With his stellar performance to start the season (a 7-2-0 record, .931 save percentage, 1.89 goals against average, and three shutouts), it seemed inevitable that the Penguins would re-sign Marc-Andre Fleury. While some Penguins fans pointed to Fleury’s off-season meltdowns as reason to trade him, others said that Fleury showed marked improvement since being coached by Mike Bales and seeing a sports psychologist, and that the Penguins’ loss in the playoffs last year was largely the result of a lack of offensive prowess, not a goaltending issue.
Furthermore, Penguins fans on both sides of the argument had to face the grim reality of the current goalie market, which is extremely barren. A goaltender of Fleury’s caliber or an upgrade who is eligible for hire simply doesn’t exist, and certainly not at a price the Penguins could pay. Fleury stood to gain a large amount of money on the open market if the Penguins didn’t make their move – either to trade or re-sign him.
An inescapable craze struck the nation this off-season, more feel-good than Guardians of the Galaxy and catchier than the song “All About That Bass”. I am referring, of course, to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. We here at The Pink Puck not only nominated our readers, but we’re so dedicated to giving back that we have watched every single video of an NHL player doing the ice bucket challenge (yes, every single one), and fellow Pink Puck writer Mollyhall and I have teamed up to bring you the best of the best, cream of the crop challenges you can’t afford to miss.
Stay frosty, friends, and don’t forget to donate.
Early this afternoon, new Penguins GM Jim Rutherford moved to name Mike Johnston the new head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Johnston, 57, has been coaching since he was 23. Most recently, Johnston was head coach of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks, but he has coached at the collegiate, minor league, NHL, and even Olympic level. Johnston is considered responsible for the turn-around of the Portland Winterhawks, who had missed the playoffs three years in a row before his tenure. During his tenure as both head coach and general manager, the Winterhawks made the playoffs for five straight seasons and came away with a Memorial Cup.
New Penguins GM Jim Rutherford has a lot of decisions on his plate going forward. Not only does he need to name a new coach, but the Penguins have an unusually large crop of candidates up for free agency.
Before the Penguins even lost Game 7 against the Rangers this year, rumors were already swirling that Dan Bylsma, head coach for the Penguins, was running on borrowed time. Once they lost, rumors of Bylsma’s firing had gone from rumors to foregone conclusions.
But is that the right move, or premature? It would certainly make some fans happy, but it may not be the best move for the Penguins.
Recently, two things happened concerning Colorado Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov. The first is that he wasnominated for a Vezina Trophy as a cap to his great season. This season he racked up 41 wins (the most by any NHL goaltender) and had a save percentage of .927 (the third best of any NHL goaltender). His excellent performance is most likely what made the Colorado Avalanche a playoff team at all.
The second thing that happened was that, during a playoff game against the Minnesota Wild, Varlamov was taunted by Wild fans with pictures from his arrest earlier this year after he was accused of beating his girlfriend. (Warning: description of the crime at the link is both violent and graphic.)
These two things, at the outset, are not linked. After all, Varlamov was cleared of all charges (the defense declared themselves unable to make a case proving his crime beyond all reasonable doubt), and the incident seemed largely swept under the rug, only to be brought up by opposing fans hoping to get a rise out of Varlamov. Varlamov went on to have, as previously mentioned, an excellent and possibly award-winning season.
But should that be the end of the story? Should Varlamov even be in the running for the Vezina after this incident? Should his potential crimes be, by and large, ignored?
The Penguins went into the first round facing the Columbus Blue Jackets in what turned out to be a fast-paced, often surprising, and hard-fought battle. The Penguins emerged victorious after six games, battling back after many lost leads and goal deficits. But three storylines stood out as top narratives for this first-round playoff battle: