Dan Bylsma coached Crosby with the Penguins for six seasons, winning the Stanley Cup with in him 2009. During that span, he watched a naturally gifted hockey player become the best of his generation through his work ethic and aptitude for the game. When Crosby struggled on faceoffs, he taught himself how to master them. Same thing with his shot quality. On the bench during games, Crosby will break down his own shifts down to see how to improve them. Bylsma said: “Sid is not the best hockey player in the world, skill-wise. He has an unbelievable ability to take a situation, analyze it, work on it in a very small sample size and improve drastically. So if he says a play on TV the night before, and he’s like ‘we should do this,’ he’ll go and practice it 10 times and he’s got it. We talk about faceoffs and what he did with faceoffs. We talk about his shot, what he did with his shot. But there was an instance where the puck hit the end boards, and he was near the side of the net, and it came out and he had a chance to score and he missed it. The next day, he was out getting pucks to go off the end boards, to that area and he’d make a play. He did 15 pucks and he’s got it”. Bylsma added the moves that we take for granted from Crosby have been honed and refined through practice. “We’ve seen him tip behind his back and score goals, and it’s amazing. But it’s not amazing. I’d see him do it every day. He doesn’t do 100 of them. He does five every day, and he’s got it”.
The Montreal Canadiens’ 6-3 win over the New York Islanders on Friday was a costly one. Both Victor Mete and captain Max Pacioretty suffered injuries during the game and have likely seen their seasons come to a close. Pacioretty will be sidelined 4-6 weekswith a knee injury. Considering Montreal’s playoff hopes have been gone for some time, have we seen the last of Pacioretty in a Habs uniform? The 29-year-old Pacioretty still has a year left on his deal, but there’s no question he was available for the right price before last Monday’s trade deadline. He admitted that the questions about his future in Montreal wore on him, and he was glad that he was still a member of the bleu, blanc et rouge. Pacioretty said: “It’s no surprise, my name was out there. I don’t know what else you guys want me to say other than I’m ready to go home and get a good night’s sleep. It’s been an emotional couple of days here and I’m happy to still be a part of this team. Moving forward, everyone has to hold themselves accountable for where we’re at right now, and I definitely do so”. The Canadiens are in the midst of a retool and it’s anyone’s guess if Marc Bergevin, who reportedly aimed high while seeking out a Pacioretty trade, will still be the general manager by the off-season; so there will be plenty of questions moving forward about how to turn around the team’s fortunes. Montreal has a possible 10 picks in the opening five rounds of June’s entry draft, including four in the second. Those are assets that can facilitate trades to speed up the process. But would Pacioretty be served better by a fresh start elsewhere or a clean slate in Montreal? He can sign an extension this summer, which would prevent him from entering next season as a pending unrestricted free agent. Now that he’s staying in Montreal for now, it might be a good thing for both player and management to take a step back and wait until the summer before evaluating the future.
Allan Mitchel recently examined this season’s performance by Edmonton Oilers starting goaltender Cam Talbot. While expecting the Oilers will stick with Talbot, Mitchell observed the 30-year-old netminder endured a difficult 2017-18. He also has one season remaining on his contract, with a no-movement clause becoming a modified no-trade on July 1. The top free agent goalies this summer include Arizona’s Antti Raanta, Boston’s Anton Khudobin, St. Louis’ Carter Hutton and Winnipeg’s Michael Hutchinson. Raanta’s the best of the bunch but Mitchell noted it isn’t clear if he can take on the starter’s job and remain healthy or successful. The Oilers could go the trade route but their long history of dealing draft picks means a shallow prospect pool. Mitchell feels retaining Talbot and perhaps adding an affordable and reliable backup is the way to go. Talbot had a rough season but so did most of his teammates. The Oilers struggles this season were largely a team problem. Given Talbot’s career stats and his solid play as Edmonton’s starter in the previous two seasons, there are no reasonable doubt they intend to replace him. If the Oilers make a move for a goalie, it’ll likely be for an experienced backup.
Alex Ovechkin had set his sights on 50. The Capitals forward said: “Forty is nice, but 50 is better”. Ovechkin’s chase for 600 NHL goals is the more immediate milestone in his path heading into a three-game California trip, which begins against the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday. He’s two goals away from becoming the 20th player in NHL history to reach 600, and if he does it in his next 13 games, he would be the fourth to take fewer than 1,000 games, joining Wayne Gretzky (718), Mario Lemieux (719) and Brett Hull (900). Capitals coach Trotz said: “I think he’s a guy that focuses on certain goals, and in his area of scoring goals, that 50 mark is always big. The 600 will be something he’ll have forever, but I think he’ll put a lot of pride in it if he can get 50 this year. He’d put a lot of pride in that”. Ovechkin scored 50 or more goals seven times in his first 12 NHL seasons. Only Gretzky and Mike Bossy have done it more (nine each). Trotz added: “I think the way he looks at it, it’s so hard to do and he had a down year [last season]. He wants to show that he can still do it. He’s got an opportunity to do it. If I was a betting man — I’m not — I think he can do it. I kept putting him out on offensive draws to see if he could [get it]. I was talking to him on the ice [Monday] and he had a couple opportunities in the second that he felt he could have got. And if he would have gotten it, I’m pretty sure he would have got that third one. He would have found a way. But he’s going to get to that mark, hopefully sooner than later”.