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March 24, 2019
NHL News and Notes
by Michael Menser Dell, Editor-in-Chief
Yesterday, it was confirmed Ryan Whitney did indeed have a family emergency when the Pens played the Isles, so the Pens weren’t lying. Yet Ray Shero still wasn’t scared to pull the trigger. Stay classy, Shero.
But what is acceptable protocol in such situations? Was Shero cold-blooded? Or did he actually do Whitney a favor? After all, Shero traded Whitney to the Ducks, who just happened to be in Whitney’s hometown of Boston to play the Bruins. So that’s something.
Anyway, Whitney made his Anaheim debut last night, joining the Water Fowl just in time to get mauled by the Bears, 6-0. Whitney was paired with Chris Pronger and played 24:29, second to only Pronger’s 25:42, and somehow managed to finish even on the night.
Skating with Pronger and Scott Niedermayer can’t help but have an enormous impact on Whitney’s development for, you know, like the next week or so.
Chicago is the first stop on a five-game trip for the Birds. The Pens will be in Dallas next, and then it’s off to Tampa, Florida, and Washington. Even with Sid, three wins seemed like a stretch. Without Crosby, things could get ugly. Anything less than five points could prove disastrous, especially if they don’t get two out of Miami.
It’s on Fleury. This is when superstar goaltenders step up and steal games. It’s time for the Flower to make a statement. That said, I'm sure the Pens will get worked tonight.
If they can survive the trip, the Pens have eight of their final nine March games at home, closing out the month with a lengthy eight-game homestand that includes an April 1 scrap with New Jersey.
But this current road trip will tell the tale. The trade deadline falls on the eve of the game in Florida. If the Pens were to drop the first three contests of the trip and stumble eight or nine points out, it could drastically affect how Shero views his roster. Jordan Staal, I'm looking in your direction.
Ryder, who missed nearly three weeks with a broken face, rejoined the Bruins Tuesday night and bagged a goal and as assist in a 6-1 drubbing of the Panthers. Then last night, Ryder rang up two goals and an assist in the 6-0 stomping of the Ducks.
The Bruins were 1-4-2 without Ryder in the lineup. Since when is Michael Ryder a difference-maker?
Aw, relax; I’m sure it’s just a coincidence. But Ryder is having a dynamite season, with 22 goals and 41 points. And he’s fit right in with Claude Julien’s defensive scheme. Wow, the odds-makers took a beating on that one. Ryder’s a staggering plus-26, marking the first time since the lockout he’s been on the positive side of the ledger.
And dig this: the Bears are 17-0-1 when Ryder scores a goal.
But this is the kind of thing that happens on championship teams. Seemingly marginal players at the start of the season make enormous impacts. Look at David Krejci and Blake Wheeler. Two promising young players to be sure, but I don’t think anyone thought they’d combine for 37 goals and 98 points by the end of February. Mix in career years from Phil Kessel and Dennis Wideman, and the Bears are something special.
I’d like to see a battle between Diggs’ boys and Eklund’s band. That would be tremendous. My money’s on Diggs. Unless Chris Osgood is in net.