Tag:Pittsburgh Penguins
Posted on: January 28, 2012 2:15 pm
 

Video: Watch the Mellon Arena's roof come down

By: Adam Gretz

I don't know what it is about the demolition of a stadium or arena that gets so much attention, but it's almost impossible to turn away. That was the case on Saturday morning when the roof of the Mellon Arena (previously the Civic Arena) started to come down in Pittsburgh, piece by piece, section by section.

Between 1967 and 2010 it was one of the most unique and distinctive buildings in the NHL, and was the first major stadium or arena to have a retractable roof.

And now it has no roof.



The arena was home to the Penguins for 42 years and hosted four Stanley Cup Final series, an NHL All-Star game, an NHL draft, and, of course, who could forget the 1995 Jean-Claude Van Damme movie, Sudden Death. Good times.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Category: NHL
Posted on: January 25, 2012 11:15 am
Edited on: January 25, 2012 11:16 am
 

Neal named to All-Star Game in place of Ovechkin

Neal has 27 goals this season, 13 on the power play. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

It took way too long in almost everybody's estimation, but James Neal was finally named an All-Star on Wednesday. He was given a spot in the game thanks to Alex Ovechkin abstaining after his suspension.

From the moment the All-Stars were announced, people immediately wondered why the Penguins' leading goal scorer wasn't on the list. As of Wednesday, he's only tied with Jonathan Toews for the second most goals in the league with 27.

"We thought he was an All-Star when they first named the team," coach Dan Bylsma said on Tuesday.

Better late than never, I suppose.

It's funny to me how people feign disinterest in the All-Star Game but then get worked up when players don't get the nod to play in it. Neal's exclusion put that whole idea on display.

Neal gets the late addition to the game the day after Scott Hartnell had the same happen with him, replacing Jonathan Toews. Both players are in the top 10 in goal scoring this season and were seen as probably the two biggest omissions to the initial list. Circumstances allowed that to be corrected.

Neal will now join Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang as representing the Penguins in Ottawa.

More from Eye on Hockey

Ovechkin withdraws from All-Star Game
Hartnell replaces Toews for game
More All-Star Game coverage

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

Posted on: January 24, 2012 11:49 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 11:58 pm
 

Should Matt Cooke have been penalized?

By: Adam Gretz

Questionable plays that involve Matt Cooke are going to get more attention than plays that don't involve Matt Cooke because, well, his reputation is what it is, and that's just the way these things work, for better or worse.

That's why this boarding call on Barret Jackman with just a little over a minute to play in the third period of Pittsburgh's 3-2 shootout win in St. Louis on Tuesday night is at least worth another look. Not only because it involved Cooke, but also because it was a big call at a big moment in what was at the time a physical, hard-fought game that was on the verge of going to overtime.

This is the play that earned Cooke a two-minute minor for boarding. The question becomes how much of Jackman's faceplant into the glass the result of a hit from behind, and how much of it was due to any sort of embelishment from the Blues' defenseman or a last second turn? Based on the replay angles it almost appears as if Cooke's initial contact is from the side, and not a hit from behind.

You decide:



Even though he was initially shaken up, Jackman eventually returned to the game.

Because every play gets looked at by the league, this will get another look from the NHL's disciplinary czars, but this seems to be more on Jackman than Cooke, who has continued to be on his best behavior this season. Even with this penalty on Tuesday night, he's still only registered 16 penalty minutes this season. He had over 100 in each of his first three seasons with the Penguins.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 24, 2012 4:26 pm
Edited on: January 25, 2012 10:26 am
 

How the NHL's top scorers have been used

The Kings are relying on Anze Kopitar to do it all. (Getty Images)
Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at how the NHL's have top scorers have been used this season.

By: Adam Gretz


Of all the top scorers in the league this season the most overlooked and underappreciated one of them all might be Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings.

Not only because he's their leading scorer (and one of the only players on the team that's actually having a good season offensively) but also because they are asking him to play in every possible situation against the best players on a nightly basis.

