Tag:Pittsburgh Penguins
Posted on: February 7, 2012 4:40 pm
Edited on: February 7, 2012 4:53 pm
 

Goal scoring is still going down

Goal Scoring DownBy: Adam Gretz

Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at the continuing decline of goal scoring in the NHL.

On Tuesday Morning TSN's Gord Miller mentioned on Twitter that there has been some talk from "a few" NHL general managers about potentially reintroducing the red line. The NHL attempted to open up the game by allowing two-line passes coming out of the lockout prior to the 2005-06 season in an effort to help increase goal-scoring across the league.

If there is one thing the NHL doesn't need right now, from an offensive standpoint, it's a rule change that would take the league back to the clutch-and-grab, neutral zone obstruction era of pre-lockout hockey. You remember those days. Scoring first means a near automatic win, games that looked as if they were being played in mud through the middle of the ice.

The clutch-and-grab aspect is already making its way back into the game as teams seem to be getting away with more obstruction and interference away from the play, and goal-scoring has been nearing the levels it was in the late 90s and early 2000s when scoring first was a near automatic win.

When the NHL came out of the darkness that was the lost season of 2003-04, there was a huge crackdown on neutral zone obstruction, and when combined with the elimination of the red line, goal-scoring soared during the '05-06 season to levels that hadn't been reached since the early 90s.

In the following years, however, it's slowly but surely started to regress back to the dead puck era, and it seems that a lot of it has to do with the fact that the league has started to look the other way on neutral zone obstruction and interference away from the puck, and it's becoming more and more obvious every time you turn on a game.

Below is a quick look at the total goals-per-game across the NHL going all the way back to the 2000-01 season, as well as the number of power plays each team averaged on a per-game basis:

NHL Goal Scoring
Year Total Goals Per Game Average Power Plays For Team Per Game
2011-12 5.48 3.4
2010-11 5.59 3.5
2009-10 5.68 3.7
2008-09 5.83 4.1
2007-08 5.57 4.2
2006-07 5.89 4.8
2005-06 6.17 5.8
2003-04 5.14 4.2
2002-03 5.31 4.4
2001-02 5.24 4.1
2000-00 5.51 4.5

The league may be trying to crack down on headshots and hits from behind (and that's a good thing), but it's also been looking the other way on the neutral zone obstruction.

Before the lockout, when clutch-and-grab hockey was at its peak, teams were still averaging more than four power plays per game. As you can see over the past three years, teams are getting fewer and fewer opportunities on the man-advantage, which naturally helps lead to fewer goals, and it's been on a steady downward trend for the past six years.

That also helps put some individual performances across the league in some perspective. So far this season there are only 17 players in the NHL averaging at least a point-per-game, and only two players, Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin and Philadelphia's Claude Giroux, are on a pace that would give them at least 100 points over the course of an 82-game season. Only five players are on a pace that would reach 90 points.

Last season only one player, Vancouver's Daniel Sedin, topped the 100-point plateau.

Of course, there's also been a player safety angle to a potential return of the two-line pass. It's been suggested over the course of the season that bringing the red line back and slowing the game down through the neutral zone could help cut down on the number of concussions across the league (a growing problem that isn't going away), as the game has simply become too fast and resulted in more violent collisions. On the surface, that does make some sense. But the problem with that argument is there is no way of really knowing for sure if concussions are a bigger problem now because the game is "too fast" through the neutral zone, or if head injuries were simply overlooked, underreported or simply viewed as "having your bell rung" 10 years ago and we're just more aware of it today.

At this point it's nothing but talk, but there is still some smoke for the return of the two-line pass, and fans of fast-paced, skillful hockey should be at least a little concerned. If they already aren't.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 6, 2012 1:57 pm
Edited on: February 6, 2012 9:43 pm
 

Still no timetable for Crosby return



By: Adam Gretz


There was some buzz coming out of Montreal on Monday morning as Penguins captain Sidney Crosby joined his teammates for practice at the Bell Centre ahead of Tuesday's game with the Canadiens. And while it appears that he's inching closer to returning to the lineup, he's still not quite there yet and there remains no timetable for his return.

