time in a regular-season game can be worth rising serious injury by putting their self in harm's way. Now the falling down a little easier part that Moreau brings up, that's understandable. We all know that diving, while not as prevalent as it is in soccer, is present in our beloved sport of hockey.

Personally, I'm wondering what happened to just a regular old boarding call? It hardly seems to exist anymore. This one seems rather mundane, certainly no worse than this play from Marco Sturm of the Panthers on Jordan Leopold of the Sabres, a play that resulted in no supplementary discipline from the NHL.

So I pose two questions to you: First, did the punishment fit the crime in this case? Second, does the NHL have a chronic problem here or is this just frustration from the offending players?

More NHL Discipline News Here

Video: The Score

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

Posted on: October 13, 2011 10:38 am
Edited on: October 13, 2011 11:05 am
 

Chris Kunitz re-signs with Penguins for 2 years

CK1By: Adam Gretz

Set to become an unrestricted free agent following this season, it was announced on Thursday morning that Chris Kunitz has signed a two-year contract extension with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The deal is worth $3.275 million per season according to the team, which is a salary cap hit that is identical to the that came with his previous contract.

Since being acquired by the Penguins, along with Eric Tangradi, from Anaheim in 2009 in exchange for defenseman Ryan Whitney, Kunitz has scored 43 goals in 140 regular season games, typically playing on a line with Sidney Crosby when both have been in the lineup.

He's not the flashiest player on the Penguins roster, but over an 82-game season he maintains a 50-60 point pace and seems to play the type of physical, aggressive game head coach Dan Bylsma likes, while also having a willingness to go to the front of the net and do the dirty work around the crease. He's been a good fit within their system. The only downside to his play the past couple of years is that he's had to miss 48 games due to injury over the past two seasons.

With Kunitz now in the mix for the next two years the Penguins have just about every core player on the roster signed signed through at least next season, including Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Kris Letang, Paul Martin, Zbynek Michalek and Marc-Andre Fleury. Many of them are signed for at least the next two years, with the exception of Crosby and Staal, who would be eligible for unrestricted free agency following next season.

As it stands now, the Penguins have roughly $54 million in salary cap committments to 17 players for the 2012-13 season, via Capgeek, which would leave them with somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million in cap space (assuming there are no changes to the cap).

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: September 21, 2011 10:42 pm
Edited on: September 21, 2011 10:45 pm
 

Malkin looks strong in return



By: Adam Gretz


PITTSBURGH -- Playing for the first time since tearing his ACL last January, Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin returned to the lineup on Wednesday night during Pittsburgh's preseason opener and looked to be the best player on the ice every single time he stepped on it.

Malkin, who missed the last half of the 2010-11 season, and all of the playoffs, scored a goal and added an assist in the Penguins' 3-2 win against the Detroit Red Wings. More than the actual numbers, Malkin just simply appeared to be on another level than everybody else, which has to be a positive sign for the Penguins seeing as how Sidney Crosby's availability is still unknown at this point as he continues to recover from a concussion.

With Malkin and Crosby out of the lineup last season the Penguins offense dropped significantly in the second half of the season, and was pretty much nonexistent in the playoffs when they lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Until Crosby returns, Malkin is going to have to be the go-to-guy offensively for the Penguins, something he's proven to be more than capable of in the past (think back to the 2007-08 season when Crosby missed over 20 games with an ankle injury, and how Malkin pretty much became one of the two or three best players in the league).

Of course, it's important to keep everything in its proper perspective and remember that this was simply the first game of the preseason against what was, outside of Pavel Datsyuk -- who was by far Detroit's best player on the night -- and a handful of other regulars, the Red Wings minor leaguers. Still, Malkin was the type of force at both ends of the ice that he was during the 2008-09 season when he won the Art Ross and Conn Smythe Trophies, creating turnovers on the forecheck and dangling his way through the Red Wings defense.  

After recording an assist on the Penguins first goal, which was scored by Chris Kunitz, Malkin picked up his first goal of the preseason when he blew past Red Wings defenseman Garnet Exelby (video above) and bounced a shot in off of goaltender Jimmy Howard.

Howard had a rough night in the crease for the Wings as all three of three of the goals that he surrendered seemed to bounce off of him on their way into the net. Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock was especially upset with the third goal he allowed, a power play tally from Matt Niskanen, which trickled through Howard after he initially appeared to make the stop.

The Penguins seemed to tilt the ice on Detroit a bit in the second period, outshooting them by a 14-7 margin.

"We had tons of chances," said Babcock "I thought they had a few more shots go in the net. I thought we had lots of opportunities tonight. They had a better second period and I thought Malkin was real good, but they scored one on the power play, which I didn't like. Shouldn't have went in."

Howard played the first two periods, stopping 17 of the 20 shots he faced.

After Malkin, the second best player on the ice was clearly Datsyuk as he picked up an assist on both Detroit goals, including a nifty saucer pass to set up Jiri Hudler for the Red Wings' second goal of the game.

"He made some things happen tonight," said Babcock regarding Datsyuk's play. "Just like Malkin, they were better than anybody else tonight, so they're fun guys to watch."

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

Posted on: April 19, 2011 2:10 pm
Edited on: April 19, 2011 2:12 pm
 

Kunitz, Downie suspended one game apiece

The verdict is already down on Steve Downie and Chris Kunitz from their Game 4 elbows to the head. Each player will be suspended for one game .

In Game 4, the Lightning's Downie flattened Pittsburgh's Ben Lovejoy on the boards behind the net. Lovejoy clearly wasn't aware of the hit coming and it came up high, a very dangerous combination.

