-After the past 48 hours it almost feels odd to sit here and prepare to blog an actual hockey game. Seeing what happened Sunday is still jarring. Trying to dissect the Penguins' power play or how many minutes Simon Despres records seems trivial in the aftermath of Sunday.
-That's the truly ugly park of what happened. It makes what is a marvelously intoxicating sport to watch and digest repulsive. There were five NHL games on last night and we chose not to watch a single minute. We just didn't have an appetite to watch hockey. We felt this way after the Penguins-Islanders brawl in 2011 and the Todd Bertuzzi-Steve Moore mugging in 2004.
-Even without the backdrop of Saturday's ugliness, tonight's game is an odd one to figure out. These are two very depleted lineups we'll see on the ice tonight. This game could double as a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins-Springfield Falcons contest. Between James Neal, Rob Scuderi, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik, Tomas Vokoun, Sergei Bobrovsky, Marian Gaborik, James Wisniewski and Nathan Horton, there is a lot of money not on display tonight.
-Between injuries and a suspension, these two teams will have $46.65 million of players in terms of salary cap hits out of tonight's lineups. Broken down:
Player, position (Cap hit)
Player, Position (Cap hit)
|James Neal, LW ($5 million)
Paul Martin, D ($5 million)
Brooks Orpik, D ($3.75 million)
Rob Scuderi, D ($3.375 million)
Tomas Vokoun, G ($2 million)
Tanner Glass, LW ($1.1 million)
Beau Bennett, RW ($900,000)
Andrew Ebbett ($550,000)
|Marian Gaborik, RW ($7.5 million)
Sergei Bobrovsky ($5.625 million)
James Wisniewski, D ($5.5 million)
Nathan Horton, RW ($5.3 million)
Jared Boll, RW ($1.05)
|Total ($21.675 million)
||Total ($24.975 million)
-In contrast, the Panthers have the league's lowest payroll at $49.5 million.
-All totals are by way of CapGeek.com.
-We had an informal chat with Blue Jackets forward and former Penguin Mark Letestu today about injuries in the league. He remarked about how the entire league seems to be impacted. Letestu feels the size of the rinks are a big factor. He played in Sweden on a larger ice surface during last season's lockout. The larger ice and the lack of physical play in Europe leads to less injuries in his opinion. He did concede that style of play isn't as entertaining his opinion.
-We're eager to see Ryan Johansen in person once again. He appears to have taken a step forward this season as he has a respectable 22 points in 29 games this season. Johansen was drafted in the first round (fourth overall) in 2010 with the hopes of being a center for former franchise player Rick Nash. Like many things involving Nash, that didn't materialize. This season, Johansen has stepped up in the face of injuries to other teammates and carried this team's limited offense.
-The cover of tonight's IceTime is a awkward:
-Simon Despres Wilkes-Barre/Scranton:
-Fans entering the barn:
-Pickings were slim for Blue Jackets fans. Brandon Dubinsky:
-Mario Lemieux from the 1992 All-Star Game:
-The current No. 3 for the Penguins, Olli Maatta:
-The original No. 3 for the Penguins, Al MacNeil:
-In the spirit of Ohio NHL teams, Gilles Meloche Cleveland Barons:
-Former Penguin and Blue Jackets forward Mike Rupp:
-Jersey of the Night: Former Penguin and Blue Jacket Ty Conklin:
-The Penguins' starters are Sidney Crosby, Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz, Kris Letang, Olli Maatta and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratches are Brian Dumoulin, James Neal and Harry Zolnierczyk.
-The Blue Jackets' starters are Nick Foligno, Ryan Johansen, R.J. Umberger, Fedor Tyutin, Jack Johnson and Curtis McElhinney.
-Their scratches are Tim Erixon, Jack Skille and James Wisniewski.
18:38: The Blue Jackets have the puck pinned into the Penguins' zone. Matt Calvert gets a shot on net from in tight. Fleury fights it off.
16:33: Foligno strips Matt Niskanen of a puck in the neutral zone, hustles up the left wing, gains the offensive zone and pumps a slapper on net. Fleury eats it up.
