-Welcome back to hockey... or at least the NHL version of it.
-If you ran into us over the course of the past 16 years for the previous four Olympic tournaments in which NHL players participated, you would have found a hockey junkie who held these tournaments on a pedestal. One of our warmest memories of hockey is watching the 2006 gold medal game between Finland and Sweden in Torino at 7 a.m. on the East Coast. Sweden won 3-2 in what was arguably one of the three best hockey games we've ever seen. Sweden goaltender Henrik Lundqvist robbed Finland Olli Jokinen of a goal on the doorstep with 25 seconds in regulation which could have tied the game. It was one of the most clutch saves we can remember. Hockey was in a good place after that game.
-Eight years later, the NHL emerges damaged from the Olympics. Superstars such as Henrik Zetterberg and John Tavares are sidelined with long-term injuries they either suffered or worsened in the Olympics. Key players such as Paul Martin, Carey Price and Fedor Tyutin are out of their lineups with relatively minor injuries. A talented rookie such as Aleksander Barkov might have cost himself a shot at the Calder Trophy due to an injury he suffered in Sochi.
-Does the NHL gain anything out of the Olympics? Sure. But how much did it really gain? Do television ratings go up? Do ticket sales benefit?
-The Canucks and Senators are hosting an "outdoor" game Sunday in BC Place, a domed stadium with a retractable roof in Vancouver. Secondary ticket brokers are inundated with sellers instead of buyers. If the Olympics do so much good for the NHL, why can't it make a high profile event like this game a hot ticket in a hockey-mad market like Vancouver?
-On another front, the Lightning are dealing with some displeasure with captain Martin St. Louis, easily the most important player in franchise history. St. Louis was initially left off the Team Canada roster by Canada general manager Steve Yzerman, a man who also happens to serve the same capacity with the Lightning. Once Lightning teammate Steven Stamkos bowed out of the Olympics, Yzerman selected St. Louis as his replacement. Despite that, St. Louis still appears to harbor some negativity towards Yzerman. Yzerman's initial decision to snub St. Louis from the Olympic roster could force him to part ways with St. Louis from the Lightning roster after the captain allegedly requested a trade.
-Are the Lightning, one of the few successful Southern NHL franchise better off without the face of the franchise?
-Are the Islanders better off without franchise player John Tavares?
-Are the Penguins better off without minute-eater Paul Martin?
-Are the Canadiens, hungry for points to stay in the playoff race, in a better position to beat the Penguins tonight with Peter Budaj in net instead of Carey Price?
-We've done a complete 180 degree turn on this subject. Any tangible assets the NHL gets from this tournament does not outweigh the considerable negative consequences which have emerged from it.
-With the 2018 Olympics being held in South Korea - a 14-hour difference from the East Coast - and the tournament devolving into a glorified shot-blocking contest with the shallower attacking zones, the NHL would be better off skipping the next Olympics.
-The demise of big ice leading to bigger offense was the most amazing part of these Olympics to us. The quarterfinal game between Latvia and Canada was a perfect example of this. With the attacking zones wider but shallower, Latvia adopted a mindset of clogging the slot with bodies and daring Canada to fire shots from the perimeter through a phalanx of legs, arms, skates and sticks. Latvia goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis stopped an astounding 55 shots but it would be a stretch to say he was tested that much. How many of those shots were really of a high quality?
-Latvia's offensive "attack" consisted of their players waiting for Canada to make a mistake with a bad line change or a turnover and to strike.
-We don't blame Latvia. If the Latvians tried to run and gun with Canada, it would be a 15-0 game. Teams like Latvia need to sit back and play like this in order to compete. The rink dimensions enable this strategy to have success.
-Canada, which had an absurdly talented team, adapted by simply possessing the puck better than anyone. Instead of trying to blast away 10 goals a game, the Canadians scraped out a few tough goals the shut things down by keeping the puck on their sticks. It was "Four Corners" hockey if you'll allow a reference to North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith. It was impressive but boring.
-As a result, the tournament saw a putrid average of 4.70 goals per game, down from 6.00 in 2010 in Vancouver with NHL-sized ice.
