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Penguins thoughts On: Neal/Hornqvist, Rinne and Anderson and a million stats

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A million stray thoughts: A stick-tap for Craig Anderson, a look at an equally hot goalie in Pekka Rinne, revisiting NEal for Hornqvist and about a million stats and notes about the Pittsburgh Penguins as they move onto another Stanley Cup Final.

Don Wright-USA TODAY Sports

First, a note about the Ottawa Senators:

Craig Anderson damn near stole this one for Ottawa. The Penguins have had to deal with 2013 red-hot Tuukka Rask and a few years of super-playoff Henrik Lundqvist, so they're no stranger to great goaltending performances but Anderson's level of play is just as good as anything that could have been expected. He gave Ottawa a serious chance but luckily the Pens could get that last goal.

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Speaking of hot goalies, no one in the NHL has been better this spring than Nashville's Pekka Rinne who boasts the playoffs best save % (.941) and GAA (1.70) among full-time starters along with 2 shutouts.

However, that hasn't translated against the Pens over the years-

We'll see how much, if anything, carries over. Surely a game from 2009 doesn't have any meaning in the 2017 SCF but the point is valid. Certain teams and shooters just tend to have the number of certain goalies. Or, conversely, sometimes a random goalie can dominate one team but be average against most the others.

Rinne is an interesting case study for goalies. In the two seasons from 2010-12 he was one of the best goalies in the whole league, gaining Hart Trophy MVP votes and being a two-time Vezina finalist.

However, injuries struck and since the start of the 2013-14 season, Rinne's only been a .915% goalie in 215 games. At age 34 he's no spring chicken but his performance in the first three rounds of this year's playoffs have been as good as any goalie in recent memory.

Will the week off help cool him off? Will the Pens past success translate to future rewards? Will we continue to grasp at anything and hope that a .940% goalie doesn't show up to stonewall Pittsburgh in the finals?

(That last one is a yes, for sure).

a

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As always, I think most of the fanbase is taking in and trying to enjoy this run as much as possible. Old buddy boy Darnay put this chart up last night to put in perspective just how great the Pens have been in the salary cap/ Sidney Crosby era of the NHL:

(Darnay says small mistake, subtract 1 win for the Caps and add 1 win to the Ducks on display errors)

Pittsburgh having 11 more playoff wins than the next closest team in this era of parity is just remarkable. Truly a special, golden era.

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A few stats, courtesy of the always awesome Jason Seidling of the Pens:

The Penguins became the first back-to-back Eastern Conference champions since Pittsburgh did it in 2008 and ‘09.

· The Penguins become the first team in the NHL since the 1967 Expansion to make consecutive Final appearances on three separate occasions (1991 & ’92; 2008 &’09; 2016 and ’17).

· Pittsburgh’s six Stanley Cup Final appearances since 1991 is tied with Detroit for most in the NHL.

· This is the first time the Penguins won a multiple-overtime game on home ice.

· For the first time since the Rangers beat the Devils in 1994, overtime was required to decide the Eastern Conference champion in a Game 7 (Courtesy: TSN).

· The Penguins are 30-29 all-time in playoff overtime games, including 2-2 in 2017.

· The Penguins are 13-2 in the playoffs over the last two years following a loss.

· The Penguins are 16-7 on home ice in the postseason over the past two years.

· Pittsburgh in now 10-7 all-time in Game 7.

Player Notes:

· Chris Kunitz recorded his second career playoff overtime goal. He is the seventh player in NHL history to score in Game 7 of a series to send his team to a Stanley Cup Final (Courtesy: StatsCentre).

· Kunitz joined Darius Kasparaitis as the only players in franchise history to score an overtime goal in Game 7.

· This was Kunitz’s first multi-goal playoff game since 5/5/2013 against the New York Islanders.

· Matt Murray made 27 saves in the double-OT victory and is now 10-2 all-time in home playoff games and 6-3 in elimination games.

· Justin Schultz notched his second power play goal of the postseason in his return to the lineup after missing the previous four games due to injury.  He later assist on the game-winning goal.

· Sidney Crosby assisted on Kunitz’s game-winner for his 20th point of the postseason (7G-13A), second only to Evgeni Malkin. Crosby joined Malkin and Mario Lemieux as the only players in team history to record 20 or more points in three separate playoff runs.

· Phil Kessel assisted on Schultz’s goal for his 19th point of the postseason (7G-12A), tied for third in the NHL.

· Matt Cullen picked up an assist on Kunitz’s goal. He now has four career assists in seven career Game 7s. Cullen is 7-0 in Game 7.

A lot of good stuff to digest an unpack there.

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An interesting angle will revisiting the James Neal for Patric Hornqvist trade. Made back in the summer of 2014, it was really the first major move that Jim Rutherford made as Pens GM. Here's how each have fared since (regular season only):

Games Goals Assists Points +/- PIMs PPG SOG GWG TOI
Hornqvist 216 68 78 146 +43 102 25 700 13 16:47
Neal 219 77 59 136 +29 157 12 691 14 18:19

Of course, there are some team effects, put Neal back with Evgeni Malkin and on the Pens #1 power play and his stats probably inflate a little. That said, when you look beyond goals and assists, there's no doubt that Hornqvist is a more well-rounded player when it comes to blocking shots, throwing legal checks, net-front, wall battles, creating space, cycling, puck retrieval, compete level, intensity, and so forth. Neal is a more talented player but Hornqvist is arguably a player you want more on your team this time of year.

Neal has been OK this playoff, as Puck Daddy hints he's never the most consistent player nor is he one that helps the team too much when he's not scoring. In the WCF Neal was merely middle of the pack compared to his teammates, he had 2g+1a but he did have 21 shots. As we remember, he's a volume shooter that's going to pump a lot at the net. Sometimes it goes in.

All in all, this is a classic "win-win" trade. Both teams added something they did not have and badly needed (skill and a goal scorer for Nashville, a well-rounded winger with a motor and nose for the net in PIttsburgh). Both teams gave up a great player to get what they needed. You could nit-pick and wish that Rutherford added a more valuable secondary piece to the deal (the Pens also got 4th liner and uninspiring Nick Spaling as well) but that's how it went down. It's doubtful Nashville was going to give up anything else of real value so that has to be considered as well.

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