Ville Pokka, Klas Dahlbeck staying in KHL

An NHL career never did materialize for former Chicago Blackhawks top prospect Ville Pokka. After a trade last season took him to the Ottawa Senators organization, he bolted for the KHL and signed with Avangard Omsk in the summer. Pokka has now signed a one-year extension with his KHL club, ending any chance he was going to return to North America this year. Klas Dahlbeck , who played for Chicago as well as the Arizona Coyotes and Carolina Hurricanes, has also re-upped in the KHL, signing a one-year extension with CSKA Moscow.

Pokka, 25, was originally selected 34th overall by the New York Islanders in 2012, but was one of the big pieces sent to Chicago for Nick Leddy in 2014. At that point, the young defenseman looked like a potential star after putting up 27 points in 54 games during his final year in Finland. Pokka got off to a great start with the Rockford IceHogs, and continued to rack up points throughout his minor league career. Unfortunately, his foot speed and defensive awareness were just never enough to earn a chance at the NHL level. He was traded to Ottawa without ever suiting up for Chicago.

Dahlbeck meanwhile was also a Blackhawks prospect for a time, selected by them in the third round of the 2011 draft. He made his debut for the club during the 2014-15 season but was sent to Arizona along with a first-round pick to bring Antoine Vermette to Chicago. He would end up playing 170 NHL games before leaving last season for the KHL, and won a Gagarin Cup with CSKA recently.

By: Gavin Lee

Original Article

How close are the Penguins to becoming the Blackhawks or Kings?

Dynasties don’t always fade away. Sometimes they just crumble and collapse into a smoldering pile of ruin that cannibalizes itself and everything around it.

Sure, we sometimes throw the word “dynasty” around in sports a little too loosely, and I admit I am probably doing that here for the purpose of this argument, but hey … I needed a starting point. Even though NHL’s salary cap era has not produced a true “dynasty” comparable to the likes of the Edmonton Oilers, New York Islanders, or Montreal Canadiens, there have been three teams that have stood out above the pack and achieved a level of success no other team has come close to matching.

The Los Angeles Kings won two Stanley Cups in three years.

The Chicago Blackhawks won three in six.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have won three (with a fourth appearance in the Stanley Cup Final) in 10 years.

Those three teams have combined to win eight of the Stanley Cups in the salary cap era, including eight of the previous 10.

While none of them on their own qualify as a true “dynasty,” they have still been the defining teams of this era.

Two of them, the Blackhawks and Kings, are already in the smoldering pile phase of their franchise progression.

The Kings have missed the playoffs more than they’ve made them since winning their second Stanley Cup in 2014, have not won a playoff series, and just wrapped up a 2018-19 season where they spent the year competing with the Ottawa Senators for the worst record in the league.

The Blackhawks have not won a playoff series in three years since their 2015 Stanley Cup win and have missed the playoffs in each of the past two seasons.

Is this sort of bleak stretch in the Penguins’ future? Well, the long-term answer is most certainly yes, it is, because Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are not going to play forever, and there is going to come a point even when they are playing that they may not be able to carry the team to the playoffs. Hell, you don’t have to look far to see the track the Penguins have been on the past two years, going from back-to-back Stanley Cups, to a second-round exit, to a first-round sweep after clinching a playoff spot in Game 81 of the regular season.

That is coming down from the top of the mountain, friends, and there is nothing wrong with that. Nobody stays at the top forever, and at least if you are a Penguins, Kings, or Blackhawks fan you have a bunch of banners to show for it.

As the old saying goes: Banners hang forever.

But how close are the Penguins to truly falling to the bottom and living in the reality that Blackhawks and Kings have spent the past few years in (and maybe the next couple, at least)?

It will happen at some point, but I’m not sure the Penguins are there just quite yet.

First, even though the “core” of Crosby, Malkin, Letang, etc. are getting older, I feel like they have more of a graceful decline ahead of them than the core players of the Kings and Blackhawks.

The Kings’ core really wasn’t that impressive to begin with, was it?

Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty are great — but that was about it. Their run of championships was never one that was built on skill or remarkably deep rosters. It was built on suffocating, systematic defensive work and hoping that Jonathan Quick could catch fire for a couple of months and rise above his otherwise mediocre track record as an NHL starting goalie. I’m not saying the Kings were frauds as champions (they were a legitimately great for three years!) but they just didn’t seem to have the type of roster that was set-up for long-term, sustained success over a decade or so.

