Not a lot of news coming out of Penguins practice today. Same line combinations as last game. No injury updates or call-ups or any of that. So I’ll tell you what you can watch for online and in the paper tonight and tomorrow, then we’ll do something fun.
First, I talked to Sidney Crosby, Trevor Daley and Ben Lovejoy about the challenges of an old-school home-and-home with the Chicago Blackhawks. NBC has Wednesday’s game as part of its Rivalry Night series, so I asked Crosby about whether a Crosby/Malkin vs. Kane/Toews rivalry is a real thing. He said he can see where that’s coming from.
Second, I talked to Mike Sullivan about line matching. I don’t think he does it as often as Mike Johnston did, but he has an interesting philosophy about it that you’ll want to read.
OK, now to the fun stuff. This talk about Crosby/Malkin vs. Kane/Toews got me thinking about NHL duos, which got me thinking about NBA duos, which got me thinking about NBA Jam. I picked two-man NBA Jam-style teams from all 30 current NHL rosters and ranked them. If you think I screwed any of them up, feel free to comment.
1. DALLAS — Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn
The cream of the crop. Like Charles Barkley and Thunder Dan Majerle.
2.PITTSBURGH — Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin
Everybody’s on such high alert looking for a decline in these two, Crosby especially, but tell me you wouldn’t spend a buck to play as these two. Plus, they both have 10 points in their last seven games, so they’re on fire.
3. CHICAGO — Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews
A great scorer and a great two-way player. Maybe like Dominique Wilkins and Stacy Augmon, but better.
4. WASHINGTON — Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom
The Stockton and Malone of this exercise. Complement each other so well.
5. EDMONTON — Connor McDavid and Taylor Hall
There are no broken collarbones in NBA Jam, so drop in a few quarters and have a blast with these two.
6. ST. LOUIS — Vladimir Tarasenko and Alex Steen
I could see a lot of quarters being spent on this duo. Young and exciting. Lots of Boom-Shaka-Laka.
7. COLORADO — Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene
An awesome duo from a less-than-awesome 23-man team. Maybe like Derrick Coleman and Drazen Petrovic from the Nets?
8. PHILADELPHIA — Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek
Another great two-man unit from a not-so-great 23-man team. Sort of reminds me of Larry Johnston and Kendall Gill from Charlotte.
9. DETROIT — Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk
Yeah, they’re old, but nobody’s going to spend four quarters to play as Dylan Larkin or Tomas Tatar.
10. MONTREAL — Max Pacioretty and P.K. Subban
This is NBA Jam-style competition, so I’m not picking a defenseman unless he can create some offense. This is an underrated duo. Could win the whole tournament, if there actually were a tournament to win.
11. LOS ANGELES — Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty
This duo would be better at actual hockey than NBA Jam-style antics. Sort of like Mark Price and Brad Daugherty.
12. ANAHEIM — Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf
Guys you would have been more excited to spend some quarters on a few years ago. Maybe like James Worthy and Vlade Divac.
13. VANCOUVER — Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin
Remind me of Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley, for reasons I can’t quite explain. They’re kindred spirits who play the same style of game.
14. FLORIDA — Jaromir Jagr and Alexander Barkov
I think this is the team I would drop in four quarters and play as. Jagr’s a legend and Barkov an exciting youngster. Sort of like Kevin McHale and Reggie Lewis.
15. MINNESOTA — Zach Parise and Ryan Suter
All due respect to Mikko Koivu and Thomas Vanek and company, but these two are the faces of the franchise.
16. ISLANDERS — John Tavares and Kyle Okposo
Different styles. They remind me of Isaiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer for some reason.
17. BOSTON — Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci
Kind of a boring duo. Very good players, but not much sex appeal. Maybe you throw Zdeno Chara in there for some Dikembe Mutombo-style blocked shots.
18. ARIZONA — Max Domi and Oliver Ekman-Larsson
A couple of other exciting possibilities in Mikkel Boedker and Anthony Duclair or even crusty vet Shane Doan. A fun group to pick from.
19. TAMPA BAY — Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov
Hard to pick a second one for the Bolts. I went with Kucherov as a representative of the triplets. You might prefer Tyler Johnston or maybe Victor Hedman. Either way, I feel like this is similar to the Trail Blazers. You want to play with Clyde Drexler (Stamkos) but you also get stuck with Terry Porter.
20. RANGERS — Mats Zuccarello and Rick Nash
It’s a team built on defense and goaltending, so not a lot of great choices here.
21. CAROLINA — Eric Staal and Jordan Staal
It might have made sense to include Justin Falk or Jeff Skinner here, but I thought the brother gimmick would sell better.
22. OTTAWA — Erik Karlsson and Mark Stone
Not a lot of excitement here. I considered Kyle Turris, Mike Hoffman and Bobby Ryan too, but Stone’s run at the end of last season at least provides a little bit of juice.
23. NASHVILLE — Shea Weber and Filip Forsberg
The only team I considered going with two defensemen for. Sorry, Roman Josi.
24. CALGARY — Johnny Gaudreau and Mark Girodano
Exactly like Seattle in NBA Jam. You love nothing more than to play with Shawn Kemp (Gaudreau), but you have to live with Benoit Benjamin too (Giordano).
25. SAN JOSE — Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns
A difficult choice. Do you go with the old guys, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, instead? I thought the other two were more exciting.
26. COLUMBUS — Brandon Saad and Ryan Johansen
Maybe the hardest duo to pick. Nick Foligno? Brandon Dubinsky? Scott Hartnell? Cam Atkinson? Maybe that’s why they’re struggling. Who drives this bus?
27. NEW JERSEY — Mike Cammalleri and Adam Henrique
Took all of my willpower not to include Bobby Farnham.
28. BUFFALO — Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly
Could be a sleeper fun team to play as. Sort of like Wayman Tisdale and Spud Webb for Sacramento.
29. WINNIPEG — Blake Wheeler and Dustin Byfuglien
Not a lot of star power here. The Tom Gugliotta and Harvey Grant of this exercise.
30. TORONTO — Nazem Kadri and James van Riemsdyk
Maybe you throw Dion Phaneuf in there. I don’t know. Not a lot to choose from here. Getting a Derek Harper and Mike Iuzzolino vibe.
Bye for now,