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Molinari One-Timers: Penguins Thoughts, Headshots, and Ian Cole?

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Pittsburgh Penguins, SIdney Crosby, Jake Guentzel

Jake Guentzel scored eight goals in seven games for the Pittsburgh Penguins during Round 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Their stay in the postseason ended abruptly when the New York Rangers rallied from a 3-1 deficit in that series by winning three games in a row, however, and no fewer than 92 forwards around the league have gone on to appear in more games this spring than Guentzel did.

Only eight of them, however, have managed to put up more goals through three rounds as Guentzel did in one.

That group: Evander Kane, Nathan MacKinnon, Zach Hyman, Connor McDavid, Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Steven Stamkos and David Perron.

Stamkos, by the way, had to score both of Tampa Bay’s goals in its series-clinching, 2-1 victory against New York Saturday to join that group.

*** One can’t help but wonder how Rangers partisans would react if, say, Adam Fox or Artemi Panarin absorbed the kind of head shot that seemed to be Jacob Trouba’s specialty this spring.

Trouba is a solid, second-pairing defenseman for whom physicality is an integral part of his game — and value — but he got most of his attention during the playoffs for launching elbows at and/or into the skulls of Sidney Crosby, Max Domi, Seth Jarvis and Ondrej Palat.

The hit that knocked Crosby out of the second half of Game 5 and all of Game 6 saved New York’s season — the Penguins had a 3-1 lead in the series and 2-0 lead in the game when Trouba dropped him — and teammates not only defended what he did to those opponents, which was to be expected, but praised the positive impact the blows had on the club.

Trouba diversified his portfolio Saturday, when he felled Tampa winger Corey Perry with a crushing, but totally legal, hit. Or at least it would have been if Perry had the puck when Trouba hit him.

Which he didn’t.

Not that referees Chris Rooney and Jean Hebert figured that detail was worth considering, since neither bothered calling what was a textbook interference infraction.

Trouba apologists like to say that his head-high hits obviously were okay because they weren’t penalized. Given the state of officiating in the NHL, that’s a lot like saying an armed robbery wasn’t a crime because Barney Fife didn’t make an arrest.

*** Although he wouldn’t be one of the bigger names on the free-agent market this summer, it will be interesting to see where former Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Ian Cole lands if he doesn’t re-sign with Carolina.

Cole had a one-year deal worth $2.9 million with the Hurricanes and played the kind of solid defensive game that has been the hallmark of his career, but is 33 and, because of the way he plays, has a lot of hard miles on him.

Nonetheless, if a contender has some salary-cap space and a need for a veteran defensive presence on the left side, he might be an intriguing option.

*** The most amazing statistic to come out of the first three rounds of these playoffs? How about Alex Killorn, who entered the postseason with 34 goals in 111 career postseason appearances, failing to score even once in 17 games?

The runner-up: Lightning winger Pat Maroon has been on the winning team in 15 consecutive series. The first four came with St. Louis in 2019, the other 11 in Tampa.

*** McDavid and Leon Draisaitl of Edmonton are the Nos. 1 and 2 scorers in these playoffs, with 33 and 32 points, respectively, and give the Oilers a 1-2 punch with few, if any, equals in the NHL.

That Edmonton has won just three playoff series (two of them this year) and failed to qualify for postseason play three other times during the seven seasons those two have been together underscores the importance of having capable role players and overall depth to complement even the most gifted core players.

The importance of assembling a strong supporting cast presumably is not lost on anyone who recalls that it took Mario Lemieux five seasons to simply make it into the playoffs, even though he was kind of good at his job.

*** It wasn’t immediately evident when Tampa Bay lost Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference final, but the time off the Lightning had after sweeping Florida in the previous round could turn out to be a major factor if they end up winning their third consecutive Cup.

As the Penguins showed in 2010 and 2018, teams that had been to the Cup final in the previous two seasons tend to have all of those high-stakes games and shortened offseasons catch up with them in the third year.

However, because Tampa Bay didn’t have a game between May 23 and June 1, the Lightning had a rare opportunity to rest, recover and replenish their energy reserves. which figure to be taxed severely during their upcoming best-of-seven against the Avalanche.

*** Fox won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman a year ago, and Colorado’s Cale Makar is a heavy favorite to receive it in 2021-22. Both burnished their already-stellar reputations during these playoffs and, given that neither figures to be in his prime for at least a few more seasons, they should be able to continue to elevate their games.

Which has to be a truly troubling prospect for the players and coaches who will have to contend with them for the next decade or so.

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Wasnt
19 days ago

I noticed the Tourba hit and the announcer tried to get the ex-ref for ESPN to call it a penalty but he just kept saying in real speed it’s hard to see but the announcer said “but it is a penalty” and he kept to his good old boy refs club and said in real time the game is just so fast.