16:05: The Penguins finally record their first shot on net. Letang carries the puck up ice on a rush up the right wing and leaves a drop pass for Crosby at the right point. Crosby rips a writer which McElhinney gobbles up.
14:55: Blake Comeau has a wrister from the slot blocked by Matta.
14:22: A slapper by Ryan Murray from the left point is deflected wide.
13:42: Off passes by Bortuzzo and Dupuis, Crosby races into the offensive zone with the puck on his backhand and flings it on net. McElhinney fights it off.
10:32: A wrister by Engelland from the right wing is deflected out of play.
9:45: Off a feed by Bortuzzo, Chuck Kobasew flings a wrister from the right wing. McElhinney kicks it out. The puck bounces to Despers at the left point. He one-times it into a cluster of bodies where it is blocked by Derek MacKenzie.
9:37: Bortuzzo pounds a slapper from above the right circle which hits a leg in front.
9:05: Off a drop pass from Dubinsky, Calvert flings a wrister from above the left circle on net. Fleury eats it up.
8:55: Nikita Nikitin booms a slapper from the right point wide to the far side.
8:18: Letang swipes a quick slapper from the right point on net. McElhinney eats it up despite traffic.
7:33: Off a steal by Malkin at the Columbus blue line Jussi Jokinen whips a wrister from the left wing wide of the cage. His shot appeared to be deflected.
6:52: Off a turnover by Crosby at the Columbus blue line, R.J. Umberger pushes it up the left wing and sweeps around the Penguins' net. He deals a pass to Johansen in the right circle. Johansen pumps a quick one-timer which Fleury fights off.
5:23: Dalton Prout cranks a one-timer from the left point wide to the far side.
3:59: Kunitz deals a pass from the right half wall to Crosby above the left circle. Crosy winds up and whacks a slapper well high of the cage.
3:46: Kunitz banks a puck from the right circle off the end boards. It bounces out to Dupuis to the left of of the net. Dupuis hurries and chops the rebound wide.
3:03: Niskanen steals a puck in the right wing corner of his own zone and is tripped up by Calvert. Malkin, Kunitz, Jokinen, Letang, and Crosby take the ice.
1:02: As the Calvert minor expires Niskanen fakes a slapper at the center point and deals a pass to Dupuis deep on the right wing. Dupuis whacks a one-timer on net which is rejected by McElhinney. Sutter grabs the rebound to the left of the cage with his glove and drops it to the ice. He tries to sweep it into the open net but David Savard stick checks him and prevents a clean shot.
0:00: End of period. Blue Jackets 0, Penguins 0.
-To say the Penguins came out flat that period would be an insult to Greek cartographers. That was as bland and stale of a start to a game as the Penguins have offered all season.
-To the Blue Jackets' credit they pressured the Penguins' young defense quite a bit and hemmed them in their own zone. The Blue Jackets earned whatever success they can claim from that period.
-Robert Bortuzzo looked confident that period. His passing was pretty crisp. It's hard to believe he's been a healthy scratch for so long.
-The Penguins got a few scoring chances from the first line. Beyond that, the "new" combinations on the other three lines offered little.
-Fleury was pretty sharp that period. And he had to be.
-The Blue Jackets aren't afraid to shoot from the point. They fired a lot of rubber from near the blue line.
-The Blue Jackets have a 10-8 lead in shots on net.
-The Blue Jackets have a 25-16 lead in attempted shots.
-Letang, Crosby, Dupuis, Calvert and Nikitin each lead the game with two shots.
-Letang leads the game with 9:41 of ice time.
-Fedor Tyutin leads the Blue Jackets with 7:40.
-The Blue Jackets have a 12-11 edge in faceoffs (52 percent).
-Crosby is 4 for 6 (67 percent).
-Dubinsky and Letestu are each 4 for 7 (57 percent).
-Despres and Engelland each lead the game with three blocked shots.
-Savard leads the Blue Jackets with two blocked shots.
19:26: Johnson drives a slapper from the center point wide to the right of the cage.
18:37: Crosby gets a chance in the left circle but a stick check by Jack Johnson breaks it up.
18:30: Off a feed from behidn the cage by Kunitz, Crosby jabs a little shot from in tight. McElhinney fights it off.
