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First line Hornqvist is back and he's electric

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The Pittsburgh Penguins Swedish battle-tank is back on the first line with Sidney Crosby and proving to be a key playoff performer for the second year in a row

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Before the series started for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, Caps coach Barry Trotz gave some praise to Patric Hornqvist, a former player of his back in Nashville. Via an interview with CSN Mid Atlantic:

"He's relentless," Capitals head coach Barry Trotz said. "He's fearless."

"When I had [Pekka Rinne], [Hornqvist] would line up in front of Pekka and we would do one-timers with Shea Weber and that's what he practiced every day. He would be standing there."

Trotz saw that up close last night in the two goals Sidney Crosby scored, both assisted by Hornqvist. The second goal was especially masterful by Hornqvist

After Braden Holtby can't control the rebound from a Olli Maatta point-shot, Hornqvist out-muscles Nate Schmidt right in front of the net and bumps the puck over for Crosby who's right there to convert and push the Pens out to a shocking 2-0 lead just a minute into the 2nd period.

It was refreshing to see - Hornqvist back with Crosby. The two hardly played with each other this season compared to 2015-16.

2016-17 2015-16
TOI together 312:12 679:33
CF% 54.1% 57.4%
Crosby CF apart 53.7% 50.5%
GF60/GA60 3.84/1.35 3.71/1.85
PH72 boxcar 4g+6a 9g+17a
PH72 boxcar w/out 7g+9a 3g+5a

Hornqvist played 62% of his 5v5 minutes with Crosby last year, that number was down to just 35% this season. Their goals for vs goals against together were just as strong though, very good things generally happen when 72 and 87 are out together for Pittsburgh.

Hornqvist was a key playoff cog in the Pens 2016 run, playing mostly on a line with Crosby he scored 9 goals, second on the team behind Phil Kessel's 10. So far in 2017 Hornqvist has 5 points (2g+3a) in the six games so far.

Now, with Conor Sheary possibly hurting but definitely not looking like a first line option any longer, the Pens are going to need to rely on the playoff warrior in Hornqvist to continue and make plays with the puck in support of Crosby and Jake Guentzel.