Irish Hammer
Irish Hammer
19 days ago
Reply to  Dave Molinari

David, everyone I know that has been watching the Ranger’s games have all been discussing about the Announcers, Commentators obviously rooting for New York. All protecting Trouba. Tough to watch

Alan Smith
19 days ago

Trouba plays a position where he never really carries a puck or enters the offensive zone! Always looking for the unseen shot he can deliver! Watched every game hoping someone would give him a shot and maybe a concussion! Really weren’t many hits in the series so why does he get away with all the dirty shots?

Jay95
Jay95
19 days ago
Reply to  Alan Smith

I’ve had my life altered from concussions in sports. It’s not something to wish on anyone. There are plenty of players that I truly dislike/disliked on the ice. I’d try to hurt them, but never injure. And, if they went down with a head injury I’d be the first one at their side.

Peter Hoffman
Peter Hoffman
19 days ago

So happy the cheating Trouba and his equally cheating coach were eliminated. The DoPS is a joke. Bettman sucks. These illegal hits are not so much missed by the refs as they are tolerated by the leage HQ.
Even if the refs miss them the suspensions should be handed out if the league gave a s#&@.

Mike Donnelly
Mike Donnelly
19 days ago
Reply to  Dave Molinari

Amazing to me that the NHL, DoPS, and NHLPA would prioritize protecting Trouba and his ilk over the likes of Crosby, Jarvis, Palat, etc. etc. etc. Just like the Blues taking out Grzlack for six games in the finals a few years back. There’s plenty of GOOD “hockey culture,” but they continue to tolerate and embrace the bad

Vince Gori
Vince Gori
19 days ago

I’d consider bringing Cole back under the right price and depending on our needs. He was another fan favorite who was moved for sketchy reasons. By the way I am all in for the Avs getting the Cup and seeing a certain maligned exPen defenseman get his name on it

charmaine
charmaine
18 days ago
Reply to  Dave Molinari

Ian Cole was another player i really liked…..as much as i like Sullivan for being a great coach, when he decides to be done with you, he’s done !!

charmaine
charmaine
18 days ago
Reply to  Vince Gori

i am most likely one of a few who really liked Jack Johnson……he wasn’t responsible for his contract and i am pulling for him and the Avalanche to win the SC

Doug Ukish
Doug Ukish
19 days ago

Without googling, wonder how many readers know Barney Fife?
Great read, as always. Thx.

charmaine
charmaine
18 days ago
Reply to  Dave Molinari

and i am not afraid to say i know of both Barney and the Keystone Cops !!

Rob
Rob
19 days ago
Reply to  Doug Ukish

No harm in making someone go google search! Lol

I liked that reference Dave!

Stephen Powanda
Stephen Powanda
19 days ago
Reply to  Doug Ukish

Andy only gave him one bullet

Peter Hoffman
Peter Hoffman
18 days ago
Reply to  Dave Molinari

Hilarious!!!

Tom V
Tom V
19 days ago

Spot on regarding Trouba head shots that went unpunished. NYR fans would have the refs head if one of their top players suffered the same fate. I’m beginning to think Trouba had photos of Bettman in lingerie for him to go through so many teams elbowing all the way to the finals and NO penalties! NHL refs were bad when they only had 1 ref but it’s twice as bad with 2.

Tom P
Tom P
18 days ago
Reply to  Tom V

Let’s not forget that it was the Rangers and their fans who were crying loudly about the “Horrifying Act of Violence” committed on Artemi Panarin by That Punk Wilson. My comment to Rangers fans is that you either are OK with dirty plan or you’re not. You can’t defend Trouba’s cheap shots while whining about the cheap shots Wilson commits on your players.

Frank
Frank
19 days ago

You can make a fairly strong case that Trouba could be viewed as the Rangers playoff MVP. I have serious doubts that the Rangers advance beyond Game 5 of Round 1 without the hit on Crosby. At the same time Shesterkin was very ordinary after being run out of the previous two games. He regained his form against Carolina and for the most part against Tampa, but none of that occurs without the Trouba assault. His Ranger teammates are not going to criticize a teammate and certainly not one that keeps them playing. The league always has a short list… Read more »

Chris R
Chris R
19 days ago

Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action. By round two, Trouba should have been on the refs/DPS radar in a big way. The fact that he got away with so many illegal attacks begs the question of why weren’t they coming down on him?

Mark Fisher
Mark Fisher
19 days ago
Reply to  Dave Molinari

Is the correct answer that they really don’t care? They’ll suspend someone occasionally to make it look like they are trying to clean up the game, but there is no consistency whatsoever.

Wasnt
19 days ago
Reply to  Chris R

Goes back to what I said at the beginning of this comment section. The announcer said the Trouba hit on Perry was a penalty and the ex-ref said in real time it’s so fast then announcer said I get all that but isn’t that a penalty and he wouldn’t confirm the obvious penalty. There’s the problem…..it’s like the ex-ref was with his hands over eyes, fingers in his ears and hands over his mouth.

David
David
19 days ago

Why is it that more times than not that the worst hits — including some that result in suspensions — are not penalized during the game?

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