The Penguins were back in the swing of things last night following the All-Star weekend and warmed most of our hearts with the announcement that Matt Murray would be making is return to the crease. Following the announcement that Murray would be starting wonderful tweets like these could be found on the Penguins page:
Gotta love the “offensive powerhouse” comment, especially considering Murray had 3 shutouts last postseason and his playoff stats currently look like this:
I’ve been studying medicine for long enough and I hate to tell ya Macob Jiloch but I can’t treat stupid. I shouldn’t be too surprised at the Murray hate though, considering a large portion of this mans Twitter followers live and die by the cock of MAF:
More deserving of a Penguins jersey retirement?
— Andrew Fillipponi (@ThePoniExpress) January 29, 2018
Granted Fillipponi’s followers aren’t the best representation of Penguins fans but come on man, one reply was “DEF Fleury, Jagr CHOSE to go.” Here’s the deal jack, MAF never wears the Penguin on his chest if Jagr doesn’t play like a God in the 1999 first round series against the Devils. Fleury is a great guy and there is argument for his number to be retired (maybe) but he doesn’t have a spastic sprawling leg to stand on in this matchup.
Man wouldn’t a 12 game winning streak through March be something this year?
54 times in team history is surprisingly low considering the Minnesota game was the 3,933rd game in franchise history.
Touched on this in the gameday, I hope this is a trend we continue seeing.
Well then Mr. Grove lets get to it.
As we expected Sullivan and Co ran with the same lines that they used in the previous two games along with the return of Matt Murray to his crease.
The Penguins put any of our worries that the four day break would interfere with their January momentum to ease relatively early as they came out of the gate looking ready to go. The Sharks were also flying around like crazy without Joe Thornton on the ice. Around the 7 minute mark this happened:
melker karlsson with a blatant slew floot on sid, no place in the game for this kind of play pic.twitter.com/8X0Kj4Yt1q
— ego (@EvgeniMaIkinEgo) January 31, 2018
Crosby gets called a crybaby while Matthews and McDavid mock referees with goal celebrations and get dubbed as “trying to do what’s right for the game,” okay. Karlsson would get 2 minutes for interference and Crosby would get 2 for roughing, so whatever. After almost 2 minutes of 4v4 hockey Bryan Rust takes a page out of the Phil Kessel overtime playbook to set up a really nice goal:
BRYAN RUST (5) Assisted by SHEAHAN (12) & COLE (7) @ 11:09
This is such a good finishing move by Rust and a great feed by Sheahan. Rust quickly turns to the backhand and Jones assumes he is going to try to roof it but instead Rust has his eyes on the five hole, and as soon as it opens he strikes. Now lets check out how the play happens. Rust picks up the puck at the top of the zone with all of his momentum carrying him towards the blue line; I would predict that 90% of players opt to throw this puck back down the boards and that is what makes this play special. Now watch Rust after he exits the zone:
What makes Bryan Rust a special type of player is that he not only understands the advantage of exiting the zone, he also keeps his feet moving after making the pass. Kudos to Sheahan for seeing the play develop but man what a great use of time, space and speed by Rust. You can see in the gif that the Sharks follow the puck and Sheahan into the zone and completely forget about Rust.
The Penguins would get a late powerplay opportunity but Mrs. Jones wasn’t having any of it and the period would finish 1-0.
The second period did not start the way the team wanted as Ian Cole was called for tripping less than a minute in, a trusted source close to the organization says the trip cost Cole the next four games. The Penguins would kill the penalty but the momentum San Jose built from their powerplay became the story of the second period. After 9 minutes of San Jose domination Justin Schultz got called for interference and Bob Errey started the Sharks powerplay by saying it looked like “you can’t beat him” in regards to Matt Murray’s play. Naturally, the Sharks would score 30 seconds later when Burns found a hole.
— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) January 31, 2018
Matt Murray’s view of things:
The Penguins almost answered on the very next shift but the goal would shift the Sharks into overdrive until they took a penalty of their own. The Penguins powerplay failed for the second time in a row and nearly gave up a goal after Letang turned the puck over at the blue line, Letang made a nice recovery after his mistake for what it is worth. Then Phil Kessel decided to smash a guys teeth in and the Pens were back to the penalty kill. Then Kris Letang decided to crosscheck a dude in front of the ref, despite his aggressive dispute of the call the ref didn’t overturn it and the Pens would go to a 5 on 3. The Sharks were everywhere on the powerplay and Couture would find a way through a desperation attempt from Murray.
— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) January 31, 2018
The period looked like it was going to wind down and with 17 seconds left the Sharks dumped it in deep. With 8 seconds left the Penguins dumped it in deep. Burns gets to the puck and decides to drop it to open space to kill the period, but American hero Phil Kessel was there to say this land is my land.
