Smashville falls apart thanks to Crosby, Guentzel and Penguins goaltending
June 13, 2017 3:04 AM
by Nick Pellegrino
Whether it was Pittsburgh captain Sidney “The Kid” Crosby or freshman Jake “the small ‘k’ kid” Guentzel, in the end, the Penguins held too much firepower over the noble efforts of the upstart Nashville Predators.
Patric Hornqvist’s goal with 95 seconds remaining broke a scoreless affair in what became a 2-0 triumph to hoist the Stanley Cup in six games.
Crosby, the first player to receive consecutive Conn Smythe Trophy honors as postseason MVP since the Penguins own Mario Lemieux did so in 1991 and 1992, again garnered the award as captain of a team with a balanced attack.
For the doubters, Crosby cemented his spot in the Hall of Fame.
Evgeni Malkin, who posted double-digit totals in power play assists, led the strongest sector of the Penguins, the man-advantage unit. Also in the running was Guentzel, who equaled the NHL rookie playoff scoring record with 21 points, first set by Hall of Famer Gino Ciccarelli with the Minnesota North Stars in 1981.
On the other side of the ice Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne was fantastic through the first three rounds – the obvious leader for the Smythe – at the time. However, his cloak of invincibility deteriorated as the Final with Pittsburgh progressed.
Pens goalie Matt Murray, with some relief assist from Marc-Andre Fleury, is one of maybe no other young goalies to win two Cups after just turning 23 years old. Montreal’s Ken Dryden won his second Cup in his third season at age 25.
People will remember Murray’s Cup-clinching shutout in Game 6, but it was Fleury who was in the net for more-than-half (9) of the 16 victories.
Almost forgotten: the “what if” Ryan Johansen, the Predators’ captain and leading scorer, wasn’t lost for the balance of the playoffs following a third-round injury to Anaheim.
Joe’s the Man
Joe Manganiello will host the 2017 NHL Award and NHL Expansion Draft on Wednesday, June 21. The all-in-one event will be held at T-Mobile Arena.
Tickets for the general public are as low as $15 and remain available for the show, which will honor the best hockey players in the world and top performances of the 2016-17 season, plus reveal the names of those selected by the NHL’s newest team, the Vegas Golden Knights, in the expansion draft.
Although I am a life-long fan of “my” Los Angeles Kings, I will open my heart just a little and say, “Go Knights!”
Peek at ‘18
New Kings GM Rob Blake failed to share the view of former GM Dean Lombardi and elected to re-sign forward Marian Gaborik.
Obviously, Blake thought the system by former head coach Daryl Sutter was the blame for Gaborik’s recent offensive failures, thus expecting a turnaround under the new skipper, John Stevens.
Gaborik had been under buyout speculation due to his long term contract with little in return.
G-Knights go fishing
NHL Expansion Draft Strategy: In the NHL expansion draft, each franchise may protect either seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie (most popular), or eight skaters (four forwards and four D-men) and one goalie.
Here’s what we expect from many nearby cities:
Arizona: The Coyotes are very young, listing a variety of talented prospects who are too young to be eligible for the draft. On the roster, there are only 10 players eligible to be taken, led by Clayton Keller, Max Domi, Laurent Dauphin and Jacob Chuchrun. Most likely, Arizona might make some last-minute free agent signings and place them in the pool for Vegas to select from.
L.A. Kings: What a mess when it comes to the salary cap, considering they committed to captain, scoring leader Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar, Gaborik (see above) and former captain Dustin Brown.
Future standouts they want to protect are forwards Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson, plus D Brayden.
Anaheim: The Ducks are top-heavy in D-men, considering they sent more than a half- dozen blue-liners up-and-down the freeway from The OC to San Diego (AHL) last season. Some feel Kevin Bieska, a “35-plus” player and a hefty contact could be bought out, saving cap space so a lesser D-man could be exposed to the Go’Knights. A reasonably priced goalie might also be for the taking since Anaheim doesn’t really “love” any current netminder.
Since Anaheim really would like to protect Shea Theodore, Brandon Montour, and other promising, expansion-exempt defenders, they could make a pre-draft deal and allow someone to be drafted, then immediately back to the Ducks for 2-3 players from San Diego since the farm team is also deep.
Colorado: The few good players on the Avalanche might be too expensive for Vegas, so Colorado might follow the proposed Anaheim game plan to “double-trade or “draft-and-trade back” whomever the G-Knights select. The most obvious Avs player is Francois Beauchemin, but he’s a 35-plus guy that offers no cap relief. However, if Colorado can buy him out, that leaves space for forwards Sven Andrighetto, Mikhail Grigorenko and Matt Nieto to remain protected and leave Vegas with little to choose from.