Tag:Pittsburgh Penguins
Posted on: January 11, 2012 3:06 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2012 1:44 am
 

Minnesota's puck possession problem

WildPucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at what might be the biggest problem with the Minnesota Wild.

By: Adam Gretz


The Minnesota Wild have a problem right now.

After beating the Phoenix Coyotes on December 10, their seventh win in a row, the Wild improved their record to 20-7-3 and owned the best point total in the NHL. They had the look of a sure-fire playoff team and one that was going to end a three-year playoff drought for the franchise.

Of course, that could still end up happening, but it's been all downhill ever since.

In the month that's followed the Wild have won just one game in regulation (a 4-3 win against Edmonton, a team that's been one of the worst in the NHL over the past 20 games), a stretch that's seen them go 2-8-3. The other win came on Tuesday night, a 5-4 shootout win against San Jose after the Wild let a two-goal lead slip away in the final four minutes of regulation. As of Wednesday, the Wild went from the top team in the Western Conference to the No. 7 spot, just three points out of the No. 9 spot, in exactly one month, and their next three games are against Chicago, St. Louis and Philadelphia, which is definitely not an easy stretch.

This recent decline should have been expected (I wasn't ready to buy their fast start earlier this season ... though, I said the same thing about the Rangers and theyr'e still winning. So there's that) and unless something changes in the second half of the season they might have a big struggle ahead of them. Why? Because they are one of the worst puck possession teams in the league, which isn't exactly a good recipe for success in the NHL.

Entering play on Wednesday the Wild were generating the third-fewest shots per game and allowing the most. They're getting outshot by an average of over five shots per game, the worst mark in the league. If this continues it's not going to be a promising development for their playoff chances.

The table below takes a look at the past 10 NHL seasons and the playoff chances for teams when out-shooting, or getting out-shot by, a certain margin over the course of the season.

Possession Matters
Shot Differential Playoff % Total Teams Stanley Cup Finalists Stanley Cup Champions
+5 (or more) 100% 20 out of 20 5 4
+4 89% 14 out of 16 5 4
+3 90% 19 out of 21 1 0
+2 64% 16 out of 25 1 0
+1 64% 24 out of 37 3 0
+ >1 70% 27 out of 38 2 1
- >1 34% 11 out of 32 0 0
-1 36% 9 out of 24 2 1
-2 25% 7 out of 27 0 0
-3 40% 10 out of 23 1 0
-4 6% 1 out of 16 0 0
-5 (or more) 4% 1 out of 23 0 0

Most teams finish somewhere between plus-one and minus-one over the course of an 82-game season. It's the teams that separate themselves from the cluster, one way or the other, that either compete for the  Stanley Cup (on the positive side) or compete for the top-overall pick in the next summer's draft (on the negative side). It should again be pointed out that Minnesota currently falls into the minus-five (or worse) category (and they are the only team as of Wednesday).

Over the past 10 seasons only one such team has been able to make the playoffs -- the 2001-02 Montreal Canadiens, a No. 8 seed that finished two points ahead of the ninth seeded Washington Capitals. If you remember, that was also the season that Jose Theodore put together one of the best season-long goaltending performances in recent memory by leading the league (by a pretty sizable margin) with a .931 save percentage, an obvious outlier in his career, and taking home the Hart Trophy as the league MVP and the Vezina Trophy as the league's best goaltender.

When the Canadiens faced a similar deficit the following season, and Theodore's level of play regressed back to his normal career levels (a .908 save percentage -- exactly his career average -- instead of .931, a top-15 mark all-time) the Canadiens missed the playoffs and Theodore went from being the next Patrick Roy to just another in the revolving door of mediocrity in the Montreal net. He was eventually traded for David Aebischer in 2006.