16:42: Johnson has a wrister from center point blocked partially by Kunitz.
16:32: Dupuis whips a low wrister from the left circle on net. McElhinney smothers it.
16:15: From the right wall, Dupuis deals a shot/pass to the right circle. Crosby re-directs it on net. McElhinney kicks it out.
15:59: Attendance is announced as 18,520. It is the team's 302nd consecutive sellout.
15:44: Evgeni Malkin breaks through. Taking a cross-ice pass from Jokinen in the neutral zone, Malkin races up the right wing, gains the offenive zone and gets a step on Tyutin, blowing by him in the right circle and attacks the cage. He avoids a poke check by McElhinney and tucks a forehand shot by his blocker while tumbling to the ice. What a dominant individual effort by Malkin. Jokinen and Engelland get assists. The "Hey Song" is played. Penguins 1-0.
13:47: The Penguins get another power plays. After Despres smashes Umberger in the Penguins' right wing corner and forces a turnover. The great Joe Vitale pushes he puck up the left wing and is tripped up by Savard at the Columbus blue line. That's two minutes for Savard. Letang, Malkin, Crosby, Jokinen and Kunitz take the ice.
12:57: Jokinen snaps off a wrister from above the right circle. McElhinney kicks it out. The rebound bounces to the left cicle where Kunitz jabs it on net. McElhinney is out of position but Murray blocks it partially. Johnson is behind McElhinney and sweeps the puck out of the blue paint.
12:16: Off some perimeter passing Malkin drives a quick slapper from above the left circle. McElhinney fights it off.
11:47: The Savard minor expires. The Penguins generated some solid chances with that power play.
11:13: Prout takes a pass at the right point and pounds a slapper which is denied by Fleury.
9:24: Letestu tries to sweep in a forehand shot from the left of the cage but Maatta goes stick on puck and breaks it up.
7:53: Jayson Megna flings a wrister from the left wing on net. McElhinney eats it up.
7:43: Racing up the right wing, Artem Anisimov flings a backhander at the cage. Fleury punches it away.
5:21: After Crosby forces Tyutin into a turnover in the Columbus zone, Dupuis cranks a slapper from the left circle which McElhinney fights off.
4:16: A wraparound attempted by Dubinsky is denied by Fleury.
3:28: Murray swipes a one-timer from the left point on net. Fleury kicks it out.
2:35: Johnson is in deep on the right wing and whips a wrister on net. Fleury steers it away.
1:21: A wrister by Letestu from the right wing is blocked by Maatta's stick.
0:48: Letang swats a slapper from the left half wall wide to the far side.
0:02: Off a neutral zone turnover by Crosby, Johnson lifts a last second wrister from the right point. Fleury punches it away.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 1, Blue Jackets 0.
-Play leveled off a bit that period as the Penguins generated mores shots. Several of those shots came from down low near the cage as well.
-Malkin's effort on his goal aside, the Penguins best and most consistent line has been the first line. Dupuis, Crosby and Kunitz created quite a few things with their speed and forechecking. They gave the Blue Jackets' defensemen fits in their own zone.
-The defensive pairing of Despres and Bortuzzo continues to look pretty confident.
-Both goaltenders have looked pretty sharp. McElhinney saw a few more pucks that period and stepped up.
-Overall this has been a pretty boring 40 minutes of hockey.
-The Penguins have a 24-20 lead in shots on net.
-The Blue Jackets have a 42-39 lead in attempted shots.
-Dupuis leads the game with five shots.
-Johnson leads the Blue Jackets with four shots.
-Letang leads the game with 17:21 of ice time.
-Johnson leads the Blue Jackets with 15:34.
-Engelland and Despers each lead the game with three blocked shots.
-Calvert and Savard each lead the Blue Jackets with two blocked shots.
-The Blue Jackets have a 21-18 lead in faceoffs (54 percent).
-Crosby and Dubinsky are each 7 for 11 (64 percent).
-Tonight's giveaway is a winter cap:
19:48: Sneaking up the right wing, Letang chucks a wrister on net. McElhinney fights it off.
19:24: A screened wrister by Johansen from the right half wall is eaten up by Fleury.
18:32: A wrister by Boone Jenner from the left circle is deflected out of play by Engelland's stick.
