Warning: cultural reference ahead!
I was sitting here musing about this mandatory break from hockey that the Penguins are now enjoying. I couldn’t help but picture Gandalf and Pippin standing about in one of the towers of Gondor staring to the east at Mount Doom and the approaching horde, loosed by Sauron. Pippin asked Gandalf what it was. Gandalf replied “It is the deep breath before the plunge”.
The team is clinging precariously to the final Wild Card spot with 47 points. Three teams are tied 1 point behind them with 46 points. Philadelphia and Carolina have 2 games in hand and the New York Islanders have 1 game in hand. The players themselves are physically and mentally resting. After the Penguins take their deep breath they plunge right back into another of their seemingly endless array of back-to-back series; taking on a Detroit team that dismantled them in their first meeting on the front end and then the New York Rangers who sit 2 points above them, who they have split against so far on the back end.
In this reprise of JRR Tolkien’s book and Peter Jackson’s film, it would appear that Mike Sullivan has willingly taken on the role of Denethor II, sending out his battle weary but loyal sons to retake Osgiliath without any aid. For the bulk of the season he had refused to light the beacons of Gondor to summon any help from Rowhan/Wilkes Barre – Scranton (WBS). It is hard for us to really know what is going on behind the closed doors of the Penguin brain trust. We can only see things once action is taken. And it really appears that it took prodding from a Pippin to pressure the summoning of Daniel Sprong and Dominik Simon up to the big club to bolster physically and mentally weary team, lighting a huge fire under Captain Sidney Crosby who has taken on the role of teacher and mentor of the Kids with a passion.
A big question is, “is there more help that WBS can send?”
Another big question is, will Jim Rutherford walk the Dumholt road and make a trade for rental players to make that final run to defend the Penguins title. The players aren’t supposed to be doing anything hockey right now, but that doesn’t mean that Rutherford can’t.
Perhaps, had Rutherford made moves to set up the team for a better off-season during the play-off run last season, the team wouldn’t now be poised on the edge of a knife “stray but a little and it will fail to the ruin of all”? Free Agent signing Matt Hunwick has only scored 3 goals in his 27 games played, has a -7 for his plus minus and his even strength CORSI is -14 or only 48.9%. He hasn’t added to the offense or the defense. In fact, defensively he has been a contributor to their problems. He is one of the few players that is a negative in both the +/- and CORSI.
Ryan Reaves has fulfilled the role he was traded for. No one really wants to mess with the Penguins’ stars, especially now that Reaves has gotten a little help from Jamie Oleksiak. However, Reaves has added little else to the team. He has only added 3 goals to the team’s offense, has a -6 +/-, and has an even strength CORSI of -28 or only 47.3%. In his defense, Reaves hasn’t exactly been put in the best positions to succeed.
Is Rutherford putting these 5 days of break to good use? Is he working on a trade? The rumor mill is still turning; names like Evander Kane, Max Pacioretty, and Mike Hoffman are still swirling around. Sorry, I am no fan of rental players, I am more like Gimli; he did not want Aragorn to let the Grey Company go, he said they were “handy to have around in a fight”. If the Penguin were to make a move, I hope they learn from the past. I hope they keep in mind the string of failed of rental players.
Interestingly enough, I haven’t read much about the Penguins looking for a 3rd line Center anymore. This started me thinking, why? After a little thought, I am now wondering if the Penguins are thinking long term. Remembering back to training camp and the Prospect’s Tournament and the phenom Jordan Bellerive. Bellerive caused many heads to turn with his performance. He impressed the team enough to earn a contract.
Bellerive did earn a contract but he was very young, barely 18, so he was sent back down to the Juniors. Right now, Bellerive is lighting it up down in Lethbridge of the WHL. Last year he had 27 goals and 56 points in 70 games. Right now he has 24 goals and 54 points in 39 games. He is on pace to nearly doubling his output. His plus minus is not all that good at -5 but I am now wondering if the team is looking to not throw too much away on a third line Center, thinking that Bellerive could fill that role, if not next year, the following year.
If Bellerive had not earned a contract with Pittsburgh, where would he be projected in this year’s draft?
However, with the calm before the storm almost over, with a back-to-back series on the horizon the team, with the hordes of Mordor at the gates, the Penguins need to gird for the final run to the play-offs. Even a trade right now, today, will hardly make much difference for this coming weekend and the 4 points the team desperately need and most importantly need to deny any points to their opponents with regulation wins.
With the Shards of Narsil (the Penguins furious fore-check and shot attempt advantage) seemingly reforged, can we expect a “Return of the King”?
Lets go Pens!