Another team that stands out from the above chart, and also happens to be the one team over the past decade that won the Stanley Cup despite being outshot during the season, is the 2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins. It was a tale of two teams that year. They started the season with Michel Therrien behind the bench, playing a very passive, defense-first system. After reaching the Stanley Cup Finals the previous season (losing to the Detroit Red Wings) they found themselves on the outside of the playoff picture in mid-February following a humiliating loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

At that point in the season the Penguins were 27-25-5, and were being crushed in terms of puck possession, getting out-shot by nearly four shots per game. It was then that they made drastic changes to the entire team. Pretty much everything about it, from the coach, to the system, to the make-up of the roster. Therrien was replaced behind the bench by Dan Bylsma, brought up from their American Hockey League team in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and the team instantly started playing a more aggressive brand of hockey with an emphasis on getting to the offensive zone as quickly and often as possible. Along with that, general manager Ray Shero completely overhauled the team's top line by trading for forwards Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin to improve the offense, and added some additional toughness by picking up Craig Adams on waivers.

Almost instantly they completely flipped the script on their season, and went from being a team that was getting out-shot by nearly four shots per night with a .500 record, to a team that was now out-shooting its opponents by four shots and finishing with an 18-3-4 record. That level of play continued through the playoffs, all the way through their Stanley Cup Finals rematch with Detroit, ending with a Pittsburgh win in seven games.

The ability to create shots (and prevent shots) is a reflection of skill, talent and strategy (coaching), which is why the teams that are the best at controlling the puck are the ones that tend to win the most games and have the best chance at winning it all. Looking at the Wild and there just doesn't seem to be enough players to create chances offensively, and the defense isn't anything great. They've been relying on their two outstanding goalies, Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding, and while they've had excellent seasons they can only mask Minnesota's flaws for so long.

Can they still make the playoffs this season? Sure, anything can happen. Maybe they continue to get a '01-02 Jose Theodore-type season from their goaltenders (because at this rate that's probably what they're going to need), or maybe something drastically changes in the second half of the season that allows the team to generate more offense and spend more time in the other end of the ice. But if things keep going like they have been, the odds could be stacked against them.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 10, 2012 11:39 am
Edited on: January 10, 2012 11:41 am
 

James Neal's foot not broken, will play Tuesday

By Brian Stubits

It was just Sunday that the Pittsburgh Penguins announced Jordan Staal would be out 4-6 weeks and James Neal had a broken foot that would keep him out of action for a while.

Two days later, it looks as though Neal isn't even going to miss a game. Don't you just love hockey players?

With the Penguins having a long list already of guys injured, Neal was a surprise in the team's morning skate on Tuesday in preparation for Pittsburgh's game against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night. The surprises continued after the skate when Neal revealed he's not going to miss any time.

"I'm good to go. I'm ready to play tonight," Neal said Tuesday. "After an MRI yesterday, it can’t get any worse. So I’m good to play on it."

A big reason why was a misdiagnosis the first time around. The Penguins were off a little with the broken foot announcement.

"The first test on Neal showed a fracture," coach Dan Bylsma said. "MRI showed pre-existing condition. He has a bone bruise but can play."

Well there's a surprise. It will be very interesting to watch how Neal skates and how many minutes he plays tonight against the Sens.

You have to wonder if aiding in this decision is the Penguins' struggles at the moment, both with injury and on the ice. They have lost four in a row and are very dinged up with Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, Staal injured.

If he's able to play near 100 percent than obviously it's a big lift to the Penguins. Neal has been a very good goal scorer for the Pens this season, particularly on the power play where he has netted 10 of his 21 tallies.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: January 8, 2012 3:11 pm
Edited on: January 8, 2012 3:32 pm
 

Weekend Wrap: This one's for the good guys

By Brian Stubits

While you were busy worrying about the upcoming summer of labor after the NHLPA declined the realignment plan ...

With all due respect to the guys of Green Day, nice guys really can finish first. Or at least succeed.

Saturday was a milestone day for two of the classiest and most loyal players in the NHL. One milestone awesome, the other simply dumbfounding, on a couple of levels.

First, the awesome: Jarome Iginla's 500th goal in Saturday night's win against the Minnesota Wild. Nobody is surprised that Iginla hit the 500-goal mark in his career. I've seen it argued that he would have passed that milestone a while ago if he had played with some better centers in his time with the Calgary Flames.

It doesn't matter how ugly it might have been. Iginla's had enough beauties in his career, I don't think for one second he was worried about it coming on a pass from the boards that bounced off skates and into the net.

