Hockey

Jack Johnson – All the normal antagonists are hurt these days for the Pens, so will go with this moon-faced tomato can. Not that he’s a particularly ornery or annoying player, he just sucks. We’ve seen players suck before, but the’s the suckiest suck that ever sucked. And he’s also definitely going to be a Hawk in the near future, because if there’s one thing they love it’s a big, slow, dumb defenseman. Hey Jack, where’s all your money gone?

Sidney Crosby – He doesn’t get enough John Stockton comparisons, but maybe that’s because John Stockton never bitched as much as Crosby does per game. When you’ve been the game’s best player for a decade, that happens of course (hey, LeBron wants his calls too). But Crosby is also sneaky dirty and not-s0-sneaky strong. Watch him closely down low, and you’ll see some dark arts…followed by some whining. They go hand in hand.

Nick Bjugstad – Only because we spent about five years thinking this guy was going to be a premier power forward in the league, after watching him at Minnesota during the lockout because we had nothing else to do. And it’s never happened, it’s probably not going to happen, and when you’re a big player that Dale Tallon gives up on, you know you’ve fucked it.

Everything Else

Mike Darnay (@MikeDarnay) has been our Penguins friend for a while now. So that’s where we go whenever the black and gold show up. His work can be found at Pensburgh

Hey look, you guys aren’t very good a couple years after your third Cup either. Is this just the way things go?

Partly, I think so. It’s much harder to replicate repeated success than it has been in past years, and the expectations are still just as high. I am guessing in Chicago’s case, as long as Toews, Kane, Keith, and Crawford are in the picture, the expectation is going to be for success regardless of any other mitigating factors. In the Penguins case, they are habitual slow starters. It’s a dangerous game to play, but I think they manage it well. This season may have taken it too far, but as it stands right now they are in 3rd place in their division despite losing 9 out of 10 games less than a month ago. It’s a weird league right now and a weird division and despite their struggles, I think they are able to tread water well enough even when they aren’t on their game.

This is the second straight season that Matt Murray has struggled. Is there a worry that this is what he is and will be?

From many, yes. From me, not really. We saw the level of success that he was able to get to in consecutive postseasons. He wasn’t even *bad* in the 2018 Playoffs. Taking the eventual Champions to six games isn’t all bad. He’s coming off of his worst season that featured several injuries and a major personal thing for a young player to go through. I think he tried gutting it out this year for the better of the team, but ultimately it worked out the other way around. If he can get fully healthy now and give himself the time he needs, I am confident in his ability to return to form.

So the Jack Johnson thing was just a joke, right?

He stinks. There is no way of polishing this turd. He’s just bad. I still can’t believe he was given the TERM that he was. It’s so bad. And he can’t do anything well. Buy him out or ship him to Seattle.

Kris Letang is on pace for what could be a career season. What’s going on there?

To be honest, I think it’s quite simple. He missed several months at the end of the season in the spring and summer of 2017 when the Penguins won their second of the back-to-back Cups. He was on the shelf for most of the summer and didn’t get a full training in at all but was still ready for the start of the season. After the team was eliminated from the 2018 postseason earlier than usual, he was able to get a rest and get a full offseason training program in. How that reflects on the ice — i think it’s important to understand that with the style he plays, being able to trust your body is vital and not playing hesitant allows him to fully expand his skillsets.

 

Game #33 Preview Suite

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It’s not Jack Johnson‘s fault, exactly. No one would turn down a multi-year contract offered to them. So it’s really on GM Jim Rutherford, who not only signed Johnson but clearly targeted him as he was signed like three minutes into free agency.

Still, it was Johnson who was bitching his way out of the Columbus lineup last year, and then out of the city altogether, because he wasn’t getting playing time. While John Tortorella is a bullhorn and always needs a mirror and recorder near by, he tends to get these player standoffs right, He was right about Ryan Johansen, despite what the Nashville media wants you to believe. He was pretty much right about Brandon Saad.

And he was certainly right about Johnson, who hasn’t been able to play dead in at least five years. Johnson has been a possession-crater his entire career, save one season. He has two seasons in 13 of 40 points or more, but usually settles in the high 20s or low 30s. There is nothing you can ever point to and say, “He does that well,” aside from one Olympic tournament that doubled as Erik Johnson‘s one stretch of dominant hockey. Maybe the problem is that everyone, including Jack himself, gets him confused with Erik, who is at least second-pairing competent.

