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NHL Stanley Cup Champions: Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins came on strong in the second half of the season and have been rewarded with the highest honor with a Stanley Cup trophy. The last cup came to the team back in 2009 and this one couldn’t feel any sweeter considering last years performance, the mid-season firing of Mike Johnston and hiring of new coach, Mike Sullivan.

I often write about the New York Rangers, but there’s also a reason why I’m writing about the Pittsburgh Penguins outside of being relevant news after winning the Stanley Cup Finals. The Penguins have two individuals — a coach and player — that have made tremendous contributions to the team. Both of these individuals were former members of the New York Rangers organization. Lets take a look:

Mike Sullivan, Coach 

Once the assistant coach of the New York Rangers under John Tortorella, Mike Sullivan came to Pittsburgh when Mike Johnston was fired halfway through the season. Since taking over, the team went on to win 33 of 16 games (.675 win percentage) and took the cup from the San Jose Sharks. Sullivan has had interesting coach career spanning 14 years (2002 – 2016):

  • Providence Bruins (AHL), Head Coach
  • Boston Bruins (NHL), Head Coach
  • Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL), Assistant Coach
  • New York Rangers (NHL), Assistant Coach
  • Vancouver Canucks (NHL), Assistant Coach
  • Chicago Blackhawks (NHL), Player Development Coach
  • Pittsburgh Penguins (NHL), Head Coach

Carl Hagelin, Forward

A tremendously fast, often considered ‘unrefined’ Swedish player, Carl Hagelin was with the New York Rangers organization for three years before being traded to the Anaheim Ducks. At the mid-season mark, Hagelin was subsequently traded to the Penguins where he certainly found his place contributing quickly on the third line. He played a pivotal roll with his speed on a line with Phil Kessel and Nick Bonino that frequently made the stat sheet during the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Looking back, it is clear the NY Rangers lost two important individuals that later came together to hoist the cup. Carl Hagelin and Mike Sullivan must feel pretty good about where they are, and likely share the “everything happens for a reason” motto given their journey in the league.

via Bruce Heen: http://bruceheen.net/nhl-stanley-cup-champions-pittsburgh-penguins/

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2016 in Bruce Heen

 

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Rangers lose out on Stanley Cup race, but the future looks bright

The New York Rangers are a solid team every year as playoff contenders, and more recently they have had the type of relentless dedication on both sides of the puck that can carry a team all the way to a Stanley Cup title. A surprising run last year to the finals, followed by a season with huge promise this year, including a President’s Trophy during the regular season, panned out to be not enough. It is a big disappointment after what will be an unforgettable season, but the NY Rangers shouldn’t hang their heads in defeat, and instead should look forward to more great seasons much like this one, as they have found a great identity, with a phenomenal nucleus of young and seasoned veterans to lead the charge.

Taking a look at the team that will be coming back next year, you can’t help but like your chances again despite missing out on what seemed like a sure shot to the Stanley Cup finals, especially with the play of the team in Henrik Lundqvist absence. See below for three key areas that bode well for continued Ranger success next season:

1. World Class Goaltending

Bruce Heen

Henrik Lundqvist

Henrik Lundqvist can flat out play and he is absolutely coming into his prime as a goaltender. Not only is he hands down phenomenal, but he is also clutch in big time positions. You think Lundqvist would be rattled after what unfolded a couple weeks ago, but don’t fret – he is a competitor and a great professional. He will continue to show up every night and give it his all, standing on his head game after game, frustrating his counterparts and invigorating his team.

2. Young Talent / Veterans

You have to like this if you’re a coach and fan. Your young players are coming into their own at such an early age and your veterans have plenty left in the tank to motivate and provide developmental direction.

Bruce Heen

Jesper Fast

We see this with the emergence of Jesper Fast in the playoffs and the heady play of Kevin Hayes during the regular season / postseason. You also can’t leave out Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider from the core of young players that can flat out play on the NY Rangers squad. These two can sometimes get lost in the veteran talk because they have been good for some time, and by some time we are talking 3-5 years, which is really quite young in hockey terms. They are growing, learning and their ceiling has yet to be met and should only continue to provide great scoring / playmaking touch that you can’t help but love. Not to mention,

Kreider is a freak athlete that is fast, strong, and is only truly starting to realize his

Bruce Heen

Chris Kreider

potential. Just check out this video of him jumping out of the shallow end of a pool, it’s crazy.