More often than not in recent years the player that finishes the regular season as the NHL's leading scorer also tends to take home the Hart Trophy as the league MVP, as has happened in six of the past 10 years. In two of the four years it didn't happen, the Hart went to the player that scored the most goals. That kind of gives you an idea as to what voters are looking at, at least in part -- total production, whether it be goals and/or total points.

Of course, there is a ton of value in a player that scores enough to lead the league in any or both of those categories, and that player is obviously going to be one of the best players in the league. That is, after all, the most basic concept of the game: score goals.

But not all scorers play in situations that are created equal. Some players are put into situations where they can focus entirely on offense (like, say, Henrik and Daniel Sedin).

Others are given assignments that aren't quite as conducive to putting up points because of what might be greater defensive responsibilities, whether it be playing more minutes as a penalty killer, where offensive is nearly impossible to come by, or simply playing more even strength shifts in areas where defense has to take a priority over offense (such as a faceoff in the defensive zone).

Last week we looked at the top rookies that have been given the toughest assignments this season, and this week we're going to take a similar look at how the top-25 scorers in the league (at the start of this week) have been utilized by their teams. The chart below takes into account all five-on-five situations and locates players based on the quality of competition they face, as well as the percentage of their shifts that start in the offensive zone (both numbers via BehindTheNet).

The closer a player is to the top left, the harder the assignments. The closer to the bottom right, the "easier."

This, again, is the top-25 scorers in the NHL at the start of this week.

TopScorers

1) See those two guys way out on the right, all by themselves? Those are the Sedin twins, and it's easy to see what their role is for the Canucks. Along with their regular linemate, Alex Burrows, the Sedin's start a higher percentage of their shifts in the offensive zone than any player in the league (not just among the top scorers, but all players) and there really isn't anybody else that is even remotely close to them.

After Burrows, who again is their linemate, the only other regular player in the NHL that has a mark over 70 percent is Tampa Bay's well known defensive sieve, Marc-Andre Bergeron. And these guys are bordering on the 80 percent mark. This is not a new development for the Canucks, as head coach Alain Vigneault has pretty much always used his players this way, whether it be making sure that the Sedin's are always playing in the offensive zone, or players like Manny Malhotra are always on the ice for defensive zone draws.

Obviously, the Canucks are not the only team that operates this way and puts certain players in certain spots, as most of the top-scorers shown above are used in similar situations (favorable five-on-five roles, a lot of power play time, almost no time on the penalty kill). Though, the Canucks do seem to be the most committed to it, and as I mentioned in this week's Power Rankings, if it weren't for icing calls that forced them to stay on the ice for a faceoff in their own zone, I wonder if the Sedin's would ever be asked to start a shift in their own end of the ice.

2) The MVP campaign for Philadelphia's Claude Giroux is no joke, and if there were any doubts about his ability to take over the No. 1 center role in Philadelphia and play the tough minutes that Mike Richards previously played, well, you can forget about it. He's not only playing the key even strength minutes, he also spends two-and-a-half minutes per game on the penalty kill. And he's still the second leading scorer in the NHL, even with the fact that he's missed four games.

Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk is having a similar season, but we already knew he's capable of that and he's simply continuing to do what he's always done throughout his career -- play unmatched two-way hockey and dazzle with his obscene level of skill.

3) Where would the Kings and Devils be without Kopitar and Patrik Elias this season? Not only are they the top point producers for two teams that have little offense after them, but they have also been doing it under less-than-ideal circumstances for offense, while both spend significant time every night killing penalties for two of the top penalty killing teams in the league. Kopitar, for example, logs 2:28 of shorthanded ice time per game for the Kings, while Elias checks in at just under two minutes per game. Of the 25 players on the scatterplot above, only nine of them play more than one minute of shorthanded ice-time per game. Twelve of them play less than 10 seconds per game.