While no professional athlete should just accept not playing or a demotion, having some perspective isn’t criminal. The Jackets clearly had six d-men playing better than him, and instead of accepting that and working harder to be among them, Johnson thought he deserved a spot on a reputation built on not much more than his draft position a million years ago. He was entitled. Once he was out he demanded a trade, as if serving as a seventh d-man that his play said was exactly what he was was beneath him. We can see where that gets a whole host of teams.

And credit to him, Johnson found a GM willing to buy into his bullshit, as it just so happens to be the one who drafted him but couldn’t sign him in Carolina. Apparently he wasn’t watching the entirety of Johnson’s career elsewhere.

 

Game #33 Preview Suite

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Alison Lukan is the Jackets beat writer for The Athletic Ohio. Follow her on Twitter @AlisonL.

Last year the Jackets ended up with 106 points. This year they’re going to have to scrap to even make the playoffs. The difference can’t simply be the power play isn’t scoring on everything, right?
If you look at the underlying numbers, there are a few things. First, as you point out, the power play was horrible to start the year. It’s rebounded some, but it will never even out over the season due to their start. Now, the penalty kill is suffering and that’s hurting them. The most significant thing impacting this team is their ability to finish. Almost every player is experiencing a career low in shooting percentage and that means this group just isn’t scoring goals. For a group that averaged over 3 goals per game last year, they’re barely managing to stay at an average of 2. Also – with injuries on the blue line, they’ve been letting in a few more shot attempts against compared to previous years. This number has slowly increased over the course of the season too.
 
Sergei Bobrovsky started the year in Vezina form but has had a terrible February. What’s up there?
I think its two fold, he’s facing a higher volume of shot attempts against, and also he’s not getting a lot of run support from his team.
23 points out of Alex Wennberg wasn’t what everyone had in mind, was it?
In a word, no. While not an excuse, two important things to mention a) he missed 12 games due to injury and b ) how many points he had off of special teams last year and how poorly special teams have performed this season. Last season, two goals and 21 assists (literally half of his 56 points) came on the man advantage. He – like almost everyone else on the team – is also suffering from a career low shooting percentage.
Where does this end with Jack Johnson? He’s obviously walking so should the Jackets cash in before the deadline?
Reports just came out Thursday that the Jackets have circled back to Johnson with an extension offer. Before that, I was more than a little bit sure that the team would move him at the deadline and reap what they could in trade value versus lose him for nothing. There are reports the Jackets offered $22MM-plus over seven years this off-season and the player didn’t bite at that, so I’d wager this is one final test to see if Johnson is willing to stay at the price the Jackets think he’s worth – if not, Kekalainen is likely looking to make a trade.
 
Do the Jackets make the playoffs when all is said and done?

If they make some moves at forward at the deadline, yes.

 

Game #62 Preview

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Chief_Blue_Meanie vs oldschool

Game Time: 7:30 Central
TV/Radio: CSN, WGN-AM 720
At Least It Isn’t Indiana: The Cannon

Despite the fact that the Hawks have pissed their pants a little bit over the last week and a half blowing games to non-playoff teams in Dallas and Philadelphia, there is still an outside shot at home ice in the first round given their games in hand. But with Nashville once again beating top teams and the Blues getting Kevin Shattenkirk back, the schedule makes the ascent steeper starting tonight with the Blue Jackets, who while well out of the playoff picture have won four straight and eight of 10.

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Tim Jennings’s game yesterday was a perfect microcosm of the Lovie Smith defense; give up a ton of yards and then take the ball away… and now back to your regularly scheduled hockey non-hockey links.

Pigs win: (icehogs)

Myers talked lockout with the usual suspects at the shinny game: (CSNChi)

Grantland helps us figure out what to watch with our lockout free time: (Grantland)

More suggestions that the two sides can ignore: (PD)

Uh-oh JJ I wonder how long the league will let this stay up: (JJ3)

Good idea Burke, I’m sure the pressure of playing in Toronto won’t get to Lu: (PHT)