Though he’s been around for two years, having Beau Bennett in the lineup for the Pittsburgh Penguins is a relative rarity. The young player has been plagued with injuries, most recently a hand/wrist injury (which he described as “fluky”) that required surgery and caused him to miss 50 games just this season.
Bennett’s most recent assignment was back to the Wilkes-Bare/Scranton Penguins for a two-game stint aimed at returning him to NHL-ready condition, and his time there earned him both an assist and praise from team GM Ray Shero. But with his return on Friday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets (only his 39th game in the NHL), Bennett made it clear not only why he was the first pick of the Penguins in the 2010 draft, but why he was more than ready to be back playing at NHL level.
Sunday’s game against the St. Louis Blues was unlucky for the Pittsburgh Penguins in more ways than one. Not only were the Pens shut out in a 1-0 victory by the Blues, but star forward Evgeni Malkin injured his foot on his first shift of the game, per Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma.
When my friend Emily asked me if I wanted to go with her to the last Boston Blades game of the season against the Toronto Furies, I immediately replied that I would. As someone who loves hockey but hates crowds, the CWHL is my ideal venue. It’s a cheap way to get great seats and support women’s hockey, and I was there, never mind that I’d have to miss a Penguins/Flyers game to do so.
Despite low turnout (I would guess between 50-100 people there), the game was a good, fast-paced event. Boston looked to dominate early, scoring 26 seconds in, but Toronto fought back to keep it going back and forth the entire time, and tied it up at 3 with 1:58 to go, sending the game into overtime. In overtime, Kelli Stack scored the winning goal for Boston, capping off an excellent game for her as well as fellow Olympian Hilary Knight, who racked up 2 assists. I’ve only been to a few live hockey games in my life, and perhaps it was the ice-level seats that did it, but I found this game to be far and away the most engaging and exciting of any game I’ve ever attended.
Olli Maatta, to put it lightly, is having a good season.
The 19-year-old Penguins phenom has exceeded any expectations anyone may have had of him coming into the season. Maatta so far has racked up 28 points (9G, 19A), with scoring often coming at key moments. He is +11 on the season and has been a mainstay on the Pens constantly-injured blue line, missing only one game so far as a healthy scratch (knock on wood), while logging heavy minutes (average of over 20 a game), often as part of the top defensive pairing along with Matt Niskanen and on both the powerplay and penalty kill. And that is to say nothing of his Olympic record (2G, 3A, and a bronze medal).
So why isn’t he a front runner for the Calder, the NHL’s annual award for best rookie of the year?