RECAP 41: Cool the Jets

After a brief road-trip the Penguins returned home for their first of three straight in Pittsburgh last night against the Jets. NHL Network previewed the game and labeled it as a potential Stanley Cup Final preview. I prefer to think of it as the 41st game of the season. Regardless of my wishes, there was a lot of hype about this game between two top teams in the league, a sentence you weren’t expecting to read 6 weeks ago.

Well that is a good way to start.

CrOsBy PaDs HiS sTaTs WiTh SeCoNdArY aSsIsTs OnLy

After a shaky start at home this year the Pens have found their stride in Pittsburgh


Oleksiak was in for Riikola, other than that there were no changes to the lineup and we were ready to go.

Following a Jimerson rendition of O’ Canada that embarrassed any Canadian that has ever tried to sing it and The Paint Can faithful belting the Star Spangled Banner we were ready to go. The Penguins were all wheels to start the game but just couldn’t put everything together at the same time, this wasn’t a problem though because Winnipeg hadn’t shown up yet. After about ten minutes the Jets finally got their first shot on goal, it wasn’t a tough shot but I was nervous as I prefer Matt Murray with a steady work flow. Murray didn’t let us down and saved it. At the 12:57 mark the Pens were heading to the powerplay thanks to a Stormy Daniels favorite too many men penalty. The first unit didn’t do much except give up a short-handed chance against so the second unit came on and got to business. Traffic in front, a shot from the point, a recipe for success.

OLLI MÄÄTTÄ Assisted by PETTERSSON (9) & GUENTZEL (20) @ 14:19 PPG

The formula that has stood the test of time works again as the Penguins convert for the 9th time in 11 powerplay opportunities. We shed some light on the season Maatta is having in the gameday and it is great to see the funky Finn finish. Second consecutive season with 20 assists for Guentzel, his career high was 26 last year in 82 games… he has 20 through 41 this year.

When Mike Sullivan believes in his team he puts his fourth line out after powerplay goals to give the top lines a full rest. Last season with Ryan Reaves on the fourt line we didn’t see Sullivan use this option often. This isn’t last season, and Mike Sullivan likes the way his team is built right now. The fourth line came out and after a nifty side step to avoid a check ZAR threw one to the front that went off of old man time’s ear and in

MATT CULLEN (4) Assisted by ZAR (5) & JOHNSON (9) @ 14:52

This is one of those bounces that goes your way when you’re winning and goes against you when you’re in a slump in November. The goal doesn’t happen if Aston-Reese doesn’t have his head up to avoid the collision. There isn’t a bigger sting for a defender than missing a huge hit and then hearing the goal horn a second later. The impact ZAR has had on the lineup regardless of which line he is on speaks volumes to the type of player that he is.

The Penguins nearly scored a few more times before the period was over. Oh, the Jets had a few opportunities too but nothing to get your panties in a bunch over. The frame would end 2-0.

The stats appear closer than the actual game felt, as the Penguins were all over the Jets in the first.

The second period didn’t really have much going for it in the first four minutes, both teams had a shot or so but there was nothing more to write about.

The Jets 2nd ranked powerplay would get their first look against the Penguins 4th best penalty kill when Brassard was called for holding with 13 minutes left; this also meant that I was reminded Brassard is a Penguins with 13 minutes left in the second. The Penguins had the best look on the powerplay when they went on an odd-man rush that Maatta just about finished off. Subtle, but huge, change to the Pens penalty kill is the addition of Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel. They aren’t penalty kill specialists and only kill about 30-ish seconds per penalty, but having them out there changes the way the offense thinks. Consider this, if you are passing the puck across the blue line to your teammate who would make you think twice, Riley Sheahan or Sidney Crosby? That brief second consideration takes offense off of the powerplay unit’s mind, and any time the powerplay isn’t thinking about offense you have won the battle.

Following the kill, the Jets decided it was time to play hockey as they finally got some pressure on Matt Murray and the Penguins but they were able to hold the fort.

After the Penguins settled down they were able to get some looks of their own, Pettersson had two solid chances that just missed. Moments later the second line came down three on two and Malkin sent the puck to a streaking Simon, Simon got his backhand on it and it went off the post and into the glove of Hellebuyck. The play was reviewed, and apparently in 2019 the NHL finally realized that you can’t see through iron so they had a camera under the crossbar which confirmed that the puck did indeed cross the line.