Does this mean that players like Kopitar and Elias are better than players like the Sedins, or Evgeni Malkin and James Neal? Or having better seasons? Well, no, not exactly, because those guys are still scoring at pretty impressive rates and being relied on to carry their teams offensively. In the cases of Malkin and Neal, for example, they're pretty much the only guys scoring for their team right now, so that can't be underestimated.

It does, however, mean that perhaps the gap isn't quite as big as the point total or goal total would indicate.

It means that a player like Kopitar, who never seems to get much attention as being one of the best players in the league (he's not even an All-Star this season, for whatever that's worth) is probably extremely underrated and underappreciated for what he has done for his team every single night this season, and the way he's gone about doing it.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 23, 2012 6:41 pm
Edited on: January 23, 2012 6:54 pm
 

Alex Ovechkin suspended 3 games



By: Adam Gretz

Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin has been suspended three games for a hit delivered on Sunday afternoon, the NHL announced on Monday evening.

The hit occurred early in the second period, with the Capitals trailing 2-0, and as he and Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek went into the corner for a loose puck Ovechkin delivered a hit to the head along the boards. There was no penalty called on the play.

"Ovechkin has Michalek lined up for what could and should be a clean, hard body check," said Shanahan on his latest suspension video. "However, he launches himself to deliver the hit on Michalek.

"Although Michalek's shoulder might be the initial point of contact for this hit, the act of launching causes contact to Michalek's head. Often on big hits or collisions a player's feet will come off the ice slightly as a result of the impact. This however is not one of those occassions. Ovechkin drives up, launching and recklessly making contact with Michalek's head."

Shanahan also added that he accepts that Ovechkin did not intend to hit Michalek in the head, but said "the moment Ovechkin launches himself in the air prior to the hit, he becomes responsible for any contact to the head."

Ovechkin's prior history was also taken into account, as he has been suspended twice and fined twice previously in his career. Back in 2009 he received a two-game ban for a knee-on-knee hit to Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Tim Gleason. He also suspended that season for a boarding incident involving Brian Campbell.

He will miss Washington's upcoming games with Boston, Tampa Bay and Florida. Obviously that game against the Panthers, which will take place on Feb. 1, is a big one as the Capitals and Panthers are currently in a back-and-forth fight for the top spot in the Southeast Division. He will be eligible to return to the Capitals lineup on Feb. 4 against the Montreal Canadiens.

Even though he's currently suspended, he will be eligible to play in next weekend's All-Star game in Ottawa.

His absence also adds to the current problems facing the Capitals as the team is already playing without center Nicklas Backstrom and top defenseman Mike Green. Washington is starving for offense right now, and this won't help.

Even though Michalek was on the receiving end of the hit from Ovechkin, he also had a disciplinary hearing with Shanahan on Monday for a hit he delivered in the same game on Capitals forward Matt Hendricks (you can watch it right here). While Ovechkin was suspended for three games, Michalek will not be disciplined for his hit, which will only add more fuel to the fire when it comes to (the lack of) consistency and NHL discipline.

More NHL Discipline news here

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 22, 2012 4:46 pm
Edited on: January 22, 2012 11:59 pm
 

Was Ovechkin's hit on Michalek punishable?

By Brian Stubits

Alex Ovechkin is known for his scoring. Since he was selected first overall in the 2004 draft, he's reminded everybody why.

But it shouldn't be forgotten that Ovechkin is also a power forward. He is a big body who will lay the wood. Big hits from Ovechkin aren't uncommon at all.

There was one hit from Ovechkin in particular in the Capitals' OT loss to the Penguins on Sunday afternoon that drew some attention. And not in a good way for the Caps captain.

That hit on the Penguins' Zbynek Michalek drew no penalty call from the officials in the game. Seeing it on replay, it no doubt deserved one, his skates clearly came off the ice to deliver the check to Michalek.

It's close to being a situation where the principal point of contact is the head as well. But it does appear that the first contact comes on Michalek's shoulder before going through to his head.

