Pittsburgh’s regulation win over Montreal was a very good thing for their playoff chances. Games against direct competition have the ability to move the probability needle. Before Pittsburgh’s 5-1 victory the Penguins had a lower probability than the Canadiens to make the playoffs. Today things are looking much better.
While Pittsburgh was taking care of business the Blue Jackets were busy getting trounced by the Edmonton Oilers of all teams. The Penguins have a home and home against Columbus this week and can really put the screws to their divisional rival. A sweep would greatly damage the all-in Blue Jackets and potentially cause damage that carries over past the conclusion of the 2018-19 season. This of course has the potential to go the other way as well if Columbus were to sweep the Penguins. These are high leverage standings points. I would be surprised if either team took four points.
As far as the game last night it was the Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel show. They each finished with four points with Guentzel having two goals and Crosby having one goal. Here was the carnage
Jake Guentzel is such a great fit for Sidney Crosby. Cerebral players with puck skills and a work ethic will always light it up alongside Sidney Crosby. Jake Guentzel’s offensive numbers are boosted by Crosby, but it isn’t a situation where the player is leeching off of Sid. It also helps that Guentzel can shoot the puck. In 187 NHL games Guentzel is a 16.2% shooter. While it is a shade too early in the larger sample to know if this is where he will live forever I am really confident that he will be a double digit percentage shooter for his prime years. Guentzel scored his 31st goal of the season last night. Kunitz scored 35 in 2013-14 in 78 games. Guentzel has a chance to pass that and become the deadliest Crosby winger of the era for a single season. Very impressive and encouraging for his long term deal.
Sidney Crosby’s goal breaks the tie he had with Jaromir Jagr for second all-time on the Penguins career goals list. He now has 440 goals. He is *only* 250 goals shy of tying Mario Lemieux. Oh and by the way Crosby has already played in more career games than Lemeiux(!)
Yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of Mario Lemieux’s last radiation treatment and subsequent return to the lineup against the Philadelphia Flyers. The 1992-93 season for Lemieux remains the best individual season ever in the NHL.
The great Carey Price didn’t look so great last night. He let in multiple leaky goals and his team wasn’t able to overcome them. It’s funny what reputations can do to player perception. Through the scope of a Penguins fan Price is consistently great and among the league’s best goaltenders. Matt Murray is inconsistent and for some a liability. Evidence points to them being similar with Murray having a slight edge after last night. Murray is a .927 and Price is a .926 at 5v5 this year. Carey Price has a quality starts percentage of 52.0% while Murray is at 52.9%. It’s amazing what the PR arm of Hockey Canada can do to perceptions. It’s the same reason why you never hear anybody question Mike Babcock’s place as the best hockey coach in the world (he’s not). The Penguins do not have a goaltending problem at the present moment.
Remember how Marian Hossa was the center of Pittsburgh’s deadline deal way back in 2008? Do you remember who the throw in was? Pascal Dupuis turned out to have a ton of value, but was an afterthought at the time of the deal. I think Jared McCann has the potential to be the “afterthought” of the Panthers trade and have a longer lasting impact than Nick Bjugstad.
Pittsburgh will host McCann and Bjugstad’s former team on Tuesday night before their two huge games against Columbus.
Thanks for reading!