Once their handful of high-level players started to slow down, there wasn’t much left around them to make up for it. When a player like, say, Dustin Brown loses a step, he doesn’t have much else to fall back on.

The Blackhawks are a little tougher to get a read on on where things went so sideways for them.

Corey Crawford’s health issues over the past two years have definitely had a negative impact on their overall performance, and when you lose a really good starting goalie and don’t have anyone to fall back on, that is going to create a lot of problems. I also think a lot of the Blackhawks’ problems are a little self-inflicted in the sense that they stayed too loyal to the wrong players (see: Seabrook, Brent) and made some irrational decisions based on one bad postseason result (trading a first-line player like Artemi Panarin to bring back a lesser player in Brandon Saad — one that they were, again, probably staying too loyal to because of the team success).

Full Article

By: Gretz

Blackhawks still on the outside looking in after winning streak

When the Boston Bruins snapped the Chicago Blackhawks’ winning streak at seven games Tuesday night, it brought to light how little the run actually meant in the bigger picture. The Blackhawks have certainly improved in the second half, but are still on the outside looking in by a substantial margin.

Even after stockpiling points over the last few weeks, Chicago is currently 12th in the Western Conference and virtually tied with the Edmonton Oilers in points percentage, who trail by two points but have two games in hand. The Blackhawks are four points behind the Minnesota Wild in for the final wild-card spot and would have to leapfrog three more teams to get there, two of which hold games in hand, too.

The upcoming schedule for the ’Hawks is light; it features five home contests and six non-playoff teams out of eight games. However, the schedule is not as easy the rest of the way. If management takes another small stretch of success before the deadline to mean that the team should not be sellers this season, it could be a mistake.

Given that Chicago’s top rentals are not imperative to winning anyway – Marcus Kruger, Chris Kunitz, Andreas Martinsen, Cam Ward – the best and most likely course of action will be for the Blackhawks to entertain all trade offers over the remaining days before the deadline and not engage in any buyer talk.

  • The Blackhawks announced Wednesday that center David Kampf has been placed on injured reserve. Although the placement is retroactive to Feb. 5, do not expect Kampf back soon. NBC Sports Chicago’s Charlie Roumeliotis notes that the timeline to return is three to four weeks, making a reappearance by Kampf before the end of the month unlikely. Kampf has 16 points in 50 games for the Blackhawks this season and has been a solid bottom-six forward for the team in his second year since making the jump from Europe.
  • The silver lining to Kampf’s injury, as Roumeliotis points out, is that it opens up a roster spot for goaltender Corey Crawford to potentially make his return. Crawford has reportedly been getting close to game readiness and after missing the past two months while battling concussion symptoms. If Crawford is able to return and at least show that he is capable of splitting time with rookie Collin Delia, that would give the Blackhawks even further encouragement to peddle veteran backup Ward before the deadline rather than carry three goalies.
  • Luc Snuggerud worked quickly to find a new team after his contract was terminated by the Blackhawks on Monday. The young defenseman has signed with a rather obscure club, the Stavanger Oilers in Norway. The team announced a contract for the remainder of the season with Snuggerud. While hockey is growing in Norway, the national pro league is not considered to be among the elite in Europe. In fact, on the entire Oilers roster, including eight North American skaters, only Greg Mauldin has any NHL experience. As such, Snuggerud is expected to step in and make an immediate impact for Stavanger, which is what he was unable to do in the Blackhawks organization.

Original Article

By Zach Leach

Ranking all the NHL alternate jerseys from the 2018-19 season

After a spell without them, third jerseys are back for the NHL! Now, that may cause fear to rise in your gullet. At least it will if you are old enough to remember that first wave of (largely hideous) third jerseys from the ‘90s. Somehow, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks managed to make themselves look even worse! The NHL didn’t have alternate/third jerseys last year due to switching all their jerseys to Adidas. Now Adidas is able to crank out third jerseys for what is expected to be about 15-20 teams. Some of the looks have been seen before but not for the past few years. Here’s a look at all the third jerseys we know about, ranked in terms of quality.

21. Arizona Coyotes

Apparently we’re at a place where we’re willing to nostalgically accept these Coyotes jerseys as existing? Until they changed their look to a simpler style, Arizona, then Phoenix, was rivaled by only the Minnesota Wild for worse look in the league. We don’t care if they’re ironically bringing back the Kachina jerseys. They still look bad and are WAY too busy for a sports uniform.