Looking at the veterans, you can’t ignore Rick Nash and his scoring during the regular season, but you do need to point out his subpar play in the postseason. Subpar might be a bit harsh, but if you look at the stat sheet you can see how people could judge him, especially after a season filled with scoring and assists. Nash can do a lot of things, and that’s exactly what he did during the Rangers post season run this season. He didn’t always show up on the state sheet, but his presence was definitely felt most times he was on the ice. Another veteran worth noting is Derek Brassard. His play in the postseason was on display big time an you’d think if it wasn’t for him the Rangers wouldn’t have gotten nearly as far as they did with such little scoring than they are accustomed to in their postseason run.

3. Blue Line Presence

The Rangers have one of the best defenses in the league, hands down. Each line gets the job done and some, with a few capable providing offense on the other end. There’s not much to pick at here and they will continue to have this identity for years to come, as there major assets are locked into long-term deals.

The NY Rangers exit from the postseason came as a surprise to many, but it shouldn’t dissuade you in the least. This team won’t be changing drastically from the cast that carried them all the way to a President’s Trophy during the regular season. The future looks bright, so sit back and enjoy a team that will be fun to watch for the foreseeable future.

via Bruce Heen: http://bruceheen.net/bruce-heen-rangers-lose-out-on-stanley-cup-race-but-the-future-looks-bright/

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2015 in Bruce Heen

 

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NY Rangers Take Game 3, Lead Series Over Penguins 2-1

The NY Rangers got it done, but not without an onslaught of pressure by the Penguins in the final period. The Rangers came out very strong through two periods, even holding the Penguins to a single shot in 15 minutes to start out the game. New York looked fast, won the battles in the corner, loose pucks, and stifled the Penguins each time they gained entry into The Ranger’s defensive zone.

It wasn’t until seven minutes or so in the final period that the Penguins got a breath of success, scoring their first goal of the game. Scored by Patric Hornqvist in the slot, The Penguins continued to press and put pressure on The Rangers and it looked like it was only a matter of time before the guys in black and white found the net again to tie the game at two a piece.

The expected goal for many never came and the Rangers ended up walking out of The Consol Energy Center feeling like they stole the game from the opposition.

It is no surprise that The Rangers work well on the road and a tight win like this one has been commonplace for the Blueshirts time and time again this season. With the best regular season record in the NHL, New York has all the experience and talent you would expect in a team with its sights set on a return to the Stanley Cup finals.

For a video recap, please check out the following:

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/embed?playlist=812194

via Bruce Heen: http://bruceheen.net/ny-rangers-take-game-3-lead-series-over-penguins-2-1/

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2015 in Bruce Heen

 

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Cam Talbot Needs Help and the NY Rangers Aren’t Delivering

The NY Rangers have put together an impressive streak with back up goalie Cam Talbot filling in for injured starter Henrik Lundqvist. The only issue is Cam Talbot has been very busy during that streak and it is finally starting to come back to bite New York.

Eight games into starting Lundqvist, Talbot has posted an impressive record of 5-1-2, but if you look at his personal statistics you see a completely different story. He has a 3.10 goals against average and save percentage of .894. Talbot isn’t the one to blame, he is facing too much traffic in front and needs help from his team as a whole. One of the Rangers strong suites, defense, hasn’t been where it needs to be recently. Luckily they are clicking on all cylinders in the offensive department to make up for any defensive lapses, but you can’t always rely on offense.

The Rangers need to place a heavier emphasis on defense and they need to protect their goalie. This is first time in his career that Talbot has been a mainstay as a starting goalie in the National Hockey League. The last thing you want is for him to get rattled, because the team doesn’t have too many options after him. It makes you think, will the Rangers consider pulling up a goalie from their minor league system? Talbot has proven he’s capable, but can he handle being the #1 option for this long? It’ll be interesting to see how things play out!

See the video below for highlights of the Rangers most recent game against the Vancouver Canucks:

via Bruce Heen http://bruceheen.net/bruce-heen-cam-talbot-needs-help-and-the-ny-rangers-arent-delivering/

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2015 in Bruce Heen

 

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NY Rangers turn a close game into a blowout

Bruce HeenThings were neck and neck going into the third period until the NY Rangers found new life and the back of the net. Tied at three a piece, New York came alive and ran the Florida Panthers right out of Madison Square Garden. Dan Boyle, Mats Zuccarello and Rick Nash each scored in the decisive third period of play.

