The Pens survived and thrived in yet another game while injury-depleted and icing a team full of prospects and projects. Here are thoughts from Meesh at PensNation; game recap from Pension Plan Puppets; and another one from HockeyBuzz.
From PensInitiative, a closer look at our young D through the eyes of their elder statesman and on-ice leader Matt Niskanen. I think we now all begin to appreciate what the Pens coaching staff saw from Olli Maatta early on that led them to keeping him in Pittsburgh against all logic that suggested he should go back to London and what's the point in rushing this, we have another 793 defensemen. He logged in 24:17 last night, including team-leading 6:12 shorthanded. Niskanen and Maatta were used almost exclusively against the Kessel-Kadri-JVR line and shut them down with gusto (see shift comparison at Shift Chart or this image that I made from their data).
A really good write-up by Rich Miller at PensNation about how really special the Pens special teams have been. Currently Pens' PP is #1 in the league while PK is #2. It's been almost 30 years since a team ended the season as #1 in both categories (Isles in 84/85). Kudos to coaching, systems and personnel.
Puck Prediction picked the Pens to win last night despite the Leafs coming off a thrashing of the Blackhawks and deftly explained why what the Pens are achieving with all the call-ups isn't a fluke:
Between their 7.8% team shooting and a brutal run of injuries that have left them dressing much of their AHL team in NHL jerseys, the Penguins have been able to achieve a lot this season without a lot of luck going their way. Unlike the shortened 2013 season’s team, the 2013-14 Pens are winning by shot prevention and strong possession play. Tonight, they take to the ice against a Leafs squad that’s, somewhat surprisingly, played pretty good hockey against two strong opponents in their last two games. Time will tell whether this is the beginning of a trend. And let’s face it: apart from those two games, Toronto (goaltending aside) has been an awful, awful team this season.
A rational take on Shawn Thornton's appeal of his 15-game suspension. It will be upheld, and it will serve as a precedent.
'Tis the season for goofy NHL team holiday videos. The Bruins video is actually pretty funny. Confession: I like Milan Lucic. Until and unless he does something bad specifically to the Pens, I'll keep liking him. If the Bruins Christmas special is funny, the Sharks holiday party is downright hilarious. Hertl has to sit at the kids table and answer all their incessant questions. Burnsie and Marleau are doing (toy) snakes on a train. Boyle and Vlasic tell bad party jokes.
And for the end, a very short video that will make you love Geno even more than you already do: on the bench, Sid is displeased and barking something angrily at Neal, who takes his mouth guard out to retort. Geno is sitting between the two of them, and without a fuss he quickly pats Sid, then Nealer, as if to say 'guys, I love you both, calm down, let's focus on the next shift'.