I wouldn't be surprised if this draws a phone call from Brendan Shanahan. Right now I'd think there's no suspension coming Ovechkin's way but he could get a warning, something Shanahan has done with other players this season. It's certainly within the realm of possibility he could be punished for the hit, but my premonition is that it won't get a suspension. However I've been wrong -- many times -- before when it comes to suspensions this season.

At the least, it was a penalty that was missed in the game. And it was also a reminder about the bad blood that exists in the Pens-Caps rivalry. It's about more than Sid vs. Ovi (that's a big part of what built the rivalry).

It must be mentioned that Michalek had his own questionable hit later in the game. That one did lead to a penalty after he boarded Matt Hendricks in the corner. What goes around comes around I guess.

As is the case with Ovechkin's hit, it will garner a harder look from Shanahan. Any time a player is hit in or near the head, the league will look hard at it.

Now I'll let you make the calls.

UPDATE: Turns out each player could, in fact, be in line for a suspension as the NHL announced on Sunday that night that each player has a discipline hearing slated for Monday.

More NHL Discipline news
Recap: Pens 4, Caps 3 (OT)

H/t to Pro Hockey Talk for second video

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

Posted on: January 22, 2012 9:25 am
Edited on: January 22, 2012 7:20 pm
 

The Penguins rediscovered their winning ways

BylsmaBy: Adam Gretz

A little over a week ago the sky appeared to be falling when it came to the Pittsburgh Penguins and their season.

The team was riding a six-game losing streak, they were on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture for the time being and there was even a discussion as to whether or not some players on the team held a meeting regarding a potential temporary captain in the absence of Sidney Crosby. That, of course, was followed by the entire team hitting the ice for practice by all wearing C's on their jerseys on the same day they started a five-game winning streak, which was extended to six games with a 4-3 overtime win against Washington on Sunday afternoon. 

It would certainly be a nice narrative to suggest that show of solidarity and team-bonding (if you want to call it that) was the springboard for their return to the win-column, but it's actually a lot more reasonable than that: the team simply wasn't as bad as it looked during that stretch, and they got back to doing a lot of the things that originally made them successful.

That six-game losing streak was the perfect storm where slumps, uncharacteristically sloppy play and bad luck all met at the same point in the season. Every mistake they made ended up in the back of their net, and no matter how many chances they generated or shots they fired on goal at the other end, they weren't getting the same fortune and couldn't seem to buy a goal.

Even though offense was difficult to come by, with the team scoring just six goals over the six games, they were still out-shooting their opponents by a significant margin in every game, indicating that they were still controlling puck possession, an area that has been one of the team's strengths ever since Dan Bylsma took over behind the bench during the 2008-09 season. It was also perhaps a sign that, eventually, they would be able to break through.

During that streak the Penguins, as a team, were shooting around 3 percent, while their opponents were pumping in goals at a 14 percent rate, two percentages that were in no way going to continue for an extended period of time (keep in mind, the league average is typically around 9 percent in a given season, as it is once again this year, and the best and worst teams usually shoot in the neighborhood of 10 and 7 percent respectively). While they may have been lacking a large number of true "scoring chances," and a lot of the shots may have been coming from the perimeter, the more time you spend in the offensive zone the more chances there are for a defensive breakdown by the other team, the more opportunities you're going to get for a second or third chance shot, and, really, the more bad things that can happen for the team trying to defend as they get worn down trying to defend, especially against an aggressive forechecking team.

The whole thing was actually pretty reminiscent of the losing streak the Detroit Red Wings had earlier in the season (also a six-game drought, driven largely by a lack of goal-scoring), and one that was followed by them winning 14 of the following 18 games.

Before the Penguins' 5-4 come-from-behind win against Montreal on Friday night, I asked Bylsma if he felt that his team was on the verge of putting together a run of games like this given the way they had previously been playing, and some of the things they were able to do, even in defeat, and he seemed to think it all started to turn around with their 1-0 loss in Washington back on Jan. 11.

