Blogs | Sports | News
Chipped Ice

October 9, 2015
by Jason Mackey

2 comments so far - add yours!

Postgame: Stars 3, Penguins 0


DALLAS — Many of you have asked me why the Penguins are using two power plays, one with Sidney Crosby, the other with Evgeni Malkin.

It’s a fair question.

One I often wonder, too.

All I can do is ask. So I did. I asked coach Mike Johnston the reasoning behind doing this after the Penguins’ 3-0 loss to the Dallas Stars tonight at American Airlines Center.

“I really thought both units generated quite a bit,” Johnston said. “We’ve got two dangerous units there. Geno’s line was on the ice when the first power play happened. They were tired. Sid’s line went out on the ice for the power play. Then I thought once they were out there, Geno’s line came back out and gave us a 1-2 punch on the power play. We have the flexibility we can do either. I really liked the looks we had on the power play.”

Was the power play the story of the game?

Not sure.

A power-play goal sure would have helped. So would have preventing the Stars from getting at least one; instead, they got two.

I get the calls for putting Crosby and Malkin together, but I also watched Crosby’s power play feed Phil Kessel with attempt after attempt from the left circle. Eventually, reason would dictate, they’re going to go in.

A few other things to wrap up here before catching my 6 a.m. flight to Phoenix:

=Daniel Sprong made his NHL debut. Had five shot attempts in 8:59. Was noticeable at times, but not in the kind of way where he’s going to force the Penguins’ hand to stay past nine games. It’s still plenty early, though.

Here’s Sprong on his debut:

“It was a great experience. I enjoyed a lot of it. But it’s not the result we were looking for as a team. I missed some good chances. I fanned on a couple. It’s just learning every day and bouncing back on Saturday.”

=Patric Hornqvist felt the Penguins started to surge over the final 10 minutes of the first period. They enjoyed their best power play of the night — on a Jason Demers minor — but Antti Niemi was really, really strong.

“We did a great job in the last 10 minutes of the first period,” Hornqvist said. “Took over the game. If you can get one on the board there, it’s a different game.”

=Some quick numbers: Crosby did not have a shot attempt. I don’t know if I’ve seen that before. Doubtful. … Kris Letang tied Kessel for the team lead in shot attempts with 13 and placed a game-high eight of them on goal.

Not a ton more to say about this one, honestly.

Penguins practice Friday at noon my time, 3 p.m. yours. Will have updates from there.

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



October 8, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie

No comments yet - you should start the discussion!

Top Opening Night Performances

Fifteen years ago, Jaromir Jagr and the Penguins played a two-game opening series against Nashville in Tokyo. (Associated Press)

Fifteen years ago, Jaromir Jagr and the Penguins played a two-game opening series against Nashville in Tokyo. (Associated Press)

Jason Mackey’s got you covered in Dallas tonight, so back here on the homefront, I did some digging this afternoon. I ranked the Penguins’ 10 most impressive individual performances in season openers. I also ranked the top 5 performances by opponents. Take a look.

1. LES BINKLEY, 1968
The Penguins got the first opening-night point in franchise history with a 1-1 tie thanks in large part to Binkley, who made 36 saves against a Canadiens team that included Beliveau, Yvan Cournoyer, Jacques Lemaire, John Ferguson, Henri Richard and Serge Savard.

Stevens had a massive six-point night (2 goals-4 assists) in a 7-4 win over Washington. John Cullen had five assists. Mark Recchi had two goals and two assists.

Cunneyworth netted his first career hat trick, scoring twice in the third period to help the Penguins to a 5-4 win over Washington.

4. RICK KEHOE, 1976
Kehoe scored the first-opening night hat trick in Penguins history in a 9-5 win over Vancouver. The victory was marred by an injury to goalie Denis Herron, who broke his arm in the first period.

5. SYL APPS, 1974
One of the first stars in franchise history, Apps scored two goals in the third period to break a 2-2 tie and lead the Penguins to a 4-2 victory over Minnesota.

The Penguins won on opening night for the first time, beating the rival Flyers, 3-2. Edestrand got the game-winner, snapping a tie with 9:35 left in the third.

Days after being named captain, Pronovost scored two goals in a 4-2 win over St. Louis.