Crosby said after the session, via Sam Kasan of the Penguins, that he will continue to skate by himself when the team returns to Pittsburgh this week and that he is still not yet symptom free, and that once he is, he will return.

So in other words: there's not much new regarding his status, other than that he practiced with the team as opposed to skating on his own.

In other injury news for the Penguins, head coach Dan Bylsma said that center Jordan Staal could return to the lineup within the next five to 10 days, which would be a huge addition to their lineup. He plays some of the toughest minutes on the team on a nightly basis, and was also having one of the best goal-scoring seasons of his career prior to his knee injury against the New York Rangers last month. 

Forward Tyler Kennedy, who was injured in the closing minutes of Sunday's 5-2 loss in New Jersey, is also returning to Pittsburgh to have his lower body injury re-evaluated.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 5, 2012 4:06 pm
Edited on: February 5, 2012 4:16 pm
 

Weekend Wrap: Nothing to Laich in Caps loss

By Brian Stubits

The Washington Capitals lost to the Bruins on Sunday on their home ice, 4-1.

As big of a loss as that is for the Caps, seeing Brooks Laich go down in the game is as big of a concern as anything for Washington right now.

In the second period, Laich was playing the puck behind the Bruins net when Boston defenseman Dennis Seidenberg delivered a check into the boards. It looked innocent enough but there was some contact on the play that pinned Laich's knee against the boards. Moments later he was being helped off the ice and down the tunnel toward the locker room without putting any pressure on his leg.

He came out during a television time out to test the knee but he couldn't go on. He left the arena with a brace on his knee and with the help of crutches.

More from the weekend
Recaps
Stories

"I’m not a doctor, but with these things sometimes there’s some swelling ... But I don’t think it’s anything serious," Laich said after the game. "I'll get some ice on it and see how I feel when I wake up."

"He's day to day right now," Caps coach Dale Hunter said after the game. "We're just going to wait and see."

They better hope so. It's no secret that this season the Caps are in a dog fight just to make the playoffs. With the loss today, they remain out of the playoff seedings in the East at the moment. If they are going to sans Laich for any length of time, that makes things even tougher.

The Capitals already have a weakness up the middle with Nicklas Backstrom still on the sidelines since he was hit in the head by Rene Bourque. They can't afford to lose another center like Laich, who is one of their more consistent players and is a big piece for a team that hasn't been scoring much.

The good news for Washington is that despite the loss, they actually outshot an opponent on Sunday afternoon. They had 36 shots to the Bruins' 30, so there's that. Their pace of shooting has been way too low for well over a month now so that's a step in the right direction.

But they need to keep their fingers crossed Laich will be OK. He's a very underrated player for the Capitals, a solid two-way guy that probably every team in the NHL would like to have on their side.

With a win over the Canadiens on Saturday, normally you'd say a weekend split isn't bad. But depending on how Laich comes out of this, it could be.

Hit of the weekend

Watch Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik send Daniel Paille of the Bruins flying through the air at center ice.

I'm not sure it's 25 feet as the Penguins announcers says. I have a hunch they might have been dabbling in the art of hyperbole, something I do myself from time to time. But that still is probably the greatest hit in the history of hockey hits.

In this day and age you're not used to seeing the Bruins players acting as the ragdolls, they're usually the ones doing the pushing.

Shootout shutdown

The Colorado Avalanche are historically good when it comes to the shootout. They just don't lose in the "skills competition." That was until Saturday.

On the season the Avs were 7-0 in shootouts. Go back to last season and the streak was 10 consecutive shootouts. For an event that is statistically close to a tossup, that's pretty remarkable.

Of course, all good things must come to an end. The Avalanche finally lost a shootout this Saturday to the division rival Vancouver Canucks, failing to score in their three attempts.

Their shootout success has been a big reason why the Avs are as close in the playoff picture as they are. Those are crucial points to be picking up. And while losing the extra point to the Canucks doesn't seem like the biggest thing in the world considering they likely aren't catching the reigning Western Conference champs in the Northwest, it is obviously critical in the hunt for that eighth spot.