I could go on about with platitudes about the class of guy that Iginla is. People already know that and my personal experience with the guy did nothing at all to change that impression for me. I like to point to this somewhat infamous and incredibly cringe-worthy exchange with Iginla and a reporter earlier this season that Iginla dealt with as patiently as any player could, even though nobody knew what exactly was being asked.

Iginla became only the 42nd player in NHL history to hit the plateau. So we're talking about a pretty exclusive club. Iginla's case is even more unique when one realizes that he became only the ninth player ever to score his first 500 goals with one team.

Every franchise usually has a designated Mr. (fill in the team name). Iginla no doubt is Mr. Flame.

The second milestone also came from a Mr. Franchise type and it was a bit more amazing.

Unless you work for the Elias Sports Bureau or are the biggest Phoenix Coyotes fan out there, it probably caught you by surprise that Shane Doan's hat trick on Saturday night was the first of his career.

It took him 1,161 games to get there, but Doan finally put three in in one game. And it's not like we're talking about a guy who doesn't score. He joins Scott Mellenby as the only other player in NHL history to score 300 goals before his first hat trick.

The most amazing part of all? It took Doan 59 minutes, 59 and 9/10 of a second to get that third goal.

Sometimes you can't make this stuff up.

Like Iginla, Doan has been a consummate professional, a player with the loyalty to a franchise that fans love to see in sports these days. This is a guy who has stuck with a franchise that has been surrounded in questions for a couple of years but has stuck with the only team he has ever known.

A little bit of irony in Doan's goal coming with only 0.1 second left, the Coyotes fell victim to a similar situation earlier this season. The Rangers potted a goal with the same exact amount of time on the clock. The only difference between those two last-second tallies? The Rangers' was for a win, Doan's for the hat trick in an already-decided game.

And all those hats he collected? They are reportedly being donated to the Phoenix Children's Hospital.

It was almost as if Saturday was a night for the good guys in the NHL. Two great honors for two great players. Certainly beats more concussions.

Blue moon

The St. Louis Blues are no fluke, people. This sample size with Ken Hitchcock at the helm is big enough to draw that conclusion.

More from the weekend
Recaps
Stories

The Blues are in the Central Division. They compete with the likes of the Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators. Yet, after Saturday's games, it's the Blues that are sitting in first place of the monster division, for my money the best in the NHL.

St. Louis dominated the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night, pitching a 4-0 shutout. The Avs had been maybe the hottest team in the NHL, bringing a four-game win streak into the Lou. Instead they were just another victim for St. Louis.

That moved the Blues to 18-5-5 under Hitchcock. Their sole lead isn't going to last long. By the end of Sunday they will at least be in a tie with either the Blackhawks or Red Wings. But they are right there and will remain right there for the entire season.

The goaltending duo of Brian Elliott -- who had another shutout -- and Jaroslav Halak has rightfully received a lot of the attention for the Blues' success, but the guys in front of them deserve a lot. Just look at what the Avalanche were able to -- or unable to -- do: They only had 15 shots on goal for the entire game. That's why Elliott didn't even get one of the three Stars of the game. The most shots in one period that Colorado had? Seven. In the first they had just two.

I'll admit I'm happy for the fans of St. Louis. It's not a market that gets a lot of recognition as a big one like the cities in the Northeast or Canada, but it's been a strong market for hockey and remains that way. They haven't had a lot to cheer for in the past couple of years but they do now.

And of course the Western Conference has another team to be reckoned with.

Jerseylicious

The story out of Pittsburgh on Saturday was that the Penguins lost their fourth straight game, something they had not done in two years. On Sunday it was compounded by the announced injuries of James Neal (broken foot) and Jordan Staal (out 4-6 weeks).

But that's taking away from the success of the New Jersey Devils.

Their 3-1 win in Pittsburgh came a night after their 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers at home on Friday. They have points in seven of their last 10 games. They have also hurdled the Penguins in the Atlantic Division and are creeping up on the Flyers, four points behind Philadelphia.

A common thread in those two weekend wins? Ilya Kovalchuk had the game-winner. He's up to 15 goals on the season now, tied with David Clarkson for the team lead. He has the penchant for turnovers -- that's nothing new -- but is still as electric as almost any player in the league with the puck on his stick. What Peter DeBoer wouldn't give to continue to get that kind of production from Kovalchuk.