16:59: Play is halted as Zach Sill and Corey Tropp fight in the Penguins' zone. They mostly wrestle around at first until Sill get his left hand free. He lands a few big left then switches to his right hand. As Tropp slips and recovers to his skates, Sill lands two rights and Tropp falls backwards. Give the win to Sill. Sill heads to the dressing room with an athletic trainer while Tropp heads to the penalty box.
15:35: A wrister by Cam Atkinson on the right wing is deflected by Letang's stick.
15:24: Prout booms a slapper from center point which is deflected away.
13;26: Engelland taps a stretch pass from the right wing to Crosby on the left wing. Crosby gets some space on Johnson and chops a slapper on net. McElhinney kicks it out.
13:08: Crosby winds up and pumps a slapper from above the left circle over the cage.
12:32: Calvert tries to jam in a forehand shot from the right of the cage. Fleury and company hold it out.
12:00: Malkin chucks a wrister from above the left circle on net. McElhinney kicks it out.
11:08: Dupuis pushes the puck up the right wing, creates a little space on Tyutin and flings a backhander th blue paint. McElhinney steers the reound away but right into the body of Crosby who was driving tho his cage with Foligno. A nice dirty goal. Crosby gets credit for the goal while Dupuis and Maatta get assists. The "Hey Song" is played. Penguins 2-0.
10:52: Johnson whips a wrister from the right point. Fleury gloves it. Despres gives Letestu a few shoves away from the cage. Derek MacKenzie comes flying in off the top turnbuckle after Despres. A scrum ensues. Officials break it up and send Despres as well as MacKenzie to the penalty boxes for roughing. Emotions seems to have calmed down until Dubinsky take a slash at Bortuzzo. More penalty are doled out. Bortuzzo heads to the penalty box while Dubinsky, who is putting up quite a protest, is sent to the dressing room. Play will be four on four for two minutes. Dubinsky and Bortuzzo each get 10-minute misconducts while Dubinsky gets an additional game miscoduct. Not sure what set Dubinsky off there.
10:05: Off a feed by Johnson, Atkinson pumps a slapper from the right circle. Fleury hangs on to make the save.
9:15: Off a feed by Niskanen, Dupuis has an acre of ice to work with at center point and whacks a slapper over the cage.
6:54: Sill races up the right wing in a flurry and snaps a backhander wide on the near side.
6:49: The Blue Jackets get a late chance to create some offense as Kobasew is called for tripping Foligno. Craig Adams, Brandon Sutter, Letang and Maatta take the ice.
5:12: Nikitin pumps one-timer from above the right circle. Fleury bodies it away.
4:51: As the Kobasew minor is about to expire, Nikitin flings a wrister from center point which is blocked in the slot.
3:13: Tropp tries to jam in forehand shot from the right of the cage. Fleury denies the shot and swats away the rebound with his stick.
2:48: A slapper by Johansen from the right circle is deflected out of play by Niskanen's stick.
1:37: With McElhinney pulled for an extra attacker, Anisimov whistles a wrister from the right circle wide on the near side.
1:19: Collecting a dump in by the Blue Jackets, Fleury whips the puck down ice hoping for that empty net goal he has always sought. Alas, the puck skids juuuust wide of the cage.
0:56: The Blue Jackets get a goal. With Engelalnd unable to collect a puck ehidn the cage, Letestu digs it out from the the side of the net and plays it to front of the blue paint. The puck comes to Calvert above the crease and he snaps it by Fleury to make it a one-goal game. The Blue Jackets call a timeout to get organized. xxx get assists. Penguins 2-1.
0:50: McElhinney is pulled again.
0:00: End of game. Penguins 2, Blue Jackets 1.
-First things first, Dan Bylsma confirmed a report from an NHL.com reporter which cite Ray Shero as saying Brooks Orpik suffered memory loss as a result of being attacked by Bruins forward Shawn Thornton. According to NHL.com's Dan Rosen, Orpik doesn't remember anything after the national anthem. He is resting but is suffering from headaches and a neck ache.
-After today's morning skate, Bylsma said Orpik was doing "quite well." Asked to clarify what that meant after tonight's game, Byslma said Orpik was "up and around" as opposed to being on a stretcher.
