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Penguins Playoff Update: Ramble On – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Playoff Update: Ramble On

I confess. When the Penguins beat Nashville in Game Two on Wednesday night to take a 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Final, I started feeling giddy about our chances to repeat as champions.

Then I was reminded that the last team to have a shot at winning back-to-back Cups had gone up 2-zip as well. Indeed, the Detroit Red Wings defeated our Pens by dual 3-1 scores in Games One and Two of the 2009 Final. I’m sure they felt good about their chances, too.

The Pens promptly turned the tables on the mighty Red Wings, winning Games Three and Four in Pittsburgh to turn the series around. As we all know, the black and gold went on to capture the Cup in a thrilling seven-game set.

This time around, I firmly believe the Pens are the better team. While the Predators boast a mobile, puck-moving defense, they lack scoring pedigree up front, a shortfall I believe will prove to be their ultimate undoing.

691022708_slideStill, the Preds aren’t about to roll over. You can bet they’ll throw everything but the kitchen sink at our guys when the series resumes in Music City tomorrow night. And while I don’t believe they’re our equal, I fully expect our adversary to steal a game or two before all is said and done.

Kunitz on Fire

After watching Chris Kunitz stumble through an unproductive home stretch to the 2016-17 season, I really thought he’d reached the end of the line. Following a brief midseason surge, the Regina, Saskatchewan native tallied just three assists over his final 20 regular season games, to go with an unsightly minus-10.

With two assists in his first 13 postseason contests, he wasn’t exactly lighting it up in the playoffs, either. Prior to a do-or-die Game Seven against the Capitals, I opined that perhaps Pens coach Mike Sullivan should sit “Kuny” in favor of a younger set of legs.

Thank goodness I’m not in charge.

Starting with our recent Game Seven victory over Ottawa, the 37-year-old winger’s been on fire. Channeling the form that once made him an NHL First Team All-Star, he’s scored two goals and assisted on five others during a three-game span. Not by coincidence, all ‘Guins wins.

“I think it’s not by accident that he has the amount of Stanley Cup rings (three) that he has,” Sullivan told Jonathan Bombulie of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in a recent interview. “He’s a high-stakes player. He’s a fierce competitor. When the games become most important, he is at his very best.”

My Aching Bones

Although the Pens aren’t an intimidating team by any stretch, they have a lot of hockey tough guys. Patric Hornqvist would skate through a brick wall if it meant securing a win. Captain Sidney Crosby absorbs a ton of abuse on a nightly basis without flinching. So does Evgeni Malkin. Ian Cole leads all postseason performers with 57 blocked shots.

691010568_slide

Add Nick Bonino to the list. When the hirsute center blocked a P.K. Subban shot with his left ankle midway through the first period on Wednesday night and then had to be helped off the ice, I feared the worst.

A broken ankle, I thought.

I was shocked when the NBCSN cameras showed “Bones” on the Penguins’ bench to begin the second period. Giving a typically gritty performance, the Hartford native skated 16-plus minutes and won 11 of 18 faceoffs.

Did I mention he’s second in blocked shots among NHL forwards this postseason with 29? What a warrior.

Chairman of the Boards

Carter Rowney continues to impress me, big time. The 28-year-old rookie led all skaters with seven hits in Game Two—including four during the third period—while helping to limit the Predators to just six shots on goal and one scoring chance over the final 20 minutes.

Putting his speed and 208-pound frame to good use, he was particularly effective along the wall and on the cycle. Carter did good work on the penalty kill, too, logging 2:48 of shorthanded ice time, third behind Matt Cullen and Bonino among Pens forwards.

Speaking of Cullen, how about the hit he laid on heavyweight Preds defenseman Mattias Ekholm. “Cully’s” quietly collected nine points this spring. He’s won a dazzling 55.5 percent of his faceoffs to boot. Not too shabby for a 40-year-old!

The Iceman Cometh

Matt Murray was outstanding in Game Two. Shaking off an early Nashville goal with his customary icy cool, “Muzz” made 37 saves—31 during the first 40 minutes. He earned the game’s No. 2 star, not to mention the trust and admiration of his teammates.

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“Murray played fantastic for us,” Cole said. “He’s such a calming presence back there. He never gets rattled. A goal goes in, and he can play the exact same way after that. That’s hard for any goalie to do, but especially one that’s still really quite young.

“He’s mature beyond his years, and I think the guys feed off that calmness and that confidence he has.”

For the record, the Pens have won five of Murray’s six postseason starts. He’s posted a 1.54 goals against average and a .943 save percentage.

Hard to believe he’s still technically a rookie.

*Be sure to check out Rick Buker’s books,
 
available at TriumphBooks.com, Amazon.com, and BarnesandNoble.com

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29 Comments

  1. the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
    June 3, 2017 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Okay, so who deos the NHL want to see win this series?
    Well let’s see;

    looking on the NHL Web site the top feature is titles “Predators could be winning Final, according to metrics”

    Next article, “Describing the play-offs thus far” PK Subban’s picture.

