Penguins Dice Devils, Grab Home Ice – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Dice Devils, Grab Home Ice

I’ll say this about our Penguins. Win, lose or draw, they sure are fun to watch.

Talk about entertainment. There scarcely was a dull moment during the Pens’ 7-4 rout of New Jersey last night. A victory that, coupled with a Columbus loss, enabled the black and gold to sew up home-ice advantage for the opening round of the playoffs.

Although a big win no doubt, the contest had a decidedly un-postseason feel. In a fitting homage to Pens owner Mario Lemieux, the clubs combined for 66 shots on goal, including 38 by the home-standing Devils. Glorious scoring chances flowed like water through a busted flood gate at both ends of the ice.

In short, like so many of the Pens’ recent efforts, the game favored an on-ice track meet of sorts.

Still, while hardly a thing of beauty from a tactical standpoint, it’s tough to argue with the results. The Pens received production from all four lines. Each black-and-gold forward tallied at least one point. In fact, the only Pens who failed to register on the scoresheet were defensemen Ian Cole and Trevor Daley—the latter playing in his first game since February 21.

“Any time you get contributions throughout your lineup it increases your chances of winning games and I think it’s a sign of a real competitive hockey team,” coach Mike Sullivan said.

What the Pens lacked in positional polish, they more than made up for in oomph.  Once again, Sid and the Kids paced the attack, racking up two goals and five points on the night. In particular, Conor Sheary’s marker three minutes into the second period off a stunning, no-look, between-the-legs pass from Sidney Crosby, shook the Devils and reaffirmed the trio’s lethality.

Don’t look now, but the fourth line of Carter Rowney centering for Scott Wilson and speedy Josh Archibald is making a statement, too. Thrown together in Mulligan stew fashion, the unit’s collected seven points over a three-game span, including Archibald’s nifty tally from the left faceoff circle at 2:09 of the second. The third goal in eight games for the buzz-saw winger.

Others to tickle the twine? Bryan Rust and Jake Guentzel each struck for his 15th goal of the season in the first period to overcome an early one-goal deficit. Patric Hornqvist and Nick Bonino capped the offensive fusillade with power-play goals, sandwiched around a dynamic shorthanded tally by Matt Cullen at 1:56 of the third period.

While hardly Vezina-esque between the pipes, Matt Murray was tough when he had to be, stoning lightning-fast Taylor Hall on a third-period breakaway with the outcome still very much in the balance. “Muzz” stopped 34 shots despite numerous coverage lapses by his teammates to earn his 31st win. In the process, securing the coveted home-ice advantage for the locals.

“We’re happy playing on home ice,” said Bonino. “You need every advantage you can get.”


Evgeni Malkin accompanied the team on the road trip. He may play in one of the final two regular-season games this weekend.

Dominik Simon was recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. In 67 games with the Baby Pens, the 22-year-old forward tallied 14 goals and 45 points. He was a healthy scratch, along with defensemen Cameron Gaunce and Mark Streit.

Among the wounded, heavyweight forward Tom Sestito participated in a full practice. Defenseman Olli Maatta also took part, albeit with no contact.

*Be sure to check out Rick Buker’s books,
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  1. April 8, 2017 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Hey all,

    I’ve been a little out of pocket lately, but great thoughts and contributions as always.

    Guentzel has been a revelation, hasn’t he? Love this kid’s game. Fast, aggressive, skilled, smart…even a little chippy, an element we can always use. He plays it a little loose in his own end sometimes, but he’s still learning.

    To think I would’ve considered dangling him for Gabriel Landeskog at the trade deadline. Lord, would that have been a mistake! Thank goodness I’m not in charge of evaluating talent … 🙂

    Other Rick, I really (really) like our new fourth line. Wilson has excelled in a bottom-line slot all season, and Rowney—solid and responsible all along—has suddenly flashed some offense. He showed great hustle on Archibald’s goal—diving on his belly to keep the play alive before poking the puck to Wilson.

    Archibald’s been terrific. Really fast and feisty. Lest we forget, he drew Hobey Baker consideration in 2014, so he’s got some skill, too. He almost reminds me of a young Chris Kunitz, whose injury ironically opened the door.

    Like you, I don’t want to see this line broken up. Which, I fear, will happen when Geno returns and Cullen bumps Rowney to the press box.