A little later in the game, Kunitz threw a clear and undeniable elbow at the head of Tampa Bay's Simon Gagne. He was penalized on the play two minutes for elbowing. While the damage potential wasn't incredibly high, the intent is what matters here, and there's little way to say there was no intent to throw an elbow to the head.

The decision comes down a day after the NHL elected not to punish the Canucks' Raffi Torres for a questionable hit on Brent Seabrook of the Blackhawks, who will miss tonight's Game 4 in Chicago.

The hits are exactly what the league has been trying to eradicate in recent years. It's been a touchy subject with a lot of gray area, but anytime it seems clear there was an intentional shot to the head, the suspension is likely to follow.

In the playoffs there seems to be an uptick in the amount of the big, dangerous hits, something you can likely attribute to the playoff brand of hockey, a more physical and intense brand.

-- Brian Stubits

Posted on: March 22, 2011 3:30 am
 

Morning Skate: Bylsma deserves Jack Adams votes



Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma may have wrapped up the Jack Adams Award on Monday. 

There are plenty of deserving candidates for the NHL’s version of coach of the year. Alain Vigneault’s Vancouver Canucks were the first team to clinch a playoff berth and are likely to lay claim to the franchise’s first Presidents’ Trophy.  Jacques Lemaire was plucked out of retirement and led the New Jersey Devils from the basement to a chance at the postseason in few short months. Peter Laviolette has had the Philadelphia Flyers in first place in the East for most of the season. 

Still, Bylsma’s coaching effort can’t be overlooked. He’s lost Evegni Malkin for the season to a knee injury and his superstar center, Sidney Crosby, hasn’t played since the first week of January due to a concussion and his return this season remains a question mark. He’s also seen cogs like forwards Jordan Staal and Chris Kunitz along with defenseman Brooks Orpik miss time. 

The Pens entered play Monday night with 296 man games lost due to injury --- and that’s not counting the suspensions. The most recent was handed down before Monday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings as the league slapped forward Matt Cooke with a ban that extends through the rest of the regular season (10 games) and the first round of the playoffs.

Line Changes


Then the Penguins went on to beat the Red Wings, 5-4, in a shootout. While it’ll be a stretch for the Pens to overtake the Flyers in the Atlantic Division, the chance they could remain in fourth and host a first-round series is a feat all things considered. 

Bylsma shrugged off all the "woe is me" talk when he spoke to The Grand Rapids Press’ Michael Zuidema on Monday

“From within our room, we don’t feel like we’ve dealt with as much adversity as people outside our room think that we’ve dealt with,” he said. “We understand that there are injuries and I don’t think it’s a lot different than other teams. We’ve continued to focus on how we play and our execution level.”


GM Ray Shero and the Pens scouting staff deserves a nod brining in some help before the trading deadline. Forward James Neal and defenseman Matt Niskanen were acquired from the Dallas Stars for defenseman Alex Goligoski. Forward Alexei Kovalev was also brought back to Pittsburgh in exchange for a conditional draft pick with the Ottawa Senators

Bylsma, the easygoing former NHL player from Grand Haven, Mich., has made the pieces fit and that was recognized earlier this month with a three-year contract extension. Maybe he’ll get that Jack Adams Trophy -- an award voted on by the NHL Broadcasters Association -- to go next to the mementos from his 2009 Stanley Cup title run. 

MONDAY'S RESULTS
Pittsburgh 5, Detroit 4 (SO)
Los Angeles 2, Calgary 1 (SO)
-- A.J. Perez
Credit: Getty Images
Posted on: March 22, 2011 3:15 am
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Posted on: March 21, 2011 2:22 pm
Edited on: March 21, 2011 2:24 pm
 

Playoff Watch: Hobbled Wings, Pens renew rivalry

WHO CAN CLINCH: No new teams can secure a playoff berth today. 

ALREADY IN: Vancouver Canucks and Philadelphia Flyers

GAME OF THE NIGHT: Pittsburgh Penguins (41-23-8) at Detroit Red Wings (43-21-8), 7:30 p.m. ET

The combatants in two of the last three Stanley Cup Finals highlight a limited slate of games tonight. 
The Red Wings Wings begin a five-game homestand. (Seven of Detroit's final 10 regular season games are at Joe Louis Arena.) The Wings have an eight-point lead on the Chicago Blackhawks, who Detroit faces three times down the stretch. Forwards Pavel Datsyuk (lower body), Johan Franzen (groin) and Jiri Hudler (upper body) are likely to miss tonight's game, according to Ansar Khan of mlive.com. That could make winning 10 in a row against Eastern Conference opponents a little more difficult. 

The Pens have well-chronicled injury problems of their own with forwards Sidney Crosby (concussion) and Evgeni Malkin (out for season with knee injury), along with defenseman Brooks Orpik (finger) out. Forward Chris Kunitz, out 13 games with a lower-body injury, has been solid in the five games since he returned the lineup. Over the last three games, he has six points (three goals, three assists.) 

ALTERNATIVE VIEWING: Calgary Flames (37-27-10) at Los Angeles (40-26-6), 10:30 p.m. ET

This game is the only other game on the schedule, so it's not quite a tough call. Calgary comes to Staples Center a day after dropping a heart-breaker in Anaheim. The Flames overcame a three-goal deficit and even held a lead late in the third period before Teemu Selanne tied the game and Corey Perry gave the Ducks a 5-4 victory in overtime. The Kings enter the night in sixth place, two points ahead of the Flames. 

GOLF WATCH: The Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers won't get any new company tonight. 
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com