What a game

Speaking of shootouts, the only other team this season who had yet to fall in a shootout also suffered the fate on Saturday.

Despite two goals from Todd Bertuzzi (his first was the 300th of his career), the Detroit Red Wings couldn't hold onto their late third-period lead against the Edmonton Oilers.

Of course Sam Gagner played a huge part in the Oilers effort. He scored a point on each of the Oilers' eight goals against the Blackhawks in Edmonton's last game and then he was in on each of the Edmonton's first three goals against Detroit.

While he didn't get in on the game-tying goal in the final minute for the Oilers to snap his streak, Gagner did tally a score in the shootout, helping the Oilers eventually prevail thanks to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' shootout goal in his first game back, giving the Red Wings their first shootout defeat.

It was one of the better games of the season, a very entertaining, back-and-forth game. Minus the shootout, it had everything most every hockey fan likes to see.

Hit of the weekend Part II

I'm not sure this can compete with the Orpik-on-Paille hit, but it's still worth watching. I mean, who doesn't love guys being dumped over the boards?

The Wild and Stars got together for a crucial game for the West playoff picture and at least this hit showed how big it was. Watch Jake Dowell get dumped over the boards and into the camera well by Jed Ortmeyer of the Wild.

I'd say that's as good as time as any for a line change.

Quote of the weekend

“It was a party. It’s always fun. It keeps you in the game. Who knows, though? The next game I might get 15 to 20 shots, and you have to be ready for that, too.” -- Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators goalie on facing 43 shots against the Blues. (from the Tennessean).

Only a goalie could think his team facing 43 shots in one game could be considered a party.

Then again, when you beat a division rival 2-1 and move second place in the ultra-competitive Central, well then it might feel pretty good.

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

Posted on: February 1, 2012 3:23 pm
Edited on: February 1, 2012 3:28 pm
 

Grabovski playing his best hockey at right time

Mikhail Grabovski is playing his best hockey right now. (Getty Images)
By: Adam Gretz

PITTSBURGH -- As difficult as it had to be for the Toronto Maple Leafs to watch a three-goal lead with less than 10 minutes to play turn into a 5-4 shootout loss on Tuesday night, costing them a crucial point in the standings, there were still a couple of positives developments.

One of the biggest: the continued emergence of forward Mikhail Grabovski, and it couldn't be coming at a better time for the Maple Leafs.

The team is well into the stretch run and hoping to end what has been one of the longest playoff droughts in the league, being one of just two teams (the Panthers being the other) to not make the playoffs in the post-lockout NHL.

Coming out of the All-Star break they started the week as one of three teams deadlocked for what would be the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference,  which is why that loss in Pittsburgh was so damaging (potentially, anyway). The race is so tight right now that they can't afford to let any points slip away like that, especially when it's during a game they completely controlled for over 50 minutes against one of the teams they're chasing.

But the Leafs were still hopeful to build on the things they did well in the loss.

"You can definitely build on the positives," said forward Joffrey Lupul after the game. "Unfortunately it's starting to get to the time of the year where you need results, but there is a lot to build on there. We played one of our better games of our year for 50 minutes, and it's terrible to let that point get away, but we did have some positives to build on."

Among the positives: Toronto continued its recent run of disciplined play, putting itself in a shorthanded situation just one time on the night. Over their past 11 games, a stretch that has seen the Leafs put together a 6-4-1 record and allow just a little over two goals per game, they have been shorthanded just 12 times, including three games with no penalty killing situations. That is probably the best (and only) way to hide what has been the league's 30th ranked penalty killing unit this season.

Perhaps the biggest positive, though, was the aforementioned play of Grabovski as he completed his best month of the season with a two-goal performance that also saw him finish with seven shots on goal, two blocked shots and a 50 percent mark in the faceoff circle. And he did all of that while spending the majority of his night on the ice against Evgeni Malkin's line, which is no small assignment.