Fleury, then 18, gave the Penguins a glimpse into their future with a remarkable 46-save effort. The Penguins lost, 3-0.

9 .RON FRANCIS, 1995
Francis had a four-point night (2-2) in an 8-3 win over Toronto. Jaromir Jagr had a goal and two assists. Mario Lemieux had four assists.

Kennedy scored his second goal of the game in overtime to give the Penguins a 4-3 win in Stockholm, Sweden.

ANDY BATHGATE, 1967: Bathgate’s goal 7:06 into the third period, assisted by Noel Price and Ab McDonald, was the first in team history. The star of the game, though, was Montreal’s Jean Beliveau. His second-period goal, his 400th in the NHL, was the winner in a 2-1 Montreal victory. … KIP MILLER, 1999: Jaromir Jagr’s running mate had a two-goal opener in a 6-4 loss to Dallas. Mike Modano scored twice and Brett Hull and Joe Nieuwendyk had a goal and an assist for the Stars. … JIM RUTHERFORD, 1972: The current Penguins GM had a strong game in a 4-2 opening-night win over Los Angeles, stopping 27 shots. Ken Schinkel broke a 2-2 tie in the third period.

1. RAY BOURQUE, 1984
Everyone remembers Mario Lemieux scoring on his first shot on his first shift against Pete Peeters, but the Penguins blew a 3-1 third-period lead in that game and Bourque scored to give Boston a 4-3 win with 5:32 left in the third.

The Kings defenseman had one of the best nights of his career, posting two goals and an assist in 3-3 tie.

3. COREY PERRY, 2014
Perry had a hat trick in a 6-4 Anaheim loss. It was the first three-goal game allowed by the Penguins in an opener in team history.

Malinowski scored a third-period goal on a shot that deflected in off Doug Shedden to lead New Jersey to a 3-3 tie in the first game in Devils franchise history.

Sittler scored two goals to lead Toronto to a 3-2 victory, snapping the Penguins’ seven-year opening-night unbeaten streak.

MATS SUNDIN, 2002: Sundin had two goals and two assists the Leafs torched Johan Hedberg in a 6-0 Penguins loss. … ERIC LINDROS, 1993: Lindros had a goal and two assists in a 4-3 Philadelphia win to kick off his second pro season. … SCOTT WALKER, 2000: Walker had a goal and an assist in a 3-1 Nashville win. The game was significant not for the result, but the venue. It was played in Tokyo.



October 8, 2015
by Jason Mackey

No comments yet - you should start the discussion!

Gameday: Penguins at Stars, 8:30 p.m.


A couple notes to wrap up morning skate here at American Airlines Center in Dallas …

=The Penguins recalled defenseman Olli Maatta and forward Kevin Porter earlier. Sent Oskar Sundqvist down, too. This was expected. Maatta was sent down for salary-cap reasons, nothing more. He will play tonight.

With whom, you ask?

Well, here’s what to expect from the Penguins lineup:

Chris Kunitz-Sidney Crosby-Phil Kessel
Sergei Plotnikov-Evgeni Malkin-Patric Hornqvist
David Perron-Nick Bonino-Beau Bennett
Bobby Farnham-Matt Cullen-Daniel Sprong
Scratch: Porter

Ian Cole-Kris Letang
Maatta-Ben Lovejoy
Rob Scuderi-Brian Dumoulin
Scratch: Tim Erixon, Adam Clendening

=Antti Niemi was the first goaltender off for Dallas, meaning he’ll likely start. This marks the first time in six years that a goalie other than Kari Lehtonen has started for the Stars. (Last was Marty Turco).

=Seen around morning skate today was former Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who lives in the area. He’s here to say hello to a few old buddies and discuss a post-hockey position with the franchise, should he elect to retire. Many serious decisions here for Gonchar, and I’m not expecting this to move quickly.

Or it could. Who knows?

Gonchar had a lengthy talk with fellow Russians Malkin and Plotnikov, then left for the afternoon with Fleury and Malkin.

=Tonight will mark the NHL debut for two Penguins: Plotnikov and Sprong. The Penguins actually have three rookies on their roster, these two plus Clendening. Like I said, technically.

I will write more about Sprong for Friday’s notebook, but it turns out he’s a lot like Crosby in that he’s extremeley superstitious.