-We're hesitant to squarely blame the big ice. The 2006 tournament in Tornino on an IIHF rink had an average of 5.42. The 2002 tournament on big ice in Salt Lake City was 6.09. As pointed out by Jussi Jokinen yesterday, it seems to be a tactic adopted by lesser teams in recent years to sit back.
-Kris Letang spoke today for the first time since it was announced he suffered a stroke. The fact that he mentioned his wife found him on the floor of his home in some distress was frightening. Hockey is a distant second on the list of life priorities with matters like this. Letang has enjoyed his downtime by being able to play with his one-year-old son.
-As far as hockey is concerned, we're far less optimistic about his return this season after speaking with him today in his media scrum. He still is slowly recovering but isn't anywhere near a full workout regimen.
-Some pregame images. Dahntahn:
-Olli Maatta/outdoor game jersey:
-Jarome Iginla is popular in road:
-And home versions:
-Fans entering the barn:
-There are a handful of Canadiens fans. This man had a Yvon Cournoyer jersey and a companion with some level of distrust:
-United States Olympian Max Pacioretty:
-Canadian Olympian Sidney Crosby:
-Here's a good jersey for an outdoor game. Ty Conklin:
-Former Penguins/Canadiens forward Colby Armstrong:
-Jersey of the Night: Former Penguins/Canadiens goaltender Denis Herron:
-The Canadiens starters are Alex Galchenyuk, Brian Gionta, Thomas Plekanec, Josh Gorges, P.K. Subban and Peter Budaj.
-Their scratches are Francis Bouillon, Carey Price and Ryan White.
-The Penguins' starters are Sidney Crosby, Brian Gibbons, Chris Kunitz, Olli Maatta, Matt Niskanen and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratches are Simon Despres, Kris Letang and Paul Martin.
-With Ryan White out of the lineup due to illness, the Canadiens had to shuffle their lines:
-Jeff Jimerson handles the anthems:
(Fans booed Subban during the Canadian anthem as he was shown on the video board. We're not sure that was the greatest display of class.)
19:27: Subban controls the puck during warms up and is showered with boos once again.
18:57: Off a drop pass by Malkin, Robert Bortuzzo golfs a one-timer from center point. Price boots it out.
18:06: Pacioretty chucks a knuckler on net from the left wing. Fleury is handcuffed a bit but stops it.
17:13: Kunitz drops Alex Galchenyuk with a solid hit near the Penguins' bench.
16:56: The great Joe Vitale returns to action and snaps off a wrister from a bad angle in the left corner.
15:25: Deryk Engelland smacks Pacioretty into the right corner boards of the Penguins' zone.
15:12: A Brandon Sutter turnover leads to a Canadiens goal. Sutter tries to play a puck uot of hte rleft wing corner but turns it over to Gallagher in the slot. Gallagher snipes it on net by Engelland who attempted a block. Fleury makes the save. Desharnais and Sutter battle for the puck. Gallagher gets behind Engelland and is able to plunk it in behind a sprawling Fleury. Ugggglleeeee... Sutter's turnover was brutal and Engelland looked lost on the play. Desharnais and Pacioretty get assists. Canadiens 1-0.
14:12: Niskanen swipes a slapper from above the right circle. Budaj steers it away.
13:32: Kunitz has a wrister blocked by Alexei Emelin.
12:03: Malkin snaps off a nasty from the right circle to the far side. Budaj fights it off.
11:37: The Penguins get it back. Malkin gains the offensive zone down the slot and sneaks a pass to Neal in the left circle. Neal muscles by Subban and snaps off a wrister between Budaj's right arm and his torso. What a shot. Neal crashes slightly into Jokinen behind the cage and celebrates. It's Neal's 300th career point. Malkin gets the only assist. The "Hey Song" is played. Canadiens 1, Penguins 1.
9:12: Off a blind drop pass by Jokinen in the slot, Maatta gets a chance in the left circle but has his wrister blocked by Emelin. If Emelin wasn't so rangy at 6-foot-2, 224 pounds, that might have been on net.
7:22: The great Joe Vitale snaps off a wrister from a bad angle in the right circle. Budaj fights it off.
6:57: Malkin deals a pass from the left wing at the Montreal blue line to Neal on the opposite wing. Neal gains the zone, uses Josh Gorges as a screen and rips a sizzling wrister which sneaks through the five hole of Budaj and hits the left post. Oof.