Getting minutes against the oppositions best player hasn't been a new situation for Grabovski. During the month of January, for example, he saw most of his shifts in individual games come against forwards like John Tavares (Islanders), Milan Michalek (Senators), Ryan Callahan (Rangers), Derek Roy (Sabres), Pavel Datsyuk (Red Wings), Evander Kane (Jets) and Steven Stamkos (Lightning). Despite drawing the top assignments, he still finished the month with 16 points (eight goals, eight assists), which was tied with Malkin for the second most in the league, trailing only Tavares.

This all comes after what had been a pretty slow start offensively, having recorded just 19 points over the first three months of the season, a total he nearly matched in January alone. The Leafs offense this season has been carried almost entirely by the play of its top line, Lupul and Phil Kessel, and there is going to be a need for some secondary scoring if/when that top line slows down. Grabovski has demonstrated throughout his career that he's capable of providing, even when given the task of matching up against the other teams top lines, which can open things up a bit more for Kessel and Lupul.

"He's playing well right now," said Lupul of Grabovski's play. "He had two [on Tuesday] and he could have had a lot more. He's bringing a lot of energy right now you can really see he has his confidence back and has his legs going."

Eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer, he would surely be one of the most attractive players to hit the open market (if a new deal isn't signed before then) given his skill-level, production and ability to match up against top talent and keep them in their own end of the ice.

Grabovski, who was celebrating his 28th birthday on Tuesday, didn't want to talk all that much about his own performance or his confidence level, simply saying "I'll start to feel better when we win the games, that's the most important thing."

If he keeps playing like he did in January, the wins might start coming a little more often.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 31, 2012 5:51 pm
Edited on: January 31, 2012 7:25 pm
 

Crosby has 'soft tissue injury'

Crosby

By: Adam Gretz

The Pittsburgh Penguins issued a statement on Tuesday night that Sidney Crosby has a "soft tissue injury" to the neck area (not a fractured vertebrae) that could be causing neurological symptoms, and that an independent specialist found no evidence of a past or present fracture.

More from the Penguins statement:
Dr. Alexander Vaccaro is a spinal trauma expert at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia and co-director of the Spinal Cord Center at Thomas Jefferson University. He is past president of the American Spinal Injury Association.

Crosby’s agent, Pat Brisson, along with Penguins owner Mario Lemieux and CEO David Morehouse traveled Monday morning to Philadelphia, where Vaccaro reviewed a CAT Scan and MRI taken last week by Dr. Robert S. Bray in Los Angeles. Bray diagnosed a neck injury.

Bray has treated Crosby with an injection to alleviate swelling in the C1-2 joint of the neck and will be overseeing his progression with therapists.

Doctors say the symptoms of a soft-tissue neck injury are similar to concussion symptoms.

Vaccaro, Bray and UPMC doctors all agree that Crosby is safe, the injury is treatable, and he will return to action when he is symptom-free.
Crosby and general manager Ray Shero spoke just before the Penguins game against the Maple Leafs, and after the 16-minute press conference had ended there were still no definitive answers as to when then injury occured, whether it's what is causing his symptoms and when (or if) he will play again for the Penguins this season.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 30, 2012 3:50 pm
Edited on: January 30, 2012 3:56 pm
 

Crosby skates prior to Penguins practice (video)

By: Adam Gretz

Sidney Crosby was back in Pittsburgh on Monday and he hit the ice for a 45-minute skating session, along with injured teammates Jordan Staal and Simon Despres, before the Penguins team practice at the Consol Energy Center.

He had been in California visiting Dr. Robert Bray, a neurological spine specialist, for a neck injury that was reported to be to his C1 and C2 vertebrae. The Penguins issued a statement on Saturday evening that the injury had already healed and that the findings will be evaluated by independent specialists over the next couple of days.

It's been yet another bizarre chapter in what has surely been a frustrating year for the Penguins and their captain, while it also seemed to provide more questions than answers.

As for his appearance on Monday, well, this is what some of it looked like, and it seems that his hands still work quite well.



The Penguins return to action this week with back-to-back games against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday (home) and Wednesday (away).

Crosby has appeared in just eight games this season and he has been out of the lineup since December 5.

