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The Penguins: And the Kids Shall Lead The Way – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

The Penguins: And the Kids Shall Lead The Way

Will the real Pittsburgh Penguins please stand up?

In Jekyll and Hyde fashion, the Pittsburgh Penguins traded 4 – 0 shutouts over their latest back-to-back series. Captain Sidney Crosby broke out of a scoreless slump in a big way, nurturing the kids Daniel Sprong and Dominik Simon to get 1 goal and 3 assists and capturing the 1st star of the game.

Perhaps the most interesting sight for me during the game was a scene before a face-off where Crosby was flanked by the two young wingers on the bench looking over the iPad to learn from the previous play. Is “Sid the Kid” tackling a new role; that of teacher?

Sprong opened up the scoring on a 2 on 1. Crosby cruised in down the left wing, sprung free from solid defensive work of Simon with Sprong breaking down the right wing. As the Isles’ defense committed toward Crosby he feathered a sweet pass across the slot to Sprong, who deposited it into a wide open net.

The old guard then got into the act with Evgeni Malkin slamming a onetime pass from Crosby into a wide open net just like Sprong. Phil Kessel notched the secondary helper. It was Malkin’s 15 of the season.

Crosby kept pace with Malkin netting his 15th goal of the season for the Penguins’ third goal of the game. Crosby did most of the work, dazzling the Isles’ defenders with some tight circle skating before dropping the puck off to Sprong in the right wing circle. Sprong ripped a shot that bounced off of the boards, right back to Crosby. Crosby wasted little time depositing the puck past Jaroslav Halak. It appeared that Halak read the play well but still couldn’t stop the Penguins’ Captain. Simon picked up the secondary helper for his 2nd assist of the night and 4th of the season.

Sprong finished the scoring with a beautiful goal, walking off the left wing boards toward the slot before roofing the puck over Halak’s glove into the top corner of the net. Crosby and Schultz notched the assists.

However, Sprong’s 1st goal is all that the Penguins needed as Tristan Jarry rejected all 31 shots that eluded the Penguins’ skaters, collecting his 2nd career shutout. There were several contributors to Penguins Poop who suggested that Jarry should have started the season in Pittsburgh.

Although Crosby earned and was given the 1st star of the game, a second story line really shared top billing. The Kids led the way; Jarry with his shutout, Simon with his 2 assists, 1 shot and +3, and Sprong with his 2 goals, 1 assist, 6 shots, and +3, juiced up the Penguins’ Captain. Again, many contributors here on Penguin Poop, including myself, have been pushing for these kids to be given a chance and we were given just what we asked for. It was only 1 game, but if Mike Sullivan stops his frenetic line juggling they may just start a string of wins. The Crosby – Sprong – Simon line kept getting stronger with each shift.

Now if the Penguins could just find a legitimate 3rd line Center to free Guentzel back up to play wing on Malkin’s line with Kessel and the team may fight its way back to a play-off spot.

Phil Krundle and Rick Buker both suggested that a Kris Letang – Matt Hunwick pairing may provide dividends and although they looked fairly bad in the front end of the back-to-back series and Letang in particular had trouble handling the Islander’s version of Patrick Hornqvist, Anders Lee, they did show flashes of some chemistry. However, exemplifying that Jekyll and Hyde spirit mentioned above, particularly in the first period, they gave New York some good looks at Jarry. As I noted in my reply to Phil and Rick, these 2 could be a high reward/high risk combination. If the team gets the first goal, they could have big nights, but could seriously struggle if the team has to claw back up from giving up the first goal.

It sure is  much easier writing after a win!

Next up for our Penguins; they play host to the Boston Bruins on Sunday at 7 pm. Please get the back-to-back wins. Make no mistake about it, I am a Matt Murray fan, but the Penguins do have 2 legitimate young goalies. Reward Jarry for his efforts with another start. Ride the hot hand.

Odds and Sods

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton continued to roll as well, downing Springfield 4 – 2 while the big club was blanking New York. Scoring was spread out over 4 different players. Adam Johnson not only picked up a goal but had an assist as well. Ryan Haggerty got the game winner when he notched his 13th of the season.