He wouldn’t tell me exactly what he does or doesn’t do now that he’s in the NHL, except that warmups are different here. So he’s had to adjust.

“I know the NHL game and junior is much different, so I have to change some things in the routine,” Sprong said. “I’m going to see if I can keep most of it.”

Such as … ?

“I have a pretty good list, but I don’t like sharing them.”

=You could see the Stars’ top line of Jamie Benn, Cody Eakin and Tyler Seguin matched up against Crosby’s line tonight. Here’s Crosby on Eakin:

“He competes. He’s fast. He blocks shots. He forechecks,” Crosby said. “He’s good defensively, but offensively he’s able to create a lot, too. So you have to be aware at both ends of the ice. I think that’s the biggest thing. Playing against him every shift you have to be ready.”

=This morning was optional for the Penguins. Crosby, Kunitz and Kessel took the option. Same for coach Mike Johnston.

=Lot of talk about Crosby and Kessel developing chemistry. I thought Johnston had a good take on this. Said, basically, that this will take weeks of regular season games to iron out. Not three in the preseason.

“I think they’re starting to get some chemistry,” Johnston said. “I see them on the power play as well. It probably always takes a couple weeks for a new player to become ingrained with a team and new linemates, different style of play from what he’s used to.”

=A few numbers to note:

500: This will be Perron’s 500th NHL game
2: Wins in two tries for Dallas against the Penguins last year
24-40-6: Penguins’ all-time record in Dallas

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



October 8, 2015
by Jason Mackey

One comment so far - add yours!

Some thoughts on Kessel’s Penguins debut


DALLAS — In a matter of hours, Phil Kessel will take his first shift alongside Sidney Crosby, the most anticipated storyline of the season finally on center stage.

“I”m excited,” Kessel said Wednesday following practice at StarCenter-Farmers Branch. “Starts again. I’m looking forward to this year. Hopefully it’s a good one.”

That Kessel is a Penguin still blows my mind, but really it’s simple when you think about it: They had a gigantic hole in the top-six for much of last season. Kessel fills that. And then some.

Five 30-goal seasons. Two years removed from a career-high 37. Potted 151 over the past five years, tied for fourth in the NHL during that span.

In his typical understated fashion, Kessel didn’t say too much about his debut. Below are two examples of what I’m talking about.

Is he nervous?

“No nerves. I’ve been doing it awhile now. Just take it as another game and do the best I can.”

Has he developed chemistry with Crosby and Chris Kunitz?

“I think each game it just builds. We’ve played four games together and I don’t know how many practices. I think it’s still going to take time. Eventually we’ll get there.”

When I think of acquisition of Kessel, I think of the chart that I posted on Sunday. In it, notice how well the past seven Stanley Cup winners have fared when it comes to shot volume.

Coach Mike Johnston wants shots. Kessel shoots the puck. Simple, right?

Still, it seemed like this summer took forever. There were, of course, a ton of news items. Typical Penguins, I suppose. They certainly command attention.

I asked Kessel whether this summer felt longer than any other that he’s experienced as a pro.

“It’s always different when you change teams,” Kessel said. “I’m looking forward to this year. I think we have a great team. We have a great group of guys. Hopefully we can put it together and have a great year.”

Together with Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the trio has 509 goals since 2009-10. That’s more than any other trio in the NHL during that stretch. (San Jose’s Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture are second with 489.)

With Game 1 on the horizon, I will offer this take on Kessel: I think he will be a tremendously good thing for this team, but not necessarily because he’s a premier offensive talent.

Watch Kessel at a morning skate. He hops on the ice, chewing a huge wad of gum. Shoots some pucks. Laughs. Doesn’t take anything too seriously.

This franchise needs that. Either because of how some of its players are wired or due to legitimate circumstances, a serious tone has often been struck. Kessel obliterates that. He’s loose, in the moment and views hockey for what it is: a game.

Maybe having Kessel will alleviate some of those concerns.

All I got for now. Talk to you from morning skate at American Airlines Center.

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



October 7, 2015
by Jason Mackey

No comments yet - you should start the discussion!

Off day notes from Dallas


DALLAS — I talked with Sidney Crosby today about his NHL debut and what advice he might have for Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Buffalo’s Jack Eichel, the next wave of NHL superstars.