DOMINIK SIMON (6) Assisted by MALKIN (30) @ 14:39

What an insane camera angle, where have you been all my life? Hellebuyck argued the goal after the game because of the angle of the camera or something, the argument would make more sense if it was the game winning goal, but that was scored by Maatta so chill Connor. Simon has put together some fine hockey since returning from injury, and prior to this goal he was noticeable in this game much like the previous one. This is such a tough pass to get that much of with the backhand, and it was just about robbed. Malkin and Simon team up for identical scoring plays in two consecutive games, I’ll take it. The Penguins fans chanting “goal! goal! goal!” at the refs while they were reviewing the play was pretty freaking sweet, it’s nice to have some life in the arena again.

Following the goal the Pens continued pressing and after Crosby rang one off the crossbar the Jets took a penalty for closing the hand around the puck. The Penguins powerplay was all over the Jets but Hellebuyck made some fantastic saves, first on Phil Kessel and then point blank on Jake Guentzel. Brassard also rang one off the pipe during the powerplay and for once the Penguins did not score with the man advantage. In the final minute Trouba had a great look on a shot that rang off the pipe and stayed out as the period would conclude with the Pens up 3-0.

I halfway expected the Penguins to drop into defensive mode and the Jets to get an early lead. That’s because I am an idiot and Mike Sullivan is not. Instead, the Penguins kept their foot on the gas and came out roaring to start the third carrying the play in the Winnipeg end for the first three minutes. The Jets then decided they had had enough of the Penguins dominance and took a hooking penalty not even four minutes into the period. The Pens couldn’t get anything going on the powerplay but they managed to control the puck for the full two minutes which was two minutes the Jets didn’t have to get back in the game. The Pens continued pressing following the powerplay and when the broadcast finally went to a commercial break 8 minutes had already been played.

The Penguins continued flexing their offensive muscles mainly because they were so good defensively the Jets couldn’t get anything going. Even when the Jets would get numbers the Penguins defenders made impressive play after play, and if Winnipeg did get through Murray was there.

With 5:49 left the Jets pulled their goalie for an extra attacker while down by 3. With a three-goal lead, the Pens were content with attempting 180-foot shots on the empty net at the expense of a few icings. After a little in and out action according to Bob Errey the Penguins broke free when Crosby outworked the Jets along the boards and dished it to Letang. A few years ago Letang would’ve somehow hit a defender with this shot but this is Kris LeNorris this year, and he put it right in the sweet spot.

KRIS LETANG (10) Assisted by CROSBY (32) & CULLEN (6) @ 16:38

Following the goal, the Jets threw everything on net in an attempt to get at least one by Murray but he wasn’t having it. Murray made stop after stop, the Jets ran out of fuel, and the Pens ended with their 8th consecutive



  • Since returning from injury Murray has a 1.27 GAA with a .962 save percentage including a shutout against the “offensive stars of the West.”
  • The game was closer than 4-0 when you consider how the goals were scored, but it also wasn’t close with how well the Penguins handled the Jets in every zone of the ice. This looked like a matchup we would see from Sullivan in the playoffs, just completely dominating every part of the game.
  • Dominik Simon with a team-best, and career high, 7 shots on goal in this game. He is playing the best hockey of his NHL career right now and if he starts finishing the way Crosby and Sullivan believe he can, look out
  • With Oleksiak returning to the lineup the Johnson-Pettersson pairing received the second most minutes while Maatta-Oleksiak were the third pairing in minutes received.
  • Brassard finished the game with 12:54, including 2 minutes on the powerplay. Sheahan finished with 12:33 and Cullen with 12:09 (both had less than a minute short-handed time), it seems we aren’t the only ones realizing that Brassard is not fitting in.
  • With a single point in this game Crosby’s streak of multiple points in a game ends at 5. The point brings him to 1167 on his career, putting him one behind Ovechkin. Bringing this up constantly may seem childish, but a loud point people have made in the debate between the two was OV8’s point total despite playing more games. Currently, the two are separated by one point despite Crosby playing 141 fewer games.
  • If you need a hockey fix team USA is taking on Finland in the 2019 World Juniors Championship gold medal game at 7:30 PM on NHLN. Team USA is looking for their 4th gold medal in 10 years, a statement that speaks to the development of hockey in the nation.


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Since last night was the halfway point of the season here is a look at projections for the end of the year with comparisons to years past:

Phil Kessel is literally on pace to have the exact same stats as his career high year last year, freaky Phil!