Odds and ends on Friday.
Matt Murray looked in mid-season form early in Team North America's pre-tournament game last night. The dangerous Anze Kopitar had the puck in open space and got a couple backhand shots on Murray. Calmly, smoothly Murray makes the save. No problem.
kopistar pic.twitter.com/5vnseKdS0i— Stephanie (@myregularface) September 9, 2016
Playing for Team NA (against a pretty weak "Team Europe", at least), looked a lot like Murray playing behind the Penguins last spring. He wasn't called on to make a ton of saves, but he had to be pretty sharp when the play came his way when it did. And, like last spring, he was up for the challenge.
And, even then, Murray still stopped 23 of 23 last night for the shutout.
The perception is Murray was shielded behind a dominant Penguins team. The reality was he faced 575 shots in the equivalent of 21 sixty minute games, which breaks down to facing 27 shots per game. Not exactly an easy go, but Matt Murray just makes everything look so smooth that it seems easy to under-rate his performances.
No doubt, Murray's had the benefit of strong teams in front of him. But he's also done more than hold up his end of the bargain, which is all you can ask of any goalie.
Sticking with the World Cup of Hockey, Bill West from the Trib noticed something about the way the Russian team used Evgeni Malkin
Malkin handled 11 of Russia's 31 D-zone faceoffs. No teammate had more than 6 draws in that zone. Geno finished 5-11 there, 10-19 overall.— Bill West (@BWest_Trib) September 8, 2016
Russians kept the ice-time balanced but still had roles; Malkin-Tarasenko-Kulemin get the defensive assignment. pic.twitter.com/1IN7dVFxL6— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) September 8, 2016
To say this would be a departure from his NHL usage would be a major understatement. Malkin started 43.2% of his shifts in the offensive zone last season (tops among Pittsburgh players and 11th among all NHL forwards). Further Malkin's 22.9% defensive zone start was last among Penguins last season (and 11th from the bottom among all forwards in the league).
Malkin has never been 50%+ in faceoffs in an NHL season, and didn't do well today in the defensive zone. Why bottle him - and Vladimir Tarasenko, who scored a sweet power play goal today- with the most defensive assignments on the team? Especially when that team includes 3 time Selke trophy winner, for defensive forward of the year, in Pavel Datsyuk?
Russian coaching (along with poor defensive depth) has long been an Achilles heel for a high-powered, talented hockey country in the past decade. A decision like making Evgeni Malkin the defensive ace of the only team feeds into that.
After we finished the Top 25 Under 25 list this year (see it here), a few asked where we would rank free agent signee Thomas DiPauli . Or even Jimmy Vesey if he elected to sign with Pittsburgh (before he decided on NYR).
Here's the list again as a refresher.
DiPauli is a year older than Dea, who just scored 20 goals in the AHL last year, so I think he would have to slot in at around the #19 range, given that DiPauli's ceiling looks like 4th line energy guy. Which really makes DiPauli's decision to sign in Pittsburgh a little questionable, if he was looking for a quick path to the NHL I'm not sure this is it. But, he hasn't even played pro yet, so we'll learn a lot more in the next 12 months about where he slots in the organization.
As far as Vesey, he's shooting towards the top. He was the best player in college hockey last year, and by all accounts could/should be a guy to score 35-40 points in the NHL this year. I don't think he cracks the top 3 by any means, though there's probably an argument to make him #4. Certainly no lower than #6, and probably higher than that. So we'll split the difference and say in the #5 range, give or (probably) take, considering Sprong's shoulder injury and the unknown about his future.