20. Anaheim Ducks

Sorry, we aren’t going to buy your nostalgia, take two. The Anaheim logo with the duck-shaped hockey mask was dumb then, and it’s dumb now. However, the purple-and-teal look feels like it has aged a little better. The stripes are nice. The logo is still hot garbage.

19. New York Islanders

There are two things going against the Islanders’ third jerseys. One, it’s basically a replicant of the black third jersey they wore before, but now it’s blue. Two, it’s not an interesting logo, and it’s much worse than the traditional Islanders logo. It also lacks the kitschy fun of the fisherman logo. Just blah all around.

18. Philadelphia Flyers

These jerseys are too basic to be offensive but also too boring to be interesting. They look fine. This is a shrug in hockey jersey form. They better wear it around Halloween.

17. Los Angeles Kings

Straight up, we miss the yellow-and-purple crown look from the expansion era. Instead of that, the Kings are going with another gray alternate, a slight tweak from their 50th anniversary look. It’s not a bad look, but it doesn’t really stir up much in the way of feelings.

 

16. Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks and the Bruins aren’t wearing third jerseys, per se, but they did wear retro looks for the Winter Classic. Both are harkening back to their ‘30s looks. These Chicago ones are kind of crazy because they are just black and white. A Blackhawks jersey without a hint of red? That’s practically sacrilege!

15. Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers’ jersey is good and a reflection of their old look for their 40th anniversary. However, it’s not all that different from their usual look. They are just wearing a bright royal blue with the orange. It pops, but it’s not different enough to rank too high.

14. San Jose Sharks

Shocker! The Sharks have a black alternate jersey. Back in the day, “third jersey” basically meant “black jersey,” but now that isn’t the case so this isn’t quite as eye-rolling. They also have made the new logo blacker as well, borrowing from the aesthetic choices of “Spinal Tap.” And there’s a new shoulder logo with a fin poking out of the water, which is actually cool.

 

13. Ottawa Senators

Everything is terrible about the Senators…save for their expected third jersey. They are bringing back their centennial look, which has a great old school vibe. Their logo is just a big “O.” The simplicity works.

12. Pittsburgh Penguins

Like a character from the least-popular Austin Powers movie, the Penguins seem to love gold. That being said, these jerseys really pop. They are bright but not garish, and gold is deeply tied to Pittsburgh sports. The Stanley Cup may be silver, but gold still has its charm in the NHL.

11. Winnipeg Jets

The Jets’ look is cool. The blue they usually sport works great, the lettering of the logo is sharp, and I really like the stripe. It definitely is a classy jersey, but the Jets have such a good look normally, it feels like an unnecessary alternative.

10. Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto is expected to kick it very old school again by busting out its St. Pats jerseys, a shout out to a defunct hockey team based in the city. Hey, you can always wear it on St. Patrick’s Day and have it be a hit. It’s weird to see the Maple Leafs not wearing blue, but to be fair they also aren’t even wearing the words “maple” or “leafs.” That’s fun in and of itself, and the St. Pats jerseys are pretty nice as well

Full List

By: Chris Morgan

 

2019 NHL All-Star rosters announced

The NHL has announced the four rosters for the 2019 All-Star Game today, scheduled to be held on January 26th in San Jose. Earlier today, Alex Ovechkin, who was elected captain of Metropolitan Division squad, told the league that he wouldn’t be attending and will accept the punishment of missing one game either before or after the break. Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, and Auston Matthews will represent the Pacific, Central and Atlantic respectively, as the other captains. A replacement captain for Ovechkin has yet to be named.

The full rosters are as follows:

Pacific Division

John Gibson (ANA)
Marc-Andre Fleury (VGK)

D Erik Karlsson (SJS)
Brent Burns (SJS)
Drew Doughty (LAK)

Connor McDavid (EDM)*
Johnny Gaudreau (CGY)
Joe Pavelski (SJS)
F Elias Pettersson (VAN)
F Clayton Keller (ARI)

Central Division

Pekka Rinne (NSH)
Devan Dubnyk (MIN)

D Roman Josi (NSH)
D Miro Heiskanen (DAL)

Nathan MacKinnon (COL)*
Mikko Rantanen (COL)
Blake Wheeler (WPG)
Patrick Kane (CHI)

Mark Scheifele (WPG)
F Ryan O’Reilly (STL)

Atlantic Division

Jimmy Howard (DET)
G Carey Price (MTL)