"When two losses turns into four and six, you start to feel a little bit like when the next one is going to come," said Bylsma. "We liked a lot of the things we did. We maybe didn't react well to situations in the games, like other teams scoring, making a mistake, maybe a referee call -- we weren't reacting well, and it was causing us to find ways to lose, or find a way to let teams back into games.

"I think it started with the Washington game. Our attitude changed, our mindset changed, and in addition to playing well and having possession of the puck,  we were playing a little bit more with an edge, a little bit more of an attitude and the way we need to play the game."

It also probably wasn't a coincidence that their worst stretch of the season also took place during the exact same time that Evgeni Malkin and James Neal, their two best players this season, hit their first extended slumps of the season. Both have since gone on new scoring streaks, especially Malkin as he continues to shine in the absence of Crosby, and has been one of the best offensive players in the league this season. But Bylsma was also quick to point out that it's not just about his point production, and that he might be playing the best even-strength hockey of his career.

"It's easy to look at the highlights and say he's playing amazing," said Bylsma. "But it's much harder to look at his whole game. How he's playing without the puck, how he's playing defensively, the number of minutes he's playing, who he's playing against, how he and his line with Chris Kunitz and James Neal have been able to play a real dominating game, and not just the fact they're scoring points and getting goals, but maybe his best hockey at 5-on-5 that he's played in his career. And he's been doing it for a long stretch of hockey right now and leading our team."

Among the numerous injuries the Penguins have dealt with at various times this season, one of the most recent was to center Jordan Staal, the player that almost always plays some of the toughest minutes on the team and handles the toughest assignments. In his absence Malkin, one of the few natural centers remaining in the lineup, has taken on more of those responsibilites in recent weeks, playing more minutes and getting more shifts against other teams top lines.

They still have a franchise center, and now that Kris Letang, their best all-around defenseman, is back in the lineup, that six-game losing streak might be starting to become a thing of the past.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 21, 2012 9:49 am
Edited on: January 21, 2012 2:49 pm
 

P.K. Subban fined $2,500 for 'dangerous trip'

By: Adam Gretz

It's difficult to find the exact moment the Montreal Canadiens season went flying off the rails.

There are simply so many possibilities, and Friday's 5-4 shootout loss to the Penguins seems to be just another low in a season full of them. Even though they owned a two-goal lead with 16 minutes to play in regulation, the Canadiens still finished in the loss column for the 12th time in their past 16 games.

The game also brought some more unwanted attention to their young star defenseman, P.K. Subban, for what appeared to be a slew foot midway through the overtime period.



There was no penalty called on the play, but Subban was fined $2,500 on Saturday for what the NHL called a "dangerous trip." When compared to the play the Rangers claim was a slew foot on Brad Richards on Thursday, this one stands out as being way more deliberate and actually worthy of being called a slew foot.

Since he has taken over NHL player safety, Brendan Shanahan has not issued a suspension for a slew footing incident. He did, however, also fine Boston's Brad Marchand $2,500 for an incident involving Matt Niskanen earlier this season.

The last player to actually be suspended for a slew foot was Evgeny Artyukhin back in October, 2009, for his slew foot against, oddly enough, Niskanen during his days with the Dallas Stars. It was a three-game suspension.

The Canadiens enter Saturday's game in Toronto, one of the four teams between them and a playoff spot, nine points out of what would be the eighth and final spot, and they're in desperate need of a win, especially after letting a point slip away on Friday

"It's not even close to enough," said forward Max Pacioretty after Friday's game. "Especially against a team that's hanging around for a playoff push, both of us right now, when you look at that, if it goes the other way and we hang onto that lead ... it's frustrating that keeps happening. We have to find answers."

Previously at Eye On Hockey

Cooke won't face discipline for alleged slew foot
Brad Marchand fined for slew foot
More NHL Discipline news here

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com