5:58: Plekanec has slapper from the right circle blocked by Bortuzzo.
5:12: Emelin cranks a one-timer from the right point. Fleury snags it despite traffic.
4:12: Deryk Engelland scores!?! Okay. Neal gains the offensive zone on the right wing, coats to the slot and taps a simple pass to Engelland in the right circle. Engelland lifts a nasty wrister by the left shoulder of Budaj and into the cage. What a shot! Neal and Crosby get assists. The "Hey Song" is played. Penguins 2-1.
2:31: Bortuzzo chucks a wrister from the right point through traffic. Budaj eats it up.
0:14: The Penguins will get a late power play as Rene Bourque held up Crosby in the Penguins' zone. Neal, Crosby, Kunitz, Malkin and Niskanen take the ice.
0:08: Off some sharp passing Neal booms a one-timer form the slot.
0:00: Kunitz wheels around the slot and chucks a wrister which is blocked. Neal chops the rebound over the cage as the clock expires. End of period. Penguins 2, Canadiens 1.
-That was a sloppy period all around. The Penguins, most of them at least, are a bit rusty and the Canadiens look like a team which played 24 hours a go.
-The Neal/Malkin combination looks pretty dangerous thus far tonight.
-Budaj looks off. He played an overtime game last night. The only reason he's playing is because Price is injured and Dustin Tokarski is an AHL goaltender.
-It was hot and cold for Deryk Engelland that period. He looked terrible on the first Montreal goal then gave the Penguins a lead with a beautiful goal of his own.
-Joe Vitale seems like he's testing that injured hand/arm of his by shooting pretty liberally.
-The Penguins have a 12-9 lead in shots on net.
-The Canadiens have a 19-18 edge in attempted shots.
-Neal, Bortuzzo, the great Joe Vitale, Plekanec, Bourque, Brian Gionta and Emelin each lead the game with two shots.
-Gorges leads the games with 7:52 of ice time.
-Engelland leads the Penguins with 7:40.
-The Penguins have an 11-8 lead in faceoffs (58 percent).
-Malkin is 5 for 7 (71 percent).
-Lars Eller is 3 for 4 (75 percent).
-Emelin leads the game with three blocked shots.
-None of the penguins has more than one blocked shot.
-Fleury dons the cover of Icetime:
20:00: The Penguins will start the period with 1:46 of power-play time on fresh ice.
18:48: Off some tic-tac-toe passing with Malkin, Kunitz snaps off a pass from the left circle but it hops off his stick and misses Crosby positioned to the right of the net. The only thing missing there was the "toe."
18:14: The Bourque minor is killed with minimal threat from the Penguins.
17:26: Emelin grips and rips a wrister from above the left circle on net. Fleury boots it out.
15:20: Ginota snaps off a wrister from the right circle. It hits a body or two and is fought off by Fleury.
13:43: Death. Taxes and Dniel Brier scoring against the Penguins. Taking a pass wrapped around the back of the Penguins' net behind the goal line, Brier back peddles to the right circle, hold, holds, holds and rips a wrister by Fleury's blocker on the far side. We're not sure Fleury was in great position there. And Scuderi as well as Pyatt were late to attend to Briere. Gorges and Parros get assists. Canadiens 2, Penguins 2.
12:08: Neal rips a wrister from the right circle which is blocked out of play.
11:19: Brian Gibbons draws a penalty. Eller hooks him in the slot as Kunitz fed a pass. That's two minutes for hooking. Malkin, Crosby, Neal, Niskanen and Kunitz take the ice.
10:19: A wrister by Neal from the left wing is denied by Budaj.
9:22: The Penguins get the lead back. Taking a pass at the center point, Maatta fires a slapper through traffic. It hits something and appears to change direction a few times before hitting twine. We're not sure how that went in. That was a magic puck. Maatta gets credit. Jokinen and Sutter get assists. The "Hey Song" is always magic. Penguins 3-2.
9:13: The great Joe Vitale is called for tripping Pacioretty. The Canadiens get their first power play. Orpik, Scuderi, Sutter and Adams take the ice.
