Posts Tagged ‘pittsburgh penguins’

Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford set the record straight Friday after a reported rift between Phil Kessel and head coach Mike Sullivan was revealed Tuesday.

According to the report from The Athletic’s Josh Yohe, Kessel was angry he didn’t play on a line with Evgeni Malkin for most of the 2018 postseason. Yohe believes Sullivan and Kessel don’t get along, and that the Penguins are “willing to listen” to trade offers for the winger.

In an interview with The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun on Friday morning, Rutherford provided some clarity on the matter.

“This is something that I believe has been blown out of proportion,” the GM said. “I don’t know where this story started. It’s unfortunate. I don’t think it’s been any secret here for three years that Phil’s preference is to play with Gino. But, when Sully looks at our team, he believes balance throughout the lineup is the best way to win, and we won two Cups that way with Phil not playing with Gino. So there’s times where they play together, when they’re both really going, and there’s times when they don’t.

“But for someone to suggest it’s an issue within our team, that can’t be taken care of or resolved, I don’t believe that’s accurate.”

Rutherford came to Kessel’s defense, squashing any trade rumors, and said the team being worn down by two Stanley Cup runs – not Kessel’s lackluster play – was the main reason they were eliminated in the second round this year.

“So, I don’t feel that we have to trade Phil Kessel,” he said. “He was a difference-maker when we won the two Cups, he’s coming off a year where he had 92 points, and we didn’t win the Cup, we didn’t three-peat, and now people are trying to come up with ideas why we didn’t do that.

“And the reason we didn’t do that is because we didn’t have the energy to win three championships in a row. I’m not sure anybody has it. To me, that’s ultimately what happened to us this year. I don’t think pointing the finger at any one guy as the reason we didn’t win the Cup is fair at all.”

Rutherford admitted that though the 2018-19 Penguins will have new faces, that doesn’t mean drastic changes will be made.

“I said it at the end of the season that we wouldn’t come back the same team. That doesn’t mean that it’s going to be a total overhaul,” he said. “There’s a couple of areas where we’d like to strengthen, and I’ll try and do that. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s any certain player that’s going to be part of fixing that.”

Kessel has four years left on his contract with a $6.8-million annual cap hit and a no-trade clause in which he can choose eight teams he’s willing to be traded to.

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There appears to be a rift between Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan and star forward Phil Kessel, and the latter’s displeasure with the former’s lineup decisions during the playoffs is apparently at the forefront.

Kessel was reportedly furious that he didn’t play on a line with Evgeni Malkin on a regular basis during the playoffs, according to Josh Yohe of The Athletic. Instead, Kessel spent the bulk of his postseason on a unit centered by either Derick Brassard or Riley Sheahan – something he felt was not conducive to team or personal success.

Sullivan believes Kessel’s attitude about the lineup was selfish, Yohe wrote, while adding that multiple people in the Penguins organization believe Kessel was “pouty” about the situation.

Kessel had just one goal in 12 playoff games, and while he did notch eight assists, only two of them were at even strength.

Many assumed some sort of ailment had hindered Kessel’s production during the postseason, but Sullivan told the media the forward wasn’t dealing with a “significant injury” after the Pens were eliminated by the Washington Capitals in the second round. Kessel never commented on the matter.

Yohe also stated that Kessel is “the first guy off at practice most days and presumably spends more time at Rivers Casino than he does breaking down game film,” so it’s not surprising that some of his tendencies may drive a coach up a wall, even if he’s popular among his teammates.

And Sullivan’s power with the Penguins is “almost unlimited,” according to Yohe. General manager Jim Rutherford has the final say, but he often defers to Sullivan and has a great amount of respect and praise for his coach.

Yohe believes Sullivan doesn’t like Kessel very much, and that the feeling is mutual.

He added that the Penguins aren’t “actively seeking a trade involving Kessel, but they’re willing to listen if anyone makes an offer.”

After a career-best 92-point season with a reasonable $6.8-million cap hit for the next four years (the Toronto Maple Leafs retain $1.2 million annually), there would presumably be no shortage of suitors for the 30-year-old.

Sidney Crosby knows there isn’t much that separates his Pittsburgh Penguinsfrom the rival Washington Capitals.

Despite having beaten the Capitals in each of the past two postseasons on the way to back-to-back Stanley Cup wins, Crosby doesn’t see anything different in Washington this year. That’s to their credit, he adds, acknowledging how slim the margin of error is when these two clubs face off.

“I thought they were pretty relentless the last couple years, too,” Crosby said Monday, per Isabelle Khurshudyan of The Washington Post. “The games are separated by one goal here, mistake here, mistake there. I didn’t see them give in before. That’s an easy storyline because we ended up winning.”

The Penguins face elimination entering Game 6 of a third straight second-round series between the two clubs; last year’s series went seven games, while Pittsburgh won in six back in 2016.

Alex Ovechkin is ready.

The Washington Capitals‘ superstar winger scored a pair of goals in Monday’s first-round series win over Columbus, and the Metropolitan Division winners are once again set to meet Pittsburgh in Round 2 as a result.

Even after being eliminated in each of the past two postseasons by the Penguins, Ovechkin is embracing the challenge.

“I can’t wait,” he said, per Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post. “It’s a huge opportunity for us to take a step forward.”

Ovechkin has, of course, been key to the Capitals’ success to date, recording five goals and three assists in six games against the Blue Jackets.

On the strength of a 3-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday evening, the Washington Capitals clinched top spot in the Metropolitan Division for the third consecutive season.

The victory also pushed the Caps over the 100-point barrier, marking the seventh time they’ve reached the mark since 2008-09.

After back-to-back Presidents’ Trophy campaigns – and consecutive second-round playoff exits at the hands of the Penguins – many expected the Caps to take a step back this season after losing several key contributors via free agency.

In spite of the tweaked roster, the Capitals have maintained their reputation as contenders, and will play the top-seeded wild-card team (currently the Philadelphia Flyers) and hold home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

The Pittsburgh Penguins reportedly traded for Derick Brassard on Friday, landing the centerman from the Ottawa Senators, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger.

Heading Ottawa’s way in the deal are defenseman Ian Cole, goaltending prospect Filip Gustavsson, and a first-round pick in 2018.

Brassard is an experienced centerman with legit goal-scoring ability. His playoff point production – 55 points in 78 games – and toughness will be a solid addition up the middle for the Penguins. Through 58 games this campaign, he’s notched 18 goals and 20 assists.

As for Cole, the 29-year-old Michigan native is a 2007 first-round draft pick of the St. Louis Blues who has three goals and 10 assists in 17:37 of ice time per night this season.

However, don’t expect him to remain with the Senators long, as TSN’s Pierre LeBrun is reporting the team intends to flip Cole before Monday’s trade deadline.

Despite sitting fifth in league scoring and remaining on pace to shatter his previous career-high points total, Phil Kessel isn’t caught up in the hoopla of individual accolades.

The Pittsburgh Penguins star winger has 66 points in 59 games and an outside chance at catching Nikita Kucherov (76 points) in the race for the Art Ross Trophy, but the self-proclaimed hard-working, hockey-loving nice guy has his focus set elsewhere.

“I don’t care. I’ve got two Cups,” Kessel said when asked about the pursuit of the scoring title, per Pens Inside Scoop.

Kessel has been one of the league’s hottest players in the New Year, recording 24 points in 19 games since the calendar flipped to 2018. The 30-year-old’s surge is one of the main reasons the Pens have been unstoppable of late, going 14-4-1 in that span.