The Penguins were back in action last night to kick off yet another weekend back-to-back. Unlike last weekend, the Penguins started this set at home against Phil Kessel and the Coyotes before traveling to Detroit. With Phil back in town, the fans were fired up, posters were everywhere. After the video montage below, Kessel received a well-deserved standing ovation that lasted well over a minute.
The Penguins also welcomed other former Penguins back to Pittsburgh for this game when the announced that Bryan Rust and Justin Schultz were both returning to action. Schultz was activated early Friday while Trotman was sent down much to the dismay of his wife. With Shultz and Rust in Sullivan went with the following.
I was excited to see them not automatically go with the Schultz-Pettersson duo after Petterson and Ruhwedel had such a strong performance against the Blues on Wednesday night. Sullivan wisely chose to ride the hot hand in Tristan Jarry, and we were underway.
The Coyotes have been the talk of the Pacific Division this year, having put together an impressive amount of wins without having a “star” forward. The Penguins, and Mike Sullivan, in general, haven’t gotten enough talk this year for continuing to be competitive despite their illustrious injury list. Both of these teams have found their success by playing within their respected systems, and both of those systems involve shutting down the neutral zone while relying on quick transitions. The result of two systems that are similarly structured and executed perfectly is what looks like boring hockey on the surface. That is what this game was, but it was far from boring if you enjoy strategic hockey.
Halfway through the first Marcus Pettersson took an interference penalty putting Kessel and the powerplay out for their first of five opportunities. The Penguins were able to kill that off with no real issues.
The period continued slogging on until Jake Guentzel took a slashing penalty with just under three minutes left. The Pens again killed that off and nothing else happened in the final minute of the first.
The Penguins put up 13 even-strength scoring chances for in the period while giving up 18 against.
The second period looked a lot like the first period as both coaches attempted to crack the other system without making their own vulnerable. The penguins were awarded their first powerplay of the game when Vinnie Hinostroza took a delay of game period, presumably because he had mob work to do. Early in that powerplay opportunity, Bryan Rust was getting ready to tuck away a loose puck before Oliver Ekman-Larsson hauled him down to save a goal while taking a penalty. The gamble paid off for OEL, as the Penguins used the 1:54 of 5 on 3 to circle jerk. The Penguins finished the two-man advantage with 3 shots. When you hear the phrase “good penalty” but don’t know what they mean, they mean exactly what Ekman-Larsson did by hauling down Bryan Rust.
Fortunately for the Penguins, the Coyotes didn’t gain a lot of momentum from the kill and the game fell back into the chess match it was. Nine minutes into the period Brandon Tanev was was called for tripping Clayton Keller and the ‘Yotes got their third powerplay chance of the game. Tristan Jarry took over during this powerplay to help keep the game scoreless.
The rest of the period would wind down until we were through 40 minutes of scoreless hockey. The Penguins out-chanced Arizona at even strength during the period with 11 chances for and 8 against. Through 40 minutes, 30:16 was played at 5v5 and the Penguins had 24 scoring chances for while allowing 26 against, in case you wanted to know how evenly played the first two periods were. The Pens also evened up the shots by slightly outshooting the ‘Yotes 9-7.
The third period opened the same way the first two periods did. Kudos to Rick Tocchet, by the way. When he originally left the Penguins for the head coaching gig in Arizona I wasn’t sure if he would be a good coach or if he was just benefitting from working with Sullivan. Turns out, he’s a good coach and his players are buying into his system. Good for him, I love seeing new coaches work their way up instead of the same 5 getting passed around like the neighborhood tramp.
After more back and forth the Penguins had an offensive zone faceoff and they once again ran Operation Rusty Shield. We’ve seen this in almost every game the Malkin, Guentzel, and Rust have played together. Malkin wins the draw to Guentzel while Rust crashes the faceoff dot. As Guentzel gets the puck Rust jumps to obscure the goaltenders’ vision and Guentzel fires. This time the shot from Jake was blocked, but Evgeni Malkin was hungry, and when the big dog is hungry the big dog will eat.
EVGENI MALKIN (7) Assisted by Guentzel (13) @ 7:13
This was the 398th career goal in his 870th career game for the 101st best player in league history. His celebration was top notch.
The Penguins decided a one-goal lead in the deadlocked game wasn’t enough, so Guentzel took another penalty eleven minutes in. The Penguins penalty killers went to work and killed it off, thanks to some spectacular goaltending from Tristan Jarry.
The Coyotes started opening it up a bit and were testing Jarry form all over, but when you’re in the zone you’re in the zone.
Following the kill, the Penguins closed down shop and suffocated the ‘Yotes. Arizona pulled their goalie for the extra attacker and then Bryan Rust flipped one over the glass for a delay of game penalty. With the 6 on 4 advantage, Kessel sent one across the blue line that was somehow not handled cleanly, Brandon Tanev was a dog on raw meat, the puck eventually came to Blueger who decided Tanev deserved the goal
BRANDON TANEV (6) Assisted by Blueger (5) @ 19:58 SHG
I still hate the term of the contract, because I hate every contract that is over 4 years for non-franchise altering players, but Brandon Tanev has been well worth the money. It’s impossible to watch a game without noticing him. The Coyotes would not score in the remaining two seconds and Tristan Jarry would earn his second-consecutive shutout.
- Another great performance by Jarry in this game. With Jarry playing the way he was expected to when the Pens traded up for him in the draft, you have to wonder in Casey DeSmith is now a trading chip.
- This game was a great display of two strategic teams executing. By the time it was done, there was a total of 46:17 at 5v5, and the Penguins had 38 scoring chances for and 35 against. It doesn’t get a lot more even than that.
- The discipline hasn’t been there recently, Sullivan can’t be pleased with constantly taking 3+ penalties a game
- Jared McCann is proving himself to be a valuable center as he consistently produces a positive Corsi at 5v5. As anyone even thought about Nick Bjugstad recently?
- The Penguins play in Detroit tonight against the Red Wings, who have lost 23 of their first 30 games.
The Penguins took the night to celebrate their win before flying to Detroit for a battle with whatever the Redwings are. The Redwings are basically what Penguins Twitter fans think the Penguins are. They’ve lost 23 of their first 30 games. The Redwings have scored 63 goals and have allowed 118, the league average for both categories is 86. A look at their offensive heat map is depressing:
Defensively they haven’t been much better. Their likely starter tonight will be Jonathan Bernier who has put together a 5-8-2 campaign thus far with a TEAM LEADING 3.34 GAA and .891 save percentage.
The Redwings are currently suffering from their own injuries with defender Trevor Daley, goaltender Jimmy Howard and forward Anthony Mantha all added to the IR this month to join forward Danny Dekeyser. The result is a lineup of players you’ve never heard of before. I’ve been a low-key big Patrik Nemeth fan and was hoping the Pens would make a run for him before the ultimately decided on Marino.
Mike Sullivan has the difficult decision of who to start in goal. Jarry has been red hot, obviously, but we know what happens to goalies who play back-to-back nights. I would start Murray with a short leash. Ideally, giving Murray the last few games off while Jarry was an animal will be the spark Murray needs to regain his career form of +.910 save percentage performances. It’s not a goalie controversy, its a plethora of good goaltenders and it’s a great problem to have.
It’s a Saturday night and you’ve got nothing else to do. So grab your drink of choice, I’m thinking bourbon but hey, that’s just me. Tonights Penguins Drinking Phrase of the Night is “tired legs.” Please indulge in a shot every time someone on the Penguins broadcast uses this phrase. Order some Pizza, hell get some wings to you deserved it after such a hard week. Saturday night hockey baby, it doesn’t get any better than this.