The Penguins took their season to the raod for the first time last night with a tilt against the Minnesota Wild. The Wild were looking for their first win of the season in their home opener. The Penguins were looking for their first road win of the year in their road opener. Something had to give.
Crosby would get a point in this game… you know what else happened in 2016-17?
I mentioned in my game day that I thought Murray would be the second-fastest to 100, I was wrong but of course, Grover had my back
7th fastest? Pssh. He doesn’t deserve a raise in my opinion. Also, I’m not saying I’m being copied here, but the wording is rather similar in a tweet that was sent out less than 10 minutes after mine:
I’m all in on the Marino love
This would imply that Letang is good, but I heard he sucks, so either Grover is wrong or people remember the few mistakes in Letang’s game while forgetting the offensive upside.
I touched on it a bit during the gameday, I don’t have a clue who half of the Wild players are. Eric Staal centers the top line. The first period was moving along at a pretty good pace, in fact there were only four stoppages in the first seven minutes and the fourth was due to a Ryan Hartman roughing penalty that would send the Pens to the powerplay. The powerplay has been a mixed bag this season. When they are able to win the faceoff and set up in the zone they have been able to score, when they need to gain access to the zone they are a trainwreck. This time Letang would feed Crosby from his own blue line and Sid would use a nice touch pass to Guentzel at the Wild blueline to gain entry into the zone while keeping the whole team moving forward. Guentzel back to Crosby, Crosby over to Schultz, and Schultz had both Hornqvist and Guentzel wide open in front of Dubnyk. Good Night.
PATRIC HORNQVIST (3) Assisted by Schultz (3) & Crosby (5) @ 14:54 PPG
I could watch this assist by Crosby all day. He just calmly circles around with his head up until he finds Schultz. I am also a huge fan of Letang and Schultz together on the powerplay and wouldn’t mind them keeping that a thing when Malkin returns.
The rest of the period would get a little bit chippy. Hornqvist would just be a pain in the ass the entire game. This happened later in the game but since the second-period recap area is full I’ll just place it here.
The Pens would get outshot in the period but Murray was sharp early.
Taking a 1 goal lead into the second on the road isn’t a terrible place to be. Giving the puck to Crosby on a mini breakaway three minutes into the period is a great place to be.
SIDNEY CROSBY (3) Assisted by Letang (4) & Murray @ 3:26
Sid goes top shelf on the backhander, what a surprise. With his 8th point of the year Crosby is on a casual pace for 131 points and uh… I’m not going to be the one to say he won’t do it.
A few seconds after the goal Jack Johnson decided we haven’t talked about him enough, which is a good thing, so he took a penalty, which is a bad thing. The Penguin’s powerplay had been sharp up to this point but Jason Zucker was able to deflect a shot from the point to make it a 2-1 game.
Eight minutes would go by and it was looking like the next goal would be huge. It was also getting very chippy as Minnesota attempted to show the Pens what the big bad central division was all about, the problem is Minnesota hasn’t been able to figure out what the central division is all about.
Eleven minutes into the frame the fourth line came down the ice and this years Conor Sheary candidate Sam Lafferty fired a shot to the pads of Dubnyk, a huge rebound found its way to a streaking Adam Johnson and he wound up for a full slap shot from 15 feet away for his first NHL goal.
ADAM JOHNSON Assisted by Lafferty & Aston-Reese @ 11:11
This is just horrible reaction time by Dubnyk, watch how after making the save he takes a split second to watch the puck bounce away. That’s the split-second difference in the NHL. I love the full windup by Johnson here, go large baby, go large.
Less than two minutes later the Pens were buzzing again. As the Penguins kept sustained pressure in the offensive zone the Wild couldn’t keep up with the rotations. Eventually, Letang would sneak to the center and grab a loose puck, skate until he found an opening, and just buried it.
KRIS LETANG (2) Assisted by Dumoulin & Tanev (2) @ 12:58
With his 6th point of the year Letang is casually on pace for 98 this season. Though that won’t happen, I am positive people will forget about how Letang stepped up with Crosby during these injuries to help contribute to the offense.