Danny's dance

What a day it was Saturday for Danny Briere. The Philadelphia Flyers veteran had a double rarity in the Flyers' 3-2 win over the Senators: He finished off a hat trick with a goal in the final seconds of overtime and dropped the gloves with Kyle Turris (!).

First, here's the bout from HockeyFights.com.

Not terrible for a couple of guys who don't normally go a round. For Briere it was only his third career fight.

But in the end it was his fifth career hat trick that was the biggest moment of the night. Apparently content to take the game to the shootout, the Senators seemed to give up once the clock moved under 10 seconds. It was up to Craig Anderson to keep them alive. He made the first stop on Briere from point-blank range but couldn't prevent the second from slipping in and winning the game with 5.3 seconds left.

Buffalo bull

They're getting pretty desperate up there in Buffalo where the Sabres just can't seem to do anything right.

It's a solid cast of characters. There's a reason why people thought this would be a contender in the East this season. Add in the ownership takeover of Terry Pegula, and there was a lot of noise coming out of Buffalo. Now, not so much. Really.

"Married couples fighting upstairs, you can hear that on the ice," Ville Leino joked to John Vogl of the Buffalo News.

That'll happen when you're not scoring much. Like they didn't score in the 2-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night in Buffalo.

Their lack of scoring is the biggest culprit for the following: Since Nov. 12 -- as in the day Ryan Miller met Milan Lucic -- the Sabres have the fourth-worst record in the NHL. The fans are beginning to beg GM Darcy Regier to do something. This isn't how it was supposed to go.

Quote of the weekend

"It got a little tight, so we're being careful with him. We took him and pulled him out." -- Washington Capitals coach Dale Hunter on defenseman Mike Green and his hamstring.

The Caps just got Mike Green back from a hamstring-induced absence that stretched back to early November. Now it might cost him even more time now. If so, that will be the third time that Green has been out with injury. He also had an ankle issue cost him time earlier this season.

The Capitals saw their four-game winning streak come to an end on Saturday night in San Jose to the streaking Sharks. It was actually the first loss of the season for the Caps when Green played. They are now 9-1-0.

Looking beyond this season, Green will hit free agency this summer and here's one argument being laid out for why the Capitals shouldn't re-sign him. It will be worth a debate for GM George McPhee.

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

Posted on: January 8, 2012 1:23 pm
 

Pens injuries continue: Staal, Neal to miss time

By Brian Stubits

The Pittsburgh Penguins have faced plenty of injury adversity in the past two seasons. But this might take the cake.

The Penguins obviously are already down their best player in Sidney Crosby for an indefinite amount of time and have been minus Kris Letang, then they announced on Sunday that Jordan Staal is going to be out 4-6 weeks and James Neal has a broken foot with no timetable yet. That hurts, literally and figuratively.

Making it worse, Craig Adams might have suffered a knee injury in Sunday's practice. When it rains, it pours.

I think there are a few hands reaching for that panic button in Pittsburgh right about now. The Penguins have lost four games in a row, they are currently eighth place in the Eastern Conference and are going to be missing the majority of their play-makers. Now they need to invest in a plastic bubble to put Evgeni Malkin in.

As I said, this is nothing new for the Penguins. They still made the playoffs as a four seed last year when they didn't have Crosby, Malkin and Staal for good portions of the season. It was pretty amazing how well they overcame those injuries on the team. So clearly this isn't a crippling blow to their season. But it just made it a lot more interesting. Or scary if you're a Pens fan.

Unlike last year, the Penguins are actually going into this stretch in eighth place. They don't have the cushion they did last season. Plus, the Atlantic Division is considerably tougher this season, what with the Rangers stepping up their game and the New Jersey Devils playing so well. I think there's a little more competition in the East this year and it's going to ask a lot of them to keep their spot in the playoff mix through the second half of the season.

The Penguins aren't going to be buried as long as Marc-Andre Fleury is still in play. With the scorers dropping like flies, Flower will be counted on even more.

If the Penguins are able to make the playoffs again in a good position, Dan Bylsma might be up for the Jack Adams Award again this season. There are injuries then there are what the Penguins have gone through the last two seasons.