The Penguins are blessed with some solid young goalies; Matt Murray won 2 Stanley Cups as a Rookie. Tristan Jarry notched his 2nd Shut Out last night to go along with his two assists. Casey DeSmith was named to the AHL All Star game. And Filip Gustavsson led his team, Sweden to 2nd place, only losing to team Canada in the finals. He posted a 1.81 GAA and a .924 SV%. Could this represent assets the Penguins can use to their advantage as trade bait?

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11 Comments

  1. Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
    January 6, 2018 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Hey all,

    Our Pens have been the very definition of inconsistent, haven’t they? Kinda’ reminds me of that old Jerry Reed song, “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot (When You’re Not, You’re Not).”

    There’s been very little in-between, especially of late. They’re either on or they’re off.

    The upside? At least we’re having games now where we somewhat resemble our Stanley Cup champion selves. And, as Other Rick so appropriately noted, the kids are making a difference.

    Provided we can iron out the peaks and valleys (or, perhaps, turn some of those valleys into peaks), maybe we still have a shot at making the playoffs.

    Rick

  2. The Other Rick's Gravatar The Other Rick
    January 6, 2018 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Just a heads up, the Pens apparently just placed Corrado on Waivers. That probably means Dumoulin should be ready to come back. Corrado will have to clear waivers but should he, he will probably go back down to WBS.

  3. Jim's Gravatar Jim
    January 6, 2018 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Hi Coach,
    I am so glad to see Daniel score 2 goals in one game playing with Sidney. He has worked hard and he deserves it. Also another kid I am very high on, since his Junior days when he won everything possible for a kid playing Hockey. Tristan Jarry. ( WHL Championship,all star team, National Championship and played on a WJHC team as well.) There is no going back for Tristan now. He definitely is NHL caliber in talent. People should keep in mind that Matt Murray was the 5 th or 6th Goal tender taken during his draft year. He was not even on the radar in Canada at the time simply because there were several others who had a better junior career. No one predicted big things for Murray. To his credit he worked hard and also got a lucky break when MAF went down in 2016 and the rest is history.You know I too am a very big MM fan.
    At the time of his draft Tristan Jarry was the second goalie taken, and major expectations of him were written about. He has the potential to be that good.
    The reason I write all of this Coach is the lead up to the real story !!
    Fillip Gustavsson !! He was the first goalie taken in his draft year. At the time he was a boy playing with men. He had 2 other older Goaltenders ahead of him in the Swedish system so he never got to play the first year at the World Championships.
    This week he lead the powerful Swedish team to a Silver medal finish against an equally powerful Canadian Junior squad. The score was 3-1 in the Championship game. What was not written about in that 3-1 loss was Fillip stone walled the Canadians and the score was 1-1 up until the 59th minute of regulation play, when he was screened by his own player and the puck went in making it 2-1. He was pulled for the empty netter. Not his fault.
    His Coach sang his praises as did all the international media following the WJHC. He is the best 20 year old goalie not playing in the NHL on the planet as of today. Pen’s fans we are VERY lucky indeed.
    Should be very interesting in 2 years from now to see what the Pens will do.

    FYI Coach.I had a great conversation with Danny Grant recently about the importance of the First Round and to some degree the Second Round draft pick selections into the NHL as compared to 3rd, 4th, 5th.6 th round picks. They are the key . He said that the reason you want the top 50 kids, and really the top 20 kids in every draft year is that THEY get a chance to play in all the World Championships, National Championships, various regional tournaments and a lot of them are the leaders of their respected clubs.
    High level competition is the only way to make better hockey players… College programs do not offer the same level of Competition. Before someone jumps on me, Danny helped Coach UNB to it’s first National Championship ten years ago and helped build the Number One ranked Hockey program in our Country since then. At least 6 times they have made the final 4 and have won 4 more National Championships. He knows what he is talking about. As good as UNB is, very few players ever go on to the NHL.
    This is a long winded way of saying Coach, we need to start drafting high first round picks again because that is where the future lies. You can not win to many Cups if you do not have the right horses !
    Stay warm my friend.

    • The Other Rick's Gravatar The Other Rick
      January 6, 2018 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      Hey Jim,

      Not going to argue about getting a top 20 pick at all. That is why I always advocate trading a player while his stock is still high for a draft pick to extend the amount of time you can stay at the top. It makes me wonder if the Pens had made some deals over the last couple of years to position themselves not necessarily a Connor McDavid of Austin Matthews but a Mikko Rantanen, Matthew Brazal or Dylan Larkin, what would the team look like this year.