    Next Article, Predators know improvement needed in game 3 of FInal

    4th Article “Stanley Cup Final coaches have common roots” Laviollette pictured in front of Sullivan.

    5th Article “Carl Hagelin ready if Penguins need him in game 3 against Predators? 4 of the first 5 articles show Preds or Preds 1st.

    Article 6 goes back to Preds

  2. Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
    June 2, 2017 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Hey all,

    You’re going to think I’m goofy. Not to rain on our (Cup) parade, but I just had a really weird premonition that Murray was going to get hurt in Game Three.

    I’m posting it here in hopes of dispelling any bad mojo. Hopefully, I’ll be wrong, wrong, wrong (as usual) … 🙂

    Rick

    • Jim's Gravatar Jim
      June 2, 2017 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

      Hey Rick,
      It was just a bad dream or maybe indigestion. Murray will be okay and game 3 could be ours as we will play better in Nashville. We are a good road team.
      The only thing I worry about is ,I know we can beat the Preds,but I am worried that Refs may try to equalize this series by giving them a disproportionate number of power play opportunities. I am NOT sure the Pens can beat both the Preds and the Refs !!
      cheers

      • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
        June 2, 2017 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

        Let’s hope it was just indigestion … 🙂

        Rick

      • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
        June 2, 2017 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

        Hey Jim,

        So far in the play-offs the ref’s haven’t really tried to give Pens opponents a disproportionate amount of powerplays. Probably because the Pens have remained disciplined and haven’t reacted to the overwhelming number of non-calls the ref’s have been using to try and eliminate the Pens. I just pray that no Penguin gets seriously injured as a result of this madness.

    • June 2, 2017 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

      Rick,

      I had a weird thought of a cheap play by Nashville taking out a player also. Weird. Hope this kills any bad mojo like you said.

      Hey, did any of you guys notice, did Ian Cole kill the entire 5 on 3 by himself???

      I can’t seem to remember another defenseman out there at any point.

      That is bad ass if he did.

      • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
        June 2, 2017 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

        I believe he did. I thought I heard the announcer say something to that affect near the end of the penalty and Martin wanted him to change and he waved it off.

      • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
        June 2, 2017 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

        Just looked at the box score, Cole had 4:26 TOI during the PK. Domoulin 2:26, Maatta and Hainsey 1:34 each, so it does seem likely that he did.

  3. June 2, 2017 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Rick,

    After Bonino blocked that Subban shot he went down crumpled to the ice. The puck worked it way back around to Subban and Bonino mustered every ounce of anything he had left to get back up on his feet to block Subban again. It was a play that united the Penguins team. I truly believe that every player on the bench would have gone on the ice and helped him off of the ice if they were allowed to.

    The sign of a great player is their willingness to get injured to help their team win, not a player who is willing to injure others to win.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      June 2, 2017 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      Hey Phil,

      Great observations! And I just love your statement about “the sign of a great player.”

      Truer words were never written.

      Not to get too mystic. But I think part of the reason the hockey gods seem to smile on our Pens is we have a lot of guys (like Bonino) who fit into the former category, rather than the latter.

      Rick

    • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
      June 2, 2017 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

      Spot on Phil and Rick

    • June 2, 2017 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

      Bonino is now a game-time decision tomorrow night.

      Defensive pairings are now:

      Maatta/Shultz
      Daley/Cole

      Daley & Maatta still at point on the 2nd powerplay.

  4. Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
    June 2, 2017 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Great pix, Phil!

    • June 2, 2017 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Rick. Thanks for getting me back down to earth with the story of Detroit winning the first two!

      • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
        June 2, 2017 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

        Sorry Phil … 🙁

        I figure by mentioning the potential negative aspect of our situation up front, it’ll help dispel any bad juju in the long run … 🙂

        Rick

  5. the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
    June 2, 2017 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Hey Rick,

    Reading your headline I was quite expecting to hear Robert Plant belt out “Ramble On, And now’s the time, the time is now..” Or maybe considering our opponents, the Predators; “The snow drives back the foot that’s slow, The dogs of doom are howling more. They carry news that must get through, To build a dream for me and you…No Quarter, No Quarter” Actually considering players like Rowney, Wilson, Kunitz, Bonino and Cole, and for that matter superstars like Crosby, Malkin, well, considering the number of injuries and how these guys still throw themselves into the breech Zep’s “No Quarter” is a fitting song. If any team has earned it, these guys have.

    Okay Rick or anyone,

    In reverse order, your top 3 picks for the Conn Smythe trophy at this point. You can choose for both teams hedging your bets as to who will eventually hoist the Cup.

    • Jim's Gravatar Jim
      June 2, 2017 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

      Hey Coach
      3. MAF… because he got us here.With out him we are done on Washington and maybe Columbus.
      2. Malkin…Numbers do not lie.
      1. Murray ..Saved our rear in Ottawa.
      Plus HE IS THE REAL REASON WE WIN IN Pittsburgh and we are up 2 to nill..With out him we are done.
      What say u Coach?..Rick..Phil.

      .

      • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
        June 2, 2017 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

        Hey Jim,

        I said before the playoffs started that the Pens would stand or fall by their goaltending, MAF was spectacular in his stint and Murray has been equal since relieving MAF. Both of these guys have been assaulted much of the playoffs. Unfortunately, those that vote will only look at them and say neither played enough. It is a shame that they couldn’t share the award. Hvaing said that, should the Pens win;

        3. Crosby
        2. Guentzel
        1. Malkin

        *(If I can split the award Murray/MAF and back everyone else down 1)

        Should Nashhville win

        3. Ellis
        2. Josi
        1. Rinne

        * (if the Preds do come back I would think Rinne would have to be stellar and considering that this Pens team dispatch Bobrovsky, Holtby, and Anderson unceremoniously, Rinne would have proven himself better than 3 top flight goalies)

        • Jim's Gravatar Jim
          June 2, 2017 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

          Hey Coach
          As usual your logic is sound. I believe your question was who would I chose….not who will win the conn Smythe.
          I would love to see Sidney win…..but it will be Malkin or Rinne in my opinion.
          Plus coach, we never saw what Rinne did to get the Preds here to the finals. I understand he stole the Chicago series. He did the same to the Blues but in all fairness St. Louis are in the same class as Chicago !! So the Hockey writers may just award Rinne the Conn Smythe especially if he can take them to a 6 game series with us winning in the end.
          One final thought is that the Hockey Writers are not that crazy about us. They all wanted the Caps to win. The pulled for Ottawa, the under dog. Since we beat most of their favored teams and they as a group are mad at us and there are a major pool of the Hockey Writers in the East….Rinne could just get the Trophy.
          Yes I will be upset…..I am Maritimer at heart so my heart is with Sidney, but Geno deserves it just by his numbers.

          • Jim's Gravatar Jim
            June 2, 2017 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

            Not in the same class…..sorry typo

          • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
            June 2, 2017 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

            I would have to agree with you, not just the Hockey Writers, it would appear that most of the media, not just the Hockey Writers are not too found of the Pens. More than likely because the media hates the truth getting in the way of a good story. The Cinderella Blue Jackets, the Long Suffering Caps, the incredible story of Anderson’s wife in Ottawa; all of these would have been great story lines for them to write about. The Pens road to the Finals has ruined many of their bunny feel good stories.

            Maybe I have just gotten cynical.

      • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
        June 2, 2017 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

        Hey Jim.

        VERY interesting choices, my friend.

        I think Murray’s been huge, too (my No.3 pick). While Fleury was arguably our MVP through the first two rounds, the team was trending in the wrong direction.

        Not to take anything away from Flower, but the Pens just play a more confident, settled game with Murray in net.

        Rick

    • June 2, 2017 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

      In my convoluted mind there are only four players left that can possibly win the Conn Smythe.

      1. Malkin (The scoring says it all)
      2. Crosby (The abuse + facing the best defenses)
      3. Rinne – only if he shuts down the Pens the rest of the way
      4. Guentzel – only if he keeps up the pace he started this series with. Him being invisible for 7-8 games won’t help

      There is no way Murray or Fleury wins because they split the games and there are easy other votes.

      • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
        June 2, 2017 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

        Mark of a true team player, a great player, laying down a bunt so the team can win; that is what Crosby has done this Playoff year. He has drawn all the defensive attention to him allowing others to thrive, yet he still has managed to rise to the top 5 in scoring, much the same as Malkin did last year.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      June 2, 2017 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

      Wow, Other Rick.

      You asked the million-dollar question, didn’t you? Here’s my top three for the Conn Smythe:

      1. Evgeni Malkin
      2. Sidney Crosby
      3. Matt Murray

      Sid’s been front and center each and every game, but Geno’s been huge. Ditto Murray with his cool.

      Honorable mention goes to Jake Guentzel and Marc-Andre Fleury. We wouldn’t be where we are without either of ’em.

      Jake, who’s had a truly amazing playoff, would’ve been my third pick, but he’s been a bit streaky. His overall game needs work, too. Still, he’s only a rookie!

      Rick

      • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
        June 2, 2017 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

        Agreed Guentzel appears to have been a bit streaky so far. But then again, let’s consider, he has played most of his time on Crosby’s line, with Crosby, drawing the lion’s share of defensive attention. For a Rookie to come in and face that is wuite a challenge. And although he has been streaky, he has 5 GWGs out of the 14 Ws, that is no mean feat for a kid.

        But having said all of that, Malkin is the one player that has consistently been there, picking up points and taking on bad guys like Artie of olde.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      June 2, 2017 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

      Spot on about my source of inspiration!

      I was trying to think of what to call this piece (“Cup Crap” didn’t seem appropriate) when I thought of the old Zeppelin tune … 🙂

      Rick

      • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
        June 2, 2017 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

        So let’s hope the Pens finish on the Immagrant’s Song

        “Hammer of the gods will drive our (team to hoist the cup).
        To fight the hordes and sing, and cry.
        Valhalla, I am coming.”

        • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
          June 2, 2017 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

          One of my all-time Zeppelin favorites. I love “Going to California”, too.

          Rick


            

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