Inconsistent Penguins scrambling as stretch run looms NHL-leading Bruins acquire Orlov, Hathaway from Capitals Predators’ Ryan Johansen out estimated 12 weeks after surgery Maple Leafs pin hopes on Ryan O’Reilly to help end playoff frustrations Alex Ovechkin returns to Capitals following death of father
PITTSBURGH – Faces all around Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin And Chris Letang have changed over the years.
Coaches have come and gone. General managers, a lot of players – some of them forever in the history of the Pittsburgh Penguins, others not so much – and the owners too.
Yet Crosby, Malkin and Letang remained. Through heartache and triumph. Landmarks and dizzying early summer parades through crowded downtown streets with the Stanley Cup in tow.
They are the fulcrum around which the organization revolves, their presence in the NHL playoffs has been practically a given for 16 years and continues to grow.
However, for nearly three-quarters of their 17th season together, the group known simply as the “Big Three” find themselves in virtually uncharted territory: struggling to stay in the heat of the playoff chase.
The Penguins enter the game against Connor McDavid and Edmonton, which is not in the top eight in the Eastern Conference.
And while Pittsburgh has plenty of time to clean up, the reality is that the Penguins have rarely looked as competitive in the Crosby/Malkin/Lethang era as they have in the past five mediocre and maddening months.
The latest proof came in a disappointing 4-2 loss to the New York Islanders, a game that the Penguins dominated for the first 45-plus minutes only to collapse en route to their ninth consecutive loss to the Capital Division. rival.
The loss was the sixth of 14 games the Penguins have lost after two innings. A team long known for its finishing ability became vulnerable to late errors that cost them precious points in the standings.
“I mean, it’s not ideal when you’re losing games and you have leaders, but the only way out of it is to find a way to win one of them and try to get some momentum from that,” Crosby said. “We can’t stop there.”
Mainly because there is no time.
The oldest roster in the NHL has a tough sprint ahead of it. Pittsburgh will play its last 26 games in 50 days. Not ideal for a group that is short of a brilliant 14-2-2 series from November 9 to December. 15 was ordinary at best.
While it’s not the first time the Penguins have looked dubious in their 16-game playoff streak heading into March, this may be the first time their options to turn things around have been so limited.
There are no young people in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton ready to leave their American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Jake Genzel, Brian Rust And Conor Shiri made in the 2015–16 season, an arrival that coincided with reaching the franchise’s third Stanley Cup.
And there may be some reinforcements arriving at the trade deadline. The Penguins’ players considered most attractive to other clubs are the same players they can’t do without, and general manager Ron Hextall has very different powers than his predecessor, Jim Rutherford.
While “Trader Jim” often moved parts between Crosby, Malkin and Letang in search of a mix that worked, Hextall was much more deliberate in his approach. He hates—publicly at least—trading Pittsburgh’s first-round pick in this year’s draft as Pittsburgh watches over the post-big three era.
This has put Hextall in a difficult position as he tries to fix a heavy team that, for all its star power, is seriously flawed. The top two lines are fine. The problem is what happens when Crosby, 35, and Malkin, 36 — both averaging a point per game — are off the ice.
third line Jeff Carter, Kasperi Kapanen and a rotating group that included Drew O’Connor And Brock McGinn had little, if any, impact far from the vaunted HBK line. Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino And Phil Kessel this made the Penguins one of the strongest teams in the NHL during two Stanley Cups in 2016-17.
Goalkeeper behind the starter Tristan Jarry He was spotty at best, with Jarry looking rusty against the Islanders when he returned from a month-long absence with a lower body injury. Even a power play with two players who have scored over 2600 career points is definitely average.
However, coach Mike Sullivan, who signed a contract extension last fall, remains optimistic that his team is close to finding out. His “play it right” mantra hasn’t changed much since the day he was hired in December 2015.
Asked if there was any concern that Sullivan’s message might not have the same impact as before, Hextall shook his head.
“I think Sally is an amazing coach,” Hextall said when he last spoke to reporters earlier this month. “I would put him against any manager in the league and if there are players who don’t respond to him, I would try to move those players.”