Previously at Eye On Hockey

Crosby also had a neck injury
More Crosby news
More Pittsburgh Penguins news

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 30, 2012 12:30 pm
Edited on: February 2, 2012 1:06 pm
 

Tuomo Ruutu could soon be on the move

By: Adam Gretz

Less than a month away from the NHL trade deadline and rumors are quickly starting to fly.

One of the busiest teams this year is expected be the Carolina Hurricanes, as they're currently near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings and have a number of players eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer. One of those players is forward Tuomo Ruutu, and he could be on the move as early as this week according to ESPN's Pierre LeBrun and TSN's Darren Dreger.

Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford has always been aggressive when it comes to making moves, and has already made a couple this season.  A couple of weeks he sent upcoming free agent Alexei Ponikarovsky to the New Jersey Devils for defenseman Joe Sova and a fourth-round draft pick, which came just weeks after he shipped disappointing defenseman Tomas Kaberle and the remainder of his contract to the Montreal Canadiens for Jaroslav Spacek. And there could soon be more where that came from.

Ruutu should be able to bring the Hurricanes a better return. In 51 games this season he has 15 goals and 11 assists, and over the past four years has scored at a rate that would average out to nearly 20 goals per 82 games. Any team that trades for him will be on the hook for the remainder of his salary cap hit, which for this week would come out to about $1.3 million for the rest of the season.

There is no shortage of contenders that could be interested, but keep an eye on Pittsburgh, Nashville or Boston, all teams that would Ruutu seem to be an excellent fit for given his aggressive forechecking and the fact at least two of those teams, Pittsburgh and Nashville, could use some an upgrade when it comes to secondary scoring on the wings.

Still, at this point it just seems to be a matter of when and where rather than if. Once that shoe falls the focus will then surely shift to Carolina's other upcoming free agents.

Also at Eye On Hockey

Gleason signs four-year deal with the Hurricanes
More Carolina Hurricanes news

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 28, 2012 6:51 pm
Edited on: January 28, 2012 11:47 pm
 

Sidney Crosby had vertebrae injury

CrosbyBy: Adam Gretz

Sidney Crosby hasn't appeared in a game for the Penguins since December 5, and at this point there is still no timetable for his return. Which is pretty much business as usual. It's been assumed that his current absence has been the result of another concussion, but he was also reportedly dealing with an injury to his C1 and C2 vertebrae, according to Bob McCown of Sportsnet 590 the Fan and Elliotte Friedman of CBC.

Said Crosby's agent, Pat Brisson, via Friedman, "Sid did suffer a concussion, but last week, the possibility of two fractured vertebrae (C1 and C2) was discovered. A third doctor is being consulted to determine the exact diagnosis."

The Penguins released the following statement on Saturday night, including that the vertebrae injury has apparently already healed: "The diagnosis of Dr. Robert S. Bray, a neurological spine specialist based in Los Angeles, is that Sidney Crosby had suffered a neck injury in addition to a concussion. Dr. Bray reports that the neck injury is fully healed. Those findings will be evaluated by independent specialists over the next few days. The most important goal all along has been Sidney's return to full health, and we are encouraged that progress continues to be made."

Crosby had been in California this past week visiting Dr. Bray, so this news shouldn't come as a total shock (the fact he was seeing a specialist that deals with the spine, instead of a specialist that deals with concussions, should have been somewhat of a tip), but it does add a few more questions to the mix. Like, how didn't anybody know about this before?

What's interesting is that the injury was originally discovered, according to the Sportsnet report, when Crosby visited a specialist in Utah for an MRI after getting some advice from a friend ... New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Earlier in the day on Saturday Penguins general manager Ray Shero remained hopeful that Crosby will play again this season.

"We'll see, Hopefully, next week where he is after we get the reports from California," said Shero. "The thing with Sidney is we want to continue to look to see how we can get this under control and manageable ... hopefully we'll have him back here at some point soon."

This latest report may not change that, but it does simply add to what he has been dealing with, while the uncertainty continues to grow.

He appeared in eight games this season, scoring two goals and 10 assists after missing the second half of last season and the first part of this season due to a concussion.

Photo: Getty Images

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