-As far as tonight's game is concerned, the Penguins scraped out a hard-fought but ugly 2-1 win against a hard-working but limited opponent. There wasn't a lot of highlights to this one.
-Both teams could be proud of the effort. Each squad battled for what it could claim. But given the AHL nature of each lineup, there wasn't nearly as much skill in the lineup as you would expect from either team.
-That might seem like an odd thing to say about a team with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc Andre Fleury but that same team dressed Chris Conner, Zach Sill and Jayson Megna.
-The goaltenders were really sharp. Curtis McElhinney deserved a better fate. The only two goals he allowed were to former Hart Trophy winners. Marc-Andre Fleury came very close to a shutout. If not for Deryk Engelland losing a puck battle behind the net, Fleury probably gets a shutout.
-Skill really was the difference. For all their injuries (and a suspension), the Penguins still had Crosby and Malkin while the Blue Jackets had ... Matt Calvert. Each team limped into this game missing several important and high-priced players. The difference is the Blue Jackets simply don't have the depth the Penguins have. When James Wisniewski misses a game for the Blue Jackets, they struggle to replace him with borderline NHLers like David Savard. When Paul Martin, Rob Scuderi and Brooks Orpik miss a game, they have first-round picks like Simon Despres to replace them.
-Pascal Dupuis played his best game from start to finish for the first time in a long while. He was really aggressive on the forecheck and displayed a lot of chemistry with Crosby and Chris Kunitz. If not for a sharp effort by McElhinney, Dupuis might have had more than one assist.
-The confidence Bortuzzo and defensive partner Despres showed tonight was very evident. They fed off each other very well for a defensive pairing which, to our knowledge, hasn't been used much at the NHL or AHL levels.
-Bortuzzo's passing ability was really sharp tonight. He was hitting tape to tape passes with forwards up ice and looked extremly confident in doing so.
-Something which really stood out to us with regards to Despres was when he took a penalty in the third period. The scrum which led to the penalty started when he shoved Mark Letestu away from Fleury in a nasty fashion. While Letestu (5-foot-10, 199 pounds) is hardly Milan Lucic (6-foot-3 235 pounds), the nastiness Despres showed on that skirmish is something we're not sure we've seen from him before. If Despres (6-foot-4, 214 pounds) can start to use his size around the cage, he can be a force against just about anyone in the league.
-The bottom two lines didn't offer much for the Penguins. But given the circumstances, it's hard to expect much out of those lines at the moment.
-Kris Letang played a pretty level-headed, composed game. He wasn't sloppy with the puck and he didn't really take unnecessary risk. The Penguins need him to play like this while they ride out the injuries to their other defensemen.
-The Penguins' power play fizzled out on two unimpressive man advantages but the penalty kill blanked the Blue Jackets on their only power play.
-The Blue Jackets played a pretty good game within their limitations. With Marian Gaborik, Nathan Horton and James Wisniewski out of the lineup, their remaining offensive skill is only so limited. They kept things simple and went to the net. This game was similar to their 4-3 loss to the Penguins Nov. 1 in that they created some problems for the Penguins around the net.
-Even without Wisniewski, the Blue Jackets still have some firepower from the blue line. Jack Johnson, Dalton PRout and Ryan Murray were not afraid to shoot the puck.
-The Blue Jackets led in shots on net, 33-30.
-The Blue Jackets led in attempted shots, 67-49.
-Johnson led the game with seven shots.
-Dupuis led the Penguins with six shots.
-Letang led the game with 26:44 of ice time.
-Johnson led the Blue Jackets with 22:31.
-The Blue Jackets controlled faceoffs, 34-26 (57 percent).
-Brandon Dubinsky was 10 for 15 (67 percent).
-Crosby was 8 for 16 (50 percent).
-Deryk Engelland led the game with five blocked shots.
-Nikita Nikitin, Johnson, Calvert and Savard each led the Blue Jackets with three blocked shots.
-Malkin recorded the 598th point of his NHL career.
-Dupuis moved past Jan Hrdina for 34th place on the franchise's scoring list. Both players have 227 points but Dupuis (98) has more goals than Hrdina (79).