Something that shouldn’t be glossed over, at least with the Penguins, is the NHL debut of Daniel Sprong.

Seriously, did anyone think this was possible back in June? A good camp that forced a tough decision? Sure. I thought that was possible. But did I think Sprong would come out of nowhere and take a lineup spot? No, I did not.

“He’s a young kid and he definitely doesn’t look out of place out there,” Matt Cullen said. “It’s the opposite actually. He’s an explosive player. He has a tremendous shot. The way the puck comes off his stick is pretty good. It’s got some hop.

“He’s able to find space and create. He’s confident with the puck. I thought he had a great camp.”

Good enough to make the team and maybe enough, through nine games, to prove he should stick around. Just like Olli Maatta did two years ago.

**Speaking of Maatta, he did skate today, though I wouldn’t worry. From what I’ve been told, there’s a 24-hour period the Penguins have to wait through. Lineups had to be set at 5 p.m. Tuesday. Had the Penguins practiced at, say, 6 p.m. today, Maatta would have been here.

That left Tim Erixon with Ben Lovejoy on what I guess would be considered a second pair. Expect Maatta to assume that spot Thursday, with Ian Cole and Kris Letang your No. 1 pairing and Rob Scuderi and Brian Dumoulin your No. 3 pairing.

**A note on another defenseman, Sergei Gonchar. The Penguins were/are hoping to see Gonchar today/tomorrow. He lives not far from here. A for the offer that’s on the table for him to join the coaching staff or front office, well, it’s still there. This isn’t a decision Gonchar wants to rush, nor is it one the Penguins want to pressure him into.

**Back to Sprong for a second. He’ll skate with what has to be one of the strangest three-person groupings in the NHL, with Cullen and Bobby Farnham. But coach Mike Johnston made it clear that the fourth line is not Sprong’s ceiling. Not at all, as he’d say.

“He’s a guy who can bump up to any of the three lines above him,” Johnston said.

Sprong has plenty of speed, but he’ll be jumping into the deep end with a Stars lineup that doesn’t exactly lack for talent.

Consider, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin have the highest combined WAR in the league (6.0), according to That’s better than other duos Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton in San Jose (5.6), Vladimir Tarasenko and Alex Steen in St. Louis (5.6) and Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh (5.2).

The Stars scored 261 goals in 2014-15, one fewer than league-leader Tampa.

“We need to have a good gap as defensemen and get help from our forwards, but it all starts with turnovers,” Kris Letang said. “If we don’t manage the puck the right way, these guys are going to go back in transition and get their speed going.”

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



October 6, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie

No comments yet - you should start the discussion!

Replacing Dupuis


With the news today that Pascal Dupuis will miss four to five weeks with a lower-body injury, the focus shifts to replacing him.

At even strength, the Penguins were pretty well prepared for this. David Perron-Nick Bonino-Beau Bennett looks to potentially be a really solid third line. It leaves the fourth line looking a little funky. On the surface, Bobby Farnham-Matt Cullen-Daniel Sprong looks like a mismatched trio. But the one common denominator between the three of them is skating, and speed can mask a lot of other deficiencies.

The penalty kill is more of a question mark. Here’s what Mike Johnston said about it after practice:

“Farnham is a good penalty killer. We’re starting to stretch out our penalty killers. I see Bonino being a core guy. Cullen being a core guy. Farnham. Then we’ve got Geno and Plotnikov have been killing throughout the preseason. Sid has killed last year. We’re trying to use more and more players. I talked to Beau today a little bit about really working with Gary Agnew on the penalty kill. We’ll stretch our bench a little bit and see where we’re at with it.”

Some thoughts on that:

— If there’s one guy Johnston didn’t mention who could see some PK time, I think it’s Chris Kunitz. He can handle some shorthanded minutes.

— I never thought Farnham was a great penalty killer in Wilkes-Barre, but he has the tools. He’s fast and fearless. He needs some more reps in that part of the game.

— I think the idea of using Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the penalty kill has now gone from a gimmick to a necessity.

— For some reason I can’t fully explain, I think Beau Bennett might be a pretty good penalty killer. Smart. Good stick. The idea of Bennett blocking shots is scary, though.

Other notes from today:

— Tim Erixon cleared waivers but it sticking around for the time being. Johnston said he prefers having four D pairs for practice. That could change, though, for a couple of reasons.