8:25: The Canadiens cash in. Off some hot potato passing, Desharnais snaps off a pass from the slot to Pacioretty in the right circle. Pacioretty uncorks a one-timer which glances off Fleury's chest and deflects into the cage. That was a nice shot but Fleury needs to make that save. Desharnais and Markov get assists. Canadiens 3, Penguins 3.
8:00: Settling a loose puck in the high slot, Jokinen chips a shot on net. Budaj eats it up.
7:41: Douglas Murray smacks Gibbons with a solid hit.
5:54: a wrister by Markov is denied by Fleury.
3:55: Attendance is announced as 18,636. Is is the team's 315th consecutive sellout.
3:33: Racing for a puck in the offensive zone, Crosby is held up by Emelin. That's two minutes for interference. Malkin, Crosby, Neal, Niskanen and Kunitz take the ice.
2:39: After a furious battle in the Canadiens' right wing corner for the puck, Niskanen swipes a shot/pass from the right point at the cage. Malkin is there all alone and tries to spin with the puck on his forehand. Before he can release a shot, he loses the puck. That could have been pretty.
2:21: Crosby sneaks a backhand pass from the blue line to Jokine in the left cirlce. Jokinen snaps off a wrister to the far. side. Buday gets a piece of it with his glove and falls backwards on the rebound.
1:51: The Penguins trie to jam in a puck from the right of the cage but Subban and Budaj each smother it in the blue paint.
1:33: The Emelin minor is killed. The Penguins controlled the puck well but did little with the puck.
1:01: Gallgher has a one-timer teed up in the left circle but fans on the shot.
0:00: End of game. Canadiens 3, Penguins 3.
-Things opened quite a bit that period as each team exchange scoring chances. That said, this is still a pretty sloppy game.
-That period kind of turned into a special teams battle. The officials weren't shy about sending people to the penalty box.
-The odd thing about Briere's goal was it came on the fourth line. With Ryan White dealing with an illness, the Canadiens needed someone to serve as the center. He got bumped down from a top-six role and still cashed in against the Penguins.
-Marc-Andre Fleury has had sharper games.
-Gibbons was key to the Matta goal. First he drew the penalty which led to the power play. Second, he screened the shot.
-The Penguins lead in shots on net, 24-16.
-The Penguins lead in attempted shots, 43-33.
-Neal leads the game with four shots.
-Gionta, Emelin and Pacioretty each lead the game with three shots.
-Niskanen leads the game with 17:33 of ice time.
-Markov leads the Canadiens with 14:11.
-The Penguins lead in faceoffs, 21-19 (53 percent).
-Malkin is 7 for 10 (70 percent).
-Eller is 6 for 8 (75 percent).
-Emelin leads the game with five blocked shots.
-None of the penguins has more than one blocked shot.
19:16: Gibbons draws another penalty. He tries to chip and chase a puck up the left wing by Murray at the Montreal blue line. Murray eliminates the "chase" portion that play by slamming Gibbons to the ice. Crosby, Malkin, Niskanen, Kunitz and Neal take the ice.
17:16: The Murray minor is killed easily.
14:22: Malkin battles for the puck behind the Montreal net with Subban. Subban ties him up. Malkin gives him a slash to the back of the legs in front of an offical. That was stupid and selfish. The great Joe Vitale, Adams, Orpik and Scuderi take the ice.
12:44: Brandon Sutter makes amends. He strips Subban of the puck in the neutral zone and creates his own breakway. He powers his way to the net down the slot showing his forehand. He pulls back to his backhand and lifts a feather shot by the blocker of Budaj to give the penguins the lead once again. What an effort by Sutter. The "hey Song" is played. Penguins 4-3.
12:20: Not so fast. Emelin controls a puck at the center point and chucks a prayer of a wrister towards the net. It hops off the ice in the slot and deflects by Fleury's right skate into the cage. Fleury reacted very late to that puck. He might not have seen it. It's a tie game. Bourque and Briere get assists. Canadiens 4, Penguins 4.
11:46: More penalties. Murray and Crosby mix it up in the Montreal right wing corner. Murray slugged Crosby in the back of the head. Crosby gives him a slash in return. They get minor penalties. Four-on-four for two minutes.
9:46: Crosby and Murray return to the ice.
9:26: A wrister by Engelland from the right point deflects over the cage.
9:14: A wrister by Neal from the right circle is well off the mark.