Keith Yandle (FLA)
D Thomas Chabot (OTT)

F Auston Matthews (TOR)*
F Nikita Kucherov (TBL)
F Steven Stamkos (TBL)
John Tavares (TOR)

F David Pastrnak (BOS)
F Jack Eichel (BUF)

Full List

By Zach Leach

Bruins’ Brad Marchand set to return for Winter Classic

The Boston Bruins should get a boost just in time for the Winter Classic on Tuesday against the Chicago Blackhawks. NHL.com’s Dan Rosen reports that Brad Marchand should be ready to go after practicing today, barring any setbacks. He missed Saturday’s game with an upper-body injury, but it looks like it wasn’t a serious issue.

Marchand is having another solid campaign with 12 goals and 41 points in 39 games this season.

Rosen also reports that defenseman Charlie McAvoy remains questionable for the big game. McAvoy has missed two games with a lower-body injury and did not practice today. The gifted defenseman has struggled with injuries and has appeared in just 17 games this year, although he has 11 points.

In other NHL injury notes:

  • Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post writes that Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen will be out Monday against Nashville and miss his second straight game with an undisclosed upper-body injury. However, the team got better news on Brooks Orpik, who is listed as a game-time decision for Monday after missing 27 games with a right-knee injury. Khurshudyan reports both players practiced Sunday and are close to returning. The team has also been without Christian Djoos.
  • The Pittsburgh Penguins could be without forward Bryan Rust and defenseman Olli Maatta on Monday as both are listed as day-to-day, according to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Matt Vensel. Rust didn’t practice today with an undisclosed injury, and Maatta suffered a lower-body injury during Saturday’s game against St. Louis, but finished the game. He also didn’t practice today.
  • Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reports that Senators center Jean-Gabriel Pageau is close to a return. While he’s not expected to play Monday, he could be back not long after that. The 26-year-old has been out all season after having surgery to repair a torn Achilles. He had a six-month timetable in mid-September and is well ahead of schedule. Pageau had 14 goals and 29 points last season.

By Holger Stolzenberg

Original Article

The most surprising developments of the NHL season so far

The one constant in any given NHL season should always be to expect the unexpected because there is always going to be something that surprises you — maybe even shocks you.

The team that you thought might stink could turn out to be good for some bizarre reason.

The player you pegged as an offseason flop might catch lightning in a bottle and excel.

The player who was supposed to put the Stanley Cup contender over the top? Well, that might be the one who flops and ends up holding the team back.

We have seen a lot of those scenarios playing out over the first quarter of the NHL season.

Among them…

The Max Pacioretty trade is working…for Montreal

After more than a year of constant rumors and trade speculation, the Montreal Canadiens finally put an end to all of the drama and sent Max Pacioretty, their best goal-scorer and one of their best players from the past decade, to the Vegas Golden Knights.

At the time it looked to be a huge score for a Vegas team that stunned the hockey world a year ago by reaching the Stanley Cup Final in its debut season, and it would finally kick off a much-needed rebuild in Montreal.

In return, the Canadiens received a package of players centered around Tomas Tatar, who was a total flop in Vegas after he was acquired at the trade deadline this past season, and 2017 first-round pick Nick Suzuki.

So far it has gone the exact opposite way anyone could have anticipated.

Through Vegas’ first 19 games (of which Pacioretty appeared in only 15 due to injury), he has managed just two goals and two assists, while Tatar, who seems to have rediscovered his scoring touch in Montreal, has recorded 16 points (including eight goals) in his first 19 games. Suzuki, meanwhile, has continued to dominate in the Ontario Hockey League.

At some point Tatar is going to cool off, and Pacioretty is going to rebound. And ultimately the key player to this trade for Montreal was — and will continue to be — Suzuki. But it’s still been shocking to see how this trade has worked out in the early going, even if it doesn’t last.

For now though it is a primary reason why Montreal has been one of the biggest surprise teams in the league and why Vegas has been one of the early disappointments.

Max Domi: offensive machine

Sticking with the Canadiens for a second, their other big offseason trade saw them send Alex Galchenyuk to the Arizona Coyotes in a one-for-one swap for Max Domi.

Domi was coming off back-to-back disappointing seasons in the desert where he managed just nine goals in each, with four of his goals a season ago coming as empty-netters. It seemed that his offense had completely dried up after a promising rookie season.

But just like the Tatar-for-Pacioretty trade, this one has found a way to work out for Montreal in the early going.

