*Rumblings, Musings, Opinions*
1. Last weekend was looked at as a turning point by some for the Penguins, yet, it didn’t exactly play out that way Wednesday night as the Penguins were out-worked and outplayed in a 4-1 loss to the Flyers.
The Penguins have currently fell to the top wild card spot and would face the Montreal Canadiens if the playoffs started today.
This weekend is turning into again another crucial two games when it comes to playoff position or falling in danger of missing the post-season. Two regulation losses by the Penguins to Columbus, Philadelphia, and if Ottawa goes at least 1-1 this weekend, suddenly Tuesday’s game against Ottawa is going to be much more important than anyone thought.
What you hear out of the organization right now is this group of players lacks “pride.”
Playing without Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang again Saturday afternoon vs Columbus, what’s going to be telling is how the Penguins respond after the loss to Philadelphia.
“I mean, it was unacceptable [loss vs Flyers],” Assistant coach Rick Tocchet said on 937 The Fan This morning. “It was not a good game there were a lot of 50/50 battles, two-on-two battles that we didn’t come up with the puck, and that’s not acceptable, especially against a Flyer team that’s come in here and won a bunch of games in our building. I thought we would have saw more fight from us than we did, and yeah, as a staff you’re upset, but it’s the reaction of the guys after this game. Like I want to see how we play against Columbus [on Saturday], and when we go back into Philly [on Sunday]. You really want to show some mettle as an athlete, and I want to see how these players react to that.”
2. Evgeni Malkin admitted he rushed back from injury after returning last weekend but then missed Wednesday’s game vs Philadelphia. “I rushed [back],” Malkin said today after practice. “Came back a little too early and didn’t feel good after the back to back games.”
The Penguins have a history of not being cautious enough with players even with little things like minor injuries, kind of what Malkin’s going through right now. The problem the Penguins have is they let the players have too much influence. Players are always going to push to play and hide stuff, but the Penguins have to find a fine line moving forward.
This season there’s been multiple occurrences, Olli Maatta returning too early from shoulder surgery when the injury was never fully healed, Christian Ehrhoff returning too early from a concussion in February against the Capitals when the head coach was not comfortable playing Ehrhoff, yet, Ehrhoff’s influence to play won out, a source said at the time.
3. Neil Greenberg of the Washington Post makes the argument that Alexander Ovechkin is surpassing Sidney Crosby and, yes even Mario Lemieux, as the best player since Wayne Gretzky.
[Teams are scoring 2.74 goals per game this season. When Gretzky scored 87 goals during the 1983-84 campaign, teams averaged 3.94 goals per game. Ovechkin’s 65-goal season in 2007-08 was produced when teams averaged just 2.78 goals per game. If you adjust these performances to account for different schedule lengths, roster sizes and scoring environments, Ovechkin’s 65-goal season is the second most prolific goal-scoring output in NHL history. This year’s output ranks 27th and rising.”
“Ovechkin provides more than just goal scoring. Goals created per game, more so than raw points produced, paints a broader picture of offensive impact, since it takes into account the team’s performance relative to a player’s. And by this measure, Ovechkin’s career impact (.49 goals created per game) is the 10th best of all time. In fact, his adjusted goals created has always been in the Top 10 every season since he entered the league, and has typically been one of the two best performances of the year. He is also the 12th player to amass 400 goals and 400 assists in his first 10 years – and all 10 that are eligible have been enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Teemu Selanne, the lone outlier, is sure to follow them in 2019 when he gets on the ballot.”
“Per Hockey-Reference’s point shares, an estimate of the number of points in the standings generated by a single player, only Gretzky has been more important to his team’s wins than Ovechkin over the first decade of a career. Lemieux, Bossy, Lafleur and even Sidney Crosby all take a back seat to the Great Eight. And it is Ovechkin’s defense — yes, defense – that pushes him ahead of Super Mario on the leaderboard.”]
I’m a big fan of Ovechkin as a player who would be a dominant player in any era, and I wrote the other day that he’s under-appreciated and has a chance to be remembered as one of the top-10 forwards of all-time, maybe even top-5 when it’s all said and done, but surpassing Mario Lemieux? Never going to buy that argument under any circumstances. Ovechkin surpassing Crosby? Yes, but not Lemieux no matter how the rest of Ovechkin’s career goes.
Lemieux dominated the game in three different NHL eras. He came out of retirement in 2000-2001 at age 35, (3 1/2 years retired) and scored 35 goals in 43 games, while averaging 1.77 points per game. Even in 2002-2003 at age 37 and with little talent around him and his body breaking down, not to mention the NHL at the high of the clutch and grab era, Lemieux still averaged 1.38 points per game in 67 games.
4. Penguins playoff tickets went on sale Thursday morning at 10:00 am. Was just one person at the Box office for the first 30 minutes, a sign of things to come or is everyone just buying tickets online? Last night KDKA ran the story how only one person showed up to the box office to buy tickets and the guy seemed to be in shock he was the only person there.
“You can buy them online here, so people that just stay at home and just buy them online, but I don’t know,” said Bob Shick told KDKA news. “I don’t understand. This is beyond my imagination why there is no one here.”
5. The Pirates lost a prominent player in the off-season in Russell Martin, whose value went beyond the playing field, but is the loss of Martin being overlooked as the Pirates are getting World Series talk from some circles?
Martin will be missed but there is a strong sentiment around the team that Francisco Cervelli will actually make Pirate fans forget about Martin for the most part.
Cervelli had a great spring training and showed great flashes of being a legitimate impact starting catcher with his bat and what he brings to the table defensively. The question with Cervelli is whether he can be the answer over the long haul of a season. For short stretches Cervelli projects to give the Pirates what Martin was able to give them at a much cheaper price but baseball is a very long season and whether Cervelli can produce near a Martin level for long-stretches while playing 110-120 games, is the biggest question mark with Cervelli. He’s appeared in just 112 games over the last four seasons. The ability is there but don’t take it for granted that he’s going to be able to fill Martin’s shoes over a 162 game season.
— The Daily Five returns Monday —