When they were depleted last year, GM Ray Shero went out and got James Neal from the Stars. He'll likely get on the phone again this week and try and get some help.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: January 4, 2012 5:55 pm
Edited on: January 4, 2012 6:10 pm
 

Taking a look at Colorado's shootout success

DucheneBy: Adam Gretz

Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at the shootout success of the Colorado Avalanche and what it might mean for them going forward.

Thanks to a recent hot streak that's seen the team win nine of its past 11 games the Colorado Avalanche entered Wednesday in what would be the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Three of those recent wins have come by way of the shootout, and for the season, Colorado has been the best team in the league in the tie-breaking skills competition, posting a perfect 7-0 record, after an impressive 6-1 performance a season ago.

They're relying heavily on the shootout, and that may not be a good thing for the team going forward.

Their 2010-11 performance in the shootout earned them absolutely nothing as they failed to qualify for the playoffs and finished with one of the worst records in the NHL. This season, for the short-term anyway, it's at least helping to keep them competitive for a while, and as one of only two teams in the league to still be perfect in the shootout (the other is Detroit -- which has only been involved in one shootout this season) those seven extra points have certainly helped.

For Colorado, its shootout success this season has a lot to do with goaltender Semyon Varlamov. During actual game play he's been terrible and currently owns a .900 save percentage, well below the league average. In shootouts, however, he's actually been one of the best goalies in the league and has stopped 17 of the 19 shots he's faced, winning every shootout he's been involved in. His individual performance in this area has improved in each of the past three seasons, and for his career owns one of the best all-time shootout save percentages in league shootout history (brief as it may be).

Meanwhile, forwards like Milan Hejduk, the currently injured Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly have been their most called upon skaters and have managed to convert on 10 of their 17 chances, including five of the seven game-deciding goals.

Of course, the shootout still has its share of critics around the league, mainly among hockey purists, and the NHL has even taken steps to minimize the impact it has at the end of the season, as those wins no longer count when it comes to breaking ties for playoff spots. 

It's also worth pointing out that teams that rely heavily on the shootout during the regular season don't have much success in the postseason, for obvious reasons.

First, if your team is taking part in a lot of shootouts it probably means they're not pulling away from the opposition and find themselves in a lot of close games that can be decided with one bounce. And, even more importantly, there's no shootout in the playoffs, which means those teams will then have to rely on actual 5-on-5 hockey to win, and if they were successful in that area, they wouldn't have had to rely on so many shootouts over the course of the regular season.

Since the NHL added the shootout coming out of the lockout for the 2005-06 season, the average NHL team takes part in 10-12 shootouts per year, usually winning somewhere around five or six of them per season. Only once did the NHL average number of shootout wins drop below five in a season (4.76 per team in '05-06) and only once did it go above 6 (6.1 during the '09-10 season).

The Avalanche already have seven this season, and with half of the season still to go, it's a good bet they're probably going to win a few more.

How have teams that relied on shootout success done in the playoffs? Not well. Not well at all. Over the past six seasons 13 teams have won at least 10 shootouts in a single season, and here's what they did in the playoffs, assuming they qualified:

Teams with 10-or-more shootout wins in a season
Team Year Shootout Wins Playoff Success
Edmonton Oilers 2007-08 15 Did Not Qualify
Phoenix Coyotes 2009-10 14 Lost In First Round
Dallas Stars 2005-06 12 Lost In First Round
Los Angeles Kings 2010-11 10 Lost In First Round
Pittsburgh Penguins 2010-11 10 Lost In First Round
Los Angeles Kings 2009-10 10 Did Not Qualify
Boston Bruins 2009-10 10 Lost In Second Round
New York Rangers 2008-09 10 Lost In Second Round
New Jersey Devils 2006-07 10 Lost In Second Round
Pittsburgh Penguins 2006-07 10 Lost In First Round
Buffalo Sabres 2006-07 10 Lost In Conference Finals
Minnesota Wild 2006-07 10 Lost In First Round
New York Rangers 2006-07 10 Lost In Second Round

Only five made it past the first round of the playoffs, while only Buffalo during the 2006-07 season went as far as the Conference Finals.

Whether or not the Avalanche have to worry about that at the end of the season remains to be seen at this point. As a team they've been getting crushed during 5-on-5 play, mainly due to the struggles of Varlamov when he's not taking part in a shootout.