Through Thursday, Nov. 15, Domi had already scored 10 goals (all of them with an opposing goalie in the net) and was one of the league’s top-10 total point producers. Even if it is an unsustainable pace, he is still going to crush his numbers from the previous two years.

The Blackhawks fire Joel Quenneville

It should have been expected that the Chicago Blackhawks might struggle this season. They had not won a playoff series in three years and were coming off their first non-playoff season in nearly a decade. The core is getting older, the depth is getting thinner and the salary cap space is still perpetually getting tighter for them. At some point they were going to start making some changes, and eventually that was going to lead to the end of the Joel Quenneville era. It was just surprising to see that after everything Quenneville did for the franchise that he was let go as quickly as he was, especially when a lot of the team’s recent struggles are probably out of his hands.

The Blackhawks were done in a year ago by an injury to starting goalie Corey Crawford and the fact that they had no capable backup to fill in for him.

This year the problem is that the roster, outside of the top four or five players, just really isn’t that good, and that responsibility has to fall on the front office.

Eventually it will. Because once the Blackhawks continue to struggle under a new coach (and given the roster, they will), the next change will be at the top.

Full Article

By Adam Gretz

Top 15 Dates to Watch in the 2018-19 NHL Season

We’re just a few weeks removed from the Washington Capitals clinching the Stanley Cup and we’re already looking ahead to the 2018-19 season.
The Capitals kick off their title defense on Oct. 3 at home against the Boston Bruins, a team with high hopes of their own entering the season, and that’s only the start of the fun. Washington will also have a new twist on its rivalry with the Pittsburgh Penguins as the Caps will get a rematch with their Cup Final nemeses.
With a host of rumored big-name trades, the NHL draft and free agency in the coming days of the offseason, there’ll be plenty more dates to circle on the hockey calendar, but here’s what we’ve already got our eyes on for the upcoming season:

OCTOBER 3, 2018: BRUINS @ CAPITALS
After a summer of raging partying, Alex Ovechkin and Co. will raise their championship banner to the Capital One Arena rafters. Barry Trotz won’t be behind the bench, but it will be the first step in the Caps’ Stanley Cup title defense.

OCTOBER 4, 2018: CAPITALS @ PENGUINS
Any game between these two has been a hyped-up matchup since Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby entered the league, but with Ovi having added a Cup to his resume—and the Caps having finally gone through the Penguins to get it—this matchup will have some new twists thrown in for good measure.

OCTOBER 6, 2018: OILERS VS. DEVILS
Ted Lindsay award winner Connor McDavid and the Oilers will face off against reigning Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall and the Devils in Gothenburg, Sweden.

OCTOBER 10, 2018: GOLDEN KNIGHTS @ CAPITALS
It’s a Stanley Cup Final rematch, the first time the teams meet in the season. Things may look a little different on the ice for both after free agency (John Carlson, James Neal, etc.), though the competition level shouldn’t disappoint.

NOVEMBER 1-2, 2018: PANTHERS VS. JETS
The Panthers and Jets take things abroad to Helsinki, which will be a fun homecoming for Finnish natives and burgeoning superstars Patrik Laine and Aleksander Barkov.

NOVEMBER 23, 2018: RANGERS @ FLYERS
The Metropolitan Division rivals will take the ice for the Thanksgiving Day Showdown at Wells Fargo Center in an afternoon matchup that will give fans something to watch as they emerge from turkey-induced comas.

NOVEMBER 28, 2018: DUCKS @ PANTHERS
This game marks a matchup between two teams celebrating their 25th seasons in the NHL. It doesn’t seem all that long ago that they were part of the 1993-94 expansion, but both have come a long way since their expansion draft days, especially in the uniform department.

DECEMBER 23, 2018: KINGS @ GOLDEN KNIGHTS
The first of four matchups between two burgeoning rivals and a pair of the league’s premier smack-talking twitter accounts. Based on your personal preferences, consider this your notice to prepare to log on, log off or set up your muted terms well in advance. We’re guessing Vegas won’t hesitate to mention a playoff sweep, but we’re also eager to see how Los Angeles fires back.

JANUARY 1, 2019: BRUINS @ BLACKHAWKS
It seems like the Bruins and Blackhawks have been featured in every outdoor NHL game—they’ve combined to be in five of 10 Winter Classic matchups so far—but on New Year’s Day at Notre Dame Stadium, they’ll go head-to-head in the elements for the first time.