It is no surprise that when Rick Nash scores goals it bodes very well for the Blueshirts. With 31 goals on the season, Rick Nash is scoring at will and putting his team on his back. With a little bit more help on the bottom two lines, the NY Rangers would have more of a complete team and would in turn be even more dangerous then they currently are.

With Rick Nash clicking on all cylinders, you have to suspect the Rangers are finally smiling widely after the blockbuster trade that sent him packing in Columbus and into the bright lights of New York City. You can also make the assumption that Rick is more comfortable with his surroundings and in better health after sustaining a particularly bad concussion last season.

It will be interesting to see how the season plays out. Will Nash continue his scoring ways? Are the New York Rangers serious contenders for another run at the Stanley Cup? There’s still a lot of hockey to be played and it will be a lot of fun to see how things pan out.

via Bruce Heen http://bruceheen.net/bruce-heen-ny-rangers-turn-a-close-game-into-a-blowout/

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2015 in Bruce Heen

 

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NY Rangers, NY Islanders Set for Key Matchup

Bruce HeenIt isn’t often that the NY Rangers and NY Islanders are both playing extremely well in the same season. Today, both teams will meet at Madison Square Garden for what will likely be a great matchup considering how well both teams have been playing.

Comparing each team throughout the season, the Islanders have been a bit more consistent and sit further up in the standings. But over the last two months, the Rangers are surging and asserting themselves as one of the top teams in the league. Winning 13 of their last 14 games, the blue shirts are finally healthy and rolling over teams. We aren’t talking about bottom feeders in the league either, we are talking about high quality opponents. Teams like the LA Kings, San Jose Sharks, and the Anaheim Ducks have been the latest casualties on a west coast road trip that portrayed telling signs for just how good this Ranger squad really is.

The New York Rangers came into this season with big plans, especially since they made it to the Stanley Cup Finals last year against the LA Kings. Hampered by injuries in the early going, the Rangers are finally healthy playing a great two way game that features their great scoring depth and speed. Averaging more than three goals a game, we are starting to take notice of a consistent offense and pressure that continues to force opposing teams into mistakes and ultimately goals for the Rangers.

There’s no science to the Rangers fluidity on the ice. They are simply clicking in all the statistical categories that truly matter. Their power play is finding the back of the net, they are killing off penalties, Henrik Lundqvist is standing on top of his head, and when he’s not playing, Cam Talbot is serving as a reliable backup that can win the team additionally games.

It’ll be fun to see both teams go at it tonight. The rivalry between the two teams proves to be a great one each time they face off. Since both teams are playing so well, you figure there will be a lot of emotions on the ice.

via Bruce Heen http://bruceheen.net/ny-rangers-ny-islanders-set-for-key-matchup/

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2015 in Bruce Heen

 

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NY Rangers post second straight shut-out

Are the New York Rangers finally gaining momentum? It is a great question and hopefully it becomes more of a reality as the team continues on for the remainder of the season. The Rangers have shown glimpses of greatness, and yet they find themselves losing games in overtime or in shutouts. One would figure coach Alain Vigneault is preaching consistency to his team.

The Rangers are never not in a position to win, but they can’t quite find that winning formula to close out games. Either way, fans must like what they are seeing early on from the team. The talent is their and one of their biggest strengths, defense, seems to be lacking. It is bizarre, but hey, it’s hockey.

Looking on the bright side, the NY Rangers won two straight shutouts, the first against the Philadelphia flyer and the second to the Montreal Canadiens. Against the Flyers and with backup goaltender Cam Talbot, New York notched a 2-0 win giving Cam his first win on the season. The following game against the Canadiens, New York scored five goals with each forward recording a point on the night. Talk about balanced scoring and lines. If the Rangers can find a scoring balance like this on a consistent basis they can be a very dangerous team. With each line finding productive minutes and points, opposing teams will have their hands full preparing for an onslaught of fire power.

Only pointing out the NY Rangers for their stellar play would do a disservice to another team in the region that has been in a dark place behind the Blueshirts for what seems like an eternity. The New York Islanders are sitting quietly at the top of their division with an exceptional record early on. The fan base is kicking and screaming in joy after losing seasons year after year. It is great to see such a dedicated fan base respond to their team. You can’t help but love that about sports. If you’re team is winning, naturally everyone is going to be happy and no questions will be asked. Hopefully the Islanders keep it up. If so, they will win over their fans, which will only bode well for them as they make the move next season to the Barclays center.

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2014 in Bruce Heen

 

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