A double-dose of nostalgia to start off the Treasure Grove for you. It would be cool to see a reboot of this concept. Imagine the KHL champions playing the reigning Stanley Cup Champions in a preseason game? It shouldn’t be too hard to get Russians to
spy watch it.
I’m not trying to wear my black and gold goggles only, but the season Crosby is putting together so far is MVP caliber. The only thing hindering Sidney Crosby from true MVP consideration is Sidney Crosby.
The Penguins penalty kill has flown under the radar a bit, I’m not sure if it is a Jacques Martin creation or a combination of Martin and Sullivan, but it has been a huge success so far this year.
Despite being cleared to play by the medical staff, Jamie Oleksiak was held out of this contest. The rest of the lineup card was what we expected, with Murray back in net.
The puck had been in play for just 9 seconds before Alexander Steen took a high sticking penalty. The Penguins powerplay was basically getting a fresh sheet of ice and the first two minutes of the game to work with. It took the unit 39 seconds to work the puck around the perimeter, to the front of the net, to the back of the net.
SIDNEY CROSBY (17) Assisted by HORNQVIST (8) & KESSEL (25) @ 0:48 PPG
How many times have we watched Crosby start a play from behind the net and then get lost on the ice? The gif above doesn’t capture the beauty of Crosby’s escape plan, and it is actually hard to see in real time so I’m going to the trusty screenshots:
Here is when Crosby passes the puck to Kessel, the Blues are in a perfect small box PK formation and the Penguins have 4 players contained by the defensive box. This is not how goals are scored.
Here we see that Crosby has circled back out from behind the cage to the corner of the crease, and the Blues defender turned to look at Sid. This is the key moment that is hard to catch at real-speed. Watch what happens after Crosby acknowledges that the defender has made a mental note about where he is:
Crosby slowly backs away and gets wide open while Edmundson continues to think he has Sid covered. As Hornqvist drives to the net Edmundson doesn’t abandon his post because to the best of his knowledge Sidney Crosby is standing beside him, and you don’t want to leave Sidney Crosby alone…
The art of escaping, elite players make it look like an accident.
This is possibly the most I have ever typed about the first minute of a hockey game. With over 19 minutes left in the frame, the teams basically started fresh. The Blues had a couple good looks but Matt Murray was there to stop them all, with this one possibly being his best of the night:
This is not a save Murray was making a month ago, whatever lower body injury was ailing him appears to be gone. The Blues had a powerplay chance somewhere in the period but couldn’t come up with anything and the Pens took a 1-0 lead to the room after one.
9 blocks in the first by the Pens defense, it’s almost like they started paying attention to defense and now they are winning? Weird.
The second period started off just like the first, there was an opening face-off and then Alexander Steen took a penalty. Steen had the decency of waiting a a few shifts for this one however, and the Penguins PP took the ice four minutes into the period. Unlike their first attempt the top unit couldn’t make any magic this time, but hope was not lost. Following some in zone possession by the second unit the puck came out to Riikola and he absolutely stepped into this puck.
JUUSO RIIKOLA Assisted by PEARSON (5) & BRASSARD (6) @ 5:13 PPG
I believe the third comment of the day on the Gameday post yesterday was @AndyPeppers calling this goal. Solid Home Alone reference in the Tweet by the Pens PR crew also. First career NHL goal for Riikola.
The Penguins were without the services of Bryan Rust in the second period (and for the remainder of the game) which resulted in some line switching from Sullivan. Two minutes after the Riikola goal Sullivan put ZAR out in Rust’s spot on the first line. After the Blues had an excellent scoring chance that was broken up by a Matt Murray poke check on Maroon the play went the other way, Dumoulin carried the puck to the goal line and fed Crosby behind the net. This was Crosby’s view:
The ENTIRE Blues team is within 15 feet of Crosby and he passes this puck from that position, through the Blues defenders, and right on the tape of Kris Letang, the rest is history.
ZACH ASTON-REESE (5) Assisted by LETANG (22) & CROSBY (28) @ 7:17
Letang with a beautiful pass to ZAR for the primary assist. Does it get any better than this? Crosby with a very Crosby pass through four defenders, Letang with a perfect defenseman pass to a net front presence. ZAR with a new career high in goals scored, it is crazy to think that this was just his 41st career NHL game, so far he has 9 goals and 5 assists in his career.
Two minutes after the goal ZAR was helping the team again when Jay Bouwmeester took a hooking penalty against him. The Penguins powerplay took the ice at the 9:18 mark, and left the ice with a goal 7 seconds later.
PATRIC HORNQVIST (14) Assisted by LETANG (23) & KESSEL (26) @ 9:25 PPG
A clean face-off win by Crosby and Kris Letang handled the rest. The goal was originally credited to Letang with assists from Phil and Sid but
Five minutes later David Perron scored for the Blues. The rest of the period was status quo.
The Penguins get 3 goals on 6 shots in the period. The Blues get 1 goal on 12 shots in the period. Hockey is funny, had the Pens taken just 6 shots and ended the period with 0 goals we would be going crazy. Instead, they take 6 shots and get 3 goals and we are still going crazy, but the good kind of crazy. The Penguins also registered 7 more blocks in this frame to go along with the 9 they earned in the first.
I would like to congratulate the St. Louis Blues organization for not taking a penalty before the Penguins scored in this period, that is progress. Three minutes into the frame Crosby carried a puck into the offensive zone where he met resistance. Parayko smothered Crosby against the boards but as we’ve seen time and time again, Crosby kept moving his feet and got a pass off to Dumoulin. Dumo fired it to the net and big money Jake edged closer to that 20 goal mark.
JAKE GUENTZEL (16) Assisted by DUMOULIN (10) & CROSBY (29) @ 3:05
This is just a masterful display of what makes Sidney Crosby so great. I slowed the play down so you can truly appreciate everything he does here. Just take it all in. Moving the puck to one hand to protect it as he drives to the net. The subtle angle changes with his skates. The acknowledgment that driving to the net is out so he stops on a dime. When Parayko gets him along the boards watch as he protects the puck with a skate
All this talk about Crosby’s effort on Jake’s goal, sorry Jake! In his first season Guentzel netted 16 goals and 17 assists in 40 games. So far this year Guentzel has 16 goals and 18 assists through 38 games. We will see where Jake finishes this year, but so far it is looking safe to assume that last year’s 22 goals and 26 assists in 82 games was a low for Guentzel, which is scary.
While the Penguins celebrated the goal ZAR was attacked by Edmundson, the two would get matching 5 minute fighting penalties but the Blues picked up an extra roughing penalty. Not a good look for St. Louis. The Penguins red hot powerplay took the ice again and struggled a bit this time, taking an entire half minute before scoring.
EVGENI MALKIN (12) Assisted by KESSEL (27) & LETANG (24) @ 3:38 PPG
Not much to dive into here, the Penguins have found their groove on the powerplay. It is nice seeing Malkin get back on the board.
Time would tick down and the Blues somehow managed to not let up another goal. Murray remained strong and the final buzzer sounded, also known as
THE DEUCE SIGNAL
- Kris Letang is putting together a Norris caliber season
- Sidney Crosby is really good
- Matt Murray’s save percentages in his last 5 starts: .927, .969, 1.000, .931, .968. This string of games has Murray’s season save percentage up to .906, he finished last year with a .907 and has a career average of .915
- Pens close out the calendar year in Minnesota tomorrow night, see you then!