Right now they're relying almost exclusively on their power play (which is quite good) and their ability to scratch out extra points in a skills competition. How long can that reasonably be expected to continue?

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: December 29, 2011 10:43 pm
Edited on: December 29, 2011 10:46 pm
 

Jagr leads Flyers to win in Pittsburgh

jagrBy: Adam Gretz

PITTSBURGH -- Jaromir Jagr heard the boos everybody expected him to hear on Thursday night in Pittsburgh.

They were at their peak in the opening minutes of the game, and at times were deafening whenever he touched the puck, or, heck, had any sort of noticeable impact on the game. This was not a surprise. He's heard it from the Penguins fans every time he's returned to Pittsburgh in an opposing sweater, and this time he was doing it in the orange and black of Pittsburgh's biggest rival after deciding to sign with them instead of making a return trip to the Penguins over the summer during what was a free agency gong show.

He did his part to silence the boos on Thursday, and by the time the third period rolled around, with the Flyers well on their way to a 4-2 win and a key two points in the standings, they were definitely more subdued.

Jagr was arguably the best player on the ice from start to finish, scoring a goal, generating a number of scoring chances and even making a defensive play early in the first period that robbed Penguins forward James Neal of what looked to be a sure goal. And that was the play that seemed to make Jagr smile the most in the locker room after the game when it was brought to  his attention during what was his third different media scrum. He not only laughed, but also made it a point to call several media members back into the room and told them to remember that play when it comes to their Selke vote at the end of the season.

"Guys when you go to vote for Selke," Jagr laughed. "Selke. Right here."

"Somebody says I don't backcheck, show them that clip. I think it was the best play of my hockey career, I've never been so close to my own net. I have to go tell coach."

He was clearly joking about it being the best play of his career (the own net comment can probably be up for some debate), but it was definitely a pivotal play early in the game and kept the Penguins off the board. It was just one of a number of  highlight reel plays made by him over the course of the game, including his 12th goal of the season and numerous other scoring chances. He finished the game with two shots on goal while attempting five others, and some of his best chances were on the plays that didn't result in a goal or even a shot.
More on Jaromir Jagr, Flyers


During a shift early in the first period, for example, he was twice left wide open in front, only to whiff on one pass and fire a second one through the goal crease. Later he had another prime scoring opportunity on an odd-man rush as he took a pass between the circles and let go a quick wrist shot that was gloved out of the air by Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

"I had so many chances today," said Jagr. "I think I probably had the most chances I had in any game I played this season. I probably could have had five goals if I would be good player. Fifteen years ago I would have scored five. Not anymore. That's the difference between Jagr now and Jagr 15 years ago."

In kind of a sour mood on Wednesday during his first interactions with the Pittsburgh media, Jagr was clearly more relaxed on Thursday night. Scoring a goal and getting a win probably didn't hurt.  But this night wasn't just about Jagr's return to Pittsburgh or his legacy among Penguins fans.

Again, he's been back several times as a member of the Washinton Capitals and New York Rangers.

That wasn't true for Max Talbot. Thursday's game was the very first time he played in Pittsburgh as a member of another team.

Talbot, of course, spent the first six years of his career with the Penguins and played a major role in some of the team's biggest games over the past four years. He was a playoff hero during the 2009 Stanley Cup run when he fought then-Flyers forward Daniel Carcillo during Game 6 of the conference quarterfinals and then made his now-famous gesture to the Flyers crowd, while he also scored the Penguins' only two goals in their Game 7 win against Detroit in the Stanley Cup Finals. He was not only a key role player on the Penguins' bottom two lines, he also scored five Stanley Cup Finals goals during the 2008 and 2009 postseasons, each one seemingly bigger than the one before.

While it was obvious as to what sort of reception Jagr was going to receive, there was quite a debate before the game as to how Talbot would be welcomed. He was a popular player, as well as an important one, but he too signed with the Pittsburgh's chief rival, inking a five-year contract the same day the Flyers added Jagr. During a video tribute early in the first period there was initially some boos, before he was ultimately given a standing ovation. Of course, he too scored a goal for the Flyers, clinching the win with an empty net goal late in the third period.