      • Jim's Gravatar Jim
        January 6, 2018 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

        Well Coach, one main difference is that we would have true NHL level talent that you could make a trade with and other GM’s would be calling us to trade, not the other way around.
        It has only been a few games but I do like the Jamie Oleksiak deal. With time and patience he might develop into a good 4-5 d man instead of the 6-7th d- man that I had visioned when we traded for him.
        He has good mobility, size and has not disappointed me so far. Best part Coach, he did not cost us much.
        We still need to make that big multi-player trade if we hope to get to the dance this year.
        Cheers,

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      January 6, 2018 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

      Hey guys,

      While I certainly don’t dispute the desirability of having high draft picks (which, hopefully, leads to drafting high-end talent), again I feel a need to offer a little perspective.

      Winning Stanley Cups while garnering high draft picks at the same time is an almost impossible task. To put it in weight-lifting terms, it’s like the guy who wants to get shredded AND gain strength at the same time. Sorry. It won’t happen unless he decides to take … uh … vitamins.

      The same goes for a hockey team that consistently finishes at or near the top of the standings, like our Pens have done 11 years running. Unless you’re able to swing deals to bump up to a higher pick, it means you’re stuck drafting in the 25-30 range. Heck, even if you trade up, it’s no guarantee of success. Derrick Pouliot’s a prime example.

      The only GM in my memory who consistently stockpiled top draft picks while his club was winning Stanley Cups was Montreal’s Sam Pollock, and that was in a totally different era. He made a living out of trading players who weren’t quite good enough to stick with the Canadiens to expansion teams desperate for talent, often for high first-round picks. Jim, your friend Danny Grant was a classic example.

      Heck, as late as the early ‘80s, the Canadiens were attempting to position themselves to draft Mario Lemieux. They almost succeeded, too.

      The only sure-fire way to consistently secure the kind of draft picks you’re talking about is endure some miserable seasons, like the Pens did in the early ‘80s prior to picking Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr, and again in the early 2000s, which led to us picking Sid and Geno.

      Edmonton’s a more recent example. And despite enjoying a wealth of premium picks (Nail Yakupov, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid to name a few), they still haven’t turned the corner.

      Back to my original point. It’s a very rare occurrence in this day and age when you can have your cake (win Stanley Cups) and eat it, too (draft high).

      Rick

      • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
        January 6, 2018 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

        Hey Rick,

        I hate to argue with you on this point Rick, and would prefer not walk thru the biochemistry of it, but strength training is not incompatible with fat burning, one will naturally follow the other if the person doesn’t over-train and supports their training with proper nutrition. Granted it does get easier if a person supplements with the “Vitamin Pills” that Super Star Billy Graham got off of his friend Ken Patera but still possible for those of us who choose to remain clean.

        In the same vein, although not easy, it is possible to keep drafting in the top 20 even when winning Stanley Cups. First let’s remember we aren;t talking about drafting generational players like Lemieux, Crosby, Malkin, or McDavid, nor am I suggesting that drafting top 5 players could be regularly done, I am only suggesting that getting top 20 picks is possible. What a team does with them after they get them is another story. I am just talking about getting them.

        With 31 teams in the league, as the trade dead line nears, there are always at least 10 – 12 teams vying for those 4 Wild Card spots that would be thinking that they may only need that one player with Stanley Cup experience to get them over the top. Trading off a player at this point to one of those teams would ensure a pick maybe somewhere in that 15 – 20 range and possibly even down into the 12 range if the team tanks from lack of chemistry.

        Imagine if the Penguins had traded off Sheary before he had such a miserable play-off. A young kid with a Stanley Cup under his belt, heading toward a 20 goal season and although at the end of his contract, still RFA, could have garnered a top pick.

        If this is done consistently, then there would always be a top 20 pick in the pipe line to step up into the void.

        The chances of getting a generational player would be low, since you never allow yourself to bottom out, but Hockey is a team sport still. It hasn’t turned itself into the pompous spectacle other sports have devolved into. So, generational players may be box office draws and they do help get Cups but are not required. Mario only got 2 during his playing career. Many teams without generational players won in that same span.

        • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
          January 7, 2018 at 1:34 am | Permalink

          Hey Other Rick,

          With all due respect, it’s easy in hindsight to say, “Hey, let’s trade Sheary for a top-20 pick while his value is still high.”