EVGENI MALKIN (24) Assisted by KESSEL (38) @ 19:55
It’s not just that Kessel was there. It’s not just that Malkin realized what happened and split to the open spot in a split second. It’s the fact that Kessel knew without looking that he needed to make a saucer pass. This is just next level hockey IQ on display by both Kessel and Malkin. Watch how quickly Malkin realizes and reacts to the situation, in one powerful stride he finds himself in the most dangerous area of the ice all alone:
Absolutely unreal play all made possible because Patric Hornqvist chased down Brent Burns with 8 seconds left instead of doing a casual fly by.
The Sharks finish the period with 31 attempted shots on goal with 23 getting to Murray in the frame to the Penguins 10. Matt Murray was very controlled and managed his rebounds well in his first game back while under rapid fire.
The Penguins started the third with some jump in their step following the late period heroics by Malkin. To their credit the Sharks were answering the Penguins transition game stride for stride, it was almost like not having Joe Thornton’s 40 year old legs made the team faster or something. The Penguins gain the zone and send in a casual dump in behind the goal that Patric Hornqvist pursues… deja vu anyone?
EVGENI MALKIN (25) Assisted by HORQVIST (15) @ 6:01
I hate to be that guy but Hornqvist tracked down this play like a beast in the wild stalking its prey… like a shark. Both Shark defenders commit to their belief in Jones and head towards the boards leaving Malkin and Hornqvist alone in the center of the ice which is their usual positioning for the forecheck. When the Penguins forecheck is on they are the hardest team in the NHL to beat and that is not me being a homer. Complete brain fart by Jones, there is a reason goalies play the puck along the boards, this is that reason.
The Pens would get a powerplay chance and an opportunity to close the coffin but Kris Letang decided it would be best if we played 4 on 4 instead. Following the conclusion of the penalties it was the sort of fourth line working the puck down low and Tom Kühnhackl with some fancy stick work:
BRYAN RUST (6) Assisted by KUHNHACKL (6) & LETANG (26) @ 13:58
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 31, 2018
Tom Kuhnhackl showing off what can happen if he is given a chance to play, just a sick pass from a fourth liner that was held to 7 minutes a night with Reaves in the lineup. Kuhnhackl would finish the game with 12:01. If the pass was foreplay the backhander by Rust was the cigarette after sex. He receives the puck fully stretched out and somehow gets himself into position quick enough to get elevation on the puck. The return of Bryan Rust to the lineup has brought a new meaning of life to the Penguins fourth line.
The Sharks would pull their goalie with like 4 minutes left and Sullivan put out Crosby, Rust and Malkin. Crosby had a 9 game point streak on the line and Malkin and Rust were both looking for the hatty. The trio was on the ice for like 3 minutes thanks to some icings and what not, Rust hit the crossbar on the open cage, Geno finished the deal:
EVGENI MALKIN (26) Assisted by RUST (16) & CROSBY (39) @ 18:47
evgeni malkin hat trick
1 rt = 1 respect pic.twitter.com/Wh3mFeGIPJ
— ego (@EvgeniMaIkinEgo) January 31, 2018
The 12th career hattrick for the forgotten child puts him in second place on the all-time hattricks as a Penguin list, he is now only 28 behind Mario. The Sharks wouldn’t pull their goalie again, the Penguins wouldn’t score again and they would finish the month of January 9-3-0.
-Matt Murray was fantastic in this game though I’m sure some dumbass is complaining about the 2 goals he allowed. Murray went 30 for 30 even strength, 1 for 1 short handed and 9 of 11 on the powerplay finishing the game with an impressive .952 save percentage. Here are some of his thoughts following the emotional night:
- Kris Letang with 23:21 in this game so it seems that trend is going to continue. This was a rough game for Letang but maybe he felt like he had to do more since he is an All-Star now. The Maatta/Schultz pairing had the least amount of ice-time last night finishing with 17:28/17:46, respectively.
- Following his best game as a Penguin Dominik Simon was given sheltered minutes and finished the game with just 10:39. J.S. Dea was given a little TOI raise and finished with 6:18. Overall only one forward (Crosby) received more than 20 minutes, that is some distribution I can stand behind.
- Not sure what the thinking was to start Martin Jones in this game. Sure he is the starter, but Aaron Dell has been playing great and hasn’t lost a Stanley Cup to the Penguins. I don’t know if the Sharks have fans, but if they do I would like to imagine that they are questioning this decision.
- The Penguins improve to 18-7-1 at home and 23-6-2 when scoring first ANNNNDDDDDD they are now a +1 in goal differential on the season!!!!!!!!!!!
- The team is set for a huge back-to-back Friday and Saturday with the Capitals at home on Friday and the Devils in New Jersey on Saturday night, the implications are obvious:
- The Capitals play the Flyers tonight, the Devils play the Flyers tomorrow
- My state of the union recap: The Pittsburgh Penguins are legitimate contenders for the Stanley Cup so buckle up