— Johnston said he hadn’t met with management yet to decide whether a forward call-up from Wilkes-Barre is required. Erixon’s roster spot could used for that call-up. If I had to guess who would be the first guy up, I’d say Bryan Rust. None of the candidates had great camps, but I think Rust’s speed plays best in this bottom six.

— Also, Erixon’s roster spot could be used for some funky salary cap management moves before the 5 p.m. deadline to submit opening-night rosters to the league. Those are always fun, like the Tangradi-to-Wheeling deal I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post.

You never know what you’re going to get. Olli Maatta has been loaned to the North Pittsburgh Wildcats. Daniel Sprong has been placed on paternity leave. Bobby Farnham has retired and joined a monastery. Expect the unexpected.

— On defense today, they went back to the pairs from two days ago that I thought would be the opening-night six. Cole-Letang, Maatta-Lovejoy and Dumoulin-Scuderi.

— Up front, from the nobody-asked-me files, as long as Sprong is getting power-play time, I think the fourth line is actually a great spot to break him into the lineup.

Bye for now,



October 5, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie

No comments yet - you should start the discussion!

The Erixon Situation


General manager Jim Rutherford said at the start of training camp that the Penguins would begin the season with eight defensemen. Coach Mike Johnston said after practice today that he prefers having eight defensemen because it makes drills run smoother.

So why, then, was Tim Erixon — one of eight defensemen on the NHL roster — placed on waivers today?

“Just gives us flexibility,” Rutherford said. “In case we have to make a move for whatever reason.”

That’s open to a bit of interpretation, but I think I know what Rutherford means.

It’s not that he’s scouring the waiver wire today looking for additions. Sorry, Max Talbot fans. I think it has more to do with Eric Tangradi-to-the-Wheeling-Nailers scenario from 2010.

Assistant general manager Jason Botterill will do whatever he can before opening-night rosters are due to the NHL tomorrow at 5 p.m. to maximize the team’s cap space. In 2010, that included assigning Tangradi to the Nailers temporarily in a somewhat complex piece of accounting.

If Botterill needs a roster spot to make something like that happen this year, he now has one.

For the record, Rutherford seemed fairly pleased with Erixon’s performance on the ice.

“He’s played pretty well,” he said. “He injured his groin early on. I think it slowed him down a little bit, but he’s certainly a guy who’s shown he’s capable of playing here. We’re hoping that (he) stays here.”

Some other notes from practice today:

— EDIT: Pascal Dupuis has been ruled out of Thursday’s season opener in Dallas due to an undisclosed injury. The team is expected to announce a timetable for his return tomorrow. The injury is not related to the blood clots that cost him all but 16 games last season.

Johnston said Dupuis suffered a “slight” injury at the end of practice yesterday.

“I don’t think it’s anything major, but as with all these things, you’re very cautious at the beginning of the year,” Johnston said.

— The Penguins worked on the power play for almost a half-hour before the start of the regular practice session. They did not use the all-star loaded-up unit approach. The first group had Crosby, Kessel, Kunitz, Perron and Letang. The second group had Malkin, Hornqvist, Plotnikov, Sprong/ Bennett and Maatta/Cole.

I took that to mean Johnston was leaning toward using the balanced-unit approach when the season starts Thursday. Then I asked him. He said not really.

“It’s something we’re going to work on throughout the year,” he said. “We can go to two units with Malkin and Crosby on the same one or two units with Malkin and Crosby quarterbacking each of those units. That’s the game plan.”

— In a one-minute video yesterday, I said I thought the defense pairs were in the place for the opener. Then they changed a bit today, with Rob Scuderi swapping places with Ben Lovejoy. Shows you what I know. Today they were Cole-Letang, Maatta-Scuderi and Dumoulin-Lovejoy.

— With Dupuis out, the fourth line today was Farnham-Cullen-Sprong, which seems like a pretty odd combination to me. You’ve got an Ivy League shift-disturber, the team’s most veteran player and an 18-year-old Dutch kid. It almost sounds like a Mad Lib. Go ahead. Try one yourself. An Ivy League (noun)-disturber, the most (adjective) guy on the team and an 18-year-old (adjective) kid. See, it’s fun.