JANUARY 11, 2019: SABRES @ HURRICANES
OK, so maybe this one is looking a little too far ahead for a couple of reasons, but if everything goes as planned, this would be the first matchup between the top two picks in the 2018 draft, Rasmus Dahlin and Andrei Svechnikov. It should be a fun look at two players leading the way for their rebuilding franchises.

JANUARY 18, 2019: ISLANDERS @ CAPITALS
Barry Trotz, who resigned from the Capitals earlier this week and has all but taken the coaching vacancy with the Islanders just days after, returns to D.C. with his new team.

JANUARY 25-26: NHL ALL-STAR WEEKEND
The always-fun Skills competition takes place on Friday in San Jose at the SAP Center and will provide all the GIF-able moments fans can handle and at least one big-name player will steal the show. On Saturday, buckle up for another installment of the 3-on-3 All-Star tournament and another chance for an unlikely hero to emerge.

FEBRUARY 23, 2019: PENGUINS @ FLYERS
The Keystone State rivals bring their game outdoors for the second time in three seasons as part of the NHL Stadium Series at Lincoln Financial Field.

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By:Michael Blinn

Blackhawks deal Marian Hossa’s contract, Vinnie Hinostroza in seven-player deal with Coyotes

The Blackhawks have traded Marian Hossa’s contract to the Arizona Coyotes in a seven-player deal that includes Vinnie Hinostroza, Jordan Oesterle and a third-round pick in 2019. The deal helped the Blackhawks clear Hossa’s $5.275 million cap hit for the next three years.

In return the Blackhawks will receive forwards Marcus Kruger, MacKenzie Entwistle, Jordan Meletta and defenseman Andrew Campbell and a 2019 fifth-round pick.

It’s not surprising the Blackhawks found a partner to take Hossa’s contract off their hands, given the salary cap floor increased by $3.4 million. But they paid a price they were likely hoping to avoid in attaching Hinostroza, who recently signed a two-year extension with the Blackhawks that carries a cap hit of $1.5 million.

Hinostroza established career highs in all three scoring categories last season with seven goals and 18 assists for 25 points in 50 games. He also had the second-highest points-per-60 minutes average at 5-on-5 for the Blackhawks last season at 1.98, a rate only Patrick Kane topped at 2.16.

Removing Hossa’s contract gives the Blackhawks flexibility in terms of roster movement going forward, and perhaps allows them to be more open-mind about a potential trade that benefits both the short-term and long-term after a quiet free agency.

Full Article Here

BY: Charlie Roumeliotis

Blackhawks Put 10 Goals On Penguins, Beat Defending Champs

Written by Cody Benjamin at CBS Sports.com

The Pittsburgh Penguins aren’t too far removed from getting Stanley Cup championship rings for the second time in as many years, and they entered the 2017-18 season as the consensus favorites atop the Eastern Conference.

But if the defending champs’ first two games of the new year are any indication (and, to a large extent, they shouldn’t be), there is at least a little reason for concern in Steel City.

First, there was a 5-4 overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues on the NHL’s opening night, a rough debut for Matt Murray in the goalie’s first start as the full-time net-minder post-Marc-Andre Fleury. And then? Then there was Thursday.

By night’s end, Murray had been summoned from the bench in relief of ex-Dallas Star Antti Niemi, which in and of itself is probably never a good sign for the Pens, and Pittsburgh fell at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks by a score of — wait for it — 10-1.

Repeat: 10-1.

In other words, things couldn’t have been worse for the defending champs at United Center, just a day after they raised the title banner at PPG Paints Arena. And things couldn’t have been better for Chicago in the home debut of its nostalgic reunion tour, what with Brandon Saad notching a hat trick to help his new (old) buddies throttle the Penguins.

Chicago didn’t waste time chasing Niemi from the net, dropping four goals on Pittsburgh’s new No. 2 in the first 9:16 of action and, at one point, lighting the lamp three straight times in a span of less than three minutes. And despite an 0-for-6 finish on power plays over the course of the night, the Blackhawks got contributions up and down their lineup, scoring more in the first period alone than they did in all of the 2016-17 postseason — Ryan Hartman had four assists, Patrick Kane totaled four points and a goal of his own, Nick Schmaltz had a pair of goals and Patrick Sharp, another acquisition back at home in Chicago, also put one into the Pens net to make it 5-0 at the end of the first period.

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