Possibly, but barring something drastic, Pittsburgh will head into the final seven weeks of the season with essentially the same team that’s been tossing between onslaught and instability since October. That means answers to questions about what’s bothering one of the league’s top franchises will likely have to come from within.
“There’s a lot of faith here,” Crosby said. “It hasn’t been good for us lately, but that’s when you’re being tested as a group and you have to make sure you’re responding right.”
The clock is ticking.
BOSTON. The best team in the NHL got bigger and stronger.
Already on track for one of the best seasons in hockey history, the Boston Bruins have acquired a quarterback. Dmitry Orlov and go Pomegranate Hathaway from the Washington Capitals on Thursday in exchange for a forward Craig Smith and three drafts. This is the latest major acquisition by an Eastern Conference contender as the league approaches the March 3 trade deadline.
“Let’s hope we stay healthy and try to run, show our best hockey at the right time,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney told reporters. “It will be a difficult road. It’s a difficult path to get in. It’s even harder when you’re already in.”
Boston sent Washington a 2023 first round pick, a 2024 second round pick, a 2025 third round pick, and Smith. The Capitals kept half of Orlov’s salary, while the Minnesota will pay 25%; The Wild will get the fifth round in 2023 for helping Boston stay under the limit.
Sweeney said Orlov and Garnet are arranging a trip so they can join the Bruins on their four-game road trip that began Thursday night against Seattle. They will join the team with the best record in the NHL after leaving the team that won it all in 2018 but hasn’t made it past the first round since and is struggling to make the playoffs this season.
“They were a ridiculously competitive and successful part of the[Capitals]organization,” Sweeney said. “So (they) are a bit shocked. But once they hear the excitement in our voice when we invite them on board, things quickly change.”
With a record of 43-8-5 and 91 points heading into the Kraken game, the Bruins showed some weaknesses. But memories of recent playoff upsets have left Sweeney worried about depth — especially on defense — and he’s hoping it’ll be a long postseason.
“I think we were trying to attack two different areas,” Sweeney said. “Dmitry and Granat can bring some qualities to our group. Now we try to stay healthy and run.”
Capitals sell at trade deadline for the first time since Alexey Ovechkinfreshman year more than a decade and a half ago.
“This transaction allows us to acquire project capital, infuse youth and replenish our system,” General Manager. Brian McLellan said. “While this season has proven to be challenging with injuries to our important players, we can use some of our current assets to retool our club and build a competitive team to move forward.”
The Bruins have racked up 100 points for four consecutive seasons without the pandemic, but only made it to the playoffs once, losing to the St. Louis Blues in the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals. After losing in the first round last year, Sweeney fired coach Bruce Cassidy and replaced him with Jim Montgomery.
Even though the year started without a top scorer Brad Marchand and the best defender Charlie McAvoy, who were both recovering from surgery during the off-season, the Bruins climbed to the top of the NHL standings. They won 17 of their first 19 games and were mostly undefeated at home until January 12th.
“Our squad has been battle-tested,” Sweeney said. “I think we can play any game against any team and we can react accordingly or dictate the terms. We tried to complement and add to that.”
Orlov, 31, was a homegrown Washington player who helped the team win the Stanley Cup in 2018. Hathaway, 31, has been on the Capitals’ fourth line for the past four seasons.
“Dmitri has been with our organization for nearly 14 years and has been a key player in helping us win the Stanley Cup,” McLellan said. “Garnet has been an important part of our team and a role model off the ice for his contributions to our community. We wish both players the very best in Boston.
Orlov was officially traded from Washington to Minnesota and then to Boston, while the Wild sent Andrey Svetlakov, drafted in 2017, to the Bruins. Sweeney said he had no indication that Svetlakov, who plays in the KHL, would leave Russia.
The Wild received a draft pick for helping trade for the second time in less than a week. The Wild received a 2025 fourth-round pick from Toronto to keep their paycheck in a deal that sent Ryan O’Reilly and ex-Bruins forward Noel Accari from St. Louis to the Maple Leafs.
NASHVILLE, TN – Nashville Predators Center Ryan Johansen will miss the rest of the regular season due to surgery on his lower right leg.
The Predators announced that Johansen would be out for “approximately 12 weeks” following surgery.
Nashville had to do…