WBS announced its cuts today. Three quick takeaways:
— That team has some depth at forward. Ty Loney and Anton Zlobin were sent to Wheeling.
— Rookie Tristan Jarry will apparently back up Matt Murray. Veteran Brian Foster was sent to the Nailers.
— Tom Sestito, still technically on an AHL tryout, is still around. I’d expect him to sign a contract soon.

Bye for now,



October 5, 2015
by Jason Mackey

No comments yet - you should start the discussion!

Characteristics of a Cup champion


Colleague Travis Sawchik had an interesting story in Sunday’s Trib examining the characteristics of the past 11 World Series champions and how the Pirates fit within that group. Fascinating stuff that you can read here.

Well, it got me thinking about the NHL, about the Penguins and where they fit. So I set out on a little research project. A few quick notes:

—Sawchik used a bunch of advanced stats. While there are obvious differences in the amount of available data between sports, he also had substantial time to put this together. What I present took only an hour or so.

—I chose regular season, and not playoffs, to present the best sample size possible of how a team plays. I don’t love this method; it feels flawed by evaluating subjects (Stanley Cup contenders) based on data that did not ultimately produce that result. But this is a blog, not an academic paper. So let’s just have some fun.

What sort of characteristics define the past seven Stanley Cup winners? Well, scoring a lot of goals — unfortunate given my story today — is actually overrated. Puck possession (CF%) is important, as well as defense, killing penalties and getting shots on goal.

Middle-of-the-road numbers include the power play and discipline (quantified here by PIM/GP).

The average Cup winner had a ranking of 3.9 in GA, 8.0 in PK%, 6.1 in CF% and 1.9 in shots.

The 2014-15 Penguins didn’t win the Stanley Cup for multiple reasons, and some of them are quantified here. They scored below the average Cup-winning level in six of the seven defined categories. The only exception was their penalty kill, which ranked third.

Their discipline — they ranked last in PIM/GP — was an especially large problem, as were their shots on goal.

Take a look. Hopefully this makes some sense.

The Penguins figure to score more goals this season and should theoretically fare better on the power play. If the past seven Cup winners are any indication, I’m not sure those improvements matter all that much.

They need to play defense, take fewer penalties and drive possession, ultimately racking up shots on goal.

2014-15 (CHI) 16th (229) 2nd (189) 19th (17.69) 10th (83.41)
2013-14 (LAK) 25th (206) 1st (174) 27th (15.14) 11th (83.11)
2012-13 (CHI) 1st (155) 1st (102) 19th (16.67) 3rd (87.23)
2011-12 (LAK) 29th (194) 2nd (179) 17th (16.96) 4th (87.03)
2010-11 (BOS) 8th (246) 3rd (195) 20th (16.17) 16th (82.64)
2009-10 (CHI) 3rd (271) 5th (209) 16th (17.69) 4th (84.96)
2008-09 (PIT) 5th (264) 13th (239) 20th (17.22) 8th (82.71)
Avg. rank 12.4 3.9 19.7 8
2014-15 (PIT) 18th (221) 9th (210) 10th (19.29) 3rd (84.84)
CF% PIM/GP Shots
2014-15 (CHI) 2nd (53.6) 2nd (7:16) 1st (3,500)
2013-14 (LAK) 1st (56.8) 14th (10:40) 2nd (3,434)
2012-13 (CHI) 4th (54.1) 1st (9:15) 2nd (2,281)
2011-12 (LAK) 2nd (54.7) 17th (11:15) 1st (3,120)
2010-11 (BOS) 14th (50.7) 23rd (13:35) 2nd (3,494)
2009-10 (CHI) 1st (56.5) 6th (11:04) 1st (3,498)
2008-09 (PIT) 19th (48.1) 14th (13:29) 4th (3,162)
Avg. rank 6.1 11 1.9
2014-15 (PIT) 7th (52.8) 30th (13:41) 11th (2,726)

October 4, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie

No comments yet - you should start the discussion!

Sprong’s next step


For Daniel Sprong, the first big goal has been achieved. He made the Penguins’ opening-night roster when he survived the final round of cuts yesterday.

The next goal looms large, of course. Before he plays his 10th NHL game, the Penguins will have to decide whether to send Sprong back to juniors or keep him for the year.