Before some yinzer with a selfie as a Facebook profile picture with him wearing white sunglasses in the front seat of his car could mention that Letang still sucks the Penguins were burying another one.
JOSEPH BLANDISI Assisted by Johnson & Lafferty (2) @ 13:39
Let the kids play. Again, what in the hell is Dubnyk doing here? He puts his glove up to signal for icing AFTER Johnson gets in front of the Wild defense to negate the icing. If he is watching the game here a simple stick poke prevents this goal. Instead, he is lazy, tried to buy a call, and eats it. Blandisi picks up his first goal as a Penguin and the 9th of his career. Blandisi scored 5 goals as a rookie in 2015-16 with the Devils, followed by 3 the next year. He was scoreless in his 6 games with Anaheim and his 6 with Pittsburgh in 2018-19, making this his first goal in over three years.
As the period would wind down there would be a defensive breakdown in the Penguins zone and Jared Spurgeon would pick up a loose puck during a scrum and put it into the net to cut the lead to 5-2. I would show a gif of the goal but apparently even after 19 years of it the Wild are sore losers and don’t post gifs when they are down.
The goal of the third period was to save bodies and limit minutes before the team traveled to Winnipeg. Marcus Pettersson was already banged up and the Pens just wanted to get out healthy. They stuck to this plan well but when an opportunity comes knocking you better answer the door. The Pens went on the powerplay at the mid-point of the period and after some hard work in the corner by Crosby, the puck ended up on Hornqvist’s stick. Horny to Jake on the doorstep, get some.
JAKE GUENTZEL (2) Assisted by Hornqvist @ 10:48 PPG
Crosby won’t get an assist on the play as it was the Wild defender’s stick that made the pass to Hornqvist, but the play doesn’t happen without the Captain grinding it out in the corners. Guentzel understands his role on the powerplay. The first powerplay goal Guentzel was in this exact position. Watch the gif and track Guentzel’s movement. When people like Jesse Marshall say a player is elusive this is what they mean. Guentzel is with the defender early but then glides, without taking a stride, to the front of the net. It’s such a slow and quiet movement the defender literally doesn’t hear him move.
Five minutes after the goal Brad Hunt took a one-timer from the blueline that beat Murray to make it 6-3. 20 seconds later Luke Kunin takes a snap-shot from the top through a wall of humans in front of Murray that went in blocker side to make it 6-4.
Saucy Bruce got excited and pulled his goalie trying to make the home crowd happy. Instead, it was Sam Lafferty going the distance into the empty net for his first NHL goal.
SAM LAFFERTY @ 18:49 ENG
The Wild would not score and Matthew Murray, first of his name, wearer of two rings, killer of flowers, would pick up number 100.
Anytime you are one game away from Ken Dryden for anything you might be doing something right.
Overnight the Penguins made the 290-mile trek north to Winnipeg to prepare for the second half of their first back-to-back of the season. Because the NHL schedule makers are dumb the Penguins actually had a shorter trip to Winnipeg than the Jets did. The Jets played in Chicago last night, earning a 3-2 OT win, before making the 863 mile-long trip home. it isn’t often that both teams are traveling for the second half of a back-to-back.
The Penguins have seen the Jets once this year but the Jets haven’t seen the Penguins. With both teams using their starters last night it will be a battle of Brossoit vs Jarry.
After making Gudbranson a healthy scratch two games in a row it wouldn’t surprise me to see a change-up on defense. I don’t think John Marino should sit but if there was a game it would be this one considering the circumstance. However, the night and day difference with Marino in the lineup would make me lean towards switching Johnson out with Gudbranson. Pettersson was able to finish the game last night so I would expect he is good to go. As mentioned earlier, the Jets used Hellebuyck last night and will use Croissant today. I don’t want to spend time looking at alternate line combinations the Jets may use today so I’ll leave that up to Paul
Two tired teams grinding one out on NHL network, this is the game where you really want the Brandon Tanevs and Teddy Bluegers to score some goals.
There isn’t a better way to end your weekend. Sunday night hockey, damn I love this sport. Let’s go!