There was no shortage of entertainment in last night's Penguins and Blue Jackets game and if these two teams come to blows in a week or so it will be fun. Pittsburgh didn't lead at any point until they did. They come away with the two points and will stay ahead of Columbus for now. Pittsburgh has Ottawa tonight and the Blue Jackets will get the Predators on Saturday. Nothing is set in the standings yet other than Pittsburgh and Columbus are going to be playing in the playoffs. The New Jersey Devils are still on the table as a potential opponent for the Penguins as are the Flyers.
Pittsburgh had their way with the Blue Jackets at 5v5 last night
This is what you want to see heading into the playoffs if you're Pittsburgh. Saying the overall flow of 5v5 was favorable to them would be understating it a bit. They owned 65% of the shot attempts. Pittsburgh still gives up high-danger chances, but they led that 11-7 as well.
The teams traded goals back and forth the entire night until Pittsburgh scored the final two. Phil Kessel did it again in overtime. It was another great Phil Kessel goal.
That shot was like the robot dog from Black Mirror. On a mission and precise.
Scary stuff for the opposition.
This is Phil Kessel's best season as far as points and assists are concerned. I can't help but remember early in the season people worried that Rick Tocchet's departure was going to cause some kind of insurmountable rift between Kessel and Mike Sullivan. So much for that theory I suppose. It's almost like Phil does Phil regardless of who is coaching him.
Patric Hornqvist is heading into the playoffs on quite a hot streak. He has goals in each of the last four games and has eight points in his last six games. Three of his last four goals have come at 5v5 which is a great thing for the team to get this time of year considering what happens to the officiating come playoff time. Much like how Phil Kessel's goal was such a Phil goal. Hornqvist's was your typical ugly Hornqvist goal
Conor Sheary is another player finding their stride right before the playoffs. There have been a lot of peaks and valleys in Sheary's season this year. Sheary has three goals in his last four games and this goal was the equalizer in the third period
When he's not in his own head his speed and tenacity can make things happen.
Chad Ruhwedel made his return to the lineup and there was a sequence during the game that showed why he should never sit in favor of Matt Hunwick again. Ruhwedel hustled up the ice and joined the play on a rush and helped facilitate some zone pressure. Simple stuff, but I don't think Hunwick is capable of jumping up like that and pressing on offense. I also don't believe that Ruhwedel is significantly worse than Hunwick on defense so I don't see the point in not using the guy with better offensive potential.
Pittsburgh avoided what could have been a devastating injury. Sidney Crosby left the game for a period of time when he appeared to take a stick to his hand/wrist area. It was a false alarm and Crosby returned to the game. It makes you wonder what kind of lineup decisions will be made tonight. If Sid does play tonight it will be the first time in his career that he will have played in all 82 games. Malkin's 77 games is already his best since the 2008-09 season when he played in all 82.
Sergei Bobrovsky continues to struggle against Pittsburgh. He has a career save percentage of .921 which is great. That drops to .909 against Pittsburgh and that doesn't include the playoffs where Bob has been bad. The flip side to that is Matt Murray has been struggling. Bob gave up 5 last night and still had a better save percentage than Murray. The Penguins starting goaltender is still making spectacular high-danger saves because NHL goalies do that. He's near the bottom of the league in goals saved above average and high-danger save percentage. Point being the Penguins need him to be better in a week. The good news is they don't need insanely good goaltending to win like they did last year. Their process is way better heading into the playoffs this year.
Pittsburgh will close things out tonight against the lowly Senators.
Thanks for reading!