Sprong is approaching that deadline in a level-headed fashion, which is probably why he made the team in the first place.

“I’m just going to enjoy it,” he said. “After nine games, I’ll see what happens. If I stay, that’s great. Continue when I’m doing here. If I get sent down, that’s not really on my mind right now. The first step was done, that I made the team. Now I just have to keep working hard to stay in the lineup.”

Some other notes from practice Sunday:

— The Penguins spent the first 20 minutes of practice doing a penalty killing walk-through. With so many PK guys gone from last season, Johnston said he wanted to work on some of the details of that part of the game. He reiterated his plan to use Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby on the PK.

— Like they were in the final preseason game in Carolina, Olli Maatta and Kris Letang were not on the same D pair today. Letang was with Ian Cole and Maatta was with Ben Lovejoy. Brian Dumoulin and Rob Scuderi were on the third pair. I’d expect those to be the pairings for Thursday’s opener in Dallas.

— I think there are still some decisions to be made at forward, specifically in the bottom six. Nick Bonino and Matt Cullen will be the centers. There was some rotating going on among five wingers — Sprong, Pascal Dupuis, David Perron, Beau Bennett and Bobby Farnham. I’m not sure how that’s going to shake out just yet.

Bye for now,



October 3, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie

8 comments so far - add yours!

The best 23


A revelation as the Penguins announced cuts today that got their roster down to 23 healthy bodies: They just might have picked the 23 best players from their eight-game preseason schedule.

That’s not always the case in the NHL. Oftentimes, waivers play a big part in the decisions. In some situations, teams are looking to the future rather than the present. Sometimes, there are politics at play. That doesn’t look to be the case here. Some examples:

— Daniel Sprong. The path of least resistance is to send the 18-year-old back to juniors. It always is. But Sprong was one of the team’s 12 best forwards in the preseason. Hell, he was probably one of the best six. He was able to show off the NHL-ready parts of his game (shot, mobility, creativity) without letting the part that aren’t (defense, positioning, strength) get in the way. He went out and grabbed a spot on the team.

Derrick Pouliot. Teams are often loathe to admit that their top prospect isn’t quite ready to be a regular in the NHL. It requires some humility to do that. But Pouliot didn’t play NHL-caliber defense in the preseason and he’s gone.

Sergei Gonchar. Everyone in the locker room loves Gonchar. I don’t think this will be the case, given how he looked in preseason games, but cutting him could make waves. Regardless, he wasn’t one of the top eight and he didn’t make the team.

Adam Clendening. Acquired in the Brandon Sutter trade, Clendening was someone else’s draft pick, and many times, someone else’s draft pick is easy to dismiss. But Clendening played well in exhibition games. He isn’t going to muscle up on anyone in front, but the Penguins, under coach Mike Johnston, are looking for D who can get to loose pucks quickly and move them efficiently up to the forwards. Clendening can do that. He was rewarded.

Bobby Farnham. He was one of the 13 best choices at forward, even though he missed most of the preseason due to injury, largely because the other contenders for that spot didn’t step up and grab it. Scott Wilson, Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust, Oskar Sundqvist, Tom Sestito, Kevin Porter … they all had some decent moments, but they hardly elbowed their way onto the roster. Keeping Farnham’s energy, when compared to that group, seems like an easy choice.

Here are the only two quibbles I could come up with:

Tim Erixon had a quiet camp. Didn’t really distinguish himself from the new depth defensemen. You could make a case that David Warsofsky or Steve Oleksy played slightly better in preseason games. That said, reasonable people might disagree with that contention and we’re talking about the 23rd man on the roster here.

Matt Murray looked a little better than Jeff Zatkoff. This is one of those classic deals where the 21-year-old goes to the AHL to get in a lot of game action and the 28-year-old plays twice a month in the NHL. There’s nothing wrong with the decision. It makes perfect sense. It’s just the premise of this post in the 23 best men made the roster, and this is probably the best exception to that rule.

Bye for now,



Other blogs
Sports:Steel Mill | Chipped Ice | Bucco Blog | iPreps | Pitt Locker Room | Penn State Sports
News: Backstory | Doug Oster on Gardening | Off-Road Politics | Flowback | ICycle  

» Top Sports
» Top News
» Top Breaking News