Dominic Simon says, (at least the way he played) “I like it here in the NHL and don’t want to go back”. He was a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing 4 – 3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs last night. The youngster set up 2 of the teams three goals, had a shot on net, and was a +3 in his CORSI, being on the ice for 17 shot attempts the Penguins took but only 14 shot attempts that the Maple Leafs took. On the down side, he was also a -1 on his +/- for the night. However, that may have been more attributed to his line-mates in the first period. Mike Sullivan juggled the line-combinations and the young gun fought his way back up the score sheet from the second period on.
Over the last couple of weeks there has been a lot of talk about some of the Penguins younger players not being ready, defensively, to be brought up to the NHL and wanting to get them more seasoning in Wilkes Barre – Scranton (WBS); the Penguins’ first goal last night makes me really question those comments. Simon, started the play by racing from a defensive position of high in the slot, pretty much center point of his defensive zone, down into his own Right Wing (RW) corner to be the first player to the loose puck. He started to skate the puck towards the back of his own goal to get some space before seeing his Defenseman, Brian Dumoulin and passing it to him. Simon then took off up the ice like a proverbial bat out of that infernal region, angling from the RW back to his Left Wing (LW) position to take a return pass from Dumoulin, who he had flew past up ice. Simon then skated with authority into the attacking zone drawing all attention to him before slipping a neat little pass over to Riley Sheahan in the RW face off circle, who whipped in a bit of a “bunny” goal. Toronto Goalie, Frederick Anderson did get across his crease fairly quickly but never really looked set before Sheahan ripped a wrist shot past him, making the score 3 – 1.
After an exchange of goals including Evgeni Malkin’s 9th goal of the season, Simon went back to work with another nifty little play that would eventual set up the Penguins’ third goal. Just after the 17 minute mark of the third, with Casey DeSmith racing off the ice to allow the Penguins an extra attacker, the Penguins broke into the Maple Leafs zone. Kris Letang actually started the play, skating the puck towards the blue line before finding Jake Guentzel just inside the attacking zone. Guentzel, who was standing still chipped the puck to open ice, where Simon and Letang were charging. Simon, with the cool of a veteran, lifted the stick of Leafs’ superstar Austin Matthews and tapped the puck enough to get it over to Letang who found Sidney Crosby on the back door, giving the Penguins’ Captain an open net to tap the puck into and draw the team within 1 goal.
One game is hardly a basis for erecting a statue to the young Czech, neither are a couple of assists. However, the way Simon earned those assists does make a statement that the kid does deserve some attention.
Since I have never been one to shy away from controversy and will no doubt take some heat; in an interview between the second and third period, Dan Potash asked Simon a relatively innocuous question about being called up from the minors. Simon’s answer was interesting. Potash complimented Simon for having such a quick start down in WBS, but Simon chose to answer the Penguins announcer by saying (and this is not an exact quote) his confidence was a bit shaken when he was not given a call up after his fast start (a fast start when at the same time the parent team was struggling to score at even strength). Perhaps there was a bit of miscommunication, since English would not be the first language of a Czech, maybe Simon thought Potash was questioning what some are suggesting is a tailing off of his production lately in WBS, Which has happened; he hadn’t been getting on the score sheet as often lately. Regardless of the whys, Simon’s response would seem to speak to a state of mind. Simon’s statement also reinforces my musings that the Penguins often harm their prospects by burying them too long in the minors and mess with their confidence by benching them instead of benching under-performing veterans. It makes me wonder about other Penguins’ prospects.
Odds and Sods
Toronto started the game off with an explosion, getting 16 shots in the first period. To try and stem the tide Mike Sullivan replaced starter Tristan Jarry, with Casey DeSmith to start the second period. The little stratagem worked, Toronto only managed 9 shots the rest of the way. Unfortunately one of those shots found the back of the net. The goal wasn’t a clear cut goal. Tyler Bozak of Toronto deflected the shot down just under the cross-bar. According to the announcers NHL officials in Toronto reviewed the goal and said it was a good goal, basically saying that there wasn’t enough video evidence to over-turn it. However, correct me if I am wrong, but according to basic physics, if a puck is deflected in flight from about 2 or 3 feet from the goal crease and that puck barely slips under the cross-bar, doesn’t that mean that the stick that deflected the puck had to be above the cross-bar when it altered the flight path of the puck? If the stick was at or below the cross-bar when the puck struck the stick, would not the puck have angled farther below the cross-bar when it entered the net, particularly since the puck was still rising when Bozak’s stick touched it? Don’t get me wrong, it was a nice deflection, but it would seem that logic dictates that was, by definition, a high stick, whether or not you can see where the stick was in relation to the cross-bar, it physically had to be above the cross-bar.
Patric Hornqvist left the game at the 18 minute mark of the second period after getting hit in the head with the puck after a hard Letang pass was deflected upward. The puck appeared to hit the helmet above the ear and not under the face-shield. Hornqvist immediately left the ice. Let’s hope he is okay.
Even with no Hornqvist for the 3 period, Ryan Reaves and Riley Sheahan had less than 7 minutes of ice-time (6:45 and6:38 respectively); Reaves only took 1 shift in the 3rd. Conversely, the kid Simon earned 11:27 of ice time, often getting time with Crosby and Malkin. (Sheahan was on the ice for many of the Leafs’ goals.