8:43: Another power play for the Penguins. Emelin tripped up Gibbons. That's two minutes. Another penalty drawn by Gibbons. Crosby, Malkin, Neal, Kunitz and Niskanen take the ice.
8:07: Niskanen swipes a loose puck at center point with a one-timer. Budaj punches it away.
7:47: Off some tic-tac-toe passing, Crosy leans down and taps a shot from the right circle wide of the cage.
7:31: This time, Crosby scores on a rebound. Niskanen contrls a puck at center point and deals a pass to Malkin in the right circle. Malkin cranks a one-timer which Murray blocks. The puck hops to Crosby in the left circle and he rips it into the cage to restore the lead. It wasn't pretty but the Penguins will take it. Malkin and Niskanen get assists. The "Hey Song" is always pretty. Penguins 5-4.
7:12: Emelin pushes the puck through the neutral zone and chips it to the Penguins' zone when Glass stands him up. Glass hits him with his right elbow tucked in and makes contact with Emelin's hands. Emelin appears to strike himself in the face. Officials award Glass a five minute misconduct for elbowing and a game misconduct? What? What an awful call. Sutter, Kobasew, Oprik and Engelland take the ice.
6:17: Briere snaps off a wrister from the slot. Fleury gets a piece of it.
5:54: Tie game again. Galchenyuk takes a pass down low the right of the cage and tries to tuck a puck into the net. Fleury holds it out but the rebound squirts free where Briere jams it into the open net from the left of the cage. That puck also hit off Maatta's skate. Galchenyuk and Plekanec get assists. The Penguins still have 3:41 of Glass' major to kill. Canadiens 5, Penguins 5.
3:20: Subban booms a one-timer from the center point. Fleury fights it off. Chuck Kobasew backhands the rebound down ice.
2:29: Engelland golfs a puck down ice from near his own cage.
2:12: The rest of Glass' major is killed. The Penguins were lucky to only give up one goal there.
1:39: Kunitz lifts a wrister from the right circle. Budaj fights it off.
1:17: A wrister by Galchenyuk from the left circle is smothered by Fleury.
0:00: End of period. Canadiens 5, Penguins 5.
-The Penguins have a 32-24 lead in shots on net.
4:43: Galchenyuk snaps off a wrister from the right wing. Fleury steers it away.
3:19: Using Scuderi as a screen, Gallagher rips a wrister from the right circle. Fleury snags it.
1:47: Jarred Tinordi chucks a wrister from the right point. Fleury knocks it dead and smothers.
0:34: Pushing the puck up the slot one-one-one against Niskanen, Pacioretty is able to lifts a riste which Fleur fights off.
0:27: HUGE save! Taking a pass from behind the net from Desharnais, Pacioretty snaps off a point-blank shot from the right circle. Fleury punches it away. Wow.
0:00: End of period. Canadiens 5, Penguins 5.
-The Penguins have a 32-29 lead in shots.
-Neal is up first. Taking a large rush at the puck, he veers a little to the right, levels out and goes five hole. Budaj denies him.
-Eller gets the nod. He races a little to the left, attacks the net and goes forehand. Fleury's blocker says no.
-Crosby goes a little to the left, levels out and loses the puck to a poke check.
-Desharnais goes a little to the left, levels out, goes backhand then springs to his forehand. He tucks a shot by Fleury's left skate and scores. Canadiens 1-0.
-Malkin must score. The takes the puck, shows slapper, hesitates then fires a shot. Budaj kicks it out easily. End of shootout. Canadiens 1, Penguins 0. End of game. Canadiens 6, Penguins 5.
-There's rust and then there's what ever that was tonight. This was a vintage wide open sloppy defensive game by this group of Penguins. We've seen these games from the Penguins in the best of situations. Tonight, they seemed off kilter with regards to how they defended their own zone. The Canadiens, fully of quick, little forwards who can find soft spaces in the offensive zone, were able to take advantages of some of the holes in the Penguins' defensive coverage and scored a lot of dirty goals from in tight.
-When you consider the fact that the Canadiens struggled to get anything going offensively last night at home against the Red Wings, this was one of the worst defensive efforts of the season by the Penguins regardless of the circumstances.