"I knew I was going to have a little tribute," said Talbot. "But when the puck dropped I totally forgot about it so I was kind of surprised by it."

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: December 29, 2011 8:31 pm
Edited on: December 29, 2011 10:53 pm
 

Jagr scores, salutes Pittsburgh crowd (Video)

By: Adam Gretz

You had to know this was coming.

After all of the anticipation leading up to Jaromir Jagr's first visit to Pittsburgh following his signing with the Philadelphia Flyers over the summer, and all of the boos and jeers he received from Penguins fans, you just had to know that he was going to find a way to score a goal at some point during the game. And that's exactly what he did mid-way through the second period, giving the Flyers a 2-1 lead.

Here's a look at the goal, which was a vintage Jagr play as he cut across the middle of the ice and unleashed a beautiful backhand shot that beat Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. And then he followed that up with his signature salute (and check out the guy in red shirt returning the favor).



"It was one of the better looking ones," said Jagr about his goal, before laughing and adding, "I'm glad it wasn't off my ass, or off my leg."

Before scoring that goal, his 12th of the season, Jagr had at least four quality scoring chances in the first period and even helped to save a goal at the other end of the ice when he lifted the stick of Penguins forward James Neal, preventing him from depositing the puck into an empty net.

Also at Eye On Hockey

Jagr leads Flyers to win in Pittsburgh
Jagr talks to return to Pittsburgh, Penguins fans

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: December 28, 2011 10:15 pm
Edited on: December 28, 2011 10:16 pm
 

Jagr talks Pittsburgh return, Penguins fans



By: Adam Gretz

Jaromir Jagr is going to make his first appearance in Pittsburgh as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers, the Penguins' chief rival, on Thursday night, and he knows he's going to be walking into a hostile environment (well ... as hostile as the Consol Energy Center can be).

Jagr, of course, spent 11 seasons as a member of the Penguins and helped the franchise win its first two Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992, while he also won five scoring titles and an MVP award during his time. He's still the second best player in franchise history.

He was eventually traded to the Washington Capitals following the 2000-01 season for the uninspiring return of forwards Kris Beech and Michal Sivek, as well as defenseman Ross Lupaschuk. The trio scored a combined 13 goals for the Penguins. Jagr has since scored 218, including his 11 this season as a member of the Flyers. During his many returns to Pittsburgh over the years while playing for the Capitals and Rangers, he heard plenty of boos whenever the puck was on his stick. Not necessarily because he no longer played for the Penguins (though that was surely part of it), but for the manner in which he exited (the words "dying alive" were used).

This past summer when it was believed that Jagr may be interested in returning to the Penguins, as had been rumored multiple times during his three-year stay in Russia, Penguins fans and the Pittsburgh (and national) media were captivated with the free agency pursuit and the potential for him to return to the Penguins and finish his Hall of Fame career with the team that it started with. And then everything hit the proverbial fan when Jagr not only didn't sign with the Penguins, he signed with their hated cross-state and divisional rivals.

Jagr addressed the media on Wednesday and talked about his return, and didn't always take kindly to some of the questions he received from the Pittsburgh media, much of which was left off the NHL video posted above. When asked how he felt he was going to be received by the Pittsburgh fans, he responded with, via the Post-Gazette, "What kind of question is this? Everybody knows how I’m going to be received." When asked how he has fit in with the Flyers so far he added, "I don't know, you tell me"

In an interview with Flyers beat writer Anthony Sanfilippo he was quite candid when talking about the Penguins fans, and how he simply can't comprehend the amount of dislike and anger they now have for him, even taking a page out of the Ilya Bryzgalov "just be happy" school of thought.

Said Jagr, “I just don’t understand one thing when I read it. How, in a situation like that, can there be so much bad attitude and anger from those people? I don’t get it. What kind of world are we in right now? That’s (bleeping) scary. We should be in a world with a lot of love. Instead there’s one guy, who is 40 years old, who is almost done, and he’s causing all that (animosity) over hockey? My brain just doesn’t understand that."

There's never a lot of love when the Penguins and Flyers face off, and that's probably not going to change on Thursday -- on the ice or in the stands. Especially the first time Jagr touches the ice and the puck.

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