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?