-Marc-Andre Fleury also deserves a large amount of the blame. He needed to be better. He acknowledged as much in the postgame when he said he expected better of himself. We'll allow he was feeling some effects of being off for nearly three weeks but if he makes one more save in the third period, (especially on the Alexei Emelin goal) the Penguins probably win this game in regulation.
-The officials did not help the Penguins with a bogus elbowing major against Tanner Glass in the third period. Glass struck Emelin with a high hit. Glass's right elbow struck Emelin in the hands and forced his stick into his own face. Officials simply saw a high hit, a dazed Emelin and doled out a major as well as a game misconduct to Glass. That allowed the Canadiens to tie the game with a power-play goal by Daniel Briere. They were able to kill off the penalty pretty well beyond that goal but that penalty at that juncture of the game was crucial.
-Speaking of Briere, he was understated when he acknowledged, "This building, I’ve played a lot of crazy game in the past and it seems to keep going." We don't have the statistics immediately in front of us, but we're willing to bet Briere is one of the top career scorers among visiting players in Consol Energy Center.
-Oddly, he managed to produce while playing a fourth-line role in five-on-five play with forechecking winger Travis Moen and enforcer George Parros.
-Just about every defenseman in a black jersey needs to take a bite out of this crud sandwich. The Canadiens did a nice job of generating ugly goals near the cage. It's not a matter of hitting someone or plowing a forward out of way. It's something simple like getting a stick or a skate on a puck. The Penguins' failed to do that in droves tonight.
-The Penguins' penalty kill was dreadful. Granted, losing Glass to his major didn't help on the Briere goal, but this unit, one of the best in the NHL, just seemed off most of the night, even if Brandon Sutter collected a short-handed goal.
-The Penguins' power play was quite productive at it collected two goals.
-The Penguins' lack of depth on the bottom two lines was pretty evident today. Those two lines contributed next to nothing. To makes matters worse, the great Joe Vitale took a penalty which led to a power-play goal.
-Evgeni Malkin looked dangerous tonight in a good and bad sense. He created some pretty offensive chances with the puck but his penalty against P.K. Subban was just foolish. While Sutter scored a short-handed goal while trying to kill it, Montreal was able to score another game-tying goal - by Emelin - immediately after it expired.
-One has to wonder how much Simon Despres could have benefited the Penguins' defensive effort tonight. He has been playing regularly over the past two weeks at the AHL level so it's hard to imagine rust being an issue for him. Additionally, when he has played at the NHL level, he has been pretty responsible in his own zone.
-One might assume switching him out for Deryk Engelland would be the obvious move and you would be right, sort of. If we were behind the bench, we would move Engelland to a fourth-line role in place of either Taylor Pyatt or Chuck Kobasew. Engelland has offered much more as a forward this season than either Pyatt or Kobasew.
-Rob Scuderi did not have a particularly strong game tonight. He seemed a step behind on a few plays in his own zone.
-Kobasew saw some time on the point with the junior varsity power play. Presumably, Despres can offer you more in that role than Kobasew.
-We liked Brian Gibbons game. He drew three penalties with some hustle and had a screen on Olli Maatta's goal.
-We'll allow for rust, injuries and distractions with the Olympics as well as Saturday's outdoor game, but the Penguins flat out stunk tonight defensively.
-The Penguins led in shots on net, 32-29.
-They were outshot, 5-0 in overtime.
-The Penguins led in attempted shots, 55-52.
-Sidney Crosby and Max Pacioretty each led the game in shots with six.
-Andrei Markov led the game with 28:03 of ice time.
-Matt Niskanen led the Penguins with 27:27.
-The Canadiens led in faceoffs, 34-32 (52 percent).
-Lars Eller was 10 for 15 (67 percent).
-Sidney Crosby was 13 for 24 (54 percent).
-Emelin led the game with five blocked shots.
-Brooks Orpik led the Penguins with four blocked shots.
-Engelland set a new career high with five goals.
-James Neal recorded his 300th career point.
-Jussi Jokinen recorded his 400th career point.
-Neal moved ahead of Petr Nedved, Troy Loney, Ryan Malone and Rod Schutt for 44th place on the franchise's career scoring list. Neal and Nedved each have 170 points but Neal (83) has more goals than Nedved (78). Loney, Malone and Schutt each have 169 points.