    Still, as we know all too well, injuries do occur. I’m sure they’ll all see significant action come the postseason. And Sullivan’s proven he’s not afraid to go with the kids. I think he fully appreciates the value of having that energy and enthusiasm in the mix.

    Jim, excellent observations about Crosby. I’m so impressed with his leadership and maturity, not to mention his level of play. He’s a big part of the reason I think we have a legitimate shot at another Cup.

    Copy you on the Leafs. I was perusing scoring stats the other day, and their numbers literally leapt off the screen. Matthews and Kadri, 30-plus goals. Nylander and Van Riemsdyk, 20-plus. Marner, Brown and Bozak knocking on the door to 20. Heck, they’ve got more 50-point guys than we do.

    An amazing turnaround in a remarkably short period of time.

    Speaking of the Leafs, I feel kind of sorry for ex-Pen Eric Fehr. He’s only played one game for them so far. Given Mike Babcock’s preference for fast kids, obviously a case of the Leafs taking salary off the Pens’ shoulders because they have the room.

    Hopefully, he’ll wind up in a better spot next season.


  2. the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
    April 8, 2017 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    Hey Rick

    Just a quick little tid bit on Guentzel. Among Rookies who will play at least half the season in the NHL he has the best shooting % (19%), is 1st in P/60min (3.00), and 4th in P/GP (0.79). Maybe he wasn’t ready at the begining of the season, maybe he was, but I wonder what the rookie field would have looked like had he played here all season and not half in WBS.

    Speaking of WBS, how about those baby Pens, they hit the 100pnt total. First team this year to reach that mark despite having to deal with the big Pens constantly stealing their players to shore up the parent club’s ranks. Kudos to WBS!! You have to wonder how they do it.

  3. Jim's Gravatar Jim
    April 7, 2017 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    Hey Rick
    Very well written.For me it was amazing to see all the newbies and second stringers contributing on the score sheet. (I do not mean that in a negative way.) Not that long ago the names Crosby,Malkin,Kessel,Letang and Kunitz were the majority names on the score sheet.Last night I honestly had to look twice to associate the name with all the new face.Good problem to have.
    On another subject ….Crosby and the Rocket Richard Trophy. I noticed last game and the 2 previous games Sidney was not shooting the puck.He was not trying to blast 10 shots at the net as most previous award winners tended to do.
    My point is Sidney was more interested in team performance than idvidual awards. The mark of a true Captain and real leader.
    Should be a real good game in Toronto tommorrow. Now you guys will see what I see on my local media twice a week.
    I am not a Leaf fan but boy their young kids are fun to watch.There is about 8 of them.

  4. the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
    April 7, 2017 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Hey Rick,

    Offensively, when healthy, this team may not have an equal in the NHL today.

    Did you see Archibalds goal? That puck exploded off of his stick and when it some of the metal cage of the goal rang loud enough to clearly hear it through the television. AS much as I like Cullen, the overall speed of Rowney – Wilson – Archibald, combined with their physical tenacity is what I love in a fourth line.

    As you mentioned, that Sheary goal was something else with two back-hand passes.

    After Hornqvist’s goal, had it not been NJD, I would have felt sorry for Schneider. He made an unconscious, unbelievable save on Kessel’s, but even after that stunning save, he was victimized by the lunch pail hard work of Hornqvist who makes his living on cleaning up the garbage around the net.

    Abd how about the gutsy play of Hainsey who found a way to get the loose puck to Kuhnhackl after getting hurt and struggling to find a way off the ice during the PK. Then Kuhnhackl finding Cullen who tickled the twine.

    Yes, Offensively, that game against the Devils was fantastic.

    However, Defensively…well that was another story. I can’t find fault with Murray though, this game may earn an academy award for worst defensive performance by a play-off bound team. Screens, break aways, odd man breaks, weak breakout attempts, opponents cruising through the Pens slot unmolested, collecting loose puck, outright give aways in the D zone, JM must be going crazy watching pathetic excuse after pathetic excuse of defensive execution.

    If not for increadible save after increadible save from number 30, who was left swinging in the breeze, the Pens would still need one more loss from CBJ to clinch home ice. The Pens are down to the wire and they have given up three straight games of 35+ shots against. Infact in their last 19 games they have only been able to hold their opponents to less than 30 shots 5 times, only once to less than 25.

    • Jim's Gravatar Jim
      April 7, 2017 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

      Good Team Defense ? ? ☺

      • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
        April 7, 2017 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

        This incarnation of the Pens doesn’t seem to know what that term means.


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