          First of all, I doubt if anybody would’ve parted with a premium draft pick for Sheary (no offense to Conor), even when he was lighting it up last season. Other GMs aren’t dumb…they see the same flaws and shortcomings that we do. After all, they evaluate talent for a living.

          Second, back when Sheary was racking up points as part of the original ‘Sid and the Kids,’ I didn’t hear anyone clamoring to move him at the trade deadline.

          Put yourself back in the context of that time frame, and I think you’ll agree that most of us thought that line–Sheary included–would be a force going forward.

          I’m not saying it’s impossible to plot a course that allows you to occasionally move a player for a high-end pick. But we need to be realistic, too. To get that kind of return, you have to move one of your core players. You’re simply not going to get a top-20 pick for second-tier talents like Guentzel and Sheary.

          Rick

          • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
            January 7, 2018 at 9:14 am | Permalink

            Hey Rick,

            Although I have always liked Sheary, I have always advocated trading him. There is a very good reason why the David – Goliath story is so cherished and venerated, it only happens once every 4 or 5 thousand years. He is a good kid, works hard, and is inspirational. There are still people around here that no doubt would fight very hard to keep him here. And last year, during the stretch run, when he was putting up goals and on pace for the 20g season (not an easy thing to do last year or in several previous seasons), with the pressure on teams to try and grab one of those wild card spots, there most certainly would have been someone who would have traded a pick for him. Whether you want to look at it from a more positive perspective; “Hope Springs Eternal” of a more negative PT Barnum, “There is a sucker born every minute” I am pretty sure someone would have bit.

            But that was just an example from last year. When Paul Martin was UFA, I strongly suggested on other sites (I hadn’t found Penguin Poop yet) that the team resign him stating that losing him would effectively cause the loss of 2 – D men, since he was the only D-man that ever really seemed to be able to balance Letang’s defensive lapses. Since then, although as I mentioned before, I do appreciate all that he has done for the team, from a business perspective, I have proselytized trading him. He most certainly would have brought back even top 10 picks if traded around draft day. As much as I loved Kunitz and mentioned that no look pass of his to Sheary against the Preds, he too could have garnered a top 20 pick near the trade dead line last year, from someone thinking they just needed his type of veteran leadership.

            The trade dead line frenzy and opening day of FA always cause an over-estimation of talent by teams with dreams of chasing a Cup. If JR could sell a bill of goods like Scuderi to Chi for Daley in the middle of the season, he most certainly could have unloaded other players at the trade dead line.

            • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
              January 7, 2018 at 9:43 am | Permalink

              Hey Other Rick,

              We’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one.

              While I appreciate your reference to P.T. Barnum and his oft-repeated credo, it isn’t like the old days when Craig Patrick palmed off an over-the-hill Tom Barrasso to then-Ottawa GM Marshall Johnston for Ron Tugnutt and Janne Laukkanen. The ever puzzling Daley-Scuderi swap aside, today’s GMs generally are much more plugged in.

              Also, to illustrate my point about high-draft picks and Stanley Cups being mutually exclusive, I decided to look at Chicago’s recent draft history, given that they’ve also won three Cups in the past decade.

              Here are their top overall draft positions going back to the ’09 Entry Draft. Like us, they did not have a losing season or miss the playoffs during that stretch.

              ’09: 28 (1st round)
              ’10: 24 (1st round)
              ’11: 18 (1st round)
              ’12: 18 (1st round)
              ’13: 30 (1st round)
              ’14: 20 (1st round)
              ’15: 54 (2nd round)
              ’16: 39 (2nd round)
              ’17: 29 (1st round)

              They’re not getting plum picks, either. And I think we can all agree that the ‘Hawks are a well-run organization under Stan Bowman.

              Rick

              PS–Sorry if I pushed back a little vehemently on this one…it’s kind of a hot-button topic with me.

            • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
              January 7, 2018 at 10:04 am | Permalink

              No worries Rick,

              I didn’t think you were pushing all that hard. I was always taught that when stating a case, state it in the strongest terms possible. Anything less is a disservice to all involved. Even when I am not 100% sure of myself, most times you will not be able to tell from the way I present my point.

              Pushing too hard for me means losing sight of civility and engaging in personal attacks.

              Besides we have known each other far too long to worry over minutia.


            

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